This Week in “Help Me Not Be Such an Ass”: February 2-9


This week I feel extra aware that while I seek help, and it comes, it’s still not always true that I become incrementally less of an ass as a result. What I can say is: here’s some of what I’ve turned to for help this week…efficacy, TBD.

Colorlines’ “Racial Discourse Change in Practice” series, Part 2. I love so much that this exists. Discourse analysis was my favorite, and it’s put to good use here.

The above will refer you to Migration is Beautiful; the artists’ statement on immigration reform that comes up first is helpful in not being such an Ass because it cuts to the dang chase, and also models artists’ statements mattering. Also, there’s something sweet about how only Jeff Ament has his band in parentheses after his name…I know who you are, Jeff Ament! I don’t need your parentheses, but it’s classy to have them.

The Stranger’s Queer Issue from 2014 is tailor-made to help us be a little less ass-y through encountering other minds. Here’s one (“How to Stop Thinking All Trans People are the Same“) but there’s just a bunch, and there’s a handy sidebar thing for getting from piece to piece.

Here, the Atlantic tells us about how people think women on the phone using vocal fry are even lamer than men on the phone using vocal fry. In some ways, hearing an new nuance to pervasive gender bias just makes me sad and mad and perhaps Ass-y, but my hope it that is also equips me to, when I find myself thinking some woman is lame on the phone, stop for a second and wonder if I have internalized some crap I could examine. Similarly, this nytimes piece synopsizes the work of a Northeastern professor who’s analyzed Rate My Professor reviews and found dramatic though not surprising variance in the way male professors and female professors are discussed. “The chart makes vivid unconscious biases. The implications go well beyond professors and college students, to anyone who gives or receives feedback or performance reviews. It suggests that people tend to think more highly of men than women in professional settings, praise men for the same things they criticize women for, and are more likely to focus on a woman’s appearance or personality and on a man’s skills and intelligence.” I can pay attention; I can gently point. (Thanks, Erin.)

CultureStr/ke is a group of artists (all sorts) who “…want to fight anti-immigrant hate by bringing out the stories of migrants and creating counter-narratives about migration.” They publish some good stuff–I liked this on Trinidadian political activist CLR James. 

Mindfulness, by Ellen Langer. Listen: I hate the word “mindfulness” at this point. It’s used to just mean “better than you” a lot, and usually “kind of mystically, woo-woo better than you.” (I self-identify as pretty woo-woo, but it can’t be a cudgel!). Anyway: that’s not this book. This is about a particular topic in experimental psychology, as in experiments like “if you give old people a plant to take care of and 5 decisions to make about their day for two weeks, then in 5 years they are all healthy and the control group is all dead” (I’m paraphrasing). Anyway, it’s good. It did come down so much in favor of a process orientation vs. an outcome orientation, and I found that so affirming, that I suspect it… like, I might need to also read a book that uses research to support how great an outcome orientation is and how much longer people live when they have one. (Thanks, Shelley.)

That’s it for this week. If you have suggestions for not being such an ass, I’ll always take them.



Note: this week is light on Things because I do a lot of reading on the weekend, but this weekend I was in a kooky acrylic painting workshop that I thought was a class, but really was a workshop in the sense that we watched demos and then just painted whatever we wanted. I painted two things: a pangolin, and Lobster vs Lobster (Lobster is a machine that shoots tennis balls at you for practice).



He’s jumping.

This is how you can tell that I have a process orientation rather than an outcome orientation.

2 thoughts on “This Week in “Help Me Not Be Such an Ass”: February 2-9

  1. This sentence does make me really curious: “if you give old people a plant to take care of and 5 decisions to make about their day for two weeks, then in 5 years they are all healthy and the control group is all dead” (I’m paraphrasing).

    I’ll reparaphrase: Keep plants. Make decisions. Good.


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