Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Trump’s inaugural lineup / Familiar faces in ‘Rogue One’ / How to cover a terrorist attack / David Bowie’s final year / Christmas and Confederate widows

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This week: Trump’s inaugural lineup / Familiar faces in ‘Rogue One’ / How to cover a terrorist attack / David Bowie’s final year / Christmas and Confederate widows

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’s inaugural parade lineup announced
By Nolan D. McCaskill | Forty Five :: Politico | Dec. 30
“The Jan. 20 parade will follow the swearing-in ceremony of [President-elect Donald] Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. The committee characterized the list as an ‘initial’ version of groups that have accepted an invitation thus far.”

2. How ‘Rogue One’ Brought Back Familiar Faces
By David Itzkoff | The New York Times | Dec. 27
“Warning: This article contains spoilers about ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.’ ”

3. DC restaurant won’t put Trump in presidential mural
By Nikita Vladimirov | The Briefing Room :: The Hill | Dec. 29
“The mural features the founder of the restaurant, ‘Mama’ Ayesha Abraham, standing alongside 11 presidents, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama.”

4. Covering a potential terrorist attack? Keep these things in mind
By Nausicaa Renner | Columbia Journalism Report | September 2016
“Terrorism relies on the spread of fear, so any publicity — from journalists or otherwise — threatens to play into its aims. The ability of terrorists to disseminate information and recruit has only gotten more powerful with the rise of social media. [T]he Tow Center for Digital Journalism [recently] published three reports on how journalism should cover terrorism.”

5. 5 ways to make the populist-Republican coalition government work
By Richard V. Reeves | The Brookings Institution :: Forbes | Dec. 19
“Trump does not have the same political agenda as the Republican Party in Congress, to the extent, that is, that he has an agenda at all. He won the party’s nomination, but is almost entirely independent of the party’s machine, history and personal networks. Trump didn’t climb up the party floor by floor. He simply took the penthouse suite.”

6. David Bowie’s Final, Imaginative, Awesome Year
By Bruce Handy | The Hollywood Reporter | Dec. 20
“As the anniversary of his death approaches, collaborators on the music icon’s off-Broadway show ‘Lazarus’ share accounts of a cancer-stricken artist productive and engaged until the end.”

7. Syria Will Stain Obama’s Legacy Forever
By David Greenberg | Foreign Policy | Dec. 29
“The arc of history is long, but it won’t ever judge the president’s Syria policy kindly.”

8. A reflection on Barack Obama’s presidency
The Economist | Dec. 24
“From the ruins of Syria to the barricades in Congress and America’s oldest wounds, sometimes nothing has been the best he could do. Sometimes it was all he could do. The possibilities seem shrunken. After its collision with history, so might hope itself.”

9. Christmas Mourning, Confederate Widows, and the Aftermath of the Civil War
By Angela Esco | Muster :: Journal of the Civil War Era | Dec. 20
“Approximately 750,000 men died in the war. We know this number, know that it earns the distinction of being the bloodiest American war, but often we do not think about what this number meant, in terms of families changed, sons killed, women wearing black, buildings draped in crepe.”

10. Harry Truman, Five-Card Stud and the Cold War
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | September 2014
“Harry Truman was the president most publicly identified with poker, which seemed natural for a product of the Kansas City political machine led by the back-room Democratic boss Tom Pendergast.”

Step by step

One step at a time. That’s all I have to believe in.

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Slowly but surely, I’m building a full and rich life.

I have to believe that. Maybe happiness comes later.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: A sad 1863 ends

As 1863 came to a quiet close, Kate Stone — bathed in early evening firelight and unnerved by the brutal gales of a Texas winter — recorded some final thoughts on her grim situation.

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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)

As 1863 came to a quiet close, Kate Stone — bathed in early evening firelight and unnerved by the brutal gales of a Texas winter — recorded some final thoughts on her grim situation, made less uncomfortable by determined effort and endurance. The sense of loss weighed heavier than ever on her heart and mind. She missed her brothers, her friends, and her Brokenburn neighbors. Her community, she mourned, was “scattered to the four winds.”

Christmas Night

Tyler, Texas

The day has passed most quietly, not a cake, not a visitor. We did have an eggnog but only the servants enjoyed it. Made of mean whiskey, it smacked of Texas. We missed our regular Christmas visitor, Mr. Valentine. He has been with us for the last three years. I wonder where he is now. Only one present on the place, a fine turkey from Mrs. Lawrence. Last Christmas morning when dear little Beverly raised up in bed, and looking at her stockings saw only some homemade toys, bedstead and chairs made of white pine by the plantation carpenter, hid her head, sobbing that she “would not have the ugly common things.”

Aunt Laura told her how bad that was and that poor Santa Claus had done his best but he could not get through the Yankee lines. Presently the little, flushed face was raised and an apologetic little voice faltered out, “Table, I begs your pardon. Bedstead, I begs your pardon. I will keep you and play with you. You is nice.” What a dear little heart she is. …

A cold, moonshiny night, a warm room, and Mamma dozing at ease in our only rocking chair before a bright fire. The chair has accompanied us in all our journeyings since leaving Monroe and, though not a thing of beauty, it is a joy forever and seldom without an occupant. Sad to say, it is showing signs of wear, but it has acted the part of comforter in our weary pilgrimage. …

Mrs. Lawrence has been kind about lending us her books, but we have about finished her library. Have read history until I feel as dry as those old times. Have nearly memorized Tennyson and read and reread our favorite plays in Shakespeare. Fortunately he never grows old. We hope Mr. McGee will be able to get “Harper’s” to us. We wrote to him for it. That would keep us stirred up for awhile at least. The literature of the North is to us what the “flesh pots of Egypt” were to the wandering Israelites — we long for it.

Never a letter but brings news of death. Mr. Catlin is gone. And when we saw him last spring, what a picture of vigorous health he was. I wish we could hear from Lt. Valentine. Our old neighborhood is scattered to the four winds.

Videos I Love: Christmas Dinner

For those of you out there wishing for a way to escape unpleasant family gatherings this season, just remember …

I’m occasionally sharing some light thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

For those of you out there wishing you could escape unpleasant family gatherings this season, just remember that at least you don’t have these idiots “enriching” your holiday.

Click on the link to watch the Hulu video.

Park it!

Saturday Night Live: Christmas Dinner

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Sad Christmas

Stone’s first entry for 1862 was a somber one. The shadow of her brother’s death darkened the holiday cheer.

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, the daughter of Louisiana cotton plantation owners who chronicled her turbulent life 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’s first entry for 1862 was a somber one. The shadow of her brother’s death darkened the holiday cheer.

Jan. 6:

Christmas passed very quietly with us. Greetings on all sides but no gifts and not many good things prepared beforehand. Had the customary eggnog before breakfast, but not a prize nog. It was made of borrowed whiskey with a strong flavor of turpentine. A lovely day, so warm that we sat on the gallery until bedtime.

Julia Reed came on the twenty-seventh and stayed until today. This is the first Christmas in our recollection that was not a time of fun and feasting. We missed Ashburn’s kiss and blithesome presence.

Mamma invited the two Mr. Valentines, father and son, to dinner, thinking it would be pleasant for Other Pa (Stone’s maternal grandfather) to meet the older man, and rather to our surprise they came and stayed until sundown. We never heard of Mr. Valentine, Sr., paying a social visit before. He is odd, just as we fancied he would be, but an excellent talker. He and his son are strikingly alike in looks, manners, and turn of mind, though they generally take opposite sides on every proposition. Mark, Jr., says they are forced to do so to have something to talk about the long winter evenings.

Mark, Jr., acquainted us with his fixed determination to pay us a New Year’s call. So Julia and I hurried back from our ride that misty, misty morning and looked for him all day. In the afternoon we begged Mamma to let us pay our expected visit to Mrs. Savage, but she would not allow it. So he ruined our plans for all day. It will be long before we let an engagement with him keep us in again.

The morning after Christmas Mamma gave all the house servants holiday … and they all went down to the quarters. She hired some of the field women, who were busy in the backyard drying out lard, making up sausages, cleaning feet and so on. …

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Romney’s way / The sexual marriage / The Mexican crimefighter / Fear of divorce / Mistletoe’s secrets

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. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. No votes, but things seem to be going Romney’s way
By Steve Peoples | Associated Press | Dec. 21
“[H]is preferred scenario is looking more plausible now, thanks to Ron Paul’s helpful ascent, Newt Gingrich’s slide and fractures among conservatives who have not rallied behind an alternative to Romney.”

2. Sex And Marriage: The Secret To Better Sex With Your Spouse
By Margaret Paul | The Huffington Post | Dec. 20
“Love-making in long-term relationships is the result of loving energy flowing between two people. If something is blocking this loving energy, the sexual energy between them often gets blocked as well.”

3. iProtest
By James Leong and Lynn Lee | Activate :: Al Jazeera | September 2011
“Activist Debby Chan takes on one of the world’s favourite brands in her fight for workers’ rights.”

4. A Crime Fighter Draws Plaudits, and Scrutiny
By Damien Cave | The New York Times | Dec. 23
“Like a boxer or wrestler, he treats his tough-guy image as a necessary tactic. In Tijuana, he punched a dead cartel gunman in the face as bystanders watched.”

5. Is Fear of Divorce Keeping People from Getting Married?
By Belinda Luscombe | Healthland :: Time | Dec. 22
“A new study suggests that young cohabiting couples are saying ‘I don’t’ so as to avoid the heavy toll of divorce”

6. Using Gmail’s Canned Responses
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Nov. 2
“If you are tired of sending out the same e-mail response from your Gmail account … the Canned Responses feature from Gmail Labs can save some time and typing”

7. What’s the Deal With Mistletoe?
By Christopher Beam | Explainer :: Slate | Dec. 14
“How the plant came to be associated with Christmas kissing”

8. Sinaloa cartel OK’s Mexico’s newest drug ballads
By Galia Garcia-Palafox | Associated Press | Dec. 21
“The songs are filled with unusually explicit lyrics about decapitations and torture, and praise for one drug gang in particular: the Sinaloa cartel and its bosses, Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada and Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.”

9. My too-demanding overseas job makes me want to go home
Troubleshooter :: The Yomiuri Shimbun | Dec. 16
“There are so many things I want to do but haven’t done yet in the country where I live and work now, so I’m reluctant to leave everything behind. As a result, I feel mortified about using my sickness as an excuse to go back to Japan, and can’t forgive myself. What should I do? ”

10. The destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan
Witness :: BBC News | March 22
“When the Taleban were in control of Afghanistan they decreed that the largest standing statues of Buddha in the world were un-Islamic. It took them several weeks to destroy them using high explosives.”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. NADIE LLORE Pepe Castillo & Cuatromania
2. JONNY’S BUGALU Grupo X
3. LA NATURALEZA Ismael Miranda & Andrés Jiménez
4. MENTIROSA Louie Ramirez & Ray de la Paz
5. BALCON DE SANTIAGO Compay Segundo
6. MALAGUENA SALEROSA Chingon
7. EL WATUSI Ray Barretto
8. JUVENTUD DEL PRESENTE Tito Puente
9. GUAGUANCO CALLEJERO Ibrahim Ferrer
10. TUMBAO PA’CHANGUITO Orlando “Maraca” Valle

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Gingrich and Clinton / Christmas stress / Marine recalls coming home / Teaching James Franco / SAD songs

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. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Gingrich, Clinton had stormy partnership
By Laurie Kellman | Associated Press | Dec. 22
“To hear Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich tell it, he and Democratic President Bill Clinton were political partners in the 1990s, lowering unemployment, balancing the federal budget and keeping the nation’s economy in robust health.”

2. Brain strain: Christmas shopping when money tight
By Malcom Ritter | Associated Press | Dec. 18
“Plenty of Americans are having to hold back this year as the lure of flashy ads, tempting bargains and family expectations clashes with the realities of the economy. Experts in consumer behavior say that situation can strain the brain.”

3. Coming Home: A Marine Officer Remembers His Tours In Iraq
By Benjamin Busch | The Daily Beast | Dec. 19
“A Marine officer who served two tours of duty shares memories of his time in Iraq and what the return home has meant.”

4. What It’s Like To Be James Franco’s Professor
By R. John Williams | Slate | Dec. 20
“His English professor at Yale reveals that the actor rarely missed a discussion, even when filming in Detroit.”

5. Twenty Songs To Go With Your Seasonal Affective Disorder
By Dave Bry | The Awl | Dec. 22
Leonard Cohen, Bill Withers, Stone Temple Pilots, Bruce Springsteen and more.

6. Q&A: Locking Up a USB Drive
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Nov. 2
“Q: I like to transfer files between machines with a portable USB drive. Is there a way to protect this drive with a password in case I ever lose it?”

7. Learn From A Dog: 15 Life Lessons From Your Pet
The Huffington Post | Dec. 22
“Dogs tend to be happy, active and well rested — things we could all stand to learn.”

8. Why women need fat
By Hannah Tepper | Salon | Dec. 18
“Evolution shows that women’s dieting beliefs aren’t just unrealistic — they’re unnatural. An expert explains.”

9. My overworked wife is becoming increasingly bitter toward me
Troubleshooter :: The Yomiuri Shimbun | Dec. 16
“I’m tired of trying to hold my feelings in and am beginning to wonder if I have to continue living like this. Please give me some advice about how I should deal with my wife.”

10. The death of Kurt Cobain
Witness :: BBC News | April 5
“In April 1994 the lead singer of the grunge rock band Nirvana was found dead in his home in Seattle.”

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TUNES

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. Blue Condition — Lady from the Delta
2. Boogie Bone — Don’t Mean a Thing
3. Alejandro Escovedo — Castanets
4. Robert Earl Keen — Throwin’ Rocks
5. Bobby Blue Bland — Let’s Straighten It Out
6. Philosopher Stone — Sweet Charity
7. Dr. Wu — I Don’t Need No Woman Like You
8. Joe Bonamassa — Walking Blues
9. Lost Immigrants — Genevieve
10. The Insomniacs — 20-20
11. Zack Walther & The Conkites — Georgia Cane

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Condi’s life / Returning stuff / Flight attendants don’t hate you / Obama’s foreign policy / Being unsociable

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. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Take that back! Returns are big for the holidays
By Anne D’Innocenzio | Associated Press | Dec. 14
“People who rushed to snag discounts on TVs, toys and other gifts are quickly returning them for much-needed cash. The shopping season started out strong for stores, but it looks like the spending binge has given way to a holiday hangover.”

2. The Rocky Ascent of Condoleezza Rice
By Joseph Lelyveld | The New York Review of Books | Dec. 22
“What she carries is the albatross of Iraq and her shaky, complicit performance in the White House as national security adviser, which is only partially offset by her gradual emergence as a reasonably effective foreign policymaker in her own right as secretary of state.”

3. Iraq, a War Obama Didn’t Want, Shaped His Foreign Policy
By Mark Lander | The New York Times | Dec. 17
“[T]he lessons of that war still hang over the administration’s foreign policy — shaping, and sometimes limiting, how the president projects American power in the world. ”

4. Why Can’t Linda Carswell Get Her Husband’s Heart Back?
By Marshall Allen | ProPublica | Dec. 15
“Grief-stricken families like the Carswells desperately want the answers that an autopsy can provide. But they often do not know their rights in dealing with either coroners or medical examiners, who investigate unnatural deaths, or health-care providers, who delve into natural ones.”

5. I’m unsociable and scared of new environments
Troubleshooter :: The Yomiuri Shimbun | Dec. 16
“When I think of the future, I feel uneasy. I know I’m being immature. How can I become more active?”

6. Q&A: Playing YouTube Videos on the TV
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Sept. 23
“Q: Is it possible to connect my iPad to the TV and play videos from the YouTube app on the TV?”

7. US foreign policy, Republican style
Al-Jazeera English | Dec. 17
“What are the common themes and divisions among Republican presidential candidate front-runners on US foreign policy?”

8. Army: Manning Kept a Copy of His Chatroom Confession
By Kim Zetter | Threat Level :: Wired | Dec. 18
“Forensic investigators searching Bradley Manning’s computers and removable media found a full log of the online chats Manning conducted with former hacker Adrian Lamo in which Manning described his alleged leaking of classified information. …”

9. That’s Rediculous!! No. We don’t hate you.
Flying Bachelorette | August 2011
“For every complaint about a flight attendant — we’ve probably got five on the rudeness of passengers towards each other and crewmembers.”

10. Leonardo da Vinci v Michelangelo
Witness :: BBC News | March 23
“When Leonardo da Vinci, the great Renaissance painter, was invited to paint a huge fresco in Florence — he could not have imagined that he would end up in direct competition with Michelangelo.”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. BOOGIE WOOGIE COUNTRY GIRL Big Joe Turner
2. HE CALLED ME BABY Candi Staton
3. I’M IN THE MOOD John Lee Hooker
4. GRANDMA’S HANDS Bill Withers
5. BABY PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME Buddy Guy
6. I’D RATHER GO BLIND Etta James
7. TO HEAR YOU SAY YOU’RE MINE Candi Staton
8. BALL OF CONFUSION The Temptations
9. TRUST IN ME Etta James & Riley Hampton
10. RECONSIDER ME Johnny Adams

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Remembering Hitchens / Terrible presents / OWS collapsing / Word of 2011 / Iraq by the numbers

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. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Christopher Hitchens, Consummate Writer, Brilliant Friend
By Ian McEwan | The New York Times | Dec. 16
“His unworldly fluency never deserted him, his commitment was passionate, and he never deserted his trade. He was the consummate writer, the brilliant friend. In Walter Pater’s famous phrase, he burned ‘with this hard gem-like flame.’ Right to the end.”

2. I Gave My Kids a Terrible Present
Jimmy Kimmel Live | Dec. 12
Kids react when they get crap for presents.

3. Polemicist Who Slashed All, Freely, Dies at 62
By William Grimes | The New York Times | Dec. 16
“He was a master of the extended peroration, peppered with literary allusions, and of the bright, off-the-cuff remark.”

4. Merriam-Webster picks ‘pragmatic’ as Word of Year
By Stephanie Reitz | Associated Press | Dec. 15
“Though it wasn’t traced to a specific news event or quote from a famous person, searches for ‘pragmatic’ jumped in the weeks before Congress voted in August to increase the nation’s debt ceiling, and again as its supercommittee tried to craft deficit-cutting measures this fall.”

5. Occupy Wall Street’s center shows some cracks
By Amy Westfeldt | Associated Press | Dec. 14
“Instead of 24-hour base camps, Occupy Wall Street’s center of gravity has devolved into dozens of smaller groups with different agendas and objectives.”

6. Q&A: Fixing to Defrag a Disk
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Sept. 1
“Q: I keep getting errors when I try to run the Disk Defragmenter program in Windows. What can I do?”

7. Iraq: Key figures since the war began
Associated Press | Dec. 18
“U.S. deaths as of Dec. 15, 2011: 4,487, according to the Pentagon.”

8. The Golden Rule
Flying Bachelorette | June 2011
“Many flight attendants are upset about the way passengers behave onboard these days — but what about how flight attendants behave?”

9. Sarah Kay: How many lives can you live?
TED Talks | May 2011
“Spoken-word poet Sarah Kay was stunned to find she couldn’t be a princess, ballerina and astronaut all in one lifetime.”

10. Edward and Mrs Simpson
Witness :: BBC News | April 1
“When Edward VIII fell in love with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, he had to choose between his throne and her.”

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TUNES

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. Paul Thorn — Turnip Greens and Long Way from Tupelo
2. Dave Herrero — Bark
3. Tommy Crain and the Cross Town All Stars — Why I Sing the Blues
4. The Geoff Everett Band — Young Love Blues
5. John Mayall — Jacksboro Highway
6. The Shawn Fussell Band — Tulia Texas
7. Bo Cox — Gone
8. Stevie Ray Vaughan — The Sky Is Crying
9. Carolyn Wonderland — Trouble In The City
10. Moosters — Executioner
11. George Thorogood — I Didn’t Know
12. Anna Popovic — Wrong Woman
13. Chris Rea — Houston Angel