Photographs of Los Voladores de Papantla at HemisFair’68 added to the General Photograph Collection

The Top Shelf

Special Collections recently acquired photographs by San Antonio CPA and hobbyist photographer James F. Bartlett (1920-2004), gift of Gerron Hite. Bartlett made the photographic prints, dating from the 1960s and 1970s, in his darkroom. Subjects include the missions and other local tourist sites, North Star Mall, and HemisFair’68. Of special interest is a series of images of the performance of Los Voladores de Papantla at HemisFair’68.

Totonac men from Papantla, Veracruz, Mexico, performed the ancient Mesoamerican Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) as part of the Frito-Lay / Pepsi-Cola entry at the fair. The ritual took place in an amphitheater with a 410-foot pole from which four of the participants, with ropes tied to themselves, descended headfirst to the ground in a ceremony created to appease the gods and bring rain. In addition to Los Voladores, there was a reenactment of an Aztec ritual human sacrifice by another…

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In Our Time: Classics podcasts

Magnificent.

Keener Classics

Last update: 28 March 2022

I thought I would make a list of Radio 4 In Our Time podcasts which are relevant to Classics, as a handy shortcut. Here it is. Much recommended – real experts and real discussions. Particularly good as an introduction for school students or others looking for a taste of Classics! Please let me know if I have missed any out, or if any of the links don’t work. [edit] I have also added some further BBC programmes where they are available on each topic.

Greek Literature

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Have a rum cake

This is a recipe for the Dan Mudd Rum Cake, one of my all-time favorite desserts, named after a former colleague from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

This is a recipe for the Dan Mudd Rum Cake, one of my all-time favorite desserts, named after a former colleague from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

I made one this morning. It gets better and better every year.

Enjoy.

The cake:
— 1 cup pecans, halved or coarsely chopped
— 1 package of yellow cake mix, any brand but not a pudding mix
— 1 package of instant vanilla pudding mix
— 4 medium or large eggs (not extra-large or jumbo)
— 1/4 cup cold water
— 1/2 cup vegetable oil
— 1/2 cup of rum (any kind of rum, but do not use a Jamaican-type of rum)

Directions
— Preheat oven to 325F degrees
— Grease and flour 10-inch tube (angel-food type) pan
— Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan
— Mix all cake ingredients
— Pour batter over nuts
— Bake for about 40 minutes
— Cool for about 30 minutes
— Make glaze while cake is cooling
— Prick deeply all over the top of the cake with a toothpick or thin knife
— Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over top and sides, allowing glaze to soak into cake
— Keep spooning the glaze over cake until all glaze has been absorbed
— After all has cooled at room temperature, run knife along edge of cake and along center tube, and remove cake from pan

The glaze (make while cake is cooling)
— 1/2 cup of butter or 1/2 cup stick oleo (do not use tub or watered-down soft spread)
— 1/4 cup of water
— 1 cup of sugar
— 1/4 cup of rum

Directions
— Melt butter or oleo in a medium-sized saucepan
— Stir in water and sugar
— Boil for five minutes, stirring constantly
— Remove from heat and cool slightly
— Stir in rum slowly
— While warm, spoon over cake

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

1. Pork Chop Tacos Are San Antonio’s Best-Kept Secret
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3. From 9/11’s ashes, a new world took shape. It did not last.
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4. Republicans and Impeachment — Lessons from the Nixon years
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“Republicans and impeachment: In the case of Nixon, it took them until the very end to jump ship — and those who defended him (Reagan and Bush Sr.) had better political futures than those who didn’t.”

5. An incredibly resilient coral in the Great Barrier Reef offers hope for the future
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6. Scientists say a telescope on the Moon could advance physics — and they’re hoping to build one
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“The Moon’s lack of atmosphere and darkness could offers unique observations of the universe”

7. Making a Way Out of No Way: Celebrating the Power of Black Female Relationships in Literature
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“The seven books … share similar themes of women empowering one another against formidable odds.”

8. Medgar Evers: A Hero in Life and Death
By Jennifer Davis | The Library of Congress | July 2021
“Medgar Wiley Evers, civil rights activist, voting rights activist and organizer, was born 96 years ago this month in tiny Decatur, Mississippi. He would go on to become one of the nation’s most significant 20th-century voices in the causes of civil rights and social justice before being assassinated at the age of 37.”

9. The Voice of Orson Welles
By Farran Smith Nehme | The Criterion Collection | November 2018
“Nothing but Welles’s voice could have achieved that gentle mockery of the rich midwesterners and their privileges, as when he describes the long process of a lady hailing a streetcar and the sad yearning for Tarkington’s vanished world — too slow for us now, all of it.”
Also see: The Magnificent Ambersons — Surfaces and Depths

10. The Iliad
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
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Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

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5. The Taliban now controls Kabul airport. How will it run it?
Al Jazeera English | August 2021
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6. Julie Pace named new Associated Press executive editor
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7. The other cradle of humanity: How Arabia shaped human evolution
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8. Surprise undersea volcano could offer unique window into Earth’s interior
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“In a new study, the scientists suggest the seamount could represent a completely new type of seafloor volcanism, fueled by a hidden, shallow reservoir of magma.”

9. Parasite: Notes from the Underground
By Inkoo Kang | The Criterion Collection | October 2020
“[It] reveals the Kims, as sympathetic and unfairly treated as they are, as utterly capable of the banality of evil, in part because of their own overidentification with underdogs, and the inherent goodness they assume they can lay claim to. The layers of self-deception build on top of one another until, finally, it all comes crashing down.”

10. The Thirty Years War
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
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Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

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“Treehouses have proliferated during the pandemic. There are stylish backyard ones built by professionals, and makeshift ones thrown up just to escape the four walls of home. There are listings on sites like Airbnb for treehouses to camp in. Unlike the rickety treehouses of yore, many of these new ones have been upgraded. Most are still accessed with a ladder, however, requiring you to climb.”

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By Bryan Bender and Daniel Lippman | Politico Magazine | September 2021
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9. Black politics and history
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10. This pictogram is one of the oldest known accounts of earthquakes in the Americas
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2. The Incoherence of American History
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3. Why it takes months to subdue some wildfires
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8. Wandering icebergs could trigger tsunamis
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9. Hurricanes may not be becoming more frequent, but they’re still more dangerous
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10. Moonstruck: Life in the In-Between
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6. American diplomats recall 20-hour days, sleeping in Kabul airport while helping those desperate to flee
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8. Marie Tharp: Mapping the Ocean Floor
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9. Fail Safe: Very Little Left of the World
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10. Horace
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Also see: The Sino-Japanese War | Photosynthesis | The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam | The Philosophy of Solitude

The brilliant, deadly light: A remembrance of 9/11/01

There is nothing special about what was expressed below. The words and phrases capture the kind of raw emotions of fear, sadness and confusion that I’m sure many others felt. But they were honest, heartfelt and hopeful … and blissfully ignorant of what was to come over the next two decades.

A few weeks ago, I thumbed through some of my older files in a search for something completely unrelated to Sept. 11, 2001. I found this collection of musings I wrote about two weeks after the terrorist attacks.

I was a newspaper editor in Corpus Christi, Texas, at the time, and most of the newspaper’s staff worked for two weeks straight after 9/11, without a break, to make sense of the tragedy for our readers and help them prepare for what would follow. It was some of the best work of my journalism career.

There is nothing special about what was expressed below. The words and phrases capture the kind of raw emotions of fear, sadness and confusion that I’m sure many others felt. “There is something there in my human heart,” I unabashedly admitted to myself, “something sad, silent, burning and heavy that will always be with me.” The musings may not make complete sense, and they may not be the most eloquent thoughts I ever put down on paper.

But they were honest, heartfelt and hopeful … and blissfully ignorant of what was to come over the next two decades.

This was written sometime in late September 2001. I was 27 years old.


It’s been over two weeks since the terrorist attacks took place, and yet it feels like a year, with barely any memory of the 27 years of my life that preceded Sept. 11’s images of burning skyscrapers, screaming New Yorkers, scorched Pentagon offices, and exhausted newscasters.

The last several days since have seen my anger misdirected at the ones I love the most, depression, restlessness, sleeplessness, and a plethora of other emotional disruptions. These enduring problems have brought me here, looking for some sort of alleviation or answer through what I know best: the written word.

I’m linked to the rest of the world through my personal anguish over what took place in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. Yet I think I endured the tragedies in a way a comparatively select few in our nation could appreciate. From a distance. From a place of safety. Immersed in my own pain and anguish. Certainly nothing as intense as the men and women who lost loved ones or saw them injured. But there is something there in my human heart — something sad, silent, burning and heavy that will always be with me.

I’m a news copy editor, one of about a dozen intelligent and well-read professionals who help to produce this newspaper every evening of the year. I edit articles written by our reporters and by reporters from various wire services from across the country. I’m also a page designer, which means I place the articles on the pages, along with most of their accompanying pictures. It’s quite easy, and the richness of the river of information that flows past and through me on an hourly basis successfully seduces me back to my desk every afternoon.

But the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, was a watershed moment for me.

I joined the newsroom two years ago the way a wanna-be cop hangs out at cop bars — to feel the pulse of the news cycles, to sense waves of energy as a story builds and reporters jump into action, to listen to the everlasting debates between what’s legitimate news and what’s simply tabloid garbage. It’s so much fun. I never considered myself as intelligent as my colleagues but I eventually felt acceptably proficient at what copy editors do, and I suppose I’ve managed to make a decent contribution to the newspaper.

What I saw take place in this newsroom was an astounding example of what reporters and my fellow copy editors are capable of. It was, as D-Day was once described, the Day of Days. Three incredible newspapers — two extras and a special edition — were produced in one day, something accomplished by only a half-dozen other newspapers in the country. We all worked to cover the story of our lives, trying to explain the terrorist attacks to the public as we privately tried to explain it to ourselves. I was never more proud to count myself among these incredible men and women.

Most of us worked on the weekends, so my days off were Tuesday and Wednesday. I awoke that morning feeling happy. It had been a boring and quiet work week, and I was ready for two days of relaxation. I reached over to turn on my nightstand alarm clock radio. As always, it was tuned to NPR’s “Morning Edition.” I heard the host, Bob Edwards, announce that a plane had struck one of the towers at the World Trade Center. He said that smoke billowed from the building.

I remember selfishly thinking, “Well, that’s interesting. Perhaps the wire editor or Page One editor will do something good with this. Thank God I’m off today.”

But my ever-curious semi-journalist ears were pricked up, so I switched on the TV – permanently set on CNN – to see what I imagined would be a little single-prop plane that perhaps nicked the tip of one of its wings on one of the towers, perhaps being pulled out of the Hudson. But that was not what I saw.

The moment

The phone rang minutes later. It was the newspaper’s metro editor. He said an extra edition was going to be published, that everyone was being called in, that this situation was major. I said I would be there as soon as I could.

“And there it was,” I thought. The moment I waited for yet never hoped for had finally arrived, a day in which the history books would never – could never — overlook. I could sense that strong, huge, great gears were beginning to turn, carrying me back to the heart and mind of this great entity where I held a seat and played a role. This was an emergency, and we were going to be there to meet it head on, turning this massive ship towards the emergency, to begin as carefully yet as quickly as possible to piece together a first draft of history. It sounds so cliché, but it still seems so true.

This was the essence of what I always thought a newspaper did, and yet even with the entrance into a new century, the impeachment of a president or the closest presidential election in history, it was not enough of a challenge to our capacity to marshal our creative and intellectual forces. History had thrown a huge puzzle up into the air, and it was up to me and to us to piece enough of it together to make sense of it to ourselves before making sense of it to our readers.

But the true significance of the emergency did not dawn on me until I arrived at the Caller-Times. The second plane had struck the second tower, the Pentagon was hit, and one of the towers had collapsed. The second one collapsed soon afterwards. I never saw so many of my co-workers at the same time before, everyone tense and talkative, busily preparing for something, printing out the first pictures from the Associated Press and tapping away at keyboards.

The editors and designers from the Features department — they worked regular 9-to-5 hours — had been moved over from their offices down the hall and into the newsroom to start collecting photos and the initial stories coming off the news wires. They sat at my desk and at my colleagues’ desks. So most everyone who arrived after me was displaced. They moved over to share desks with the sports editors and designers, who occupied the dozen or so cubicles next to ours. It seemed more people were standing than sitting.

As I walked through the melee, the editor of the newspaper’s Sunday edition — the senior editor/designer among us — calmly smiled at me. He looked relieved to see me. His hair was still wet from a shower that must have come as unexpectedly early as mine had. We were among the first of our news editing team to arrive. CNN was blaring from every television in the newsroom. Phones everywhere rang and rang.

The work

The executive editor — the newspaper’s supreme commander — gathered the reporters, editors, page designers and photographers for a quick briefing. Everyone looked nervous. Some took notes as she spoke. Others just stared at her or down at the ground. One seemed to have tears welling in her eyes. Another looked like he had been crying for a while. I was numb, not from fright or nervousness. I felt like I was bracing for some kind of impact, but now I think it was simply that I grimly anticipated that there were some long days and nights ahead. I don’t mean workload – I mean enduring a tremendous amount of work combined with the normal grieving process that I knew I would not allow myself to experience until the work was done … a process I’m experiencing now, with these words and thoughts.

The plan was ambitious. The editor wanted two extra editions printed before we began preparing the regular newspaper for Wed., Sept. 12. The first extra would be done by 2 p.m., the second only a few hours later, and then the real workday would begin. The newsroom jumped into action, meetings were held, the dummies for pages were distributed to designers, photos were selected, and the budgets (the master list of wire service and local stories we might use, along with their designated pages) were printed.

I had a simple peripheral role — as did many others — of designing a few inside pages. A few people worked on finding the right pictures and keeping track of who was using them. The executive editor and the Sunday editor who was relieved to see me worked together on what would appear on the front pages.

Information on the attacks continued to pour in, some of it reliable, some of it not. Most of the televisions were muted so their sound was no longer a distraction. The roaring hurricanes of fragmentary information, images, speculations, and so much more swirled through my mind. A rudimentary “news crawl” moved along the bottom of CNN’s screen, with some headlines predicting 10,000 fatalities, rumors of a bomb at the State Department, possible attacks in other cities. CNN showed the planes slamming into the towers over and over again. The deathly bright orange of the explosions, the people leaping from the upper floors, the horrifying straightforwardness of two of the world’s tallest buildings collapsing into ash, fire and smoke as a global audience watched … they played it over and over and over again.

There was no real time to mourn or try to really comprehend what was happening to New York City or Washington D.C. There was no real opportunity to sit back and contemplate what this would mean for the weakened economy or the missile defense initiative or even the social consciousness of my generation. Perhaps the only real concern in the back of my mind, aside from trying to finish those pages, was: Is this just the beginning? Are there more attacks coming? Immersed as I was in such an avalanche of information, both reliable and not, I suppose any emotional reaction — fear, sadness, anger — was not really allowed to surface, even as they boiled beneath the veneer of steady professionalism.

A brilliant, deadly light

As I write this, I think of my colleagues. They’re all tired now, most of them surely much more exhausted than me. Many seemed so burned out by the never-ending coverage, even though some semblance of normality seems to be returning. It’s like we were plunged into a dark tunnel since the attacks took place, piecing together the world around us with penlights.

Does anyone remember Connie Chung’s Gary Condit interview, HBO’s “Band of Brothers” series, or Madonna’s Drowned World tour? Does anyone care anymore? It’s our job to keep our little city informed of the world’s events. There was time when it was easy, when we had the luxury to debate the importance given to Andrea Yates or a spy plane lost in Chinese territory.

Naturally, I have as many questions as anyone else: Were the attacks part of a greater plan? Is Osama bin Laden truly the man behind the terrorism this time? Will Bush’s “war” take years to accomplish objectives that are not yet announced?

Ironically, with the resources and information provided by countless newspapers and news services at my fingertips, I have no better perspective than someone working on depositions at the courthouse, someone selling clothes at the mall, or someone begging for change on the seawall. The stories all ask the same questions, all chase the same sources, all come up with the same hollow predictions from unnamed sources.

When will we have all the answers? Are we on the verge of a third world war? How will this new fight change the United States? How will this new era change my generation as we grow into journalism’s leaders? How will this change me? Will we ever emerge from this dark tunnel? What awaits us in that brilliant, deadly light?


Two decades later, I wrote a shorter version of this remembrance as my contribution to Texas Public Radio’s collection of memories marking Sept. 11, 2021. You may read it here.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Asteroid may strike in 2100s / Pandemic hobbies good for brain / The sexy green M&M / Catastrophism / Black Americans and the war on drugs

This week: Asteroid may strike in 2100s / Pandemic hobbies good for brain / The sexy green M&M / Catastrophism / Black Americans and the war on drugs

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

1. NASA Probe Finds Higher Chance of Asteroid Bennu Striking Earth
By Meghan Bartels | Scientific American | August 2021
“Using data from the OSIRIS-REx mission, scientists calculated slightly increased (but still low) odds the space rock will collide with our planet in the 2100s”

2. Keep your pandemic hobbies — your brain will thank you
By Ruth Kogen Goodwin | Salon | August 2021
“Any hobbies that help you attain a ‘flow state’ are good for your brain, scientists say”

3. The Cursed History of the Sexy Green M&M
By Hazel Cills | Jezebel | August 2021
“With her go-go boots and perpetual smize, for decades the green M&M has persisted as the definitively “sexy” one”

4. Solved: A 50-year mystery about Jupiter
By Scotty Hendricks | Big Think | August 2021
“Jupiter’s atmosphere is hotter than it should be, and now we know why”

5. A partial skeleton reveals the world’s oldest known shark attack
By Bruce Bower | Science News | July 2021
“A man encountered the animal 3,000 years ago off the coast of Japan”

6. On the Link Between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking
By Jeremy DeSilva | LitHub | April 2021
“From Charles Darwin to Toni Morrison, Jeremy DeSilva Looks at Our Need to Move”

7. 50-year war on drugs imprisoned millions of Black Americans
By Aaron Morrison | Associated Press | July 2021
“Fifty years ago this summer, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. Today, with the U.S. mired in a deadly opioid epidemic that did not abate during the coronavirus pandemic’s worst days, it is questionable whether anyone won the war.”

8. The Old Cliché About Afghanistan That Won’t Die
By Kevin Baker | Politico Magazine | August 2021
“‘Graveyard of Empires’ is an old epitaph that doesn’t reflect historical reality — or the real victims of foreign invasions over the centuries.”

9. The Irishman: The Wages of Loyalty
By Geoffrey O’Brien | The Criterion Collection | November 2020
“The core of The Irishman is a series of intimate exchanges, one-on-one encounters, small transactions, soundings out — a constant redefining and reassertion of permissions and limits.”

10. Hope
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
Also see: Catastrophism | Plato’s Symposium | Pliny the Younger | The Tempest

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North River Notes

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