Lavin Weekly #27: Fahmy, Heffernan, Taibbi, Lightman, & Fallows
Congratulations to journalist and author Mohamed Fahmy—he’s won The Writers’ Union of Canada’s Freedom to Read Award, given in recognition of advocacy in the name of freedom of expression. As Freedom to Read Week continues here in Canada, we reflect on our right to publish and write without censure—and we look to exemplary models of free speech, like Fahmy, who remind us of the urgent need to push back against oppression. “The jury was unanimous in recommending Mr. Fahmy,” comments TWUC Chair Heather Menzies. “Not only has he written on the subject of freedom to speak and be heard, he has taken on the larger issues, including the necessary protections for people who are pursuing this freedom in dangerous situations, and has created a foundation to champion these important issues.” As an Al Jazeera journalist, Fahmy spent over 400 days in an Egyptian prison, but was released in 2015 following massive international outcry. Today he talks about the state of the Middle East, free speech, and the ongoing struggle for universal human rights.
2. Make Meetings Worthwhile with Virginia Heffernan in NYT Magazine
Many professionals will agree: there’s nothing more stultifying and pointless than another meeting. And yet, meetings don’t seem to be going away—and for that reason, a number of experts, consultants, applications, and companies are committed to making them meaningful (or at least enjoyable). Or so Virginia Heffernan investigates in “Meet Is Murder,” published in The New York Times Magazine’s Work Issue. Heffernan profiles so-called ‘meeting hackers’ like Paul Graham, a British essayist and programmer, Brian Robertson, “the author of the notorious management method known as Holacracy,” and Stewart Butterfield, “a founder and the C.E.O. of Slack, the popular workplace communication tool known for its speedy circulation of gifs and other digital office diversions”—all to discover how we can take what most people despise, and make it not only worthwhile, but a tolerable part of doing business. Stay tuned for more insights into digital culture, work, and leisure from Heffernan this June: her book Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art arrives from Simon & Schuster.
3. Come to Grips with Trump’s Variety-Show Ascendency with Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone
“King Trump. Brace yourselves, America. It’s really happening.” That’s Matt Taibbi’s ominous warning for readers of the latest Rolling Stone. His new article “How America Made Donald Trump Unstoppable” is the magazine’s new cover story—and it’s at once enlightening, hilarious, and deeply unsettling. Another example of Taibbi’s engaging, unique style of reportage (it’s so full of sparkling invective that quoting from it seems a disservice), the piece attempts to explain how Trump has edged out all other GOP candidates to become the likely Republican candidate, even while the media (and much of the party) rallies against him. Trump’s unconventional truth-telling, his WWE/Variety-show populism (the insults! the tweets!), the implosion of the Republican party (and many more unlikely surprises), have made the presidential election campaign into “a badly acted, billion dollar TV show,” Taibbi asserts.
4. Celebrate the Value of Long-Term Patience with Alan Lightman in The Washington Post
Author Alan Lightman has a wonderful article on the value of patience and commitment in The Washington Post this week, all in light of LIGO’s physics-shaking discovery of gravitational waves—a 40-year investment of time and funding that was never guaranteed to be successful. “The world at large, and the United States in particular, has developed an unfortunate need for instant gratification,“ Lightman writes. “We live not only in the age of information. We live in the Age of the Now.” But this incredible discovery proves, at least in terms of scientific research, that care and dedication can pay off. “Drever, Thorne and Weiss, and the many scientists and institutions that supported their dream, did not seek instant gratification. They had a vision, and they wandered the desert with that vision for 40 years.” Lightman also reveals that he was once one of Kip Thorne’s grad students—another lovely connection between our speakers. “He worked carefully and methodically,” Lightman recalls. “He was patient with his students. He believed in the slow but steady progress of science. He taught his students much at that time, not just about physics but about an approach to the world. And, by example, he has continued to teach us ever since.”
5. Learn about America’s Economic Rebirth(s) with James Fallows in The Atlantic
If you’re afraid that America is on the verge of unraveling, or even decaying, you’re not alone. But James Fallows has some uplifting news about how young, civic-minded people in small towns are putting the country back together. In a new article for The Atlantic (for which he is a national correspondent, and as part of the American Futures reporting series), Fallows investigates how small and overlooked towns are developing initiatives to attract new industries, and investment, into their communities. Fallows and his wife have “made extended visits to two dozen cities, and shorter stops in another two dozen, covering a total of 54,000 miles in their single-engine propeller airplane,” covering the US from coast to coast in their search for optimism and renewal. What he finds are often collaborative, innovative affairs that are rebuilding the economic and artistic backbone of the country, one start-up “archipelago” at a time—and far from the standard hubs (New York, LA, Chicago, etc.) that you usually hear about.
To hire Mohamed Fahmy, Virginia Heffernan, Matt Taibbi, Alan Lightman, or James Fallows as the keynote speaker of your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.