Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: 2017’s few, terrible disasters / The life of former president Obama / An Inca code cracked / David Attenborough talks retirement / Eudora Welty, Margaret Atwood and the mystery of Mary Trump

This week: 2017’s few, terrible disasters / The life of former president Obama / An Inca code cracked / David Attenborough talks retirement / Eudora Welty, Margaret Atwood and the mystery of Mary Trump

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1. Disasters pound North America in 2017; overall down globally
By Seth Borenstein | Associated Press | December 2017
“Disasters kill about 30,000 people and affect about 215 million people a year. This year’s estimated toll was lower — about 6,000 people killed and 75 million affected. Was it random chance, statistical quirk or better preparedness? Experts aren’t certain, but say perhaps it’s a little bit of each.”

2. Obama’s post-presidential life: what does his second act have in store?
By Tom McCarthy | The Guardian | December 2017
“‘There is nothing more pathetic in life than a former president,’ said John Quincy Adams — but a year on, what to make of our most newly minted ex?”

3. Favorite Visual Stories Of 2017
By Emily Bogle | NPR | December 2017
“In 2017, politics dominated the news cycle along with the solar eclipse and hurricane coverage in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.”

4. Margaret Atwood: the unlikely style soothsayer of 2017
By Hannah Marriott | The Guardian | December 2017
“Thanks to two hit adaptations of her books, the writer has had a big impact on fashion this year.”

5. Harvard student helps crack mystery of Inca code
By Cristela Guerra | The Boston Globe | December 2017
“The discovery could be a first step to unlocking far more Inca history.”

6. Humans can spot small signs of sickness at a glance, research suggests
By Nikola Davis | The Guardian | January 2018
“Humans may use a host of facial cues – visible just hours after an infection starts – to avoid contracting illnesses from others, study indicates.”

7. David Attenborough: I’ll retire if my work becomes substandard
By Graham Ruddick | The Guardian | January 2018
“In rare comments on subject of retirement, Blue Planet II narrator says physical problems could also force him to quit”

8. The ‘Nuclear Button’ Explained: For Starters, There’s No Button
By Russell Goldman | The New York Times | January 2018
“William Safire, the former New York Times columnist and presidential speechwriter, tracked the origin of the phrase ‘finger on the button’ to panic buttons found in World War II-era bombers. A pilot could ring a bell to signal that other crew members should jump from the plane because it had been damaged extensively. But the buttons were often triggered prematurely or unnecessarily by jittery pilots.”

9. Eudora Welty, The Art of Fiction No. 47
By Linda Kuehl | The Paris Review | Fall 1972
“Once the interview got underway, she grew more at ease. As she herself might say, she was ‘not unforthcoming.’ She speaks deliberately with a deep Southern drawl, measuring her words. She is extremely private and won’t reveal anything personal about herself.”

10. The Mystery of Mary Trump
By Michael Kruse | Politico Magazine | November/December 2017
“Donald Trump reveres his father but almost never talks about his mother. Why not?”
Also: Presidents and Their Moms, A Short History

Kate Stone’s Civil War: A piece of amusement

Stone’s mother wishes Stone would stop seeing Lt. Holmes. Stone, surprised, offers her view on how to handle soldiers who may be romantic partners.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone’s mother wishes Stone would stop seeing Lt. Holmes. Stone, surprised, offers her view on how to handle soldiers who may be romantic partners.

May 21, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Coming in yesterday evening from the gallery after Lt. Holmes left, Mamma told me that she wished I would send Lt. Holmes off, that she much preferred my marrying Joe to Lt. Holmes, though neither was a suitable match, as Joe is too young and Lt. Holmes too dissipated.

I was surprised. I did not know she was taking it seriously, and I could honestly assure her I had not an idea of marrying either of them. I could have told her the same of Dr. McGregor, Lt. Valentine, and the conceited Capt. Birchett, should he ever make up his mind to propose. She seemed much relieved.

I thought she understood the point of view of most of the girls. One must not distress a soldier by saying “No” when he is on furlough. They have enough to bear. They may be going back to sudden death. Then they will most probably forget you for a sweetheart at the next camp, or their love will grow cool by the time you meet again. So it is just a piece of amusement on both sides.

If Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Savage only knew that I am as determined not to marry Joe as they are determined to prevent it, how much trouble and maneuvering it would save them. But I cannot well explain it to them. Joe can when he gets home, and their minds will be at rest.

Lt. Holmes has stopped drinking for some weeks now, since I asked him to do so one day during rehearsals when I saw ho was going too far. He was very nice about it. His face flushed and he thanked me but did not get angry as I feared.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: A blow on my heart

Stone reveals a deep well of insecurity about herself as her mother confesses her own feelings about her intelligent daughter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone reveals a deep well of insecurity about herself as her mother confesses her own feelings about her intelligent daughter.

April 7, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Mamma distressed me much yesterday by telling me I was the most reserved person she ever knew, that she did not feel that she knew me at all.

It was like a blow on my heart for her to speak so. I never knew I was reserved. I never try to be. All that I can do is to endeavor to overcome this fault and to let her see that she knows all there is of me to know. The silly, light love affairs seemed too foolish to talk about, but I will try to be frank with my darling Mother. I wish I could be more like her, more like she would have me, but I fear we cannot change our nature.

Another impressive thing is she says that I am generally considered a very handsome, stylish-looking girl, but I know she is mistaken there. Motherly partiality has blinded her. I always considered myself rather remarkably ugly.

All the girls attended a party a few days ago and their escorts drank so much several were unable to accompany the girls home. All the men present but two were said to be drunk. I am thankful I did not go to such a disgraceful affair. The girls are much chagrined and offended.