1. A Scientific American podcast/article brings to light an interesting study on the correlation between self-control and aggression, which ties in to JDK’s conference talk about the thin line between threat and promise (recording coming Monday!), ht JD:

Past studies have shown that exerting self-control may increase irritability and anger. But the new research found that the increased aggression brought on by self-restraint has a much broader effect. The researchers studied different types of self-control and the subjects’ subsequent behavior. For instance, participants who carefully controlled their spending of a gift certificate were more interested in looking at angry faces than fearful ones.  

Dieters preferred public service ads that were framed in threats, such as “if funds are not increased for police training, more criminals will escape prison.” Subjects who picked an apple over chocolate were more irritated by ads that used words like “you ought to” or “need to,” which sound controlling. They were also more likely to choose to watch a movie with a theme of hostility over other options.

2. Also on the social science tip, an absolutely fascinating/vindicating entry on the Harvard Business Review blog, “Why Does Criticism Seem More Effective Than Praise?” – emphasis on the “seem” – which draws the connection between the “regression to the mean” and our genuinely mistaken conclusions about criticism, ht NW.
3. Conference speaker Mark Galli drops yet another bomb over at Christianity Today with his thoroughly sympathetic recent column “The Problem with Christus Victor,” (a fitting rejoinder to his excellent conference talks on chaos and control – did I mention they’ll be up on Monday?!), rightly and pastorally guarding against the tendency to reject substitution as the model for atonement. Bravo!
4. A top-to-bottom fantastic article by Maria Bustillos on The Awl which takes David Foster Wallace’s private papers, which were just donated to the Ransom Center at the University of Texas (clear eyes full hearts), as a jumping off point to discuss his relationship to AA and depression and his own talent, among other subjects. Read the whole thing:

Much of Wallace’s work has to do with cutting himself back down to size, and in a larger sense, with the idea that cutting oneself back down to size is a good one, for anyone… The love his admirers bear this author has a peculiarly intimate and personal character. This is because Wallace gave voice to the inner workings of ordinary human beings in a manner so winning and so truthful and forgiving as to make him seem a friend.

The article includes a priceless quote, apparently from Wallace himself, talking about his own experience in recovery:

Six months in Granada House helped me immeasurably. I still wince at some of the hyperbole and melodrama that are used in recovery-speak, but the fact of the matter is that my experience at Granada House helped me, starting with the fact that the staff admitted me despite the obnoxious condescension with which I spoke of them, the House, and the l2-Step programs of recovery they tried to enable. They were patient, but they were not pushovers…

People at Granada House listened to me for hours, and did so with neither the clinical disinterest of doctors nor the hand-wringing credulity of relatives. They listened because, in the last analysis, they really understood me: they had been on the fence of both wanting to get sober and not, of loving the very thing that was killing you, of being able to imagine life neither with drugs and alcohol nor without them. They also recognized bullshit, and manipulation, and meaningless intellectualization as a way of evading terrible truths—and on many days the most helpful thing they did was to laugh at me and make fun of my dodges (which were, I realize now, pathetically easy for a fellow addict to spot), and to advise me just not to use chemicals today because tomorrow might very well look different.

5. Thanks to some detective work by the great Caleb Maskell, we’ve unearthed an interview with Verve singer Richard Ashcroft from 2000 in which he makes his religious convictions explicit:

” I can’t pin myself on any fixed religion, really. I’m just one of those sad, early-century people who just drifts around and picks up a bit of this and a bit of that. Cuz we are a scanning culture. We are turning over local drug culture and we suck in as much as we can in that given time that we are given, you know. So really, I don’t know. It’s a celebration of Jesus Christ. But whether that means I’m with the whole [malarky] that happened after he died, or left us, who knows… But I’m intrigued by all that, by religions, I’m intrigued by Jesus Christ. It’s all fascinating.

This blogger maintains that pretty much all of Ashcroft’s solo work is criminally underrated, both musically and, yes, as a laudable example of spirituality done right in rock (he very well may be the rightful heir to Mr. Dark Horse himself). Instead, it’s overshadowed by haters who wish he’d record Storms in Heaven over and over again. Sigh… 

6. In TV, have you been watching Mildred Pierce on HBO? Not personally being much of a Todd Haynes or Kate Winslet fan, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how superb it is. A harrowing study in mother-daughter dynamics, not to mention the self-seeking underbelly of the American/Hollywood dream, with some stunning setpieces. Think Chinatown by way of Betty Friedan and The Omen. And don’t forget, Friday Night Lights: The Fifth Season came out this week on DVD, a full three weeks ahead of its debut on NBC.

7. Conference follow-up: Beyond the recordings, if you enjoyed the delicious food, we invite you to “tip” our chef Edward Crouse by backing his very cool new Kickstarter project “Between Folks and Forks”. If it takes off, who knows – he might forgo culinary school abroad and serve us again next year…

8. Finally, in “humor”, the inspired 3eanuts showcases the bleak worldview underpinning Schultz’s classic strip. Or, as the force behind the site puts it: Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comics often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters’ expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all. Ht WV:

P.S. Don’t miss FailBlog’s “Bible Study Fail.” Bye Bye!