On Documentaries

Did you know that the Star Spangled Banner is a song about how the Americans thwarted the evil British empire on September 3 1814?

Their national anthem is based upon a poem originally written during the battle at Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. It’s set to the music of an english drinking song (apparently), which is all the more ironic since it is basically a song about how the evil British were thwarted that day. “And the rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air” are British rockets and bombs being lobbed at the Americans in some fit of desperation trying to convince them to accept assimilation and rejoin the evil empire. “Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?” refers to the fact that the Americans had erected the largest flag in their history in Baltimore so that the British could clearly see it from their boats. It also inspired Francis Scott Key in his lyrics and caused at least one of the British sailors to note its grandeur in his journal.

I know all this because I watched a documentary on the History Channel tonight. I’ve been fascinated by documentaries for years but have recently elected to continue to pay for Sky (that’s our primary incumbent digital satellite television service in the UK) simply because I find Discovery and National Geographic so thoroughly interesting (as opposed to the more than 10 “God” related television channels we now receive – which I frankly find both alarming and increadibly amusing quite simultaneously – which seem to believe I should donate money to them so they can spread the word of God via TV rather than me giving that money to worthy charities instead, how sickening). I’m adding the History Channel to the list of cool channels to while away a Sunday afternoon after lunch. That documentary had all the ingredients of a good edutainment show – light on frilly pointlessness and heavy enough on useful historical fact. I also watch far too much “Seconds From Disaster” these days (National Geographic) but they haven’t quite got the message about silly pointlessness.

There’s no real point to this post, except perhaps “watch documentaries”. Oh and I’ll have to swing by Philly now during my trip because I want to see the original articles of the Constitution.


Random factoid. Incidentally, the War of 1812 – also known as the “forgotten war” – was the one where the British burned the Whitehouse to the ground after they (the US) had burned the Canadian Parliament (but that wasn’t the last fire they had). Rather than being a forgotten war, I think it’s actually got a lot of relevence to the makeup of the modern world. Incidentally, the British also burned the Library of Congress in the process of torching Washington – something that I can’t possibly think served any useful purpose whatsoever but possibly destroyed historical documents that we might otherwise have today. The British were so frightfully evil.

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