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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Branding As Countercultural Creativity "Manufactured commodities are an artistic medium? Branding is a form of personal expression? Indie businesses are a means of dropping out? Turning your lifestyle into a business is rebellious?" For thousands of young people, the answer is yes. "Many of them clearly see what they are doing as not only noncorporate but also somehow anticorporate: making statements against the materialistic mainstream — but doing it with different forms of materialism. In other words, they see products and brands as viable forms of creative expression." The New York Times 7/30/06

Does Religious Education Undermine Western Society? Education is always a touchy subject, and with the world embroiled in any number of religion-based conflicts, religious schools are suddenly a controversial topic in Britain. Some are even suggesting that faith-based education should be abolished altogether. "Unless all faith schools are abolished, Britain will never be truly egalitarian, nor will our multi-ethnic society be secure enough to be worth celebrating." The Guardian (UK) 07/28/06

Friday, July 28, 2006

Everyone Knows Teletubbies Are More Evil Than Sex, Anyway Earlier this week, PBS's Sprout Channel (TV for the under-5 set) dismissed one of its most popular hosts for the heinous crime of having once used a few curse words in a satirical sketch about sex that is now available online. Mark Morford cannot believe we've come to this: "What sort of people are we? What sort of warped and reckless and utterly silly value system do we suck on in this culture? Why are we so wildly, preternaturally terrified of all things sexual while at the same time drawn to it all like fat teenagers to french fries?" San Francisco Chronicle 07/28/06

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Genesis Of The Anguished Artist "When exactly did artists decide that they were different from ordinary mortals, that in all likelihood they were superior to the rest of us? Or, viewed differently, when were they granted such a privileged status? When did Western societies start venerating them as sensitive, misunderstood geniuses?" A new book suggests that the answer lies somewhere in the tumultuous 19th century... The New York Times 07/27/06

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

NYT Classics: Pithy In 20 Words Or Less The best writing in the New York Times? Jack Shafer maintains it's the capsule movie reviews in the TV listings. "The capsules spend 20 words—and usually fewer—to pass informed judgment on movies. Even if you never intend to watch any of the films, the capsules make for good morning reading." Slate 07/26/06

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A 24-Hour Arts Gabfest (But Why) Curator Ulich Obrist is about to have a long day. "On Friday evening he will sit down with his friend and soul-mate, the Dutch architect (and designer of this year’s temporary pavilion at the Serpentine) Rem Koolhaas, and interview more than 60 artists, writers, academics and commentators for 24 hours, non-stop. Between them they will chew the ears off Brian Eno (the warm-up, at 6pm), Damien Hirst (vampiric, at 4am), and the likes of Doris Lessing, Richard Rogers, Ken Loach, Richard Hamilton and Gilbert & George (fresh as daisies at 7am)." The Times (UK) 07/25/06

TV + Studying = A Bad Combination "Multitasking may be necessary in today's fast-paced world, but new research shows distractions affect the way people learn, making the knowledge they gain harder to use later." Chicago Tribune (AP) 07/25/06

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why Wikipedia Rules "As was the Encyclopédie, Wikipedia is a combination of manifesto and reference work. Peer review, the mainstream media, and government agencies have landed us in a ditch. Not only are we impatient with the authorities but we are in a mood to talk back. Wikipedia offers endless opportunities for self-expression. It is the love child of reading groups and chat rooms, a second home for anyone who has written an Amazon review." The New Yorker 07/24/06

Coming: A Better Form Of Academic Publishing? "Scholars... who are as comfortable firing off comments on blogs as they are pontificating at academic conferences, are beginning to question whether the printed book is the best format for advancing scholarship and communicating big ideas. In tenure and promotion, of course, the book is still king — the whole academic enterprise often revolves around it. But several scholars are using digital means to challenge the current model of academic publishing." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/28/06

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lockdown - Extreme Copyright "Not everyone seems to have noticed, but it's clear we recently zipped past the 'information economy' and straight into the "copyright economy." It's no longer about access to information — everyone has access. Now it's about ownership of the characters, stories, tunes, trademarks, software and other ephemera of our daily lives. Not surprisingly, thanks to this little shift in the economy, a new sport has arisen in the land. It's called 'extreme copyright,' and the people who play this game are the ones who have me worried." Los Angeles Times 07/23/06

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Moscow - Queen Of The Night 'There's a reason you need a visa to come to Russia. Moscow has the best nightlife in the world. Leave etiquette and moderation to everyone else. Leave "the beauty of an hour" to the Russians, especially to those with money, those in their 30s, the last generation raised under the old regime, who can't stop toasting their good fortune, all of it with the fine style you read about in those novels the size of bricks. They'll crack your chest and massage your heart, and we'll see if you can keep up.' Vanity Fair 07/06

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why Computers Beat Humans Here's "something researchers have known for decades: that mathematical models generally make more accurate predictions than humans do. Studies have shown that models can better predict, for example, the success or failure of a business start-up, the likelihood of recidivism and parole violation, and future performance in graduate school. They also trump humans at making various medical diagnoses, picking the winning dogs at the racetrack and competing in online auctions. Computer-based decision-making has also grown increasingly popular in credit scoring, the insurance industry and some corners of Wall Street." The New York Times 07/18/06

Monday, July 17, 2006

Robots Begin To Take Their Places Science fiction writers have been writing about robots forever. Now, "a half-century after the term was coined, both scientists and engineers say they are making rapid progress in simulating the human brain, and their work is finding its way into a new wave of real-world products. The advances can also be seen in the emergence of bold new projects intended to create more ambitious machines that can improve safety and security, entertain and inform, or just handle everyday tasks." The New York Times 07/18/06

Needed: A Map Of The Academic World "It is now relatively easy to produce and distribute content. But it also proves a challenge to find one’s way around in a zone that is somehow expanding, crowded, and borderless, all at once. With such difficulties in mind, then, I want to propose a kind of public-works project. The time has come to create a map. In fact, it is hard to imagine things can continue much longer without one. At very least, we need a Web site giving users some idea what landmarks already exist in the digital space of academe." InsideHigherEd 07/12/06

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Where The Population Is Declining World population growth is a big problem. But "forty-three of the 193 nations around the world will register a decline in population by 2050. Russia's population is expected to decline by a staggering 31 million, from 143 million people to 112 million people. Alcohol is one of the main factors contributing to this decline, primarily among men. It is accountable for the world's largest life expectancy gap between men and women in any country. On average, Russian men can expect to live only to the age of 55." Boston Globe 07/16/06

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Age Of Airports "Major airports are beginning to drive business siting and urban development in the 21st century, much as highways did in the 20th, railroads in the 19th, and seaports in the 18th. As aviation-oriented businesses cluster at and near major airports, a new urban entity is emerging: the Aerotropolis." Next American City 05/06

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why Is Art Supposed To Be Easy? "According to current wisdom, listening to music, reading poetry or contemplating a painting should not be thought of as work, least of all as hard work. Works of art that demand serious attention, time and effort are treated with suspicion because they might not appeal to a significant section of the population.The official politics of culture of our time stigmatises such art for not being inclusive. Inclusive art is that which is readily accessible since it does not require much effort or understanding on the part of the public. From this standpoint, the engagement with art is not seen as a challenge but as an easily digestible act of consumption." The Telegraph (UK) 07/13/06

Scientists: Man Can Control Computer Functions With His Brain "With a tiny electronic chip implanted in the motor cortex of his brain, a 25-year-old man paralyzed from the neck down for five years has learned to use his thoughts to operate a computer, turn on a TV set, open email, play a video game and manipulate a robotic arm." Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How Technology Is Changing The Arts How will technology change the arts? How isn't it? The ways we make, distribute and consume art are changing quickly, and we can hardly imagine what the next 15 years will bring... The Guardian (UK) 07/12/06

Two Kinds Of Genius Researchers have found that "genius – whether in art or architecture or even business – is not the sole province of 17-year-old Picassos and 22-year-old Andreessens. Instead, it comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. 'Conceptual innovators' make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young. They make the rest of us feel like also-rans. Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison - 'experimental innovators'.” Wired 07/06

Monday, July 10, 2006

Do Plants Hold The Next Engineering Breakthroughs? Scientists looking for new engineering breakthroughs are "studying plant bionics, which involves cherry-picking evolution's best biological solutions and applying them to engineering problems. The advantage is that you have these hundreds of thousands of (biological) systems and you know they work because of evolution."
Wired 07/10/06

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Do We Fetishize Endings? "The ending of a film, or any narrative, bears a disproportionate amount of the artistic weight. Endings are the last thing we see, and the thing most likely to stay in the memory. And there's a natural inclination, in any long and complex work, to focus on the ending: Art, like life, often passes by in a state of semi-confusion, but a solid ending proves to the audience that the director had control all along. And the power of a good ending has particular resonance in a 'closure' society, a society that strives for finality in things of the heart (closure after grief) and clairvoyance in most everything else (how's this going to turn out?)." Washinton Post 07/09/06

You Can't Win Without Words Times are tough for Republicans, no doubt about it, but somehow, the current public dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration has yet to translate into anything approaching widespread support for the opposition Democrats. Why are the Dems so totally incapable of seizing the moment? One linguist suggests that while the GOP may be on the outs politically, they're still the reigning champions when it comes to effective use of language. "The right has been incredibly successful in capturing the English political vocabulary. In a way, it's a tribute to their ability to spin compelling narratives." Boston Globe 07/08/06

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Portrait Of The Artist As An Antisocial Loner It's a phenomenon that seems to cross all artistic genres and mediums: the live-fast, die-hard lifestyle of artists from James Dean to Lord Byron. But why is it that artists capable of communicating such profundity through their work are so frequently incapable of normal social interaction? " A new exhibition at Britain's National Gallery traces the image of the artist as rebellious loner from its Romantic roots through works by Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Edgar Degas and others." Chicago Tribune (AP) 07/06/06

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Harnessing The Power Of Us "Call it the Age of Peer Production. From Amazon.com to MySpace to craigslist, the most successful Web companies are building business models based on user-generated content. This is perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of the second-generation Web. The tools of production, from blogging to video-sharing, are fully democratized, and the engine for growth is the spare cycles, talent, and capacity of regular folks, who are, in aggregate, creating a distributed labor force of unprecedented scale." Wired 07/05/06

Monday, July 3, 2006

Code: Spinning Music For Computer "A new brand of music maestro is turning programming into performance, eschewing turntables for a compiler and a mind for syntax structure. 'Livecoding' practitioners improvise using Perl or homemade programming architectures to build compositions from the ground up, replacing instruments and samples with raw code authoring before a live audience." Wired 07/03/06

Smelly Playback Scientists in Japan are building an odor recorder. "Simply point the gadget at a freshly baked cookie, for example, and it will analyse its odour and reproduce it for you using a host of non-toxic chemicals. The device could be used to improve online shopping by allowing you to sniff foods or fragrances before you buy, to add an extra dimension to virtual reality environments and even to assist military doctors treating soldiers remotely by recreating bile, blood or urine odours that might help a diagnosis." New Scientist 07/03/06

Studies: Money Can't Buy You Happiness "A wealth of data in recent decades has shown that once personal wealth exceeds about $12,000 a year, more money produces virtually no increase in life satisfaction. From 1958 to 1987, for example, income in Japan grew fivefold, but researchers could find no corresponding increase in happiness." Washington Post 07/03/06

Sunday, July 2, 2006

In Mexico - A Challenge To Intellectual Firepower In Mexico, where the term 'intellectual' usually connotes a person possessing mental gravitas, serious literary chops and at least a few friends in high places, intellectuals have enjoyed a degree of name-brand recognition that's rare in all but a handful of countries — France comes to mind — at least among the educated chattering classes. Along with that acclaim, intellectuals reap other rewards: generous government stipends, cultural and academic sinecures, ambassadorships and access to those wielding power. But lately something funny has been happening on the way to the symposium. Mexico's powerful mass media, particularly television and radio commentators, are steadily usurping intellectuals' power to shape public opinion." Los Angeles Times 07/01/06

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