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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

The work

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

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

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

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

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

A brilliant, deadly light

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

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

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

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

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


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

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This week: Data view of drought / Enduring Confederate lies / The man who fell from the sky / The Library of Alexandria / Pheromones

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

1. Numbers explain how and why West bakes, burns and dries out
By Seth Borenstein | Associated Press | July 2021
“The American West is baking, burning and drying in intertwined extreme weather. Four sets of numbers explain how bad it is now, while several others explain why it got this bad.”

2. Scientists link Earth’s magnetic reversals to changes in planet’s life and climate
By Bobby Bascomb and Adam Wernick | Living on Earth :: The World | April 2021
“The discovery of a fossilized tree in New Zealand is providing scientists with insight on how magnetic pole reversals could affect life on Earth.”

3. What is the point of menstruation?
By Marnie Chesterson | CrowdScience :: BBC Sounds | June 2021
“So few other animals menstruate, why did humans evolve this rare and costly cycle?”

4. Cross Your Legs, Stretch Your Hymen, Toss Your Ambition: The World According to Early ‘Marriage Classes’
By Danielle Dreilinger | LitHub | May 2021
“The only difference between partners the authors mostly did not address was the one most obvious to us, race, though Bowman warned that biracial children would be miserable because they would have ‘white aspirations’ but be unable to fulfill them due to their ‘colored’ appearance.”

5. ‘These Blazing Stars … Just Disappeared’: The Missing Generation of Women at the Washington Post
By Paul Volpe | Politico Magazine | May 2021
“The newspaper “made history … by appointing its first female executive editor. But why did the newspaper have to look outside its own ranks for a woman to lead the newroom?”

6. Why Confederate lies live on
By Clint Smith | The Atlantic | June 2021
“For some Americans, history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it’s the story they want to believe.”

7. The Underground Railroad attempts to upend viewers’ notions of what it meant to be enslaved
By William Nash | The Conversation | May 2021
“[M]ore and more academics recognized the limitations of the older, impersonal terminology and started to embrace ‘enslaved’ and its variants.”

8. Disability History in the United States
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: Scientific, Geographic & Historiographic Inventions of Colombia | Populism | Women and the Tamil Epics

9. Out of thin air: the mystery of the man who fell from the sky
By Sirin Kale | The Long Read :: The Guardian | April 2021
“In 2019, the body of a man fell from a passenger plane into a garden in south London. Who was he?”

10. Pheromones
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2009-2019
Also see: The Boxer Rebellion | The Library of Alexandria | Munch and The Scream | The Zulu Nation’s Rise and Fall

It’s only the beginning of the intellectual journey

I don’t consider myself particularly wise or much of a role model, but I thought I had a few guiding principles that might be useful, if only because history, journalism and fiction are my passions too.

I was reviewing old emails the other day, and I came across a letter I wrote to a young college student who asked for my advice. He was considering joining his college newspaper. He also hoped to pursue an academic career as a historian and maybe dabble in writing historical fiction. He was worried he couldn’t do it all.

Now, I don’t consider myself particularly wise or much of a role model, but I thought I had a few guiding principles that might be useful, if only because history, journalism and fiction are my passions too.

Here’s shortened and edited version of what I said.

******

Thank you for reaching out. It sounds like you’re taking the right perspective and asking the right questions. My overall advice is this: Stick with journalism and see where it takes you. Does this mean you can’t be a historian? No. It will make you a better historian and academic writer. Does this mean you can’t be a fiction writer? Absolutely not. It will make you a clear thinker and writer.

I was always shy, but I realized early in life that I enjoyed expressing myself through the written word. When I was in my teens or early twenties, I read about Theodore Roosevelt and the many different passions he pursued throughout his life, and I decided I would be someone like that. I decided that my life would focus on three overall passions. I decided that I wanted to be remembered as a journalist, as a historian and as a historical novelist.

I started writing in college newspapers at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi (The Foghorn) and at the University of Texas at Austin (The Daily Texan). I wrote book reviews, reviewed theater performances and movies, and contributed op-ed pieces. I was already deeply interested in history, and I convinced the editors at the Texan to let me write an occasional column on history. Ironically, I wasn’t interested in straight reporting and was too shy to speak to strangers, so I never became a reporter. I worked as a proofreader — what they call a copy editor — and as a page designer.

After college, I eventually got a job at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. No matter how accomplished you may be, always swallow your pride and start at the bottom — I started as a news assistant and junior copy editor — and work your way up. I did this even in college. Step by step. Prove yourself to your colleagues and to yourself. Learn everything you can from everyone — they all know something you don’t.

Figure out how each job and experience can help you move on to the next job and take on the challenge. The college newspaper jobs helped me get the Caller-Times job. The Caller-Times job led to a similar job at the San Antonio Express-News. That editing and writing experience was invaluable in graduate school at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After several years in academics, as you know, I’m now an editor at Texas Public Radio. …

I had always been interested in current events and foreign affairs. I always saw journalism and history as two halves of the same heart, the two ends of the same spectrum of civilization. I had an old-fashioned idea that all smart people — writers, scientists, athletes, anyone — should all spend at least a year working in some capacity at a newspaper. It’s a great place to learn how to write clearly and succinctly. Experience the constant flow of information all around you and through you. Understand the value of journalism in a democracy. I equated journalism to public service or military service — an enriching challenge that benefits everyone. That’s what motivated me to enter journalism and become an editor. I feel it is noble work, just as noble as being a teacher. You are really making a difference as a journalist. I wish more people would participate in the industry. I wish it was better funded.

Working in a newspaper taught me to pay close attention to details and maintain a consistent sense of what’s important and what isn’t. It strengthened my capacity to deal with all kinds of different people and personalities and deepened my sympathy for the less fortunate, those without a voice, those who need help. You can’t be afraid of a newsroom’s chaos, and you have to have faith that you can bring a semblance of order to it all. Always view problems and setbacks as opportunities. Always.

You’ve got your foot in the door at the student newspaper. Stay with it. Work for free. Work for the experience. Work at one job, then at another, then another. Build up a body of experience and a body of work. Work in different departments. Figure what you don’t like doing and what you really like to do. Write book reviews. Learn about the newspaper’s website. If you want to work at a professional newspaper or radio station, bring them a wide variety of examples of the work you’ve done in college. That will take time but it’s doable and worth every second of effort. Talk to journalism professors and to the leaders of the college newspaper or radio station. When you have time, see if professional newspapers/news web sites need help from a smart college journalist. That’s great experience too.

The great advantage of staying with journalism is this: The field has space for and needs all kinds of different, smart people to illustrate and explain the world for everyone else. Also, don’t assume that once you enter journalism you will be a journalist forever. Learn about science, literature, law, history, engineering, politics and other subjects. Let journalism be the foundation upon which you build a life filled with different experiences, different expertise and different ambitions. Becoming an effective journalist — editor, reporter, whatever — is only the beginning of your intellectual journey.

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This week: Garcia Marquez loved being a journalist / The way we remember George H.W. Bush / Loving midday naps / Why is an octopus smart? / The rhetoric that leads us to civil war

This week: Garcia Marquez loved being a journalist / The way we remember George H.W. Bush / Loving midday naps / Why is an octopus smart? / The rhetoric that leads us to civil 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. Want a Green New Deal? Here’s a better one.
The Washington Post | February 2019
“It relies both on smart government intervention — and on transforming the relentless power of the market from an obstacle to a centerpiece of the solution.”

2. Is History Being Too Kind to George H.W. Bush?
By David Greenberg | Politico Magazine | December 2018
“The 41st president put self-interest over principle time and time again.”
Also see: The Economy and ‘Read My Lips,’ Not Ross Perot, Cost President Bush His 1992 Re-Election
Also see: Don’t Overlook George H.W. Bush’s Domestic Legacy

3. A midday nap is American ingenuity at its best
By Carolyn Hax | The Washington Post | March 2019
“Keep up the naps, books and bubble baths, by all means … at your usual pace except for one day a week. With that one exception, dedicate your time to a cause that’s meaningful to you.”

4. Yes, the Octopus Is Smart as Heck. But Why?
By Carl Zimmer | The New York Times | November 2018
“It has eight arms, three hearts — and a plan. Scientists aren’t sure how the cephalopods got to be so intelligent.”

5. Gabriel García Márquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69
By Peter H. Stone | The Paris Review | Winter 1981
“I’ve always been convinced that my true profession is that of a journalist. What I didn’t like about journalism before were the working conditions. Besides, I had to condition my thoughts and ideas to the interests of the newspaper. Now, after having worked as a novelist, and having achieved financial independence as a novelist, I can really choose the themes that interest me and correspond to my ideas.”

6. Battle Lines
By Gordon S. Wood | The New Republic | November 2018
“Recovering the profound divisions that led to the Civil War”

7. Roots of Spain’s Crisis: One Word Fought Over at Birth of Constitution
By Patrick Kingsley | The New York Times | March 2019
“The final text spoke not of nations — but of regions and nationalities.”

8. The Missing Malcolm X
By Garrett Felber | Boston Review | November 2018
“Our understanding of Malcolm X is inextricably linked to his autobiography, but newly discovered materials force us to reexamine his legacy.”

9. The Kilogram Is Dead. Long Live the Kilogram!
By Xiao Zhi Lim | The New York Times | November 2018
“After a vote (and a century of research), the standard measure for mass is redefined, and the long reign of Le Grand K is ended.”

10. Sweden ranks third in gender equality. Here’s what growing up there is like.
Masuma Ahuja | Girlhood Around the World :: The Lily | November 2018
“In her diary entries, Miriam writes about looking at a new school in Stockholm, her mental health, and an all-consuming crush on a girl.”

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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

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

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”

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

1. Many Creative Geniuses May Have Procrastinated — but That Doesn’t Mean You Should
By Casey Lesser | Artsy.net | July 2018
“Some believe in a form of procrastination that fosters well-being and creativity, but others argue that certain types of behavior, in which someone intentionally delays their creative work, don’t actually constitute procrastination at all.”

2. A Watershed Moment in American History
By Matt Ford | The New Republic | July 2018
“Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh will deliver Republicans a majority on the Supreme Court. Will he also prompt a reckoning among Democrats”

3. ‘I Couldn’t Tell Anyone’: Women Around the World Reveal Intimate Stories of Abortion
By Josephine Sedgwick | The New York Times | July 2018
“When we invited readers to share their own stories, more than 1,300 responded from over 30 countries, showing the vast range of reasons, means and outcomes for abortion.”

4. Why breast-feeding is a mix of joy and suffering
By Maya Uppaluru | The Lily :: Washington Post | July 2018
“Is breast-feeding anti-feminist”

5. Reporting Is Ugly
By Barry Petchesky | The Concourse :: Deadspin | October 2015
“It is invaluable and messy and it not only doesn’t diverge from the most basic principles of journalism, it exemplifies them.”

6. The Democratic Coming Apart
By David Runciman and Joshua Cohen | Boston Review | July 2018
“Democracy … could either fail while remaining intact or evolve into something different — and possibly even better.”

7. And Now, Some Little-Known Facts About Texas
By David Courtney | Texas Monthly | July 2018
“In our new video series, David Courtney takes you into some of the weird, whimsical, and lesser-known aspects of our beloved state.”

8. Is Punching Nazis Impolite
By Barry Purcell | Arc Digital | July 2018
“Exploring the limits of civility”

9. The Americanization of Alfredo Corchado
By Sergio Troncoso | Texas Monthly | June 2018
“By telling his own story, the widely admired Dallas Morning News reporter reveals how Mexican Americans have changed the United States — and how the United States has changed Mexican Americans.”

10. What does ‘normal’ mean in abnormal times
By Steven Poole | The Guardian | April 2018
“From Donald Trump to Syrian bombs — in modern political times, ‘normal’ carries an extra moral nuance”

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This week: Who’s who in ‘The Post’ / The revolutionary world Cuba created / Paul Ryan ready to go / The inner turmoil of ‘Frankenstein’ / Key questions for falling in love

This week: Who’s who in ‘The Post’ / The revolutionary world Cuba created / Paul Ryan ready to go / The inner turmoil of ‘Frankenstein’ / Key questions for falling in love

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. Who’s Who in ‘The Post’: A Guide to the Players in a Pivotal Era
By Sam Roberts | The New York Times | December 2017
“The newsroom crackles with verisimilitude, its rotary phones, staccato typewriters and a veil of cigarette smoke evoking a bygone grittiness. At its heart are a wisecracking editor and matriarchal publisher.”

2. Cuba’s Revolutionary World
By Jonathan C. Brown | Not Even Past :: UT Austin Department of History | December 2017
“Cuba’s revolution attracted youthful visitors from all over Latin America who wished to learn how they too might become armed revolutionaries.”

3. Paul Ryan Sees His Wild Washington Journey Coming to An End
By Tim Alberta and Rachael Bade | Politico Magazine | December 2017
“He felt he was ‘made for this moment.’ But now, on the verge of achieving his long-sought legislative dream, he’s got his eyes on the exits.”

4. Out of Control
By Richard Holmers | The New York Review of Books | December 2017
Frankenstein is saturated in the heroic rhetoric of Milton’s Paradise Lost, the alienated imagery of Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ and the natural magic of Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’ (all of which are actually quoted). It also clearly contains a series of philosophical debates between scientific hope and hubris, between friendship and betrayal, between love and solitude.”

5. The 36 Questions That Lead to Love
By Daniel Jones | Modern Love :: The New York Times | January 2015
“The idea is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness.”

6. Below Deck
By Lizzie Presser | California Sunday Magazine | February 2017
“Filipinos make up nearly a third of all cruise ship workers. It’s a good job. Until it isn’t.”

7. The 4 Things That Helped Gary Oldman Disappear Into Winston Churchill
By Kyle Buchanan | Vulture | December 2017
“Here are the four keys that finally helped Oldman to crack Churchill and deliver one of of the most acclaimed performances of his career.”

8. A Journey Through Havana’s Clandestine Book World
By Ruben Gallo and Lisa Carter | Lit Hub | December 2017
“I felt immeasurably happy to be surrounded by blacks and mulatas, old women sitting on stoops, and jineteros hustling boys, girls, cigars, pirated music, and almost everything else.”

9. A Comprehensive List of How Texans Mispronounce Places With Spanish Names
By John Nova Lomax | Texas Monthly | November 2017
“From Amarila to Wad-a-loop to the Purda-nalleez River, we’ve taken some liberties when it comes to pronunciation.”

10. Dystopia is Realism: The Future Is Here if You Look Closely
By Christopher Brown | LitHub | July 2017
“All novels are set in alternate worlds, even if most writers only invent the people that inhabit them. Dystopia just expands the scale of the alteration.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Adam Driver on acting / 2017’s best books / Lessons from 2017 film disasters / A new vision for UTSA DTC / Putin’s real desire

This week: Adam Driver on acting / 2017’s best books / Lessons from 2017 film disasters / A new vision for UTSA DTC / Putin’s real desire

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. Adam Driver: ‘Compared with the military, acting isn’t that difficult’
By Emma Brockes | The Guardian | December 2017
“The Star Wars actor on leaving the Marines, filming nude scenes with Lena Dunham and getting in touch with his dark side”

2. The year in journalism: The big players, best feuds, and more
By Peter Vernon | Columbia Journalism Review | December 2017
“A guide to what happened in the mediaverse in 2017”

3. Past Debates Echo in Split Between Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates
By John Eligon | The New York Times | December 2017
“Malcolm X was more open to using violence as a form of self-defense than Dr. King, even though their beliefs were more nuanced and overlapping than the popular perception. Whereas Du Bois pushed for an expansion of civil rights, Washington was more compromising, urging black people to look within … in order to minimize the terror they faced.”

4. 100 Notable Books of 2017
The New York Times Book Review | November 2017
The year’s best fiction, poetry, and non-fiction works.
From the Guardian: Best books of 2017
From Lit Hub: The 64 Best Book Covers of 2017 and The Best Reviewed Books of 2017 — History & Politics

5. 2017: the sequel … seven lessons for Hollywood after summer’s disasters
By Mark Sweney | The Guardian | December 2017
“Traditional box-office wisdom has been overturned — but new audiences are starting to emerge”

6. Three Months In, New UTSA President Lays Out Vision For Downtown Campus
By Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio | December 2017
“The idea is to make the downtown a destination, while increasing enrollment on the downtown campus. UTSA’s current enrollment on the downtown campus is about 4,000 out of a total enrollment of about 30,000.”

7. What Putin Really Wants
By Julia Ioffe | The Atlantic | January/February 2018
“Russia’s strongman president has many Americans convinced of his manipulative genius. He’s really just a gambler who won big.”

8. The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook
By Josh Meyer | Politico | December 2017
“An ambitious U.S. task force targeting Hezbollah’s billion-dollar criminal enterprise ran headlong into the White House’s desire for a nuclear deal with Iran.”

9. American Sounds
By Heather Radke | The Paris Review | July 2017
“On the old, weird days of National Public Radio”

10. How to Be a Writer on Social Media
LitHub | July 2017
“[W]e asked the opinions of four authors whose social media prowess we admire: Roxane Gay, Celeste Ng, Adam Grant and Alexander Chee.”

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 43: Jim Hall

From March 2017: “Jim Hall worked as a newspaper writer for decades. Now, he’s publishing history.”

Jim and Colin talk about Jim’s journalism career in Bowling Green and Fredericksburg and his long study of racial violence in Virginia, which he began as a graduate student at VCU. Now, he has a book that examines the last lynching in northern Virginia.

via Podcast 43: Jim Hall — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The mayoral presidency / Make yourself charming / Turkey and Kurdish culture / The new intellectual / Celebrating ‘The Sopranos’

This week: The mayoral presidency / Make yourself charming / Turkey and Kurdish culture / The new intellectual / Celebrating ‘The Sopranos’

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. America’s Mayor
By Jack Shafer | Politico | July/August 2017
“The 45th president is trying to run the White House like it’s city hall.”

2. Volcano Forecast? New Technique Could Better Predict Eruptions
By Annie Sneed | Scientific American | June 29
“Taking a cue from weather forecasters, researchers combine satellite measurements and models in attempt to predict volcanic activity”

3. The tricks to make yourself effortlessly charming
By Tiffanie Wen | Capital :: BBC News | June 28
“From the first moment you walk into a room people are making judgements about how much they like you. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your chances”

4. Amid Turkey’s Purge, a Renewed Attack on Kurdish Culture
By Patrick Kingsley | The New York Times | June 29
“Since the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923, which enshrined a monocultural national identity, the country’s sizable Kurdish minority — around 20 percent of the population — has often been banned from expressing its own culture or, at times, from speaking the Kurdish language.”

5. The Rise of the Thought Leader
By David Sessions | The New Republic | June 28
“How the superrich have funded a new class of intellectual.”

6. How Frank Lloyd Wright changed architecture
By Anthony Paletta | 1843 :: The Economist | June 28
“A gripping exhibition in New York unearths fresh insights into his work”

7. The Sopranos: 10 years since it finished, it’s still the most masterful show ever
By David Stubbs | The Guardian | June 8
“It’s been a decade since that final, agonisingly tense Soprano sitdown — and TV is still in thrall to this remarkably human, and inhuman, drama”

8. Why is One Hundred Years of Solitude Eternally Beloved?
By Scott Esposito | LitHub | June 6
“At 50 Years Old, García Márquez’s Masterpiece is as Important As Ever”

9. Will Trump’s presidency finally kill the myth of the special relationship?
By Geoffrey Wheatcroft | The Guardian | February 2017
“Ever since Winston Churchill invented it in 1946, successive prime ministers have discovered that the bond between the US and UK is anything but sacred. So, why does this absurd idea refuse to go away?”

10. Q&A: ‘Honey badger’ Brian Karem on taking a stand in White House press room
By Justin Ray | Columbia Journalism Review | June 28
“We talked to Karem about his experiences inside the White House press corps, reactions to his interjection, and the lesson he hopes journalists learn from the confrontation.”