As any regular reader should now by know, I have my DVR programmed to record every segment of American Experience as it shows on my local PBS station. And so should you. Here are a few more excellent segments if a show that truly lives up to its name.
Watching this account of the pivotal event that caused the Great Depression and what happened in its wake is a bit of a worrisome experience as our current economy continues to falter. It gives us the history, but also delivers the human dimensions.
As I grew up with a father in the construction business and, until it recently closed, I wrote for a McGraw-Hill regional construction trade magazine, significant building projects fascinate me. And what is the largest structure ever built in America certainly shows how the law of unintended consequences can bring results both good and bad. The show credits the electricity generated with playing a pivotal role in winning World War II as it powered defense plants. The dam also wreaked havoc with Northwestern indigenous tribes and the annual salmon migration upriver to spawn. And that’s hardly all. The building of the dam and the people who lobbied for it and made it happen is a story in and of itself. And there’s also the shift from the idealistic can-do cultural attitudes of America in the 1930s to today’s environmental concerns that have led to dams being dismantled. It’s a rich full story that is uniquely American.
It’s fascinating to see recent events start becoming history, and this two-part show on the former president, his rise to power and his time in office provides an excellent and rather immediate perspective on the man. A complex character with unique drive, charisma and smarts, William Jefferson Clinton is a ripe subject for documentary film biography, and this show delivers in spades.
There are few other products so uniquely American that also represent the nation’s 20th Century leap into the future. And I didn’t know before about Brownie Wise, the natural sales and marketing genius who was responsible for putting what is now an everyday product on the cultural map. Her rise from lower class obscurity to riches and becoming a celebrity to her fall from grace is an illuminating tale of proto-feminism that brings fascinating dimensions to a story about business in post World War II and a simple yet innovative product that changed the American household.
From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2012
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