Tag Archives: The Atlantic

.01 Some Thoughts Whilst Conducting Research at the David Foster Wallace Archive (2016) Whilst Also Coping with a Beach-balling Apple Mac (which is more than just a tad annoying)

And this one is weirdly topical and very fresh as it discusses an article that is actually quite recent, rather than discussing something that was put out months ago.

The interview with President Obama in The Atlantic begins:

“Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void”


Feckless is an odd word with which to describe any American leader, given their access to power, both real and imagined. The article continues in an odd tone, in that it is hard to figure out its purpose – just what is the article supposed to make us think of Obama and his time in office? As above, where we have to contend with the deliberate paradox set up by the journalist of whether Obama is feckless or sagacious (because he really can’t be both), the article continues to tread a line somewhere in the middle of viewing Obama as a Spockian genius or as just a complete dick-wad.

Perhaps this is, in part, Obama’s own doing, where his awareness of his own image and of how he will be perceived by future generations, a very real aspect of Obama’s narcissism that comes out in every interview, somehow limits his appeal in the here and now – he’s all about the future, so how the f*** can you judge him today, stupid? Maybe it will take decades to figure out his legacy, but depending on what happens next in American politics, it might not seem all that important after all.

#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight Entry Five (and probably the last for today))

Point #5: “Almost daily, new evidence emerges of just how much our brains can change over the course of our lives, in response to shifting thought patterns and behaviour. If we keep at it, if we channel our talent for hard work, we can make our brains more confidence-prone [and by the same token, with an interest in fairness and impartiality, make our brains more competent-prone (guys?)]. What the neuroscientists call plasticity, we call hope.”


Now doesn’t that sound promising? What it does suggest is that the only obstacle to overcoming such hurdles is our own thoughts on the matter. Change your thinking, change your brain-pattern behaviour, and things will start to happen. Think, think, think, everyday, just like Winnie-the-Pooh.

#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight Entry Four)

Point #4: “[M]any psychologists now believe that risk-taking, failure, and perseverance are essential to confidence-building. “When we observed in grade school classrooms, we saw that boys got eight times more criticism than girls for their conduct,” [Carol] Dweck writes in Mindset. Complicating matters, she told us, girls and boys get different patterns of feedback. “Boys’ mistakes are attributed to a lack of effort,” she says, while “girls come to see mistakes as a reflection of their deeper qualities.””


For those of us with children, doesn’t that ring true? And I’m talking about from the very early days of a child’s education, where a certain properness (perfection) is expected from the youngest of girls, whilst the boys are almost pre-ordained to be a pain in the ass (not so perfect) and are treated accordingly. It is certainly true of my own childhood recollections, and those as I watch my own children go through the ‘education system.’ It is a ‘system’ for a reason. It is infected with the type of ingrained thinking that marks ‘difference.’ Think of the uniforms and/or boys and girls’ clothing. Take a simple thing like making all students wear dresses/skirts – what would that do to the confidence of the boys? Can you hear the reactions from dads, as they comprehend their sons going off to school in a nice pleated knee-length skirt, or something similar? Take the segregation that occurs around toileting issues – do 4 and 5 year olds really need to be segregated in this manner? What harm would it do to allow them to ‘toilet’ together? Take sports – why can’t, from a very young age, girls and boys compete together in sports such as football and/or soccer, baseball, netball, etc.? These examples are just a few that highlight the fact that ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ are prised apart at a very young age (and this example only really relates to schooling and education – what about all the other stuff?).

#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight Entry Three)

Point #3: “David Dunning, Cornell psychologist, [observed the following in relation to a particularly tough course on the Cornell math PhD program]: male students […] respond to their lower grades by saying, “Wow, this is a tough class.” That’s what’s known as external attribution […and is] a healthy sign of resilience. Women tend to respond differently, […where] their reaction is more likely to be, “You see, I knew I wasn’t good enough.” That’s internal attribution, and it can be debilitating.”


So, it looks like there is something to be learned here, that something has to change, and the good news is that the brain is capable of learning new things and changing in response to this new information (we’ll get to that in a bit). For now, it seems that women really need to give themselves a break – lay off the perfection goal for a while, because stuff that’s debilitating really isn’t good for you; the clue is in the name.

#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight Entry Two)

Point #2: “We [Shipman and Kay] were curious to find out whether male managers were aware of a confidence gap between male and female employees. And indeed […t]hey said that a lack of confidence was fundamentally holding back women at their companies, but they shied away from saying anything, because they were terrified of sounding sexist.”


A phrase that readily springs to mind, with respect to both the men and the women here is: grow a pair. The natural conclusion is to think that I’m referring to the dangly men bits (balls), but I see no reason why we couldn’t introduce an alternate suffix type thing, perhaps: grow a pair of ova (?). Each plays its part in the matter of human reproduction, so why not throw it out there. If you have ova, use them to your advantage. Slap them on the proverbial table and woman up and go get that job, gosh darn-it. And male managers, give them a push, that’s part of your job (to manage people) – so when Perfect Polly is sitting there stressing out that she only actually meets 99 per cent of the listed qualifications needed to apply for the job, whilst Over-Confident Olly is polishing his Resume at only 59 per cent ready, give her a kick up the ass (not literally) and tell her to grow a pair (not literally) and stop being concerned with coming across as sexist, because that sounds like hog-wash: “Oh, I didn’t want her to go for the job, even though she’s pretty much perfect for it, because I may come across as being all Hugh Heffner and stuff” – grow a pair, male bosses (oh, and tell Over-Confident Olly to sit the heck down and start working on his competence, for crying out loud).

#theconfidencecode @ClaireShipman @KattyKayBBC – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Eight)

I’m not a reader of The Atlantic, ordinarily, but there are magazines strewn around my room and so I’ve been flicking through them to see what’s up. One article that grabbed my attention is ‘The Confidence Gap’ by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, authors of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know. Now, I’m a little slow off the mark here because we’re talking about the May 2014 edition of The Atlantic, but hey-ho, it’s interesting – so here goes. And this post will be spread out into bite-size chunks because some of my posts happen to be huge and I get the impression that that’s off-putting.


Point #1: “Women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 per cent of the listed qualifications. Men would apply when they met 60 per cent.”

It is fascinating to consider that ‘women’ (and there’s no time to break this word and its meaning down into components, even though I’m well aware that such a generic term cannot represent all ‘biological females’ (and now I’m sinking a little further because if I have to qualify this phrase we could be here all day) – I’ll just assume that you’ll roll with me on this one because I didn’t write the article, I’m just commenting on it) feel the need to ‘be’ utterly perfect (because if you have to wait until you’re 100 per cent of something then that’s what you’re doing) before taking the next logical step: promotion. This would imply that said women are unwilling to take a risk, chance, punt, bet, shot, etc., when it comes to furthering their careers. And what about the ‘men?’ 60 per cent capable of doing a job and yet they still apply for it? This would imply that men have no hang-ups about waiting to be perfect; they’ll just throw it out there and see what comes back. Where does this great expectation come from; an expectation that leaves women no wiggle room, no margin of error?

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