Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: San Antonio’s delicious secret / The unexpected new world after 9/11 / Impeachment lessons from the Nixon nightmare / Black female relationships in literature / The Haitian Revolution

This week: San Antonio’s delicious secret / The unexpected new world after 9/11 / Impeachment lessons from the Nixon nightmare / Black female relationships in literature / The Haitian Revolution

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. Pork Chop Tacos Are San Antonio’s Best-Kept Secret
By José R. Ralat | Texas Monthly | September 2021
“While figuring out how to eat one might seem daunting, it’s well worth the effort.”

2. Beyond Forever War
By Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon | Foreign Affairs | September 2021
“A Smarter Counterterrorism Approach Is Now Within Reach”

3. From 9/11’s ashes, a new world took shape. It did not last.
By Calvin Woodward, Ellen Knickmeyer and David Rising | Associated Press | September 2021
“From the first terrible moments, America’s longstanding allies were joined by longtime enemies in that singularly galvanizing instant. No nation with global standing was cheering the stateless terrorists vowing to conquer capitalism and democracy. How rare is that? Too rare to last, it turned out.”

4. Republicans and Impeachment — Lessons from the Nixon years
By Jeet Heer | Start Making Sense | October 2019
“Republicans and impeachment: In the case of Nixon, it took them until the very end to jump ship — and those who defended him (Reagan and Bush Sr.) had better political futures than those who didn’t.”

5. An incredibly resilient coral in the Great Barrier Reef offers hope for the future
By Nikk Ogasa | Science News | August 2021
“The reef’s widest coral has survived for hundreds of years and weathered many bleaching events”

6. Scientists say a telescope on the Moon could advance physics — and they’re hoping to build one
By Nicole Karlis | Salon | September 2021
“The Moon’s lack of atmosphere and darkness could offers unique observations of the universe”

7. Making a Way Out of No Way: Celebrating the Power of Black Female Relationships in Literature
By Dawn Turner | LitHub | September 2021
“The seven books … share similar themes of women empowering one another against formidable odds.”

8. Medgar Evers: A Hero in Life and Death
By Jennifer Davis | The Library of Congress | July 2021
“Medgar Wiley Evers, civil rights activist, voting rights activist and organizer, was born 96 years ago this month in tiny Decatur, Mississippi. He would go on to become one of the nation’s most significant 20th-century voices in the causes of civil rights and social justice before being assassinated at the age of 37.”

9. The Voice of Orson Welles
By Farran Smith Nehme | The Criterion Collection | November 2018
“Nothing but Welles’s voice could have achieved that gentle mockery of the rich midwesterners and their privileges, as when he describes the long process of a lady hailing a streetcar and the sad yearning for Tarkington’s vanished world — too slow for us now, all of it.”
Also see: The Magnificent Ambersons — Surfaces and Depths

10. The Iliad
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
Also see: e | The Sun | Brunel | The Haitian Revolution

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Secrets to San Antonio / Houston’s dolphins / Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ / The best Texas playlist / Kirsten Gillibrand in the spotlight / Robert Caro and LBJ

This week: Secrets to San Antonio / Houston’s dolphins / Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ / The best Texas playlist / Kirsten Gillibrand in the spotlight

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. Insider’s Guide to San Antonio
By Lauren Smith Ford | Texas Monthly | December 2017
“Join the dapper Mike Casey for a bicycle tour of his favorite bars, restaurants and more in the funky, charming King William neighborhood.”

2. Galveston Bay dolphins struggle to recover from Hurricane Harvey
By Alex Stuckey | Houston Chronicle | November 2017
“Researchers observe lesions covering the marine mammals”

3. Pulp science-fiction? How Quentin Tarantino could save Star Trek
By Luke Holland | The Guardian | December 2017
“The tepid recent installment left Kirk and co needing direction, dialogue and a decent baddie. Luckily Hollywood’s grandmaster of profanity has one more film to make.”

4. Hundreds of dams in Texas could fail in worst-case flood
By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz | Austin American-Statesman | November 2017
“Texas applies its strictest safety standards only if a dam’s failure would probably cost seven or more lives.”

5. Winston Churchill Got a Lot of Things Wrong, But One Big Thing Right
By Matt Lewis | The Daily Beast | December 2017
“He contemplated using poison gas on German civilians. He wanted to keep England white. And more. But he had the quality Britain needed most at exactly the moment it was needed.”

6. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Moment Has Arrived
By David Freedlander | Politico Magazine | December 2017
“The New York senator has made sexual assault the focus of her political career. Now, the world has caught up with her.”

7. Oil and gas industry is causing Texas earthquakes, a ‘landmark’ study suggests
By Ben Guarino | The Washington Post | November 2017
“An unnatural number of earthquakes hit Texas in the past decade, and the region’s seismic activity is increasing. In 2008, two earthquakes stronger than magnitude 3 struck the state. Eight years later, 12 did.”

8. You May Want to Marry My Husband
By Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Modern Love :: The New York Times | March 2017
“He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day.”

9. Listen to the Ultimate Texas Music Playlist
By Katy Vine | Texas Monthly | November 2017
“We set out to hear what our state sounds like. We brought back the latest and best of Texas music — so listen up.”

10. Robert Caro: Rising Early, With a New Sentence in Mind
By John Leland | Sunday Routine :: The New York Times | May 2012
“I always remember Ernest Hemingway’s advice to writers: always quit for the day when you know what the next sentence is.”
Also see: Robert Caro’s Big Dig | Robert Caro’s Painstaking Process

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Obama is back / Celebrating Fiesta in San Antonio / Adrift commanders / What ‘The Last Jedi’ might destroy / Intellectual Trumpism / Man Booker Prize shortlist / The fading Rockefellers

This week: Obama is back / Celebrating Fiesta in San Antonio / Adrift commanders / What ‘The Last Jedi’ might destroy / Intellectual Trumpism / Man Booker Prize shortlist / The fading Rockefellers

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

1. Obama making first public appearance of post-presidency in Chicago
By Jordan Fabian | The Hill | April 21
“It ends a three-month period of relative silence since Obama left office on Jan. 20, much of which he has spent on vacation in Palm Springs, Calif., on a Caribbean island with English billionaire Richard Branson and at an exclusive resort in French Polynesia.”

2. Cascarón Confusion? Your Guide to All Things Fiesta
By Jessica Elizarraras and Bryan Rindfuss | San Antonio Current | April 20
“Aside from urging you to hydrate, stock up on sunscreen and cash, here’s a quick explainer on what you should know about San Antonio’s largest celebration which runs from April 20-30.”

3. Trump Unleashes the Generals. They Don’t Always See the Big Picture.
By Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper | The New York Times | April 20
“Taken together, the episodes illustrate how even the military’s most seasoned four-star field commanders can fail to consider the broader political or strategic ramifications of their operational decisions, and some current and former senior officials suggested that President Trump’s decision to unshackle the military from Obama-era constraints to intensify the fight against terrorists risked even more miscues.”

4. The Knight’s Move
By Gideon Lewis-Kraus | The Nation | April 19
“Can a new Trump-inspired intellectual magazine transcend its contradictions?”

5. The Man Booker International Prize 2017 shortlist announced
The Man Booker Prizes | April 20
“The settings range from an Israeli comedy club to contemporary Copenhagen, from a sleepless night in Vienna to a troubled delirium in Argentina. The list is dominated by contemporary settings but also features a divided Jerusalem of 1959 and a remote island in Norway in the early 20th century.”

6. Science confirms the incredible story of Lithuania’s Holocaust escape tunnel
By Sarah Birnbaum | The World :: PRI | April 19
“Shortly after the Nazis invaded Lithuania in June 1941, they started bringing groups of Jews from the nearby city of Vilnius, known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, to the Ponar forest. The Nazis lined them up, shot them at close range, and tossed the bodies into pits.”

7. Will The Last Jedi destroy everything we think we know about Star Wars?
By Ben Child | The Guardian | April 19
“Was Yoda just an old fool? And why is Luke Skywalker calling for an end to the Jedi? Rian Johnson, director of Episode VIII, is veering into dangerous territory”

8. With the death of a patriarch, have the Rockefellers lost their power?
By Michael Kaplan | The New York Post | April 2
“When former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller passed away in 1979 of a heart attack, it was allegedly after having made love to his secretary. Steven Rockefeller shocked everyone by marrying Anne-Marie Rasmussen, his family’s housemaid, in 1959. In 1951, Winifred Rockefeller, great-niece of John D. Rockefeller, killed herself and two of her children inside their Greenwich, Conn., home. Ten years later, in 1961, while hunting down art in New Guinea, 23-year-old Michael Rockefeller was supposedly eaten by cannibals.”

9. Inspired by nature: the thrilling new science that could transform medicine
By Laura Parker | The Guardian | October 2016
“Jeffrey Karp is at the forefront of a new generation of scientists using nature’s blueprints to create breakthrough medical technologies. Can bioinspiration help to solve some of humanity’s most urgent problems?”

10. Party Hopping
By Dave Mann | Texas Monthly | May 2017
“As they lose sway among Texas Republicans, big businesses should try something radical: an alliance with Democrats.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Saliva and our history / Research your home’s past / Purging to remake Turkey / Meet Dina Powell / Assad and U.S. presidents / LBJ and the Secret Service

This week: Saliva and our history / Research your home’s past / Purging to remake Turkey / Meet Dina Powell / Assad and U.S. presidents / LBJ and the Secret Service

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. What 770,000 Tubes of Saliva Reveal About America
Ancestry.com | April 2017
“This unique map shows this country’s great migrations, the echoes of our pioneer ancestors in our genes today.”

2. Has Trump Gone Washington?
By Niall Stanage | The Memo :: The Hill | April 15
“The Trump diehards are queasy at the notion that a president who ran as a proud outsider might be co-opted by a Washington establishment they loathe.”

3. Inside Turkey’s Purge
By Suzy Hansen | The New York Times Magazine | April 13
“As the ruling party expands the ranks of its enemies, life in a fragile democracy becomes stranger and stranger.”

4. How to research a property’s history using Bexar County’s free records search
By John Tedesco | JohnTedesco.net | November 2009
“Here you can search foreclosure notices, marriage licenses, business records — life’s important moments, all documented and filed at the county courthouse.”

5. Who’s Dina Powell? A rising Trump national security figure
By Catherine Lucey | Associated Press | April 13
“An Egyptian-American with international experience and fluency in Arabic, she was soon moved to the National Security Council, though she retains her economic title.”

6. Turkey will never be the same after this vote
By Henri Barkey | The Washington Post | April 11
“The consequences for Turkey are simple: A ‘no’ vote could potentially unleash a period of profound uncertainty and instability. By contrast, a ‘yes’ vote would institutionalize a populist authoritarian system that risks cataclysmic collapse …”

7. The Assad Family: Nemesis of Nine U.S. Presidents
By Robin Wright | The New Yorker | April 11
“Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have coaxed and cajoled, prodded and praised, and, most recently, confronted and condemned the Assads to induce policy changes.”

8. Can a coin dropped from the Empire State Building kill you?
By Reed Tucker | The New York Post | April 1
“From tumbling air conditioners to defective sidewalk grates to deli salad-bar tuna, there’s a random death potentially waiting around every corner in New York City.”

9. The spy who couldn’t spell: how the biggest heist in the history of US espionage was foiled
By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee | The Guardian | October 2016
“Ever since childhood, Brian Regan had been made to feel stupid because of his severe dyslexia. So he thought no one would suspect him of stealing secrets”

10. L.B.J.’s Bravado and a Secret Service Under Scrutiny
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | October 2014
“Johnson built an excellent relationship with the Secret Service. But as early as the week after the Dallas assassination, the F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover, who was an old Johnson friend and Washington neighbor, tried to sow seeds of doubt in the president’s mind about the service.”

My grand strategy

Today I turned 43. In these later years, I perceive a small but steadily growing pool of wisdom fueling a clear philosophical perspective on the increasingly complex calculus of my life.

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Today I turned 43.

The number doesn’t bother me. When I look back on my past accomplishments, both professional and academic, both modest and respectable, I’m comfortably reminded that I’ve always been a late bloomer. The great triumphs — comparatively great — always came right the end of each chapter of my life, just when the time came for me to move on and start over somewhere else. Perhaps for someone like me, with my ambitions, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Every day begins with two thoughts: “There’s still a little time left. Relax.” and “Pretend this is your last day on earth because one day it will be. Work faster.” I stagger through the days wavering between those two sentiments.

At the end of 2014, I completed a master’s degree in U.S. history at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), topped off with a 190-page thesis — the cherry on the sundae. I never had so much fun — ask the people who know me … “fun” is not a word they ever expect me to use. During that last half of 2014, I attracted the attention of UTSA’s Communications office, which sent a reporter to profile me, perhaps to hold me up as an example to others, perhaps to highlight the interesting and intelligent people enriching and enriched by the UTSA’s wonderful History Department. Perhaps it was just my turn. Nevertheless, I was flattered and honored. I shamelessly shared it throughout social media, as I am now. “We are all very proud of you,” one of my beloved professors wrote me. My heart burst with teary pride — the rarest of my few expressed emotions.

The best part of the article came right at the beginning. The first paragraph captured the grand strategy I set out for my life: “At an early age, [Ortiz] charted the life he wanted to lead: journalist, academic scholar and author.” At some point in my twenties — not sure when, exactly, but probably as I began to seriously study history and biography — I determined to approach life with a larger consideration: “How will I be remembered?” I knew enough to know that a great legacy was constructed with small pieces, carried one small step at a time, and sometimes at first only imperfectly constructed. I held close to my heart a few simple rules. Never turn away from a challenge. Never shrink away from leaping out of your comfort zone into unknown terrain. Never decline the opportunity to fail. Never fail to learn from those failures. All are easy to say and painfully difficult to follow.

In early 2015, I was honored when Dr. Catherine Clinton, a leading Civil War scholar, asked me to assist her with some special research for a few months. Just as that ended, I was honored yet again with an offer to actually teach U.S. history to college undergraduates at Northwest Vista College and then again at UTSA in 2016. Solitary research and writing — annotated bibliographies, briefing memos, etc. — is ideal for someone as shy as me. Teaching and discussing U.S. history with 70 to 80 young men and women is not. I stood in those classrooms and wondered how I could teach these young men and women. My comfort zone was nowhere in sight. Nevertheless, I knew when I accepted the challenge that I was undertaking the most difficult and the most important job of my life. Perhaps someday I might actually be good at it (though student applause is always reassuring). These are a few of those crucial pieces of the larger something I am trying to build, just as the men and women who came before me struggled to build their own lives, faced down their challenges and fears, and took one more step forward.

My Peruvian great-grandfather was prosperous fisherman who owned a fishing fleet. His son, my grandfather, was an Army general and special forces commander. His son, my father, is a physician. My father’s son — me — is … what? I was blessed with generous, loving, and supportive parents, who always pushed my brother and me to succeed. They trusted us to find our own way within their explicit expectations. It was assumed that we would become productive and honorable men as we kept in mind who built the comfortable world we inhabited. My interests guided me toward history, literature, and psychology. My mind naturally blossomed as historical concepts, literary theory, psychopathology, and the hourly drama of news cycles all caressed, molded, and ignited my growing intellect and imagination. But I realized that some kind of structure was needed. Simply wandering through my interests was not enough — it all had to amount to something in the end, something my descendants would look back on and admire … and perhaps emulate.

In some small way, this blog is an expression of that grand strategy. I’ve written about and shared with my readers my love of podcasts and photography, of the Civil War and fiction writing. I’ve shared with them a plethora of strange stories and documentaries, thoughts about Hemingway, rum cakes, books, and TR. They’ve experienced my passion for “Miami Vice”, Elvis, a Louisiana woman fleeing Union invasion during the Civil War, and a Cuban woman who disguised herself as a man and savored every moment of that same brutal war. Each piece fits into the larger plan.

In these later years, I perceive a small but steadily growing pool of wisdom fueling a clear philosophical perspective on the increasingly complex calculus of my life. Every failure becomes simply the moment when a fresh opportunity is revealed to me. Every hard-earned success merely offers a better vantage point on the harsh terrain ahead. As I move into this new year, from my new vantage point I can take in a horridly-jagged landscape stretching out before my eyes, seemingly endless, on into the horizon. But that far-off horizon is gleaming. The shimmering edges are only now in sight, the barely-perceptible glitter drawing me forward, igniting the ambition filling my heart, and steeling my spirit for the disappointments, setbacks, wrong turns, and frustrations darkening the journey.

My grand strategy, glowing in my soul, burned into my mind, never leaves me. The sweet promise of a final victory — a life well-lived — is my last thought as sleep and dreams wrap their arms around me and carry me away into the silent night.

CV of Fernando Ortiz Jr.

So far, so good … but there’s so much more to do.

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So far, so good … but there’s so much more to do.

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: Its spring decoration

As a Texas spring blooms all around her, Stone frets about rumors of the death of a famous Confederate general.

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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 a Texas spring blooms all around her, Stone frets about rumors of the death of a famous Confederate general.

March 30, 1865

Tyler, Texas

The little town is looking lovely now in its spring decoration of peach and apple blossoms and the circling fields of soft green wheat and rye. It seems to be peeping through a bouquet of pink and white blooms.

A rumor that Gen. [P.G.T.] Beauregard has been killed in a great fight in Carolina. …

We have been renovating our last summer’s clothes. We have not a single new thing to make up. If Mr. Smith does not soon send that cotton which must go on to San Antonio, I do not know what we will all do for clothes. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: My escorts were disgusted

More food and supplies finally make it to Tyler, and Stone enjoys a crowded concert, if only to drown out the anguish of recent months.

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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)

More food and supplies finally make it to Tyler, and Stone enjoys a crowded concert, if only to drown out the anguish of recent months.

Note her details on how the slaves make candles from Texas cactus.

Feb. 15, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Our garrison is reinforced and heavily provisioned. Warren reached here tonight after a six-day trip from the prairie with the long looked-for load of comestibles, and never could they have come in better time. The last flour had just been made up into biscuit in Capt. Birchett’s honor, and meat, sugar, candles, and everything else was waxing low. By the way, the servants make such pretty candles now. The candles look almost like wax. They boil a species of cactus in the tallow, and the candles are partly transparent and brittle and give an excellent clear light. Warren says the roads are nearly impassable. Mamma, when he left the carriage, was bogged down a few miles beyond Quitman, but Warren is satisfied that she will reach here today or tomorrow.

Capt. Birchett, after keeping me at home all day and depriving me of the pleasure of a ride with Dr. Weir, came up to tea and soon after bade us adieu for Shreveport and does not expect to be back for some weeks. We will miss him as he has been very sociable. Jolly Col. Hill and his demure, prim little wife called this morning and later Mrs. Benton and Mrs. St. Clair. No news except Mrs. Alexander, who lately lost her husband, will leave in a few days for San Antonio. And Johnny and I are eager to rent that house by the time Mamma arrives. Such a nice two-story affair with a pretty flower yard and in a nice part of town.

Dr. Weir spent yesterday afternoon here playing chess, and after tea I went with him and Capt. Birchett to a concert. Such a crowd. Not another person could have been crammed in and so many soldiers, but they were quiet and behaved well. The gentlemen all had to stand and my escorts were disgusted.

Niche boutique’s grand opening

We’re excited to launch our men’s collection at Niche boutique’s grand opening party this Thursday at San Antonio’s Historic Pearl. It begins at 5:30 p.m.

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My wife and I are excited to launch our men’s collection alongside already amazing women’s collections at Niche boutique’s grand opening party at San Antonio’s Historic Pearl. The party is this Thursday and begins at 5:30 p.m.

I’m so proud of her.