Recommended reading / viewing / listening

The consequences of LiLo / Celebrating Richard Ben Cramer / Lima’s ugly side / Unborn babies can learn language / Public sees harm from U.S. politics


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. Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie
By Stephen Rodrick | The New York Times Magazine | Jan. 10
“[Director Paul] Schrader thinks she’s perfect for the role. Not everyone agrees. Schrader wrote ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ and has directed 17 films. Still, some fear Lohan will end him.”

2. Hagel pick: Final snub of George W. Bush
By Alexandra Burns | Politico | Jan. 9
“[T]he most vehement objections have come from the conservative, interventionist foreign policy community — the so-called neoconservatives who created the ideological architecture for the wars Bush launched in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

3. What do think of Richard Ben Cramer now?
By Tom Junod | Esquire | Jan. 8
“Richard Ben Cramer is the only one I still read for that holy, misguided, and somewhat dangerous purpose — the only one whose blood I still welcome for the purposes of transfusion. The others carry the risk of infection, which is to say the risk of mannerism.”

4. Hiding From People-Search Sites
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Aug. 29
“I recently found my name, address and other personal information listed on this Web site called How do they get this information and can I delete it?”

5. Wodehouse and Fitzgerald — emblems of a lost age
By Robert McCrum | The Guardian | Jan. 7
“The two authors incarnated very different visions of England and the US between the wars”

6. From the Slums of Lima to the Peaks of the Andes
By Alastair Bland | Off the Road :: Smithsonian | Jan. 7
“That there could be anything in the world but dust, rubble, traffic, burning trash heaps, mangy dogs and slums seemed impossible as we rolled northward through Lima.”

7. Babies Seem to Pick Up Language in Utero
By Nicholas Bakalar | Well :: The New York Times | Jan. 7
“A baby develops the ability to hear by about 30 weeks’ gestation, so he can make out his mother’s voice for the last two months of pregnancy.”

8. Rebooting Republican Foreign Policy
By Daniel W. Drezner | Foreign Affairs | January/February 2013
“Needed: Less Fox, More Foxes”

9. Most in U.S. Say Politics in Washington Cause Serious Harm
By Frank Newport | Gallup | Jan. 7
“More than three-quarters of Americans (77%) say the way politics works in Washington these days is causing serious harm to the United States, providing still another indicator of the low esteem in which Americans hold their elected officials. …”

10. Creative Aging: The Emergence of Artistic Talents
By Richard Senelick | The Atlantic | Jan. 4
“Depending which part of the brain is affected, different skills will be preserved or impaired in various types of cognitive decline and dementia. This gradual reformation is what may allow the emergence of new artistic abilities.”



Tonight I’m spending some time with the blues, specifically with the Texas Blues Café. Check out the line-up and then listen here.

1. J.J. Grey & Mofro — Country Ghetto
2. Dr. Wu — I Don’t Need No Woman Like You
3. Delta Moon — Ghost In My Guitar
4. ZZ Top — Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings
5. Stoney Curtis Band — That’s Right
6. Kelleys Lot — Drive
7. The Fabulous Thunderbirds — Stand Back
8. Jeff Powers & Dead Guys Blues Band — Bad Luck Boogie
9. Ian Moore — Pay No Mind
10. Ray Wylie Hubbard — Down Home Country Blues
11. The Stone Coyotes — Trouble Down In Texas
12. Lost Immigrants — Dixie Queen
13. Band Of Heathens — Hallelujah

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Trembling hearts

Stone anchored her hopes on the steady breezes of war rumors swirling around Brokenburn, and any news reporting a Confederate victory warmed her heart.


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)

Stone anchored her hopes on the steady breezes of war rumors swirling around Brokenburn, and any news reporting a Confederate victory warmed her heart, even as Union gunboats prowled the nearby Mississippi River, angling for a shot at Vicksburg. In the meantime, as another summer loomed, life went on. Boys fished. Hats were sewn. Dutiful visits to neighbors were politely endured.

June 6, 1862

Brother Walter went to Pecan Grove and Jimmy to the Bend trying to get molasses, but none to be had. Rumors are that the people at Baton Rouge, Natchez, and New Orleans had risen en masse and killed Butler and all his soldiers. We hoped I had almost said prayed that it might be so, but I am not yet so hardened that I can pray even for a Yankee’s death. We learned soon after that it was only a canard. …

Thursday we were all up betimes and Julia, Jimmy, Johnny, and I set off before 7 o’clock to fish at the head of Grassy Lake. The ride in the cool morning air through the dark still woods, sweet with the breath of the wild grape blossoms, and in such merry company, was a thing to enjoy. We stopped to gather the first blackberries, cool and wet with dew. How often I think of Ashburn when the pleasures he so enjoyed a year ago are in the world again. How many a merry ride we have taken together, enjoying all the sights and sounds of spring. Dear heart, I know he is happy now beyond our dreams of bliss, but oh, to see him once more now that spring is in the land. …

Letters from My Brother and Capt. Manlove dated May 20 at Richmond. He told us of their marching from Yorktown and the fight they were in at Williamsburg. Both escaped unwounded. He wrote us of our one-time friend, Mr. Hewitt. He is passing himself off in Nashville as a wealthy Louisiana planter and as a colonel of a Mississippi regiment taken at Donelson and on parole. He is engaged to be married to one of the nice girls of Nashville. He is such a dreadful fraud, a perfect adventurer, and we think gets married at nearly every town in which he spends a month. He is very handsome, tall and blond, with delightful manners and always manages to get in with the best people. My Brother took the liberty of writing to the girl’s father a full account of Mr. Hewitt, and we hope the girl will be saved.

The Jeff Davis Guards were highly complimented for their gallantry on the field of Williamsburg and Capt. Tom Manlove is praised for his heroism in battle. His father, Capt. Manlove. …. Such a gratification to his father. The battalions were in the two days at Chickahominy. All the officers escaped unhurt except the 3rd lieutenant who was killed. I think that is Lt. Floyd, to whom we sent things in My Brother’s box.

June 8

Anna, Robert, and Emily have just spent the last two days with us. Robert is home on sick leave. He has just spent five weeks in the hospital and looks dreadful. He does not want to talk, only to eat and sleep. So congenial Anna is more quiet than ever before. All went fishing in the afternoon.

No late news from Brother Coley. Why does he not write? Now that he has been in two battles, he must be better satisfied. We are glad to see his company so highly spoken of. Must stop. They are calling us to go to church.

Evening. What a budget of news we heard there … the fight at Fort Pillow, the evacuation of Vicksburg, the occupation of Memphis, the defeat of our gunboats and the loss of seven out of nine, and the falling back of Beauregard from Corinth to Holly Springs. What a long list of disasters. But there is some good news to offset it. Mrs. Dancy sent out Friday’s papers giving an account of the victory at Chickahominy after a two-day fight, capturing camp, breastworks, and ten guns. Stonewall Jackson has crossed the Potomac, whipped Banks’ army, and ten thousand Marylanders have flocked to his standard. Again, a rumor that France and Spain have recognized the Confederacy. We are hoping the bad news is all false and the good all true. …

June 11

We found Mrs. Savage in all the hurry of packing up. Dr. Lily and Robert have at last persuaded her to leave the river and go out to Bayou Macon until the war is over, for fear of the Yankees raiding the places when they come down the river. Mrs. Savage and the other ladies are much opposed to leaving home, but they have been over-persuaded. Her garden is lovely now. How Mrs. Savage will miss her flowers when she is far away. …

We still hold Vicksburg and will hold on as long as it is possible. … We hear that another grand battle has been fought near Richmond, resulting in the defeat of McClellan. Oh! that it may be true. Both Uncle Bo and My Brother must have been in it. Mamma just received a letter from them dated in April.

Yankee gunboats are looked for tomorrow or next day.

June 18

We got a paper with the latest news Stonewall Jackson’s successes in Maryland and his defeat of Shields and Fremont. The news is most encouraging, but we listen with trembling hearts for fear he may be surrounded and cut off there in the enemy’s country. …

June 17

Yesterday we spent at Dr. Carson’s. One of the hottest days possible. Gen. Breckinridge was in the neighborhood and was expected to dinner, but much to our regret did not come. We all wished to meet him. We have not yet seen a major general, and he is said to be exceedingly handsome. Mrs. Carson is much depressed, worrying all the time about Joe’s going to the army. She will not let him get off. Joe, Mr. Baker, and Mr. McNeely made themselves very agreeable. We had a charming time in the grand old garden. Mrs. Buckner and her three children came in the afternoon. How she does admire her husband, who is now a Major. …

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