Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Tale Of Two Sidneys

In 2004, BoBo Boy (David Brooks, Op-Ed columnist for the NY Fishwrap) inaugurated his annual Sidney Awards. Named in honor of BoBo Boy's neocon hero — the late Sidney Hook — the Sidney Awards are conferred upon the writers of the best magazine essays of that year. The judge is BoBo Boy hisself. But, wait! There's more. In 2009, the Sidney Hillman Foundation (named for the late labor leader) started its own Sidney Awards for the best magazine essays of the year chosen by a single judge — a'la Bobo Boy — Charles Kaiser. Sharp-eyed readers of this blog will recognize several Sidney-winners (both varieties) who also were featured in this year's Rants & Raves. If this is a (fair & balanced) surfeit of recognition, so be it.

[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — Bracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] BoBo Boy's Partial List Of 2010 Sidney Awards — David Brooks
[2] Hillman Foundation 2010 Sidney Awards — Charles Kaiser

[1]Back To Directory
[x NY Fishwrap]
The Sidney Awards (Part One)
By David Brooks

Tag Cloud of the following article

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I try not to fall into a rut, but every December I give out Sidney Awards for the best magazine essays of the year, and every year it seems I give one to Michael Lewis. It would be more impressive if I was discovering obscure geniuses, but Lewis keeps churning out the masterpieces.

This year it was a Vanity Fair piece called “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds.” His large subject is the tsunami of cheap credit that swept over the world and “offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge.”

His specific subject is Greece, a country that plundered its public institutions while spoiling and atomizing itself. The Greek national railroad earned 100 million euros (about $131.4 million) in revenues each year, but had a wage bill of 400 million euros plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The country reported a budget deficit of 3.7 percent a year, but that was inaccurate. It was really about 14 percent of G.D.P.

Lewis’s genius was to show how the moral breakdown spread into one of the most remote institutions on earth, a 1,000-year-old monastery cut off by water, culture and theology that, nonetheless, managed to put itself at the center of the great plundering.

If you go to a college classroom you’ll likely notice that the women tend to dominate the conversation. In an essay called “The End of Men” in The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin gathers the evidence, showing how women are beginning to dominate the information age.

At one clinic where parents are able to choose the sex of their babies, 75 percent choose girls. Three women earn college degrees for every two earned by men. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are predominantly filled by women.

Rosin describes studies showing that corporations that have women in senior management perform better than male-dominated competitors. She visits admissions officers who are hunting for qualified boys. At a support group for men behind on their child support, the leader writes “$85,000” on the board. “That’s her salary,” he barks. Then he writes “$12,000” and shouts: “This is your salary. Who’s the damn man? Who’s the man now?”

In Fortune, Beth Kowitt had an eye-popping piece called “Inside the Secret World of Trader Joe’s.” The funky, gourmet grocery chain is actually owned by the secretive Albrecht family from Germany. Many of the products are made by large corporations — the pita chips are made by a division of PepsiCo and the yogurt is actually made by Danone Stonyfield Farm.

The company has brilliantly seized on the growing sophistication of American food tastes. It offers a much more limited selection than its rivals, thus reducing the anxiety of choice. It has an efficient supply chain (the Tasty Bite Punjab Eggplant that sold for $3.39 at Whole Foods in Manhattan sold for more than a dollar less at the Trader Joe’s in Stamford, Conn.). It fosters community and makes shopping a form of belonging.

You may know James Franco as the actor who played Peter Parker’s best friend in the Spider-Man movies, or the lead character in the mountain-climbing movie, “127 Hours.” While pursuing a full-time acting career, he earned a bachelor’s degree at U.C.L.A. and then enrolled simultaneously in four graduate programs — New York University for film, Columbia for writing, Brooklyn College for writing and Warren Wilson College for poetry. He’s also pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Yale and taking classes at the Rhode Island School of Design. His fiction has been published in Esquire (his first book-length collection was published by Scribner). His first solo art show was at the Clocktower Gallery in New York City.

Sam Anderson superbly captures the everythingness of Franco’s life in a New York magazine piece called “The James Franco Project.” It is a story of manic labor masking the man’s enigmatic core.

Last year, William Deresiewicz delivered a countercultural lecture at West Point. He told the cadets how to combat the frenetic, achievement-obsessed system in which they were raised. That speech was subsequently published in The American Scholar as “Solitude and Leadership.” It’s about how to be a leader, not an organization man.

Darin Wolfe wrote a piece in American Scientist, called “To See for One’s Self,” about the decline of the autopsy. Autopsies frequently reveal major diagnostic errors and undiscovered illnesses, yet the number of autopsies performed each year is plummeting. Medical training no longer relies on this hands-on exercise. Doctors are afraid of information that might lead to malpractice suits. Medicare won’t pay for them. A form of practical inquiry is being lost.

Everybody’s worried about the future of print journalism, but this has been an outstanding year for magazines. On Tuesday [12/28/10], I’ll offer more suggestions for holiday reading. Ω

[David Brooks is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times and has become a prominent voice of politics in the United States. Brooks graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983 with a degree in history. He served as a reporter and later op-ed editor for The Wall Street Journal, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard from its inception, a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly, and a commentator on NPR and "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." Brooks has written a book of cultural commentary titled Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (2000). Brooks also writes articles and makes television appearances as a commentator on various trends in pop culture, such as internet dating. He has been largely responsible for coining the terms "bobo," "red state," and "blue state." His newest book is entitled On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense (2004).]

Copyright © 2010 The New York Times Company
[2]Back To Directory
[x The Sidney Hillman Foundation]
Sidney Awards

The Sidney is awarded monthly to a piece published in an American magazine, newspaper, on a news site, or a blog. Television and radio broadcasts by an American news outlet are also eligible, as are published photography series.

Deadlines are the last day of each month. The piece must have been published in the month preceding the deadline. In the case of magazines, please nominate according to the issue date on the publication, not when it first appeared.

Nominations are accepted for one's own work, or for someone else's.

The Foundation will announce a winner on the 15th of each month. Recipients will be awarded $500, a bottle of union-made wine, and a certificate designed especially for the Sidney by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel.

2010 Sidney Winners included:

January, 2010
Winner: Anderson Cooper, CNN
February, 2010
Winner: David Barstow, The New York Times
March, 2010
Winner: Alex Halperin, American Prospect
April, 2010
Winner: Doug Struck, The Christian Science Monitor
May, 2010
Winner: Michael Powell, The New York Times
June, 2010
Winner: Mac McClelland,
July, 2010
Winner: Edward Luce, The Financial Times
August, 2010
Winner: Ronnie Greene, The Miami Herald
September, 2010
Winner: Dan Savage, The "It Gets Better" Project
October, 2010
Winner: Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly
November, 2010
Winner: Howard Berkes, National Public Radio
December 2010
Winner: TBA

[Charles Kaiser administers the monthly Sidney Award for socially conscious journalism. He first started writing for The New York Times when he was an undergraduate at Columbia University. He has taught journalism at Columbia and Princeton. Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis (1997), the landmark history of gay life in America.]

Copyright © 2010 The Sidney Hillman Foundation

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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2010 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

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