By Nathan Bierma
Content & Context
TIMELINE: JUNE 2004
Like a beauty mark on a model's cheek, Venus appeared, for the first time in over a century, as a black dot on the chin of the sun last month. Known as the transit of Venus, it was a historic journey in a month that was full of them. Soon after, SpaceShipOne became the first private vehicle to reach space. The Cassini orbiter reached the end of its voyage to Saturn, and prepared to become the first craft to orbit the ringed planet. Hindu sadhu Ludkan Baba continued his own journey, rolling his body along the ground as he has for 19 years in an attempt to free his soul.
Former President Clinton took over 900 pages to tell the story of his personal journey, a tale of squandered ambition.
President Ronald Reagan, whose fervent ideology met opponents and the public with a disarming sense of humor, died last month at age 93. Ray Charles won 12 Grammys and once said, "Music to me is just like breathing." Archibald Cox prosecuted President Nixon. George S. Patton was the son of the legendary World War II commander. Emma Buck, who lived until the day of her death in her Illinois log cabin with no running water, died at age 100 or 101.
From the Valparaiso Cresset:
To get to the Batak region of Indonesia today, you must first fly into Medan, the major city of the province of North Sumatra and make your way up west into the hill country by car, bus or inter-city taxi. On paved roads, through rice paddies and recently logged rain forests, today's traveler can make the roughly 100-mile journey in about four hours. The heartland of the Batak people is centered around Lake Toba, a fresh-water, inland lake about 50 miles long and 25 miles wide. This is the mundial axis for a nine-million member ethnic group who today are predominantly Lutheran, educated, and relatively prosperous. Although largely unknown outside Indonesia, except to some Western regional specialists and missionary historians, the Batak churches represent the largest Lutheran group in Asia and are prominent members of the Lutheran World Federation.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
Settled by the Payaya Indians more than 300 years ago, San Antonio was originally named Yanaguana, or "place of refreshing waters," because of the richness of the resource.In those abundant waters, local developers recently saw the potential for emerald golf greens and 800 permanent jobs in recreation. But here, where water has always been fiercely protected, the idea of building a huge golfer's paradise atop the Edwards Aquifer … may have been [stopped] by a group that is hardly known as the local power brokers: Latina women. The 2,600-acre project, known as the PGA Village, would have been set over the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, one of the world's most pristine and profuse aquifers. At 180 miles long, it is the water source for 1.7 million people. … . [Environmental concerns] eventually unseated a developer-friendly city council.
- Clinton autobiography sells nearly one million copies in its first week, from the BBC.
- Library Journal's list of most-borrowed books, from the Christian Science Monitor.
- One fifth of Scottish teens say books are a waste of time, from the Scotsman; response from the Glasgow Herald.
- One negative and one positive review of Clinton's book from the New York Times.
- Eats, Shoots and Leaves displays hypocritically poor punctuation, says Louis Menand in the New Yorker.
- The human body in Englightenment thought, from the Weekly Standard.
- Kepler and Brahe: astronomy and murder mystery in the same story, from the Washington Post.
- Would-be biography of the Virgin Mary is poorly arranged and substantiated, says B&C contributing editor Jeremy Lott in the Washington Post.
- 18-year-old Ogyen Trinley—the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, from the Washington Post.
- Ten books on climate change, from the New York Review of Books.
- Celebrating slowness in an age of speed, from the Economist.
- The meaning of sports from a foreign policy wonk, from the Wall Street Journal, and the global economics of sports, from the Economist.
- Inside the Victorian home, from the Atlantic Monthly.
- Alexander Hamilton biography elevates the forgotten founding father, says the Christian Science Monitor (see also Hamilton author Ron Chernow on research in the Post).
- When white slaves were traded in 18th-century North Africa, from the London Guardian.
- Christopher Hitchens on the 1908 Boy Scout manual, from the Atlantic.
- The 'strange' voyage of the Volkswagen bug, from Nazi Germany to America's heart, from the Boston Globe.
- Two divers' descent to World War II shipwrecks, from the Washington Post.
- The legacy of the aging shopping mall, from the Atlantic (see also second item here).
- Dinner in postwar America, from the Atlantic.
- The quiet fury of E.L. Doctorow, still reporting the universe, from the New York Review of Books.
- Ivor Gurney's creed-like poetry, from the Guardian.
- The tangled roots of American music, from the Washington Post.
- May book blog
Nathan Biermais editorial assistant at Books & Culture. He writes the weekly "On Language" column for the Chicago Tribune.