Sunday, May 31, 2009

Latino/latina Lesson

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The Straight Story On Sotomayor

Weekend Edition Sunday, May 31, 2009 ·

To Listen to the story Click Here.

I never thought I'd have much in common with a potential Supreme Court justice.

I grew up down the block from Sonia Sotomayor — she was in the Bronxdale Houses, which abut the north side of the Bruckner Expressway in New York; I was in the James Monroe housing project, a few hundred yards to the south. Her family moved to Co-op City, a massive apartment complex in the northeast Bronx; my family stayed put, but I ended up going to Truman High School in Co-op City. She was 9 years old when her father died of heart complications at age 42; I was 14 when my father died of heart complications at 44. She ended up in a way, Way, WAY more successful career than I did, but I haven't done so badly.

Bronxdale Houses

Bronxdale Houses, the childhood home of Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, remains a low-income residential community in the Bronx. AP

And we're both of Puerto Rican descent — Nuyoricans, as we're known, and if President Obama has his way, she's going to end up in Washington, D.C., too. (Note to the judge: I make a pretty good arroz con pollocon gandules y pimientos, of course, but my trick is to use capers instead of olives.)

We probably share a lot of the same memories — the White Castle on Bruckner Boulevard, the vendors on Story Avenue, the Bx27 bus (that's an entire story unto itself) — and a lot of the same frustrations, not the least of which are the common misconceptions about Puerto Ricans and about the Bronx. So considering the errors I've already seen, heard and read in just the last day or so, allow me to take this opportunity to clear up a few things:

1. First, let's get a couple of Bronx facts straight. Not every New York City Housing Authority project or other low-income development is in the South Bronx. The Bronxdale Houses are in the East Bronx. Here's a good example of media ignorance about the Bronx: Several newspapers and TV stations reported yesterday that Judge Sotomayor grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. I'd hate to see what's casting that shadow, since Yankee Stadium is about four miles away.

2. Puerto Ricans are not immigrants. NPR and a bunch of other media outlets made that mistake when Judge Sotomayor's nomination was announced. (NPR, to its credit, quickly corrected the error.) Puerto Ricans have been American citizens since 1917, when the Jones-Shafroth Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson — ironic, given that he wasn't at all progressive when it came to race relations. Speaking of which ...

3. Puerto Rican is not a race. Neither is Mexican or Cuban or Salvadoran or any of the other Latino groups. You're talking ethnicity or nationality, not race. It's so obviously wrong that it's a wonder so many people can't get it right. What makes it obvious? As my friend Ruben Rosario of the St. Paul Pioneer Press once told me, "We're the original Rainbow Coalition." Our skin tones range from very dark to very light. Our eyes are every color a human iris can be. Our hair is straight, wavy and tightly curled.

Yet, because the larger American society seems to have one vision of what Latinos should look like, nationality notwithstanding, the media continually get this wrong. It's a battle I've been fighting for 25 years.

Here's an example: Years ago, when I was an editor at The New York Times, I dispatched a young reporter to do a story in a Dominican community about a racially touchy incident. When he returned to the newsroom, I asked him who he had talked to. (This is a rough recreation of a conversation that happened about 15 years ago, so don't take the quotes literally.)

"I talked to some people who were speaking Spanish, but I don't think they were Dominicans."

"Why not?"

"Well, they were black."

"You mean African-Americans who were speaking Spanish?"

"No, they said they were from the Dominican Republic. But they were black."

"So they're Dominicans ..."

"I'm not sure. They were speaking Spanish. But they were black."

"You mean, like me?"

I'm not sure if he ever really sorted out the concept.

4. Not only do all Latinos not look alike, there are wide variations in culture. NPR noted that after the announcement of Judge Sotomayor, President Obama flew to a fundraiser for Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada, which has a large Latino population — which is to say, a large Mexican and Central American population, not a large Puerto Rican population.

We often make the mistake of assuming that a common language means a common culture, with common needs and common desires. For example, Puerto Ricans may care about the immigration issue, but as American citizens it can't resonate in the same way as it does for Mexicans and other nationalities, for whom it is a deeply personal matter.

I'm sure Latinos everywhere feel a sense of pride in Judge Sotomayor's nomination. But failing to make the distinction between her background and those of other Latinas would be the same as saying that there's no difference between Americans and Canadians because we speaking the same language (not to dismiss the Quebecois) or eat the same food.

And while we're on the subject of food I sure hope at least one decent Puerto Rican restaurant follows her from the Bronx if Judge Sotomayor is confirmed — or even if she isn't. They don't know from mofongo down here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Progress Does Not Always Come Easy

Progress Does Not Always Come Easy

by Jimmy Carter

As a legislator in my state
I drew up my first law to say
that citizens could never vote again

after they had passed away.

My fellow members faced the troubling issue
bravely, locked in hard debate
on whether, after someone's death had come,
three years should be adequate

to let the family, recollecting him,
determine how a loved one may
have cast a vote if he had only lived
to see the later voting day.

My own neighbors warned me I had gone
too far in changing what we'd always done.
I lost the next campaign, and failed to carry
a single precinct with a cemetery.

"Progress Does Not Always Come Easy" by Jimmy Carter, from Always A Reckoning. © Random House, 1995.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

From Genes To Growls, Decoding 'The Modern Dog'

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From Genes To Growls, Decoding 'The Modern Dog'

To listen to the show Click Here.

Talk of the Nation, May 15, 2009

Stanley Coren, author of The Modern Dog, joins other experts to discuss the latest in canine science — including how dogs influence child development, what the canine genome reveals about human cancer and a new device that allows dogs to bark at their masters over a cell phone.


Stanley Coren, author, The Modern Dog: A Joyful Exploration of How We Live with Dogs Today, professor of psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Matthew Breen, professor of genomics, department of molecular biomedical sciences, North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Raleigh, N.C.

Eyal Zehavi, founder and CEO, Bio-Sense Technologies, Tel Aviv, Israel

Hyphen, No Hyphen: that is the question.

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Should the Hyphen Stay in E-Mail?

Weekend Edition Saturday, February 19, 2005

Writer Roy Blount, Jr. explains why he thinks the hyphen should stay in the word e-mail. Recent guidance from Web stylesetters has been to streamline the term as email.
To Listen Click Here.

Email (let's drop the hyphen)

I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I'd used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime.

Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.

A note on email versus e-mail

Newly coined nonce words of English are often spelled with a hyphen, but the hyphen disappears when the words become widely used. For example, people used to write ``non-zero'' and ``soft-ware'' instead of ``nonzero'' and ``software''; the same trend has occurred for hundreds of other words.

Thus it's high time for everybody to stop using the archaic spelling ``e-mail''. Think of how many keystrokes you will save in your lifetime if you stop now! The form ``email'' has been well established in England for several years, so I am amazed to see Americans being overly conservative in this regard. (Of course, ``email'' has been a familiar word in France, Germany, and the Netherlands much longer than in England --- but for an entirely different reason.)

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Is There a Hyphen in "Email"

I'll give you a clue; read the title. Anyway, I think it's time to stop putting a hyphen in "email". New terms formed from two words (in English) are often hyphenated, but as the word comes into common use, the hyphen is dropped. Email has existed for over thirty years; the hyphen is just not needed anymore.

A search at the time this page was written on Google for "email" yields about 80 million hits whereas a search for "e-mail" with a hyphen yields only 7 million hits. I am heartened to see that Google asks, "Did you mean email?", when a query contains "e-mail".

The popular sentiment is clearly swaying toward the elimination of the hyphen and we should hasten it on its way. All you publishers out there need to revise your style guides -- and quickly -- before we exhaust the world's supply of hyphens.

When We Sold the Tent

When We Sold the Tent

by Rhina P. Espaillat

When we sold the tent
we threw in the Grand Canyon
with its shawl of pines,
lap full of cones and chipmunks

and crooked seams of river.

We let them have the
parched white moonscapes of Utah,
and Colorado's
magnificat of flowers
sunbursting hill after hill.

Long gentle stretches
of Wyoming, rain outside
some sad Idaho
town where the children, giddy
with strange places, clowned all night.

Eyes like small veiled moons
circling our single light, sleek
shadows with pawprints,
all went with the outfit; and
youth, a river of campfires.

"When We Sold the Tent" by Rhina P. Espaillat from Playing at Stillness. © Truman State University Press.


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USAGE NOTE Snuck is an Americanism first introduced in the 19th century as a nonstandard regional variant of sneaked. Widespread use of snuck has become more common with every generation. It is now used by educated speakers in all regions.

Formal written English is more conservative than other varieties, of course, and here snuck still meets with much resistance. Many writers and editors have a lingering unease about the form, particularly if they recall its nonstandard origins. And 67 percent of the Usage Panel disapproved of snuck in our 1988 survey. Nevertheless, an examination of recent sources shows that snuck is sneaking up on sneaked.

was almost 20 percent more common in newspaper articles published in 1995 than it was in 1985. Snuck also appears in the work of many respected columnists and authors: "He ran up huge hotel bills and then snuck out without paying" (George Stade). "He had snuck away from camp with a cabinmate" (Anne Tyler). "I ducked down behind the paperbacks and snuck out" (Garrison Keillor).

Preparing a Family Emergency Kit in Plain English

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Changing the Art on the White House Walls

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Changing the Art on the White House Walls

Barack Obama is taking on health care, financial regulation, torture and environmental policy. He's also revamping the White House art collection.

The Obamas are sending ripples through the art world as they put the call out to museums, galleries and private collectors that they'd like to borrow modern art by African-American, Asian, Hispanic and female artists for the White House. In a sharp departure from the 19th-century still lifes, pastorals and portraits that dominate the White House's public rooms, they are choosing bold, abstract art works.

The overhaul is an important event for the art market. The Obamas' art choices could affect the market values of the works and artists they decide to display. Museums and collectors have been moving quickly to offer up works for inclusion in the iconic space.

Click image and then scroll down for interactive.

Their choices also, inevitably, have political implications, and could serve as a savvy tool to drive the ongoing message of a more inclusive administration. The Clintons received political praise after they selected Simmie Knox, an African-American artist from Alabama, to paint their official portraits. The Bush administration garnered approval for acquiring "The Builders," a painting by African-American artist Jacob Lawrence, but also some criticism for the picture, which depicts black men doing menial labor.

Last week the first family installed seven works on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington in the White House's private residence, including "Sky Light" and "Watusi (Hard Edge)," a pair of blue and yellow abstracts by lesser-known African-American abstract artist Alma Thomas, acclaimed for her post-war paintings of geometric shapes in cheery colors.

The National Gallery of Art has loaned the family at least five works this year, including "Numerals, 0 through 9," a lead relief sculpture by Jasper Johns, "Berkeley No. 52," a splashy large-scale painting by Richard Diebenkorn, and a blood-red Edward Ruscha canvas featuring the words, "I think maybe I'll…," fitting for a president known for lengthy bouts of contemplation. The Jasper Johns sculpture was installed in the residence on Inauguration Day, along with modern works by Robert Rauschenberg and Louise Nevelson, also on loan from the National Gallery.

Collectors say the art picks by the Obamas will likely affect the artists' market values—or at least raise their profiles. After George W. Bush displayed El Paso, Texas-born artist Tom Lea's "Rio Grande," a photorealistic view of a cactus set against gray clouds, in the Oval Office, the price of the artist's paintings shot up roughly 300%, says Adair Margo, owner of an El Paso gallery that sells Mr. Lea's work. (Mr. Lea passed away in 2001, which also boosted the value of his work.)

The Obamas' interest in modern art began before they moved to Washington. The couple's Hyde Park home featured modern art and black-and-white photographs, according to several Chicago friends. On one of their first dates, Mr. Obama took Michelle Robinson to the Art Institute of Chicago.

A White House spokeswoman says the Obamas enjoy all types of art but want to "round out the permanent collection" and "give new voices" to modern American artists of all races and backgrounds.

The changes in White House art come as the Obama administration seeks to boost arts funding. Mr. Obama included $50 million in his economic stimulus package for the National Endowment for the Arts and on Monday Mrs. Obama delivered remarks at the reopening of the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Obamas began their art hunt shortly after the November election, says White House curator William Allman. Michael Smith, a Los Angeles-based decorator hired by the Obamas to redo their private quarters, worked with Mr. Allman, White House social secretary Desirée Rogers and others on the Obama transition team to determine which works would make the Obamas feel at home in Washington.

Mr. Smith and Mrs. Obama made a wish list of about 40 artists and asked for potential loans in a letter to the Hirshhorn, according to Kerry Brougher, the museum's deputy director and chief curator. Mr. Brougher says Mr. Smith insisted any loans be plucked from the museum's storage collection and not pulled off gallery walls.

"The White House's permanent collection is a wonderful record of America's 18th- and 19th-century classical artistic strengths," Mr. Smith says. "The pieces of art selected for loan act as a bridge between this historic legacy and the diverse voices of artists from the 20th and 21st century."

Last week the Obamas decided to borrow "Nice," a 1954 abstract by Russian-born painter Nicolas de Staël containing red, black and moss-green rectangles; a couple of boxy paintings from German-born Josef Albers's famed "Homage to the Square" series in shades of gold, red and lavender; and "Dancer Putting on Stocking" and "The Bow," two table-top bronzes by Edgar Degas. The museum also sent over New York artist Glenn Ligon's "Black Like Me," a stenciled work about the segregated South, among others that the Obamas are still considering, according to a White House spokeswoman.

The president can hang whatever he wants in the residence and offices, including the Oval Office, but art placed in public rooms, such as the Green Room, must first be approved by the White House curator and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, an advisory board on which the first lady serves as honorary chair.

Any works intended for the White House permanent collection go through strict and often lengthy vetting before the White House either accepts them as gifts or, on occasion, purchases them using private donations, says Mr. Allman, who has served as chief curator, a permanent White House position, since 2002 and worked in the curator's office since 1976.

Potential additions to the permanent collection must be at least 25 years old, and the White House does not typically accept pieces by living artists for its collection, because inclusion could impact an artist's market value. As a result, there aren't many modern art choices in the collection, Mr. Allman says.

"We're not a gallery," Mr. Allman says. "We're not a museum. People come to the White House once in their lifetime and have a certain perception of what they're going to see."

Currently, the roughly 450-piece permanent collection includes five works by black artists: the Clinton portraits by Mr. Knox; "The Builders" by Lawrence ; "Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City" by Henry Ossawa Tanner, which hangs in the Green Room and was purchased at Hillary Clinton's urging in 1995; and "The Farm Landing," a tranquil landscape painted in 1892 by Rhode Island artist Edward Bannister, purchased with donations in 2006.

The White House may also temporarily cull works from museums, galleries and collectors to display in either the private residence or public rooms. Presidents must return loans at the end of their final term.

The White House Historical Association/White House Collection

Existing works in the Oval Office include Thomas Moran's 1895 landscape, 'The Three Tetons,' and 'The Bronco Buster' (1903) by Frederic Remington, below.

The White House Historical Association (White House Collection)

Many of the same deep-pocketed collectors who helped Mr. Obama fund his presidential campaign are now offering works. E.T. Williams, a New York collector of African-American art who has sat on museum boards including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is among the would-be donors.

Earlier this month, Mr. Williams, a retired banker and real estate investor, strolled through his Manhattan apartment and stopped in front of the jewel of his collection, a smoky-hued portrait of a man in a fedora by Lois Mailou Jones. The painting is appraised at $150,000 but he says he would happily donate it to the White House permanent collection. He also says the Obamas can "borrow anything they like" from his collection, which includes works by Romare Bearden and Hale Woodruff.

Mr. Williams says that although a loan or donation to the White House could boost his collection's profile, his offer is motivated by a desire to support the president. A White House spokeswoman says that any potential donations to the permanent collection must go through the curator's office.

African-American collectors, in particular, snapped to attention when word spread that Mr. Obama might want to borrow art, says Bridgette McCullough Alexander, a Chicago art advisor who went to high school with the first lady. She says some of her collector clients have expressed interest in loaning works to the White House.

"For collectors, it was as if a call went out that the Obamas needed to fill their fridge. The grocery list of artists just rolled out," she says.

The White House has long been a revolving door of artistic preferences. Dolley Madison famously saved Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington during the War of 1812. Jacqueline Kennedy was credited with elevating the profile of White House art when she pulled out of storage eight Cézanne paintings from the permanent collection.

Subsequent administrations have tried to fill gaps in the permanent collection of American art. Hillary Clinton successfully urged the Committee for the Preservation of the White House to accept Georgia O'Keeffe's 1930 abstract, "Mountain at Bear Lake, Taos." Critics said it didn't fit the 19th-century elegance of the Green Room.

Laura Bush convinced the preservation committee to accept an Andrew Wyeth painting donated by the artist , in a rare exception to the prohibition on works by living artists. "Thank God they did accept it because then he died and they'd never be able to afford it," says art historian William Kloss, who has served on the preservation committee since 1990.

The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

The Obamas have borrowed Richard Diebenkorn's abstract 'Berkeley No. 52.'

In 2007, the White House Acquisition Trust, a nonprofit which funds art acquisitions approved by the preservation committee, paid $2.5 million for Jacob Lawrence's rust-colored collage of workers at a building site, four times its high estimate and far surpassing the artist's $968,000 auction record at the time, says Eric Widing, head of Christie's American paintings department. The purchase may have given the Lawrence market a boost. The next spring, a collector paid Christie's $881,000 for a different Lawrence, the third highest price ever paid for one of his works.

The 1995 acquisition of Henry Ossawa Tanner's Atlantic City beach scene had the reverse effect. The White House purchased the work from the artist's grandniece for $100,000, significantly below the $1 million asking price of similar Tanners. The modest price of the highly publicized purchase sent the price of Tanners plummeting, several gallery owners say.

Mrs. Bush hung a modern work by Helen Frankenthaler in the private residence and pushed for the acquisition of the Lawrence, while Mr. Bush lined his office with at least six Texas landscapes.

"He [Mr. Bush] liked things that reminded him of Texas and said he wanted the Oval Office to look like an optimistic person works there," says Anita McBride, Mrs. Bush's former chief of staff. She says the paintings the Bushes borrowed have been returned.

Weeks into his presidency, Mr. Obama caused a stir when he removed a bronze bust of Winston Churchill, loaned by the British Embassy, from the Oval Office and replaced it with a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. by African-American sculptor Charles Alston, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.

Next month, the Obamas will consider borrowing four works by African-American artist William H. Johnson including his "Booker T. Washington Legend," a colorful oil on plywood depiction of the former slave educating a group of black students, from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Art Institute of Chicago plans to send as many as 10 works for the first family's consideration, including pieces by African-American modernist Beauford Delaney and abstract expressionist Franz Kline.

Steve Stuart, an amateur historian who has been studying the White House for three decades, thinks the Obamas needn't be overly bound by tradition. "You shouldn't have to look at Mrs. Hoover's face over your bed for four years if you don't want to," he says.

Write to Amy Chozick at and Kelly Crow at

Monday, May 25, 2009

Let Them Eat Sugar: A New Guide For Feeding Kids

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Let Them Eat Sugar: A New Guide For Feeding Kids

Morning Edition, May 25, 2009

To hear this story, read an excerpt from "Hungry Monkey" and get some recipes Click Here.

Matthew Amster-Burton, the author of the new memoir-style cookbook Hungry Monkey, says there's no reason a baby shouldn't eat sushi, bacon-jalapeno pizza or chocolate malt milkshakes.

Amster-Burton is a food writer based in the food-lover's city of Seattle. When his daughter, Iris, was born five years ago, he had high aspirations of raising a fellow "foodie."

"My hope, of course, was that she would happily throw herself into a plate of anything, the way I do now at age 33," Amster-Burton tells Steve Inskeep.

But Iris can be as picky an eater as any child — just as her father was when he was growing up.

Amster-Burton's advice to parents: Don't despair if your child turns up her nose at a wide variety of foods, and don't be afraid to break the "rules" of feeding young children.

"Part of the reason I wrote this book was because when Iris was a baby and I was looking for books about feeding babies, most of them were, in one way or another, scary," says Amster-Burton.

Matthew Amster-Burton and Iris

Matthew Amster-Burton and his daughter, Iris, spend some quality time in the kitchen.

Experts warn against giving kids certain foods because of the risk of creating allergies, choking hazards and an unbalanced diet, but Amster-Burton says those situations are "uncommon and not really worth worrying about, for the vast majority of people."

Instead, Amster-Burton challenges parents to let their kids navigate the world of food without getting between them and their plate. This includes providing access to salt, sushi, spices and, yes, sugar.

Regarding the sweet stuff, Amster-Burton says: "If you're brave enough to let it be, it's kind of self-regulating. Efforts to restrict sugar in kids tend to backfire and tend to make kids look for sugar anytime the parents aren't looking."

Meanwhile, Iris' tastebuds seem to fluctuate from day to day. Amster-Burton tracks her whims with what he calls a "sushi index," which he developed at the Japanese restaurant they frequent together.

"The sushi index is how many different items off the sushi conveyor belt Iris will eat," he explains. "If she's on a picky day, she'll eat some rice and a cream puff. Other days, she'll eat absolutely everything — a piece of raw mackerel, a spicy tuna roll, and so on."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

'Alan's War': A Graphic Novel Revisits WWII

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'Alan's War': A Graphic Novel Revisits WWII

Weekend Edition Sunday,

May 24, 2009 · In 1994, a 30-year-old cartoonist named Emmanuel Guibert was visiting a small island off the coast of France when he happened to asked 69-year-old World War II veteran Alan Cope for directions.

That request turned into a 15-minute conversation, which evolved into a deep friendship and, eventually, led to the creation of the graphic novel Alan's War.

'Alan's War' cover

"The first time he started to tell me things about his life and his war was on the beach on this little island on which he used to live," remembers Guibert. "That's when I realized that he was a fantastic storyteller."

A budding illustrator at the time, Guibert was struck by Cope's amazing memory and his narrative ability. The older man told his stories as if he were living in the moment, not as someone looking back 60 years later. Guibert proposed that they work on a book together.

Alan's War, the result of their collaboration, recounts Cope's experiences as an American G.I. during World War II.

Click on Image to enlarge.

Guibert says that Cope wasn't a hero — he arrived in Europe too late to see battle — but his stories are still powerful. He first set foot on European soil in the bombed out city of Le Havre, northern France. One day, while trudging along amidst the ruined city with their heavy packs, Cope suddenly remembered that it was his birthday.

"He's in the middle of this world in ruins and he's 20 years old, and he forgot his own birthday," says Guibert. "It was very moving to me to listen to his story because it made me realize something that we all know, which is that war is always made by kids."

As part of General Patton's 3rd Army, Cope's unit of about 70 men thrust deep into the heart of Eastern Europe in order to keep the Soviets from gaining too much territory. But other Allied troops never followed, and the unit was ordered to pull out of Prague. On the way out, they were told to wear white as protection from advancing Soviet forces and retreating Germans.

Guibert says Cope's unit passed a column of German troops. One German soldier was so amazed to see the Americans all dressed in white as if they were surrendering that he stopped moving and was crushed by a tank that was rolling behind him.

"That's the first time, I think, that [Cope] saw someone dying in front of him, and [he] never forgot it," says Guibert. "I remember the emotion he had 60 years afterward."

Part of what makes the graphic novel so engrossing are Cope's small but extraordinary stories of everyday life as a GI: "He wanted to tell things as simply as possible, never adding anything, just the things that happened," says Guibert. "That left a fabulous amount of space for the images. He made me want to jump on my drawing table and start drawing."

Guibert says Cope gave him the freedom to draw things as he imagined them. And sometimes the two were stunned by how closely the drawings resembled Cope's actual memory.

After their initial meeting on the beach, Guibert's friendship with Cole lasted five years, until the older man's death at the age of 74.

Guibert says there's not a day when he doesn't think of his friend. Before Cope died, Guibert proposed they visit the U.S. together, but he says Cope didn't want to go back. Aside from one short visit after the war, he never returned to his country again — the war had altered his life forever. But with the U.S. edition of their book, Guibert says, he feels the two of them are taking that trip to America after all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mass extinction

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The Human Factor

May 25, 2009

In this issue of the [The New Yorker] magazine, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the history of mass extinctions. Here Kolbert talks about the often indirect ways that human settlement has led to the demise of other species, and describes her visits to a frog preserve in Central America and a bat cave in the Northeast. To listen to this story Click here.

ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about the sixth mass extinction. Describes how graduate student Karen Lips observed the mysterious disappearance of large numbers of local golden frogs, in the nineteen-nineties, at several locations in Panama and Costa Rica. Whatever was killing Lips’s frogs moved east, like a wave, across Panama. Of the many species that have existed on earth, more than ninety-nine per cent have disappeared.

Yet extinction has been a much contested concept. Throughout the eighteenth century, the prevailing view was that species were fixed. Charles Darwin believed extinction happened only slowly, but he was wrong.

Over the past half billion years, there have been at least twenty mass extinctions. Five of these—the so-called Big Five—were so devastating that they’re usually put in their own category. The fifth, the end-Cretaceous event, which occurred sixty-five million years ago, exterminated not just the dinosaurs but seventy-five per cent of all species on earth.

Once a mass extinction occurs, it takes millions of years for life to recover, and when it does it’s generally with a new cast of characters. In this way, mass extinctions have played a determining role in evolution’s course.

It’s now generally agreed among biologists that another mass extinction is under way. If current trends continue, by the end of this century as many as half of earth’s species will be gone.

The writer went frog collecting in Chagres National Park with Edgardo Griffith, the director of EVACC (the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center).

About two decades ago, researchers first noticed something odd was happening to amphibians. It’s difficult to say when the current extinction event—sometimes called the sixth extinction— began. Its opening phase appears to have started about fifty thousand years ago, when the first humans migrated across Australia and America. The main culprit in the wavelike series of amphibian crashes is a chytrid fungus, known as Bd. At this point, Bd appears to be unstoppable.

Mentions Walter Alvarez and the Alvarez hypothesis, which wreaked havoc with the uniformitarian idea of extinction.

In 2007, biologist Al Hicks, of the New York State D.E.C., and the National Wildlife Health Center started investigating a series of mysterious bat deaths. Many of the dead bats were discovered with a white substance on their nose, which was cultured and found to be an unidentified fungus. Mentions White-Nose Syndrome (W.N.S.).

The writer visited an abandoned mine to study bats with Hicks.

One of the puzzles of mass extinction is why, at certain junctures, the resourcefulness of life seems to falter. Just in the last century, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have changed by as much as they normally do in a hundred-thousand-year glacial cycle. In the end, the most deadly aspect of human activity may simply be the pace itself.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tidying Up

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dispatchwork in Berlin

Jan Vormann once again indulged his passion for Plastic! This time, in Berlin, he "dispatched" mostly holes that remained from the World War II.

At some very touristic hot-spots, (Kupfergraben corner with Dorotheenstraße) a whole lot of people of all ages spontaneously started "helping" him with the dispachwork project and plastic construction pieces in all colors, between old stones, gave an interesting new twist in Berlin.

Some Kids, Parents and Grandparents took the project "to another dimension" with a variation of approaches towards the possibilities of constructing with those little bricks..

The Event was accompanied by an indoor exhibition at Jarmuschek + Partners gallery , where Vormann showed a handful of Kinetic objects. The exhibition will last until the13th of June.

For more images Click Here.

Positive emotion of the day

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Positive emotion of the day. Little big-eared hedgehog (8 photos)

18 May 2009 / views: 102626

Well, isn't this beautiful scratchy creature cute? vishenka_33 Click on any image to enlarge.