History and Culture A _ 2012-2013

A class blog Patricia Bou. English Studies. UV

Sunday, 29 April 2012

UK Parliament

Hello everyone,

As we have been reviewing the the procedures of the UK Parliament in class recently, I thought I would share some information on the topic here on the blog. 

Firstly, on this link you can find a short summary about Question Time in the House of Commons and other aspects relating to the British political system:

Here is an introductory video to the UK Houses of Parliament, from the work of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, to Parliament's history, art and architecture: 

You can find out more about Parliament by watching other clips in this series through this link: 

The second video which I have found has highlights from Friday the 30th of October 2009, when the UK Youth Parliament debated a range of issues in the House of Commons Chamber. The event marked the first time that anyone other than MPs had been permitted to use the Chamber, and the topics discussed included the right to free university education, youth crime, transport and lowering of the voting age to 16. 

The last video which I would like to share is one showing some funny moments from political debates over the years, including clips of David Cameron, Gordon Brown and a funny moment involving Nadhim Zahawi's  musical tie! 

Enjoy the reading week and see you in class!

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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Events in the 1980s

  • The 80's signaled the start of the computer age, following on from the creation of Microsoft and Apple towards the end of the 70's , the technology and the speed of innovation both in Hardware and Software together with the cheapness provided a speed of growth and take up . The birth of the IBM PC signaled the start of Personal Computers first in the Offices and then into peoples homes becoming an integral part of our lives. following on from Micrsofts MSDOS on PC's to the first versions of Windows a GUI Graphical User Interface. 

  • During the 80's we also saw the collapse of the traditional communism and the end of the cold war .The fragmentation of communism included the collapse of the Berlin wall and the breakup up of what was the USSR towards the end of the 80's. and leading to German reunification.
  • The 80's also signaled a period of the rise of conservatism as the in political and cultural life, caused by Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the USA .
  • Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland islands in 1982 but is subsequently defeated by the United Kingdom.
  • Famine in Ethiopia was shown to the world on our television screens in 1984 - 1985 and the pain and suffering caused the western world to find new ways to help including the Live Aid concert and many of the most popular stars contributed their time and performed for free in cities throughout the world , This has to be one of the most successful campaigns ever to create awareness and raise much needed funds by those who have the power to draw TV audiences around the globe. 
  • John Lennon is shot outside his New York apartment
  • MTV (Music Television) is launched
  • Floppy shirts, Backcombed hair, Padded shoulders, big hairdoes and white stilettoes
  • The Simpsons Is First Seen On Tracey Ullman Show April 5th 1987 
  •  American music artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson swept the Australian music charts in the 1980s. British acts like The Cure and Duran Duran also achieved commercial success in Australia.

  •  Power dressing in the 1980s  - fashion history influences of the 80s including, Dynasty and Dallas, big hair, gold, glamour and glitz. Shoulders and shoulder pads. 1980s Fashion also featured,  big shoulder shawls, Doc Martens, trainers, low heeled pumps, innovative hosiery and colour coordination.
  • Famous headline - The Marriage of the Decade - In 1981, the royal wedding took place at Buckingham Palace in London, England.  Prince Charles married a kindergarten teacher named Diana Spencer.  This woman was very lucky to have all of those people watching her get married. It was an unbelievable sight at the palace. The queen had a new daughter-in-law, Princess Diana.

  • The 1980's was a decade of speaking out and fighting for what you believe in. It was also an age where people found interest in debates, and solving problems. 


Friday, 13 April 2012

Good Night and Good Luck - Against McCarthy

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist party?"
As we have studied in class, this question brought the disgrace to more than 90000 people in 1950’s US. After World War II, the increasing tensions produced by the Cold War, the first URSS a-bomb that copied the first US “Fat Man” plutonium bomb, the appointment of Mao Zedong in China and the beginning of the Korean War in 1950 created a claustrophobic climate of fear and suspicion in the United States. Just being suspected of communism meant that one was a traitor and the association with communists was even worse than being one.
It was at this moment when the Republican senator of Wisconsin Joseph McCarthy appeared in the political US scene. Together with the HUAC (The House of Un-American Activities Committee) and with the help of some powerful personalities such as J. Edgar Hoover (First Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – FBI – who had been obsessed with the eradication of communism long time before McCarthy), McCarthy started a terrifying campaign against “communism” known as the Red Scare. Even Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, two future presidents, supported McCarthy’s witch hunt.

What started with the announcing of a list of suspected communists, soon became into a public indiscriminate hunt, especially in the world of entertainment. McCarthy was often in the news accusing many types of people, from business men to TV and cinema personalities. They said that movie where trying to brainwash people’s minds with anti-American communist propaganda. Many writers were also labeled as communists or communist sympathizers. The careers of many people were destroyed just with a stupid accusation. Many people were forced to testify against other people and, if they refused, they were blacklisted. As a consequence, many people gave the name of other people who were not communists indeed. Here follows a list of some of the most famous people accused:
Bertolt Brecht
(German poet and playwright)

Charlie Chaplin
(English comic actor and director)

Edward G. Robinson
(American actor)

Dashiell Hammett
(American writer of detective novels and short stories)

Elia Kazan
(American director, producer, screenwriter and actor)

W.E.B. du Bois
(American civil rights activist, writer, editor and historian)

Langston Hughes
(American poet, playwright, novelist and civil rights activist)

Orson Welles
(American actor, director, screenwriter and producer)

Shirley Temple
(American child actress and later ambassador)

But not everything was fear. Many brave men raised their voices against the injustices produced by what came to be called McCarthyism. In the damaged field of cinema, the most famous case was that of “The Hollywood Ten”. That was a term used to describe the first group of Hollywood workers accused of communism and sent to prison because of their resistance to McCarthy’s methods. Their names were Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo. The vast majority of them were screenwriters. In 1950 they made a short documentary film in which each of them made a speech complaining and denouncing their situation.
In support of the Hollywood Ten, film director John Huston founded the Committee for the First Amendment in order to protest against the HUAC hearings. Other members of the Committee were famous Hollywood stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Gene Kelly, Katherine Hepburn, Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard), Groucho Marx and Frank Sinatra.
In 1956, with the loss of prestige and credibility of McCarthy, two films (among many others) reflected the oppressive situation of the previous five years. I strongly recommend you to see both of them because they are amazing films. One of them is Storm Center (Daniel Taradash, 1956), in which Bette Davis plays the role of Alicia Hull, a small town librarian who refuses to remove a book called The Communist Dream from the library’s collection. An aspiring politician from the town called Paul Duncan accuses her of communism, turning the rest of the people against her. The film soon became very famous, although its end was strongly criticized because it was “too optimistic”.
The second film is Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). The story deals with an extraterrestrial invasion in a small town in California. The invaders replace humans with identical clones, with the difference that they do not have any emotion or feeling. The film reflected the paranoia that you cannot trust anybody, that everybody can be one of “them”, even your best friend.

Arthur Miller also raised his most powerful weapon against MacCarthyism: a play. In 1952 he wrote The Crucible, a dramatization of the events that took place in Salem during 1692 and 1693, in which some important members of the colony accused others of practicing witchcraft and, therefore, they were judged, condemned and executed. Miller uses these tragic events of American history as an allegory of the situation in which he lived, strongly criticizing the fact that you could lose your work, your family and your reputation just because someone says that you were a communist.

But the most crucial effort against the Red Scare came on the part of Edward Murrow, a journalist that became famous because of his extraordinary radio programs during World War II. In a series of TV shows called See it now, Murrow made a fierce critique of McCarthy’s “witch hunts” denouncing that his accusations were unfounded and that he was violating the main rights of American people. Murrow was immediately accused of sympathizing with communism.

From then on, Murrow and his team were alone. Even CBS channel turned their back to him. But Murrow didn’t give up. He invited McCarthy to the program in order to defend himself from their accusations. In the interview the real nature of the Senator was revealed. Using excerpts from McCarthy’s own speeches, Murrow pointed out the several contradictions and lies that he had invented to create the communist paranoia.
Although their efforts were essential to discredit McCarthy, Murrow had caused many problems to CBS and in 1958 See it now was cancelled (all this was reflected in George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck)

In 1954 McCarthy went too far. He accused ex-president Harry Truman and some members of the Senate of communism, and he even tried to accuse President Eisenhower. As he never proved any of these charges, the truth was revealed and his ideas were discredited. That meant the end of fear, the end of paranoia, the end of McCarthyism.

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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Political Speech Project

I Have a Dream (Martin Luther King Jr.)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Group members: Jesús Mérida Bretones, Carmen Nadal Ferrandiz, Aida Sánchez Moro.