NatGeo Highlights – July 2016

I read this month’s National Geographic Magazine in about two days, probably because I wasn’t in the middle of any books. I have just a few thoughts:

First, about the cover story: I think I’ve mentioned before that I studied Criminal Justice in college. I remember at the time not being thrilled that the Criminal Justice (CJ) program was part of the Sociology department so heavily focused on sociology (my opinion on this has since drastically changed). I was also not thrilled with the program as a whole because I thought the CJ-specific courses were too easy, were very surface-level, and didn’t require enough writing. Most of the coursework I remember from college as being the most informative or useful was not part of my major requirements. Alas…such is life. I told them all this when I graduated, for whatever that’s worth.

All this by way of intro…The cover this month immediately caught my attention and interest. I long regretted not taking the two-course forensic science sequence that was offered in college, but over the years I started to question the usefulness of such courses for undergraduates not specifically applying the skills learned to a job. This article pretty much confirmed that idea for me. There is so much about forensics that is unscientific, which this article correctly points out, though there is increasing movement toward changing that. I still find CJ and forensics fascinating, but I look at everything with a much more skeptical eye and I am impressed by some of the scientific advances being made and applied to criminal investigations. In a way, though, it points to how much more useful a science rather than CJ background would be in entering the field – if one were interested in forensics specifically. For investigations more broadly, my humble, untested opinion (having never worked professionally in the CJ field) is that a sociology background–having the ability to understand society and the forces that go into driving and curbing illicit behaviors–is far more useful than a purely CJ curriculum would provide.

Second, about sharks: As the cover indicates, there’s a section in this month’s issue about Great White Sharks. I found the article incredibly interesting, but I want to point out just one single fact mentioned within:

[Great Whites] refuse to live behind glass–in captivity some have starved themselves or slammed their heads against walls. (Several aquariums have released them for their own safety or because they were attacking tank-mates.) (91)

This is, for me, the single most memorable fact in the entire issue. I just find it amazing. The article mentions that Great Whites are smarter than people give them credit for, and this just seems to prove it. They’re just not having any part of being stared at in aquariums. I love the fierce spirit!!!

 

That’s all for this month 🙂

NatGeo Highlights: April and May 2016

It’s been a while, but I’m back with my quick thoughts on National Geographic Magazine for the past two months. April’s issue introduced “The Photo Ark” and May’s issue was a special issue focused entirely on Yellowstone National Park, our nation’s oldest National Park.

April: The highlight for me in April’s issue was by far the Photo Ark. I was impressed, actually, by the article and the pictures. The cover calls the photo ark “one man’s quest to document the world’s animals, one picture at a time.” What fascinated me in the article was the backstory of how the photographer, Joel Sartore, started the project in the first place. Essentially, he had been traveling the world photographing all sorts of things for his career when in 2005 his wife was diagnosed with cancer. As a result, he spent the next year at home – the article says he “had no choice” but to stay home and give up the traveling, but there’s always a choice. Sartore made the respectable and admirable choice to stay home and care for his wife and three children, sacrificing his career goals for that year. As a woman who has relied on her husband through several years of cycling illnesses, I know this is no small step for a man to take and I have a profound respect for spouses who give like my husband has given to me – with true love and devotion. In any case, I guess what I’m getting at is that I like Sartore’s work even more knowing his story. Which is that he hatched the idea for the photo ark during that year at home – his first photo for the project was of the naked mole rat, which he photographed at a zoo near his home. He found a way to pursue his work AND be there for his family, which is pretty awesome. His goal for the photo ark is also admirable: “photographing the world’s captive species and making people care about their fate.” It seems like he has a good shot at achieving that goal – his photo spread in April’s issue is my two-year-old’s favorite page of the magazine 🙂

Picture of a naked mole rat

Naked Mole Rat – Joel Sartore

May: I feel like I should have a lot to say about May’s Yellowstone issue, but I don’t. I learned SO much from it, and I found it really fascinating. That said, what stands out to me the most after having read it is this photo from one of the last pages of the magazine by Louise Johns:

Picture of a young girl near Yellowstone chasing a ball near her family's ranch

photo by Louise Johns

The caption reads:

Four-year-old Elle Anderson chases a ball and a future near her family’s house on J Bar L Ranch in Montana. ‘A hundred years from now,’ says Hillary Anderson, ‘I hope this place is a thriving ecosystem full of everything that should be here – wolves, bears, humans, livestock.’

You can see the picture a lot better if you click here. What I love about it: the scene pictured here is drastically different from where I live in a townhouse neighborhood in suburban Virginia. But, in true four-year-old fashion, Elle Anderson is chasing that ball wearing…an Elsa dress. No matter how different their day to day lives may be, this four-year-old and my four-year-old are a lot alike 🙂

Kristin’s NatGeo Higlights – December 2015, Part I

There are two articles in December’s National Geographic Magazine that stood out to me. In a departure from how I “usually” do it (can I say “usually” when there have only been a few of these posts?), I’m going to write my “highlights” in two posts, and give a little bit longer treatment to each of the articles.

One only needs to look at the cover of this month’s issue to see the first of my two highlights: Mary, The Most Powerful Woman in the World (text here). When I first saw the cover I was at once thrilled and suspicious, wondering what on earth a scientific magazine had to say about the Mother of God. It turns out the author herself, who is Catholic, had similar concerns.

Overall, though, I think the article is fairly well done. It focuses on Mary’s universality: how she is so many things to so many people. It touches on her numerous titles, talks a lot about Marian apparitions and healings, and includes pictures and explanations of Marian devotions from places around the world. These are all good, and emphasis on Mary’s approachability, love for us, and motherly protection is crucial to understanding who she is.

I do take issue with how the article looks at what Mary “can be” as opposed to what she “is.” For instance, the article states that Mary “can be the grieving mother, the young virgin…” (37). It is her identity that allows her to have the universal appeal spoken of elsewhere in the article: she “can be” so many things to so many people because that’s who she is. To a certain extent, though, this makes sense and is expected since the article is not written from a faith perspective.

The magazine’s intention in writing the article was to explore “what is it about Mary?” (From the Editor). Last year, the National Museum of Women in the Arts hosted a temporary exhibit on “Picturing Mary” which had the most visitors of any exhibit ever at the museum (Adam got me tickets for Christmas last year and we went together! What an awesome gift!). After seeing this, NatGeo wanted to know why people are so drawn to Mary. The problem with that quest is that the answer cannot come from a purely scientific exploration. Rather, the answer is one that is based on Faith: Mary is a global phenomenon because she is the Mother of God; people venerate her and turn to her in times of need because her power is real, not imagined. Ms. Goldberg sums up her editor’s note thus: “There’s a unifying power in the faith that Mary inspires in so many. And that, it could be argued, is in itself something of a miracle.” If by “miracle” she means supernatural, then yes. By the power of God, Mary is forever without sin and the vessel through which God became man. Also, by Christ’s words from the Cross, her motherly role was expanded to all of humanity. Mary has this seemingly miraculous power to be universal because of who she is: the Mother of God and the mother of us all.

 

*Highlights, Part II forthcoming. We’ll completely change pace and look at the evolution of New York City!