No, Honey, Your Big Butt Makes You Look Fat, Not the Dress

3 07 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC4K6n1iCgc

Awesome.  Fireworks to follow.

Happy Independence Day!





How First Bull Run was REALLY Lost

4 03 2010

Well, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hit the shelves day before yesterday.  By most accounts it’s a big hit, and may even be made into a movie (unlike some folks, I don’t see Johnny Depp as Abe – maybe John Wilkes Booth).  Anyway, seeing the book in Barnes and Noble today reminded me that there’s an, umm, interesting account of the fighting at Bull Run, and what turned the tide for the Confederacy.  An enlisted man in a Massachusetts regiment wrote home to his wife after the battle, in a letter residing in the Harvard University Archives (where it “has long been mistaken for a work of epistolary fiction”):

We had [the Confederates] whipped at the start.  Blessed with greater numbers, we drove south up Henry House Hill, and into a group of trees at its peak.  What a sight to see them scatter like mice!  To see our ranks spread half a mile wide!  Th hear the cracking of gunpowder from all directions!

“Let us chase them all the way to Georgia!” cried Colonel Hunter, to the delight of the men.

As we neared the top of the hill, the rebels covered their retreat by firing on us.  The gun smoke grew so thick that one could scarcely see ten yards into the trees where they hid.  From behind this curtain of smoke suddenly came a chorus of wild yells.  The voices of twenty or thirty men, growing louder by the moment.  “First Ranks!  Fix bayonets!” ordered the colonel.  As they did, a small band of Confederates emerged from the smoke, running toward us as fast as any men have ever run.  Even from a distance, I could see their strange, wild eyes.  There was not a rifle, or a pistol, or a sword among them.

Our first ranks began to fire, yet their rifles seemed to have no effect.  Melissa, I swear until my grave that I saw bullets strike these men in their chests.  In their limbs and faces. Yet they continued to charge as if they had not been hit at all!  The rebels smashed into our ranks and tore men apart all in front of my eyes.  I do not mean to suggest that they ran them through with bayonets, or fired on them with revolvers.  I mean to say that these rebels–these thirty unarmed men–tore one hundred men to pieces with nothing more than their bare hands.  I saw arms pulled off.  Heads twisted backward.  I saw blood pour from the throats and bellies of men gutted by mere fingertips; a boy grasping at the holes where his eyes had been a moment before.  A private three yards in front of me had his rifle plucked away.  I was close enough to feel his blood on my face as its stock was used to smash his skull in.  Close enough to taste his death on my tongue.

Our lines broke.  I am not ashamed to say that I dropped my rifle and ran with the others, Melissa.  The rebels gave chase, overtaking and savaging men on either side of me as we retreated.  Their screams following me down the hill.

Well, there you have it.  As if we needed any more proof of the evil that was the so-called Confederacy.  Just for fun,though, care to take a stab at the factual accuracy of the account, with the exception of bloodsucking assistance?

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Book Trailer – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

2 03 2010

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a trailer for a book before, but this one is pretty cool.  It kind of reminds me of the Diet Mountain Dew commercial with a shirtless Abe.  The book comes out today.  I previewed it here, and reviewed it here.  I’m thinking a film is likely.

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An 11-Year-Old on Abraham Lincoln: “Even if it meant being hated by most of the country”

18 02 2010

The guest poster today makes his debut on the internet, with last night’s homework assignment.  I think it’s terrific, but I’m a little biased.  As he gets older, I’m sure his thoughts on his hero will be refined, but I hope the central theme of his admiration as expressed in the penultimate sentence doesn’t change.

My Hero: Abraham Lincoln

by Joey Smeltzer

There are a lot of people that I look up to. Most of them are either athletes or politicians. But the person who I look up to the most is Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of United States. I look up to Abraham Lincoln because he was the President during one of the toughest times in American history: The Civil War. His goal was to free the slaves. Because of this, many people hated him. Everybody in the South hated him, and if that wasn’t bad enough, many people of the North hated him because they were upset with the way that he was running the Civil War or were against freeing the slaves. Yet he still managed to get elected President twice. As soon as he was nominated, he started getting death threats from people who were scared he was going to end slavery. When he got into office, the death threats got even worse. Even though people wanted to kill him, he still stood up for what he believed in. On April 14, 1865, he was finally assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. If he did not speak out against slavery, he probably would have never been assassinated. But he still did it because he knew what was right. Abraham Lincoln was my hero because he always did the right thing no matter what – even if it meant being hated by most of the country. I think everybody should try to be like Abraham Lincoln.

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Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

17 02 2010

The way I heard the story, in response to complaints of baseball purists that actor Ray Liotta’s portrayal of baseball legend “Shoeless” Joe Jackson batting right and throwing left was in contrast to the fact that he batted left and threw right, Field of Dreams director Ron Shelton quipped, “Did they notice he is currently dead?  I guess that’s another mistake we made.”  Or words to that effect.

I had to remind myself of that story frequently while reading Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  This book requires the suspension of a whole lot of disbelief.  After the vampire-induced death of his mother, Abe devotes himself to the eradication of the creatures from the country.  Abe’s father’s inability to repay a debt to his vampire loan shark (the senior Lincoln’s many faults were frequently referred to, as were the positive traits he passed on to his son) is what led to Nancy Hanks’ murder.  It turns out that vampires were the movers and shakers, the money-lenders, the men behind the men in 19th century America, though they stretched back all the way to Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke settlement.  They also played a role in the institution of slavery, striking deals with human slaveholders for prey.

Abe was a self-taught vampire hunter at first, but early on was trained by a friendly bloodsucker.  He hunted with crossbow and knives, but his weapon of choice was his trusty axe.  Over the years, he enlisted the help of first Jack Armstrong of  Clary’s Grove, then friend Joshua Speed, and later Ward Hill Lamon.  But none of them could help Abe during what would be his last confrontation with the undead in Ford’s Theater in April, 1865.  Or was it his last?

Throughout, Grahame-Smith weaves Abe’s nocturnal hunts in with the “known” history.  As you’d expect, much of that “known” history has some unknown facets: was Ann Rutledge the victim of a vampire?  Take a wild guess.  But here’s where the book disappointed me.  Not just the fact that there were inaccuracies, but that the miscues would have been easy enough to correct without affecting the story one iota.  For the record, I reviewed an advance reading copy (aka bound galley aka uncorrected proof).  The following may be corrected in the book when it is released next week:

  1. The military career of Edgar Allan Poe is discussed.  Grahame-Smith states that when Poe was transferred to Ft. Moultrie in South Carolina, he was not near a town.  Ft. Moultrie is hard-by Charleston.
  2. Grahame-Smith describes Lincoln’s cabinet in the spring of 1861, including Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.  Simon Cameron, not Stanton, was Lincoln’s first Secretary of War.
  3. Robert E. Lee is said to have been a friend of Lincoln’s before the war.  The two were not acquainted, though Lee’s opponent George McCellan appears to have had numerous dealings with Lincoln in the 1850s, and they established a friendship of sorts.
  4. Grahame-Smith writes that Our American Cousin was a new play in 1865.  It was written in 1858.

There are other hiccups – these just happened to stick with me.  But guess what?  Vampire’s aren’t real (at least, I think they aren’t).  Unless you’re a fourteen-year-old girl, that shouldn’t come as any surprise to you.  If you can overlook that minor detail, I think these little mistakes shouldn’t concern you much.

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Abe Kicks Undead Ass

2 02 2010

 

Today’s mail brought a package I’ve been eagerly anticipating.  About a week ago, Miriam Parker of the Hachette Book Group sent me a note asking if I’d like to review their upcoming (March 2, 2010) release by Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  (I think the titles are self-explanatory, but if you don’t get it these books are based on the classic works and written in Jane Austen’s style, with macabre twists.)  Ms. Parker tried to sell me on the book by telling me that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is supporting the book with author events (see their press release), but I couldn’t say “YES!” to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter fast enough.  The collection of essays on Thomas Jefferson’s founding of West Point that I’m currently reading is so dry it would make Gordon Ramsay use the F word, so this is a welcome break.  From the inside front cover of my uncorrected proof:

When Abraham Lincoln was nine years old, his mother died from an ailment called the “milk sickness.”  Only later did he learn that his mother’s affliction was actually caused by a local vampire, seeking to collect on Abe’s father’s unfortunate debts.

When the truth became known to the young Abraham Lincoln, he wrote in his journal, “Henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion.  I shall become learned in all things—a master of mind and body.  And this mastery shall have but one purpose.”

That purpose?  Elimination of all vampires.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for reuniting the North and the South and abolishing slavery in our country, no one has ever understood his valiant fight for what it really was.  That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than one hundred and forty years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true story of our greatest president for the first time—while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

Were Jack Armstrong and the Clary’s Grove Boys actually a coven of blood suckers?  Was the pathological sluggishness of George McClellan attributable to the fact that he only came out at night?  Did Jefferson Davis sleep in a casket (OK, that one’s obvious – just look at the guy!)?  I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

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Springfield, IL: Part VI – Lincoln Tomb and Miscellaneous Statuary

2 01 2010

On October 9-12 this year my family and I visited Springfield, IL (see overview of the trip here).  On the 11th, we visited The Lincoln Tomb in Springfield’s Oak Hill Cemetery.  Unfortunately, the tomb (run by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency) was not open – budget constraints again.  And even the exterior was not fully accessible: the second level of the exterior was closed for repairs.  It was an overcast day to begin with, and I was losing what little light I had.  Here are some images of the tomb and the statuary on and in front of it.  The nose of the Gutzon Borglum bust is shiny from the rubbing hands of thousands of visitors.  The four Larkin Mead tableaux around the obelisk depict the cavalry, navy, artillery, and infantry.  Click on the thumbs for larger images, and click the images for larger ones still:

          

Here is a view of the tomb from the rear, and also of the stained glass window that allows light into the interior:

 

At the bottom of the hill behind the tomb is the crypt in which Lincoln’s body resided initially and, halfway up the hill, a marker to another vault to which his body was subsequently removed prior to completion of the tomb:

     

Across from the crypt at the bottom of the hill is a chime tower, inlaid with the slab on which Lincoln’s body first rested:

 

We stayed our first night (10/9-10) a little outside town near the power plant at the Crowne Plaza hotel, in the lobby of which is this grouping of Lincoln and some children On the Road to Greatness:

This grouping (Springfield’s Lincoln, 2004 by Larry Anderson) sits on the Adams St. mall between the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices and the Old State Capitol.

    

 There are two sculptures outside the Springfield Union StationVisitor Center, across the street from the ALPLM.  The first shows Abe clutching his coat against a cold prairie wind (A Greater Task, 2006 by John McClarey); the second is an interactive photo-op (Lincoln, 2006 by Mark Lundeen).

       

Inside the Visitor Center is this cool model of Lincoln’s funeral train:

       

On Monday the 12th, before driving back to St. Louis to catch our flight home, the boy and I drove over to the current Illinois State Capitol, on the grounds of which are two fine statues of Lincoln (Lincoln of the Farewell Address, 1918 by Andrew O’Connor) and Stephen Douglas (1918 by Gilbert Riswold).

     

I really enjoyed our trip to Springfield, even if it was a little chilly.  I consider that a small price to play for smaller crowds and shorter lines.  Springfield is a must visit for all Lincoln, Civil War, Presidential, and American history enthusiasts.  I hope to return some day to catch the other sites I missed this time around.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

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