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Book helps feed your brain every day

There's so much to learn, but so little time! The authors of the new book “The Intellectual Devotional: Modern Culture” make it easy with passages on seven subjects — personalities, literature, music, film, ideas and trends, sports and pop. An excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY books

There's so much to learn, but so little time! In their new book “The Intellectual Devotional: Modern Culture” authors Noah Oppenheim and David Kidder help get you up to speed with 365 distinct passages on seven subjects — personality, literature, music, film, ideas and trends, sports and pop — one for each day of the week. An excerpt:

Introduction
For generations, readers have kept devotionals at their bedsides — collections of 365 short daily readings selected to foster spiritual growth. “The Intellectual Devotional” is also a collection of daily readings, and this volume focuses on the rich tapestry of modern culture. Like our previous devotionals, these readings offer regular stimulation for the mind, a refreshing escape, and an education in critical realms of knowledge. Each entry is an in-depth treatment of the subject, yet it is easily digestible in a short sitting.

There are few more powerful sources of influence than the popular culture — those people, works of art, ideas, and phenomena that capture the collective imagination. With the advent of mass media in the twentieth century, that influence has only grown — the television shows we grew up with, the films that touched us, the music that formed the soundtrack of our lives. The study of our modern culture is essential to understanding common frames of reference. These readings offer a nostalgic and entertaining immersion in the most enduring cultural touchstones of the past 100 years.

The 365 readings are divided into the following fields of knowledge:

Personalities
Larger-than-life characters from the front pages and the tabloids

Literature
Authors and works that transformed hearts and minds

Music
From timeless works of genius to the Top 40

Film
The directors, actors, and blockbusters that leapt off the silver screen and into our consciousness

Ideas and trends
Ideologies, movements, and innovations that changed our world

Sports
Athletes and events that transcended the playing field

Pop
The fizzy fun that had water coolers buzzing for the past 100 years

Day one, personalities: Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) was a leading intellectual and psychologist who shaped the study of the human mind in the twentieth century. Through his controversial concept of psychoanalysis, use of hypnosis, and analysis of dreams, he sought to bring light to people’s inner lives and motivations, and in doing so, he had a dramatic impact on not only psychology but also philosophy, sociology, and art. Freud’s work has seemingly prompted just as many people to call him a charlatan as call him a genius. After graduating from the University of Vienna with a medical degree in neurology, he went to Paris to study under Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893), who specialized in the study of hysteria. What Freud saw in treating patients led him to conclude that mental disorders stemmed from psychological or emotional trauma, not physical problems or natural development.While in Paris, Freud began using hypnosis on his patients during psychoanalysis, which led to the development of his central theory: that man is endowed with an unconscious, made up of repressed memories, that has strong emotional and sexual drives. These drives, some of which are born in infancy, battle one another for control and ultimately guide human behavior.

In 1899 he published “The Interpretation of Dreams,” his most widely known work. He theorized that dreams were full of complex symbolism and were an effort by the subconscious to provide clues to human desires.

In “The Ego and the Id” (1923), Freud introduced his theory of the three competing areas of the mind: the id, which is home to the most primitive drives; the ego, which is the conscious self that interacts with reality; and the superego, which recognizes and observes the restrictions imposed by societal norms.

His focus on and belief in the power of the unconscious mind led Freud to think that all jokes, slips of the tongue, and dreams had meaning or showed insight into the human mind.

Additional facts:
1. Freud experimented with cocaine and studied its euphoric effects on himself and others.

2. Before devoting himself to psychology, Freud conducted zoological research and is credited with discovering testicles in eels — a small detail that had escaped earlier studies.

3. Freud came from an Austrian Jewish family, and four of his sisters died in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

4. Freud’s impact on pop culture is clearly visible in works ranging from the television show “The Sopranos” to the films of Woody Allen (1935–) to the surrealist art of Salvador Dalí (1904–1989).

Excerpted from "The Intellectual Devotional: Modern Culture". Copyright (c) 2008 by David Kidder and Noah Oppenheim. Reprinted with permission from Rodale Books.