Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A moving 11-minute film by filmmaker, Doug McMains, may be a life changer for 5 young men who stood in for those lives lost ... .

This is one of the films produced for the anticipated Visitors Educational Center at Port Chicago in Concord.  It memorializes the tragic event that occurred on July 17, 1944 when 320 lives were lost.  The film has been entered into a dozen or so film festivals starting next month in Sacramento.  Will keep you posted on how it is received by audiences and judges.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, July 29th we will be sharing -- for the first time -- the screening of "... Into Forgetfulness -- with these five young men, their friends, and families.  The young men only learned of the story of the horrific explosion and the mutiny trials during the filming, and have no idea that their images have been immortalized in this moving piece as it will be shown for the next few decades in our Visitors Center and with the whole world on the Internet.

They were filmed aboard the historic Kaiser-built ship, the SS Red Oak Victory, where they learned to "square" their sailor hats from Chief Engineer, Bill Jackson, and heard the stories of that fatal day from Park Ranger Ed Bastien who assisted on the shoot.

As is so often the case, I'm cited in the credits, but can't recall a single thing I contributed -- except for being present and accounted for.  But now that the work is done and being publicly seen,  I'm finding guilty pleasure in having my name associated with still one more brilliant artist's creation.  Maybe I shouldn't question the why of it; just sit back and enjoy, right?

... maybe it is a question of simply being -- and not doing.

Photo:  Peter Gray, Aaron Sio, Francois Johnson, Ismaeel Muhammad, and Marquez Johnson.

... into forgetfulness. from McMains on Vimeo.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Can't imagine that I've lost the rhythm so completely ...

Just living takes up all of the available energy these days ... with so little time for reflection, without which writing is nearly impossible.  The words have to mean something, otherwise it makes no sense.

My days are filled with adventure, creativity, newness, never-before-experiences -- and all in italics and living color!

With the opening of the Visitors Education Center behind us, we're settling in to building a routine and figuring out what we'd like the experience to be for those who enter our doors.  The temporary exhibits are highly successful -- even more than I'd ever have dreamed possible.   The installation of the permanent ones is still a year away. Those displays borrowed from other national parks around the country that were relevant to our mission (production, propaganda, health, women's work, civil rights, Japanese internment, etc.) are clearly having the intended impact.   I love to watch people gather around patiently taking in the texts, and experiencing -- in many cases -- history that is unfamiliar, but  truly moving.  Their comments bear this out as many stop at the front desk to tell their own stories or those of their parents or grandparents.  Many are from the generation whose experiences are chronicled here.

My hours have been "upped" for the summer, and I'm in the Visitors Center on Tuesdays and Saturdays for my entire work day.  I present the two o'clock film and give a talk that is generally well-received.  On the other days my project work is done at our administrative offices about ten minutes away from the VC.

I still do public appearances -- the most recent being one of several invited to speak to those on board for the annual LaborFest S.F. Bay cruise of the AFL-CIO.  The photo above was taken at that time and the young woman with me is Shell Marie, the granddaughter of the legendary Harry Bridges, one-time head of the ILWU (Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union).  (I've referred to Harry Bridges in an earlier post -- July 18, 2005 -- which you can bring up by the little white search bar on the lefthand side of the screen above the banner.)

My talk over the PA system to all of those on board followed narration by 3 union historians of the sites along the San Francisco Bay shoreline as we sailed by.

Having worked along with the rest of the interpretive staff as consultants for several original films made for the purpose, the short films reflect the mission that guides all of our work -- that of making this Rosie the Riveter WWII/Home Front National Historical Park inclusive of all who lived that history.  We're building that baseline against which to measure all of the social progress that we've experienced as a nation since that time.  And, magically, despite the many negative aspects to that painful history, we're managing to create a positive experience for our visitors as we deal with the conflicting truths inherent in the maintenance of the democracy.  I'm not sure how that happens, but it does -- and powerfully.

We're having clusters of school teachers come through, which is a really important development.  Only last week a group of 25 came through from Lafayette, Louisiana, and spent the afternoon with me viewing the films and doing the guided walk of the Rosie Memorial.

The days are good.  The work continues to provide enough novelty and surprise -- and, yes, -- successes to last for whatever time is left ... but I find myself thinking less and less about those "end of life" issues than was true a few months ago.  There is simply too much to do to waste time anticipating the inevitable.