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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Some Literary Product Placement That Backfired A pharmaceutical group thought it would hype its products by commissioning a novel. "The plan was to commission a fictional thriller to hype the dangers of buying prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies. But now the authors have rewritten their novel to make a drug company the villain, and PhRMA wishes it had never heard of the idea." Slate 11/30/05

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Creativity Out Of Mind Meat "It is what neurologists call the hard problem: how does physical matter give rise to subjective experience? How does meat - the goo of the brain - become mind?" says Gordon enthusiastically, talking at 100 miles an hour during a break in rehearsals. "It is an absolutely crucial question because at stake is our identity and what it means to be human. We live with the illusion that behind every face is a self. It is the essential quality that we impose upon each other. But science tells us that it is an illusion and nothing more. In reality, the self is a story we are told by our brains. We are a fiction." The Guardian (UK) 11/29/05

The Perils Of Choice? "We live in a choice-addled society. The jargon of choice, a second cousin of diversity and multiculturalism, undermines intellectual integrity and coherence. "Choice" and "diversity" are universal passwords that unlock all doors. Who can oppose them without appearing authoritarian? But the jargon of choice and diversity actually corrodes academic freedom, which once referred to the freedom of college instructors to teach what they considered salient, subject to the review of their peers, not outside authorities. Today, it increasingly means the freedom of students to hear what they — or their parents — want." Los Angeles Times 11/23/05

Sunday, November 27, 2005

In France: The Walls Of Unrest "Over the last few weeks of civil unrest in France, life at times has felt as if it was becoming art. The government declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews nightly in areas where cars were torched by the hundreds. There was even talk of shutting down Paris proper in the evening to prevent any treachery. Although a physical wall around Paris was torn down centuries ago, over the last decades, walls of distinctions dividing people by race, ethnicity, religion and neighborhood have become increasingly apparent. Successful French artists, writers and performers of African and Arab descent have been straddling them for years." Los Angeles Times 11/27/05

When Google Rules The World? "In less than a decade, Google has gone from guerrilla startup to 800-pound gorilla. Google has always wanted to be more than a search engine. Even in the early days, its ultimate goal was extravagant: to organize the world's information. High-minded as that sounds, Google's ever-expanding agenda has put it on a collision course with nearly every company in the information technology industry: Amazon.com, Comcast, eBay, Yahoo!, even Microsoft." Wired 12/05

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Librarian Of Congress: A Technological Revolution "Libraries are inherently islands of freedom and antidotes to fanaticism. They are temples of pluralism where books that contradict one another stand peacefully side by side just as intellectual antagonists work peacefully next to each other in reading rooms. It is legitimate and in our nation's interest that the new technology be used internationally, both by the private sector to promote economic enterprise and by the public sector to promote democratic institutions. But it is also necessary that America have a more inclusive foreign cultural policy -- and not just to blunt charges that we are insensitive cultural imperialists." Washington Post 11/22/05

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Finding Comedy At Its Source Does your birthplace have anything to do with how funny you are? It would seem unlikely at first blush, but haven't we all had the experience of meeting people from an area totally unlike our own, and being stunned at their lack of humor? The Guardian has quantified the phenomenon (albeit in an almost totally unscientific manner) and mapped the most and least humorous places in Great Britain. London, not surprisingly, comes out looking pretty funny, as do Glasgow and Wales. Birmingham, it turns out, is quite unfunny, and something called East Anglia is apparently brutally somber. The Guardian (UK) 11/20/05

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Image Overload? "The average person sees tens of thousands of images in the course of a day. One sees images on television, in newspapers and magazines, on websites, and on the sides of buses. Images grace soda cans and t-shirts and billboards. Internet search engines can instantly procure images for practically any word you type. The question is not merely rhetorical. It points to something important about images in our culture: They have, by their sheer number and ease of replication, become less magical and less shocking—a situation unknown until fairly recently in human history." The New Atlantis 11/05

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Scary! Big Brother To Monitor Every Car In UK British police have been building a system of cameras and license plate recognition software that will monitor every road in the UK and deploy "what promises to be one the most pervasive surveillance systems on earth." The system will be able to determine the whereabouts of every vehicle in the UK and where it goes. "The control centre is intended to go live in April of next year, and is intended to be processing 50 million number plates a day by year end." The Register 11/16/05

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Study: Meditating Makes You Smarter "What effect meditating has on the structure of the brain has been a matter of some debate. Now Sara Lazar at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, US, and colleagues have used MRI to compare 15 meditators, with experience ranging from 1 to 30 years, and 15 non-meditators. They found that meditating actually increases the thickness of the cortex in areas involved in attention and sensory processing, such as the prefrontal cortex and the right anterior insula. You are exercising it while you meditate, and it gets bigger." New Scientist 11/15/05

Monday, November 14, 2005

Copyright - Liberators V. Protectors "Challengers of copyright and patent legislation often portray themselves as liberators, bravely opposing a greedy global corporate culture that tries to claim each bit of intellectual property for itself the way imperialist explorers tried to plant the motherland's flag on every unclaimed piece of land. Meanwhile, advocates of tighter control over copyright see things very differently, viewing this attack as an assault on the rights of inventors and writers, undermining those who invest their time and labor to answer human needs and desires." The New York Times 11/14/05

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Future Of Books In A Digital World "Because books and their metadata have, until recently, been physical objects, we've had to pick one and only one way to order them in defined, stable ways. When Melvil Dewey introduced the Dewey decimal classification system in 1876, it was an advance because it shelved books by topic, making the library's floor plan into a browsable representation of the order of knowledge itself. But no one classification can represent everyone's way of organizing the world. You may file a field guide to the birds under natural history, while someone else files it under great examples of the illustrative art and I file it under good eating. The digital world makes it possible for the first time to escape this limitation. Publishers, libraries, even readers can potentially create as many classification schemes as we want. But to do this, we'll need two things." Boston Globe 11/13/05

US: Losing Ground On Innovation? America has long led the world in innovation and patent applications. But is the U.S. losing its competitive edge? "The scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength. Although many people assume that the United States will always be a world leader in science and technology, this may not continue to be the case inasmuch as great minds and ideas exist throughout the world. We fear the abruptness with which a lead in science and technology can be lost - and the difficulty of recovering a lead once lost, if indeed it can be regained at all." The New York Times 11/12/05

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Kids Of Bipolar Parents Score High In Creativity "Researchers said a sample of children who either have or are at high risk for bipolar disorder, which was formerly called manic-depressive illness, score higher on a creativity index than healthy children." Science Daily 11/10/05

Study: Workers Get Stalled By Tech A new study claims that technology in the workplace is so complicated, that some workers waste up to a month per year trying to figure out how to make technology on their jobs work. "The demands of the 21st century office leave almost one in five workers (17 per cent) struggling to get their heads round simple tasks asked of them, according to the report." The Scotsman 11/10/05

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

It's Art. It's Not Supposed To Be Cool. "Cool is a word that often crops up when describing art or artists. It’s always been a term that has bugged me. The minute something is described as cool, my instincts tell me that it is on the wane. For me, being creative is being prepared to make a fool of myself — in a nutshell, the opposite of cool. In my experience embarrassment is not fatal. Coolness somehow implies that there is a right thing to do, whereas creativity is mistakes. I recall in sixth-form art lessons that the coolest boy just churned out copies of his favourite album covers... In years to come we will look back at our obsession with appearing cool as we look at the medieval chivalric code. I think the time has come for adulthood and wisdom to be seen as things worth aspiring to." The Times (UK) 11/09/05

NBC Study: Measuring The IP Industry Trying to make its case for protecting copyrights, NBC Universal commissioned a study to measure the economic impact of the "intellectual property" industry on the US economy. "The report estimates that growth in U.S. gross domestic product from 2002-2010 would be reduced from $3.1 trillion to $2 trillion without the contribution of the IP industry. 'Digital piracy is an issue that goes far beyond illegal downloading of music or movies. Theft and counterfeiting of intellectual property of all types is a serious and growing problem for the U.S. economy. This study provides important empirical evidence of just how much is at stake'." Backstage 11/08/05

Venice As If You Were There (You Are) "Nearly 14 million visitors troop through Venice each year, turning parts of the 1,500-year-old former island republic into a clichéd tourist destination. Locals grumble that day-trippers have transformed the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark's into an Italian Disneyland. But outlying neighborhoods like Castello see few tourists. The nearly two-hour tour, dubbed History Unwired, features five recordings by local residents - ranging from a glass blower to a ska musician - along with flash animations, maps, and movie clips, all uploaded onto a PDA. Three Bluetooth sensors peppered along the route trigger a virtual tour of a Venetian home and two art installations, one projected on a building, another on hanging laundry." Wired 11/09/05

Monday, November 7, 2005

UK Academics See Danger In New Terror Bill When Britain's Parliament begins debate this week on a new bill designed to combat terrorism, the country's academics and university librarians will be watching closely. Some in the academic world fear that the bill as currently worded would brand the dissemination of some chemistry textbooks (which include basic explosive ingredient lists) as a terrorist act. "The Association of University Teachers says the new offences of encouraging or training for terrorism could effectively outlaw an ethics debate about political violence, or a chemistry lesson." The Guardian (UK) 11/08/05

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Art + Science = The Future? "California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, or Calit2, a $400 million research consortium assembled over the last five years," is in the process of nurturing a groundbreaking collaboration between science and art, housing a team of artists in what is primarily a research facility and encouraging them to collaborate with in-house scientists on all sorts of projects. "The juxtaposition of digital art with next-generation science and technologies like wireless networks, biosensors and optical supercomputers gives Calit2 a degree of panache that has largely been lost in the American scientific and corporate research worlds in the face of financial cutbacks over the last decade." The New York Times 11/05/05

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Is Conservation Killing Culture? "It's no secret that millions of native peoples around the world have been pushed off their land to make room for big oil, big metal, big timber, and big agriculture. But few people realize that the same thing has happened for a much nobler cause: land and wildlife conservation. Today the list of culture-wrecking institutions put forth by tribal leaders on almost every continent includes not only Shell, Texaco, Freeport, and Bechtel, but also more surprising names like Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)." Orion 11/05

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

The Game To Expand Copyright "Copyright holders have been batting a thousand at the Supreme Court over the last decade. So why the complaints? The Property Rights Alliance and its allies know the real copyright debate isn't about whether intellectual property should be protected (virtually everyone agrees that it should) but over recent attempts to expand copyright far beyond its traditional boundaries. Those expansions are hard to defend, so copyright hawks are doing their best to change the subject." Reason 11/01/05

The DVD Revolution In Context "Film has become fact on DVD. It has left the cinema and joined us for drinks, an emancipatory moment for the last of the great western art forms. Books and music have always furnished our rooms, but to have film as a point of home reference, like Oxford English Dictionary and the complete works of Shakespeare, signals a revolution in cultural reception and, inevitably, creation." La Scena Musicale 11/02/05

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