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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Science Of What We Believe "Once the preserve of philosophers alone, belief is quickly becoming the subject of choice for many psychologists and neuroscientists. Their goal is to create a neurological model of how beliefs are formed, how they affect people and what can manipulate them. And the latest steps in the research might just help to understand a little more about why the world is so fraught with political and social tension." The Guardian (UK) 06/29/05

Here's A Downer - The Worst Decision Humans Ever Made... "Archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence." World Food Issues 06/28/05

Of Brainstorms and (We Kid You Not) "Thought-Showers" Want to generate lots of ideas with other people? Great! Just don't call it "brainstorming," at least in Belfast. "Instead staff at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in Belfast will use the term 'thought-showers' when they get together to think creatively. A spokeswoman said: 'The DETI does not use the term brainstorming on its training courses on the grounds that it may be deemed pejorative'." To whom? People with brain disorders, of course... The Observer (UK) 06/25/05

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What Happened To Cultural Theory? "While Theory has become a humdrum intellectual matter within the humanities and a nonexistent or frivolous one without, it has indeed acquired a professional prestige that is as strong as ever. This is the paradox of its success, and failure. Intellectually speaking, twenty-five years ago Theory was an adventure of thought with real stakes." Now? Butterflies & Wheels 06/27/05

Monday, June 27, 2005

Chilling Effect - How Music Rights Are Killing Film The process of getting rights for music for video or film has become so cumbersome and so expensive, even low-budget documentaries are being changed because of rights problems. Here's a chilling account of what it took to clear music for just one project... Stay Free! 06/22/05

  • What If Victor Hugo Had Been Patented? (Yikes!) "A novel and a modern complex computer programme have certain points in common: each is large and implements many ideas. Suppose patent law had been applied to novels in the 1800s; suppose states such as France had permitted the patenting of literary ideas. How would this have affected Hugo's writing? How would the effects of literary patents compare with the effects of literary copyright?" The Guardian (UK) 06/25/05

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Paradox Of Artistic Jerks Creativity is much revered, and yet, so often, it seems, the individuals responsible for creative genius disappoint when viewed as human beings. "Art seems to require an inviolable freedom to seek the good of the artifact, without either overt or covert messages being forced into it. And history demonstrates that it is simply a statement of fact (to paraphrase Aquinas) that rectitude of the appetites is not a prerequisite for the ability to make beautiful objects. Thus our poisoner with his exquisite prose style. Or Picasso brutalizing the women in his life. Or the legion of artists and scientists who drank or drugged themselves to death." Dallas Morning News 06/26/05

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Flesh-And-Blood Stars Of Online Gaming Online games are big business, and now players are making real money and becoming stars at it. In South Korea, at least a quarter of the population has participating in a game called Kart Rider. "Kart Rider competitions have been broadcast on two cable channels, and Kim Hyun Wook -- who has won several of them -- has emerged as a pop idol among gamers. A local apparel company, Spris Corp., sponsors Kim and three others as professional Kart Rider players. Some tournaments have been sponsored by the likes of Coca-Cola Co. (KO ) and offer as much as $50,000 in prize money. BusinessWeek 06/23/05

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Babble-izer Too noisy where you work? Office mates talk too loud? Now there's a gadget that scrambles voices and makes noise easier to take. "It works by electronically listening, then repeating back random bits of what it hears. The resulting sound is blurred -- as if familiar voices were speaking in a foreign language I can't quite make out. We're hard-wired to like the way the human voice sounds. The problem isn't sound -- the problem is that the search for meaning demands attention. Noise that settles into the background can be very pleasant." Wired 06/21/05

Monday, June 20, 2005

Do We Have Too Much Choice? During the last couple of decades, the American economy has undergone a variety revolution. Instead of simply offering mass-market goods, businesses of all sorts increasingly compete to give consumers more personalized products, more varied experiences, and more choice. As the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.” Reason 06/16/05

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Power To (By) The People "The nearly 1 billion people online worldwide -- along with their shared knowledge, social contacts, online reputations, computing power, and more -- are rapidly becoming a collective force of unprecedented power. For the first time in human history, mass cooperation across time and space is suddenly economical. 'There's a fundamental shift in power happening. Everywhere, people are getting together and, using the Internet, disrupting whatever activities they're involved in'." BusinessWeek 06/20/05

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Want To Live Longer? Get Some Friends A new study says that having close friends is more important to a healthy happy life than close family ties. The study reports that "those with the strongest group of friends and confidants were found to have lived longer than those with the fewest friends. Close contact with children and relatives had little impact on survival rates over the 10 years." Discovery 06/16/05

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tearing Down Celebrity With A Simple Photo The end of the Michael Jackson molestation trial sparked a predictable run of outrage in the tabloid papers which had already convicted the pop star in their pages. Phil Kennicott says that the use of celebrity photos to tear down individuals deemed to be too big for their britches has been elevated to a horrifying art form in recent years. "The camera is the weapon of last resort against celebrity. The camera is, of course, essential to the making of celebrities, but it can also break them with extraordinary speed and efficiency. The perp walk, the mug shot and photographs such as those [of Jackson] that ran yesterday are a populist scourge against people who are presumed to live by laws more lax and accommodating than those to which mere mortals are subject." Washington Post 06/15/05

Monday, June 13, 2005

Are You A "Prosumer?" The word 'prosumer' was coined in 1979 by the futurist Alvin Toffler. Initially, it referred to an individual who would be involved in designing the things she purchased (a mash-up of the words 'producer' and 'consumer.') These days, the term more often refers to a segment of users midway between consumers and professionals. This kind of prosumer doesn't necessarily earn money by making music, videos, or photos, but is still willing to invest in more serious hardware and software than the typical dabbler, and spend more time using it." Boston Globe 06/12/05

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Is America Obsessed With Ethics? How exactly did American life become so saturated with ethical dilemmas? From Deep Throat to Tom DeLay to journalists who invent characters and plagiarize each other's work, hardly a day seems to go by anymore without someone, somewhere, causing severe moral outrage. "Does that proliferation mean we've become a less ethical society? It's hard to know. One man's blatant violation can be another's technicality... Ethical questions that seem clear-cut in theory - I would never lie - can become complicated in reality." Of course, gray areas of ethics have always existed, but only in the age of instant information and amateur journalism have they become so likely to cause serious problems for so many individuals. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/08/05

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

America's Preoccupation With Class "There is an un-American secret at the heart of American culture: for a long time, it was preoccupied by class. That preoccupation has diminished somewhat - or been sublimated - in recent years as we have subscribed to an all-purpose, mass-market version of the American dream, but it hasn't entirely disappeared. The subject is a little like a ne'er-do-well relative; it's sometimes a shameful reminder, sometimes openly acknowledged, but always there, even, or especially, when it's never mentioned." The New York Times 06/08/05

Theatre For A New Century (But How?) "The closure of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's controversial play Behzti at the Birmingham Rep last December exposed a troubling conflict in British theatre. So how does the theatre industry progress into the 21st century, ticking all the right multicultural and ethnicity boxes while reserving the right to be offensive, or at least critical, in its discussion of our increasingly fragmented society and its faiths?" New Statesman 05/30/05

The Wacky Economics Of Movie Advertising Turns out movie studios are spending much more on advertising their movies than they take in. In 2003, they spent, "on average, $34.8 million to advertise a movie and earned, on average, just $20.6 million per title. Even if the studios had made the movies for free—which, of course, they didn't—they would have lost $14.2 million per film on the theatrical run." Slate 06/07/05

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Art, Innovation, & The Mysteries Of The Brain Why do some artists continue innovating and broadening their horizons throughout their careers, while others stall out after a big hit or two, and spend their declining years living off the fumes of that momentary success? "Everyone can name artists who thrive beyond what is considered their prime: Bach, Rembrandt, Hitchcock, Stravinsky, Matisse painting from his wheelchair. But equally there are those who feel that at a certain point packing it in is the graceful thing to do." The reasons behind such artistic progression may go deeper than one might imagine: in fact, it may have much to do with the way the human brain evolves over the course of a lifetime. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/04/05

Rembrandt Soup For The Gullible Soul These days, it seems as if self-help books can turn anything on Earth into an inspirational get-up-and-go speech. "And now the popularization of artists and museums has yielded something else to feel ambivalent about: the first art-focused self-help book, 'How Rembrandt Reveals Your Beautiful, Imperfect Self: Life Lessons From the Master.' [Roger] Housden's book is largely focused on Rembrandt's renowned self-portraits, in which he charted the changes in his visage from cocky youthful promise to destitute old age. The gist is that despite Rembrandt's all-too-human flaws, he at least had the courage to repeatedly face himself in the mirror - and we can learn from this example." Hey! You in the back! Quit rolling your eyes! Housden is actually (we think) serious. The New York Times 06/05/05

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Oh, To Be Young And Creative... As people live longer, the age when they are at their greatest creativity has gone up a bit. But the length of time people are extraordinarily creative hasn't increased. So why is that? Tech central Station 06/01/05

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