Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs Writes to Pam Walker

"As the growing part of the agricultural industry provides an additional economic driver for the state, I am glad so many Texans are taking advantage of this emerging market."─Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Our authors are often pleased to receive feedback from readers. Recently Pam Walker, author of Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas: Profiles of Organic Farmers and Ranchers across the State opened her mail the other day to find a message waiting from Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs!

In her letter, Combs, who is also a certified organic beef producer on her Marfa ranch, congratulated Walker on her advocacy on behalf of the local- and family-owned segment of Texas agriculture.

Boggy Creek Farm, located just outside Austin, is one of the locally- and family-owned farms Walker profiles in her book.

An excerpt:
"The determination of our state's farmers and ranchers and their efforts to diversify to meet consumer demand continues to keep Texas ranked as a leading agriculture economy. The types of operations you highlight in your book are a bright example of our proud agricultural heritage continuing toward a successful future. Federal legislation and policy is taking note of this expanding segment of the industry and additional programs are being developed to support farmers markets, specialty crop production and value-added producer operations, among other intitiatives."

Combs went on, urging Walker to share her book and information with the Texas members of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, as well as U.S. senators representing Texas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Award: Sarah Byrn Rickman wins Combs Gates Award

Early in World War II, Nancy Harkness Love recruited and led the first group of twenty-eight women to fly military aircraft for the U.S. Army. Her pilots ferried military aircraft across the United States during a time when pilots were in short supply.

Sarah Byrn Rickman, whose book Nancy Love and the Wasp Ferry Pilots of World War II (University of North Texas Press, 2008) covers the career of Nancy and other women pilots of the ferry command, recently earned the seventh-annual Combs Gates Award from the National Aviation Hall of Fame for her research. The prize carried a $20,000 cash award.

While Harkness Love flew the swift P-51 and the capricious P-38, the heavy, four-engine B-17 bomber and C-54 transport were her forte. Love checked out on twenty-three different military aicraft and became the first woman to fly some of them, including the B-17 Flying Fortress. She ended her World War II career on a high note: following a general's orders, she piloted a giant C-54 Army transport over the fabled China-Burma-India "Hump," the crucial airlift route over the Himalayas. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve.

Congratulations, Sarah Byrn Rickman and UNT Press, on winning this prestigious award!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sixty-Plus Attend Spanish Water, Anglo Water Event

In 1718, the Spanish developed one of the earliest and most extensive municipal water systems in North America ─ in Texas.

In Spanish Water, Anglo Water: Early Development in San Antonio, Charles Porter chronicles the origins and often-contentious development of water rights in San Antonio.

Here, Porter talks about the recent launch for his book, held at Mozart's Coffee Shop in Austin and sponsored by State Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin), Texas State Library and Archives Commissioner Martha Doty Freeman, and Publisher Emeritus of the Texas Observer Charlotte McCann. More than 60 people were in attendance:
"Mozart’s Coffee Shop, on the shores of Lake Austin, was the ideal setting for a book about water and the weather was wonderful.

"It was a fitting setting for a book in which George W. Brackenridge plays a major part during the time he owned the first municipal water company in San Antonio, The San Antonio Waterworks Company. Why? Mozart’s sits atop land once owned by Brackenridge which he donated to the University of Texas at the beginning of the 20th century.

Porter (center) talks to Dr. Patrick Cox of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History (left) and Kirk Holland, general manager of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (right).

"I gave a brief talk about the significance of the book, a history of the earliest development of water rights in Texas which evolved from Spanish Colonial Texas on the San Antonio River. I discussed the evolution of water in San Antonio from Spanish water to Anglo water under Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the State of Texas covering the time period from 1718 to 1902."
Among the dignitaries in attendance were Kirk Holland, general manager of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, Dr. Patrick Cox of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Peggy Rudd, director and librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives, Bill Black, legal counsel to Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth A. Jones, David Foster, executive director of the Austin Board of Realtors, Mark Lehmann, government affairs director of the Texas Association of Realtors, Mike Ward of the Austin-American Statesman and Pioneer Farms, Chris Tomlinson, Managing Editor of the Texas Observer, and Author Lou Dubose.

The beautiful sunset over Lake Austin.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Homeless Christmas Tree on NBC D/FW

"High atop a windswept Texas hill stood a crooked little tree. Nothing else was on the hill─nothing at all."─The Homeless Christmas Tree (Texas Christian University Press, 2009)
For years Carla Christian, a woman who at one time was homeless, decorated a small Christmas tree on I-30 in Fort Worth. The crooked little tree has become a tribute to the homeless and less fortunate people of the world and is the subject of a new children's book, The Homeless Christmas Tree, written by Leslie M. Gordon and illustrated by Court Bailey.

In a recent story, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth featured the Arlington Creative Arts Theatre & School's ongoing production of Carla's Song: The Story of the Homeless Christmas Tree, a play based on Carla's story and the children's book. The theatre presentation will continue through Dec. 12.

View the story here:

View more news videos at:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Celebrity Authors on Why Books Make Great Gifts

"Books make great gifts because they're everybody's favorite things."-Julie Andrews

Books make great gifts. Please visit our Holiday Sale and save 25% on books that are sure to please everyone on your list.

And, hear why Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, Jon Stewart, Frank McCourt and others talk about why they think books make great gifts:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dan E. Burns: Five Tips for Raising a Child with Autism

"As I walked out of the doctor's office, Ben's little hand wrapped around my finger. I had three options: ignore Ben's autism, accept it, or fight it. I chose to fight it."
Each year thousands of children are diagnosed with autism, a devastating neurological disorder that profoundly affects a person's language and social development.

In his critically acclaimed book, Saving Ben: A Father's Story of Autism, Dan E. Burns reveals how his family has coped with this disorder.

Today he offers his five tips for raising a child with autism:

December 7, my birthday, is the nineteenth anniversary of Ben’s diagnosis.

His pediatric neurologist said, “Autism is a lifelong, irreversible condition. It is genetic. There is no medical treatment. Save your money for his institutionalization when he turns twenty-one.”

As I walked out of the doctor’s office, Ben’s little hand wrapped around my finger. I had three options: ignore Ben’s autism, accept it, or fight it. I chose to fight it. Here’s what I wish I knew on that cold December day in 1990.

1. Autism is not a hard-wired brain disorder. It is an ongoing, biological multi-system illness. The systems involved are the gut, the immune system, and the central nervous system. Severe colic, chronic ear infections, no eye contact, loss of language and social withdrawal are all part of the same disease, a vicious cycle where one system failure triggers another.

2. Autism is treatable and in some cases reversible. Even in the primitive era when Ben was diagnosed, Dr. Ivor Lovaas was restoring health to nearly half the kids in his experimental group using intensive behavioral therapy. Not all kids recover. Ben didn’t, though he improved. But today, with the addition of modern biomedical treatments, the odds are in your favor if you start early and stick with it. Remove the toxins, rebalance the metabolism, and repair the damaged systems. Find a Defeat Autism Now doctor (a DAN doctor) to guide you. The fight is long and hard. Don’t give up.

3. You are not alone. One child in ninety-one is diagnosed with autism, up from one in 150 just two years ago. Nearly every family in America is touched by this rising tide, or soon will be. The medical, educational, and legal systems are years behind, and parents are leading the charge for change. Whether your strategy is to accept the condition or reverse it, you can join a parents’ group and find support. Fighters like me get support from Age of Autism, Generation Rescue, Defeat Autism Now (DAN), FEAT, TACA, and many more.

4. Autism is an opportunity for empowerment and self-growth. I didn’t want to be Superman. I just wanted to be Clark Kent, reporter, teacher. And a good father. But the tigers come at night, and they tear your hope apart. If you’re like me you turn to the tigers and stretch your claws and you say, “Not my kid. You can’t have him.” And the scales fall away. You see the world as it is, not a happy sitcom but a disaster movie, and you find yourself in a battle against ignorance, prejudice, clueless doctors, a zombied education system, helping professionals who don’t help, caregivers who don’t care, and a medical system driven by pharmaceutical profits and more concerned with protecting egos and incomes than recovering your child. So you go to the bathroom weeping in fear and anger and frustration. You throw up. Then you take off your Clark Kent glasses and you put on your Superman cape. And you know what? You can fly.

5. Focus on the quality of your relationship with your child. Ignore, accept, or fight. If you put on the cape, you will call forth strengths you didn’t know you had. The struggle will challenge your values and change your life. But remember, some children recover, some do not, and all are precious for being themselves. Take time to focus on the quality of the relationship with your son or daughter. Jobs come and go. Careers and marriages may end. Therapies succeed or fail. But you are a dad or mom forever.

Dan E. Burns, Ph.D., helped organize a Dallas chapter of Families for Early Autism Treatment, a support group for parents, and pioneered educational and medical interventions. He lives in Dallas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Linda Moore Lanning on Army Wife Network

"Life happens while you're waiting. . ."

In Waiting: One Wife's Year of the Vietnam War, author Linda Moore-Lanning gives a personal account of her experience as a wife on the home front during the Vietnam War.

During this difficult year, she experienced the agony of waiting for the next letter from her husband, struggled with anti-military sentiments, and discovered she was pregnant.

In a recent interview with the Army Wife Network's blog talk radio show (featured on the Web site for Army wives, by Army wives), Linda discusses her efforts to recall and write about this period in her life (starting more than twenty years after the fact) and the parallel experiences of waiting wives then and now.

See this excerpt, where Linda talks about her insistence that her husband, Michael Lee Lanning, give her an honest account of his experiences overseas:

"I thought it was important if we were going to have a close relationship when he got home that I know what he was going through. He was very good about sharing that - he told me the facts, what he was thinking and feeling. It was important toward the end (of his deployment). He had been in the field more than nine months at that time. Those were critical times and letters, and it was important then that I knew what he was going through."

Hear the full interview here (Show # 241).

Also, interact with Linda on the Waiting Facebook page.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Growing Good Things: Pam Walker's Advice to Authors

"Remember Andy Warhol and his notion that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."
First-time author Pamela Walker has certainly taken this notion to heart.

Pam was pounding the pavement many months prior to the arrival of her book, Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas: Profiles of Organic Farmers and Ranchers (TAMU Press, 2009). Her individual efforts combined with those of her publisher's marketing team have garnered a long list of reviews (Austin American Statesman, My Table Magazine), media coverage (Edible Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston Chronicle, The Dirt Doctor), events, and speaking engagements many authors would envy.

Here she offers her advice to authors interested in working harmoniously with their publishers on marketing efforts:
"Think of your Author Information Form as a Map of main routes in getting your book into the hands of people you've envisioned all along as your readers."
Take the AIF (author information form) seriously.

Even if in a tired, cynical moment, you think that this form, like so many that these bureaucratic times require us to complete, will be filed away and never read or used, resist that thought.

Think of it instead as a real tool both for yourself and for the press marketing team, a map of main routes in getting your book into the hands of the people you’ve envisioned all along as your readers.

Meet the Marketing Team

A couple or so months before the book comes out, go to the press offices and meet with the marketing team.

To prepare, review your AIF and if your ideas have changed since completing the form or if some of the information is no longer current, then note these things and advise the marketing team.

The value of meeting with the marketing team cannot be overstated. As authors, we know things about our intended audience and venues that the marketing team doesn’t necessarily know, and as professional marketers, the press team knows things that authors don’t.

By meeting personally, we not only begin to pool our knowledge, but we also come alive to each other as real people, not just names and disembodied messages in an e-mail inbox. And so, in this way, we as authors make ourselves part of the press marketing team.

And why shouldn’t we? We have the most to gain by joining the team. After all, the press has many books to promote, while we have only ours. If we aren’t willing to put thought and action into promoting our book, why, with so many titles to promote and so little time, should the press make our book a priority?

Seize the Moment

Remember Andy Warhol and his notion that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. Make the most of your fifteen minutes to bring your book to the attention of as many people as possible.

During the months leading up to publication, let any associates who share, or may be brought to share, your purposes for writing the book in the first place, know what the book is about and when it’s coming out.

Enlist them in using the occasion of the book’s publication to serve your common interests. With the help of such people and that of the press marketing team, one thing will lead to another, one promotional event will generate several more, and your book will reach not just those you hoped it would but also those you didn’t know to hope for.

For example, I’m giving talks and signing books in all kinds of places -- at conferences and bookstores and at farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and feed stores. And I’m even selling books myself, from cartons I carry around in my car. In addition, my book is being reviewed in newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

Dos and Don'ts

Don’t think you can promote your book effectively by yourself, and don’t think the press marketing team can promote your book effectively without you.

Do enter into conversation and partnership with the press marketing team, and enjoy the places you and your book will go.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tom Lea Collection Featured on CBS Sunday Morning

CBS Sunday Morning recently featured several pieces from El Paso artist Tom Lea's collection, including That Two Thousand Yard Stare ─ part of its report on the Army's "hidden" art collection.

In 2008, Texas A&M University Press published The Two Thousand Yard Stare: Tom Lea's World War II, edited and with introductions by Robert Mac Greeley. Here, Greeley has collected paintings and Lea's previously unpublished accounts of his experiences documenting the war as a commissioned artist for Life Magazine.
See images and an excerpt here.

View the video from CBS Sunday Morning here:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

E. Joe Deering Live on Fox 7 Austin!

Nik Ciccone of Fox 7 Austin is interviewing E. Joe Deering, author of Lovin' That Lone Star Flag (TAMU Press, 2009), this morning, live from the Capitol Visitors Center!

The interview will air intermittently throughout the Fox 7 morning live news broadcast here.

Also, see inside this book!

E. Joe Deering talks to Nik Ciccone about how he gathered this shot of a Lone Star flag-clad Cadillac in front of the state capitol.

E. Joe and Nik are flanked by Texas paraphernalia at the Capitol Visitors Center, as E. Joe tells Nic about Texans' affinity for the image of the state flag.

When Loyola University in New Orleans found out about E. Joe's project, they gave him "carte blanche" to photograph its graduation.

Monday, November 16, 2009

WWII in HD and Artist Tom Lea

Last night millions of viewers tuned in to the first installment of the History Channel's much-heralded WWII in HD, a 10-hour documentary culled from "thousands of hours of lost and rare color archival footage."

Narrated by Emmy Award winner Gary Sinise and with soldier diaries read by Hollywood talent like Rob Lowe and Jason Ritter, the documentary ─ shot entirely in HD ─ will air for two hours each night through Thursday.

While WWII in HD promises footage most Americans have never seen, many are likely familiar with Life Magazine-commissioned artist Tom Lea's iconic paintings.

In 2008, Texas A&M University Press released an unprecedented collection of Lea's never-before-seen firsthand accounts of his assignments, powerful sketches and unforgettable paintings in The Two Thousand Yard Stare: Tom Lea's World War II, edited and with introductions by retired Marine Corps Aviator Brendan M. Greeley.

An excerpt:

"My watch said 0340 when I woke up on the blacked-out weather deck below the bridge. Barefooted and in my skivvies, I got off my cot and stood by the rail rubbing grit from my eyes. Dead ahead, framed between the forward king-posts, there was flickering light on the black horizon. Sick yellow balls of fire flashed low in the clouds like heat lightning, but continuous. It was the Navy shelling Peleliu with the final punch before we landed. The black silhouette of a seaman on watch by the rail turned to me and said, "Them Japs are catching hell for breakfast."

Dawn came dim with low overcast. In the first gray light I saw the sea filled with an awe-inspiring company of strangers to our troop ships. Out to the horizon in every direction were lean men-of-war, fat transports, stubby landing craft, gathered around us like magic in the growing light. It was D-Day.

We ate our last meal together, dressed in baggy green dungarees, on the plank benches of the troop officers' mess. We washed the food down our dry throats with big mugs of coffee, and put all the oranges in our pockets. Getting up to go, Captain Farrell repeated his instructions for Martin (Robert "Pepper" Martin, Time Inc.) and me, the two correspondents, 'Be at Number Three Net, starboard side, at 0600.'

Growing dawn had brought the ship violently to life. Power winches rumbled, hoisting our landing craft over the side. The marines, after long captivity in their crowded holds, moved at last to their stations by the rail, battle gear buckled, the last oil in the gum, the last whet to the knife. I felt some almost palpable spirit walking, the emptying holds and passageways and along the crowded decks, with a word for every man.

Lea photographed flying cadet Bill Kelly in the cockpit of his trainer as the basis for his final painting. (Courtesy U.S. Army Center of Military History)

In the corner where I kept my gear I checked it carefully and finally. There was the belt with the two filled canteens, first-aid kit, and long black-bladed knife; and the pack with the poncho and shovel, the gloves, headset and K-ration, the waterproofed cigarettes and matches and candy bar─and my sketchbook and pencils and camera and films wrapped in the target balloon. All set. I checked my pockets for my watch and identification wrapped in rubbers-and my grizzly coin for luck.

Martin and I buckled our belts, slung our packs, and put on our helmets. Inching along throught he marines, we found Farrell and his men standing shoulder to shoulder with all their gear on the jam-packed main deck near the rail over Number Three Net. The main deck looked queer without the landing craft that had loomed overhead on the long convoy days, making shade for marine card games. Now these boats were down in the water ready for the loads.

'Free Boat Two,' bellowed the squawk box on the bridge, and Farrell said. 'That's us. Leg's go.'

Flying the Hump in the moonlight. (Courtesy U.S. Army Center of Military History)

We gave a hitch to our packs, hoisted our legs over the rail, and went down the rope net, down the scaly side of our sea-bitten ship by swinging handgrips and tricky footholds between the swaying knots, down to where the bobbing net met the pitching deck of our little iron tub. When we were loaded the coxswain gunned our engine in a blue stink of smoke and we cast off."

Lea with The Price in his El Paso studio. Courtesy Adair Margo Gallery.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Inside the book: Lovin' That Lone Star Flag

"Cowpuncher" (Ron Sitton, Fort Worth Stockyard), 2002

Texans sure do love their state, and E. Joe Deering has the pictures to prove it.

As a staff photographer for the Houston Chronicle, the author of Lovin' That Lone Star Flag said he was struck by how often he spotted the image of the Texas flag emblazoned on buildings, vehicles, barn doors, and other places.

"Belt Buckle" (Jesse Campos, Houston), 2004

Called "flagotography," E. Joe's images have graced the pages of the Chronicle and prompted an exhibit at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station.

Want to win a free copy of E. Joe's book? Submit your best, unique lead (snap a pic, if you can) by Nov. 19 for a chance to score your copy. E. Joe will choose!

"Lone Spur" (Dana Nelson, Hempstead), 2004

His shot of your "flagotography" may even be featured in his next book!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Joel Ira Holwitt on "Execute Against Japan"

The following is an interview with Joel Ira Holwitt, author of "Execute Against Japan" The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare. (TAMU Press, 2009)

Q: Why was the U.S. move to unrestricted air and submarine warfare against Japan so significant? Did a precedent exist?

Joel Holwitt: With the passage of so many years since the Second World War, it may be difficult to understand why unrestricted submarine warfare could have been considered so controversial and despicable before the United States entered the war. And yet, the United States did go to war in 1917 over unrestricted submarine warfare, and during two subsequent decades, national and military leaders repeated numerous high-minded statements that nothing could be more foreign to the American notion of freedom-of-the-seas than unrestricted warfare. But within one day, the United States abruptly turned about from that position and waged a determined and pitiless maritime war against Japan that ended only in the absolute destruction of Japan’s merchant marine. For that reason alone, the U.S. decision to conduct unrestricted submarine warfare remains an important moment in history.

Q: What is "freedom of the seas?"

Nittsu Maru, on her way to the bottom in March 1943. (Photo courtesy Naval Historical Center)

JH: Freedom of the seas is a concept that has gone through numerous iterations over the centuries, but at its core it is about the right of noncombatants to travel the seas in safety during time of war. Ultimately, President Woodrow Wilson defined it as the right of any noncombatant to travel in any place at any time without threat of attack by any aggressor. Such an "absolute" definition of freedom of the seas, of course, conflicted immediately with the German U-boat campaign in the First World War.

Q: Why should we be interested in this shift in military

: U.S. unrestricted submarine warfare played a pivotal role in the Allied victory in the Pacific.
Despite a faltering start at the beginning, the U.S. submarine force essentially annihilated the Japanese merchant marine. The true cost of U.S. unrestricted submarine warfare, however, did not lie at sea. Rather, its greatest impact lay ashore, where untold numbers of Japanese
soldiers and civilians suffered and died from malnutrition and starvation. The U.S. submarine campaign so successfully interdicted food supplies to the home islands that during the
period immediately after the Japanese surrender, the Japanese people relied upon American food shipments to survive. And more than that, U.S. unrestricted submarine warfare implicitly legitimized the German unrestricted submarine campaign, and ended the Wilsonian paradigm of "absolute" freedom of the seas.

USS Covington sinks after being torpedoed by a German U-boat, her American colors still flying. Indiscriminate attacks by German U-boats against shipping, regardless of nationality, defenses, and passengers, proved to be the pivotal factor that drew the United States into the First World War. (Photo courtesy Naval Historical Center)

Q: What is the enduring legacy of this move on U.S. Naval policy
today? And, why was it illegal to begin with?

JH: Unrestricted submarine warfare was specifically outlawed by the London Naval Treaty of 1930 and the London Submarine Protocol of 1936, which was signed by every major power that conducted unrestricted submarine warfare in the Second World War. These clauses were meant to last "in perpetuity" regardless of what happened to the rest of the treaties. After the Second World War, the Nuremberg tribunal insisted that the 1936 London Submarine Protocol was still in effect. In fact, without any new treaties to override it, the Protocol is technically still in effect today. Therefore, by law, submarines must carry out cruiser rules of warfare by visiting, searching, and capturing merchant ships. There are some logical exceptions to this, but international law still does not permit unrestricted submarine warfare as seen in the Second World War.

The senior naval leadership of the United States, including some members of the General Board of the Navy, assembled for a group photo in December 1920. (Photo courtesy Naval Historical Center)

Luisa Owen reads Herta Müller

"Divided after World War I, the province parceled out to Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania, life in the village remained the same. Without moving, we changed countries. . ."

Luisa Lang Owen, author of Casualty of War: A Childhood Remembered (TAMU Press, 2002), was nine years old when she was deported from her village home and sent to live in a concentration camp ─ a victim of the mid-'40s ethnic cleansing in Communist Romania and Yugoslavia.

Part of an ethnic German minority, a Danube Swabian, Owen shared experiences similar to those depicted by novelist, poet, and essayist Herta Müller. winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Owen, who has recently read Müller's books, including Nadirs (German: Niederungen, translation by Siglinde Lug. University of Nebraska Press, 1999), explains:

Owen's first portrait with her parents, 1936.

"Reading Nadirs, I was struck, but not surprised, by the depiction of the same events in village life, which I describe in Casualty of War. Such events were, after all, characteristic of village life in Banat for generations.

Divided after World War I, the province parceled out to Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania, life in the village remained the same. Without moving, we changed countries. We did not change our way of life. We, Danube Shwabians, kept our customs, our rituals, our culture, as well as our language, loyal to our ethnic group, being loyal to the respective countries to which we belonged. Though our relatives across the border may have been inaccessible to us at times, we remained united by a way of life shared in common. In the twenty some years of this division, life in the village, in three different countries, did not change.

Owen's traveling pass with photograph, Osijek, 1950.

The almost twenty years between Ms. Müller's birth (1953) and mine (1935), yielded an overwhelming change, effecting the village and the perception it offered. The village I had experienced as a child, was inaccessible to the child in Nadirs. In my memoir, I celebrate the perception the village offered when it was whole and alive: I hold up its image as home, a place that offers a sense of belonging.

I mourn the loss of the village. Ms. Müller does not know this loss. The child in Nadirs only knows the lost village. Repelled by life in the village, the child's perception, honed by fear, tuned to darkness and death, devastatingly beautiful in the truth it offers, reveals a desolate world. The view to the integral village obscured, the child sees the confining carcass of a once-alive thing, now dead. The two views of the village put next to one another, expose an irrevocable loss. The oppression and the repression arising from it, alters the village, the perception it offers, effecting the inner life of the child, sealing the fate of a way of life.

Although the ethnic Germans in Romania were dispossessed, some, like those in Yugoslavia, taken to Russia, some resettled within the country, most were left to live at home in villages and cities, separated from their way of life, witnessing its disintegration in slow motion, enduring the effects of the persecution over time. Herta Müller depicts this journey in poetic prose, forcing the darkness into light: the persecution continues, she says.

Ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia were disowned, dispossessed, taken from their homes, all in quick succession, put into concentration camps to die, dying by the thousands, dying slowly, women, children, and the old (1945-1948). As survivor, I bear witness."

Owen at home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1962, photographed by her son Erik when he was four years old.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bob Flynn on Late Dramatist Paul Baker

"Irritating, arrogant, nuts ─ and a genius."

That's how actor Charles Laughton once described Paul Baker, the Texas dramatist whose stage productions of Othello, Hamlet, and A Cloud of Witnesses drew renowned critics to the likes of Waco, Texas.

Baker, who went on to serve as founding artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center and teacher and mentor in the arts, recently passed away at the age of 98.

Here's what Bob Flynn, co-author of Paul Baker and the Integration of Abilities (Texas Christian University Press, 2003) had to say about his experience working with Baker:
"To work or study with Prof was to have your vision lifted above the campus and beyond America to Europe and Asia and ideas from centuries past and all over the world. His legacy lives on in his students and their students and the vision beyond The Integration of Abilities."

In his book, Flynn tells how a summer in Paris gave Baker a new way of looking at theater. Co-author Eugene McKinney describes Baker's development of writers, and Glenn Allen Smith demonstrates the use of the elements in creating a play.

Flynn continues:


"For some, working with Prof Baker was the most exciting, creative, and productive time of their lives. Prof's projects involved everyone, and everyone was required to think through the project or problem at hand and have their own ideas for resolving a problem or creating a dream.

In play productions he assigned scenes to groups of students and they were to work on the scene alone and together and so share their ideas. Then all the student gropus
presented their scene and all the faculty observed.

Actor Charles Laughton "discovered" the Baylor Theater on one of his national reading tours, was stunned by its revolutionary design, and became a fervent supporter of Baker's productions.

The groups were shifted to different scenes, different actors reading different parts until everyone began to see the same vision. Prof's vision in which everyone: cast,
crew, box office, publicity had a share and an investment.

Students also worked with architects, writers, directors, actors, dancers including Frank Lloyd Wright, Zero Mostel, Burgess Meredith, Charles Laughton, Henry Hewes, drama critic for Saturday Review of Literature; Eliot Elisoften, photographer for Life Magazine who spent a month working on the lighting for Prof's production of Thomas Wolfe's 'Of Time and the River'; Burl Ives, Michael Medoff whose first play was given a staged reading by Baker's students; Cornelia Otis Skinner, and the father of modern mime, Etienne Decroux whose students included Jean-Louis Barrault and Marcel Marceua. . ."

Paul Baker

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Scholarly Book is Student's Fave

“Hey Jim, had a student of mine tell me today that it’s her favorite book of all time and that she takes it with her when she flies b/c she learns something new after every read…thought you’d get a kick out of that!”

How often does an author get a note like that about a book he’s written for a largely academic audience?

James E. Campbell recently received this email from a colleague at another school about his book The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote.

This text, now in second edition, is used widely in classes on voting and electoral behavior, as well as the American presidency. But its appeal is not restricted to the classroom, as this student’s enthusiasm makes clear.

Anyone wanting insight into the factors affecting presidential elections can benefit from the clear prose and lucid analysis Campbell provides. Who knows, it may become your “favorite book of all time.”

An excerpt:

"Do presidential campaigns affect election results? For campaign consultants and political pundits the answer is obvious: of course they do. Why else would anyone in his or her right mind devote the tremendous amounts of time and energy to devising intricate campaign strategies and to crisscrossing the
country endlessly on speaking tours with a caravan of campaign workers and reporters? If they did not believe that campaigns affected the vote, why would candidates raise and spend enormous amounts of money on consultants, national surveys, campaign appearances, and wildly expensive television advertising? For political scientists studying campaigns and voting behavior, the answer has not been so obvious. As discussed at the outset of this analysis, the research on presidential campaigns has concluded that their effects on the vote are 'minimal.' Being dedicated political observers as well as scientists, political scientists have never been comfortable with this finding. Nevertheless, the unsettling findings were there.

Also as observed at the outset, doubts about campaign effects have been renewed in recent years by the success of several election forecasting models. If elections can be accurately forecast before the campaign even begins, it might appear that the intervening campaign is of no real consequence. Individual campaign events may affect voters, but positive events for one candidate offset positive events for the opponent and the net effect is negligible, or so it is supposed. The canceling of these campaign effects may be imperfect in any particular election, but generally, even within an election year, the net impact of the campaigns is supposed to be minor. This supposition, however, understates the effects of campaigns.

Presidential campaigns have significant effects, perhaps not as great or of the same sort as some campaign politicos might suppose, but significant nonetheless. The reason that elections are predictable is not that campaigns have no effect, but that campaign effects themselves are largely predictable. Campaign effects are predictable because their effects are limited and largely systematic. They are limited because of the large number of vote decisions reached before the campaign begins, decisions based on established partisanship, ideology, issue beliefs, and evaluations of candidate qualities. They are systematic because three fundamentals guide the course of the campaign and voter reactions to it, and these three fundamentals are in place before the campaign begins. Presidential incumbency and election-year economic conditions shape how receptive the voting public is to candidate messages. The political implications of the election-year economy are also gradually incorporated into the decisions of voters over the months leading up to the vote. The intense competition present in every presidential campaign also systematically puts pressure on frontrunners and typically costs them some portion of their lead.

These fundamental forces that have structured the effects of campaigns have done so over a long period of electoral history despite enormous changes in how campaigns have been conducted. The norms, styles, technologies, and intensity of presidential campaigning have changed tremendously over time. Yet throughout all of this history, partisanship has guided many voters to a choice before the campaign begins. The election-year economy, presidential incumbency, and the forces of political competition have systematically affected the evaluations of campaign events and the votes of those who decide during the campaign. Whether campaigns are conducted in a low-key manner from the front porches of the candidates' homes or through sophisticated focus-group-tested televised advertising, most voters rely on their partisan affinities and are affected by the circumstances of the election-year economy, incumbency, and the heated contest between the candidates regardless of how the campaign messages are delivered. There is little evidence to suggest that these fundamental factors have changed much over the years."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

James Pfiffner on Obama's "Czars"

In recent weeks, President Barack Obama's steady appointments of cabinet "czars" has been a hot topic among political observers , concerned that his proliferation of empowered advisors may undermine Congress' oversight of the executive branch.

But, Obama certainly isn't the first U.S. president to seek guidance from a stable of advisors on how to run the country. In a recent interview with Time Magazine, TAMU Press author Jim Pfiffner, a presidential historian at George Mason University, explains

Time paraphrases: 'Every Administration has defined its czars differently, but generally speaking, they are appointees, not confirmed by the Senate, who help coordinate issues across agencies. These advisers cannot make decisions themselves; instead, they whittle down the options to present to the President.'
The article goes on to discuss Franklin D. Roosevelt's "brain trust" and the structures of various presidential cabinets, dating back to the administration of President George Washington.

See the rest of the article here.

See more presidential studies-related titles from TAMU Press here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Corps of Cadets to Show "Texas Aggies Go to War"

A lesser-known fact about Texas A&M: the university has produced more officers than any other school outside of the military service academies.

On Wednesday, the Corps of Cadets will do an on-campus screening of the DVD "Texas Aggies Go to War", a documentary film based on the 2005 Texas A&M University Press book of the same name.

The screening, which is free and open to the public, will be held 7:30 p.m. at the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Presidential Conference Center at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service.

In the 2005 book, Texas Aggies Go to War: In Service of Their Country, Texas A&M emeritus history professor Henry C. Dethloff and alum John A. Adams, Jr. recount the stories of individual Aggie soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines.

An excerpt from the book:

"The legend of the '42 Corregidor Aggies 'drinking a toast in water to the heroes of 1836' came to symbolize the nation's resolve to wrest victory from the jaws of defeats suffered during the first six months of American combat in World War II. That legend came alive with a movie, 'We've Never Been Licked', which was filmed on the Texas A&M campus in 1943. . .

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, 366 Japanese fighters and bombers, supported by a fleet of midget submarines, struck the Pacific fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor and other bases on Oahu. In less than two hours, most of the American naval force in the Pacific lay in ruins, including four battleships: the West Virginia, California, Oklahoma, and Zrizona, the latter carrying 1,177 American seamen with it to the bottom. The surprise attack eliminated a total of nineteen American warships and 188 aircraft while almost 2,200 men were killed and another thousand wounded. Floyd Buchel ('36) was at Pearl Harbor that day 'and has not been heard from since other than he was missing in action. His mother died . . . still thinking that her boy would come home one day.' He never did.

Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder ('32) and his 2nd Ranger Battalion were assigned the task of neutralizing the six 155-mm guns located on the cliffs of a small peninsula at Point du Hoc. These emplacements were identified by prelanding intelligence as "the most dangerous battery in France."

Seaman 1st Class Buck E. Jordan ('51) whose ship, the USS Argonne, a repair vessel, was itself at dock for repairs, had temporary duty at the ammunition depot on Magazine Island, a few hundred yards southeast of 'Battleship Row,' when the attack began. He and others on duty ran to the tip of the island in time to watch the 'first Jap plane drop his torpedo into the water toward the battleship Oklahoma. . . . The Japanese planes that flew by us were so low, we could see the eyes and teeth of the pilots as they dropped their torpedoes. . . . Soon we were pulling injured sailors from the water all around the island.' Jordan survived Pearl Harbor, the first day of war, and five years of battle in the Pacific. In 1945, he was present on the last day of the war at the signing of the peace treaty aboard the battleship Missouri.

When the attack came at 7:55 A.M. on Sunday morning the men of Battery K, 64th Coast Artillery, who manned the only operational antiaircraft battery on Hickam Field, rushed to the ammunition shed only to discover that it was locked. Because it was Sunday, the officers who had the keys had not yet arrived for the day's duties, but the delay was short lived. Within minutes, Lt. Roy W. Gillette ('40) turned up with the key and took command, and the battery commenced firing at the enemy, providing one of the few points of resistance at Pearl Harbor. Gillette acted like a 'true officer' during that infamous attack, one of his gunners declared years later.

The 4th Armored Division, III Corps, moves toward besieged Bastogne, Belgium.

Almost simultaneously, Japanese forces struck the American islands of Midway, Wake, and Guam and were followed within days by invading troops. Japanese aircraft attacked Hong Kong, bombed Singapore, and invaded Malaya and the Philippines. Japanese troops occupied Bangkok, Thailand, on December 9, and that same day attacked Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands. On December 20, Japanese forces seized Mindanao in the Philippines. Among those captured were Capt. Sydney R. Greer ('35), a former Texas Highway Department engineer who was in charge of construction at the Del Monte airfield on Mindanao. Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas day. On December 30, Japanese forces began an attack on the Bataan Peninsula and the island fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay. Texas Aggies were there in considerable numbers."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Upon this Chessboard of Nights and Days on Voice of America

Huntsville, Texas is home to the nation's busiest death chamber ─ a red brick facility, located a scant few blocks away from Sam Houston State University, the home of Texas Review Press.

In Upon This Chessboard of Nights and Days: Voices from Texas Death Row, SHSU students and Texas Review Press offer a rare glimpse of inmates writings and drawings.

"What we wanted to do was give them an outlet for their work, for their expression. We wanted to know what it was like, day-to-day, living on death row,"─Paul Ruffin, director, Texas Review Press

In a recent interview with Voice of America, a student editor, Paula Khalaf said she was deeply touched by reading the stories of men who often grew up in broken homes and who, as one inmate says, "became lost souls as children."

"I have to say I have probably changed my feelings about the death penalty," she said. "Probably, if I had to come down as either for or against it at this point, I would be against it."

See the interview in its entirety: