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Rosa Parks Changed History on This Date

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 10:00 am

On Thursday December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress and a volunteer secretary for the NAACP, was sitting in the section of a public bus reserved for black passengers. As she rode, the seats designated for white riders were filled and the driver told her and three other seated black passengers to get up so the whites could sit. She refused and she was arrested.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired,” she wrote, “but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

A young minister, new in town, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, led the bus boycott in protest of her arrest. It is important to remember how modest the demands were. King’s group did not ask that the buses be fully integrated. They only asked that the black riders should not have to move. When the segregation was ruled unconstitutional, Dr. King circulated a memo to remind the black community that not all white people supported segregation and that they should be courteous, even in the face of insults. He urged them to maintain “a calm and loving dignity” and to “pray for the oppressor and use moral and spiritual force to carry on the struggle for justice.”

Scholastic has some good teaching materials on Rosa Parks and the boycott. Older children and adults will appreciate Angela Basset’s performance in The Rosa Parks Story and Iris Little-Thomas as Mrs. Parks in Boycott.

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Terminator: Salvation

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 8:00 am

How can you have a war between humans and machines when the line between them is hard to find?

In the first three Terminator movies, cyborgs from the future were sent back in time to prevent future leader of the resistance John Connor from being born and then from surviving. But in the fourth installment, set in a bleak, apocalyptic landscape of bleached-out rubble and belching fires (but apparently excellent dental care), the time that was foretold has arrived. The Skynet computer network has achieved self-awareness and now sees humans as a threat to its continued existence.

Connor (now played by Christian Bale) is a charismatic rebel who does not work well with the chain of command. He knows that his future will require him to send a man named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) back in time to protect a young waitress named Sarah Connor, who will become his mother, from the Terminator sent to kill her. He knows that Reese, now a teenager, must not just rescue Sarah; he will fall in love with her and become John’s father. A bit of an ontological paradox, but if we were going to worry about that, we’d never get to the explosions and shoot-outs, so on we go.

The machines’ “awareness” and instinct for independence achieves a kind of humanity as the humans’ ruthlessness and desperation makes them increasingly mechanistic. Life is Hobbsian, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The people and the machines are more alike than different — they can think of little but self-preservation, and humanity is defined not by how something or someone is created but by the capacity to sacrifice for others.

It does not live up to the first two films, which had astonishing special effects, arresting characters, and some emotional resonance. But it does have some enormously cool machines (what I would like to see is these guys up against the Transformers, now that would be a movie!), and an Australian actor named Sam Worthington, an enormously magnetic performer who will also be featured in the upcoming “Avatar” movie (coincidentally directed by James Cameron, who directed the first two “Terminator” films). Worthington is electrifying. He plays Marcus, a character who raises questions about what it means to be human but provides a definitive answer about what it means to be a star.

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