Friday, July 31, 2009

Meandering with the Presidents

I was so smitten with this series of photos (linked above) and the fact that I could get started on TR online that I subscribed to Vanity Fair. Time will tell if all issues live up to these two samples, but it does seem like they have interesting stories from time to time.

This photo booth snapshot may be from the Kennedys' honeymoon.


  1. Woodrow Wilson looks the kind of guy you could never warm up to.

  2. Wilson's also strangely out of focus -- even compared to this little snapshot of Kennedy who really does have something extra when compared to the others.

    I thought these photos were very revealing in their way. How about that Nixon playing the piano?

    I just hope the magazine can deliver an issue or two over a year to live up to this, and it's not just movie stars and their love lives.

  3. That JFK pic reminds me that San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (heavy emphasis on photography) is featuring not only 6 decades of Richard Avedon photos but Robert Frank's earlier huge work "The Americans"--truly an eyefiller and thought-provoker about non-celebrities "in situ" in the 40's-50's, I need to go back for more (feet wore out long before interest did).

  4. I absolutely LOVE the pic of Nixon playing for Miss Pearlie Mae!!! Oh Lord, if only he'd stayed with the piano...

  5. This one also looks fascinating:

  6. Finally finished Lear and it was worth the investment of time. The book concludes with a look at WWI, the ultimate regeneration of the nation through war -- and the ultimate failure (the chapter is called Conclusion: Dying in Vain).

    Interestingly, he sees Wilson as a stark contrast to TR with his emphasis on the manliness of war, and his push for unconditional surrender. He believes that in spite of all of Wilson's failures, he has been misunderstood. "He hated war, and was even willing to abridge national sovereignty to avoid it." Makes me want to read more about Wilson now.

    Lear also notes that Wilson, in spite of his support of Birth of a Nation and his segregation of the White House denounced lynching in 1918. "How shall we commend democracy to the acceptance of other peoples, if we disgrace our own by proving that it is, after all, no protection of the weak?" He also came out in support of women's suffrage.

    After the war, Lear believes TR and his regeneration through war idea lost their allure. But then in an amazing wrap, he ties together the end of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan, the resurrection of TR's reputation, and the rise of GW. Some, he says, have called Bush Wilsonian, but he sees Bush as another TR, promoting the idea of solving the nation's weakness through invading other countries.

  7. He also brings up Randolph Bourne's critique of the war and his "war is the health of the state." I need to read him.

    And ends with Pat Barker's novel, Ghost Road, which I've been meaning to read.

  8. In his acknowledgments he cites Jonathan Lear's book _Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation_, about the Crow.

    This is a book I've never even heard of before, but apparently it talks about how even though the Crow came to terms with the US government early, "they lost their reference points for moving into the future." Looking at Amazon, it appears the book examines the leadership of Plenty Coups.

    Lear concludes that "... there are times when our public challenges seem so complex and overwhelming that it is hard to imagine a future without some version of radical hope." Interesting book.