Revisiting the Depression in The Grapes of Wrath (The Film)

Over at The New York Times, film crit­ic A.O. Scott revis­its John Ford’s 1940 film based on John Stein­beck­’s clas­sic nov­el about the Great Depres­sion. Putting fore­clo­sures and eco­nom­ic strain front and cen­ter, it’s sud­den­ly a film for our age.  Scot­t’s video seg­ment runs about three min­utes, fea­tures footage from the film itself, and takes a look at Hen­ry Fon­da’s lead­ing role. Have a look.


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Einstein the Talking Parrot

No com­men­tary real­ly need­ed. Just watch. Filed under “Ran­dom” and added to our YouTube playlist.

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The YouTube Presidency

We’re about to wit­ness the begin­ning of the YouTube Pres­i­den­cy, as The Wash­ing­ton Post has dubbed it. When Barack Oba­ma takes office in late Jan­u­ary, he plans to give a new twist to a long­stand­ing tra­di­tion. The week­ly pres­i­den­tial radio address will now “air” on YouTube, mean­ing that you’ll be able to access the pres­i­den­t’s mes­sages in video, when­ev­er you want, on one of Amer­i­ca’s most traf­ficked web sites. The upshot? Some­one may actu­al­ly lis­ten to these week­ly mes­sages.

This move is part of Oba­ma’s effort to use tech­nol­o­gy to com­mu­ni­cate more direct­ly with the Amer­i­can pub­lic. It’s a way of bring­ing FDR’s fire­side chats into the 21st cen­tu­ry. In addi­tion to har­ness­ing the pow­er of Web 2.0, you can expect to find a lap­top on his Oval Office desk, a first for any pres­i­dent. And, if Oba­ma has his way, he might get to hang on to his Black­ber­ry as well. (See this piece in the NY Times.)

In the mean­time, here’s first of the YouTube videos that Oba­ma has launched dur­ing the tran­si­tion. Watch it below:

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Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix Drummer, 1969

Mitch Mitchell, the last sur­viv­ing mem­ber of the Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence, died late last week. Here we have him solo­ing in con­cert in Swe­den, 1969. More on his pass­ing here.

The Death of Planet Finance

British his­to­ri­an Niall Fer­gu­son has achieved the aca­d­e­m­ic holy trin­i­ty, hold­ing posi­tions at Har­vard, Oxford, and Stanford’s Hoover Insti­tu­tion. Only 44 years old, he has 9 books to his cred­it (includ­ing a new one: The Ascent of Mon­ey: A Finan­cial His­to­ry of the World), and you’ll often find him writ­ing in the pub­lic press. In the lat­est edi­tion of Van­i­ty Fair, Fer­gu­son takes a good look at the demise of the glob­al finan­cial sys­tem and locates the cri­sis “in the long run of finan­cial his­to­ry.” The sto­ry he tells is how the 20th cen­tu­ry — and par­tic­u­lar­ly Amer­i­ca’s urge to become a “prop­er­ty-own­ing democ­ra­cy” — brought us into “The Age of Lever­age,” which car­ried with it a “del­uge of paper mon­ey, asset-price infla­tion, [an] explo­sion of con­sumer and bank debt, and the hyper­trophic growth of deriv­a­tives.” The Lever­age Age is now over. But will its col­lapse have eco­nom­ic and social effects as dis­as­trous as the Great Depres­sion? Or will gov­ern­ment action pull us back from the brink? Def­i­nite­ly give this piece a read, and thanks to “Hanoch” for mak­ing us aware of it. As always, it’s great to get read­er sug­ges­tions.

As a relat­ed aside, I should direct your atten­tion to a new arti­cle by Michael Lewis, who first wrote about Wall Street’s excess­es in Liar’s Pok­er. It’s called “The End,” and it offers an inside account of how Wall Street sowed the seeds of its own destruc­tion. It’s also appar­ent­ly the basis for a new book.

Final­ly, you may want to check out a fas­ci­nat­ing piece in the Wall Street Jour­nal called “Mem­o­ries of the 1930s Still Sear.” It fea­tures inter­views with the old­er gen­er­a­tion who endured the Depres­sion, how they coped, and what lessons they learned.

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Funny, If It Wasn’t So Sad

Sev­er­al years ago, I had lunch with the for­mer head of a large invest­ment bank who talked about how Wall Street had a built-in bull­ish bias, and any­one who goes against the grain, does so at their own per­il. Below you’ll find a good exam­ple of that. Here we have Peter Schiff, head of Euro Pacif­ic Cap­i­tal, sound­ing the alarms repeat­ed­ly on Fox “News” in 2006-07, mak­ing pre­dic­tions that turned out to be remark­ably right, and watch the scorn that gets heaped on him. Imag­ine if the grown ups had both­ered to mind the store dur­ing the past decade, to see some of the obvi­ous prob­lems mount­ing. We might all be breath­ing a bit more eas­i­ly today.

via The Dai­ly Dish

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Decoding the Obama Victory: The Geography of US Presidential Elections

We have reached the final week of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions course. This week, Mar­tin Lewis slices and dices the elec­toral results of the ’08 elec­tion and high­lights the big and poten­tial­ly far-reach­ing shifts in US vot­ing pat­terns. No doubt, this is one of the more detailed analy­ses that you’ll find on the web. You can watch the last lec­ture in high­er res­o­lu­tion on iTune­sU here, or watch it below on YouTube. The com­plete course will be per­ma­nent­ly housed in our col­lec­tion of Free Online Cours­es under Geog­ra­phy and Polit­i­cal Sci­ence.

Fire Ants Create a Living Lifeboat in the Amazon

Yet fur­ther proof that ants are end­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, and, on a relat­ed note, see our ear­li­er piece: Cen­tral Intel­li­gence: From Ants to the Web.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.