Barbies, NPR, and working in your twenties

Welcome to another installment of Bennett’s Bulletin!  Let’s get right down to it.  Here’s your weekly dose of stuff I like:


  • Music I like: 3 recommendations this week, after no music recommendations last week (except Bieber’s “What Do You Mean”).

    Beck, “Morning” | Leadoff track from 2014’s Album of the Year.  Highly recommend as a chill album.  Beck is a great musician.

    Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers, “Jesus Gave Me Water” | Totally different vibe.  A capella with vocals from one of my favorite singers of the 20th century.

    Shakey Graves, “Dearly Departed (Live)” | Love the chemistry in this performance.  Comes independently recommended from all the roommates at the Varnum Estate.

  • Quote to ponder: “Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” -anonymous, misattributed to Benjamin Franklin

    I came across the quote in an article about being “employed by culture.”  The idea that life builds conditioning and momentum toward a life that I don’t want scares me.  Every documentary and book on education reform ever says our education system trains workers not thinkers.  Then, at the end of school, mainstream culture presents two options: more school or work 9-5.  All of this bears a tremendous force of habit on our psyches.  How do we learn to be creative and flexible if we never have the opportunity to practice?

    All of a sudden my 20s seem like a critical time in my life.  I don’t think my dad would mind me paraphrasing something he said to me on Tuesday,

    “I was so worried about what others expected of me in my twenties that I didn’t give enough weight to what I wanted.”

    For my fellow young people, what worries you about habit and cultural norms?  More interesting to me, I’d love to hear from my older readers with their perspectives on this issue.  How much of your life trajectories were shaped in your 20s?

  • Cool thing I watched this week: The new Barbie ad.

    It has been getting a lot of praise for making Barbie a vehicle of female empowerment.  I like the ad itself.

    Many have criticized Mattel, perhaps correctly, that Barbies still give girls unrealistic body images and are far more focused on princesses, fashion, and cheerleaders than professors, veterinarians, or coaches.  A manuscript of a research paper is currently under peer review that asserts even when playing with career-oriented Barbies, what girls take away is not information about the career, but information about becoming a Barbie.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you played with Barbies growing up.

  • Pop culture follow-up: I got some GREAT responses this week to last week’s section(s) on pop culture.  Two responses, from Kathy and Emily (two people who have never met, I don’t think), play especially well off one another.  I had to share these thoughts/links with everyone.  My comments are in brackets.

    Kathy on the legitimacy of pop culture:

    “Speaking of guilty pleasures, two articles that legitimize pop music by pointing out that they’re—for the most part—designed to be earworms. One’s about Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream [BG: I love how this is music theory-based] and the other’s about Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone. (For the record, both songs are *GREAT*, and I give a lot of credit to the talented artists who perform them).”

    Then from Emily:

    “On the pop culture note, the idea of guilty pleasures reminds me of an article that I read a couple of days ago about how people are inclined to hate things that teenage girls like: Justin Bieber, pumpkin spice lattes, etc. here it is:

    [BG: Making fun of teenage girls in major media struck me with how much we disparage liking mainstream things.  It’s cool to hate on teenage girls.  It seems sexist, and there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent for boys.”]

    Then Kathy digs a little deeper into the classism of guilty pleasures:

    “About the pop culture being taboo, I think there was an awesome discussion about this online last summer when NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me interviewed Kim Kardashian and tons of NPR’s loyal listeners were enraged about the fact that they would give airtime to such a “vapid, untalented, unimportant, etc. etc.” guest. Mike Pesca (who guest-hosted that week) wrote an op-ed about the inherent hypocrisy of writing off/dismissing pop culture phenomena, which a lot of “educated” or “cultured” people feel the need to do.” [BG: Hating on guilty pleasures also seems classist.  The unspoken side is that “you wouldn’t like Kim Kardashian if you were better educated/richer.”]

    And Emily comments on the psychology and social pressure of guilty pleasures:

    “My friends half-jokingly make fun of me for being a “basic white girl” … [It] often feels like low-key shaming for liking these “mainstream” things. Thus, I keep a lot of it under wraps. [You’re not alone there.  I definitely keep it under wraps.  The times when I do tell people that I like The Bachelorette, people think I’m joking or there’s always a hint of irony when really I just like it.] I feel the need to advertise the more “intellectual” or “interesting” things about myself because I think it will get me more respect.”

    Thanks y’all for the great responses (and being willing to share them publicly).  I’m still interested in everybody’s guilty pleasures, so if you have more to share with me please do!

  • Obligatory link to the Star Wars trailer

One more thing, thanks to you all for a great first month for my newsletter.  I’ve really enjoyed writing it.  I love getting your emails, and I appreciate your support.  I hope it’s valuable and interesting to you each week.  Please let me know what I can do better.

If something in here made you think of something cool (link, photo, idea, memory) or if you have questions send them to me!

As always, let me know your suggestions!  Do you want more or less of something?  You can just reply directly to this email.

Have a great week!