Two talented Vietnam veteran writers–former photojournalist and psy opsman Tony Swindell and one-time 1st Cav medic Marc Levy–are putting together a book of combat jokes. ”It’s not going to be Reader’s Digest ‘Humor in Uniform,’ ha-ha type,” Levy told us in an electronic communication. “We’re looking for jokes of the grim, cruel, gallows-humor variety, which is expressive of how soldiers have always dealt with wars horror. ”
The authors hope, Levy said, “to solicit enough jokes to write a book to provide civilians with the necessary non-academic context to understand what happens to the hearts and minds of men and women in war, and how grim jokes reflect that change, but at the same time help troops survive the dull routines and sudden unspeakable chaos” in the war zone.
Levy offered an example of the kind of joke they’re looking for:
A colonel and his sergeant major chopper out to a landing zone to see for themselves the aftermath of a large and bloody firefight. There was heavy fighting, and many casualties on both sides. When they arrive, the American KIAs are lined up shoulder to shoulder in back of the makeshift aid station, covered with ponchos and waiting for the choppers to come fetch them. There are many, many bodies.
The colonel and the sergeant major slowly make their way down the line, lifting the flaps of the ponchos to view the faces. The colonel looks more and more troubled the farther down the line he goes, and is truly upset. Finally he looks over to the sergeant major and says, “All so young. What a pity. What a waste. Sergeant Major, how old do you think these boys are?” The sergeant major looks at the colonel, and says, “They’re all dead, Colonel. That’s as old as you get.”
If you’d like to contribute, email Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on June 26th 2008 in Artistic Queries
The documentary film, The Betrayal, had its premiere June 14 at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at New York City’s Lincoln Center. The film, directed by noted cinematographer Ellen Kuras (Analyze That, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, et al.), looks at the life of a young Loatian man, Thavisouk Pharasavath, who escapted from his homeland at age 12, and later joined his family in the United States.
Kuras met Phrasavath when she hired him to tutor her in the Lao language in the mid-eighties. They then began collaborating on the film, which he co-directed. One of the reasons it took so long to finish: The filmmakers couldn’t get into Laos until relatively recently. The New York Times called the film, also known by the Lao name Nerakhoon, ” a poetic recounting of Mr. Phrasavath’s journey into exile.”
Another reviewer has described it as ”beautifully shot and visually poetical.” The Betrayal is scheduled to open in theaters in November.
Posted on June 20th 2008 in Documentaries
Jim Barker, who served as an U.S. Army adviser and linguist in Vietnam in 1972, is putting together two projects and would like help from other Vietnam veterans.
The first is a book that will contain off-beat in-country true stories. “I’d like to hear from folks with their most comic to bizarre experiences that happened during their Vietnam tours,” Baker tells us. He will give contributors full credit or “confidentiality as requested,” along with “equal distribution of any proceeds realized.”
Email your contribution to email@example.com and include your name, rank, MOS, base camp or Area of Operations, and the years you were in country.
Baker’s also is doing a “Music & Memories” research survey and would like to hear from Vietnam veterans with details about their “favorite songs, or top several songs, in order of personal importance during your tour, and a statement as to their meaning and importance.” Beyond “its aesthetic & sentimental value,” Baker says, “it seems music serves as a powerful connector to events and experiences of all types.”
He will provide a copy of the results of his survey to all contributors.
If you decide to help, be sure to mention you found out about Baker’s work on this page.
Posted on June 18th 2008 in Artistic Queries
The Hanoi Hilton came out in 1987, which someone called “The Year of the Vietnam War film.” That’s because after Hollywood produced little or nothing in the way of movies set in Vietnam during the American War, that year saw a slew of them. Aside from H. Hilton–which, of course, told the uplifting story of American POW’s held in that notorious North Vietnamese prison camp–there were two blockbusters: Oliver Stone’s Platoon (which technically came out in ’86, but didn’t go nationwide till 1987) ,and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, as well as John Irvin’s Hamburger Hill.
Surprisingly, The Hanoi Hilton, which was written and directed by Lionel Chetwynd, has not been available on DVD, although it had come out on videocassette (remember those?) back in the 20th century.
In May, a famous former resident of the real Hanoi Hilton, Sen. John McCain, sat down for a video-taped interview with Chetwynd, an interview that will be part of the upcoming DVD. There’s no official release date yet, but Chetwynd says he’s hoping it will be available before the presidential election in November.
Posted on June 13th 2008 in Feature Films
We missed an intriguing exhibit late last year of oil paintings influenced by the Vietnam War by Philadelphia artist Jane Irish. The exhibit, entitled “Paintings for Winning Hearts and Minds,” was on view at Philadelphia’s Locks Gallery last December and January. You can take a virtual look some of the work on line at http://locksgallery.com/exhibit/2007/irish/irish1.html
Irish, who calls herself a “history painter,” comments on the politics of war through her work. Her huge oil paintings are combinations of oddly juxtaposed, peaceful appearing, pastel-shaded vignettes, many of them of lavish interiors, that include often-jarring first-person reflections on war in raised, white-lettered text. That’s why the paintings have titles such as “The Thousand Yard Stare/Room With a Yellow Sofa,” “Thoughts on A Monsoon Morning/Orange Room,” and “Multi-Colored Dining Room/Winning Hearts and Minds.”
The artist was inspired after doing research at the Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War collection at LaSalle University’s Connelly Library. That unique collection, which has been under the supervision since 1975 of the archivist (and Vietnam veteran) John Baky, contains plays, films, literature, posters and music of the Vietnam War.
Irish found the words for the paintings from the work of a group of top Vietnam War veteran/poets, including Basil Paquet, Jan Barry, David Connolly and W.D. Ehrhart. Ehrhart, a Philadelphia native, will receive the VVA Excellence in the Arts Award at the VVA Leadership Conference on July 19 in Greenville, South Carolina.
Locks Gallery is located at 600 Washington Square South in Philadelphia.
Posted on June 3rd 2008 in Art Exhibits
Two military veterans who also happen to be veteran musicians, Wayne “Halfstep” Miller and Mark Beard, have put their musical talents together and come up with a stirring patriotic CD, “Brothers of the Same Heart”
Wayne Miller, who was severley wounded while serving with the 1st Marine Division in 1969 in Vietnam, is a long-time veterans’ advocate. He has worked for many years as a Readjustment Counseling Therapist, Team Leader, and Supervisor Social Worker with the VA’s Readjustment Counseling Services and Vet Center program in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., areas.
Beard is a long-time country music singer who served in the U.S. Army for four years with the 4th Squadron of the 12th U.S. Cavalry and the 3rd Armored Division and for two years with a 29th Division National Guard Unit.
The disc contains eleven from-the-heart tunes, including Toby Keith’s “American Soldier,” Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” and Elvis Carden’s “We All Cry Together at The Wall.” It was produced by Pot O’ Gold Record in Louisiana. For more info, go to www.brothersoftheheart.com
Posted on June 3rd 2008 in Music
If you are a veteran or on active duty and live in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas, you’re invited to a concert that will be videoed on June 24 and shown on PBS on Veterans Day. The concert features the United States Air Force Symphony Orchestra and The Singing Sergeants with special guests Clint Black, Patti LaBelle, Cliff Robertson, and Jake Shimabukuro.
The show, called “America’s Veterans: A Tribute,” begins at eight on Tuesday, June 24, with the doors of the Strathmore Music Center in Rockville, Maryland, opening at seven. You must be in your seat at 7:45.
If you are a VVA member, the USAF wants you to wear a hat, shirt, jacket or other article of clothing with the VVA logo. Other veterans are asked to wear something indicating their branch of service. Active duty folks should wear thier uniforms.
For your e invitation, go to https://einvitations.afit.edu/StrathmoreTaping/anim.cfm
RSVP by June 14 and if anyone asks, tell them you read about it on this page.
Posted on June 2nd 2008 in Music
They call it “Literature to Life.” The definition: bringing a book to life on the stage using one actor doing dramatic readings of verbatim passages from the book. The concept was developed by the American Place Theatre in New York City and designed for middle and high school students.
The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Connecticut, has taken the concept to a higher level. During the current 2007-08 season The Bushnell has chosen five books from the L to L roster and turned them into performances for adults. The series began last October with Richard Wright’s searing memoir, Black Boy.
It ends with a series of performances beginning on June 23 of Tim O’Brien’s masterful The Things They Carried, a series of interconnected Vietnam War short stories featuring a character named Tim O’Brien.
Tickets are on sale now. For more info, go to http://bushnell.org
Posted on June 1st 2008 in Drama