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Sunday, February 27, 2005

On Campus - Where Are The Risk-Takers? "In order to flourish, university life needs individual risk takers - people who are ahead of their time and prepared to search for the truth, wherever it may lead and whomever it may offend. Intellectual and scientific breakthroughs inevitably challenge the prevailing order, which is why those who make them frequently face repression and the attention of the censor. Sadly, contemporary academia takes academic freedom for granted, and treats it as no big deal. Some seem to view it as a redundant privilege, not worth making a fuss about" spiked-online 02/16/05

How The Age Of Reason Begat A Simmering Backlash It seems clear that one of the hallmarks of the 21st century American mind will be the increasingly popular devotion to blind faith over intellectual pursuit. Call it the Age of Unreason: "If Americans are flocking to religious faith, to revealed dogma, to creationism, to a place where no one pays any heed to a logic based on if x then y, it's because reason gave us a world that hardly makes sense anymore... Face it: People want Truth and Beauty. They want to be touched. They want mystery, because without it, life would be dreary indeed." Baltimore Sun 02/27/05

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

How Diversity Breeds Greatness "Great cities throughout history have held an attraction for outsiders drawn by both the urges to make something of their lives and the freedom to lose themselves in the crowd, and it is from these restless, marginal groups that many of the social, economic and cultural breakthroughs that shape our life have emerged. But how much do cities themselves know and understand of this phenomenon?" The Guardian (UK) 02/23/05

Blogs Snuff Words? LOL! ROTFL! Not A Chance! We've all heard the argument: e-mail, instant messaging, and the online universe in general are killing the written word, and producing a generation of multitaskers who can't put a simple, well-crafted, correctly punctuated sentence together. But as one linguist points out, what the internet has actually done is to get more people reading and writing than ever before, and the strange informal quirks of much of that writing are not a harbinger of literary doom. "The prophets of doom emerge every time a new technology influences language, of course -- they gathered when printing was introduced in the 15th century." Wired 02/22/05

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Rise Of The Arty Class "Until recently, the abilities that led to success in school, work, and business were characteristic of the left hemisphere. They were the sorts of linear, logical, analytical talents measured by SATs and deployed by CPAs. Today, those capabilities are still necessary. But they're no longer sufficient. In a world upended by outsourcing, deluged with data, and choked with choices, the abilities that matter most are now closer in spirit to the specialties of the right hemisphere - artistry, empathy, seeing the big picture, and pursuing the transcendent. The Information Age we all prepared for is ending. Rising in its place is what I call the Conceptual Age, an era in which mastery of abilities that we've often overlooked and undervalued marks the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind." Wired 02/05

Hockey & Haydn: Civic Assets That Come At A Big Cost What does the work stoppage at the St. Louis Symphony have to do with the cancellation of the National Hockey League's season? "Symphony orchestras and hockey teams have a much higher profile than their market clout would otherwise warrant... For orchestras and hockey teams are both considered civic assets, evidences that a community is sophisticated and 'major league.'... Consequently, there are more and more orchestras and more and more professional hockey teams in smaller communities whose resources are insufficient to sustain them in difficult economic times." The New York Times 02/19/05

Looking For Quality In A Quantitative World This year's Academy Awards emcee, Chris Rock, recently caused a minor flap when he declared the idea of giving out prizes for artistic achievements to be "stupid" and antithetical to the very idea of art. It's awfully hard to deny the logic of Rock's position. "The idea of slapping a 'best' label on artistic endeavor is understandable; we live in a society that insists on quantification. And everyone likes to be a winner. But it's also like trying to hold smoke in your hands... it's easy to report the box score — everyone understands winning and losing. It's more difficult, however, to delve into the game to find out why something succeeded or failed." St. Paul Pioneer Press 02/20/05

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Machine That Measures Thrills "What thrills us depends on our personal hopes, fears, loves and desires. But now a British designer, working with a computer scientist, is creating a machine that can measure the experience of thrill. The hope is to create an industry-standard measure that can be used to gauge thrilling experiences, and, ultimately, dynamically modify such experiences in real time. For computer gamers, the prospect is tantalizing." Wired02/16/05

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

See Color Through Music A blind student who needed to read colored maps has developed software that helps him see the colors by translating them into musical notes. The software "assigns one of 88 piano notes to individually coloured pixels - ranging from blue at the lower end of this scale to red at the upper end." BBC 02/15/05

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Sahara's Lush Pre-Desert Life Recorded In Rock Art - Now It's Endangered "Before the last Ice Age, the Sahara was even larger and more inhospitable than it is today. Then, some 10,000 years ago, a shift in climate brought rainfall. In the ensuing years of plenty, a pastoral way of life thrived. The desert came back with a vengeance about 3,000 years ago and, as the remaining surface water supplies dwindled, the inhabitants were forced to dig for it below the ground." The changes were recorded in rock art, but that art is in dancer of being destroyed by oil exploration in Libya... The Guardian (UK) 02/10/05

Hey, Remember The '80s? Um, Yeah. They Sucked. Right on schedule, the 1980s are huge again, the way every decade seems to be once we're 20 years removed from it. But even as the national gurus of the zeitgeist hype the greatness of overwrought bands like The Cure; cheesy, predictable sitcoms "with a twist" (see Diff'rent Strokes); and screeching hair bands with their guitar pedals set permanently on stun, a remarkable reaction has been establishing itself in the wider population: near-complete indifference. In fact, it isn't going too far to suggest that consumers have realized that all the marketing in the world can't make the 1980s seems like a culturally important decade, when it was so clearly an era of materialistic greed and shallow, self-serving ear candy. The New York Times 02/13/05

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Viab-le Construction If robots can construct buildings, why shouldn't they be able to improvise on the job, creating form as well as function? That's the idea behind conceptual architect François Roche's design for an automated construction worker known as a 'viab'. "A viab would produce structures that are not set and specific, but impermanent and malleable - merely viable - made of a uniform, recyclable substance like adobe. The automaton's output would have no innate design, boundaries, or service life. It would take whatever form was called for at the moment." Wired 02/05

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Free For All (And Count The Returns) Open source is the free distribution of software or information. But why give it away? "The characteristics of information — be it software, text or even biotech research—make it an economically obvious thing to share. It is a “non-rival” good: ie, your use of it does not interfere with my use. Better still, there are network effects: ie, the more people who use it, the more useful it is to any individual user. Best of all, the existence of the internet means that the costs of sharing are remarkably low. The cost of distribution is negligible, and co-ordination is easy because people can easily find others with similar goals and can contribute when convenient. The question is, can sharing be used to supply more than just information?" The Economist 02/04/05

Monday, February 7, 2005

Bubble Culture - Inside Your Own Personal Tech World As our electronics shrink, we more and more insulate ourselves from the outside world. "Each of us populates a personal tech-bubble of one. Solo-tech-travelers often are unaware that others occupy the same dimensions as them -- that's why they often bump into others, in their cars or on foot. If you don't jump out of the way, they'll jostle you with the outer edges of their bubble while text-messaging someone about something urgent -- like, 'wnt pzza 4 dnnr?' " Seattle Post-Intelligencer 02/07/05

Sunday, February 6, 2005

The Great Big Music Debate Last week, composer James MacMillan and alternative rocker Alex Kapranos got into something of a public slapfight over the relatve merits of popular music and modern classical works. Unfortunately, what could have been a serious debate wound up being little more than the usual name-calling between artists on opposite sides of the populist divide. "At the end of the day, we’re left with no more than a difference in taste. And that matters, because these disputes feed into a very serious dispute about public funding for the arts." Sunday Herald (Glasgow) 02/06/05

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Cameron: A Culture Without Challenge? Are there lessons for the arts to be learned from last November's American elections? Ben Cameron says yes: The "through-line of the arts right now is really a byproduct of things revealed in the last election we did not understand. What we're hearing is audiences are less willing to tolerate ideas and viewpoints other than their own -- there's an intolerance I can't remember seeing in a long time in the arts. Plays making unflattering references to subjects, or dealing with topics that are uncomfortable for people -- well, they just start climbing over each other to get out of the theatre." Back Stage 02/03/05

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Is There Still A Role For Art Criticism? Get a group of critics together today and they're as likely to talk about the sad shape of criticism as they are about art. "The arguments today are no longer over whether one view of art is better than any other. Rather, the argument has turned on what should be the most 'appropriate' relationship between a writer, his writing and the work of art. Instead of a discussion about the desirable future of art and culture, we're presented with the cautious ethics of the responsible critic." spiked-online 02/01/05

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