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Hatfields & McCoys on History Channel Review and Lessons

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Hatfields & McCoys on the History Channel

I am going to try to write a few paragraphs about the amazing mini-series recently aired by the History Channel: Hatfields & McCoys. It is hard to describe just how entertaining this mini-series was. People around the country were simply riveted by the compelling story of two post-Civil War families locked in a blood feud – dramaticized into a made-for-Tv mini-series airing over three days on The History Channel.

Stars Come Out for This Epic Mini-Series

There are certain actors and actresses who, for whatever reason, have the right skills and understanding to portray historical characters with the dignity and respect they deserve. Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton – to name two – playing the lead roles of Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy fall into that category. Likewise Tom Berenger (whom I didn’t even RECOGNIZE playing the role of Jim Vance), Powers Boothe (Wall Hatfield), and Jena Malone (Nancy McCoy). Each member of the principal cast had the responsibility of portraying an actual historical character with the intensity the available historical record demands without drawing attention to themselves.

I would hope that somewhere drifting in the after-life those portrayed in the mini-series would feel that their personalities and frailties were demonstrated with the dignity and honesty (of spirit if not of actual fact) they deserved. I certainly felt that to be the case, although being neither Hatfield nor McCoy – nor having any true appreciation for the emotions and intense feelings which fueled the rivalry I hardly feel qualified to make that judgement. Perhaps only a deep-rooted Appalachian could answer that.

Some Facts Surrounding Hatfields & McCoys Feud and Motivations

The difficulty in producing any sort of historical theatrical piece is the availability and depth and breadth of documentation itself. A wise person would tell you that in truth history is written by the victors – and victors don’t typically treat the vanquished with much dignity. In this case though it’s pretty clear there were no victors, but there was quite a bit of documented history in a legal sense. This West Virginia interview transcript is quite detailed in describing what facts are known about legal issues between the two rival families.

What is most clear from the interview transcript with the West Virginia historian is that the McCoy family – for multiple reasons, some of which was their own doing, some of which can be blamed on Devil Anse Hatfield – was seriously economically disadvantaged. Their family values (one generation prior to Randall) were badly displaced relative to other families in the community. This is not in dispute given the detailed court records regarding a divorce proceeding (source: interview link above). This economic disadvantage, combined with some early legal maneuvering (and hard-heartedness in my thinking) led to a massive land-windfall for the Hatfields at the expense of one of the relatives of Randall McCoy (Perry Cline).

Historical Lessons We Can Learn from the Hatfields & McCoys

I have to believe my previous paragraph should be telling what lessons are to be learned from the Hatfield / McCoy feud. I would add that any lessons given on the subject were not learned by later combatants on a more global scale in World War I. Thankfully I believe that someone must have taken note by the end of World War II – with the rebuilding of Europe (and particularly Germany) after the war. Sadly these lessons appear lost to present day leaders in the financial world both in America and more pointedly in Europe.

The lesson, if you haven’t already guessed it, is to be a gracious victor and not hoard the spoils of victory. What we can glean from historical records is that the McCoys (and Randall McCoy’s sons in particular) had very poor future economic prospects, whereas Devil Anse’s family went from rags to riches basically over-night with a land settlement secured from Perry Cline. Was it absolutely necessary for Devil Anse Hatfield to secure every last piece of property owned by Perry Cline in his land settlement? Was it not foreseeable such a total devastating loss would create a festering cancer very close to home – short of eliminating Perry Cline himself? I doubt Anse Hatfield could have foreseen how one man’s hatred of him (Perry Cline) could be so effectively poured into another (Randell McCoy) – but such are the ways of devious people – and clearly Perry Cline was one devious person.

Economic Lessons Found and Lost Again as History Repeats Itself

One need only look at the tone and outcome Treaty of Versailles ending World War I to see the dangers of onerous terms in settling conflict. The seeds of discontent and unending economic disadvantage in Germany post World War I led ultimately to the rise of the Nazis and subsequent plunge into World War II. Clearly Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin did a better (albeit with its own problems) job of concluding the second world conflict.

Sadly however modern references to economic disadvantage and long-term disparity show clear indications that once again the lessons about distribution of economic opportunity have been lost. Last year we watched in horror as Greek citizens rioted over austerity measures imposed by the European Union over debt insolvency. Similar riots have happened in Spain. Regardless of how or where you see the source of the debt-load taken on by these countries, the resulting economic imbalance is a huge untapped source of resentment globally. The wealthy bankers and investors (with the means to influence legal and political outcomes) are using their power to impose by legal force onerous economic austerity measures on the debt-stricken in an effort to preserve what in reality are BAD INVESTMENT DECISIONS ON THEIR PART.

Will European Leaders and Global Bankers Learn from the Hatfields and McCoys?

Fortunately – to at least some extent leadership in Europe has made efforts to negotiate debt-write downs to share in the losses, but it clearly has not been enough. The only way out for Europe is via agreements which produce the possibility of long-term economic opportunity for all members of the European Union – not just those who speak German. If that means capitalism needs to take its course and certain banks to fail as a result of their poor investment choices then that needs to happen. But that doesn’t mean all the losses have to be borne by one party or another. The “victors” of that European debt mess would do well to heed the lessons of the Hatfields & McCoys feud – and negotiate a mutual settlement of shared sacrifice – not an onerous “winner take all” one. All of us will suffer in this lifetime if they don’t.

About Hatfields . (2012). The History Channel website. Retrieved 18:07, May 31, 2012, from

Transcript of interview with Altina Waller for the film “West Virginia” (June 27, 1992), West Virginia Film History Project from

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No Comments updated August 5, 2012

Burlesque Night Live in Laconia Opens to Amused Audience

Burlesque Night Live Laconia NH

The rowdy cast of Burlesque Night Live poses under the lights at Pitman's Freight Room. The show opened Wednesday April 25th, 2012 (photo credit: Maureen Bieniarz-Pond)

Laconia NH – A lively audience was entertained by the zany antics of the cast of Burlesque Night Live – a new music, dance, and comedy production of local NH talent. A collaborative effort of two local performing arts companies, acts ranged from the sultry and seductive to the absurd. The audience had something to look at, listen to, and laugh about all night – and guests continued to chuckle even as they said goodnight after the performance.

Special Guest Performance by Steve Gonzalez

Joining the regular cast members was local baritone Steve Gonzalez – whose vocal performances of selections from Opera and Broadway were nothing short of stunning. Steve is originally from Laconia currently attending college in state.

Upcoming Show Wednesday May 2nd

Tickets are on sale at Pitman’s Freight Room for the upcoming show dates – Wedsnesdays 4/25 through 6/13 with no show scheduled for May 16th.

Burlesque Night Live is a collaborative show featuring the artists of the ARTSFEST Performing Arts Company, Tabula Rasa Theatre Company, and is produced by Pointless Forest Productions. (photo: Maureen Bieniarz-Pond)

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1 Comment updated August 5, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie Review

Official Promo Poster from Lionsgate

I decided to write a Hunger Games movie review after seeing the film for a second time this weekend. I felt compelled to do so after reading a seriously mis-guided review elsewhere on the web – on a reputable news organization no less. We each have our own opinions I suppose, guided by our own biases and experiences. Given that here is how I interpret The Hunger Games based on where I think it fits in historically. The Hunger Games review I read chose to consider North America (Panem) as analogous to the villian (The Capital) in this case, and after seeing the film twice myself, I so thoroughly disagreed with that conclusion I felt compelled to write a review of my own.

Before I go too much further, I should start by saying I felt the film was excellent – but not being familiar with the books themselves (by Suzanne Collins) I had to see it a second time to truly appreciate it.

Basic Storyline of The Hunger Games

The basic plotline of The Hunger Games is set in a futuristic Earth setting, where there is a vastly disproportionate amount of wealth and technology held by an elite few in one region (The Capital) with 12 outlying districts supporting the Capital with resources (food, coal, etc.).

According to the story 74 years ago the civil war ended and was celebrated annually at the Capital with a pageant and games pitting representatives from the defeated (12) districts against each other in a battle to the death. Each year one boy and one girl aged 12-18 are sent as tributes to the Capital in rememberance of their rebellion and ultimate defeat all those years ago.

Historical Analogies in The Hunger Games Mythos

As one might imagine, the skill sets of those 24 individuals vary greatly, with some simply being sent to slaughter. This reminds one of the stories of the Roman Colosseum where slaves or Christians were effectively fed to lions and other beasts for amusement of the Roman elites. Having said that, I think it fair to say that the movie director chose to go in this direction – mirroring several historical facts and or myths. Whether this is the design of the book author or not, the analogies are plainly evident to me in the film.

A second important analogy is that of the notion of tributes from defeated states basically sent to their deaths. I can’t help but recall the Greek myth of the Minotaur and the death maze. In the Greek myth tributes are sent to be put in a maze with this mythical beast the Minotaur – part man / part bull who essentially slaughters the tributes for amusement of the king. Like that story, eventually one of the tributes defeats the Minotaur and escapes. In The Hunger Games a similar storyline plays out.

Modern Analog for The Hunger Games

When I try to think of a modern analog for The Hunger Games it is here where I find myself with the greatest divergeance from the Rolling Stone review of the film. They selected North America as their “evil capital” analog, but in my own mind a vastly different host for the games comes to mind. When I look at the pageantry of the games, and the great dichotomy of the common people with the elites – I see the Soviet Union of the late 1970s and early 1980s, not North America. So much of the the subtleties of the storyline – the top two districts being mostly military trained (and who typically win each year) remind me of Olympic competitors from East Germany and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Further, I think the title of the book and film itself, “The Hunger Games” invokes memories of breadlines and food shortages in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries.

Characters and Performances in The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen – Jennifer Lawrence

The leading role in the film (Katniss Everdeen) is played by Jennifer Lawrence. Her character is in the mold of Diane in Greek mythology – The Hunter. Having seen the film twice now I really have to say her performance was terrific. Her roles as protective older sister, unrefined young woman, and combatant were carried off with great effect. I have to believe Suzanne Collins was pleased with her performance.

Peeta Mellark – Josh Hutcherson

Peeta Mellark is akin to your basic all-American farm-boy. Josh Hutcherson carries off this role very well. His character is asked to be naive in forest survival skills and somewhat defeatest in attitude but willing to use his farm-boy charm to prolong his life and increase his odds. Josh’s performance both as a charming farm-boy and panic-stricken tribute come off as convincing in my opinion.

Haymitch Abernathy – Woody Harrelson

Woody Harrelson’s complex character of former winner turned alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy is at times rightly revolting and charming – seemingly always at the right times. His character begins as an apathetic drunk who buys in to the possibility that one of his “students” has a fighting chance of surviving The Hunger Games. I enjoyed his performance.

Other Characters and Anecdotes

On my initial view of the film I had to say I did not like the garish costuming and make up of the citizens of the capital. At first sight of the absurd looking Effie Trinket at the reaping of District 12 I was concerned I was in for some sort of weird and unpleasant cult freak show movie. Thankfully I changed my opinion after the second viewing, having seen how important it was to differentiate the citizens of the capital from the rest of the country. I should also say a second viewing helped me better see the performances of Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), and Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket).

One can’t help but feel sorry for some of the other cast-members (tributes) – who didn’t actually generate enough interest in the film to earn a character name. Such is the fate of most tributes in The Hunger Games. I hope you go see it… and if you haven’t read the books I strongly recommend you go see it twice. On the other hand – something everyone CAN feel good about is all the cool stuff they have made in merchandising the film.

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2 Comments updated February 14, 2013

Gold Rush Alaska Spoiler Do They Find Gold Season 2

Mining Equipment Like This Ain't Cheap

A Dredge on a Claim Is Indication of Big Gold on Virgin Ground

I don’t pretend to be an insider spoiler but in Gold Rush Alaska Season 2 there have been a a lot of people wondering “Do they find gold in season 2?” We’ve had to wait months while watching episode after episode of futility from the Alaskan miners however we’ll finally get an answer this week. I think we’ve seen the answer though – so if you don’t want a spoiler in your midst – stop reading. If you want to see what evidence I’ve deduced, read on.

Big Nugget Mines Face Legal Battle in Spoiler

The teasers we have seen so far indicate that the youngster Parker Schnabel and his grandfather John face some legal obstacles with their operation at the Big Nugget. On the other hand we learn from the spoiler that it is some sort of safety related violations – which usually can be addressed. It is unclear from the Discovery Channel preview whether the mine continues to run – however there is some evidence that the Big Nugget mine will be around for another season with Parker involved.

How do we know this?

We know this based on the interview Parker and his mom gave as part of the “Aftershow” interview ran in place of any actual episodes on December 30th. What’s the evidence? Parker has suggested he intends to mine during the summer and attend college in the winter. His quote was something along the lines of, “I’m going to be one of those 28 year old college graduates,” – which he said with his usual wry smile and a chuckle.

More importantly… his mom didn’t say “No you aren’t!”

What does that mean for Parker’s 2011 campaign? Well for one it means he either found some source of gold or money to stay afloat for another season. Given the amount of gold in his pan at the end of the most recent episode January 6th, I’m thinking he found enough to stick around.

Dakota Fred and Porcupine Creek Claim Shut Down Also

The Porcupine Creek claim also ends up getting shut down, presumably for safety violations as well, but I for one am not worried about Dakota Fred. That guy could find gold in my backyard, I’m sure of it (but please don’t start digging, ok?). Fred was already on the gold when we last viewed the Dakota boys last Friday. Did we learn anything else in the Discovery Channel season 2 spoiler? Not really. The best information we have vis a vis a conclusion to Fred’s season was (again) the Aftershow episode aired December 30th. Fred was coy in interviews but given his willingness to share sadness emotions on site and the lack of distress in his face in the interview I read his season ended up successfully – if only modestly. Mark my words, Dakota Fred will find gold – somewhere.

What You’ve Been Waiting For: Hoffmans Gold Rush Alaska Spoiler Season 2

What people really want to know is whether the Hoffman crew will finally find gold in season 2. Here’s your spoiler: I believe the answer to the question, “Do they find gold season 2” is…

…an overwhelming yes. There is so much gold in the area they are mining it is PLAINLY VISIBLE under their feet on the ground where they are walking. Given we have watched the “magic” of seeing significant amounts of gold appear in a pan or sifting table from indiscernable black dirt – seeing gold in plain sight under-foot means they are on the gold in a big big way. It stands to reason after all, doesn’t it? Years ago a HUGE and expensive dredge was run into the ground up at Quartz Creek. You don’t run machinery like that on poor dirt.

We still have plenty of drama left to go in our favorite show, “Gold Rush Alaska Season 2” – but I think it’s pretty safe to say that all three mines are both on the gold and in or near the black in terms of profitability. I think they will find gold.

What do you think?

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7 Comments updated July 26, 2013

The Streetcar Company Presents The Miracle Worker

Nerrishia Bodwell as Annie Sullivan and Sophia Joyal as Helen Keller rehearse a scene from The Miracle Worker being presented by The Streetcar Company December 2nd-4th at Laconia High School

Laconia, NH-
The Streetcar Company will present William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker at Laconia High School on December 2nd, 3rd and 4th. With two months of rehearsals behind them, cast and crew will spend the last few days before opening night fine tuning their roles and acclimating themselves to the newly constructed set. Director J Alward and assistant director Carolyn Desrosiers are quite pleased with the progress made by the cast, especially as a number of them have had little or no previous stage experience. One thing Streetcar tries to encourage is for new members to come and be a part of the live theater experience. While lead actress, Nerrishia Bodwell as Annie Sullivan has a number of shows under her belt with Streetcar and other surrounding companies, this is the first show Heidi Erhard, as Kate Keller, has performed in since high school. “I feel very fortunate to be a part of this presentation.” said Erhard. “It’s been a really positive experience; I feel I have joined a whole new family and I hope the audience appreciates all the work everyone has put into this production.”

Sophia Joyal, a sixth grader at Laconia Middle School, has been seen in a number of Streetcar productions and shows a capacity beyond her years as she portrays the deaf and blind Helen. New to Streetcar, but not to the stage, are Suzanne Banister as Aunt Ev and Eric L. March as Capt. Keller. Others performing in the production are Braeden Alward as James, Dawn Thompson as Viney, Doug Embree as Mr. Anagnos, Riley Alward as Percy, Sharleigh Thomson as Martha, Peter Ayer as Ezekiel, Johan Andersen as the doctor, Rebekah Roy, Hannah Watson, Alexa Dembiec, Cecilia and Kayla Zarella as the blind girls, Alec Thomson as Jimmy and Marcia Haven and Melissa Bigler as the crones.

Based on Gibson’s 1957 teleplay, The Miracle Worker was first presented on Broadway in 1959 starring Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan and Patty Duke as Helen Keller. Gibson’s adaptation of Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, garnered rave reviews for the production and lead to the Academy Award winning movie also starring Bancroft and Duke in 1962. The struggle by Sullivan to teach a deaf and blind Keller to communicate with the outside world is a powerful story of compassion and strength of character. Battling her own demons as well as the frustrations presented by the Keller family having coddled Helen for so long, Sullivan’s progress is slow but eventually all parties grow and adapt to the challenges in the end.

Show times are at 7pm on Friday and Saturday night, December 2nd and 3rd, with a 1pm matinee on Sunday the 4th. Tickets are available at Greenlaw’s Music in downtown Laconia, Danbury General Store 705 US Route 4 (at the junction of Routes 4 and 104), and will also be available at the door. Ticket prices are $10.00 each with an advanced sale price of $8.00 for 4 or more tickets purchased at the same time. All tickets will be $10.00 at the door.

For more information go to the company website at

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No Comments updated August 5, 2012