Weekend Reading

  • An article in The Root about the multiple costs of prioritizing incarceration over education.  As federal, state and local governments across the nation slash their budgets to close looming shortfalls, there is one clear winner in the budget battles: correctional systems, which cost the nation nearly $70 billion annually. During the last two decades, funding for prisons eclipsed spending for higher education sixfold.
  • The Good Book: A Secular Bible is just what it sounds like, though this reviewer seems to prefer the original versionThe format, equally cheekily, is the same as the King James Bible, whose 400th anniversary is being celebrated this year: a template of chapters and verses, set across two columns. “It is not intended as an affront,” says Grayling. “It is practical recognition that the Bible is very successful because of the way it is structured. It is very inviting to readers. It allows you to read small amounts, to reflect, or find something that is quotable. I didn’t want page after page of dense text, which is rebarbative.”
  • Religion and Ethics has a longish review of The Pastor by Eugene Peterson, my favorite book of the year thus far.  The Pastor is not the conventional story of a call to ministry or a road-to-Damascus experience. Peterson cites poet Denise Levertov’s phrase “every step an arrival” as a metaphor for his changing understanding of ministry as new experiences and challenges brought him to new perspectives. “I never knew where I was headed, and at some point I realized it was pastor,” he explained in a recent interview.
  • If you’ve still not listened to Radiolab on your local NPR station, perhaps this article in The New York Times will convince you to give it a shot. A relevant question to ask at this moment is: Why would anyone bother to invent a new aesthetic for such a retrograde form? This is an exciting time for innovation in new media: interactive forms for active consumers. Radio, in contrast, just washes over you or drifts by in the background. It seems ill suited to an audience that multitasks, demands to react or contradict in real time, insists on controlling information rather than receiving it. Yet “Radiolab” — which just won a 2010 Peabody Award — has responded to all this by designing a show for sustained and undivided attention. It wrestles with big, serious ideas like stochasticity, time and deception. It ignores the news cycle completely. And it expects you to stop checking your inbox, updating your status or playing Angry Birds and spend a solid hour listening.

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