Alrighty, another truncated weekender as we head into the dog days. More of a list of links really:


1. This is exciting (fingers crossed): The Wall Street Journal has made the first chapter of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman available on their website!

2. As attention begins to turn toward the upcoming Technology Issue of our magazine, a few tech-related items have caught the eye, such as The Atlantic’s amusing, mid-year rejoinder to New Years resolutions, “The Ennui of the FitBit”:

One research firm, Endeavour Partners, estimates that roughly a third of trackers get abandoned after six months. A recent editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association was even more dire in its assessment: More than half of the people who buy fitness trackers, its authors claimed, ultimately stop using them. And a third of them do their stopping within six months of the devices’ purchase. Rock Health, an investment fund, bears that out: It claims that the regulatory filings for Fitbit, in particular—which boasts 76 percent of the U.S. market share by revenue, and recently went public—suggest that, as of the first quarter of 2015, only half of the tracker’s nearly 20 million registered users remained active in their use of their devices.

[One user] noted, the Fitbit took the serendipity out of that most basic of human activities. “My walks were no longer delightful excursions to marvel at nature or delight in old back alleys. They were forced marches to accumulate steps. The fun of it all took a dramatic, stage-left exit and I was left alone to take ever-more steps.”… As anyone who has ever given up carbs, or signed up for a marathon, or bought that Groupon for hot yoga-meets-kickboxing bootcamp, may know all too well: That intentions are very different from actions. A Fitbit tracks behavior; it doesn’t, on its own, change it.

3. Next, for the parents out there, The NY Times published a scary report on the toll that screens are taking on our kids. The word ‘addiction’ is used, and I can’t say I blame them:

Texting looms as the next national epidemic, with half of teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month, Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center found in a 2012 study. An earlier Pew study found that teenagers send an average of 34 texts a night after they get into bed, adding to the sleep deprivation so common and harmful to them. And as Ms. Hatch pointed out, “as children have more of their communication through electronic media, and less of it face to face, they begin to feel more lonely and depressed.”

4. Coincides nicely (?) with a photo essay in the Huffington Post entitled “The Death of Conversation”. Ooof.


5. Over at Slate, Katy Waldman asks “How did the word ‘zeitgeist’ come to feel so small?”. Her theory, and I’d be hard pressed to disagree, is that a part of the current zeitgeist is to refer to things constantly as part of the zeitgeist.

Science-fiction writer William Gibson has claimed that the present moment is defined by “atemporality,” a “new and strange state of the world in which, courtesy of the Internet, all eras seem to exist at once.” The contemporary zeitgeist, then, has to do with not having a zeitgeist, or having an infinite number of zeitgeists, an undifferentiated Gesundheit of zeitgeists.

6. While we’re on the subject of compound German words, the Wall Street Journal explored the inverse of Schadenfreude, “Glueckschmertz”, i.e. when we feel pain due to someone else’s good fortune. A worthy addition to the lexicon of human self-centeredness.

7. Neuroscience Study of the Week comes to us via Science of Us: “At a Neurological Level, Narcissists Are Needy”. Speaking of the brain, The Pacific Standard sat down with one of the Psychologists who consulted on Inside Out, Dacher Keltner.

8. The trailer to the new Little Prince film, which debuted in April, seems tailormade to follow up this week’s post about Helicopter Parenting and Sadness.

9. From The Onion, “Man Desperately Trying To Wring Every Last Ounce Of Relaxation From Final Day Of Vacation” and “Nation’s Ditches Overflowing With Children Of Worried Parents” stuck out this past week.

10. Music nerds will enjoy Pitchfork’s guide to The Best 33&1/3 Books. (My faves are the Celine Dion one, Village Green, and Radio City). They also posted a superb starter playlist for Sparks. Televisionistos would do well to queue up Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which not only includes a positive portrayal of a clergyman, but some first-class acting and intrigue. Oh and I finally took the plunge on Black Jesus, and while it’s no Rev, it’s got some great jokes and a surprisingly sympathetic heart. I suppose it was only a matter of time until someone took Christ’s love of outcasts and played it for laughs, i.e. this is laughing with Jesus rather than at him. Of course, it helps if you find stoner humor and Charlie Murphy funny. But kudos to you, Aaron Magruder. Finally, the new season of Rectify has been getting raves! No word yet on whether the Gospel plays as central a role this time around.

– Over on the Rooted website, Cameron Cole recommends our Devotional. Much obliged!
– “The Age of Creepiness” in The New Yorker explores an emerging yet still amorphous moral category.
– Finally, very grateful to Modern Reformation magazine for publishing an excerpt from A Mess of Help in their new issue, which you can get here. The chapter on Big Star, to be precise (which bears only a passing relation to the blogpost of the same name from six years ago).