This week: Sinking Mexico City / The brief Trump presidency? / A lurking Hitler double / Michael Flynn’s symbolism / Big Mama Thornton’s soaring blues
1. Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis
By Michael Kimmelman | The New York Times | Feb. 17
“Unlike traffic jams or crime, climate change isn’t something most people easily feel or see. It is certainly not what residents in Mexico City talk about every day. But it is like an approaching storm, straining an already precarious social fabric and threatening to push a great city toward a breaking point.”
2. The Thinning of Big Mama
By Cynthia Shearer | Oxford American | Feb. 15
“She seems to have dwelt by necessity in the margins of prosperity and material success. Considering the successes of her many contemporaries and collaborators, as we listen to her music today … Big Mama’s story raises a persistent question: How could she flourish this way (however briefly) but ultimately fail to thrive?”
3. Michael Flynn, General Chaos
By Nicholas Schmidle | The New Yorker | Feb. 18
“What the removal of Flynn as the national-security adviser reveals about Donald Trump’s White House. ”
4. Austrian authorities seeking Hitler double seen around birthplace
By Michael Shields | Reuters | Feb. 11
“The man, estimated to be 25 to 30 years old, was last seen in a local bookstore browsing through magazines about World War Two, adding he had identified himself in a local bar as ‘Harald Hitler.’ ”
5. These books were beloved. But what happens after their owner dies?
By Laura Krantz | The Boston Globe | Feb. 17
“In this region of intellectuals, used bookstores find themselves inundated with calls as more baby boomers die and others downsize. At the same time, many libraries have faced budget cuts that make them unable to accept the extra stock, and the Internet has rendered many reference books useless.”
6. An essential reading list for understanding Donald Trump
By Pete Vernon | Columbia Journalism Review | Feb. 14
“[T]he profiles and investigative pieces on the list range from skeptical to outright hostile. But despite being burned time and again, Trump seems addicted to the limelight that comes with attention from the media. From Wayne Barrett’s early investigations into a little-known, Queens-born developer to Maggie Haberman’s look at Trump’s life in the White House, the president has welcomed journalists into his life in ways few politicians ever have.”
7. The Talk
Austin American-Statesman | February 2017
“For generations, black parents have had The Talk with their children about how to survive interactions with police: Don’t argue. Don’t get shot. Don’t give them a reason. Come home.”
8. Donald Trump is on his Way to the Second or Third Shortest Presidency in American History
By Ronald L. Feinman | History News Network | Feb. 15
“[Vice President Mike] Pence could … invoke the 25th Amendment, Section 4, with the approval of a majority of the cabinet, which would make Pence ‘Acting President.’ Some might call it a ‘palace coup’ but Pence could make a convincing case that it is too risky to leave Trump in power.”
9. The fire this time — the legacy of James Baldwin
By Lanre Bakare | The Guardian | Feb. 15
“His work fell foul of civil-rights-era binary racial and sexual politics but, as a new film shows, now Baldwin’s ideas are used to explain everything from Trump to Black Lives Matter”
10. The President Who Never Earned His Varsity Letter
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | November 2014
“When Nixon ran for president a second time, in 1968, he quietly pondered recruiting the Green Bay Packers’ Vince Lombardi for his ticket — until his campaign manager (and later attorney general) John Mitchell discovered that Lombardi was a Democrat.”
By Paul M. Sparrow, director
Throughout American history our presidents have struggled to find the right balance between the highest ideals of our founding charters and the cold realities of national security. This is especially true in times of war. President John Adams passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, and Woodrow Wilson suppressed free speech and trampled on the First Amendment.
Seventy-five years ago, at the beginning of World War II, one of our greatest champions of human rights approved the incarceration of approximately 80,000 American citizens, and another 40,000 legal aliens , in the name of national security. President Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, provided the legal basis for the removal and confinement of people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast.
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This week: Presidents and the press / AI and earthquakes / Swooning Ivanka / HIV capital of America / The Batmobile
1. Remember Nixon? There’s history behind Trump’s press attacks
By Nancy Benac | Associated Press | Feb. 17
“Historians can point to plenty of past presidents who have sparred with the press. But they’re hard-pressed to find anything that approaches the all-out attack on the media that President Donald Trump seems intent on escalating at every turn.”
2. Bigger Than Watergate? 10 Essential Books About Our Future Past
By Emily Temple | LitHub | Feb. 16
“Consider these your own personal set of crystal balls — they may not tell the future precisely, but they’re certainly full of clues. And possibly strategies.”
3. Can Artificial Intelligence Predict Earthquakes?
By Annie Sneed | Scientific American | Feb. 15
“The ability to forecast temblors would be a tectonic shift in seismology. But is it a pipe dream? A seismologist is conducting machine-learning experiments to find out”
4. Vice President Pence’s power grows in Trump’s White House
By Niall Stanage | The Hill | Feb. 16
“Insiders say Pence’s clout has been overlooked in media coverage that has often focused on more flamboyant or enigmatic Trump advisers.”
5. The Story Behind Planet Earth II’s Unbelievable ‘Iguana vs. Snakes’ Chase Scene
By Jesse David Fox | Vulture | Feb. 16
“A camera crew worked from dusk to dawn for weeks filming the exact spot, hoping something would happen, and if it did, that the camera would be in focus. As is often the case with the acclaimed series, they got their shot.”
6. Inside the Nation’s First Bilingual University
By Daniel Blue Tyx | The Texas Observer | Feb. 8
“UT-Rio Grande Valley looks to become the first ‘bilingual, bicultural, biliterate’ campus in the country.”
7. Pictures of ‘swooning’ Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau go viral
By Elena Cresci | The Guardian | Feb. 15
“The president’s daughter probably doesn’t fancy Canada’s PM like the rest of the internet — but that didn’t stop the jokes”
8. We cannot allow the anger in this moment to change who we are
By David Greene | Poynter | Dec. 20
“As journalists, we seek the truth. We are not advocates for a particular person or position. We are watchdogs who rigorously report on facts and use the truth to confront power. And we are listeners who foster dialogue and allow people … the freedom to think out loud.”
9. Austin, Indiana: the HIV capital of small-town America
By Jessica Wapner | Mosaic Science | May 2016
“[N]o one could explain what had happened to Austin. But a new theory of public health might yet hold the answer. Known as syndemics, it may also be the one thing that can rescue Austin and its people.”
10. The Batmobile: The Concept Car That Became a Star
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | October 2014
“The Futura concept car was built for about $250,000 — more than $2 million today.”
Happy Valentine’s Day. 😉
Love, for some, can blossom while pursuing higher education. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we collected love stories, campus activities, and legends from UTSA’s history. Here are some of the university’s most notable Roadrunner love stories.
1975: The First Roadrunners to Fall in Love at UTSA
Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Bingham, with their English Bulldog, Winnie. Gil Barrera Photographs of UTSA, MS 27.
The Binghams were the first students to meet, fall in love at UTSA, and get married. They fell into Love’s clutches rapidly; classes started on June 5, 1973, and by December 1974 they had gotten married.
Elizabeth Pampa and Joe Garza. Gil Barrera Photographs of UTSA, MS 27.
Elizabeth and Joe were the second set of students to meet, fall in love at UTSA, and get married. As tradition goes, the rice showering their heads in this photograph represents well-wishes for their marriage.
1970’s: Bridge of Love
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Today I turned 43.
The number doesn’t bother me. When I look back on my past accomplishments, both professional and academic, both modest and respectable, I’m comfortably reminded that I’ve always been a late bloomer. The great triumphs — comparatively great — always came right the end of each chapter of my life, just when the time came for me to move on and start over somewhere else. Perhaps for someone like me, with my ambitions, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Every day begins with two thoughts: “There’s still a little time left. Relax.” and “Pretend this is your last day on earth because one day it will be. Work faster.” I stagger through the days wavering between those two sentiments.
At the end of 2014, I completed a master’s degree in U.S. history at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), topped off with a 190-page thesis — the cherry on the sundae. I never had so much fun — ask the people who know me … “fun” is not a word they ever expect me to use. During that last half of 2014, I attracted the attention of UTSA’s Communications office, which sent a reporter to profile me, perhaps to hold me up as an example to others, perhaps to highlight the interesting and intelligent people enriching and enriched by the UTSA’s wonderful History Department. Perhaps it was just my turn. Nevertheless, I was flattered and honored. I shamelessly shared it throughout social media, as I am now. “We are all very proud of you,” one of my beloved professors wrote me. My heart burst with teary pride — the rarest of my few expressed emotions.
The best part of the article came right at the beginning. The first paragraph captured the grand strategy I set out for my life: “At an early age, [Ortiz] charted the life he wanted to lead: journalist, academic scholar and author.” At some point in my twenties — not sure when, exactly, but probably as I began to seriously study history and biography — I determined to approach life with a larger consideration: “How will I be remembered?” I knew enough to know that a great legacy was constructed with small pieces, carried one small step at a time, and sometimes at first only imperfectly constructed. I held close to my heart a few simple rules. Never turn away from a challenge. Never shrink away from leaping out of your comfort zone into unknown terrain. Never decline the opportunity to fail. Never fail to learn from those failures. All are easy to say and painfully difficult to follow.
In early 2015, I was honored when Dr. Catherine Clinton, a leading Civil War scholar, asked me to assist her with some special research for a few months. Just as that ended, I was honored yet again with an offer to actually teach U.S. history to college undergraduates at Northwest Vista College and then again at UTSA in 2016. Solitary research and writing — annotated bibliographies, briefing memos, etc. — is ideal for someone as shy as me. Teaching and discussing U.S. history with 70 to 80 young men and women is not. I stood in those classrooms and wondered how I could teach these young men and women. My comfort zone was nowhere in sight. Nevertheless, I knew when I accepted the challenge that I was undertaking the most difficult and the most important job of my life. Perhaps someday I might actually be good at it (though student applause is always reassuring). These are a few of those crucial pieces of the larger something I am trying to build, just as the men and women who came before me struggled to build their own lives, faced down their challenges and fears, and took one more step forward.
My Peruvian great-grandfather was prosperous fisherman who owned a fishing fleet. His son, my grandfather, was an Army general and special forces commander. His son, my father, is a physician. My father’s son — me — is … what? I was blessed with generous, loving, and supportive parents, who always pushed my brother and me to succeed. They trusted us to find our own way within their explicit expectations. It was assumed that we would become productive and honorable men as we kept in mind who built the comfortable world we inhabited. My interests guided me toward history, literature, and psychology. My mind naturally blossomed as historical concepts, literary theory, psychopathology, and the hourly drama of news cycles all caressed, molded, and ignited my growing intellect and imagination. But I realized that some kind of structure was needed. Simply wandering through my interests was not enough — it all had to amount to something in the end, something my descendants would look back on and admire … and perhaps emulate.
In some small way, this blog is an expression of that grand strategy. I’ve written about and shared with my readers my love of podcasts and photography, of the Civil War and fiction writing. I’ve shared with them a plethora of strange stories and documentaries, thoughts about Hemingway, rum cakes, books, and TR. They’ve experienced my passion for “Miami Vice”, Elvis, a Louisiana woman fleeing Union invasion during the Civil War, and a Cuban woman who disguised herself as a man and savored every moment of that same brutal war. Each piece fits into the larger plan.
In these later years, I perceive a small but steadily growing pool of wisdom fueling a clear philosophical perspective on the increasingly complex calculus of my life. Every failure becomes simply the moment when a fresh opportunity is revealed to me. Every hard-earned success merely offers a better vantage point on the harsh terrain ahead. As I move into this new year, from my new vantage point I can take in a horridly-jagged landscape stretching out before my eyes, seemingly endless, on into the horizon. But that far-off horizon is gleaming. The shimmering edges are only now in sight, the barely-perceptible glitter drawing me forward, igniting the ambition filling my heart, and steeling my spirit for the disappointments, setbacks, wrong turns, and frustrations darkening the journey.
My grand strategy, glowing in my soul, burned into my mind, never leaves me. The sweet promise of a final victory — a life well-lived — is my last thought as sleep and dreams wrap their arms around me and carry me away into the silent night.
Such a fascinating and important individual …
This month we continue “Names and Places of UTSA,” a blog series on university history, with a post by archives student assistant, Kira Sandoval.
Street sign at the corner of Brackenridge and Ximenes Avenues, UTSA Main Campus. Photo by Kira Sandoval.
On the south side of UTSA’s Main Campus, George Brackenridge Avenue connects Ximenes Avenue to the Child Development Center, University Oaks, and several parking lots. The street is named in honor of an important historical figure of San Antonio and UTSA’s history, George W. Brackenridge. He was a busy philanthropist and businessman who largely influenced the central Texas region. Though he lived and died before UTSA came into existence, he played an important role in shaping Texas education. Brackenridge Avenue was named after this figure because of his service as a San Antonian on the UT System Board of Regents for over 27 years. However, his legacy…
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Fantastic package on FDR’s inaugurations.
By Paul M. Sparrow, director Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Franklin D. Roosevelt is the only person who will ever have FOUR presidential inaugurations (thanks to the 22nd Amendment.) And each and every one of his inaugurations was historic in its own way. Every president from Washington to Roosevelt had been inaugurated in March. Why? Because the U.S. Constitution originally stipulated that the Federal Government would start on March 4th each year. FDR’s first inauguration in 1933 was the last inauguration held in March. The inauguration date was changed with the passage of the 20th Amendment, which moved the date up to January 20th. During his first inauguration President Roosevelt delivered one of the most famous lines in American history – “The only thing we have to fear, is, fear itself.” But that line does not appear until the 7th draft of the…
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