Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paul Simon Takes Us Back

5/30/12. Singer, songwriter Paul Simon takes us back to Africa where he went to make music 25 years ago with some of South Africia's most gifted musicians. Gourmet food for the musical mind..

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pop Art's Pop

5/25/12. Stefan Kanfer on the life of illustrator Winsor McCay, a neglected American master.

Five Best: Elliot Perlman

Desert Island Cartoons

5/25/12. Interview with New Yorker cartoonist Robert Mankoff.

Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Brain Damage?

Mental Health in the USA: hopes and fears

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Charles Murry: "Coming Apart" -- Some reactions

So far, the chief criticism of Coming Apart is that I don’t acknowledge globalization and the disappearance of high-paying, unionized manufacturing jobs in creating the problems that afflict white working-class America. I have responded to that criticism elsewhere, but my technical arguments can’t respond to the larger myopia: The people making such arguments are incredibly out of touch with life as it is lived in working-class America (which relates to another theme of Coming Apart: the isolation of the elite). No one who is around those neighborhoods at ground level is under any illusion about the problems I describe.
Readers who don’t live in such neighborhoods can get a sense of what’s going on by engaging in conversation with the guys (or gals) who next come to your house to fix the wiring or clean the gutters or repair the deck. Ask about their friends and neighbors—who’s getting jobs in this economy, who’s not, and why. If you hire someone who has a small business, ask him what it’s like to try to find workers who will show up on time and do a good job. Start by saying that surely they have no problem in an economy with eight percent unemployment, and listen to them laugh. Or talk to teachers in schools that serve white working-class America. Here’s an email, edited to preserve anonymity, that I got yesterday.
I have never been so moved to write to an author, but after I finished your book, I had to share my response. I am a teacher who has lived in many parts of the country. In college, I spent one summer as a nanny for a family in Rye, NY. I have taught at a 50/50 black/white private high school in St. Louis. I have taught in a private school outside of Georgetown, Texas, where a couple of my students were the grandchildren of one of the former presidents of Yale. Then we decided to move back to my grandparents’ farm in Oklahoma. I taught in more of a Fishtown in Kansas, and am currently teaching in a school in a small town (shall I say Lower Fishtown?) in Oklahoma. Here you’d have to look hard to find a true nuclear family, no one on the school board has a full-time job, and last we calculated, we weren’t sure any of them had high school diplomas.
I have marveled at the contrasts in the people in some of these places: Rye & Georgetown vs. small town Kansas & Oklahoma. Your book really hit home. Definitely these kids where I now teach come from broken families. Religion does not seem to play an important part in their lives, although most of them would claim to be Christian. They are extremely dishonest. Many have blatantly lied to me, and there are few that I feel I can trust. Work ethic is a huge struggle. These kids have no concept of the upper end of society where kids are competing for the top colleges, where parents go over their graded assignments and argue for every point. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a parent examine an assignment where I am now. Some students have observed how their parents and grandparents have managed to survive with no one working, so why should they bother to work? They have nicer cell phones than I do. How much of this attitude can we as a society sustain? If this little town is one of many—and I suspect it is—the future is bleak.
As I was looking over some online comments regarding Coming Apart, I was very disappointed at how few people get it. They keep falling back on the economic disadvantages and don’t want to face the fact that morality could matter. Their world (along with Rye & Georgetown) is so far removed from Fishtown. They have no idea. No idea about these kids that despite their opportunity at an education, don’t take it, even if it is at a Fishtown School. In my current school in Oklahoma, virtually any of these kids could go to college for free, but none of them have the model of work ethic to do the work that it takes.
I’m not cherry-picking. I have gotten other emails like that—but few that so graphically express the cultural divide that has opened up between classes that not so long ago shared the same values.

Jonathan Rauch reviews Charles Murray's "Coming Apart:"

Psychiatrty Giant Sorry for Backing Gay "Cure"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are You Dead Yet?

5/17/12. Dr. Sally Satel reviews Dick Teresi's book: "The Undead: Organ Harvesting; The Ice-Water Test, Beating-Heart Cadavers - How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death."

Snapshots of Some Peer Reviewed Research in Psychology

5/17/12. A recent sample of research in psychology.

The Essence of Science Explained in 63 Seconds

Mental Illness-Comprehensive Evaluation or Checklist?

5/17/12. In the New England Journal of Medicine (May 17, 2012), psychiatrists Paul McHugh and Phillip Slavney trace the history of the DSM --- a revolution in psychiatric understanding gone wrong. We have a psychiatric classification system that consists of lists of symptoms for each of the many maladies of the mind --- a list of symptoms akin to a cookbook of ingredients with no recipes.

McHugh and Slavney describe causal families or perspectives of DSM diagnoses ---- diseases, personality dimensions, motivated behaviors, and life encounters ---  "distinctive ways of affecting mental life, to name them 'perspectives' and by that metaphor to emphasize how understanding a case from one causal viewpoint might blind the diagnostician to contributions from others."

In his new book "Psychology's Ghosts," distinguised Harvard child psychologist Jerome Kagan develops McHugh's and Slavney's "Perspectives" in his critique of the DSM-5 and suggestions for improving our treatment of the mentally ill.

For more background on "Perspectives," I recommend the following article by Paul McHugh:

Monday, May 14, 2012

On Bernard Lewis

Why Athletes Choke


"...A fundamental paradox of human psychology is that thinking can be bad for us. When we follow our own thoughts too closely, we can lose our bearings, as our inner chatter drowns out common sense. A study of shopping behaviour found that the less information people were given about a brand of jam, the better the choice they made. When offered details of ingredients, they got befuddled by their options and ended up choosing a jam they didn’t like..."

Six Developmental Trajectories Characterize Children With Autism

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The other war on poverty: Finding meaning in America

Monday Quotation


"Play your role with passion, even if you suspect that it is expendable, and allow the compassion you had as a child to balance the urge to always maximize the self."

Last line in "Psychology's Ghosts: The Crisis in the Profession and the Way Back," by Jerome Kagan. 

My Way on the Highway

What Accounts for the Artistic Fertility of Cultures?

5/6/12. Charles Murray unleashes his mighty mind and historical studies of human accomplishment on this complex question.