For Christmas, I bought my husband the History Channel series called "America: The Story of Us." The whole thing relies on way too much CGI, and it's pretty simple history, but it picks up about halfway through, when camera images were easily available (i.e. after about 1900).
Beautifully narrated by Liev Schrieber (except he can't pronounce Antietam or New Orleans), "The Story of Us" is worthy of viewing. What the series hammers home, is the inventive nature of us restless, violent, free Americans. So much has happened in the world, and much of it - cars, electricity, computers - came from American minds, bent on solving problems or making life better. We do crave our technology.
As I watched, I was reminded of one of my favorite scenes ever in motion pictures, because it illustrated Yankee Know How to a huge degree. Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard and starring everybody, was the story of the ill-fated mission to the moon that had to be aborted because of severe difficulties. The movie gave us one of Holloywood's best lines, too: "Houston, we have a problem."
For me, the best part in the movie is back at command central, when the guy in charge of the mission gathers together a pile of stuff that is available to the astronauts in their confined quarters. He loads it onto a table in command central and gathers his experts around him. I can't recall the exact words, but he gestures to the pile and tells his men this is what they have to use, to instruct the pilots how to jury-rig a return home from outer space. The guys set to work, and sure enough, find a solution. Coupled with the piloting skills of the men on board, they do indeed return. Cool scene.
What's so moving about it is to watch people under pressure take what they have, and make it work. Nobody whines; they just go to work. I'm not saying this is solely an American trait - I'm not that naive - but it does symbolize something about America that I have always appreciated: finding solutions to complex problems. Never has this been portrayed better than that scene from Apollo 13. I'm also moved and humbled by the fact that the computer I am writing this on has more power than that entire roomful of computers that sent people into space. Wow squared.
Yep, we're brash, violent, independent-to-a-fault folks, but we do have a way about us. It was nice to be reminded of that by "America: The Story of Us."
I'm heading for a week in Florida with my sisters, so probably won't be able to update this blog until next Saturday. Florida in January - someone has to go there. Might as well be me.