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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Socrates: Books Cause Stupidity Has the printed word replaced good old-fashioned brain power? "In the days before print, books had to be copied out by hand, like medieval manuscripts. If you were a copyist, you wanted to make sure you weren't wasting a few years of your life writing out some piece of trash. You stuck with the tried and true: the Bible, or Aristotle, or Virgil. But a printer could publish anything reasonably quickly," even if it had no real value. Besides, books were never any use to anyone, according to such noted thinkers as Socrates. Writing down information is really just an excuse not to memorize it, and the easy availability of books just encourages idiots to substitute regurgitated information for original thinking. Toronto Star 10/30/04

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Smarter You Are, The Longer You Live? So says a new study of IQ. "People who sat an IQ test at the age of 11 in 1932 were ranked in exactly the same order when they took the exam again at the age of 77, showing that intelligence is stable throughout life. But researchers also found that those with high IQs tended to live longer because they made the right health decisions during their lives." The Telegraph (UK) 09/28/04

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Brain Pills - A Good Idea? Within a few years, you may have the option of taking a “cognitive enhancer”—a drug that sharpens your mental faculties. But should you be allowed to do it? Is it fair? These and other ethical issues... The Economist 09/16/04

Monday, October 25, 2004

Culture Front & The Cold War During the Cold War, both sides declared culture would be one of the primary battle fronts. "In many ways Cold War cultural production was ideologically driven to a degree not seen before or since. The era thus offers an especially productive field for examining the relationship between culture and ideology—between art and politics. But there are dangers as well..." Boston Review 10/04

The Chinese Are Coming Chinese tourists haven't been much of a factor worldwide. But that is changing. Quickly. "Nationwide, more than 500 million tourists poured into airports, highways and train stations last year. Outbound travel by Chinese tourists reached 16.6 million people in 2002 and is expected to double this year to 32 million. The World Tourism Organization predicts 100 million Chinese will be travelling the world by 2020. The Pacific Asia Travel Association believes that figure will be reached within six years, based on current trends." Toronto Star 10/22/04

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Have We Overbuilt Culture? The 1990s were a time of great expansion in the arts in America. But Andrew Taylor wonders if we have too many new mouths to feed. "Perhaps what we have built together has outstripped the capacity of all combined sources to support it. Perhaps we are entering an era of contraction, merger, bankruptcy, and market adjustment. But the question still festers in my head: 'overbuilt' by what measure? Are there too many nonprofit arts organizations? Do they generate too much product? Are the organizations too large or rigid in their construction?" Artful Manager (AJBlogs) 10/21/04

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Take A Pill And Forget Me In The Morning What if you could take a pill and erase memories that were painful? "Some memories can be very disruptive. They come back to you when you don't want to have them -- in a daydream or nightmare or flashbacks -- and are usually accompanied by very painful emotions. This could relieve a lot of that suffering." Research continues. But there are skeptics... Washington Post 10/19/04

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Pushing Your Brain's "Buy" Button Is there a "buy button" in the brain? A new study of the brain has scientists wondering. "Some corporations have teamed up with neuroscientists to find out. Recent experiments in so-called neuromarketing have explored reactions to movie trailers, choices about automobiles, the appeal of a pretty face and gut reactions to political campaign advertising, as well as the power of brand loyalty." The New York Times 10/19/04

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Truly Independent Scholar To make a living as a scholar, you generally need to be associated with a college or university, and earn your keep by teaching. But there are a few professional scholars who prefer to be their own bosses, and work outside the constraints of academia. "Working from home offers advantages such as the freedom from papers to grade or departmental meetings to attend. The drawbacks tend to be financial." Indie scholars also can have a hard time getting access to libraries, and grants to pursue their research can be hard to come by as well. New York Sun 10/15/04

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Whatever Happened To International Propaganda? A series of short films designed to bolster the image of the U.S. in Europe has surfaced 50 years after it was first produced. "The 25 films were long hidden from Americans because of laws, now changed, that barred the government from using tax dollars to propagandize its citizens... By turns blunt and beguiling, menacing and mawkish, the films beg an overriding question: Why, with this experience behind it, has the United States failed so conspicuously since Sept. 11 to bolster its image in another region it seeks to transform, the Middle East?" The New York Times 10/16/04

Friday, October 15, 2004

Everybody's Favorite Color There's just something about the color blue that seems to excite people. "Remember how cool it was when scientists declared the universe turquoise? What a letdown when they admitted their mistake and pronounced it beige instead. Interesting how a color can be traditional, exciting or electrifying as well. Despite its basic ordinariness as a primary color, blue often manages to be startling or unnatural... Similarly, blue is what stirs the hearts of collectors because, for whatever reason, blue has not been the go-to hue for most creators of things (unless you're talking Smurfs)." Chicago Tribune 10/15/04

Monday, October 4, 2004

Something Beautiful (Or Not) Quick, give an example of the ideal of beauty in the 20th century. Did you name a Mondrian painting, or Marilyn Monroe? There's a good chance it was the latter (or some other movie star,) but what will art historians centuries from now have to say on the subject? "Art is no longer interested in providing an image of natural beauty, nor does it aim to procure the pleasure ensuing from the contemplation of harmonious forms," and that's fine for the avant-garde, but the divergence of art from the concept of physical beauty does mean that it is difficult to predict which aesthetic tradition will have real staying power. The Guardian (UK) 10/02/04

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Scaring Ourselves To Death Whatever happened to America's old swagger, the visible confidence of a nation that could simultaneously project ultimate strength and ultimate benevolence? The national character these days seems to be pure, unadulterated fear, augmented by the violent rage that accompanies the experience of being trapped in a corner. "We are a population whose vulnerabilities and insecurities have become a central focus of our popular culture and our politics." From books to films to television and beyond, we have become a culture of terrified victims, lashing out not only at the dangerous world beyond our borders, but at each other. Hartford Courant 10/01/04

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