Archive for the ‘the new york times’ tag
Russell Adams’ source confirms rumors that have circulated this week. He writes: “The leading scenario set to be unveiled Tuesday would call for the Free Press and its partner paper, the Detroit News, to end home delivery on all but the most lucrative days—Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On the other days, the publisher would sell single copies of an abbreviated print edition at newsstands and direct readers to the papers’ expanded digital editions.
As my wife and I were in the dark, somewhere between Allentown, Pa. and New York City bound for Boston, Mass. on a very long, one-day car ride, we tuned in to the third of the presidential debates, where John McCain and Barack Obama again pleaded their cases, and again laid out their, even then redundant, plans to turn America around in the wake of George W. Bush’s errant policies.
Here, like in talks before, we heard McCain mention his concern (or lack thereof, we’re not sure) for Obama’s “associations” with
Mr. Ayers, I don’t care about an old washed-up terrorist.
In the very next breath:
But as Senator Clinton said in her debates with you, we need to know the full extent of that relationship.
It’s remarkable that someone could turn about-face in a matter of half a second. Regardless, Ayers was clearly an issue, and one of Obama’s Achilles’ heels throughout the election cycle.
Yesterday, Ayers broke his silence in a column posted on The New York Times’ Web site (The column was published in Saturday’s print edition).
In it, Ayers admits:
The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war. — William Ayers, column published in The New York Times, Dec. 6, 2008
In the piece, of course, Ayers says he co-founded The Weather Underground, which we already knew, and that the organization did plant “several small bombs” in government offices, including ones at the Pentagon and the Capitol in protest to the Vietnam War. He said the Undergound’s protests were peaceful, intended to harm no one and not terrorist in nature.
He goes on to express confoundment that placing two people in the same room, who had very thin, at best, associates amounted to palling around, noting, “There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.”
We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.
Demonization, guilt by association, and the politics of fear did not triumph, not this time. Let’s hope they never will again. And let’s hope we might now assert that in our wildly diverse society, talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue. —Ayers
The McCain camp during the campaign seemed to present the opposite argument: hang with, shake hands with, view across the room those of unscrupulous, now or at any point in the past, and be forever married to those people’s hips. Ayers closing exposed what we knew: that the McCain camp was simply trying to stir the kettle of fear by dark associations, which almost hobbled Obama’s campaign. Interestingly, as if to hint at who he supported during the election — it was quite clear from the beginning of the column as well — Ayers injected Obama’s “not this time” phrase into his last paragraph.
Ayers did well to wait until after the election to flesh these thoughts out in public. Had he tossed his proverbial voice into the already crowded cauldron of plumbers and pigs, it could have resulted in a true political circus nightmare, if it hadn’t hit that point already. Ayers admits he regretted what he did way back when, and has served his community as a professor for decades now. Since the low-level tactic didn’t dupe enough Americans, I think at this, we can let it go. What is important now is to support education, not willful ignorance, understanding, not fear, at least until the next batch of presidential candidates rolls around and tests our mettle in discerning honesty from dishonesty.
I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education. —Ayers
In Stanley Fish’s most recent New York Times blog post, we read about a new modern, reader-friendly translation of one of, if not the, greatest epic poems of all time.
John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” in all its didactic complexities and hidden poetic treasures, recalls, in extended form, “Of man’s first disobedience, and the Fruit” and how Adam and Eve, once God’s seemingly unblemished creations, fell and eventually, thousands of blank verse lines later, “hand in hand with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way” out of paradise.
The new adaptation, called, “Paradise Lost: Parallel Prose Edition” by Dennis Danielson “unpacks” the poem, as Fish notes, so that it is more coherent to modern readers. During a lengthy analysis, Fish takes several examples from the new translation and attempts to show how the new version changes the meaning from Milton’s original, tightly packed verse.
To take one example:
When Adam decides to join Eve in sin and eat the apple, the poem says that he was “fondly overcome by female charm.” The word that asks you to pause is “fondly,” which means both foolishly and affectionately. The two meanings have different relationships to the action they characterize. If you do something foolishly, you have no excuse, and it’s a bit of a mystery as to why you did; if you do it prompted by affection and love, the wrongness of it may still be asserted, but something like an explanation or an excuse has at least been suggested.
The ambiguity plays into the poem-length concern with the question of just how culpable Adam and Eve are for the fall. (Given their faculties and emotions, were they capable of standing?) “Fondly” doesn’t resolve the question, but keeps it alive and adds to the work the reader must always be doing when negotiating this poem.
Here is Danielson’s translation of the line: “an infatuated fool overcome by a woman’s charms.” “Infatuated” isn’t right because it redoubles the accusation in “fool” rather than softening it. The judgment is sharp and clear, but it is a clearer judgment than Milton intended or provided. Something has been lost (although as Danielson points out, something is always lost in a translation). — Stanley Fish, The New York Times, Nov. 30, 2008
Critics of Milton’s verse have said that the difficulty of the original text, according to Fish, rests in the self-centric nature of the poem. Quoting F.R. Leavis, he said the poetry “calls pervasively for a kind of attention … toward itself.”
Roadblocks, in the form of ambiguities, deliberate obscurities, shifting grammatical paths and recondite allusions, are everywhere and one is expected to stop and try to figure things out, make connections or come to terms with an inability to make connections.
Thus, a different sort of reading is required than the standard gathering of basic plot details. One is forced to, of course, follow the plot, but one is also invited to seek out the hidden complexities of the very words and letters on the page. Well-placed sonnets appear within its framework. Poignant acronyms, spotted by scanning the beginning letter of each line, are darted throughout. A prose-only reading of the text, then, would conceal these findings and, further, would exempt the reader from the possibility of finding them.
Clearly, Danielson’s love for Milton is palpable or else, he would not be a Milton scholar. And as Fish points out, Danielson includes the original verse right alongside his new translation.
I would agree with Fish on most counts. Danielson is providing a fine tool to introduce readers to Milton’s greatness. Fish says of Danielson:
He knows as well as anyone how Milton’s poetry works, but it is his judgment (following [John] Wesley and [Harold] Bloom) that many modern readers will not take their Milton straight and require some unraveling of the knots before embarking on the journey.
I’m not sure he’s right (I’ve found students of all kinds responsive to the poetry once they give it half a chance), but whether he is or not, he has fashioned a powerful pedagogical tool that is a gift to any teacher of Milton whatever the level of instruction.
Are scholars beginning to translate Beowulf or Chaucer or Shakespeare? If they are, I’m not aware. Regardless, I, having read the entire poem “straight,” as Fish notes, with no help from study aids or the like, found it quite understandable with the help of a good old dictionary and the simple textual notes provided with most Milton readers. So, while Fish says the edition is a “gift to any teacher of Milton,” I would have to disagree on that count. I don’t think we can allow our greatest writings to be watered down into modern prose, when prose was quite an opposite intention of the writer. Not only is “something” always lost in translation, much is lost in translation.
As early as 1763, John Wesley noted of “Paradise Lost” that “this inimitable work amidst all its beauties is unintelligible to [an] abundance of readers.” Much later, Harold Bloom, with a hint of fatalism for the direction of modern education, noted readers today “require mediation to read ‘Paradise Lost’ with full appreciation.” But reading “Paradise Lost” with mediation is not reading “Paradise Lost.” It’s reading or being fed someone else’s thoughts on the poem. Has Bloom and Danielson simply “given in” and acknowledged that it’s beyond modern readers’ capacity to read complex literature without assistance from other translations, study guides, etc?
If that’s the concession, and even when academia is acknowledging this much, it’s a sad day. I’m thankful that
I had a lit professor who dictated to us exactly what we would do when approaching Milton: Sit down with the original text, read the annotations for clarity if necessary, have a dictionary handy and let the poetry speak for itself. Was it difficult? Yes. But it was worth it. Danielson’s edition, while admirable in its attempt to make Milton more digestible to a new generation of readers misses the point.
“Paradise Lost,” as Fish begins with Danielson’s own reference to Wesley, is inimitable, or matchless. And for that reason, it should retain its luster; anything less is lazy and fatalistic teaching. It is the responsibility of the teacher or professor’s job to make Milton, Shakespeare and the like interesting to students, to make them understand just why it’s matchless, to help students take the text as it was meant to be taken. It’s not inimitable just because it tells a good story. It’s inimitable because it tells a good story in one of the most finely crafted, well-thought out, epic creations of poetry the world will ever see. To see it or study it as anything else is a true loss.
Quite a bit of talk has sprung up recently about the Fairness Doctrine. Some Democrats, like Louise Slaughter (D-NY) have worked quite extensively (Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is another supporter) to have the legislation reinstated, while many Republicans, suggest the doctrine is specifically targeted toward silencing, or at least, dulling influence from conservative-dominated talk radio.
The Fairness Doctrine, which seeks to mandate that broadcasters give opposing viewpoints to an issue (or have both conservative and liberal viewpoints represented by separate programs, etc etc), dates back to the mid-20th century when it was introduced and put into law and then added to the Federal Communications Commission regulations. In 1987, Congress tried to turn the regulations into law, and Reagan handed down a veto. It hasn’t been enforced by the FCC since. Now since Barack Obama was elected, word is that the Democrats will attempt to reinact such legislation.
In a December 2004 interview with Slaughter, Bill Moyers asked,
Is somebody going to say, “Is this just a question of a Democrat who feels she’s not getting her message out and she’s mad?”
SLAUGHTER: No. It isn’t. I mean I get reelected, I’ve done extremely well in my district because people appreciate that I fight for things. I think all Americans would feel the same way I do exactly if we just had the ability to tell them. Reinstating the fairness doctrine would make a major difference in this country.
Near the beginning of the interview, Slaughter said,
I was so committed to it (the doctrine) and I kept doing bills. Because the airwaves belong to the people. I think we’ve good and sufficient examples now of what has happened to us with media consolidation — the fact that the information coming to us is controlled, the fact that at least half the people in the United States have no voice because they’re not allowed in on talk radio.
Actually, the airwaves belong to whoever owns them. Perhaps in some metaphorical sense, airwaves are part of the public domain, but radio stations are not. They are privately owned and those owners can do with them as they like. It just so happens now that, apparently, conservative-minded individuals have a hold on talk radio at the moment.
One question Democrats will have to answer is the one Moyer raised: Aren’t Dems just trying to get some more elbow room in the media, particularly in radio? And this is a valid question. One can’t convince us that Dems have some unbending, irrevocable hunger for fairness that transcends party lines. That just isn’t believable because some who claim to be journalists don’t even possess that, which is unfortunate. But that’s for another article.
Obligating broadcasters, newspapers or cable news to use their mediums to present separate viewpoints sounds irresponsible to me and is tugging pretty hard, if not trampling, on the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Part of me says, “Yeah! Let’s make our media more balanced!” while another part can’t support anything, be it censorship, governmental stifling of thought or governmental addition of thought, that infringes on the press. I agree wholeheartedly that some in the press today (FOX News, most talk radio) have all but reverted back to the 19th century brand of journalism, when newspapers were nothing more than sounding boards to political parties. Others aren’t so brazen, however, offering liberal-only and conservative-only talk shows on their channels (Keith Olbermann, D.L. Hughley, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, to name a few) as seasoning to their 24/7 line up of what we are to believe is balanced coverage.
Be that as it may, even though some “journalists” and broadcasters have trampled on journalism itself, that doesn’t give the government the right to trample on it as well, in order to squash the tramplers at their own game. This goes back to a larger picture, which I’ve written about before, that one of the flaws in this country, from giant financial institutions (Wachovia, Merrill Lynch) to computer corporations (Microsoft), companies are allowed to grow and grow seemingly without checks. They thus expand to the point that their very non-existence could crumble our economic infrastructure. Thus it is with the media corporations, like Rupert Murdoch’s universe of FOX News, The Wall Street Journal, etc, etc. Give one person huge assets and a set of political ideologies, and in which direction will he attempt to take those assets? Of course, wherever his ideologies take him.
It is ironic that our oldest modern medium, radio, is today dominated by a party stuck in the past and grappling with how to modernize itself. While this seems wholly appropriate at this point, it’s not the job of the government to modernize talk radio, for that would be constitutional infringement. Nor is it the job of radio, TV or any other media to be the one and only source for people’s information. As Moyers said in his interview with Slaughter, residents have enumerable sources from which to get data. The informed person will seek out those enumerable sources, not being satisfied with just watching Hannity’s America or Keith Olbermann or listening to Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham. Those programs success speaks to the fact that Americans, at this point, aren’t willing or are too lazy or to stuck in their own entrenched ideologies to do that, and we have a long way to go in that regard.
So, how do we raise a new consciousness of self-learning, to teach people to seek out multiple viewpoints and multiple ways of looking at complex issues? Part of that obligation falls to the press. While some calling themselves part of the “press” fail miserably, others — I would start with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times — do a fine job of painting an accurate and fair picture of the American landscape. Most of that obligation is with teachers, professors and parents (and more so to the latter). This is where it must begin.
So it is with Obama, who barely exerts himself and absorbs attack after attack, each of which, rather than wounding him, leaves him stronger. It’s rope-a-dope on a grand scale.
And McCain knows it. Last Wednesday, campaigning in New Hampshire, he spoke sneeringly about Obama’s campaign being “disciplined and careful.” That’s exactly right, and so far the combination of discipline and care — care not to get out too far in front of anything — along with a boatload of money is working just fine. Jesus is usually the political model for Republicans, but this time his brand of passive, patient leadership is being channeled by a Democrat. — Stanley Fish, Oct. 26, 2008
I don’t know at what point Fish became a columnist for The New York Times, but in college, I simply knew him as a literary critic. Lately, I’ve been enjoying some of the pieces he’s offered The Times. This one, I feel, is spot on.
We know John McCain, through various episodes, as a bit of a hot head (I reference this source, but by all means, google it for yourself.) His temper explosions are no secret. But against him, and in stark contrast, is Barack Obama, who, as Fish points out — or should I say, McCain — is “disciplined and careful” in his campaigning and has carried a more presidential demeanor along the way. I would argue that, as president, that discipline and carefulness will go along way in healing our fractured relationship with many of our now-Bush-weary detractors.
I will say this, and here is my argument about the election: McCain is an able leader. I don’t necessarily agree with the fundamental reasons for being in Iraq (and continuing to stay there), but McCain, at the least, could maintain this country and keep the boat afloat. But of his running mate, I can’t say the same, and Sarah Palin’s folksy approach to addressing some of the most confounding issues this country has seen literally in decades, with a wink and a smile, will simply not do. To vote for McCain as president (given his age and health) is to vote for Palin as president, and that’s not a jump I can, in good conscious, make. If McCain had made a smarter choice, and less politically fueled one (another reason to question that camp’s judgment … I think Giuliani would have been a decent VP pick — his efforts to help New York shake off the throws of the terrorist attack were noble) the choice might be more difficult.
Now, as Fish (I can only suspect his motives), I refuse to be a hack for anyone. I advertise for no one. But, I do supply my summation of how I see this election breaking down. Obama, in all his inspiration and yes, erudition, has taken all that McCain and political machines could throw at him (from Jeremiah Wright, to Bill Ayers, to ACORN), and while crossfiring with attacks of his own, has maintained in debates and on the stump, a presidential poise that will, in the end, win him the White House.
I admit. I haven’t worked in the industry for decades. I don’t concretely know what sells newspapers and what doesn’t. I know the direction the industry is going, and I know some strategies for luring potential readers to slip their hands into their pockets, find a couple quarters and deposit accordingly. But do any of us in the industry actually know what sells papers? Is it Godzilla-esque pictures or headlines? Teasers? Coverage on the issues that matter most to them?
I’m a word guy. I think well-crafted, well-reported stories are more important to fulfilling our service to the community than pictures or gigantic headlines. Especially in this era of “bigger is better” and less (content) is more, I suppose I’m in the minoritythere.
But the truth is this: we are living in an era where Reading — and its cousin, Learning — are not just dying, but are becoming taboo. Sure, Joe Schmoe reads, but it’s a headline here, a snippet there. The ability and desire to dig deep into the written word, to dig deep into complex issues has long-since escaped us. And that’s why the written word, the printed press, is slowly nailing itself to a cross. It really is a self-sacrifice. Newspapers still claim to be the authority on local issues ranging from zoning to immigration to water authorities and crime, but the nation’s leading papers — The New York Times being the exception … because it can — do their utmost to bury that important content inside the newspaper, thus making the front page appear like some daily Michelangelo painting, replete with teasers, huge pictures and giant headlines. But, consequently, my life calling is not to graphics and pictures, though I’m adept to these things, but to words on a page. Still, I play along.
Why have even the nation’s largest papers succumbed to such devices? I offer The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a prime example. The Anderson Independent-Mail as another, which, consequently, has seemingly banished copy altogether from its front page.
This, because the economic situation at many newspapers is that bad, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle on cable television and the general dumbing down of America. Continually, we hear about buyouts, restructuring, etc. within the industry’s leading papers. Photos and graphics become necessary in order for newspaper to compete and not be drowned out in the blare.
Obviously, this speaks to a larger issue: that of our Red Bull-infused, spastic society. And admittedly, I get caught up in the great and rabbit race to nowhere. Frequently, I will catch myself surfing online, and — oooh — something else comes up that I might like to check out, thus diverting my attention from whatever I originally was seeking information about. What was it? I can’t remember. It’s maddening. In another post, I quoted Kurt Cobain on television:
I hardly write any stories and I don’t work on my songs quite as intently as in the past. You know why??? Television Television is the most evil thing on our planet. Go right now to your TV and toss it out the window, or sell it and buy a better stereo. — “Journals,” Kurt Cobain
I posit that the Internet is the new television.
Have any of you heard of The Spectator? It was a short-lived publication in the early-18th century. It was published in an era where coffee houses were hubs of political and societal conversation and learning. People then read as if their lives depended on it, and often, they did. Television, since the late 1930s has served to muck that up. The Internet has mucked it up further. I would argue that the Internet is actually more productive for the educational betterment of society than television, but neither wins a gold star.
Simply, I wish folks today read as if their lives depended on it. We simply have to promote a society that is bent on making reading the printed word a priority. Why? Because, as convenient and good as it may be, the Internet isn’t ironclad. Books in hard copy form are ironclad. Government documents in hard copy form are ironclad. But once they reach the Internet or e-mail, they can be manipulated at will by people who know more than you about Web site security. By way of example, my entire blog www.jeremystyron.com, which is on a separate server, completely went down for a few hours yesterday I can only assume, by a hacker.
I’m not optimistic that such a society will emerge in the near future — our society will continue wind-blown into its own technological tailspin — but I am committed to at least trying, in as much as I can, to focus people to more hard copy learning. I say that while admitting that any kind of learning and reading, virtual or not, is benefitial.
The most efficient studying takes place, I feel, not when one is, in tandem, listening to music, playing an online solitaire game and reading some essay for class, but when one is sitting upright at a kitchen table, hunched over a book — with nothing as a distraction — with, perhaps, only a cup of coffee as company. Such a commitment will assist in building a society again more focused on the printed word, one more focused on dissecting and vetting the complex issues that confound us.