Media That Inspires

Media That Inspires

What books and films turned you into an activist?

Pocket is a new website that connects site users directly to issues that interest them. Like it aims to bridge the gap between information and activism (even more so after our coming redesign!). They have a great feature called "Media that Inspires," and last week they profiled me. I thought I’d share with The Nation’s audience, and find out what media inspires you. Here is my Q & A with Take Part …

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"Media That Inspires" is an ongoing conversation at TakePart that recognizes the power that films, books, and other media have to compel change and prompt action. TakePart is asking people who make a difference every day about the works that have inspired them.

Q: Which film or book was a wake-up call and made you truly aware of an issue?

A: Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). It made me acutely aware of the madness of nuclear war and how fear-mongering deforms our politics–whether it’s during the Cold War or post-9/11. I knew the screenwriter, Terry Southern, and if he were still with us I often wonder what he’d do now that reality has overtaken satire!

Q: Which film or book inspired you to take action and get involved in an issue?

A: Two books: In a more personal way: Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports, by Michael Sokolove. My daughter was a really good basketball player. After she sustained back-to-back ACL injuries, this book gave me some insight into why she sustained this debilitating injury. It also led me to work with other parents and coaches to raise awareness about ACL injuries among girl athletes.

On a political front, American Radical: The Life and Times of I.F. Stone, D.D. Guttenplan’s masterful biography of a reporter/writer whose tenacious, crusading, independent, fearless reporting serves as my editorial and journalistic compass. Stone was also The Nation’s Washington, DC correspondent during the New Deal era.

Q: Is there a book or film out right now that particularly inspires you?

A: As for a book–Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture by Alice Echols. It inspires me to remember disco’s heyday and the liberatory politics that came with it. (I could listen to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, "The Love I Lost" forever.) As for films, the documentary Food, Inc. made a powerful impact on me. It is a smart indictment of the savage toll agri-business and a hyper-corporatized food system takes on human lives and our health. The documentary has inspired me to publish writers who understand what we need, as consumers and citizens, to take back our food system!

Q: What is your favorite escape and guilty pleasure?

A: It would take me too long to list my favorite escapes and guilty pleasures, but let me give it a try: Watching True Blood, American Idol, The Tudors, The Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Nurse Jackie, The United States of Tara, Big Love, Bored to Death; Also, live-Tweeting about anything, especially the Golden Globes and the Oscars; reading US Weekly in bed (People reads like The American Scholar compared to my fave rag). Listening to Aretha belt out Respect on my iPod. And that "Core Fusion" class I take once a week. Keeps me in fighting shape for those TV talk shows I do!

What media inspires you? Leave your responses in the comments and I’ll blog some of your film and book suggestions next week.

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