Thought Provoking but Obscure Articles (and Not So Obscure Books) from 2016

So little time, so many books, so many articles, so many blogs…

I missed posting a compilation last year as we were in the throes of relocating, but have reoriented myself (almost) in time to put together this collection.

Here then, in no particular order, are the following pieces for that helped make my reading year most enjoyable, informative, and often challenging. Remember: I read; I do; I become…

1: Singularly Unique

The 2016 Jealousy List” (BloombergBusinessweek, December 2016). This is the selection of favorite articles that the Bloomberg staff wished that they had written. A wide variety of stuff here, all well written, including the reasons why Bloomberg writers were jealous someone else had written them.

Especially intriguing were the following:

How Teens in the Balkans are Duping Trump Supporters with Fake News (ok, they might be proxies for the Russian government, but they’re still useful idiots (thank you, Karl Marx));
An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right;
The Obama Doctrine (I was surprised. There was much revealed here that I liked. If it were once a political platform, I would have voted for it. But it wasn’t, and I didn’t. It seems, after “eight years of Mr. Obama’s weakness, indecision, disarmament and appeasement,” not much made it into an action plan. But it’s a tender, heartwarming, and transparent, soul bearing story. By a politician);
-F**k Everything and Blame Everyone (Don’t take my word for it, read the BloombergBusinesseek journalist’s reasons for selecting it. But be prepared);
-Seriously? (We need to be having healthy conversations, right? “But too often it feels as if we aren’t having these kinds of conversations because we can’t even agree on what’s true.” Bingo. Chosen by Claire Suddath. Can’t miss).

Jamie Dimon on Trump, Taxes, and a U.S. Renaissance” (BloombergBusinessweek, 22 December 2016). A more balanced perspective on the renaissance in Detroit (who knew), and conditions that led to it, and the responsible role of business in the immediate future for infrastructure, education, and not just ‘throwing money at it.’

Why bees could be the secret to superhuman intelligence” (BBC, 15 December 2017). How to capture the intelligent from the dumb that crowdsourcing produces (that is, recognizing where it fills in the missing information, rather than piling up wrong information (like political polls)).

Putin’s Revenge” (Politico, December 2016), and Putin’s Real Long Game” (Politico, January 2017). Ok, so I snuck one in from January, but they are so closely aligned in time and topic that it made sense. Besides, a year from now you’d wished you knew.

These hark back to earlier posts here and here about the culture of Russia as a nation. We’ve had ample time to pay attention and prepare, but the problem seems to be once again, complacency. While The Obama Doctrine above reads really well and has some admirable points in it (i.e., foreign policy and America’s role in the world), it still seems to be more thunder than lightening, like stopping before the finish line.

The Prophecies of Jane Jacobs” (The Atlantic, November 2016).

Very interesting review of Jane Jacob’s work on cities and American culture and four books on her work. Why did Higgins, North Carolina, collapse socially and economically between the 1700s and the 1930s? External forces, ritualization of thinking, and the elimination of diverse thinking all contributed. Not only had people forgotten how to build with stone, they had lost the knowledge that such a thing was possible. (Missing Information coupled with lack of motivation).

In her words, “I was brought up to believe that there is no virtue in conforming meekly to the dominant opinion of the moment. I was encouraged to believe that simple conformity results in stagnation for a society, and that American progress has been largely owing to the opportunity for experimentation, the leeway given initiative, and to a gusto and a freedom for chewing over odd ideas. I was taught that the American’s right to be a free individual, not at the mercy of the state, was hard-won and that its price was eternal vigilance, that I too would have to be vigilant.”

Vigilance to maintain values; Diversity, of more than just thought; and no slipping into complacency.

We’re in danger of more deeply believing our own sub-culturally generated auto-mythopoeia (Coercion-to-the-Cultural Mean). One of the signs is, as Jacobs identified, a developing “cultural xenophobia.”

For the sheer fun of it, the following:

’Duck Dynasty’ vs. ‘Modern Family.’ 50 Maps of the US Cultural Divide” (NYT, 26 December 2016). Who watches what, where.  Diversity vs. Taste. No wonder it’s so hard being a TV producer.

The Best Worst Restaurant Reviews of the Past Decade” (Bloomberg, 29 December 2016).

Truly, with lines like,

-“… like King Midas had psoriasis over your dinner”;
-“I’m taking it on faith that they were potatoes. That’s what they visually suggested, those desiccated yellow-beige coins that had somehow acquired the texture of Brillo and could almost have been used to scrub whatever pan they had emerged from”;
-(Gruyère and goat cheese sandwiches) “Two tiny halves, for $14, boast more grease than a lube job”;

what’s not to enjoy. Except the food. And the bill.

How to Tell If You’re a Jerk” (Nautilus, 15 September 2016).
Statistics show that if you’re a jerk, you have no interest in reading this. If you’re not a jerk, you will. Otherwise, no comment.

For sheer perspective, the following:

El Empleo” (The Creator’s Project, 7 December 2016). “The Employment.” A seven-minute, award winning animated short. Should help us maintain our perspective on why we do what we do (if we actually do anything), regardless of our work roles.

The Mistrust of Science” (New Yorker, 10 June 2016).
Why I do what I do. Goes along with the above.

Really Important Books:

The Gene, Siddhartha Mukherjee. A must read. The story of the millennia-long search to identify and understand the human genome, by the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies (also a must read). Inspiring and full of revelations, some of which will appear here in the future.

David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell. A peek at unusual human behaviors and why, while they seem out of whack and counter-productive, are actually logical and beneficial. The stories related are not only inspiring but also confirming of many thoughts that have appeared in these posts earlier. No doubt this will result in more posts, too.

Read. Enjoy. It is good for you.

It’s also good for your organization, and good for civilization as well. As long as we put good lessons into practice.

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About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
This entry was posted in 06: Incomplete Information, 16: Culture, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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