doctor's statement before Congress on the potential problems with MSAs.
Looking Back 20 Years
"20 Ways We've Changed"
Two nuts-and-bolts resources that provide good condensed historical information are Chronicle of America: From Prehistory to Today (New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 1995) and Who We Are: A Portrait of America Based on the Latest U.S. Census (New York: Times Books, 1995). Chronicle is a colorfully packaged Cliffs Notes of American history, one that isn't afraid to include our worst moments as well as our best. Who We Are is New York Times columnist Sam Roberts' interpretation of the latest census report. It presents surprising (if somewhat selective) snapshots of people from across the country.
For a little comic relief to go with your social commentary, pick up a copy of Freaks of Nature (New York: Quill, 1995), the latest collection of outrageous strips from John Callahan, the quadriplegic satirist who doesn't much care what anyone thinks. His comics offer up scathing, uproarious opinions on everything from the media to public health, with some especially strong opinions on Connie Chung. The "freaks of nature" in the title refer to "the honest lawyer," "the obedient cat," and the "happy-go-lucky feminist." You get the point. (Note from the MoJo Wire staff: Callahan also has his own home page, which collects some of his cartoons, essays, and letters.)
While the last 20 years comprise only a small part of The People's Almanac Presents the 20th Century: The Definitive Compendium of Astonishing Events, Amazing People, and Strange-But-True Facts (New York: Little, Brown, 1995), this text nonetheless deserves a place at the resource table. In more than 800 well-written pages, editor David Wallechinsky has included everything from trivial pursuits (16 stupid thieves) to political milestones (the 10 deadliest wars of the 20th century); from famous moralists (Jim Bakker, Father Divine) to breakthroughs in science and fashion firsts (although he seems to have passed over the Wonderbra).
Don't judge China Pop by its glossy cover. Subtitled How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture (New York: New Press, 1995), Jianying Zha's peek through China's sociocultural window is anything but cheap thrills. Zha, once a writer in China, moved to the United States and wrote for the Village Voice. From that perspective, she examines China's cultural transformation ("the slow, soft, and messy meltdown of the old structures"), including an exploding consumer culture.
To jump into the current feminist debate, pick up To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism (New York: Anchor Books, 1995). Editor Rebecca Walker (daughter of Alice) has rounded up some of today's most interesting young--often contrarian--feminist thinkers. Highlights include Donna Minkowitz's candid defense of her violent sexual fantasies; Veronica Webb's explanation of how a supermodel can still be a feminist; and Village Voice writer Greg Tate's "Born to Dyke," a highly personal piece about why this straight black male has decided to live largely in the world of black lesbian feminists.
From the MoJo Wire staff: A number of our 20th anniversary commentators also have web pages, including Paul Wellstone, Robert Reich, Stewart Brand and Neil Postman. There's also an online speech of Eduardo Galeano's in Spanish.
"The Dark Side"
Political junkies can get a brief history of the GOP front-runner in Richard Ben Cramer's Bob Dole (New York: Vintage, 1995), a condensed version of the author's earlier book What It Takes. Is this puffy paperback worth three hours of your time? Yes--if you believe, with Cramer, that "campaigns for president aren't about the sound bites, 30-second ad spots, and poll results that pass as news in our elections. A candidacy is the sum of a long life's doing." Bob Dole is an uncritical portrait of the politician as a human being, replete with colorful war stories ("Dole scrambled from the hole on his belly, slithered out on the dirt, while the shells tore the air over him....") and lots of slobbering on about the man who just might be elected the next leader of the free world.
But before you vote, pick up a copy of The Buying of the President (New York: Avon, 1996). Author Charles Lewis and the staff at the Center for Public Integrity give a firsthand look at who's funding the 1996 presidential candidates and which special interests will get a payback if their candidate wins. CPI details the top 10 "career patrons" (wealthy corporations and individuals) backing candidates Clinton, Dole, Gramm, Alexander, Buchanan, and others--with some surprises: e.g., despite Archer Daniels Midland's well-known and lucrative support of Dole, the Ernest and Julio Gallo family tops Dole's patron list. This is the book presidential candidates least want you to read before you cast your ballot.
From the tech-know-files: Wanna play president? Pop in the Doonesbury Election Game: Campaign '96 (San Francisco: Mindscape, 1995), a CD-ROM for Windows that simulates a presidential race with the help of Zonker, Steve Dallas, and Duke. From Georges Washington and Wallace to JFK and Gingrich, players choose from more than 60 people to run for president and first mate of choice. Once you've got your candidates, the game lets you field public opinion, raise tainted money, and slander the competition--just like in real life.
As though campaign paybacks aren't enough, White House E-Mail: The Top Secret Computer Messages the Reagan/Bush White House Tried to Destroy (New York: New Press, 1995), edited by Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, reprints and annotates e-mail missives and gossip between Ollie North, John Poindexter, and other players from the Reagan-Bush era. In one, North tells Poindexter that CIA director William Casey feels Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger is stalling on providing weapons for the arms-for-hostages deal. It reads: "...met w/Casey lst night after W'bgr speech. Casey then tried to contact Cap but he had already departed. Casey's view is that Cap will continue to create roadblocks."