Publications
Review: Taking on the Trust: The Epic Battle of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller by Steve Weinberg Print E-mail
Criticism

Taking_on_the_Trust(Contrary Magazine Autumn 2008)

A Reporter Reviews a David's Coverage of a Goliath

What we may not remember in a world saturated with a media hell-bent on outing every celebrity’s secret (Goodbye, John Edwards) is that serious investigative reporting about the money and influence of the privileged and powerful has an American Eve. Her name was Ida M. Tarbell, and she invented muckraking, a form of reportage marked by moral outrage, stringent research, and reformist zeal. Tarbell, who died in 1944 at 86, had one of the most successful careers in magazine journalism. She was the sort of writer for whom Pulitzer prizes were made to honor. As writer and editor, she blazed the trail for those rare authentic journalists, crusaders like Ray Stannard Baker and Lincoln Steffens in her time and Seymour Hersh, Robert Caro, and Jane Mayer in our own.

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Intimate Murder Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20080702(San Diego Reader July 2, 2008)

In each of the last three years, there were roughly 17,000 murders in the United States. Of these, about 11 percent were committed by women. In most cases women kill to defend themselves during a confrontation: It’s her life or his. Women seldom murder other women and almost never kill strangers. That’s what men do. When a woman kills her husband, boyfriend, or lover, the crime is called “intimate murder”; because the victim is known, and because a confrontation is usually the source of her rage (almost all female killings are unplanned), the charge is usually manslaughter. Once a woman enters the criminal justice system, her fate may be eased by chivalrous public defenders, judges, and juries, who sometimes buy into gender stereotypes of women as nonviolent and passive, relational victims who deserve to be punished but not severely. At trial, a woman may generate sympathy via honest or well-played emotional displays. Is crazy-in-love a special requisite for intimate female murder? Or is there something more to the story than ruined innocence? To illustrate, here are three local cases, a consideration of contestable intentions that led to the violent end of a woman’s love.

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Review: What Is Life? by Ed Regis Print E-mail
Criticism

9780374288518(Contrary Magazine Summer 2008)

A Fine Question Remains Unanswered

It’s a funny title—What is Life? Investigating the Nature of Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology—the grandest question of all followed by a rather nerdy limitation on it. And yet Regis is too smart an author (with several provocative science books in his oeuvre) not to know that the philosophic query predates and dominates the biological one. We get a bit of the former and a lot of the latter, mostly pendulous drops into the pit of defining life biologically. Such a tack is possible only because of our recent far-reaching knowledge of DNA, RNA, and ATP, chemicals whose nano-engineering, billion years’ adaptation, and relational diversity among creatures great and small have riddled the earth with species only a few of which survive.

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Mrs. Wright's Bookshop Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

bookshop(New Letters Volume 74, No. 3. Summer 2008. First-place tie with Kim Addonizio in New Letters’ Readers Award for the Essay, 2007-2008.)

It was over, Mrs. Wright’s reign. I heard the bell clang above the front door, just before Mrs. Auburn, the principled clerk, called my name at the top of the stairs. In the basement, I’d been unpacking boxes, Bantam paperbacks, this batch, the four J. D. Salinger books, two covers white, one gold, and one that dark existential red, the title in gold letters, our big seller. I hurried up the steps from paperbacks to hardbacks, and there was Mrs. Wright, earlier than usual, keeping her word. The windowed door was shut, and the sign’s OPEN side now faced in. Her Chrysler idled out front. It must have been late morning, and late in the summer, too, near Labor Day.

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UCSD and the Land of the Dead Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20080430(San Diego Reader April 30, 2008)

Perhaps the most prized piece of real estate throughout the University of California, San Diego, is the seven-acre site of University House, home to the UCSD chancellor. The rambling adobe home, with its row of south-facing windows, its patios and portales, was built on the precipitous edge of a canyon. From the back patio the view of the Pacific’s blue horizon and La Jolla’s benign cove is spectacular. The residence, in the La Jolla Farms enclave west of UCSD, has been used to entertain wealthy San Diegans who, with the chancellor’s persuasion, donate to the school.

Four years ago, due to structural problems, the residence was declared unlivable. Since then, the university has sought to demolish the home and replace it with a larger one. But this plan has brought the ire of historic-home preservationists who oppose tearing it down. It has also brought opposition from Native Americans, whose ancestors once lived on and buried their dead on the site. In fact, University House is perched on a Native American cemetery.

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Review: The Windows of Brimnes by Bill Holm Print E-mail
Criticism

brimnes(Contrary Magazine Spring 2008)

Through a Glass, Outwardly: Memoirist Misses Inner Picture

In Hofsós, Iceland, in the land of his ancestors, Bill Holm spends his summers, writing, playing the piano, and being "completely, stupidly happy." The picture window of his modest second home frames a vast mountain range and a fjord of immense beauty. Through it Holm also sees waves breaking (brim) on the cape (nes). He learns a bit of the tongue, digs into Iceland’s myths and history, cobbles together some family narrative while musing on the abject conditions they fled for Minnesota. When he’s not ga-ga with joy and things Icelandic in the midnight sun, he’s fulminating about the USA.

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San Diego's Highest Paid Executives Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20071227(San Diego Reader December 27, 2007)

San Diego is home to 35 rich executives, almost all white men, who receive millions in compensation for running our community's largest publicly traded companies. They have made some of their money from salary and bonuses, but the mountain of wealth each has accumulated is the result of stock and option awards. For years, income earned by executive officers has been reported by business news organizations. However, the value of stock and options awarded has been difficult for nonanalysts to determine. The identity and value of many perks have gone unreported.

Benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings are well known. But the perks suggest that executives may be financial wards of their companies. Some executives enjoy health benefits in retirement; payouts for voluntary or involuntary termination; use of the corporate jet (spouses usually fly free); use of the company car or chauffeured limousine; an interest-free loan to purchase a home; country or tennis or workout club memberships; personal health coaching; a home-security system; season tickets for sports teams or theater/music venues; legal fees; trust and estate-planning fees; bodyguards; expense allowances; and, for the very special, the crew and upkeep of a private yacht.

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