Some years ago, at a tequila-infused gathering in Boston, an acquaintance recommended I read Don DeLillo's 1985 satire, White Noise. In the intervening years, a number of friends and colleagues have made the same suggestion. Given the novel's setting -- a bucolic but altogether dysfunctional liberal arts college in the American Midwest -- and its jaundiced view of media and technology, I was assured the book would have personal and professional resonance for me. It sure does.
Reading White Noise this summer has been nothing short of revelatory. DeLillo's critique of the dehumanizing effects of mass culture and post-industrial society is chilling, as it is prescient. It's also laugh-out-loud funny. Writing in those halcyon days before e-mail, personalized ringtones and salacious Twitter posts, DeLillo describes the unraveling of the nuclear family, if not the whole of American civilization, on the altar of conspicuous consumption.
INDIANAPOLIS -- In his capacity as the 2010 national winner of the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, Scott Russell Sanders spent the day here recently, making the rounds of media outlets. Over lunch, the professor emeritus of English at Indiana University talked about retirement, the culture of books, real wealth and the common good.
TPH: Which library did you pick to be the beneficiary of the award? [In addition to receiving a $10,000 personal prize, Sanders gets to select a library to receive $2,500.]
SRS: Monroe County Public Library. It’s a great dimension of the award in that it explicitly recognizes the importance of public libraries, the culture of books and what’s involved in nurturing a society where the reading and writing of books is taken seriously. And by books, it doesn’t really matter to me what medium people read in. I distinguish between the nature of the delivery system and what it is that’s being delivered. I will always prefer reading a book to reading something that’s on the screen. But I’m perfectly willing to believe that another person can get as rich an experience from reading the screen -- maybe prefers the screen.
I am a Muslim, and it is my great pleasure to provide Bloomington Alternative readers with some basic information on the subject of Islam. It is important to clarify that my beliefs are my own. I am from Chicago, and I converted to Islam after reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and then the Q’uran, and after much discussion with my girlfriend at the time, a person who is now my wife. I do not speak for anyone else.
Almost one in four people in the world today say they practice Islam. If you know someone who identifies as a Muslim, you can ask their opinion and gain understanding. Certainly, you will find that not all Muslims think alike.
"Is the guitar too loud?" "Nope." "Should it be louder?" "Yeah!"
Tim Harmon, local singer/songwriter, questions the audience on the noise level of his guitar at the Monday Night Songwriter Showcase on May 17 at the Player's Pub, located at 424 S. Walnut St. People continuously trickle through the door to enjoy food, drinks, good company and great music.
Suzette Weakley, one of the showcase's founders and a main organizer, says the weekly gig's reputation has grown so much in the past four years that touring songwriters from across the country looking for filler gigs find it a perfect opportunity.
Just outside the door of the Wandering Turtle Art Gallery & Gifts sits a table with refreshments and a smiling young woman to make sure patrons get what they need. Mellow, groovy, jazzlike music greets customers as they walk through the door. Their eyes instantly flood with colorful paintings, pottery, jewelry and more.
Outside, limited parking, crowded sidewalks and people of all ages are signs it's First Friday again in downtown Bloomington.
First Friday is a version of GalleryWalk, which started around 2002, according to Miah Michaelsen, the city of Bloomington's assistant economic and sustainable development director for the arts, when nine downtown galleries came together to coordinate events and exhibit openings to help each other out.
"I think it's a great example of what appear to be competing businesses coming together and promoting each other," Michaelsen says.
From all parts of the world, from south to north and west to east, Muslims celebrated Eid this year at the Islamic Center of Bloomington. At the moment when the Imam said, "God is great," they all repeated it devotionally. And their smiles told each other, "I'm happy."
Some wore traditional clothing, while others wore suits and ties. The clothes offered an "international fashion show," according to Mohamed, a member of the Muslim community. "All people here might know where they are from according to their clothes."
The Eid is the day that comes after the holy month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar. Eid in Arabic means "returns annually with refreshing faith." It is celebrated on the first day of Shaw'waal, the 10th month, which means "festivity," which this year was on Sept. 20.
At the Fifth Annual Midwest Peace and Justice Summit held in Indianapolis on April 4, we gave a workshop titled "Overcoming Hoosier Mediocrity." Our half-hour presentation limned concisely yet thoroughly this all-pervasive mediocrity that confronts us daily and was followed by a lively half-hour discussion that, much to our surprise, demonstrated that we were far from alone in what we sense.
For our presentation, we developed a five-page "Hoosier Mediocrity Fact Sheet" of statistics taken from numerous areas of life -- from economic and employment issues through health issues, quality of life, educational attainment (or rather, lack of it), and environmental issues -- that did, indeed, demonstrate our thesis of all-round Hoosier mediocrity.
Growing up in New Jersey, author, editor and photographer Michael T. Luongo traveled very little.
“As a child, my parents never traveled anywhere,” he says. “They couldn’t throw all the kids in the car and come back in the space of a day.”
Instead, Luongo referred to his parents’ art and archaeology books and began to discover a love for foreign places.
“It was something that started to develop ever since I was little,” he says. “I read a lot. I was constantly reading.”
INDIANAPOLIS - Indian spiritual leader and humanitarian Her Holiness Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi visited Indianapolis from Jan. 17-21 and made several public appearances, culminating with a presentation on Jan. 21 at a commemoration of the birth of Martin Luther King.
This writer attended two of these events, hearing her speak Jan. 18 at a program of mediation at Indianapolis's Unity Church and again on Jan. 20, when she spoke before the congregation at the service of the Ebeneezer Baptist Church.
At both events, she was introduced by Ebeneezer's pastor, Rev. Tom Brown, an African American versed in both Eastern and Western religious traditions, who linked both these traditions of spirituality together as complements.
I became familiar with the name James Alexander Thom at age 12, when my mother handed me Follow the River, his novel about the true ordeal of Mary Ingles, the white woman who was kidnapped by Shawnee Indians in 1755 and then made her way home with the Ohio River as her guide.
The book resonated with my mother and me -- it was such a powerful testament and tribute to one woman's strength and courage -- and from our multiple readings, the paperback cover fell off at one point. I know my mother ended up buying a new copy later, but I still have that one worn copy on my shelf in my childhood bedroom at my parents' house.