Conversation Pieces: 5 New Articles Worth Discussing This Weekend


Welcome to Conversation Pieces, where Flavorpill curates five articles from the past week that you should read. Some are long, others are short. Some are from major publications, others aren’t. The only thing all these articles have in common is that they’re interesting. This week we examine the legacy of Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, whether the internet reduces your ability to feel pleasure, the nervous history of public speaking, what you can learn from a spiteful homeless man, and more. After the jump, find something exciting to discuss this weekend in the home, at the bar, or on the street.

1. Ken is More Than Just a Boy Toy

This month, Ken turns 50. But in all these years, has he grown? Has he learned anything? Has he done anything, besides accompany his girlfriend to the mall in a pink convertible? In sum: Has he formed an identity? According to author Greg Beato, the answer is no. This becomes a problem when too many men (real men) try to imitate Ken’s seemingly enviable life. Find out why Beato calls Ken “the world’s first slacker.”

The Smart Set: “What a Doll!”

2. Computers: Boon or Doom for the Human Psyche?

Read this very excellent review of Nicholas Carr’s latest book, The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (UK title). In it, you’ll find some persuasive arguments for both sides of the debate. No technophilia or Ludditism in here!

London Review of Books: “Smarter, Happier, More Productive”

3. Speaking Before a Crowd Isn’t Easy Now and Wasn’t Easy Then

Remember that Jerry Seinfeld joke about how the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy at a funeral, after a study showed more people were afraid of public speaking than death? Oh, and that Academy Award-winning film, The King’s Speech? Well, this article traces the history of standing before others to say something important, from the Greeks to the Romans to Obama.

The Guardian: “What Makes a Great Speech?”

4. Learning the Benefits of Hostility From a Man Without a Home

This isn’t another story about the golden-voiced Ted Williams, who used his radio-friendly voice to turn his life around. The subtitle of this piece reads: “How a New York Times reporter dropped out and became a hate evangelist in Berkeley.” Learn about Mark Hawthorne (aka “Hate Man”), his theory of “oppositionality,” and his group of followers known as “oppies.”

East Bay Express: “Hate Man”

5. Archiving the Net for Future Generations

“We have a lot of so-called crap, and we’re happy about that,” says Gildas Illien, an archivist at the French National Library. All day, Illien takes pride in collecting and documenting obscure websites, online advertisements, and hard-core pornography — lots of it. “In a hundred years, what’s totally irrelevant or dirty today will end up becoming of extreme interest to historians,” he adds. He’s got a point. Whatever the artifact may be, the older it is the more interesting it becomes, right?

IEEE Spectrum: “A Memory of Webs Past”