Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Charting the road to today’s divided America / Billie Eilish and James Bond / Remembering Flight 93 on 9/11 / Men and beach body tyranny / Women’s experiences in the military

This week: Charting the road to today’s divided America / Billie Eilish and James Bond / Remembering Flight 93 on 9/11 / Men and beach body tyranny / Women’s experiences in the military

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. Women don’t need new year resolutions: we’re pressured to improve ourselves every day
By Yomi Adegoke | The Guardian | January 2020
“Don’t worry if you haven’t kept your promises this month: there’s always the rest of the year to feel the expectation to make yourself better”

2.America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump
Frontline :: PBS | January 2020
Part One traces how Barack Obama’s promise of unity collapsed as increasing racial, cultural and political divisions laid the groundwork for the rise of Donald Trump.
Part Two examines how Trump’s campaign exploited the country’s divisions, how his presidency has unleashed anger on both sides of the divide, and what America’s polarization could mean for the country’s future.”

3. How AP will call Iowa winner
By Lauren Easton | The Definitive Source :: Associated Press | January 2020
“The Associated Press will declare the winner of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses based on the number of state delegate equivalents awarded to the candidates.”

4. Globally, roads are deadlier than HIV or murder
The Economist | January 2020
“The tragedy is that this is so easy to change”

5. Is Billie Eilish too cool for the James Bond franchise?
By Stuart Heritage | The Guardian | January 2020
“The 18-year-old will be the youngest singer to do a 007 theme but she might prove too contemporary for one of the dustiest film franchises around”
Also see: Midas touch: how to create the perfect James Bond song

6. ‘We May Have to Shoot Down This Aircraft’
By Garrett M. Graff | Politico Magazine | September 2019
“What the chaos aboard Flight 93 on 9/11 looked like to the White House, to the fighter pilots prepared to ram the cockpit and to the passengers.”

7. Beach Body Tyranny Hurts Men Too
By Katharine A. Phillips | The New York Times | August 2019
“Women feel tremendous pressure to look good, especially during vacation season. But what about the men and boys who are suffering quietly?”

8. Albert Einstein – Separating Man from Myth
By Augusta Dell’Omo | Not Even Past :: UT Austin Department of History | February 2019
“We go deep into the personal life of Einstein, discussing his damaged relationships, intellectually incoherent views on pacifism and religion, and his own eccentric worldview.”

9. 40 Stories From Women About Life in the Military
By Lauren Katzenberg | At War :: The New York Times | March 2019
“For International Women’s Day, The Times asked servicewomen and veterans to send us the stories that defined their experiences in the military. We left it to them whether to share their accomplishments, the challenges they faced or something unforgettable from their time in the military. Below is a selection of the more than 650 submissions we received.”

10. Ending in 2020, NASA’s Infrared Spitzer Mission Leaves a Gap in Astronomy
By Jonathan O’Callaghan | Scientific American | June 2019
“Delays to the James Webb Space Telescope will result in at least a yearlong hiatus in space-based infrared observations”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Hollywood in Trump’s America / Don’t be scared of the dark / The worldview of Sarah Sanders / The anthem of Puerto Rico / The future of journalism school

This week: Hollywood in Trump’s America / Don’t be scared of the dark / The worldview of Sarah Sanders / The anthem of Puerto Rico / The future of journalism school

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. Disruption, Consolidation, Uncertainty: Welcome to Hollywood’s Age of Anxiety
By Stephen Galloway | The Hollywood Reporter | July 2018
“Speak to writers, producers, actors and executives … and you’ll have trouble finding people who won’t admit to heightened feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, three interlinked mental-health issues that have escalated over the past decade in the entertainment sector.”

2. The Quiet Anger of Adam Schiff
By Andy Kroll | The California Sunday Magazine | July 2018
“Two years ago, he was a respected but little-known congressman from Los Angeles. Today, he’s the face of the Democrats’ opposition to Trump.”

3. What Is Less Scary in the Dark
By Cindi May | Scientific American | July 2018
“There is a way that the dark makes us feel safer — and this has implications for our health”

4. Never Trumpers Will Want to Read This History Lesson
By Joshua Zeitz | Politico Magazine | July 2018
“In the 1850s, disaffected Democrats made the wrenching choice to leave their party to save American democracy. Here’s what happened.”

5. The World Burns. Sarah Sanders Says This Is Fine.
By Megan Garber | The Atlantic | July 2018
“The White House press secretary has set a new precedent: Partisanship over patriotism. Victory over truth.”

6. U.S. Army Mirrored Amazon’s HQ2 Search Tactics in Choosing New Futures Command Location
By Michael Hardy | Texas Monthly | July 2018
“The Army chose Austin, citing its entrepreneurial culture and incentives from UT.”

7. The world’s top beaches: a statistician’s guide
By James Tozier | 1843 Magazine :: The Economist | July 2018
“Where to get the best tan for the best price”

8. Bomba: The Enduring Anthem of Puerto Rico
By Rose Marie Cromwell, Lauren Du Graf and Eve Lyons | The New York Times | July 2018
“The resurgence of a traditional Afro-Puerto Rican musical genre owes something to formal experimentation. But some traditionalists fear that its roots are at risk.”

9. 150 Cheers for the 14th Amendment
By Amanda Bellows | The New York Times | July 2018
“In the last 50 years, the Supreme Court’s evolving interpretations of the 14th Amendment have led to an expansion of civil rights. Its decisions have also produced a system of federalism that significantly differs from that of 1868 through the reallocation of power from the states to the federal government. Thanks to the 14th Amendment, with its plain text authorizing Congress to act in perpetuity, the contours of our federal system continue to shift.”

10. Do we need J-schools
By Bill Grueskin, Felix Salmon, and Alexandria Neason | Columbia Journalism Review | Spring/Summer 2018
“The role of a reporter is shifting, as are the economics of education. With this new calculus, does journalism school still have a place in our profession”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Iran’s conquest of Iraq / Great Texas beach reads / Watermelon feta mint salad / What China truly fears / Corey Flintoff on Russia

This week: Iran’s conquest of Iraq / Great Texas beach reads / Watermelon feta mint salad / What China truly fears / Corey Flintoff on Russia

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. Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’
By Tim Arango | The New York Times | July 15
“From Day 1, Iran saw … a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region. In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost.”

2. Brexit followed by Corbyn in No 10 would put UK flat on its back — Blair
By Peter Walker | The Guardian | July 15
“[Former Labor prime minister] Tony Blair has warned that the combination of Brexit followed by a Jeremy Corbyn government would soon leave Britain ‘flat on our back,’ arguing that a deeply divided country needs a fundamental rethink of its political ideas.”
Also: Read Blair’s article here.

3. Why China’s leaders are so terrified of dissent
By Fred Hiatt | The Washington Post | July 13
“The answer, I believe, has something to do with the story China’s rulers tell their people, and maybe themselves, to cling to power.”

4. Wonderful Political Tales for Beach Reading
By R.G. Ratcliffe | BurkaBlog :: Texas Monthly | July 10
“Books that will take your mind off of Russians and Special Sessions”

5. A Conversation with Corey Flintoff: The Resurgence of Russia
Texas Public Radio :: YouTube | July 12, 2017
“TPR, in partnership with the World Affairs Council of San Antonio, hosted [the discussion on] June 23, 2017, at the McNay Art Museum.”

6. Maryam Mirzakhani, groundbreaking mathematician and Fields Medal winner, dies at 40
By Omar Etman | The Rundown :: PBS NewsHour | July 15
“She won the prize for a 172-page paper on the trajectory of a billiards ball around a polygonal table that has been hailed as a “titanic work” and the “beginning of a new era” in mathematics. Mirzakhani studied the complexities of curved surfaces such as spheres, doughnut shapes and hyperbolas.”
Also: Read her award-winning paper here.

7. Spain’s King Felipe VI addresses the British Parliament
SkyNews :: YouTube | July 12
The Spanish monarch’s speech followed a visit with Queen Elizabeth II.

8. Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint
ToriAvey.com | June 2011
“Even those of you who don’t like sweet, fruity salads may appreciate this one — the flavor is truly unique.”

9. How to Write an Internet Essay to Support Your Novel
By Gabe Habash | Coffee House Press :: LitHub | June 5
“You should probably write something about your book, now that it’s being published. But you are worried because you don’t have anything left to say about your book.”

10. Uncovering the brutal truth about the British empire
By Marc Perry | The Guardian | August 2016
“The Harvard historian Caroline Elkins stirred controversy with her work on the crushing of the Mau Mau uprising. But it laid the ground for a legal case that has transformed our view of Britain’s past”

Dec. 31, 1999: The last day of the past

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On Dec. 31, 1999, I was a junior news editor at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the newest member of a team of about a dozen editors and page designers. Reporters mostly worked during the day writing the stories. Editors like me worked at night editing the stories and assembling and designing the newspaper. So I was shocked and elated when my supervisor told me in late December that I wouldn’t have to work on New Year’s Eve. I was smart enough not to ask why. My then-girlfriend was coming to Corpus Christi to celebrate with me, and I was looking forward to a long, romantic night in a downtown hotel.

But on the morning of the 31st, my supervisor called and apologetically asked me to come in for a few hours that night to help edit the extra-big pile of stories for the first edition of the new year. He assured me that I could leave by 7 or 8 p.m. I agreed, trying to sound gracious and appreciative of his promise of an early release. The promise of extra overtime pay further softened the news. I informed my girlfriend of the minor change in plans, which wouldn’t drastically affect our evening.

I dutifully returned to my desk in the newsroom, and I explained to my puzzled (and relieved) colleagues why I was there. As I settled in, I gradually realized there was nowhere else I wanted to be that night (if only for a few hours).

There were great advantages to sitting in a newsroom that night, if only because of the tremendous access I had to countless news services from around the world. Every news service offers special packages every year that examine, analyze, celebrate, or condemn developments in politics, technology, science, sports, film, and music over the past twelve months, but this year was different. The millennial angle brought rich historical and cultural flavors to the coverage. That year, there were fascinating and thoughtful reflections on the evolution of democracy throughout human history, the torments and treasures technology brought to human civilization, and the great and terrible conflicts and comforts religion brought to every society.

That year’s year-end gaze focused as far on the future as it did on the past, predicting peace for most of the world, except for the inevitable tensions between a resurgent China and the post-Cold War United States. Analysts predicted that an economically healthy world would strengthen even the weakest societies in Africa and the Middle East. Terrorism was mentioned, but only in passing as one of a series of minor dangers the U.S. of the future might have to confront and snuff out. Foreign affairs experts predicted the imminent liberation of (and possible civil war in) Cuba once the Castro brothers died. Some political analysts wondered what an Al Gore presidency would look like.

That night I watched live news coverage of the (symbolic) new millennium dawning on the other side of the world. I cheerily chatted with my new co-workers. I munched on the growing buffet of sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables the newspaper ordered for the staff. I noticed a strange new sensation growing in my body, a warm happiness enveloping my heart and mind. Later I realized that warmth I felt was a deepening love for my new job, specifically for the particular intellectual role I played in the newsroom. There was an energy in the air that night, something I never felt before, and something I would feel for the next ten years, every time the newsroom mobilized to absorb and understand a big news event. I was part of something noble, challenging, and fulfilling. I was part of something that mattered.

There was another important reason why I wanted to be in the newsroom on that night, another important explanation for that tense excitement in the air. For months, the news wires were filled with stories about Y2K, the looming technological disaster everyone feared might take place at midnight. Technology experts, military officials, and others fretted about what might happen when the calendars in software programs and defense systems turned from 12-31-99 to 01-01-00, or some other variation of a date dominated by so many zeroes. Would there be power failures? Would computers everywhere melt down? Would planes fall out of the sky, hospital life-support machines shut down, or satellites spin out of control? Would defense systems accidentally launch missiles at Russia or at the U.S.? Would the symbolic end of the millennium inaugurate an actual Armageddon?

Despite these concerns, no one in the general populace seemed to be seriously concerned about Y2K. Government officials, scientists, and engineers were well aware of the potential problems, and the general consensus was that most of the spots in software, where there might be glitches over those zeros, were fixed. Russian and American military officials teamed up to monitor defense systems in an admirable display of transparency and professionalism. No one really knew what might happen. One of my favorite podcasts, “Witness” from the BBC World Service, recently examined the worries over the “Millennium Bug.”

Nevertheless, Times Square in New York City filled up with its usual crowds of bundled-up revelers with their strange eyeglasses, hats, and signs. Peter Jennings anchored ABC News coverage from New York, smiling to himself as he tried to speak to increasingly inebriated correspondents from Asian and European capitals, where the skies exploded with fireworks, church bells pealed, and the streets filled with millions of people, all dancing, kissing, and cheering. I imagined myself in Paris with my girlfriend, holding hands on the riverbank, sharing a deep kiss, the Eiffel Tower’s searchlight sweeping across the cloudy sky above us, the twinkle of distant fireworks sparkling in her dark eyes. Someday, I told myself, I’ll take her there.

Eventually, the newsroom’s clock struck 8 p.m., and my supervisor thanked me for helping edit the extra-big pile of stories for tomorrow’s edition. I smiled, shook his hand, and wished him and and my envious co-workers a happy New Year. I strolled out of the newsroom, glancing one last time at the TV. Peter Jennings smiled as he reviewed the growing crowd in Times Square. It was a smile I never forgot. I spent the rest of the night as I hoped I would. My girlfriend and I had a romantic and relaxing evening — the perfect end to the year, the century, and the millennium.

In the morning, we learned the world did not end. Instead, the first day of the new millennium was bright, breezy, and warm. We had breakfast and then drove to Padre Island. Amazingly, the beach was empty. She and I walked together through the frothy waves hissing across the yellow sand. I stared out across the water, shielding my tired eyes from the sunshine. A new year, I thought to myself. I felt a greater sense of hope, determination, and ambition at that moment than ever before. I felt fortunate, safe, and content. I asked myself, would I ever feel like this again?

I glanced at my girlfriend, radiant in the morning light, slowly dancing her way down the beach, watching the water flow around her legs, her gleaming black hair streaming down her shoulders, her arms outstretched to catch the breeze. She smiled at me. I took her hand in mine. It was time to move on. The future awaited.