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Week In Review

Another Week Ends: Chuck Berry, Preachy Ads, Yik Yak Help, Optimist Empathy, Missing Richard Simmons, and the Relentless Gig Economy

Another Week Ends: Chuck Berry, Preachy Ads, Yik Yak Help, Optimist Empathy, Missing Richard Simmons, and the Relentless Gig Economy

1. If you, too, have wondered where all the moral messaging has been coming from in advertisements—whether it’s Amazon, Barbie, Budweiser, or 84 Lumber—why all those Super Bowl ads were so heavily imbued with political and philosophical truisms, well, you’re not alone. This week, Megan Garber of the Atlantic wrote an article called “Selling What They Preach,” which is an observation of the kind of morality flag-bearing happening during a lot of primetime TV commercials. She’s extremely aware of the irony of this endeavor—that so many of these enormous, consumer-focused businesses are spinning messages of “empathy” or “togetherness” or “love,”…

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Another Week Ends: Anti-Self-Help Self-Help, The Disease of More, God in a Machine, Fake Nice People, Born-Again Paganism, Religious Politics, and the Mystery of Matter

Another Week Ends: Anti-Self-Help Self-Help, The Disease of More, God in a Machine, Fake Nice People, Born-Again Paganism, Religious Politics, and the Mystery of Matter

1. This week, The New York Times’ Henry Alford tackled the world of anti-self-help self-help in his piece, “I’m Not O.K. Neither Are You. Who Cares?” In it, he unpacks not only the rising tide of “anti-self-help books” but also their eye-catching common denominator: the F word. Given that word’s increasing popularity, I guess it’s no surprise that we like a good hardcover lesson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, or The Life Changing Magic of Not [doing the same]. But, as Alford makes clear, these books are not as contrarian as they’d hope to appear. If self-help is the popular religion of the day,…

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Another Week Ends: Buffy Summers, Joan Didion, Progressive Comfort Zones, Petrified Wood, Hapless Patriots, and Silent Faith

Another Week Ends: Buffy Summers, Joan Didion, Progressive Comfort Zones, Petrified Wood, Hapless Patriots, and Silent Faith

1. Believe it or not, today marks the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No small thing for those who grew up in the 90s and/or appreciate good television. The AV Club has been mining the series all week for great articles, but the single best thing I’ve read is Sophie Gilbert’s piece in The Atlantic about “The Radical Empathy of Buffy‘s Best Episode”, AKA season 5’s “The Body”, which Gilbert calls “one of the most sophisticated analyses of the impact of death ever produced on television”. Amen to that. As for our own celebration, I invite you to…

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(l to r) Annalise Basso stars as Vespyr, Viggo Mortensen as Ben and Shree Crooks as Zaja in CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, a Bleecker Street release.
Credit: Erik Simkins / Bleecker Street

Another Week Ends: More Outrage, More Zoltan, More Tebow, More Busyness, Plus A Whole Lot of Death

1. A really surprising-but-not-so-surprising study from Reason about moral outrage, and its psychological background. Not necessarily new territory for us here, but nonetheless, the findings are not what our culture at-large would say is behind the anger du jour we know so well on our Facebook feeds. Generally speaking, psychologists have always thought that anger pointed at injustice is “prosocial emotion,” emotion that says more about our care for others than anything about us. Instead, this article makes the point that guilt within is the real culprit. When our own moral understandings of ourselves are thrown into question—when we feel…

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Another Week Ends: The Shortcomings of Reason, La La Land Parodies, Technological Glitches, Militant Veganization, Performance Art, Existential Billionaires, Extreme Church Makeovers, and a “Hostage Situation”

Another Week Ends: The Shortcomings of Reason, La La Land Parodies, Technological Glitches, Militant Veganization, Performance Art, Existential Billionaires, Extreme Church Makeovers, and a “Hostage Situation”

1. Lots of interesting links this week! First up, The New Yorker published “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” a fascinating piece by Elizabeth Kolbert. Discussing at length the phenomenon of ‘confirmation bias’ — which suggests that we believe those facts that support our beliefs and reject those that challenge our beliefs — Kolbert ultimately confirms (bada bing!) much of what our own pop psych. archives have been saying for quite some time. Drawing from the work of cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, and their upcoming book The Enigma of Reason, Kolbert argues that “reason” is a tool we have developed to help ourselves convincingly navigate our biases without giving away our…

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Another Week Ends: Rude Saviors, Happy Students, Married Valentines, Fifty Shades, Christo-Singularity and Crashing

Another Week Ends: Rude Saviors, Happy Students, Married Valentines, Fifty Shades, Christo-Singularity and Crashing

1. Writing in The NY Times Magazine this past weekend, Rachel Cusk pondered “The Age of Rudeness.” Her jumping off point likely goes without saying, and yet, I was refreshed by how much fresh ground the essay tilled. Namely, we laud honesty and authenticity but demonize rudeness, when the line between them is often a very thin and fluctuating one. What is the moral status of rudeness? Cusk asks–why might it have possibly cost Hillary the election (“basket of deplorables”) and won it for Trump? When does decorum cease to facilitate discourse (a vehicle of communication/connection) and begin to stifle…

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Another Week Ends: Immortality, Elixirs of Life, False Prophets, Fear of Death, Sensitive Readers and Humble Corporations, and Stranger Things

Another Week Ends: Immortality, Elixirs of Life, False Prophets, Fear of Death, Sensitive Readers and Humble Corporations, and Stranger Things

1. Lots of people talking about immortality this week! Wonder why that’s happening! First off, in a pretty blatant promotion of our Food & Drink Issue, The Atlantic published a lengthy piece on the denial of death in the world of nutrition and diet. I mean, the article gets pretty close to a lot of what we’re saying throughout the issue—that food is not only a culturally and morally stratifying part of our everyday lives, it is a way for human beings to fend themselves (read: justify themselves) against the inevitable d-word. The article references the philosophy of Ernest Becker (writer…

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Another Week Ends: Food, Drink, Sermons, Apologies, Snackadiums, Haters, Finders and Keepers

Another Week Ends: Food, Drink, Sermons, Apologies, Snackadiums, Haters, Finders and Keepers

Here in the office we’re drowning in Food & Drink! The issue, that is, which arrived today and is already out the door to subscribers. To quote Seinfeld’s Poppy, it turned out “more succulent than even we hadda hoped”! Click here to check out the Table of Contents and whatnot. #humbled

Why not kick things off then with a couple of food-related items from the world of social science? First, The Telegraph reported on a new study out of UPenn on the effects of fat shaming. Surprise surprise, it tends to have the opposite effect than what’s intended:

Professor Rebecca Pearl, of…

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Another Week Ends: Robotic Employees, Free Speech Zones, Travel by Bubble, Carnival Culture, More Love, Less Self-Help, and Mary Tyler Moore

Another Week Ends: Robotic Employees, Free Speech Zones, Travel by Bubble, Carnival Culture, More Love, Less Self-Help, and Mary Tyler Moore

1. Ever feel like a robot at work? Well, the good news is, it’s the weekend so maybe you can hit your off-switch.

The bad news comes from an article John Harris wrote in The Guardian, “Digital giants are turning workers into robots.” It’s about increasingly invasive programs which monitor work ethic. Eugh.

The US retail chain Target announced in 2015 that Fitbit trackers were to be offered to its 335,000 workers, as part of its embrace of what the business vernacular calls “corporate wellness programmes”. As things stand, workers who opt to have their metabolisms monitored are organised into teams who compete to raise money for charity. Just…

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Another Week Ends: More Hypocrites, More Stories We Tell, More Silence, Less American Dream, And Way Less Millennial Sleeptime (Plus ASK!)

Another Week Ends: More Hypocrites, More Stories We Tell, More Silence, Less American Dream, And Way Less Millennial Sleeptime (Plus ASK!)

Whether you’re wringing your hands about the next four years or pumping your fist, we all need some news that isn’t necessarily inauguration-related. You’ve come to right place!

1. The New York Times ran an op-ed this past Sunday about the real reason we dislike hypocrisy. As a part of their Gray Matter column, the article contends that the real issue we have with hypocrites is not their inability to “practice what they preach,” but instead their belief in their own virtue. As they say it, “We contend that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals…

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Another Week Ends: Andrew Garfield Falls in Love with Jesus, Internet Trolls Enter the Confessional, Ninety-Percent Forgiveness, Bootstraps Parenting, Kirk Franklin Loses His Religion, and Labour-In-Vain Road

Another Week Ends: Andrew Garfield Falls in Love with Jesus, Internet Trolls Enter the Confessional, Ninety-Percent Forgiveness, Bootstraps Parenting, Kirk Franklin Loses His Religion, and Labour-In-Vain Road

1. Happy Friday, everyone! First up, America Magazine’s interview with Andrew Garfield, who plays Rodrigues in Scorsese’s adaption of Silence, which is wide-releasing today. Apparently Garfield prepared extensively for his role as a Jesuit priest, practicing Ignation Exercises for several months before shooting. To get the scoop, Jesuit Brendan Busse went on a “religious blind date” with Garfield. It started off pretty awkward…the actor was tired, the Jesuit was excited [about Ignatius Loyola]. And then Garfield explained his weariness: “…the grief of living in a time and a place where a life of joy and love is f–ing impossible.”

He goes on to identify the law: that, even…

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Another Week Ends: Amputee Palliatives, Burnouts, Good Riddance Day, Pig Ethics, Silence and the Penitent Magdalene

Another Week Ends: Amputee Palliatives, Burnouts, Good Riddance Day, Pig Ethics, Silence and the Penitent Magdalene

1. This first one is an absolute treasure, well deserving of a post of its own. I’m referring to “One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die” by Jon Mooallem in The NY Times Magazine. Mooallem profiles doctor and triple amputee B.J. Miller, who has become well-known for the unconventional and rather Buddhistic approach to palliative care he’s pioneered at a hospice in San Francisco. To these ears, however, Miller’s story and vocation brim with what can only be called grace in practice. Meaning, his is a case in which the experience of grace–of being loved at your darkest/ugliest/most…

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