Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘Attitudes toward Public Institutions and Public Employees’ (Part 5 of 9)

This is the fifth in a series of posts considering Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

In Chapter 5, Cramer describes conversations she had with rural residents. In the early part of the chapter, she recounts discussions about the university system. Some rural residents tell her they don’t like Madison (and UW-Madison) because they see it as politically liberal:

Glenn: UW is the only place where you can be a hippie for forty years and not be out of place. [chuckles]
Dan: Sometimes you can’t tell them from the professors, either. [laughs]
Tim: Well that’s true, too.
KJC: Right, right.
Glenn: UW and San Francisco got about the same initials. [chuckles]
KJC: So what do you think the UW–Madison should be doing here in [this town]? And I mean that very broadly, like from students to ordinary folks who live here, you know beyond student age, are there things they should be doing?
Tim: I don’t know what they could do—I guess I’m like Glenn and the rest of ’em as far as the liberal—I’m not a Madison person. There’s a reason that I don’t live in Madison, I like [this town]. I don’t like Madison at all. It’s big, it’s . . . to me, I don’t like to drive in the city—
Glenn: Best part about Madison is the fifty-five miles that it is away.

But that’s not their primary objection, it turns out:

KJC: Why don’t [students from here] go to Madison? I mean I have all kinds of guesses why, but why do you think?
Tim: Cost is the biggest thing.
Dan: Tuition is higher in Madison than it is in La Crosse or Platteville [cities with other UW System schools] for one thing.

In any event, the university is a topic (but of uncertain priority) because Cramer’s made it one:

My presence alone, though, brought the university into the conversations. The first thing I usually said to these groups, especially during my first visits in 2007 and 2008, was, “Hi! I’m Kathy. I’m from the UW–Madison.” So I want to acknowledge up front that it is likely that these groups would not have talked about the university and higher education as much if I hadn’t inserted myself into their conversations. But my focus was not how much they talked about the university or other aspects of government, but how they made sense of it when they did so. Their conversations about UW–Madison provide a window to their attitudes about government and public employees more generally.

Here, Cramer’s claim about negative views of the university is tenuous, because she can’t show what priority the university has in residents’ minds. (In fact, she guesses they “would not have talked about the university and higher education as much if [she] hadn’t inserted [herself] into their conversations.”)

Oh my: Cramer wants to define a rural consciousness, but by her own admission the role of UW-Madison within that consciousness depends not on residents’ priorities but her own questioning. This is simply flimsy. (It’s for lack of a solid prioritization, presumably, that Cramer offers unquantifiably and nebulously that their responses are a “window to their attitudes.” How big and how clear a window neither Cramer nor we know, as she can’t reliably say.)

Cramer exhibits guilt about her role as an academic:

To be honest, I felt sheepish explaining to people during my first year of fieldwork that I wasn’t teaching any classes. In the midst of conversations about the wear and tear of common rural occupations on one’s body, I had a difficult time thinking of my job driving around the state, inviting myself into coffee klatches as hard work.

An honest admission, but nonetheless an admission of a bias (one that could be both more pronounced in focus-group questioning & less susceptible of review than it would be in data-released opinion polling).

Indeed, Cramer acknowledges that scientific opinion polling reveals that suspicion about education’s value extends far beyond a rural demographic:

Let me end this chapter by acknowledging that people of many walks of life feel distant from institutions of higher education and also public employees. First, consider that public opinion surveys suggest that many people feel a sense of disconnection from institutions of higher education. For example, a December 9–13, 2009, Public Agenda poll of 1,031 U.S. adults found that 60 percent of the public perceives that “colleges today are like most businesses and mainly care about the bottom line,” as opposed to “colleges today mainly care about education and making sure students have a good educational experience.”16 Also, that same poll found that 33 percent “agree strongly” and 27 percent “agree somewhat” that “colleges could take a lot more students without lowering quality or raising prices.”

If so many feel this way (however regrettable those views may be), we can be certain that this skepticism is not unique to a supposed rural consciousness. And as it is not unique, and even appears in rural residents’ conversations at Cramer’s admitted instigation, identifying anti-educational views with rural residents seems truly uncompelling to anyone other than those who would expect to find such views primarily in rural communities.

Previously: Parts 1, 23, and 4.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘Support for Small Government’ (Part 6 of 9).

Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘The Context of Rural Consciousness’ (Part 4 of 9)

This is the fourth in a series of posts considering Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

If in Chapter 3 Cramer sought to provide the contours (outlines) of a rural consciousness,  in Chapter 4 she attempts to describe the context (the circumstances around it) of it all.

Cramer sees the obvious challenge to her work:

I know many readers will be wondering whether this thing I am calling rural consciousness is justified—that is, whether it reflects real or simply perceived disparities in government resources, concern, and attention.

(She doesn’t concede so plainly other challenges to her work, however: that a small government preference is not necessarily a rural product, any more than a socialist one might not be a rural product, that the divide in large areas is more than rural and urban, indeed more than economic, and that ample work across centuries in market theory sits outside her urban-rural framework but has nonetheless shaped life across this continent and planet.)

And yet, and yet, here’s Cramer’s answer to this question, as she frames it:

I know this because when I describe complaints of injustice among small-town residents to urban audiences, I am almost always asked whether it is actually the case, for example, that rural areas get fewer public dollars than urban areas do. In the conversations I observed in rural Wisconsin, many people thought they were getting the short end of the stick with respect to taxpayer dollars. But was that really the case?

The evidence is mixed.

That’s quite the concession. Imagine someone asking about the effectiveness of a medication, or of a parachute, and receiving that reply: the evidence is mixed.

Here’s how Cramer describes basic fiscal policy for rural and urban Wisconsinites:

In Wisconsin, rural counties do receive fewer public dollars than urban counties. In the aggregate, measures of both state and federal government expenditures at the county level in fiscal year 2010 show that more than 75 percent of this money went to counties with urban metropolitan communities (fig. 4.1)

However, there are far fewer people living in rural counties than urban ones, so a more apt comparison might be one that uses a per capita basis for comparison. Figures 4.2 and 4.3 show two correlation plots, with each dot representing a single county in Wisconsin. This pair of figures shows almost no relationship between how rural a county is and the dollars it receives in expenditures per capita from the state and federal government.1 Excluding outliers, a slight upward trend is evident, with more rural counties receiving slightly more dollars per person; however, the relationship is weak.2 But the evidence certainly does not support the notion that urban counties receive far more than their share of tax dollars per resident.

(Emphasis mine.)

Seeing this, that in fact rural residents aren’t short-changed in the amounts that they receive, Cramer must – if she believes that a rural consciousness depends on rural residents accurately and correctly observing a disparity with urban areas – find another economic explanation.

She does:

While this evidence does not back up the perceptions I heard among many rural residents that there is vastly disproporationate spending in urban counties and higher tax burdens falling on rural communities, many would also be quick to point out that what these numbers do not reveal is how effectively the money was spent. Even if the spending were proportionate across type of place, if the spending failed to meet the needs of people living there, it really would not matter. Some services simply cost less per capita in cities because of economies of scale.4

Where, though, does this economies of scale endnote (#4) lead? Here: “I am sincerely indebted to Ben Toff for these analyses and to Sarah Niebler for a similar set of analyses in the early stages of this project.” That is, Cramer’s presumably thanking Toff and Niebler for their data collection for the preceding Figures 4.1 to 4.9, not to an economies of scale analysis. She offers no such analysis here.

If Cramer cannot provide compelling data for her claim that a supposed rural consciousness rests significantly on an actual mis- or under-allocation of government funds to the detriment of rural residents, then she’s left either with (1) her own misperception of a rural consciousness, (2) rural residents’ misperception of their own condition, or (3) both.

By her own account, she cannot offer, so to speak, unmixed economic data.

That’s quite a predicament for her thesis.

Previously: Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘Attitudes toward Public Institutions and Public Employees’ (Part 5 of 9).

Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘The Contours of Rural Consciousness’ (Part 3 of 9)

This is the third in a series of posts considering Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

The simplest way to think about Cramer’s work, by analogy, is to think of it not as a scientific poll of attitudes and preferences, but as a series of considered focus groups. Considered, to be sure, because Cramer ponders at length about how she should interact with rural residents, and has read well of academic literature on interactions like the kind she undertakes.

And yet, for it all, her work is truly the focus group work of a Wisconsinite who (at seemingly every turn) exhibits her own class consciousness, all the while insisting, in effect, that she’s suitably tamed that consciousness.

Consider how Cramer describes her role (effectually as a focus group moderator):

My obvious status as an urbanite very likely made the out-group of urbanites more salient (Turner et al. 1994). But rural consciousness was not an artifact of my presence. I say this for a variety of reasons. Rural consciousness was not just about rural versus city folks. It contained perceptions of the distribution of power, values, and resources that could not have been constructed suddenly in my presence. Second, the people I listened to revealed the perspective of rural consciousness quickly, suggesting that they used this perspective quite a bit, not suddenly when meeting me. Third, for the people who used this perspective, it was so fundamental to the way they talked about politics that when I asked about it directly they were often downright astonished that I found it necessary to do so.4

Cramer’s sure that her rural interlocutors lack awareness of their own perspective, but that her own role as an ‘urbanite’ is obvious. Perhaps so obvious to her, in fact, that she lacks an understanding of how quickly she assumes others’ imperception.

As for one rural coffee klatch she describes in Chapter 3 (jokingly named by its members as the ‘The Downtown Athletic Club’), their composition is hardly representative of must rural residents:

I quickly learned that all four of those men were former public school teachers. One had been a principal. Right away, they voiced concerns about state legislators raiding tax dollars out of the highway fund (they wanted that to stop), the liquor tax (they wanted that higher), the price of gas (they wanted that lower), and the cost of health care (they wanted someone to do something about it).

Most rural Wisconsinites aren’t teachers; many are not college educated. A focus group of retired rural teachers is not simply a focus group of rural residents.

There’s nothing unscientific about this methodology; the point is, rather, that there’s nothing exclusive (and so nothing conclusive) to it, either.

Cramer defines her terms:

“Rural consciousness” is the term I am using to describe a strong sense of identity as a rural person combined with a strong sense that rural areas are the victims of injustice: the sense that rural areas do not get their fair share of power, respect, or resources and that rural folks prefer lifestyles that differ fundamentally from those of city people….First, rural consciousness was about perceptions of power, or who makes decisions and who decides what to even discuss. Second, it showed up with respect to perceptions of values and lifestyles. Third and finally, it involved perceptions of resources or who gets what.

How is this different from other possible perspectives? A sense of oneself as a rural person, to be sure, but otherwise? One can be confident that residents of Staten Island and Los Angeles are concerned about ‘perceptions of power,’ ‘perceptions of values and lifestyles,’ and ‘perceptions of resources or who gets what.’

Cramer learns that rural residents don’t like high gas prices:

Few people like rising gas prices, but to people in rural communities—who typically drive long distances to everything—they are a major source of concern. By the time I met this group, I had come to realize that there was something important about the way many people in small communities thought about their towns in relation to more urban places.

Wouldn’t commuting – with gas or rail transit costs – be a concern just as much of suburban commuters near Washington, D.C. or Chicago? This simply isn’t exclusively or primarily a rural concern. For commuters in these areas, one might as easily come to realize that there was something important about the way many people in suburban communities thought about their housing developments in relation to more urban places. Wouldn’t transportation costs matter as much to poor urban residents without cars, without money for auto insurance, and the daily managing of public transit fares and schedules?

Cramer’s not sure how racial views play in all this:

So yes, it is highly likely that when people refer to “those people in Milwaukee” they are often referring to racial minorities. But notice how complex this is. The urbanites that rural folks were referring to were not predominantly racial minorities. When white outstaters (i.e., those living outside the major metropolitan areas) complained of the laziness in the cities in these conversations, their comments were almost always directed at white people: government bureaucrats and faculty members at the flagship public university.

In that way, antiurban resentment is not simply resentment against people of color. At the same time, given the way arguments against government redistribution in the United States have historically been made by equating deservingness with whiteness, these conversations are about race even when race is not mentioned.

Cramer believes that ‘arguments against government redistribution in the United States have historically been made by equating deservingness with whiteness,’ a claim that shows only how shallow her understanding of neoclassical economic and libertarian theory truly is. For Cramer anti-distributionist arguments rest – using the qualifier historically – on ‘equating deservingness with whiteness.’ Friedman, Hayek, et al., are here either ignored or misunderstood (likely both).

Worse, I think, is that this view of racism – that anti-urbanism is the general problem – dilutes particular racial injuries into a larger anti-urban potion. It’s an exoneration to say that people don’t dislike, let’s say blacks,  because they actually dislike urban residents. Those being subjected to stop-and-frisk in New York, for example, aren’t just urbanites; they’re disproportionately black or Latino.

(For a different assessment from Cramer’s of Wisconsin-specific views on race, consider Alex Macgillis’s 2014 essay on Wisconsin politics.)

In this way, Cramer’s concern about race is both too broad and too narrow.

That’s a bigger concern than how a group of retired, rural teachers perceives a woman in a VW Jetta.

Previously: Parts 1 and 2.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘The Context of Rural Consciousness’ (Part 4 of 9).

Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘A Method of Listening’ (Part 2 of 9)

This is the second in a series of posts considering Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

One might think that Cramer’s second chapter, ‘A Method of Listening,’ would be a dry (but useful & necessary) description of her methodology. It’s far from merely that: it’s an oddly personal description of her own class consciousness. So much so, in fact, that I’m not sure whether it’s a confessional of sorts, or an attempt to reach out-of-Wisconsin urbanites through tales of adventures among rural natives.

Cramer describes her thoughts when presenting herself to rural Wisconsinites:

My identity as an urbanite matters for how I perceive things. But it also matters for the way I presented myself. My training, like that of political scientists in general, was predominantly positivist. In other words, much of what I learned in school was how to analyze causation. I learned that the goal of a good social scientist is to approximate the scientific method as closely as possible. In such an approach, one aims to have little or no effect on the research setting.

Reasonable enough, of course.

Yet, indeed, she goes on at some length about visiting towns in the state, despite having lived in Wisconsin for most of her life:

When I first started my fieldwork for this study, I tried to wear the same outfit to every research site in a given round, or set of visits. My purpose was to try to interact with each group in precisely the same way, to act as a scientific instrument as much as possible. But as my work went on, it seemed that it did not matter that I dressed the same across groups. Blue-collar groups in low-income communities knew I was wealthier by virtue of my job. They knew I was different because I rolled up to their diner or gas station in a Volkswagen Jetta wagon, and parked it next to a bunch of Made-in-USA pickup trucks. I learned that, rather than obscure who I am, I had to be a human being in order to be welcomed into their conversations.

When would Cramer, dressed in whatever fashion, not been a human being to her fellow residents, or thought of herself as such?

To have a certain class consciousness is, itself, no impediment to understanding. Indeed, to acknowledge as much is mere self-understanding.

(It’s fair to say that I have a sense of this, coming from a pre-Revolutionary family. Yet, it’s never been so pronounced that I thought this simple truth made my fellow residents alien to me. I’ll readily acknowledge that listening to a white resident insist that his family’s three or four generations here entitles him to something more than others is both laughable and contemptible to me: the obvious truth is that he didn’t earn his family’s arrival, and many non-white families were brought here in bondage far earlier than a few generations ago. The past is a burden, not an entitlement, but burden in ways far different from being merely a socioeconomic bugbear.)

Cramer also ascribes to her rural visits a common gender bias from men in those communities:

In my daily life, I do not experience a lot of overt ogling. But I got ogled on these visits. People asked me out on dates, despite the wedding ring on my hand at the time. On my first round, when I traveled with a visibly pregnant belly, several groups of men joked with each other about which member was the father of my child-to-be. Walking in the door to a men’s group with one of the men resulted in a pretty embarrassing barrage of comments assuming we had just had sex….”

I don’t doubt Cramer’s accounts, nor do I condone any of these remarks directed to her; on the contrary, these comments made to her or about her are wrong in part and full. I’ve no desire to excuse any of them.

It does seem to me, however, that to imply that these conditions are worse in rural areas is to understate the subtle-yet-as-destructive harassment that women experience in urban and supposedly cosmopolitan places areas.

There are countless women at university, for example, who would not describe harassment as a primarily rural problem…

Postscript:

Yesterday, in Part 1, I expressed surprise that Cramer had a narrow, distributionist outlook that ignored the complexity of economic and philosophical critiques of state power (“Cramer gives not the slightest hint that there might be a vast body of liberty-oriented theory (including a libertarianism of the left as well as the right) stretching back centuries in America and thousands of years across civilizations earlier”).

A remark from Chris Hayes, the progressive author of A Colony in A Nation, Twilight of the Elites, and MSNBC host (published just after I posted yesterday) nicely summarizes the importance neoclassical economics (an understanding absent from Cramer’s first-chapter):

The entirety of the corpus of Hayek, Friedman, and neoclassical economics. I think it’s an incredibly powerful intellectual tradition and a really important one to understand, these basic frameworks of neoclassical economics, the sort of ideas about market clearing prices, about the functioning of supply and demand, about thinking in marginal terms.

I think the tradition of economic thinking has been really influential. I think it’s actually a thing that people on the left really should do — take the time to understand all of that. There is a tremendous amount of incredible insight into some of the things we’re talking about, like non-zero-sum settings, and the way in which human exchange can be generative in this sort of amazing way. Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me, and has been something that I feel like I’m a better thinker and an analyst because of the time and reading I put into a lot of conservative authors on that topic.

I wouldn’t describe these ideas as conservative, but Hayes assesses them soundly. There’s not the slightest evidence Cramer sees that they might offer insight into Americans’ economic conditions before or after the Great Recession.

Previously: Part 1.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘The Contours of Rural Consciousness’ (Part 3 of 9).

Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘Making Sense of Politics Through Resentment’ (Part 1 of 9)

In a series of posts over the next week or so, I’ll consider Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Cramer’s a native Wisconsinite teaching at UW-Madison.

Today, I’ll summarize her thesis, as she presents it in the first chapter of PoR,  ‘Making Sense of Politics Through Resentment.’

Cramer makes five principal contentions in the chapter:

1. That there is a partisan divisiveness in Wisconsin that “reflects broader trends in the United States. The country as a whole has seen increasing partisan polarization since the mid 1970s. (Layman, Carson, and Horowitz 2006; McCarthy, Poole, and Rosenthal 2008; Barber and McCarty 2013.)”

2. Cramer asserts that these divides are, in her words, more than ‘ideology’:

Some argue that the public is not actually polarized, that people are just better sorted ideologically into partisan camps than in the past (Hetherington 2009; Fiorina, Abrams, and Pope 2010). But others observe that there is more at stake here than ideology. Divides between identifiers with the two parties in terms of religious preferences, attitudes toward race, and racial demographics themselves are deeper than ever (Abramowitz 2013, 2014). The divides are not just about politics but about who we are as people.

3. This observation leads Cramer back to another one, that is in fact political and philosophical:

These divides are also reflective of the central debate in American politics today: What is the proper role of government in society and who should pay for it (Stonecash 2014)? There are those who believe government ought to be expanded in order to deal with the challenges we face, and there are those who feel that government itself is a major obstacle that should be shrunk.

4. Cramer contends that “another key feature of the times we live in is economic inequality (Piketty and Saez 2003)” and it puzzles her that

[t]here seems to be less support for redistribution here than in other countries with similar levels of economic inequality (Kenworthy and Pontusson 2005). Why? Why is it that most voters continue to elect officials who apparently do not represent the vast There seems to be less support for redistribution here than in other countries with similar levels of economic inequality (Kenworthy and Pontusson 2005). Why? Why is it that most voters continue to elect officials who apparently do not represent the vast majority of us?6 Or if one does not believe that interpretation, why is it that many low-income voters who might benefit from more government redistribution continue to vote against it? Why, in times of increasing economic inequality, have the preferences of the lowest-income voters moved in a conservative, rather than liberal, direction?

5. Cramer offers her answer, one that is the eponymous thesis of Politics of Resentment:

Listening closely to people revealed two things to me: a significant rural-versus-urban divide and the powerful role of resentment. This book shows that what can look like disagreements about basic political principles can be rooted in something even more fundamental: ideas about who gets what, who has power, what people are like, and who is to blame. What might seem to be a central debate about the appropriate role of government might at base be something else: resentment toward our fellow citizens. This book shows people making sense of politics in a way that places resentment toward other citizens at the center….I want to know what it looks like when people use social categories to understand the political world, and how they connect resentment toward particular groups to the broader stance of wanting less, not more, government redistribution.

Cramer’s work addresses a supposed rural consciousness she discerns among many Wisconsinites, and it rests on her assumption that they approach economic concerns in a particular way, one that flows from this rural consciousness.

Candidly, an aside Cramer offers about driving a VW Jetta in Wisconsin leaves me puzzled. She writes that

As a female social scientist driving my Volkswagen Jetta out from Madison, the state capitol and the second largest city in the state, I heard a lot of criticism of cities from people in small-town Wisconsin.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with professional female colleagues who have enjoyed driving different makes and models of foreign cars, to places across Wisconsin, without rural residents looking askance at them for doing so. Indeed, many southern Wisconsin (and Illinois) families have properties in the sparsely-populated northern part of the state, and the sight of a VW, Audi, BMW, Lexus, etc. would not be unfamiliar to local residents.

It’s a significant exaggeration to say a woman driving a Jetta would get the sort of stares from rural residents that one might properly expect for a person riding a unicorn.

Cramer may be right about a rural consciousness, at least about Wisconsin, but her analysis – one that she confidently grounds in political science – omits any consideration of political theory (what was once called political philosophy). (Indeed, for a work about political claims, it’s telling that neither the terms liberty nor libertarian appear anywhere in the book.)

In her opening chapter, Cramer gives not the slightest hint that there might be a vast body of liberty-oriented theory (including a libertarianism of the left as well as the right) stretching back centuries in America and thousands of years across civilizations earlier.

This libertarian tradition (long before the term libertarian first came into use) does not rely on redistributive goals, but then it doesn’t suppose a theory of a rural consciousness of resentment, either.

A presentation that begins with a particular economic notion (that redistribution necessarily benefits many) and presents a perspective on rural consciousness as a social identity (one that has economic views within it) seems, at first blush, too much like a survey of world religions that considers only the relationship between Buddhism and Hinduism.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘A Method of Listening’ (Part 2 of 9).

Gessen’s Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin

There’s considerable discussion of the role that Russians (hackers, politicians, business interests) may be having on the presidential election. I’ve just re-read Masha Gessen’s sketch of Putin, and it holds up well. (Her account ends a few years ago, but give an ample account of Putin’s upbringing, employment as a KGB officer and leader, and rise to Russia’s presidency.)

Easily recommended.

Sunday Animation: We Need to Talk About Alice

GOOD BOOKS: "We Need To Talk About Alice" from Plenty on Vimeo.

(See all the process, character design, style frames, at plenty.tv/work/good-books-we-need-to-talk-about-alice )

“We need to talk about Alice” was commissioned by New Zealand based agency String Theory and created to be part of Good Books’ “Great Writers Series,” a collection of short films made to promote the non profit organization (gogoodbooks.com) which is an online charity book store that sells book and donates all proceeds to Oxfam, an organization that fights hunger and poverty since 1995.

In the last few years, a select group of directors have donated their time and knowledge to create animated shorts based on renowned literary works and authors to promote this charity. In 2012, Buck launched the amazing “Metamorphosis”, a tribute to author Hunter S. Thompson. Then came “Havana Heat” in 2013, a sensual animation produced by renowned duo McBess and Simon from The Mill.

Plenty had the honor of creating the third a 2:30 minute short film for Good Books based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s adventures in Wonderland” to commemorate the book’s 150th anniversary.

After a lot of dedication, hard work and passion for what we do, it’s our pleasure to introduce “We need to talk about Alice”

We’ll be posting more about the project soon! We have a 5 minute breakdown where you’ll be able to see the whole process for this amazing adventure we embarked in! A lot of process stills, extra content and some magical gifs!

We hope you love it! We were honored to be a part of a series of shorts that will leave a mark in the history of motion graphics.

Via Vimeo.

The Book on Janesville

Amy Goldstein, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Washington Post, is writing a book about Janesville after GM’s departure, entitled, Janesville: An American Story

I’ve been awaiting the book, and recently (also happily) discovered publishing information about it, from PublishersMarketplace.com:

Pulitzer-winning Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein’s JANESVILLE: An American Story, following three families as the GM plant that has sustained their town and their middle class lives closes and they suddenly must reinvent themselves while facing near-impossible choices and a fracturing community, to Priscilla Painton at Simon & Schuster, in a pre-empt, by Susan Rabiner and Sydelle Kramer of Susan Rabiner Literary Agency.

(Hat tip to Slushpile for the information.)

Film-maker Brad Lichtenstein also looked at Janesville from the view of families affected by the GM plant’s closing in As Goes Janesville.  (See, about that documentary, What a Film About Janesville Really Says.)

What’s sure to be true about Goldstein’s perspective (considering her earlier work) is that it will be free of the self-promotion and self-justification so common among local politicians, developers, and the reporters who flack for them.

That’s one reason that a few Janesvillians are uncomfortable about Goldstein’s upcoming book.

It’s also a reason for those serious about policy, owing to Goldstein’s independent perspective, to look forward to the book’s publication. 

A Summer Reading Program

Update 1:35 PM: There’s a helpful reminder in the comments that our library also offers reading programs for children and for adults. Many thanks for both programs and reminder.

A summer reading program for the Whitewater Schools (even if only for some classes) is a good idea. It’s new for Whitewater, and so one can expect a few objections, here or there. (New as a requirement; Whitewater already has a voluntary summer enrichment program for students, in all sorts of subjects.)

Needless to say, we’ve had summer reading programs, without that name, in many families of the city since its founding. There have always been parents who have encouraged reading all year, including the three months each year without formal schooling.

The question is whether the district should make a summer program part of its curriculum. It should. For the community to be competitive, and meet the standards that Wisconsin and America expect of students, we would do well to embrace a small step, and encourage still more later.

No one would question that a competitive athlete needs to train all year, off-season included; we shouldn’t be surprised that competitive students need to read all year.

Our school year is unlikely to change, but nine-months-on and three-months-off is an artifact of the past that ill-serves a nation hoping that its children will be at the forefront of global accomplishment. We’re an agricultural community and state, but we are no longer an agrarian society. It’s reasonable for the district to expect that designated grades will be reading all year, and be evaluated on assigned books.

If anything, there should be more of this.

The New E-Book Edition of Lost Horizon

I received a note from Open Road Media, the publisher of an electronic edition of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. Noticing that I was reading the book’s print edition, they suggested that I might consider their new electronic version, just out.

Of course: I’d prefer an e-book to a print copy, as they’re easier to store, often in several devices at once, and are a sound conservation practice, too.

A copy from Amazon is available online. (I neither charge nor accept promotional items for anything at FREE WHITEWATER. These remarks are those of a reader like anyone else.)

The Open Road Media edition is sparkling – properly formatted and easy to read on a computer, smartphone, iPad, or Kindle. (I’ve tried it on all these devices). Easily recommended.

It’s common with a publisher’s message like this to receive a second question, about some topic in the book. In this case: What the idea of Shangri-La means to me.

I’d suppose that Hilton’s Shangri-La captivates readers initially as a place of near agelessness, a version of a fountain of youth story. That’s understandable, of course: concerns over aging and mortality are common enough.

Yet, the Shangri-La of the story is not a simply a place of near-agelessness. It’s a place with a confident way of life, as Chang, a representative of the lamasery, explains:

We rule with moderate strictness, and in return are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think that I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest.

Chang knows his way and his mind – he’s confident, even when peppered with skeptical questions. It’s not the place, but the state of mind, that matters most. One lives well if one lives clearly, confidently.

Often one sees in a place what one believes one will see. Yet, I cannot avoid thinking that Shangri-La is about believing deep within oneself in, and of, something. Clarity and confidence in the face of the harsh natural conditions beyond the valley, or the political violence and disorder that looms in the world outside.

Shangri-La isn’t compelling because its residents live longer; it’s compelling because its residents live soundly and confidently. From that, many things are possible, including an enduring, everlasting community.

Now Reading: Lost Horizon

My latest book is James Hilton’s Lost Horizon (1933).

It’s been in print since first publication, and the subject of two films (the second of them being a rather unfortunate musical). (When the cover of the book say it’s the first paperback ever published, the publisher means the first of a modern paperback series).

I’m part way into the book now, and much enjoying it.

Young Auditorium receives grant to host 4th Community Big Read

Young Auditorium receives grant to host 4th Community Big Read

 For the fourth year in a row, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded a local partnership to bring the national Big Read initiative to Rock, Walworth, Jefferson and adjacent counties.  Mark Twain in the Rock River Basin will be the focus of this year’s Big Read in southeastern Wisconsin.  Led by the Irvin L. Young Library in Whitewater, the Arrowhead Library System in Rock County, and UW-Whitewater’s Young Auditorium, the Big Read will provide a host of activities and in-school outreach.  Twenty-three area library partners, from Beloit, to Watertown and beyond will be hosting events in April.

For 2012 the theme of Twain in the Rock River Basin will link our community’s physical location, as part of the greater Mississippi River Basin and our connection as a nearby hub on the Underground Railroad.  Investigating Twain’s seminal novel will take place in our community’s Big Read through the written word, the spoken word, visual images and cultural engagement bringing together diverse groups for fellowship.

Big Read 2012 Highlights:

Big Read Mural: Noted children’s book illustrator Joel Tanis will discuss the 2011 Big Read Mural and his own artistic methods.  In 2011, Joel worked with students from four area schools to create a culminating artistic response to Edgar Allan Poe’s writing.  The students created four large 4’x6’ panels that depict scenes from the works of Poe.  Joel will once again be working with four area schools for the 2012 Big Read.  Students will delve into specific works by Twain to create visual art that captures the mood and emotions of the author’s work.  2012 participating schools include:  St. Joseph’s School in Fort Atkinson; Eastview Elementary in Lake Geneva;  Jefferson Elementary in Janesville;  and East Troy High School in East Troy.  The 2012 mural will be unveiled at the Big Read Kick Off at the historic Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva, Thursday, March 29th at 6:00 pm.

Big Read Kick Off at the historic Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva, Thursday, March 29th at 6:00 pm. The community is invited to join the Kick Off of our region’s fourth Big Read.  Please join us for free refreshments and prizes.  Big Read Mural Unveiling with Joel Schoon Tanis.  Free.  Noted children’s book illustrator Joel Tanis will unveil the 2012 Big Read Mural.  Joel worked with students from four area schools to create a culminating artistic response to Mark Twain’s writing.  Participating schools include:  St. Joseph’s School in Fort Atkinson: Eastview Elementary in Lake Geneva, Jefferson Elementary in Janesville, East Troy High School, East Troy.  Posters of the mural will be available for signing by Joel and the student artists.

Hal Holbrook presents Mark Twain Tonight!  On April 21, 2012, 7:30.  Legendary actor Hal Holbrook presents his historic portrayal of Mark Twain.  Hal Holbrook has been awarded an Emmy and Tony Award for his indelible personification of Mark Twain, a role that he has been performing since 1954.

And Glory Shone by The Rose Ensemble.  April 10, 2012, 7:30. This award winning ensemble from St. Paul, MN, will perform a special selection of early American hymns, ballads and spiritual songs that will evoke Tom Sawyer’s America.

No Foolin’ A Free Book.  4/1/12 or 4/2/12. All public library partners will kick-off the Big Read by offering give-away of books, student designed t-shirts and tickets to the performance of The Rose Ensemble.

Mark Twain’s Racial Relevance.  Free lecture and discussion by Dr. Alan Gribben on Monday April 9, 2012, 7:00 PM.  Part of the College of Letters and Sciences Contemporary Lecture Series. Dr. Allan Gribben is a nationally recognized Mark Twain scholar who sparked considerable controversy when he published versions of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in 2011 that removed a racial pejorative as an attempt to reverse the trend of school districts removing both books from their reading lists.

Moments with Mark Twain. Geneva Lake Art Association 2012 Spring Exhibit. February 3-29, 2012. 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.  Opening reception February 3, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm.  GLAA Gallery.  This show highlights GLAA Member works recall images of the 19th Century time period, Twain’s stories, the grandeur of the Mississippi, or other images that are inspired by this literary icon.  The Geneva Lake Art Association gallery and art school are located inside the North Shore Pavilion Mall at 647 E. Main Street, Lake Geneva.

Big Read Finale and Big Read MuralFriday, May 4th 5:00—7:00 PM. Milton House Museum, 18 South Janesville, St., Milton, WI.  www.miltonhouse.org. Free.  Join us for refreshments and an exhibit of the Big Read.  Learn about the success of the program and plans for 2013.

Through the Eyes of Jim.  A new production by Uprooted Theatre. Milwaukee’s Uprooted Theatre Company, whose mission is to engage the community through the performing arts for the exploration and expression of African-American voices and cultural experiences, will present a performance as part of the Young Auditorium’s Horizon Matinee Series.  The performance will give a unique point of view of Twain’s work as interpreted through the slave Jim’s perspective.  A community performance will take place at the Milton House Museum, as part of the Big Read finale, Friday, May 4th at 7:00 pm. Tickets available by calling the Milton House at 608-868-7772.  The Milton House Museum is Wisconsin’s only authenticated stop on the Underground Railroad.

Check your local library for their participation and event calendar.  Updates will be available at the Big Read Blog:  http://youngauditorium.wordpress.com/

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has selected 76 not-for-profit organizations have been recommended for grants totaling $1,000,050 to host a Big Read project between September 2011 and June 2012. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in cooperation with Arts Midwest.

The Big Read provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 31 selections from U.S. and world literature.. Among the organizations receiving a Big Read grant are libraries, humanities councils, museums, theater companies, literary centers and presses, public broadcasting stations, universities, YMCAs, and boys & girls clubs. The selected organizations will receive Big Read grants ranging from $2,500 to $17,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs.

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said, “Since 2006, nearly three million Americans have attended a Big Read event, more than 39,000 volunteers have participated locally, and nearly 27,000 community partner organizations have been involved. The Big Read’s success depends on these commitments of time, energy, and enthusiasm and I look forward to seeing these 76 communities come together in celebration of a great work of literature.”

Participating communities also receive high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title, which also are available for download on neabigread.org. Reader’s Guides include author biographies, historical context for the book, and discussion questions. Teacher’s Guides are developed with the National Council of Teachers of English and State Language Arts standards in mind and include lesson plans, essay topics, and classroom handouts. The Big Read Audio Guides feature readings from the novel along with commentary from renowned artists, educators, and public figures.

Each community’s Big Read includes a kick-off event to launch the program; activities devoted specifically to its Big Read book or poet (e.g., panel discussions, lectures, public readings); events using the selection as a point of departure (e.g., film screenings, theatrical readings, exhibits); and book discussions in diverse locations aimed at a wide range of audiences.

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The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at www.arts.gov.

Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit www.artsmidwest.org.

For more information please contact Young Auditorium at 262-472-4444 or check us out on the web at www.uww.edu/youngauditorium.

The Living Mississippi: From Twain to Today at the Roberta Avonn Art Gallery 3/9/12 to 4/4/12

Opening reception on March 12, 2012 from 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Historic photographs of the Mississippi River by Henry P. Bosse are juxtaposed with modern photos of river restoration projects completed by the non-profit group, Living Lands & Waters. Quotes from Mark Twain’s prose link the river’s past with the present.

The exhibit is a partnership with UW-Whitewater’s Earth Day Committee and our community’s 4th Big Read. The 2011 Big Read Mural will also be on display. The exhibit was compiled by UW-Whitewater student Karly Modesti, in partnership with our Community’s 4th Big Read.

The community is invited to attend a special opening reception on March 12, 2012 from 3:30-5:00 p.m. at the Roberta Avonn Fiskum Gallery, James R. Connor University Center on the campus of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Artist and Big Read muralist Joel Schoon Tanis will speak in UC Summers Auditorium, at 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Henry P. Bosse was a draughtsman and cartographer with the Army Corps of Engineers at Rock Island, Illinois. Between 1882 and 1892 he photographed the upper Mississippi River and documented the untamed and wild river that Mark Twain encountered as a young river pilot. The exhibit includes a selection of his reprinted artwork, reproduced with permission from the Rock Island and St. Paul district’s collections of Henry P. Bosse’s works. Bosse’s works were mainly forgotten.

For 100 years, the artist remained unknown. Then, in the spring of 1990, a Washington, D.C., antique dealer discovered an album of Bosse’s images in the study house that belonged to Major General Alexander Mackenzie. General Mackenzie had been the Corps’ Chief of Engineers, or top ranking officer, from 1904 to 1908. Within a year, this album would be worth over a million dollars and Bosse praised as one of the late nineteenth century’s finest photographers.

Living Lands & Waters, is an active non-profit group dedicated to cleaning up and preserving our nation’s rivers. Photos from their community river clean ups provide a potent comparison to Bosse’s early images of the mighty Mississippi.

Living Lands & Waters has 10 full-time employees and a fleet of four barges, a towboat, six workboats, two skid steers, five work trucks, and a large box truck.

With this equipment, the crew is able to travel and work in an average of nine states a year along the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and Potomac Rivers, as well as many of their tributaries. Since the project’s inception, Chad Pregracke, his crew, and over 60,000 volunteers have collected over six million pounds of debris from our nation’s greatest rivers. Most recently, Chad expanded the mission of the organization to include Big River Educational Outreach, The Million Trees Project, and the Adopt-a-River Mile programs.

Noted children’s book illustrator Joel Tanis will discuss the 2011 Big Read Mural and his own artistic methods. In 2011, Joel worked with students from four area schools to create a culminating artistic response to Edgar Allan Poe’s writing. The students created four large 4’x6’ panels that depict scenes from the works of Poe. Joel will once again be working with four area schools for the 2012 Big Read. Students will delve into specific works by Twain to create visual art that captures the mood and emotions of the author’s work.

2012 participating schools include: St. Joseph’s School in Fort Atkinson; Eastview Elementary in Lake Geneva; Jefferson Elementary in Janesville; and East Troy High School in East Troy. The 2012 mural will be unveiled at the Big Read Kick Off at the historic Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva, Thursday, March 29th at 6:00 pm.

For the fourth year in a row, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded a local partnership to bring the national Big Read initiative to Rock, Walworth, and Jefferson County. Mark Twain in the Rock River Basin will be the focus of this year’s Big Read in southeastern Wisconsin. Led by the Irvin L. Young Library in Whitewater, the Arrowhead Library System in Rock County, and UW-Whitewater’s Young Auditorium, the Big Read will provide a host of activities and in-school outreach.

This National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Grant gives young adults the opportunity to learn more about reading, writing, different cultures, and encourages them to explore their interest in these areas. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. Local sponsorship supported is provided by Fort HealthCare, American Family Insurance, The Janesville Gazette and the The Daily Jefferson County Union.

The Young Auditorium is a 1,300 seat performing arts center located in Whitewater that serves southeastern Wisconsin. Each season the auditorium presents the best in touring professional productions from Broadway, Rock & Roll, Shakespeare, Family Friendly Favorites and Ballet. Over 500,000 K-12 students have experienced educational performances through the Horizons Matinee Series. The facility boasts two all-purpose rooms for up to 120 guests for special receptions, dinners, or business meetings. A non-profit organization, the Young Auditorium has special benefits for Members; and discounts for groups. Special email offers and giveaways area available via free email updates from ArtsENews.

http://www.uww.edu/youngauditorium

Information: 262-472-4444 Tickets: 262-472-2222

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts—both new and established—bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit www.arts.gov.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. For more information, please visit www.imls.gov.

Arts Midwest connects people throughout the Midwest and the world to meaningful arts opportunities, sharing creativity, knowledge, and understanding across boundaries. Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years.

For more information, please visit http://www.artsmidwest.org/.