Acculturated http://acculturated.com Pop Culture Matters Fri, 29 Jul 2016 17:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Don’t Listen to People Who Say You Should Wait Until You’re 30 To Get Married http://acculturated.com/dont-listen-people-say-wait-youre-30-get-married/ http://acculturated.com/dont-listen-people-say-wait-youre-30-get-married/#respond Fri, 29 Jul 2016 17:00:18 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51992

When it comes to the idea of marriage, the prevailing wisdom in our modern culture is somewhat muddled. On one hand, some people will tell you that you shouldn’t worry so much about finding your soul mate because you don’t need anyone else to find happiness, and that the whole thing puts undue pressure on … Continued

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When it comes to the idea of marriage, the prevailing wisdom in our modern culture is somewhat muddled.

On one hand, some people will tell you that you shouldn’t worry so much about finding your soul mate because you don’t need anyone else to find happiness, and that the whole thing puts undue pressure on a young person who ought to be more focused on developing “me” for as long as possible. Marriage is simply one choice among many other equally important ones along your journey to personal enlightenment and career satisfaction.

On the other hand, some advice columnists and bloggers relentlessly claim that marriage is a such a big deal that for anyone under the age of thirty, you should first have every important experience under your belt and your life in working order before you embark on it. The implication is that if you get married too young, you might wake up one day a few years into your marriage and realize—gasp!—that the person with bad morning breath next to you in bed isn’t as self-actualized as your life coach tells you that you are.

A recent blog post on PopSugar—“Why You Should Absolutely Wait Until After 30 to Get Married”—takes this second approach and outlines sixteen different reasons to avoid matrimony at all costs until you’ve at least written your first memoir or summited K2.

Here are some highlights from the well-intentioned list of why you should wait until you’re thirty to marry:

  • You already have a lot of kitchen goods, so you can register for more fun things.
  • You are sexually confident and know how to ask for what you want.
  • After partying and socializing in your 20s, you definitely appreciate quiet, married nights in.
  • You know who you are and don’t have to pretend to like bands you don’t or do things you don’t want to do.
  • Humans live longer now and so when you get married it will still be for a freakishly long time compared to our ancestors.

Hmm. Avoiding kitchen goods on your gift registry list? Not having to lie about liking Radiohead? Being able to request your favorite sexual position with greater confidence?

If anything, the reasons listed in this article make me regret not marrying sooner!

While I appreciate the alleged sentiment behind this list—namely, that people shouldn’t rush into making a big decision like marriage—it is precisely this sort of navel-gazing that has contributed to the less-than-favorable views on marriage my generation has embraced.

Notice that nearly everything in this list is inwardly focused. It’s all about me. My potentially unfulfilled desires. My potentially missed experiences. The horror of possibly having some minor regrets about how I spent my time in my teens and twenties. The implication here is that the worst mistake someone can make is to prematurely devote their lives to the betterment of someone else’s or to the raising of a family.

I’m fully supportive of any wise counsel that prompts young people to think through what they want out of life and who they want to spend that life with. But the constant refrain of “don’t marry until you are 100% satisfied with your job, and had the maximum number of travel and sexual experiences” has so far had an unhealthy impact on society and culture.

Marriage is about two becoming one. It is about voluntary sacrifice. It is about loving your neighbor as yourself. No one likes to hear or think about this anymore, but it is undeniably true. And where it is not true, you tend to see broken marriages, families, and dreams.

The myth that is perpetuated by the “wait until you’re thirty” crowd is that the only choice is between naively getting married when you’re nineteen (thus being stuck in a suffocating relationship for the rest of your life) and finding the “perfect” mate at age thirty-six (just in time to have one designer baby you can suffocate with kale smoothies, pre-pre-school courses, and a fear of contact sports that you developed by reading one too many New Yorker articles written by someone who never played them).

Life is short. It isn’t long. And it’s not about you. Sure, have fun and pursue your dreams. Be spontaneous and dance like no one’s watching. But my advice, as someone who didn’t get married until I was thirty (primarily because I was goofing off with friends and languishing in grad school courses I didn’t even want to be taking), is don’t wait until you are out of college to grow up and take life, love, and personal responsibility as seriously as you should.

Pursue your passions. But also keep your eyes and ears out for friends and potential spouses who share your values and embrace a sacrificial, service-oriented attitude and lifestyle. Practice these virtues in your own life, career, and circle of friends. And don’t listen to people who tell you to put off marriage until you’re thirty.

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Political Correctness Shuts Down ‘Prince of Egypt’ http://acculturated.com/prince-of-egypt/ http://acculturated.com/prince-of-egypt/#respond Fri, 29 Jul 2016 15:00:14 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51983

If you’re a denizen of Sag Harbor, NY (in the Hamptons), you might have been looking forward to the free, one-night performance of the new musical adaptation of Prince of Egypt, the popular animated DreamWorks movie that tells the story of the life of Moses (based on the book of Exodus), which the Bay Street … Continued

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If you’re a denizen of Sag Harbor, NY (in the Hamptons), you might have been looking forward to the free, one-night performance of the new musical adaptation of Prince of Egypt, the popular animated DreamWorks movie that tells the story of the life of Moses (based on the book of Exodus), which the Bay Street Theater had planned to sponsor. It was going to be the first time the new musical, which has a stellar team of writers and producers behind it, was going to be performed for the public.

Too bad. After some activists (mistakenly) assumed the production featured an all-white cast, they took to Twitter to begin yet another sanctimonious campaign to shut it down—and succeeded.

Several news outlets reported that the performance was canceled because of concerns about “diversity issues”—the latest euphemism for what happens when angry social justice warriors take to social media to denounce whatever the latest supposed offense to political correctness is. In the case of The Prince of Egypt, as in many other PC tempests in a teapot, the “activists” were wrong: in fact, one-third of the actors scheduled to perform Prince of Egypt at the Bay Street Theater were people of color.

No matter. The director still had to issue an apology and cancel the performance: “Please rest assured that your concern about the need for diversity and authenticity in this project is something we hear and take seriously,” he wrote. “All of us on the creative and producing team hope to continue this conversation, not just about The Prince of Egypt, but about diversity and authenticity in casting in all the art we create.

The irony is that the musical version of Prince of Egypt is being developed at the request of schools and educators (and regional theaters) who wanted an adaptation that students could perform. Now, instead of a sneak peek of this new musical, they get to listen to enraged, uninformed actors complain about “diversity” and insist upon quotas for the actors who perform in musicals. So much for the arts bringing people together and teaching kids the virtues of tolerance and creativity.

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Why We Should Stop Obsessing about Women and Leadership http://acculturated.com/women-and-leadership/ http://acculturated.com/women-and-leadership/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 13:53:22 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51968

For a majority of the past twenty years, the U.S. Secretary of State has been a woman. Over that same period of time, women have served as president of Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Penn, Brown, Duke, and other elite universities. Since 2014, the chairman of the Federal Reserve—arguably the world’s single most important economic policymaker—has been … Continued

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For a majority of the past twenty years, the U.S. Secretary of State has been a woman. Over that same period of time, women have served as president of Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Penn, Brown, Duke, and other elite universities. Since 2014, the chairman of the Federal Reserve—arguably the world’s single most important economic policymaker—has been a woman too. Meanwhile, female CEOs can be found at a wide range of U.S. companies, including General Motors, PepsiCo, IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Oracle, YouTube, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Campbell Soup.

And of course, our country now has its first major-party female presidential nominee.

Despite all that, we continually hear that American society is not doing enough to promote women’s leadership. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, for example, has complained about the relatively low percentage of women in senior-level corporate jobs, and also about the “gender stereotypes” she believes are holding women back. In 2014, she launched a campaign urging people to stop describing assertive girls as “bossy.”

Everyone can agree that we should encourage young women to pursue their interests, discover their passions, and work to achieve their goals. However, it is misguided for society to exalt “leadership” as the mountain top of professional success.

As Katherine Connell of National Review has observed:

Most girls will not grow up to be leaders, and this isn’t a bad thing: Leadership is the calling of a few, by definition. Acting as if it should be a universal aspiration will inevitably set some kids up for disappointment and failure, and it devalues the work of the vast majority of people who don’t wield great power or influence, and don’t want to.

Indeed, when we tell young women to make the boardroom or the corner office their highest ambition, we implicitly denigrate the choices of those women who decide to be, say, schoolteachers, nurses, or stay-at-home moms. That may not be our intention, but it’s the unavoidable result of our fixation with women’s leadership.

Rather than obsess over the share of female executives at Fortune 500 companies, we should support practical measures that expand opportunity for all Americans, while keeping in mind that men and women often have divergent priorities.

On that score, Harvard Business School analysts Francesca Gino, Caroline Ashley Wilmuth, and Alison Wood Brooks published some fascinating research last year. After surveying male and female views of leadership and professional advancement, the Harvard team reported:

Across nine studies using diverse sample populations (executives in high-power positions, graduates of a top MBA program, undergraduate students, and online panels of working adults) and over 4,000 participants, we find that, compared to men, women have a higher number of life goals, place less importance on power-related goals, associate more negative outcomes (e.g., goal conflict and tradeoffs) with high-power positions, perceive power as less desirable though equally attainable, and are less likely to take advantage of opportunities for professional advancement.

In other words, many women don’t have a C-suite job because they don’t want a C-suite job. That doesn’t make them unambitious or unimpressive. It just means that certain things—family, friends, work-life balance—matter more to them than becoming a corporate executive.

To return to Katherine Connell’s point: Leadership is not a universal aspiration, and pretending otherwise does nothing to boost women’s confidence. In fact, it can damage women’s confidence, by making them feel like underachievers.

What we should do instead is remind women—especially young women—that there are countless ways to enjoy a successful, fulfilling life. Some people are eager to climb the corporate, organizational, or political ladder. Others are drawn to different kinds of work, including the work of motherhood. We all find reward and satisfaction in our own way.

Perhaps that’s too old-fashioned a message for the likes of Sheryl Sandberg. But it’s a message that happens to be true.

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The Ups and Downs of Sexism http://acculturated.com/the-ups-and-downs-of-sexism/ http://acculturated.com/the-ups-and-downs-of-sexism/#respond Thu, 28 Jul 2016 17:00:18 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51962

Marissa Mayer – the CEO of Yahoo, which was just bought for $4.8 billion by Verizon – recently expressed her frustration with how the media consistently covers her as a woman CEO, rather than just a CEO of a major tech company. During her 4-year tenure at the helm of Yahoo, she became known for … Continued

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Marissa Mayer – the CEO of Yahoo, which was just bought for $4.8 billion by Verizon – recently expressed her frustration with how the media consistently covers her as a woman CEO, rather than just a CEO of a major tech company. During her 4-year tenure at the helm of Yahoo, she became known for her short maternity leaves and office nursery as much as for any actual business decisions she made for Yahoo.

Mayer certainly has a point – the press does treat women in leadership positions differently than men. Yet the sexist treatment is a double-edge sword: Yes, the media paid particular attention to her appearance, personal life, pregnancies and parenting decisions, but they also paid much more attention to her overall than they would have if she had been a man.

After all, Marissa Mayer is pretty much a household name. How many other CEOs of Fortune 500 companies can people name? The answer for most of us is very few. And with Yahoo clocking in at 513 on Fortune’s latest list, that means there are many CEOs, including hundreds at much larger companies, who aren’t being covered much at all. Perhaps Mayer would have welcomed a little more anonymity, but fame has its upsides. Mayer apparently will receive a rather generous severance package of $57 million if Verizon decides to let her go. But if she feels like this isn’t enough, her fame means that she will have other ample money-making opportunities as a speaker and in other public roles capitalizing on her name, as well as any future job as a leading tech professional.

This is a point to keep in mind as we watch coverage of Hillary Clinton’s nomination and run for the White House. There is always a lot of handwringing about how the press treats female candidates differently than men, not only in focusing on looks and family but in describing their behaviors and manners. Women’s voices may be interpreted as shrill or ditzy, and their behavior as either too emotional or too icy. And sometimes treatment is truly unfair and reeks of sexism.

Yet women like Hillary Clinton also get big benefits from their gender too. In fact, one of the main reasons Democrats wanted Hillary Clinton as their candidate is because of the belief that it’s important and appealing to put the first woman in the White House. Her primary campaign had a notoriously hard time generating much enthusiasm, but to the extent that she did have fervent backers, they were overwhelmingly from the Left’s feminist movement and from organizations specifically focused on electing women. If Clinton was simply a former Senator and Secretary of State–with a lackluster record of achievement, scandal-plagued past, and poor campaigning skills—and not also the first woman running for the presidency, she would at a minimum have had a lot more competitors for her party’s nomination, and likely would have been an early also-ran.

It may not be fair that women enjoy these benefits and have to pay the costs associated with their sex when they enter the public eye, but it’s also not simply a sexist plot.  The fact that there are few women CEOs and fewer women running for high office means that the ones who are doing these things are more interesting and newsworthy to the public. Mayer was frustrated with the attention given to her pregnancies, but let’s face it: having a new baby when you are a woman is different than when you are a man (to state the obvious). No one is terribly interested about how much leave a male CEO took after his wife gave birth, but Mayer’s situation was fascinating for all of us women who have been through our own birthing experiences or who imagine heading down that path one day. She only took two weeks off? Wow. Women were endlessly interested in debating if this was a show of women’s strength and dedication, or a terrible precedent in creating expectations for bouncing back after a birth.

One Huffington Post story on Mayer cited as evidence of sexist coverage a debate about whether Mayer’s pregnancy discouraged her company from firing her. Yet as anyone in management knows, this is a legitimate issue. Some companies treat pregnant women badly, which is why there are laws on the books to protect them from discrimination. But those same laws mean that when a woman is pregnant, her supervisors are aware that there is a heightened potential for litigation and charges of discrimination, so of course this can play a role in decisions about termination.

Recognizing that someone’s sex brings both benefits and drawbacks isn’t sexist, and it doesn’t excuse treatment that is out of bounds. But it’s important to recognize that the world is more complicated than the simple charge of “sexism” implies.

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Why These Octogenarians Are Getting Better Press Than Taylor Swift http://acculturated.com/octogenarians-taylor-swift/ http://acculturated.com/octogenarians-taylor-swift/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:00:21 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51949

Recently, celebrity karaoke has become a thing. The “Carpool Karaoke” segment that’s become a viral hit for James Corden on his Late Late Show was recently bought by Apple, which will make it a stand-alone spinoff show. Spike TV hosts “Lip Sync Battle,” which pits celebrities against each other in elaborate lip sync competitions, complete … Continued

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Recently, celebrity karaoke has become a thing. The “Carpool Karaoke” segment that’s become a viral hit for James Corden on his Late Late Show was recently bought by Apple, which will make it a stand-alone spinoff show.

Spike TV hosts “Lip Sync Battle,” which pits celebrities against each other in elaborate lip sync competitions, complete with costumes and back-up singers.

But few karaoke experts can compete with what the residents of the Julia Wallace Retirement Village in New Zealand achieved: an almost perfect replica of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” video—starring some pretty spry octogenarians:

This is far more than a traditional homage; the ladies spent a week learning the song and dance moves and, with the help of professional videographers and some of their grandchildren, shot the video. The Guardian reported that the residents were eager to produce a perfect simulacrum of Swift’s video: “Just because we’re in a retirement village, doesn’t mean we can’t have fun,” said Margaret Gregory, seventy-two, who was cast as Swift in the video. “We still have life and energy, and sometimes I feel I do more now than when I was younger, because I have more time.”

This wasn’t the retired ladies’ first dramatic stunt, however; last year they produced a nude calendar of themselves to raise money for the Red Cross.

The appreciation of Swift’s music comes at a difficult time for the singer, who has been on the receiving end of some terribly bad press lately; earlier this month, Kim Kardashian released a video showing Swift and Kanye West apparently agreeing that he could mention her in one of his songs, a conversation Swift had initially denied had ever happened. Her recent breakup with Calvin Harris and quick rebound with British actor Tom Hiddleston has generated significant online ridicule throughout the summer. And one news outlet even called Swift’s annual, much-hyped (and relentlessly Instagrammed) Fourth of July party, which used to generate adoring and envious coverage from the fashion and celebrity press, a “self-loving, narcissistic shriekfest.”

So as Swift’s P.R. team hunkers down to plot her next move, may we suggest Taylor put the pensioners’ version of “Shake it Off” on an endless loop on her computer. It might help her do just that with all of the bad press she’s been getting this summer. It might also serve to remind her that as important as “image” is to a celebrity, it’s even more important to focus on the things that matter—like living a life that isn’t always focused on courting the approval of others.

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Blink-182 and the Silliness of Middle-Aged Rocker Angst http://acculturated.com/blink-182/ http://acculturated.com/blink-182/#respond Thu, 28 Jul 2016 13:34:06 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51937

If you were an angsty teenager like me in the mid-to-late 1990s / early 2000s timeframe, finely attuned to all of life’s unfair absurdities—for example, your baseball coach was kind of a jerk, your English teacher just didn’t understand why that poem you wrote was actually deeply poignant and profound, your parents belonged to the … Continued

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If you were an angsty teenager like me in the mid-to-late 1990s / early 2000s timeframe, finely attuned to all of life’s unfair absurdities—for example, your baseball coach was kind of a jerk, your English teacher just didn’t understand why that poem you wrote was actually deeply poignant and profound, your parents belonged to the slightly less prestigious country club and wouldn’t buy you a paintball gun for your birthday, or a MiniDisc player because you already had a Discman (and what’s the difference anyway?), and also that girl you liked would never answer your AOL instant messages and kept putting up that annoying “away” notification even though you knew she was right there at her computer the whole time—if you were anything like that, or completely different, it doesn’t matter, you probably were obsessed with Blink-182.

I didn’t need to know what an enema was to know that Enema of the State was a seminal album that changed everything. Hit songs like “All The Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?” were fun and catchy and easy to play (terribly) on the guitar. One can only imagine how many truly awful new bands were started as a result of that album.

Oh, yeah, and “Adam’s Song” and “Aliens Exist” and “Dumpweed” and “Mutt” and “Anthem.” Sorry, I got distracted just now and had to go listen to them all on YouTube. I won’t lie, my teenage self was geeking out a little, suddenly transported to the back seat of a school bus on the way to some crummy field trip destination, savoring every drop of restless youth pulsing through lines like, “I’ll pack my bags I swear I’ll run, wish my friends were twenty-one.” It’s a pretty good album.

Still, it’s hard to get excited, or even a bit nostalgic, over the fact that Blink-182 just released a new album, California, the band’s first in five years. The same goes for all the other albums they apparently made since Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (get it?) in the summer of 2001.

That, by the way, was one of the first times I can remember experiencing a genuinely political emotion before 9/11 happened later that year, which is going to seem like a pretty ridiculous thing to say once I quote some of the lines, from “Anthem Part 2,” that brought about this epiphany. Here they are:

Corporate leaders, politicians

Kids can’t vote, adults elect them

Laws that rule the school and workplace

Signs that caution, sixteen’s unsafe

It’s a message any angsty teen, or Bernie Sanders supporter of any age, can get behind. The chorus kicker—“If we’re f—ed up, you’re to blame”—is purely distilled youthful rebellion. It is also the essence of most political campaign messaging these days: “There’s something wrong with you, and it’s someone else’s fault.” What’s not to love?

The members of Blink-182 were in their late twenties (and very rich and successful) when they sang those words. Looking back on it, that’s a little weird. Who is the “we” they’re referring to? What well-adjusted adult citizen wants to give children the right to vote?

So it’s even weirder, and even a bit sad, to learn that these dudes, all in their early forties, just recorded an album that sounds exactly the same. Power chords, simple three to four note riffs, somewhat catchy choruses, and manic drumming from Travis Barker, whose musical talent is almost comically superior to that of his bandmates. The lyrics, meanwhile, approximate the concepts of “angst” and “twee,” and, intentionally or not, seem as if they were written by an actual teenager.

Here’s an example, from the song “Sober”:

I know I messed up and it might be over
But let me call you when I’m sober
I’m a dandelion, you’re a four-leaf clover
But let me call you when I’m sober

Naa, na na na na na naaaa
na na na na na na
Naa, na na na na na naaaa
na na na na na na

It could very well have been written from a very dark, very adult place, but you’d never know because it sounds like a song about falling in love at a rock concert when you’re seventeen. Also, because lead singer Marc Hoppus places a little too much emphasis on the last syllable of the word “dandelion.” It’s hard to take anything else seriously after hearing that.

Here are a few more example, just so you get the idea.

“No Future”:

Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na
They don’t care about you
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na
They don’t care about you

“Teenage Satellites”

We tumble through the night
We burn so bright
We’re teenage satellites

Woo oh oh oh oh oh oh
Woo oh oh oh oh oh oh

“California” (pronounced here as a five-syllable word):

Hey here’s to you California

Beautiful haze of suburbia

Living in the perfect weather

Spending time inside together

Hey here’s to you California

Na, na na, na na, na na, na na (woah ohh)

Na, na na, na na, na na, na na (woah ohh)

Na, na na, na na, na na, na na (woah ohh)

Na, na na, na na, na na, na na (woah ohh)

Yeah, there are quite a few “Nas” to go around. Well, what did you expect? It’s Blink-182. They could have sounded more like Coldplay. That would have been horrible. So what if you’re too old to appreciate it? Maybe the current generation of rebellious teens will find angsty inspiration in California. Maybe it’s silly to assume that artists should “evolve” if evolving means abandoning their distinctively juvenile sound. All I know is that I couldn’t help laughing (with them) when I heard “Built This Pool,” the album’s sixth track. It is fifteen seconds long. The lyrics are:

Woo, woo
I wanna see some naked dudes
That’s why I built this pool
Is that really it?

It really is.

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If You Build a Little Free Library, Will People Read? http://acculturated.com/little-free-library/ http://acculturated.com/little-free-library/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 20:00:15 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51929

This summer I’ve been to two beaches—one in New Jersey and one in Connecticut. At both places my kids found free “libraries.” On one boardwalk, a boat shaped bookcase invited beachgoers to grab a title and settle in under their umbrella. At the next beach, a cart with rows of books for the taking next … Continued

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This summer I’ve been to two beaches—one in New Jersey and one in Connecticut. At both places my kids found free “libraries.” On one boardwalk, a boat shaped bookcase invited beachgoers to grab a title and settle in under their umbrella. At the next beach, a cart with rows of books for the taking next to the lifeguard office made us stop and browse before heading down to the water.

In recent years, the Little Free Library movement has invited residents of any town to build a small one room library at their homes—one room means the size of a large birdhouse—to lend out books to anyone who passes by. All of these efforts are loosely tied to the “take-a-book-leave-a-book” philosophy that encourages people to share books, lend books, give them away, all in an effort to cherish the power of the bound book. Little Free Library will sell you a book box to install outside your home for between $275-$500, throw some books in or cultivate a collection, and sit back and watch. There is a Neighborhood Library Builders Guild, if you want to build your own personal-styled free library box.

Do a search of the news and you’ll find Girl Scout groups, Cub Scout packs, and Rotary Clubs building free libraries. You’ll find these little libraries outside a senior center in Minnesota, in front of public schools and soup kitchens, and on a street in Yemen. From place to place, people are becoming DYI librarians with these make-shift, open access, grab-and-go lending boxes of books. They are also testing our instinct and our willingness to reach for a book when there is no charge and no responsibility to return it. “If they’re taking books, the blessing is that they’re reading,” one free library owner said.

The idea of book vending machines is hardly new, nor is the notion of making books free. A library without a librarian is at the heart of EnvisionWare’s Library of the Future—a mobile book checkout and return system. Think of a bank ATM machine, only this one dispenses up to 400 books.

As a recent article in New York Magazine described, free book vending machines have sprung up in a section of Washington, DC to distribute books to children as easily as a bottle of Gatorade or bag of Doritos. Sponsored by JetBlue, the vending machines are part of the airline’s Soar With Reading program, which has given away 27,000 books in its first year. The vending machines are now deployed at five locations in Detroit as well, and will dispense 100,000 free books. These vending machines are aimed at countering so-called “book deserts”—neighborhoods where access to books, magazines, bookstores, and libraries is limited or nonexistent.

Free books have not always been a staple of American society—nor has the idea of giving away books. In 1878, no state had passed a compulsory free text book law, according to William Isaac Marshall, in his 1895 study, “Should the Public Schools Furnish Text Books Free to All Students.”

But a handful of individual cities had acted earlier. Philadelphia was the first city to offer students free books beginning in 1818. New Jersey was guaranteeing free books for compulsory education in a majority of cities by 1892, while specific cities like Newark and Paterson had acted decades earlier. Chicago became known as the “only first class city” with a population above 300,000 in 1889 not to offer free text books, according to Marshall.

And the free books movement of today is dwarfed by the efforts of earlier philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie and others. Public libraries, for most children, continue to be the best place to find free books. The New York Public Library just announced that it has made 300,000 books available for download for free using a new app. Free books are also available through some UPS stores in the summer, via the Read to Grow program which provides free books to families of newborn babies before they leave the hospital, or through nonprofits like Better World Books that hand out over 3,000 free books via a bookmobile in Indiana. For anyone with an internet connection, Project Gutenberg offers over 50,000 e-books, including most of the classics.

And yet, while it may seem like we are awash in ever more free books—both print and e-books—the truth is that the number of Americans who report reading a book has declined. This—not the existence of “book deserts”—is the real challenge. Placing books on American street-corners and sidewalks where they might benefit those who would otherwise have the furthest to drive, bike, or walk to encounter a book is certainly noble. But the impact will likely be limited unless we double down and aggressively nurture a reading culture in our citizens from a young age. You can place books in any desert, but no one will drink if they don’t first understand what it means to be thirsty.

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Twitter’s Political Double Standard http://acculturated.com/twitters-political-double-standard/ http://acculturated.com/twitters-political-double-standard/#respond Wed, 27 Jul 2016 17:00:49 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51923

Even before the film was released, there was an extraordinary amount of vitriol in the geek universe about the casting and roles of the four women involved in the new Ghostbusters remake. Based on a cult classic that starred four male actors, the new version stars Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones … Continued

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Even before the film was released, there was an extraordinary amount of vitriol in the geek universe about the casting and roles of the four women involved in the new Ghostbusters remake. Based on a cult classic that starred four male actors, the new version stars Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones as the titular busters of all things supernatural.

While fans took umbrage at the casting from the very first announcement, it escalated when trailers from the production team began to show up online; fans of the original movie saved their harshest criticism for black actor Leslie Jones, who plays lifelong New Yorker Patty Tolan. Many of these fans seem to have forgotten that one of the four cast members of the original Ghostbusters was also black (actor Ernie Hudson who played Winston Zeddemore).

The hostility escalated when the film was released in mid-July to mixed reviews. Some critics thought it was entertaining and a nice homage to the original, while others felt it shouldn’t have been made and that the casting was all wrong. And some online raconteurs banged the drum about the fact that women were cast at all.

Leslie Jones in particular became the target of more hostility than just about anyone else, perhaps because she is a strong, archetypal brash, loud New Yorker and perhaps, more disturbingly, because she was the only black woman in the cast.

Breitbart tech editor and Internet gadfly Milo Yiannopoulos was accused of leading the attack, not just posting his own hostile notes to Leslie on Twitter, but using his visibility to encourage others to also harass her in the online world.

In response, Twitter shut down his account.

Milo had made no secret of his disdain for the movie itself, writing in a review:

“The beloved franchise from our childhood with a stake driven through its heart, head chopped off, body burned and buried at a crossroads . . . Patty is the worst of the lot. The actress is spectacularly unappealing, even relative to the rest of the odious cast. But it’s her flat-as-a-pancake black stylings that ought to have irritated the SJWs [Social Justice Warriors].”

But not liking a movie isn’t grounds for losing a Twitter account. In fact, in all of the reporting about how self-styled gay conservative writer Milo was the instigator of a tidal wave of hate messages towards Ms. Jones, not one online site has a smoking gun, a line in one of his posts on the Breitbart site or a tweet he sent to his 350,000 followers that encourages others to harass Jones or even criticize her.

Sure, he’s clearly not a fan, and he doesn’t avoid saying so; he’s called her “spectacularly unappealing,” for example, but that’s not a violation of Twitter’s terms of service.

So why was Milo kicked off Twitter? Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had a private exchange with Leslie Jones prior to deciding to freeze Milo’s account, but the statement from the company simply stated, “No one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others”

Would calling someone a bigot and urging them to kill themselves qualify as “targeted abuse?” That’s what Leslie Jones herself posted to Twitter (The full tweet read “and you and your friends are bigots. If you don’t like me why the fuck do you watch let alone contact me. Kill yourself bigot.”)

Jones’ Twitter account was not suspended, but when a conservative writer cut and pasted Jones’ tweet and posted it to her account, not only was she inundated with abusive tweets, but when she complained to Twitter, they suspended her account for violating Twitter’s terms of service. If that’s not evidence of a double standard, what is?

There’s a small gap between deciding someone is engaged in “targeted abuse” and determining that they’re simply exercising their right to freedom of speech—even if that speech is mean or ignorant. Meanwhile, one can’t help wonder if five negative posts is too many? Or two? Or just a single message where you call out an entertainer, actor, or celebrity and say something crass, pigheaded, or crude? As this most recent Twitter controversy suggests, Twitter suffers from the same political prejudice that afflicts much of the mainstream media, protecting its users when they are liberal actresses, for example, but not when they are conservative. That’s not an open new media platform; that’s just the same tired old media bias.

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“Sheep View 360” and the Virtue of Ingenuity http://acculturated.com/sheep-view-360/ http://acculturated.com/sheep-view-360/#respond Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:30:34 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51917

When your homeland doesn’t show up on most maps, it can be hard to feel respected. But when Google Earth doesn’t show a street view of your homeland, it might be time to take action—which is what some young sheep owners of the Faroe Islands have done. Faroe is a small island country located roughly … Continued

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When your homeland doesn’t show up on most maps, it can be hard to feel respected. But when Google Earth doesn’t show a street view of your homeland, it might be time to take action—which is what some young sheep owners of the Faroe Islands have done.

Faroe is a small island country located roughly between Iceland and Norway. It’s only got about 540 square miles (smaller than Houston, TX), and 50,000 people (1/42nd of Houston). Because it’s so small, it hasn’t shown up on most world maps, and Google Earth hasn’t captured its roads with street cars—which makes sense, but is also a shame. Because while they’re certainly remote, the eighteen Faroe Islands boast some of the most breathtaking Nordic landscapes in the world.

Wanting to share that beauty with the world (and, understandably, boast about it), Faroans have repeatedly asked Google Earth to visit the islands. When those requests were denied, people got creative. Very aware of Faroe’s 80,000 sheep, which pretty much roam completely free around the islands, native Durita Dahl Andreassen attached a few 360˚ cameras to sheep (with permission from shepherds) and sent them out to capture the land—especially the places you can’t get to by car. She’s calling it “Sheep View 360,” and the results so far are pretty impressive.


But this is only beginning—Durita and the other members of the project are really hoping that what they capture will convince Google to add them to Google Street View. They’ve already convinced a staggering number of other Faroans and sympathetic mainlanders, who have launched both a social media campaign (#wewantgooglestreetview) and a petition to convince Google to join the project. Google hasn’t officially commented yet, but the Northerners might just have a chance.

It’s also notable that it’s a group of Millennials who spearheaded this project; the project itself promotes virtues such as initiative, creativity, and respect, to name a few. Unlike the portrait of Millennials often painted by the media, however, these Millennials aren’t complaining angrily about Google, as they might be if the foolishly thought they were entitled to Street View, or if they felt Google owed them something. No, they’ve chosen their rhetoric wisely: They’re simply focusing on the beauty of their homeland, hoping Google (and everyone else) will come around to their way of thinking. That’s an example more Millennials should follow.

If you think this cause is worth supporting, either because Durita and the others set a good example, or just because you want to see what it’s like to be a free-roaming northern sheep, sign that petition and tweet that hashtag. Let’s get them Google Street View.

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The Narcissism of Anti-Christian Hipsters http://acculturated.com/anti-christian-hipsters/ http://acculturated.com/anti-christian-hipsters/#respond Wed, 27 Jul 2016 14:20:14 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=51911

“The devil went down to Detroit, he was looking for a point to make . . .” So might have begun the Charlie Daniels’ Band famous ditty “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” if it had focused not on a fictional fiddle-fight between a talented human musician and the Devil himself, but on a curious … Continued

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“The devil went down to Detroit, he was looking for a point to make . . .”

So might have begun the Charlie Daniels’ Band famous ditty “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” if it had focused not on a fictional fiddle-fight between a talented human musician and the Devil himself, but on a curious incident that occurred in Detroit this time last year.

For a brief moment that summer, the Motor City slightly resembled Pandemonium, the capital of Hell in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, when the Michigan metropolis hosted an iron statue of the Satanic icon Baphomet. Nine feet tall, with the head and hooves of a goat and the torso and arms of a man, and emblazoned with a pentagram, the statue, when unveiled, attracted a crowd of self-proclaimed believers (who chanted “Hail Satan”) and some curious—and appalled—onlookers. “The last thing we need in Detroit is having a welcome home party for evil,” said Reverend Dave Bollock, a local pastor, in reaction to its unveiling.

Yet these stunts are hardly worthy of the attention they get (a similar incident occurred earlier this month in Florida), much less of immortalization via Charlie Daniels’ fiddle. For those responsible for them resemble not so much demons as they do that very modern (and sadly common) creature of Internet repute: the troll.

It is difficult to determine whether these acolytes of Baphomet are sincere in their beliefs. Yet even if they are, in stunts such as these, belief takes a backseat to sheer shock value. Miffed by what they see as state-sanctioned displays of Christianity, such as a marble monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol, or, more recently, a replica of Noah’s Ark that serves as a Kentucky state tourist attraction, these followers resort not to argument but to trolling. “We chose Baphomet because of its contemporary relation to the figure of Satan and find its symbolism to be appropriate if displayed alongside a monument representing another faith,” Jex Blackmore, the pseudonymous organizer of the Detroit Baphomet display, said.

A curious decision, that. In the late 60s, the Beatles advised their left-wing contemporary revolutionaries that “if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.” Well, to adapt the Beatles: Even in this increasingly non-Christian country to which the patina of a religious past nonetheless clings, “if you go setting up statues of Baphomet, you ain’t gonna control the government.”

Alas, they are unlikely to change their ways. For if the accounts of this and other such stunts are anything to go by, trolling is all these so-called devil worshippers have going for them. They are not much inclined—or, at least, not willing to admit publicly—to some of the more typical accoutrements of the occult, such as human and/or animal sacrifice, blatant perversions of Catholic ritual that nonetheless at least require some knowledge of it, and the like.

They instead profess a warmed-over creed of self-worship that barely distinguishes them from the consciously irreligious. The group that organized the statue’s unveiling “holds to the basic premise that undue suffering is bad, and that which reduces suffering is good. We do not believe in symbolic ‘evil.’ Nor do they even profess a literal belief in, well . . . Satan. He is for them, instead, as described in Nancy Keffer’s account for the Daily Beast, “a literary figure, not a deity—he stands for rationality, for skepticism, for speaking truth to power, even at great personal cost.” Their “creed,” in other words, to the extent that it exists at all, boils down to a self-worship of inwardly-affirming cool, well-practiced among sarcastic, faux-edgy high schoolers who think that revolting against their parents makes them a rebel in the mold of Satan in Paradise Lost.

To be sure, this kind of vacuous Satanism is, in a sense, preferable to the out-and-out Rosemary’s Baby variety. But there’s at least a clarifying honesty to that brand, one that illuminates the stakes rather than trying hide behind innocuous-seeming slogans brainstormed in a cynical teenager’s basement. Both are insidious. But both are also the creeds of losers. For just as the Devil lost his fiddle match against Johnny in Charlie Daniels’ opus, Satan’s works and all his empty promises make him the biggest loser of all.

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