2012 in review

It’s been my best year ever. Thank you all for your interest.

WordPress.com prepared a 2012 annual report for Stillness of Heart.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

It’s been my best year ever. Thank you all for your interest. Click here to see the complete report.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Outraged legislators / Hunting a serial killer / Flight attendants’ secrets / A general’s PTSD / Loving libraries of the lost


Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. The hunt for the perfect serial killer
By Maureen Callahan | The New York Post | Dec. 30
“His biggest unsolved mystery: How many people did he murder?”

2. 17 Things Your Flight Attendant Won’t Tell You
By George Hobica | The Huffington Post | Dec. 28
“What you read here may shock you, or make you laugh, I’m not sure which.”

3. Top 10 Ways the Middle East Changed, 2012
By Juan Cole | Informed Comment | Dec. 29
Egypt. Afghanistan. Yemen. More change and more of the same.

4. Patti Smith: Family Life, Recent Loss, and New Album ‘Gone Again’
By David Fricke | Rolling Stone | July 1996
” ‘When I perform, I can’t say I feel like a male or a female. What I feel is not in the human vocabulary’ ”

5. Syria Civil War: Gravediggers Have No Time To Wait For The Dead
Reuters | Dec. 30
“Marble gravestones are now squeezed barely a few centimeters apart as workers try to fit as many bodies as possible into the cemetary, near a block of single storey homes. When space runs out, they may be forced to find a new location, says Abu Sulaiman, the gravedigger.”

6. General’s battle with PTSD leads him to the brink
By Kristen Gelineau | Associated Press | Dec. 29
“Maj. Gen. Cantwell would become two people: a competent warrior on the outside. A cowering wreck on the inside.”

7. Sex secrets of NYC’s men
By Susannah Cahalan | The New York Post | Dec. 30
“It’s a cliche … that dating for women in New York City is rough. That men cheat and are immature. That finding the right guy is nearly impossible. But according to sex therapist Dr. Brandy Engler, it’s much, much worse.”

8. Handled With Care
By Andrew D. Scrimheour | The New York Times Book Review | Dec. 28
“Each was the domain of a scholar. Each was the accumulation of a lifetime of intellectual achievement. Each reflected a well-defined precinct of specialization. But what they also had in common was that each of their owners had died.”

9. 2012: The Year in Graphics
The New York Times | Dec. 30
“Graphics and interactives from a year that included an election, the Olympics and a devastating hurricane. A selection of the graphics presented here include information about how they were created.”

10. Senate Outraged at Having to Work Weekend to Save Nation
By Andy Borowitz | The Borowitz Report :: The New Yorker | Dec. 30
“Senator McConnell said that when President Obama called the Senate back to work on a budget deal this weekend, ‘At first I thought he was kidding. Not only have I never worked on a weekend, I’ve never met anyone who’s done such a damn fool thing.’ “

Kate Stone’s Civil War: A perfect love of a lieutenant

Stone’s diary recorded a fascinating variety of situations that governed which men went off to war and which ones stayed home.

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

A fresh March 1862 fever for war spread throughout the community surrounding Brokenburn, and Stone’s diary recorded a fascinating variety of situations that governed which men went off to war and which ones stayed home.

March 1

February has been a month of defeats — Roanoke Island, Forts Henry and Donelson, and now proud old Nashville. All have fallen. A bitter month for us. A grand battle is looked for today or tomorrow at Columbus [Ky.].

Another soldier is leaving our fireside. Brother Coley has joined Dr. Buckner’s cavalry company, and long before the month is over he will be on the field fighting to repel the invader. The first March winds find him safe in the haven of home. April will find him marching and counter-marching, weary and worn, and perhaps dead on the field of battle. He is full of life and hope, so interested in his company, and eager to be off. He says chains could not hold him at home. He has been riding ever since his return Wednesday trying to get the horses, subscriptions, and recruits for his company. Robert Norris goes with a sad foreboding heart to perform a dreaded duty. Brother Coley goes as a bridegroom to his wedding with high hopes and gay anticipations. Robert’s is really the highest type of courage. He sees the danger but presses on. Brother Coley does not even think of it — just a glorious fight for fame and honor.

Wonder of wonders. Mr. Valentine is at last alive to the issue. He is much excited and interested and is getting up a subscription of corn for the families of men who are volunteering back on the Macon. He is trying to raise a company and is getting an office in it. He will go as soon as possible. He and Mr. Catlin were here yesterday. Mamma subscribed 100 barrels of corn. When the two Mr. Valentines become enthusiastic warriors, times are growing warm. I did not see them — it was a business visit, and I had a rising on my face. Nothing but war talked of and companies are forming all through the country.

Mr. Davies, L’adorable, who is on a visit to Dr. Carson, and Mr. NcNeely spent the morning with us … Mr. Davies looks just as he did a year ago, except for his ravishing black mustache, and is as delightful as ever. He is wild to join the army but has his mother and four grown sisters absolutely dependent on him, and it seems impossible for him to get off. He says it is much harder to stay at home than to go.

Joe Carson is crazy to join the army. He cannot study, cannot think of anything else, but his parents will not consent. He is most wretched. The overseers and that class of men are abusing him roundly among themselves — a rich man’s son too good to fight the battles of the rich. Let the rich men go who are most interested. [The overseers] will stay at home. Such craven spirits. So few overseers have gone. …

Thursday we made two blue shirts for Brother Coley. Nearly all we can do for him. Made a comfort bag for him, one for Mr. Valentine, and will now make one for Robert.

March 2

Mr. Stenckrath is making himself wretched these last few days. He feels that he should join the army and he has not the requisite courage. He says, “It is a dreadful thing, Mees Kate, to go and be shoot at.” He is always harping on the dangers and trials of a soldier’s life, and his funny ways amuse us all. He says ill health will keep him here, and he is the picture of manly strength but is imagining himself into becoming a confirmed invalid. He says,”Mees Kate is driving me to the war. She talk so much about men going, and I so sensitive it move me silent for half an hour.” He says, ” I brave man but I no want to be shoot.” To look at it dispassionately, there does seem to be no reason why a foreigner, only here to teach and most probably opposed to all our institutions, should be expected to fight for our independence. And I really do not think it Mr. Stenckrath’s duty to go, but he will take all we say about other men who are shirking their duty as personal to him. And when we are all on fire with the subject, we cannot bridle our tongues all the time.

Well, Columbus [Ky.] is abandoned and with it Tennessee. Our Columbus army, without a shot or shell on either side, has retired to Island No. 10, and the Nashville army has fallen back to Decatur, Ala. They say the Island is much better adapted for defense than Columbus. Then how much time and money has been wasted at Columbus? How we would like to have a letter from Cousin Titia. I suppose she leads the retreat.

Robert came home with Brother Coley tonight. They must go to Vicksburg tomorrow. Robert is in much better spirits, and Brother Coley is jubliant.

March 8

Brother Coley and Robert got off just at sunrise. It was cold but they were well wrapped up. Robert returned the next day but Brother Coley is still there expecting to leave every day. Dr. Carson gave five bales of cotton to Dr. Buckner’s company and a horse, which Robert rode down, but he will not allow Joe to join, and the boy is nearly distracted with mortification and chagrin.

Mamma finished her silk quilt, I helped three days and then begged off. Quilting is a fearsome job. Have finished making the three “friends.”

Mr. Valentine failed to get an office in the company, and we fear he will not go, and that will make him fearfully unpopular with all classes. If we could see him, I am sure we could influence him. For his own sake he must join. Mr. Catlin’s last feint is that he will join a gunboat now in the docks. Robert has joined Sweet’s Artillery of Vicksburg and will get off Thursday.

Mamma and I went out by special invitation merely to call on the bride and Miss Lily and then to dine at Mrs. Carson’s, but Mrs. Savage would not hear of our leaving. She made us spend the day and a long, dull day it was, and so cold. We were the only invited guests for the day, but there are still sixteen grown people and numbers of children staying in the house. The dinner table was set on the back gallery. The bride had on a lovely dress of light blue silk with a silvery sheen, trimmed with dark blue velvet, black lace, and steel buckles. She looked as usual, sour and disagreeable, and was very silent, as was the groom. His powers of interrogation have not failed him. Talking alone with him, his first query was did I think his wife was handsome? With my opinion of Mrs. Lily’s looks it was “rather a staggerer” as I have a due regard for truth. I evaded the question, and he then wanted to know did I think her as good looking as he is? I could truthfully answer yes as Dr. Lily is not to say pretty. Still he was not satisfied but I cut the conversation short, tired of such a personal catechism.

Miss Lily is distinctly commonplace, rather a “muggins” and wears the oddest hairdress. Miss Bettie’s coiffure is mild compared to it. Rose attacked me for having said I thought Dr. Lily should go to the army. No doubt I have said so, for I certainly think it and am still of the same opinion, but I had not been rude enough to tell him so. With all of our relations going out to fight, I am not apt to think other men should sit comfortably at home.

Dr. Meagher was on hand, the handsomest, nicest looking of the lot. I told Anna I approved of her taste and if I had the opportunity might set my cap for him, a rival of hers. She declared there is nothing between them but there surely will be if they see much more of each other. All Mrs. Savage’s visitors leave today. The bride and groom go to Baton Rouge to visit his people. …

Mr. Stenckrath does not improve on acquaintance. He is very high tempered and irritable and so sensitive on the subject of the war. He says he cannot bear to hear us talk of it, which is too absurd, as if we could help talking in our own home circle of the most important and stirring facts in the world to us. He wants us to ignore the existence of any war and prattle on of the commonplaces of life as though victory and defeat, suffering and death, had never been heard of. He came back from Goodrich’s this evening wrought up to the highest pitch of rage and excitement. He had to drill with the militia and came back anathematizing on the militia, the officers, and everything connected with it. The greatest egotist applies everything said to himself — a hypochondriac. He complains all the time, often of an agonizing pain in his toe. But enough of this tiresome man!

We hear of a victory for us at Boston Mountain, Ark. No particulars. No news for days. The boats are all detained at Columbus removing government stores. The papers are making most stirring appeals to the people to give and to enlist. The Whig is most eloquent. A busy week for all of us. With morn comes toil but night brings rest.

March 9

Brother Coley came this evening. He will join his company Tuesday and they will leave for Jackson, Miss., Thursday and shortly after go to Jackson, Tenn. …

All of us but Mamma went out to the Lodge to hear Mr. Rutherford preach. He is a pleasant talker, and there was a large congregation. Better than all there were three soldiers in their uniforms, the two Mr. Buckners, one a captain and the other some officer, and a perfect love of a lieutenant in blue uniform and brass buttons galore. Six feet of soldier with brass buttons is irresistible, and all the girls capitulated at once. Did not hear his name, and my prophetic soul tells me he is married. Oh me!. He is one of the escaped heroes of Fort Donelson. He aroused my liveliest sympathy by being compelled to balance himself on a backless bench during the entire service. Is that the way to make our heroes love church?

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Victory will be ours

As the violence of war in 1862 grew closer to Brokenburn, the reliable and steady lines of communication with the outside world were disrupted.

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

As the violence of war in 1862 grew closer to Brokenburn, the reliable and steady lines of communication with the outside world were disrupted. One by one, the array of Northern and Southern newspapers the Stone family — particularly Kate — regularly read stopped coming, and the Union campaigns to control the Mississippi River disrupted river boat traffic that carried precious letters and telegrams from Stone’s brother and uncle, both Confederate soldiers, amid other family news. So Stone’s active imagination was left to wonder, imagine, and hope that more victories over the North would be secured.

Stone yearned to join the men’s war. Note how spiteful she is of men who stay home instead of joining the army.

Feb. 20

Monday school started in My Brother’s room, and I go on with French under Mr. Stenckrath. He is to hear me after supper. I have been staying in Mamma’s room lately. Now, she, Sister, and Frank are all sound asleep, and I have just finished my French exercises. Mr. Stenkrath is a splendid teacher and likes his profession. He seems just the man for the boys. He seems to have a restless nature. From his confused account of himself, he has had a roving life, seldom staying more than a few months at a place, and so we need not expect to keep him long.

No mails for two weeks, the boat laid up for repairs.

The news for the last few days gathered from extras and dailies is bitterly disappointing: Forts Henry and Donelson given up, Bowling Green evacuated and shelled and burned by the enemy, and the Northern hordes marching on Nashville. Four days ago the people were leaving, and the town was being shelled by the gunboats. We do not care for those Kentucky towns; they deserve their fate. But Nashville, so true to the South, is a different matter. I know Dr. Elliott’s school will suffer. He is such an ardent Southerner. I graduated there. An excellent school it is.

It is a gloomy outlook just now but … victory will be ours at last.

Nothing from Cousin Titia and Jenny, and we looked for them today. There is no communication with Vicksburg; it might be under blockade for what we hear.

Mamma has finished the silk quilt, octagons of blue and yellow satin from two of her old dresses. Sister claims it. Aunt Laura’s, of purple and blue silk, is done and is exceedingly pretty. She has had several comforts made during the bad weather, and it has been so bad. I have about finished Beverly’s second apron, blue and white scallops with a bunch of heartsease embroidered in front and cute little pockets, also embroidered.

Feb. 21

Nashville has not yet fallen. Our army, 80,000 strong, is encamped around the city and the enemy is marching up, 250,000 of them, to battle. The general impression is that both Nashville and Memphis are doomed, and the Yankee gunboats will then descend the Mississippi and get all the cotton they can steal.

Brother Coley went to the last drill today at Willow Bayou. The company is broken up. There have been calls from the governors of all the river states for all the able-bodied men to come forward. Every man is speaking of joining the army, and we fear within a week Brother Coley will away.

In the present sad conditions of affairs traitors are springing up in every direction, as plentiful and busy as frogs in a marsh. I would not trust any man now who stays at home instead of going out to fight for his country.

I am tired. I have been so busy. Have read several hours French and English, sewed, practiced, written a letter, entertained Mr. Stockton for a time, played nine games of cards, eaten three meals and a luncheon, learned and recited four French lessons, and written all this. Surely it is bedtime.

Feb. 22

We had a surprising piece of family news this morning. Either Cousin Jenny or Cousin Titia was married a week ago today. We do not know which. Mr. Stockton mentioned it incidentally in the course of conversation, and after our surprised queries, he told us all he knew. He said that one of the young ladies was married at Dr. Buckner’s by Mr. Lord to a Tennessee soldier, name unknown, and started off next morning up the river. He did not know where. We are wild for particulars. Cannot tell why they have not let us know all about it.

Mr. Kaiser is off to the war and without bidding us good-bye. Mamma is trying to get a situation for Mr. Stockton and in the meanwhile is doctoring him up with all kinds of strong, hot medicines to make him well enough to accept a place should he get it. He has a horrid cold, and the poor fellow is perfectly obedient to Mamma. He takes all her doses without a murmur. Mr. Neily wishes a teacher, and Brother Coley went to see him this morning. He offers only $500. It is for his grandchildren. Mamma wrote also to Mrs. Savage and Mr. Harris, but neither wish a teacher just now. Anna writes Mrs. Savage has given out the idea of a large wedding. Only the families are to be present. Mamma sent Rose a lovely pincushion. Mrs. McRae is still very ill. Mamma spent part of the night there. I played three-handed euchre with Mr. Stockton and Mr. Stenckrath until, as the boys say, I am “dead beat.”

Feb. 24

News of a victory for us in Missouri in which Gen. Sigel, a German Yankee, was killed. All other tidings are gloomy but they have aroused the country with a trumpet call. There is the greatest excitement throughout the country. Almost everyone is going and going at once. Men are flocking to Johnston’s standard by the thousands. They are not waiting to form companies, but are going to join those already in the field. Every man gets ready as soon as he can possibly do so, makes his way to the river, hails the first upward bound boat, and is off to join in the fight at Nashville. The whole country is awake and on the watch think and talk only of war.

Robert came out this evening to consult with Brother Coley. He wants to go in the same company. But Brother Coley went to Vicksburg this morning to consult Dr. Buckner as to the best company for him to join. Robert is very low-spirited but determined on going. He says he knows he will never return. I like him very much and will be sorry to tell him good-bye. Mamma received a letter from Dr. Buckner today. He expects to leave with his company in two or three days and wrote for Brother Coley and Brother Walter. His is a cavalry company.

It was Cousin Titia who was married. We do not know to whom. They left for camp at Columbus, Miss.

Feb. 25

Our first mail for three weeks. Numbers of letters — a grieved one from Kate and an old one from My Brother. Cousin Titia married Mr. Charles Frazer, a lawyer of Memphis. They have been engaged for some time but it was an unexpected marriage. He got a furlough, came to Vicksburg, and insisted on being married, and so they were and went on to camp together at Columbus, Miss. Cousin Titia wrote to Mamma and tried to telegraph.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The little creature

She had a sharp tongue for women she disliked.

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, the daughter of Louisiana cotton plantation owners who chronicled her turbulent life throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Boredom mixed with tragedy and sadness at Brokenburn throughout a chilly February 1862. Rain fell. Aprons were sewn. Novels were read. Detested quilts were produced.

Then, a slave baby died. Stone dutifully noted the tragedy with coolness, showing passion and frustration only when she imagined the violent and exciting world at war beyond her plantation’s muddy borders. News from the front was as dark as the winter weather.

Also, note Stone’s sharp tongue for women she disliked.

Feb. 1

It is raining and it is hailing, and it is cold stormy weather. The worst winter weather. … Practiced on the piano … until bedtime. I have commenced a set of linen aprons for Beverly. Will embroider them all, some in white and two or three in blue and red. I intend to make them pretty and dainty to suit the dear little wearer. Mamma’s trunk came today and so we will have plenty of sewing for some time.

Have nothing new to read. Thus I have taken up my old favorite, [Walter] Scott, the Prince of Novelists. Who of the modern writers can compare with him?

Another death among the Negroes today Jane Eyre, Malona’s baby. The little creature was lying in its mother’s lap laughing and playing when it suddenly threw itself back, straightened out, and was dead. It is impossible to know what was the matter as it seemed perfectly well a minute before it died. This is the third child the mother has lost since Mamma bought her, and she seems devotedly attached to her babies. This is her last child.

The boys have been out in the rain most of the day rabbit hunting. … We all accuse Johnny of growing misanthropic since mixing with his fellowmen. Going to school with so many seems to induce most sour and cynical ideas. Little Sister wearies of the tedium of home after three weeks of school and wants to go with the boys, but Mamma thinks it too cold and wet for her to venture out. So she must needs bide at home and play dolls.

No war news or any other kind. Oh, this inactive life when there is such stir and excitement in the busy world outside. It is enough to run one wild. Oh! to be in the heat and turmoil of it all, to live, to live, not stagnate here.

How can a man rest quietly at home when battles are being fought and fields lost and won every day? I would eat my heart away were I a man at home [during] these troublous times.

Feb. 4

Sister has been suffering for several days with neuralgia and it is but little sleep either she or Mamma has had. …

Mamma had several of the women from the quarter sewing. Nothing to be done in the fields — too muddy. They put in and finished quilting a comfort made of two of my cashmere dresses. Mamma had Aunt Laura’s silk one put in today and Sue is quilting on it. I am so afraid Mamma will commence work on it herself, and if she does I shall feel in duty bound to put up my linen embroidery and help her. And I simply detest making and quilting quilts. Precious little of it have I ever done. This will be a lovely silk affair. Aunt Laura always has so many pretty silks and wears them such a little while that they are never soiled. After quilting, one rises from the chair with such a backache, headache, and bleeding pricked fingers.

Feb. 5

Mamma is busy on the silk quilt destined for Sister. Both Walter and Sister are better. The others are at school. Worked myself half blind on Beverly’s aprons to- night. Have been intending to take up French again, but studying is too humdrum work for these times. The boys say there is a runaway about the country. That makes one feel creepy when alone at night. So out with the light and to sleep to dream.

Feb. 16

Last week the weather was fine and the roads improved, and so we went out in the carriage to Mrs. Savage’s, stopping by for Mrs. Carson, who had been ill for two weeks and could not go. We found all at Mrs. Savage’s in the hurry and bustle of wedding arrangements all working on white linen. Mrs. Savage is charmed at the match and is just in her element preparing for a wedding. She has bought two new carpets and a pretty ashes of rose silk for Anna. She had it made in New Orleans and also two pretty summer dresses. Rose looks perfectly happy and content with the prettiest possible engagement ring flashing and sparkling on her finger a big solitaire, the image of Aunt Sarah’s.

I had no idea Rose’s face could wear such a joyous look, but even joy and youth cannot make her pretty. Anna Dobbs, Mr. and Mrs. Norris, and Rose’s mother came in the evening from Bayou Macon by way of Richmond, the swamp being impassable. What a weary, bedraggled, tacky-looking set they were.

Rose’s want of beauty is explained as soon as you see her mother, a regular witch of an old lady with the most apologetic, deprecating air. She has put up with many a snob, you can see, and has Bayou Macon written all over her. Now is not it mean of me to write in that way of that harmless old lady and I know absolutely nothing of her? She may be in her daily life an uncannonized saint. …

The war news is very bad, only defeats Roanoke Island, fall of Fort Henry, and the ascent of the Tennessee River and shelling of Florence, Ala. We still hold Fort Donelson, though it has been under fire for two days.

A heavy snowstorm the deepest snow we ever had. The children enjoy snowballing and we all enjoy the ice cream. There is not much milk left for butter after the boys get out of the dairy.

Videos I Love: Christmas Dinner

For those of you out there wishing for a way to escape unpleasant family gatherings this season, just remember …

I’m occasionally sharing some light thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

For those of you out there wishing you could escape unpleasant family gatherings this season, just remember that at least you don’t have these idiots “enriching” your holiday.

Click on the link to watch the Hulu video.

Park it!

Saturday Night Live: Christmas Dinner

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Turkish soap operas / King’s ‘Whorehouse’ story / No (world’s) end in sight / Clinton’s legacy / 2012 fashion


Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Dec. 21: The Winter Solstice Explained
By Joe Rao and Space.com | Scientific American | Dec. 21
“For northern latitudes, the solstice marks the beginning of winter, but ancient skywatchers didn’t understand the sun’s migration, fearing it could disappear forever as it dipped below the horizon.”

2. End of the world: Not this year
By William Booth | The Washington Post | Dec. 21
“The U.S. Missile Defense Agency reported no incoming meteorites capable of extinction events. In France, at a mountaintop popular with UFO enthusiasts, there was no sign of little green men seeking cavity probes. In China, where an apocalyptic Christian sect was predicting doomsday, the Shanghai stock market dipped slightly.”

3. 2012 styles that made our heads turn
By Samantha Critchell | Associated Press | Dec. 21
“Every year fashion offers up the good, the bad and the ugly. But what the industry is really built on — and consumers respond to — is buzz.”

4. Hillary Clinton: Unemployed
By Jean Mackenzie | GlobalPost :: Salon | Dec. 21
“Her widely heralded term as secretary of state has ended in turmoil. Could it affect her presidential prospects?”

5. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
By Larry L. King | Playboy | April 1974
“When a true son of Texas discovers they’ve closed down “the chicken farm” he takes his business to the free-lancers. Man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

6. Wayne LaPierre’s bizarre pop culture references
By Jamelle Bouie | The American Prospect :: Salon | Dec. 21
“‘Natural Born Killers?’ ‘Mortal Kombat?’ You wonder why the NRA is so feared when its leader is this addled”

7. 151 Victims of Mass Shootings in 2012: Here Are Their Stories
Mother Jones | Dec. 21
“Bearing witness to the worst year of gun rampages in modern US history.”

8. A Problem of Churchillian Proportions
By James Andrew Miller | The New York Times Magazine | Nov. 1
“After one of the longest waits in publishing history … the third and final volume of William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill, ‘The Last Lion,’ is finally about to arrive. …”
Also, read the book review: ‘We Shall Go On to the End’

9. Turkish soaps: threat to Pakistan’s culture or entertainment market?
By Mansoor Jafar | Al Arabiya | Dec. 21
“[T]he talk of the town in Pakistan these days is a flamboyant Turkish soap opera having a theme that revolves around a taboo subject like incest, besides over exposure, and other moral problems associated with the super rich class.”

10. Crazy Far
By Tim Folger | National Geographic | January 2013
“To the stars, that is. Will we ever get crazy enough to go?”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

2012’s best photobombs / Take the 2012 news quiz / Our trash on the moon / The Soviet-Japanese War of 1939 / The 1927 school massacre


Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. The 30 Most Powerful Photobombs Of 2012
By Jack Shepherd and Dave Stopera | BuzzFeed | Dec. 19
“Never stop ‘bombing, you guys. And stingrays.”

2. New Concordia Island
Dezeen Magazine | Dec. 19
“Sunken cruise ship the Costa Concordia would be transformed into a watery memorial garden in this competition-winning conceptual design by London architecture graduates Alexander Laing and Francesco Matteo Belfiore.”

3. The Trash We’ve Left on the Moon
By Megan Garber | The Atlantic | Dec. 19
“The lunar surface is strewn with hundreds of manmade items, from spacecraft to bags of urine to monumental plaques.”

4. Habitable planet discovered circling Tau Ceti, a star close to Earth
By Alexander Besant | GlobalPost | Dec. 19
“Tau Ceti, which is less than 12 light-years from Earth, has five planets orbiting it.”

5. How Obama’s win keeps on giving
By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake | The Fix :: The Washington Post | Dec. 19
“Whether or not a majority of Americans — or Members of Congress — believe that President Obama’s victory amounted to a mandate, it’s clear that the incumbent’s hand has been significantly strengthened by what happened on Nov. 6.”

6. Joy
By Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books | Jan. 10
“A lot of people seem to feel that joy is only the most intense version of pleasure, arrived at by the same road — you simply have to go a little further down the track. That has not been my experience.”

7. Nature and Fairy Stories
By Sara Maitland | The Huffington Post | Dec. 17
“A newer question though is whether landscape shapes, or more modestly perhaps becomes one of the things that shapes, whole cultures, their languages, their religion and their mythology; and of course therefore their responses to their artists and artistic forms.”

8. The Deadliest School Massacre in American History — in 1927
By Justin Peters | Slate | Dec. 18
“A school board member named Andrew Kehoe, upset over a burdensome property tax, wired the building with dynamite and set it off in the morning of May 18. Kehoe’s actions killed 45 people, 38 of whom were children.”

9. The Forgotten Soviet-Japanese War of 1939
By Stuart D. Goldman | The Diplomat | Aug. 28
“From May to September 1939, the USSR and Japan fought an undeclared war involving over 100,000 troops. It may have altered world history. ”

10. 2012 News Quiz
Associated Press | Dec. 20
“A superstorm that wasn’t so super, an election that seemed to go on forever and a rap video that took the world by storm — those were just a few of the stories that made news in 2012”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Manhattan’s literary scene / Kerry as secretary of state / The truth about the end of the world / Dissecting the new ‘Stark Trek’ trailer / Dive into fiscal cliff infographs


Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. A Critic’s Tour of Literary Manhattan
By Dwight Garner | The New York Times Book Review | Dec. 14
“Is Manhattan’s literary night life, along with its literary infrastructure (certain bars, hotels, restaurants and bookstores) fading away?”

2. On foreign policy, Kerry is Obama’s good soldier
By Donna Cassata | Associated Press | Dec. 17
“Obama seems likely to [nominate] the 69-year-old Kerry, perhaps in the coming days, to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as the nation’s top diplomat.”

3. Mayan Apocalypse: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were REALLY Afraid To Ask
By Asawin Suebsaeng | Mother Jones | Dec. 17
“So, first things first: Will the world in fact end on December 21?”

4. Daniel Inouye ‘lived and breathed the Senate’
By David Rogers | Politico | Dec. 17
“Inouye’s quiet, restrained style led some to underestimate him. But he had a wit and shrewdness, too, combined with a record of genuine heroism and compassion for the underdog, having come of age amid discrimination against Japanese-Americans even as he served bravely in World War II.”

5. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ trailer: A deep dive
By Darren Franich | Inside Movies :: Entertainment Weekly | Dec. 17
“Is Into Darkness going to continue the recent franchise trend of killing off characters? And if it does, will it be Spock again?”

6. The fiscal cliff, in graphs and GIFs
By Dylan Matthews | Wonkblog :: The Washington Post | Dec. 17
“Once upon a time, there was a budget surplus.”

7. Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species?
TED | April 2012
“Throughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now?”

8. ‘A Bombshell on the American Public’
By James M. McPherson | The New York Review of Books | Nov. 22
“As the war took a turn for the worse in the summer of 1862, Lincoln now fully embraced the idea that as commander in chief he could proclaim emancipation as a means of weakening the enemy.”

9. Why Are 2012’s Holiday Movies So Damn Long?
By Ramin Setoodeh | The Daily Beast | Dec. 17
“In the time it takes to sit through this year’s new holiday movies, you could do a lot of other things. For example, finish all your Christmas shopping, roast a turkey, drive to the airport, and fly to Hong Kong. If you don’t believe me, just look at the numbers.”

10. The Unpersuaded
By Ezra Klein | The New Yorker | March 19
“The President’s effort at persuasion failed. The question is, could it have succeeded?”

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Melora Johnson's Muse

A writer blogging about writing, creativity and inspiration.

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