Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: How to survive an earthquake / New life in a coral reef cemetery / Resisting Obama / The best Texas bourbon / David Simon’s secrets

This week: How to survive an earthquake / New life in a coral reef cemetery / Resisting Obama / The best Texas bourbon / David Simon’s secrets

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.

1. Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father
By David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner | The New York Times | October 2018
“The president has long sold himself as a self-made billionaire, but a Times investigation found that he received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.”
Also see from the Columbia Journalism Review: The Times Trump investigation and the power of the long game

2. Traveling to Find Out
By Hanif Kureishi | London Review of Books | August 2018
“Legitimate anger turned bad; the desire for obedience and strong men; a terror of others; the promise of power, independence and sovereignty; the persecution of minorities and women; the return to an imagined purity. Who would have thought this idea would have spread so far, and continue to spread.”

3. The Marines Didn’t Think Women Belonged in the Infantry. She’s Proving Them Wrong.
By Thomas Gibbons-Neff | The New York Times | August 2018
“As Lieutenant Hierl issued orders against the din of rifle fire, she dropped her usually reserved, soft-spoken demeanor for a firm tone that left no doubt about who was in command.”

4. Forget Doorframes: Expert Advice on Earthquake Survival Strategies
By Robin George Andrews | Scientific American | August 2018
“Indonesia’s Lombok quake revives the question of taking cover versus running outside.”

5. A coral reef cemetery is home to life in the afterlife
By Kelli Kennedy | Associated Press | August 2018
“[T]he Neptune Memorial Reef is home to the cremated remains of 1,500 people, and any snorkeler or scuba diver can visit.”

6. Blood and Oil
By Seth Harp | Rolling Stone | September 2018
“Mexico’s drug cartels are moving into the gasoline industry — infiltrating the national oil company, selling stolen fuel on the black market and engaging in open war with the military. Can the country’s new populist president find a way to contain the chaos.”

7. He Was the Resistance Inside the Obama Administration
By David Dayen | The New Republic | September 2018
“Timothy Geithner’s refusal to obey his boss has had long-term political and economic consequences.”

8. Six Texas Bourbons to Drink Right Now
By Jessica Dupuy | Texas Monthly | September 2018
“Enjoy them straight, on the rocks, or in an inventive cocktail, such as the Tejas Ponche from Treaty Oak in Dripping Springs.”

9. The Guy Who Wouldn’t Write a Hit: An Interview with David Simon
By Claudia Dreifus | NYR Daily :: The New York Review of Books | August 2018
“In the world of cookie-cutter television program-making, writer and producer David Simon is a creative maverick. For a quarter of a century, Simon, now turning fifty-eight, has been making unconventional dramas about the political and social problems of modern America.”

10. 7 strategies to keep your phone from taking over your life
By Chris Bailey | Ideas :: TED.com | August 2018
“We’re distracted like never before — and our phones are probably the biggest culprit. But there is a way you can live with one and still get things done.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Fidel Castro’s love affair / Celebrating the brilliance of “Scarface” / The secret power of ISIS / Molly Ringwald looks back / The British Empire’s shadow on today’s world

This week: Fidel Castro’s love affair / Celebrating the brilliance of Scarface / The secret power of ISIS / Molly Ringwald looks back / The British Empire’s shadow on today’s world

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.

1. ‘My Dearest Fidel’: An ABC Journalist’s Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro
By By Peter Kornbluh | Politico Magazine | April 2018
“The untold story of how Lisa Howard’s intimate diplomacy with Cuba’s revolutionary leader changed the course of the Cold War.”

2. Revisiting the Controversy Surrounding Scarface
By Jason Bailey | Vulture | April 2018
“It landed on VHS and Betamax the following summer, at what may have been the perfect moment, as home video reached a penetration point and videotape rentals were becoming part of the average moviegoer’s diet.”

3. End of the American dream? The dark history of ‘America first’
By Sarah Churchwell | The Guardian | April 2018
“When he promised to put America first in his inaugural speech, Donald Trump drew on a slogan with a long and sinister history — a sign of what was to follow in his presidency”

4. How Trump Moved the Mexican Border North
By Emily Gogolak | Politico Magazine | April 2018
“It started in Texas. And the rest of the country is next.”

5. The ISIS Files
By Rukmini Callimachi | The New York Times | April 2018
“We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long.”

6. ‘The Clock Is Ticking’: Inside the Worst U.S. Maritime Disaster in Decades
By William Langewiesche | Vanity Fair | April 2018
“A recording salvaged from three miles deep tells the story of the doomed ‘El Faro,’ a cargo ship engulfed by a hurricane.”

7. What About ‘The Breakfast Club’?
By Molly Ringwald | The New Yorker | April 2018
“Revisiting the movies of my youth in the age of #MeToo.”

8. 5 Reasons Why a Writer Should Move to Tampa
By Arielle Silver | LitHub | April 2018
“Welcome to the lightning capital of North America.”

9. My Caribbean trip opened my eyes to the legacy of the British empire
By Lenny Henry | The Guardian | March 2018
“After Brexit, the Commonwealth could play a crucial trading role. But the historic associations with slavery still resonate.”

10. Essential Writing Advice from Virginia Woolf
By Emily Temple | LitHub | March 2018
“Woolf was a once-in-a-generation mind, and as both a writer and publisher, she had strong opinions about what made a piece of literature great (or, more often, mediocre). Luckily for us, she wrote many of her ideas down, in some of the many essays and letters she penned over the course of her life.”

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 48: Dr. Mehdi Aminrazavi

From April 2017: “He and Colin talk about Islam: how it developed, its central beliefs and practices, and how it has evolved since the time of Mohammad.”

Mehdi Aminrazavi is Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Co-Director of the Leidecker Center for Asian Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. A native of Iran, he received his education in the United States and has lived and taught in Virginia for decades.

via Podcast 48: Dr. Mehdi Aminrazavi — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Secrets to San Antonio / Houston’s dolphins / Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ / The best Texas playlist / Kirsten Gillibrand in the spotlight / Robert Caro and LBJ

This week: Secrets to San Antonio / Houston’s dolphins / Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ / The best Texas playlist / Kirsten Gillibrand in the spotlight

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.

1. Insider’s Guide to San Antonio
By Lauren Smith Ford | Texas Monthly | December 2017
“Join the dapper Mike Casey for a bicycle tour of his favorite bars, restaurants and more in the funky, charming King William neighborhood.”

2. Galveston Bay dolphins struggle to recover from Hurricane Harvey
By Alex Stuckey | Houston Chronicle | November 2017
“Researchers observe lesions covering the marine mammals”

3. Pulp science-fiction? How Quentin Tarantino could save Star Trek
By Luke Holland | The Guardian | December 2017
“The tepid recent installment left Kirk and co needing direction, dialogue and a decent baddie. Luckily Hollywood’s grandmaster of profanity has one more film to make.”

4. Hundreds of dams in Texas could fail in worst-case flood
By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz | Austin American-Statesman | November 2017
“Texas applies its strictest safety standards only if a dam’s failure would probably cost seven or more lives.”

5. Winston Churchill Got a Lot of Things Wrong, But One Big Thing Right
By Matt Lewis | The Daily Beast | December 2017
“He contemplated using poison gas on German civilians. He wanted to keep England white. And more. But he had the quality Britain needed most at exactly the moment it was needed.”

6. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Moment Has Arrived
By David Freedlander | Politico Magazine | December 2017
“The New York senator has made sexual assault the focus of her political career. Now, the world has caught up with her.”

7. Oil and gas industry is causing Texas earthquakes, a ‘landmark’ study suggests
By Ben Guarino | The Washington Post | November 2017
“An unnatural number of earthquakes hit Texas in the past decade, and the region’s seismic activity is increasing. In 2008, two earthquakes stronger than magnitude 3 struck the state. Eight years later, 12 did.”

8. You May Want to Marry My Husband
By Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Modern Love :: The New York Times | March 2017
“He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day.”

9. Listen to the Ultimate Texas Music Playlist
By Katy Vine | Texas Monthly | November 2017
“We set out to hear what our state sounds like. We brought back the latest and best of Texas music — so listen up.”

10. Robert Caro: Rising Early, With a New Sentence in Mind
By John Leland | Sunday Routine :: The New York Times | May 2012
“I always remember Ernest Hemingway’s advice to writers: always quit for the day when you know what the next sentence is.”
Also see: Robert Caro’s Big Dig | Robert Caro’s Painstaking Process

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 32: The Revolution of 2016

From Nov. 2016: “Colin’s recent visit to Fredericksburg took place in the wake of what historians should be calling the Revolution of 2016.”

Fredericksburg is a nice place to spend a day thinking about and experiencing history. It’s also a good place to get a cup of coffee. But Colin’s recent visit to Fredericksburg took place in the wake of what historians should be calling the Revolution of 2016.

via Podcast 32: Fredericksburg. The Revolution of 2016. — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 28: Ira Berlin

From Oct. 2016: “Ira Berlin has been called ‘one of the greatest living historians of slavery in the United States.’ “

Dr. Berlin talks about his first plane ride, activism in the 1960s, and why he chose to exchange a lab coat for the historian’s garb. Also, Ira and Colin share their thoughts about the 2016 election.

via Podcast 28: Ira Berlin — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 27: William C. Davis

From Oct. 2016: “William C. Davis is one of the most prolific and prodigious of American historians.”

Over the past forty years, he has focused on the Civil War era and southern history, writing about everything from Jefferson Davis to the Texas Revolution to — as he shows in his newest book — a New Orleans prostitute who claimed to be a Confederate soldier.

via Podcast 27: William C. Davis — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 25: Daniel Crofts

From Sept. 2016: “He is the author of ‘Reluctant Confederates’ and more recently ‘Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery.’ “

Here, he talks with Colin about growing up in Chicago, studying under C. Vann Woodward at Yale, and his adventures teaching in China, following in the footsteps of his missionary grandfather.

via Podcast 25: Daniel Crofts — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 22: ‘Narcos’ and the South South of the South

From Sept. 2016: “Colin uses the Netflix drama ‘Narcos’ as a jumping off point for talking about his fascination with the deep, deep South: the Caribbean and South America.”

Colin uses the Netflix drama “Narcos” as a jumping off point for talking about his fascination with the deep, deep South: the Caribbean and South America.

via Podcast 22: Narcos and the South South of the South — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Loreta’s Civil War: This kind of life

Velazquez, now a mother to a baby boy, moves on to Colorado and New Mexico Territory, and the natural beauty takes her breath away.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 69: Velazquez, now a mother to a baby boy, moves on to Colorado and New Mexico Territory, and the natural beauty takes her breath away.

******

With my little baby boy — born during my sojourn in Salt Lake City — in my arms, I started on a long journey through Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, hoping but scarcely expecting to find the opportunities which I had failed to find in Utah, Nevada, and California for advancing my pecuniary interests. Apart, however, from profits that might result from it, the journey would be worth making for its own sake, for, from what I had heard of this section of the Western country, great things were to be expected of it in the near future, and the satisfaction of seeing and judging of the nature and extent of its resources would amply repay me for the trouble of making a trip through it.

After leaving Salt Lake City, the first place of importance reached was Denver, Colo., on the Platte River. This I found to be a well built and very thriving town of about eight or ten thousand inhabitants. Among its public institutions were a branch of the United States Mint and several hotels, churches, and banks. Denver was, until the completion of the Pacific Railroad, the chief trading center in this region. Since the completion of the railroad, however, its importance in comparison with other places has in some degree diminished but as the country becomes settled, it may be expected to increase in wealth and population, and it will probably, ere a great many years, be one of the finest cities in the whole West.

Among the new towns which have recently sprung up in Colorado is Pueblo, nearly two hundred miles south of Denver and the terminus of the narrow-gauge railroad which taps the Pacific Railroad at Cheyenne. This town takes its name from the Pueblo Indians, who are much farther advanced in civilization than most of the aborigines and who deserve much credit for their industrious habits and their efforts to prosper.

Trinidad, still farther to the south, is an old Mexican town and is the center of an extensive cattle and sheep raising country. There is a constant war going on in this region on the subject of stock between Americans, Mexicans, and Indians. Cattle thieves, who steal stock from Texas and Mexico, rendezvous near Trinidad, and, as they are not particular whom they plunder so long as they are able to do it with impunity, their presence is anything but agreeable to people who desire to live reasonably peaceable lives and to get along by minding their own business.

Some distance from Trinidad is Stockton’s Ranch, in the midst of a wild, unsettled country, and the only house within a circuit of many miles’ ride. This is a noted headquarters of the desperadoes who infest New Mexico and Lower Colorado. The building is two stories in height, is quite large, and contains a store and drinking saloon. On a mound above the house is a graveyard, in which twenty-one people have been buried. Only three out of this number had died natural deaths, the others having been shot down like dogs for some real or fancied offenses. Stockton has killed several men himself, while many more have fallen by the hands of his confederates.

Stockton was a small man, restless in his movements and with a fierce black eye. He had a wife and a very interesting family for whom I felt much sympathy when I learned what a desperate character he was. His wife, who seemed to be a very nice, clever woman, was much troubled with regard to him. She told me that she was always uneasy about him when he was away from home, and that, at times, even when he was sleeping in his bed, she was harassed with fears lest someone should come and take him for the purpose of shooting him.

While I was at the Ranch, Stockton sent out some of his men to get some cattle at Maxwell’s Ranch, which he claimed as his. His instructions were to take the cattle at all hazards and to capture the men who were supposed to have stolen them, dead or alive. The herders were generally selected for their utter recklessness, and as a rule they cared neither for God nor man but would shoot down anyone who offended them, without pity or remorse. Most of these herders are very young men and are generally athletic and handsome. Some of them, from their appearance and conversation, appear to have been well-reared, and if asked why they have come to the frontiers to lead such a wild life as this, they will frankly say that they are trying to make their fortunes, and that they expect to do it in a couple of years. They are usually disappointed in these expectations, and those who do not give up in disgust and return to civilization fall into the habits of the country and soon become as finished desperadoes as those who have been born and brought up there. Some of them, however, engaged in this kind of life because they really like it and because they feel a certain freedom and unrestraint in roaming about in the open air.

Whenever a freight train, either American or Mexican, passed, Stockton would buckle on his belt of six-shooters, and, with a big negro armed in a similar manner as his bodyguard, step out into the road with a roll of brands in one hand and a pistol in the other and inspect the brands on each head of cattle. Should the brands compare with his, he would take them from the train and let the freighters make out the best way they could. He has many times stopped and broken up freight trains bound for Sante Fe and the interior, to the infinite injury of the merchants who depend upon the freighters for their goods. The traders, however, appear to be powerless before this and other desperadoes, and the government which takes their taxes under the plea of affording them protection ought certainly to do something to prevent them from being at the mercy of men who recognize no laws but their own fierce wills.

On one occasion Stockton, through some of his employees, duped two men from Maxwell’s Ranch, who, he asserted, had stolen cattle from him. When he had them in his power he started off, leaving the impression on the minds of their friends that he intended to take them to Trinidad for the purpose of delivering them up to the sheriff. Instead of doing this, however, he carried them into a side road and there shot them, leaving their bodies to be devoured by the coyotes, or, perhaps, buried by some casual passer-by. For this deed he was arrested and lodged in jail. He was liberated, however, almost immediately, without even the form of a trial, the officers being too much afraid of him and of his confederates to detain him.

The occurrences which I have related will illustrate the kind of life that is led in the cattle-raising country of Colorado, New Mexico, southwestern Kansas, and Texas. I named this place Bandit House and the ford in the stream nearby Dead Man’s Crossing — which are expressive and appropriate, if not poetical.

Beyond Stockton’s is General Maxwell’s Ranch. Maxwell is the wealthiest American in southern Colorado. I believe he got his start in life by marrying a Mexican woman who inherited an extensive Spanish grant. Maxwell has quite a large family, and he bears a better reputation than do most of the old settlers. He is a great gambler and is much interested in horse-racing but is disposed to be kind and hospitable to strangers.

Crossing quite an extensive piece of country, the Dry Cimmaron is reached. Here some enterprising Englishmen, headed by a Mr. Read, have taken up a large tract of land and have established a colony. They have built a very neat little town, and when I passed through there, their affairs seemed to be in a thriving condition. The town is located on a rather high and dry elevation, which takes its name from the scarcity of water in the branch of the Cimmaron River, which runs by it.

Dry Cimmaron was for a time a stopping-place for the stages from the Elizabethtown mines, which connected with the Southern lines. It is on a more direct route for the cattlemen and freighters but, although it has plenty of wood, it is open to objection as a cattle and freight station on account of the insufficiency of the water supply.

The next point of interest is Fort Union, in New Mexico, about sixty miles south of Dry Cimmaron. This fort, which, at a distance, looks like a small city, is built of adobe, or white bricks, and is plastered inside and out with gypsum, which gives it a rather dazzling-white appearance. The garrison consists of five companies of infantry and one of cavalry. Fort Union is the central supply depot for the frontiers and is a very important position. Some distance off, in the mountain, is a steam saw-mill, which supplies all the lumber used in and about the fort. This saw-mill is protected by an armed guard of soldiers. There is also a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop, a carpenter shop, and a post office. Each company has a garden and several cows, and the men seem to take a great deal of pride in keeping everything in the best possible order. This fort and its surroundings do much credit to the officers who planned them and who have succeeded in making such a nice-looking place out of a frontier military post.

From Fort Union to Santa Fe the traveler passes over some rough country. Santa Fe is the oldest city in New Mexico and one of the oldest in the country. It has been, and undoubtedly for a long time will be, an important center of trade between the United States and Mexico. The ground in and about the city is all owned by Mexicans or people of Mexican descent, who refuse to sell on any terms, but who will lease to Americans. The houses are chiefly one- and two-story structures, built of adobe, and covered with tile or thatch. They are cool, pleasant, and comfortable in summer. The hotel, which is kept by an American, but which is owned by a Mexican, who has refused to permit any alterations or improvements to be made, stands on the corner of the plaza, or great public square, which was laid out by the founders of the city. During the war, the Union soldiers insisted on erecting a monument on the plaza to the memory of their fallen comrades. This gave great offense to the old residents, who regarded the structure as an injury to the appearance of their public square but as they were powerless to prevent its erection, they were compelled to submit with the best grace they could. As the monument is not a very elegant-looking affair, it is not surprising that those who were not interested in it could not bring themselves to admire it.

So old a city as Santa Fe, of course, has an interesting history, but a recital of the events which have made it famous is scarcely called for in such a narrative as this. It is, in its peculiar way, a handsome place and has a venerable appearance, which is quite imposing. Santa Fe contains about twenty thousand inhabitants.

It was in the month of November that our little party started down the fertile valley of the Rio Grande from Santa Fe, but the weather was warm and pleasant, the great elevation giving this region a deliciously dry and healthful climate. There were seven of us in all, and for the sake of companionship and mutual protection we engaged a large wagon drawn by six mules.

It was about ten o’clock in the morning when we rolled out of Santa Fe, and our first camping-place was an Indian village, where we found a neat little adobe house, of which we took possession while resting ourselves and preparing our supper. One of the gentlemen made the coffee, while the others employed themselves in cooking the provisions, or in roaming about, looking at, and trying to converse with the Indians, or viewing the scenery. My traveling companions were all pleasant people, and we enjoyed ourselves hugely. Mr. McKnight, the owner of the wagon and mules, was an exceedingly gentlemanly man, and I shall always bear him in kindly remembrance for his attentions to me and to my little boy during this journey.