getting all historical

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Humorous Bits
Tags: , , , , , , ,

We keep our sanity by not thinking about certain things. Does anyone really crave greater insight into the food processing industry? Who wants to spend their time contemplating the doings of Lady Gaga, other than Lady Gaga? When it comes to waste management and all its disgusting details, wouldn’t you rather let those who dedicate their lives to removing our garbage, maintaining our sewers and arresting our celebrities deal with the details? Me too.

For many people War also falls into this category. Still, lots of folks love to think about war. They long to touch it, taste it, smell it, feel it and hear it. Until, of course, they have to personally experience it. There’s a morbid fascination watching us nutty humans going postal over a slim piece of geography or differing religious beliefs. Check out news reports from around the globe. Suicide bombings, ambush attacks, air strikes – it’s all too much, all too immediate. Maybe that’s the problem, the immediacy of today’s war news. A human interest story about a farmer who has raised a 1,400 pound pig sounds far more appealing.

However, on rare occasions I also get a hankering to touch, taste, smell, feel and hear battle. Thank god for Dancing with the Stars. When that’s not on I settle for the History Channel, or as it’s also known, the HATARI Channel (History as the Americans Remember It).

War is brutal, but watching 70 year-old grainy film footage doesn’t seem real to me. The lack of color really helps. I could just as easily be watching It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s that innocuous. Plus, if you devote a few hours to watching HATARI you come to an amazing realization: they only show four different scenes in an endless loop. It helps keep production costs down.

Scene 1 – A manic, wildly gesturing Adolph Hitler addressing rows and rows and rows of spit polished German soldiers surrounded by huge Nazi flags while pounding his fist on the podium like a madman. With the sound low it’s unclear if he was making a highly emotional point or Berlin had a severe bug problem.

After a few minutes of saber rattling he steps back, conclave chest thrust forward like an emancipated peacock, and revels in an enthusiastic “Heil!” from his troops. Look at him eat it up! Can you blame him? Who doesn’t yearn to brainwash their fellow citizens into believing that you, a failed wallpaper hanger, are actually the number one show in town, the big kahuna, the top dog?

Did you ever notice whenever Hitler said “Heil” he never thrust his arm stiffly forward? Every single time he gave this awkward, arm half-cocked acknowledgement. Where was his élan, his enthusiasm? How did he expect to inspire fire and brimstone with that clearly unenthusiastic display? He must’ve missed class when they taught proper Heiling techniques. I still don’t understand how he was able to get his graduate degree in ‘Ripping the Heart Out of the German People for the 2nd Time in 25 Years’ without proper ‘Heil!’ training.

Scene 2 – This one contains actual war footage, for what is a history channel without shots of actual war? However, if it’s blood and guts you seek, look elsewhere. On HATARI you’re stuck with shots of artillery and cannons firing. Look, there’s an anti-aircraft gun blasting away! See how it recoils with every blast! There’s an anonymous soldier refilling it! Look, it’s firing again! Fire, recoil, reload! It reminds me of college.

I’m assuming what most people want to see when they turn to a channel obsessed with war is the landing of the weapons, not the firing of them. If I want to see weapons discharging I can hang out at my local convenience store. That has the added benefit of letting me ‘be in the game’, not just a belching observer sitting on the couch in skivvies covered with potato chip crumbs.

To be fair, occasionally they show more than artillery fire. Let’s call it Scene 2A, although it suffers from the same shortcomings as Scene 2. Specifically, no reaction shot. Lots and lots of action shots, but any director worth his/her salt knows without a reaction shot you got nuthin’.
– Action Shot: Jerry slaps Pete in the face.
– Reaction shot: The astonished look on the Pete’s face before kicking Jerry in the shin.

Action, reaction. In 2A we see many swooping and dodging aircraft. It could be U.S. Eighth Air Force swarming over Dresden or it could be a Godzilla movie, it’s tough to say. These aircraft display lots of gun firing and bomb dropping. Where is the bomb landing shot? That’s what your hardcore war viewer craves! Action, reaction. Film 101.

(3) Next is the famous ‘Liberating Troops’ scene. Usually set in Paris, we see Allied soldiers sitting on these big mama M26 Persching tanks as they roll down the Champs Elysess to the wild cheers of the ditch-digging French. Inevitably a blubbering Frenchman waves wildly at the passing troops as tears stream down his liberated face. Sometimes soldiers walking alongside the tanks are fighting off the French women like rock stars, which I guess they were in a way. Is that why today thousands of 65 year old French men are named Mickey and French women Betty?

(4) Finally, we have the money shot. No, not that money shot. Shame on you. I refer, of course, to the famous final scene, the one where the music swells, the curtain comes down and the audience sits in stunned silence. Let’s remember together, shall we?

Big bomb drops from plane. Mushroom cloud forms. The End.

I’m not a big fan of that scene and, for once, you can’t blame filmmakers for the lack of a reaction shot since there were no reactions to capture. However, if I was in charge over at HATARI I’d shelve this for clips from the rocking Yalta toga party of February 1945. It’s a classic! From the ‘Hazing the Allies’ bit (Eisenhower, as portrayed by Kevin Bacon, getting paddled on the ass still kills me!) to Churchill’s horse having a heart attack after nipping at his owner’s brandy to Otis Day & the Nightbombers belting out Shama Lama Ding Dong at the Empire Building Roadhouse to that wacky Stalin downing an entire bottle of Kentucky bourbon in one gulp! Unforgettable stuff! And who doesn’t laugh every time FDR asks, “What am I now?” before placing a cream puff in his mouth, smashing his cheeks and spewing white gook all over the red-faced Winston? Now that’s a History Channel to treasure!

  1. sparklebumps says:

    The history channel is awesome! All the shows are like the shortened version of all the books I don’t have time to read! But I DID take the time to read Mein Kampf…Hitler definitely suffered from Short-Man Syndrome.


  2. John says:

    Like with anything, even when participating in battle reenactments you have to start at the bottom.


  3. joem18b says:

    i had a hankering for battle, so recently i participated in a reinactment of the battle of fredericksburg in the civil war. unfortunately, as a beginner, i wasn’t allowed to carry a musket. instead, i was given a shovel and was responsible for cleaning up after the cavalry horses during the height of battle.


  4. John says:

    So, what I’m hearing, is it’s not quite accurate that you *never* cry, it’s more like you now avoid situations which may result in shedding a tear. Yet, you still root for the Red Sox. Go figure.


  5. H.E. ELLIS says:

    I’ve never heard of HATARI, and as a whole I try to avoid war movies. For all my joking about being “man-like,” I have a hard time watching anything violent. I remember watching Saving Private Ryan in the movie theater, and one of the first scenes is the battle on Omaha beach. I was somewhat fine with the action, right up until a moment came where a group of Italian soldiers were huddled together, reassuring each other. Yeah, I’m not ashamed to say I lost it at that moment. No one around me really reacted, but since I’m Italian I knew what they were saying. I haven’t been able to watch a war movie since.


  6. I don’t watch HATARI, but I might watch your version. I liked how FDR rallied the troops by asking “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Classic!


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