Parenting, Blues, Europe, Superbowl, Willpower, Prisons


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High-Pressure Parenting

Ryan Avent | 1843 | 3rd February 2017

Affluent parents are trapping themselves in a “rug-rat-race”, coaching their children intensively almost from birth to make the cut for the best kindergartens, which feed into the best schools, which feed into the best universities. The greater the inequality in society, the greater the pressure to groom a winner who takes all. It’s a good thing for parents to spend more time with their children. But it’s not a good thing for children and parents to live in a state of panic about the future (3,700 words)

Still Around Here

David Ramsey | Oxford American | 2nd February 2017

Portrait of Arkansas bluesman CeDell Davis, wheelchair-bound at 90, who learned to play guitar with hands crippled by childhood polio. His “bizarro” fingering style, using a butter-knife as a slide, creates “one of the most distinctive sounds in Delta blues — rugged, greasy, and weird”, complemented by his equally distinctive voice. “His singing dips and swings, channeling distorted tones and rhythms; moans and hollers that evoke not so much the past as another planet” (5,030 words)

The Rise Of Europe

Joel Mokyr | Vox EU | 2nd February 2017

European nations were first to make the transformation from the medieval to the modern era, leading the world from sufficiency to prosperity, because Europe in the 16C-17C was both fragmented and united. It was fragmented into different political units, promoting competition and natural experiments in policies and institutions. But it was culturally united, “a more or less integrated market for ideas” in which books and scholars crossed borders easily with Latin as a common language (2,170 words)

The Darkest Superbowl

Drew Magary | Deadspin | 2nd February 2017

Free-form gonzo rant with much — much — swearing, it absolutely may not be to your taste; about church, parenting, politics, the Superbowl, chili and beer. But mostly about the Superbowl, and the impossibility of losing yourself in the excitement of a football game when the world around you seems to be having a nervous breakdown. “The NFL likes to shun politics but simultaneously embrace patriotism, and that’s a good racket when things are going relatively smoothly” (4,800 words)

Against Willpower

Carl Erik Fisher | Nautilus | 2nd February 2017

Is there really such a thing as willpower? The term is pre-scientific, rooted in theology and philosophy, a metaphor promoted into a cardinal virtue by the Victorians and taken over by the self-help industry. But behavioural studies that supposedly measure the effects and limitations of willpower are flawed and do not replicate. At best willpower is “a mongrel concept that connotes a wide and often inconsistent range of cognitive functions. The closer we look, the more it appears to unravel” (2,500 words)

Working With Prisoners Makes It Hard To Be A Mom

Cary Johnson | Marshall Project | 2nd February 2017

“Having a son made it harder to keep my emotional guard up at work. I read the file of a gang leader. He never met his dad, his mother was on drugs. He was born with a broken arm because a man tried to kick him out of her womb. He was put into foster care at 10. Earlier in my career, I would have thought, ‘Here I am with a cold-blooded killer’. But now, with a son of my own, I couldn’t stop thinking about the little boy he’d once been, and how his parents had failed him. I decided to rethink reading files” (1,100 words)

Video of the day: Comic Sans: The World’s Most Contentious Font

What to expect:

Animated introduction to Comic Sans and the man who created it, Microsoft designer Vincent Connare (3’42”)

Thought for the day

Do not ask me to be kind; just ask to me to act as though I were
Jules Renard

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