Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Take note, naysayers! Look what's come in at number 41-- ahead of Gunsmoke and Bewitched!


Monday, April 29, 2002
Are college and university students adults over the age of majority or not? Should colleges and universities in the US act in loco parentis?

Tough questions that have no good answers. Because of legislation passed in the late 1980s, most US college and university students fall into the legal nether-region between childhood and adulthood-- students are old enough to be legally considered to be adults vis-a-vis voting, registering for the military draft, driving, and emancipation. Yet they're not adult enough to purchase or possess alcohol. In the end, students are neither fish nor flesh, neither independent nor children.

This leaves higher education institutions in the uncomfortable position of having to decide if/when they should communicate with a student's family, when they should treat a student as an adult, and when they should adopt the role of the locum parent.

A case at MIT may point the way through this dilemma.


Thursday, April 25, 2002
Although it's not often that I agree with Thomas Friedman, this op-ed piece really struck a chord with me.


Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Excellent new contender on the block-- thoughtable.com. Go visit.


The winner is 'In The Skin Of A Lion' by Michael Ondaatje. Even though I'm not living in Canada, I'm planning on reading it.


Saturday, April 20, 2002
Ambitious project of the month--Canada Reads:

  • One part 'One Book One Chicago'
  • One part 'Survivor'
  • One part Oprah's Book Club
    = Brilliant thinking on a massive scale. Also the radio broadcasts are hilarious (especially Mary Walsh).

    (They don't list the books that have been sent packing, but so far, 'The Stone Angel' (tremendous book), 'A Fine Balance', and 'The Handmaid's Tale' are out.)


  • Tuesday, April 16, 2002
    There is something to the argument that by selecting a book every month for her millions of viewers-cum-readers, Oprah did indeed pack more than her fair allotment of cultural wallop; I'll agree with that.



    What's being missed entirely, and especially by self-justificatory columns like this one, penned by Norah Vincent, is that Oprah's Book Club was able to do something nobody had done in a very long time-- she altered the discourse of literature in the US (and to some extent abroad, with the recent airings of all of her Book Club programmes in Europe, South Africa, and parts of Asia).



    The tired old chestnut that "good literature is for well-educated, well-heeled people who have worked hard to earn the right to read it and talk about it" reappears again and again in the discussions about the Book Club and about Franzen's pusillanimous sniping. It's never everyone in the media-- rather, it's usually the same crowd of upper-middle-aspirational-class talking heads who return to the argument that Oprah committed the cardinal sin of venturing unbidden into the territory of 'serious literature' without the proper credentials.



    While it's true that Oprah hasn't spent the last 14 tortured summers reciting her plays and poems at Breadloaf, or spent a few agonizing years cranking out an esoteric M.A. on the 'Figuration of the Yam as Godhead in Aboriginal Literature', she has done something far more transgressive-- she's made average Americans understand that books-- any books at all-- are available to them.



    No matter that her choices weren't uniformly excellent-- yours haven't been either, I'd wager (c.f. the clandestine copies of Stephen King and John Grisham novels you never told anyone about). What does matter is that she unwaveringly said to non-typical readers (and even some non-readers), "Look, this book is great. You can read it too, even though it wasn't written with you in mind."



    Nothing could be more postmodern or more powerful than a woman who subverts the intent of the author and shunts textual experience in the direction of new readers. Oprah grabbed the big wrench and opened up the hydrant for all the kids in the neighborhood.



    Friday, April 12, 2002
    Speaking of websites that let people listen to radio shows (see 2 posts below), there's new US legislation that might completely scuttle radio stations' ability to broadcast their programming over the Internet. This would be a disaster of epic proportions for those of us who depend on the web for our daily fix of homegrown media.

    Despite the fact that I'm convinced that e-mail petitions are about as effective as voodoo dolls, here's a link to a site with more information on how you can protest (in the strongest possible terms) against the new legislation.


    I'll never complain about badly translated instructions again. Ever.

    See if you can figure out what this is. I thought it was a ceiling fan, but now I'm not so sure.
    (I love their use of 'prythee'-- I think it's time to send some updated dictionaries to our friends abroad).


    Tuesday, April 09, 2002
    After two years of waxing nostalgic over 'This American Life' to all of my friends here in the UK, I thought it was high time that I provided the link to the website. To hear any of the fabulous shows, you'll need a computer that has RealAudio (pretty much any version will do, even the free one) and a sound card. Here are some of my favourite shows:

    "Special Ed"
    "Pimp Anthropology" (this past weekend's show)
    "Meet the Pros"
    "The Three Kinds of Deception" (Which also happens to contain David Sedaris reading a piece from 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' about being mistaken for a Frenchman.)
    "The Secret World of Daytime"


    Friday, April 05, 2002
    Modern-day tithing made virtual.

    I've often thought about doing something like this (well, once I'm back in the land of the solvent and non-tuition-paying); what an inspiring way of putting your own philanthropy into action.














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