Videos I Love: The ‘Last Jedi’ teaser is here

I’m trying to breathe and not have a joy-induced heart attack, so I won’t add much more to this one.

I’m occasionally sharing some thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

I’m trying to breathe and not have a joy-induced heart attack, so I won’t add much more to this one. Just watch and enjoy.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: ‘Force Awakens’ trailer sets record / Obama and the Charleston shooting / What ‘Back to the Future II’ correctly anticipated / Rachel Dolezal’s hair / Drunk Nixon during a Mideast crisis

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This week: ‘Force Awakens’ trailer sets record / Obama and the Charleston shooting / What ‘Back to the Future II’ correctly anticipated / Rachel Dolezal’s hair / Drunk Nixon during a Mideast crisis

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

1. After Charleston Shooting, a Sense at the White House of Horror, Loss and Resolve
By Peter Baker | The New York Times | June 18
“After a series of police shootings, protests and riots, this latest eruption of violence reflected a country on edge and a president struggling to pull the American people together. Any hopes of what supporters once called a ‘postracial’ era now seem fanciful as Mr. Obama’s second term increasingly focuses on what he termed ‘a dark part of our history.’ ”

2. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ second trailer sets YouTube world record
NewsBeat :: BBC News | June 18
“Guinness World Records says the clip, released in April, was watched more than 30 million views in a day.”

3. How ‘Back to the Future II’ Got 2015 Surprisingly Right
By Caseen Gaines | Vanity Fair | June 18
“In Hill Valley’s future, cosmetic surgery has become easy and commonplace. Doc Brown’s face is made more youthful by visiting a ‘rejuvenation clinic,’ and careful observers will notice the presence of Bottoms Up, a breast-enhancement company, which advertises on the McFly television and can be seen in the background of some future scenes.”

4. Crash Course Astronomy: Comets
By Phil Plait | Bad Astronomy :: Slate | June 19
“They used to be considered omens, but when you cast aside superstition what you find are endlessly amazing and fascinating examples of nature at its best.”

5. Engineering Map of America
American Experience :: PBS | June 2015
“Dozens of museums, institutions and PBS stations have partnered with American Experience to bring you archival images, documents and videos related to America’s engineering history.”

6. The blackest thing about Rachel Dolezal is her thousand-dollar hair
By Tashara Jones | New York Post | June 16
“How on Earth does she get her white hair to behave like black hair? And, perhaps more importantly, how much does it cost?”

7. That Time the Middle East Exploded — and Nixon Was Drunk
By Tim Weiner | Politico Magazine | June 15
“All agreed that what the Soviets proposed in the Middle East was a potential disaster. If U.S. and Soviet soldiers started landing in the middle of the battle, each side standing with its allies, it could look like the opening day of World War III.”

8. Hillary’s Sixties Surge
By Gail Sheehy | Politico Magazine | June 14
“It’s take a career in the spotlight, but Hillary Clinton finally seems to be comfortable with her age and her gender.”

9. Beyond Caitlyn Jenner Lies a Long Struggle by Transgender People
By Clyde Haberman | Retro Report :: The New York Times | June 14
“A survey of 4,509 Americans adults conducted in late 2013 by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 65 percent had close friends or relatives who were gay or lesbian. Transgender? Only 9 percent. Even so, awareness of transgender people and their issues is clearly growing, and not just because of Ms. Jenner.”

10. After Pearl Harbor, F.D.R. Showed Confidence That U.S. Would Exist in 1956
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | May 2014
“This letter was Roosevelt’s testament that 15 years hence, there would be a United States, and it would have a president, not some Japanese or Nazi viceroy.”

Videos I Love: Life swirling around me

Leave it to “Mad Men” to again capture life’s sadness, loneliness, and joy in seemingly simple and definitely beautiful moments.

Leave it to “Mad Men” to again capture life’s sadness, loneliness, and joy in seemingly simple and definitely beautiful moments.

One of their new teasers for the final season did just that. It looks like what I feel as I walk through life swirling around me.

I’m occasionally sharing some thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

Videos I Love: The ‘Gettysburg’ trailer

‘Gettysburg,’ certainly at times a ridiculously flawed film, mostly succeeds with an elegant force that never fails to stimulate me emotionally and intellectually.

I’m occasionally sharing some light thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

I’ve always thought that “Gettysburg” is an amazing film. Few recent films are as ambitious in scope, as beautifully filmed and scored, with as outstanding acting and stunning battle sequences. So few films are able to bring so many of these elements of greatness together, but “Gettysburg,” certainly at times a ridiculously flawed film, mostly succeeds with an elegant force that never fails to stimulate me emotionally and intellectually. I’ve seen that film at least one hundred times, and I could watch it another thousand times and still find something new and inspirational.

As I’ve written before, this film came along at the perfect time in my life. The trailer captures the film’s heavy-handed we-were-all-brothers sentimentality, but don’t let that dissuade you from watching the four-hour behemoth. If nothing else, let it become merely a visual introduction to “The Killer Angels,” the novel that inspired the film. A novel or a film can change someone’s life. I’m not ashamed to say that “Gettysburg” and “Angels” certainly changed mine, all for the better.

Read the novel. Spend a weekend with reading about the battle, or about the commanders, or about Lincoln. You’ll find it absolutely fascinating.

Videos I Love: Trailer for ‘Downton Abbey: Season Two’

It’s a beautiful and horrifying trailer that sometimes brings a tear to my eye.

I’m occasionally sharing some casual thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

I was late when it came to falling in love with “Downton Abbey,” the British miniseries exploring the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants before and during World War I. But by the second episode I was head over heels.

I don’t think my passion had anything to do with my love for history in general. In this case, I was simply someone drawn into first-rate storytelling. Nothing complicated about that. It didn’t hurt that my romantic streak was more than a little stimulated, as was my writer’s mind, which is always searching for fresh inspiration for my own fiction writing.

So when I came across the trailer for the second season, which has already aired in Britain and premieres in the United States tomorrow night, my heart leapt. It’s a beautiful and horrifying trailer that sometimes brings a tear to my eye, set to a gentle and haunting cover of U2’s “With or Without You,” sung by Scala and Kolacny Brothers.