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November 2004, Week 4


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"Peter C. Rollins" <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 23 Nov 2004 10:08:50 EST
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Preliminary Note:
    James Welsh is the Editor Emeritus of _The  Literature/Film Quarterly_ and
has taken a few moments out of a busy retirement to reflect on the recent  
Film&History conference on  War in Film, TV, and History.  The  following blog 
by Welsh evokes the droll wit of a senior scholar enjoying his  
    The next Film & History event will be as part of the  SW/TX PCA meeting 
in February;
those interested in participating in the F&H Area should contact Peter  
Rollins instanter. (Deadline for proposals is 15 December!)
Peter Rollins, Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and  TV 
[log in to unmask] (mailto:[log in to unmask])     and  
_www.filmandhistory.org_ ( 
Sweetness & Light, History,  Literature & Film, War & Conflict near Dallas
By Jim Welsh, Founding Editor LFQ 
Before going to the joint conferences of the Literature/Film Association  and 
the Film and History League, my wife and I had been spoiled by a week north  
of Venice in Pordenone in a 4-star hotel while attending the Cinema Muto 
silent  film festival of 2004. The American Airlines Dolce Conference Center near 
the  Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport fell a bit short of that elegance. 
 Our room was comfortable, but  cramped.  “I feel like we’re in a  foreign 
country,” my wife said upon first seeing the room, “a bad one!”   But after a 
week it didn’t seem so  bad.  Though the closets were  absurd, the bed was 
comfortable and the plumbing worked really well, even though  the hot water 
seemed to be turned off about noon.  How Eastern European! 
“Raw Turkey” Leads the  Way…
Isolation was the watchword, even though the conference center was  
reasonably close to a railway station that could transport conferees either to  Dallas 
or to Fort Worth.  Problem  was, one had to get over the Interstate to get to 
the station.  This didn’t stop our British friend  Laurence Raw, who currently 
is teaching in Turkey.  Laurence certainly had the most  distinctive name tag 
of the conference.  It read: “RAW, TURKEY.”  Laurence assured us that 
getting over the Interstate was no worse than  negotiating traffic in Istanbul.  “
Raw, Turkey” not only got to shopping centers in Dallas but also to a  Rodeo and 
even to a production of an Oscar Wilde play, something I had not  thought to 
look for in that part of Texas.  But for people less adventuresome than 
Laurence, who worked for the  British Council all through the Balkans before 
settling in Turkey, the Dolce  location probably helped to capture audiences for the 
conference  proceedings. 
Sic transit [guts &] gloria  mundi…
Plenary speakers invited to the conference included Larry Suid,  celebrating 
the latest oversized incarnation of his UP Kentucky book, Guts  and Glory, as 
he had also done at the national PCA conference held in San  Antonio last 
spring.  The plenary  speaker invited by the Literature/Film Association was Frank 
Thompson, author of  no fewer than five books on the Alamo, including Alamo 
Movies, the  Newmarket Press movie tie-in book for John Lee Hancock’s film The 
Alamo,  released in April of 2004, and the novelization of the screenplay (in 
English,  German, or Polish, take your pick).  Frank’s theme was historical 
accuracy in “remembering the Alamo” (or  exploiting it) and part of his 
presentation involved a montage of clips from all  of the Alamo movies representing 
the massacre.  Although Frank once worked for the  outrageous “reality” TV 
show “Blind Date,” he brought no thought bubbles, though  he did give a 
thoughtful, entertaining insider’s glimpse into The  Alamo. 
The plenary headliner for the Film and History League, however, was  Adrian 
Cronauer, who totally explained to us why he was not Robin Williams, who  once 
played a character named “Adrian Cronauer” in the Barry Levinson film,  Good 
Morning, Vietnam! (1987).  Turns out the “real” Adrian Cronauer shares a 
vision of Viet Nam with  conference organizer Peter C. Rollins.  Both of them 
served in Southeast Asia in 1965-1966.  Salisbury University Professor Donald M.  
Whaley provided a rather different perspective on the attitude of veterans  
towards Viet Nam in his paper “Lifers, Juicers, White Morons, and Heads: Oliver  
Stone, Vietnam Veterans, Film Historians, and the Contest over the Meaning of 
 Vietnam.”  For Don Whaley, veterans  who served after 1968 fought a very 
different war than those who had served  earlier on.  He was careful to  
stipulate, however, that the experience of the earlier troops was in no way  nullified 
by the alienated short-timers who found themselves in Viet Nam during  the 
Post-Election “Blues”
The conference ended with a huge, ungovernable panel that was organized  to “
debate” the meaning or the importance or the political impact of Michael  Moore
’s groundbreaking, record-breaking “documentary,”  Fahrenheit 9/11.  Turns 
out not everyone in the “Flagship”  Auditorium liked Moore’s film, but the “
debate” turned out to be something of an  albatross that never really took off, 
really, though some of us tried to flap  our wings and talk like Fibber 
McGee.  Perhaps this was a result of post-election depression for die-hard  
Blue-depressed Democrats, strangers in a strange Red land.  Adrian Cronauer 
buttonholed me  afterwards, wanting to know why colleges are teaching youngsters how to 
 think.  Good open-ended question,  that.  Maybe television in general  or 
the Fox News Network in particular has had a psychologically subversive  effect 
that has ultimately impeded natural thought processes?  Maybe timid educators 
are afraid to ask  hard, alienating, probing questions?  Maybe Bill O’Reilly 
and Chris Matthews and other cathode bloviators have  permanently damaged 
thoughtful discourse, and not only on television?   Maybe even historians have 
forgot  how to think?  Maybe Morris Berman  got it right in his book The Twilight 
of American Culture (W.W. Norton,  2000), which suggested that religious 
superstition is replacing rationalism and  that we are slowly drifting into a new “
Dark Age”?   When Adrian put this question to  me, I was standing in the Men’
s Room at a urinal, and all I could think to say  was, “Gee, I dunno; I guess I
’m just pissing around here.”  Let’s say there was not an entirely  
successful meeting of minds here (or there).  I wish I had followed my original  
instinct and proposed a paper keyed to Saving Pvt. Ryan following the  
interpretation of Curtis White in his book The Middle Mind  (HarperSanFrancisco, 2003), 
which bears the subtitle: “Why Americans Don’t  Think for Themselves.”  The  
point I’m trying to make here is that maybe Adrian was on to something. 
In a way this was a breakthrough conference for the Film and History  League 
because David Culbert and other IAMHIST members opted to participate this  
time around.  IAMHIST (The  Internationl Association for Media and History) is a 
long-established  organization of historians, archivists, filmmakers, and 
television producers  that meets every other year, most frequently in Europe.  
Their meetings I have attended figure  among the best conferences I have ever 
experienced.  David Culbert, who edits the IAMHIST  journal, The Historical 
Journal of Radio, Television, and Film and Roger  Smither, Keeper of the Imperial 
War Museum Film and Photograph Archives in  London, were in the forefront of 
the IAMHIST delegation in Dallas. 
LFA papers were limited to 20-minute presentations so as to allow time  for 
discussion; Film and History papers were given 30 minutes.  In general, time 
limits were  observed.  The conference was  frustrating, however, because we too 
often had to choose between parallel  sections including friends we only get 
to see once a year.  “Raw, Turkey” was not so happy, for  example, that I 
somehow missed his paper discussing “Turkish and British Views  of T.E. Lawrence 
on Screen,” but my friend and fellow amanuensis John Tibbetts  was there to 
witness and write up the session.  I might add that Laurence Raw has become  a 
regular at out Lit/Film conferences and that I have recommended that he be  
appointed our European delegate for the Literature/Film Association.    But such 
oversights were  unavoidable, not at all intentional.  I will say, however, 
that almost all of the papers I heard were well  structured and seemed to make 
sense and were also well presented, by and  large.  Rumor had it that something 
 like 400 people had registered for the conference. Perhaps a special 
citation  should go out to Susan Rollins for her amazing efforts to organize this  
ambitious conference.  On the  Lit/Film side, David Kranz of Dickinson College 
in Pennsylvania was particularly  effective as well.  In other words,  the 
conference was well organized and well administered.  We were fated to be sated 
with what the  youngsters call “discourse.” 
Soup, Soup, Beautiful  Soups!
Of course we were also fated to be feted.  The banquet food at the conference 
 center was also quite good, especially the nicely prepared soups, the 
tortilla  soup, the creamed sweet potato soup, and the salmon bisque. We were 
reminded of  the lyrics from Carousel at the conference:  “The vittles we et, wuz 
good, you bet,  and we all had a wonderful time!”  As Jackie Gleason might have 
said of the Dolce Conference Destination,  “How sweet it was!”  
Next year the  Literature/Film Association will meet at Dickinson College in 
Carlisle,  Pennsylvania, and the Film and History League will hibernate, 
freeing up members  to attend The XXI Conference of the International Association 
for Media and  History in Cincinnati, Ohio, 20-24 July 2005, sponsored by the 
University of  Cincinnati and The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American 
Jewish Archives and  the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion..  
Send abstracts to Dr. Frederic Krome by  15 January 2005 ([log in to unmask] 
(mailto:[log in to unmask]) ) ; the topic  will be “Projections of Race and Ethnicity.” 
It’s another conference to look  forward to.

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