Why men should read more fiction…

The Art of Manliness

[…] Whatever the reason, cognitive studies are beginning to show that men might be short-shrifting themselves by avoiding the fiction section in the bookstore and library.  Today we make the case for why you need to put down those business books every once in awhile and pick up a copy of  Hemingway.

Why Men Should Read More Fiction

In the past decade, several cognitive scientists have turned their attention to how fiction affects our minds. Leading this research is cognitive psychologist and fiction writer, Dr. Keith Oatley. Dr. Oatley and other researchers from around the globe have discovered that fiction not only activates, but also improves the cognitive functions that allow us to thrive socially.

Dr. Oatley argues in his book Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction that fiction is primarily about “selves in a social world,” and that fiction’s main subject is “what people are up to with each other.” Just as your understanding of history and finance is improved by reading lots of books on those subjects, reading fiction improves your understanding of social relationships–your thinking about what other people are thinking. In fact, Dr. Oatley calls fiction a simulation for the social world that allows you to experience (at least vicariously) a variety of social circumstances with different kinds of people than you might encounter in your actual day-to-day life…

Unfortunately, men have gotten the short end of the evolutionary stick when it comes to our ability to socialize. Studies show that male brains are generally wired for dealing with stuff, while female brains are generally wired for dealing with people. This may explain why women often prefer fiction over non-fiction: their brains are already wired to want to read

The most successful, happiest people on the planet in twenty years will be living in resilient communities…

Resilient Communities

Last week, I did a short, but intense interview with the author Jon Evans for the popular technology e-zine TechCrunch. The section of the interview on the necessity of networked resilient communities is a great place to start today’s letter.

Networked resilient communities is the topic where I spend most of my time.

Why? There are two globally systemic threats we can’t solve. Finance and the environment. Both systems are deeply broken and they are going to do considerable damage to all of us over the next decades. The only way to get ready for that is to build networked resilient communities. Resilient Communities efficiently produce most (not all) of the food, energy, water, and products we use daily. These communities 1) reduce our vulnerabilities to the future’s inevitable disruptions (disruptions that will damage/impoverish those that don’t transition to local production), 2) reduce complexity to a human scale, and 3) improve the quality of our lives.

Since these communities network with the global system economically and socially, they don’t lose any of the complexity/value we enjoy in the current intellectual environment.  My bet, and it is the reason I started the resilient community newsletter, is that the most successful, happiest people on the planet in twenty years will be living in resilient communities.

That last phrase worth discussing today.  The statement that the most successful, happiest people on the planet will be living in resilient communities.

Resilience or BUST!

The problem in a nutshell…


A local progressive activist and friend pointed me to an amazing section from Thomas Frank’s recent book Pity the Billionaire. It’s a succinct description of Democratic ideological malaise, laid out in no-holds-barred prose for which Thomas Frank is so justifiably famous, and it tells the tale of what has happened to much of the institutional “left” as well as anything I’ve seen:

Terminal niceness…

The problem is larger than Obama; it is a consequence of grander changes in the party’s most-favored group of constituents. No one has described the new breed of Democrat better than … Barack Obama. “Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means – law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists,” reminisced the future president in his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope:

As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. … They had no patience with protectionism, found unions troublesome, and were not particularly sympathetic to those whose lives were upended by the movements of global capital.

“I know that as a consequence of my fundraising I became more like the wealthy donors I met,” Obama confesses a few paragraphs later. So he has. And so has his party. Today’s Democrats have their eyes on people who believe, per Obama’s description, “in the free market” almost as piously as do Tea Partiers.

Class language, on the other hand, feels strange to the new Dems; off limits. Instead, the party’s guiding geniuses like to think of their organization