Wednesday, August 07, 2019

American Sphinx

I finally finished  American Sphinx by Joseph Ellis.  I love pretty much everything that Ellis has written so I gave this a try even though I do not like Thomas Jefferson (I realize that might make some of you crazy, but I don't.).  

Well, it took me forever to get through this book as I kept putting it down and I still don't like Jefferson. Actually I think I like him less now.  

Like all of Ellis' books, this is well written and researched.  I love that he always has thorough endnotes.   I liked how Ellis addressed how Jefferson has been appropriated by many movements he probably would despise.   

If you want to know more about Jefferson and want to try to understand him better, this is a good book for that.  I would say I definitely feel I know Jefferson better, having read this.  That said, that makes me like him less.  You can go read it and judge for yourself!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

John Adams by David McCullough

So I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a number of years, but just haven't gotten around to reading it.  As everyone probably realizes, I adore John Adams.  But I just hadn't gotten to this one....then I found the unabridged audio CD at my local used bookstore (I love bookstores...who would have guessed it?).  I've been commuting twice a week to Anchorage so I've had a lot of time to fill and so I decided to listen to this one.  I was very impressed with the experience, although I do have a few comments about the experience before I talk about the book itself.  First, so this book starts with some "action," like many books and then goes back to start at the beginning of Adams' life.  Reading it, I wouldn't have even noticed it, but I was pretty much going "what" until the book went back to the "start."  The other thing it does it this really means they read the quotes on the section pages and that was a bit confusing as well at times.  I also don't like that I couldn't look up the footnotes, but that's the historian in me. And I do have the book, so I could look up any I really wanted to, but that would be an issue for me if I only had the audio.  I wanted the footnotes, too.  (Well, endnotes, but no one publishes footnotes anymore...phooey.) But that's really on my comments - I thought the narrator did an excellent job and the quality was excellent of the CDs. 

Now the material itself....the author obviously likes Adams, which isn't surprising and given that I adore him, that works for me.   This spends a LOT of time on Jefferson, which while I get as part of Adams' life, I felt was a bit overdone at times. Now, at the same time, the author seems to agree with me that Adams is better than Jefferson (sorry, but you all knew I thought this!), but at times I think there could have been less Jefferson. But if you want some Jefferson, there is plenty here.  I would have rather had more Abigail time.  I did like how the author used the Jefferson/Adams correspondence as a way to deal with his time in retirement, though. 

I also think that there was more focus on earlier in Adams' life than the presidency and I would have liked a little more on the presidency, including more on Abigail's contributions here.  I actually felt like there was too much on vice presidency by comparison. 

But honestly, this is a great book, well written and researched and do great justice to the life of John Adams.  I also really enjoyed the experience of listening to it on audio and hope to find some more to listen to!  (I've been listening to a lot of Hardcore History, but most of that isn't American so not really fodder for here.)

**Side note...the front of the audio talks about the miniseries....I started that....couldn't get even through the first DVD before I shut it off in annoyance.**

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Go Vote! Mrs. Eisenhower says to!!

Remember to vote! I did this morning!

1952 Good Housekeeping:
“Vote for my husband or for Governor Stevenson, but please vote”

by Mamie Eisenhower

When Good Housekeeping asked me to write this piece, my initial reaction was to say an immediate an emphatic “No, thanks.”

I am not a writer.

And then I changed my mind – about this article, anyway. I said “Yes” because of a letter I received from a young girl whom I do not know, have never seen. Here is what she wrote:

Dear Mrs. Eisenhower:

I live with my parents and I am a high-school senior. Although my fellow students and I like to have as much fun as anybody our age, we still have a serious side. Most of our boy friends are now about 18 – old enough to fight, but oddly enough not considered old enough to vote! As a matter of fact, my own boy friend has just been drafted.

Because your son, John, is now in Korea, I thought you of all important Americans would understand what I am going to say. I feel so useless at home, not being about to do anything. Besides, I read that during the last presidential election (when I was still in grammar school) only half of the eligible voting public ever got to the polls! I don’t think this should happen again, so I’ve dreamed up a way to help. On Election Day I am offering my services for free (baby sitting, dishwashing, cleaning house) to any neighborhood mother or wife so she can get out and cast her vote. I talked the scheme over with my girl friends, and they agreed to join me in this teen-age crusade.

But I’d like to reach more people. That is why I am writing this letter. Through you – perhaps – my idea could spread to other towns and other teen-agers.


Jeannie C-

I am proud to publicize Jeanie’s letter. I hope other teenagers will follow her example. Our sober-thinking young people put to shame the kind of woman who claims she has no time to vote, or who argues “What does one vote matter?” With the right to vote goes a public trust that must be exercised just as surely as any official must exercise his.

During the past year when my husband’s title was Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, I recall walking in Paris and seeing what looked to be window boxes smack against the cement subway wall. I thought, How clever the French are with their flowers. Then I went closer. Though the flowers were still beautiful, I saw they had a purpose. I didn’t have to know much French to understand: Above the buds were seven plagues in memory of six boys and a girl, their ages ranging from eighteen to twenty-two, each shot to death on that spot, August, 1944. Their markers face the Place de la Concorde, where Marie Antoinette lost her royal head, but somehow Marie Antoinette did not concern me; it was those young others dying in my time and even in Jeanie’s time in grammar school. I stood still, as every woman stands when she sees those markers, and I closed my eyes and prayed to God,” Please don’t let this happen again!”

I believe one way to keep it from happening is to use your vote. Whether your ballot goes for an Eisenhower or a Stevenson, cast it. Cast it while you thank your stars you live in a land where you have the privilege of declaring your choice.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Harding Car

We were in Fairbanks last weekend (okay, we live in Alaska...this wasn't a special trip!) and took the kids to Pioneer Park and got to see the Harding Car
This is the car that Harding rode in while in Alaska to drive the spike for the Alaska Railroad. This is actually pretty anticlimactic - you can't get in it and there is like nothing in it.  Definitely not worth a trip to see, but if you are in Fairbanks like we were, it is worth a pit stop. 
This article, which rehashes the Alaska trip plus brings up the various theories on his death is more interesting.  I've heard most of the various theories, but honestly never paid much attention to the shellfish theory, so I thought I'd share that here:
The touring party members had been eating shellfish during the entire sea voyage, going and coming. But it was two days out of Sitka that the President first complained of sharp abdominal pains, but suffered no vomiting. Shellfish was suspected. But in hindsight no one could remember how the crabs had been delivered or by whom. And no one else became ill although many of the party had eaten crab.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan died today:
Former first lady Nancy Reagan, who joined her husband on a storybook journey from Hollywood to the White House, died Sunday.
She was 94.
Reagan died at her home in Los Angeles of congestive heart failure, according to her spokeswoman, Joanne Drake of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
"Mrs. Reagan will be buried at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, next to her husband, Ronald Wilson Reagan, who died on June 5, 2004. Prior to the funeral service, there will be an opportunity for members of the public to pay their respects at the library," Drake said in a statement.
The former first lady requested that contributions be made to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation in lieu of flowers, the statement said.
In a statement, President Barack Obama thanked Reagan for her "warm and generous advice."
"Our former First Lady redefined the role in her time here," he continued. "Later, in her long goodbye with President Reagan, she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer's, and took on a new role, as advocate, on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives.
"We offer our sincere condolences to their children, Patti, Ron, and Michael, and to their grandchildren. "
Republican leaders also paid tribute.
"With the passing of Nancy Reagan, we say a final goodbye to the days of Ronald Reagan," wrote 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Facebook. "With charm, grace, and a passion for America, this couple reminded us of the greatness and the endurance of the American experiment. ... God and Ronnie have finally welcomed a choice soul home."
You can read a nice biography here from the Reagan Library.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ken Burn’s “The Roosevelts”

I love Ken Burns.  Yes, yes, I admit it. So when I heard he was doing a documentary on the Roosevelts, I was thrilled.  This was very good, but I do wish there was more on Eleanor after Franklin’s death (Edith, too) as well as some of the other females in the family.   (If you are like me and interested, check out my review of The Roosevelt Women.)  So that’s my biggest critique.

Otherwise, I think this did a great job of dealing with the major issues and didn’t fall into the trap of sensationalizing FDR and the affairs issues.  I was also glad to see Alice (both of them) to minor roles.  Definitely well worth the time investment to watch! 
Now I watched this about the same time as I watched the PBS American Experience documentary, so I did get a lot of repeat, but still both are worth the time. I would say that if you want only want to watch one, watch this one as you get Franklin AND Teddy with this one (it is longer….much longer….) whereas with the other one, just Franklin obviously.  This also has more Eleanor.   I happen to really enjoy Teddy, so that is a major plus for me and also this really brings out the connections between Teddy and Franklin and the influence that Teddy has on Franklin, which I don’t think is often well explored.