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Category: charity

Scott Turow flashes back with the Beatles on KCRW

Scottturow-2010Author Scott Turow is the latest to step into the radio booth for KCRW's Guest DJ Project. In the short recorded segment, the guest DJs select and play five songs while talking about what they like about them, or why they find them important.

Turow, of course, is the bestselling author of legal thrillers such as "Presumed Innocent" and "Reversible Errors." His musical tastes run toward baby boomer-era classics -- Del Shannon, Pete Seeger and, not surprisingly, the Beatles.

But the Beatles song Turow picks is a surprise: "Free as a Bird," released in 1995 with performances by the surviving Beatles grafted onto an archive recording of John Lennon, produced with Yoko Ono's permission. Turow explains what he likes about it:

“What compels me to choose it -- although I always thought it got down-talked in a way it didn’t deserve, I think it’s a great song -- but by the time it was released in 1995 with, you know, the full vocalization, I was a middle-aged father of three. And the anticipation of hearing this new Beatles song brought me back to 13 years old when they first appeared. And I hovered by the TV set and just waited, and by the time the first guitar chords were struck, I was just absolutely transported and moved by this song.

I always liked to imagine that Lennon was singing about the Beatles, as a group, and that together they had felt free as bird. But it was a powerful lesson because I liked John Lennon’s music, the music he made as a solo artist, a great deal. But I’ll still take “Free as a Bird” over anything that he did by himself. The addition of the other three still brings it to a musical level that I don’t think anybody got to on their own.”

In addition to being a writer and a working lawyer, Turow is the head of the Authors Guild. I'll be talking to him about publishing and e-books June 22, when he comes to town. The reason for his visit is, actually, musical: He's a founding member of the writers' rock group the Rock Bottom Remainders. They mostly play covers; Turow sings.

The Rock Bottom Remainders will perform their last public show June 22 at the El Rey Theater with a lineup that includes some big bestsellers: Stephen King, Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Matt Groening, Ridley Pearson, Greg Iles, Sam Barry and Roy Blount Jr. Roger McGuinn from the Byrds will be along providing some serious guitar help. All proceeds from the event are to go to charity.

After the jump, the Rock Bottom Remainders sing "Wild Thing" with a fan who had donated money to sing along; he joins Turow at the mic.

Continue reading »

Author Greg Mortenson settles, will pay charity $1 million


An investigation of "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson and his charity the Central Asia Institute over its administration was settled Thursday. According to the terms of the agreement, Mortenson will stay with the charity and has three years to pay it $1 million of his own money as compensation for using charitable funds to promote and buy his books.

The investigation was spearheaded by authorities in Montana, where the Central Asia Institute is registered. The settlement will allow Mortenson's charity to continue its work building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, albeit with major structural changes -- and Mortenson's repayment plan.

Mortenson has already paid back about half the funds, says Anne Beyersdorfer, the interim executive director. Mortenson stepped down as executive director and has left the board, but will remain an employee of the organization.

Mortenson made bestseller lists with "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones into Schools," his tales of mountaineering and school building in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was a popular speaker who spent much of his time -- and, it turned out, charitable funds -- touring the country talking about his books and work.

According to the Montana Attorney General's office, since 2006 the charity spent $4.9 million advertising Mortenson's two books and $4 million buying copies of them to give away to schools and libraries.

The reports about possible improprieties was brought to light by writer Jon Krakauer in April 2011. Krakauer's contentions about goings-on at the Central Asia Institute were broadcast on "60 Minutes" and caused a sensation. They were immediately followed by "Three Cups of Deceit," a 75-page story by Krakauer that launched the Byliner original e-book shorts for the Kindle; it quickly became a bestseller in its own right. Krakauer, the author of "Into Thin Air" and other bestsellers, also questioned the veracity of some of Mortenson's mountaineering stories. He visited remote locations where schools built by the charity stood empty, with no furniture or books.

The Central Asia Institute's board was made up of just three people -- Mortenson and two others. Boards of charities are meant to provide arms-length supervision of day-to-day activities, which the institute's apparently did not. The two other board members are reportedly to depart within a year and be replaced by a seven-member board.

The arrangement that allows the Central Asia Institute to continue its mission of building schools in remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan is probably a wise one. Despite the controversy, readers who responded to Mortenson's story voiced support for the author and his work. With more formal administration, that work may be done more effectively, so donors' funds are put to best use.

Update April 23, 2:15pm: A previous version of this post said that Mortenson's settlement was the result of a lawsuit. There was no lawsuit; the settlement agreement was reached after an investigation.


Investigation throws 'Three Cups of Tea' author Greg Mortenson's charity work into doubt

The latest in the Greg Mortenson controversy: His climbing partner responds

Greg Mortenson responds to "60 Minutes" questions about his "Three Cups of Tea" story

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Greg Mortenson with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the opening of Pushghar Village Girls School, 60 miles north of Kabul in Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, in 2009. Credit: Department of Defense / Associated Press

What should you give Jay-Z and Beyoncé's baby? Books. Oprah did.

Little Blue Ivy Carter, born Saturday night in New York City, has certain advantages in this world. Her parents, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, are rich and famous, wildly talented and superhumanly gorgeous.

So what do you give the baby born with everything? Books -- if you're Oprah, that is.

The Insider reports, "The Insider has learned that the TV titan [Oprah] sent Beyonce and Jay-Z's daughter a trunk full of children's books." Which books, exactly, were included? That's still a mystery.

But if Oprah wanted, she could have sent several trunks full of books. According to Us Weekly, Beyoncé and Jay-Z built a 2,200-square foot nursery for their daughter in their apartment in TriBeCa.

With all the crazy gifts given to the baby -- say, a $7,000 pink Swarovsky crystal-encrusted tub -- Oprah's seems pretty sensible. Heck, even if she'd had the trunk full of books lined in sable, and delivered by elephant, it wouldn't be the craziest thing that had happened in Blue Ivy Carter's two-day-old life.


Beyonce's baby Blue Ivy Carter gets a song from her daddy Jay-Z

Beyonce has a baby girl! She and Jay-Z welcome Blue Ivy Carter

Beyonce throws a 'Party' with sister Solange, Kelly Rowland [Video]

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter in December and Beyoncé in November. Credits: Charles Sykes / Associated Press, left; Jemal Countess / Getty Images, right.  

Elton John to publish AIDS book, 'Love is the Cure'

Elton John is set to publish a book focused on AIDS: "Love is the Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic"
Elton John, the flamboyant pop star, is set to publish a book focused on AIDS and his knowledge of the disease. "Love is the Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic" is scheduled to be published in July; it is Sir Elton's first book.

During the early part of John's career, he was known as a singer with outrageous fashion sense, crazy glasses, a rocking piano and a string of No. 1 records. He hit big with lively songs such as "Bennie and the Jets," "Crocodile Rock," and "Honky Cat" and appeared as the pinball wizard's nemesis in "Tommy." He also went to the top of the charts with the more subdued "Rocket Man" and the ballads "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and "Daniel." Since the '80s, John has had hits on the mellow side, with "Tiny Dancer," "Candle in the Wind" (two hit versions, one for Marilyn Monroe, later for Princess Diana) and film and theater successes.

The singer was an early supporter of efforts to fight AIDS, founding the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992. He has held annual fundraising concerts, and the foundation has donated nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to fight AIDS worldwide.

That said, the book promises to be more personal than polemic. Publisher Little, Brown writes in a release:

"Love is the Cure" will be the very personal story of Sir Elton's life during the AIDS epidemic, including his agony at seeing friend after friend perish needlessly. Through his stories of close encounters with people like Ryan White, Freddie Mercury, and many others, he will convey the personal toll AIDS has taken on his life -- and his infinite determination to stop its spread.

Sir Elton writes, "This is a disease that must be cured not by a miraculous vaccine, but by changing hearts and minds, and through a collective effort to break down social barriers and to build bridges of compassion. Why are we not doing more? This is a question I have thought deeply about, and wish to answer -- and to help change -- by writing this book.

The audiobook edition will be read by John.

The release of "Love is the Cure" will coincide with the 2012 XIX International AIDS Conference, being held in Washington. Little, Brown said it will donate 10% of its profits from the book to help fight AIDS.

Since its discovery in 1991, AIDS has claimed 60 million lives, and 34 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.


John Lennon's books

Amy Winehouse book by her dad

Sammy Hagar's wacky and brutal memoir

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Elton John with Elizabeth Taylor at his AIDS benefit concert in 2001. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

The latest in the Greg Mortenson controversy: His climbing partner responds


This post has been corrected. Please see the note below.

Greg Mortenson's climbing companion Scott Darsney has been offline in Nepal since a "60 Minutes" story threw into question Mortenson's account in his bestselling book "Three Cups of Tea" and the fiscal management at his nonprofit foundation, the Central Asia Institute.

The "60 Minutes" report, which included questions raised by another bestselling author, Jon Krakauer ("Into Thin Air"), was followed by a 75-page report by Krakauer, "Three Cups of Deceit." First made available on a new website, Byliner.com, "Three Cups of Deceit" is now available digitally from Amazon, and holds the bestselling spot on the Kindle Single list.

Darsney had spoken with Krakauer. Now, after getting a chance to see the questions raised about Mortenson and "Three Cups of Tea," he seems to be backtracking on some of his statements.

He sent an email to Outside Magazine, which was posted Tuesday on its site. For example, Outside writes:

Darsney refutes Krakauer’s debunking of Mortenson’s climbing résumé. Krakauer wrote: “Scott Darsney, Greg’s climbing partner on K2, confirms that Mortenson had never been to the Himalaya or Karakoram before going to K2.”

Darsney’s response: “I must have misspoken, or Krakauer misheard. I meant the Karakoram, not the Himalaya in general. I am pretty sure that [the 1993 K2 climb] was Greg’s first trip to Pakistan, but he had told me of his past trips to Baruntse and Annapurna IV before, for sure, and at the beginning of the 1993 trip.”

Darsney, whose account Krakauer cited in his allegations that Mortenson didn't visit Korphe on his first trip down from K2,  says that he was separated from Mortenson for a time, during which Mortenson "ended up in a village on the wrong side of the Braldu River" and that "It’s certainly plausible" this was Korphe.

The Business Insider calls Darsney's email a "Non-Defense Defense" of Mortenson. In particular, it cites one paragraph:

If Greg is misappropriating funds, then show me the luxury cars, fancy boats, and closets full of shoes. This is not a “ministry” or a business gone corrupt. Are there not other NGOs and nonprofits that stray now and then? Don’t they also spend more internally as they get bigger, especially when growing quickly? But their intent and purpose still stay on the course of the mission.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy writes in an opinion piece, "A charity must serve a public interest rather than a private one, and any financial benefits provided to an individual must be incidental compared with the amount spent to advance a charity’s tax-exempt purposes." There seems to be some confusion over the "purposes" part of Mortenson's Central Asia Institute, which billed its primary purpose as building and supporting schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The article says:

The shock over the institute’s spending is due in part to the mixed messages contained in its informational tax return and on its Web site. For example, the tax form for fiscal 2009 lists domestic outreach and education as the charity’s largest program expense. However, the “program” section of the institute’s Web site fails to even mention domestic outreach and lists only the programs it conducts abroad.

Last week, the leader of a Pakistani think tank who says he was misrepresented in Mortenson's books as a Taliban terrorist -- he appears in a photograph in "Stones Into Schools" -- told CNN that he was considering legal action against the author.

Meanwhile, Mortenson recently canceled an appearance scheduled for May 3 in Boston, citing an operation he'd undergone to repair a hole in his heart.


Investigation throws 'Three Cups of Tea' author Greg Mortenson's charity work into doubt

Greg Mortenson Responds to '60 Minutes' questions about his 'Three Cups of Tea' story

-- Carolyn Kellogg

[For the Record, April 26: An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of Jon Krakauer's report.]

Photo: Greg Mortenson with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the opening of Pushghar Village Girls School, 60 miles north of Kabul in Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, in 2009. Credit: Department of Defense / Associated Press

Greg Mortenson responds to '60 Minutes' questions about his 'Three Cups of Tea' story

Bestselling author Greg Mortenson has issued a written response to a "60 Minutes" report calling into question his philanthropic practices and his experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortenson chronicled those experiences in the books "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools" and leads the Central Asia Institute, an international charity that supports schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Steve Kroft's "60 Minutes" report cited accounts that contradicted essential parts of Mortenson's story, and calls into question the way funds are allocated by the charity. The report, which aired Sunday night, is embedded above; "60 Minutes" posted Mortenson's response on its website. The following is from that statement.

60 Minutes' question: Did you really stumble into Korphe after failing to summit K2? The two porters who accompanied you on your journey down from K2 have told us you did not. We have three other sources that support the porters' accounts. The evidence suggests that you did not step foot in Korphe until a year later.

Greg Mortenson: Yes, I first visited Korphe village, Braldu valley, Baltistan, Pakistan, after failing to summit K2 in 1993, and met Haji Ali, a long time dear mentor and friend. My second visit to Korphe was in 1994. I made two visits to Korphe in 1995, the year we built the bridge over the Braldu River. And I again made two visits to Korphe in 1996, the year we built the Korphe School.

Mortenson further told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "The time about our final days on K2 and ongoing journey to Korphe village and Skardu is a compressed version of events that took place in the fall of 1993." He also told the paper, "As the co-author of the book, along with David Oliver Relin, I am responsible for the content in the book. There were many people involved in the story and also those who produced the manuscript. What was done was to simplify the sequence of events for the purposes of telling what was, at times, a complicated story."

Mortenson's written response continued:

It is important to know that Balti people have a completely different notion about time. Even the Balti language -- an archaic dialect of Tibetan -- has only a vague concept of tenses and time. For example, "now" can mean immediately or sometime over the course of a whole long season. The concept of past and future is rarely of concern. Often tenses are left out of discussion, although everyone knows what is implied. And if a person is a day or a week late or early it doesn't matter. The Balti consider the western notion of time quite amusing.

Language and perceptions of time seem to be coming into some kind of conflict. In his written statement, Mortenson looks to language, and an underlying difference in worldview, to blame for accounts that contradict his own. That's the same position he takes when responding to the television show's next question.

Question: Were you kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban in Waziristan in 1996? Three of the men in the photo you published in "Stones Into Schools" deny that they kidnapped you and say they are not Taliban. We have two other sources of information that support their account.

Mortenson: Yes, I was detained for eight days in Waziristan in 1996. It was against my will, and my passport and money were taken from me. I was not mistreated or harmed, but I was also not allowed to leave. A blanket was put over my head any time I was moved by vehicle. A "Talib" means student in Arabic, and, yes, there were Taliban in the region. Waziristan is an area where tribal factions and clan ties run deep. Some people are Taliban, some are not, and affiliations change overnight often on a whim. The Pathan people of Waziristan are proud people who I greatly admire. In speaking to American audiences, I often talk about my admiration for their concepts of Pashtunwali, their unwritten code of honor and conduct, and Nenawastay, hospitality.

The answer doesn't exactly address the question. Read the responses from the Central Asia Institute's (at www.ikat.org) board of directors and Mortenson's responses to the television show's other questions here.

Perhaps Mortenson will speak up further about these issues and others raised by the "60 Minutes" report.


Investigation throws "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson's charity work into doubt

-- Carolyn Kellogg


Investigation throws 'Three Cups of Tea' author Greg Mortenson's charity work into doubt

MortensonAn investigation by "60 Minutes" to be broadcast this weekend will cite multiple sources that contend some of the most inspiring stories in Greg Mortenson's books "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones into Schools" are not true.

Significantly, Mortenson's origin story -- of being saved by a remote village in Afghanistan and promising to build a school for them -- appears to be a fabrication.

In a news release, the television program explains:

The heart of Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea” is the story of a failed attempt in 1993 to climb the world’s second-highest peak, K2.  On the way down, Mortenson says, he got lost and stumbled, alone and exhausted, into a remote mountain village in Pakistan named Korphe. According to the book’s narrative, the villagers cared for him and he promised to return to build a school there. In a remote village in  Pakistan, 60 MINUTES found Mortenson’s porters on that failed expedition. They say Mortenson  didn’t get lost and stumble into Korphe on his way down from K2. He visited the village a year later. 

That’s what famous author and mountaineer Jon Krakauer, a former donor to Mortenson’s charity, says he found out, too. “It’s a beautiful story.  And it’s a lie,” says Krakauer.  “I have spoken to one of his [Mortenson’s] companions, a close friend, who hiked out from K2 with him and this companion said, ‘Greg never heard of Korphe until a year later,’” Krakauer tells Kroft.  Mortenson did eventually build a school in Korphe, Krakauer says, “But if you read the first few chapters of that book, you realize, ‘I am being taken for a ride here.’ ”

The story of Mortenson's efforts to support education in Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly their remote regions is widely known, and has helped draw many to his charity. Since opening his first school in 1997, Mortenson has been said to have been involved with establishing hundreds of schools, working with tribal leaders, Islamic clerics and militia commanders. He even survived an eight-day abduction by the Taliban.

Yet the story of his abduction has been called into question. 60 Minutes reports:

In “Three Cups of Tea,” Mortenson writes of being kidnapped in the Waziristan region of Pakistan in 1996. In his second book, “Stones into Schools,” Mortenson publishes a photograph of his alleged captors. In television appearances, he has said he was kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban. 60 MINUTES located three of the men in the photo, all of whom denied that they were Taliban and denied that they had kidnapped Mortenson.  One the men in the photo is the research director of a respected think tank in Islamabad, Mansur Khan Mahsud. He tells Kroft that  he and the others in the photo were Mortenson’s  protectors, not his kidnappers. “We treated him as a guest and took care of him,” says Mahsud. “This is totally false and he is lying.”  Asked why Mortenson would lie about the trip, Mahsud replies, “To sell his book.”

And according to "60 Minutes," Mortenson's charity, the Central Asia Institute, has spent more money  in the the U.S. talking about education in Pakistan and Afghanistan than actually building and supporting schools there. The television program talks to charity waltchdog group that has concerns about the financial management of the group.

Who didn't they talk to? Greg Mortenson, who did not respond to their requests for an interview.



Cups of tea at Loyola Marymount

-- Carolyn Kellogg


Follow the money? Melville House, Amazon and the Best Translated Book Awards

Noaweber_cover Indie publisher Melville House will not be participating in the Best Translated Book Awards, it announced Thursday on its website, in protest of a grant the nonprofit awards received from Amazon. Amazon's grant will enable the awards to provide two winning authors and their translators each with $5,000.

That's not an insignificant amount of money for a translator or a novelist. Nor is Melville House's withdrawal insignificant: The publisher's novel "The Confessions of Noa Weber" won the Best Translated Fiction Award in 2009.

"[I]t’s clear to us that Amazon’s interests, and those of a healthy book culture, whether electronic or not, are antithetical," wrote co-founder Dennis Loy Johnson on the company's website.

That may not be as clear to everyone else. Although there are many in publishing who will quietly admit to frustrations with Amazon, the behind-the-scenes business practices can't obviate the company's cultural place. Amazon built the first viable e-commerce platform by selling books, and has brought e-readers into the mainstream by throwing its weight behind its Kindle -- as a company, it is fostering book culture.

But the exact shape of that book culture does not appeal to Johnson. In an e-mail to The Times, he continued, saying that "the overwhelming majority of translated literature in America these days is being published by independent publishers and sold by independent booksellers. Amazon's predatory practices are obviously damaging to those enterprises."

Is it fair to connect the business practices of a company to its charitable giving? There are certainly companies that have done bad whose charities have done good. Henry Ford was notoriously anti-labor and anti-Semitic, but the Ford Foundation, established with Ford money, now contributes hundreds of millions of dollars annually to better the lives of people -- of all faiths -- around the world.

Perhaps the core of the issue is how independent the charitable giving is from the business itself. Businesses can set up entirely separate foundations, as was done by the Ford family, or a charitable-giving fund, with a board of directors that can act independently from those involved in the day-to-day running of the business. The underlying question seems to be, is the company trying to do good in a field it knows, or is it using charitable giving as a way of forwarding its interests, to the detriment of others?

Exactly how Amazon's charitable giving is connected to its business is hard to discern. Like many other things at Amazon, there is a notable lack of transparency (The Times asked for, but did not receive, clarification on the firm's charitable-giving program).

Typically, a major corporation with a charitable-giving program makes clear how much is given, how to apply, and who is in charge. Take Citibank, which puts everything online: Its foundation gave $65.8 million in 2009; its grants are made "by invitation only," but the guidelines for those grants are nevertheless online, as are lists of its staff and board of directors. Amazon, by contrast, has only a list of its literary grant recipients that omits financial information that Citibank makes clear; a simple form to "nominate" a literary nonprofit for an unspecified amount, using no more than 50 words in the description, is a far cry from the long application form and process Citibank details.

In March 2009, Amazon's charitable-giving program -- such as it was -- came under scrutiny from Seattle's The Stranger and from Slate, which wrote, "there are lemonade stands that donate more to charity than Amazon.com does." At the time, the company had, to all appearances, made zero charitable donations, despite having announced 2008 revenues of $19.17 billion, with $645 million in profit.

Since those concerns were raised, Amazon's charitable giving to literary organizations has surfaced. Its current giving page lists 31 literary nonprofits that have received grants (although it does fail to include when the grants were made, or for how much). Many of the grant recipients have been serving their communities for decades -- the 92nd Street Y in New York, Minneapolis' The Loft, the Seattle Arts and Lectures series. None of the 31 organizations, which have long records of finding charitable support for their efforts, has raised Johnson's concerns about Amazon as a funder.

In boycotting the Best Translated Book Awards, Melville House, a dedicated publisher of works in translation, appears to deny the authors and the translators of his books the chance to benefit from Amazon's largess. If Amazon's charitable giving is somehow suspect, if the lack of transparency or the company's history do imply a nefarious self-interest, should any organization that accepts Amazon's funds be boycotted as well? Would Melville House discourage its authors from appearances at any of those reading centers, or from other beneficiaries -- the AWP conference, run by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, or the PEN American Center?

And what about looking at it purely from the recipients' side. Could a translator of a novel published in, say, Estonia really be destroying book culture by accepting a $5,000 grant for their work from Open Letter, the University of Rochester and Three Percent, which present the 4-year-old Best Translated Book Awards?

In fact, Open Letter's Chad Post says authors and translators of books published by Melville House won't be ruled out. "[P]anelists are reading and evaluating all titles that were published in the previous year. There is no fee for submissions, and any original translation published in the past year is eligible," he told The Times. "If, in the future, a Melville House title is selected for the award, it will be up to Melville House and their authors and translators to decide whether or not to accept the prize money."

Although Johnson is focused on one '70s mantra, "follow the money," some may remember another anthem from the era: "Take the Money and Run."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

The sisters' pact that became the race for the cure


The name Susan G. Komen is known because it has remained attached to the fundraising runs and public fight against breast cancer -- and because of her little sister, Nancy G. Brinker. The way Brinker tells it in her new memoir, "Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement," by the time her sister Susan Goodman Komen died of breast cancer in 1980, at age 36, she had promised to end the silence, to raise money for scientific research and to end breast cancer for good. We review the book in Thursday's paper:

In Brinker's telling, the seeds of her future were sown early by her determined, capable and endlessly generous mother, a lifelong volunteer who was "unfashionably fearless about questioning the judgments of God and doctors who think they're God's golf buddies." Growing up solidly middle class and Jewish in Peoria, Ill., the Goodman girls were baking cupcakes for polio charities in elementary school.

Brinker tells her story in two modes, chapters of lively family memoir alternating with vignettes on the history of the disease, the founding of her organization and the inspiration provided by survivors and researchers. She keeps her weight firmly (and wisely) on the former — what could have been a sermon on cancer, philanthropy and cause-related marketing is instead a surprisingly diverting read.

The story of the efforts to end breast cancer isn't yet over. On Sunday there are two Komen race for the cure 5K runs in California: in San Francisco and in Orange County.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Breast cancer survivors raise pink roses at the 2009 Susan G. Komen Orange County Race for the Cure. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Bill Murray's poetry parade


On June 14, the Poets House in New York hosts its annual benefit poetry walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. As participants cross the bridge, they'll be treated to readings by work by Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Brooklyn poet Walt Whitman and others. Who's reading? Notable poets Galway Kinnell, Thomas Lux and Tina Chang -- plus musician Laurie Anderson and actor Bill Murray.

Deadpan comic Bill Murray doing poetry? Why not? Maybe you've seen this video of Murray reading to construction workers, which made the Internet rounds recently. It was recorded last year during the construction of the new Poets House facility in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan, where Poets House has since moved from SoHo.

The Poetry Walk will end with a celebratory dinner and, most likely, more readings. This year's honoree is Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights, the San Francisco bookstore and publishing house. Ferlinghetti, now 91, published Allen Ginsberg's "Howl & Other Poems" and has been nurturing the literary culture of San Francisco ever since.  

The 15th annual event is a fundraiser; tickets start at $250.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Bill Murray, center, with the co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2010, for the upcoming feature "Get Low." Credit: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

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