Monday, October 31, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Newspaper As Art Facilitator
The Guardian newspaper launches an international project to bring artists together. "Imagine if you put fourteen artists from seven different countries in a room together. What would they talk about? What would they learn? What would they reveal? Simply put, that's what imagine art after is all about. We can't put those artists together in one room - they're in locations as far-flung as Tehran and Tirana, London and Lagos - but, using the web, we can showcase their work, put them in touch with each other and get them to talk." The Guardian (UK) 10/31/05
The End Of The Great Critics?
"Great critics are rare birds; rare birds need a welcoming aviary and the zookeepers are not on the lookout for such special and specialist breeds of plumage any more. Over time, the priorities have shifted towards 'personality' writers with no background in their subject. The long, slow haul of a career as a critic, with its period of apprenticeship, dedication and accumulation of wisdom and experience - as exemplified by Andrew Porter - is suddenly becoming a thing of the past." The Observer (UK) 10/30/05
Friday, October 28, 2005
The 100 Scariest Things Ever
"99. Celebrities who write children's books and celebrities who go to Iraq to write about the war... 84. David Cronenberg's brain... 66. The chick lit avalanche... 21. Tied! Kathy Bates wielding a sledgehammer and Kathy Bates stepping into a Jacuzzi with Jack Nicholson... 7. December 1895, Paris: The Lumière Brothers give the first-ever public screening of a motion picture. A shot of an approaching train sends screaming audience members running for cover." Toronto Star 10/29/05
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Are Video Games Ready For Serious Work?
"'Serious gaming' is the idea of using [video] gaming technology, gaming theory and those kinds of things to understand complex dynamic processes. For example, powerful computer hardware and software have been used for years to help train pilots and other operators of complex machines. And as graphical capabilities continue to expand, such simulations have expanded to other areas — virtual worlds where soldiers can learn how to fight in urban surroundings, or doctors can practice difficult surgical procedures." ABCNews 10/28/05
Are Art Schools Wrecking Young Artists?
"It has always been the function of artists to tell the narrative of our times in a way that isn’t filtered through big-media spin or the historical revisionism of academic pundits. Recent and historical precedence tell us that it should be young people, and particularly the artists among them, who are most passionately voicing this narrative. But they’re not. In fact, there is a critical lack of voice among young artists, and I believe that art schools are to blame for this crisis." LAWeekly 10/27/05
Could Cultural Diplomacy Help America's Image Abroad?
"Almost out of earshot, questions are being asked about whether it is wise for the United States's cultural image to be shaped exclusively by the marketplace. More specifically, with Washington now dusting off public diplomacy as a strategy to combat rampant anti-Americanism, is it time to revive cultural diplomacy? The purpose would not be to mute American popular culture. Instead, rather than trying to compete for the attention of the masses, cultural diplomacy would aim to persuade political and intellectual elites of the virtues of American civilization. This approach is now being quietly promoted by several arts lobbies in the United States." The New York Times 10/27/05
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Attention, Electronic Gadgets: Shut Up!
The modern world is too damn noisy. Car alarms, beeping microwaves, chirping beepers, cell phones that play that hideous 50 Cent hook... it's all just a bit much, isn't it? "The people who make all these things obviously think we're idiots. That without their constant, irritating reminders, we'd go wandering off, our minds blank, to drool down our shirts or spend 30 minutes tying our shoes. The world is noisy enough without adding completely useless aural pollution to the mix." Wired 10/27/05
Monday, October 24, 2005
Ravel & The Deaf Man
Michael Chorost would like to listen to Ravel's Boléro. But since 2001, when the last of his already feeble hearing left him lost in a soundless world, he hasn't been able to. Chorost has been a guinea pig at the forefront of the cochlear implant industry, which uses surgical implants and computer technology to allow deaf people to "hear" by stimulating certain parts of their nervous system. But while such technology can allow the deaf to decode human speech, music is a wholly different (and far more complex) matter. Still, Chorost is a determined music lover, and years of trial and error eventually lead him to a breakthrough. "It's like going from being able to tell the difference between red and blue to being able to distinguish between aquamarine and cobalt." Wired 10/26/05
Sunday, October 23, 2005
An Intellectual Property Economy
"In recent years intellectual property has received a lot more attention because ideas and innovations have become the most important resource, replacing land, energy and raw materials. As much as three-quarters of the value of publicly traded companies in America comes from intangible assets, up from around 40% in the early 1980s. In information technology and telecoms in particular, the role of intellectual property has changed radically. What used to be the preserve of corporate lawyers and engineers in R&D labs has been speedily embraced by the boardroom..." The Economist 10/24/05
Did You Know You've Been 20 Percent Patented?
"A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities. Researchers can patent genes because they are potentially valuable research tools, useful in diagnostic tests or to discover and produce new drugs. 'It might come as a surprise to many people that in the U.S. patent system human DNA is treated like other natural chemical products'." National Geographic 10/13/05
Blurring Lines Between Fact And Fiction Lead To: Censorship!
The commodification of all forms of culture breeds "a growing concern that the victims of crime and their relatives be protected from distress, the emergent movement against criticism of religion and attempts to proscribe the 'glorification' of certain acts. The famous proscription against falsely shouting 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre is no longer just a matter of preventing a stampede: now, shouting 'fire' can be censured for infringing the rights of the firemen, distressing the relatives of people killed in other fires, offending religions for whom fire is a sacred object, and glorifying or celebrating arson." The Guardian (UK) 10/22/05
Friday, October 21, 2005
The 10,000-Year Wonder-Clock
A clock being built in Southern California is being constructed to be accurate for 10,000 years. "Everything about this clock is deeply unusual. For example, while nearly every mechanical clock made in the last millennium consists of a series of propelled gears, this one uses a stack of mechanical binary computers capable of singling out one moment in 3.65 million days. Like other clocks, this one can track seconds, hours, days, and years. Unlike any other clock, this one is being constructed to keep track of leap centuries, the orbits of the six innermost planets in our solar system, even the ultraslow wobbles of Earth's axis." Discover 11/05
Women Pull Ahead In College
There are more women than men in US colleges, and they're scoring better too. "There are more men than women ages 18-24 in the USA — 15 million vs. 14.2 million, according to a Census Bureau estimate last year. But nationally, the male/female ratio on campus today is 43/57, a reversal from the late 1960s and well beyond the nearly even splits of the mid-1970s. The trends have developed in plain view — not ignored exactly, but typically accompanied by some version of the question: Isn't this a sign of women's progress?" USAToday 10/21/05
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Habitually Rewiring Our Brains
Habits are extremely difficult to break. Why? Turns out there's a physiological reason. "Important neural activity patterns in a specific region of the brain change when habits are formed, change again when habits are broken, but quickly re-emerge when something rekindles an extinguished habit -- routines that originally took great effort to learn." Physorg.com 10/19/05
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The iPodding of America
Yes, iPods are a fine invention, and there's no doubt that the ability to carry your entire music library with you (now with video!) is far preferable to the old one-note portable music players. But how healthy is it for everyone in America to travel around in a self-imposed isolation bubble, preferring the iPod sountrack to the sounds of the world? "Behaviors that seem weirdly antisocial when they emerge quickly take on the bland, banal tone of business as usual. Cell phone yakkers in airports and elevators barely get noticed now. And it's no longer odd to pass someone in a grocery store aisle who's peering intently at the tomato paste cans and chatting away into some barely visible headset." Are those infernal white ear buds just the latest escapist plague? San Francisco Chronicle 10/20/05
Monday, October 17, 2005
When Once America Reached Out To The World With Culture
"From the late 1940s through the end of the 1980s, the American government — along with the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations — sponsored lectures and conferences abroad on American history and literature; art exhibitions featuring America's Abstract Expressionists and postmodern painters and sculptors; international tours of jazz musicians, symphony orchestras, and ballet companies, as well as of Broadway musicals and dramas; visiting professorships where American academics taught in foreign universities..." These interactions promoted understanding. But all the programs went away and now... Chronicle of Higher Education 10/14/05
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Do We Still Need Copyright?
"A world without copyright is easy to imagine. The level playing field of cultural production - a market accessible for everyone - would once again be restored. A world without copyright would offer the guarantee of a good income to many artists, and would protect the public domain of knowledge and creativity. And members of the public would get what they are entitled to: a surprisingly rich and varied menu of artistic alternatives." International Herald-Tribune 10/08/05
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
When Copyrighters Own The Space Around You
"Today, anyone armed with a video camera and movie-editing software can make a documentary. But can everyone afford to make it legally? Clearance costs - licensing fees paid to copyright holders for permission to use material like music, archival photographs and film and news clips - can send expenses for filmmakers soaring into the hundreds of thousands of dollars." The New York Times 10/16/05
When The CIA Was In The Culture Business
"The target audience for cultural propaganda in the Cold War was foreign élites—in particular, left-wing intellectuals and avant-garde writers and artists who might still have some attachment, sincere, sentimental, or opportunistic, to Communism and the Soviet Union. The essence of the courtship was: it’s possible to be left-wing, avant-garde, and anti-Communist. Look at these American artists and intellectuals, happily criticizing bourgeois capitalism and shocking mainstream tastes, all safely protected by the laws of a free society." The New Yorker 10/10/05
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Will ISPs Kill Off Municipal Wi-Fi Before It Starts?
"Plans are afoot in [cities across the U.S.] to provide residents with low-cost or free wireless internet access. It's a great idea whose time has come, like drinking fountains, public toilets and park benches." But that doesn't mean that municipal wi-fi will get done without some major fights - after all, those high-cost internet providers (otherwise known as your cable and phone companies) are dead-set against the idea of competition in general, and city-wide internet access would pretty much kill a profitable chunk of their business. "Without legislation, ISPs have no legal basis for stopping community Wi-Fi. But legislation is a distinct possibility." Wired 10/12/05
The Politics of Jazz (And Race, And Poverty) In New Orleans
As the rebuilding of New Orleans begins, concern is growing about the direction the reconstruction will take, and whether it will benefit the city's poorest and darkest-skinned residents. In particular, New Orleans jazz musicians have begun to raise their voices against what they fear will be the "Disney-fication" of the cultural scene. "And if the plans for the future of the city don't include its humblest residents, I fear that the communities that created jazz in the first place will be dispersed -- and the country will have lost a good bit of its soul." Salon.com 10/12/05
Sunday, October 9, 2005
The Pop Culture Explosion
There was a time, not so very long ago, when it was possible, even easy, to be conversant in the language of popular culture without a great deal of effort. There was a lot out there, sure, but most Americans could keep up with the steady stream of hit movies, recordings, and books deemed to be the foundation of modern life. "But that foundation is buckling under the sheer weight of all the things that now qualify as pop culture -- and all the new technologies that deliver them to finely calibrated consumer niches. Today the national water cooler bubbles with competing monologues rather than inclusive dialogues... The proliferation has been so fast and so dizzying that even people who study popular culture for a living find it hard to keep up." Boston Globe 10/11/05
A World Of Trends? How Yesterday!
"Today, fads ping across continents and disappear so quickly that the coolhunter, even the whole notion of "cool," has become passé. Every big-city scenester or bored teenager on the planet has a blog or mass e-mail anointing the moment's hot restaurants, hobbies and handbags. Add to this, mass obsession with celebrity style and global corporatization and you can get nearly the same chai latte or straight-off-the-runway skirt in Columbus, Ohio, that's available in Manhattan or Milan. Trend-spotting has, in essence, become just another trend..." Los Angeles Times 10/09/05
Are Computers Failing Our Children?
"A University of Munich study of 174,000 students in thirty-one countries, indicates that students who frequently use computers perform worse academically than those who use them rarely or not at all. Whether or not these assessments are the last word, it is clear that the computer has not fulfilled the promises made for it. Promoters of instructional technology have reverted to a much more modest claim—that the computer is just another tool." Orion 10/05
Friday, October 7, 2005
What's Missing In Our Great Cities
"For decades now, we have been witnessing the slow, ruthless dismantling of America's urban infrastructure. The crumbling levees in New Orleans are only the most conspicuous evidence of this decline: it's evident everywhere, from Amtrak's aging track system to New York's decaying public school buildings. Rather than confront the causes of that deterioration, we are encouraged to overlook it, lost in a cloud of tourist distractions like casinos, convention centers, spruced-up historic quarters and festival marketplaces. The inadequacy of that vision has now become glaringly obvious. And the problem cannot simply be repaired with reinforcement bars or dabs of cement. Instead, our decision makers will have to face up to what our cities have become, and why. The great American cities of the early 20th century were built on the vision of its engineers, not just architects..." The New York Times 10/09/05
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
The New Fortune Tellers
Wanted: futurist visionaries. Must be able to observe the larger culture around you and translate complex human interactions into wild, counterintuitive, and occasionally optimistic predictions about the future. Must be comfortable with corporate practices and be capable of expressing opinions as if they are indisputable facts. No experience necessary, but applicants should be able to convincingly act as if they've been doing this forever. Pay scale varies with results... Wired 10/07/05
Sunday, October 2, 2005
The Harvard Effect
What is it with the American obsession with Harvard? "At the heart of the American obsession with the Ivy League is the belief that schools like Harvard provide the social and intellectual equivalent of Marine Corps basic training—that being taught by all those brilliant professors and meeting all those other motivated students and getting a degree with that powerful name on it will confer advantages that no local state university can provide." The New Yorker 10/03/05
The Battle For New Orleans
"Rebuilding 'The City That Care Forgot' represents the greatest urban renewal project in American history, but nearly everyone with a stake in the city's future agrees that the outcome is far from certain: Will officials oversee a process that yields a stunning model for 21st-century living, or will fighting among special interests produce a more homogeneous, tourist-centric New Orleans?" Boston Globe 10/02/05
How Have Movies Influenced Visual Art?
"In the 19th century, painting was supreme, prints were a lesser form of painting, and photography was artistic only insofar as it aspired to the condition of painting. What happened, though, when technology and representation collided at the end of that century to create the motion picture, a whole new way of visualizing reality? Did still pictures change when there emerged a new kind of picture, one that moved? Might Thomas Eakins and Thomas Edison have shared more than just a first name and monogram?" Boston Globe 10/02/05