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The Sun Interview

Quiet, Please

Gordon Hempton On The Search For Silence In A Noisy World

Certainly people have their preferences regarding music and other sounds they like to listen to, but I do believe there is an “ideal” soundscape, and I’ve given it a name: “sonesia.” It includes the sounds of wildlife, such as songbirds. It includes the gentle sound of insects and the sound of distant water. (Up close, rushing water can mask the other sonic elements of the environment.) All of these sounds are indicative of grassland, a savannah. That’s where humans evolved, along with songbirds, which are the best indicator of an environment’s suitability for human prosperity: where songbirds live, there is also sufficient food for humans.

The Sun Interview

Redneck For Wilderness

Earth First! Cofounder Dave Foreman On Being A True Conservative

I think that civilization and real wilderness can coexist in North America and elsewhere, but we’ve got to allow room for wilderness and wild creatures. A favorite word of mine is wildeor, which goes back to the time of Beowulf and the origins of the English language. It means the “self-willed beast.” From the very beginning, civilization has tried to domesticate the beasts, and if we can’t domesticate them, then we destroy them. We’ve got to allow land to be wilderness, which means, in Old English, “self-willed land.” Letting some things have a will of their own, not trying to control everything — that is the challenge.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Foreign Coasts

It’s already sweltering at sunrise on this August Sunday morning in Norfolk, Virginia. My Lebanese grandfather is taking my brother and me fishing for blue crabs on the Elizabeth River. He stands on the dock and drops the oars into the flat-bottomed rowboat.

Sy Safransky's Notebook

December 2008

When a friend called with the news, I assumed he was putting me on. A deer, he said, had crashed through the plate-glass window of a pottery store in downtown Chapel Hill. It was exactly one month after the 9/11 attacks, and I wasn’t in the mood for a joke.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Some Thoughts On Mercy

Among the more concrete ramifications of this corruption of the imagination is that when the police suspect a black man or boy of having a gun, he becomes murderable: Murderable despite having earned advanced degrees or bought a cute house or written a couple of books of poetry. Murderable whether he’s an unarmed adult or a child riding a bike in the opposite direction. Murderable in the doorways of our houses.

The Sun Interview

The Magic And The Power

An Interview With Odetta

I’m shy about writing, about exposing myself, but songs have come through me. Once, I was in Israel and had a hard night — an argument that was so unimportant I don’t even remember what it was about — and I decided I’d go to sleep. In those days that was the way I handled my problems. There’s a Chinese proverb that says if you have a big problem, and you need to solve it, go to sleep. The problem won’t disappear, but you’ll wake up in another position. (Chuckles.) Well, I got back to the hotel, and I couldn’t go to sleep. So I took pencil and paper in hand and out came a song. The kind of writing I admire involves yourself right out there, like Joni Mitchell. Her songs are about what she did or didn’t do or what she’s feeling. It’s almost like an exorcism. But I haven’t gotten there yet.

The Sun Interview

By The Color Of Their Skin

Tim Wise On The Myth Of A Postracial America

Some think that racism ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Those were important steps, because they made it illegal to engage in discrimination. But just because you’ve made something illegal doesn’t mean it no longer happens. No enforcement mechanisms existed for the Fair Housing Act until 1988, and evidence suggests there are still millions of cases of race-based housing discrimination every year.

The Sun Interview

In Their Backyard

Robert D. Bullard On The Politics Of Where We Put Our Trash

We need a system to determine when a community has already shouldered its fair share. Right now, if someone wants to build a hazardous-waste facility, the EPA or state will assess the risk to nearby residents from that new facility only; the risks posed by the three or four or five polluters already in the area aren’t added to the equation. So there is nothing that might trigger the EPA or state to say that this community is overburdened by pollution.

Fiction

Hunger

Boarding school is like purgatory, or prison — being sent away to wait. That’s mainly what I do: wait for time to pass. There are five more hours to supper, and I’m hungry already. I’m up here in an empty classroom, writing in my diary when I’m supposed to be studying, ’cause it’s one week till finals. Three more long weeks, then home, home at last.