Tag Archive: america

Getting on My History Wonk!

I hinted at cool information I learned about Alexander Hamilton yesterday. Today I plan to share the rest of the story.

Picture by Alvimann

If the name sounds familiar, you might have actually looked at a ten-dollar bill lately. That’s his visage on the bill. He is there because he was the first Secretary of the Treasury. This man set up our financial way of life over two hundred years ago and it has remained quite close to what he created.

That is pretty cool, you might be thinking. Is there more to this guy?

Actually there is. He might be the original rags-to-riches-to rags story in American politics.

We have to start in the West Indies where he was born to a Rachel Lavine and James Hamilton. James was the fourth son of a Laird in Scotland and made his living as a trader. Rachel was a divorced woman and not allowed to marry again. Sadly, their common-law relationship would be  over in less than ten years. James simply left and Rachel would die a few years later, leaving her sons, James and Alexander, penniless orphans.

Alexander was smart, taught at home by his mother and received some schooling at a Presbyterian school before a benefactor paid for his education at King’s College (later known as Columbia) in the colonies. The young boy did that, published political pamphlets anonymously by the age of 17 , directed a battalion by 18 and was an aide-de-camp to Washington by 20.

He wanted to see more fighting and would – after bickering and badgering Washington. By now in his early twenties, he beseeched a friend to help find him a wife – pretty, wealthy and a christian but not a lover of saints. That is when he met Elizabeth Schuyler, a member of the Albany, New York Schuylers and Van Rensaleers family. They were very wealthy and very well-connected.

Image from Wikipedia

Hamilton studied for the bar and passed his exams. When he was not working as a lawyer, he was a statesman. He wrote parts of the Constitution, including parts about citizenship. This is verified in letters from him to Washington. He also wrote Washington’s Farewell Letter.

Now it is rumored that the citizen portion was written in such a way as to make it impossible for Hamilton to ever become president. That does not make sense as he wrote it. And considering you had to be living in America at least 14 years by the time of your candidacy at the age of 35  or up, Hamilton could have qualified easily. He arrived at the age of 13, after all.

What is true is that he had an affair with a Maria Reynolds in the early 1790s. Her husband threatened to blackmail Hamilton so he did something that would be a career-ender. He admitted to the truth to his wife and country. She forgave him and it did help in some respects.

Hamilton caused his own problems by not being a saint in other dealings. He was known for running things behind the scenes and could be quite duplicitous. It was rumored that he took part in some treasonous actions with his father-in-law and Benedict Arnold. This I cannot verify.

His relationship with Aaron Burr could be described as friendly as they worked together for many years as legislators. But Hamilton never trusted Burr who seemed to change political philosophies with the wind. Hamilton thwarted Burr’s chances again and again, including the governor of New York and Presidential office. Hamilton may have hated Jefferson but he believed the man to be principled, therefore backing Jefferson against Burr and leaving Burr as the vice-president.

the Burr-Hamilton duel, image from Wikipedia

Now at some point in the story, Burr believes that Hamilton has besmirched his honor. Hamilton might have said something to the point of  “what an idiot” at a dinner party and it got back to Burr. So Burr challenges Hamilton to a duel. Burr aims at Hamilton, Hamilton shoots the tree. Hamilton lasts a day before he dies. The saddest part is that his son had died three years earlier after a duel in the same exact spot in Weehawken, New Jersey. 

The Grange, Alexander Hamiltons only home. Image from the National Park Service.

Hamilton died poor, his wife was left with seven children and she lost their house for a time. Upon her father’s death, an inheritance allowed her to buy back their home. The Grange is still standing and lives in a park in New York City. It would take her another 30 years to get his pension for serving in the Revolutionary War that Hamilton initially refused.

See what I mean? Hamilton is the American dream, the American immigrant story that encapsulates all of the myths and realities of the revolution and country-building of the late 1700s.

In the end, he is seen as a brilliant man, mostly self-taught. He is a nationalist, giving much to his country. But his quick temper and machinations undo all that is great about him. He is a bit of a jerk that makes it hard to work with him. And yet his wife loved him whole heartedly, passing that love on to children who would follow his footsteps to Columbia, the military and the law.

Michael Douglas as President Alan Shepherd once stated “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve got to want it bad, because it’s gonna put up a fight.” Whatever Hamilton did that was not the best of actions was because he believed in this statement, even before it was written.

 His life work was creating a country. That is what makes him great. It is his sins and foibles that make Alexander Hamilton  interesting.


Zombie Love

Family Movie Night

Oh, it is the season for scares. I am noticing more and more Halloween decorations up on houses around the area. Ghosts and pumpkins are hanging from trees. Purple lights are going around windows and doors.

My favorite decoration is a witch who had crashed into the ground and was buried. Haven’t seen that one at night yet but I plan to do so soon.

Last week, I talked about classic scary movies. This week I want to talk about one of the more popular subsets – zombie movies.

I believe that unlike other monsters, zombies seem closest to being like us. Usually the cause of zombiehood is poison, pollution or a virus. One wrong move and you or I could be a zombie. While zombie movies have been made


Picture from IMDb.com


since movies have started, the one that sticks out the most is Night of the Living Dead (1968) directed by George Romero. Set in a graveyard, corpses start rising from graves and they are hungry. We are with a small group of strangers for the entire night as they try various methods of escape.

It is a classic flick that sets up every zombie movie to come. The zombies are created by toxic pollution and they enjoy eating human flesh. Romero would make two more movies in the series, taking until 1985 to complete the last one. The movie would then be remade in 1990 and again in 2006 as a 3D version.


Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil, picture from IMDb.com.


Meanwhile, video games would be developed in which the player is constantly battling against zombies. Resident Evil appears to be the most popular of these games because it became a four-movie series. Mila Jovovich stars as Alice, an amnesia victim who becomes a stunning fighter in a red dress. Fans love the series but as I have not seen it, I cannot really comment.

What I can comment on is 28 Days Later (2002) directed by Danny Boyle. Set in England, the movie focuses on a virus that turns people into anger machines who cannot


Brenden Gleeson, Cillian Murphy and Noamie Harris in 28 Days Later, picture from IMDb.com.


do anything but kill. It stars Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris as survivors who are trying to find others and a safe haven.

The story is well told and the action is constant. There are several stories going here that are terrifying and exhilarating. I believe I had nightmares for a week after this movie but Danny Boyle really knows how to make a movie that makes you think about more than zombies chasing you.


Simon Pegg in Sahun of the Dead, picture from IMDb.com


The last two I want to mention are Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009). The former stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as best friends who are trying to save their friends and family from the zombies that have suddenly infiltrated their British town. The movie is serious and humerous in parts. Bill Nighy gives an honest performance as Pegg’s step-father. And yes, this movie gave me nightmares despite the fact I love it. Can’t ever watch it again.


Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in Zombieland, picture from IMDb.com


The same goes for Zombieland starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson. People travel around the U.S. trying to find survivors after zombies take over. The opening scene in which Cera details his rules for living in a zombie world is hilarious. The rest of the movie can be poignant and frightening. But it is also filled details that are wonderful to watch. I barely got through it with my oldest son and his girlfriend. This is a great movie.

Next week, I’ll talk about monster movies. Let me know your favorite one.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note below.  Become my friend on Facebook.

The Oscars™ are going to be held on March 7 this year and the Bowman house is getting ready for the Celebration.

David has requested to be in charge of the Oscar Supper, usually my domain, because of his plans to be an actor some day. He wants to serve pizza and I requested he make one or two of them something Wolfgang Puck would make for his Hollywood restaurant.

I keep joking that one has to be made of goat cheese.  Now, I am wondering where I can find goat cheese in the Kankakee area. Suggestions anyone?

What I am also  trying to do is see as many of the nominated films as possible. We took out Julie and Julia a few weeks ago. Inglorious Bastards is available for rental as is The Hurt Locker.

Last week we crossed another off the list when the family watched Up. My family had seen it in the theater and I missed out. While the kids were waiting for the good parts, I was seeing this movie for the charming tale the Pixar crew had created.

Every time I see a title by Pixar that I want to doubt, they come back with something great. I thought Finding Nemo was going to reek more than dead fish, that Wall-E was going be a bucket of missing parts. Cars was a sign that these guys were starting to run low on ideas; and that movie was better than most animation out there.

Yet, Pixar is a company that never fails to impress, to go out on a limb creatively, and never fails to entertain.

 I felt all of this with Up. There were so many moments that made me want to cry, that made me want to cheer. I worked for years in the healthcare system and knew a lot of couples as devoted as Carl and Ellie.

 While I enjoyed the first part of the movie, the kids loved the second half when Carl goes off on his grand adventure. Who could ever imagine that balloons could carry off a house to South America? Or that a childhood hero could still be alive? And through it all you learn how to live again?

 There is a lot to like in this movie even if it is hard to believe a 78 year-old man can pull a balloon-lifted house across a canyon. It is a movie all family members can watch AND enjoy together.

 Maybe Up is not deserving of an Oscar™ Best Picture nomination but it is certainly deserving of being viewed again for its bravery, for delivering a great message, and for willing to think that inside the heart of a septuagenarian lives a seven-year-old waiting to explore the world.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world, or at least St. Anne, know your family’s recent selection by dropping a line to momgoestothemovies@sbcglobal.net. You can also ‘friend’ me on Facebook.