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"I am the world crier, & this is my dangerous career...

I am the one to call your bluff, & this is my climate."

—Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

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Saturday, March 18, 2000

New paleontological finds in China suggest ancestral primate was Tom-Thumb-sized.

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$99 Netpliance I-opener Internet appliances sold out nationwide after an electronics engineer in
Las Vegas figured out
how to tweak the $99
terminal for an additional $100 so that it
works like a fancy PC.

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Furor over British proposal to detain non-criminals with personality disorders:
"UK government proposals to detain dangerous people who have a severe personality disorder but no
criminal conviction should be applied to individuals only when an assessment predicts that it is almost
certain that they will commit a very serious criminal offence, a report from a cross party committee
of MPs said this week." [British Medical Journal]

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Thoughtful About "Virtual Voting":
"...it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Arizonans with
home Internet access enjoyed a tremendous voting advantage
in this primary. Yes, unwired Arizonans were encouraged to
vote at libraries and other community centers scattered around
the state. But essentially none did. Several librarians told me
that not a single person came to vote by Net during the
four-day remote-voting period. By the party's own estimate,
90 percent of the Internet votes were cast by people voting
from home or work—and that population is disproportionately
white..." [Slate]

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Thursday, March 16, 2000

Bill Joy: Why the future doesn't need us.
"Our most powerful 21st-century technologies - robotics,
genetic engineering, and nanotech - are threatening to
make humans an endangered species." [Wired]

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[Salon:] Big Bouncer is watching you. "To get into the Alcazar Pleasure Village, a
nightclub in the Netherlands, you'll have to make it past more
than just a velvet rope. A vigilant "cyber-bouncer" will scan
your fingerprint and face, refusing to let you in if you're a
known troublemaker or waving you through if your file comes
up clean."

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One of the most spectacular business flameouts ever.

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Research shows why sex is better than asexual reproduction.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2000

"There seems to be no
critical culture
in America today. A critical culture is one that struggles actively over how human beings should live and what our
life means. Most of us can remember living in the critical culture of the sixties-a few of us can even remember the critical culture
of the thirties-and we can feel the difference. When a critical culture breaks down or wears out or fades away, sources of joy dry
up. What makes this happen? Why has it happened now? Is the loss permanent? Or are there traces, fragments, intimations of a new
critical culture just around the corner? Where might it come from? How can it come together? Is there anything people like us can
do to help it come?" [Marshall Berman writes in Dissent]

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Musical Ballots (washingtonpost.com): Would it make a differennce to your Presidential choice to know what kind of music each candidate listens to? [Washington Post]

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Museum takes Howdy Doody to court- CBC Infoculture

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Cultural revolution: women allowed onstage in Iran for the first time since 1979. [The Globe and Mail]

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Mapping the Cab Driver's Brain: The posterior hippocampus of London cabbies hypertrophies in proportion to their years of driving a cab. This area, thought to be involved in memory functioning, probably stores the detailed navigational information they learn on the job.
``There seems to be a definite relationship between the navigating they do as a taxi driver and the brain changes,'' researcher Eleanor Maguire told the BBC.

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Woman Seeks Sex Before Divorce

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Lilly Files for Approval of Once-Weekly Prozac. Faced with declining sales from competing SSRIs, and the looming expiration of its patent rights in 2003, this is one of several slightly different formulations of fluoxetine (Prozac), the first of the new generation of antidepressants, that Eli Lilly proposes to market.

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[Thanks, Abby; no, really!] Tennessee Farm Is Laboratory of Human Flesh

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Valdis Krebs has updated his fascinating Internet Industry Map - Strategic Alliances, Joint Ventures, Technology Development, Partnerships with network metrics and printability.

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Take 2: A Photo Archive of City Streets: The New York Public Library embarks on a project to create an archive of photographs of nearly every street in the five boroughs of New York City. (Does this remind anyone of Geoff Nicholson's Bleeding London?)

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Newest influence-mongering trend: get the President's ear by contributing to his wife's Senate campaign. Surprising?

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More media consolidation.

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Both Slate and The New York Times focus on what the Pope didn't say in his apology for the sins of the Catholic Church.

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New York Times: 'Americans have become used to hearing nutty talk from
leaders of the National Rifle Association. But Sunday's
outrageous assertion by the group's executive vice president,
Wayne LaPierre, that President Clinton is "willing to accept a
certain level of killing to further his political agenda"
deserves special condemnation.

Mr. LaPierre made his sick suggestion that the president
relishes having gun tragedies to exploit in an interview on
ABC's "This Week." He was there to push the N.R.A.'s
demonstrably false line that the nation already has enough
gun laws on the books if only the administration would
enforce them.'

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Europe is in love with Short Message Service. [New York Times]

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Microsoft to Back a Browser Keyword System. Companies pay RealNames Corp. hefty fees to lock up ownership of keywords; you type a keyword into your browser and are magically taken to the site that owns the keyword! RealNames gets revenue from every referral to the corporate sites as well. Microsoft takes 20% of KeyNames, which has just filed for an IPO.

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This site gushes about the goings-on at some of the hippest night spots on Sunset Boulevard.

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"Who is Gladwell kidding?
Scientists have been harping on
so-called nonlinear effects for decades. Nonlinearity is the basis
of catastrophe theory, chaos, complexity, self-organized
criticality, punctuated equilibrium, and other scientific fads.
Everyone knows about the butterfly effect, which holds that a
butterfly flitting through Iowa can trigger a cascade of
meteorological events culminating in a monsoon in India.

Gladwell cites none of this work, and understandably so. His
utopian message is that by manipulating tipping points we can cut
down on crime, reduce teen-age smoking, and sell lots of
sneakers without massive efforts. But the lesson of nonlinear
research is that many phenomena are unpredictable, and
especially the complex social phenomena upon which Gladwell
focuses. Our culture is awash in potential tipping points. When we
try to tip events in one direction, they activate other tipping points
and careen down the wrong path. This is the law of unintended
consequences, about which you have written so eloquently, Ed." [Slate]

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Sunday, March 12, 2000

Today is the anniversary of Jack Kerouac's (1922-69) birth, Charlie Parker's (1921-55) death, and Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman's wedding (1969).

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Sociologists launch online journal to study the mundane: '"The idea is to sort of step back from everything that we take for granted and say, `What's really going on here, anyway?"' said William Roy of the
University of California, Los Angeles. "A fish is the last creature to ever notice water." (...)

The idea sprang from a 1998 article published in the journal Sociological Theory. Wayne Brekhus of the University of Missouri complained that there were
many journals devoted to extreme behavior but nothing concentrating on the mundane. (...) Brekhus' half-joking call for a journal to study the mundane caught the attention of Schaffer and Orleans. They sent out e-mail notices six months ago
requesting papers and launched the Web site, www.mundanebehavior.org .

They received a handful of e-mails wondering if it was a hoax. They also got three times as many submissions as they could use for the debut issue.' The table of contents from the first issue includes:

  • Myron Orleans, Why the Mundane? or, "The Unassailable Advantage": Reflections on Wiseman's Belfast,
    Maine

  • Terry Caesar, In and Out of Elevators in Japan

  • Andy Crabtree, Remarks on the social organisation of space and place

  • Devorah Kalekin-Fishman, Constructing Mundane Culture: "Plain Talk"

  • Michael John Pinfold, "I'm sick of shaving every morning": or, The Cultural Manifestations of "Male" Facial
    Presentation


  • I'm sure everybody knows by now about the first binding web election, sort of.

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