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    Mon. August 24

    ‘Of Mice and Men’: Steinbeck’s Sentimental Foolishness

    Kyle Smith

    As we get ready to head back to school, Acculturated is reevaluating some of the “classic” books routinely assigned to children to read during the school year.  Do they still deserve to be granted the label of “classics”?  Are there better books kids could be reading?  And what ideological and cultural messages are these books really sending our children?

    Of all the books we force-feed bored teenagers in high school, is any as mawkish, inane, obtuse, and contrived as Of Mice and Men?

    John Steinbeck’s 1937 novella, dubbed a “little masterpiece” by the Nobel committee when it awarded Steinbeck its highest honor a quarter of a century later, has nothing to recommend it except its brevity (at 29,000 words, it’s the same length as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), but it continues to be pressed into young hands in the hopes that Steinbeck’s tear-jerker tripe will…

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    Books

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    Mon. August 24

    Nature Always Wins: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ recap

    Sonny Bunch

    Our protagonist wakes up in a boarded building, disoriented. He hears noises downstairs and stumbles toward the sound, encountering blood stains along the way. On guard, the faltering young man calls out to a young lady—and finds her, chowing down on a corpse. The zombie apocalypse has caught up with him. Horrified, the boy runs, sprinting from the grotesque scene he has found, running into the street—

    Where a motorcycle buzzes by and a car promptly hits him. The camera pans up. Society is intact: there’s traffic, helpful bystanders. The apocalypse hasn’t even taken place yet.

    It’s a solid scene, one that subverts our expectations of life in a universe filled with reanimated corpses. Since we already know that this is a prequel to The Walking Dead—a Los Angeles-based tale that takes place shortly before the complete and utter collapse of society we have been tracking on…

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    Television

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    Fri. August 21

    How Politics Killed Comedy

    Andrew Stiles

    One of the most frustrating aspects of our increasingly politicized culture is the demise of comedy. Not that there isn’t a ton of hilarious material to enjoy these days—there is—but it’s impossible to ignore the extent to which lame activism is tarnishing the “comedy” brand. As is often the case, millennials are probably to blame.

    The problem presents itself on two equally obnoxious fronts. On the one hand, you have the hordes of hypersensitive lunatics who are trying to redefine the bounds of “acceptable” comedy. After years of whining valiantly to ensure that their college classrooms are “safe spaces” free of problematic ideas that might contradict their worldview and/or trigger an array of micro-grievances, they see no good reason why these same protections shouldn’t extend to comedy venues.

    When Jerry Seinfeld recently explained that he doesn’t play college campuses because the students are too…

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    Culture

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    Fri. August 21

    The Gospels of Mark

    Jennifer Graham

    Mark Zuckerberg was probably kidding when he announced that the latest pick for his Facebook book club would be “a little light reading”—The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James.

    Then again, he’s reportedly an atheist, so who knows?

    Light reading or not, it was an odd pick for Zuckerberg, who started his “Year of Books” in January, inviting Facebook users to read a book he picked every two weeks, then discuss it online. Most books have been by living authors—Matt Ridley’s Genome  and Yuval Noah Hararis’ Sapiens among them—which enables the authors to do a Q&A session with participants via the “Year of Books” Facebook page. As for James, if only.

    The Harvard-educated philosopher and psychologist died in 1910. The Varieties of Religious Experience, considered by many to be his seminal work, was the culmination of 20 lectures he gave at the University…

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    Culture

  • funny pig drives airplane

    Fri. August 21

    When Pigs Fly

    Charlotte Hays

    A woman with a crying baby in her arms bearing down on the luxuriously empty seat next to you used to be every airline passenger’s worst nightmare. That was before pigs started flying.

    A college professor and US Airways passenger, Jonathan Skolnik was alarmed late last year when, on a flight out of Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport, his putative seatmate bustled her way down the aisle carrying a moving duffel bag that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a potbellied pig.

    Nonchalantly tying the pig to the armrest with its leash, the owner set about stowing her belongings in the overhead compartment. “Oh my Lord,” Mr. Skolnik, who doesn’t really come across as an animal lover, emailed, “where is she going to put that animal. I am burying my face in my sweater to hide from the stench. . . . Now I, who dreads a dog…

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    Culture

  • Amazon-jeff-bezos

    Thu. August 20

    It’s a Jungle Out There, Especially at Amazon

    Brian M. Carney

    Jeff Bezos has a problem. And the fact that he seems unaware of it is only part it. Last weekend’s long and scathing New York Times piece on Amazon.com’s corporate culture described a hard-driving, but also back-biting and burn-out inducing environment inside the company Mr. Bezos founded.

    Some Amazonians have responded defensively. In a memo to his staff that subsequently leaked, Mr. Bezos himself wrote: “I don’t recognize this Amazon and I hope you don’t either.” Mr. Bezos encouraged anyone who did recognize the culture the Times described—little respect for work-life balance, 24/7 demands on employees’ time, sink-or-swim performance reviews—to write to HR, or to him directly (in that order, tellingly).

    The wife of one former Amazonian took him up on the offer in an open letter published by Quartz.com. Beth Anderson described her husband’s time at Amazon thus:

    As his one-woman…

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    Culture

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    Thu. August 20

    The Curse of the Participation Trophy

    Mark Tapson

    Last weekend Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison posted an Instagram photo of a pair of “participation trophies” that were awarded to his two sons—and apparently to everyone else on the team as well—by their sports league. Harrison announced firmly that he is returning the trophies because they weren’t earned.

    “While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do,” he wrote, “and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy”:

    I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best . . . cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better . .…

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    Culture, Sports

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    Wed. August 19

    Dr. Dre: Violent Man, Mediocre Talent

    Matthew Schmitz

    In November 1990, Dr. Dre picked up hip-hop journalist Dee Barnes and began slamming her face against a wall. After unsuccessfully trying to throw her down a flight of stairs, he pursued her into a bathroom where he held her to the ground, grabbed her by the hair, and began punching her head from behind—all while his bodyguard held off onlookers by wielding a gun. In the wake of this stunning assault, Dre and his fellow members of rap group N.W.A. showed little remorse:

    Far from denying the attack, the members of N.W.A. insist that, as [M.C.] Ren says, “she deserved it—b***h deserved it.” Eazy agrees: “Yeah, b***h had it coming.”

    “Coming like a mother**ker,” Ren continues . . .

    And Dre himself says: “People talk all this sh*t, but you know, somebody fu**s with me, I’m gonna f**k with them. I just did…

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    Celebrities, Music

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    Wed. August 19

    Why I’m Sick of the ‘Body Positivity’ Movement

    Ashley E. McGuire

    When I was a student at Tufts, a scandal erupted when a sorority made its pledges stand elevated in their undergarments and allowed men rushing a fraternity to mark their physical flaws with a Sharpie pen. It was a seriously repulsive indignity that foreshadowed the nationwide scandals plaguing the Greek system in the U.S. today.  Would it have happened if the “body positivity” movement had emerged then, as it has now?

    Ten years later, I read the story of Jae West, a woman who likewise stood in her undies ready for a body mark-up. Except that West stood in Piccadilly Circus, London, not a dank frat house basement, and she offered passersby pens to draw supportive hearts on her body, not critical X’s. West, a member of The Liberators International, a group that promotes “body acceptance,” held a sign that read, “I’m standing for anyone who has struggled with…

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    Culture

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    Tue. August 18

    ‘Straight Outta Compton’: Good Film, Disappointing Message

    R. J. Moeller

    One does not expect to be moved with genuine emotion while at a 9 AM screening of a two-and-a-half hour film about what Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were like as teenagers, but such was the case for yours truly over the weekend.

    Straight Outta Compton, the new biopic about the meteoric, if not tempestuous, rise of the “Gangsta Rap” group N.W.A.—I’ll let Wikipedia explain what those letters stand for—is filled with swagger, swearing, plenty of controversy, and a healthy dose of heart.

     

    Do not, however, be confused by sentimental words above: this is a hard-R-rated movie that is anything but family friendly. The social and cultural issues addressed in the film—race, drugs, sex, etc.—are dealt with in largely disappointing ways. But amidst the chaos and disappointment is a fascinating film that succeeds in making you care about its characters.

    Opening in the…

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    Movies, Music