Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Jumping off the High Board

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

My favorite cousin has been visiting me and just took off, which leaves me melancholy.  She’s an amazing woman: she’s a skilled trekker and wilderness guide, she’s a feminist who started two small women’s presses.  The second,  Aunt Lute Books, survives to this day.  She ran the oldest women’s bookstore in America, Amazon Books, (no connection to the behemoth, which it predates by more than two decades) for twenty-two years.  And now she’s on her way to Ukraine with the Peace Corps.

My cousin Barb is a warm and loving woman, a bright presence in the lives of the people who know her.  She’s also a risk-taker: she kayaks around Alaska, making camp wherever she sees a flat bit of rocky shore. But I’m especially in awe of her right now for jumping off the high board and starting something totally new in her life.  She and I are the same age, 61, but here I stay in Chicago doing the same routine over and over.

I’m curious to know what risks you may have taken in your own lives, what new directions or challenges.  Let me know.





What should Barack read?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

On November 1, the Chicago Tribune invited its two heavy-hitter writers, Aleksander Hemon, and Garry Wills, to come up with a list of required reading for the new president: five fiction, five non-fiction. You can see therelist here: It includes Thucydides, Al Gore, and Jose Saramago, among others. I have to confess, I was underimpressed with their recommendations.My own list:Non-fiction: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  Barack will have policy wonks aplenty on specific issues but my physics friends say this should be required reading for anyone having to think seriously about nuclear weapons, proliferation, dirty bombs, and related policy issues.  Ahmed Rashid’s The Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.  Rashid, a Pakistani journalist who covered the Taliban for years, wrote this important book right before 9/11.  We could have avoided a lot of mistakes in Central Asia if we had listened to him and experts like him.National Security, FBI and CIA Intelligence Briefings.  Given that the nation’s security apparatus had warned Bush and Condoleezza Rice of an imminent attack on U.S. soil in the summer of 2001, a great deal of the mess we’re in now could have been avoided had the president and his aides only read the briefings and acted appropriately.Women’s lives and bodies have been compromised by eight years of the Bush administration, in which access to contraception and abortion have been curtailed both at home and abroad.  Barack has announced support for Griswold and Roe, allowing people to return to the privacy of their  homes and doctors’ offices to make important choices, but the Catholic bishops are demanding that he abandon these views.  There are many books available on reproductive matters; one that is eminently readable is Abortion at Work.Finally, Helen Thomas’s Watchdogs of Democracy? is a timely critique of the way in which the Washington  Press Corps failed to ask the key questions needed for our citizens to understand what the Bush administration intended to do about war, peace, the environment, the economy, and our nation’s health.Fiction, PoetryIrina Ratushinkskaya’s Grey is the Color of Hope.  This memoir from the Soviet-era gulags tells readers about the human cost of power, and the human capacity for survival and hope.  The Brothers Karamazov.  A ripping good yarn about faith, families and murder.Richard II.  What happens when you let power go to your head.Melissa Benn, One of Us.  This novel about ambition and politics, by the daughter of one of England’s important labor leaders, is a gripping novel of the cost to the people who support the big kahuna on his/her quest for power.Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest. Shows what could happen when we let greed rule in the place of justice.
What do you think Barack should be reading?
P.S.  Heman couldn’t come up with any books by women; Wills had one.  Extra points for those who imagine women writers.

I can't believe I lived to see the day

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

From eleven o’clock last night until noon today, November 4, I’ve been getting calls from friends and relations around the world, calling back, hearing the joy, feeling the relief.  I didn’t go to Grant Park–I’d been working for the campaign in Indiana earlier in the day, and didn’t have the stamina for standing in crowds.  Friends who went were thrilled by the presence of people of all ages, races.  This morning it hit me, finally–I lived to see this day.  My journey began forty-two years ago as a community volunteer on Chicago’s south side.  The white kids in my neighborhood program came from families who worked  hard for civil rights and social justice–and from families that went to Marquette Park to throw bombs and bricks at Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights advocates.  I could not have imagined this day back then, when Barack was five years old.

He faces enormous challenges–a disintegration of civil liberties at home, a global economic crisis not seen since the 1930’s, a Justice Department riddled with pro-torture, anti civil liberties ideologues, an Interior Department riddled with anti-environmental ideologues, and on down the list of the ten thousand federal jobs appointed by the president.  Undoing the massive damage of the last eight years won’t happen overnight, but Barack has the brains and the cool to do the heavy lifting.  I’m exhausted–off to bed for me!  Maybe I’ll write something more coherent later.

Studs Terkel, Rest in Action

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Studs Terkel died yesterday. Studs was one of the country’s great journalists, in print and on radio, a gifted listener, a commanding raconteur, the ultimate “voice of the voiceless.” He was born in New York, but Chicago was his home for the great span of his adult life. He had a restless curiosity for the human condition and human life, and he continued to do his best work in his last decades as he had in his first. It’s a joy to have known him and worked with him, a sadness to have lost him–especially before Tuesday’s election. I don’t want you to rest in peace, Studs; I want you to rest in action, so that those of us who remain behind don’t stop the work which you “have thus far so nobly advanced.”Studs on WFMT


Most recent comments

Recent Comments


November 2008