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Chris Yogerst

A lifelong cinephile, Chris is currently working on his PhD in communication with an emphasis on American film history. Chris teaches courses in film, mass communication, and popular culture for the University of Wisconsin Colleges and Concordia University. His research areas in cinema include American film genre, auteur studies of Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg as well as Hollywood history during the Studio Era. Chris is also the "Hollywood Studio System" area chair for the national Film & History conference. His work can be found in Senses of Cinema, the Journal of Film and Video, and The Atlantic Monthly.
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World War II Pilots Rightfully Immortalized in The Fight in the Clouds

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 - by Chris Yogerst

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Stories about World War II have been a major part of American popular culture for decades. From the Warner Bros. war films of the 1940s to Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and beyond, there is a consistent magnetism towards America’s Greatest Generation and the war they fought against totalitarianism. Many people have relatives who were in the war or have met veterans that have made an impact on their life. Without question, WWII vets are a special, unique group whose stories deserve to be shared.

In The Fight in the Clouds, author James P. Busha organizes the many interviews he conducted with WWII fighter pilots over the years into one volume. Busha, a pilot himself, is also editor of EAA Warbirds of America, EAA Vintage Aircraft Association publications, and contributing editor for Flight Journal. The book opens with specifications about the P-51 Mustang that will be helpful to those new to the topic.

These pilots, like their planes, were tough as nails. The only accepted defeat was death. The tales range from fun practice runs, harrowing fights into enemy territory, and postwar musings. The Fight in the Clouds begins with a powerful introduction about the story of 2nd Lt. James Des Jardins and his brother, who both lost their lives serving our country in World War II. Their story is told, in part, through primary documents in the form of Western Union telegrams. Reading the words of the time always presents a unique and often influential response. This book, according to Busha, was written for those “who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country as they laid their lives on the line to ensure that future generations would enjoy the freedoms and liberties that have been bestowed upon us.”

One of the many stories that stuck out to me was that of Capt. Clayton “Kelly” Gross, who was in a dogfight with “one of Hitler’s wonder weapons,” a Messerschmitt Me 262:

I felt the stick budge as I tried to pull out of my screaming dive. I thought for sure was going to tear the wings off and dive the Mustang deep into German soil! As I pulled out, I found myself right on the 262’s tail. In a split second I lined him up. At a hundred feet away, he was hard to miss. I gave him a little squirt that tore up his left jet engine and shredded his left wingtip. With a moment of greater forward speed than the jet, I overshot him and pulled off to the right. The 262 pulled straight up and I knew the Mustang couldn’t catch him no matter how fast I was going. I thought I lost him as he pulled over a thousand feet away, but I was watching as he stopped in midair and began to tail slide back down. His canopy came off and out popped the pilot. I finally got my jet!

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5 Secrets For Thriving In A World When Everything Happens NOW

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 - by Chris Yogerst

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in two parts in September and October of 2013  as “Beating Present Shock: 5 Secrets To Survive 21st Century Technology Overdose“ It is being reprinted as part of a weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. 

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Do you understand how media works? If not, it might control you. Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s last book, Program or Be Programmed, took on this question about media and our comprehension of it. Without a working knowledge of how information systems work, Rushkoff argues, we run the risk of being easily duped. This is a common problem and one that is easily battled with a drive towards media literacy, something I teach my students about in undergraduate mass communication courses. The battle does not end here, however, because even if we have a strong grasp of media systems we are not immune to yet another pitfall.

Present Shock.

Just about everyone has come across it, even if you don’t quite know what it is. That feeling you get when you sense there is never enough time and obligations are coming at you from every direction… that’s a piece of it. The good thing is we can fight back and Rushkoff has the tools we need to take control of our lives. In his latest book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, Rushkoff addresses the problem with our “always-on” digital universe. Without a doubt, technology can lead to intellectual and psychological illness, usually in terms of addiction that can ultimately become destructive to every aspect of our life.

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Generation Like: Social Media and the Search for Validation

Friday, February 28th, 2014 - by Chris Yogerst

Think about how often you find a table at a restaurant with everyone looking at their smartphone instead of conversing. Technology certainly has its advantages, but something is clearly wrong with this picture. The concept of identity creates a different perception for everyone. In today’s culture, much of what constitutes a person’s identity may be channeled through social media. The problem is that some people put so much time into their digital profile that their real-world life suffers.

Undergraduate students in my mass communication class this semester have found one way to combat this. They turn going out to eat into a game where all cell phones are stacked at the end of the table. The first person to reach for his phone pays for the meal. Simple enough, but it gets at the heart of a larger concern. Are we struggling to keep our real lives as interesting as our digital ones?

This week, media scholar Douglas Rushkoff, along with PBS, released an excellent documentary called Generation Like. The film details how current teens create online identities and also shows how they are monetized. Some YouTube celebrities like Tyler Oakley have been able to turn social media followers into dollars. Other users remain simply nothing more than super fans content with millions of followers that justify their hours online. Teenagers today are the first generation to grow up with a fully digitalized culture, and we are seeing more signs of that every day in how they define themselves.

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Was Hollywood Friendly with Hitler?

Friday, October 25th, 2013 - by Chris Yogerst

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Was Hollywood working with Hitler? Based on decades of research from many historians, the consensus is no. However, Harvard University’s junior fellow Ben Urwand claims otherwise in the already infamous book titled The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. Urwand’s publication follows Thomas Doherty’s Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 that contextualizes prewar Hollywood as a business-centered industry where only profits mattered. Hollywood and Hitler provides useful cultural context to Hollywood in the 1930s, without which, it would be easy to misinterpret. After reading both Doherty and Urwand’s books, it is clear that Doherty has the superior study.

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Urwand’s book, The Collaboration, claims to break the news to film historians that Hollywood was part of Hitler’s evil empire. The book’s subtitle, “Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler,” says it all. Urwand argues both Jack Warner (of Warner Bros.) and Louis B. Mayer (of MGM) both altered or stopped films on request of the Nazis. Urwand uses these claims to illustrate an alliance between Hollywood and Hitler. Urwand uses the word ‘collaboration’ because that is the word the studio bosses used. However, they meant collaboration in a business sense. Urwand is interpreting the word ideologically. With Urwand’s study available only a few months, scholars and critics have come out in hordes to trash it in major publications ranging from The Hollywood Reporter, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many others. Things have gotten so heated that questions have been raised of Harvard’s credibility, as well as Urwand’s dissertation committee members at Berkeley.

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Beating Present Shock: 5 Secrets To Survive 21st Century Technology Overdose (Part II)

Friday, October 4th, 2013 - by Chris Yogerst

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Click here for the first two tips in Part I of this 2-part review.

3. Overwinding

This chapter in Rushkoff’s book is perfectly subtitled “the short forever.” In the previous section I gave my own personal example of trying to get everything accomplished in an unrealistically short amount of time. When we try to accomplish such impossible tasks we fall victim to another form of Present Shock.

This weight on every action – this highly leveraged sense of the moment – hints at another form of present shock that is operating in more ways and places than we may suspect. We’ll call this temporal compression overwinding – the effort to squish really big timescales into much smaller or nonexistent ones.

We’ve seen this regularly, and most of us suffer or have suffered from overwinding. A great example is how cleaning out your inbox can give you a “clean feeling.” However, how important is this really? Is it worth the time spent? And what are we actually cleaning? Most working professionals get enough legitimate email and junk messages to spend all day, every day dealing only with email. The problem is that email is a communication tool and most of us have jobs that require actions outside of the email loop. To fight overwinding, spend a minimal amount of time in your inbox. Reply to what needs attention, ignore the rest and get on with your day.

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Beating Present Shock: 5 Secrets To Survive 21st Century Technology Overdose (Part I)

Friday, September 27th, 2013 - by Chris Yogerst

PresentShockcover

Do you understand how media works? If not, it might control you. Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s last book, Program or Be Programmed, took on this question about media and our comprehension of it. Without a working knowledge of how information systems work, Rushkoff argues, we run the risk of being easily duped. This is a common problem and one that is easily battled with a drive towards media literacy, something I teach my students about in undergraduate mass communication courses. The battle does not end here, however, because even if we have a strong grasp of media systems we are not immune to yet another pitfall.

Present Shock.

Just about everyone has come across it, even if you don’t quite know what it is. That feeling you get when you sense there is never enough time and obligations are coming at you from every direction… that’s a piece of it. The good thing is we can fight back and Rushkoff has the tools we need to take control of our lives. In his latest book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, Rushkoff addresses the problem with our “always-on” digital universe. Without a doubt, technology can lead to intellectual and psychological illness, usually in terms of addiction that can ultimately become destructive to every aspect of our life.

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Politicizing Ourselves to Death: Is the Culture War Over?

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 - by Chris Yogerst

As post-election hangover sets in, we continue to witness incivility rolling like a tidal wave through this great nation. Much of this is due to the culture war, which grows more intense every day. One should wonder, is it worth fighting anymore? Or, has it already been won?

The answer lies in our ability to find reality amidst an amalgamation of data constantly coming at us through our television, computer, and smartphone screens from untrustworthy media outlets. A highly mediated and politicized culture has many challenges and it is up to us not to get sucked into the machine.

It is becoming more and more difficult to decipher the truth through a nonstop stream of information. Today we see an increase in what Daniel J. Boorstin referred to in 1961 as “pseudo events,” which are a close relative to propaganda. In The Image: A Guide to Pseudo Events in America, Boorstin writes, “while a pseudo-event is an ambiguous truth, propaganda is an appealing falsehood.”

Ambiguous truths behind words like “forward” (to where?) and “hope” (for what?) and “change” (from what to where?) can easily join with propaganda that appeals to those eager for convenient falsehoods. Boorstin continues, “propaganda oversimplifies experience, pseudo events overcomplicate it.” The mess that is our current state of politics begins to make more sense when considering Boorstin’s model. What we have today is an oversimplification of rhetoric and an over-complication of hidden meanings.

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Moonrise Kingdom: Summer Camp, Wes Anderson-Style

Friday, June 15th, 2012 - by Chris Yogerst

Every Wes Anderson film creates a world of its own. Movies like Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited take familiar people and situations and drop them into the unknown. This is Anderson’s genius; he transforms familiarity into hyperreality (or unreality in some cases). Arguably, the best genre filmmakers are able to build unpredictability out of familiarity. Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, draws from numerous genres such as the summer camp comedy, family melodrama, and the adventure film in order to create a unique experience.

The film takes place in 1965 on a New England island called Black Beacon Sound. This narrow, 16-mile-long strip has some general residents as well as Camp Ivanhoe — home to the Khaki Scouts led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton). One of the scouts, Sam (Jared Gilman), takes it upon himself to sneak away during the night. Another young islander, Suzy (Kara Hayward), also ran away from her parent’s home around the same time. The island police (Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp), whose headquarters is a small shack at the end of a dock on the ocean, are promptly alerted and a search begins.

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