Summer Sampler: Websites and books to keep you thinking


Whether you are whiling away your days at the beach or just hangin’ out in front of your computer on a warm summer day, you may enjoy turning a couple of pages for reflection and inspiration or striking a few keys for peace and justice. Below are a number of interesting suggestions. Enjoy!!

Websites

www.revbilly.com

“Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping” is a funny and engaging cam­paign with “Retail Interventions.” The site is loaded with clever ideas, including a script for nonviolent civil disobedience called “Death by Latté, A Tragedy,” and an audio from the Shopocalypse Tour.

www.theyesmen.org

In 1999 two people set up a parody of the World Trade Organization website at www.gatt.org. It was mistaken for the real thing and eventually the two found them­selves invited to speak as representatives of the organization they opposed, delivering shocking satires.

www.optruth.org/

First-hand accounts from US troops that served on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Intense sections on issues including the mental strain of war, depleted uranium, the wounded. Includes a variety of view­points.

www.boondocksnet.com

Not the cartoon, this site is fantastic for its coverage of the history of US imperialism. It includes hundreds of labor songs, poems, etc., and has one of the largest collections of historical political cartoons available on the web.

www.dailykos.com

Contains the dKosopedia, a collaborative project to build a political encyclopedia from a left/progressive/liberal/Democratic point of view while also attempting to fairly acknowledge the other side.

www.freewayblogger.com

Subtitled “Free Speech: Use It or Lose It,” the site is full of photographs of strategically placed signs with messages such as “Rumsfailed” and “Quagmire Accomplished.”

http://newstandardnews.net

The NewStandard is an independent hard news website providing up-to-date news from a perspective emphasizing public interest. Created by Syracusans Jessica Azulay and Brian Dominick, it is a great alternative to the Post Standard and the New York Times.

Books

Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor

Paul Farmer. University of California Press, 2005.

To better under­stand the human condition read Paul Farmer. Farmer is a physician who for years has run a health clinic on Haiti’s Central Plateau. Farmer is a man of compassion – combined with a critical mind and unusual capability and erudition. He seems inexhaustible.

Pathologies of Power is the latest of Farmer’s several carefully documented yet searing volumes focused on the poorest of the poor – and on the economic and social forces that make them so. Besides Haiti, Farmer takes us to other areas where he has investigated infectious disease: Guantanamo, Chiapas, Peru, Boston and the TB-ridden prisons of post-Soviet Russia.

Around the globe this year “an estimated six million people will die of tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS – three treatable dis­eases that reap their grim harvest almost exclusively among populations without access to modern medical care.” Farmer shows how “these deaths are reflections of structural violence and should be a central concern for the human rights community” – a “community” Farmer criticizes for its neglect of social and economic rights.

Farmer asserts that “human rights abuses are best understood from the point of view of the poor.” In his analysis and medi­cal practice he has converted Liberation Theology to Liberation Medicine.

–Ed Kinane


The Impossible Will Take A Little While

Paul Loeb, editor. Basic Books, 2004.

Neo-cons got you down? Feel-ing lost in the struggle? Then this book is for you. Paul Loeb has compiled a wide variety of stories and po­etry designed to inspire – from the activist in need of a pick-me-up to the pessimist who thinks the red states have already won. In addition to the inspirational stand-bys such as Nelson Mandela and Arundhati Roy, Loeb’s book includes the struggles of less famous figures. Billy Wayne Sinclair describes his battles with the Louisiana prison system to gain rights for prisoners, and a monologue about grief from Native author Sherman Alexie manages to be at once whimsical and heart-wrenching.

If you’re looking for strategy and tactics, however, this book can be slow and even sappy. Loeb hasn’t given us a manual for action, but instead a collec­tion of writings intended to lift us up when we feel as if there’s no hope. Not every piece in this book is a gem, but there are enough compelling stories to make it a worthwhile read. Perhaps the best part is that with such diversity, each reader is sure to find at least one anecdote that speaks to his/her current situation – something that will encourage us when the struggle seems truly impossible. Loeb’s contributors collectively remind us that perseverance is the surest path to hope.

–Matt Walton



If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Italo Calvino

(trans.by William Weaver). Harvest Books/HBJ, 1982.

If your idea of a good summer read is to rest in the familiar ter­ritory of a genre novel, to slip into the quiet rhythms of an oft-traveled journey, then stay away from If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by the Italian master, Italo Calvino. However, if you hunger for the unexpected, if you delight in undiscovered territories, and if you are ready for a novel that will transport your spirit and your imagination, then don’t waste a moment. Acquire this book and prepare yourself for a read like no other. As John Updike said in his review, Calvino “manages to charm and entertain the reader in the teeth of a scheme designed to frustrate all reasonable readerly expecta­tions.” Consider yourself warned – and invited!

Jim Brul