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The second ever Prestigious Awards: ‘Transcend’ by Scott Barry Kaufman

The Eternally Radical Idea

So last month I fulfilled a lifelong dream and established a book-of-the-month recommendation, along with an album and “nerd treat” recommendation … and then promptly got caught up in other stuff, as June 2020 has become the busiest month in FIRE history.

But with just a couple of days left in June, here they are: the June 2020 Prestigious Awards!

The Prestigious Ashurbanipal book award: Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman

This month’s award goes to Scott Barry Kaufman’s new book Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization. I will often be recommending older books you might not have heard of before — classics that deserve a fresh look — but this month I’m departing from that and recommending a book that is a relatively recent release. 

In this excellent, inspiring, and engaging read, Kaufman takes you through the life and accomplishments of Abraham Maslow, painting the picture of a more nuanced and important thinker than the man many of us are familiar with.

I was already planning to recommend it before Prof. Kaufman invited me on his podcast, which is an honor I plan to accept. I want to remind myself to bring up an article idea I had called “Maslow’s infinite spire” — my mostly joking idea that once you get to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, you reach the final stage; like an antenna going up into the stratosphere, you just care about stupid, trivial stuff, forever and ever. (OF COURSE, this came in part from my frustration on social media some days.) I was surprised to learn that Maslow not only didn’t invent the sequential pyramid often used to represent his work, but that he would not really have approved of his life’s work being presented that way; and that the idea of the pyramid was created by marketers and popularized largely after his death.

I’m proud to choose Transcend as a book-of-the-month, and for me it fits into that small stack of books that I have (virtually, of course, as I mostly listen to audiobooks and read on a Kindle) that I plan to come back to and read many more times!

The Prestigious Fats Waller Award: The Coup, Sorry to Bother You (Album, 2012)

The Coup, Sorry to Bother You

This month’s award goes to The Coup’s 2012 album Sorry to Bother You for three reasons:

  1. It’s a heck of a hip hop/pop album: catchy, funny, mean, and compassionate all at the same time.
  2. It doesn’t hurt that we at FIRE had the pleasure of helping to defend lead vocalist Boots Riley’s freedom of expression in a 2014 case at Western Michigan University.

    In that case, a student group committed to community peace and justice sought to bring Riley to campus as an event speaker. At first, the university rejected the event, citing “public safety.” After the student group provided evidence that events featuring Riley had happened peacefully on other campuses, the university approved the event — but only if the student group would pay an extra fee for private security, based on the viewpoint Riley might express. (The event was moved to the private basement of a campus ministry group where, despite the fears of university administrators, the gathering of peace activists managed not to result in kumite.)

    With our help, the student group filed a lawsuit against the school for infringing on Riley’s right to speak (and their right to hear him); the school ultimately settled for $35,000 and agreed to change its policies. 
  3. Given the explosion of awareness of issues relating to social justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, it may be a good idea to learn more about the worldview of some of the activists involved. Riley himself is a self-declared communist, and always mixes politics with his poetry.

    I’m sure many of you won’t like his worldview, and I definitely roll my eyes when I hear lyrics like “we’ve got the guillotine you better run.” Still, I’m a big proponent of listening and trying to understand where people are coming from.

    Riley expounds on some of these views in his extremely funny and very creative 2018 movie, also called Sorry to Bother You. The Coup’s is a bit of a claustrophobic worldview, in which participation in capitalism means quite literally becoming a monster, and the band has tremendous fun making fun of rich white kids in the infectiously catchy “Your Parents’ Cocaine.” For some people it might be a turnoff that, many times, the band seems to be making fun of its listeners, but I’m an adult, and I can still enjoy the music.

The Prestigious Jack Kirby Award: HBO’s Watchmen

HBO's Watchmen

Partially in the spirit of the previous selection, my nerd treat recommendation for this month is the HBO series Watchmen. Again, not everybody’s cup of tea, but I was simply blown away by it. The writing, the direction, the acting and the creativity combine for an innovative approach to Alan Moore’s comic book dystopia, while remaining faithful to, and respectful of, the characters and the rules of that universe.

It’s unlikely that any self-respecting nerd hasn’t read the original comic book Watchmen, but if you haven’t, do yourself a favor before you watch the HBO series: Read the whole damn thing from cover to cover — every last bit — let it sit for a little bit, and then watch the series. You will get a lot more out of it.

I have heard some criticism that the TV version might be a little bit too “woke” compared to the original, but that by itself is no reason not to watch it; in my opinion, the characters are compelling and all the other elements are there. I also give tremendous credit to Damon Lindelof for bringing greater attention to the 1921 “Black Wall Street” massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

It’s amazing filmmaking and I was absolutely crushed that they were only planning to do one season. But if you’re only going to do one season, you should be damn proud for this to be that season.

Thanks for reading. Join us again next month for another Prestigious installment!

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