Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writing on different times & different places - by Colloff, Mogelson & Goldberg

There's been a few pieces of writing I've seen in the past few weeks that struck me as excellent and which felt to be about the themes of "different time" and "different place."

In terms of different time was the tremendously well done "96 Minutes" by Pamela Colloff for Texas Monthly in 2006. It was an oral history on a mass shooting on the University of Texas at Austin campus in 1966, when mass shootings were pretty much unheard of. Colloff wrote a riveting piece that made me think about the topic of gun control, as written about both in past posts I've done with it as a label and a Jan 2013 New York Times editorial by former Australia Prime Minister John Howard "I Went After Guns. Obama Can, Too." Also related to both the subjects of guns and a different time was the Time website piece "Symphony Learns President Kennedy Is Dead" from 1963 and which contains an embedded audio file that has a staggering first 40 seconds.

The other two pieces of great writing to mention here weren't about guns and events from 50 years past, but rather about places in the world that are horrifying in terms of how people there live, and just how different their lives are than for those in the developed world.

For the Nov 17 New York Times Magazine was "The Dream Boat" by Luke Mogelson and then the Nov 25-Dec 1 issue Businessweek cover story was "Drowning Kiribati" by Jeffrey Goldberg. The two pieces center on islands some 6,700 miles apart from each other (on opposite sides of New Guinea above Australia) and both portray worlds that people would never hope to be born into. The Mogelson feature is about refugees who attempt to take the treacherous boat trip from Southern Indonesia to the Australian territory of Christmas Island and Goldberg writes about the sinking into the ocean islands of Kiribati and its 103,000 residents. The Businessweek cover text notes how climate change causing the sinking, but really what struck me from the story was how the people there now live. The short lifespans, high infant mortality rates, severe malnutrition and infectious diseases noted by Mogelson are just staggering and it's incredible to read of how people live in some other places.