Episcopalians in decline, Hindus on the rise

For armchair sociologists, haters of the NY Times, and the flat out envious, the Times’ wedding announcements is a revealing projection and a finely-tuned barometer of what high status people think is high status. Of course the results are often unintentionally funny, irritating, or depressing, but what has changed over the years?

WASPs and debutantes have declined precipitously (Whit Stillman was right) and “bourgeois bohemian” values have made an appearance, but here are the trends over time as documented by word frequency analysis:

ATodd – When Harvard Met Sally: N-gram Analysis of the New York Times Weddings Section
The New York Times’s wedding section is a perfect natural experiment designed to answer the question: What do the world’s most self-important people think is important


Bridging Kindle books and print

This seems like pretty big news for those of us who are still heavily invested in print. Of course, I will always collect quality hardcovers of classic literature and other “keepers.”

Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook will let you buy cheap digital editions of print books you already own
Summary: Amazon’s new service, Kindle MatchBook, will let users buy discounted digital versions of print books that they’ve already bought from Amazon. But the service isn’t available for every book.


Teaching in the ether

Michael Roth is the president of Wesleyan–a college that values teaching first. In the Wall Street Journal he writes about his experience teaching a massive online course on a subtle, sophisticated topic. His verdict?

Wesleyan's Russell House
Where Wesleyan philosophers usually teach

When I mention online learning to my colleagues at Wesleyan University, most respond initially with skepticism. But based on my experience, I know that real learning can take place on the Web.

I am currently teaching a massive online open course, or MOOC, on Coursera. Most MOOCs have great attrition, and mine is no exception: There were almost 30,000 students registered at the start, yet 4,000 remain active as we near the end of the semester. Unlike most MOOCs, which focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, mine is a classic humanities course. “The Modern and the Postmodern” starts off in the 18th century with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, and we work our way toward the present.

Read on: Michael S. Roth: My Global Philosophy Course


It’s been a long, long, long time since I fancied myself an athlete, but on May…

It’s been a long, long, long time since I fancied myself an athlete, but on May 11 I’m running the Maryland Half Marathon in memory of my dear friend Matt Hilburn. If I can wheeze my way through 13.1 miles, can you help me raise money for people fighting head and neck cancers?

In Matt’s Memory | Andrew Hazlett’s Fundraiser on CrowdRise
In July 2012, I lost a very dear friend to cancer. In his memory and to help others who are in the same struggle, I am running the Maryland Half Marathon on May 11 and raising funds for an outstanding…


Plea of the introvert

A plea on behalf of introverts in an era of triumphant extroverts. I find this analysis clarifying and downright therapeutic. via +John Hagel

Caring for Your Introvert

The habits and needs of a little-understood group

…Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.


On sexism, privilege, and tech

My post at on sexism, privilege, and “diversity” vs.”inclusiveness” in the tech community.

An inclusive innovation scene?
Baltimore’s tech scene looks like most cities’ – it’s overwhelmingly male. Are techies sexist? Is it outright chauvinism? A result of subtle exclusionary signals? Or is this imbalance simply a symptom of deeper, global problems?

These questions are perennial and much-debated at the national level. At the moment, there’s a local outburst of frank discussion…

Culture / World

French incursion may be saving Mali’s cultural heritage

The presence of French troops in Mali may help to protect a priceless cultural legacy which has been under siege by Islamist fighters. The BBC reports on the fate of the ancient city of Timbuktu:

The historic city is a World Heritage site, renowned for its architecture, manuscript libraries and centuries-old shrines to Islamic saints – revered by Sufi Muslims but which the Salafi militants consider idolatrous.

Many of these shrines, mausoleums, and other treasures have been destroyed just as the Taliban waged war against Afghanistan’s Buddhist monuments.

Mali crisis: ‘Timbuktu joy after life of fear’
Following France’s intervention in Mali last week, a Timbuktu resident, who asked to remain anonymous, tells the BBC about reaction in the city to the Islamist fighters’ apparent withdrawal.

Sadly, in other areas they control, Islamists continue to silence Mali’s vibrant musical culture.



Sounds like a lot more damage has already been done: Timbuktu mayor says Islamists burned texts (AP)


Ghosts of Detroit

Some ghosts of Detroit – a more humane form of ruin fixation that actually features some human beings who once filled these spaces with life.

Beautifully Mashed-Up Photos Show The Glory And Wreckage Of Detroit
Several years after the original Cass Tech High School in downtown Detroit was abandoned, a local photographer sifting through the ruins found decades of the school’s storied history…


Culture / Politics

There will be no return to normal

Goodbye to “normal” — Excellent insight from Stowe Boyd on our economic leaders’ “comforting myth of ‘returning to normal’” – I think it exists in many conversations outside the business world too.

The Biggest If Of All
I continue to see the comforting myth of ‘returning to normal’ show up in all sorts of discussions. Today, in a NY Times piece on where investment fund managers are finding good opportunities to invest the central point was that fund managers can’t find good investment opportunities, because high uncertainty. But — don’t worry! — everything will be fine as soon as we get back to normal. 

…What I am interested in is the deep story, never examined or questioned: we are in a downturn like other downturns, and we will return to postmodern growth patterns: the typical boom/bust cycle that defined the past few hundred years of the modern and post modern economies. 

[Please read on]



Jazz writer Ted Gioia on the late Dave Brubeck

RIP Dave Brubeck… An exceedingly cool cat, as Dana Gioia writes:

How many celebrities have a marriage that lasts 70 years? I think Dave is the only one. He was a very caring family man, a good dad and husband – never a given in the entertainment industry. He was a pioneer on civil rights, threatening to cancel concerts when faced with complaints about his integrated band. He served his country as a soldier (at the Battle of the Bulge) and as both an official and unofficial ambassador.

In memoriam: Dave Brubeck | OUPblog
By Ted Gioia I first met Dave Brubeck when I was in my twenties, and writing my book on West Coast jazz. Dave deeply impressed me…