Recent Readings and Listenings

The Magazine that has EVERYTHING – Boston Review

News, politics, opinions, Junot Diaz – Apocalypse, and FICTION!

With “JUNOT DIAZ” on one line and “APOCALYPSE” on the next on the cover, how could you pass this up?

Contains a “Foundations” section – short articles about world news, current politics including thoughts about same-sex marriage legislation and the Supreme Court and its role in bringing about national change over history.

Then there’s a 20 page “Forum,” where Representative Cooper from Tennessee’s Fifth District argues that Congress is broken and has become too partisan and obsessed with fundraising to make effective legislation to solve the nation’s real problems including our national debt. Then about ten people – professors, colleagues, researchers – responded to his claims and his ideas for action (limit fundraising to one’s district, control gerrymandering, have a merit pay system for Congressmen so they aren’t just getting rewarded by special interests) and sometimes propose some of their own. It’s a great read, with great background too – highly recommended!

Afterwards is an article about the food and income inequality in India (interesting read too!), a very short piece of fiction that’s simply surreal and amazing – a train ride – and that’s how far I’ve read so far. Up next is the “Apocalypse” article by Junot Diaz, Book reviews, poetry reviews…

Check it out!!!

Thoughtful, relevant stories – The Moth!

This is just a shout-out to a podcast series that a rising writer/actress I met in a bookstore told me about: The Moth! I downloaded some stories (they are all short stories/experiences read aloud) onto my phone, but I believe you can hear them online too. Listened to them about a week ago, but they are so good that I thought I’d post them and describe them a bit – give them a try! They might not be up online forever though (like some of these videos… ><) so listen while they last!

Jen Lee – Targeted
Description: “A woman finds herself torn between two religions – and herself.”
It’s a great take on what comes from extremism and marketing. Makes you think – and not just about religion in the typical sense, either!

Todd Hanson: Sloth
Description: “A slacker details his relationship with depression… and couches.”
But slackers are happy because they have fun… right?

Another one I remember but don’t think is online (but might be on iTunes? free?) is “Jim Gates – Go Tell it On the Mountain” – where a black physicist and MIT graduate tells how he overcame the stigmas against his race in his time (when he remembers fellow blacks saying something like “But you can’t do as much as the others, you can’t be as smart as them”) and eventually finds himself on a mountain in Nepal, lost and off the trail and shouting for people to help him, when someone yells back “You have to make your own path.” And he realizes that’s what he’s been doing his whole life.

I’m going to get ranty in the rest of this, and bring up MIT again – be forewarned…

I found this podcast especially memorable, and inspiring while a bit saddening for me, as I realize how much I take the multiculturalism and acceptance in the cities I’ve lived in, and the supportive and the-sky-has-no-bounds parents I’ve had and environment I’ve lived in, for granted, especially as a minority. And I wish I could feel that same sense of achievement that the physicist Jim Gates did when getting to attend MIT, and that same amazement he gets that he can actually compete with and surpass his peers. I’ve never tended to look at ethnicities or think of people in terms of their ethnicity (until my father pointed it out, I didn’t even think of everyone at my high school as ‘asian’ or ‘white’, or notice that 95% of all of the social groups were a single ethnicity). It’s true that expectations in America are generally lower for minorities. And I could probably post a whole another post or five to talk about what a Puerto Rican born and raised in NYC with language difficulties that led to her not learning Spanish when younger thinks about being Puerto Rican… but for this post I’ll let it suffice to say that I’ve never wanted to reinforce any prejudices people have about minorities, and that’s just one reason that it is distressing to not find a niche at MIT and excel at it and dispel what all of the doubters think.

I could also write ANOTHER post or fifty on “smart-elitism” and how much of a hierarchy there seems to be at MIT based on it (duh, you might say), but I’ll save that for later. To be fair there are awesome things about it, and amazing accomplishments from like the entire community and lots of “smarts” to go around, but it seems like this sometimes keeps people from having a reasonably holistic view on life. Especially those people that begin determining their worth based on how “smart” they are, especially compared to everyone else (… at MIT…). An average in a class where the standard deviation is a 30 is not enough – they have to be the person with the highest score (or die trying). And there are natural geniuses, but seeing people doing anything besides being “smart” makes no sense to them, or is totally uninteresting. Majoring in an “humanities” major is “taking the easy way out.” Doesn’t count for anything. Almost as bad as a liberal arts degree. MIT versus liberal arts schools? “Future… or no future?”

I’ll stop ranting here. Promise. I think one of my frustrations that keeps coming out whenever talking about MIT recently is just the lack of an accessible support system here. Maybe you can do fine in a public 3000 student magnet high school, but MIT is a different story. I’ve been told to make a schedule at S^3. That’s the support I’ve gotten so far. At the same time I haven’t been active in pursuing it (besides that one time). So you really need to learn to seek out help if you need it (even though that’s not really a popular mentality among the “smart-elitists” – ‘we’re at MIT! We’re smarter than anyone else!’ etc.). You’re not going to get it from the professors, in any case.

Vid!!!!!!! (A bit different – try it out too!)

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