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01

May

huffpostcomedy:


Bill Murray on Gilda Radner:
“Gilda got married and went away. None of us saw her anymore. There was one good thing: Laraine had a party one night, a great party at her house. And I ended up being the disk jockey. She just had forty-fives, and not that many, so you really had to work the music end of it. There was a collection of like the funniest people in the world at this party. Somehow Sam Kinison sticks in my brain. The whole Monty Python group was there, most of us from the show, a lot of other funny people, and Gilda. Gilda showed up and she’d already had cancer and gone into remission and then had it again, I guess. Anyway she was slim. We hadn’t seen her in a long time. And she started doing, “I’ve got to go,” and she was just going to leave, and I was like, “Going to leave?” It felt like she was going to really leave forever.So we started carrying her around, in a way that we could only do with her. We carried her up and down the stairs, around the house, repeatedly, for a long time, until I was exhausted. Then Danny did it for a while. Then I did it again. We just kept carrying her; we did it in teams. We kept carrying her around, but like upside down, every which way—over your shoulder and under your arm, carrying her like luggage. And that went on for more than an hour—maybe an hour and a half—just carrying her around and saying, “She’s leaving! This could be it! Now come on, this could be the last time we see her. Gilda’s leaving, and remember that she was very sick—hello?”We worked all aspects of it, but it started with just, “She’s leaving, I don’t know if you’ve said good-bye to her.” And we said good-bye to the same people ten, twenty times, you know. And because these people were really funny, every person we’d drag her up to would just do like five minutes on her, with Gilda upside down in this sort of tortured position, which she absolutely loved. She was laughing so hard we could have lost her right then and there.It was just one of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ll always remember it. It was the last time I saw her.”
- from Live from New York: an Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

[via oldloves]

huffpostcomedy:

Bill Murray on Gilda Radner:

“Gilda got married and went away. None of us saw her anymore. There was one good thing: Laraine had a party one night, a great party at her house. And I ended up being the disk jockey. She just had forty-fives, and not that many, so you really had to work the music end of it. There was a collection of like the funniest people in the world at this party. Somehow Sam Kinison sticks in my brain. The whole Monty Python group was there, most of us from the show, a lot of other funny people, and Gilda. Gilda showed up and she’d already had cancer and gone into remission and then had it again, I guess. Anyway she was slim. We hadn’t seen her in a long time. And she started doing, “I’ve got to go,” and she was just going to leave, and I was like, “Going to leave?” It felt like she was going to really leave forever.

So we started carrying her around, in a way that we could only do with her. We carried her up and down the stairs, around the house, repeatedly, for a long time, until I was exhausted. Then Danny did it for a while. Then I did it again. We just kept carrying her; we did it in teams. We kept carrying her around, but like upside down, every which way—over your shoulder and under your arm, carrying her like luggage. And that went on for more than an hour—maybe an hour and a half—just carrying her around and saying, “She’s leaving! This could be it! Now come on, this could be the last time we see her. Gilda’s leaving, and remember that she was very sick—hello?”

We worked all aspects of it, but it started with just, “She’s leaving, I don’t know if you’ve said good-bye to her.” And we said good-bye to the same people ten, twenty times, you know. 

And because these people were really funny, every person we’d drag her up to would just do like five minutes on her, with Gilda upside down in this sort of tortured position, which she absolutely loved. She was laughing so hard we could have lost her right then and there.

It was just one of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ll always remember it. It was the last time I saw her.”

- from Live from New York: an Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

[via oldloves]

01

Mar

thesufjanstevensmodel5000:

“Give A Little Love.” Abandoned song from 2010 (outtake from ADP?). Found on old hard drive. Break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar.

03

Aug

In Defense of NOT Eating at Chick-fil-A as a Matter of Christian Conscience

This whole Chick-fil-A business has become rather silly and sad. Mayors suggest an unenforceable ban; ex-politicians-cum-celebrities pose in restaurants to show their solidarity with the chain. The affair seemed to start with reasonable discussion, at least among my Facebook friends. Now it’s degenerated to the usual suspects lining up on sides, shouting slogans, calling names, and waiving flags (P or Christian)*, while the smug middle remains above it all. 

That can be no surprise, and I’d rather just ignore the whole hubbub. People have had their say. I’m tired of hearing them shout at each other. I’m sure the boom from Appreciation Day will die away relatively soon and the company will return to business as usual (or slightly less than usual). I’ve stated my intention to keep my business away from the company and I intend to do just that. Beyond that, it’s difficult to succinctly say anything that hasn’t been said over and over, is not easily misconstrued, and doesn’t risk merely reinforcing positions, adding more heat than light to the discussion. Moreover, I dislike framing discussions in sectarian terms—unless it’s in the context of internal discussions or drinks with friends (of any bent, but especially Christians, Christ-curious, or Christ-haunted).  Such framing tends to distance and divide, and I certainly claim no special knowledge of the nature (or existence) of God.

But I have reached a breaking point. I can no longer remain quiet while a marginalized segment of society becomes pawns in an ideological struggle. I can no longer abide the gross distortions of Christianity we’re repeatedly witnessing.

My point in writing this is not to rally others to boycott; it is not to paint those who disagree with me as bigots or unchristian; it is not to impose ideological purity on every company I patronize. My point is to explain my decision as a legitimate, principled stance, a proper action in a democracy, and—since the name of God has been dragged into this—a position driven by my convictions as a follower of The Way. It is also to stand by my LGBT friends and say enough is enough.

First of all, let’s make this clear: free speech is not at issue here. No one serious is suggesting government restraint. Dan Cathy has an undisputed right to say what he said, just as everyone else has a right to express support, condemnation or indifference. Nor is this just about speech. Chick-fil-A uses company money to fund groups that advance their position. While I find it unwise for companies to use their funds for highly divisive issues that have no immediate impact on their business, such is their right. But I do not want my dollars going to such use, and I feel a personal obligation to withhold them.

However, this is also about speech. Dan Cathy was speaking as CEO, for his company (the “we” repeatedly referenced in his remarks), in defense of company actions. He was not just expressing personal views and explaining personal contributions. Moreover, I found his remarks smug and lacking any of the charity that is the core mandate of Christianity. He gives a curt justification (essentially, we support the Bible) and then throws in “we are married to our first wives.” Is divorce next on the abolitionist agenda? I’m sure not, but that remark is illustrative. I’m grateful to be married to my first wife, but not as a matter of moral superiority or a badge of religious piety.

Let’s set aside the issue of homosexuality as sin. I strongly oppose that notion. I believe it is harmful to individuals, society and the Church. But that’s an argument for another day. It’s a discussion we need to have, but it requires (in Christian circles) addressing the nature of God, how we read scripture, and (more broadly) the nature of truth and existence itself. So, for my purposes here, let’s just accept that.

From that assumption, it does not follow that same-sex marriage should be illegal. In a pluralistic society**, one must make rational arguments for laws. This is not to make simplistic “morality has no basis in our laws” statements or to shout “separation of church and state” and be done. Morality may be at the core of why murder or theft is illegal. But we can, should and do make arguments that go beyond “it’s wrong” (with an appeal to texts that others don’t venerate). We can talk about the rights of the would-be murderer stopping where the rights of the would-be victim start. We can talk about the social contract and how legalizing theft would harm society and is an inferior way to organize our affairs. Any position that cannot advance serious arguments beyond “it’s wrong” has to be questioned. I’ve heard opponents of same-sex marriage try to make those arguments (though not very often); I have yet to hear a single one that holds up to scrutiny. Moreover, Dan Cathy did not advance any argument beyond “it’s wrong.” He didn’t try. That’s bad enough to hear from a fellow citizen and fellow Christian. It’s unacceptable (in terms of my patronage) for a business serving the general public.

Further, even with our earlier stipulation, I find the behavior of Cathy and others to be unbiblical in tenor and approach. I hesitate to put it that bluntly; I want to avoid cheap salvos and name-calling. But as he and others have claimed the biblical mantle, I feel compelled to respond in those terms.

Jesus lived in a time of political and social turmoil. If you want to talk sexual “deviancy,” the Romans could teach us a thing or two. Corruption and oppression were so prevalent that the occupied people were primed for a revolution (a drive he thwarted). Yet, virtually all of his harsh words were reserved for those in the church. They were, in his words, hypocrites, frauds, a brood of vipers, more concerned about appearances and their own rules than people, and a wicked generation playing games with their religious regulations and seeking of signs and wonders; they put burdens on others and invited their own condemnation. 

Paul, who didn’t hesitate in laying down instructions but always claimed freedom as an underlying principle, wrote mostly to the church. When he interacted with the broader society (with its corruption, oppression and deviancy), he didn’t speak of condemnation or rules; he talked of a freedom, hope and love he’d found. When he spoke at a monument to an unknown god, he did not condemn their polytheistic beliefs. He simply talked of the God he’d come to know.

If you want to have an internal debate, let’s have at it. Feel free to criticize the Episcopal Church and UCC for ordaining gay ministers and accepting gay unions. I support them heartily, but that’s an inside-the-tent debate that’s appropriate. I hope we can move beyond one side hurling accusations of apostasy and the other throwing out the Pharisee epithet. I’d certainly reserve “brood of vipers” for the Man himself. But we can passionately debate the issues as matters of doctrine, health, philosophy or whatever. None of that changes the way we should interact with broader society or the fact that our call is to offer love, hope and freedom (actual good news). 

Even in my conservative teenage years, I was extremely bothered by the shape and tenor of 20th century conservative Christianity. It seemed so far removed from its source, ignoring the thrust and gestalt of its biblical source to spend an enormous amount of energy on tangents. Hold to whatever particular beliefs you want. But if you bury the Christ who focused on self-sacrificial love, who said to be first you have to be last, who said to go two miles with the one who asked you to go one and to offer your shirt to the one who steals your coat, who commanded us to turn the other cheek, and who said to be known by your love and that love sums up everything that matters—if we bury that Person beneath rules and exhortations to piety (however well-intentioned or “right’), then we’re not practicing anything that can be properly called Christian. 

Radical love is at the heart of Christianity. This is not a wish-washy, can’t-we-all-get-along love. It’s sacrificial. It leaves the 99 for the one. It seeks out the marginalized and always looks to include the “other.” It works on behalf of the powerless. I believe with Kierkegaard that Christendom is not Christian and can never be. As Peter Rollins writes in Fidelity of Betrayal:

“Various systems or worldviews fight for power and authority. Yet Christianity, as a religion without religion, offers a radically different approach. Christ opens up the idea of a system that seeks always to find those who are excluded from the system that is in power…. Christianity seeks out those who are excluded by it, the one sheep who is not in the pen, the one coin not in the purse, those who have not been invited to the party, the nobodies, the nothings. The Christian ‘system’ can thus never take power for, by definition, it is always that which stands against power, seeking to identify with the powerless and the voiceless…. What we see being worked out within Christianity can thus be said to be a prejudice toward those who are excluded and marginalized, those who are oppressed by our religious and political systems. This means that every time a ‘Christian’ system is created, the Christian is the one who seeks out those who are excluded from it.”

I think that’s fundamentally right, but I don’t expect everyone to get that.  I do expect everyone who claims the love of God to act lovingly and always express that love over any idea, principle or concept, however “right.” A relative posted the “they will hate you because of me” verse in relation to this Chick-fil-A episode. That’s a flawed connection. Jesus wasn’t hated because he stood up to all of the immorality in Roman society; he didn’t. He was crucified because he upset the power structure, he called out those who claimed God’s favor as hypocrites, he caused mayhem in the temple, and he scandalized the pious by hanging out with the disreputable and calling the leaders to task. He exposed the dark underbelly of civil (especially religious) society, and that could not be tolerated. If you’re hated because you speak truth to power, fight for widows, orphans, the poor and the oppressed, and call the religious out for their lack of love, then you can claim that verse. If you’re hated because you bury the message of God’s love in religious piety, that’s not because of Jesus.

I heard a former Bush (41) official talk to a group of evangelicals about leaving the White House and doing a service job to get back in touch with “the people.” He asked his clients what they thought of when they heard “Jesus” (not “church” or “Christianity,” just Jesus). The top three responses were (anti-) abortion, (anti-) gays, and (pro-) guns. I don’t care where you stand on the issues, if those are the first things people think of, then it is the Church that is most in need of repentance. We have made a Frankensteinian idol that is the opposite of the Jesus in the Bible. We’ve created Bizarro Jesus and called it the Christ.

I’m not just wound up over some abstract principles. This isn’t about political correctness or impressing my Hollywood friends. It’s about people. We live in a society where people are MURDERED by homophobic bigots, where hurt, neglected and confused teens take their own lives because of the condemnation they feel. My heart breaks, and the heart of anyone who claims to know the love of God should break. 

Christianity itself is not to blame. People who claim any faith or no faith do horrendous, damnable things because those groups are comprised of people and people can be evil.*** But those who claim to follow Jesus should loudly and continually condemn such things (just as many called for Muslims to loudly condemn those who perpetrate violence in the name of their religion). I would also argue that an inappropriate approach to scripture and homosexuality (including opposing same-sex marriage) perpetrates systemic oppression that undermines the gospel, but that’s another debate.

You can be as literal**** and conservative as you want but still try to convey love and behave Christianly. To do that, your love megaphone has to be significantly louder than your piety microphone. It should be clear that you care passionately about individual people over principles. “The law was made for man, not man for the law.” Support efforts to care for AIDS patients. Have a home for kids kicked out by their parents due to their sexuality, and loudly condemn their actions. Every time you talk about homosexuality, loudly condemn violence against LGBTQ persons. Again, I think you undermine your message of love by not supporting equality, but I care more that the message of love leads. That should be non-negotiable for Christians.

Let me draw a parallel that may be easier to understand (it is for me). Christians are clearly called to actively care for the poor. There can be no dispute about that. A reasonable person can argue that it does not necessarily follow that the government should help the poor. In fact, such a person could argue, well-intentioned government action often hurts the poor. Let’s accept that premise. If you actively champion eliminating programs for the poor (especially while proclaiming your Christianity), then you better actively work to help the poor and loudly call others to do the same. Every time you open your mouth about small government, you better express your concern for the poor and oppressed and call on your fellow citizens to take action. I don’t care how much your church does or how much you give, if you publicly call for the destruction of anti-poverty programs without doing the rest, you have undermined your other efforts and not followed the biblical mandate. Even if the poor are marginally better off financially (a big if), you have still failed. “Man does not live by bread alone,” and, by not doing the other, you have failed to feed their souls, depriving them of the message of love you are called to deliver and, further, created an environment of hostility to the poor.

Jack Kemp was the supreme example of how to do this properly. A conservative (though probably not by today’s standards) supply-sider, the late Congressman, HUD Secretary and Vice-Presidential candidate cared passionately about the poor, oppressed and marginalized (including immigrants and minorities in general). He didn’t just argue for smaller government and that a rising tide would lift all boats. Every time he talked about such things, he talked of helping the poor as a priority. He helped successfully push for free enterprise zones, talked of our moral obligations to our fellow citizens, looked for ways the government hindered everyday life in poor neighborhoods, and chastised his own supporters when they demonized opponents. “Compassionate conservative” was not an oxymoron when applied to him. Agree with him or not, he led with love.

So…. For all these reasons and more, I will not be eating at Chick-fil-A. That decision has not come easily. My wife has pushed me to stop eating there for over a year. I resisted. I absolutely love their food; I went there multiple times a week. I used to admire the company, writing a college report my freshman year on their corporate mission to “glorify God” through service to the community, good customer service and fair treatment of employees. Even as that opinion faded, I felt that boycotts tended to be ineffective and that we can’t only do business with companies that perfectly align with our beliefs. Then Cathy doubled-down, showing no grace or humility. Between that and the reactions, Chick-fil-A has become a touchstone over not only same-sex marriage but also what it means to live a pluralistic society and to behave as a Christian. They forced my hand, and I’m using my free speech to say that I love my LGBT friends, I think Chick-fil-A is behaving inappropriately in pluralistic society, and I strongly object to its cloaking itself in a Christian flag. 

Let me also say, loudly, that those who feel as I do should conduct themselves civilly. Public protests are valid ways to criticize the company and to show support for LGBTQ persons. But if we hurl insults at its employees, customers or even Cathy himself, we undermine our efforts and commit some of the same sins as Cathy. There are hateful people in the world. Some of them ate at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday. But most of those at Chick-fil-A weren’t hateful. I think their actions were misguided and, more importantly, contributed to a hateful environment. They certainly failed to actively convey love. But I will show them the same love I expect from them, while strongly, publicly and respectfully criticizing their actions, attitudes and basic approach. I’m not suggesting some “middle” approach. I stand firmly on one side. I don’t necessarily expect much movement from the other side. But I do expect civility, and I’m calling on all Christians to place agape love at the center of their actions. It’s not always easy in the heat of the moment, but it’s the only way forward.

[As I was finishing this post, I discovered 5 REASONS WHY THE CHURCH FAILED YESTERDAY. Thank you, Matthew Paul Tuner.]

* To be clear, I’m not a flag waver, but if I were, I suppose I’d fly both. 

** This is not say “in a society that used to be primarily Christian but is now diverse.” A Christ-like society is pluralistic. A theocracy is unchristian.

*** I highly recommend watching Joss Whedon’s speech to Harvard humanists, where the professed atheist speaks to mostly atheists on this very point.

**** There is not a single person who takes the Bible completely literally. Even if I met someone who stoned disobedient children and didn’t wear mixed-fabric clothing, I am sure they are not trying to take Paul’s cloak to him as he commanded (2 Timothy 4:13). “That’s silly,” you say? “That’s written to a particular person at a particular time in a particular context.” Exactly.

24

Jul

The life of John Baldessari, jammed into six minutes. Narrated by Tom Waits. Commissioned by LACMA for their first annual “Art + Film Gala,” honoring John Baldessari and Clint Eastwood. Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Edited by Max Joseph. Written by Gabriel Nussbaum. Cinematography by Magdalena Gorka and Henry Joost. Produced by Mandy Yaeger & Erin Wright. [From YouTube credits; via sashafrerejones]

19

Jul

This is Where I Live, Part 1: Owning Your Place

I’ve had New York City envy for as long as I can remember. It probably started with the first movie I saw that featured the Manhattan skyline. It was certainly in full swing by the time I saw The Secret of My Success. I definitely had more than a little Brantley Foster / Alex P. Keaton ambition, and New York just felt like my kind of town. I love the energy of the city. I love its history. I love that it attracts many of our best artists and brightest minds. I love the subway and sidewalks and the fact that you don’t need to own a car. I even love that if I get a 3am-craving for just about anything, I can fulfill it.

I’ve also had an inferiority complex—not just that my city was not like New York (there is only one), but that I would never be my best outside of The City. I’ve long felt like I needed  to be in New York to really push myself and test my limits. My own corollary to the famous lyric was that if I haven’t made it there, I haven’t made it anywhere. I’m not sure it’s a healthy perspective, but I’ve long held it. And it’s a stubborn one. A friend who is an executive at a major media company, while encouraging me to move there, practically reprimanded me when I downplayed what I’ve done as minor-league. There are major league teams all over the country, and most years, the Yankees (and certainly the Mets) don’t take home the big trophy. (That’s my extending the analogy, not his, but it captures the essence.)

I don’t know that I’ll ever completely shake that feeling, but one of the healthy things about the move to Mercer is that I’ve really fallen for Macon and I’m learning the importance of owning where you live. I won’t go into why I love Macon (I have before and I’ll probably dedicate a whole post to that soon), and it certainly helps that it’s so lovable. But every place needs to be owned. First, Manhattan can’t accommodate us all. As my former Congressman, Hank Johnson, might say, it would tip over. So let’s not condemn the rest of us to my New York neurosis. Second and more importantly, I’m really starting to learn the beauty of each place. Not to get too maudlin but I’m learning to appreciate the people, culture, history (architectural, music, even civic and industrial), and landscape of Macon and, by extension, any place I might find myself—not that some places aren’t better than others, but finding the unique value of where you live is a wonderful adventure and an act of grace you can offer to yourself and your community.

This is Where I Live (the view from my back porch):

More from my porch

And, ironically enough, Macon made to look like 1940s Brooklyn (for the movie 42)

12

Jul

Welcoming Adam Ragusea to the team and the rising tide.

I am thrilled that Adam Ragusea will be joining GPB & WMUM at the end of the month. Last month, I had the privilege of spending several hours with Adam, talking about our ambitious goals for the Center and driving around Macon, showing him much of what I adore about the city as well as the work that remains. 

Adam (who helpfully provides pronunciation for his last name in his email signature: ruh GOO see uh) comes from WBUR, one of the country’s flagship public radio stations. I haven’t met his wife yet, but she served as Admissions Coordinator for Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. They are a sharp young couple, and I’m thrilled to have them in Macon. Adam and I chatted at length about our ideas for working with students, forging a genuine partnership with The Telegraph, and making a difference in the community. What really excited me was seeing Adam’s enthusiasm for the community. He and his wife were looking for a place they could really plug into, and he immediately saw Macon as that place. (I also love that he’s hosting an event in Boston called "Lounge Lit: Transgressions". The more off-kilter events we can have here, the better.)

Adam will serve as the local host of “Morning Edition” and as site supervisor, working with CCJ students to expand community coverage. He joins a fantastic team with Josephine Bennett continuing as bureau chief. As GPB listeners statewide (and especially Maconites) know, Josephine is a great asset for Macon. In my short time here, I’ve seen firsthand (we’re officemates until our new building is done) her professionalism and great concern for the community. I’ve seen her work with students, overheard her story meetings, and watched her put together statewide stories and one piece for NPR nationwide. She is great with students, has a plethora of story ideas (including one Erin Brockovich-type story that I’m really excited about), and is tirelessly dedicated. She also has an entrepreneurial streak that will serve our students well; one of the reasons she has filed more national stories than many others is that she staked out an unsexy, under-covered area: farming. GPB itself cleaned up at this year’s Emmy awards, won several radio awards from the Georgia Associated Press Broadcaster’s Association (including honorable mention for Josephine as Best Anchor/Reporter), and two Murrow awards.

Meanwhile, Adam’s new partners at The Telegraph won 18 Georgia Press Association awards this year, and Ed Grisamore won the Georgia Author of the Year Award (from the oldest literary awards in the Southeast). I continue to be impressed by everyone at The Telegraph. Despite the challenges their industry is facing, they’ve retained exceptionally talented reporters, photographers and leadership. And Mercer continues its march to be one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher education and a training ground for service-oriented leaders. In addition to the Center for Collaborative Journalism, The McDuffie Center for Strings is growing in worldwide prestige (with an entrepreneurial bent that I love!), the medical school continues its statewide expansion and joins a newly organized Health Sciences Center, we’ve had four Fulbright fellows in the last three years (including one recent journalism graduate, now writing for The Telegraph), we became one of 25 schools in the Stamps Scholars program, the College Hill Corridor project—initiated and largely housed in Mercer—has become a leading example of how to revitalize a community, our service learning programs (including the international Mercer On Mission) have real impact, we just graduated our latest class with enrollment continuing to expand across the 11 colleges and schools while maintaining our place as a top 10 liberal arts institution, and a new, non-scholarship football program joins Georgia’s only NCAA Division I Lacrosse program and a basketball team coming off its best year ever with a CIT national championship. (Yes, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid on Mercer and Macon and have started my own little factory.)

When I arrived in town, several people talked about the Center as part of “the rising tide at Mercer.” I would say I’m part of a rising tide at three institutions and a region. Adam, welcome aboard. You’re in for a ride.

10

Jul

The Fissures Are Growing for Papers

David Carr delivers his usual insightful analysis into the problems facing our newspapers. Actually, it’s less analysis than empathy, but as they say, the first step in solving a problem is recognizing it. He lays out some of those problems well, and I appreciate the fact that he doesn’t rush to easy solutions or simply wag his finger at those struggling and perhaps (certainly, inevitably) bungling to find those solutions.

A few money quotes:

  • The bread and butter for most of the industry is local information. But it has become seemingly impossible to make money creating daily compendiums and throwing it on people’s doorsteps.
  • Still, who is to say that the Newhouse family is any more misguided than the rest of an industry that is scrambling for safe ground? After all, the math is daunting, and there is a shortage of magic bullets.
  • … great journalism, on any platform, is the one sure hedge against irrelevancy.

02

Jul

jtotheizzoe:

“I Am a Scientist”

Mates of State cover Guided by Voices to promote girls in science

The problems are clear. Science and technology fields hold the jobs of the future, but our young women aren’t being prepared effectively to lead, or even compete. Interest in science is equal among younger girls and boys, and then diverges from middle school onward. There’s many culprits to blame, and most of them are social.

So again we ask: How do we fix it?

There’s wrong ways. And then there’s really wrong ways, like last week’s “Science, It’s A Girl Thing” fiasco. You don’t encourage girls in science by creating unrealistic role models and more stereotypes. That’s why I love the soon-to-be-released Science Fair album, especially this track from Mates of State.

To me, it captures all the right stuff. The happy curiosity, the proud young girl working on what makes her happy, and getting to prove the naysayers wrong in the end. The full album features tracks that serve to inspire young girls in education, all performed by female singers, and all of the proceeds will go to girls’ STEM programs through Girls, Inc..

If you’d like more information on the Science Fair album, check out their website. 

(Special thanks to video director Lindsay Van Dyke for sending this my way)

28

Jun

Embrace complexity (it’s good to be pretentious)

Thank you, Ian Stansel, for penning this thoughtful exhortation to embrace complexity for Salon. You had me at Kieslowski (if not Linklater).

If you think a group of graduate students debating Kant is dull, just wait until you’ve heard a hundred arguments over the Cubs bullpen or the merits of mid-era Van Halen. If intellectual striving is pretentious, then what do we call an insistent resignation to fleeting mediocrity?

If you set-aside the large faction of those who criticize candidates for being too intellectual and make Three and a Half Men a ratings favorite, there is certainly evidence of a move toward more intellectual engagement. We’re in a golden age of TV, great music abounds, etc. These works may not top charts, but they are finding their audiences. Yet, I do have a sense that we’re too often following tribal leaders and chasing after identity badges that will make us cool and relevant to our chosen subcultures, rather than seriously engaging thoughtful work and opening ourselves up to change. It can get all too twee and trendy.

Yes, we’ve moved past the jaded mode of cool, but what do we gain from our curiosity if like doe-eyed naïfs we ignore all intellectual complexity? If everything is awesome, then we cannot discern what is important. Much of this, I believe, has developed due to a fear within the culture’s subconscious of being labeled pretentious. We’ve traded a shield of pessimism for one of undiscriminating innocence.

Ideas matter. Creativity matters. They can not only enlighten us but also enliven our lives and bring us into new and deeper relationships. Embrace passion; be enthusiastic. Just don’t be afraid of that which takes work to “get.” 

This enthusiasm sets them apart from the clichés of the generation. No one in the history of the world has ever been passionately cynical.