That first year goes so fast! To commemorate our first anniversary, here are the most popular posts of the past year based on page hits. They represent a good cross-section of the topics and voices we've featured here on the blog. If you've enjoyed the blog during this past year, join our Facebook Blog Network or Fan Page. Thanks for reading!
Patricia E. Bauer posts a memorial to Melissa Riggio, the daughter of Barnes & Nobel CEO Steve Riggio. who died of leukemia recently at the age of 20. "Ms. Riggio, who had Down syndrome, was the inspiration for Barnes &
Noble’s creation of a special section of books about children with
Wendy Kaminer on the lawsuit pending in Indiana that requires bookstores that sell "sexuality explicit material" to register with the state.
Boston recently hosted an assembly of smart and passionate people focused hard on the buzzword "change." The event wasn’t a political rally, but the 2008 Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism, themed "Storytelling in Many Voices, Many Media." The three-day conference ably met one of the goals of new Director Constance Hale: “Showcasing journalists who are creating exciting work in digital forms while at the same time celebrating those whose work reflects the intelligence, integrity, depth, and creativity that have long been the hallmarks of the best of traditional media.”
From the Pulitzer-Prize winning veterans to J-school students, there was an undercurrent of job anxiety, peppered with optimism, at the conference. Speakers and attendees together tackled tough issues including declining print subscriptions, rapidly evolving technology, and what exactly today’s consumers of news want. There were few definitive answers to that question, but some exquisitely well-informed guesses. Senior Producer at nytimes.com Derrick Henry helpfully pointed to the concise and prescient report, "Creative Destruction: An Exploratory Look at News on the Internet" (pdf). Henry spoke on a panel alongside Russell Contreras, multimedia reporter for the Boston Globe, who also hosts the Globe podcast on minority issues called "Across the Divide." Both Henry and Contreras are doing amazing audiovisual work online and, most importantly, training others--which is crucial to satisfying twenty-first century news' consumers. It seems today that slideshows and sound are important tools in storytelling that are only starting to be used to full advantage.
I was struck by how often I saw the ID "multimedia journalist"--Jane Ellen Stevens was one prominent example--and how many of the speakers’ bios began with a website, like Jessie Scanlon, senior writer for BusinessWeek.com. I think it’s a powerful sign when the nation's top journalists say that they regard their stories placement on the home page as the equivalent to front page, above the fold. And I was excited by the wide range of online work I saw, impressive and varied content beyond the static page--including James Pindell's politicker.com; Josh Benton’s blog; and Brian Storm's multimedia production studio.
Like everyone in book publishing, I think often about the future of the written word, and the viability of our current forms of print. As a book editor, I go to conferences like the Nieman to look for potential projects, and I find journalists--who are working with shorter and shorter word counts as print editions are trimmed--invariably attracted by the length and depth that a book can offer. I'm most encouraged by the journalists who are adapting to new technology with integrity, but who also overwhelmingly continue to find value in what is still one of the fullest and most satisfying forms of storytelling--the printed book.
I was on a semi-vacation last week, so this week's link roundup is a bit larger than normal. Enjoy!
Howard Zinn is adding to his People's History of the United States with a new graphic novel, A People's History of the American Empire. Read about it at Tom Dispatch, and check out this Viggo Mortensen-narrated clip featuring Mike Konopacki's artwork and Zinn's words.
...[I]t’s not about whether diversity is good or bad. Diversity is a fact,
and in America it's not going away. The question is how to best engage
the fact of diversity in a way that builds social capital and increases
civic engagement. And when the pluralists don't engage diversity by
building positive social bonds, then we leave a vacuum that is often
filled by extremists or bigots.
As of today a total of 116 dream reports about Barack Obama and 104 about Hillary
Clinton have been posted on the metaphysicalpoll.com website. Here are some of the questions I've heard people
asking about these intriguing political fables from the nocturnal
Can we accept these as real dreams? Cautiously, yes. Some of the reports could easily be fake, but
most sound genuine to me. (For more on
the limitations of this kind of anecdotal data, see my posting of March 19.)
Why are so many people having dreams of
Hillary and Barack? It's turning
into a perfect storm of political dreaming. First, the core supporters of both candidates (older white women for
Hillary, multicultural youth for Barack) tend to be especially active
dreamers--they are exactly the kinds of people who show up most often in dream
classes and workshops, and I think it's natural their political hopes and fears
would find expression in their dreams. Second,
many Democrats are genuinely torn in both directions, and one thing we know
from modern dream research is that people often experience an upsurge of
dreaming during times of uncertainty and indecision. And third, the feverish campaign coverage by
the 24-hour news media has prompted unusually intense feelings of familiarity
and intimacy with the candidates' personal lives, to the point where we hear
and think and talk about them almost non-stop. In this kind of cultural environment, it would be surprising if we did not find at least some people dreaming
about these omnipresent figures in the public eye.
Oh sure I'm a daughter/ sister/ mother/ partner/ friend/ Jew/ writer/ runner/ painter/ cook/ researcher. But when it comes to my daughter's kindergarten all I'm aware of being is a LESBIAN.
"Yoo-hoo, you in the carpool line, aren't you a LESBIAN?"
"Hey you in the front row at the winter concert, I hear you're a LESBIAN."
This is mostly my problem. Apparently the majority of the other parents at this unnamed, posh private school are not thinking about my sexual orientation every time they see me.
The problem is I think they are.
Could it be as simple as a case of innocent victims--the editor, the
agent, the writing teacher--being duped by one sociopathic young lady?
Maybe. But it also may also be true that when it comes to a hard-luck
gang story, McGrath, Bender and others involved in the publication of
Love and Consequences were more inclined to err on the side of
sensationalism and exploitation over the hard work of grooming an author
who might give readers genuine authenticity. And it is more than a bit
ironic that their apparent quest for vividly told ghetto authenticity
led them to nurture and promote a white woman writer whose story, even
if it were true, represented only a one-dimensional version of the
Authentic Black Experience.
Throughout the book, Bergland examines Mitchell's rise from 1847, when
she witnessed the flash of a comet... to becoming the "computer of Venus"
employed by the Nautical Almanac to calculate by math the orbit of that
planet; to her hiring as the first professor of astronomy at Vassar
College for women; and to the close of the 1800s when women's roles in
the sciences were discouraged and Mitchell lamented that she might be
the last of the nation's female scientists.
notes that while the word "scientist" had no masculine association at
the start of the 19th century, by 1873 a male Harvard Medical School
faculty member posited that women were physiologically unable to study
science and that those who pursued the subject with vigor risked
becoming "thoroughly masculine in nature or hermaphroditic in mind."
As of 1875, 10 years after Mitchell was appointed to her professorship,
the move toward a male scientific role model had gained societal
A link rescue from the not-to-distant past: Carl Elliott, who has a forthcoming Beacon book about consumerism and corruption in the medical industry, had a harrowing piece in the New Yorker about professional human guinea pigs, which is now available on their website.
Most professional guinea pigs are involved in Phase I
clinical trials, in which the safety of a potential drug is tested,
typically by giving it to healthy subjects and studying any side
effects that it produces. (Phase II trials aim at determining dosing
requirements and demonstrating therapeutic efficacy; Phase III trials
are on a larger scale and usually compare a drug’s results with
standard treatments.) The better trial sites offer such amenities as
video games, pool tables, and wireless Internet access. If all goes
well, a guinea pig can get paid to spend a week watching “The Lord of
the Rings” and playing Halo with his friends, in exchange for wearing a
hep-lock catheter on one arm and eating institutional food. Nathaniel
Miller, a Philadelphia trial veteran who started doing studies to fund
his political activism, was once paid fifteen hundred dollars in
exchange for three days and two G.I. endoscopies at Temple University,
where he was given a private room with a television. “It was like a
hotel,” he says, “except that twice they came in and stuck a tube down
And one more link rescue, to a story that has timeless importance and made the rounds of AP newspapers a week or so ago: "Ignoring Racist Remarks Is Wrong Lesson For Kids."
Many of us have been faced with an uncomfortable situation where
someone has made a racially insensitive or offensive comment. Beverley
Daniel Tatum, author of Can We Talk About Race,
urges parents to broach the issue with the speaker, but in a way that
isn't accusatory or confrontational. The article is a great guide for
how to teach children about racism and the importance of honesty,
integrity, and diversity.
On the plus side, I love being in a place where my agnostic husband would fit right in if he ever got up that early, where some of my favorite childhood hymns get performed, where all families are valued, where "service is our prayer," and where a dude in my covenant group is very interested in hearing about how I blot to Thor.
A lengthy discussion of where the Seven Principles originated and the possibility of being a "devout UU."
So here's a broader one. We lay claim--lightly--to all of human experience, all science, all scripture, all wisdom traditions as being the heritage of humanity. We draw from those and from individual, personal experience.
Scripture--check. Our canon is a shade larger and not sealed, however.
Tradition--check. We see it not as a foundation, but rather as more of a sea anchor.
Reason--check. Oh yeah. Fiercely. We're coming back around to a wary acceptance of the non-rational, but the irrational is going to be savaged--and that's tradition going back at least to Servetus.
Experience--check. Very, very much so.
Editor's Note: Today, thousands of bloggers around the world are taking part in an International Bloggers Day for Burma. Instead of the usual blogging, they've put up just one post with a image (like the one here) showing their support for the peaceful revolution brought to the streets by thousands of Buddhist monks. We applaud these bloggers for their attention to this struggle, but instead of going dark today ourselves we wanted to share with you this story, from scholar and Beacon author Sarah LeVine, which gives some context to the great acts of courage we've recently witnessed and the vicious reprisals in their wake.
by Sarah LeVine
In mid-September when I began to hear news reports that thousands of monks—and a few days later, nuns as well—were out in the streets of Yangon and other Myanmar cities demonstrating against the government, I could hardly believe my ears.
In April 1998 I joined a group of Nepalese Theravada Buddhists on a pilgrimage to Myanmar. Led by a nun who had been trained many years before in what was then Burma, we flew from Kathmandu to Bangkok, a veritable fleshpot, where we visited temples and hung out with Nepalese novices; and then we flew on to Yangon where, though it was a charming well-laid-out city and the people were strikingly attractive, the military were much in evidence and the atmosphere was palpably repressive and austere.
October 2 is Gandhi's birthday and also the first International Non-Violence Day. Does this mean that the headlines tomorrow will be devoid of murder, war, and oppression? Unlikely, but it does give us a chance to reflect of the teachings of Gandhi and what they mean to us today.
Banned Books Week has us thinking about censorship and free speech, but the recent controversy over book banning in prisons also got us fired up (along with Chris W. over at Philocrites). Fortunately, the public outcry over this egregious violation of the First Amendment made the government back off for now. It just goes to show that in order to protect speech, you've got to speak up! Of course, there's still more to come on this story, so we'll keep an eye on any future developments.
Before Beacon Broadside launches, setting off into new territory for our press, I thought it might be good to think about the ways in which blogging distinguishes itself from print publication.
I Googled the phrase “books not blogs,” and found this, from Dec. 31, 2004, by Bob Baxley of the blog Drowning in the Current. I don’t know Baxley, and he seems to have let this blog go fallow
earlier this year, but I was intrigued by these sentences from his New
Year’s Eve reflection: