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Kate Stone’s Civil War: The mournful whistle


KS53

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)

Some domestic drama disturbs the March boredom at the Stone home when an old family friend decides to move.

March 8, 1864

Tyler, Texas

I am quite alone tonight, not even a book for company. Mamma is in Shreveport trying to get a transfer for My Brother. The boys are in their room studying, and Sister, after suffering agony for the last twenty-four hours, has at last fallen asleep. The Negroes have left the yard. Even the dogs have forgotten to bark and are dozing on the gallery. The only sounds to break the stillness are the constant chirps of the crickets, the croaking of the rain crows heard afar off, and the mournful whistle of some Texas night-bird borne up from the thickety banks of the little stream … at the foot of the hill.

The wild March wind has subsided to a gentle zephyr, rustling the dry leaves still clinging to the stunted oaks till now when the new shoots are budding out to push them off.

But to descend to dry facts. Our greatest event has been the breaking up of the pleasant household of the last four months. We were all getting on quite pleasantly and all seemed satisfied and happier than ever before in Texas. None of us thought of change, when suddenly one frosty morning came the announcement from Mrs. Carson that she knew of a house to be rented and she would move to it. She thought the households would be better apart. Of course there was nothing to be said, and Mamma at once assented, only offering to take the other house and let Mrs. Carson remain here. But she preferred the new domicile, and so, presto-change, before we hardly realized it they were packed up and away a mile across the hill.

There had not been the shadow of disagreement, and we thought Mrs. Carson perfectly satisfied. We never have known why she left in such a hurry. All the children but Jimmy Stone were disgusted at the change. They were so enjoying themselves together. Mrs. Carson has kept most closely at home rarely calling on either Mamma or Mrs. Savage and she will seldom allow the boys or Katie to come. Such a change from her former habit of going out once or twice every day and doing nothing but talk between times. It seems very odd. She says she is entirely taken up with her housekeeping and sewing, two things she was never known to do in the past. … I think Mamma is rather relieved. Mrs. Carson often bored Mamma by insisting on talking to her hours at the time. I could not have stood it as Mamma did.

We have refugee visitors but the natives … still hold aloof. Capt. King with his dark, sleepy eyes and grand air is a frequent visitor. … The other afternoon we were enjoying our ease, Mamma lolling back in one chair, her feet on another, Sister romping over the bed, and I reclining on several pillows, when we heard a knock at the door. Thinking it one of the servants, we called out, ” Come in.” Who should stalk in with his most dignified air, flashing in crimson and gold, but Capt. King, calling to say good-bye, having been ordered off.

Fortunately for us, he is too near-sighted to notice much, and so the disorder of the room escaped him. …

Podcast recommendations


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A close friend recently asked to me to recommend some interesting podcasts. Here is my list. It’s not comprehensive, and the categories are quite general. For regular readers of this blog, nothing on this list will surprise you.

Thankfully, most podcasts cover several subjects, and so they’re hard to classify as one thing. Generally, I like news programs, lectures to intelligent crowds (but not recorded classroom lectures), or one-on-one conversations. I mostly avoid call-in shows — I like to keep the public out of the equation whenever possible — but I make exceptions for exceptional programs.

As of Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, the iTunes library tells me I have 2,311 podcast episodes. It calculates that it will take me 66 days, nine hours, 23 minutes, and 46 seconds to listen to all of them.

NEWS
DocArchive — BBC World Service
Global News — BBC World Service
Newshour — BBC World Service
Best of Today — BBC Radio 4
Podcast of Week — CSPAN
New Yorker: Out Loud — The New Yorker
New Yorker: Comment — The New Yorker
Story of the Day — NPR
World Story of the Day — NPR
Hourly News Summary (central to my hourly existence in this life) — NPR
The World — PRI
The Takeaway — PRI and WNYC
TribCast — The Texas Tribune
Washington Week — PBS
PBS News Hour — PBS

NEWS :: DOCUMENTARIES
Documentary of the Week — BBC Radio 4
Outlook — BBC World Service
American RadioWorks — American Public Media
Longform Podcast
ProPublica Podcasts
DecodeDC
Radio 3 Essay — BBC Radio 3
The National Press Club podcast
Weekends on All Things Considered — NPR

NEWS :: FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The Economist podcast
Inside CFR Events — Council on Foreign Relations
Brookings Event podcast — The Brookings Institute
Prime Minister’s Questions — The Guardian
The Stream — Al Jazeera English
Worldview — WBEZ

NEWS :: SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGY
Marketplace Tech Report — American Public Media
New Tech City — WNYC
Quirks and Quarks — CBC
Science Weekly — The Guardian
Stardate podcasts — McDonald Observatory
Science Times — The New York Times
Environment podcast — NPR
Nature podcast — Nature

FILM / TV
Front Row Daily — BBC Radio 4
The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell — KCRW
Kevin Pollack’s Chat Show
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith — CBC

MUSIC
Legacy Podcasts: Rock — Legacy Recordings
Legacy Podcasts: Sarah McLachlan — Legacy Recordings
Other Directions — Steven Lee Moya
Soundcheck — WYNC
The Blues File — WXPN
Classical Performance — WGBH
25 Years of Chill Out Music — Roebeck
50 Great Voices — NPR
From the Top — NPR
Jazz Profiles — NPR
Chillsky
Properly Chilled
Escuela de Rumberos Salsa podcast

BOOKS
Book Review Podcast — The New York Times
Q and A — CSPAN
After Words — CSPAN
The Guardian Books Podcast
Writers and Company — CBC
Bookworm — KCRW
The New York Review of Books podcast
Between the Lines — WABE
Unfictional — KCRW
New Yorker: Fiction — The New Yorker
Selected Shorts — PRI
World Book Club — BBC World Service

GENERAL ARTS / LIFE
The Brian Lehrer Show — WNYC
The Leonard Lopate Show — WNYC
TED Talks — TED
The Best of YouTube
Arts and Ideas — BBC Radio 4
Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon podcasts
Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin — WNYC
The Current — CBC Radio
Ideas — CBC Radio
The Forum — KQED
Fresh Air (as long as Terry Gross isn’t on) — NPR
RadioWest — PRI
Studio 360 — PRI and WYNC
To the Best of Our Knowledge — PRI
WGBH Forum
Radio Times — WHYY

HISTORY
Conversations with History — UC Berkeley
Free Library podcast — Free Library of Philadelphia
American History TV — CSPAN
Great Lives — BBC Radio 4
15 Minute History — University of Texas at Austin
BackStory — University of Virginia
The History of Byzantium — Robin Pierson
Walter Cronkite’s History Lessons — NPR
History: Days of Infamy, Daily Life
The Journal of American History Podcast
Lectures in History — CSPAN
Lincoln and the Civil War
Witness — BBC World Service
Los Angeles Public Library Podcast
Miller Center Forums — The University of Virginia Miller Center
New Books in History
Pritzker Military Library Podcasts
Virginia Historical Society Podcasts
We the People Stories — National Constitution Center

The Battle for Boricua


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Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?
A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

******

Discussed in this essay:

Laura Briggs. Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Pp. 304. $29.95.

I.

Puerto Rico was one of the prizes the U.S. won in its 1898 victory over the Spanish Empire. The U.S. made Puerto Ricans citizens in 1917 and granted the territory an upgrade to commonwealth status in 1952. Debate has raged ever since over how, when, or if Puerto Rico should attempt to move in a new political direction, and over how it should cope with the degree of control the U.S. still wields over its economic and political systems. Like a moon trapped in planetary orbit, bathed only in the solar light reflected from that planet’s surface, struggles for self-definition and conflicting political visions dominate the island’s history.[1]

Laura Briggs extravagantly explores key components of Puerto Rico’s lurching political evolution in Reproducing Empire, a 2002 book based on her 1998 doctoral thesis composed at Brown University. Her book, standing tall among the work uniting colonial control and gender roles, illustrates Anglo American rulers at first disgusted with Puerto Rico, viewing the island territory as a cesspool of tropical subhumans blinded by rampant sexual desires and staggered by venereal disease, overpopulation endangering their natural and imported resources, and desperate, whether they knew it or not, for American guidance.

Puerto Rico’s social and economic problems were both caused and worsened, Briggs argues, by colonizing Americans who only saw themselves as solutions to those problems. She creatively examines the grinding conflict between the colonizer and the colonized through the prism of Puerto Rican sexuality, particularly the symbolically sexual body of the working-class Puerto Rican woman, whose propensity for sexual “deviancy” was blamed for spreading disease, for having too many children, and for essentially standing in the way of Puerto Rico’s proper Americanization. The fights waged over her sexual body became, Briggs argues, fights over Puerto Rican identity, political autonomy, ethnic equality, forced modernization, and Puerto Rican resistance. The Puerto Rican woman was the greatest battlefield in the titanic struggle over the island, which Briggs calls “the most important place in the world,” where she believes today’s essential debates over globalization issues are rooted in U.S. colonial attitudes.[2]

Americans saw prostitutes swarming over the men training to fight in World War I, posing their own venereal threat not just to the men but also to the women and children on the mainland, who would eventually be infected by the hapless victims of female Puerto Rican sexuality. U.S. incarceration policies on prostitution, Briggs argues, were one more supplement to colonial control and one more way Americans saw Puerto Ricans as foreigners, as people of lesser value to be kept apart from Americans, and as primitives who needed benevolent guidance. Puerto Rican women were either threats or weaklings needing protection. Islanders protested these prostitution policies, and Briggs sees in the rhetoric islander resistance not simply to the policies but also to the overall colonial project and later over their muddled citizenship.[3]

Americans saw overpopulation as also caused by these naturally promiscuous and illiterate women, prone to disease, doomed to poverty, and overly attached to the ideal of large hungry families. So, Briggs explains, American scientists developed new sterilization and birth control methods – diaphragms, contraceptive foams and jellies, and eventually the pill – and tested their effectiveness on Puerto Rican women, turning the island into “a social science laboratory.”[4]

II.

Throughout the Cold War, Briggs argues that Puerto Rico became a “political showcase,” advertising to Latin American nations vulnerable to Soviet seduction the beauty of a society that could result from an alliance (re: economic and military control) with the U.S. Puerto Rico was subjected to development projects — population control, industrialization, export control — again serving as a laboratory where models were analyzed before being sold to Third World nations.[5]

But the islanders had direct effects on the mainland too. Most importantly, Americans saw a huge post-World War II movement of Puerto Ricans into mainland cities, particularly into New York. The arrival of so many people in only a few decades permanently changed the racial and ethnic makeup of countless neighborhoods, sparked ethnic and political tensions, and re-engineered political activism. New arguments and alliances were born as these citizens struggled to live alongside Americans who saw them as anything but citizens and anything but white.

Overall, despite its strengths and creativity — particularly her intriguing view that the tentacles of colonization in Puerto Rico were only shorter and younger versions of the long American tentacles of globalization now strangling the globe — Briggs could have used a better editor to tighten a muddled narrative that often seems off balance and that could have been much shorter. Briggs often repeats the same points again and again, as if chapters were written months apart and she had to remind herself of the main thesis the latest chapter was supposed to be supporting. Also, the narrative needed more biographical sketches to bring alive the issues of sexuality, gender, and colonial victimization. Her ideas would have been so much more effective if the consequences of colonial decisions were shown in the wreckage of Puerto Rican lives, identities, and outlooks. Briggs bases her arguments on an impressive mountain of essays, books, and governmental studies. She complements a generally solid book with thirty-one pages of entertaining and informative notes and a 23-page bibliography.

One of the book’s best moments comes at the end, when Briggs argues that Puerto Rico illustrates “the explicit disalignment of the components of a nation.” The multidimensional identity of the Puerto Rican man and woman, Briggs seems to say, transcends maps, definitions of nationality, and concepts of national and international place. Imagine a map of the world laid out on a picnic table next to neatly typed definitions of every aspect of foreign affairs, U.S. government, and Latino identity. And then imagine the aurora borealis glowing in the night sky above. Puerto Rico, Briggs essentially argues, is the aurora. The rest of the world is the boring, ordered, defined arrangement on the table far below that celestial beauty.

Alternatively, the unique people of Puerto Ricans must find a unique solution to their unique “ethno-nation” quandary, effectively placing them on the cutting edge in terms of designing effective political entities for the twenty-first century. In that sense, at least, Briggs is absolutely right: Puerto Rico truly is the most important place in the world. [6]


[1] Juan Gonzalez, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (New York: Penguin, 2000), 62-63. The Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 granted citizenship to all Puerto Ricans and established a three-branch government system. An online image of the bill is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/93rbfx4. A PDF of the commonwealth constitution is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/yjvo25z.

[2] Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 194.

[3] Briggs, 17.

[4] Briggs, 9.

[5] Briggs, 2.

[6] Briggs, 195-196.

Rouhani: Coming months in Iran will be ‘comparatively better’


Fernando Ortiz Jr.:

Fascinating interview.

Originally posted on Global Public Square:

Watch “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about the future of Green Movement leaders.

There are leaders in Iran who had a great deal of popular support from the people of Iran who now sit under house arrest.  I’m thinking of the leaders of the so-called Green Movement, which include a former prime minister, a former president of Iran. Can they not be released from house arrest?

Well, nobody will remain in prison forever.  And nobody stays under house arrest indefinitely.  I believe that the conditions which prevail inside Iran calls for peace, calls for reconciliation, more convergence, less divergence.

My feeling tells me that the conditions in the coming months inside Iran will be comparatively better than what used to exist in the past. With this, I share the hope that the day will come…

View original 37 more words

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The first desideratum


KS52

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)

The first rays of happiness in 1864 come in the form of a letter from Stone’s brother and the hope for a new carriage.

Jan. 13, 1864

Tyler, Texas

Good news from My Dearest Brother today. He is almost well and has rejoined his regiment. We heard through a letter from Capt. Manlove December 8. Flora Manlove, Tom’s wife, sent a nice little note to me in the letter. How sweet of her to write. We have only a slight acquaintance, but she knows My Brother well and saw him, quite recently in Virginia. Capt. Manlove is so kind. He writes Mamma by every opportunity.

A letter from My Brother, written in March. Other letters for Mrs. Carson urging her to come North. Different Yankees at Monroe and Vicksburg will send her on, but she will not hear of it. It is a good thing. She is wise enough to see that such schemes for abandoning all that they have are foolish in the extreme.

Dr. Wylie is spending the evening and night. What a sordid soul that man has. Did he ever perform a generous action in his life of forty years? …

Mamma sent a letter to Mr. Smith yesterday, and if he can get what she writes for we shall feel quite independent. The first desideratum is a carriage.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The story so far …


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Catch up with Kate Stone’s amazing stories as she defiantly faces Union soldiers, escapes across a Louisiana swamp, falls in love with Texas, and watches the Civil War rip her country and her family apart.

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)

Check back as more excerpts are added throughout 2014 and 2015.

From 1861
May 15: Death in defense of the South
June 5: The stir and mob of angry life
June 18: Whipped unmercifully
July 1: They thought me so ugly
July 4: The blood of her children
July 26: Gallantly fought and won
Aug 24: The fevers
Sept. 27: The war inches closer
Oct. 19: Gladden our hearts
Nov. 27: The noble, gentle heart
Dec. 22: Rainy days

From 1862
Jan. 6: Sad Christmas
Jan. 8: Happy birthday
Jan. 16: They close in and kill
Feb. 1: The little creature
Feb. 20: Victory will be ours
March 1: A perfect love of a lieutenant
May 9: Burn our cities
May 22: Fashion is an obsolete word
May 23: The sleep that knows no waking
June 6: Trembling hearts
June 20-30: Capable of any horror
July 5: The fire of battle
Aug. 5: Beyond my strength
Sept. 23: Tragedy after tragedy
Oct. 1: His sins against the South
Nov. 7: A lady’s favors
Dec. 3: She was heartbroken

From 1863
Jan. 1: Preparing to run
March 2: Hoodoo woman
March 11: It made us tremble
March 22: The pistol pointed at my head
April 10: Tears on my cheek
April 15: A horrid flight
April 21: The greatest villian
April 26: Flaming cheeks and flashing eyes
April 27: The glory of the family
May 2: His father’s sins
May 3: Baffled beasts of prey
May 22: Useless to resist
May 23: Southern hearts
June 3: Like mad demons
June 15: On the road for Texas
July 7: The dark corner
July 12: The dirtiest people
July 16: Scowling, revengeful faces
July 26: Despondent and chicken-hearted
July 29: Makes us tremble for Texas
Aug. 3: Lose our scalps
Aug. 10: Conquer or die
Aug. 16: My pen is powerless
Aug. 30: They call us all renegades
Sept. 1: It makes us shiver
Sept. 14: Years of grinding toil
Sept. 20: Destroyed by the Yankees
Oct. 2: Two distressed damsels
Oct. 8: This is too disgraceful
Oct. 29: The heart of a boy
Nov. 1: Credulous mortals
Nov. 7: A fear of bad news
Nov. 13: Pride must have a fall
Nov. 15: So little to eat
Dec. 10: Nobly and fearlessly
Dec. 12: Alone in a strange land
Dec. 19: A charming little woman
Dec. 24: A sad 1863 ends

From 1864
Jan. 4: A noted flirt
Jan. 7: Trouble and distress
Jan. 13: The first desideratum
March 8: The mournful whistle

A bow to the King


It’s a feeling that can’t be denied. Sometimes you just have to submit to his reign. The King, who was born on Jan. 8, 1935, and died on Aug. 16, 1977, can dominate your consciousness, infusing his spirit and vitality into your heart and soul, adding an extra sparkle to your days. He shines that spotlight in your eyes, slaps you right across the face, reminds you to wake the hell up, look around, forget the pettiness of everyday life, and savor the world around you.

You have no choice but to sit back with him, laugh at the stardom, laugh at any notion of legacy and fame, and listen to some great music from a true American original. Don’t the fight the urge to do some affectionate impersonations, or just watch Johnny Cash, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, and Val Kilmer do their own.

Several years ago, the National Portrait Gallery recorded a short but very informative introduction to the fascinating and bizarre meeting between Elvis and Richard Nixon (above). Also, Legacy Recordings released a magnificent series of podcasts exploring the rise of Elvis, his gospel roots, his comeback performance in 1968, his 75th birthday, and his Vegas years. Links are included below, along with a few Elvis performances. Enjoy.

1. ELVIS: THE EARLY YEARS Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
2. ELVIS: ULTIMATE GOSPEL Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
3. RELIVING THE ELVIS ’68 COMEBACK SPECIAL Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
4. ELVIS 75 Parts 1 through 20
5. ELVIS AND VIVA LAS VEGAS Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

SONGS
1. LOVE ME TENDER (Live) Elvis Presley
2. BABY WHAT YOU WANT ME TO (Live) Elvis Presley
3. HEARTBREAK HOTEL Elvis Presley
4. MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY Elvis Presley

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