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Archive for March, 2009

moneylightsCornell University economist Robert H. Frank on “Finding new opportunities amid the economic wreckage”: 

“The economic bonfire fueled mostly by consumption in recent years has ended. As we have watched the familiar statistics plummet, with credit cards maxed out and home-equity loans a thing of the past, the reality has slowly become clear: We won’t return to the economic world of 2007 anytime soon, if ever.

“But would we want to? In the boosterish world of CNBC, life without an ever-rising Dow Jones average and year-to-year gains in holiday-sales figures would self-evidently forecast protracted misery. Yet matters are less hopeless than they seem. There is an easily attainable future in which we consume less than at the peak of the boom and yet still enjoy far better opportunities to construct a fulfilling life for ourselves.” (more @ The American Prospect)

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“Over the last four decades, Powell’s Books has swelled into the largest bookstore in North America — a capacious monument to reading that occupies a full square block of this often-drizzly city [Portland, Oregon]. But this year, growth has given way to anxiety.

“Michael Powell, the store’s owner, recently dropped plans for a $5 million expansion. An architect had already prepared the drawings. His bankers had signaled that financing was available. But the project no longer looked prudent, Mr. Powell concluded — not with sales down nearly 5 percent, stock markets extinguishing savings, home prices plunging and jobs disappearing.

“‘It’s going to take a period of time to recover,’ Mr. Powell said. ‘Whether it’s 2 years or 10 years I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s going to be quick. People are nervous.'” (more @ NY Times)

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fromage-frais“The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-miligram Containers of Fromage Frais, published by Icon Group International, has been crowned the winner of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. The Bookseller received just over 5,000 votes on its online poll, with the study into the future of the diary product packaging securing a 32% share of the total vote since the shortlist was announced on 20th February.” (more @ Bookseller.com)

“The Diagram Prize began in 1978 as a way for Bruce Robertson, co-founder of the Diagram Group, an information and graphics company, to combat his ennui at the Frankfurt Book Fair. That was a bumper year for odd titles — nominees included ‘100 Years of British Retail Catering’ and ’50 New Poodle Grooming Styles’ — but the runaway winner was ‘Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Nude Mice.'” (more @ NY Times)

RelatedThe 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais

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“In the early to mid-19th century . . . the Upper West Side of Manhattan was open countryside, with large estates, white picket fences and wagons trundling along a rutted road already known as Broadway.

“Photographic evidence of that era is scant, as most studios offering the newfangled daguerreotypes were located several miles away at the island’s populated lower end and focused, literally, on that area. But one rural scene, recently discovered in New England, is going up for sale at Sotheby’s on Monday. It’s believed to date to 1848. . . .

“As the Sotheby’s picture predates the laying out of Gotham’s numbered cross streets, the exact location is unknown, but a notation on the back, signed by ‘L.B.,’ identifies it as on ‘the main road … called a continuation of Broadway.’ . . .

“Sotheby’s estimates the presale value of the daguerreotype at $50,000 to $70,000.” (more @ NPR)

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John Hope Franklin, a prolific scholar of African-American history who profoundly influenced thinking about slavery and Reconstruction while helping to further the civil rights struggle, died Wednesday in Durham, N.C. He was 94. . . .

“During a career of scholarship, teaching and advocacy that spanned more than 70 years, Dr. Franklin was deeply involved in the painful debates that helped reshape America’s racial identity, working with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W. E. B. Du BoisThurgood Marshall and other major civil rights figures of the 20th century. . . .

“Dr. Franklin combined idealism with rigorous research, producing such classic works as ‘From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,’ first published in 1947. Considered one of the definitive historical surveys of the American black experience, it has sold more than three million copies and has been translated into Japanese, German, French, Chinese and other languages. . . .

“Dr. Franklin also taught at some of the nation’s leading institutions, including Harvard and the University of Chicago in addition to Duke, and as a scholar he personally broke several racial barriers.” (more @ NY Times)

RelatedJohn Hope Franklin, Scholar and Witness

[During my brief time as an undergraduate in 1970-71 at York College in Jamaica, New York, I was a double-major in English and the relatively new academic discipline, African-American Studies. While my interest in books and reading was derived from my uncle, the first member of our family to earn a college degree and whose library of literary classics and contemporary sociology lined a wall in my grandparents’ apartment, my interest in “Black Studies” was in part a protest against my father whose ambivalence about civil rights despite working for twenty years as a salesman in a men’s clothing store on 125th Street in Harlem frustrated my make-love-not-war/power-to-the-people counter-culturalist sensibilities. John Hope Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom was required reading for my freshman Afro-Am 101 class. But while I respected Franklin’s long view of history, I was much more excited by my readings of Eldridge Cleaver, Amiri Baraka (the former LeRoi Jones), Stokely Carmichael and other black writers who spoke forcefully of the need for political and social change “now.” So struck was I by the writings of these powerful black voices that when I first became eligible to vote, I tried, albeit in vain, to register as a member of the Black Panther Party (my consolation, the only reasonable choice if I intended to vote, was to register as an Independent). Twenty years later, when as a graduate student at Yale University (in neither English nor African American studies) I reconsidered some of my freshman readings in cultural studies, it was Franklin’s books — exemplars of fair-minded scholarship and idealism — that mattered most in the then and “now.” R.I.P.]

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“Short, lucid writing is needed in these uncertain times, according to the Booker prize-winning Nigerian author Ben Okri, who is releasing a new poem line by line on Twitter. . . .

“‘I sing a new freedom,’ Okri Twittered yesterday, following it up today with the second line of the poem, ‘Freedom with discipline’, today. The poem was written to mark the release of Okri’s new book, Tales of Freedom, in April. The book brings together short stories and poetry in what Okri’s publisher described as ‘a fascinating new form, using writing and image pared down to their essentials, where haiku and story meet’. The entire poem will be posted on Okri’s Facebook and MySpace pages once it is completed.” (more @ The Guardian)

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Johnny Blanchard, a power-hitting catcher and outfielder known as Super Sub who played in five consecutive World Series for the Yankees in the 1960s, died Wednesday in Robbinsdale, Minn. He was 76. . . .

“As a left-handed hitter who could deliver the long ball, Blanchard seemed a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium and its short right-field fence. But he was essentially a catcher and had little chance of breaking into the starting lineup since the Yankees had Yogi Berra and Elston Howard.

“Blanchard’s best season was 1961, when he hit a career-high 21 home runs and batted .305 in 93 games. He was decidedly in the shadow of Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s record with 61 homers, and Mickey Mantle, who hit 54 home runs . . .” (more @ NY Times)

[Johnny Blanchard hit a home run in the first baseball game I ever attended. My father had taken me to a Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium where I spent the entire first game waiting with glove in hand to catch a Mickey Mantle home run (we were sitting in foul territory behind third base but I was young and unwilling to give in to the territorial realities of a sport I was just beginning to understand). About mid-way through the second game, and having not yet caught a Mantle home run — no one other than Blanchard had connected for a homer all day — my father suggested we leave right then so we could beat the traffic leaving the stadium at game’s end. As he started up the car in the parking lot, the roar from the stadium behind us left little doubt of what had just happened – Mickey Mantle had hit a home run! It took me quite some time to forgive my father for ruining my chance to catch Mantle’s homer but I still remember fondly the Yankee whose home run I did witness that day – Johnny Blanchard. R.I.P.]

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