Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

198 years ago today …

Monday, February 12th, 2007

… were born not one but two great men. Their work reverberates today, and the controversies they tried to solve sometimes still feel unsolved — but not because they didn’t solve them.

One was born in a log cabin, the other in relative luxury. The log-cabin boy lost his mother to milk sickness when he was just nine years old; the other had lost his own a year earlier, when he was only eight.
These two motherless boys grew up outside the embrace of conventional religion, and made only token gestures toward it as they aged. Yet each became a cultural deity. Today, the face of each graces a commonly used monetary note in their native lands.

The influence of Abraham Lincoln is obvious and great, and America and many other nations have absorbed it. But the human race may never fully comprehend the influence of Charles Darwin. It may be that we have not evolved far enough from the apes to be able to accept them as our cousins.

Though no one could know it then, February 12, 1809 was quite a day.

Job Opening: Author Services Account Executive, FM

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

FM is growing, and adding two more positions to support our 100+ authors.

The Author Services Account Executive (ASAE) at Federated Media works with the whole Author Services team, and the rest of the company, to take care of authors. This person will institute and follow a plan to make regular contact with FM authors, checking in with them on how we are proceeding, together, toward meeting their goals. An ASAE must have excellent communications skills, as a primary responsiblity will be to communicate instructions and requests to authors, and also serve as the author’s advocate within FM. Besides proactively contacting authors, the ASAE will also respond to requests from authors — for information, technical help, advice, etc.

This person will also help search for new authors for this growing company, and respond to queries from prospective authors.

The ideal candidate needs to be organized and have an eye for talent. He or she should be able to cope with a rapidly changing amount of data from various sources. A passion for the world of blogs — in particular for the world of search, media, and technology — is required. The ability to work comfortably with a wide variety of personalities is a must. Editorial experience is critical. An understanding of the publishing and advertising worlds and a knowledge of general business operations are both important. Meticulous accuracy and attention to detail is essential, as is the ability to work on numerous projects simultaneously and under tight deadlines.

If interested, email Pamela Parker: . (And let her know where you found out about it!)

Robert Moses — and Iraq

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

I just finished reading Robert Caro’s extraordinary book, “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.” As the book ends, Moses’ lieutenants are wondering why ‘the people’ aren’t showering their leader with more praise. He had destroyed thousands of their homes. His majestic highways had made traffic much worse than it had ever been. He had consciously and deliberately made life much harder than it already was for African-Americans and Puerto-Rican Americans. And he had done much more harm besides. Yet, as he stood on the stage carping about ‘man’s ingratitude,’ his aides could only agree, asking themselves, about ‘the people’, “Why weren’t they grateful?”

Slate’s Timothy Noah, an ever-perceptive observer of the delusions of powerful people, noted on Thursday that Americans of both political parties have begun to blame the Iraqis for failing to make the most of the situation we ‘gave’ them. That is, we invaded a country which at that time had no armed opposition, decapitated its (admittedly horrific) leadership, and fired its army. We knew the country was divided into three factions – kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. Our own State Department prepared a lengthy report about how to work with those divisions, butDonald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department blew off that report. And now our political leaders wonder why the Iraqis have failed to create a stable democracy.

As Noah writes, in words that could apply to Moses, “Ingratitude is a common lament of embittered visionaries, because it’s usually too painful to blame oneself.”

He continues, “But it’s rarely true that the people whose lives we try to transform are at fault when we can’t transform them, and it certainly isn’t true in the case of Iraqis.”

Americans used to understand that. The freedom to be left untransformed was a big part of what our founding fathers fought for. But with an overwhelmingly powerful military (see Andrew Bacevich’s outstanding “The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War”), the temptation to coerce is never far away.

A Memory of Reading

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

A recent piece in the British press described a conversation among writers about their idea of the perfect evening. I think it was Christopher Hitchens who said that his involved being alone in a warm room, in a comfortable chair, with a new book by the (very) late P.G. Wodehouse.

That probably wasn’t what the questioner had in mind. The obvious answers for most men would involve a great meal and some company, whether of good friends or a beautiful woman or two.

Maybe that’s why the answer stands out for me. It’s not one I would not have thought to make. And yet some of my happiest memories involve reading alone.

One such came up on Wednesday’s warm evening, as I sat with my girlfriend Amy Farranto and our friend Win Clevenger on the rooftop of Bar 13 after the lovely book party Nomi Prins hosted for Anthony Arnove’s “Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal”. Win mentioned the Rod Stewart song “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, and my neurons immediately took me back to a scene that probably took place on December 31st, 1979.

I was sitting on the green couch in our house on 1017 Highland Park Road in Schenectady, New York. “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” was playing on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year. Following it closely was Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” I was eleven and a half years old.

My mom and dad were getting dressed up to go out. My dad smelled of cologne, my mom of perfume. When I told her how pretty she looked, she seemed embarrassed, but pleased. A babysitter would be coming soon to watch us; we weren’t old enough to join the adults for their fun.
I was reading a science-fiction story called “Apple,” part of an anthology I had gotten from the library called “Zoo 2000.” The story was set in the future, after an atomic war had wiped out millions and caused a number of strange mutations. In this particular town, radiation had made an apple grow until it loomed over the town like a mountain. The men of the town made their living by mining its flesh. The story’s protagonist, an exterminator, had just arrived at the town’s request. He had been called in because a giant moth was killing the miners – wrapping them in a gauzy web. The atmosphere of the story was fantastic, as he walked through the appley tunnels and approached the rotting area where the moth made her home.

Either song – the “Sexy” song or the Heart of Glass – can take me right back into that story. Their cool detachment and their synthesizers lend them a science-fiction feel.

I’m sure none of the artists involved in those songs could imagine an 11-year-old boy in upstate New York associating their songs with a story about an enormous apple and a murderous moth. Similarly, the author of that story could not have imagined it being called to mind more than 20 years later – well after the year 2000 – by the mention of a song by Rod Stewart.

But that’s how their works live in my brain.

I’d love to hear your own happy, or just intense, reading memories. Send them to bilbo68 (at) .