Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Lusitania

Hello again! This is a clip about the Lusitania, an american Ship that was sunk by German U-Boats (Untersee Boats). It was one of the most decisive reasons for the United States to enter World War 1 against the Germans. It is a two part video and I'll add a brief summery after it. I hope you enjoy them!

In may of 1915, the RMS Lusitania sailed into warring waters. After being hit by a torpedo, the Lusitania sank in 18 minutes taking down 1200 souls with her.

In the video, we can see how the Watchman of the ship sees a torpedo incoming, and alerts the whole crew. Both passengers and crew rush to the edge of the boat to see the torpedo which was going towards them. Countdown for the hit had already begun. The torpedo made impact with the Lusitania in its hull, and the impact made all the people aware of the terrible position of the ship.

While scream and shouting in the Lusitania began, the German U-boat was also shouting, but from joy instead of terror: They had hit her.

Soon after the impact, the internal machinery of the Lusitania began to fail, and explosions began everywhere. Water began to crawl inside and the crew was trying to comfort the upset passengers, who kept screaming, shouting and running. The ship stopped to respond to the commands of the captain, and was badly damaged.

They began to make evacuation plans and see if they could make repairs in the engine room, but water kept creeping in as the boat began to sink. The whole crew was panicking while families tried to kept tight together. The lights went off as the electricity system was damaged by water, and people on the elevator became stuck. The captain commanded to send an SOS signal, so that they could be rescued. 

Everybody wanted to get into the lifeboats, but obviously there wasn't room for anyone. People would have to stay and die with the Lusitania. She was sinking fast. People rushed into the boats even if it still wasn't safe to do so, and people were fighting over lifesavers. Some people fell into the water, and the ones in the elevator were already drowning. As the boat reached 20 degrees, the captain told the crew to abandon the boat.

"Women and Children first!" The crew shout as the people rushed into the lifeboats. As the lifeboats were going away, more people who had fallen to the sea was swimming towards them, and as they crawled inside they put them face down, taking all the people with them.

After 18 minutes of terror, the Lusitania finally sunk, taking lots of lives with her.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Steam Locomotive

Hello again! Here is a video about the American Railroads and the Steam Locomotive during the 1930's, made in 1938. As always, I will add a brief summary of the video after it. I hope you enjoy it!

Back then, and even nowadays, the trains, or "iron horses", were the biggest things that moved on land, and represented a great importance in economy and life that could never be underestimated. The different railroads tied the country together and server as transport, communication, and multiple other uses. The trains represented mass action because they were big enough to transport lots of persons and goods. It helped industries function correctly and in harmony, it brought the daily food of every american family and took them on trips for business and pleasure. The locomotives built the America we know today.

Probably the most famous Locomotive in the world was the "Giant Hudson" type, developed by the New York Central in 1927. No other locomotive had been as efficient and loved by the people as the "Giant Hudson."

By the time, the steam locomotive was one of the most compact power-plants in the world. They cost nearly 200 000 dollars. Since James Watt discovered the power of Steam, it has been serving mankind, and it is the prime mover of the Locomotive. The largest part of the engine is the boiler, which looks like a big tank. It is where water is turned into steam by a hot fire. Water is absorbed by the tubes and turns into steam in enormous quantities. The mechanic energy is made by connecting different cylinders, tubes, pistons and wheels. It's the result of 100 years of research and experimentation.

When steam enters the cylinders, the pistons pull, and when it leaves, the pistons push, and then the pistons are connected to rods. The pulling and pushing of the pistons also moves the rods, which make the wheels turn. Although this mechanism makes the machine work, there are other accessories that make it more safe and efficient, like the whistle and the bell that are used for communication. There is also an specific generator for the headlight. Also, the brakes are iron parts behind the wheels. The tender is behind the engine, carrying what the train needs to function properly. 

Engines are normally clean before they enter the engine house. Also, when they arrive, water is tested to check if the proportion isn't too high and if it is able to make good steam. if not, the water has to be changed with new, fresh water. The main part of servicing takes part in the Engine House. While the engine is still warm, the men enter to do the checking, which has to be done carefully. Machinery inspectors check the mechanical parts with touch, hearing and sight. During most of its stay in the engine house, the locomotive is being inspected and taken care after. No delays must be tolerated unless under special circumstances. Still, it is sometimes necessary to make various repairs. The process is finished with lubrication, which includes several kinds of oils and greases. 

After they go out, they are filled with about 30 tons of coal and treated water, they cost millions of dollars a year. There must not be lack of any of these because that would  generate lack of steam, which slows the scheduled pace of the train. Trains must always be on time for America to continue its activities.

Gladiator by Ridley Scott

Hello! In this blog we will go some thousand years back in time for analyzing an awesome movie by Ridley Scott which is named "Gladiator." I hope you enjoy it!

Directed byRidley Scott
Produced by
  • Douglas Wick
  • David Franzoni
  • Branko Lustig
Screenplay by
  • David Franzoni
  • John Logan
  • William Nicholson
Story byDavid Franzoni
Russell Crowe
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • Connie Nielsen
  • Oliver Reed
  • Derek Jacobi
  • Djimon Hounsou
  • Ralf Möller
  • Richard Harris
The movie begins at the end of the war in Germania, in the last battle. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius was dying, and commander Maximus Decimus Meridius was leading the final attack. When the Germans refused to negotiate, the attack began. First, siege machines and archers began to maim the enemy’s forces, and infantry began to close in. When both forces collided roman cavalry attacked the enemy’s back, showing the great strategy of roman commanders. Germans were taken by surprise and easily defeated. After the fight, the emperor spoke in private with Maximus, inviting him to take the throne after his death so that he could later give back the Republic to Rome and end the corruption the Empire had become in. Maximus refused, and when Marcus told his son the choice he was killed. Comodus offered Maximus to be loyal to him and he refused again, so the newly made emperor ordered his guards to kill him. Maximus escaped and went home as fast as he could, but when he arrived it was already late: his wife and son had been murdered by the emperor’s minions. He slept there and was found by some slavers that sold him to a man who owned gladiators. He began to fight under the name of the Spaniard and won every fight. The games had been abolished by the late emperor Marcus Augustus, but Comodus began again with that tradition. Maximus went to the coliseum to participate. His unit was assigned the massacre of Carthage, expected to lose, but Maximus used his commander experience and took his unit to victory… the mob already loved him. The emperor, Comodus, asked to see him without knowing who he was. He told Maximus to take his helmet off and say his name, and when Maximus did, he was suddenly afraid. He was going to tell his guards to kill him there and now, but the mob shouted that he must live. The games continued while Comodus looked for a way to kill Maximus; meanwhile, Gracus (a member of the senate) conspired against him with the emperor’s own sister. Comodus failed his multiple attempts to kill him and Maximus met with Gracus, promising him to bring back the republic if he helped him escape. Unfortunately, the conspiracy was discovered and Maximus and his supporters were captured. Comodus told Maximus that he was going to fight him and kill him in the arena, which surprised Maximus a lot, since Comodus was a coward. But he was the emperor and could do as he pleased, so he stabbed Maximus as he was held tight by ropes before the fight began. Still, Maximus managed to defeat him and kill him. The mob fell silent while slowly, Maximus’ strength began to fail him because of the wound Comodus had caused before the fight: an emperor has just been killed in front of 50 000 people and the hero who had done it was also dying. With his last strength, Maximus ordered his friends to be set free and the republic to be reinstituted, with Gracus as the head senator. After that, Maximus finally went to his family in the afterlife.
I personally think that this is one of the best movies I have seen, if not the best one ever. I have always liked ancient history, and if you combine it with a perfect story like Maximus’, it makes a perfect movie. It shows how corruption began, how the senate lost its power, the expansionist policy of ancient Rome, the power of the mobs over the government and other things about life back then. Still, roman entertainment was nasty: how could they just watch in awe while men kill each other? Or when animals kill men? I can’t understand how that could be. But those were ancient times and nowadays society has changed, and we just need to look back and see the past so that we can handle the present and plan the future… that’s what history is about.

Spanish Civil War

Hi, guys! Here is a two part video about the Spanish Civil war. I have added a summary of it at the end of each part. I hope you enjoy them!

The International Brigade was a group of soldiers that went to Spain to fight on the side of the Republicans in 1936. Many members from different countries fought and died for their ideals. Intellectuals from every country fought side by side, even against their own countrymen. There was a premonition of civil war, and coordinated rising began all over Spain on the 18th of July. Within four days, the insurgent military were under the command of Francisco Franco, and controlled about 1/3 of the country. The government refused to accept the seriousness of the situation, which proved really wrong.

Germany and Italy reacted swiftly to Franco's rebellion and decided to help him, but Britain didn't. Spain was in a state of Anarchy. The British position was that it wasn't unexpected that an armed rebellion would happen, but their concern was that there was a great possibility of the spread of soviet influence in a country in which they had serious interest. Italy sent 12 bombers to Spain, while Germany sent several u-boats, battleships and 600 fighter planes. The British stopped providing oil to the government and permitted the insurgents to use the different communication lines with other countries. Eventually, they sided with Franco and sent 20 000 troops in support. Hitler had seen the chance for his pilots to get experience in wartime conditions, so he sent them.

Franco was named the head of government on September 29th. By October 1st, he was calling himself Head of State. During his government, hundreds of political suspects were taken and massacred. On October 7th, Madrid experienced the first airstrikes on the city. The nationalists' army was approaching from the northwest and the southwest, and by the middle of the month, all towns near Madrid were on their hands. The 'Milicianos'  lost thousands of men, while the Nationalists gained ground steadily. Refugees rushed into the city, and their hopes remained on the International Brigade.

Franco continued to fight for Madrid while 'La Pasionaria' gave moral to the soldiers, and her words kept them fighting. "Resist! It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!" she had said. On November 17th missiles fell on the center of the city, turning beautiful squares into burning ashes. Still, the 'Madrigueños' continued fighting. Madrid remained the focus of battle for the next four months. Germany and Italy recognized the Franco Regime on November 18th, breaking the pretends of non-intervention, which began in London. What they meant was to keep the fight in Spain from 'infecting' the rest of Europe.

Since Madrid remained resistant, the attack was taken towards Bilbao. German bombers began to attack the city. It was an experiment, and it was a huge success. On June 19th, 1937, Bilbao fell to the Nationalists. They did their best to extinguish the pride of the Basque Nation. The Republicans tried to regain initiative and break the siege of Madrid. 50000 republicans soldiers were able to storm Brunete, a town which was only 15 miles away from Madrid. After 13 days of fighting, the Nationalists were able to push back the Republican army into Madrid.

The different International Brigades were terribly damaged, and some even refused to go back to the fight. Their losses at Brunete had been terrible. The flow of new recruits began to dry off and the volunteers began to return home. The nationalists now controlled 2/3 of Spain. There were about 600000 men in the Nationalist army against about 450000 Republicans, and the presence of German and Italian bombers also gave the Nationalists a lot of advantage in the fight for Spain. Franco was winning the war. 

The Republicans needed a victory for gaining back moral, and they chose to attack the town of Teruel. They failed to keep the initiative again. Ten days later, the Republicans entered the town and Franco planned their counter attack. They fell on the Republicans and massacred them once more. On January 17th, 1938, the Republican line broke. The fighting continued for over a month, and when it finally ended, there were about 10000 Republican corpses. By March, the Nationalist armies were swarming into Aragon. Town after town fell under the Nationalist army, and the Republicans were slowly driven back. The brigades went home, and 'La passionaria' spoke to them, telling them to go home proudly.

After the battle, practically the whole Republican army had been destroyed. By January 1939, Barcelona belonged to Franco, and on February 27th, the Republican President resigned after other nations recognized the Nationalist Government. On April 1st, 1939, the Civil War was over. The victor was General Franco.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Someone in a Tree - 19th Century Asia

Hello, again! Here is a kind of fun representation of the song Someone in a Tree, of Pacific Overtures, a musical written by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman. This show is set in Japan,1853, and  is about some facts that happened  when the Commodore Mathew Perry was sent to Japan to open trade between the United States of America and that country under gunboat diplomacy, told from the point of view of the Japanese

The History behind the Song

By the beginning of the 19th century, most countries in Asia were really isolated. Some of the most important were China, Japan, and Korea. If China was isolated, Japan was even more, and Korea the most of all. When China began to open trade with Western Countries, there were several rebellions, which were all stopped by multi-national forces. This, and other things, made Japan don't want to open trade with western countries.

During that time, Theodore Roosevelt was the president of the United States, and he was decided to open trade with Japan for getting different commodities, a sphere of influence, and westernizing that country. Therefore, he decided to send commodore Mathew Perry with some ships to Japan, so that he could negotiate with the Japanese and open trade between both countries. He simply said "Speak softly and carry a big stick." This meant that Commodore Perry should speak in terms of peace and try to convince them, but he was at the same time showing off the power of his nation as a warning to those who could oppose him.

Commodore Mathew Perry as depicted by a Japanese artist.

So Commodore Mathew Perry set course   towards Japan, carrying four war steamboats with him. This is now known as the "Gunboat Diplomacy." While using the boats for harming the Japanese wasn't really in Perry's intentions, it was kind of saying "Hey, if you want to be friends with us, that's great; if you don't, well... we have this 4 war steamboats in your port, and it's only a part of our strength."

When Perry arrived in Japan, he thought that he was going to speak with the emperor, but the one who had real power back then was the Shogun, while the emperor was just a figurehead. They weren't conformed with showing off their weapons and technology, but they also decided to show off their wealth. As it says in the song, "Some of them have gold on their coats. One of them has gold." In the song there is also a very important part that says: "They kept drinking cups of tea." Tea was one of the commodities that Western countries were looking for in Asia, so it's pretty relevant.

The Japanese accepted the "terms of conditions" Mathew Perry imposed on them for opening trade between the Japanese and the Americans, and they were finally opened to the west. This generated a series of disagreements in Japan, but not as much as in China, and there weren't any major rebellions. Instead, they saw in the opening to the West an opportunity of getting new ideas.

Japan became a world power after this meeting between two different worlds, and still is nowadays.

About The Song

In  "Someone in a Tree" two witnesses describe negotiations between the Japanese and the Americans. The main characters in this song of the musical are an Old man,a  reciter, a boy, and a soldier. There is an important line that says: "No one knows what happened in the treaty house". So the song gives us the answer to that question from three different points of view: The old man who remembers watching from the top of a tree when he was a boy; the same old man when he was 10 years old; and a soldier that was hiding under the floorboards of the treatry house. So, the old man and the boy tell us what they have seen, and the soldier tells us what he heard while hiding in the treaty house