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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

American Cultural Domination (Except When It's Not) "The world is moving toward a uniform material culture, dominated by mostly material American influences: technological innovations, fashion, Hollywood and the celebrity culture it promotes, hip-hop, and rock 'n' roll. But the pervasiveness of the trappings of American culture obscures the central cultural paradox that lies within the globalization process: Although people around the world may wear, eat, and listen to American products, they continue to maintain their deeply ingrained values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions." Chronicle of Higher Education 12/08/06

Errant Arendt Attention Philosopher Hannah Arendt is being celebrated on the 100th anniversary of her birth. But "if her star shines so brightly, it is because the American intellectual firmament is so dim. After all, who or where are the other political philosophers? The last great political American philosopher, John Dewey, died in 1952. Since then American philosophy — with the partial exception of Richard Rorty — has vanished into technical issues; within the subfield of political philosophy, the largest of its figures, John Rawls, remains abstract and insular." Chronicle of Higher Education 12/08/06

Smelly Assault (Even If They're Cookies) The California Milk Processor Board, whose 'Got Milk?' campaign is famous around the world, thought they had the next big milk promotion. They installed ads at bus shelters that emitted the scent of fresh-baked cookies. But the ads have quickly disappeared after the transit authority "received several complaints from bus riders concerned that the aroma might not be safe." Yahoo! (Reuters) 12/06/06

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

How Walt Disney Took Over The World "Even now, forty years after his death, the slight figure of Walt himself is almost impossible to pick out from the parti-colored throng of movie clips, projects, and moral tendencies that march under the banner of 'Walt Disney.' Say the name to most people and you know what will flash onto their mind’s eye: unashamedly bright hues, flying elephants, singing bears, corporate dominance, happy endings, and a helping of values that slip down as easily as ice cream. How did we arrive at this blinding apotheosis?" The New Yorker 12/04/06

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Is Borat A Reflection Of European Ignorance? Sacha Baron Cohen's runaway hit mockumentary, Borat, is being seen by most observers as a scathing indictment of American ignorance. But is it America that is cartoonish, or just the infuriatingly limited European view of America? Chris Jones says that Borat "functions very nicely as a smug celluloid confirmation of the cheap and ignorant Western European view of a homogenously ugly America." Chicago Tribune 12/03/06

Friday, December 1, 2006

The Translation Algorithm The intricacies of different languages have always been a bit much for computers to handle, and computerized translation programs have never been as reliable as users would like. Translation "is a tricky problem, not only for a piece of software but also for the human mind. A single word in one language, for example, may map into three or more in another... But a New York firm with an ingenious algorithm and a really big dictionary is finally cracking the code." Wired 12/01/06

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