Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The F-word as Progress

Every time I walk through the halls at LC, I hear the F-word. Maybe only once a day, but it is so common as to be unremarkable. When I hear it, I wonder if I should chastise the student. Sometimes, of course, I must, because the student says it so loudly something needs to be said. Most of the time, it's only a conversation between friends, so I just let it pass and pretend I didn't hear it.
It makes me wonder, though, why cursing is getting so commonplace. And I think the answer is that these kids hear that kind of language constantly.
Think of kids 50 years ago. The music they listened to didn't have F-words. Even until the 70s, the records were tame. The scariest band of the 70s, Black Sabbath, didn't curse. Now, the songs kids are putting in their ears use the word so often it has almost lost its meaning.
The movies kids watched 50 years ago may have had an F-word here and there, but now, huge Hollywood movies use it promiscuously. The Wolf of Wall Street had 569 uses of the word.
So, these kids are surrounded by the F-word. It's natural that they use it. Which must make school, a place where the F-word is strictly verboten, seem like total squaresville.
I know school has ALWAYS been total squaresville, but I think the gap between school life and the kids' real life is wider than it has ever been. Kids are on screens all the time--texting, playing video games, Snapchatting, watching Netflix. So to sit in classes for six hours, not cussing, not playing with screens, must seem supremely dull.
This does not bode well for the future of education. We have tried to remedy this gap by introducing online classes, but I can tell you from experience, that kind of education is not the same as a face-to-face class. We are trying to remedy a massive change in our students by incrementally changing our education. About the only thing that has changed in high schools over the last 100 years is we have replaced a blackboard with a whiteboard. Think about what would happen if a person from 100 years ago magically appeared in America today. They would be flabbergasted and flummoxed by all the changes in the world. But our high schools would look basically the same.
We don't need changes in education. We need a revolution.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Troy McClure and Steely Dan

I had to fact-check this because I thought it was a hoax, but apparently comedian Phil Hartman designed album covers (like the one on the left--no shit!) before he became a comedian. 

See more covers here

The White Man Pathology: Inside the Fandom of Sanders and Trump


A Canadian, Stephen Marche, reporting for The Guardian, drives to Iowa for back-to-back Trump and Sanders rallies. Like many Canadians and Englishmen before him, he is able to look at America from a remove, and what he sees, both Democrat and Republican (and overwhelmingly white), seems soaked in gloom. As for Republicans:
I remember reading a passage from bell hooks once, the kind that circulates on Facebook because it sounds slightly unusual in its predictable virtue. “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males,” she wrote, “is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage is psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves.”
Her compassion is admirable, glorious even, but also inaccurate. No one is more emotional than a piece-of-shit white man. They are sentimentality personified. How else can so many be moved to rage over the absence of a Christmas tree on a Starbucks cup?
And Democrats?
A few desultory bands [performed] an assortment of leftwing songs from various historical leftwing movements. They harmonized on The Auld Triangle, a prison ballad that was covered on Inside Llewelyn Davis. The singer from Alice in Chains (remember them?) did an electric version of I Won’t Back Down. An old The Clash song, Jail Guitar Doors, was sung by the subject of the first verse, Wayne Kramer. And it was all, so obviously, a nostalgia act, the indulgence for a longing of a time when music encouraged politics, when activism possessed an artistic face, and vice versa.  
Read the piece here. I highly recommend it.
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Sunday, January 03, 2016

Getting a confession no matter what


If you are as fascinated with the Netflix series Making a Murderer as I was, you might also be interested to know about the Reid Technique, the method police used to interrogate Brendan Dassey. Police around the country use it. And, apparently, it sucks. To wit: 


"A growing number of scientists and legal scholars have raised concerns about Reid-style interrogation. Of the three hundred and eleven people exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing, more than a quarter had given false confessions—including those convicted in such notorious cases as the Central Park Five. The extent of the problem is unknowable, because there’s no national database on wrongful convictions. But false confessions, which often lead to these convictions, are not rare, and experts say that Reid-style interrogations can produce them."

Read the great New Yorker piece about it here.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Could we really be saving 100,000 lives a year?

According to Vincent DeVita, of Yale Medical School, the National Cancer Institute, and former physician-in-chief of Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital:

"There are incredibly promising [cancer] therapies out there. If used to their fullest potential for all patients, I believe we could cure an additional 100,000 patients a year."

Why aren't we? DeVita writes:

"At this date, we are not limited by the science; we are limited by our ability to make good use of the information and treatments we already have."

Who is responsible for this? According to DeVita, it's the FDA.

Read the explanation here.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

"I think you have a beautiful smile"


"For years, she closed her mouth when she had her picture taken, to hide the gap in her front teeth. (She'd asked for braces, but her mother wouldn't hear of it. 'She was, like, "Don't you know that in Nigeria a gap is a sign of beauty and intelligence?"') In high school, a yearbook photographer told her to smile more, and something clicked. 'He said, "I think you have a beautiful smile." My mom had said it my whole life, but, for some reason, when he said it it rang in my ear differently. Now I smile all the time, even on red carpets, when you're supposed to look fierce.'"

From an interview with Uzo Aduba, "Crazy Eyes" from Orange is the New Black. 


One small positive comment--something you might not even remember saying--can change a person forever. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Political beliefs and team sports

When you think you have a rational opinion, ask yourself this: "What piece of evidence could convince me I'm wrong?" The piece of evidence doesn't have to really exist. You just have to acknowledge that you could be swayed if someone could provide sufficient evidence. If you can't think of anything that would persuade you, then you don't have a rational opinion. You have an emotional belief. And you are not worth arguing with. This is not political. I think both sides of the political spectrum would agree. But instead of pointing your finger at others, really ask YOURSELF the question. In other words, your political beliefs shouldn't be as emotional and irrational as your allegiance to your football team.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bob and David's best sketch and Tom Petty's biography

Bob and David return
In honor of a new season of w/Bob and David on Netflix (which I haven't watched yet--God I hope it's good!), here is what many consider their best sketch.





Tom Petty biography
When Tom Petty asked musician Warren Zanes, a former member of the Del Fuegos and now a professor at NYU, to write his biography, Zanes was ecstatic. He worried, though, that Petty would want an "authorized" biography. But according to the story told on the New Yorker website, that's not how Petty rolls. "Petty’s only condition was that he get to read the completed manuscript and be given the opportunity to respond to anything he felt needed it."

Now the book is done, and Petty has read it. What did he think?:
Tom Petty in 1976.'At the end of the process, as was their agreement, Zanes sent Petty the book, and then flew out to California to hear his judgment in person. Out came Petty, walking his walk, carrying the manuscript. “And he’s just kind of patting this thing and I’m thinking, This could go any one of ten thousand ways. And he said, ‘This is really good.’ ” He sounded just like Tom Petty when he said it.'
I gotta read this book

Friday, November 13, 2015

Soderbergh, The Knick, and Manson



Movies' most energetic director
Online magazine Vulture followed Steven Soderbergh as he shoots an episode of his show The Knick. Soderbergh not only directs, but he is the principal camera operator as well, and his energy leads an actor on the show to say Soderbergh is "like a dancer." His energy has been apparent for 26 years.
Since his 1989 debut, the Cannes Palme d’Or winner sex, lies and videotape, he has directed 25 features (including the four-and-a-half-hour, two-part biopic Che) plus nearly 30 hours of TV (including the 2003 HBO political satire K Street, each episode of which was plotted, scripted, shot, cut, and broadcast in five days). He is one of the few American directors to claim two Oscar nominations for Best Picture during a single calendar year, for 2000’s Erin Brockovich and Traffic; he won Best Director for the latter. Every one of his movies — including the comparatively glossy heist thrillers Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen — was produced for what is, by contemporary American studio standards, chump change.
Read the profile here. 

The Manson Family:
A podcast called You Must Remember This recently did a 12-part series about Charles Manson. I am only three episodes in, but I am already hooked (and it's not easy to hook me--I actually didn't finish Serial [don't tell anyone!]) I have never been a fan of Manson lore -- in fact, I hate our society's glorification of serial killers, as evidenced by stuff like this garbage (see left).

What makes this podcast so great is that it puts Manson in context. It gives his messed-up backstory (sexual abuse, crime, lots of prison time), then talks about his slow and deliberate transformation into a con-man. He becomes adept at locating needy people and manipulating them into doing his bidding. The show is suggesting so far that he's not crazy, he just plays crazy, but as I'm only three episodes in, I don't know what the final analysis will be. The last show I listened to, the third episode, was mostly about the Manson family's relationship to Beach Boy Brian Wilson, and it suggests that Wilson never recovered from his connection to the family. Filled with vivid evocations of 60s LA (and the malaise of late 60s LA), You Must Remember This is a must-listen podcast for me right now.

Soderbergh, The Knick, and Manson



Movies' most energetic director
Online magazine Vulture followed Steven Soderbergh as he shoots an episode of his show The Knick. Soderbergh not only directs, but he is the principal camera operator as well, and his energy leads an actor on the show to say Soderbergh is "like a dancer." His energy has been apparent for 26 years.
Since his 1989 debut, the Cannes Palme d’Or winner sex, lies and videotape, he has directed 25 features (including the four-and-a-half-hour, two-part biopic Che) plus nearly 30 hours of TV (including the 2003 HBO political satire K Street, each episode of which was plotted, scripted, shot, cut, and broadcast in five days). He is one of the few American directors to claim two Oscar nominations for Best Picture during a single calendar year, for 2000’s Erin Brockovich and Traffic; he won Best Director for the latter. Every one of his movies — including the comparatively glossy heist thrillers Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen — was produced for what is, by contemporary American studio standards, chump change.
Read the profile here. 

The Manson Family:
A podcast called You Must Remember This recently did a 12-part series about Charles Manson. I am only three episodes in, but I am already hooked (and it's not easy to hook me--I actually didn't finish Serial [don't tell anyone!]) I have never been a fan of Manson lore -- in fact, I hate our society's glorification of serial killers, as evidenced by stuff like this garbage (see left).

What makes this podcast so great is that it puts Manson in context. It gives his messed-up backstory (sexual abuse, crime, lots of prison time), then talks about his slow and deliberate transformation into a con-man. He becomes adept at locating needy people and manipulating them into doing his bidding. The show is suggesting so far that he's not crazy, he just plays crazy, but as I'm only three episodes in, I don't know what the final analysis will be. The last show I listened to, the third episode, was mostly about the Manson family's relationship to Beach Boy Brian Wilson, and it suggests that Wilson never recovered from his connection to the family. Filled with vivid evocations of 60s LA (and the malaise of late 60s LA), You Must Remember This is a must-listen podcast for me right now.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

America's schools don't suck, scary ideas (again), and an inspiring teacher

The bad rap on American education
Many Americans just assume that our education system is terrible, and that our students run the risk of being overtaken by students in India and China. The Wilson Quarterly disagrees:
Our best public schools are first-rate, producing more intense, involved, and creative ­A-­plus students than our most prestigious colleges have room for. That is why less-known institutions such as Claremont McKenna, Rhodes, and Hampshire are drawing many freshmen just as smart as the ones at Princeton. The top 70 percent of U.S. public high schools are pretty good, certainly better than they have ever been, thanks to a growing movement to offer Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate ­courses.
Our real problem is the bottom 30 percent of U.S. schools, those in urban and rural communities full of ­low-­income children. We have seen enough successful schools in such areas to know that many of those children are just as capable of being great scientists, doctors, and executives as suburban children are. But most ­low-­income schools in the United States are simply bad. Not only are we denying the children who attend them the equal education that is their right, but we are squandering almost a third of our intellectual capital. We are beating the world economically, but with one hand tied behind our ­back.
The article makes a compelling case that the statistics we get from China and India are greatly inflated. Read the details here.

Life is a trigger
I posted last week about college students requiring that their schools shield them from scary ideas. Students' desires to be protected from things that make them uncomfortable seem to be an epidemic. A professor teaching a course on the evolution of the representation of sex in American cinema (I want to take that class!) laments that some students requested that she send emails every day giving advance trigger warnings for possible hurtful material before every class. She did as she was asked, but it was a daunting task. The exercise led her to the conclusion that:
Colleges are the new helicopter parents, places where the quest for emotional safety and psychic healing leads not to learning, but regression.
She goes on to argue that asking for trigger warnings is:
promoting a culture of extreme privilege, because I’m pretty sure that the trans women who are being murdered weekly, the black men who are victims of police brutality daily, and the neighborhoods in America that are plagued by everyday violence, aren’t given any trigger warnings. Let’s be honest: life is a trigger.
Obviously her words are controversial, but her argument is a valuable one. Read her story here

What the best teachers can do
George Saunders is one of the most well-respected writers in America. In a recent New Yorker, he recalls how he became a writer, but more importantly, he remembers the life-lessons he learned from his teachers. One lesson he learned from is professor to "be kind, pay attention, err on the side of generosity" -- a lesson we all would be wise to remember. His piece also reminded me of the power we teachers have as potential role models, when he writes of his professor: "This, of course, is what a ‘role model’ is: someone who, by gracefully embodying positive virtues, causes you to aspire to them yourself." This odd little "memoir" is positive and inspiring and it made me smile. 


Sunday, November 01, 2015

College applications, scary ideas, and Texas justice

Is the college application process broken?
Last week I submitted six letters of recommendation for my students. As I struggle to say just the right thing for my talented students, I wonder if the college admittance process is as efficient as it can be. One professor doesn't think so, and he has an interesting proposal for fixing the process.
There is a better way for colleges to gather comprehensive information about candidates. It’s called an assessment center, and it’s been in use for more than half a century to screen candidates for business, government and military positions.
Read his full proposal here.

Hiding from scary ideas
There was a time when college campuses were fierce protectors of free speech--when students could count on being exposed to all kinds of ideas, and could determine for themselves, through debate and reason, which of those ideas were worthwhile. According to Judith Shulevitz, that's not so true any more.
It’s disconcerting to see students clamor for a kind of intrusive supervision that would have outraged students a few generations ago. But those were hardier souls. Now students’ needs are anticipated by a small army of service professionals — mental health counselors, student-life deans and the like. This new bureaucracy may be exacerbating students’ “self-infantilization,” as Judith Shapiro, the former president of Barnard College, suggested in an essay for Inside Higher Ed.
But why are students so eager to self-infantilize? Their parents should probably share the blame. Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, wrote on Slate last month that although universities cosset students more than they used to, that’s what they have to do, because today’s undergraduates are more puerile than their predecessors. “Perhaps overprogrammed children engineered to the specifications of college admissions offices no longer experience the risks and challenges that breed maturity,” he wrote. But “if college students are children, then they should be protected like children.”
Maybe it's time to start treating college students like the adults we hope they become. Read Shulevitz's article here.

Cursed at birth
I started reading a LONG Texas Monthly story this morning, thinking if it didn't hook me in the first few paragraphs, I'd quit reading. I finished the whole thing in one sitting. This is a compelling piece of journalism, and a fascinating story. The summary at the top of the article says it best:
For almost twenty years, Greg Torti has lived the life of a convicted sex offender: monitored by the authorities, unable to go near schools or parks, forced to make his home on the outskirts of a tiny town. It’s exactly the kind of miserable life a pervert deserves, he would tell you—if he were one. - See more at: http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-strange-tale-of-greg-torti/?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=website#sthash.NdwIaSTr.dpuf
For almost twenty years, Greg Torti has lived the life of a convicted sex offender. Monitored by the authorities, unable to go near schools or parks, forced to make his home on the outskirts of a tiny town. Exactly the kind of life a pervert deserves, he would tell you--if he were one. 
Read the article here.


For almost twenty years, Greg Torti has lived the life of a convicted sex offender: monitored by the authorities, unable to go near schools or parks, forced to make his home on the outskirts of a tiny town. It’s exactly the kind of miserable life a pervert deserves, he would tell you—if he were one. - See more at: http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-strange-tale-of-greg-torti/?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=website#sthash.NdwIaSTr.dpu
For almost twenty years, Greg Torti has lived the life of a convicted sex offender: monitored by the authorities, unable to go near schools or parks, forced to make his home on the outskirts of a tiny town. It’s exactly the kind of miserable life a pervert deserves, he would tell you—if he were one. - See more at: http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-strange-tale-of-greg-torti/?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=website#sthash.NdwIaSTr.dpuf

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jeb Bush, psych majors, four vampires, and revolution

Why you pickin' on psych majors?
In last night's Republican debate, Jeb Bush cast aspersions on psych majors. After saying "the No. 1 degree program in the country is psychology,” Bush said, “I just don’t think people are getting jobs as psych majors.” He added, "Hey, that psych major deal … that’s great … but realize you’re going to be working at Chick-fil-A.”

Since my daughter is a psych major, and since I teach AP Psychology, I took exception to this. And so did psychology professor Darby Saxby. She wrote, "Contrary to what Bush may think, the biggest employer of psychologists isn’t the fast food industry, but the Department of Veterans Affairs. As an intern at a VA hospital, I worked with patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, anger management problems, and substance abuse disorders. Psychologists have developed effective behavioral treatments for all of these problems, but waitlists are long. We need psychology majors—not just doctoral-level psychologists, but paraprofessionals at the bachelor’s and master’s levels—to disseminate and deliver mental health treatments that work."

Take THAT, Bush!
Read Saxby's article here.

What We Do in the Shadows
For Halloween, I suggest this horror-comedy directed by and starring Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords. It's a mockumentary about four vampires living together in Wellington, New Zealand. It's only 85 minutes, and there are a lot of laughs (and a few scares).




The Beatles, Revolution (live)

Sure the studio trickery of Sgt. Pepper's is great, but just put those four guys in a room and let them play, and they were AMAZING.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Big words, Trump's a 4th grader, and the Presidential Speechalist

K.I.S.S
I have been trying to tell my students this for years, but we finally have evidence: using big words does not make you look smart. In fact, the opposite is true.
In one experiment, the researchers — including Daniel M. Oppenheimer, of the UCLA Anderson School of Management — took real college admission essays and replaced some of the simpler words used in them with more complicated ones. They then gave these to their study participants, to read and rate the competency and confidence level of the authors. As it turned out, the authors of the essays with complicated language were rated lower than the authors of the essays with simpler language. 
Read more about it here

The reading level of the speech of presidential candidates
While we are on the subject of simple language, check out the grade level of the language of presidential hopefuls 

Based on the above data, we REALLY need to worry about Trump. Read the accompanying article here.

The Presidential Speechalist
All this talk of presidential speeches reminds me of a classic video

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The man who beat Edison, the Flu, and Terry Gross

The man who defeated Thomas Edison
The man who holds more patents than anyone (including Thomas Edison) is Lowell Wood of Bellevue, WA. What makes the story intriguing to me is that he was terrible in school.
Wood insists that if he’s smart, he didn’t start out that way. Growing up in Southern California, he says, “I didn’t do well in any classes.” He often failed or received the lowest score on the first exam given in a particular course and improved his marks through repetition and intense effort. The strategy worked. He skipped a couple of grades and enrolled at UCLA at 16, where he tested into an honors-level calculus class. The worst score on the first exam—once again—was his. “I’d gotten into the class on the basis of aptitude, not knowledge, which is a ruinous sort of thing,” he says. “It’s like being told I understand the theory of swimming, and so here I am tossed into a high-speed river.”
The score horrified Wood, and he tried to make up for it with a very hard extra-credit problem. “You had to figure out how to cover an area with tiles in a specified fashion,” he says. “This is back in 1958, and it was a famous math problem. It was hopeless, and everyone worked on it for a while and then threw it away.”
As it happened, UCLA had just taken delivery of the first digital computer west of the Mississippi. Wood taught himself how to use the machine over the Christmas break and then wrote a program to solve the tiling problem. “It was a shameless sort of thing,” he says. “I used brute force to solve a problem that was meant to be solved through cleverness.” After he turned in his work, his professor accused him of cheating. “And so I reached down in a briefcase and pulled out the program,” he says. “The professor’s jaw literally dropped, and he said, ‘What is a computer? You can have the points if you teach me how to use this thing.’”
It makes me wonder how many of my low scoring students have hidden talents that I can't see. Then it makes me wonder how we change the education system so that we might be able to see those talents more clearly.

The Flu
What makes the flu spread more easily in winter? Partially, it's the dry air:
Tyler Koep, then at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has estimated that simply running an air humidifier in a school for one hour could kill around 30% of the viruses flying around the air.
Read the article here

Terry Gross
Fresh Air's Terry Gross is America's best interviewer (I'm sorry Charlie Rose, but it's true), and The New York Times Magazine just did a profile of her. The profile includes an exchange from an interview I vividly remember listening to. Maurice Sendak was so real, and his emotions were so naked. I'm really glad the profile captured part of it.
On ‘‘Fresh Air,’’ we listen to Gross grapple with the most complex questions of existence — racial prejudice, faith, family, illness, morality, betrayal, gratitude. In 2011, when Maurice Sendak was 83, Gross called him at his home in Connecticut. What was meant to be a short conversation about his new book, ‘‘Bumble-Ardy,’’ became a meditation on his nearness to death. You feel Sendak looking over into it from his living room.
Sendak: Oh, God, there are so many beautiful things in this world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready. … You know, I have to tell you something.
Gross: Go ahead.
Sendak: You are the only person I have ever dealt with in terms of being interviewed or talking who brings this out in me. There’s something very unique and special in you, which I so trust. When I heard that you were going to interview me or that you wanted to, I was really, really pleased.
Read the interview here

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Witches, a Cold Little Bird, and Canada

Maybe the Salem Witch Trials were easy to explain: powerful adults steeped in tales of witchcraft are poised to believe the tales of girls who have finally found a way to exert power. Then the accusations fade because the people of Massachusetts realize the finger could be pointed at anybody. Stacy Schiff's new book, The Witches: Salem, 1692, gets a positive review in The Atlantic.

The short story, Cold Little Bird, in the October 19, 2015 New Yorker is terrifying. The author, Ben Marcus, creates a cold young ten-year-old named Jonah who has decided he is not longer going to talk to his parents. Or allow himself to be touched. Is he growing up, or is he a budding psychopath?  If you like the story, here is an interview with the author about the story.

Take this quiz to find out how much you know about Canada. I was terrible at it. I only got 11/20.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

School shooters, teachers, and do-gooders

Malcolm Gladwell on school shooters
As a high-school teacher, this article's conclusion terrified me. "The problem is not that there is an endless supply of deeply disturbed young men who are willing to contemplate horrific acts. It’s worse. It’s that young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts."
I don't know if he is right. God I hope not.

The podcast The Hidden Brain looks at education
Again, as a high-school teacher, I was intrigued and inspired by this podcast. More than one of the segments covered research that basically said that positive attitudes, and sharing those positive thoughts with the students, significantly improved performance. So I made myself a resolution: I am going to send a positive personal note to every student by the end of semester. On Friday, I sent six notes home. I hope I can keep the resolution going.

Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help 
The author of this book, Larissa MacFarquhar, had published a few of these chapters in The New Yorker, and they were fascinating. One was about people who donate a kidney to strangers. Another was about a couple who adopted 22 kids, many of them special needs. As I read the articles in the magazine, I wondered why I wasn't as selfless as these saints. However, as I read the book, it became clear that radical altruism is not an unalloyed good. MacFarquhar notes that, in one culture, the word "gift" can also mean poison, and that gifts often are a form of dominance, in that the receiver then "owes" something to the giver. She also notes that, even in our culture, codependence, has become an issue. So in the end, MacFarquhar claims that radical altruism isn't something we would all want to emulate.

Her conclusion lays out the complexity of the book: "If everyone thought like a do-gooder, the world would not be our world any longer, and the new world that would take its place would be so utterly different as to be nearly unimaginable. People talk about changing the world, but that's not usually what they mean. They mean securing enough help so there is less avoidable suffering and people can get on with living decent lives; they don't mean a world in which helping is the only life there is.
If there were no do-gooders, on the other hand, the world would be similar to ours, but worse. Without their showing what a person can do for strangers if he sets himself to do it, fewer would try. It may be true that not everyone should be a do-gooder. But it is also true that these strange, hopeful, tough, idealistic, demanding, life-threatening, and relentless people, by their extravagant example, help keep those life-sustaining qualities alive."

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Bret Easton Ellis, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Trent D'Arby and MC5

Bret Easton Ellis profiles Quentin Tarantino
That's all.

Inside the bizarre world of Terence Trent D'Arby
Remember that guy who sang Wishing Well, that late-80s earworm with the whistling chorus? That's Terence Trent D'Arby. He died when he was 27. And he's alive. And his new name is Sananda Maitreya. And his new record is called Rise of the Zugebrian Time Lords. He also says things like “I’m very confident that my first son is my biological father and it gives me the chance to finally have a relationship with him. My first son is also a continuation of the life that I left behind.”

HELLO WEEKEND! Get pumped up by watching this high-octane live version of MC5's "Kick Out the Jams".
Then contrast with this sludgy version

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Teaching, dumpster diving, and wrestling

Why do so many teachers quit?
"What's pushing so many teachers out of the profession? Richard Ingersoll, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has been trying to answer that question for years. He's found that teachers often cite long hours and low pay as contributing to their dissatisfaction. But teachers are even more upset by their lack of say over key decisions affecting classrooms. Volumes of other research echo this theme. In a 2014 Gallup Poll, teachers ranked last among 12 professional groups in agreeing that their opinion at work matters."

One low-income school, Mission High in San Francisco, took this lesson to heart and began empowering teachers. The results were impressive. Read about it here.

The pro dumpster diver who is making BANK
 For one day's work, "Malone estimates he will earn $5,091 in sales. This adds up to more than $2,500 for each night out, which, despite a good deal of downtime answering my questions, is a pretty good haul. At that rate, if he were to work 240 days a year—a five-day workweek with four weeks of vacation—he would earn over $600,000 annually. "

This almost made me want to quit my job and to become a professional dumpster diver.

How an at-risk, one-legged wrestler made it to the top of the wrestling world, then walked away
I read this in The Best American Sports Writing 2015. The title makes it sound like it's going to be a Lifetime movie in print, but it's much more complex than that. For instance, instead of describing him "overcoming adversity," the article asks "Did Robles win in spite of his one-leggedness, or because of it? It's an ungracious question, but it deserves consideration."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fleetwood Mac, a psychiatrist, toddlers with guns, college football, William F. Buckley and Allen Ginsberg

A great live cover by Haim of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" I got this from Ryan Tucker, and it's awesome.

The story of a psychiatrist who had it all, then lost it, possibly due to frontotemporal dementia. But should he be held accountable for his crimes if they were "caused" by a brain disorder?

If you don't already think we have too many idiots with too many guns, read this. Roughly once a week this year, on average, a small child has found a gun, pointed it at himself or someone else, and pulled the trigger.

A former University of Maryland professor lays out the current disgraceful state of U of M football, and college football in general. His solution: get colleges out of the football business. 

A five-minute conversation between the reptilian William Buckley and Allen Ginsberg. At about the 4:30 mark, Ginsberg notes that police brutality is countenanced because we are not allowed to even us on television the language that the police use in their interactions when brutalizing black people.  I'm not sure I follow the causal logic, but the discussion is certainly still timely 50 years later (Forwarded by John Hagney)