Ken Burns Vietnam

This fall, Ken Burns new documentary about the Vietnam War will be on PBS.

Any one of these clips from it will make you still for a minute.

The intensity of what happened with the US in Vietnam is insane.  The magnitude of the scar is unspeakable.  Literally: we can’t talk about it.

When Ken Burns made The Civil War, about something 150 years ago, it made people cry.  What is it going to be like to watch The Vietnam War, a thing every person in my parent’s generation had to reckon with in some serious way?

I saw that one of the talkers is Karl Marlantes.  His book What It Is Like To Go To War is astounding.

I’m not sure enough people heard about it.  At one time I had the same publisher as Karl Marlantes, which I was very proud of, they sent me his books for free.

Marlantes tells this story about running into Joseph Campbell, by chance:

Absolution.

Imagine having whiskey with Joseph Campbell.

The best discipline:

 

The other day on Reddit “Today I Learned” I saw this.

I went to check the source, the Lodi News Sentinel, 1971:

Preserved at this blog:

There the author gives a question and answer about his own time in Vietnam and after that I would describe as harrowing and illuminating and powerful.

Ken Burns made some darn good movies.


Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

Remember this guy?  For some reason or another I bought this pamphlet of a speech he gave at King’s College, London, November 1993:

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Stockdale was a 38 year old naval aviator when he got sent to Stanford for two years of study.  He was pretty bored until a professor handed him a copy of The Enchiridion, a collection of the teachings of Epictetus.

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What does Epictetus teach?

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He taught how to play the game of life with perspective:game-of-life

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Five years later, this is what happened to Stockdale:

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Stockdale was wrong about how long he’d be there.  He was there for 7 1/2 years, much of it in solitary confinement:

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How did he spend his time?  Well, for one thing he constructed a sliderule in his mind from equations tapped to him in code through a concrete wall::

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A bigger collection of Stockdale’s speeches and essays:

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where he distills what he learned through his prison experience down to “one all-purpose idea, plus a few corollaries”:

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What he has to say about public virtue is distressing as I watch the future president:

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A badass:

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Recommend Courage Under Fire, which costs five bucks or $3.85 on Kindle.  Thoughts Of A Philosophical Fighter Pilot is for the serious Stockdale student.

I think you can appreciate the greatness of Stockdale and also find this funny:

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/joyride-with-perot/n10313

Coverage of another philosophical fighter pilot, John Boyd, here.

 


Sometimes you learn a fact from history that gives perspective

Ho Chi Minh’s brother, according to wikipedia, was a geomancer.

Geomancy ( Greek: γεωμαντεία, “earth divination”) is a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground or the patterns formed by tossed handfuls ofsoil, rocks, or sand. The most prevalent form of divinatory geomancy involves interpreting a series of 16 figures formed by a randomized process that involves recursion followed by analyzing them, often augmented with astrological interpretations.