Teddy Roosevelt and the Path to W.H.

Hello to the void!

“Never never, you must never either of you remind a man at work on a political job that he may be President. It almost always kills him politically. He loses his nerve;he can’t do his work;he gives up the very traits that are making him a possibility. I, for instance, I am going to do great things here, hard things that require all the courage ability, work that I am capable of…But if I get to thinking of what it might lead to– I must not, I’ll  be careful, calculating, cautious in word and act, and so – I’ll beat myself. See?”

– Theodore Roosevelt as Police Commissioner of New York City in 1895 to Jake Riis

Teddy Roosevelt is known as either the guy on Mount Rushmore or as the manic grinning mustached young president. By the age of 42, when he inherited the presidency after McKinley was assassinated, he was a published author, respected historian and naturalist, city inspector, popular legislature, deputy secretary of the Navy, and a renowned army captain among other things. He is most famously known for his presidency breaking the monopolies and establishing the US navy as a world class power.

Often the first thing people realize about the Roosevelts is that they were rich. The Roosevelts came over to New York when it was still New Netherlands, settled, and did very well for themselves afterwards. By the time the 1860’s came, the Roosevelts were in the same social sphere as the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers. We are not talking about your average upper class family here. This is multiple houses over New England, multiple tours of Europe, a YUUUGE library, servants, and private tutors. Despite or more accurately in spite of all this, the family wasn’t without its troubles. It was divided by the Civil War, Theodore had two siblings die before the age of 10, He himself was sickly and people didn’t think that he would last past his fifth birthday. Obviously he did, but it took more than a little determination on his part. The combination of asthma and stomach issues could kill an adult much less an undersized boy. Looking at his later photographs, it is hard to believe that mortality could touch such a vibrant man, but eventually it does. That is a tale for a different day though.

This biography was the first volume in a set of three. It detailed his life from his childhood to the moment he got the telegram detailing that McKinley had been shot. It is a good read with a tendency to suck you in like a novel or story would. It is very clear with an event -> to event -> to event plot style. This is a good one and not one that people see often in biographies.  Most biographies are about as slow as a combination of cold molasses and the Lord of the Rings. I love and adore both but sometimes it is a bit much.  This biography was refreshing in that it was thorough but had a quick enough pace that you couldn’t help but be sucked into the story.

Time to Read

One Week and right before finals as well.

Rating

8.5 out of 10 words

Advertisements

The Morals of Machiavellian Princes

“A Prince needs to know nature and differentiate between the lion and the fox. The lion cannot keep away from snares; the fox cannot defend itself from wolves. You need to be a fox to know snares, a lion to scare wolves.” The Prince, pg. 97

“Without opportunity, their (Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus) virtue would have failed and without opportunity, their fortune would have been in vain.” The Prince, pg. 48

Machiavelli’s “The Prince” has been praised and hated since it was written. Published posthumously, “The Prince” attempts to put into words what Machiavelli had learned about the court and Italian politics in the 15th century. Machiavelli is the ‘Father of Modern Political Science’ for many reasons, and “The Prince” is just at the forefront of them.

Machiavellian has been synonymous with crafty, cunning, even manipulative on occasion.   However, that would be more apt descriptions of the prince’s advisors and flatterers than of a virtuous prince. Virtue is not used in the modern common sense of good, though. Machiavelli uses virtue in a classical sense; i.e. describing so called manly qualities of  courage and firmness. Of course virtue now reads to describe any good qualities, but in his time it was mainly used to describe manly characteristics such as courage, firmness and competence.  The definition of virtue has changed over the years, but the double-standard in the way that people view it in others.

Modern Politicians are encouraged to find a position on an issue and stick to it their entire career. Yet that is an incredibly foolish mistake. People (the electorate) change their minds all the time. If new information comes to light, and is persuasive, then there is not good reason for people not to change their minds. Circumstances are constantly evolving and it would not be ethical for people to expect their representatives opinions to stay set in stone nor is it ethical for representatives to be so closed-minded as to never look at new information.

Consistency matters, but it shouldn’t matter so much that it impedes the election process. When people have degenerated to using the word ‘flip-flopper’ as an insult, it is a symptom of how much political figures and celebrities are idolized and how their opinions are not their own.  People, presumably, have free will and can and should change their minds whenever they want.  It isn’t ethical to expect people that we like to never change their opinions. It isn’t good for society or people in general. Au contraire, it is the height of virtue to allow people to change their minds, then allow yourself to accept that and how that works in your world. These are the princes of our world as egalitarian as it may seem, but they are only human and humans change their mind. Anybody who refuses to change their mind or let others change their mind isn’t as moral as they would think.

John Adams

“He was John Adams of Braintree and He loved to Talk” -John Adams, pg. 1

I actually finished Cat’s Cradle after John Adams, but got writer’s block. It’s sad, I started this post a month ago. Well, here we are now. Why should you care about the short, talkative, judgmental second president of the United States named JOHN ADAMS?!

  1. He showed the country exactly how important have a fair trial is. We don’t always succeed at this ( RE: Pluessy v. Ferguson and the Dred Scott trial). He defended the British soldiers at the Boston Massacre even though it could’ve destroyed not only his political ambitions but his legal career.
  2. He singlegandedly arranged the loans from the Netherlands that pushed the Americans through the last two years of the Revolution and allowed them to get through the first years during the Articles of Confederation and before the Constitution.
  3. He got Thomas Jefferson to agree to write the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was highly against even being associated with the Declaration. He also thought that he wasn’t a good enough writer for such an important document. It took the persuasive powers of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to get him to write it.
  4. He set the long lasting precedent of the non interference of the Vice-President. He stuck to the job as outlined in the Constitution to preside over senate and act as the deciding vote in case of a tie. He did those two things and not anything more or less.
  5. He listened to Abigail. Abigail Adams was a fount of wisdom and John’s most trusted confidant. He didn’t always take her advice, but he made sure to take it into account. Their letters should be read by more people, it gives huge insight into the politics and  beliefs of the times of those most prominent people.

In short, the way to learn history is to learn about the people. If you understand the mindsets of these great heroes of our national mythology, then you can be a better citizen yourself and can use the knowledge to help out your fellow countrymen.

Cats Cradle

 

1280px-Cats-cradle.svg.png

Vonnegut is weird, y’all. If this is the first one his works you’ve tried, choose another. However, if you would like a meandering, satirical, oddly religious book to stretch your thinking power; this is the right place.

It isn’t as much a dystopian novel as it is a commentary on modern religion and society. The religion is Bokonism, which decrees that everything is meaningful and not. For instance, the fourteenth books is a short book with a long title as follows:

“What a can a Thoughtful Man hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the past Million Years? The answer: Nothing”

– Cat’s Cradle

This isn’t so much a commentary on religion as it is on the role of religion and other human constructs in the face of the apocalypse. Cat’s Cradle goes into the idea of how would we react in the face of the apocalypse especially with bokonism as the religion of the survivors. Bokonism is a pseudo religion made up to bring a false peace and serenity to the inhabitants of San Lorenzo, albeit with some startling insight. The main theme is both Bokonism and Cat’s Cradle is that of a Karass. In short, a Karass is made of all the people you have come in contact with over the course of a lifetime. This particular Karass managed to set off and survive the end of the world.

 

Serena – Ron Rash

“This night’s great business into my dispatch

Which shall to all our nights and days to come

Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom”

Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 5

The year is 1930. The Market crash is in full effect. A girl is pregnant. And the Pembertons are building an empire to rival with Bill Gates, Trump and the Rockefeller. Instead of computers, real estate, or even oil… timber is the Pemberton’s currency of choice.

The story of the Modern American Thane and Lady Macbeth is compellingly filled with money, amorality and revenge. There are no witches or supernatural prophecies; instead Serena Pemberton’s own raw ambition is just as much of a catalyst as the witches’ assurance that Macbeth will be king. Just as Lady Macbeth is eventually ruined by her own ambition, so is Serena.

Serena is driven mad with want of power and longing and, of course, jealousy. As a woman in the 1930s, the only one who takes her seriously at first is her husband, but eventually other learn to follow in his deference to Serena. Especially where money is concerned. Serena longs to make a dynasty not only spanning the country but global. With the threat that the National Parks that the Administration insists on building and the fact that there are some honest people left in the world that cannot be bought out, she sets her sights on Brazil where there are hectares* upon hectares of untouched virgin forests, all for herself and Pemberton.

Serena’s very foundation is jealousy of others and jealousy others have of her. She is an independent women when it was fashionable to be and with the ability to fulfill that stereotype because of her lack of family or friends. She was as free and as bound as the eagle she tamed and she was brilliant, oh so brilliant. Brilliant in both beauty and brains, she dazzled as a diamond would, sharp and deadly cold and hard.

Serena is one of the most fascinating female characters I have read in my short life thus far. She is because she does not let anything not even her own husband get in the way of what she wants and what she will do to achieve it. Very few women are written like that. Most of the time it is unsettling to read a character or to know someone such as this in real life. Even then, men are often thought more capable of the achievements that Serena accomplishes, and thereby written more like this. It is the same reason courts rarely used to convict women for lethal crimes and felonies; it was accepted that the ‘weak and fragile sex’ were too emotionally kind and loving to commit any atrocities. The only other such women in western literature on par with Serena would be the Lady Macbeth.

fig40.jpg

Source: http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Publications/region/8/history/images/fig40.jpg

Typical logging camp in the 20th century. This happened to be shot after a wildfire.

Autumn-colors-in-the-Smoky-Mountains-1000x576.jpg

Source: http://www.visitmysmokies.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Smoky-Mountains-fall-colors-2014.jpg

Nearly a hundred years later.

TL;DR

2 days to read. 4 out of 5. Great characterization, a little slow on the plot at times, but ultimately did not want to put down.

Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret

“Now I am almost a woman”

Judy Blume is well know for her works for young women and girls. ‘Are you there God? It’s me Margaret.’ takes places in an unspecified time, although for me it took place in the 1950’s or 1960’s. Margaret is a girl with a Jewish Father and Christian Mother who have raised her with no religion. This is not a big deal in New York City, when they move to New Jersey Suburbs it is the main and sometimes part of what people want to know about her. Religion and its baggege is the central theme of the book.

Margaret is interesting. She is neither the prettiest nor the most plain. She is not the meanest or the kindest. She is Margaret with one important fact: she has no religion.

Margaret is given a year long assignment by her teacher, and she chooses religion. To study this, she goes to the Jewish services for Rosh Hashanah and to services at the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. She also prays in her room to herself at night, but doesn’t tell her parents about this. Other than this, the year is filled with the adventures of the PTS’s, the worries of NOT EVER getting a period, and exercises  to the chant of “We must, we must, we must increase our bust.”

All in all, “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” is charming and funny. Margaret is severely relatable especially whenever she is in a scene with one of her grandparents. Would read again.

tl;dr

1 day to read, 4 stars

Explores the concept of religion in a increasingly secular society in the face of Middle School. She makes friends anyway and navigates religion with family member.

What is it to take a chance?

First: A shout out to Lin Manuel Miranda for this wonderful musical that is making history. You, sir, are amazing.

I try to choose a theme song every year since my birthday is so close to the New Year. I have done this since I was about fifteen or so. It helps me describe my goals and acts as a motivation. This year, my theme song is “My Shot” from the musical, Hamilton. Here are the specific lyrics that prompted the decision:

“And I am not throwin’ away my shot!

I’m ‘a get a scholarship to King’s College

I prob’bly shouldn’t brag, but, dag, I amaze and astonish,

the problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish

I gotta holler just to be heard

with every word, I drop knowledge

I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal

Tryin’ to reach my goal. My power of speech: unimpeachable

ONLY NINETEEN BUT MY MIND IS OLDER”

Now “My Shot” is right after Hamilton meets Burr, and his posse, Laurens, Lafyette, and Mulligan. The entire song is about how Hamilton thinks he has one shot to make it and he refuses to not take it and to let it pass by. Hamilton had one of the shittiest childhoods ever but did not enable himself to be pushed down because of it. His father abandoned him, His mother died while holding him when they were both sick when he was twelve, His cousin committed suicide when he was fourteen leaving him destitute and ruined, A hurricane destroyed the island and town at seventeen. The only reason he got to America in the first place is that he wrote a poem about the destruction of the hurricane on the island and people raised money for him to be educated and then come back to help the island. Instead he becomes secretary of the treasury of the United States by 35, leaves over 20,000 pages of writings, implemented our entire financial system and  set the foundation along with Jefferson for a political divide that plagues the country to this day.

The line “Only nineteen but my mind is older” resonates for my nineteenth year on this earth for so many reasons. Mostly because I’m nineteen but there are others too. For one, the raw ambition in this line. I will never settle for being forgotten. We will see if that promise is kept. Anyway, the choices presented in this song are another example. Alexander has had nothing but bad choices up until now and he will continue to make poor choices in the future. At this moment however, Hamilton has nothing but freedom ahead of him and his country and it is intoxicating. He is thinking ahead to the truth and consequences of revolution and what will be needed. Even though he quite literally just got to America and can hardly take care of his basic needs, he has his mind on a higher goal, a goal that he needs to be a part of and that will secure his name. Either way he is not throwing away his shot.

There are two ways I leave my legacy. The story of a privileged, loved, upper middle class woman, that of the uncertain girl who is minimally at best depressed and doesn’t know or maybe doesn’t want to know where she is going. The truth is somewhere in the middle she thinks. Some days she is closer to the first truth and some days she is closer to the second, but always traveling always going somewhere. I do not have the polish to get my ideas out there, some of them quite frankly unoriginal. I have not hardened from coal to diamond yet. I do not have the strength to break free of this chrysalis. However, none of know the ending of any stories nor all the nitty gritty details.

My Shot lends motivation. It is a promise to myself that there is work to be done and whatever my past is, it does not affect my future choices. I have a life to make worthwhile and I am not going waste my shot!

tl;dr

Theme song, goals for the next year, little bit about me