A Book About Twee?

Yes, and it’s by Marc Spitz. In the book, set to be released early this summer, Spitz…

…explores the first great cultural movement since Hip Hop: an old-fashioned and yet highly modern aesthetic that’s embraced internationally by teens, twenty and thirty-somethings and even some Baby Boomers; creating hybrid generation known as Twee. Via exclusive interviews and years of research, Spitz traces Generation Twee’s roots from the Post War 50s to its dominance in popular culture today.

The “New Books Similar to This One” panel is my favorite part of the synopsis.

Full disclosure: I count the Lucksmiths and Go-Betweens as two of my all-time favorite bands; I enjoy the music of Belle & Sebastian in moderation; I watch Portlandia; listen to the Smiths from time to time; I usually see the latest Wes Anderson film in theaters shortly after its debut; and I often make time for a full episode of This American LifeI do not, however, consider Nirvana “twee.”

Found via {salon}.

This American Life Turns 500

Great episode of a great show.

To celebrate our 500th episode, Ira asked the producers of This American Life to talk about their very favorite moments on the show. Some chose stories that’ve been more or less forgotten for years; others chose just one line of script, or a segment that secretly made them cry. So for our 500th, we bring you the best of This American Life — the way we’ve been hearing it, behind the scenes, all these years.

Malevolent Mind Manipulation

Listened to two back-to-back podcast episodes this afternoon that complemented each other surprising well.

The first was an episode of Marc Maron’s WTF with my boy Douglass Rushkoff. (Note: Marc Hummel does not have ownership over or personal relationship with aforementioned media theorist.)

He talked about media theory-y things and his new book Present Shock, which I have written about previously. The duo also touched on Obama’s recent announcement {npr}:

This week President Obama announced his BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, which the White House describes as “a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.”

Rushkoff placed the announcement as evidence that we now think that the human mind can be mined and controlled, which leads to what Maron called “impulse control”—the potential for advertisers to tweak our every want and desire based on sophisticated computer models.

Then I listened to a This American Life episode about gambling and Blackjack inparticular. The last story in that episode featured a story of a woman who sued a casino after she gambled away her one-million-dollar inheritance. It turned out that the casino was indeed manipulating her by offering lavish perks in exchange for her business (which is just their standard operating procedure). Her case was settled out of court.

Thought those two episodes offered up an interesting juxtaposition between what could be and what is.

Disability Insurance for All

Welfare v. Unemployment Chart

Crazy report from This American Life and Planet Money about the rapid rise of disability insurance claims, and how it’s come to replace the federal welfare program in many ways.

A person on welfare costs a state money. That same resident on disability doesn’t cost the state a cent, because the federal government covers the entire bill for people on disability. So states can save money by shifting people from welfare to disability. And the Public Consulting Group (PCG) is glad to help.

PCG is a private company that states pay to comb their welfare rolls and move as many people as possible onto disability. “What we’re offering is to work to identify those folks who have the highest likelihood of meeting disability criteria,” Pat Coakley, who runs PCG’s Social Security Advocacy Management team, told me.

The company has an office in eastern Washington state that’s basically a call center, full of headsetted women in cubicles who make calls all day long to potentially disabled Americans, trying to help them discover and document their disabilities…

This issue seems more complicated than the episode implies, but it is certainly something we should be looking into.

Listen to the teaser, the full episode, read the whole interactive piece Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America, and check out this rebuttal from Media Matters.

This American Life Retracts Mike Daisey’s Apple Monologue

Turns out that Mike Daisey’s monologue {my post about the show}, broadcast on This American Life earlier this year, was too bad to be true. Daisey made up parts of what he saw and exaggerated others, likely so he could sell more (non-refundable) theater tickets {daring fireball}.

This American Life has aired an hour-long retraction explaining how and why they got it wrong. It’s worth a listen.

It’s a lesson in how stupid it is to exaggerate a legitimately bad situation. Now the things that Daisey reported on that were true are lost.

Bejing reporter Evan Osnos has a good concluding take on this, writing for The New Yorker:

Watching it unravel from Beijing makes me wonder: What does the debacle say about how we all look at China? Why were so many people so eager to believe it?