Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On The Role of Literature

I see literature as a journey with the writer as guide. The reader can choose to take the journey or not. If he or she does, then they have the opportunity to experience people, places, and events that they otherwise might not.
Literature is also an emotional journey. To identify with a character or characters is to put oneself in the shoes of another, to be empathetic. Hopefully, at the end of the journey, the reader will come away a much more aware, more enlightened person.
Literature has the power to lead us into worlds we never knew existed or if we knew they did, allow us to see them up close and personal and in new and different ways.

Walking In A Black Person's Shoes

Those whites, who complain about blacks playing the race card and who see racism as part of a bygone era, should follow in the footsteps of the late white journalist John Howard Griffin, the author of Black Like Me: disguise themselves as blacks for a week or two, if they're brave enough to attempt it. I think the experience would give them a whole new perspective on race in America.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Max Bond, Black Architect

The following is an excerpt from an interview I did with the late black architect Max Bond. It took place at Columbia University's School of Architecture, where he was the dean at the time, about 1983 or 1984. He was the cousin of Julian Bond, the former Georgia state legislator and NAACP executive. Bond died in February 2009 at the age of 73.

1. His view of architecture criticism:

"I think that architectural criticism generally in this country is not good as it should be. That's not to say that there aren't some good critics. But the level of architectural criticism is not very high. I think the architectural critic should obviously try to expose ideas and issues. There are several issues that are never really dealt with very much in this society. One of these is what American culture is. [Architectural criticism would have us think that the population of the U.S. is] one hundred percent white or of European derivation. You wouldn't get any sense of the complex heritage of America. [Critics would have you] think that the kinds of things we should look to architecturally are solely from Europe. It is obviously a very important issue because it is related to the establishment of cultural values for this society."

2. His view of black architects:

"I don't know if any of us [black architects] have received the acclaim that we're due. But obviously there have been many very distinguished black architects. There are several architects who I think really deserve a lot of distinction--Paul Williams; Hilliard Robinson who practices in Washington [D.C.], who is now retired or semi-retired. And other people such as Jay Johnson [who is a friend of Bond's. When they were in college, they worked together in Paul Williams's office one summer]."

Friday, September 25, 2009

On Masculinity

"When a young man rejects the advances of another young man, his motive, often as not, is a fear of losing autonomy, of being used as a thing by the other, conquered instead of the conquering." --Gore Vidal, from the afterword of his revised 1948 novel The City and the Pillar (New American Library, 1965)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Prime -Time Discussion of Health-Care Is Needed On TV

My friend Velma and I, while sipping red wine in her book-lined living room, discussed, among other things, the health-care issue. I mentioned to her that in the old days of television, regular programming was preempted to devote an entire evening to an important issue of the day.
I believe that current-day TV viewers would be willing to forgo one night of reality TV or nighttime dramas and comedies to be educated about the pros and cons of health -care delivery in the U.S. and abroad. An evening-long program, for example, would be able to go into more historical detail about the Bismarck model than Frontline's one-hour report, "Sick Around the World" (PBS) was able to do. (Bismarck, the chancellor of Germany in the late 19th century, "is the guy," reported T.R. Reid, the program correspondent, "who invented the concept of health- care systems, the notion that a government has to provide mechanisms so all of its people can get medical care when they need it." Reid continued, " Thanks to the Bismarck model, everybody in Germany is offered health care. While the rich are allowed to opt out and pay privately, about 90 per cent of Germans choose to stay in the national system.") The health-care issue concerns all of us, whether we have health insurance or not, and a program like this would no doubt get high ratings.
An in-depth examination by journalists, medical experts, insurance executives, and elected officials in filmed reports, on-camera interviews, and round table discussions (along with Q and A sessions with a live studio audience and viewers) would be a welcome event at a time when health- care costs are going up and more and more people are going bankrupt because of exorbitant medical bills. Preferably, this program would be presented without commercial interruption.
Television programmers should give this idea some serious thought. Health -care is a hot topic that radio and TV talk show host Ed Schultz, for example, has made his prime concern.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On Teachers

"Educators should be chosen not merely for their special qualifications, but more for their personality and their character, because we teach more by what we are than by what we teach."--Will (William James) Durant from Webster's Book of Quotations (PMC Publishing Co., Inc., 1994)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Is the Urge to Go Paperless about the Environment or Money?

I think that companies that urge consumers to go paperless are doing it not because they are so concerned about the environment but because they are more concerned about their bottom line. They are afraid to admit that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Democracy

"Democracy is the most demanding of all forms of government in terms of the energy, imagination, and public spirit required of the individual."
--George Catlett Marshall
from Webster's Book of Quotations (PMC Publishing Company, 1994)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Will the Public Option in Health Care Be a Bureaucratic Nightmare?

The one thing no one is talking about with regard to the public option health insurance plan is what people will have to go through to sign up.
Just applying for a non-driver photo ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles can be an all-day process. And government bureaucracy being what it is, I can't imagine the sign-up process being as quick and easy as opening a bank savings account. When it comes to a program that calls for the government to shell out big bucks, you know applying for it will be no walk in the park.
No doubt an applicant will have to go to some cluttered office with a maze-like arrangement of cubicles, be required to produce a plethora of documents (Social Security card, birth certificate, rent lease, etc.), and be photographed and fingerprinted. Things you don't have to do with a private insurance company.
If that daunting bureaucratic way of doing things prevails, the public opinion of the public option will produce jeers, not cheers. I hope I'm wrong, but something tells me I'm not.