Initial reaction, and plenty of important questions.
The death of Antonin Scalia will surely create endless Obama-Congress disputes when Obama will present his new choice(s). Also, many cases are to be decided during the elections cycle of 2016 and having 8 judges on board, with one less very conservative judge will make the decisions very close or tied or unforeseen postponements.
It will not be good for Congress, as it will show the American people and the world how even in jurisprudence, the American way is all about politics and personal tendencies instead of the true application of the law.
The Republican debates now will have the added feature of gay marriage at the top of the agenda and Trump is most likely to say stupid things and tweet ridiculous idea that will expose even further the bigotry and racism that are latent in the United States.
This week: Henry Kissinger / George Washington and whiskey / Scorsese’s love for the Rolling Stones / Beyonce’s hot sauce / The drama of gravitational wave detection
1. The Dawn of a New Era in Science
By Matthew Francis | The Atlantic | Feb. 11
“By announcing the first detection of gravitational waves, scientists have vindicated Einstein and given humans a new way to look at the universe.”
2. Shut Up and Press Play
By Mary-Louise Parker | Esquire Classic | September 2006
“If you want to rock this girl (or yours), these are the songs you need to know”
3. William Shatner Opens Up About Deathbed Rift With Leonard Nimoy and Their Long Friendship
By Katie Wilson Berg | The Hollywood Reporter | Feb. 12
“Shatner spoke … about his respect for Nimoy as an artist and the mystery of why the man he calls ‘the only friend I ever had’ shut him out in the last years of his life.”
4. A History of Martin Scorsese’s Love Affair with the Rolling Stones
By Dan Reilly | Vulture | Feb. 12
“‘My films,’ the man himself once said, ‘would be unthinkable without them.’ ”
5. We All Need Beyonce’s Hot Sauce
By Goldie Taylor | The Daily Beast | Feb. 8
“It’s a flavorful essence — proud, black, and full of social justice.”
6. InstaTexas: The Stars At Night…
By Jordan Breal | Texas Monthly | Feb. 11
“Are big and bright — and ready for their close-up.”
7. George Washington, the Whiskey Baron of Mount Vernon
By Michael Beschloss | The Upshot :: The New York Times | Feb. 12
“It was not exactly in keeping with Washington’s public image to enter the whiskey trade.”
8. Gravitational Waves Exist: The Inside Story of How Scientists Finally Found Them
By Nicola Twilley | Elements :: The New Yorker | Feb. 11
“It took years to make the most sensitive instrument in history insensitive to everything that is not a gravitational wave. Emptying the tubes of air demanded forty days of pumping. The result was one of the purest vacuums ever created on Earth, a trillionth as dense as the atmosphere at sea level.”
9. Henry Kissinger: Good or Evil?
Politico Magazine | October 2015
“10 historians assess the controversial statesman’s legacy”
10. T.R.’s Son Inspired Him to Help Rescue Football
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | August 2014
“T.R.’s intervention … helped lead to … the enforcement of new rules, which included the forward pass, a neutral zone at the line of scrimmage, another referee on the field and later prohibitions against brutal maneuvers like kneeing and punching opponents by using locked hands.”
Today I turned 42.
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’ll 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, 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 would 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, and never fail to learn from those failures. 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. Quiet, private 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. My comfort zone is 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. His son — me — is … what? I was blessed with generous and 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 later, the hourly drama of news cycles, 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, and a certain Louisiana woman fleeing Union invasion. 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 failures, 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.
Not a great week for Hillary Clinton.
As you might have expected, Hillary Clinton issued a clarification of her controversial remarks about Reconstruction, made in the context of her speculation on what might have happened had Abraham Lincoln not been assassinated:
Nice try, but strike two.
Ms. Clinton’s statement now indicts the federal government, saying it gave up too soon, and its lack of persistence “led to a disgraceful era of Jim Crow.”
That this was due in part to the behavior of “defiant” white southerners, including terrorist activity, is a link she’s unwilling to make, although one can make it when she reminds us about “racist efforts against Reconstruction.” How exactly a president could achieve “equality, justice, and reconciliation” while protecting black rights — not exactly a good way to reconcile white southerners — remains unanswered. Nor does her response consider the role played by the racism of some white northerners, most of whom were Democrats…
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Muster, the excellent blog for the Journal of the Civil War Era, recently interviewed Dr. Jane E. Schultz, professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and historical adviser to Mercy Street, the PBS drama about women in Civil War hospitals. She perceptively argues that the series “is trying to show the depths of human turbulence that lay beneath the surface of military etiquette.”
Read the entire interview here. It offers intellectual depth and understanding to the process of shaping the drama’s narrative, location, characters, and era.
Wonderful news. Congratulations.
In May 2015 we announced the acquisition of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project/William C. Velásquez Records. The collection–one of the largest archival acquisitions in UTSA Libraries’ history—consists of 500 linear feet of documents and 154 pieces of audiovisual material. The collection covers the organization’s first 20 years, from 1974 to 1994, and includes redistricting maps, voter exit surveys, GOTV campaign planning materials, pre-election surveys, office files, research files, research publications, and newsletters.
We are very excited to announce that The National Archives of the United States has awarded the UTSA Libraries a $145,650 grant to process the records and digitize the audiovisual material in the collection.
The grant is one of the largest awarded by the National Archives this year, and will cover the additional staff needed to process the collection so it can be used for research. The work is expected to take approximately two years.
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I recently finished watching Woody Allen’s most recent film, Irrational Man. The movie illustrates how far Allen has come from his earlier work. Irrational Man, which is a serious and heady, is neither funny nor set in New York. Maybe it’s time for Woody to return to the Big Apple.
Some people say that Rudy Giuliani, by implementing the so-called “Broken Window Theory” of police enforcement, cleaning up Times Square, and staying calm in the wake of the 9-11 catastrophe–saved New York City.
Actually, it was Woody Allen who saved New York. And he rescued the place long before anyone knew who Rudolph Giuliani was.
In the 1970s, movies exploited the darker aspects of New York. Films like Dog DayAfternoon, The French Connection, Taxi Driver, and Death Wish, depicted NYC as a gritty, tense, and violent place, where desperate men could do little…
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