Suicide is not painless

One of the worst things about the movie MASH was the title of the theme song, “Suicide is painless.” Of course, if you’ve ever have been a survivor of suicide – I have been fortunate not to be in that category – it is full of pain for those left behind.

I must tell you that I had no idea who Kate Spade was, but I see her impact on fashion was evidently huge. One of many things I hated in the reportage was that her brother-in-law, comedian David Spade, was “breaking his silence” less than two days after her death. The expectation that we are somehow OWED a statement from her loved one rankles me.

Conversely, I was really sad about the death of Anthony Bourdain, chef, travel host and author, at 61. Early on, I thought he was a real jerk, but as he evolved and – I thought – had faced his demons, he became quite the raconteur, telling stories about food around the world.

Matthew Cutler, a rabbi, wrote When living hurts…, which I found useful.

The network news has actually plugged the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800 273 talk) multiple times and pointed to info such as recognize the signs of suicide and find help. I wish it were that simple.

Still, I think Michael Rivest, a guy I know IRL, is also correct when he wrote: “In light of the media attention given to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, it was inevitable that it would flush out those who see suicide as a cowardly ‘choice.’ These are usually the same people who see addiction as a choice, along with poverty, anxiety, sexual orientation, etc.

“We scoff at the naivete of those who, a few hundred years ago, attributed such realities to evil spirits, yet now we fall for the self-satisfied canard that people somehow ‘choose’ to be in pain, or to be victims of social injustice. Sometimes, things only look like a choice to those for whom they would be.”

Read how Amy Biancolli takes on the ‘selfishness’ of suicide.

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X is for X-rays, WWI and Marie Curie

Marie Curie, née Sklodowska, is probably the most famous woman of science ever. She engaged in “groundbreaking work on radioactivity”, and became the first person to win the Nobel Prize in two different fields.

“In July 1898, Marie along with her husband Pierre Curie, announced the discovery of a new chemical polonium, naming it after her native country Poland. The same year, the Curies discovered radium.

“In 1903, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics alongside Pierre and Henri Becquerel. Eight years later, she won her second Nobel Prize in Chemistry.”

It’s less well known that she was a major hero of World War I.

“At the start of the war, X-ray machines were still found only in city hospitals, far from the battlefields where wounded troops were being treated. Curie’s solution was to invent the first ‘radiological car’ – a vehicle containing an X-ray machine and photographic darkroom equipment – which could be driven right up to the battlefield where army surgeons could use X-rays to guide their surgeries.

“One major obstacle was the need for electrical power to produce the X-rays. Curie solved that problem by incorporating a dynamo – a type of electrical generator – into the car’s design. The petroleum-powered car engine could thus provide the required electricity.

Eventually, using her fame, “she had 20, which she outfitted with X-ray equipment. But the cars were useless without trained X-ray operators, so Curie started to train women volunteers. She recruited 20 women for the first training course, which she taught along with her daughter Irene, a future Nobel Prize winner herself.”

“Not content just to send out her [eventually 150] trainees…, Curie herself had her own ‘little Curie’ – as the radiological cars were nicknamed – that she took to the front. This required her to learn to drive, change flat tires and even master some rudimentary auto mechanics, like cleaning carburetors.”

Yet she experienced the Matilda Effect, the marginalizing of women in science, named for Matilda Gage, an early suffragette. The French Academy of Sciences, founded in 1666, excluded women, such as Marie Curie, though her husband got in, Nobel winner Irène Joliot-Curie, and mathematician Sophie Germain, for nearly three centuries. “The first woman admitted as a correspondent member was a student of Curie’s, Marguerite Perey, in 1962.”

Marie Curie is included in the 2018 book She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History by Chelsea Clinton.

For ABC Wednesday

The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney, on Quora

People ask a lot of questions about The Beatles on Quora. Seeing that it’s Paul McCartney’s 76th birthday – I get Macca’s newsletter every month – I thought I’d steal a few. You’ll find other, sometimes contradictory, answers as well, at the links.

Are there any Beatles songs that were written solely by Paul McCartney that were sung solely by John Lennon, and vice-versa?

Alex Johnston: “‘Every Little Thing’, on Beatles For Sale, was written entirely by McCartney but sung by Lennon, with backing vocals from McCartney and Harrison.”

What did the Beatles think of the Rolling Stones?

Alexander Chiltern: “Yes, they were friendly… A more attentive reading has suggested me that they had envy of each other, but specially The Beatles were very, very envious of the Stones.”

Which classic rock band has aged most embarrassingly?

Stanton Nicholas: “I’m going to commit a cardinal sin among Beatle-philes by suggesting that Paul McCartney is about ready to join this group if he doesn’t stop touring soon.” I saw him in 2014 and I thought he was great, FWIW.

Is there any band artistically better than the Beatles at any time?

Rosalind Mitchell: “The Beatles more or less wrote the rules for bands. It is also that no band has ever been do versatile.”

What are John Lennon’s favorite songs by Paul McCartney?

David Sylvester: “In John Lennon’s interview with Playboy in September 1980, he singled out several Paul songs for praise. These include:
All My Loving (‘it’s a damn good piece of work’)
Things We Said Today (‘Good song’)
For No One (‘one of my favorites of his’)
Yesterday (‘well done’)
Got To Get You Into My Life (‘one of his best songs’)
Hey Jude (‘one of his masterpieces’)
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road (I enjoyed the track’)
Oh Darling (‘a great one of Paul’s that he didn’t sing too well’)
Fixing A Hole (‘writing a good lyric’)
The Fool On The Hill (‘proving he can write lyrics’)

“In the post-Beatles years, John acknowledged some appreciation for the Band On The Run album, the song Monkberry Moon Delight, and notably Coming Up, which he fixated on in the summer of 1980.

I’m occasionally tempted to answer some of these queries, but time and, usually, a sufficient extant answer dissuades me. For instance, there are always questions about whether the Beatles will be remembered decades from now. There is no telling the future, but the preponderance of evidence, such as the sheer number of cover albums of their music being produced each year, suggests the answer is YES.

Oh, yeah, Father’s Day again

You may find this weird, but I only really stopped being resentful about Father’s Day in the past year or two.

Before that, all those holiday ads I would get – gift ideas from a slew of retailers – would send me into a flurry of anger at first, followed by melancholy.

You would think, I gather, that being a father myself would have alleviated the antipathy, but no. I continued to be sad that, unlike my sisters’ daughters, my daughter will never know my father.

I wonder what nickname he would have allowed. His three grandchildren, including the one he never met, were born about a dozen years apart. Would he suggest she call him “oom-pah”, as he did with one of the others, or would the two of them have develop a different moniker for him?

I think it’s easier now because, as a “senior citizen,” as my kind daughter was so helpful in pointing out, I recognize that I haven’t got time for the pain.

Did I ever mention that my parents-in-law, who are pretty swell folks, have birthdays almost exactly a decade apart, in the same respective years? This is mighty handy, I’ll tell you. Any cheat will do.

I have started to embrace the notion of hinting for gifts. It’s not that I really want, and certainly don’t need, stuff. But it’s nice to be remembered.

My sisters started sending me Father’s Day cards fairly early on after I first became a day. One of them sent me one this year, the one NOT in the hospital; she gets a pass. Frankly, it would have never occurred to me to send them Mother’s Day cards, but I think it’s sweet that I receive cards from them.

Meanwhile, my daughter is on her way to high school. People say, “I can’t believe how quickly the time pass.” I think, though I don’t always say, “I can.”

Is it just me, or maybe it’s parents who were already of a certain age, who feel that the time is passing at approximately the correct speed?

I learn a lot from her about the world, but don’t tell her. She might get a swelled head.

RIAA going gold, platinum, diamond

The Recording Industry Association of America (EIAA) is celebrating 60 years of Gold & Platinum albums, representing sales of 500,000 and 1,000,000 units, respectively, in the United States.

The first Gold album certification was awarded to the cast album of “Oklahoma!”

In 1999, RIAA unveiled the Official Diamond Award, representing sales of 10,000,000 units. There are a lot of statistics and stories at the link. The LP or CD designation notes in what format, if any, I own that album. (I have none on cassette.) Sales in millions.

1. MICHAEL JACKSON- THRILLER, 33 (LP, CD with extras) – DECEMBER 30, 1982
33X Multi-Platinum | February 16, 2017
The extras involved producer Quincy Jones and the late songwriter Rod Temperton talking about putting the album together. Note the spike in sales after June 25, 2009.

2. EAGLES- THEIR GREATEST HITS 1971 – 1975, 29 (LP, CD) – FEBRUARY 1, 1976
29X Multi-Platinum | January 30, 2006
This became the RIAA’s first Platinum Album. For a time early in the 21st century, it was the #1 best seller again.

3. BILLY JOEL -GREATEST HITS VOLUME I & VOLUME II, 23 (CD) – JUNE 28, 1985
23X Multi-Platinum | October 26, 2011
The very first CDs I ever purchased, after SOMEONE gave me the first four Beatles CDs, KNOWING I had nothing to play them on

3. LED ZEPPELIN – IV, 23 (LP) – NOVEMBER 8, 1971
23X Multi-Platinum | January 30, 2006
This is the one with Stairway to Heaven

3. PINK FLOYD -THE WALL, 23 (LP) – NOVEMBER 28, 1979
23X Multi-Platinum | January 29, 1999
I had written bawdy lyrics to the title track.

6. AC/DC – BACK IN BLACK, 22 – JULY 21, 1980
22X Multi-Platinum | December 13, 2007
Never owned any AC/DC, though I have a country cover compilation.

7. GARTH BROOKS – DOUBLE LIVE, 21 – NOVEMBER 17, 1998
21X Multi-Platinum | November 1, 2006
Own some Garth, but not this.

7. HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH -CRACKED REAR VIEW, 21 (CD) – JULY 5, 1994
21x Multi-Platinum | May 21, 2018
How did this album go from 16 million to 21 million? Brian Cantor, the story’s writer, explains: . “RIAA certifications are not issued automatically – the label has to apply. Often (especially with older releases), they won’t apply until there’s a compelling milestone — such as double diamond.”

9. FLEETWOOD MAC – RUMOURS, 20 (LP) – FEBRUARY 4, 1977
20X Multi-Platinum | October 3, 2014

9. SHANIA TWAIN – COME ON OVER, 20 – NOVEMBER 4, 1997
20X Multi-Platinum | November 15, 2004

11. THE BEATLES – THE BEATLES, 19 (LP, CD) -NOVEMBER 25, 1968
19X Multi-Platinum | February 6, 2001
This is the white album, which wasn’t dubbed platinum until 1991

12. GUNS N’ ROSES – APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION, 18 – JULY 21, 1987
18X Multi-Platinum | September 23, 2008

12. WHITNEY HOUSTON – THE BODYGUARD (SOUNDTRACK), 18 – NOVEMBER 17, 1992
18X Multi-Platinum | November 17, 2017
I’ve never seen the movie, but I HAVE seen the musical based on the movie.

14. BOSTON – BOSTON 17 (LP) – AUGUST 25, 1976
17X Multi-Platinum | November 20, 2003

14. ELTON JOHN – GREATEST HITS, 17 (CD) – NOVEMBER 4, 1974
17X Multi-Platinum | April 28, 2016
Another one of my first CDs, since I owned so many of his albums on vinyl.

14. GARTH BROOKS – NO FENCES, 17 (CD) – AUGUST 27, 1990
17X Multi-Platinum | November 1, 2006
Bought a box set of Brooks at one point.

14. THE BEATLES – 1967 – 1970, 17 (CD) – APRIL 2, 1973
17X Multi-Platinum | August 27, 2010
A present I received for my birthday, or maybe Christmas.

ALANIS MORISSETTE -JAGGED LITTLE PILL, 16 (CD)
BEE GEES – SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (SOUNDTRACK), 16 (LP, CD)
EAGLES -HOTEL CALIFORNIA, 16 (LP)
LED ZEPPELIN – PHYSICAL GRAFFITI, 16 (CD)
METALLICA – METALLICA, 16

BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS -LEGEND, 15 (CD)
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – BORN IN THE U.S.A., 15 (LP, CD)
PINK FLOYD – DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, 15 (LP)
SANTANA – SUPERNATURAL, 15 (CD) – achieved Diamond status in one year

ADELE -21, 14 (CD)
GARTH BROOKS -ROPIN’ THE WIND, 14 (CD)
SIMON & GARFUNKEL – GREATEST HITS, 14 (CD)
STEVE MILLER BAND – GREATEST HITS 1974-1978, 14 (CD)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & E STREET BAND – LIVE 1975 – ’85 13 (LP)
PEARL JAM – TEN, 13 (CD)
PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION – PURPLE RAIN (SOUNDTRACK), 13 (LP, CD)

BOYZ II MEN -II, 12 (CD)
DIXIE CHICKS -WIDE OPEN SPACES, 12 (CD)
JEWEL -PIECES OF YOU, 12 (CD)
KENNY ROGERS -GREATEST HITS, 12 (CD)
LED ZEPPELIN -II, 12 (LP, CD)
MATCHBOX TWENTY – YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU, 12 (CD)
PHIL COLLINS – NO JACKET REQUIRED, 12 (LP)
SOUNDTRACK -FORREST GUMP, 12 (CD)
THE BEATLES -ABBEY ROAD, 12 (LP, CD)
THE ROLLING STONES -HOT ROCKS, 12 (LP)
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS -GREATEST HITS, 12 (CD)

ADELE -25, 11 (CD)
AEROSMITH -GREATEST HITS, 11 (CD)
EAGLES -GREATEST HITS VOLUME II, 11 (LP)
JAMES TAYLOR -GREATEST HITS, 11 (CD)
LED ZEPPELIN -HOUSES OF THE HOLY, 11 (LP)
OUTKAST -SPEAKERBOXXX / THE LOVE BELOW, 11 (CD)
SOUNDTRACK -TITANIC, 11 (CD)
THE BEATLES -SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, 11 (LP, CD)

BILLY JOEL – THE STRANGER, 10 (LP)
CAROLE KING – TAPESTRY, 10 (LP, CD)
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – CHRONICLE: 20 GREATEST HITS, 10 (LP, CD)
DIXIE CHICKS – FLY, 10 (CD)
DOOBIE BROTHERS -BEST OF THE DOOBIES, 10 (LP)
ERIC CLAPTON -UNPLUGGED, 10 (CD)
GARTH BROOKS -GARTH BROOKS, 10 (CD)
GREEN DAY -DOOKIE, 10 (CD)
HAMMER -PLEASE HAMMER DON’T HURT ‘EM, 10 (CD)
LED ZEPPELIN -LED ZEPPELIN, 10 (LP)
MADONNA -THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION, 10 (CD)
NIRVANA -NEVERMIND, 10 (CD)
NO DOUBT -TRAGIC KINGDOM, 10 (CD)
NORAH JONES -COME AWAY WITH ME, 10 (CD)
PATSY CLINE -GREATEST HITS, 10 (CD)
R.E.O. SPEEDWAGON -HI INFIDELITY, 10 (LP)
STEVIE WONDER -SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE, (LP, CD)
THE DOORS – THE BEST OF THE DOORS, 10 (CD)
U2 – THE JOSHUA TREE, 10 (CD)
VAN HALEN – 1984 (MCMLXXXIV), 10 (LP)
ZZ TOP – ELIMINATOR, 10 (LP)

If I counted correctly, there are 73 albums with at least 10 million sales in the United States, only 6 of which I’ve never owned. I have 16 on LP, 39 on CD and 12 on both, though there are probably a few LPs that I also have on CD through “alternative” means.

June rambling: sister Leslie, continued

I take the fact that I’ve heard variations of this message about sister Leslie from three different people as confirmation of its accuracy. If you first see her, you may have an OMG reaction. But if you see her again, even the next day, you will likely see incremental improvement.

She had less swelling generally. But she can’t open her mouth yet, so communication is raising her hand, thumbs up/down, wiggling toes on command, etc.

She’s had her surgery, this time on her wrist Tuesday. They put in two metal plates. They want to be able to remove one of them in a couple weeks.

She still needs to be able to cough out the bad stuff, and she needs pain meds to deal with the 4 broken ribs.

So Leslie won’t be out of the hospital for at LEAST another week; she’s currently in the ICU. She has multiple broken bones and other issues. She’s not in peril, but this is NOT just a fall off a bike with a couple of bruises and scrapes, which I’ve experienced myself.

Incidentally, she has changed hospitals, not for good medical reasons but because her insurance required it. At least she HAS insurance, I reckon.

I’ll probably go out to San Diego sometime this summer.
***
Within 23 seconds, the Sacramento police encountered and shot dead Stephon Clark in his backyard – video looks at how the shooting unfolded

A visit to a nearby restaurant turns ugly

Can a white person use the N-word? Ever?

Still no Pride in the White House

A Senior White House Official Defines the Trump Doctrine: ‘We’re America, B!tch’

Shady foundation that just got him sued by the New York attorney general, explained

What is impeachment for?

Rose Tico/ Kelly Marie Tran and Star Wars fandom

John Oliver: guardianship

The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment

How noise pollution is ruining your hearing

A Simple Way to Improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses

Read This Story and Get Happier

Positive Tomorrows school

Behold the magnificent glory of ‘Reefer Madness’

What Makes The Spelling Bee So Hard

What it takes to become an Olympic athlete – 15 essentials according to Nick Catlin

26-Year-Old Georgia Official Takes Her Oath On Malcolm X’s Autobiography

Ken Levine interviews Mark Evanier

Jake Tapper, Amateur Cartoonist Extraordinary

Jerry Maren, the last surviving actor to play a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz (1939) in At the Circus (1939)

Now I Know: The T-Word You Couldn’t Talk About and When a Calendar Defeated Russia in the Olympics and The Little TV Accident that Made Miami Golden and How the Soviet Union Saved Vulcan

Tallest Bonfire in the World Made From Over 4000 Pallets

Rooneyer than thou

ihop to ihob

MUSIC:

Helpless – The Regrettes, cover of the Hamilton song

Roseanna – Weezer

Africa – Weezer

Teach Me Tonight – Amy Winehouse, a Dinah Washington standard

Coverville 1220: The Prince Cover Story V

Rocket Man – Little Big Town

Ravel’s Bolero

Bad-Tempered, Distractible Doofus

There is an article in the New Yorker called What Happens When a Bad-Tempered, Distractable Doofus Runs an Empire?

The first sentence: “One of the few things that Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918, had a talent for was causing outrage.” I’m guessing you thought it was about someone else, and it sort of is.

“Distractions…are everything to him.” The pattern sounds like Distractible speech: “topic maintenance difficulties due to distraction by nearby stimulus. Tangentiality: Replies to questions are off-point or totally irrelevant.” Wilhelm must have been maddening.

“He reads very little apart from newspaper cuttings, hardly writes anything himself apart from marginalia on reports and considers those talks best which are quickly over and done with.” Too bad television wasn’t widely available back then.

“One of the many things that Wilhelm was convinced he was brilliant at, despite all evidence to the contrary, was ‘personal diplomacy,’ fixing foreign policy through one-on-one meetings with other European monarchs and statesmen. In fact, Wilhelm could do neither the personal nor the diplomacy, and these meetings rarely went well…” Of course, nothing like THAT could happen in this modern age.

“He fetishized the Army, surrounded himself with generals…” How many generals have been in the current regime?
“In the administration During Wilhelm’s reign, the upper echelons of the German government began to unravel into a free-for-all, with officials wrangling against one another.” Where ARE the current leaks coming from?

“The Kaiser was susceptible but never truly controllable. He asserted his authority unpredictably, as if to prove he was still in charge, staging rogue interventions into his own advisers’ policies and sacking ministers without warning.” Sounds like hell to work for.

I wonder if the coincidence of the current head of the American regime having a birthday on Flag Day has affected some sense of faux nationalism, with that patriotism event in lieu of a visit from some of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

David Low, Seth Meyers, Kim Jong-Un, others

I was really fascinated by the cartoon above. It was created, obviously recently, by Rainer Hachfeld, “a freelance writer and caricaturist living in Berlin. His cartoons appear in Neues Deutschland, a socialist daily newspaper in Germany.”

It’s interesting because it notes it is done “after the famous cartoon by LOW,” “after” in this case meaning “in the style of.”

Then I saw the David Low cartoon which is referenced:

I said, “I remember that guy!” Not so much the specific drawing from 1939, of Hitler and Stalin congratulating each other over the body of Poland. But certainly that style.

From the Political Cartoon Gallery:

“Born in New Zealand and probably the greatest political cartoonist of all time, [Sir] David Low was first attracted to caricatures and cartoons through reading British comics. Prior to moving to London in 1919, David Low worked for the Sydney Bulletin in Australia…

“In 1927… the Evening Standard’s proprietor Lord Beaverbrook had had to promise Low a unique contract giving him complete freedom in the selection and treatment of his subject matter as well as half a page for his cartoon in order to secure his services…

“Describing himself as ‘a nuisance dedicated to sanity’ Low was a hugely influential cartoonist and caricaturist, producing over 14,000 drawings during the course of his 50 year career.”

I’m reminded how much I admired, and was influenced, by the editorial cartoons of my youth. They just don’t hold as much sway, in large part because newspapers don’t.

In fact, it seems that YouTube videos seem to have captured that niche, even if the content originated on network TV. One example is “A Closer Look”. I have almost never actually watched “Late Night with Seth Meyers” on NBC (12:35 a.m. Eastern Time). But I usually watch the regular segments in which he breaks down politics.

His assessment of the Singapore meeting that Hachfeld portrayed might make more sense than the actual event. Check it out here. Or maybe it won’t help, as you view the action-movie style trailer Trump says he played to Kim Jong-un.

Maybe cartoonists can’t capture the moment as well because the moment Dennis Rodman? – is too damn surreal.

W is for writing

Writing is a very useful, even necessary, exercise for me. It helps me offload stuff in my brain, where it would otherwise interfere with my life.

I can tell when I haven’t written something for three or four days, usually because of technical difficulties. Sometimes life gets in the way – busyness, illness (mine or the Daughter’s). I’m usually emailing myself – “you should write about X”, which somewhat alleviates the frustration.

Writing helps define what I believe. And by that, I don’t mean a knee-jerk response to someone’s comment on Facebook, which I generally consider the fast food of communications. You won’t starve, but there are probably more emotionally nutritious options.

I’d rather work on a (hopefully) thought-out, considered opinion in the blog, or perhaps in a private journal. I consider it more like the slow cooking movement that is taking hold in some parts of the world.

I find writing easier than talking because one can spend time thinking and contemplating while writing. I can even change my mind, deciding that another option would be the better choice.

Still, I found this piece useful: Am I still a real writer if I don’t feel compelled to write?

“Not writing gives you time to have experiences. I can’t stand that thing where people are talking about something interesting in the world on social media or whatever, and some scold pops in to say, ‘This is a distraction/waste of time, get back to work.’

“As though anyone can literally work all the time and never stop to talk to humans or engage in politics and expect to make good art out of that. You actually have to spend some of your life living and doing normal life stuff or you can’t be a good writer.”

The message of this vlogbrothers video, The Secret to my Productivity, I hope to emulate. 80% ain’t that bad.

For ABC Wednesday

Book review: The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis

Given all the other tomes on my bookshelf, I surprised myself by checking out from the library, The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis, the author of Founding Brothers and American Sphinx, about Thomas Jefferson.

The subtitle, Orchestrating The Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, informs how George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, along with others such as Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris (not related), got the thirteen colonies, who had fought off the British, came to accept another centralized government.

A lot of reviewers noted, and it was my experience as well, that our American history courses in high school presented the narrative of the last quarter of the 18th period woefully incompletely. There was the revolutionary fury of the Declaration of Independence and the war, which was reasonably well laid out. The Articles of Confederation -they failed, but why? – followed. Then the Founders came up with the Constitution – but how? – including the Bill of Rights.

In fighting the American Revolution, the colonists were cohesive in that limited battle against the British. However, the notion that these 13 nation-states would then relinquish their independence to accept the creation of a powerful federal government was no guarantee. Certain visionaries diagnosed that structure created by the Articles of Confederation was doomed to fail. They suggested conventions, purportedly to amend the Articles, but ultimately to throw them out.

As Newsday noted: Ellis’ account of the run-up to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the subsequent state-by-state ratification process is so pacey it almost reads like a thriller. New Yorker Hamilton, fearful that anarchy was looming, developed a national vision first; Madison was just a bit behind. Jay, serving as foreign affairs secretary, was trying to fashion coherent foreign policy. But all agreed that if their efforts were to succeed, a reluctant Washington, who had retired to Mount Vernon, had to be on board. Washington’s revolutionary credentials were unassailable.

“In 1780, most Americans, having thrown off the fetters of a faraway central power, would have thought the kind of national government envisioned by Washington and Co. as peculiar in the extreme. Some historians have viewed the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution by a cabal of elites who crushed an emerging democracy. Ellis, however, reminds us that democracy was viewed skeptically in the 18th century; he prefers to see the efforts the quartet as ‘a quite brilliant rescue’ of revolutionary principles.”

I totally agree that, for a topic that could be very dry, I found the book surprisingly engaging. Ellis explains how the Founders, even those opposing slavery such as Hamilton, essentially ducked the question for the cause of federalism, hoping the topic would be addressed down the road, which it was, decades later.

I should mention that I got the large-print version because that happened to be the edition near the checkout. I didn’t NEED it, but I’m not complaining about it either.