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:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Charles Backus at ITHAKA Forum

These days, most publishers are concerned with the fast-changing landscape of publishing and scholarship in the digital age.

Charles Backus, the Edward R. Campbell '39 Press Director, will serve on a panel tomorrow talking about the innovative ways Texas A&M University Press is grappling with these changes.

On the panel, "Changing the Game: New Approaches to Digital Publishing and Scholarship," Backus will join industry leaders like JSTOR Collection Development Manager Barbara Chin and Rice University Associate Provost for Innovative Scholarly Communication and Executive Director of Connexions Joel Thierstein.

Backus will have much to talk about:

Last year, the press took on a leading role in organizing a university-wide symposium on "The Changing Landscape of Scholarly Communication in the Digital Age," helping to bring nationally recognized speakers and more than 300 registrants throughout the state.

TAMU Press also helped garner a $282,000 planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a joint initiative with five other university presses to develop digital monographs in the archaeology of the Americas field.

Meanwhile, the press has been collaborating with the Texas A&M University Repository and Texas Digital Library for the electronic, open-access publication of selected press books.

The press has recently redesigned its Web site, purchased a state-of-the-art title management database, and undergone other e-commerce enhancements that will position the press for continuing fundamental changes in scholarly publication.

The ITHAKA Forum, "Next Generation Digital Publishing, Preservation, and Scholarship" will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the Houston Marriott West Loop by The Galleria. '

The forum will focus on ITHAKA initiatives (by way of its services JSTOR and Portico) and digital efforts within the Texas higher education community.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kelly Bender on Texas Wildscapes

In 1999 Texas Parks and Wildlife released the first iteration of its wildly popular Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife, a resource for Texans interested in creating native wildlife habitats in the proximity and comfort of their own backyards.

In a recent interview with Howard Garrett, "The Dirt Doctor," Texas Wildscapes for Native Plants Week author Kelly Conrad Bender talks about the new, updated edition of this book (which includes a free DVD), now available from Texas A&M University Press.

An excerpt:
"The biggest trouble I've ever gotten into in my garden has been when I try to outsmart Mother Nature. Whenever I take out one species that I think is becoming a pest, it is replaced by something else that was being held back by that species. . . ."
Listen to the full interview here.

Kelly Conrad Bender

Monday, October 19, 2009

Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas Reviewed in My Table Magazine

In a recent review, My Table Magazine, "Houston's Dining Magazine," called Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas: Profiles of Organic Farmers and Ranchers Across the State by Pamela Walker "an educational, compassionate book that celebrates difference while paying homage to an act both humble and vital: digging in the dirt."

An excerpt:
"Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas . . . is a refreshingly apolitical look into the challenges and successes of organic farming. In clear, vivid prose, Houston writer Walker portrays a diverse group of 11 farmers ─ from fundamentalist Christians to disenchanted academics to freethinking hippies ─ who bring a wide range of perspectives to their work, yet all share a common passion for organic food. . . . "
An interesting aside for patrons of the Houston restaurant scene: the reviewer notes that diners at T'afia, Reef, Brennan's and Quattro restaurants have likely tasted the fruits of featured farmer Gita Vanwoerden's (of Animal Farm) labors.

To read the review in its entirety, look for the Recommended Reading section of My Table's October issue, available from many retailers across the Houston area.

Houston Atlas of Biodiversity Collaborator wins Kodak Award

Congratulations to Rosie Zamora, a collaborator on Houston Atlas of Biodiversity: Houston Wildnerness (Texas A&M University Press: 2007), for winning a 2009 Kodak American Greenways Award.

Rosie is president and CEO of Houston Wilderness, a consortium of local, state and federal agencies, research and education centers, conservation organizations, business and economic interests and individuals devoted to understanding, appreciating and preserving the econological diversity found in the 100-mile radius around Houston.

She was one of three award recipients, recognized during a reception and presentation ceremony at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington D. C. Monday. The American Greenways Award recognizes Zamora's efforts as the driving force behind Houston Wilderness.

Eastman Kodak Co., the National Geographic Society, and the Conservation Fund are partners in the Greenways Program, an annual program that recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations for exemplary leadership in the enhancement of the nation's outdoor heritage. Since its inception in 1989, more than $800,000 has been granted to nearly 700 organizations in all 50 states.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

John Tveten, 1934-2009

Texas A&M University Press mourns the recent loss of John Tveten, avid naturalist, renowned photographer, freelance writer, and author of many books with his wife, Gloria.

For nearly a quarter of a century, John and Gloria wrote a weekly column, called "Nature Trails," for the Houston Chronicle. Their writings, which ranged both in subject matter and geography, reflected a rewarding life of travel, study, and observation in nature, including many memorable encounters with birds.

Also, John's photographs have graced the pages of National Wildlife, Audubon, Ranger Rick, Birder's World, Bird Watcher's Digest, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and Texas Highways since 1973.

He's written and photographed eight books ─ many with Gloria ─ including his nature trails books, Adventures Afar (2006), Our Life with Birds (2004), and Nature at Your Doorstep (2008) with Texas A&M Press.

Shannon Davies, Louise Lindsey Merrick Editor for the Natural Environment for Texas A&M Press, worked closely with John for many years.

"The first time I walked through a vacant lot with John, he taught me that there is no such thing. Perhaps the last of Texas's great naturalists, he taught all of us about plants, birds, mammals, snakes, lizards, frogs, butterflies, moths, and insects of all kinds with unmatched facility and generosity. He was a generalist in the truest, best possible meaning of the word--he loved nature wherever he found it, and he found it everywhere. A writer, an artist, and a photographer, John knew so much, and gave so much, never losing his sense of wonder and of fun."

(Nature at Your Doorstep, 2008)

Below are more tributes from Texas A&M University Press authors, who knew and admired John:

". . . Each person who met him will remember John's perfect presentations and exquisite photos. All of us who called him friend will remember his
strong love of this planet and optimistic spirit. I cherish every moment I spent with him and will always remember him,"─Kathy Adams Clark, photographer, Enjoying Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Adventures for Everyone (2009)

(Our Life with Birds, 2004)

". . . my words cannot convey my own personal sense of loss. . . We both shared a passion for birds, for nature in general , and for photography and I remember many discussions about our natural world with John. He enlightened others with his depth of knowledge of the natural world and was always ready to help with anything he was asked to do. John was a true gentleman in every sense of the word and I do not use that term casually. He was one of the finest persons it has been my privilege to know and I will miss him greatly. The writings about birds, butterflies, moths and other natural history subjects that John and Gloria produced over the years have enriched us all and leave a legacy for us to cherish. My thoughts and prayers are with Gloria and the family."─Greg Lasley, author of Greg Lasley's Texas Wildlife Portraits (2008)

See John's entire body of work with Texas A&M University Press here.
(Adventures Afar, 2006)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Leadership of George Bush by Roman Popadiuk

As deputy assistant to the president and deputy press secretary for foreign affairs from 1998 to 1992, Roman Popadiuk was closely involved with many of the day-to-day decisions of the George H. W. Bush White House.

In his new book, The Leadership of George Bush: An Insider's View of the Forty-First President, Popadiuk ─ who now serves as executive director of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation ─ looks at how the former president's personal leadership style influenced how he formed and executed his policies.

Popadiuk will be the featured author at the Snowcroft Institute on International Affairs-sponsored Meet the Authors Series event to be held Wednesday at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service.

(Later this week, Bush will also be on campus with President Barack Obama for a Presidential Forum on Community Service, co-hosted by the Points of Light Institute.)

August 19, 1991. President Bush heads from the main house at Walker's Point to address the press regarding the coup against Soviet leader Gorbachev. Left to right: National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft; President Bush; Linda Casey, assistant to Andy Card; the author; and the president's personal aide, Michael Dannenhauer, followed by Secret Service agents. (Courtesy: George Bush Presidential Library)

An excerpt:
On policy matters, Bush's willingness to gamble occasionally put him ahead of his staff. When the issue of congressional support for the impending war against Saddam ws raised, many on the White House staff were hesitant; there was a widespread belief that Congress would not support the president. Bush felt very strongly about having such a resolution. Unlike many of his advisers, Bush believed that he could obtain congressional support. In an Oval Office meeting he was adamant and confident. He told those around him," I don't want to be an LBJ." President Johnson got Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution after North Vietnam attacked a U.S. ship, and he used the vote as proof of congressional support for the subsequent escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Bush wanted clear and unarguable support before any military action was taken. On January 12, 1991, Bush got the vote, days before the military campaign was launched. In a joint resolution, the Senate voted 52-47, and the House supported the president by a vote of 250-183.

August 16, 1990. Bush fishes off the coast of his home, Walker's Point, in Kennebunkport, Maine, and reads at the same time. (Courtesy: George Bush Presidential Library)

Bush also took a chance when he relied on his first impression of Gorbachev at their initial meeting in 1985 at the funeral of Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko to guide his views on the evolving situation in the Soviet Union. In a cable he wrote back to President Reagan, Bush indicated that he saw Gorbachev as a different sort of Soviet leader and as someone who could clearly do business with the West. During his visit to France in July 1989 for a G-7 meeting Bush pushed his advisers on the possibility of a meeting with Gorbachev. Both Baker and Scowcroft were skeptical, fearing that the president could be blindsided if a firm agenda were not set ahead of time. Bush, however, overruled them. On the return flight home, he penned a letter to Gorbachev proposing a meeting, which eventually became the Malta Summit in December of that year. This was the start of a close personal working relationship between the two leaders as well as the beginning of cooperation between the two countries on various issues.

January 29, 1991. President Bush starts a Cabinet meeting with a prayer. Prayer was important to Bush in dealing with the challenges of the presidency. (Courtesy: George Bush Presidential Library)

Over the years, Bush came to enjoy Gorbachev's friendship and his sense of humor, particularly his willingness to tell jokes about himself. For Bush, Gorbachev's call on Christmas day in 1991 to tell of his resignation as the Soviet leader was particularly emotional.

Felt like I lost a friend," Bush subsequently stated about the event."

For more on the Bush White House, check out these titles from Texas A&M University Press.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Flying Down to Rio by Rosalie Schwartz

Months ago, a bid team from Rio de Janeiro reportedly showed a map to the Interational Olympic Committee marked with all the cities that have ever hosted the Olympics. The South American continent did not contain a single mark.

Now, millions of international tourists are expected to converge on the city during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. But, this will not be the first time Rio's enjoyed widespread exposure to the international community.

Trailer for Flying Down to Rio (1933)

In 1933, chorus girls danced on the wings of airplanes high above the heads of tourists at a resort hotel on Rio's Copacabana Beach. The spectacular ending scene from Flying Down to Rio planted the Brazilian city as a travel destination in the imaginations of moviegoers.

In her book, Flying Down to Rio: Hollywood, Tourists, and Yankee Clippers (2004), Rosalie Schwartz uses the film to examine how the globalization of aviation, movies, and mass tourism contributed to today's internationally connected, entertainment-oriented culture.

Flying Down to Rio (2004)

An excerpt:

"RKO-Radio Pictures sent its photographers to film background shots of Rio de Janeiro not long after Roosevelt's Pan American Day speech urged hemispheric neighborliness. Moreover, the studio released Flying Down to Rio the same month that the president offered transportation and tourism, instead of free trade, to Latin American delegates at Montevideo. During the course of Roosevelt's first year in ffice-concurrent with the planning, production, and release of Flying Down to Rio-the administration accepted travel as both an element of hemispheric relations and a factor in economic recovery.

The film, Flying Down to Rio, helped to spur the globalization of aviation, movies, and mass tourism.

Neither incidentally nor acidentally, good neighborliness infused the film's plot, characterizations, music, and choreography. RKO maintained a careful watch
on the entertainment market and on politics. When musical comedies attracted audiences, the studio filled the screen with evocative and appealing songs and dances. Brazil was a lively, friendly place to visit and airplanes a safe way to get there. One should not allow fears or inhibitions to limit opportunity, the film suggested, because risk takers both get the girl and solve problems."

Delores Del Rio and Gene Raymond find love in Flying Down to Rio.

For more on Brazil, pick up Lost Colony of the Confederates (1985, 2000), where Eugene Harter writes about the mass exodus of 20,000 Confederates to Brazil at the end of the Civil War.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Literary El Paso Featured in El Paso Magazine

Throughout the month of October, El Paso Magazine will feature a series of videos, celebrating the El Paso authors featured in Literary El Paso ─ the latest installment of Texas Chritian University Press' outstanding Literary Cities series.

El Paso joins the ranks of Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin with this anthology, set to be released Thursday.

"We have an incredible amount of talent, and writers who have come through here are truly part of the literary legacy of El Paso,"─Marcia Hatfield Daudistel, editor of Literary El Paso

Marcia Hatfield Daudistel, editor of Literary El Paso, told El Paso Magazine the book is a sample of a range of genres, including journalistic pieces, biography, autobiography, poetry, historical essays, fiction and nonfiction ─ all contributed by writers who have lived in and written about El Paso.

Marcia Hatfield Daudistel sits down with El Paso Magazine to talk about Literary El Paso.

See El Paso Magazine and Literary El Paso contributor Bobby Byrd's blog for more on these videos.

In a video featured on the El Paso Magazine blog, Literary contributor Bobby Byrd reads from his story, "The Gabachos in the Photograph."

Here, Lee Merrill Byrd reads
from her story, "When He is 37:"

Friday, October 2, 2009

TAMU Press at East Texas Historical Association Fall Meeting

Folks in East Texas really know how to appreciate their history. The East Texas Historical Association's fall meeting in Nacogdoches always draws an enthusiastic group. The programs are interesting, and the Texas A&M Press Consortium does a brisk business in selling books and visiting with authors and potential authors.

Kyle Wilkison, author of Yeomen, Sharecroppers, and Socialists

This year the association awarded its Ottis Locke Award for the Best Book on East Texas History to Kyle Wilkison for his book, Yeomen, Sharecroppers, and Socialists: Plain Folk Protest in Texas, 1870-1914. Kyle signed many books during the meeting and received his award at the noon luncheon on Saturday, Sept. 26. Two of his longtime buddies from Plano joined him for the award ceremony.
Ron Chrisman, director of University of North Texas Press, was present to show his press's books and to visit with authors. Mary Lenn Dixon, editor-in-chief of Texas A&M Press, was elected to the board of directors for a three-year term.

Ron Chrisman, UNT Press, talks to Harold J. Weiss, a panelist at the meeting.

The spring's meeting will be a first-time joint meeting with the West Texas Historical Association. See the East Texas Historical Association website for more information.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Great Books on the National Parks: Our Best Idea

PBS will wrap up its six-episode run of The National Parks: America's Best Idea, by renowned documentary film maker Ken Burns, this weekend.

From Healing Landscapes of Texas (2001)

In this outstanding series, Burns focuses on the origin of the national park idea over 150 years, from its inception in the 1800s.

The first episode of the series, "The Scripture of Nature" (1851-1890) focused on John Muir, the Scottish-born founder of the Sierra Club, who found beauty, inspriation, and the courage to battle governmental powers for the preservation of natural landscapes.

Muir, still one of the most popular American nature writers, was instrumental in the creation of Yosemite National Park and other western parks.

In God's Wilds: John Muir's Vision of Nature (Texas A&M University Press, 2002), author Dennis C. Williams shows Muir as a fundamentalist about nature, who learned his passion, his way of organizing the world, and his moral principles in the demanding world of nineteenth-century Calvinism.

God's Wilds (2002)

In episode five of the series, Great Nature (1933-1945) ─ set to air this weekend ─ Burns will look at the contributions of George Melendez Wright. The San Francisco native conducted a four-year survey of wildlife and plant conditions in the national parks that prompted the change of many long-held park practices, such as feeding bears and killing predators.

Wright died in a car accident at the age of 31 in 1936, after he took part in studying a potential international park along the Big Bend of the Rio Grande in Texas and Mexico. Mountains in this park now bear his name.

From Healing Landscapes of Texas (2001)

Find out more about Big Bend and other national parks from Texas A&M University Press's impressive line-up of natural history, environmental history, and nature guide books.

Also, visit the National Park Service and The National Parks: America's Best Idea websites to view video featurettes, detailed park information, and more on the history of America's national parks.