Rare Recording of Controversialist, Journalist and American Literary & Social Critic, H.L. Mencken

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpGzpqU-b04

Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) was a famous American journalist, essayist, critic of American life and culture, and a scholar of American English. An expert in so many fields, he was called "the Baltimore Sage." At the age of 22, Mencken became managing editor of the Morning Herald in his hometown of Baltimore. But it was not only through his work as a journalist that he was "as famous in America as George Bernard Shaw was in England." The influential literary critic helped launch the Southern and Harlem literary renaissances. With his literary journal The Smart Set, Mencken paved the way for writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, and James Joyce. He also wrote several books, most notably his monumental study The American Language.

“The two main ideas that run through all of my writing, whether it be literary criticism or political polemic are these: I am strong in favor of liberty and I hate fraud.” (source) His spirited defense of the freedom of speech and of the press almost landed him in jail when he fought against the banning of his second literary journal, The American Mercury.

This interview above was conducted by Mencken's colleague Donald Howe Kirkley of The Baltimore Sun in a small recording room at the Library of Congress in Washington on June 30, 1948. It gives you a rare chance to hear his voice.

Bonus material:

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

Trotsky, Russian Revolutionary, Makes Debut Performance Before Microphone (1932)

Many moons ago, we featured a speech by Leon Trotsky given in his Mexican exile in 1937. Turns out recordings of his television addresses go back even further. The short clip above was recorded in Denmark in 1932 and is titled "Trotzky makes debut performance before microphone". (A little aside: The clip was produced by Fox Movietone News, a newsreel that ran in the U.S. from 1928 to 1963. Would Fox still show something like this today?) In November 1932, Trotsky left his exile in Turkey to accept an invitation by the Danish Social Democratic Students' Association to come to Copenhagen and speak about the Russian Revolution. You can read the text of the speech called "In Defence of October" held on November 27 here. There are also two impressive photos secretly taken by a photojournalist. There was a lot of commotion surrounding Trotsky's trip to Denmark: the Danish Communist Party, controlled by Stalin, staged demonstrations and the Royal Family protested against his visit - they held Trotsky responsible for the violent deaths of their relatives, the Tsar and his family. Nevertheless, Trotsky delivered his speech before an audience of about 2,500. The video address was recorded in English two weeks later, on December 10, 1932.

To see other famous leaders making their debut performances, check out Mahatma Gandhi in his First Recorded Video and Nelson Mandela’s First-Ever Interview.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

 

Way of Life: Rare Footage of the Hiroshima Aftermath, 1946

The recent 9.0-magnitude Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accidents were among the most devastating environmental disasters in recorded history. The immediate consequences are frightening, but their full, long-term impact remains an unsettling mystery.

This, of course, isn't the first time Japan has faced a nuclear emergency. After the World War II atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. government recorded the raw aftermath of Hiroshima in candid, grim detail (while Hollywood was busy lampooning America's nuclear obsession). Filmed in the spring of 1946 by the Department of Defense, Way of Life documents how the people of Hiroshima adapted to life after the atomic bomb. Though the archival footage lacks sound, its imagery -- moving, heartbreaking, deeply human -- speaks volumes about the delicate duality of despair and resilience.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and DesignObserver, and spends a great deal of time on Twitter.

Phoenix Still Rising: Egypt After The Revolution

Much has been said, tweeted and written about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, glorifying it as one of the most landmark triumphs of freedom in recent history. Yet the Western media has delivered surprisingly little on its aftermath, leaving the lived post-revolution reality of the Egyptian people a near-mystery.

This beautiful short film by British film studio Scattered Images offers a rare glimpse of a phoenix still struggling to rise from the ashes of oppression. With incredible visual eloquence, the film peels away at the now-worn media iconography of the revolution itself, revealing how life after it has actually changed -- or hasn't -- as Egypt remains a nation in transition, with a future yet to be decided.

Politically, there is a vacuum. The revolution demanded a government accountable to the people and ruled by transparent institutions. But now, the only ruler is uncertainty.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and DesignObserver, and spends a great deal of time on Twitter.

Rare Footage: Home Movie of FDR’s 1941 Inauguration

The vintage video above is an excerpt from a 16 mm home movie showing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 20, 1941, the day of his Third Inauguration. This silent color movie was shot by FDR's son-in-law (Clarence) John Boettiger, who was then working for the Motion Picture Association of America, and the quality of this rare footage is quite outstanding. Watch the full 14-minute version here.

FDR can first be seen at 2:45, heavily supported by his oldest son James. This is one of the rare moments on film where Roosevelt can actually be seen walking, and it's obvious how difficult it was for him to walk after polio left him paralyzed from the hips down in 1921. Next, FDR is seen on the presidential platform with his wife Eleanor and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, taking the Oath of Office and giving his Inaugural Address. The full text of the address can be read courtesy of Yale Law School, and a high-resolution scan of the Inauguration Ceremonies Program has been uploaded by The Library of Congress.

FDR was the first American president to successfully run for a third term due to the precarious international situation in 1941. (Get the audio file of FDR's State of the Union from January 6, 1941 here). After George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796, it had become an unwritten rule to follow his lead. But it was not until the 22nd Amendment from 1947/1951 ("No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.") that this restriction was enshrined into law. FDR was, of course, elected for a fourth term in 1945, but died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

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