In a 2009 paper for Administrative Science Quarterly, J. Stuart Bunderson and Jeffery A. Thompson studied zookeepers and found that the profession was about the closest anyone in the modern, secular world comes to having a calling—the sort of intensely meaningful career that Martin Luther said could turn work into a divine offering. Zookeeping is dirty, repetitive, and poorly paid. And yet people volunteer for years, move across the country, and accept major sacrifices in their personal lives to be able to do it.
In interviews with zookeepers, Bunderson and Thompson found that their feelings about their work ran much deeper than a standard survey metric like job satisfaction could capture. Again and again, they used phrases like “I knew this is what I was meant to do” and described a pull toward work with animals starting in early childhood. The sense of calling also came with a feeling of moral obligation. Zookeepers described an intense dedication to the animals they worked with, and to the zoos’ mission of promoting conservation and breeding endangered species.
Nemes takes pride in the breeding programs that Capron Park, and most US zoos, are part of. She tells me about the black-footed ferret, which was saved from extinction thorough captive breeding and has been reintroduced in the wild. “That’s amazing,” she says. “Extinct is forever.”
Though young adult literature has arguably existed since at least Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, which was published in the 1930s, teachers and librarians were slow to accept books for teenagers as a genre. “Today, many librarians are acting like frightened ostriches,” Mary Kingsbury complained in 1971. Afraid of parental criticism and the threat of concerned administrators, she claimed, librarians were turning away from a tide of literature about and for young adults. “Librarians may never span the generation gap,” she predicted, “but by sensitive book selection they can demonstrate an awareness of the particular hang-ups being lived through by young people.”
Just seven years later, the phrase “young adult” was becoming increasingly common in libraries. But with the new title came new concerns about realism in books for young readers—books that, according to Maia Pank Mertz, worried adults who feared that “some young-adult novels defy, or indeed attempt to subvert, society.” Mertz, on the other hand, defended the trend of “New Realism” in young adult novels, looking at books like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and challenging librarians to “develop students who can critically examine our culture’s covert as well as overt assumptions.”
—Erin Blakemore, writing about the history of young adult fiction for JSTOR Daily.
Alex Gibney’s much-talked about new documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief—based on Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled 2013 exposé—has been making headlines since it made its Sundance debut in January. It opened on limited screens across the country last Friday and will premiere on HBO in two weeks. In the meantime, the Church of Scientology has gone into overdrive attacking the film: taking out full page ads in major newspapers to denounce it; buying up Going Clear-related search results on Google; and trying to discredit the filmmakers and their subjects in a series of videos on the Church’s website. Scientology has long been shrouded in mystery—doubtless in large part due to the Church’s secretive practices—but the Church is also notorious for terrorizing critics and defectors. Suffice it to say they are not an easy institution to investigate. In honor of their inscrutable reputation, and with Scientology-talk nearing zenith zeitgeist, I decided to put together a reading list of stories that explore the Church from a variety of angles. Please don’t kill my dog.
1. “The Apostate” (Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, 2011)
Wright is nothing short of a master reporter (he won a Pulitzer for The Looming Tower, his 2006 history of al-Qaeda), and his deep investigative skills shine in this epic piece, a profile of Hollywood director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. Haggis was once one of Scientology’s most prominent members; he is now one of the Church’s most prominent defectors. This article eventually became part of Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear.
2. “The Tip of the Spear” (Joel Sappell, Los Angeles Magazine, 2012)
Starting in the mid-1980s, journalists Joel Sappell and Robert Welkos spent five years examining the Church of Scientology for the Los Angeles Times, ultimately producing a six-day, 24-article series (available here in its entirety) that ran in June 1990. Here—more than two decades after the fact—Sappell reflects on his unnerving experiences reporting on the Church.
3. “What Katie Didn’t Know” (Maureen Orth, Vanity Fair, October 2012)
An exquisitely creepy behind-the-scenes look at the Church of Scientology’s 2004 search for the next Mrs. Tom Cruise.
4. “Scientology’s Hollywood Real Estate Empire” (Daniel Miller, The Hollywood Reporter, July 2011)
Little known fact: the Church of Scientology owns more historic buildings in Hollywood than any other entity. Miller’s decision to examine the Church’s relationship to Hollywood in the context of its real estate empire makes for fascinating reading.
5. “Escape from Sea Org” (Astra Woodcraft, as told to Abigail Pesta, The Daily Beast, July 2012)
Astra Woodcraft was seven when she was indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology via an arm of the church known as Sea Org. This is the story of what she endured, and how she escaped.
6. “Are Academics Afraid to Study Scientology?” (Ruth Graham, JSTOR Daily, November 2014)
Scientology attracts an extraordinary amount of media attention, but scholars have been slow to devote time and research to its study—Why?
See Also: “A Scientology Glossary” (David Sessions, The Daily Beast, July 2012)
Don’t know the difference between an engram, an E-meter, and an operating Thetan? Don’t worry, The Daily Beast has your back.
When we turn to the person sitting next to us and say something, it’s not particularly difficult to convey our emotional intent. We have an entire arsenal of non-verbal tools at our disposal when we communicate in person: we can gesticulate, frown, shrug, shake our heads, even face-palm. But what about the instances when we are limited to words on a screen? According to linguist Chi Luu, “email, instant messaging and other online forums for speech have made the efficient communication of emotion and social cues necessary,” and this is where the internet famous face-palm comes into play. In a recent column for JSTOR Daily, Luu explored the rise of so-called “reaction GIFs,” and their place in our internet vernacular:
The evolution from simple punctuation-based emoticons to more complex reaction gifs from internet memes shows how more nuanced expressions are being stylized and conveyed in online culture. Emoticons in parallel have themselves developed some complexity, influenced by their Japanese counterparts. These are known as kaomojis, which use combinations that include katakana characters, such as the shrug ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and the ever popular table flip (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ . Emoticons that are frequently used have been developed into image versions of their punctuation selves (also known as emoji) and are so popular with internet users an emoji-only messenger is now available for those who like their communication short and sweet.
From visual emojis depicting simple emotional states, it’s a short step to the more dynamic emotion or reaction gifs, used by certain internet subcultures to respond or react in playful ways to an online discussion. These are gif images, often originating from internet memes, that depict elements of body language that can be too complex for an emoticon to describe. Essentially, it’s an innovative way for speakers to convey a sense of gesture on the internet.