Social Science
Another Week Ends: Overrated Successes, Disappointing Babies, Nostalgia for Human Error, Impossible Repayment and Technocrat Baseball

Another Week Ends: Overrated Successes, Disappointing Babies, Nostalgia for Human Error, Impossible Repayment and Technocrat Baseball

1. William Deresiewicz’s clickbaity “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League” draws in high-achievers and their parents to, well, pull the rug out from under them. Apologies for the lengthy quotes, but it’s very good, ht MB:

These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures…

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The Difference Between the Prophecies of Orwell and Huxley

A provocative quote from the introduction to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, ht VH:

brawndo2“Contrary to common belief even among the educated, [Aldous] Huxley and [George] Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

From Issue Two! True Colors: Car Choices, Food Sources, and the Fauxthenticity of Our Times

From Issue Two! True Colors: Car Choices, Food Sources, and the Fauxthenticity of Our Times

Now a month out from its release to your doorsteps, it’s now time to leak just a few samplings of what’s in our summer issue of The Mockingbird. If you feel you missed your chance, fear not! Click here and we’ll set you up.

This essay comes James Gilmore, business school professor and co-author of Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want and The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, both published by Harvard Business School Press. In this essay, Gilmore examines the pervasive and nuanced Economy of Authenticity, where the myth of what is “real” is what…

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On Christian Nakedness (Muy Caliente!)

On Christian Nakedness (Muy Caliente!)

Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.

–The Devil (as played by Al Pacino)

I have a clothing problem.

It’s not that I spend too much money on clothes or that I’m obsessed with having the latest fashions. It’s that I put too much importance on what I wear.

In 2000, Nicolas Cage starred in The Family Man alongside Tea Leoni. It is basically a modern-day version of A Christmas Carol (directed by Brett Ratner of all people!), but the plot is not important to my point. What is important is a scene where Nicolas Cage, who has been magically transported from his life as a…

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Another Week Ends: Nick Cave, Cuddle Parties, Prognostalgia, Wine Snobbery, The Vicar of Baghdad, and the Post-Christian Politics of Jesus

Another Week Ends: Nick Cave, Cuddle Parties, Prognostalgia, Wine Snobbery, The Vicar of Baghdad, and the Post-Christian Politics of Jesus

1) “The Vicar of Baghdad” is a three-part series over at Vice, and it’s difficult to put into words the (foolish? amazing?) courage of Vicar Andrew White, an English-born Anglican priest who walks with a cane, and who has now served in Baghdad’s central districts for fourteen years, running St. George’s Episcopal Anglican Church, as well as running a clinic for locals and, most interestingly, working as a intermediary between Sunni and Shia leaders for peace and dialogue. It’s a real-life parable (ht JZ).

2) There were several au contraires to the presumption that we “live by looks” this week. Or,…

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Let’s Hear It for the Boys… And Girls

Let’s Hear It for the Boys… And Girls

Another great contribution from Stephanie Phillips:

“This could be our last big surprise in life,” I said to my husband on our way to the gender-reveal ultrasound of our second child a couple of months ago. He laughed at the melodrama of the statement even as we both acknowledged that the news was likely to be anticlimactic, since the perinatologist had already guessed–and we had suspected–that we were having another boy. An hour later, our suspicions were confirmed. I was set to be the lone female in a house populated by Y chromosomes.

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Summer Vacay: Where is Mom’s Coffin?

Summer Vacay: Where is Mom’s Coffin?

Officially speaking, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying tells the story of Bundren family traveling to bury their mother, Addie. Quickly in the narrative she dies. Children and husband must fulfill last request to take Mom’s body on a 40-mile trek in a wagon to be buried in Jefferson, Mississippi. Written in 1930, it dances the line between modern and post-modern literature. Different characters’ voices take over each chapter, and as the book progresses, the reader is given a complex, dark, and intimate narrative.

Unofficially, I believe it is a book written about a mother who simply wanted her family to…

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Empathy and True Emotion in The Facebook Mood Experiment

Empathy and True Emotion in The Facebook Mood Experiment

A couple weeks ago, it was revealed that back in January 2012, Facebook ran a week long experiment on a small subset of unknowing users that has been dubbed “The Facebook Mood Experiment.” Facebook altered the status updates that these unwitting users saw and skewed them either more negatively (i.e. they saw more updates with sadder emotional content) or more positively (saw updates with happier emotional content). The experiment wanted to see if the content people saw their friends posting on Facebook affected their actual mood. It concluded that it did. The Atlantic breaks down the design of the experiment…

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Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…

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Forget the Standard: Teaching in the Time of Testing

Forget the Standard: Teaching in the Time of Testing

It is now five years since the Common Core State Standards were introduced, the newest governmental answer to educational plight in America, and still it seems that no one really knows what they are—and if they do know what they are, chances are they don’t like them. It has been called (critically) a “one size fits all” policy, a nation-wide rubric for assessing whether America’s public school kids are learning what they ought to be learning. As Andrew Ferguson wrote this week in the Standard Weekly, it is one more reform scientifically stamped by the Gates Foundation’s “technocrats” and “educationists”,…

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Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, pt 1 (“Was”)

Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, pt 1 (“Was”)

One advantage of the Internet is providing a certain type of community for people in places where there’s little of it, and in that spirit we’re starting a Mockingbird reading group (no law!), which will really just be planned serial blog posts with commentary encouraged. The book will be Go Down, Moses, a favorite among Faulkner’s works, and one with a fair amount of thematic consonance with what’s going on at Mbird. The novel itself is a series of interweaving and cumulative short stories, with a novella about a bear taking up most of its second half. The critical approach will be…

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The Jilted Lover Rejoices! Lebron Goes Home

The Jilted Lover Rejoices! Lebron Goes Home

The biggest professional sports play in their history is notoriously referred to as “The Fumble”. Their NFL owner literally packed up their beloved team and moved them to Baltimore in the middle of the night. Their NFL team has been in existence for 68 years and has never sniffed a Super Bowl, let alone won one. Their MLB team hasn’t won a World Series title since the ’40s. Their NBA team has been around since 1970, zero championships. Futility, thy name is Cleveland.

That’s not to say that the city hasn’t had it’s sports moments.  The Indians have found their way back…

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Stephen Colbert and the Ancient Pulpit of Satire – Ethan Richardson

Another installment of our NYC Conference recordings, which ironically came the week before Stephen Colbert made the move to late night. Ethan talks about the weakness that is power in the ancient practice of satire.

Stephen Colbert and the Ancient Pulpit of Satire ~ Ethan Richardson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

J. D. Salinger, Sugarcoated Melancholy and the Conspiracy of the Human Voice

J. D. Salinger, Sugarcoated Melancholy and the Conspiracy of the Human Voice

Given that our most recent issue of The Mockingbird magazine opens with a quote from J. D. Salinger’s novel Franny and Zooey, I figured I would share something from one of his lesser-known pieces in print, the novella Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.

In the novella, Salinger has a way of playfully getting at the darkest of human truths. The plot encapsulates this style; it is light-heartedly sad. The narrator, Buddy, goes to his brother Seymour’s wedding and knows no one else there. Seymour doesn’t show up, and Buddy spends the rest of the afternoon with the bride’s family,…

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Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

1. Aquinas followed Aristotle in claiming the end (telos, purpose) of biology is medicine. Science has long been a technical discipline designed primarily to promote human flourishing / well-being. Of course, it was always contemplative to a degree, satisfying curiosity or even, as Aquinas also notes, teaching us about God. The study of creation reflects upon the Creator. One wonders what the role of science is today, what a panel of researchers would say if asked. My best guess would be something along the lines of increasing knowledge for knowledge’s sake; if pressed further, one might say that pure knowledge works to bolster happiness and/or…

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