The Book Job: Did the Simpsons Get it Right?
There is certainly value in any book that will make a young person shift his or her gaze from the iPhone screen long enough to read it.
In case you missed it last Sunday night, the best Simpsons episode of this season so far (and arguably, the past few years) was posted on Hulu today. Publishing for young readers is squarely in the cross-hairs, and award-winning children's author Neil Gaiman (Coraline, The Graveyard Book) makes the episode a snort-and-pause-the-DVR-to-watch-that-again masterpiece.
It all starts when Lisa discovers the author of her favorite Young Adult books playing a plush-headed dinosaur at a local museum and learns that the woman is just an actress whose picture was put on a book cover. The real author is a room full of corporate employees pounding out pages by committee. When Homer and Bart catch wind of the money to be made, they form a committee to get their own book deal, and bring Gaiman on to fetch snacks and beverages.
As a writer for teens, I’ve done work-for-hire books under pseudonyms, so the jokes in this episode hit incredibly close to home. As the conscience of the Simpson family, Lisa is dismayed to learn that everything she thought she knew about Young Adult literature is a lie, and questions the motives of releasing books created in boardrooms for profit.
Still, a part of Lisa loves these books, and the famous creation stories that they often come along with. As she says to the actress she thinks is the author of her beloved series:
“Of course you’re real. Everybody knows you got the idea for this series after an explosion at a crumpet factory knocked you off a double-decker bus. How could that be made up?”
It's too bad that the writers didn't make a firmer distinction between folks like Gaiman whose books are truly remarkable literature for young readers, and the pseudonymous work-for-hire books that Barnes and Noble buyers engender by asking publishers for specific books on specific subjects. The episode clearly references Harry Potter which is both factually incorrect and unfortunate. J.K. Rowling wrote every word of that series.
Whatever you think of packaging books for young readers, the bottom line is that kids are actually reading them, and that’s the important part. There is certainly value in any book that will make a young person shift his or her gaze from the iPhone screen long enough to read it.
Still, there's more than a grain of truth in all of this. Naturally, that's what makes it so funny.
Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.
- Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
- Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
- "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.
- Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
- There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
- "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.
- The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
- The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
- While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.
PAUL RATJE / Contributor
- This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
- UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
- TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.