Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 48: Dr. Mehdi Aminrazavi

From April 2017: “He and Colin talk about Islam: how it developed, its central beliefs and practices, and how it has evolved since the time of Mohammad.”

Mehdi Aminrazavi is Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Co-Director of the Leidecker Center for Asian Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. A native of Iran, he received his education in the United States and has lived and taught in Virginia for decades.

via Podcast 48: Dr. Mehdi Aminrazavi — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Visit Mission Concepcion on Oct. 16

For just one night, on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, at 8 p.m., an artist will project light onto the building, virtually “restoring” the Mission to its former glory.

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I’m a history teacher at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio. I teach both parts of the introduction to U.S. history. HIST 1301 begins the tour in Native America and ends with post-Civil War Reconstruction. HIST 1302 begins with Reconstruction and brings it to the modern era.

Every teacher ends the second half in different places: the Reagan Revolution, 9/11, the election of Barack Obama. Because I’m emphasizing the relevance of history to current events (if they leave my class with nothing else, at least they will be more sensitive to and appreciative of the historical roots of news events all around them), I intend to end the second half with the rise of ISIS.

I’ve slowly come to appreciate the historical richness and importance of San Antonio, if only because of my lifelong failure to fully appreciate Mexican and Tejano culture. But San Antonio has captured my heart and, more importantly, my respect as a historian. I’ve tried to share my new enthusiasm with my students by making them aware of the truly unique place of San Antonio in Spanish, Mexican, Texas, Confederate, and U.S. history.

One of their extra-credit opportunities is to visit one of the San Antonio Missions (a visit to the Alamo doesn’t count). They have to take a picture of themselves next to a sign indicating which Mission they visited, show it to me, and then they get an extra ten points towards their final grade for the semester.

As I just told them on our class blog, Ortiz History, I recently learned of one more reason to visit the beautiful Mission Concepcion. For just one night, on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, at 8 p.m., an artist will project light onto the building, virtually “restoring” the Mission to its former glory. That will be the highlight of a three-hour festival of food trucks, picnics, historical tours, music, and family-friendly activities spread throughout the mission grounds. Festivities begin at 6 p.m.

Learn more about the event on its Facebook page.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: That land of desolation

Martial optimism mixes with frustration as Stone sits down to sew, only because her seamstress slave has escaped.

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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)

Martial optimism mixes with frustration as Stone sits down to sew, only because her seamstress slave has escaped.

May 29, 1864

Tyler, Texas

The news this morning is enough to make one hurrah. Grant is repulsed with a loss of 45,000 and Johnston is victorious at Dalton with 10,000 prisoners captured. Providence is smiling on our arms this year. Not a defeat. Peace, glorious Peace, will gladden our hearts before the spring flowers bloom again.

It is the fairest of May days and Mamma has gone to church. I stayed with Johnny, who is feeling unwell and is in bed. Mamma will find it unpleasantly warm walking that mile from church. Oh, for a carriage! My ambition reaches out only for a carriage and a riding horse for Johnny, then I shall be satisfied for a little while. I doubt that I was ever intended for a poor girl. Deprivations go hard with me. Mamma has more strength of mind than to worry about it.

A wagon just arrived from the prairie loaded with eatables. … Not a cent of money in the house for a week and only hard fare. As the wagon has come, Jimmy’s trip was useless. All the Negroes are well and affairs are flourishing in that land of desolation. The last few days have been as dismal as a rainy Sunday. We miss Julia. No letters, no visitors, and even the boys have half-way deserted us. … Mrs. Savage grows ruder every day. She is so often rough and unkind in her speech that the boys all stand in terror of her tongue and will hardly venture to go there.

May 30

Our first busy day this spring, sewing on the cloth from the prairie. We are at last using homespun. Hemmed a dozen towels today, looking much like the dish towels of old. Little Sister is to have an outfit from the same piece, but she quite glories in the idea of wearing homespun and coming out a regular Texan. The house servants are charmed to see the cloth. They have been fit suspects for the ragman for weeks. Mamma is readying up Charles, who has been a regular ragamuffin.

We are sorry Adeline, the seamstress, selected this as a fit time to run away. It keeps our hands full. Mamma sent Felix back to Mr. Smith and has Thomas in his place. We think he will be an improvement. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Nobly and fearlessly

In one of her longest and most beautiful passages, a heartbroken Kate Stone mourned the loss of yet another beloved brother.

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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 recalled with heartbreaking beauty the loss of yet another beloved brother.

Note how Bonham stressed Coleman’s dignity and comfort throughout his physical deterioration, his medical care, and his serene death and moonlit funeral. Her letter turned his decline into a graceful ceremonial journey from life to death. Bonham tried to reassure Coleman’s mother that all Christian values were fulfilled (the Bible under the pillow, the constant prayers read, his hopes for divine forgiveness). It promised that Coleman’s masculinity was preserved right to the end (adoring women always nearby to care for him and kiss him, his brave endurance of terrible pain, his resolve bringing grown men to tears). It illustrated his final moments as unforgettable and fitting for a Southern gentleman (no undignified or embarrassing “contortion,” the retention of “his senses,” his grim but religiously devoted bearing).

Dec. 10, 1863

Again we are called on to mourn one of our dearest and best. Brother Coley has crossed the Dark Valley, free from all pain and trouble. He lies at rest and we are desolate indeed. We had heard only the week before that he was well on October 10, when the letter came telling of his death at Clinton, Miss., on September 22. I can do no better than copy Mrs. Bonham’s letter to Mamma, telling how nobly and fearlessly a Christian soldier can die.

Clinton, Miss.

Sept. 25, 1863

My dear Friend:

It is with feelings of deep and heartfelt sorrow that I resume my pen to give you the particulars of the death of your noble son Coleman Stone. He breathed his last at a quarter before ten Tuesday morning, Sept. 22nd. I wrote you a week before his death giving you full particulars up to that time. Then fever set in which with his previous bad health and reduced state and wound combined soon brought him down. The injury, as I stated in my letter, was very serious from the first and never healed as it would have done on a strong, healthy person. Ten days or more before his death I had him moved from the hospital to an office in the yard next me so I could give him constant care. Mrs. Moore was on the other side so some female was with him all the time. I never saw so great a favorite. Everybody in town was interested in him. Someone was constantly calling to see if they could be of service. As for me, I loved him as a son and grieved for him as one. He was one of the most patient beings under suffering I ever saw.

I watched him three weeks and four days. Most of the time he was suffering the most excruciating pain, but he bore it with the most remarkable firmness, and to you, his mother, I bear the comforting assurance that he died a Christian. The first Sabbath after he came to the hospital I went in the evening to see him, fearing he would be lonely, and found him reading his Testament. I sat down by him and read aloud for some time. He kept his Bible lying always under his pillow. I used often to take my work and sit by him, and we had many conversations about you, his brothers, and sisters, and his last wish was that he could see you all once more, calling you all by name.

Two days before his death he told me he wished the doctor to tell him his exact condition. He was perfectly calm and composed. The doctor told him there was no chance of his recovery, and said to him, “Coley, you are a sensible thinking boy and must know the necessity of preparation for another world.” He replied that he did and asked me to send for a minister to converse and pray with him. I at once sent for Mr. Tom Markham, formerly of Vicksburg, who happened to be in this vicinity, and around the couch of that dying soldier boy I passed through some of the most impressive scenes of my life.

At sunrise on Tuesday morning, we all knelt around his bed and heard one of the most feeling and beautiful prayers I ever listened to. When I rose and stood by him my hand on his head, he looked in my face and said, “Mrs. Bonham, I don’t think I have ever been a very wicked boy, but since I have been in the army I have been striving to be a Christian, and I believe God has heard my prayers and has answered them. I believe He has forgiven my many sins, pardoned me, and will take me to my home in Heaven. Write to my dear Mother and tell her what I have said to you. I have longed, oh, so much, to see her and my Brothers and Sisters once more, but as I cannot on this earth I trust they will meet me in Heaven.”

He was perfectly calm and had his senses up to five minutes before his death. There was no struggle, no contortion. I stood on one side of him, Mrs. Moore on the other, Dr. Hunt, Mr. Markham, and several others around. I stooped and with sobs and tears pressed a kiss on his brow. He looked in my eyes and said audibly so that all could hear, “For my Mother.” Again I kissed him, and he said, “For my Sisters.” All were in tears.

The strong, stout man who waited on him turned to the window sobbing aloud. Of that good man, that kindhearted friend, I must speak. Mr. Galloway was sent at Coley’s request to wait on him. He watched by him day and night with the faithfulness and affection of a brother and the tenderness of a woman. He was never for a moment cross or impatient and always ready to gratify Coley’s slightest wish, and he grieved for him as for a brother. I shall always love the man for his devotion to Coley, who, on his death bed, told me he wanted Mr. Galloway to have his horse and other effects. He said his horse belonged to his brother, and Mr. Galloway would give it up if it was ever called for. He also has his pistol. …

I have his Testament and a few books. My Belle never let a morning pass without taking him a bouquet of flowers, which he always enjoyed.

Joe Carson came in the morning of his death. He grieved sorely to think he must give up forever his dearest friend. It made my heart ache to see his sorrow. … We dressed Coley in a nice suit of clothes furnished by a young friend of his, Tom Moore. When Coley was first brought in, Tom said to his mother, “Do all you can for Coley Stone as he is my best friend.” Everything of the best kind was prepared for his burial. I wish it was in my power to describe the funeral, but my pen is inadequate. It took place just after night. The moon was full and shone most beautifully. The burial service by Mr. Markham was long and most appropriate. Nearly all of his company were present and a large number of ladies. A stranger would have thought from the feeling shown that we were each seeing a loved brother or son to his last resting place. All were in tears. That burial was one we will all remember. You have my deepest sympathy in this, your great sorrow.

How many sad hearts and broken households has this terrible war caused.

Most sincerely your friend,
Mary T. Bonham

My heart bleeds for Mamma. Sorrow after sorrow rolls over her, almost more than she can bear, but she is a most brave woman and will not sink beneath the burden.

The moonlight falls clear and cold on the graves of three of those who made the mirth and happiness of our home only two short summers ago, three of the glad young voices are hushed, three of the bright young heads lie low. Now what remains of the high hopes, the stirring plans, and the great ambitions that burned in the hearts and filled the brain of these gallant boys — only a handful of dust. All have fallen in the dew and flower of their youth. Ashburn was the first to sink to his dreamless sleep. For two long years the grass has been springing fresh and green over his grave at Brokenburn. He died Nov. 12, 1861, aged eighteen years and three months. Brother Walter was the next to obey the dread summons. He crossed the black waters of the River of Death Feb. 15, 1863, aged eighteen years and two months, and now in the autumn of the same year Brother Coley has passed from Time to Eternity, his short life numbering twenty years and six months.

What charms can peace have for us when it does come bereft of our nearest and dearest?

They grew in beauty side by side
They filled one home with glee,
Their graves are scattered far and wide
By mountain, grove, and sea.

We can never return to the bright and happy home of three years ago. These three graves darken the threshold.

Mamma was in Shreveport when we received the letter and did not get home for several days. She had heard all were well and came home cheerful and happy to be greeted by such news. It was an awful shock to her.

Brother Coley had such a brave and dauntless spirit in that frail, sensitive body, a love for all that was pure and noble, and a scathing contempt for all that was low and mean. Joe Carson has just left after a short furlough home, and from him we learned all that we can know of Brother Coley. He had not grown to strong manhood, as we fondly imagined, but was still a beardless boy, tall and slender, the same fragile form and unbending energy and spirit that we knew at home. He had been offered a position as 2nd lieutenant in Bragg’s army through Uncle Bo’s influence. He had accepted it and expected to join his new company in a few days, when he received the injury that caused his death.

He was out scouting near Clinton with several others when something scared his horse, a powerful black of Dr. Buckner’s. Brother Coley was sitting sideways on the horse, his leg thrown over the pommel. They had stopped to rest when the horse reared and Brother Coley’s spur caught in the bit as he threw his leg over, and the horse fell backward crushing Brother Coley’s shoulder and arm against a root — a most painful injury. He was a splendid rider, and to meet death that way. He had been in many skirmishes and engagements but never was wounded. In the desperate charge that the 28th Mississippi, made in the Franklin, Tenn., battle, he had his cartridge box shot off and fell from his horse but was unhurt. Once acting as regimental orderly he rode through a fire of shot and shell that none of the couriers would brave to carry orders to his squadron.

Brother Walter was only once under fire but acted with such coolness and courage that he was highly complimented by his officers. A small party were sleeping at a picket post on the bank of a little stream when they were surprised by the enemy, who opened artillery fire across the creek. The men rushed for their horses and galloped off, but Brother Walter after mounting rode to the banks of the stream and fired several shots at the gunners, saying afterwards, “Boys, I was just obliged to take a few shots at them.”

Well may we be proud of our brave boys, and we can never be grateful enough to the kind friends at Clinton who nursed Brother Coley so tenderly.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Baffled beasts of prey

Stone’s bitter sense of humor flashed for a moment as she dryly observed the effects of marriage on a young woman’s beauty.

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

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

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

As Stone and her family regained their bearings in their temporary home before making the final push for Texas, Stone’s bitter sense of humor flashed for a moment as she dryly observed the effects of marriage on a young woman’s beauty.

May 3, 1863

Near Monroe, La.

We went to a real country church this morning, saw a country congregation, and heard a sermon to match. Loring Wadley made several trips with the buggy to get us all there, but two of the party rode back in Dr. Young’s $3,000 carriage. We had a pleasure today in a visit of several hours from Julia Street. She came down from Bastrop just for the day. She is more nearly depressed than I ever saw her.

Annie and Peggy got here from the salt works today, and we are glad to have somebody to wait on us again. I expect we will keep them busy. …

May 5

Near Monroe, La.

The gunboats are unable to pass Grand Gulf and are lying idle between Vicksburg and Grand Gulf, like baffled beasts of prey. There is a great scarcity of provisions all through Mississippi. It is difficult to provision Vicksburg for a long siege. …

We went yesterday to see Florence Pugh (now Mrs. Morrison), an old schoolmate. The family are near here now on their way to Texas. She is a dear, sweet girl but looks dreadful. How marrying does change a body for the worse. She was a pretty girl a year ago, fresh and dainty. Now she is married and almost ugly.

I am busy every day trying to make up the cloth Mamma bought, but it is slow, tiresome work for one person with no sewing machine. The only things Mamma could find to buy belonged to the Lowrys, and they sold them at awful prices: $60 for a pair of common blankets, $50 for a pair of linen sheets, and everything else in proportion. They have sold much of their own clothing. Mamma bought some of Olivia’s things for Sister. … It seems funny to be wearing other people’s half-worn clothing, but it is all we can get. Mamma bought some Turkey-red calico at $3 a yard for a dress for Sister.

May 10

Near Monroe, La.

Mamma returned from the salt works on Friday, riding the whole distance on horseback. It was dreadfully fatiguing for one who rides so little. She has gone this evening to Delhi to make another attempt to have the Negroes brought out, if she can get soldiers to go with Jimmy. Quite a number of Negroes have been brought out in that way recently, some from within the lines.

The news from the salt works is bad. Frank, my maid, and Dan both died of pneumonia and neglect, and three others are very ill. Poor Frank, I am sorry for her to go. She has been raised in the house with us. With so much sickness among the Negroes, Mr. Smith has been unable to start to Texas. …

Several thousand of our soldiers are now at Monroe under Maj. Gen. Walker. Two of the officers spent yesterday evening here and told us the whole command would get off this morning and that there were some splendid bands with the regiments. So this morning we rode out to the river opposite Monroe to see them off, starting before sunrise. We saw crowds of soldiers, talked to a number of them, and heard inspiring music. The ride all the way through the spring woods was delightful. I sat up until twelve the night before fixing a sort of riding habit. … The troops after embarking received counterorders and are again in Monroe, expecting to march at any minute. There is another panic in Monroe. The Yankees are looked for at any time. They could not make anything out of this poor family. We have been too thoroughly plucked by the river Feds. …

Aunt Laura is not very well. We would dread to see her get sick.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The blood of her children

Hard, historic days of decision, she knew, lay ahead.

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, the daughter of Louisiana cotton plantation owners who chronicled her turbulent life throughout the Civil War era.

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

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Independence Day, 1861, inspired Stone to reflect on the remnants of the Union her generation inherited from the Founding Fathers. Hard, historic days of decision, she knew, lay ahead.

July 4

Mamma is still in bed but is better. The boys have holiday in honor of the Fourth but more I think to keep up old customs than for any feeling of respect for the day. This is the first Fourth in our memory to pass without a public merrymaking of some kind, but we do not hear of the day’s being celebrated in town or country. There are other and sterner duties before us. It would ill become us as a Nation to be celebrating a day of independence when we are fighting for our very existence.

This July sun has set on a Nation in arms against itself, host against host. Those who have clasped each other’s hands in kindest spirits less than one short year ago, as friends, as countrymen, as children of one common Mother, now stand opposing each other in deadliest hate, eager to water Old Mother Earth with the blood of her children. Our Cause is right and God will give us the victory. Will the next July sun rise on a Nation peaceful, prosperous, and happy, or on a land desolate and disgraced? He alone knows.

Congress meets today. The lives of thousands hang on its decision. Will it be for peace or war? We should know by Saturday.

July 5

The Fourth and today passed without any trouble with the Negroes. The general impression has been that the Negroes looked for a great upheaval of some kind on that day. In some way they have gotten a confused idea of Lincoln’s Congress meeting and of the war; they think it is all to help them, and they expected for “something to turn up.” I hope the house servants will settle to their work now.

July 17

Mamma and I went out Monday and took dinner with Mrs. Savage and went up in the afternoon to call on Mrs. Carson. I remained there until this evening. Mamma came out and spent the day. Had a delightful visit. It is a most hospitable home, complete in all its appointments lovely gardens and orchards, an old place well taken care of with perfect service because of so many servants.

We admire Dr. Carson greatly. He is such a humane master and good Christian. He has the minister to preach regularly to his Negroes, or if there is no minister, he or one of the boys reads a sermon, hymns, and the Bible to them every Sunday afternoon. And he has Sunday school for them. He raises plenty of fruit and vegetables for everybody on the place, and his quarter lot is the prettiest place, a great stretch of thick green turf dotted with great forest trees and a double row of two-room cabins shining with whitewash. It is the cleanest-looking place I ever saw. He is a good man. Mamma has the minister to preach to our Negroes when he can find time, but that is not as often as we wish.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Understanding SOPA / The 5-Second Rule / Looking back at Election 2012 / MLK papers now online / Romney’s faith issue

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. Concerns about Romney’s faith quieter but not gone
By Rachel Zoll | Associated Press | Jan. 16
“The second time around, the shock has worn off. The prospect of a Mormon president appears to be less alien to South Carolina Republicans who are giving Mitt Romney a second look after his failed White House bid in 2008.”

2. Peruvian food put back on the map in Britain
By Sam Jones | The Guardian | Jan. 16
“Restaurants will offer a taste of Lima — with the help of a ‘sacred quartet’ of chillies”

3. 200,000 Martin Luther King Papers Go Online
Open Culture | Jan. 16
“The documents give you a good glimpse of Dr. King’s role as a scholar, father, pastor and catalyst for change.”

4. 10 Important Life Lessons You Learn From Living Abroad
By Whitney Cox | BootsNAll | Jan 16
“It’s a world of implicit triumphs and it’ll-be-funny-later humiliations. Unpack your bags and look forward to these life lessons”

5. Analysis: Wannabe stars, failed hopefuls and the GOP drama that wasn’t
By Steve Krakauer | CNN | Jan. 16
“How did we get here? Where’s the drama, the intrigue, the subplots worthy of intense media salivation? Let’s take a look back”

6. Split by Race and Wealth, but Discovering Similarities as They Study Steinbeck
By Winnie Hu | The New York Times | Jan. 16
“Westfield and Plainfield are linked by a railroad line, but little else connects their residents.”

7. What Is SOPA?
By Brian Barrett | Gizmodo | Jan. 17
“SOPA is an anti-piracy bill working its way through Congress…”

8. This much I know: Tim Robbins
By Emma John | The Observer | September 2010
“The actor and musician, 51, on hatred, ice hockey, and winning an Oscar”

9. The 5-Second Rule
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | February 2011
“You know the five-second rule for dropped food? Is it really safe if you pick it up in time?”

10. The Krakow Ghetto
Witness :: BBC News | March 2011
“The city of Krakow in Poland was home to a large Jewish community before World War II. But with the arrival of the Nazis many of its Jews were deported, or fled. Then in 1941 a Jewish ghetto was built.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Grinding teeth / Anglicans in Catholic Church / Islamic life in France / Spanking kids

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Bloomberg Kissed Lady Gaga and the World Didn’t End
By Connor Simpson | The Atlantic Wire | Jan. 1
“New Year’s Eve is usually celebrated with drinks, Chinese food, noise makers and confetti and sealed with a kiss at midnight, but some celebrate differently, like by kissing Lady Gaga, clashing with the cops, burning cars in Hollywood and stripping on CNN. Welcome to 2012.”

2. Some Anglicans apply to join the Catholic Church
By Michelle Boostein | The Washington Post | December 2011
“The Vatican [was] set to launch a structure … that will allow Anglican parishes in the United States — and their married priests — to join the Catholic Church in a small but symbolically potent effort to reunite Protestants and Catholics, who split almost 500 years ago.”

3. Emily Dickinson
Civil War Women Blog | December 2011
“She was a deeply sensitive woman who explored her own spirituality, in poignant, deeply personal poetry, revealing her keen insight into the human condition.”

4. Muslims of France: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Al Jazeera World | December 2011
“Many Muslims would die for France during the First and Second World Wars, but did France recognise their sacrifices? How a generation of Muslims abandoned their parents’ dreams of returning home and began building their lives in France. What challenges face the young Muslims who grew up in France and entered adulthood at a time of economic crisis?”

5. Metaperceptions: How Do You See Yourself?
By Carlin Fiora | Psychology Today | December 2011
“To navigate the social universe, you need to know what others think of you — although the clearest view depends on how you see yourself.”

6. Will We One Day Stop Evolving?
By Michio Kaku | Big Think | October 2011
“Can evolution go on forever, or will we one day stop evolving?”

7. Beware of presidential nostalgia
By Fareed Zakaria | Global Public Square :: CNN | December 2011
“[W]e cannot really tell the quality of a leader judged from the noise of the present. We need time and perspective.”

8. Pro/Con: Spanking
By Jessica Pauline Ogilvie | Los Angeles Times | December 2011
“Pro: Studies show that spanking, properly utilized, can lead to well-adjusted children. Con: Spanking is harmful and can hinder kids later in life.”

9. The Nightly Grind
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | June 2009
“Why do some people grind their teeth at night?”

10. Can an Airline Pilot Really ‘Make Up’ Time During a Flight?
By J. Bryan Lowder | Explainer :: Slate | November 2011
“Is it just a way of calming passengers?”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Postal cuts … Huge black holes … The classic Marine Corps … Dems and religious voters … Secrets of Roman buildings.

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Web an increasing tool to link campaigns, voters
By Beth Fouhy | Associated Press | Dec. 3
“Online advertising, once used primarily as a way to reach young and heavily wired consumers, has emerged as an essential communications tool in the 2012 presidential contest.”

2. Postal cuts to slow delivery of first-class mail
By Hope Yen | Associated Press | Dec. 4
“The changes … could slow everything from check payments to Netflix’s DVDs-by-mail, add costs to mail-order prescription drugs, and threaten the existence of newspapers and time-sensitive magazines delivered by postal carrier to far-flung suburban and rural communities.”

3. Study: Lawn care industry large source of income for Latinos
By Renee Saldana | NewsTaco | Dec. 5
“The authors do point out that the percentage of Latino-owned landscaping and lawn care industry is double the national average. …”

4. Literature of moment not a signal of decline
By T.R. Fehrenbach | San Antonio Express-News | Dec. 5
“From ‘Iliad’ to today’s vampires, they brighten our lives.”

5. Scientists find monster black holes, biggest yet
By Marcia Dunn | Associated Press | Dec. 5
“A team led by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered the two gigantic black holes in clusters of elliptical galaxies more than 300 million light years away. That’s relatively close on the galactic scale.”

6. Q&A: Radio Over Wi-Fi Airwaves
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | June 28
“Q: I want a small device that will allow me to listen to the BBC Radio 4’s live stream. … I could use my laptop but then I’d have to keep plugging and unplugging it into the peripherals. … Is there another way?”

7. Postwar Marines: smaller, less focused on land war
By Robert Burns | Associated Press | Dec. 4
“This moment of change happens to coincide with a reorienting of American security priorities to the Asia-Pacific region, where China has been building military muscle during a decade of U.S. preoccupation in the greater Middle East. That suits the Marines, who see the Pacific as a home away from home.”

8. Democrats see opening among religious voters in 2012 election
By Josh Lederman | The Hill | Dec. 4
“Democrats are setting out to court faith-based voters by connecting their policies on economic issues to the values of equality, tolerance and humanitarianism.”

9. The Secrets of Ancient Rome’s Buildings
By Erin Wayman | Smithsonian | Nov. 16
“What is it about Roman concrete that keeps the Pantheon and the Colosseum still standing?”

10. The fresh ideas that can help save our world
By Yvonne Roberts | The Guardian | Dec. 3
“Climate change, ageing, joblessness, a healthcare crisis: tomorrow is a tangle of problems. The solution may lie not in politics, but in a ‘social innovation’ movement that is generating groundbreaking ideas”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Extreme weather coming … American exceptionalism … Invisible commandos … The Mediterranean diet … The new Mass.

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Science panel: Get ready for extreme weather
By Seth Borenstein | Associated Press | Nov. 19
“Think of the Texas drought, floods in Thailand and Russia’s devastating heat waves as coming attractions in a warming world. That’s the warning from top international climate scientists and disaster experts after meeting in Africa.”

2. NASA Mars mission to test planet for ability to sustain life
By Marc Kaufman | The Washington Post | Nov. 18
“If the unmanned Mars Science Laboratory lifts off and travels a 354 million-mile path to Mars, it will lower to the surface a sedan-size rover called Curiosity, which has the potential to change our understanding of the cosmos.”

3. Decline of American Exceptionalism
By Charles M. Blow | The New York Times | Nov. 18
“Is America exceptional among nations? Are we, as a country and a people and a culture, set apart and better than others? Are we, indeed, the “shining city upon a hill” that Ronald Reagan described? Are we “chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world” as George W. Bush said?”

4. Special Ops Wants Commandos to Have Invisible Faces
By Katie Drummond | Danger Room :: Wired | Nov. 18
“In 2008, the Army Military Research Office boasted that they were a mere two or three years away from developing metamaterials that could deflect light to conceal a given object. Since then, experts at various institutions have made impressive progress.”

5. A different view of Washington
The Washington Post | Nov. 17
“D.C. would have a very different look if these alternative designs and proposed buildings had came to fruition.”

6. Eat like a Mediterranean — but how?
By Karen Ravn | The Los Angeles Times | Nov. 20
“Here’s what the research says — and doesn’t say — about the Mediterranean diet.”

7. U.S. births dip for the third straight year
Associated Press | Nov. 19
“A federal report released Thursday showed declines in the birth rate for all races and most age groups. Teens and women in their early 20s had the most dramatic dip, to the lowest rates since record-keeping began in the 1940s. Also, the rate of cesarean sections stopped going up for the first time since 1996.”

8. Catholics priests prepare to usher in Mass changes
By Kate Shellnutt | Houston Chronicle | Nov. 19
“At the start of Advent on Nov. 27, Catholics will adopt changes that make the words spoken during Mass in English closer to the church’s official Latin, adding dozens of small substitutions to the liturgy many Catholics pray instinctively. It’s the biggest shift in the Mass since Vatican II.”

9. Seven Tips for Better Group Portraits
By Roy Furchgott | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Nov. 17
“Andrew Boyd, a photojournalist and educator, has written extensively about group shots on his blog, The Discerning Photographer. Here’s his recipe for getting it right.”

10. Does America need Wall Street?
By Jeff Madrick | The Washington Post | Nov. 18
“Wall Street jet-fuels capitalism and innovation, we are told, and that’s what makes America prosperous; Wall Street is full of job-creators. But Alfred Chandler, the respected business historian, argued persuasively that most investment during the nation’s industrialization came from corporate profits, not money raised by Wall Street bankers.”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. ME AND BOBBY McGEE Janis Joplin
2. 4 + 20 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
3. ROSIE (Live) Jackson Browne
4. SOMEBODY SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT Elton John
5. I’M ON FIRE Bruce Springsteen
6. ANGEL Rod Stewart
7. WILD HORSES The Sundays
8. RADIATION RULING THE NATION Massive Attack & Mad Professor
9. FEEL SO GOOD Lovespirals
10. FORBIDDEN LOVE Madonna