An impatient audience wielding smartphones says, ‘We want it NOW.’
Count with me, please: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five, one thousand six, one thousand seven, one thousand eight.
Eight seconds. That snippet of time, about 1/300,000,000 of an actuarial life, has driven The New York Times (among others) into the inviting arms of a Facebook lusting for revenue. Eight seconds. That’s the time Facebook says a user endures after she clicks on a Facebook link to a third-party site like nytimes.com.
Scholarly inquiry is often like panning for gold: patient tedium yielding the occasional nugget. Then again, sometimes it yields to the temper of the times and decides to hype the discovery of iron pyrite.
Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla’s laboratory (image courtesy Wikimedia)
That fount of all that is worth knowing in life, Facebook®, provided me with a couple of interesting items yesterday that were a step above the usual “look at what I’m having for dinner” and “here I am at (insert event name here)” fare. One was provided by a FB pal and fellow Scrogue who thought I’d find interesting a news item from Cal-Berkeley reporting that scholars have located a number of Mark Twain’s early newspaper pieces. A second item came to my attention via one of those pages one “likes/follows”: in this case, the FB page of a certain early 19th century British novelist with whom I have a nodding acquaintance. This item concerns a new book by a scholar who claims she has positively identified (which puts her in a queue with several other scholars) the historical figure upon whom that writer based one of her most famous literary creations, a rather proud sort of fellow named Fitzwilliam Darcy. Each of these stories is treated in a breathless sort of reportorial “wow, cool” tone. Continue reading →
Scott Archer Jones’s The Big Wheel is part cyberpunk dystopian thriller, part corporate espionage thriller. It’s also an interesting study of the search for identity.
The Big Wheel by Scott Archer Jones (image courtesy Goodreads)
Last year I reviewed Scott Archer Jones’s first novel Jupiter and Gilgamesh. A key theme I noted that made that novel of particular interest was its main character’s quest for his identity and the struggles he goes through to complete his quest.
Interestingly, that same theme pervades his second novel, The Big Wheel. That in itself might not be that noteworthy except that while Jupiter and Gilgamesh was clearly a work of literary fiction, The Big Wheel is a genre work, a techno-thriller with cyberpunk elements. But as with his previous novel, Jones explores issues of identity and understanding of the self, albeit in this latter case via a convoluted, almost Freudian version of the Jekyll and Hyde story. What makes The Big Wheel notable is not its well structured caper/chase narrative; what makes this novel notable is that theme of quest for identity. Continue reading →
I think both sides need to go back to the drawing table
I just saw a video that left me in a bit of a quandary. Unfortunately, it’s embedded in a Facebook post, so I’ll just have to link to it here rather than display it. The premise is simple enough. Kroger apparently permits open carry of firearms, at least in jurisdictions where that is legal. Upset gun control advocates would like Kroger to stop this practice.
Fair enough on its face. People want things to be different. They’re exercising their right to free speech to put pressure on the company. Fine.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the opposite of free trade
Like many, I have my share of disappointments with Obama. On balance, he’s infinitely preferable to any of the plausible Republican alternatives—can you imagine what Mitt Romney or John McCain and a Republican Congress would be getting up to these days? Still, there are areas—global warming in particular—where I wish he had been more aggressive. I fully concede the limits of what may have been possible throughout his term, given the implacable opposition he has been facing. But still, it would have been good to see a more deliberate attempt to change the trajectory of things.
The ongoing corporatization of nearly everything would have been another place to start. I suppose the failure to pursue the banks aggressively should have been a tip-off that the Clinton financial people were still running the show. Plus the Obama administration’s unwillingness to try to put Elizabeth Warren as head of her brainchild, the new (and pretty efficient, I gather) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (although she has had her payback.) When people start telling me that there’s no real difference between the two parties, in the finance area I tend to agree, with some notable exceptions like Warren. Continue reading →
The London School of Economics and Political Science calls the following ten books “must-reads” for Women’s History Month this year. I draw your attention to the review of Recoding Gender, which mentions the story of a very successful woman-owned American tech company that relied heavily on flexible scheduling and home-based work for women. When the company tried to expand into Denmark, however, it turned out that Danish women had little interest in working from home because of the well-developed child care system in that country. This leads me to wonder what the impact here might be if we actually offered child care like it is offered in Denmark and many other European countries. I am also especially interested in getting to my book shelf Gender, Agency, and Political Violence, which invites readers to reconsider the agency of female suicide bombers and also examines the masculinity and emotional depth of men imprisoned during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Actually, if money were not an issue, all ten of these books would be on their way to my bookshelf. Continue reading →
If you’re MSNBC, who do you get to provide the anti-FCC net neutrality position for fairness and balance?
As usual, while there’s a kerfuffle over major issues I’m down here in the weeds wondering at peculiarities. For instance, with net neutrality being a significant chunk of the current 24/7 news cycle fodder thanks to the FCC’s recent decision, I could focus on the pros and cons of net neutrality, so-called or otherwise, but I’m honestly a bit torn. For the moment, I’m content to wait and see what the wonks have to say about the full 300+ pages of the FCC measure when it’s eventually released. There’s cause for caution when advocates for net neutrality are holding their noses over this latest development. Continue reading →
ICYMI, the Democratic Party has been doing some navel-gazing and just released its collection of belly-button lint for public inspection. After their embarrassing losses in the 2014 mid-terms, they finally realized they must be doing something wrong. One task force and an embarrassingly thin seven pages (9! Count the covers!) later, we discover this finding, for example:
“It is strongly believed that the Democratic Party is loosely understood as a long list of policy statements and not as people with a common set of core values (fairness, equality, opportunity). This lack of cohesive narrative impedes the party’s ability to develop and maintain a lifelong dialogue and partnership with voters.”
There’s this thing I have begun encountering in a certain sort of restaurant. It’s not a good thing. I first ran across this policy at a place I used to eat in Bend, OR, and it happened again tonight at Scratch Burrito here in Denver.
I went in, ordered a burrito bowl and an iced tea. Paid, found a table, went to the drink station and got my tea. Looked around and couldn’t find any sweetener. So I go back to the counter. Would you like regular sugar or agave, the guy asks. No, no, I need artificial, I reply – Sweet-n-Low, if you have it? Sorry sir, we only have natural sweeteners. Continue reading →
New research suggests that social media is a bubble – how long before it bursts?
These are heady days for social media interests. Facebook and Twitter run rampant, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vine and Instagram are booming, Ello is all kinds of interesting, and somehow or another Google+ and StumbleUpon are still hanging in there. While there isn’t literally a new social net rolling out every 15 minutes, it sometimes feels that way.
Horace uses satire in a gently amused (and bemused) way to point out the foibles of human nature. He’s not so much wanting to tear people a new one for being the way they are as he is interested in a thoughtful, even academic way in why we do the foolish things we do to ourselves.
Horace, by an unknown Roman sculptor (image courtesy crystallinks.com)
This second essay on the Works of Horacein the Christopher Smart prose translation looks at the great poet’s satires. Horace wrote two books of satires, a total of 18 poems. These satires were his first great successes as a poet and signaled that Horace was one of the great poets of the Augustan Age. on His influence on this genre of literature was so great that his style of handling the genre is known in literary/scholarly circles as Horatian satire.
Before we dig into the works themselves, however, it might be good to make clear what’s meant by “Horatian.” Horace’s greatest rival as a satirist is a Roman poet named Juvenal who lived roughly 100 years after Horace. Where Horace is gentle and good natured in his criticisms of the foibles of his fellow Romans, Juvenal is biting, even bitter in his attacks on human frailties. Where Horace hopes to see better from people, Juvenal demands that people should behave more acceptably. Continue reading →
In a culture whose value system is thoroughly infused with the spirit of capitalist-democratic-republicanism of one permutation or another, art, tech – let’s face it – every form of human endeavor – is measured only by its ability to generate revenue…
(For earlier essays in this series look here, here and here.)
And so we come to the last in this series of essays examining how the evolution of technology (and remember, I refer to technology in a broad sense) has affected art and artists. This last piece will examine two pieces of technology – one is an economic system (capitalism) and the other is really a myriad of technologies coming together to produce – an effect? a composite technology? (the world wide web) and their effects on art and artists over the last 20 or so years.
Adam Smith, philosopher of political economy (image courtesy Wikimedia)
The history of the uneasy relationship between the political system most commonly referred to as democracy (rarely practiced in a pure form, as, let’s assume, we all understand) and the economic system known as capitalism (also rarely practiced in a pure form, same understanding as above) has been played out nowhere perhaps as openly – and at the same time subtly – as in our America – the good old USA. Our country is one who has tried, with often wildly varying results, to reconcile the basic premises of these two important systems of thought.
The guy who catches the most heat in critiques of capitalism is the one pictured at right whose most important work, The Wealth of Nations, seems to argue for self-interest as a public good even as it warns against the human tendency to collude and engage in ugly practices such as price fixing which he sees as self-interest used against the public good. The most important – and misunderstood by the limited understanding of the average American – idea in Smith’s treatise, however, is his assertion (not that people are naturally unequal, though that certainly is very important because it conflicts with our notions of democracy) that wealth matters more than people. Continue reading →
Does disaster loom, brought on by population increases and a governing economic system predicated on ever more growth?
Scratch a problem involving homo sapiens. Smog choking cities. Carbon dioxide and methane warming atmosphere or ocean. Forests rapaciously slashed. No fish where fish used to be. Nuclear waste with no safe home (ever). Pollution everywhere. Children without education. Billions of poor without hope or safe drinking water or adequate food. Disease and death induced by the absence of health care.
And wars. Plenty of wars.
In such examples of human trauma amid conflicts over life-sustaining resources, there’s a centrality rarely discussed.
When I was born, the Earth had about 2.5 billion people. The Census Bureau anticipates 9.3 billion people globally in 2050. That would be almost a four-fold increase in the people Earth would seek but likely fail to adequately support. Continue reading →
We currently have an epidemic of philanthropy in the U.S., and that’s a very bad thing.
Philanthropy is everywhere. Good luck finding a 5K race or golf tournament or box of cookies that doesn’t have an affiliation with a not for profit. Companies have replaced annual executive golf outings with days of painting walls and digging ditches at inner city neighborhood centers. And there has emerged an entirely new industry, what professional aid workers disdainfully call “poverty tourism,” where wealthy Americans spend a week or two each year somewhere in the Third World “giving back.” Philanthropy has exploded, and now exceeds $300 billion dollars each year.
What Daniel Defoe depicts in Moll Flanders is the story of a person who lives purely for pursuit of “the main chance”: accruing wealth at the cost of family, friends, self-respect…in the hope that once one has “a stock” there will be time for reflection, repentance, reclamation….
Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (image courtesy Goodreads)
I went off the 2014reading(updated)list(s) for this last “non-holiday” themed book as a result of some comments on the first of my “art and tech” series of essays. An argument advanced by a commenter whose opinions I value and whose friendship I treasure suggested that the only reliable arbiter of human achievement is the marketplace – and argued, at least indirectly, that economic success = validation of one’s efforts. I freely admit that I find such arguments about how life and life’s work should be valued, and they are numerous in these times, troubling. I find them most troubling because, given the amorphous nature of human culture and its values, this may very well be the view that most people choose to adopt.
When I feel troubled by issues of this sort, I turn, as I have for many years, to literature. When I go to literature I am seeking, not answers of the smug and certain sort constantly promulgated by news outlets both left and right. Instead, what literature gives me is perspective – the perspective of fellow artists as well as in most cases (since my penchant is for classics of the canon), historical perspective. Continue reading →
Something … odd … happened today. As I have noted here before, I am not a Christian. I’m either atheist or pagan, depending on your perspective, and this afternoon I was in full-on pagan mode, for reasons that will be elaborated on in the next couple of days.
So I head to a local New Age bookstore to pick up some things I need for a ceremony. I quickly locate what I’m after and go to check out. The nice young woman behind the counter rings me up. I pay and as I turn to leave she says “Merry Christmas!”
I thank her and leave and wait, what? The woman at the counter at the New Age bookstore just wished me a Merry Christmas? Continue reading →