Worth Reading - 1/6

1. The top books of 2016 lists are coming out, based on sales. Of course, sales these days are often driven by algorithms related to popularity than reflections of the careful curation of booksellers and librarians. Writer, Seth Godin, commends resistance to anti-intellectualism and those who care about the good, true, and beautiful using their influence to resist click-bait and encourage quality entertainment.

Is it possible we’ve made things simpler than they ought to be, and established non-curiosity as the new standard?

We are certainly guilty of being active participants in a media landscape that breaks Einstein’s simplicity law every day. And having gotten away with it so far, we’re now considering removing the law from our memory.

The economics seem to be that the only way to make a living is to reach a lot of people and the only way to reach a lot of people is to race to the bottom, seek out quick clicks, make it easy to swallow, reinforce existing beliefs, keep it short, make it sort of fun, or prurient, or urgent, and most of all, dumb it down.

And that’s the true danger of anti-intellectualism. While it’s foolish to choose to be stupid, it’s cultural suicide to decide that insights, theories and truth don’t actually matter. If we don’t care to learn more, we won’t spend time or resources on knowledge.

We can survive if we eat candy for an entire day, but if we put the greenmarkets out of business along the way, all that’s left is candy.

Give your kid a tablet, a game, and some chicken fingers for dinner. It’s easier than talking to him.

Read the short articles, the ones with pictures, it’s simpler than digging deep.

Clickbait works for a reason. Because people click on it.

The thing about clickbait, though, is that it exists to catch prey, not to inform them. It’s bait, after all.

2. Reformed African American Network posted this solid discussion of "sola scriptura," one of the central tenets of the Reformation. It's worth reading as it clearly explains an oft misunderstood pillar of Protestant Christianity:

As we find ourselves at the beginning of a new year, it is an excellent time to look back to revisit some foundational truths that will keep us on the proper course as we plot our way forward. I’d like us to briefly look back on the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation was one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the Church. I don’t have the space in this post to give you a detailed historical account, but what I can tell you is that it marked a radical return to the authority of the Scriptures and sound doctrine. The Church had become corrupted by false teaching, idolatry, and the exaltation of the traditions of men over the commandments of God.

The Protestant Reformation was not a rebellious reach forward to capture some new understanding or revelation. It was a humble, courageous return to the foundation of the Christian faith. Out of the Reformation came the five “solas”. One of the five “solas” was Sola Scriptura or Scripture alone.

3. I enjoyed this piece by Mary Pezzulo of Steel Magnificat on why she has come to dislike the Bearenstain Bears stories so much:

Worse even than my thwarted expectations, though, is the way my opinion has changed about the character of Mama Bear. As a child, I accepted her eccentricities; now they seem more sinister. It’s no longer cute to me that Mama Bear never takes off her grubby nightgown. She changes out of her nightcap when going to town, but she wears the nightgown at all times. And that’s not to mention her pathological habit of baking tray after tray of toothsome cookies and then blaming the children for their obesity, or permitting the television to be on for hours and then blaming the children for their TV habit.

It’s downright creepy how the whole household abides by Mama Bear’s wishes. She orders them to fast from television for a week, and everyone including Papa Bear is forced to comply. She writes up a chore chart and expects her husband to abide by it– and he does. He always does. She decides on a whim to open up a quilt shop one day, obtaining the money for the investment from Lord knows where, and Papa Bear mutely takes over childcare. No family decisions are made with his input; he’s treated as a chattel. I wonder what would happen if he said no, just once.

4. What do you do when an algorithm defies your best judgment? You cheat. That's what some librarians are having to do in opposition to software that culls books from libraries based on their circulation. As a result, some have resorted to creating a fake user account to check books out and trick the software into keeping important, though less used volumes.

Two employees at the East Lake County Library created a fictional patron called Chuck Finley — entering fake driver’s license and address details into the library system — and then used the account to check out 2,361 books over nine months in 2016, in order to trick the system into believing that the books they loved were being circulated to the library’s patrons, thus rescuing the books from automated purges of low-popularity titles.

Library branch supervisor George Dore was suspended for his role in the episode; he said that he was trying to game the algorithm because he knew that these books would come back into vogue and that his library would have to spend extra money re-purchasing them later. He said that other libraries were doing the same thing.

5. This one is worth reading simply for the strangeness.  A Good Housekeeping article on the growing trend of people marrying themselves. Read it and be amazed at the illogic.

Self-marriage is a small but growing movement, with consultants and self-wedding planners popping up across the world. In Canada, a service called Marry Yourself Vancouver launched this past summer, offering consulting services and wedding photography. In Japan, a travel agency called Cerca Travel offers a two-day self-wedding package in Kyoto: You can choose a wedding gown, bouquet, and hairstyle, and pose for formal wedding portraits. On the website I Married Me, you can buy a DIY marriage kit: For $50, you get a sterling silver ring, ceremony instructions, vows, and 24 “affirmation cards” to remind you of your vows over time. For $230, you can get the kit with a 14-karat gold ring.

It’s not a legal process — you won’t get any tax breaks for marrying yourself. It’s more a “rebuke” of tradition, says Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. “For generations, if women wanted to have economic stability and a socially sanctioned sex life or children, there was enormous social and economic pressure to do that within marriage,” she says. “Personally, as someone who lived for many years single and then did get married, I know that the kind of affirmation I got for getting married was unlike anything I’d ever had in any other part of my life.” That, she adds, is “incredibly unjust.”

Marriage (to another person) is on the decline. Barely half of all adults in the U.S. are married — a record low — according to a 2011 study from the Pew Research Center. In 1960, 72% of adults age 18 and older were married, while today, just 51% are wed. People are waiting longer to marry as well: The median age at first marriage is at a new high for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7 years).