Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The Native American Alamo / The depths of personal loneliness / The ultimate guide to presidential impeachment / What obsessed Hitchcock, Welles and Kubrick / Lady Gaga’s tattoos

This week: The Native American Alamo / The depths of personal loneliness / The ultimate guide to presidential impeachment / What obsessed Hitchcock, Welles and Kubrick / Lady Gaga’s tattoos

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. NASA Captures First Air-to-Air Images of Supersonic Shockwave Interaction in Flight
By Matt Kamlet | NASA | March 2019
“The images were captured during the fourth phase of Air-to-Air Background Oriented Schlieren flights, or AirBOS, which took place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. ”

2. All Quiet on the Western Front becomes instant bestseller – archive, 1929
By Richard Nelsson | From the Archive :: The Guardian | March 2019
“Ninety years ago, a harrowing account of warfare in the first world war was brought to an international audience by German veteran Erich Maria Remarque”

3. Native Americans want to re-imagine Alamo as a cemetery
By Elaine Ayala | San Antonio Express-News | February 2019
“Long before it was the site of a famous battle, the Alamo was where the city’s earliest citizens lived, worked, died and were buried. They were the city’s first Catholics and helped forge the city and state’s future.”

4. What’s the Loneliest You’ve Ever Felt
By Kristen Radtke | The Atlantic | October 2018
“The author started a project on loneliness by asking this simple question. Many people quickly recounted experiences, often with surprising specificity.”

5. The only impeachment guide you’ll ever need
By Darren Samuelsohn | Politico Magazine | January 2019
“In one sense, Trump is as vulnerable as he’s always been. In another, the risk is huge. The collision of anti-Trump forces with his powerfully loyal base — to say nothing of the president’s own thirst for conflict — would guarantee the most explosive political disruption in generations. If the effort misses, the blowback could easily propel Trump back into office in 2020, with a reinvigorated base bent on revenge.”

6. Netflix Holds the Key to Preserving Film’s Vanishing History
By K. Austin Collins | Vanity Fair | November 2018
The Other Side of the Wind and Shirkers show how the streaming giant could save historic films — even as past-facing services like FilmStruck prove unsustainable.”

7. The Obsessions of Hitchcock, Welles, and Kubrick
By Jonathan Kirshner | Boston Review | June 2017
“The book concludes with the observation that our heroes shared the ability to ‘triumph’ over ‘the ordinary, the conventional, the banal.’ Certainly they did. But surely there was more.”

8. All of Lady Gaga’s tattoos and their meanings
By Melissa Minton | Page Six :: The New York Post | February 2019
“[S]he has called the left half of her body her ‘Iggy Pop’ side, and the tattoo-less right side her ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ ”

9. The dollar is still king. How (in the world) did that happen
By Peter S. Goodman | The New York Times | February 2019
“The enduring potency of the dollar gives force to President Trump’s mode of engagement.”

10. Who Killed Tulum
By Reeves Wiedeman | The Cut :: New York Magazine | February 2019
“Greed, gringos, diesel, drugs, shamans, seaweed, and a disco ball in the jungle.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Miss you, Sean Spicer / Black Americans’ past via genetics / View from Mars Rover / The Pentagon’s pollution / One father, 200 children

This week: Miss you, Sean Spicer / Black Americans’ past via genetics / View from Mars Rover / The Pentagon’s pollution / One father, 200 children

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. We’ll Miss You, Sean Spicer
By Erin Gloria Ryan | The New York Times | July 21
“Mr. Spicer was alternately rude and outright dismissive to reporters. He told April Ryan to stop shaking her head. He made Jim Acosta of CNN and Hallie Jackson of MSNBC into household names. Still, Americans tuned into Mr. Spicer’s pressers in such numbers that their ratings topped the soap operas that shared the time slot. Call it ‘As the World Burns.’ ”

2. How African Americans Use DNA Testing to Connect With Their Past
By Ed Yong | The Atlantic | June 2017
“Genetic tests have ushered in a new era of root-seeking and community-building, says social scientist Alondra Nelson.”

3. The Public Editor’s Club at The New York Times as told by the six who lived it
By Andy Robinson | Columbia Journalism Review | July 20
“The editors often found themselves in disagreement with colleagues, and even with direct access to the publisher at all times, the job was never easy. But all agreed the job was a testament to the integrity of the Times. Over the last six months I’ve photographed and interviewed all six who served as public editors of the most influential newsroom in the world.”

4. Trump’s desire for private infrastructure money will narrow his choices
By Tom Scheck, Curtis Gilbert, and Will Craft | APM Reports :: Marketplace | July 19
“An analysis by APM Reports has found that at least 46 transportation and water-related projects in 23 states and the District of Columbia presented to the White House could rely on private money to be completed, including investment opportunities in Alabama, drinking water pipelines in California and New Mexico and a massive transit project in the New York City area.”

5. From Mars Rover: Panorama Above ‘Perseverance Valley’
Jet Propulsion Laboratory :: NASA | July 20
“NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded a panoramic view before entering the upper end of a fluid-carved valley that descends the inner slope of a large crater’s rim.”

6. Open Burns, Ill Winds
By Abrahm Lustgarten | ProPublica | July 20
“The Pentagon’s handling of munitions and their waste has poisoned millions of acres, and left Americans to guess at the threat to their health.”

7. The man who may have secretly fathered 200 children
By Joanna Moorhead | The Guardian | July 15
” A daughter, Lotte, now 23, was born in 1994. Almost two years later, in 1995, Heij gave birth to a second child, Yonathan; Karbaat assured her the sperm was from the same donor.”

8. The unhappiness of the US working class
By Carol Graham | Brookings | July 2017
“A critical factor is the plight of the white blue-collar worker, for whom hopes for making it to a stable, middle-class life have largely disappeared.”

9. Home Girl
By Michael Hall | Texas Monthly | January 2007
“1. Erykah Badu Sings and Dances 2. Raises Her Children 3. Grows Herbs 4. Rides a Skateboard 5. Saves Her Old Hood in Dallas 6. And Works on Her New Album, Which Will Be Finished When It’s Finished”

10. My Beautiful Oubliette: The Difficulty of Being a Writer in Prison
By Dean Faiello | LitHub | June 2017
“Prisons are not set up to inspire writers; I have few choices of where to put down my piece of paper and write. That’s the whole idea of prison rehabilitation — limit the choices and temptations that daily life offers, and hopefully, men will learn to make the right decisions. But the reality is that many of us simply find a way to get what we want. Prison makes us smarter criminals.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The myth of Robert E. Lee / The liberalism of Islam / Comey’s intellectual history / Trump’s credibility / Writing in a library

This week: The myth of Robert E. Lee / The liberalism of Islam / Comey’s intellectual history / Trump’s credibility / Writing in a library

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. The Myth of the Kindly General Lee
By Adam Serwer | The Atlantic | June 4
“Lee had beaten or ordered his own slaves to be beaten for the crime of wanting to be free, he fought for the preservation of slavery, his army kidnapped free blacks at gunpoint and made them unfree — but all of this, he insisted, had occurred only because of the great Christian love the South held for blacks.”

2. There Is No Better Place to Write than the Library
By Joe Kanon | Atria :: LitHub | June 8
“For over twenty years I have been writing in the New York Public Library — eight novels and a ninth underway — and I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”

3. In defense of ‘The Skimm’
By Kaitlin Ugolik | Columbia Journalism Review | June 6
“Yes, the news is often complicated. Yes, we should encourage readers to pay attention for more than a few minutes each day. But when we imply that there is only one ‘right’ way to consume the news, or to be informed, we exclude people who don’t — or can’t — fit that mold.”

4. NASA Jobs: The Application, Selection Process For How To Become An Astronaut
By Nina Godlewski | International Business Times | June 7
“There’s no set schedule for how frequently NASA puts out a call for applicants. Since 2000 it has announced classes in 2004, 2009, 2013 and now 2017. … So if you’ve been dreaming of space, you may have to wait a few more years to get your next shot at the stars.”

5. James Comey’s Intellectual History
By Nicholas Schmidle | The New Yorker | June 7
“After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, in 1985, Comey clerked for Judge John Walker, Jr., George H. W. Bush’s cousin, in the Southern District of New York. Comey became a Republican. In public, however, he portrayed himself as nonpartisan.”

6. ‘The Leftovers,’ Life, Death, Einstein and Time Travel
By Maureen Ryan | Variety | May 2017
“‘The Leftovers’ is about quantum mechanics. Don’t let the sex cults and post-death karaoke distract you. It is essentially a showcase for physics.”

7. The 35 words you’re (probably) getting wrong
By Harold Evans | The Guardian | June 5
“Have you made a flagrant error, in confusing your alternative choices? The legendary Fleet Street editor Harold Evans proscribes this glossary to solve your language dilemmas”

8. AP FACT CHECK: Trump contradicts homeland security secretary
By Calvin Woodward and Jim Drinkard | Associated Press | June 5
“President Donald Trump can’t be counted on to give accurate information to Americans when violent acts are unfolding abroad.”

9. Trump’s dangerous delusions about Islam
By Christopher de Bellaigue | The Guardian | February 2017
“The president and his advisers paint Muslims as enemies of modernity. The neglected history of an age of Middle Eastern liberalism proves them wrong”

10. Governor Struggles to Lead as Texas Republicans Splinter Into Factions
By Manny Fernandez and David Montgomery | The New York Times | June 5
“Mr. Abbott is facing a fundamental question: How conservative is conservative enough for the governor of a state that defines the right in America as much as California defines the left?”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The Democrats’ future / James Webb Telescope / The Internet Archive / Lincoln’s legacy in Mexico / 10 Arab philosophers we need

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This week: The Democrats’ future / James Webb Telescope / The Internet Archive / Lincoln’s legacy in Mexico / 10 Arab philosophers we need

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. Liberal activists, new DNC chief face a Trump-era reckoning
By Bill Barrow | Associated Press | Feb. 26
“Perez has embraced the idea of a more aggressive, populist identity for the party, even if he hasn’t convinced activists he can deliver on it. He said throughout the three-day DNC meeting ahead of the vote that he would work to align party resources with the energy of groups from Black Lives Matter and Swing Left to Indivisible, Resist Trump Tuesdays, Knock Every Door, Rise Stronger and Sister District.”

2. How the baby boomers destroyed everything
By Bruce Cannon Gibney | The Boston Globe | Feb. 26
“In 1971, Alan Shepard was playing golf on the moon. Today, America can’t put a man into orbit (or, allegedly, the Oval Office) without Russian assistance. Something changed, and that something was the boomers and the sociopathic agenda they emplaced.”

3. What will the James Webb Space Telescope reveal about the newly discovered exoplanets?
By Nick Lavars | New Atlas | Feb. 23
“Poised to take the reins from Hubble as NASA’s premier orbiting telescope in 2018, it will boast seven times the light-collecting capacity of its predecessor and will be sensitive enough to spot a single firefly one million kilometers away.”

4. Where to find what’s disappeared online, and a whole lot more: the Internet Archive
By Mary Kay Magistad | Who’s Century Is It? :: PRI | Feb. 23
” Since the Internet Archive started in 1996, its staff — now, about 140 people — have digitized almost 3 million books, and are aiming for 10 million.”

5. When A Woman Deletes A Man’s Comment Online
By Ijeoma Oluo | The Establishment | Feb. 22
“I’m not debating those who show up wedded to bigotry”

6. Could Pluto Regain Its Planethood?
By Mike Wall | Space.com :: Scientific American | Feb. 23
“A proposed new definition for what constitutes a ‘planet’ could reinstate the demoted icy world”

7. Why Abraham Lincoln Was Revered in Mexico
By Jamie Katz | Smithsonian Magazine | Feb. 23
“As a young Congressman and later as the nation’s leader, the first Republican president proved to be a true friend to America’s neighbor to the south”

8. 10 Arabic Philosophers, and Why You Should Know Them
By Scotty Hendricks | Big Think | November 2016
“Of the stars that have proper names in common usage, most of them have the names given to them by Arabic astronomers. We use the numeral system they devised, including the zero. They set the standard for the scientific method for hundreds of years. It is impossible to fully understand western thought without understanding the ideas of these thinkers.”

9. What a Kansas professor learned after interviewing a ‘lost generation’ of journalists
By Deron Lee | Columbia Journalism Review | September 2016
“When Scott Reinardy began studying the state of morale in newspaper newsrooms more than 10 years ago … [he] didn’t know the industry was about to enter a traumatic period of upheaval that would deplete the ranks of journalists around the country and force newspapers to reassess their mission.”

10. The Gang That Always Liked Ike
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | November 2014
“The Gang played bridge, golfed and shot skeet together, ate steaks barbecued by the president, offered advice on politics and the economy and chuckled at his private aphorisms. (He maintained, for example, that the ‘two professions in which amateurs excel’ are ‘prostitution and the military.’)”

Book gems of 2016, Part 6

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on World War I and World War II, science, culture, and literature.

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Stillness of Heart concludes its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

Finally … a brief look at some of the best works on World War I and World War II, science, culture, and literature.

David M. Lubin’s Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War (Oxford University Press, 304 pp., $31.96) challenges us to appreciate how the trauma of war on individuals and on society as a whole has a powerful effect on how that society and its most creative minds express themselves through artwork. Political statement, illustration of shattered psyches, celebrations of victory and glory, reflections of societies that will never be the same again — the wartime and postwar motivations for beautiful and horrifying works analyzed in Lubin’s book were as varied and complex as the artists themselves. This valuable book reviews the work of famous artists and introduces us to previously unknown artists we must know about to fully understand the full spectrum of artwork from the Great War era.

Benjamin E. Jones’s Eisenhower’s Guerillas: The Jedburghs, theMaquis, and the Liberation of France (Oxford University Press, 336 pp., $23.96) reminds us that as the D-Day invaders floated off-shore and the paratroopers floated down from the sky, an Allied insurgency distracted, disrupted, or destroyed German operations in the hours and days before the invasion. This stunning book collects the stories of the daring teams that accepted incredible risks and executed impossible missions in the struggle to free France from Nazi domination.

Theresa Kaminski’s Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II (Oxford University Press, 512 pp., $27.95) offers a story of patriotism and bravery in the midst of brutal conquest. Four women contributed in different and priceless ways to the resistance efforts, the return of the American forces, and the final defeat of the Japanese invaders. Kaminski places their efforts in the larger historical context of the military operations, Japanese treatment of American prisoners, and the place of the Philippines in the overall calculus of Pacific strategy.

J. Samuel Walker’s Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan (University of North Carolina Press, 168 pp., $25), reissued this fall in a third edition, analyzes the contemporary debates over the use of the weapon, evaluates the intelligence available to the Truman administration officials at the time the decision had to be made, and includes fresh information from recently opened Japanese archives. The work masterfully illustrates the incredibly complicated considerations made by the Americans and the Japanese as the world — and warfare itself — stepped into a new era.

Miri Shefer-Mossensohn’s Science among the Ottomans: The Cultural Creation and Exchange of Knowledge (University of Texas Press, 262 pp., $55) pushes back against classic Western assumptions that the Ottoman Empire lost its cultural ambitions and interest in technological advancements — two key aspects of an intellectually vibrant entity — throughout the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, thereby dooming itself to (and justifying) European domination after World War I. Far from it, she argues, for the Ottomans retained their intellectual passion for new solutions to old problems, particularly in the field of communications, when, as early as the 1870s, they were one of the world’s leaders in telegraph technology. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire deliberately and nobly strove to create and maintain a rich creative and artistic culture, championing new inventions, embracing and improving innovations from other regions, and building on the mountainous achievements inherited from Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Safavids, and other great civilizations. This work refocuses academic attention on those accomplishments and challenges Western scholars and students to grant Ottoman civilization the credit and respect it richly deserves.

Apollo Pilot: The Memoir of Astronaut Donn Eisele, edited by Francis French (University of Nebraska Press, 192 pp., $24.95), promises to be an incredible story from an incredible individual. Eisele was selected for the Apollo 1 mission, the first in a series of manned missions to the moon. A training injury suddenly grounded him, and then news came that a fire killed the Apollo 1 crew, including his replacement. The disaster paralyzed NASA’s lunar program, and it was up to the next Apollo crew, including Eisele, to face down dual challenges: restart the Apollo mission program and also recover Americans’ faith in the grand endeavor. Apollo 7 did both. Eisele’s memoir of scientific triumph and personal tragedy brings a new dimension to the literature of space flight and of the heroes that won the space race.

Allan Metcalf’s From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations (Oxford University Press, 232 pp., $19.95) promises to be a smart and light-hearted stroll through the history of American vernacular and the societies, cultural fads, fashions, and events that inspired or were defined by them. Metcalf’s work is a vital reminder that the stories behind common and colorful language, ranging from the Revolutionary era to today, are complicated but crucial elements of our nation’s history and cannot be underestimated.

Reading Debra Hamel’s Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 360 pp., $29.95) is like sitting on a beach near Bodrum, formerly Halicarnassus, with Hamel next to you, the classic book open on your lap, as she illuminates every incredible and sexy story — just the way Herodotus hoped we would enjoy his work.

James A. Michener’s Legacy (Penguin Random House, 144 pp., $16) re-appears on the literary stage with a new paperback edition. The 1987 novel centers on Norman Starr, loosely modeled on Iran-Contra figure Oliver North, as he prepares to answer for his actions before a congressional committee. He looks for moral strength in his ancestry, and the novel unspools an incredible cast of characters ranging across American history, each having played a part in forming the democratic republic Starr’s actions may have threatened.

******

Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Tragedy in Roma, Texas / Less NYC gay clubs / Letters of John Adams / Bernie Sanders and Eugene McCarthy / Google doodles

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This week: Tragedy in Roma, Texas / Less NYC gay clubs / Letters of John Adams / Bernie Sanders and Eugene McCarthy / Google doodles

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. Gay Dance Clubs on the Wane in the Age of Grindr
By Michael Musto | The New York Times | April 26
“Night life veterans point to a variety of reasons, including cultural shifts, real estate pressures and technology.”

2. Prince’s Paisley Park Home to Become a Museum
By Sebastian Modak | Conde Nast Traveler | April 26
“Sheila E., Prince’s longtime musical collaborator, revealed plans to memorialize His Royal Badness within the walls of his estate on the outskirts of Minneapolis.”

3. ‘West Wing’ Meets White House: Allison Janney Greets Reporters in Press Room
Associated Press :: The Hollywood Reporter | April 29
“She took the podium normally reserved for spokesman Josh Earnest and told reporters she hoped to bring attention to the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

4. Roma, Texas: A Smuggler’s Paradise
By Jay Root | The Texas Tribune | April 21
“Multiple inflatable rafts on the water. Emotionally shaken kids in the back of Border Patrol vans. Dope worth a quarter-million dollars on the street, dumped on the river’s edge. Roadside apprehensions. People running, swimming and shouting obscenities in and alongside a river shared by two countries.”

5. Meet the man behind Google’s doodles
By Elizabeth Garone | BBC Capital | April 26
“His job and others like it says a lot about why art matters more than ever to the binary world of technology”

6. Against American exceptionalism: Gordon S. Wood on John Adams
Library of America | April 19
“Library of America sat down with editor Gordon Wood, Alva O. Way Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University and the Pulitzer Prize?winning author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution, to discuss Adams’s complicated legacy, and the enduring appeal of his writings.”

7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Islamic State
By Marwan Hisham | Dispatch :: Foreign Policy | April 20
“An accidental tour into the heart of the caliphate’s oil smuggling economy.”

8. NASA has mapped every eclipse that will occur for the next 1,000 years
By Brian Resnick | Vox | April 29
“They even know the exact time, down to the fraction of a second, that the eclipses will occur.”

9. What Bernie Sanders Should Learn From Eugene McCarthy
By Julian E. Zelizer | Politico Magazine | April 21
“In 1968, the Democratic insurgent refused to support the establishment nominee — and it was disastrous”

10. A Style-Setting J.F.K. Appears With a 2014 Congressional Candidate
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | July 2014
“Recoiling from a famous photograph of President Calvin Coolidge in a Sioux headdress, which he considered comical, Kennedy almost always refused to wear unusual hats in public — including on the last morning of his life, when hosts at a Fort Worth breakfast pressed him, without success, to don a Stetson.”

Book gems of 2016: Part 1

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As you plan your reading for 2016, consider these eight recently published or forthcoming titles. Watch for more recommendations and book reviews in the coming weeks.

ANTIQUITY
Mary Beard, classicist and author of the blog A Don’s Life, offers SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Liveright, 608 pp., $35), a perceptive tour of the birth of Rome, the political entity, from the shadows of obscurity and its circuitous evolution into the Roman Republic. Step by step, she interrogates the traditional academic assumptions of its leaders, origin myths, and governing structures and analyzes them, often through the prisms of recent archaeological and historical discoveries, and presents a fresh and comprehensive history of Rome before its imperial era.

Richard Alston’s Rome’s Revolution: Death of the Republic and Birth of the Empire (Oxford University Press, 408 pp., $29.95) examines the chaotic and blood-soaked transition of the Roman Republic to Roman Empire. Another civil war erupted in 44 BC following the senatorial assassination of Julius Caesar, and in the end three men were left standing — Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus. They agreed to share power and administer separate parts of the Roman world. Octavian governed Rome and the west. Antony took the eastern territories (basing himself in Alexandria, where he met Cleopatra), and Lepidus took the rest of Africa west of Egypt. Ultimately, however, Roman rule could not be shared, and Octavian eventually eliminated his partners, terminated the 500-year-old republic, and assumed supreme power as emperor of a new Roman Empire. Alston’s story effortlessly swings back and forth between experiences of Romans on the street and Romans in the halls (and bedrooms) of power as they all experienced, whether they realized it or not, one of the most significant political revolutions in human history.

CIVIL WAR
Simon Cameron, Abraham Lincoln’s first secretary of war, is remembered for little more than his departure under the shadow of corruption, incompetence, or intransigence. Paul Kahan’s Amiable Scoundrel: Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s Scandalous Secretary of War (University of Nebraska Press, 408 pp. $36.95) confronts the fog of historical negativity swirling around Cameron and argues that not only was Cameron a product of his time, his time was partly a product of him. Before joining Lincoln’s Cabinet — an intelligent political move on Lincoln’s part — Cameron was a political powerhouse in Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, present at the birth of the Republican Party, a key voice in formulating Northern military strategy, and an early supporter for inclusion of black Americans in the ranks of the Union forces. He witnessed, was a part of, or a target of the most important political and military debates before and during the early months of the Civil War. Kahan’s portrait of Cameron and his times reminds us to not overlook Cameron’s crucial influence and historical importance and to remember the larger political forces Lincoln needed to succeed.

As powerful men influenced historical events, even more powerful women influenced the men. Candice Shy Hooper focuses on four of these women in Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War — for Better and for Worse (Kent State University Press, 440 pp., $39.95). Jessie Fremont (wife of John C. Fremont), Nelly McClellan (wife of George B. McClellan), Ellen Sherman (wife of William T. Sherman), and Julia Grant (wife of Ulysses S. Grant) watched their husbands rise up the ranks of Union command, worried for their safety as they fought the biggest and bloodiest battles in the history of the Western Hemisphere, traveled around the war-torn country, and offered their opinions and guidance as politics and war coalesced into the same battlefield over supreme power. Hooper deftly (and amusingly) explores how the wives’ personalities and outlooks resembled those of their spouses. They viewed Lincoln either with contempt or respect. They encouraged their husbands to either undermine or support him, ultimately intensifying either their husbands’ intransigence, and thereby dooming them to removal from command, or challenging them to do better, thereby securing their husbands’ places in the pantheon of U.S. military history.

Kelly D. Mezurek’s For Their Own Cause: The 27th United States Colored Troops (Kent State University Press, 344 pp., $37.95) promises to go beyond the traditional unit history to illustrate why black Americans volunteered to fight in the Union Army, how they endured racism and unfair treatment and assignments, and what they expected from the democratic republic they had bled for and died to save. The free Ohio men that comprised the 27th USCT fought in North Carolina and Virginia, serving from April 1864 to September 1865, months after the Confederacy collapsed. They returned to Ohio determined to build better and stronger communities for their children, linked to the promises of the the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Their story further brightens the scholarly illumination of black veterans’ excruciating struggle to secure equal rights for all Americans and ultimately realize the promise of American democracy.

Richard M. Reid’s African Canadians in Union Blue: Volunteering for the Cause in the Civil War (Kent State University Press, 308 pp., $28.95) offers an exciting and fresh perspective on black Union soldiers who joined their American counterparts in the fight for freedom in North America. The transnational perspective sparks new considerations of the nature of black Northern societies that stretched far beyond international borders and cultures. It also contributes to the larger conversation about why men and women fought on either side in the Civil War. Reid’s Canadian soldiers join the array of other foreign soldiers — including Latinos from Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean — who fought their own larger world war for freedom and democracy.

WORLD WAR II
The process of intellectual preparation for the wars of the future is a complicated landscape for any historian to analyze and illustrate. But John M. Lillard’s Playing War: Wargaming and U.S. Navy Preparations for World War II (University of Nebraska Press, 224 pp., $39.95) offers the ideal vantage point for both scholars, students, and enthusiasts of military history. While other studies might underestimate the Naval War College’s interwar contribution to the U.S. Navy’s eventual strategies and tactics, Lillard argues that the College’s multi-level war games, experiments with new technologies, and perceptive simulations of the future wars all lay at the heart of U.S. victory in 1945.

SPACE
Astronauts inspire us like none others. Their scientific, technological, and intellectual achievements are unrivaled, their bravery in the face of certain death is unforgettable, and their patriotism is unassailable. They are the first to admit that what they achieved was the result of their participation in efforts that involved thousands of men and women around the world. They are also the first to remind their admirers that not everyone survived the journeys into history. Colin Burgess, Kate Doolan and Bert Vis collected the stories of sixteen Americans and Russians who died during their nations’ efforts to reach the moon in a new edition of Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon (University of Nebraska Press, 448 pp., $36.95). Some died in training accidents, others on the launch pad, and one died in an automobile accident. Fallen Astronauts promises to deepen the reverence for those who lost their lives, for those who dared to move forward, and for those who made it to the summit, never forgetting those they lost. Heroism transcended nationality, ideology, or culture.

******

Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Kids of deported parents / Celebrating Neil Armstrong / English born in Turkey? / The dangerous sex study

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. Parents deported, what happens to US-born kids?
By Helen O’Neill | Associated Press | Aug. 25
“It’s a question thousands of other families are wrestling with as a record number of deportations means record numbers of American children being left without a parent.”

2. Made ‘Giant Leap’ as First Man to Step on Moon
By John Noble Wilford | The New York Times | Aug. 25
“Charles F. Bolden Jr., the current NASA administrator, said, ‘As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind’s first small step on a world beyond our own.'”

3. NASA’s pioneering astronauts: Where are they now?
Associated Press | Aug. 26
“As space exploration has become more common and the number of astronauts has risen past 300, many names have faded into the background. But some will forever be associated with the golden age of space exploration.”
Also see: 12 men who walked on the moon, from 1969 to 1972 | Key dates in history of space exploration

4. Calls to grant astronaut Neil Armstrong a state funeral
By Adam Lusher and Matthew Holehouse | The Daily Telegraph | Aug. 26
“A state funeral would typically involve pallbearers from five branches of the US Armed Forces, a series of artillery salutes, a flypast and a number of bands and choirs.”

5. Neil Armstrong: ‘Diffident’ emissary of mankind
By Paul Rincon | BBC News | Aug. 25
“After smiling and waving through the ticker tape parades, public audiences and television interviews, Armstrong stepped out of the spotlight and tried to rediscover the obscurity from which he had emerged.”

6. Before landing on the moon, Armstrong trained as a pilot in Corpus Christi
By Katherine Rosenberg | Corpus Christi Caller-Times | Aug. 25
“He racked up flight hours at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi in 1950. …”

7. Tania Luna: My story of gratitude
TED New York | July 2012
“Tania Luna co-founded Surprise Industries, the world’s only company devoted to designing surprise experiences.”

8. English language ‘originated in Turkey’
By Jonathan Ball | BBC News | Aug. 25
“The New Zealand researchers used methods developed to study virus epidemics to create family trees of ancient and modern Indo-European tongues to pinpoint where and when the language family first arose.”

9. The End of the Gutbuster
By Pat Leonard | Disunion :: The New York Times | July 5
“The soldiers could not have known then, and would not know until years later, the immense impact on their lives that would be wielded by the single unassuming officer who entered their camps that day.”

10. Every man’s favorite sex study
By Tracy Clark-Flory | Salon | Aug. 25
“The headlines were provocative: Semen cures depression! But the study is 10 years old, and far from conclusive”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Being alone / Planning for post-Assad Syria / NASA preps for Mars landing / Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld get coffee / RFK’s secret archive

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. How to be alone
By Tracy Clark-Flory | Salon | Aug. 4
“We all have to learn to be by ourselves, whether it’s after a breakup, a move or a divorce — but how, exactly?”

2. State Department and Pentagon Plan for Post-Assad Syria
By Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker | The New York Times | Aug. 4
“Mindful of American mistakes following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, both agencies have created a number of cells to draft plans for what many officials expect to be a chaotic, violent aftermath that could spread instability over Syria’s borders …”

3. Ruins a memento of Iraqi Christians’ glorious past
By Kay Johnson | Associated Press | Aug. 5
“[R]uins have emerged from the sand over the past five years with the expansion of the airport serving the city of Najaf, and have excited scholars who think this may be Hira, a legendary Arab Christian center.”

4. NASA braces for ‘7 minutes of terror’ Mars plunge
By Alicia Chang | Associated Press | Aug. 5
“The Curiosity rover was poised to hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph. If all goes according to script, it will be slowly lowered by cables inside a massive crater in the final few seconds.”

5. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Larry Eats a Pancake
By Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David | Crackle | July 2012
“Jerry’s special guest is Larry David in the premiere episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.”

6. He May Be Leader of Peru, but to Outspoken Kin, He’s Just a Disappointment
By William Neuman | The New York Times | Aug. 4
“The president’s brother Ulises, the oldest of the seven Humala children, compared the family’s wranglings — ‘Humala vs. Humala’ is a headline that needs no translation here — to the escapades in ‘Dallas.’ ”

7. Theo Jansen creates new creatures
TED | September 2007
“Artist Theo Jansen demonstrates the amazingly lifelike kinetic sculptures he builds from plastic tubes and lemonade bottles.”

8. Kennedys keep vise-grip on RFK papers
By Bryan Bender | The Boston Globe | Aug. 5
“Scholars and government officials believe the 62 boxes of files covering Kennedy’s three years as attorney general during his brother’s administration could provide insights into critical Cold War decisions on issues ranging from the Cuban missile crisis to Vietnam.”

9. Left for Dead in Virginia
By Ronald S. Coddington | Disunion :: The New York Times | June 28
“George T. Perkins and his Union comrades breathed a collective sigh of relief on the afternoon of June 27, 1862.”

10. Mississippi 1964: Civil Rights and Unrest
By Walter Cronkite | NPR | June 2005
“Walter Cronkite recalls the story of the slaying of three civil rights workers in 1964. Cronkite saw the drama unfold amid two struggles: one for civil rights and another against the Vietnam War.”

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

TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. FULL MOON, EMPTY HEART Belly
2. COME TOGETHER The Beatles
3. STEP BY STEP Jesse Winchester
4. ATLANTIC CITY (Live) Bruce Springsteen
5. COME RAIN OR COME SHINE (Unplugged) Don Henley
6. ARE YOU GONNA GO MY WAY (Unplugged) Lenny Kravitz
7. RACING IN THE STREET Bruce Springsteen
8. AGAIN Lenny Kravitz
9. HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN The Animals
10. HELTER SKELTER U2

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Churchill’s brutal decision / How cats fall / Grieving for pets / Flying the Dawn spacecraft / A classic interview with Fidel Castro

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. An Interview with Fidel Castro
By Barbara Walters | Foreign Policy | Sept. 15, 1977
“Fidel Castro on communism, his own death, and the U.S. embargo.”

2. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Discovers Apollo 11 Rocket Engines at the Bottom of the Sea
By Rebecca J. Rosen | The Atlantic | March 28
“For four decades, the engines that powered Apollo 11 to the moon have lain at the bottom of the Atlantic. But they’ll soon rise again.”

3. How to Fly the Slowest Spacecraft in the Cosmos
By Jeffrey Kluger | Time Science | March 28
“You may never have heard of Dawn, and if you haven’t, you’re not alone.”

4. Grieving for Pets and Humans: Is There a Difference?
By Tara Parker-Pope | Well :: The New York Times | March 27
“Can the death of a pet hurt as much as the loss of a relative?”

5. The dirty little secret about second-term presidents
By Daniel W. Drezner | Foreign Policy | March 26
“Consider the last three two-term presidents: Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43. I’ll grant this is a very small sample, but bear with me. Did their second-term policies look different from their first-term? You bectha.”

6. Who, What, Why: How do cats survive falls from great heights?
BBC News Magazine | March 24
“A cat in the US city of Boston survived a fall from a 19-storey window and only bruised her chest. How do cats survive falls from such great heights?”

7. Gingrich Stuck to Caustic Path in Ethics Battles
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg | The Long Run :: The New York Times | Jan. 28
“Newt Gingrich had an urgent warning for conservatives: Jim Wright, the Democratic speaker of the House, was out to destroy America.”

8. Rereading: RK Narayan
By Charles Nicholl | The Guardian | May 14
“A visit to the city that inspired RK Narayan’s fictional south Indian town, Malgudi, on the 10th anniversary of his death”

9. Churchill’s Deadly Decision
Secrets of the Dead :: PBS | May 13, 2010
“Churchill had to make a choice. He could either trust the promises of the new French government that they would never hand over their ships to Hitler. Or he could make sure that the ships never joined the German navy by destroying them himself.”

10. Assassination of Malcolm X
Witness :: BBC News | February 28
“In February 1965, the controversial black leader, Malcolm X, was assassinated in Harlem, New York.”