Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Does Texas face a massive bug storm? / Brood X cicadas are coming / Black women want better births / The founding fathers / Care for a wounded manatee

This week: Does Texas face a massive bug storm? / Brood X cicadas are coming / Black women want better births / The founding fathers / Care for a wounded manatee

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. Do Thousands of Bat Deaths Mean Texans Will Face a Mosquito-Ridden Summer?
By Tara Haelle | Texas Monthly | March 2021
“Last month’s winter storm decimated the state’s populations of the winged mammals, which may have lasting ecological effects.”

2. In search of lost smell and taste
By Sasha von Oldershausen | The Believer | February 2021
“Mapping the sensory fallout from COVID-19”

3. Billions of cicadas may be coming soon to trees near you
By John Cooley and Chris Simon | The Conversation | March 2021
“Starting sometime in April or May, depending on latitude, one of the largest broods of 17-year cicadas will emerge from underground in a dozen states, from New York west to Illinois and south into northern Georgia. This group is known as Brood X, as in the Roman numeral for 10.”

4. Unmasked: Across Texas, elation and caution as COVID-19 restrictions end after a year
By Karen Brooks Harper, Duncan Agnew and Marissa Martinez | The Texas Tribune | March 2021
“A newly ‘open’ state will likely look very different in rural towns and suburban neighborhoods compared to more populous areas and coronavirus hot spots, residents and business owners say.”

5. Why Black Women Are Rejecting Hospitals in Search of Better Births
By Alice Proujansky | The New York Times | March 2021
“Some mothers are seeking alternatives, worried about Covid-19 and racial inequities in health care.”

6. One, two, tree: how AI helped find millions of trees in the Sahara
By Amy Fleming | The Guardian | January 2021
“Efforts to map the Earth’s trees are growing – and could change our understanding of the planet’s health”

7. The Physician Who Presaged the Germ Theory of Disease Nearly 500 Years Ago
By Ewan Morgan | Scientific American | January 2021
“Largely forgotten today, Girolamo Fracastoro was a seminal figure in our understanding of infectious illness”

8. The February Revolution of 1917
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: An Iranian Intellectual Visits Israel | Perspectives of the Founding Fathers | The Scramble for Africa | Islamic Extremism in the Modern World

9. How to Treat a Wounded Manatee
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | January 2021
“To accelerate healing, Peterson’s team uses antibiotics, cold-laser therapy and stem cells, as well as raw, unpasteurized honey.”

10. Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2012-2020
Also see: Literature | Heraclitus | Ptolemy and Ancient Astronomy | The Moon

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Biden’s first hundred days / The second impeachment / A new look at kangaroos / Romulus and Remus / The Spanish Inquisition

This week: Biden’s first hundred days / The second impeachment / A new look at kangaroos / Romulus and Remus / The Spanish Inquisition

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. Donald Trump impeached a second time over mob attack on US Capitol
By Lauren Gambino | The Guardian | January 2021
“The sole article of impeachment charges the defeated president with ‘inciting an insurrection’ that led to what the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said would be immortalized as a ‘day of fire’ on Capitol Hill.”
Also see, from Foreign Affairs: Present at the Destruction
Also see, from The Washington Post: Four years ago, I wondered if the media could handle Trump. Now we know.
Also see, from The Lily: One way women in D.C. are trying to identify pro-Trump rioters? Dating apps.
Also see, from The New York Times: A Preordained Coda to a Presidency
Also see, from NPR Public Editor: From ‘Protest’ To ‘Riot’ To ‘Insurrection’ — How NPR’s Language Evolved

2. The hundred day mistake
By Alasdair Roberts | The Wilson Quarterly | Winter 2021
“Is an FDR-style legislative blitz the best way forward in our present crisis?”

3. World’s oldest painting of animals discovered in an Indonesian cave
By Ibrahim Sawal | New Scientist | January 2021
“The paintings of three pigs, alongside several hand stencils, were discovered in the limestone cave of Leang Tedongnge on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.”

4. Vogue’s Kamala Harris cover shows that diminishing powerful Black women is still in fashion
By Karen Attiah | Opinion :: The Washington Post | January 2021
“In life, as in boxing, it’s often the punches you don’t see coming that knock you out.”

5. Queen Bee Sperm Storage Holds Clues to Colony Collapse
By Karen Kwon | Scientific American | January 2021
“Analyzing fluid from queen bees’ specialized sperm sacs can expose stressors”

6. Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus variant?
Associated Press | December 2020
“Experts believe so, but they’re working to confirm that.”

7. ‘A Social Species’: How Kangaroos Communicate With People
By Yan Zhuang | The New York Times | December 2020
“Researchers say that kangaroos are the first wild animals to exhibit interspecies communication that is more commonly seen in animals that have evolved alongside humans.”

8. The End of Colonialism in South Asia
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: The Spanish Inquisition | The Haitian Revolution | America’s Entry in to World War I | Simón Bolívar

9. How to Build a Covert Fire
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | December 2020
“First, find a suitable place to dig. Look for firm soil, not too rocky or sandy; a trowel, while not strictly necessary, will make the job easier.”

10. Tutankhamun
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2013-2020
Also see: Epicureanism | The War of 1812 | Romulus and Remus | Comets

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Reading faster / Biden’s foreign policy challenges / Remembering a slave’s death in a pandemic / The rise of freebirthing / The fall of Rome and the fall of America

This week: Reading faster / Biden’s foreign policy challenges / Remembering a slave’s death in a pandemic / The rise of freebirthing / The fall of Rome and the fall of America

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

1. What’s next for America’s favorite news podcast
By Kerry Flynn | CNN Business | December 2020
“[W]ith an incoming president who ran on restoring normalcy to a chaotic White House, what remains to be decided is whether listeners will still flock to ‘The Daily’ for deep dives and explanations of the news.”

2. How to Read Faster
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | March 2020
“You tend to read faster by reading more.”

3. Biden faces a changed world and no end of foreign policy challenges from China to Iran
By Karen DeYoung | The Washington Post | December 2020
“Biden faces competing priorities, congressional hurdles and wary, if welcoming, allies. In some cases, such as with North Korea and Venezuela, the most daunting obstacle to foreign policy success is the one that has bedeviled several presidents before him. There are no good options.”

4. How to Talk to Yourself
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | April 2020
“Research suggests that people with low self-esteem who try to force positive self-talk can end up feeling worse.”

5. A Brief Appreciation of the Incest Gnocchi Scene in The Godfather: Part III
By Roxana Hadadi | Vulture :: New York Magazine | December 2020
“In the kitchen of Vincent’s club, though, Mary stops being his ‘little cousin’ and asserts herself as the executor of her own desires. She is a young woman discovering her sexuality, and I’m sorry, who wouldn’t fall for a man who makes his own pasta?”
Also see, from Vulture: In Conversation: Francis Ford Coppola

6. Cicely was young, Black and enslaved – her death during an epidemic in 1714 has lessons that resonate in today’s pandemic
By Nicole S. Maskiell | The Conversation | December 2020
“Throughout the United States, as COVID-19 affects frontline workers and communities of color far more than other demographic groups … I believe it’s important to look back at how a few marginalized and oppressed people who served on the front lines of prior epidemics have been treated and remembered. ”

7. ‘Women feel they have no option but to give birth alone’: the rise of freebirthing
By Hannah Summers | The Guardian | December 2020
“As Covid infections rose, hospital felt like an increasingly dangerous place to have a baby. But is laboring without midwives or doctors the answer?”

8. The Social Life of Forests
By Ferris Jabr | The New York Times Magazine | December 2020
“Trees appear to communicate and cooperate through subterranean networks of fungi. What are they sharing with one another?”

9. America Is Eerily Retracing Rome’s Steps to a Fall. Will It Turn Around Before It’s Too Late?
By Tim Elliott | Politico Magazine | November 2020
“Two thousand years ago, the famous Republic had a chance to reject a dangerous populist. It failed, and the rest is history.”

10. The Amazon has seen our future
The New York Times | October 2020
“We’ve been talking about ‘saving the rainforest’ for decades, but trees are still burning, oil is still spilling, and dams are still being built. Today, the people of the Amazon are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s most urgent problems.”

Book gems of 2016: Part 1

IMG_1977

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

John Updike fading? / The other marriage myth / The priceless database of Afghan war wounds / Salman Rushdie on censorship / Hillary Clinton’s legacy at State

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. Q&A: Seeking Better-Sounding Skype Calls
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | May 17
“Are there any ways to improve the audio quality of computer-to-computer Skype calls?”

2. First & Last: Opening/Closing Lines from Our Best Books of the Month
By Neal Thompson | Omnivoracious :: Amazon.com | May 10
“Every book begins with nothing. A blank screen or, if you’re Robert Caro, a blank page.”

3. Have we fallen out of love with John Updike?
By Sarah Crown | Books Blog :: The Guardian | May 15
“Three years after John Updike’s death, his reputation appears to be on the wane. But who else can match his deftness and grace?”

4. The Myth About Marriage
By Garry Wills | NYR Blog :: The New York Review of Books | May 9
“Why do some people who would recognize gay civil unions oppose gay marriage? Certain religious groups want to deny gays the sacredeness of what they take to be a sacrament. But marriage is no sacrament.”

5. Lessons in a Catalog of Afghan War Wounds May Be Lost
By C.J. Chivers | The New York Times | May 17
“[The] database is one part of a vast store of information recorded about the experiences of American combatants. But there are concerns that the potential lessons from such data could be lost, because no one has yet brought the information together and made it fully cohere. ”

6. On Censorship
By Salman Rushdie | Page-Tirner :: The New Yorker | May 15
“Censorship is the thing that stops you doing what you want to do, and what writers want to talk about is what they do, not what stops them doing it.”

7. What will Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic legacy be?
By Richard Wolf | USA Today | May 17
“As she prepares to leave the national stage after a 20-year run, Clinton is winning bipartisan respect at home and admiration abroad for her role as the nation’s 67th secretary of State.”

8. Coffee linked to lower risk of death
By Amina Khan | The Los Angeles Times | May 16
“Subjects who averaged four or five cups per day fared best, though it’s not clear why.”

9. Luxury Liner’s Removal to Begin Off Italian Coast
By Gaia Pianigiani | The New York Times | May 18
“One of the most expensive and challenging salvage operations ever planned, the removal of the luxury liner Costa Concordia from granite rocks off the Tuscan coast, where it ran aground in January, will begin next week.”

10. Play Caesar: Travel Ancient Rome with Stanford’s Interactive Map
Open Culture | May 18
“Users of the model can select a point of origin and destination for a trip and then choose from a number of options to determine either the cheapest, fastest or shortest route.”

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

TUNES

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

1. Tom Petty — Lovers Touch
2. The Insomniacs — Maybe Sometime Later
3. Preacher Stone — Blood From A Stone
4. Ramblin Dawgs — You Let Me Down
5. Los Lonely Boys — Man To Beat
6. Ray Wylie Hubbard — Snake Farm
7. The Derek Trucks Band — Get What You Deserve
8. MonkeyJunk — Tiger In Your Tank
9. Jimmie Vaughan — Texas Flood
10. Paul Thorn — Long Way From Tupelo
11. Curtis Salgado — Wiggle Outa This
12. Pride & Joy Band — Texas Hoochie Coo
13. Polk Street Blues Band — 100 Pound Hammer
14. Tommy Castro — Ninety-Nine And One Half