I have had enough of irony | Suzanne Moore The ultimate faux-pas is not laughing at someone's artfully told joke. Especially when it's a huge in-joke, but stuff it! I did not find the Eurovision song contest in any way funny or joyful. Compulsory fun may be the anti-Viagra of actual pleasure but it's everywhere. OK, me! Every tabloid trifle, every titillating bit of pop culture naffness, is respun via clever ironic takes. Irony is not new nor an invention of postmodernism. When camp goes mainstream, though, it loses its power, thus Graham Norton was shipped out to Azerbaijan to be snippy. Quite possibly, for this is the age where everything is not just of itself but about itself. The reign of irony also means a lot of comedy that represents itself as edgy, from Ricky Gervais to Sacha Baren-Cohen, is now repetitively dull, reinforcing prejudices rather than challenging them. For we are afraid, I think. We are now so impervious to the slings and arrows of the totes amazeballs fun world that only sad sacks complain.
Seeing the Future in Science Fiction Some of my earliest memories are of science fiction. Not of prose fiction, or of film, but of the cultural and industrial semiotics of the American nineteen-fifties: the interplanetarily themed chrome trim on my father’s Oldsmobile Rocket 88; the sturdy injection-molded styrene spacemen on the counter at Woolworth’s (their mode of manufacture more predictive than their subject, as it turned out); the gloriously baroque Atomic Disintegrator cap pistol (Etsy currently has one on offer, in “decent vintage” condition, for two hundred and fifty dollars); Chesley Bonestell’s moodily thrilling illustrations for Willy Ley’s book “The Conquest of Space.” They were all special to me, these things, and I remember my mother remarking on this to her friends. When I was five, I was chastised for disagreeing with an Air Force man, a visitor to our home, who made mock of my Willy Ley book. Given the era in which this happened to me, I soon became acquainted, too, with J.
Bookshelf Porn Sex-selection, abortion, and the pro-choice movement: Why liberals shouldn't gulp Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images What’s a not-OK reason to get an abortion? Rape and health of the mother, you’re cool with, yes? What about this nice Jewish girl who got one in college? That feels right. And the 26-year-old newlywed who, crap, gets knocked up six months in and isn’t quite ready for kids yet? How does a 35-year-old single woman who wants to focus on her career strike you? Where do you land on the middle-class wife who wants to save up a little more money before starting a family? And the mother of two who is not in the market for number three? This is pretty elementary stuff: The pro-choice movement is not just about protecting the rights of women in the direst situations to control their own bodies. Background: Today, the House of Representatives voted on PRENDA—the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, otherwise known as “the sex-selection bill.” By all accounts, gender-motivated abortions are not a big thing in the United States.
A World Without Copyright - House Absolute(ly Pointless) In discussions on Hacker News I’ve said several times that I think copyright should be abolished. Some people agree, but I often get a reply asking how I expect programmers, musicians, or authors to make a living in such a world. Before I address that question, I’ll take a brief digression. Creative works covered by copyright are (mostly) not physical. Whether or not you support copyright, I hope we can agree that physical things and data are fundamentally different. Copyright laws were initially established to encourage creative people to create stuff. This made (some) sense when these laws were created, but modern technology has made such laws obsolete. Here’s how a world without copyright might work. The right to release (or not) Just because copyright should be abolished doesn’t mean that there should be no rights for creators. Releasing should be an intentional act. This right to release definitely needs some detail work. Once something is released, that’s irrevocable. Art Software
Zeitgeist 2012 – Google 2012 was a year of big moments, from global games to historical elections and everything in between. With this site, we've analyzed over one trillion queries to showcase what the world searched for. How We Did This We studied an aggregation of over one trillion searches (or queries) that people typed into Google Search this year. We used data from multiple sources, including Google Trends and internal data tools. We filtered out spam and repeat queries to build lists that best reflect the spirit of 2012.
WHICH IS THE BEST LANGUAGE TO LEARN? Our Top 12 in 2012. No. 1: Once a mark of the cultured, language-learning is in retreat among English speakers. It’s never too late, but where to start? Robert Lane Greene launches our latest Big Question ... From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, March/April 2012 For language lovers, the facts are grim: Anglophones simply aren’t learning them any more. Why learn a foreign language? Nonetheless, compelling reasons remain for learning other languages. Poetry and lyrics suffer particularly badly in translation. The practical reasons are just as compelling. So which one should you, or your children, learn? Probably not. This factor is the Chinese writing system (which Japan borrowed and adapted centuries ago). A recent survey reported in the People’s Daily found 84% of respondents agreeing that skill in Chinese is declining. To my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. But if I was asked what foreign language is the most useful, and given no more parameters (where?
'Three-parent babies' cure for illness raises ethical fear | Science Aaron began to stand out at primary school. He was unlike other children in subtle ways that at times were hard to put a finger on. He couldn't hold a pen properly. There is no subtlety to Aaron's condition any more. What was wrong came to light only when Aaron turned yellow and was admitted to hospital. "I don't know what the future holds for my son. Mitochondrial disease runs in families, and more specifically is passed down from mother to child. Though obscure outside specialist hospital units, mitochondrial disease will soon be the subject of a national debate and a matter for parliament. The law as written reflects a line that has never been crossed in medicine. The ethical issues raised by the procedure are clear but for many doctors these are overridden by the chance to prevent life-threatening disease. The debate that is coming will be unusually centred on Britain, because no other country is known to be so close to offering the service to patients. Obesity Safety
Revisiting why incompetents think they’re awesome In 1999 a pair of researchers published a paper called "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (PDF)." David Dunning and Justin Kruger (both at Cornell University's Department of Psychology at the time) conducted a series of four studies showing that, in certain cases, people who are very bad at something think they are actually pretty good. They showed that to assess your own expertise at something, you need to have a certain amount of expertise already. Remember the 2008 election campaign? In all of this, uninformed idiots blame the Greeks for being lazy, the Germans for being too strict, and everyone but themselves. It has been more than 10 years since Dunning and Kruger published their work. "The paper gave voice to an observation that people make about their peers, but that they don’t know how to express," Dunning said. This paper has become a cult classic.
Why my child will be your child's boss Children with ADHD can be overly energetic, but adults may just feel edgy or restless. "Adults don't show the more obvious signs such as running and jumping," says Colette de Marneffe, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Silver Spring, Md. "Hyperactivity presents more subtly in the form of restlessness." However, you may recall a rambunctious childhood. Dr. (MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Saws. But this happened not in the U.S. but in Switzerland, where they believe children are capable of handling saws at age 3 and where kindergarten teachers counsel parents to let their 4- and 5-year-olds walk to school alone. So looking down at the saws, I tried to hide my American-bred fear and casually asked the teacher about her procedures in case of emergencies. What's a "forest" teacher? The school year ends next week, and so far the only injury has been one two millimeter long cut received from a pocket knife. The result? By contrast, my son learns about risk management every week.
Hipsters and Low-Tech Hipsters have been much discussed on the Cyborgology blog (see: here, here, here, and here). Cyborgology authors have also talked about the fetishization of low-tech/analog media and devices (see: here and here). As David Paul Strohecker pointed out, these two issue interrelated: “hipsters are at the forefront of movements of nostalgic revivalism.” I want to pick up these threads and add a small observation. Nathan Jurgenson and I were discussing why low-tech devices have a seductive quality. Consider the popularity of, for example, fixed-gear bicycles or vintage cameras (such as the Kodak Brownie or the Polaroid PX-70 [correction: SX-70]). Žižek is often cited as the philosopher of the hipster or the hipster philosopher, but, here, I argue that Simmel and Deleuze were the true Oracles of Hipsterdom. So, hipsters are the product of a moment in history where the socio-economic system benefits from and has discovered effective methods to enforce the moral imperative to “be unique.”
Motherhood: Immaculate gestation | The Last Word On Nothing “Mommy, why did you kill me?” was the first line of the comment. It devolved from there into a maudlin, hallucinatory, and occasionally Freudian fantasy of an aborted child’s final message to his mother, and it ended with the little guy playing baseball with God in heaven while the mother burned in hell. The reply was brief and furious: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” Another joined in: “When a man can get pregnant, I’ll be happy to listen to his opinions about abortion.” The abortion flamewar I’m describing took place in 1999, and it had the honor of being my first. Anonymous Internet Person #2 was right: men can’t get pregnant. In 1997, a pro-life group called Nightlight Adoptions set up a program called Snowflakes. If only there were some way to extend the concept, transplanting a developing fetus from a woman who found herself accidentally pregnant. But this apparent dead end does leave one intriguing loophole: scoop up the blastocyst before implantation.
Magazine - Host [Click the phrases within the colored boxes to read the commentary.] Mr. John Ziegler, thirty-seven, late of Louisville's WHAS, is now on the air, "Live and Local," from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. every weeknight on southern California's KFI, a 50,000-watt megastation whose hourly ID and Sweeper, designed by the station's Imaging department and featuring a gravelly basso whisper against licks from Ratt's 1984 metal classic "Round and Round," is "KFI AM-640, Los Angeles—More Stimulating Talk Radio." This is either the eighth or ninth host job that Mr. Ziegler's had in his talk-radio career, and far and away the biggest. The John Ziegler Show is the first local, nonsyndicated late-night program that KFI has aired in a long time. It is currently right near the end of the program's second segment on the evening of May 11, 2004, shortly after Nicholas Berg's taped beheading by an al-Qaeda splinter in Iraq. "And I'll tell you why—it's because we're better than they are." When Mr.
Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games,” review Rebecca Stead chose to set her children’s novel “When You Reach Me”—winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal—in nineteen-seventies New York partly because that’s where she grew up, but also, as she told one interviewer, because she wanted “to show a world of kids with a great deal of autonomy.” Her characters, middle-class middle-school students, routinely walk around the Upper West Side by themselves, a rare freedom in today’s city, despite a significant drop in New York’s crime rate since Stead’s footloose youth. The world of our hovered-over teens and preteens may be safer, but it’s also less conducive to adventure, and therefore to adventure stories. Perhaps that’s why so many of them are reading “The Hunger Games,” a trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, which take place at an unspecified time in North America’s future. Collins’s trilogy is only the most visible example of a recent boom in dystopian fiction for young people. Take the Hunger Games themselves.