Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: CSS H.L. Hunley emerges / Writing: A job or a calling? / Solving a math mystery / Gaza children with PTSD / What caused her cancer?

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This week: CSS H.L. Hunley emerges / Writing: A job or a calling? / Solving a math mystery / Gaza children with PTSD / What caused her cancer?

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. After 150 years, Confederate submarine’s hull again revealed
By Bruce Smith | Associated Press | Jan. 30
“What [scientists] find may finally solve the mystery of why the hand-cranked submarine sank during the Civil War.”

2. Facebook needs a ‘Sympathy’ button
By Amy-Mae Elliott | Mashable | Jan. 25
” It can mean a feeling of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune, and also an understanding between people — a common feeling.”

3. Is Being a Writer a Job or a Calling?
By Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens | Bookends :: Sunday Book Review | Jan. 27
Moser: “Even the best writing won’t have the immediate, measurable impact of a doctor’s work, or a plumber’s.”
Stevens: “Of course a writer is going to lean toward saying writing is a calling — that’s our job.”

4. The Pursuit of Beauty
By Alec Wilkinson | The New Yorker | Feb. 2
“Yitang Zhang solves a pure-math mystery.”

5. Hundreds of thousands of children shell-shocked after the war in Gaza
By Robert Tait | The Telegraph | Jan. 29
“Children who saw their siblings or parents killed, often gruesomely, have been left stricken, and around 35 per cent to 40 per cent of Gaza’s million children are suffering from shell-shock according to Hasan Zeyada, a psychologist with the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.”

6. What Caused My Cancer?
By Shana Bernstein | Pacific Standard | Jan. 29
“Was it bad genes? Bad luck? Or was it the toxins I eat, drink, breathe, and touch on a regular basis because the United States has a policy of putting the burden of proof for product safety on the consumer?”

7. The Fire of 1910 — Why It Still Matters
By Timothy Egan | Inside American Experience | Jan. 29
“Never in recorded United States history has there been anything to match the fire of 1910. For its size, its ferocity, its impact, nothing comes close.”

8. 50 years after funeral, Churchill towers over UK politicians
By Jill Lawless | Associated Press | Jan. 30
“Modern politicians know better than to invite comparisons to the larger-than-life Churchill — a noted ‘bon vivant’ … who kept 10 Downing St. stocked with Pol Roger Champagne.”

9. Seven questions every editor should ask the writer
By Roy Peter Clark | Poynter | Jan. 30
“After asking these questions to hundreds of writers, I have confidence that the answers provided by the writer can guide a coaching editor on how best to help the writer over time.”

10. For Incarcerated Japanese-Americans, Baseball Was ‘Wearing the American Flag’
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | June 2014
“By 1943, when some of those in the relocation camps were allowed to volunteer for war service, some of the ballplayers joined the Army’s almost all-Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which suffered grievous casualties in Europe and came to be called the most decorated military unit in American history.”

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Kindly bestow them

Stone begins the new year with a diary entry — one of her longest — filled with details, cautious hope, and determination to hold out for ultimate Confederate victory.

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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 begins the new year with a diary entry — one of her longest — filled with details, cautious hope, and determination to hold out for ultimate Confederate victory.

Jan. 29, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Uncle Johnny and Kate have just gone to their room after a lengthy discussion of the comparative merits of modern poets and novelists. Johnny has kissed me goodnight, Sister is wandering in dreamland, I am alone with a cheerful fire and a wakeful spirit, and so I may as well resume my neglected diary.

Mamma, with Sarah as her maid, started on Wednesday for the prairie to be absent two weeks, and I am left to administer affairs during her absence. The office of housekeeper is not entirely a sinecure now that there are so many to be provided for our family, Uncle John’s, and Mr. Gary’s. We tease Mamma and Mrs. Savage by telling them they are keeping boarding houses, a fact they indignantly deny. But it looks that way to an outsider. We hoped to get Mr. Smith’s house and live to ourselves, but he now declines to rent. But for the hall, we are as much crowded here as at the Ranch, which we had to give up to the owner as he wished to move back. This is a pretty-looking place if the house was painted but new and unfinished, a large yard with the native trees left. Mr. and Mrs. Gary, from whom Mamma rented it, are quite nice people. They have one little girl and they give very little trouble. We rarely see them except at meals, which is a relief, for we did so dread her living in our room. Even Kate leaves us to ourselves sometimes, and so we find it much easier to live together. Though both Uncle Johnny and Kate utterly ignore Johnny’s existence, it is wonderful that they will behave so.

Jimmy and Joe Carson have rejoined their command. It is Jimmy’s first trial as a soldier. I am trying to finish a pair of the prettiest riding gloves to send him by Jimmy Stone’s boy, who will get off Wednesday. I am sending Jimmy Stone a famous pair. Dr. Weir would feel himself awfully slighted and retire in disgust could he peep behind the scenes and see what becomes of the precious gauntlets he forced on my acceptance. He flattered himself I would knit a pair of gloves to them and kindly bestow them on him. But oh no, they go with the best I can make to Jimmy. I have knitted so many gloves, and Mamma knits socks in all her spare time. I wish I had kept account of the numbers of pairs. We froth up old black or blue silk, mix it with wool, and have it spun into a pretty silky thread that makes nice-looking gloves or stockings. …

So slowly news comes in that we have heard nothing since Sherman’s occupation of Savannah more than a month ago and Gen. Hood‘s retreat across the Tennessee River. … Hood is relieved from command and Gen. Johnston reinstated, a rumor that gives general satisfaction. The very air is rife with rumors but nothing reliable. The favorite is that the Confederacy will certainly be recognized by all foreign powers immediately after the fourth of March, and we may look for a speedy peace with much more to the same. But we have been exalted and depressed by these rumors too often to let them weigh with us now. Another topic of general interest is the subject of gradual emancipation said to be under discussion in the lower house [of the Confederate Congress]. …

Ivol | Losing Sight

Intensity and release. That’s the modus operandi of Ivol’s new song, “Losing Sight”, which appropriately uses rising balloons as the cover image for the single. The song begins with heavy, dirge-like piano chords and a litany of one and two-word phrases about the quotidian activities of waking up from sleep, before the track hits its cathartic and doomed musical and lyrical conclusion: “Wake up / Wake up / Breathe / Step out / Breathe / Wash face …” It’s a fascinating composition by the Australian artist (that sounds influenced by Thom Yorke solo work like 2006’s Eraser) who builds a heavily textured atmosphere with glittery synth, hollow drum sequences, vibrating strings, an intermittent bass beat, computerized blips, a large music drop, and partial rap/spoken words: “I think I’m losing sight / You need to wake up, wake up”. Follow Ivol on tumblr, facebook and twitter. — David D. Robbins…

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Waiting for ‘Mad Men:’ Draper returns on April 5

Seven episodes left. I hope it is worth the wait.

The Hollywood Reporter noted earlier this morning that the final seven-episode run begins on April 5.

I hope it is worth the wait.

In the meantime, enjoy one of my favorite endings.

A bow to the King

Elvis Presley was born this week on Jan. 8, 1935, and died on Aug. 16, 1977. What he gave us will live forever.

It’s a feeling that can’t be denied. Sometimes you just have to submit to his reign. The King, who was born on Jan. 8, 1935, and died on Aug. 16, 1977, can dominate your consciousness, infusing his spirit and vitality into your heart and soul, adding an extra sparkle to your days. He shines that spotlight in your eyes, slaps you right across the face, reminds you to wake the hell up, look around, forget the pettiness of everyday life, and savor the world around you.

You have no choice but to sit back with him, laugh at the stardom, laugh at any notion of legacy and fame, and listen to some great music from a true American original. Don’t the fight the urge to do some affectionate impersonations, or just watch Johnny Cash, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, and Val Kilmer do their own.

Several years ago, the National Portrait Gallery recorded a short but very informative introduction to the fascinating and bizarre meeting between Elvis and Richard Nixon (above). Also, Legacy Recordings released a magnificent series of podcasts exploring the rise of Elvis, his gospel roots, his comeback performance in 1968, his 75th birthday, and his Vegas years. Links are included below, along with a few Elvis performances. Enjoy.

1. ELVIS: THE EARLY YEARS Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
2. ELVIS: ULTIMATE GOSPEL Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
3. RELIVING THE ELVIS ’68 COMEBACK SPECIAL Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
4. ELVIS 75 Parts 1 through 20
5. ELVIS AND VIVA LAS VEGAS Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

SONGS
1. LOVE ME TENDER (Live) Elvis Presley
2. BABY WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO (Live) Elvis Presley
3. HEARTBREAK HOTEL Elvis Presley
4. MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY Elvis Presley