Tuesday, December 24, 2013

J.T.: An Urban Christmas Carol

by G. Jack Urso
 

Yearling edition
paperback
J.T., which first premiered on CBS on December 13, 1969, is the story of a young African-American child, J.T., living in an urban slum. Just before Christmas, J.T. finds a stray cat and immediately identifies with the unwanted animal, picked on by humans and lacking shelter. Unable to take the cat home, J.T. goes to great lengths to keep his new friend alive, learning lessons in love and responsibility while doing so. When tragedy strikes, J.T. learns an important lesson about Christmas and taking responsibility for your actions.

The film shows the grinding poverty of the late 1960s. Many of the same problems that still plague urban youth today are portrayed: single-parent families, sons without fathers, bullying, and crime, to name but a few. The cat is stand-in for the Christ child, and really for all us born into this world and dependent upon the kindness of others for our survival. J.T. captures a moment in time and serves as a historical snapshot of mid-century inner-city poverty in the United States. Recognized for its excellence in writing, J.T. won a Peabody Award in 1970. I present it here in its entirety from my archives:
J.T. aired for a few years and then disappeared from the airwaves. Despite the serious material, I identified with J.T. The second year the show aired I made my father sit down and watch it on the small back and white television in the bedroom I shared with my brother. I even had a picture book of the show, which I wore out reading all year round. As time went on, though I did not forget the story, I did forget the title and thought it might be a piece of my childhood forever lost. Persistent search engine inquiries eventually helped me track down the show, and the sheer delight upon finding a lost part of one’s youth is a Christmas gift in and of itself.

Baby boomers will notice some familiar names and faces from TV: J.T. himself is played by Kevin Hooks, who was a prominent cast member on The White Shadow; Ja'net DuBois, from the classic 1970s show Good Times, is J.T’s mother; and Holland Taylor, from Two and a Half Men, turns up as J.T.'s teacher. In a side note, comic actress Lily Tomlin, impressed by J.T.’s author Jane Wagner’s realistic portrayal of inner-city life, invited Wagner to work with her on a project. The two fell in love and have been together for over forty years.

J.T. has also inspired in me a life-long love of animals and a calling for rescuing stray cats. As I write this, a black and white domestic short hair cat, not unlike the one in J.T., rescued from the outside just this past week, sits in my home snug and warm on this cold Northeastern Christmas Eve. As it has been said before, the lessons we learn as children are the ones we remember for the rest of our lives and the lessons J.T. taught are still worth learning.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Adolf Hitler: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Berlin Sports Palace Speech, February 10, 1933

by G. Jack Urso
 

The Berlin Sports Palace Speech
February 10, 1933
Adolf Hitler is well-known as a master rhetorician; however, most clips of Hitler’s speeches usually feature just a few seconds of him frothing at the mouth. Compelling enough, but they don’t allow the viewer the grasp the broader aspects of his ability as a public speaker. Hitler’s success as a public speaker was not due to his ability shout louder than everyone else, but rather that he scientifically broke down his performance, analyzing gestures and postures, modulating tempo, learning to read the audience and respond accordingly.

The following video clip is from Hitler: The Whole Story (1989 Cine-Art/Munich), which aired on the Discovery Channel in 1990. The speech featured took place at the Berlin Sports Palace on February 10, 1933, not long after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. The clip shows extended cuts from the speech without English overdubs which allows us to more fully appreciate the original performance. Also discussed are the techniques Hitler used to improve his performance and maximize his hold on the audience, as well as the psychological motivations behind Hitler’s extraordinary public speaking ability.
Seventeen days after this speech, on February 27, 1933, the German Reichstag building was burned down. Hitler blamed the communists and used the opportunity to centralize power in his hands, eliminate his political opponents, and clear the way to war.

This video clip is presented as part of an educational article on a non-profit blog that accepts no advertising. As such, it meets the definition for Fair Use as established by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tripping

by G. Jack Urso

 

a fiery green universe

crisscrossed by parallel lines

as spiders with a thousand legs

approach

the past diabolical image of time

etch fragrant fragments

of minute happenings

i chance to forget

what makes up my mind

afterimages of time

hang in mid-air

walls writhe in static rhythm

reality is fragile

perception

sprung from a hidden fear

that feeds on my mortality

and trips across

an abandoned morality