Certainly, the increasing quality of young adult books is a draw. But there are exceptional videogames, there are exceptional websites and exceptional television programs to fight for a teenager’s attention. So why are they still reading?
I think there is another reason why young adult novels are doing well, and it is less easy gauge. As of yet, there are no real studies determining this, but anecdotally, we all relate to it. A book is an opportunity to get “off the grid.” We read to break free of their digital tether. To experience what life was like before the net. To disconnect. To finally feel alone.
A book holds your hand in solitude and says, here you are alone in your room and everything is alright. You don’t need to call a friend or Twitter something. The world is still turning. If you go for a forty minute walk without your mobile, don’t worry, you’re not going to miss anything.
Sweeping across the country with the speed of a transient fashion in slang or Panama hats, political war cries or popular novels, comes now the mechanical device to sing for us a song or play for us a piano, in substitute for human skill, intelligence, and soul. Only by harking back to the day of the roller skate or the bicycle craze, when sports of admitted utility ran to extravagance and virtual madness, can we find a parallel to the way in which these ingenious instruments have invaded every community in the land. And if we turn from this comparison in pure mechanics to another which may fairly claim a similar proportion of music in its soul, we may observe the English sparrow, which, introduced and welcomed in all innocence, lost no time in multiplying itself to the dignity of a pest, to the destruction of numberless native song birds, and the invariable regret of those who did not stop to think in time.
On a matter upon which I feel so deeply, and which I consider so far-reaching, I am quite willing to be reckoned an alarmist, admittedly swayed in part by personal interest, as well as by the impending harm to American musical art. I foresee a marked deterioration in American music and musical taste, an interruption in the musical development of the country, and a host of other injuries to music in its artistic manifestations, by virtue—or rather by vice—of the multiplication of the various music-reproducing machines.
My parents' handwriting was slightly slanted because they held the sheet at an angle, and their letters were, at least by today's standards, minor works of art. At the time, some – probably those with poor hand- writing – said that fine writing was the art of fools. It's obvious that fine handwriting does not necessarily mean fine intelligence. But it was pleasing to read notes or documents written as they should be. My generation was schooled in good handwriting, and we spent the first months of elementary school learning to make the strokes of letters. The exercise was later held to be obtuse and repressive but it taught us to keep our wrists steady as we used our pens to form letters rounded and plump on one side and finely drawn on the other. Well, not always – because the inkwells, with which we soiled our desks, notebooks, fingers and clothing, would often produce a foul sludge that stuck to the pen and took 10 minutes of mucky contortions to clean.
The Idea: Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as wearing a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade's boudoir.
The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India. At the end of the year, all contributions will go toward Akanksha’s School Project to fund uniforms and other educational expenses for slum children in India.
The Story of Uniforms: I was raised and schooled in India where uniforms were a mandate in most public schools. Despite the imposed conformity, kids always found a way to bend the rules and flaunt a little personality. Boys rolled up their sleeves, wore over-sized swatches, and hiked up their pants to show off their high-tops. Girls obsessed over bangles, bindis and bad hairdos. Peaking through the sea of uniforms were the idiosyncrasies of teen style and individual flare. I now want to put the same rules to test again, only this time I'm trading in the catholic school fervor for an eBay addiction and relocating the school walls to this wonderful place called the internet.
Ads quoting negative behavior en masse reinforces negative behavior. Petrified Forest National Park A/B tested two versions of a sign imploring people not to steal pieces of petrified forest from the park. One mentioned large amounts of petrified forest taken away on an annual basis, the other one simply asked the visitors not to remove petrified wood. The first one actually tripled the theft ratio as it showed stealing petrified wood as something commonplace. Same effect was observed after airing an ad that implored women to vote, but mentioned that 22 million single women did not vote last year. That kind of information actually portrays not voting as more socially acceptable.
The dominant revenue model of the web today—the ad that urges a click—embeds distraction into interface design. The more clicks you take—the more Google makes in ad revenue (distraction pays). This is not to say that social media doesn’t have extraordinary value—it does. It is at the heart the emerging social nervous system. Yet, the ability to pay attention, focus and strategically disconnect will be a winning discipline of the next generation of business leaders. As the zen phrase says, “eat when you eat” meaning, give each thing you do all of your attention.
Problem drinking in Western societies contributes to disease and death as well as social and economic woes. Yet only a small number of people with alcohol problems – 10 to 20 percent – ever seek and participate in treatment. This study examined the real-world effectiveness of a 24/7 free-access, anonymous, interactive, and Web-based self-help intervention called Drinking Less (DL) at http://www.minderdrinken.nl. Findings show that DL can help problem drinkers in the privacy of their own homes.
[Psychologist Anders Ericsson’s] work, compiled in the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.
Ericsson’s research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don’t love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don’t like to do things they aren’t “good” at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don’t possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.
They told of the abbot Silvanus that he had a disciple in Scete named Marcus, and that he was of great obedience, and also a writer of the ancient script: and the old man loved him because of his obedience. He had also another eleven disciples, who were aggrieved that he loved him more than them. And when the old men in the neighborhood heard that the abbot loved him more than the rest, they took it ill. So one day the came to him: and the abbot Silvanus took them with him and went out of his cell, and began to knock at the cells of his disciples, one by one, saying, “Brother, come, I have need of thee.” And not one of them obeyed him. He came to Marcus’ cell and knocked saying, “Marcus.” And when he heard the old man’s voice he came straight outside, and the old man sent him on some errand. Then the abbot Silvanus said to the old men, “Where are the other brethren?” And he went into Marcus’ cell, and found a quaternion of manuscript which he had that moment begun, and was making thereon the letter O. And on hearing the old man’s voice, he had not stayed to sweep the pen full circle so as to finish and close the letter that was under his hand. And the old men said, “Truly, abbot, him whom thou lovest we love also, for God loveth him.”
What the reading yields is the idea of father and mother as the Universal Father and Mother, the Lord‘s dear Adam and His beloved Eve; that is, essential humankind as it came from His hand. There is a pattern in these Commandments of setting things apart so that their holiness will be perceived Every day is holy, but the Sabbath is set apart so that the holiness of time can be experienced. Every human being is worthy of honor, but the conscious discipline of honor is learned from this setting apart of the mother and father, who usually labor and are heavy-laden, and may be cranky and stingy or ignorant or overbearing. Believe me, I know this can be a hard Commandment to keep. But I believe also that the rewards of obedience are great, because at the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object.
The biggest barrier between Catholics and the confessional, however, may be the real effort it requires. Unloading your transgressions on the Internet takes a few computer clicks—you can do it on your coffee break. But done right, Catholic confession demands a rigorous examination of conscience and real contrition, to say nothing of the prayers you may be assigned for penance and the thinking a priest may ask you to do about the ways you’ve let yourself and God down. No wonder we are more comfortable with the Eucharist service, which demands only that we line up like consumers and accept something for free. Dorothy Day wrote of having to “rack your brain for even the beginnings of sin.” That’s work.