Another Week Ends

1. A couple of regretful if relevant instances of control backfiring when it comes to […]

David Zahl / 9.16.11

1. A couple of regretful if relevant instances of control backfiring when it comes to children. The first was reported in The NY Times Motherlode blog:

“A newly released poll from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital finds that parents look at their children with blinders on, while looking at other children accusingly.”

If you read the comments, you’ll find a sad litany of parental judgment/overinvolvement shutting down the lines of communication with their children, which in turn feeds substance abuse. Not that parents can ever “get this right,” just that there appears to be a relationship between inflated views of our loved ones and dishonesty, overattachment and unhappiness, strictness and rebellion, etc. The discussion also touches on issues of addiction.

Second, Boing Boing gave us an update on the latest counterproductive attempt to curb teen misbehaviour via external means in their post, “Teen Driving Restrictions Don’t Have as Big an Impact as Intended”, ht JD:

Basically, over the past few decades, several states have placed stringent limits on teenage drivers—usually when they can drive, and who they can drive with. The idea was to separate first-time drivers from risky driving situations, and a lot of people assumed these measures were saving lives. Instead, we now know, the rules merely shifted when the deadly accidents happened. Some lives were saved. But, in general, the results were pretty much a wash.

2. The reviews for Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress are trickling in (Damsels showed at both the Toronto and Venice film festivals this week), and they’re a bit more mixed. But mixed in a good way! That is, some critics appear confounded by Whit’s layered irony and mannered characters – which is certainly nothing new. I’m utterly confident that Leslie Felperin in Variety speaks the truth: Those inclined to dislike Stillman’s work won’t be persuaded otherwise by Damsels, but fans will be more than satisfied. I’m most intrigued by the reports of Damsels’ screwball tone. More soon. I for one was heartened to hear that Whit is still planning to go ahead with his Jamaican gospel movie, Dancing Mood.

3. We’ve posted on objectivist novelist/thinker Ayn Rand a number of times before. But nothing prepared me for the article that came across my desk this week reproducing the notes Rand wrote in her copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. Let’s just say she refers to him as an “abysmal bastard” on page 35 and it pretty goes from there. Very entertaining stuff, ht RB.

4. Needless to say, Rand would not be too thrilled with the great overview of the current discourse on free will vs. determinism that appeared on last week. It’s full of interesting experiments and soundbites, one of my favorite coming toward the end, ht CR and JD:

“Perhaps, denying free will simply provides the ultimate excuse to behave as one likes,” Vohs and Schooler suggested.

Another worthy dispatch from the intersection of philosophy and neuroscience comes to us from the Edge, via a video of Daniel Kahneman speaking about “The Marvels and Flaws of Intuitive Thinking.” Kahneman basically argues that humans have two minds: one which processes information so quickly that we don’t realize any process took place. The other is our conscious mind, i.e. the things we deliberately think about. According to Kahneman, most of us suffer from the delusion that the conscious mind is the only mind, ht JD.

5. In humor, now that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is behind us, perhaps it’s time to revisit that brilliant Onion article from 2004, “Osama bin Laden Found Inside Each of Us”:

“For more than two years, we combed the Middle East looking for bin Laden,” [Donald] Rumsfeld said. “Frankly, it was starting to be an embarrassment. You can imagine our surprise when we finally found him hiding deep inside the darkest recesses of each and every one of our souls.”

Otherwise, I defy you not to chuckle when reading about Nicolas Cage’s inspiration for his new film.

6. Also in movies, we failed to mention actress Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut, Higher Ground, which tells the story of an Evangelical woman in spiritual crisis, and does so apparently without partonizing or sentimentalizing Christians. I had read an interview somewhere after the release of Up In The Air where Farmiga mentioned her faith, but still, The New Yorker review caught me off guard. Then The Times‘ write-up landed the film on my Netflix queue:

Movies about belief and believers frequently succumb to woozy piety or brittle contempt, but “Higher Ground” belongs, along with Robert Duvall’s “Apostle” and Michael Tolkin’s underappreciated “Rapture,” among the elect. Focused with sympathetic intensity on the ordeal of a single soul, it illuminates, as though from within, a complex spiritual struggle.

Slate posted a fascinating piece on Orson Welles’ tragically compromised “lost treasure,” The Magnificent Ambersons, which is finally getting a DVD release as part of the ultra-impressive new blu-ray of Citizen Kane. Finally, Tom McCarthy’s Win Win arrives on Netflix this coming week, and I could not recommend it more highly, both from a Mockingbird standpoint (adoption, grace, performance, self-defeat, etc) but an aesthetic one as well – plus, it’s really funny.





8 responses to “Another Week Ends: Parental Blindspots, Damsel Reviews, Rand Abolishing Lewis, Doublethink, Higher Ground and The Magnificent Ambersons”

  1. bls says:

    It’s really hard to decide between Rand and Lewis, in terms of which one’s worse! At least, it is for me….


  2. bls says:

    (I’m glad they found each other, though.

    That way they can have at it and leave the rest of us alone…. 😉 )

  3. MargaretE says:

    That’s a no-brainer for me. Even if I didn’t find Lewis thoroughly wise and engaging, I would choose him over Rand merely based on his loving, joyful spirit. (I knew Rand was nasty, but who knew she was THAT hateful? Wow.) My rule of thumb? When in doubt, follow the love.

  4. bls says:

    It’s true Rand is lots nastier. I meant in terms of what they were saying, not how they were saying it.

    I admit though: I don’t particularly get “loving and joyful” from him….

  5. MargaretE says:

    Really? Based on what I’ve read – by him AND about him – I think Lewis was overflowing with love and joy… and good dose of mirth. Never got that feeling about Rand. Ever.

  6. bls says:

    I’ve read a few things by him, but didn’t find any of them very warm or joyful.

    He just seems….distant, to me, and not very interesting generally. But that’s only a personal opinion; horses for courses, etc. He’s not to my taste, that’s all. Too conventional, maybe.

    What I meant here, though, was that his arguments – at least in those excerpts – seem really strange and senseless, to me, and I think Rand is right to take umbrage at some of them. But of course she goes way over the top, too – and thus my comments above. Can’t stand either of them in this particular exchange!

  7. Rick Ritchie says:

    I saw the remake of The Magnificent Ambersons a few years back and loved it. I think it was made from Wells’ script. Later I saw the beginning of his movie and loved that, too. I didn’t get to finish watching for some reason. I just downloaded the novel for my Kindle for free. The author says that “hand-me-downs” were so called because they were bought off the shelf (from which someone had to hand them down), and therefore cheap. That’s a different derivation from what I had heard.

  8. Rick Ritchie says:

    I just found a recording where H.G. Wells and Orson Welles spoke together. (H.G. Wells says he wishes Orson would drop the extra ‘e’ in his name, as I inadvertently did above.)

    Here is the link.

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