September 20, 2012 16:03
Aaron reflects on The Emanicpation Proclamation...
One hundred fifty years ago on September 22, 1862 President Abraham Lincoln, commander-in-chief of the Union armies, issued the Emancipation Proclamation: " . . . on the 1st day of January, A.D., 1863, all persons held as slaves within any state . . . then . . . in rebellion against the United States shall shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free..."
The Emancipation Proclamation did not abolish slavery. For example, owners of slaves residing in the border states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and remaining loyal to the Union retained a legal right to continue their ownership of bondsmen. Slavery in the United States was not abolished until the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865, thereby freeing more than four million slaves from bondage.
Some abolitionist were disappointed with the limitations stated in the proclamation. Karl Marx, in contrast, recognized its significance. Writing for Die Presse, a daily published in Vienna, Marx clearly recognized the significance of Lincoln's war measure: ". . . the manifesto . . . is the most important document in American history since the establishment of the Union . . ."
Would anyone living in the United States one hundred fifty years ago have envisioned that in the year 2012 voters would decide whether to reelect a black-skinned man as President of the United States? September 22, 2012 is a day to remember, a day to celebrate Father Abraham's momentous proclamation.
July 6, 2010 02:33
A recent edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin published by Vook under ordinary circumstances would not merit a review since publishers have kept the autobiography on the market for well over 200 years. In addition to being the grandfather of the self-help, do-it-yourself industry — so much a part of the American ethos — Franklin was an inventor and printer. How fitting then that Vook, innovators of book production, have made The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin available for purchase online in a new form of enriched ebook.
With this technology readers may access features such as video and animation that help to introduce the classical material. The vook format also allows readers to connect directly through social media with friends or fellow students, all without switching platforms.
Yet, trying to review a vook book makes me decidedly uncomfortable, all too aware of my limited computer skills. I think of myself as a third or fourth grader rather than as a postgraduate student. What I have to fall back on is my subjective response to this new form of reading. Clearly I’m no expert. It’s the first time I’ve read and witnessed a vook. With those caveats, here is my subjective summation.
The supplementary information presented in the videos was illuminating. I enjoyed the live commentary of experts. For example, I learned about Franklin’s relationship with his wife and his flirtations with French women after her death. The flesh-and-blood Benjamin Franklin that emerged complements his portrait on the $100 bill.
I would have appreciated more variety in the prints and paintings selected to enhance the text. The videographers need not have limited themselves to the few existing portraits of Franklin, and might have shown more scenes and artifacts of life in the Philadelphia of his time.
Excitingly, there is room for Vook to grow and innovate further, to creatively extend this new format. I plan to return to the site for additional purchases. My guess is that Franklin would approve of this invention — and be pleased to be part of its timely debut.
June 13, 2010 05:13
The name and reputation of Henry Luce, born 112 years ago, has shrunk from the heyday of his media empire (TIME, LIFE and FORTUNE magazines) in the forties and fifties. Today, the circulation of TIME has declined, and LIFE has ceased publication.
But growing up in Detroit in the forties, before TV and the Internet affected the availability of news stories, I remember depending on TIME and LIFE to tell me what was happening in the big world. For a young college student eager to keep up with the news, Luce’s magazines were required reading, an assignment I looked forward to completing each week. I wasn’t the only one hooked on LIFE. Based on polling data of Americans, George Gallup reported that the biggest break a movie could get was a two-page layout of still photographs in LIFE. Publicity of this kind was more useful than a page-one story in all newspapers published in the United States.
Living in Detroit was like living in a remote province, away from important news being made in Washington and London, far from theater openings on Broadway and new books being published in New York. To me Henry R. Luce was a “macher,” a big shot charting the future goals of America. For example, the “American Century” referenced in the subtitle of Brinkley’s new Luce biography was the title of an essay Luce wrote in the February 7, 1941 issue of LIFE. This messianic view of Americans civilization harkened back to the missionary work of his father, a Presbyterian minister laboring in China, where Luce was born, to spread the word of Christianity. According to son Henry, “It now becomes our time to be the powerhouse from which the ideals spread throughout the world and do their mysterious work of lifting the life of mankind from the level of the beasts to what the Psalmists called a little lower than the angels.”
Henry Luce was also a figure of envy, having married the beautiful, beguiling, Claire Booth, author of the successful Broadway show and movie, THE WOMEN, elected to the U. S. Congress and later appointed ambassador to Italy. Subsequent biographies of Claire Booth Luce show that this second marriage was one of Henry’s ventures that turned sour.
I don’t plan to read Brinkley’s biography any more than I plan to read a biography of other American journalists such as Horace Greeley, Joseph Pulitzer or William Randolph Hearst. The Australian Rupert Murdoch? Well, that sounds like a tempting read.
June 3, 2010 08:55
PUBLISH OR PERISH is a well-worn adage in academia. Teachers anxious to gain appointment at the college or university level and those seeking to secure a tenured appointment know the importance of having their work validated particularly by a peer-reviewed publication or a respected publishing firm.
For several years I was a member of the Promotion and Appointment Committee at the University at Albany, a SUNY institution. In reviewing a candidate’s thick dossier covering an academic career, we members also paid special attention to student ratings for a teacher, and the record of Community Service. For example, on what university committees had the candidate served? What kinds of service did the candidate perform for the profession, for the local city or state?
Of these three criteria—publication, teaching performance, and community service—committee members informally acknowledged the most important criterion was publication. To illustrate its importance, Barack Obama was never considered as a candidate for tenure at the School of Law, University of Chicago where he was a lecturer because his publication record was so poor.
Digital changes in book publishing and in professional journals make selecting the best candidates for appointment and promotion even more difficult than in past years. Publishing e-books and real books have become so easy today. I once knew the names of a few vanity presses. Now there are so many more of them. Also. self-publishing has gained a new legitimacy. Large booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble are anxious to make digital books available to their customers.
Today, available options are different for an author whose work cannot find a publisher. Karen McQuestion, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal, tried for ten years to interest a publisher in her novel. Having failed, she decided to produce an online version, and in eleven months her e-book, A Scattered Life, sold 36,000 copies. This cautionary tale raises two questions.
First, was it wise for the author not to accept the decision of the New York publishing world? The money McQuestion put up to publish the novel has been paid back and yielded her a profit. But there was no guarantee of that. Traditionally authors expect an advance rather than an expenditure after completing a manuscript. A candidate seeking promotion as a tenured professor has even more at stake in terms of future earnings and maintaining a reputation as a scholar. Would she be justified in seeking to support her dossier by paying for the publication of her professional work?
Second, were the New York publishers mistaken? The large sale of Karen McQuestion’s novel raises doubt about the decisions of the gatekeepers of publication. A paperback edition will soon be published, and a Hollywood producer has paid for a film option. Obviously, the decisions of publishers can be mistaken. The decisions of committee members on promotion and appointment committees at universities can also be mistaken.
Perhaps it’s time to overhaul "Publish or Perish." We readers know that much of what has been published on paper does not represent high quality work. Publishers must publish to stay in business. Professional journals must keep to their schedule of publication. Always suspect, the need for Publish or Perish seems outmoded in the new Age of "Digital Publication."
May 26, 2010 12:44
My daughter learned at the BEA that the “matures,” or the over-60 sector, are “beginning to embrace devices.” Count me as very mature, very much over 60, and not interested in reading books on a battery-operated light box.
Every time I have dinner with a friend, he pulls out his Kindle Reader and brags about the many titles he has downloaded but not yet read. When we last met he gleefully reported the number had reached 15 unread books. He lives in Westchester, so he spends over an hour a day traveling to and from the city, and, in addition, his job requires a lot of travel around the country. And he likes to be up to date — not keeping up with, but keeping ahead of, the Joneses. A Kindle is a good buy for him.
But long ago I learned that I was happier ignoring the Joneses and not trying to keep ahead of them. Vacations at St. Kitts are wonderful for them but not for me. I'm over 80 and spend most of my time at home. These days I rarely fly because it's not much fun getting to an airport hours before departure time, standing in line before emptying my pockets and taking off my shoes in order to be allowed to pass through a security device. And being retired, I spend no time traveling to and from work.
I enjoy holding an attractive hardcover book encased in a well-designed dust jacket. I enjoy looking at all of my books stacked against each other in the bookcase. Also, I like being the sole owner of the book, able to lend it to my daughter or my grandson or anyone else I think will return the book to me. Why surrender all of these delights in order to purchase an electronic device that stays alive on life support, that I know is going to stop breathing when the battery dies? I don't want responsibility for reviving it.
This grandpa is happy living with my wonderful old-fashioned books.