howmanybeards

Tag: America

057: 1776

1776 4/5

What do you know about the American Revolutionary War? Hopefully you know that we won. That’s usually a good place to start. You might know we fought the English when they were still truly Great Britain. Hell, maybe you’ve even seen the Patriot and have some inkling of how horrific the war actually was. More than likely though you don’t really know much. That’s where David McCullough comes in. He’s a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author who specializes in historical accounts and biographies. You’re probably most familiar with his book John Adams, or more likely the superb mini-series HBO made based on it. But I digress, we’re here to talk aboutĀ 1776.

1776-mccullough

 

Let’s clear something up right away. This is a book about history. This is not a History Book. You probably won’t realize until you get to the end and see that the last 40 pages or so are filled with the references, bibliography, and index that this book is exhaustively well researched. But thank god it is because it’s the details that makeĀ 1776 what it is. The book follows the Continental Army from roughly the time Washington is appointed General/right after Bunker Hill all the way up through his crossing of the Delaware to rout the Hessian soldiers from Trenton. It primarily follows Washington and provides thorough insight to his psyche during these 18 months or so, but it also follows several other lesser known heroes of the Revolutionary War, the young men whom Washington came to trust most to help lead his army.

battle of princeton

The book is not terribly long, less than 300 pages, but still manages to pack in a dizzying amount of easily digestible information without moving at a snail’s pace. Rather, McCullough gives you just enough to make you feel smart but not too much to make you feel like you’re studying for a midterm. I would definitely recommend this for Summer Reading as a nice break to all that fast fiction or lady empowerment comedy stuff you’re reading. Plus Independence Day is right around the corner.

 

 

 

 

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053: The Kentucky Derby

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this weekend is a rare double header for us avid consumers of alcoholic delights. Sunday is Cinco de Mayo (every American’s 2nd favorite culturally errant holiday used as an excuse to drink excessively) and you’ll see more about that tomorrow. But, before that comes a truly All American Day Of Drinking: The Kentucky Derby. Now some of you may hear the phrase Kentucky Derby and think one of two things. The first being simply a flash of sweaty white dudes deep in the south with a bunch of ponies and ladies in weird hates. The second is probably, “Why is he talking about the Kentucky Derby if he has such a pathological hatred for horses?” I welcome your concerns and will address them in turn.

KentuckyDerbyRace

First off, yes. The Kentucky Derby is absolutely a Southern tradition. Seersucker, pale colors, big hats for the ladies, bow ties for the men, and most importantly bourbon are the defining elements of the event and for at least this day should be whole heartedly embraced. The key element, to me at least, is the bourbon. And in the setting of the Kentucky Derby bourbon takes on the form of the Mint Julep. There are 4 key elements here: crushed ice, fresh mint, strong bourbon, and a silver Derby Cup. The recipe calls for a little work when crushing the mint with your muddler (you do have a muddler right?) but overall is pretty simple. Need special direction? Check here. And don’t forget, bourbon is the official spirit of America.

MintJulepsGroup

Secondly, yes the horses are also a very important part of this race and yes I do have a completely legitimate fear of horses (have you seen how big those damn things are?). But, I enjoy the derby the same way I enjoy all horse races by enjoying the atmosphere, the drink, and the rush of watching your horse cross the finish line. And also there’s a giant fence in between us.

More importantly than all this, just let yourself fall into the revelry of the event. America doesn’t have a lot of things to celebrate that are wholly ours. Most traditions are adapted from, rooted in, or simply lifted from ones found in other countries and cultures. However, the Derby much like The 4th of July and Thanksgiving are entirely ours, and may be the most entirely American after The Fourth. So yeah, enjoy it! Get dressed up, wear a bow-tie, have a few too many juleps, place a few wagers, even throw a party if you feel up to it. Also, if you’re lucky enough to be attending the event itself, make sure you dress the part.

dressing for the derby

018: Guns, Mental Illness, and Mass Violence In America

I come to you today to present a reasonable, current, and unbiased examination of American culture as it relates to guns, violence, and mental health in response to the building social fallout from the violence in Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO, Brookfield, WI, etc. I am seeing too much of the ignorant single-minded partisanship that is tearing this country apart. People are digging into their ideas using misinformation, ignorant inflammatory rhetoric, and outdated concepts. I really only hope to use this space to prompt reasonable, constructive conversation about how this country can effectively move forward from these tragedies with purpose.

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