Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Bond is back / Period pants may be the solution / One last summer cocktail / America after the 9/11 attacks / Monica Lewinsky and ‘that woman’

This week: Bond is back / Period pants may be the solution / One last summer cocktail / America after the 9/11 attacks / Monica Lewinsky and ‘that woman’

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. No Time to Die: Does a new trailer mean 007 is finally ready for action?
By Stuart Heritage | The Guardian | September 2021
“A third official trailer for the Bond film in two years promises action, suspense, intrigue … and that’s just over whether the release date will change again.”

2. Brazilian viper venom may become tool in fight against COVID, study shows
By Leonardo Benassatto | Reuters | August 2021
“The molecule is a peptide, or chain of amino acids, that can connect to an enzyme of the coronavirus called PLPro, which is vital to reproduction of the virus, without hurting other cells.”

3. The rise of period pants: are they the answer to menstrual landfill — and women’s prayers?
By Sirin Kale | The Guardian | September 2021
“Previously a niche, expensive product, period knickers are now readily available on the UK high street. Women explain why they are turning their backs on single-use pads and tampons”

4. Late-summer sip: A new world of booze-free options
By Katie Workman | Associated Press | August 2021
“Interest in a sober lifestyle has been growing for years, leading to the rise of mocktails and alcohol-free bars. The pandemic led even more people to question boozy drinking habits as they found themselves at home much of the time, feeling anxious, perhaps, or trying not to put on weight.”

5. America After 9/11
Frontline :: PBS | September 2021
“[T]his two-hour special offers an epic re-examination of the decisions that changed the world and transformed America. From the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the January 6 insurrection, [it] exposes the legacy of September 11 — and the ongoing challenge it poses for the president and the country.”
Also see: The Man Who Knew | Truth, War and Consequences | Obama’s War | The Rise of ISIS | Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia

6. Monica Lewinsky Is (Reluctantly) Revisiting ‘That Woman’
By Jessica Bennett | The New York Times | September 2021
“The good news for Lewinsky is that this time she’s shaping the story herself. The bad, perhaps, is that it means reliving the darkest period of her life — and introducing it to at least one generation that wasn’t around to see it. She still isn’t exactly sure how she feels about the whole thing.”

7. The chronic stress survival guide: how to live with the anxiety and grief you can’t escape
By Elle Hunt | The Guardian | September 2021
“Stress can feel like a baseline condition for many of us — especially during a pandemic. But there are ways to help alleviate the very worst of it, whether through support, sleep or radical self-care”

8. Polar bears sometimes bludgeon walruses to death with stones or ice
By Gloria Dickie | Science News | July 2021
“It’s long been said that a piece of ice is the perfect murder weapon”

9. Notorious: The Same Hunger
By Angelica Jade Bastién | The Criterion Collection | January 2019
“[The film] becomes a consideration of what happens when a woman’s sexual history frames the totality of her identity.”

10. Marie Antoinette
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2020
Also see: Phenomenology | Spartacus | Strabo’s Geographica | The Domesday Book

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Kobe’s Mamba mentality / Bloomberg’s presidential prospects / Sweet potato’s warnings / Azalea Trail Maids / The evolution of the presidency

This week: Kobe’s Mamba mentality / Bloomberg’s presidential prospects / Sweet potato’s warnings / Azalea Trail Maids / The evolution of the presidency

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. What women did for surrealism
By Tim Smith-Lang | 1843 :: The Economist | December 2019 / January 2020
“Dora Maar used photographic montages to make daring images inspired by dreams”

2. Say hello to the bad guy: How Kobe Bryant crafted the Mamba mentality
By Hunter Felt | The Guardian | January 2020
“The late LA Lakers star was a ruthless opponent, a difficult teammate and an undeniable athletic genius”

3. The Hidden Stakes of the 1619 Controversy
By David Waldstreicher | Boston Review | January 2020
“Seeking to discredit those who wish to explain the persistence of racism, critics of the New York Times’s 1619 Project insist the facts don’t support its proslavery reading of the American Revolution. But they obscure a longstanding debate within the field of U.S. history over that very issue — distorting the full case that can be made for it.”

4. Bloomberg creates a parallel presidential race. Can he win?
By Kathleen Ronayne and Andrew DeMillo | Associated Press | January 2020
“He’s staked his hopes on states like Texas, California and Arkansas that vote on March 3, aiming to disrupt the Democratic primary right around the time it’s typically settling on a front-runner. Or, should Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, be that front-runner, Bloomberg could be a backstop to Democrats still looking for a moderate choice.”

5. Sweet Potato Sends Secret Signals
By Priyanka Runwal | Scientific American | January 2020
“One variety alerts neighbors to keep pests at bay”

6. ‘Extremely rare’ Assyrian carvings discovered in Iraq
By Adnrew Lawler | National Geographic | January 2020
“Stone reliefs more than 2,700 years old date to the reign of the mighty King Sargon II.”

7. What Should Classic Books Smell Like?
By McKayla Coyle | Electric Lit | January 2020
“An upcoming novel called ‘Bubblegum’ will smell like bubblegum. Is this the start of a fragrant trend?”

8. The Dress Hasn’t Changed, But The Girls Have
By Lindsey Feingold | The Picture Show :: NPR | July 2019
“They are the Azalea Trail Maids — the embodiment of old school Southern hospitality with a modern twist.”

9. Climate, inequality, hunger: which global problems would you fix first?
By Garry Blight, Liz Ford, Frank Hulley-Jones, Niko Kommenda and Lydia Smears | The Guardian | January 2020
“Interactive quiz: With only 10 years left to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals, find out how your priorities compare”

10. The Impossible Presidency
By Christopher Rose | Not Even Past :: UT Austin Department of History | September 2017
“Over the past two and a half centuries, the expectations placed upon the office of the President have changed and evolved with each individual charged with holding the position.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Fighting white nationalism / How ‘House of Cards’ survived / Orson Welles is back / The private Hemingway / The nuclear secret during the Vietnam War

This week: Fighting white nationalism / How House of Cards survived / Orson Welles is back / The private Hemingway / The nuclear secret during the Vietnam War

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. U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It
By Janet Reitman | The New York Times Magazine | November 2018
“For two decades, domestic counter-terrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized.”

2. Michael Kelly credits Robin Wright with saving House of Cards
By Mary Elizabeth Williams | Salon | November 2018
“Kelly’s character … was already grappling with a world of change at the end of last season, when Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) had assumed the presidency. Now, as the show launches its sixth and final season, things are about to shake up even more.”

3. Orson Welles’ Wild Final Film Offers a Haunting Glimpse of a Fading Mastermind
By Natalia Winkelman | The Daily Beast | November 2018
“Orson Welles’ long-delayed, pseudo-autobiographical opus The Other Side of the Wind premieres on Netflix … cementing the legendary director’s legacy.”
Also see, from Salon: Director Morgan Neville on They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead and the last years of Orson Welles

4. Iraq: The Economic Consequences of War
By William D. Nordhaus | The New York Review of Books | December 2002
“The difference between good and bad cases does not depend on who will win, for there is little doubt among military specialists that the United States will prevail if it enters with overwhelming force and is willing to persevere through all obstacles. Rather, the difference lies in the duration of the conflict, the total damage to Iraq, civilian casualties, the potential for unconventional warfare, and the spread of the conflict outside Iraq.”

5. The Vulnerable Private Writings of Ernest Hemingway
By Sandra Spanier | Scribner :: LitHub | October 2018
“Hemingway’s published work is painstakingly crafted, but his letters are unguarded and unpolished. They chart the course of his friendships, his marriages, his family relationships, his literary associations, and his business dealings. The letters are striking for their sense of immediacy.”

6. The FBI of the National Park Service
By Rachel Monroe | Outside | October 2018
“The 33 special agents assigned to the Investigative Services Branch handle the most complex crimes committed on NPS land. When a day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park ended in a grisly death, ISB veteran Beth Shott hit the trail, where she began unraveling a harrowing case.”

7. Why we have an emotional connection to robots
By Kate Darling | TED Talks | September 2018
“Learn more about how we’re biologically hardwired to project intent and life onto machines — and how it might help us better understand ourselves.”

8. Reversal of Fortune
By Pamela Colloff | Texas Monthly | September 2004
“Forty-two residents of the struggling cotton-farming town of Roby band together to enter the lottery. They buy 430 tickets. Then — on the eve of Thanksgiving, no less — they hit the jackpot, winning $46 million. You might expect a happy ending. Not even close.”

9. The invasion that wiped out every man from Spain 4,500 years ago
By Manuel Ansede | El Pais | October 2018
“New research indicates all local males on the Iberian peninsula were killed by hostile invaders with superior technology”

10. U.S. General Considered Nuclear Response in Vietnam War, Cables Show
By David Sanger | The New York Times | October 2018
“In one of the darkest moments of the Vietnam War, the top American military commander in Saigon activated a plan in 1968 to move nuclear weapons to South Vietnam until he was overruled by President Lyndon B. Johnson, according to recently declassified documents cited in a new history of wartime presidential decisions.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Celebrating Amelia Earhart / The power of male friendships / The Marines in Lebanon / Bringing down Saddam Hussein / The beautiful game around the world

This week: Celebrating Amelia Earhart / The power of male friendships / The Marines in Lebanon / Bringing down Saddam Hussein / The beautiful game around the 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. Holy Wars and the Founding of Saudi Arabia
By Eric Czuleger | Ozy.com | November 2016
“Because he may have been the original jihadist”

2. Who suffers when local news disappears
By Kyle Pope | Columbia Journalism Review | July 2018
“We need to move away from the arguments that the country should care about laid-off reporters or that the suits should be held to account. This can’t be about us.
It has to be about why the country should care if local news goes away, which is the trajectory we now find ourselves on.”

3. Amelia Earhart’s Mysterious Death Shouldn’t Overshadow Her Life
By Keith O’Brien | LitHub | July 2018
“Worse still, perhaps, with the focus squarely on Earhart, history has all but erased the other women who flew with her in the 1920s and 30s — female pilots who made daring flights of their own in a time when many men believed women had no business flying airplanes.”

4. Football, Free on the Streets
By Garnette Cadogan | NYR Daily :: The New York Review of Books | July 2018
“The sight of people playing football daily in public spaces around the world is visual testimony of how the presence of bodies can turn the commonplace into the marvelous; proof, too, that football is a world game not because of the millions drawn to watch the World Cup, but because of the millions for whom the game is alive every day on the street, tournament or none.”

5. Male Friendships
By Nastaran Tavakoli-Far | The Why Factor :: BBC World Service | July 2018
“From the Obama-Biden bromance to the transformative experience of the men’s group … what men can get from their friendships with other men that is unique.”

6. Yes, sit-stand desks may help people sit less at work
By Lisa Rapaport | Reuters | July 2018
“Workers who use sit-stand desks may reduce the amount of time they spend in a chair by more than an hour a day, according to a review of research on the best ways to curb sedentary time at the office. ”

7. When the Marines Came to Lebanon
By Anthony Elghossain | The New Republic | July 2018
“Sixty years later, a classic Middle Eastern intervention under Eisenhower now looks like a symbol of a dysfunctional relationship.”

8. Crypto Rico: Blockchain for a Broken Paradise
The Documentary :: BBC World Service | July 2018
“Whilst many thousands of Puerto Ricans are leaving the island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, a small group of wealthy ‘crypto-preneurs’, are moving to this US territory. They harbour hopes to reboot paradise using blockchain technology … and bring prosperity back to this financially struggling island.”

9. Scientists say black hole discovery proves Einstein was right
By Ruth Brown | The New York Post | July 2018
“Scientists have observed for the first time a star’s light being warped by a supermassive black hole — and they say it backs up Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity while rebuking Newton’s ideas about gravity.”

10. Saddam Hussein: My part in his downfall
By Adnan Sarwar | 1843 :: The Economist | August / September 2018
“Adnan Sarwar went from praying in the mosques of Burnley to patrolling the streets of Basra. Fifteen years on, he remembers the sun, sex and bomb disposal”

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”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: 100 Days / Bannon strikes back / Secrets of meteorites / Hitchcock on Theresa May / Prince’s final songs / CNN’s Jake Tapper

This week: 100 Days / Bannon strikes back / Secrets of meteorites / Hitchcock on Theresa May / Prince’s final songs / CNN’s Jake Tapper

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. Hope. Fear. Elation and Angst in 100 Days
USA Today | April 26
“Donald Trump’s victory elicited strong emotional responses, ranging from shock to elation to fear. … But people across the political spectrum shared one overarching belief: the country remains deeply divided.”

2. Bannon reasserts influence in 100 days push
By Jonathan Easley | The Hill | April 28
“Keeping up a blistering pace punctuated by executive orders and tough talk, Trump appears to have recommitted himself to the nationalist-populist themes he rode into office when Bannon acted as his campaign chairman.”

3. How meteorites reveal the solar system’s history
By Sophia Chen | New Scientist | April 19
“Clever ways to find more space debris, and pinpoint where it came from, will help us rewrite what we know about the solar system’s turbulent youth”

4. How Many People Can Earth Support?
CrowdScience :: BBC World Service | April 27
“Our planet is getting rather cosy. In just over 200 years, the global population has grown from 1 billion to almost 7.5 billion — and the best estimates suggest it’s going to keep on increasing.”

5. Dial B for Brexit: how Hitchcock would explain Britain’s current politics
By Peter Bradshaw | The Guardian | April 19
“Here’s how the director might have plotted a Theresa May movie”

6. Prince’s ‘Deliverance’: An Impressive Collection of Unreleased Songs Shrouded in Controversy
By Stereo Williams | The Daily Beast | April 19
“A posthumous album is often an uncomfortable reality for any die-hard fan; it’s understandable that anyone would want to hear unearthed gems from an artist they hold dear, but it’s just as understandable for anyone to believe rummaging through the vault of a deceased genius is exploitative and greedy. ”

7. CNN’s Jake Tapper Is the Realest Man in ‘Fake News’
By Taffy Brodesser-Akner | GQ | April 18
“The CNN anchor’s ramrod brand of honest outrage has made him a bona fide star and prompted an unlikely question: How, in an age of lies, does a guy make righteous truth-telling so damn entertaining?”

8. The Loves of Lena Dunham
By Elaine Blair | The New York Review of Books | July 2012
“Dunham has set the viewer free from having to keep score on either the man’s or the woman’s behalf. We can admire the two actors’ chemistry together. We can feel the erotic charge of the scene in spite of its limitations, qua sex, for Hannah. We can contemplate Hannah’s lack of sexual confidence without condemning Adam. …”

9. Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years
By Michael Finkel | The Guardian | March 2017
“At the age of 20, Christopher Knight parked his car on a remote trail in Maine and walked away with only the most basic supplies. He had no plan. His chief motivation was to avoid contact with people.”

10. The Baghdad Road
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad | London Review of Books | May 4
“Who cares about another dead body in a war that — in its many incarnations: sectarian cleansing, religious purification, national liberation — has haunted this highway for the last 14 years? The place is in ruins.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Trump’s first 100 days? / Trump’s battle against Clinton / Freak kangaroo / Boots on the ground / Does Texas still matter in politics?

IMG_2092

This week: Trump’s first 100 days? / Trump’s battle against Clinton / Freak kangaroo / Boots on the ground / Does Texas still matter in politics?

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

1. Trump: The First 100 Days
By Matt Latimer | Politico Magazine | February 2016
“It’s time to start thinking about his — gulp — presidency.”

2. The Republican Horse Race Is Over, and Journalism Lost
By Jim Rutenberg | Mediator :: The New York Times | May 5
“[Y]ou have to point the finger at national political journalism, which has too often lost sight of its primary directives in this election season: to help readers and viewers make sense of the presidential chaos; to reduce the confusion, not add to it; to resist the urge to put ratings, clicks and ad sales above the imperative of getting it right.”

3. Trump’s deportation plan could slice 2 percent off U.S. GDP: study
By Luciana Lopez | Reuters | May 5
“About 6.8 million of the more than 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally are employed, according to government statistics. Removing them would cause a slump of $381.5 billion to $623.2 billion in private sector output. …”

4. Yes, It’s Early, but Donald Trump Would Have Uphill Battle Against Hillary Clinton
By Nate Cohn | The Upshot :: The New York Times | May 3
“Trump’s biggest problem is that he would be the most unpopular major party nominee in the modern era, with nearly two-thirds saying they have an unfavorable opinion of him.”

5. Analysis: Texas Political Influence Nosedives in National Campaign
By Ross Ramsey | The Texas Tribune | May 3
“[I]t’s not only the state’s candidates who were getting knocked around in the race for president; the ideas that have propelled Texas Republicans for the past two decades — ideas like federalism and social conservatism — have taken a hit, too. Texas is getting clobbered this year.”

6. How Does Ted Cruz Return To The Senate?
By Abby Livingston | The Texas Tribune | May 3
“[W]hen he returns to the Senate with two and a half years left in his freshman term, he will enter hostile territory.”

7. Watch Kangaroo Crack Car Windshield In Terrifying Feet-First Leap
By Lee Moran | Huffington Post | May 3
“The driver unleashes a series of curse words as it hits the window.”

8. Q&A: When is a Boot on the Ground not a Boot on the Ground?
By Lolita C. Baldor | Associated Press | May 3
“The semantic arguments over whether there are American ‘boots on the ground’ muddy the view of a situation in which several thousand armed U.S. military personnel are in Iraq and Syria.”

9. Trump’s VP: Top 10 contenders
By Jonathan Easley | The Hill | May 5
“It could be a difficult undertaking, as some potential candidates might be hesitant to hitch their political future to a polarizing figure like Trump. But there will be plenty willing to roll the dice and join Trump’s historic outsider campaign.”

10. History’s Lessons in Crisis Management
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | July 2014
“A student of history, as well as a sardonic, self-protective political operator, J.F.K. was always attuned to the possibility that some unforeseen event could quickly send history into an unwanted direction.”

Kings are killed. Politics is power, nothing more.

In January 2011, David D. Robbins Jr., and Fernando Ortiz Jr., discussed three presidential quasi-biopics by film director Oliver Stone: “J.F.K.,” “Nixon,” and W.” The ideas and issues still resonate throughout our current conversations about film, history, politics, and culture.

25th anniversary of Nixon resignation

In January 2011, David D. Robbins Jr., author of the blog The Fade-Out, and Fernando Ortiz Jr., author of this blog, Stillness of Heart, shared their thoughts about three presidential quasi-biopics by film director Oliver Stone: “J.F.K.,” “Nixon,” and W.” They discussed the films and the politics surrounding them. They also considered what the films show us about ourselves and about American politics in general. This is a recently re-edited version of that conversation and is republished — with special permission — on Stillness of Heart. Its ideas and issues still resonate throughout our current conversations about film, history, politics, and culture.

*****

(Letter No. 1): From David D. Robbins Jr. to Fernando Ortiz Jr.:

“Karl, in Texas we call that walkin’.”

Hey Fernando, let me first say, I’m so glad to be talking about these films with you. I can think of no better and more knowledgeable partner. Taken in totality, these are such crucial films to the American movie canon. It seems we’re forever minted by them. I want to start off talking with you about the lesser of the three films, “W.” Much like you, I’ve seen each of these films more times than I can count. I re-watched “W.” a couple of days ago to see if I felt any different than I did the first time I watched it. I saw it at the theater when it came out, and enjoyed it — but it felt trite — something I never felt while watching “J.F.K.” and “Nixon.” I thought I remembered reading somewhere that director Oliver Stone said he purposefully made it trite, because then-President George W. Bush wasn’t really worth a serious look.

The first thing that struck me about this film was just how closely it stayed to the script. The near-death pretzel episode. Bush getting his cabinet lost at Crawford. They were all stories we’re familiar with, and the film’s scenes felt a bit like parody or vignettes stitched together. When I saw the film at the theater, it received a ton of laughs, especially during scenes where Bush Jr. mispronounced words, or got tangled in common phrases. I chuckled a bit, but didn’t find it all that funny because here was a man whose decisions resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. servicemen and more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians. Much like what he did in “Nixon,” Stone made Bush sympathetic in “W.” (Unlike what conservative critics, who probably never even watched the film, characterized Stone’s portrayal to be.) And that rubbed me the wrong way.

Stone put some very delicious lines in Bush’s mouth, like that scene where he and political strategist Karl Rove are discussing him taking a run at the presidency. Rove lists a few things Bush needs to change about himself to get votes on a national level. He asks Bush Jr. about his cocky swagger. Bush replies, “Karl, in Texas we call that walkin’.” It’s a fantastic line. Or when Bush, in the Situation Room, says, “I’m not Bill Clinton. I’m not gonna use a $2 million missile to destroy a $10 tent and hit a donkey in the ass.” Granted, I have to give some respect to Stone for not making Bush Jr. into a completely one-dimensional character just to fit a popular conception. But it must have been tempting. There are stories told by many historians that are even more ridiculous than the ones presented by Stone. Bob Woodward tells a story in “Plan of Attack” about Bush Jr. the first day he was briefed by the Joint Chiefs. Vice President Dick Cheney was falling asleep. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld kept asking the group to “speak up” because he was so hard of hearing. Apparently, they were describing the two no-fly zones over Iraq, with a map on the table. To outline the areas on the map, they used three mints. Bush Jr. grabbed a mint and ate it. A few minutes later he asked if anyone wanted the second mint. By the end of the meeting, he eyed the third mint and a JCS staffer, spotting his gaze, quickly grabbed up the mint and handed it to Bush — who popped it in his mouth. It doesn’t get any funnier (or sadder) than that.

At first I didn’t like Thandie Newton’s Condoleezza Rice accent. It threw me off. But I suppose it didn’t much matter — because much like her role as Bush Jr.’s National Security Advisor — she remained relatively mute during the movie too. I don’t think there’s ever been a head of the NSA so befuddled by the job — so much so, she simply was a Bush Jr. lapdog. Fernando, imagine Brent Scowcroft or McGeorge Bundy acquiescing to the president’s whims without much interjection or give and take.

Let it be said, I’ve never been a fan of Bush Jr., but I don’t hate the man either. Being president is the most difficult, thankless, life-sapping job on the planet. Tough decisions are made everyday that would crush a normal person. But I do dislike Cheney and Rumsfeld. Thousands have lost their lives and limbs for the egos of those two men. Note how often Stone frames Cheney just at the edge of the picture, or barely within the periphery, lurking in the darkness. Right at all the crucial moments, he jumps in with his point of view. It’s accurate from all the books I’ve read of the man, including the brilliant “Angler” written by Washington Post writer Barton Gellman. Cheney isn’t a complicated person to understand. He’s been in politics for 42 years, and according to Woodward’s “Plan of Attack,” he even held a meeting about “schooling” the new president on Iraq with departing Secretary of Defense William Cohen before Bush Jr.’s inauguration. In other words, Cheney had his eye on Iraq, Saddam Hussein and Iran before he was even officially vice president. He was such a runaway train that even his colleagues said he was “obsessive” about Iraq. We only need to read Jane Mayer’s “The Dark Side” to get an even larger picture of his paranoia. Add this to the calculated opportunism of Rumsfeld (who clearly suffers from the ‘Smartest Man in the Room’ syndrome), a dysfunctional intelligence apparatus headed by a clueless Rice, the tragedy of 9/11, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s memo, and you’ve got a perfect storm.

History is messy, and often it’s a meeting of perfect storms. We don’t make history as much as history sweeps us up. What happens if JFK doesn’t go to Dallas? What if the often-brilliant Nixon stopped thinking it was his administration against the world? What if Bush Jr. didn’t have Cheney whispering into his ear like some evil Lady MacBeth? What if 9/11 never occurred to push Bush Jr. away from Secretary of State Colin Powell’s thinking and into the realm of war-machine stalwarts like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz? Just today, I opened up my newspaper to read Cheney daring to talk about current president Barack Obama’s character and his chances for a second term. If I was Obama, it would be hard to swallow lectures from an unapologetic liar, who from day one camped out at Langley trying to force the intelligence to fit his script — turning 9/11 into a phony search for WMDs he knew didn’t exist, and later inventing a connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam in order to push his vision. Cheney is still at it. Still desperately trying to re-write history. Rumsfeld, who had been in politics even longer than Cheney, has quietly and thankfully fallen away into silence. It’s funny how in the movie, whenever ‘Rummy’ speaks, Bush Jr. just rolls his eyes and goes on to the next person. Rumsfeld’s complicated verbiage, or “known unknowns,” impressed Bush about as much as it did the press corps — which is to say not at all. He was shown in the film and in books like “By His Own Rules” (by Bradley Graham) to be a guy who liked to keep insulated. No one would get to know the real Rumsfeld, if that person even exists. He’d give points of view, but rarely let those around him know exactly why he gave them. Ultimately, this administration’s decision to go into Iraq was disastrous in battling terrorism. It refueled a jihadist mentality in Muslims around the world and made Osama bin Laden’s prediction that the U.S.’s long-range goal really was occupation, control of the region and command over oil wells seem all the more correct.

I’m sorry I’ve veered so far away from the movie. But I felt like starting off the conversation with a seriousness the movie lacked. The scenes with Bush Jr. dreaming of baseball came off like a tedious metaphor. Bush Jr.’s ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment was treated fairly by Stone, but it too felt stale and obligatory. Perhaps the one question answered by this movie was how in the world a beer-guzzling, doltish, young Bush could land the bookish Laura Welch. The film presents Bush as a bumbling charmer at a barbecue, where he meets his future wife. Talking with his mouth full, spittle flying, he proceeds to sweep her off her feet. The movie never touches the topic of Welch killing a friend in a car accident, which is fine because it’s not a movie about her. But I suspect that had a major effect on the type of person she became. An accident like that makes one very slow to judge the faults of others. I could see her being very forgiving about Bush Jr.’s defects. It’s a life perspective that transformed her into one of America’s most beloved first ladies. I enjoyed this film. But for me it doesn’t come close to what Stone did in “Nixon” or “JFK”.

 

KS10

(Letter No. 2): From Fernando Ortiz Jr. to David D. Robbins Jr.:

“You’re a Bush! Act like one!”

David, it’s a dream come true to have this virtual conversation with you. Over the last decade, so many of Oliver Stone’s films have made it into our best conversations and casual analyses of the insane world around us. It only seems right to take a moment to focus directly on some of Stone’s best work.

Beginning this series with “W.” is quite timely. Recent days saw Tony Blair’s second appearance before the Chilcot committee, which is investigating British involvement in the 2003 Iraq war. Deadly bombings shattered the notion of a tense peace returning to Baghdad. And at a symposium in College Station, Texas, George H.W. Bush led the architects of the 1991 Persian Gulf War in a re-examination of their strategic decisions, including the decision not to topple Saddam Hussein’s government after Allied forces ejected the Iraqis from Kuwait.

I mention the 1991 war because I sometimes consider the 1991 and 2003 Iraq conflicts as two pieces of a larger whole, a larger era bookmarked by the two Bush presidencies, with the latter war a grand symptom of the bitter relationship the disappointed father shared with his defiant son. As a budding novelist, that relationship has fascinated me for so many years, and Stone’s illustration of that relationship is what, for me, elevates “W.” from the otherwise broad and shallow strokes brushed across a rather cheap canvas. For nuanced explorations of the fascinating power plays throughout the second Bush administration, the intellectual and psuedo-intellectual fires fueling the drive toward a second Iraq war and the catastrophic consequences of so many astoundingly shortsighted decisions, one needs to look no further than the brilliant PBS series “Frontline.”

To me, aside from the exploration of the fragmented father-son connection, the value of “W.” lies in how it challenges us, like all decent biopics, to sympathize with George W. Bush as a person. I agree with you that Stone succeeded at that. We see W. daydreaming during meetings, make terrible jokes, sit on the toilet as he talks to his wife, dance on bars, yearn for parental approval, demand respect, and dream of a happy future. Who among us can’t feel the same tinge of regret, loneliness or hope as we wander through our mediocre days, seemingly locked into our orbits around the men and women who dominate our emotional lives? Like some of the smartest reporting on W., the film warns us to never make the mistake of underestimating him, as so many of his opponents did, and as his father did. It’s a daring approach for Stone, Josh Brolin, and many of the film’s other actors who spoke out against the Iraq war and against the men and women they portray. I wish they received more credit for that artistic decision and a bigger audience to savor it.

It’s a tribute to Stone and his team that they managed to assemble a film of such breezy intelligence and mischievousness so quickly. A small project like this could have been so easily relegated to TNT or Showtime, never to be seen again, except in the $3 DVD bin at Wal-Mart. The director was blessed with an incredible ensemble, and that also is one of the aspects that elevates this film. In the DVD commentary Stone said it was his best ensemble ever. As you know, I still insist “Nixon” had the best cast, followed by “JFK.” But we’ll save that issue for another day.

I thought Condi Rice deserved a deeper, complex portrayal, far from the one Thandie Newton gave her. I don’t even know why they wasted her time as an actress. The role was nothing. As I watched her, I kept picturing in my mind those classic Oliphant editorial cartoons of Rice as a bird, squawking and repeating everything W. said. Rice deserved better, and I hope that a future, more serious film of this era takes a closer look at her. Yes, she was ineffectual as national security adviser, and certainly she was overwhelmed and outmaneuvered by Cheney and Rumsfeld. I suppose I just want a film that will show that with patience, intelligence and layered dramatic force, even if it shows her frustration, her private insecurities, and her determination to hit back when she becomes secretary of state. Take a moment to make her human too, Oliver. I was also unmoved by Jeremy Wright as Colin Powell. I love Wright as an actor, and he did his usual fine job here, but he just didn’t project Powell in a full-bodied way. Powell too deserves a major examination on film.

I want to say the same for Rumsfeld, but Scott Glenn’s smarmy, sneering portrayal wins me over every time. It’s a little bit of his drug-dealer from “Training Day” and a little bit of his Jack Crawford from “Silence of the Lambs.” Then he’ll smile, settle back into his slime and let the audience’s memory do the rest. Naturally, thanks to the real Rummy and his mutated Churchillian acrobatics with the English language, Glenn gets one of the best lines of the movie, a classic: “Sir, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” I still laugh every time I hear that. Maybe we’ll get a better view of Rumsfeld after his sure-to-be moronic but deliciously controversial memoir, “Known and Unknown,” is published on Feb. 8.

As for Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney, I can’t think of anyone who could’ve done a better job portraying the vice president. I can only imagine what must have been going through Cheney’s mind as he watched a subservient, intellectually listless president follow his lead in shattering the spotlights of democratic accountability and moral decency, thereby creating that dark side to this war on terror. Bush didn’t just unlock the doors to the gun rack of executive war powers. He threw the keys to Cheney and told his neocon barbarians to lock up when they were done. The look Dreyfuss almost always seems to have on his face in “W.,” that particular gleam in the eye, exclaims, “I can’t believe my luck! I can’t believe this is happening! How many moments had to align in the universe for him to be president and me to be his co-president?!?!” Dreyfuss has always been brilliant at playing complete bastards. Just look at two of my favorite bastards, Bill Babowski in “Tin Men” and Alexander Haig in “The Day Reagan Was Shot.” Both films were the blackest of black comedies, perfectly attuned to some of the best moments in “W.”

My favorite performance — I won’t say it was the best performance — was James Cromwell as George H.W. Bush. “What do you think you are?” he bellows to his screw-up son, “A Kennedy? You’re a Bush! Act like one!” I loved that line. It represents the seismic faultline between father and son, fracturing that relationship I found so interesting, as I said earlier, and perhaps exposing lifelong vulnerabilities in W. that Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld exploited to drive forward their own agenda. “Don’t act like that other Bush,” they seemed to hiss like serpents from a tree branch. “Don’t deliberate. Don’t draw on the experience from a vast diplomatic career. Ignore history’s lessons. Act with your gut instinct. Act with your heart.” Stone’s W. heard them well, and he agreed with their tempting reassurances that everything was going to be OK.

George H.W. Bush could only look on helplessly as he saw the catastrophes of Iraq and Afghanistan consume his son’s presidency. The Beast, as Stone’s Nixon would have seen it, turned on its master for one final bloody meal. Cromwell’s performance, somehow both cold and loving, distant and supportive, reminded me of how much still remains to learn about H.W. Bush, how unappreciated he still is, and how amazing his career truly was, long before he was vice president to Ronald Reagan, long before Dana Carvey portrayed him as a befuddled, brainless wimp. H.W. Bush was everything Reagan pretended to be.

And therein lies the last elevating value of “W.” It drives me to learn more about W.’s father, the post-Cold War era he inaugurated, and how his Democratic and Republican successors shaped what he left behind. It drives me more to learn about his family, and about the sons who looked up to him for approval, support and guidance. And it drives me to learn more about that one son who thought that rejecting his father’s example would earn his father’s respect, even at the cost thousands of lives and the guarantee of a prominent place in the blood-stained catalog of American infamy.

 

1864

(Letter No. 3): From Fernando Ortiz Jr. to David D. Robbins Jr.:

“We’re just a patsy!”

By 1991, I was aware of Oliver Stone as a film director, particularly for his films “Platoon” and “Wall Street,” but he wasn’t someone I considered a role model. I was 17, and as I looked forward to finally graduating from high school and moving on to college, I thought about what I wanted to do with my life. Perhaps join the military, like my grandfather. Perhaps study history and, like narrative historian David McCullough, write about it. Perhaps simply write, like novelist James Michener.

I briefly considered studying film, perhaps even becoming a film director someday, like Francis Coppola or Martin Scorsese. Now those were role models. Stone hadn’t yet earned a place in my pantheon. And yet he was the one who came along with a film that year that electrified all of my passions. “JFK” was like a meteor strike, driving right into the core of my imagination and intellect, changing forever my understanding of how powerful a bold, historical film could truly be.

OK, “historical” may not be an appropriate word to describe what Stone throws at you. Rolling Stone called the film “a dishonest search for the truth.” But many other reviews used the word “riveting.” Roger Ebert called it “a masterpiece.” The Washington Post said it best: “It’s not journalism. It’s not history. It is not legal evidence. Much of it is ludicrous. It’s a piece of art or entertainment.”

I couldn’t tie my own shoelaces when I was 17, but I knew enough not to take the film seriously, no matter how dazzling it was. I staggered from the theater and into humid Christmas-time Texas Gulf Coast seabreeze, and for weeks I remained dazed and tingling and inspired by such a creative imagination. I was disappointed by how many people despised the film because they took it all too seriously. It’s too bad Stone never prefaced the film with a note like, “This is not to be taken as a sincere exploration of what happened and why, but simply a playfully creative summary of all of the crazy theories out there. Do your own damn research like a normal, intelligent American and decide for yourself.”

As an aspiring filmmaker — or so I thought myself to be at that tender age — “JFK” was the master class on bold, controversial filmmaking. But it also served as the supreme cautionary example. I saw Stone irresponsibly promoting his work as a credible thesis worthy of defense, worthy of consideration among the bitter ranks of men and women committed to exposing the supposed conspiracy behind the assassination. It wasn’t enough for him to accept the laurels from critics who loved his vision, who were moved by his fearless confrontation of the “story that won’t go away,” as the film was subtitled. It wasn’t enough to create a striking, ingenious kaleidoscopic freefall through the caverns of distrust and insecurity looming under the sense of American pride. He had to take the film as seriously as his critics did.

What I loved then and still love now about “JFK” is how it plays with history, the way Picasso played with the bombing of Guernica, the way HBO played with the fall of the Roman Republic and the Ptolemaic dynasty. Everyone sees everything differently. How boring would life be if everyone saw everything the same, and in some sense the film understands that. The film’s beauty and power comes from the depth of its distortions, from the way the filmmakers mopped up all of the paranoia, ignorance and fear pouring from the wounds fired into the American identity, strained it through their own mutated agendas and beliefs, and served us this putrid, blood-red broth, daring us to drink it. History was merely the paint. Our own imaginations were the canvas, and what amazing work did those deranged painters produce.

I later savored the descendants of that pop culture on-screen paranoia in “The X-Files” and in “Millennium,” where FBI Agents Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and Frank Black battled shadowy quasi-governmental conspiracies, and in the epileptic corpse that was “24,” where no season was complete without some ridiculous presidential coup d’etat or paramilitary operation. “JFK’s” older, smarter, and more insanely brilliant sibling, “Nixon,” took it all to a whole new level — it was the greatest of Stone’s imaginings — and it still inspires me. Any high-minded musings about why Kennedy was killed came from Robert Stone and “Frontline.”

Throughout the subsequent years and decades, almost none of those descendants affected me as deeply as “JFK.” It was for Stone definitely a big step forward into a new phase of chaotic, energetic filmmaking and film editing, so different from the somber elegant styles used to illustrate the lush, deadly Vietnamese jungle, the strained loneliness in “Talk Radio” or the cold Wall Street boardrooms. Perhaps there were hints of the flashy, fever-dream experience in “Born on the Fourth of July.” Certainly “The Doors” sent the fame-drunk and drug-addled characters careening through spectacular reels of Stone’s twisted vision.

But “JFK” achieved a new level of surreal imaginings for me. I saw not simply a vision induced by drugs or tropical heat or lust for power. It was a story of murder, one of the greatest of all murders, deconstructed not just moment by moment, but sensation by sensation. How many shots were heard? What did people see? How did they feel? Layered in between comprehension of those sensations are flashes of what they think they heard, blurred images of what they think they saw, how they absorbed what had happened and what warped those absorptions. Half-shrouded faces in the dark, puffs of smoke, black streaks of malice snaking along sunny motorcade routes, rifles aimed, machetes gleaming in the humid night, breaths frozen in time, bodies wheeled away, heartstopping nightmares, hot flashes of rage, blood turned cold, screams, silence — Stone’s cameras imagined it all for us. History and myths were somehow splintered — some conspiracy fanatics would say “shattered” — and then re-assembled to resemble the mutated American monster he argues we became after Nov. 22, 1963.

Like everyone else, I can’t help but wonder what life would have been like had Kennedy not been killed. He may have dropped Johnson as running mate in the 1964 presidential election. Would Kennedy have picked someone more liberal? What would have happened to his civil rights legislation, which needed at least some southern Democrats to vote for it? Johnson at least was one of their own, who wielded his own mighty arsenal of determination and tactical brilliance when faced with a raucous legislative process. Are we so sure Kennedy would have pulled out all American forces from Vietnam? Certainly we can all think of a more recent Democrat in the White House who has not only reversed his position on pulling out of an unpopular, pointless war, but has escalated and prolonged it. How would Kennedy’s deteriorating health affected his second term? His back was always a major issue. In “Unfinished Life,” historian Robert Dallek said Kennedy wore a back brace during his ride through Dallas, holding him upright. Oswald fired three shots at Kennedy. “Were it not for the back brace, which held him erect,” Dallek writes, “a third and fatal shot to the back of the head would not have found its mark.” What about Kennedy’s reckless behavior? Bobby Kennedy worked tirelessly to quash news stories about Kennedy’s womanizing, as J. Edgar Hoover’s intelligence file on Kennedy’s extracurricular activities grew thicker every month. No matter how polite the mainstream media remained in the mid-1960’s, the shadows of some looming scandal or potential blackmail was always darkening the skies over the administration’s future.

The dreamy musings about a world caressed by two-term Kennedy presidency (we can all agree he would have defeated Barry Goldwater) always make me smile, reminding me of how perversely (and politically) lucky Lincoln was to die when he did. You don’t ever see people sitting around wondering what great things James Garfield or William McKinley would have done in the world had they not been killed. No one is accusing Chester Arthur of masterminding a government takeover. You don’t hear whispers of how Theodore Roosevelt managed a conspiracy to not only take down McKinley in Buffalo, N.Y., but also to frame Leon Czolgosz as the patsy. Even for those presidents who died of natural causes, you don’t see movies speculating about a devious John Tyler leading a coup d’etat to take down Old Tippecanoe. “Naw, man. You don’t need a coat. You’re Old Tipp! You can handle two hours in the cold and rain! Take your time reading that inaugural address.”

I suppose it comes down to public image, something Kennedy always had in his favor, especially in an age without HD television or a media that would have breathlessly told us about the rivers of steroids, painkillers and other drugs swimming through his bloodstream, his back braces, crutches, past surgeries and other health problems. Added to the tragedy is what he left behind: a young, unhappy wife and two small children oblivious to their parents’ emotional distance. Americans love youth and vigor, even if it’s manufactured, and especially when it’s lost. When it comes to McKinley’s assassination, historians seem to be more excited about the rise of young Theodore Roosevelt, the perfect man for the new century, a young leader for a young country, blah, blah, blah. Rest assured, if it had been President Johnson murdered and Vice President Kennedy who stepped in to take over, we would have heard the exact same sentiments. “Lyndon Who? Oh, yeah, the guy who finally got out of JFK’s way.”

Over the years, Stone’s hopefulness planted in me the seeds of cynicism as I studied more of American history, learned the cycles of how power is distributed in an American democracy, and bitterly accepted the limits of what can actually be accomplished within the system of checks and balances. But sometimes I will set all of that aside, relax and remember not to take it all so seriously, certainly not as seriously as Stone does. So I’ll reach into my DVD library and pull out “JFK” for yet another viewing. It still remains one of my all-time favorite films, where, ironically, I can set aside all of that grumpiness and sadness, reach for some popcorn, and savor yet again my favorite line: “Kings are killed, Mr. Garrison. Politics is power. Nothing more.”

Indeed.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: FIFA president re-elected / Pregnancy and depression / Orson Welles memoir discovered / Uber in Mexico / Hastert scandal

IMG_0431

This week: FIFA president re-elected / Pregnancy and depression / Orson Welles memoir discovered / Uber in Mexico / Hastert scandal

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

1. Blatter Control: FIFA Head Wins New Term Despite Corruption Probe
By David Francis | Passport :: Foreign Policy | May 29
“The Justice Department appears to be building a mob-style case against him, flipping low-level officials in hopes of then using their testimony to snag higher-ups. Whether they’ll ever get to Blatter remains to be seen.”

2. CBS’ Bob Schieffer Retires Sunday As Last Of The Old-School TV Anchors
By Eric Deggans | The Two-Way :: NPR News | May 29
“Schieffer leaves CBS with impressive stats. He’s one of the few reporters to have covered the White House, Congress, the State Department and the Pentagon. He’s interviewed every president since Richard Nixon and moderated three presidential debates.”

3. The characters in the new ‘Star Wars’ movie have pretty weird names
By Reed Tucker | New York Post | May 29
“From Sio Bibble to Grand Moff Muzzer, names in the world of Star Wars have always had their own special charm.”

4. Shields and Brooks on Dennis Hastert charges, Ashton Carter Iraq comments
Shields & Brooks :: PBS Newshour | May 29
“[T]he indictment and allegations of misconduct against former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s comments about the Iraqi army’s defeat at Ramadi, 2016 campaign announcements from Rick Santorum and George Pataki.”

5. Mexico taxi drivers threaten to ‘hunt down’ Uber cars
By Camilo Smith | La Voz de Houston :: Houston Chronicle| May 29
“Earlier this week taxi drivers blocked traffic to protest the arrival of the ride share service and according to reports the head of a taxi organization told the press the hunt is on for Uber drivers.”

6. Fact-Checking San Andreas With a Seismologist
By Alissa Walker | Gizmodo | May 29
“Among the many luminaries invited to preview the film was Dr. Lucy Jones, the USGS seismologist who recently took me on a walk along the Hollywood Fault, which runs just a block from the theater where San Andreas premiered.”

7. How Do You Define a Gang Member?
By Daniel Alarcon | The New York Times Magazine | May 27
“Laws acros the country are being used to target young men who fit the description for gang affiliation. But what if they aren’t what they seem?”

8. Hastert hometown rocked by scandal
By Jake Sherman and Hillary Flynn | Politico | May 29
“In Yorkville, Ill., shock and disbelief over allegations against a beloved teacher and coach.”

9. Archivists Uncover an Unfinished Memoir By Orson Welles
By Erin Blakemore | Smithsonian.com | May 29
“Fragments of ‘Confessions of a One-Man Band’ discovered in a newly-acquired trove of documents”

10. The Secret Sadness of Pregnancy With Depression
By Andrew Solomon | The New York Times Magazine | May 28
“Pregnant women often fear taking the antidepressants they rely on. But not treating their mental illness can be just as dangerous.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Arnold’s film career / A certain San Antonio fashion designer / The physics of Batman / Let the dog make the baby healthier / A girl with two lovers

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.

1. Schwarzenegger Gears Up for Act 2 as an Action Hero
By Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes | The New York Times | July 12
“[I]t was lost on no one that Mr. Schwarzenegger’s appearance marks his return to a film career that will find him taking more substantial action roles, even though he will qualify for Medicare upon turning 65 this month.”

2. To these successful designers, the concept of outsourcing is out of fashion
By Michael Quintanilla | San Antonio Express-News | July 12
“‘Made in the U.S.A.’ — it’s a refreshing phrase in a world of outsourcing and overseas production.”

3. Batman could fly, but he’d crash and die
By Michael Holden | Reuters | July 9
“Holy crash landing Batman! The crime-fighting caped crusader could fly but if he did, he would smash into the ground and probably die, a group of British physics students have calculated.”

4. Another Stab at the U.S. Constitution
Room for Debate :: The New York Times | July 9
“As the United States prepares to mark the 225th anniversary of its Constitution, we have the benefit of hindsight that the framers lacked. What should be omitted, clarified or added?”

5. Remember Iraq? Still A Mess, but the US Needs to Stay Out
By Robert Dreyfuss | The Nation | July 9
“Still, it’s important for liberals, the left and the antiwar movement to remember Iraq by borrowing the phrase, ‘Never again.’ And here’s what the Obama administration ought to do about violence in Iraq: Nothing.”

6. Babies in dog-owning families may be healthier
By Andrew M. Seaman | Reuters | July 9
“Dogs are no longer just man’s best friend: The furry family members may also protect infants against breathing problems and infections, a new study suggests.”

7. More public schools splitting up boys, girls
By Jessie L. Bonner and Heather Hollingsworth | Associated Press | July 8
“Proponents argue the separation allows for a tailored instruction and cuts down on gender-driven distractions among boys and girls, such as flirting. But critics decry the movement as promoting harmful gender stereotypes and depriving kids of equal educational opportunities.”

8. Woman With Two Lovers Trying to Hide the Bruises
Daily Intel :: New York Magazine | May 9
“Once a week, Daily Intel takes a peek behind doors left slightly ajar. This week, the Woman With Two Lovers Trying to Hide Bruises From Rough Sex: female, fashion buyer, 24, Williamsburg, straight, single.”

9. Rereading: A candid view of Candide
By Julian Barnes | The Guardian | July 1
“Julian Barnes pays tribute to Voltaire’s Candide, a satire that remains as fresh and pertinent today as when it was written in the 18th century”

10. The death of Pushkin
Witness :: BBC News | February 11
“Pushkin died after a duel with a Frenchman. Rumours about the other man’s relationship with Pushkin’s much younger wife had led to the stand-off.”

******************

Tonight I’m spending some time with the blues, specifically with the wonderful Texas Blues Café. Check out the line-up and then listen here.

1. Preacher Stone — Come On In
2. Preacher Stone — Judge Me Not
3. Ian Moore — Nothing
4. Big Head Tod & The Monsters — House Burn Down
5. The Geoff Everett Band — Hole In My Life
6. Los Lonely Boys — Evil Ways
7. Johnny Lang — Living For The City
8. JJ Gray & Mofro — All
9. Demian Bell — Long Way Up
10. Gerry Joe Weise — Who’s Calling
11. Jane Crow & Blues Inc — Back For More
12. Rocky Jackson — Goin’ Back To Texas
13. Joss Stone — Right To Be Wrong
14. Tommy Crain — Take Me To The River