Monday, August 27, 2007

The Amish

In his new book, Plain Secrets, Joe Mackall charts the tightly knit society of Ohio's Swartzentruber Amish (6/18/07 - 8:20). In this piece, Mackal discusses how he gained the trust of his Amish neighbor, and how "the community takes care of its own members even as it subverts their individuality, the plight of Amish women, and what it's really like to ride in a buggy."

  • Nearly everything about the Amish is controversial, except perhaps the undeniable visual beauty of their world, at least as captured in Bill Coleman's photographs. Which photographs do you find especially appealing and why?

  • The Amish use all sorts of complex technologies; what they reject basically is something we take for granted (except during hurricane season)--that is, electricity. Still, when you think about it, as much as we depend on electricity, almost all of us have special times, activities and so forth (even something as simple as taking a walk) that requires needs electricity or even batteries. Describe one such pleasurable experience or activity in your life that is free of electricity or batteries.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

French Quarter

New Orleans's French Quarter is one of the most photographic and most recognizable landmarks in the United States, and, post-Katrina, remains the heart of the city. Yet how much do we actually know about this neighborhood? In this NPR piece (4/8/202 - 8:31), from the series, Present at the Creation, Renee Montagne provides a surprising overview of an area that is more Spanish than French, and maybe more American than Spanish.

  • One outstanding characteristic of the French Quarter is that it is pedestrian friendly, and, as such, related to the contemporary movement for re-creating traditional neighborhoods, called New Urbanism. Describe a setting (urban or otherwise) in which you enjoy walking, people watching, or just spending time?

  • The French Quarter is an entertainment area for tourists but also a neighborhood. What, in your opinion, are the chief characteristics of a good neighborhood?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Raising Cain

From "News & Notes (1/11/06 - 6:23) comes this discussion of boys and their problems, with child psychologist Michael Thompson, the host of the documentary Raising Cain.

  • Gender differences represent a continual subject of controversy and fascination. What's your take on the general premise that boys have a particular set of problems to overcome in growing up?

  • Behind many of the discussions of helping boys in schools, as to grow up generally, is the even larger issue of masculinity, and whether or not boys (and maybe men generally) need help in overcoming or achieving masculinity. Here two related questions arise: Is the end result to narrow the differences between the genders, and do adult males have any special role to play in helping boys become men?