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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Everything's Changed. Oh, Wait. No, It Hasn't. As 2002 began, art was supposed to be forevermore infused with the post-9/11 sensibility. Materialism and schlocky marketing were out, serious contemplation of the human condition was in. Riiiiight. So why does Frida Kahlo now have her own posthumous perfume, and why is the star of the year a shoplifting actress who hasn't made a good film since (arguably) Girl, Interrupted? "In a year where the world was too much with us, art could at least be bewildering." Toronto Star 12/31/02

Is Coherence So Much To Ask? The recent flap that ensued in Canada when a former First Nations activist went on a rambling, semi-coherent, anti-Semitic rant points up a larger problem among the nation's public figures, says John Gray. Why can't anyone in government speak with any degree of profundity or even a basic grasp of what makes for stirring oratory? "What I find not only boring but dangerous is not the lack of imagination, nor art, nor insight, nor even intelligence -- but the absence of specifics. When Canadian public figures speak, I literally do not know what the hell they are talking about." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 12/31/02

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Reconsidering Communism (Again) It's not like Communism wasn't given a chance. But even though most of the major governments that followed the ideology have failed, Marx isn't discredited. "Indeed, it is suggested, Marx was right about a good many things—about a lot of what is wrong with capitalism, for instance, about globalisation and international markets, about the business cycle, about the way economics shapes ideas. Marx was prescient; that word keeps coming up. By all means discard communism as practised in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (and China, North Korea, Cuba and in fact wherever it has been practised). But please don't discard Marx." The Economist 12/27/02

Swarming Onto What's Happening Used to be you went someplace where people were to find out what was going on. Now "swarming" makes it more efficient. People broadcast text or cell phone messages to get people to a location where something is happening. "Swarming reverses the idea that geography, in an Internet age, has become irrelevant. The whole point is to bring people together in one location for face-to-face contact. Swarming also is leading to such social developments as 'time-softening,' 'cell dancing' and 'smart mobs'."
The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 12/29/02

The Ideas (Best & Worst) Of 2002 What were the most underrated ideas of the year? The most overrated? From baseball stadiums to spas to war and propaganda, leading adademics and scholars made their nominations to the New York Times. The New York Times 12/28/02

Friday, December 27, 2002

Quotable - A Way Of Seeing The World Why try to quote others? "Quotations are part of the fabric of conversation. We all repeat lines from our friends and family, passing on what Jane said to Tom, or retelling a joke we heard in a pub. Throwing Arthur Miller, or Nick Cave, into the mix is a way of including these people in our circle of intimacy, a way of paying homage to the works we love. Some argue that art works in a similar way, as an endless series of quotations and mis-quotations. Absorbed by a kind of cultural osmosis, they become the markers of our social and generational milieu." Sydney Morning Herald 12/27/02

The Accidents Waiting To Happen Are we more prone to accidents than in the past? A French philosopher believes so. "Technology and communications have made accidents more global in their impact. In his view, if an accident was long defined as chance, today only its timing and consequences are hard to predict; the accident itself is already bound to occur. To underline the importance of this unwelcome variable to modern society, Paul Virilio is promoting the creation of a Museum of Accidents. 'The museum's purpose would not be to 'spread fear' but to confront what is no longer a chance event'."
The New York Times 12/26/02

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Copyright-As-Incentive - It Doesn't Work Defenders of copyright laws say stringent protections are essential to ensure the continuing viability of intellectual property. Is it true? Jason Schultz did a few calculations on the movies. There were 36,386 titles released from 1927-1946, he says. Of those: only 2,480 are available on VHS; only 871 are available on DVD; only 114 are available on Pay-Per-View; and only 13 are available in theaters. "If that assumption is correct, then only 2,480 out of 36,386 titles from 1927-1946 are available, or 6.8%. 93.2% are commercially dormant." Stanford Law 12/02

Hip Hop Nations... "Hip hop has become one of the most influential U.S. cultural exports. In virtually every city on the planet, there are hip hop communities that not only have adopted the percussion-heavy music and spoken-word vocals, but have appropriated the sartorial and attitudinal style of the black and Latino youth who created the genre. Some 25 years after its birth, the genre has become a $5 billion industry but remains troubled at home." In These Times 12/20/02

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Why Philosophy Has Lost Its Grip On The World There was a time philosophy was thought a lofty pursuit - a calling that tried to explain the world. But "despite important developments in recent decades in philosophical accounts of thought and meaning, law and ethics, and knowledge and consciousness, the enterprise of philosophy is no longer taken very seriously nor accorded any special status in the broader culture." Why? "Too often these days we reduce philosophy to confession and intimacy to kitsch precisely because we live without a sense of the democratic res publica. Boston Review 12/02

A New Way To Pay For School So school is too expensive for most students to pay for without help. And student loans are becoming more difficult to get and harder to afford. So MP3.com founder Michael Robertson came up with a new idea to loan students money. Instead of paying set interest rates, students approved by Robertson's program agree to "pay less than 1 percent of her future income for 15 years after graduation to cover the new loan." Wired 12/22/02

Friday, December 20, 2002

This Just In - History Continues Francis Fukuyama wonders if history has restarted again, after famously having declared an end of history. "The ‘end of history’ hypothesis was about the process of modernisation. Progressive intellectuals around the world spent much of the last century and a half believing that historical progress would result in an evolution of modern societies toward socialism. The process of modernisation was, moreover, a universal one that would sooner or later drag all societies in its train. Understood in this fashion, September 11 represents a real challenge." Center for Independent Studies 08/08/02

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

A New Way To Share Creative Work Copyright protects the rights of authors. But what if authors don't want their rights protected? Some just want to give their work away, to let others build on their ideas. But that's actually more difficult than you think. Just getting the rights to use work can be daunting. A new set of licenses created by the Creative Commons group "enables authors to communicate to users of their content how those consumers may use the content without requiring the user to contact the author each and every time." Wired 12/17/02

Monday, December 16, 2002

Can Architecture Overcome Its Ideology? "What does it mean to say that an architect, considered in his capacity as an architect, espouses an ideology? Think about it: Did Brunelleschi have an ideology? Did Alberti? Did Stanford White? They certainly had opinions about what made good architecture: they embraced some things and disparaged others. But having an opinion is not the same thing as espousing an architectural ideology." But with Modernism, we're dealing with a different animal... New Criterion 12/02

Those Flying Saucers Of 15th Century Art So you think UFO's are an invention of the 20th Century? How then to explain these pictures of Unidentified Flying Objects found in European paintings of the 15th Century? ETContact.net

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Polling For Art As times get tougher for artists, the pressure to try to create work more people will want to see increases. That's why artists Komar & Melamid's work in ferreting out what people most want in a painting has been way ahead of its time. It's art-by-poll, and the artists have taken the trouble to find out what people in 14 countries most want (and don't want) to see in their artwork. Here's a gallery... Dia Center 12/02

The Problem Of Thinking Too Much... For most of us, the problem would seem to be not thinking enough. But it can go the other way. According to one scholar, "overthinking" can sometimes be worse than not thinking at all. "The real difficulty is knowing when to stop thinking and go with your gut"... Boston Globe 12/15/02

Saturday, December 14, 2002

The Difference Between 'Neo' And 'New' Here in the 21st century, we're so retro that we don't even need to look ahead. Or maybe it's that we're so global that we're about to come full circle and become separatist. No, wait: we're so full of self-conscious irony that we've forgotten how to be serious. Well, whatever we are, Philip Marchand finds it all deeply unsatisfying. Toronto Star 12/14/02

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Testing, Testing... Time was you couldn't get into college without doing well on the standardized tests. Now you almost can't get out of grade school without excelling at them. Education reform in the US has meant a battery of new standardized testing, and the stakes are high for both schools and students. "Unsurprisingly, test-prep companies see the law, and especially its provision for federal tutoring vouchers, as a vast new opportunity. 'The market for test preparation is on fire'." Washington Monthly 12/02

Random Thoughts (They're Not So Easy) In a truly random game - such as rock/paper/scissors - the best winning strategy is to play truly randomly. "But people are notoriously bad at generating randomness on command. They flip back and forth too often, whereas truly random sequences will always contain some runs..." Boston Globe 12/09/02

Wouldn't You Like To Be A Philosopher Too? Not so difficult. Here are 12 easy tips to get you started... "Think of a matter of great importance to life. Reduce it unequivocally to three concepts. Enumerate them. Analyze each concept by distinguishing two independent notions in each. Continue with further analysis (preferably speculative) until you have developed a maze of distinctions that bear no resemblance to any topic of any importance to life at all." The Philosopher's Magazine 12/02

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Beyond Existence (How Did It Happen?) At the most fundamental level, scientists working on trying to explain how the world works have to admit there are things that defy understanding. "The more science learns about the origin and history of the cosmos and of life on earth and of Homo sapiens, the more it reveals how staggeringly improbable we are. Honest physicists will admit that they have no idea why there is something rather than nothing. Why does the universe look this way rather than some other way? Beyond science, then, what do we have? Chronicle of Higher Education 12/09/02

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Whose Learning Will Prevail? The world of learning has always felt the tension between theoretician and practitioner. So here's something to ponder: "In the next 50 years, the entirety of our inherited archive of cultural works will have to be re-edited within a network of digital storage, access, and dissemination. This system, which is already under development, is transnational and transcultural. Let's say that prophecy is true. Now ask yourself these questions: Who will be carrying out this work? Who will do it? Who should do it?" Chronicle of Higher Education 12/09/02

Picasso, Van Gogh and Some of the Boys Sitting Around in a Bar Artists see the world in their own stylistic ways. Here's a Flash animation that imagines what the everyday world might look like through the eyes of different artists. FlashAward 2002, Germany

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