Feb 05

“Swearing Is Good”: Plus Two Other Self-Help Books

How do you feel about swearing? Below are three recent and popular self-help books that either use swearing to make their points or support a belief that, as the third title suggests, “swearing is good.”

I. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (2016), by Mark Manson.

Jennifer Haupt, Psychology Today, lists eight things many of us may care too much about, per Manson:

  1. Impressing other people
  2. Being right all the time
  3. Being “successful”
  4. Being pleasant and polite
  5. Being happy
  6. Feeling good all the time
  7. Being “perfect”
  8. Feeling secure and certain

How can you change this, i.e., not give a f**k? Manson presented this book excerpt in a blog post :

SUBTLETY #1: NOT GIVING A FUCK DOES NOT MEAN BEING INDIFFERENT; IT MEANS BEING COMFORTABLE WITH BEING DIFFERENT

SUBTLETY #2: TO NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT ADVERSITY, YOU MUST FIRST GIVE A FUCK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN ADVERSITY

SUBTLETY #3: WE ALL HAVE A LIMITED NUMBER OF FUCKS TO GIVE; PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE AND WHO YOU GIVE THEM TO

Kirkus Reviews:

Popular blogger Manson…criticizes self-help books for their fundamentally flawed approach of telling readers they’re special, assuring them that they can surpass—but, notably, not solve—problems, and encouraging them to embrace their exceptionalism. The author sternly disagrees…Throughout, the author continually slaps readers sharply across the face, using blunt, funny, and deceptively offhand language when expanding on his key principle…This book, full of counterintuitive suggestions that often make great sense, is a pleasure to read and worthy of rereading.

II. Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life (2017), by Gary John Bishop.

From the publisher’s blurb:

Are you tired of feeling fu*ked up? If you are, Gary John Bishop has the answer. In this straightforward handbook, he gives you the tools and advice you need to demolish the slag weighing you down and become the truly unfu*ked version of yourself. ‘Wake up to the miracle you are,’ he directs. ‘Here’s what you’ve forgotten: You’re a fu*king miracle of being.’

The following seven assertions serve as Bishop’s focus:

I am willing.
I am wired to win.
I got this.
I embrace the uncertainty.
I am not my thoughts; I am what I do.
I am relentless.
I expect nothing and accept everything.

“Remember, everything is solve-able,” states Bishop, “and if you can’t see a solution, it only means you haven’t worked it out yet.”

III. Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language (2018), by Emma Byrne 

On her website Emma Byrne refers to herself as “the Sweary Scientist.” So, her Swearing Is Good for You could be viewed as “the sweary book.”

“Byrne’s book is just the latest evidence that we’re moving toward a more cursing-positive culture,” reports Danielle Friedman, The Cut. “Over the past few years, a growing body of pro-swearing research has suggested cursing can be linked to everything from intelligence to authenticity to a greater ability to withstand pain.”

Kirkus Reviews: Swearing Is Good for You “is divided into seven parts covering neuroscience, pain, a special look at Tourette’s syndrome (though she admits that most afflicted with the disease don’t swear), the workplace, primates, gender, and swearing in other languages.”

It’s not, however, about swearing with abandon; rather, while swearing can serve certain purposes in limited quantities, it can also harm. About the latter, for instance, reviewer Andrew Anthony, The Guardian, states, “In terms of disputes, swearing can just as often be a trigger as a defuser. As Byrne goes on to note: ‘In order to swear you need an understanding of the psychology of others…to be able to anticipate how your words are likely to make someone feel’.”

Dec 06

“Three Billboards”: Female-Centric, Female-Reviewed

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, aptly called both “sorrowful and savagely funny” by Rolling Stone in its 10-best list for 2017, has one of the best story lines and some of the most interesting and complex characters and performances I’ve seen in a long time.

Most importantly, it has Frances McDormand in the lead. And in honor of rare female-centric films such as Three Billboards, I’ve decided to let this movie post be female-reviewer-centric as well.

Watch this trailer, which sets up the Three Billboards premise (and colorful language) really well:

Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times, describes the basic plot of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri:

[McDormand] plays Mildred Hayes, a no-nonsense woman (she dresses, every day, in a navy-blue jumpsuit; the sort worn by plumbers or mechanics) who’s out for revenge. ‘I’m Angela Hayes’ mother,’ she says, in a voice so low you could jump over it. Her daughter, seven months ago, was raped and murdered by an unknown assailant; Mildred, frozen in clenched-jaw heartbreak, needs to know who to blame.

Mildred pays for three empty billboards to make the following statements:

    • “Raped While Dying.”
    • ″And Still No Arrests?”
    • ″How Come, Chief Willoughby?”

More about Mildred’s process, as expressed by Manohla Dargis, New York Times:

The billboards turn that grief into a weapon, a means of taking on the law and assorted men — a threatening stranger, a vigilante dentist and an abusive ex (John Hawkes) — who collectively suggest another wall that has closed Mildred in.

Dana Stevens, Slate, adds to our understanding of Mildred:

…(T)hough Mildred makes many choices that are reprehensible or downright dangerous, McDormand never fails to convince us of the fundamental decency of this woman, a tragic heroine struggling to find even the tiniest scrap of meaning in a comically awful world…Mildred is a tough person to be around…there are moments late in the movie when she commits acts that push at the limits of audience sympathy and goodwill. But McDormand, at age 60 one of our most gifted and least calculating actresses, fearlessly challenges us to love her character anyway.

How does the police department deal with Mildred? Kate Taylor, Globe and Mail: “The decent Willoughby (another finely crafted portrait of sympathetic masculinity from [Woody] Harrelson) tries to pacify her and rein in the most vicious of his officers, the explosively racist Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell in full psychopath mode.”

April Wolfe, LA Weeklyaddresses dynamics that ultimately may leave some viewers dissatisfied:

[Director] McDonagh painstakingly humanizes a character who we find has unapologetically tortured a black man in police custody. And then Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri seems to ask audiences to forgive and forget wrongs like police violence, domestic abuse and sexual assault without demonstrating a full understanding of the centuries-long toll these crimes have taken on victims in real life.

There’s another problematic issue too. The Globe and Mail’s Taylor: “If the film fails to solve Dixon’s emotional puzzle, another one that remains troubling is Mildred’s relationship with her teenage son, Robbie (Lucas Hedges), the only remnant of her family and link to her motherhood, yet apparently an afterthought in her crazed planning.”

Nevertheless, this is a movie, one with overall positive reviews, that makes you mull such things over. In closing:

...(T)here’s no better time than right now for a high-profile movie led by a meaty, complicated female character — and no better actress than McDormand to take it on. And you can put that on a billboard. Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press, regarding Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

…just the bitter pill the times call for, offered with a loving cup to make it go down just a bit easier. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

…a cathartic wail against the zeitgeist of rape culture and state brutality. It’s a rallying cry, a right hook to the jaw, and wow, does it ever hurt so good. Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service