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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Imagine All The People, Investing Too Much In A Song John Lennon's counterculture, anti-consumerist anthem, Imagine, has already had its message bastardized by any number of commercial enterprises, and now, a new sneaker sporting lines from the song is selling for $60 a pair. But maybe the problem isn't the money-grubbing marketers, but the song itself, which has always been more commercial pablum than true protest: "it rewards its listeners for piously imagining a better world rather than doing anything concrete to improve it. A form of emotional vanity, Imagine allows us to congratulate ourselves for simply having a conscience. No wonder it's become pop's favourite comfort blanket, invariably reached for in troubled times." Financial Times 09/28/04

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Doomsday Obsession How to explain the human obsession with the end of the world? It seems as if there have been doomsayers wandering the streets ever since humans walked upright, and these days, with the world in a constant tizzy, there is no shortage of prophets, filmmakers, and assorted crackpots ready to help you prepare for the End Days. "As impressive as the scope of world-enders' thinking these days is its overwhelming detail. Everything from events in the Middle East to the technology of cloning has been worked into one end-times commentary or another." The details serves to obscure the lack of evidence, even as it makes the scenario more real. New York Press 09/24/04

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Putting Revisionism In Its Place "Sitting in the shadow of the Capitol, on some of the most prestigious real estate in Washington, the new [Museum of the American Indian] has emerged with ambitions far greater than simply... becoming a Disney-style happy magnet for native peoples. It is a monument to Postmodernism -- to a way of thinking that emphasizes multiple voices and playful forms of truth over the lazy acceptance of received wisdom, authority and scientific 'certainty.' Its successful completion is evidence that American Indians have emerged as perhaps the only minority group in this country to win a skirmish in the culture wars." Washington Post 09/19/04

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Our Lust For Wealth Made Us Civilized? "A new scientific study says prehistoric hunters loved to be dripping in luxury goods, and the taste for flashy trinkets may have been what turned humans from savages into a civilised society." Ananova 09/17/04

Pinning Down Anxiety Feeling anxious? Well, it's not just a feeling that comes out of nowhere. "The areas of the brain involved in learning fears have been known, but new research now identifies the areas involved in extinguishing those fears." HealthDay 09/15/04

That Sound? It's All In Your Head "A wristwatch phone that lets you listen by sticking a finger in your ear, an MP3 player that vibrates the bones in your skull to play music that only you can hear -- these are some of the products being developed using a technology called bone conduction that sends sound waves through the bones around the ear." Wired 09/16/04

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Feeling Poorly? Then Play! Is the way to better health found in playing games? "Dozens of games have been developed in recent years to train physicians, educate patients, improve fitness and help treat the addicted and the mentally ill. Dozens more are on the way." Wired 09/15/04

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Been There, Deja That French for "already seen", déjà vu is "the sort of fleeting, intimate experience that reveals itself more readily to novelists than to researchers. As recently as the 1990's, social scientists doing population surveys asked about it in the same breath as they inquired about poltergeists and contact with the dead. But new research on memory has opened a promising window on the phenomenon, providing both possible explanations for the sensation and novel ways to create and measure it." The New York Times 09/14/04

The Vanishing Intellectual "We inherit the idea of the intellectual from the 18th-century Enlightenment, which valued truth, universality and objectivity - all highly suspect notions in a postmodern age. As Furedi points out, these ideas used to be savaged by the political right, as they undercut appeals to prejudice, hierarchy and custom. Nowadays, in a choice historical irony, they are under assault from the cultural left." New Statesman 09/13/04

A Detour Of History Sociologist Michael Mann has spent a career writing an acclaimed series of books on the history of power. Things were going fine, but then he got to the 20th Century, and it all got so complicated... Chronicle of Higher Education 09/13/04

Monday, September 13, 2004

All Ears (Each One Different) Think you hear things differently from other people? Well, you may. "All ears are not created equal, a new report suggests, even two on the same head. Results published in the current issue of the journal Science indicate that infants process sounds differently through their left ears than they do through their right ones." Scientific American 09/13/04

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Who Are You? (The Test Says...) Tests of personality are everywhere these days. "Clearly, there's something about the elusive notion of personality, and the possibility of capturing it, that draws us to these tests. But an increasingly vocal group of critics is fighting this testing tsunami, arguing that many of the tests themselves have not been tested and that their unscientific conclusions may do far more harm than good." Boston Globe 09/12/04

Escapism vs. Confrontation As America steamrolls towards a vitally important presidential election with bitter recriminations flying on all sides and wild-eyed fury replacing measured discourse, Philip Kennicott sees a distinct split in the art world, mirroring the polarization of the U.S. population. "The arts are sorting themselves out into two camps: one that prizes independence, provocation and even direct political engagement, and another that offers a refuge apart from controversy and argument. They are, in short, diverging down either a secessionist path (come with us, if you will) or a concessionist route (we will work to please as many as we can). Both paths have their promise and their danger." Washington Post 09/12/04

And God Said Unto Pinocchio... "Two years ago, pop culture analyst Mark I. Pinsky unleashed The Gospel According To The Simpsons, a book analyzing the surprising spiritual topics knitted into Fox's irreverent animated TV farce. Now it's The Gospel According To Disney... So what's the substance of Disney's substitute gospel? Good is always rewarded. Evil is always punished. Overcome adversity. Work hard (even 'Whistle While You Work'). All things work together for good in the long run. And have faith, faith in yourself but also in an undefined something beyond yourself." And before you even ask, this gospel applies to Disney's films, not to its corporate power structure. Toronto Star (AP) 09/11/04

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Where Dreams May Come (From) "Orthodox theory says that dreaming is linked to a phenomenon called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. That orthodoxy has been challenged of late, by studies that show people dreaming during other phases of sleep, as well. It also challenges the idea that dreaming is somehow necessary for mental well-being—in particular, the theory that it is involved in the process of memory formation." The Economist 09/09/04

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Philosophy For The Masses Philosophy, while usually an exalted profession in academic circles, has rarely held much interest for the public at large, with its convoluted language and bafflingly theoretical views of real-world events. "These days, though, philosophers are engaging with the world more readily than before. During the past 10 years there has been a spate of books intent, not so much on taking philosophy to streets, as taking it to the dinner parties. And they're a mixed bag. Many are just crass attempts to cash in on the movement - the worst kind of arranged marriage between publishing and opportunistic editors." But some of the books are legitimately moving philosophy into the mainstream without much dumbing down. The Age (Melbourne) 09/04/04

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Paper Mail In An Electronic Age "Today's postal systems are staring over a precipice. Unless they reinvent themselves, some observers say, they won't last two decades - let alone a century. Can hand-delivered paper survive in the world of e-mail and instant messaging? Despite ominous trends, the answer, surprisingly, is almost certainly yes." Christian Science Monitor 09/02/04

Selling Inside Your Brain It was probably inevitable - marketers want to see inside your brain to see what products you like. "Using the tools of neuroscientists are trying to learn more about the mental processes behind purchasing decisions. The resulting fusion of neuroscience and marketing is, inevitably, being called 'neuromarketing'." The Economist 06/10/04

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