Most of us have heard of the Cosa Nostra, but there’s another powerful mafia in Italy: the ‘Ndrangheta. We talk to an expert about this lesser-known mafia and the brave mothers who stood up to the crime organization.
Learning How To Identify and De-bunk actual Fake News
‘Fake news’ has remained a headline mainstay for years now… but politicians seem to be skewing its meaning. We talk to two teachers about what is and isn’t fake news, and how they’re teaching students (and their parents!) how to see through the fiction.
Culture Crash: Bo Burnham’s Brilliant New Film, Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham has followed in the footsteps of Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig, transforming from a performer to the director of a terrific debut film. His movie, Eighth Grade is out now.
Our culture celebrates the extrovert, the person who is the life of the party. But, the introvert, the one who often leaves the party early, also has a lot to offer. Todd Kashdan, Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self–Not Just Your “Good” Self–Drives Success and Fulfillment, andSophia Dembling, introvert and author of the book The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, discuss their thoughts on the value of introversion.
Kashdan defines introverts as those who like to spend time alone, are recharged by being alone, and are often easily overstimulated by their environment. Dembling says that this doesn’t mean that introverts are antisocial, stuck up, or shy. Rather, they have a different way of approaching the world and other people. Both guests encourage others to acknowledge the strengths that introverts can bring to the table, such as being good observers, being able to empathize, and picking up on nonverbal cues quickly.
When thinking of great leaders, most people think of the visible examples with charismatic and electric personalities. But, Kashdan says there have been plenty of introverted leaders who have different leadership strengths, like being prudent, being cautious, or controlling their emotions. Many introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for a time, but they are saturated by socialization faster. In fact, many actors are introverts. By portraying very social characters, they get the best of both worlds. Kashdan offers some tips for helping introverts enter stimulating environments better, such as playing music or being in nature to get in the right mindset beforehand.
For more information about introversion or about our guests, see the links below.
Todd Kashdan, Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self–Not Just Your “Good” Self–Drives Success and Fulfillment
Sophia Dembling, introvert and author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World
We all know the rule: “I before E, except after C,” but it’s not applicable in “weird” or “science” or many other words. The English language has many exceptions to its rules, and these irregularities make it a difficult language to spell. Vivian Cook, Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University and author of Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary: Or Why Can’t Anybody Spell, andNiall McLeod Waldman, author of Spelling Dearest: The Down and Dirty, Nitty-Gritty History of English Spelling, explain more about where these complex spelling rules come from and what can be done about it.
The English language is a melting pot of several languages all jumbled together over its long history. Combining the spelling and pronunciation of old English, French, Latin, Dutch, and others has produced a language with silent letters, varied spellings, and many exceptions to its rules. Some of the influences on the formation of the English language were the conquerors infiltrating the country, the church writing the books, and the academics refining the language.
Many people have brought up ways to change this problem and fix one of the most inconsistent language systems in the world. When the English language came to America, it became even more complex, because Noah Webster, trying to simplify English spellings, gave us two ways to spell the same words, “labour” or “labor” for example. Some have proposed a phonetic spelling, but with all the different accents in the world, Cook says it would do more harm than good. Waldman proposes adjusting the exceptions to fit the rules, in order to make the language more consistent. In any case, they both suggest that in future we create a set of rules to add consistency to new words entering the English language.
To learn more about our guests and their thoughts on the English language, visit the links below.
Vivian Cook, Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University and author of Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary: Or Why Can’t Anybody Spell
Niall McLeod Waldman, author of Spelling Dearest: The Down and Dirty, Nitty-Gritty History of English Spelling
Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, a movie that is, at once, a Class-A crime movie, an action thrill-ride, a psychological thriller, and a summer blockbuster. Even more remarkable: the film succeeds on every level. It features some of the most incredible cinematography ever captured in Chicago, a zeitgeisty debate about privacy and security in a post-9/11 world, a perfect showdown between two legendary foes: Batman and The Joker, thrilling action that never seems incessant. And of course: it features Heath Ledger as The Joker, a casting which was originally mocked on the internet, but ended up giving us probably the best villan in the history of cinema.
Immediately, The Dark Knight’s cultural impact was felt. The Joker was the Halloween costume of the year, the phrase “Why so serious?” entered the lexicon, so did “Some men just want to watch the world burn” and so did the final speech from Commissioner Jim Gordon says Batman’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.
And at long last, a superhero movie was a serious Oscars contender. It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won two, including Heath Ledger’s posthumous award for Best Supporting Actor. Notably absent from its list of nominations was one for Best Picture, a snub seen as so egregious and out-of-touch that the Academy expanded the field of nominees for future ceremonies specifically to avoid similar instances in the future.
It also cemented Christopher Nolan as one of the best directors of our time. After Batman Begins and The Prestige, the world was interested. But delivering a spectacle like The Dark Knight was what clinched it.
And more personally: the movie inspired me to love movies in the first place. I was 15 years old when The Dark Knight hit theaters. I had loved Batman Begins three years earlier, and for the first time, I jumped online and followed a film’s production. Being from the Chicago suburbs, I would see on the news that they shut streets down for filming, which just further fanned the flames of my excitement. My parents agreed that my brother could take me with him to see it at midnight, and I was literally counting down the days. Years of anticipation led to…one of the most memorable nights of my life. There was such a buzz in the theater, people were cheering so loud that at times, it was a struggle to even hear the lines. My heart stopped when the “sky-hook” extracted Batman from a Hong Kong skyscraper, I watched in awe when a truck was actually flipped over, and I was entranced by the Joker’s final monolog, hanging upside down, explaining his backwards views on the world. Watching the movie in that theater, it all clicked. I understood finally understood how rewarding a trip to the theater could really be.
In 2008, I was heading into my freshman year of high school. The following day at football camp, so many of us were bleary-eyed from seeing Batman at midnight that our coaches just called it, and let us play flag football for fun instead of running sprints. 10 years later, the movie still brings with it all the excitement for being 15 years old and getting to stay out late to see a movie. The Dark Knight is a decade old and re-invented the most popular movie genre in the entire world. For 10 years, every movie franchise, from Star Wars and Bond to Marvel and even Batman’s own DC, have tried to incorporate elements of The Dark Knight and aimed to finally top Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. None have succeeded.
When you’re at a party, you may notice how people are always drawn to the extroverts. But what about the introverts? We talk to experts about the qualities that make more introverted people great, too.
Breaking Down the Pesky English Language
The English language can be hard to spell since it often follows conflicting rules. We trace the origins of this tricky language, and explain how these difficulties came to be.
Culture Crash: The Dark Knight 10 Years Later
Christopher Nolan’s landmark superhero epic, The Dark Knight was released a decade ago this week, but its effects on our culture are still being felt.
A third of all the children in the United States graduate the 8th grade with below-basic reading skills. At this level of illiteracy, many of them are unprepared for the workplace or other factors of adult life. Dr. Mark Seidenberg, research professor in the department of psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Language At The Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It, explains that this problem arises from an improper understanding of how to teach reading, which itself comes from a disconnect between teachers and researchers.
While many teachers believe that every child must be uniquely tailored to, the research shows that there is still a level at which children converge when learning to read, specifically how and what they need to learn. Dr. Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy development at New York University, says that when a child starts to understand that the letters they see in the written word correspond to the sounds they know from spoken word, they begin to learn how to read. This practice of teaching how to decode language is called phonics and has often been ignored in traditional teaching methods. On the other hand, too much reliance on phonics can also be harmful. Dr. Marie Ann Donovan, associate professor of teaching education at DePaul University, encourages a balanced literacy approach, which includes a phonics component but also focuses on reading comprehension- learning to identify words, know what they mean, and put them together into sentences.
Parents often think that simply reading to their children will teach them to read. Although reading with your child prepares the way and motivates them, it isn’t enough by itself. Dr. Seidenburg says that no matter how hard it is, we need to focus on getting kids prepared for the real world with adequate reading levels. What we can do right now is to ask questions about what our teachers are taught and believe about the process of learning to read. Bridging the gap between education and research may be the first step to solving American illiteracy.
To learn more about literacy or about our guests, visit the links below.
Dr. Mark Seidenberg, research professor in the department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Language At The Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t and What Can Be Done About It
Dr. Susan B. Neuman, professor at New York University
Dr. Marie Ann Donovan, associate professor at DePaul University
The LGBT community has often felt ostracized by various religious groups, specifically the Catholic Church. In 2013, Pope Francis made headlines by saying he wouldn’t judge homosexuals, which started a new process of reconciling the Catholic Church with the LGBT community. Reverend James Martin, SJ, a Jesuit priest and author of Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, discusses how these two groups can treat each other with fairness and dignity
Martin points out that the church has always been opposed to same-sex relations because of homophobia. The Catholic Church and its members were often afraid of and made uncomfortable by gay people, and that was magnified by the church due to religious beliefs. As a result, many LGBT people have felt marginalized by the church. But, Martin says it is time to change this. He gives a few key pieces of advice to help include LGBT people into the Catholic Church. The most important thing, he says, is to listen to LGBT people and treat them like fellow human beings and fellow Catholics.
Martin encourages Catholics who have a prejudice against LGBT people to ask themselves one question: would I treat a straight person this way? In the Catholic Church, LGBT people are often put under a microscope for the sin of sexual immorality, while divorced people, or people living together before marriage, or people who have committed other sins get a ‘free pass.’ This selective focus on LGBT people and their sin is unfair, Martin says. Furthermore, he says, it’s important to make it clear that homosexuality is not a sin, because it’s not chosen. Especially when considering all the persecution that the LGBT community faces, Martin encourages his fellow Catholics to remember that we are all sinful and should not judge. By treating each other with respect and understanding, the LGBT community and the Catholic Church can bridge the conflict that has separated them for so long.
For more information about the Catholic Church and the LGBT community or to purchase of a copy of Martin’s book, see the links below.
James Martin, SJ, Jesuit priest and author of Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity