Thursday, December 31, 2009

Roberto Clemente was one of my favorite baseball players, and it was a sad day in sports when his plane went down all those years ago.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Black Elk Speaks

The history note on Wounded Knee brought to mind that great book, Black Elk Speaks, edited by John G. Neihardt.  It made such a big impact on me when I read it in college.  Great example of oral history being transcibed.  Interesting to see there was a play based on the memoir.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

West of the West

I'm a sucker for an enticing book cover, but this book looks like it has the pages to go with it,

The title of Mark Arax's collection of reportage "West of the West" comes from Theodore Roosevelt, who famously said: "When I am in California, I am not in the West, I am west of the West." Roosevelt's remark helped create our idea of a state that is not only golden and opportunity-filled but somehow beyond everywhere else, within which experience and social experiment happen in ways that are both unto themselves and constantly surprising.

Arax explores the contemporary manifestations of this idea, showing us intimate dramas that arise from the tussles among the larger external forces of landscape, family, immigration, politics and economics. In "Legend of Zankou," an Armenian rotisserie chicken magnate dons a white silk suit he hasn't worn for 20 years, then drives across Glendale to kill his mother, his sister and then himself. In "The Agent," Arax profiles James Wedick Jr., an FBI agent turned private eye, fighting for the chance to testify on behalf of two Pakistani Muslims who stand accused in the first terrorism trial in California. The authorities think (hope) they've busted an Al Qaeda cell in Lodi, population 60,000, a farming town at the far northern edge of the San Joaquin Valley. In reality, Wedick tells Arax, they've found the neighborhood ice-cream man and his sad cherry-packer son guilty of little more than stupidity and railroaded by a dubious interrogation process.

Review from the LA Times

Holiday Inn

Watched Holiday Inn last night with friends.  Great movie for the music and dance numbers alone, but has a lot of interesting sidebars as well, not least of all the little number for Abraham Lincoln with Mamie and her two little kids joining in.  Given that it was 1942 I guess one can excuse Sandrich somewhat for the black stereotypes, as Bing crudely paints Marjorie in black face to go undetected by the bamboozling Fred and his agent, as they search the crowd for the mysterious woman Fred danced with during the New Year's celebration.  Bing made for an odd looking Black Lincoln.  The Fourth of July number was also very interesting, with its film clips of the ongoing war and the sense of patriotism it implied, but Fred's little number with firecrackers stole the show.  Funny to see Fred Astaire as such a heel in this movie, but ultimately all's well that end's well, as Bing woos Marjorie back with White Christmas, and Fred is reunited with Virginia.  Great way to celebrate the evening!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

O Tannenbaum

Several cities in the United States with German connections lay claim to that country's first Christmas tree: Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House, while the "First Christmas Tree in America" is also claimed by Easton, Pennsylvania, where German settlers purportedly erected a Christmas tree in 1816. In his diary, Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recorded the use of a Christmas tree in 1821, leading Lancaster to also lay claim to the first Christmas tree in America.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Empire of Liberty

When it comes to early American history, few beat Gordon Wood, and this new book looks like a great summing of the period,

Gordon S. Wood demonstrates in “Empire of Liberty,” his superb new account of America’s pivotal first quarter-century, these inchoate Americans were audacious from the very start. Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, brazenly asserted that the United States was destined to be “God’s own Word.” Madison called America an Arcadian “paradise,” while Thomas Jefferson labeled the nation “the world’s best hope.” And when they gazed over at the decadent, decaying monarchies of France and England, Americans concluded they were on the cusp of a new age, destined to be “an asylum to the good, to the persecuted and to the oppressed.”

Wood’s central characters are familiar too, but presented in admirably nuanced portraits. We see the austere George Washington, whose inordinate strength was his realism; we see the perplexing Thomas Jefferson, who so eloquently championed the rights of the common people while remaining publicly silent about the evils of slavery; we see Alexander Hamilton, who helped give us capitalism and who also had profound reservations about the revolutionary tide sweeping Europe; and we see James Madison, who Wood thinks may well have been the most intellectually gifted figure the nation has ever produced.

I imagine it covers a lot of the same ground as his past books, but nice to see it all collected in one volume.

Sherman's March

Couldn't resist posting a link to Ross McEwee's wonderful evocation on Sherman's March and what it means to grow up in the South.  You can pick up a few more clips on YouTube.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Adams Women

I see someone has taken on the Adams' women,

From his vast storehouse of knowledge about the Adams family. Nagel pulls out the feminine threads of that tapestry to write all about the Adams women, from Abigail to daughter Nabby, from Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of John Quincy, to Clover Adams, wife of Henry, with others making more than cameo appearances. They all lived exceptional, if not extraordinary, lives, in different ways.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

North American Review Centennial Issue

I found Wills discussion (pp. 81-85) of the Centennial Issue of the North American Review, which Henry Adams edited, quite fascinating, as it essentially provided a "report card" of the first 100 years of the United States on Religion, Politics, Abstract Science, Economic Science, Law and Education.  Here is a link to Volume 122, Issue 250, January 1876

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meander into the Solstice

It's a little early, but this is from a Solstice morning in Ames, Iowa. I'll be bringing in greenery this weekend and lighting candles on the 21st in hopes of bringing the sun back to its northern path.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Clinton v. Starr, The Final Round-up

From Random House, a new book on Ken Starr's infamous battle with Bill Clinton over propriety,

Ten years after one of the most polarizing political scandals in American history, author Ken Gormley offers an insightful, balanced, and revealing analysis of the events leading up to the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton. From Ken Starr’s initial Whitewater investigation through the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit to the Monica Lewinsky affair, The Death of American Virtue is a gripping chronicle of an ever-escalating political feeding frenzy.

In exclusive interviews, Bill Clinton, Ken Starr, Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Susan McDougal, and many more key players offer candid reflections on that period. Drawing on never-before-released records and documents—including the Justice Department’s internal investigation into Starr, new details concerning the death of Vince Foster, and evidence from lawyers on both sides—Gormley sheds new light on a dark and divisive chapter, the aftereffects of which are still being felt in today’s political climate.

The Spirit of Crazy Horse

Weez has been pitching The Spirit of Crazy Horse at Melba, which led me to re-explore the Peltier case.  This past summer he was up for parole, but of course he was denied.  It was also interesting to read that one of the reasons Geffen put his money behind Obama in the primaries, was because he was still upset with Clinton for not pardoning Peltier when he had the chance. 

There was quite a bit of campaigning on the Indian reservations last year.  More than usual.  North and South Dakota were both hotly contested states, and both Richardson and Napolitano campaigned for Obama on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona.  So, it would seem that there are great expectations that Obama will look into the Peltier case and other Native American concerns.

All though, I have to wonder if Peltier is really a big deal for most Indians.  The A.I.M. had a very hard time gaining traction on the reservations, from what I have read, and gained most of its support from inner city Indians, especially in Minneapolis where it is based.  Anyway, I see Banks and Means both have autobiographies.  Dennis Banks' Ojibwa Warrior is the most recent.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mannahatta Project

Fascinating project and it comes with a companion volume.

Louisa Adams

Nice bio on her at National First Ladies' Library. 
I'm sure Henry Adams would be pleased with the gold coin that has been minted of his grandmother.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Henry Adams and the Making of America

One of the books being suggested for discussion is Garry Wills study of Henry Adams and the value of his interpretations of early America. Of course everyone knows The Education of Henry Adams, and its impact on American history, but Richard Lingeman notes,

Wills maintains that Adams's sweeping nine-volume chronicle -- ''the nonfiction prose masterpiece of the 19th century in America'' -- has suffered not only neglect but also the humiliation of being misread by professional historians. Richard Hofstadter, for example, accused Adams of caricaturing America as a ''slack and derivative culture, of fumbling and small-minded statecraft, terrible parochial wrangling and treasonous schemes, climaxed by a ludicrous and unnecessary war.'' 

Monday, December 14, 2009

What it means to be Muslim in America

After reading Zeitoun, I found myself looking for books that deal with the subject of what it means to be Muslim in America.  Quite a few titles out there, but Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror caught my interest.  Hugh Eakin writes,

In the varied explanations for the 9/11 attacks and the rise in terrorism, two themes keep recurring. One is that Islamic culture itself is to blame, leading to a clash of civilizations, or, as more nuanced versions have it, a struggle between secular-minded and fundamentalist Muslims that has resulted in extremist violence against the West. The second is that terrorism is a feature of the post-cold-war landscape, belonging to an era in which international relations are no longer defined by the titanic confrontation between two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.

But in the eyes of Mahmood Mamdani, a Uganda-born political scientist and cultural anthropologist at Columbia University, both those assumptions are wrong. Not only does he argue that terrorism does not necessarily have anything to do with Islamic culture; he also insists that the spread of terror as a tactic is largely an outgrowth of American cold war foreign policy. After Vietnam, he argues, the American government shifted from a strategy of direct intervention in the fight against global Communism to one of supporting new forms of low-level insurgency by private armed groups.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Really Meandering.....

And now for something completely different.....

We've been successfully meandering all over the site, but thought I should put up a new meander thread for the weekend anyway. This is one of the women I'm studying: Martha Maxwell was one of the very first professional naturalists/taxidermists in the country to realistically portray animals.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Standing Tall

Mr Obama accepted the prize with deep "gratitude and humility" but warned that war was sometimes necessary despite its "acute" human tragedy.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee chose Mr Obama as this year's Peace Prize laureate for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and "work for a world without nuclear weapons."

As he accepted the award, Mr Obama paid tribute to anti-government demonstrators in Iran.

In excerpts of his speech released by the White House as the ceremony got underway, Mr Obama said America would always stand on the side of those who sought freedom including in Iran, Burma and Zimbabwe.

The Great Deluge

I see Eggers makes a reference to The Great Deluge in his endnotes.  I have a copy sitting on my shelves which I bought soon after it came out, but haven't gotten around to reading.  However, after reading this salon review I'm not sure I want to wade into it.  The New York Times provides a more favorable review.  Perhaps, as Barra noted in his review, because Brinkley fawned over the media's coverage of the event, noting the NY Times among other publications as having given the disaster the attention it warranted.  Anyway, will open it up and take a look inside.

I also have Spike Lee's account of events, When the Levees Broke, which I will sit down and watch at some point.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A People's History of the United States

I'm not sure if Howard Zinn has sanctioned this on-line version of his book, but here it is in its most recent form with chapters on the Clinton Administration and The 2000 Election and the War on Terror.  I've only read pieces from it.  Zinn doesn't let anyone off the hook, but at the same time I'm left wondering how much this is his opinion and how much is actual history.  Lack of footnotes is a concern, but maybe the persons who made the on-line copy chose not to include them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Any thoughts on what to read next?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

I received my copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee:the illustrated edition today and was pleasantly surprised.It's in hardcover and is coffee table sized almost.Lots of illustrations,period photos,portraits of Chiefs,maps and some pics of the battlefields in the present day.I got it for rejoining QPBC but I see it's at Amazon for a little over 21.00.Some new essays also included with the original text.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I've been very much enjoying Zeitoun.  Eggers writes in a simple unpretentious style following Abdulrahman Zeitoun as he aids a city in distress in his aluminum canoe.  I would think the Zeitouns have more attention than they ever imagined in the wake of the book and Jonathon Demme's plan to make their story into an animated movie along the lines of Persepolis.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Talented Miss Highsmith

This is no ordinary literary biography. Ms. Schenkar, also a playwright, is not one of those thorough, respectful scholars who let the facts and the literature speak for themselves. Hers is an unusually assertive voice, which makes it well suited to Highsmith (as it was to Dolly Wilde, Oscar’s niece, who was the subject of Ms. Schenkar’s earlier book, “Truly Wilde”). Her approach is innovative, sometimes confoundingly so. And her sensibility is sufficiently ghoulish to keep her undaunted by what she calls Highsmith’s “hundreds of raspingly acute portraits of quietly transgressive acts,” which is a relatively mild way of characterizing the shock value of Highsmith’s tirelessly misanthropic work.

I've always enjoyed Highsmith and this sounds like a most interesting biography.  I hadn't realized she hailed from Fort Worth, TX.