The casting call for Obama’s town hall, dealing with the media’s masturbation shame, and what Stephen Hawking has to say about God.

On a regular basis (and, in this case, after a brief hiatus), Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

The links below open in a new window. Newer ones are on top.

E-Book Economics It has always been tough for literary fiction writers to get their work published by the top publishing houses. But the digital revolution that is disrupting the economic model of the book industry is having an outsize impact on the careers of literary writers.

The Idea Mill: From Poop to Power Next time you flush the toilet, you could be doing your bit for green energy. After being stored for 18 days, human waste will from today be returning to homes in the form of renewable gas.

The Huge Factor in Education Being Ignored The elephant that Obama and Lauer ignored: Poverty and student achievement.

THE REAL GOP PLATFORM Joe Miller thinks we should end direct election of senators and let state legislatures pick them.

LIMBAUGH & BECK ON SLAVERY Rush Limbaugh: “Some people are self-starters, and some people are born lazy. Some people are born victims. Some people are just born to be slaves. Some people are born to put up with somebody else making every decision for them.” Glenn Beck: Slavery wasn’t that bad until government fouled it up.

Obama Town Hall Casting Call PRESIDENT OBAMA TOWN HALL, DC MTV, BET, and CMT (prods.) are casting the audience for A Conversation with President Obama, a town hall meeting with President Obama. Shooting Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. in Washington, DC. Seeking—Audience Members: males and females, 18+. To apply, email [email protected] and put “Town Hall” in the subject line. To ensure that the audience represents diverse interests and political views, include your name, phone number, hometown, school attending … .

Masturbation Finally out of The Closet, If Not Exactly into The Streets Maybe we can finally be done with shame, and with the coy and irksome way the press talks about this very homely pleasure.

Performance art in the marketplace Forget diamond-studded skulls and unmade beds: there is a contemporary art genre still under the radar of many collectors and dealers: performance art. Performance art is, however, finally coming in from the margins with a flood of prestigious exhibitions and museum initiatives that throw new light on a medium often seen as a relic of the 1970s.

Imagining the 1787 debut of ‘Don Giovanni’ It is 6.30 pm on a cloudy Monday evening and the audience is gathering outside the theatre. Although the opening night of this much-heralded new opera has been the talk of the town for weeks, nobody could have anticipated such a chaotic scene. The number of people wanting to get in has overwhelmed the box office, which has just shut down, and those who do have tickets cannot get to their seats in the scrum.

Did dogs teach us to love? In his latest look at animal behavior, Jeffrey Masson suggests a mutually beneficial evolution of our two species.

So, what does Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design tell us about God? What new theoretical developments since 1988 does Hawking point to that might obviate God the way oxygen displaced phlogiston? He takes the reader in steps, from the foundations of modern physics through a hope, a battle, and a leap of anti-faith. Let’s proceed one at a time.

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