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things I've been reading

... non-fannish things, that is. I've been meaning to get back in the habit of doing round-ups of things I share over at Tumblr, the more fannish things, because I miss sharing them with folks over here. Don't quite have the energy for that, apparently. But I did want to share some of the news stories I've been reading. "News" being broadly construed - really, I"m more likely to read things about history and culture and literature and the like, thinky-thoughts and interesting things I want to learn about, than I am about current politics and current events these days.

Anyway, here are some things I read and found well worth my time.

1. The Amazing Contortions of B.K.S. Iyengar

In its American form, yoga can sometimes seem like it's less about meditation than fitness, extreme sweatiness, and the absurdity of trying to balance on your head while wearing hot-pink lycra pants. But the practice has deep spiritual roots, dating back at least 2,500 years to philosophical traditions in ancient India. In the twentieth century, one of the most influential figures in spreading yoga beyond South Asia was B.K.S. Iyengar, an Indian guru. He died on Wednesday at age 95 in the Indian city of Pune; according to the Associated Press, he was still doing headstands into his early 90s.

2. The Historical Precursor to ADHD

Throughout my childhood, each school year tended to cast its distinct shadow over the next. This was especially true when I started fourth grade. Previous teachers had conflated all of my classroom decisions into a matter of willpower—my lack thereof. But Betty Parsons was able to separate behavioral issues from academic ones, so that a slower progress with the former didn’t necessarily relate to the latter.

This difference might seem obvious enough, but up until the twentieth century, willpower and intelligence were often considered indistinguishable. One of the first doctors to question their relationship in children happened to be our favorite cape-wearing Victorian: Sir George Frederic Still.

3. Announcement: Readers who feel threatened by equality no longer welcome

The problem here is that these squealing man-children, so desperate to keep women out of their precious games, want it both ways. They want gaming to be taken seriously as a culture and art form, while at the same time throwing an unbelievable tantrum when subjected to serious criticism. This is ludicrous and immature on so many levels. Gaming isn’t for you, anymore. Gaming is for everyone. Everyone gets to have their say, to make their criticism, and gaming doesn’t need you to defend it.

4. Why 'The Bachelor' Is the Smartest Show on TV

Each season at least four of the contestants tell the bachelor they are “falling in love” or actually utter the words, “I love you”—the bachelor cannot reciprocate until the proposal—and a great deal more display strong feelings for the bachelor and express real sorrow at being eliminated; it’s a near inevitability that they too would’ve expressed such emotions had they been chosen to stick around. In fact, it is so rare that a contestant does not take a liking to the bachelor that it made “Bachelor history” (a term they like to use) when two women decided to leave on their own on the last season of The Bachelor, including this year’s bachelorette, Andi Dorfman. Needless to say, the formula works. The more interesting question is, how?

5. Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Books and Authors You Had to Read in High School

She was in her mid 30s when an editor suggested she try writing a book for girls. Alcott wasn’t very interested, but her father was a complete moron with money and had left the family in terrible financial trouble. Alcott wrote Little Women in hopes of some decent sales and a little breathing room and got way more than she asked for. The money in sequels was too good to turn down (and her father didn’t get any smarter with a dime), but Alcott hated writing what she called “moral pap for the young” and longed to return to the smut and violence of her early endeavors.

6. Terrorism as Theater

As experts have told me, there are more painful ways to dispatch someone if you really hate the victim and want him to suffer. You can burn him alive. You can torture him. But beheading, on the other hand, causes the victim to lose consciousness within seconds once a major artery is cut in the neck, experts say. Beheading, though, is the best method for the sake of a visually dramatic video, because you can show the severed head atop the chest at the conclusion. Using a short knife, as in this case, rather than a sword, also makes the event both more chilling and intimate. Truly, I do not mean to be cruel, indifferent, or vulgar. I am only saying that without the possibility of videotaping the event, there would be no motive in the first place to execute someone in such a manner.

7. Does Handwriting Matter?

Does handwriting matter?

Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.

But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.

8. Violence Among the Amish

As judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in the majority decision, there is nothing typical about the Bergholz case, from its setting among the normally peaceful Amish communities to the nature of attack—shaving people's hair and beards. In the initial trial, after five days of deliberation, the jury concluded that these were religiously motivated attacks. But in their decision to overturn this conviction, the Sixth-Circuit judges held that it's not fair to say that faith "permeates the motives for the assaults in this case, no matter how mundane the personal, power, or getting-one’s-way disputes that formed the backdrop to these assaults. Even people of the most theocratic faith may do things—including committing crimes—for non-faith-based reasons." It’s a fascinating question: For people like the Amish, whose lives are almost completely defined by religious devotion, is it possible to extricate faith from anything they do?

9. Can Creativity Be Learned?

In an “Ask Me Anything” interview hosted by Reddit, Gladwell clarified his theory saying, “Practice isn't a sufficient condition for success. I could play chess for 100 years and I'll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.” Yet his root idea remains the same: Even if one has talent, it must be cultivated.

With these widely accepted theories of creativity in mind, it is rather jarring to see two brand studies, both of which suggest that creativity is closely linked with inherent neurological and personality traits rather than methodology or practice. The implication is that creativity can be learned, but only to a certain extent. To truly be an artistic great, the makeup of your brain is more important than the number of hours spent in your atelier.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 9th, 2014 12:52 am (UTC)
The Bachelor one looks interesting... I don't watch the show, but that aspect of it has always troubled me.

Have you read any of Alcott's more sensational stories? They're great fun (if not great literature). I read them for a paper I was writing, and they were much more interesting than I expected.
Sep. 9th, 2014 02:20 am (UTC)
It's been several days since I've read it, but I remember finding the Bachelor one pretty interesting. It was longish and I read it through the end without getting bored, which is a feat for me. It was less about whether that aspect of the show was morally okay or not and more about the "how," from a psychological perspective. How do these women (or men) consistently fall for the Bachelor, knowing they have a slim chance of ending up with him, let alone building a stable relationship outside the bounds of the show? And what is it about this highly constructed "reality" that is so compelling to so many viewers?

So I don't want to misrepresent it, it's more psychology than ethics, but I did enjoy it. And I've never seen a single episode of the show.

I've never read anything by Alcott aside from her children's lit, though I think I read everything in that vein I could find as a kid. Do you remember any specific titles I should check out? I kind of think it would be fun to read sensational lit from someone whose kids' lit I read as a child.
Sep. 9th, 2014 03:19 am (UTC)
Taming a Tartar is probably the best. I read it in a collection of her shorts... actually, since I wrote a paper on it, I should have the complete bibliographic info on my hard drive, haha.

Stern, Madeleine B., ed. The Feminist Alcott. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1996. Print.

While in many of Alcott's pseudonymous writings, women strive for power but are ultimately punished for it, "Taming a Tartar" is a notable exception. In this story, the heroine, Sybil, goes to work for a sickly Russian princess and becomes captivated by her wild, tyrannical, occasionally violent brother. The rest, though it was published four years before Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs, works along the same lines as that erotic fantasy of female domination, but this time from a woman's perspective.

Edited at 2014-09-09 03:21 am (UTC)
Sep. 9th, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the rec. I'm going out of town this weekend but have put in a request to have that anthology sent to my local branch of the library, so I'll probably get to read it next week. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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