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03-22-2008, 01:42 PM
Articles From Here and There
Often times I find myself reading an article and thinking how great it is and hoping someone else would read it and talk about it with me, even if it is just to say a few words about how it affected them.
Perhaps it could work here? I've lost faith, to some extent, into the amount of time and effort we have put into this site in the last year or two, but I thought I'd try.
This first article was inspired by a story in The New Yorker and continues on to talk about Salinger's Glass family. I particularly liked that the author points out the 'Peter Pan' aspect to Holden Caulfield by bringing up the example of his thoughts at the American Natural History Museum. That is the first thing I think about when thinking about The Catcher in the Rye.
I encourage you to post articles that made you think, feel, etc. I don't want to limit it, really, but I find that the best articles aren't necessarily 'news' articles.
March 23, 2008 |
Descended From Salinger
By POLLY MORRICE
Last March I read a sharp story in The New Yorker, “Playdate,” by Kate Walbert, in which two anxious Manhattan mothers get soused and spill secrets during a get-together of their young daughters. When one of the little girls scolded her imaginary sister, I felt a jolt of déjà vu. Lonely child, see-through friend: the image cued another, classic New Yorker story, J. D. Salinger’s “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” published 60 years ago this month. While both “Uncle Wiggily” and “Playdate” explore idealized memories — of a dead lover, of a lost time when family life seemed easy — the stories’ essential ingredients are young children who, though not quite at home in the world, can at least face life more bravely than their parents. As the highball-soaked afternoon of “Uncle Wiggily” darkens, a reluctant mother seeks solace from an old college friend, pleading, “I was a nice girl ... wasn’t I?” “Playdate” takes the conceit of maternal insecurity even further, depicting a tipsy mom who hangs on her 6-year-old’s “thin shoulders” to regain her footing, then asks: “But it was a gold star day, baby. Wasn’t it?”
The offbeat little girls of “Playdate,” whose mothers stumble through parenthood, are not the first characters to feel like cultural descendants of Salinger’s children, those savants, myopics, guileless nose pickers and practicing belchers who seem to glow on the page, highlighting the shallowness of the adults. When Seymour Glass, Salinger’s doomed mystic, declares “a child is a guest in the house — to be loved and respected, never possessed, since he belongs to God,” readers may understandably construe it as the author’s own child-rearing creed (though Salinger’s daughter, Margaret, author of a memoir of life-with-rejecting-father published in 2000, might disagree). Indeed, Salinger’s first readers seem to have taken his prescription to heart, creating the sort of families his fictional children might have longed for. In turn, these readers’ offspring, a generation of “literary, sensitive and sophisticated young people,” as Alfred Kazin put it, saw themselves in the precocious Glass siblings — until, as parents, they helped to decide the moment when paying attention to children shifted to pushing them to achieve. “God’s children ... bound to be adored,” as Eudora Welty described Salinger’s young in a rapturous New York Times review of “Nine Stories” (which included “Uncle Wiggily”), did not just reflect but may have helped shape the new place and power of children in postwar America.
The snapshot of suburban malaise provided in “Uncle Wiggily” was just one achievement in a breakout year for Salinger. In January 1948, The New Yorker printed “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” a watertight story about a disturbed World War II veteran who commits suicide on his honeymoon. “Bananafish” brought the 29-year-old Salinger a burst of literary attention and led to his famous association with The New Yorker, which acquired first dibs on all his work and published two more stories by him that year. In 1951, Little, Brown & Company published “The Catcher in the Rye,” which spent over seven months on the New York Times best-seller list. Within 10 years it sold more than a million copies. Though these days a staple of the high school curriculum, Salinger’s story of “this kid in New York during the Christmas holidays” (as the author once put it) was originally a book for adults, many of them the kind of postwar suburban parents who had the time and money to lavish on their offspring that their own parents (like most parents in history) had lacked. Like Boo Boo Glass, the most settled of the Glass siblings, these parents owned “two-car, filled” garages and were early readers of Dr. Spock. Their children were one of the first generations to become “teenagers” (the word entered the vernacular sometime around the late 1930s). These children, in turn, bought Salinger’s slim volumes about the Glass family, elevating “Franny and Zooey” (1961) and the collected “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” and “Seymour: An Introduction” (1963) to best-seller lists. For an audience of involved parents and doted-on sons and daughters, Seymour Glass’s notion that children deserved not just love but respect would have seemed just right.
As readers beyond the small sphere of New Yorker subscribers started reading Salinger, they would have relished the slightly exotic lives of the seven Glass siblings, possibly the first gifted-and-talented children in literature, who take turns starring on a radio quiz show and find Jesus in their least-prepossessing fan, the “Fat Lady.” Certainly Midwestern teenagers — I used to be one of them — would have been struck by Holden Caulfield’s skill at drinking in nightclubs, misreading him (with the help of English teachers) as a teenage rebel when he is really a Peter Pan hopeful whose memories of childhood field trips to the Museum of Natural History inspire a backward-looking lament: “Certain things they should stay the way they are.”
But not everyone found Salinger’s children adorable. By the 1960s, critics were berating them for the very qualities that had appealed to an increasingly child-centered nation: their untouchable goodness, their self-absorption (Mary McCarthy labeled the Glass family a “terrifying narcissus pool”) and, perhaps inevitably, their popularity. Salinger himself was accused of being an overly indulgent literary parent: reviewing “Franny and Zooey” in the Book Review in 1961, John Updike noted that “Salinger loves the Glasses more than God loves them.” Even Time magazine, in a 1963 review of “Raise High the Roof Beam,” offered an artless parody of Salinger’s stylized, first-person narrators: “It is very, very, very true that a large segment of the U.S. young is hung on old Buddy and his six weird brothers and sisters.”
Salinger’s quirky children certainly helped pave the way for less subtly drawn youngsters whose specialty was leading adults around by the nose. (Exhibit A: Hayley Mills, tricking her divorced parents into reconciling in the original 1961 version of “The Parent Trap.”) Yet the brickbats aimed at the Glass brood’s supposed narcissism did not prevent this trait from spreading among Salinger’s collegiate admirers. Like its literary favorites, the generation taking shape in the ’60s was endlessly self-referential, convinced that its shared experiences — from the Kennedy assassination to “Rocky and Bullwinkle” — mattered deeply. In fact, the “U.S. young” resembled an extended Glass family.
These days, kids resemble not so much the Glasses as small Sammy Glicks, running ever earlier and harder, and attention has shifted from the narcissism of the young to the self-absorption of parents. The childhood now in vogue — in which kids’ feats are broadcast on decals on the family S.U.V., their achievements validating their parents’ lives — barely resembles the sphere of uncomplicated, mostly unsupervised pleasures, like stoopball and curb marbles, that Buddy Glass celebrates in “Seymour: An Introduction.” “It’s a Wise Child,” the decorous quiz program that made the Glass siblings household names, has morphed into “Kid Nation,” the reality show in which youngsters marooned in the New Mexican desert vie strenuously for real gold stars.
Still, updated versions of Salinger’s off-kilter, quasi-saintly children do continue to crop up, not just in The New Yorker but elsewhere in contemporary fiction. The adulterous lovers of Tom Perrotta’s 2004 novel “Little Children” have near-magical offspring — a “delicate elfin” girl, a beautiful boy who loves to wear a jester’s cap and bells — who help steer them back onto proper courses. Then there is the missing 12-year-old at the center of Charles Bock’s deservedly acclaimed new novel, “Beautiful Children.” Newell Ewing, as surly as his name is euphonious, does not at first fit the mold of “God’s children,” but by the end of the novel he makes a choice, to escape causing pain to others, that puts him in this category forever. These new wise children may bump up against different rules than Salinger’s did, but as unfallen versions of ourselves they take us to the same bright, wild terrain.
Polly Morrice is a regular contributor to the Book Review.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
03-25-2008, 08:18 AM
Are We Ready to Track Carbon Footprints?
I just ran across this article. One of the major concerns in my adult life, however laughable it may be to some, is how to reduce my carbon footprint. I see it as a personal challenge. I have not been very good lately. Single life is unkind to this sort of endeavor, especially when it is on a strict budget. However, I did enjoy reading about innovative ways we can track our emissions and how that might affect our own behavior, as well as others.
I highlighted the parts I liked the most. The happy/sad faces on bills? Hah, that sounds great. I do see how people would object to such blatant judgement of their electric energy use.
Also, as I've tackled these issues (in the context of my own life and my own thoughts) I have become much more of a pragmatist. It's true that being caught up in the zealotry of it all is alienating to others, though that was exciting too...
March 25, 2008 |
Are We Ready to Track Carbon Footprints?
By JOHN TIERNEY
Before I unveil my plan to combat global warming using mood rings and glowing lapel pins, let me explain the scientific rationale.
Everyone talks about the future weather, but so far nobody has done much about it, not even the many people and politicians convinced that climate change will be a serious problem. This situation comes as no surprise to the behavioral researchers who have been studying the human brain’s penchant for making dumb choices.
We can’t even prepare properly for something as straightforward as our own retirement. We’ll put in long hours shopping for a cellphone or a television set, but we’re too busy to agonize over pension plans: in one study, most people spent less than an hour choosing theirs. We’re not good at making immediate sacrifices for an abstract benefit in the future. And this weakness is compounded when, as with climate change, we have a hard time even understanding the problem or the impact of our actions today.
But we also have peculiarities that could be useful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the right prompting, we’ll make sacrifices for the common good and perform acts of charity that we’d never do for any amount of pay. We’ll reform our behavior strikingly to conform with social norms. We’ll even make astute cost-benefit judgments if we get simple, clear feedback — that’s why cars come with idiot lights.
We need the right nudge, to borrow the title of the new book applying the lessons of social psychology and behavioral economics to everything from health care to climate maintenance. The authors of “Nudge,” Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, agree with economists who’d like to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by imposing carbon taxes or a cap-and-trade system, but they think people need extra guidance.
“Getting the prices right will not create the right behavior if people do not associate their behavior with the relevant costs,” says Dr. Thaler, a professor of behavioral science and economics. “When I turn the thermostat down on my A-C, I only vaguely know how much that costs me. If the thermostat were programmed to tell you immediately how much you are spending, the effect would be much more powerful.”
It would be still more powerful, he and Mr. Sunstein suggest, if you knew how your energy consumption compared with the social norm. A study in California showed that when the monthly electric bill listed the average consumption in the neighborhood, the people in above-average households significantly decreased their consumption.
Meanwhile, the people with the below-average bills reacted by significantly increasing their consumption — not exactly the goal of the project.
That reaction was avoided when the bill featured a little drawing along with the numbers: a smiling face on a below-average bill or a frowning face on an above-average bill. After that simple nudge, the heavy users made even bigger cuts in consumption, while the light users remained frugal.
Mr. Sunstein and Dr. Thaler suggest applying those principles with something more sophisticated than smiley faces. A glowing ball called the Ambient Orb, programmed to change colors as the price of electricity increases at peak periods, has been given to some utility customers in California, who promptly reduced their usage by 40 percent when the ball glowed red in peak periods.
Another gadget, the Wattson, which changes colors depending upon how much electricity a house is using, collects data that can be displayed on a Web site. Clive Thompson, a columnist for Wired, has suggested that people start displaying the Wattson data on their Facebook pages, an excellent idea that I’d like to take a little further.
I’d like to see a new green fad for electronic jewelry with real-time displays of carbon footprints. These could be mood rings, bracelets, lapel pins or anything else that could change color depending on how much electricity you use, how much gasoline your car burns, how much you travel.
The displays might change color from red to yellow to green as a carbon footprint diminishes. (There might even be a little glowing footprint on it.) The green might be a dim shade for those who have bought carbon credits to offset their energy use, but a much brighter shade for those who’ve reduced emissions to below-average without having to buy the credits.
Of course, it would be a chore to set up monitors for energy use, but plenty of greens are willing to give lots of time to the cause. Some are accused of being religious zealots — global warmists. But one of the advantages of religion is that it inspires people to acts of selflessness for the common good. Why not reward devout conservationists by letting them display their virtue?
This would be a strictly voluntary system — climate contrarians could either ignore it or proudly wear their flashing red lapel pins — and it would cost taxpayers nothing.
But by encouraging people to find the most efficient ways to conserve energy, this nudge might do more good than some of the expensive subsidies being handed out in Congress.
Besides putting the enthusiasm of greens to practical use, this fashion statement might also inject some realism into the debate about global warming. Once you start keeping track of all the energy you use, you begin to see the difficulties of making drastic reductions — and the difference between effective actions and ritual displays.
Installing a solar-powered hot-water heater or a windmill at your place in the country is not going to erase the carbon footprint of maintaining and traveling to a second home. Recycling glass bottles and avoiding plastic bags at the grocery store will not offset your car’s emissions.
Switching to a Prius will not undo the effects of frequent air travel. A couple of international trips can be worse for your carbon footprint than driving a Hummer for a year. If the delegates to future conferences on climate change are expected to wear illuminated symbols of their energy consumption, they won’t be visiting any more spots like Bali.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First, with your help (go to tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com), we have to work out the details of this device, starting with what it should measure and what it would be called.
The Green Lantern is an obvious name, but there may be trademark problems. GreenGlow? Eglow? Enudge? The Nudgie? Further research is clearly needed.
03-25-2008, 10:11 AM
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books written for girls
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Join Date: Apr 2006
this is a *****in' idea. i wish i could post podcasts on here as well because some of them are just so god damn good (as well as flat out awful) &are definately something to read about.
04-22-2008, 09:22 AM
Podcasts are something I'd love to get into. I just don't have the energy. Though lots of people I know reference them frequently.
This Op-Ed from the NYTimes felt like a breath of fresh air. It isn't about anything in particular, really...
April 22, 2008 |
The Great Escape
By DAVID BROOKS
Over the past 15 months, I’ve been writing pretty regularly about the presidential campaign, which has meant thinking a lot about attack ads, tracking polls and which campaign is renouncing which over-the-line comment from a surrogate that particular day.
But on my desk for much of this period I have kept a short essay, which I stare at longingly from time to time. It’s an essay about how people in the Middle Ages viewed the night sky, and it’s about a mentality so totally removed from the campaign mentality that it’s like a refreshing dip in a cool and cleansing pool.
The essay, which appeared in Books & Culture, is called “C. S. Lewis and the Star of Bethlehem,” by Michael Ward, a chaplain at Peterhouse College at Cambridge. It points out that while we moderns see space as a black, cold, mostly empty vastness, with planets and stars propelled by gravitational and other forces, Europeans in the Middle Ages saw a more intimate and magical place. The heavens, to them, were a ceiling of moving spheres, rippling with signs and symbols, and moved by the love of God. The medieval universe, Lewis wrote, “was tingling with anthropomorphic life, dancing, ceremonial, a festival not a machine.”
Lewis tried to recapture that medieval mind-set, Ward writes. He did it not because he wanted to renounce the Copernican revolution and modern science, but because he found something valuable in that different way of seeing our surroundings.
The modern view disenchants the universe, Lewis argued, and tends to make it “all fact and no meaning.” When we say that a star is a huge flaming ball of gas, he wrote, we are merely describing what it is made of. We are not describing what it is. Lewis also wanted to include the mythologies, symbols and stories that have been told about the heavenly actors, and which were so real to those who looked up into the sky hundreds of years ago. He wanted to strengthen the imaginative faculty that comes naturally to those who see the heavens as fundamentally spiritual and alive.
There’s something about obsessing about a campaign — or probably a legal case or a business deal — that doesn’t exactly arouse the imaginative faculties. Campaigns are all about message management, polls and tactics. The communication is swift, Blackberry-sized and prosaic. As you cover it, you feel yourself enclosed in its tunnel. Entire mental faculties go unused. Ward’s essay has been a constant reminder of that other mental universe.
The medievals had a tremendous capacity for imagination and enchantment, and while nobody but the deepest romantic would want to go back to their way of thinking (let alone their way of life), it’s a tonic to visit from time to time.
As many historians have written, Europeans in the Middle Ages lived with an almost childlike emotional intensity. There were stark contrasts between daytime and darkness, between summer heat and winter cold, between misery and exuberance, and good and evil. Certain distinctions were less recognized, namely between the sacred and the profane.
Material things were consecrated with spiritual powers. God was thought to live in the stones of the cathedrals, and miracles inhered in the bones of the saints. The world seemed spiritually alive, and the power of spirit could overshadow politics. As Johan Huizinga wrote in “The Autumn of the Middle Ages,” “The most revealing map of Europe in these centuries would be a map, not of political or commercial capitals, but of the constellation of sanctuaries, the points of material contact with the unseen world.”
We tend to see economics and politics as the source of human motives, and then explain spirituality as their byproduct — as Barack Obama tried artlessly to do in San Francisco the other week. But in the Middle Ages, faith came first. The symbols, processions and services were vividly alive.
Large parts of medieval life were attempts to play out a dream, in ways hard to square with the often grubby and smelly reality. There were the elaborate manners of the courtly, the highly stylized love affairs and the formal chivalric code of knighthood. There was this driving impulsion among the well-born to idealize. This idealizing urge produced tournaments, quests and the mystical symbols of medieval art — think of the tapestries of the pure white unicorn. The gap between the ideal and the real is also what Cervantes made fun of in “Don Quixote.”
Writers like C. S. Lewis and John Ruskin seized on medieval culture as an antidote to industrialism — to mass manufacturing, secularization and urbanization. Without turning into an Arthurian cultist, it’s nice to look up from the latest YouTube campaign moment and imagine a sky populated with creatures, symbols and tales.
04-22-2008, 10:05 AM
ok, this will probably not be to some peoples tastes.
I love cricket journalism, definitely the best sports journalism out there. some lovely metaphors in other articles but I like this one on one of my favourite players retiring. though actually there is a lot better ones, which when I find again I might post.
| Journeyman and genius - Sanath Jayasuriya |
When Sanath Jayasuriya announced his retirement from Test cricket in the course of the first Test against England, the way he signed off was nicely representative of his extraordinary career. He failed in the first innings with the bat, then hit a quick 78 in the second innings. As a bonus in the second innings, Jayasuriya took a wicket with his slow left-arm spin.
A fifty and a wicket: useful but not remarkable figures…unless you know that 24 of those 78 runs had been scored in a single over off that blameless swing bowler, James Anderson. Jayasuriya's career statistics—his aggregates, his averages, his centuries, the number of wickets he took—give the same impression: they suggest a more than useful player, not a remarkable one. They lie.
In a career that spanned eighteen years, Jayasuriya played, in the idiom of Hindi films, an extraordinary double role: journeyman and genius. He was a useful bits-and-pieces player, fielding alertly, chipping in with the odd wicket (he took 98 wickets in 109 Test matches) scoring the necessary fifty (he had 31 half-centuries to his name); he was also, in his fearsome prime, the most destructive opening batsman in the world.
Sri Lankan cricket over the turn of the century resembles nothing as much as the great Bombay multi-starrers of the Eighties. It's a romance with three outsiders as leading men: Arjuna Ranatunga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya. None of them belonged to the tiny elite that dominated cricket in their country. Murali, the Tamil from Kandy, Ranatunga, the man who became captain despite not having attended St Thomas and Royal, the two public school nurseries of Sri Lankan cricket and finally, Jayasuriya, the maverick from Matara who re-invented himself as a player in mid-career and in the process changed the nature of batsmanship.
It might seem odd to bracket Jayasuriya with Muralitharan, a man who has broken nearly every bowling record in the book, and who has a real claim to being regarded as the greatest bowler in the history of the game. Jaysuriya's batting average in Test matches is in the region of 40 and in the limited overs game it hovers in the low thirties, decent figures but scarcely a claim to cricketing immortality.
And yet Jayasuriya was the most significant batsman of the fin de siecle, historically more important than Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara or Ricky Ponting. Glenn McGrath, no friend of Sri Lankan cricket had this to say of him: "…it is always a massive compliment to someone to say they changed the game, and his storming innings in the 1996 World Cup changed everyone's thinking about how to start innings."
Jayasuriya's significance is not statistical, though heaven knows that at the high points of his career he climbed peaks never attempted by more consistent players. He is a landmark in the history of the game because he was a successful heretic, the Martin Luther of modern cricket. He made the rules of orthodox batsmanship (getting to the pitch, getting in line, playing along the ground and that holiest of holies, playing with a straight bat) seem overstated and dogmatic.
Jayasuriya needed to play away from his body because he routinely hit balls wide of him on the up; he played with his bat at an angle of forty-five degrees because he was not trying to show the whole face to the ball, he intended to hit it with an angled blade and he used eye, timing and powerful forearms to get elevation and power. Jayasuriya's batting stance has been hugely influential. The classical stance had the feet six inches apart: Jayasuriya stance has his feet more like two feet apart. He didn't so much go forward or back as shift weight, rocking on to the back foot for the cut and the pull or crooking his front leg to drive, flick or pull on the up. He played like a batter in baseball: if the ball was in the hitting zone, there or thereabouts, it had to go.
What's more, he did this in Test cricket as an opening batsman, with a triple century against India in Colombo in 1997 and that magnificent double century against England at The Oval in 1998 which, as much as Muralitharan's bowling, won them the Test match. It was one of the great attacking innings in the history of Test cricket, played as it was to force a result in limited time. It was Jayasuriya's success in proving that his unorthodox methods worked in both ODIs and the more demanding context of Test cricket that paved the way for players like Virender Sehwag and Adam Gilchrist: that's the real significance of McGrath's tribute.
More than most batsmen, Jayasuriya's technique reflected the way the game had changed. He was one of the main conduits through which the lessons in attacking batsmanship taught by the one day game were channelled into Test cricket. His technique took full advantage of the physical immunity that modern helmets lent batsmen. He hooked firm-footed or off the front foot without going back and across because the old fear of mortal injury that had been hard-wired into the heads of an earlier generation of opening batsmen vanished from the minds of contemporary players. And the astonishing power of modern bats was tailor-made for Jayasuriya's game: those short arm pulls that would have once steepled into waiting hands, now cleared the ropes.
There were better batsman than Jayasuriya during his time in international cricket and there will be many better ones in the future, but for the cricket historian he will remain that rare player who embodied a turning point in the game. As the twentieth century gave way to the twenty first, the art of batting was transformed and for a brief but critical period—say from 1996 to the end of the century—Jayasuriya was at the cutting edge of change.
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