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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

“John Adams” by David McCullough #BookReportSunday [review]

 It’s been a long week, and I’ve decided to reward myself by focusing my next #BookReportSunday book review on my Dominique Does Life blog and podcast on my all time favorite book, “John Adams” by David McCullough, which, incidentally,  just so happens to have given birth to my favorite HBO miniseries of the same name, based on the McCullough biography. Below is my review of “John Adams.” Please feel free to let me know what you think about the book and the series below. 

“Our obligations to our country never cease.”
-John Adams (“John Adams,” David McCullough)

        “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study paintings, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
David McCullough, John Adams

If that quote doesn’t sum up the animus of John Adams, I can’t imagine what does, or what ever could. 

  An intimate portrait of possibly our most influential founding father, “John Adams” portrays the life of a dutiful, studious lawyer, a man of spiritual and educational excellence, a dedicated husband, a formidable debater and an effective, if unpopular (at the time) U.S. President.

 John Adams, son of the well respected family of Adams—the Adams’ of Braintree [Massachusetts], to be exact—early settlers of the nation we now know as the United States, future member of both continental congresses, future president, and father to United States president John Quincy Adams, is first presented in this epic biography in large part when he successfully defends the British soldiers accused of igniting the Boston Massacre.

        “You've got to marinate your head, in that time and culture.
You've got to become them."
(Speaking about researching, and reading, and immersing yourself in History)
David McCullough, John Adams

 Adams, it soon becomes clear, is an expert orator, a cantankerous genius, a straight shooter and an ever-devoted and loving husband to wife Abigail and father to children Abigail “Nabby,” Susannah, John Quincy, Thomas and Charles. While John Adams is the main character in this eponymous biography, one might go so far as to say that Abigail is as much of a main character in this book, and in contemporary American History, as is Adams.

 This book covers John Adams’ job as a lawyer, the American Revolution (though of course not as extensively as David McCullough’s “1776”), the continental congresses, Adams’ jobs as ambassador to several countries in Europe for the newly formed United States, Adams’ time as vice president, president and then father of yet another president of the United States of America in John Quincy Adams, through the lens of his friends, enemies, loved ones and other contemporaries, ending, obviously, with Jefferson’s and Adams’ deaths on July 4, 1826 (with a mention of Madison’s simultaneous passing).

        “So, it was done, the break was made, in words at least: on July 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, the American colonies declared independence. If not all thirteen clocks had struck as one, twelve had, and with the other silent, the effect was the same.

It was John Adams, more than anyone, who had made it happen. Further, he seems to have understood more clearly than any what a momentous day it was and in the privacy of two long letters to Abigail, he poured out his feelings as did no one else:

The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
David McCullough, John Adams

 If you enjoy this book, which I believe you will—I couldn’t put it down—I would also highly recommend checking out the HBO miniseries “John Adams,” which was based on this book, featuring career making performances by already beloved actors. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney head the all-star cast of performers in this miniseries, which is produced by Tom Hanks and Brian Grazier, with David McCullough acting as consulting producer.

 I can pretty much guarantee you that if you watch the miniseries based on this book, you will basically always see John Adams as Paul Giamatti—that’s how good the series is. I enjoyed seeing the companion HBO series very much, in addition to reading the book (about a million times), and I’d love to recommend that everyone who has the chance to do both does just that!

“The source of our suffering has been our timidity. We have been afraid to think....Let us dare to read, think, speak, write.“
—John Adams (“John Adams,” David McCullough)

 In this book, you will find an intimate portrait not simply of a United States founding father and it’s first vice president and second president, but of a man caught up in a revolution, striving to make his world a better, more just, fair and kind place for all to live in. I award this book a hearty and enthusiastic five stars, both as a whole, and in all pertinent categories of review!

 According to Adams, Jefferson proposed that he, Adams, do the writing [pf the Declaration of Independence], but that he declined, telling Jefferson he must do it.

Why?" Jefferson asked, as Adams would recount.

Reasons enough," Adams said.

What can be your reasons?"

Reason first: you are a Virginian and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second: I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third: You can write ten times better than I can.”
     —John Adams (“John Adams,” David McCullough)

 “John Adams” moves along at quite a clip, especially for such a hefty volume! I am always surprised all over again when, upon rereading it, I finish “John Adams” in just a day or two.

 “John Adams” has the tense, import laden suspense of an action movie, the drama of a period piece, and the pace of a Hitchcock movie. It is an easy volume to read, and all of the situations and relationships which play out in this book, as well as the personalities of the characters are both perfectly historically accurate and eminently relatable. After reading “John Adams,” one can easily see why even the likes of King George III of England came to respect Mr. Adams, and, once you have finished with this book, you will too!

 Our obligations to our country never cease”
 —John Adams (“John Adams,” David McCullough)

While you’re here, I’d also love for your to check out this fantastic piece on why “John Adams” was the precursor to “Hamilton,” and why both “John Adams” and “Hamilton” should be looked at as seminal biographical historical pieces.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Iowa Caucus Live Tweets: Updated Information Minute By Minute


While I tend to like to keep my blog and podcast free from too much political commentary, I figured I might release a bit of a photoblog on the subject of the absolute cluster fuck that is the Iowa Caucuses.

Below is some pertinent information (sources are included in the images themselves, so feel free to follow these folks on Twitter if you like), AND some much needed snark.

You’re welcome, America!

Precinct captains weigh in with consternation and concern...
While results are in their hands, they seem to be having a tough time reporting to the state democratic party...

Even caucus officials are feeling the frustration

Awarding delegates based on a coin toss...?

Apps, phone calls and middle schools gyms ftw! Paper ballots are so passé...

Ah, the good ol’ US of A, where grown adults sit around arguing past midnight in a middle school gym, in order to determine who will get the keys to the nuclear football...

Even the politically savvy have a tough time when it comes to caucuses...

I think we can all agree that this is nerve-racking.

Can anyone relate? 

Shadow, Inc...

Tuesday morning updates: 

Suggestion: we find the cylon resurrection ship and destroy it!

Still no news on who actually won the Iowa Caucus...


12:22pm 2/4/2020: 

Apparently Jeff Weaver of the Bernie Sanders campaign (the only campaign to release numbers just yet) has stated the following: 

Via the CBC:

Curiouser and curiouser...

Shana East, local Chicago celebrity and avid Bernie supporter weighs in from Iowa

Nearly a day after the Iowa Caucus debacle, Shadow, Inc. weigh in on the havoc they have apparently helped to create.


Pete Buttigieg wins by narrow margin

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Bill Murray Comes Back To Woodstock: A Photo Blog

The Residents Of Woodstock, IL. Were Stoked This Past Weekend, When They Received A Follow-Up Visit From Local Hero And International Comedian And Dramatic Actor Bill Murray!

*Update: the commercial Mr. Murray was filming in Woodstock is linked below*

*Below is a photoblog of some of the up-close and personal action, credit to my best friend and candid photographer, Carrie Callery.*

Why all the fanfare, you might ask (particularly if you’re not from Woodstock)?

 Well, it appears that Mr. Murray made an impression on the locals with his kindness, his attitude of gratitude toward the town of Woodstock, Il., and his folksy and down-to-earth ways.

I’m sure his killer sense of humor didn’t hurt, either.

Coupled with the fact that Bill Murray is an absolute icon, AND with the box office numbers and critical acclaim “Groundhog Day” was met with, it’s easy to see why residents of Woodstock fell for Bill Murray while he was in the area, filming.

 Mr. Murray, a local hero, and legend to the residents of Woodstock Il., since Groundhog Day started filming in 1992.

 While he was [apparently] going through a fair few personal struggles at the time, that didn’t stop Bill Murray from showing his kindness to the residents of Woodstock, and, because of that, throughout the passing years, Woodstock hasn’t forgotten!

Every year since, from the beginning of the holiday season to just after Groundhog Day in February, Woodstock, Il. shows it’s appreciation by opening up the iconic Woodstock Theater for free showings of the classic movie.

 Observant viewers may notice some of their most beloved features from the historic Woodstock Square featured prominently in a variety of scenes throughout the movie.

 It appears that Mr. Murray was back on the Woodstock Square not for sentimental reasons, but to shoot a very special Superbowl Jeep commercial, that Woodstock area viewers might like to keep their eyes peeled for, this Superbowl Sunday.

 Woodstock, Il., and McHenry County, within which Woodstock resides, is pleased to be able to work once again with Mr. Murray.

 As a Chicagoland native, myself, I too am stoked that Bill Murray came back to Woodstock for this project.

 Having Mr. Murray back in Woodstock, Il. has not only bolstered the local economy but has created an absolutely bustling atmosphere at some of the Woodstock Square’s most popular sustainable local businesses, including Mixin Mingle, Double Yolk Cafe, and Ethereal Confections!
                                    (Local event hall/party space rental business, Mixin Mingle)
Visit Mixin Mingle at:

Local chocolatiers and artisan coffee shop, Ethereal Confections:

Visit Ethereal Confections on Facebook:

With the way folks respond to Mr. Murray’s presence, it would be understandable if those who live elsewhere thought this was the only significant event in Woodstock’s long history, but history savvy Chicagolanders know that’s not the case!

 Woodstock is an important historical landmark in United States history. That’s right! Sleepy little Woodstock, Il. was home, for awhile (to be exact), to Eugene V Debs.

Woodstock is the seat of McHenry County.

 It has hosted actors of renown at it’s historic opera house, including local actors and transplants alike. Geraldine Page, locally born actors Orson Welles and a young Paul Newman are just a few of the actors who got their start on the Woodstock stage. Welles formed and continued throughout the years to support the Woodstock Players, which allowed students of the Goodman School some much needed professional experience. Dick Tracy's creator, Chester Gould, also moved to the Chicago area, making Woodstock his home for a time.

Woodstock, Il. is also iconic for its labor organization history, particularly since the old Woodstock Courthouse and jail was home, for a time, to early railroad organizer, Eugene V Debs, who was sentenced to jail time in 1894 for inciting a large-scale strike of all union railroad workers working on any trains in which there were Pullman cars present. This strike was mainly in solidarity with workers who demanded a living wage and were being denied that by George Pullman himself after Pullman cut their wages by one-third.
Visit Patrick Murfin's (Heretic, Rebel, A Thing To Flout) blog post on the subject at the link below:;_ylu=X3oDMTBtdXBkbHJyBHNlYwNmcC1hdHRyaWIEc2xrA3J1cmw-/RV=2/RE=1580291669/RO=11/

  At the time, and mainly due to Mr. Debs’ involvement in the matter, President Cleveland’s hands were tied. Since the railroad was the main impetus for mail delivery and the postal service had been all but shut down during this broad railroad strike to ensure workers’ rights, the president declared that all trains MUST run, and he sent federal troops to ensure that they did.

 During Mr. Debs’ trial, Clarence Darrow acted as his attorney. Woodstock Sheriff George Eckert, however, moved as he was to follow the letter of the law, agreed with Mr. Debs and offered him comfortable accommodations, even allowing him to dine with his own family upon occasion.

 During stay in Woodstock, Mr. Debs received distinguished guests, like the chancellor of Germany and the governor of Colorado, and other well-known labor leaders, including Victor Berger, who, during his visit, offered Eugene Debs a copy of the book “Das Kapital,” by Karl Marx. Acclaimed journalist Nellie Bly (around the world in 80 days) also visited Woodstock to see Mr. Debs during his six-month jail sentence.

 Eugene V. Debs was beloved by the hard-working citizens of Woodstock, and was, it is said, carried all the way to the train station by its people, once his sentence was served. Whether this was, strictly speaking, factually true, we may never know, but the story is quite powerful.
                                              (Credit: Heretic, Rebel, A Thing To Flout)

 Eugene Debs credits his stay in the Woodstock jail as the reason why he became a democratic socialist (or, strictly speaking, at that time, a “social democrat”). Sadly, this wasn’t Debs’ last visit to the Woodstock [McHenry County] Courthouse and jail, as, in 1919, Debs’ outspoken criticism of WWI landed him back in the courthouse to serve out yet another jail sentence.

 With Woodstock’s history of hard-working residents and their love for those who they felt represented them, it makes perfect sense that they would embrace Bill Murray for his art, his down-to-earth sensibilities, and his contributions to Woodstock’s local economy.

Photos of Bill Murray during his Woodstock, Il. visit, photo credit: Carrie Callery:

*The full commercial:

 If you’ve enjoyed the photography in this blog post, I’d love for you to visit local photographer Carrie Callery on Facebook (Carrie Callery) and Instagram:

 If you’ve enjoyed the historical information in this article, I’d like to recommend that you check out “The Historic Woodstock Square: An Illustrated History Of The Woodstock Square.” You can download this beautiful and interesting historical record of Woodstock, Il. for free at

I also used the following historical piece on Woodstock, Il. as well, to help fill in the blanks in my personal information:

Woodstock Public Library:

McHenry County Historical Society:

I also highly recommend taking a gander at Mr. Patrick Murfin’s blog: “Heretic, Rebel, A Thing To Flout,” at;_ylu=X3oDMTBtdXBkbHJyBHNlYwNmcC1hdHRyaWIEc2xrA3J1cmw-/RV=2/RE=1580291669/RO=11/