Reverend Shuttlesworth and Steve Jobs: Life changers.

The Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth died earlier this week, but you probably missed the news. It was crowded out by the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

The two men had quite a bit in common, actually. You would not have known it to look at them, or listen to them,  but they did.

Jobs in public was a soft-spoken white nerd whose energy and genius changed how we communicate with each other. Even his competitors bowed their heads in real mourning at the news that the 56-year-old had passed away.

Shuttlesworth was a fiery preacher, a black activist who was shot at, arrested, blasted out of bed by bombs, and snubbed by the bigger names in the civil rights movement. He embarrassed some of those polished black leaders. His grammar was sometimes faulty and he had little interest in subtle political maneuvering. But he got them to come to Birmingham, and history was made.

Like a Biblical prophet, he said out loud what God put in his ear, and he was one of the bravest men of our time. Without him the blight of Jim Crow segregation would have poisoned this country even longer. He was 89 when he died, old age taking what Birmingham bully Bull Connor and countless racists could not accomplish.

Connor, you may know, was the police commissioner who became famous for turning dogs and fire hoses on demonstrators, including children, during the well-publicized protests in Birmingham in 1963.  Shuttlesworth was one of the injured and Connor told the The New York Times: “I waited a week to see Shuttlesworth get hit with a hose. I’m sorry I missed it.” He added that he wished the minister had been taken away in hearse rather than an ambulance.

Sometimes I marvel at the embarrassment of riches we have in this country; no shortage of heros. This week we lost two. One made it fun and fast to write and say what we think. The other made it safe for everyone, regardless of race, to do those things.

–Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett


(NOTE: After I wrote this, I read Diane McWhorter’s wonderful column on the subject. She does this topic justice in a way few writers could do. McWhorter is the author of the Pulitzer-winning, “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.” Her piece ran on the NYTimes Opinion Page, 10/7/11, and  if you can’t reach it through this link, it is well worth subscribing to the paper. Which–hello?–you should be doing anyway.)



Oregon Lottery, where the motto is “Sit Tight and Spend it All!”

Times are tough. Everyone is getting more creative about money. But it’s hard to beat the clever strategy hatched by the State of Oregon, which is launching online gambling.

Yup, that’s right.

The Oregon Lottery will soon offer cash prizes and other goodies through its website. Because everyone knows that the best thing to do in a terrible economy is get more people to gamble away the few bucks they have left.

Rumor has it that they’re also partnering with various liquor distributors to create at-home delivery of spirits, so online gamers do not need to leave the house for refreshments.

Oh, wait, I made that up. The state would never do something that irresponsible.



She was just here a minute ago…

Dear readers — Yes, I am still on sabbatical from the blog, finishing up my book project.

I did come out of my hollow log long enough to write a book review for The Seattle Times:

It’s a difficult time for bookworms. We fear the next generation will have to visit interactive museum exhibits to turn pages of an actual, physical book. (Yes, it’s true our worries tend to recede while we’re waiting for the Kindle to download, but we do worry.) “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” (W.W. Norton, 263 pp., $26.95), by Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt, is especially well-timed for our neo-biblio age. Among its many teachings, this book assures us that dramatic change in manuscript-delivery systems need not erode the power of the words…

For the rest of it, click here.