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David Simkin

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  1. Five of our group, photographed as they walk away from 10 Downing Street ( We were supposed to be delivering a petition to the PM at No 10) LEFT TO RIGHT - 1) Linda Benjamin, 2) Jim Smith, 3) ? Unknown, 4) A woman friend of Del Smith, 5) David Simkin (me)
  2. This photo shows the policeman on the right still simmering after my accidental attack. I am smiling as I walk away, but I was probably feeling pretty nervous after the scuffle with the afore mentioned policeman.
  3. Here is the first of three photographs showing Young Socialist from the Havering area outside 10 Downing Street on the day of the large anti-Vietnam War Demonstration in London on 17th March 1968. This picture shows me accidentally hitting the policeman outside No. 10 with my placard. To my left is Jim Smith, a fellow member of the Harold Hill Young Socialists. I was lucky that the policeman I clobbered by mistake cooled down quickly and did not take the incident any further. The bloke on the following BBC website describes how he was not so lucky. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/witness...000/3516162.stm
  4. I agree that all these films are good examples of filmmaking. However, I would question whether two of these films (Godfather and Mean Streets), should be in the top ten. Martin Scorsese is obviously a great filmmaker but shouldn’t we demand more of him? The subject matter of Scorsese’s films give me concern. What do we learn about the human condition from his films? (Too much according to the Italian-American pressure groups.) For my taste, Scorsese gets too much pleasure of showing violence on the screen. This no doubts adds to his box-office appeal, but raises serious questions about his obsession with criminals. I would not mind if he addresses the political issues behind organized crime. He does not do this. In fact, his main concern is to play on the prejudices of his audience. If he wants to explore the contribution made by Italian immigrants to America, why does he not make a film about the activities of people like Nicola Sacco, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Arthuro Giovannitti, Carlo Tresca, Vito Marcantonio, and Fiorello La Guardia? <{POST_SNAPBACK}> John might have a point about Scorsese's later obsession with criminal violence ( Goodfellas [1990] through to Gangs of New York [2002] ), but I don't think this is a fair criticism when applied to Mean Streets. Scorsese was a young man when he made Mean Streets in 1973 and he was drawing on his own experience of growing up in New York's Little Italy. Apparently, a number of the characters in the film were based on people he knew when he was growing up in a tough neighbourhood dominated by criminals and priests. Mean Streets features Italian-American criminals, but it is mainly concerned with the relationship between friends and issues of guilt, conflicts of loyalty, conformity and the flouting of rules. As Pauline Kael wrote when it was first released, Mean Sreets is " a tiumph of personal filmmaking ". John asks " What do we learn about the human condition from his films? ". Well, in Mean Streets we learn what it is like to have a crippling sense of sin, to be torn by divided loyalties, to be subservient to authority at the expense of not supporting a friend, how self interest can damage friendship and how injured pride can lead to violence. The violence in Mean Streets is not glorified - it is, in turns, stupid, pointless and destructive. As Pauline Kael noted in her "New Yorker" review, in this film " violence erupts crazily ...the way it does in life - so unexpectedly fast that you can't believe it, and over before you've been able to take it in." What is more, Mean Streets is a bravura piece of film making - wonderful use of the camera, brilliant acting fom De Niro and Keitel and great use of popular music on the soundtrack. Scorsese has made " non-gangster" films about Italian-Americans - Jake La Motta in Raging Bull and a 45 minute documentary about the experience of Sicilian immigrants called "Italianamerican". I think it is a shame that he has not matured into a serious film artist, but he has made at least two powerful and thought provoking films - Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. ( In 1970, Scorsese supervised a documentary by a student "collective" about demonstrations against the American invasion of Cambodia ). It is sad to see that he is now reduced to providing his "voice talent" to the Shark Tale, the animated feature cartoon from DreamWorks which has managed to offend more Italian- Americans. (see http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/entertain...intstory.jsp&1c ). Scorsese's parents were both children of Sicilian immigrants who had settled in New York. His father and mother worked in the garment industry. Scorsese obviously got a thrill from living in close proximity to tough criminals in Little Italy. Apparently, he struggled to attract financial backing for Mean Streets and only attracted the interest of film producers like Roger Corman because his script reader assured Corman that the screenplay had " sex, violence, gangsters and a lot of action." Someone else financed the film in the end, but I suspect the film would not have been made in Hollywood if it told the story of exploited workers in the garment industry rather than young men living at the fringes of organised crime.
  5. Chris Sweeney makes the point that many secondary school pupils "actively dislike" poetry. Many adults ( particularly those men who regard poetry as a "cissy" activity) have an antipathy to poetry. This may have something to do with the perception that poetry is "difficult", or as Chris puts it, less "accessible" than prose. It could also be associated with a reluctance to deal with personal feelings or emotions - many people feel awkward and embarrassed when a person shares their innermost feelings with them. As a teenager, I shared this antipathy towards poetry, but ironically it was a poem that attacked the whole notion of poetry that made me think again. This poem was "Poetry" by William Wantling ( 1932-1974 ). William Wantling was a Korean War veteran who became dependant on drugs after being given morphine to treat severe burns received in combat. As a result of his heroin addiction, Wantling served 5 years in San Quentin prison. The following poem, therefore, comes as much from his personal experience as a prison inmate as his creativity as a poet. (If you are upset by foul language and swearing, read no further - I do not want to offend anyone, but I feel the power of the poem would be weakened if it was censored ). Poetry I've got to be honest. I can make good word music and rhyme at the right times and fit words together to give people pleasure and even sometimes take their breath away - but it always somehow turns out kind of phoney. Consonance and assonance and inner rhyme won't make up for the fact that I can't figure out how to get down on paper the real or the true which we call life. Like the other day. The otherday I was walking on the lower exercise yard here at San Quentin and this cat called Turk came up to a friend of mine and said Ernie, I hear you're shooting on my kid. And Ernie told him So what punk? and Turk pulled out his stuff and shanked Ernie in the gut only Ernie had a metal tray in his shirt. Turk's shank bounced right off him and Ernie pulled his stuff out and of course Turk didn't have a tray and caught it dead in the chest, a bad one, and the blood that came to his lips was a bright pink, lung blood, and he just laid down in the grass and said xxxx. Sheeit. . And he laughed a long time, softly, until he died. Now what could consonance or assonance or even rhyme do to something like that ? William Wantling If you would like to read a short account of Wantling's life and his poetry see the site at http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine...ord.asp?id=5743
  6. In February 2001, Observer film critic Philip French nominated his 10 best sporting films of all time. They were in order : 1) The Hustler ( Robert Rossen, 1961 ) - pool 2) Raging Bull ( Martin Scorsese, 1980 ) - boxing 3) This Sporting Life ( Lindsay Anderson, 1963 ) - rugby league 4) The Arsenal Stadium Mystery ( Thorold Dickinson, 1939 ) - football 5) The Longest Yard [aka The Mean Machine ] ( Robert Aldrich, 1974 )-American football 6) Chariots of Fire ( Hugh Hudson, 1981 ) athletics - running 7) National Velvet ( Clarence Brown, 1945 ) - steeple-chase horse racing 8) Eight Men Out ( John Sayles, 1988 ) - baseball 9 ) Breaking Away ( Peter Yates, 1979 ) - cycle racing 10 ) The Moment of Truth ( Francesco Rosi, 1964 ) - bull-fighting Numbers 1) and 2) are great pieces of film making, but I have particularly fond memories of Number 9) - Breaking Away. This film not only details, with wit and charm, the story of a young man from a blue collar background who becomes obsessed with cycling, but also examines class consciousness and class conflict - a rarity in mainstream American cinema ( Peter Yates, the film's director, is British ). David Simkin
  7. For what it's worth, here are, in chronological order, ten of the best films I have seen. 1. Seven Samurai ( Akira Kurosawa. Japan. 1954 ) 2. Battle of Algiers ( Gillo Pontecorvo. Italy/France/ Algiers. 1965 ) 3. Andrei Rublev ( Andrei Tarkovsky. USSR. 1966 ) 4. The Conformist ( Bernardo Bertolucci. Italy. 1969 ) 5. The Godfather ( Francis Ford Coppola. USA. 1972 ) 6. The Spirit of the Beehive ( Victor Erice. Spain. 1973 ) 7. Mean Streets ( Martin Scorsese. USA. 1973 ) 8. The Lacemaker ( Claude Goretta. Switz./ France. 1977 ) 9. The Tree of Wooden Clogs ( Ermanno Olmi. Italy. 1978 ) 10. My Life as a Dog ( Lasse Hallstrom. Sweden. 1985 ) Bubbling under - Here is Your Life ( Jan Troell. Sweden. 1966.) Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige. China. 1984 ) Fellini's 8 1/2 ( Frederico Fellini. Italy. 1963 ) Boy ( Nagisa Oshima. Japan. 1969. ) Fat City ( John Huston. USA.1972 ) Jesus of Montreal ( Denys Arcand. Canada/France. 1989 ) Memories of Underdevelopment ( Tomas Gutierrez Alea. Cuba. 1968 ) Days of Heaven ( Terrence Malick. USA. 1978 ) My Night with Maud ( Eric Rohmer . France. 1968 ) The Four Hundred Blows ( Francois Truffaut. France. 1959 ) The Travelling Players ( Theo Angelopoulos. Greece.1975 ) I have restricted my list by not having more than one director represented. ( otherwise Scorsese could be there with "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" and Tarkovsky with "The Mirror" ). A really good film has to be able to stand up to repeated viewings. With the exception of "The Tree of Wooden Clogs", I have seen all the films in the "Top Ten" list at least three times. ( I remember thinking, on first viewing, that Claude Faraldo's "Themroc" (1972) was one of the most important films ever made, but viewing it a second time I was embarrassed that I had recommended it to all my friends ). I have a feeling that Jan Troell's film "Here is Your Life" is one of the best films I have ever seen, but I have to reserve judgement as I have only seen it once, and that was about twenty years ago. Most of the films in the "bubbling under" section have only been viewed once and I would like to see them again before declaring that they were truly great films. If anyone viewing this posting has seen "The Tree of Wooden Clogs", "Here is Your Life", "The Travelling Players" "Jesus of Montreal " "Boy" or "Fat City", please let me know that I was not mistaken in my belief that they were really good films. David Simkin
  8. In John Simkin's reply to my posting, which posits the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin, he outlines Oswald's actions in connection with the shooting of President Kennedyand highlights those features which indicate that Oswald was not a professional hitman. The points mentioned by John ( the purchase of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, etc. ) merely reinforce my argument that Lee Harvey Oswald was not part of an organised conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy. When he discusses Oswald's possible motive, John writes : This is all well and good, but these are not the motives that I was suggesting in my earlier posting. I believe there were psychological reasons for Oswald's actions and he was emotionally disturbed at the time of the killing. James W. Clarke, in his chapter on Lee Harvey Oswald in the book American Assassins: The Darker Side of Politics (1982) puts forward a convincing psychological explanation for Oswald's behaviour. There is not much point in seeking a rational explanation for the assassination when the accused assassin was clearly acting irrationally at the time. Perhaps, if Oswald had survived Jack Ruby's attack, an examination would have revealed Oswald's emotional state leading up to the assassination. Turning to the questions raised by John in the listed points numbered (1) to (7) at the end of his posting which cast doubt on Oswald's lone involvement in the assassination. It is my understanding that points (1) to (6) have been challenged by "scientific experts " over recent years. Regarding point (7), I believe the majority of the witnesses stated that they believed the shots came from the sixth floor window of the School Book Depository. A number of other witnesses thought the shots came from a different part of the building and some claimed they saw two men on the sixth floor. Eye-witnesses are not always reliable when rapid, violent acts take place.
  9. The Role of Lee Harvey Oswald Twenty years ago I was the co-author of a booklet entitled "The Kennedy File:The Assassination of President Kennedy," part of the Active Learning in The Humanities series published by Tressell Publications, a teachers' publishing co-operative. While working on the book, I read a large number of books on the Kennedy Assassination, most of which peddled a particular theory concerning the persons or groups who carried out the killing of the President. It soon became clear to me that there was in effect a "conspiracy theory industry" associated with the assassination of JFK and, over a number of years, dozens if not hundreds of books had been published that argued the case for a whole range of conflicting and contradictory theories. Here are just a few of the conspiracy theories that have been put forward : 1. The Russian Communist Plot Theory 2. The Pro-Castro Plot Theory 3. The Cuban Exile Plot Theory 4. The Oganised Crime Plot Theory 5. The American Intelligence Plot Theory 6. The Right Wing Plot Theory A range of conspiracy theories also implicated individuals in an assassination plot, including Marina Oswald, Mrs Paine and Jack Ruby. Lyndon B Johnson was bound to be mentioned by some, as he clearly met one of the standard considerations mentioned in all murder investigations - “motive, means, and opportunity". As Vice President, Johnson would obviously immediately benefit from the sudden death of the President. Along with the standard conspiracy theories, there were also books published that claimed that there was an " Oswald Double," who either carried out the crime or was planted to confuse investigators. One of the most bizarre suggestions is that the assassination was planned as a 'mercy killing' because Kennedy was suffering from a cruel affliction called Addison's Disease. This could lead to the surprising, but ludicrous conclusion that Kennedy plotted his own violent death. It became apparent that nearly every conspiracy theorist could put forward "evidence" for their particular argument. To make a case, all an author had to do was to be selective in the presentation of "evidence," conveniently ignoring all the material that would undermine their case. ( I think when we consider a conspiracy theory we should look closely at the author of the book and the particular source for the story and apply the same standard considerations of “motive, means, and opportunity" - clearly the main motive for many is a potential financial reward or a way of achieving notoriety ) For what it's worth, I personally believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin and acted alone. The Warren Commission's investigations were flawed and the verdict rushed, but essentially I think the Commission's basic findings were correct when it concluded that Kennedy was murdered by a single gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, and that he worked alone in the assassination. To return to the phrase I mentioned earlier, Oswald had the “motive, means, and opportunity”. Despite Oswald's muddled involvement in politics, I beleve that his motivation and actions can be explained by psychology [ see James W. Clarke, American Assassins: The Darker Side of Politics (1982) ] Given the evidence that is available, Oswald also had the "means" and the "opportunity". In many of the conspiracy theories, the facts that implicate Oswald in the killing prove to be an inconvenience and have to be explained away with phrases such as "patsy" or " fall-guy". For others, given Oswald's peculiar life and career ( Communist defector, Pro-Castro activist etc etc ) Lee Harvey Oswald is a wonderful ingredient for a conspiracy theory. I have yet to be convinced by any of the conspiracy theories and will not be persuaded until they can put forward a believable account of Oswald's role in the assassination story. I will continue to hold on to my belief that Oswald was the "lone gunman". I realise that this is now a minority view and I probably will not convince the conspiracy theorists that this is the historical truth - well, not until I perish in a bizarre road accident or expire from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  10. I take it everyone will know of The Internet Public Library? http://www.ipl.org/div/books/ Thanks for the above 'tip off', ChristineS. This site not previously known to me. It is a great resource and I have added it to my "Favourites".
  11. For those interested in the early history of photography -daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, calotypes etc., I can recommend the following sites : The Daguerreian Society http://www.daguerre.org/home.html The Library of Congress - Daguerreotype Portraits and Views http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/daghtml/daghome.html Lost and Found - Rediscovering early photographic processes http://imsc.usc.edu/haptics/LostandFound/t...uerreotype.html http://imsc.usc.edu/haptics/LostandFound/t..._ambrotype.html University of Glasgow - The Calotype Process http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/hillandadamson/calo.html
  12. My name is David Simkin. I trained as a teacher in the early 1970s and taught in secondary schools in Essex from 1975 to 1982. In 1982, I moved to Brighton and from 1983 to 1993 I worked for Tressell Publications, a Teachers' Co-operative which produced active learning materials for primary and secondary schools. During my time with Tressell, I produced a number of books and learning packs in the field of History and Integrated Studies and designed several computer assisted learning packs and historical simulations. When Tressell Publications folded, I returned to teaching and worked briefly as an Education Officer at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. I currently work in East Sussex County Council's Education Department. For the past five years or so, i have carried out research into the lives and careers of photographers active in Sussex during Victorian and Edwardian times and I have my own website devoted to the History of Photography in Brighton - Brighton Photographers, 1841-1910. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Brigh...otographers.htm
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