Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2011

Meandering Missouri

Lewis and Clark Territory for the Weekend:

Back to Basics for Bachman

Maybe Michelle Bachman could use a little refresher course?  Given some of the things she has been saying lately,

"Once you got here, we were all the same," she said. "Isn't that remarkable? It is absolutely remarkable."

I don't think she could even pass the U.S. Citizenship Test.

The Roosevelt Women

I came across this title while looking for books on Alice Roosevelt.  Betty Boyd Caroli apparently focuses on the lesser known Roosevelt women. Caroli has also written a book on First Ladies.

The Marketplace of Revolution

While I'm waiting for my copy of Ratification, I started reading T.H. Breen's The Marketplace of Revolution.  His focus is on the consumer society that was already in place before the revolution and how their "boycott" of British goods played a significant part in the revolution.  The introduction is very good, noting the display of early consumer goods in the Wallace Gallery of the Colonial Williamsburg, pointing to this particular teapot and the ironic message it carried.  There were many times the colonists could have rebelled, dating back to the 1688 Glorious Revolution, but they picked a particular time and place.  It will be very interesting to read how he interprets this.

A Winter Meander

Since many asked earlier, this is the Big Hole River in Montana

Making Our Democracy Work

Breyer on Democracy in America,

In an era characterized by interbranch antagonisms, Breyer’s call for cooperation may sound utopian to some. It also seems at odds with the independence of the judiciary. Yet it is neither a new nor a radical notion. In 1939, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes described the judicial branch as “a separate but not an independent arm of government.” “In the great enterprise of making democracy workable,” he argued, “we are all partners.” Breyer traces this view back even further, to the nation’s founding. “The Constitution’s most basic objective,” he writes, is “the creation of a single nation,” a goal it advances “by creating political institutions strong enough to permit the ‘people’ to govern themselves.”

From Jeff Shesol's book review in NYTimesHere's and interview with Breyer from ABC.

Guns. Speech. Madness

Seems the editors of Time are working overtime to capture a surreal sense to the tragedy that took place in Tucson this past week.  Whether it is the ghoulish cover of Jared Loughner or the Andy Warhol-inspired image of "Gabby" Giffords, Time seems to want us to look at this incident from a variety of lenses, which is why the editors chose to devote an entire issue to the events that took place in Pima County.

David Von Drehle is first up to bat in this special issue, telling us of The Real Lesson of the Tucson Tragedy.  He seems to be channeling the great Gonzo in his article, wanting us to look with fear and loathing on the incident, but also feeding on the more poignant aspect of Christina Green, in an appeal to as many readers as possible.

The magazine is filled with articles, photos and photo-shopped images, such as the lurid article on A Mind Unhinged, with John Cloud attempting to psychoanalyze Jared Loughner.  It closes with a round table survey of sorts entitled Ar…

Nation Building

Pauline Maier sizes up the Constitutional debates,

On Sept. 17, 1787, the convention that had been sitting in Philadelphia for four months to design a new form of government for the United States adjourned, offering its handiwork to the nation. Almost a year later, on Sept. 13, 1788, Congress declared that the Constitution had been duly ratified, and prescribed the rules for the first presidential election the following year. Pauline Maier’s delightful and engrossing book shows how America got from the first date to the second — and ultimately to today, since we still live with the same document, however modified.

One caveat: To like this book, you have to like politics. “Ratification” is an ur-text of the Almanac of American Politics. It has process, issues, arguments, local context, major players, minor players — and hoopla. “The popular excitement” that attended the struggle, Maier writes, “reminded me at times of Americans’ obsession with the final games of the World S…

When Cotton Was King

The historical note on the 1912 Lawrence Strikes brought back memories of my time in Lowell.  I read Arthur Eno's book Cotton Was King: A History of Lowell, Massachusetts, along with Kerouac's The Town and the City, to help familiarize myself with the place.  I had gotten a job with the Lowell National Historical Park, or "histerical park" as we sometimes called it.  They had revitalized several of the old mill structures that were now national monuments.  The old mill city was undergoing a renaissance.  Persons were turning some of the old mill buildings into private loft apartments, with their great views onto the Merrimack River.

Lawrence still seemed in a recessionary slumber.  It is a much bigger city.  There was no compact center like in Lowell.  But, historically this was the heart of the textile industry in New England.  Reading about the attempts to unionize the mill workers was disheartening, as time and again they were foiled by the workers bitter racism.…


The historical note of the day on Spindletop Hill made me think of Paul Thomas Anderson's recent movie, There Will Be Blood and the book it was loosely based on Upton Sinclair's Oil!  This essay in the NYTimes discusses both.  The movie was riveting to watch but all the other characters seemed incidental to the harrowing character Daniel Day Lewis played.  The discovery of oil in Texas certainly changed this state's fortunes.

Re-evaluating William Clark

Av's link got me "googling" into the world of William Clark.  In addition to the book she linked, William Clark's World, which looks at his life principally through maps, there are a couple other books that have been written in recent years.  Google provides the text for Wilderness Journey: The Life of William Clark (2004), written by William E. Foley, and here is a glowing Smithsonian review of William Clark and the Shaping of the West (2009) by Landon Y. Jones.  Here's a link to a site that houses the many journals of his and Meriwether Lewis' great expedition.  Would be fun to explore one of these books in our next group reading.

A Religious History of the American Civil War

This looks like a great new book

Examining a wide range of published and unpublished documents--including sermons, official statements from various churches, denominational papers and periodicals, and letters, diaries, and newspaper articles--Rable illuminates the broad role of religion during the Civil War, giving attention to often-neglected groups such as Mormons, Catholics, blacks, and people from the Trans-Mississippi region. The book underscores religion's presence in the everyday lives of Americans north and south struggling to understand the meaning of the conflict, from the tragedy of individual death to victory and defeat in battle and even the ultimate outcome of the war.

Here is a google copy, I imagine to the chagrin of George Rable.

George Washington's Maps

This might clear the air a little, a new book exploring Washington's love of good maps.

Schecter's war coverage often suffers from such deadening compression. This isn't a high school history text. Schecter would have been better served by spotlighting just a dozen (or less) battles.  But then there are all those beautiful, beautiful maps. It's easy to get lost in the otherworldly romance of the eighteenth century when gazing into these gorgeous color plates and insets.
Sounds like a visual feast!

The 112th US Congress

Read it and weep.  Our new House Leaders for 2011.  Some of them, like Buck McKeon, defy all credibility.  I wonder if there is any way to place a gag order on the House?

Dreams From My Father

If you are one of the lucky few to have bought a first edition, first printing of Dreams From My Father back in 1995, and had it signed by Obama at the time, you are sitting on a veritable gold mine.  The book has been valued at upward of $250,000 by some booksellers.  Here's a list of first editions at abebooks.  This is the original book cover.

The River of Doubt

Here is the start of beautifully restored footage of the expedition from the Library of Congress, with reference to TR's book Through the Brazilian Wilderness.  There is also this excellent book, Stringing Together a Nation: C├óndido Mariano da Silva Rondon and the Construction of a Modern Brazil, 1906–1930, which provides much more background as to the motivations of Brazil and Colonel Rondon for the expedition.