By Nathan Bierma

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  • "Too often, when journalists write about Hispanics and other minority groups, they head straight for the barrios, the enclaves, the ghettos, and totally miss what is happening beyond those tried-and-true places," Elizabeth Llorente, immigration reporter for the Bergen County, N.J., Record, tells the Columbia Journalism Review. What's happening, CJR says, is that "once-homogeneous bedroom communities are now the destination of many new immigrants—a pattern that is altering the demographics of the country." CJR praises the reporting of Llorente, a daughter of Cuban immigrants, for its empathy and originality. But it spends little time on its title: "The Suburban Myth," except to mention at the end "the images of the television sitcoms that perpetuate [the] stereotypes" of the suburbs. Article
    Earlier: Exurbia and suburban identity
  • Nary an age goes by wherein someone neglects to hold forth on "the changing American family," but several current disputes in family law arise from some unprecedented trends, says the Christian Science Monitor. "The legal tangle is driven by converging technological and social forces: the rise of surrogates and egg or sperm donors; same-sex parenting; grandparents or even nonrelatives who act in caregiving roles." Article Since the piece is only about legal issues, it provides relief from the tired lament that changes in the American family portend society's doom, but it does suggest that the fluidity of modern familial relationships can be disorienting as well as liberating.
    B&C's special issue on marriage, Sept./Oct. '04
    The contested social history of the family, from the New Yorker
    Children as an economic "public good," also from the New Yorker
  • As family law adapts to social change, American workers are adapting to "a 24-7 globe" by working overnight shifts in greater numbers, says the Monitor in a story on the growth of the graveyard shift. "Once the haunt of cops and bakers, the night shift is now the fastest growing, according to the census: One in five Americans now goes to work between midnight and 6:30 a.m." Many of these workers are white collar, the Monitor says, though service industries that give them coffee and doughnuts are also growing. With more workers altering their sleep habits, the Monitor says, it raises questions about their productivity, health, and relationships. Article
  • As the Olympics return to Olympia (see above), something is missing: the temple to Zeus that once stood there. Most of the other Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have also vanished; only the Pyramids at Giza remain. One filmmaker has taken it upon himself to poll humanity for a New Seven Wonders of the World; the Great Wall of China, the statues of Easter Island, and the Taj Mahal are early favorites. In an Atlantic essay on this wonder-ful campaign, Cullen Murphy offers his tongue-in-cheek nominations, including "the Santa Monica Freeway near the I-5 interchange, site of perhaps the worst traffic jams in North America" and tribute to the highway system, "one of the glories of our age"; the luxurious environs of the Terrace Suites of St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, where "ailing potentates congregate"; and the Brautigan Library of unpublished books. Preview
  • Don't tell the Swiss, but one of their most beloved national stories is shot through with holes—unlike the alleged apple on William Tell's son's head. "Many historians doubt that Tell ever shot an apple off his son's head in 1307 or sparked the Swiss struggle for independence," says the current Smithsonian. "In fact, many doubt that William Tell ever existed. Instead, Tell's oft-told tale is a product of mangled chronologies, borrowed folk tales, and ample helpings of wishful thinking. But that hasn't kept him from becoming a beloved symbol of Switzerland's national character." Preview and PDF
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Nathan Bierma is editorial assistant atBooks & Culture. He writes the weekly "On Language" column for the Chicago Tribune.

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