Wednesday, January 14, 2009

We Interrupt This Broadcast - Joe Garner

"There are events that have become more than defining moments in history; they've become benchmarks for our lives, reference points for "where we were when..." Almost without exception, there is a television or radio broadcast that indelibly etched the moment in our imagination, weaving itself into our memories of the event itself." - page xiii

This book is a compendium of events that have influenced the world for the past 70 years. They include events both political and social, full of joy and grief. Each story has accompanying photos as well as cds with the actual broadcasts that changed the lives of so many. Small details are included to help flesh out the description of events. For example, both Neil Armstron and Buzz Aldrin wore 185-pound spacesuits for their moonwalk but thanks to the moon's gravity they had little trouble getting around. Events like the moon landing have helped to shape our world today and it's thanks to those broadcasters who informed the world.

The Good:

This book causes curiosity. After reading about the Hindenburg and the fact that the US, the world's only source for helium, had priced the precious gas out of reach of the Germans, I wanted to know more. The book is also educational as well as reflective. I'd always assumed Korea was divided after the 1950 Korean War but it turns the country was separated into north and south after WWII.

Amazing photos accompany each story, giving the reader insight into the time and place of the events. My personal favourite was the celebration at the Brandenberg Gate during the reunification of Germany. Night had fallen but the scene was lit with blazing lights and fireworks. People were crammed together, surrounding the gate that had once served as a passage between the two Berlins.

There are also three cds that include the actual broadcasts from the stories. They really brought the events to life and you can track the passage of time throughout. For example, you can hear the formality and the archaic diction from the man reporting on the Hindenburg disaster.

In all I would recommend the book to history lovers. This book is chock full of events from the past and the cds bring them back to life.

The Bad:

I was curious as to the decision to start in 1937 with the Hindenburg disaster. There were earlier events that gripped the world that I thought could have been included such as the Lindbergh kidnapping. I was hoping for a broader spectrum of broadcasts but the majority of the stories seemed squished into the 90s.

I wish that there had been more international stories included in this book. It seemed too Amero-centric to me. While I agree that many moments in American history gave the world pause, such as the moon landings, I don't think stories like "Truman defeats Dewey", belong in the same category, let alone the same book.

As well, there were some stories I couldn't relate to, as they had either happened before my time or had little impact on my life. I didn't grow up in the era of the Cold War so it's hard to comprehend the anxiety around atomics and the Cuban Missile Crises.

The Ugly:

Somebody find Eli Wallach.

Rating: 3/5

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