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Original Essays | August 18, 2014

Ian Leslie: IMG Empathic Curiosity



Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed... Continue »
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Sean Hayes has commented on (2) products.

American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics by Dan Savage
American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics

Sean Hayes, October 31, 2013

This book is really an epistemology of Dan Savage's philosophy, which should be well known to any reader/listener of Savage Love, and a lot of the love this book is getting is from those who don't have a total familiarity with Dan's concepts and are either getting them for the first time, or seeing them succinctly put into print for the first time. For long time fans, it's good to see these points laid down, but not particularly surprising. It sometimes shows how his voice has weakened from criticism. At times he seems pained not to offend certain contingents, loading his sentences with qualifications and exceptions. Some of Dan's obsessions remain annoying, such as his obsession with the thoughts of right wing Christian bigots, some of whom we would not have heard of if liberals and gay rights activists such as himself did not publicize them so often.

However, Dan Savage has made many of the points I would love to have made myself if I'd ever had access to half his audience, not necessarily on sexuality, but on hypocrisy and religion and schizophrenic opinions regarding sex and religion. I would love to see him explore issues he does not often explore, such as infighting among the lgbt or feminist movements and various internal disputes among those who basically agree with his philosophy (he does this with regard to bisexuals, but he could have gone further). But as always, I can't complain too much about a book when my chief complaint is that I wish it would have been longer. A worthwhile read for newbies definitely and old time listeners who want to fully immerse themselves in Dan's thoughts.
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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Sean Hayes, October 14, 2013

I have been waiting for a book like this for many years, and read it as a sort of manifesto. It could be a companion piece to Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright Sided, in which brain dead optimism is connected with recent social failures.

In this book, we see how the world is stacked in favor of a singular personality trait - the extroverted 'hail fellow well met' with a smile and firm handshake for everyone - to the point where any contrasting personality type is considered a mental disorder, or totally shunted off into social abnormality. Cain explores how this can cause conflict in classrooms (which are now increasingly oriented toward group learning, a subject that could have been explored at more length), workplaces (in which open plans meant to foster creativity actually promote distractions), cultural interactions (differences in Eastern and Western modes of communication), and parenting. She explores existential differences between the two personality types, which strikes me as far more significant than books like "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus," which identify similar problems as part of a divide between genders or races.

Along with scientific analysis of personality types, Cain uses her own experience (as an introverted business consultant) to show others how they can use their introverted personalities to help them in positions - social, work, relationships - which would seem to favor the extroverted.

I did see a flaw in the self help aspect of the book in the same area I normally see flaws in the genre: Most of her examples were of business leaders, lawyers, yuppie parents, etc. It is no coincidence that self help books target the very people who can afford to attend lectures and seminars which typically arise as corollaries to any best selling book of this type.

There are definite problems faced by anyone (no longer merely the disadvantaged or uneducated) who seeks work in customer service, retail, or other areas where want ads sometimes read "now hiring smiling faces," with no mention of actual qualifications. Cain does go into this at one point with call center employees, but it could have been better explored. Ditto job interviewing, and isometric tests measuring personality that are sometimes conducted before an interview even takes place.

But I am mainly criticizing the book for what it leaves out. What is here should be read by anyone who felt that there was something wrong with them for hating small talk and breezy interaction and valuing thought, solitude and meaningful discourse.
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(5 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)



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