“In any given M.A. or MFA or Ph.D. program, amid those arguing over which is the best Philip Roth novel or about lesser-known Abstract Expressionists, there are those who refuse to participate in the discussion. There is this faction of graduate students who insist on keeping it real: those classmates who never engage in conversations about ideas outside of the classroom, who at the bar look away in boredom at the mention of Proust or Marilynne Robinson. Now I’m not talking about those graduate students who don’t actually read outside of the syllabus or enjoy the work they purport to do, though there are a few of those hanging around your average graduate program. I’m talking instead of the anti-intellectual intellectuals, those who make a show of their protest against all things egghead. These self-loathing brains shrug off their own academic and artistic pursuits with a wry grin. But the problem is: If you think a group of graduate students debating Kant is dull, just wait until you’ve heard a hundred arguments over the Cubs bullpen or the merits of mid-era Van Halen. If intellectual striving is pretentious, then what do we call an insistent resignation to fleeting mediocrity?”—
“Originally, Shaoxing’s stinky delicacies were poverty foods, cheap ingredients transformed into exciting relishes that would make palatable a subsistence diet that was largely meatless. These days, with rising living standards, they are falling out of favour with the younger generation. They may, however, be among the foods of the future, because, as the anthropologist Sidney Mintz argued in a paper at the Oxford Food Symposium, the “humble tools” of fermenting foods to unlock their nutrients and umami flavours will once again become invaluable in a world in which booming populations and dwindling resources pose new challenges to food security. Where tasty animal proteins are in short supply, fermented foods made from vegetables and legumes can fill the gap, as they have done in agrarian societies such as China’s for thousands of years.”—The stinky delights of Shaoxing - FT.com
“If you like to visit web pages, check on the weather, get the latest sports scores, listen to music, download podcasts, watch movies, play video games, use a GPS unit to navigate city streets, manage all your passwords, take photographs, share memories with friends, keep a calendar, take notes, read books or magazines, share your “tweets” on Twitter with your “tweeps”, get recommendations on restaurants, let your friends know where you are in a city, keep a todo list, make animated GIFs, edit photographs, produce and edit short films, record audio on a multichannel mixing station, use a compass, add or subtract one number from another, get access to files you’ve saved on other computers, have a robotic voice remind you of household tasks when you walk through your front door, keep the birthdays and phone numbers of every person in your life, track your sleep patterns and be woken at exactly the right time in your REM cycle, take college courses from real universities for free, keep track of all your passwords, use email, tune your guitar, monitor police-band broadcasts, remix ambient audio into a living aural nightmare, have AAA send a tow truck, find free condoms, learn how to tie a knot, write a novel, control a flying robotic drone, mail a letterpress card, control your television with a remote control, order a coffee, keep track of your finances, look up a recipe, send a friend money, check on the status of your airline flight, find your computer if it’s been lost, use a camera to create an augmented reality portal through which you can locate and identify celestial objects, keep track of your heart rate, take a personal credit card as payment, or make phone calls, you might consider buying an iPhone.”—iPhone Hands-On Review, Five Years Later | ANIMAL
In the last couple of years this Cool Britannia mythos, which at least liked to claim that it was vaguely alternative and in some sense progressive, has undergone a subtle but significant metamorphosis into Boris and Dave’s Big Society English Nationalist Jubilee Olympiad. When we look back at how the whole thing started, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised that certain members of Blur occupy a central position in Cameron’s Green Tory zeitgeist, or that the director of Trainspotting is just about to engineer a surreal English neo-pastoral Olympics opening ceremony for which the phrase ‘postmodern irony’ is only just barely adequate.
But hopefully the appearance of Lionel Asbo and its ludicrous bigotry will go some way toward exposing the absurdity of the condescending, Union-Jack-and-Pukka Pies worldview for what it really is. The writer who helped to initiate the Englishness-by-numbers of Britpop phoneyism back in the eighties has become a parody of himself with his latest novel. Maybe this is a sign that the time of the Keith Talents and the Damien Hirsts and the Charmless Men is over, and a cue for us to replace snide sarcasm and top-down nastiness with bottom-up optimism. The bully-boys of the neoliberal establishment are running out of ideas; let’s bury them and initiate a new kind of art that sees ordinary men and women as a source of hope rather than a subject fit only for satire.
“Might the cultural sensibility that came to be referred to as postmodernism best be seen as a prolonged meditation on all the technological changes that never happened? The question struck me as I watched one of the recent Star Wars movies. The movie was terrible, but I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the quality of the special effects. Recalling the clumsy special effects typical of fifties sci-fi films, I kept thinking how impressed a fifties audience would have been if they’d known what we could do by now—only to realize, “Actually, no. They wouldn’t be impressed at all, would they? They thought we’d be doing this kind of thing by now. Not just figuring out more sophisticated ways to simulate it.””—Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit | David Graeber | The Baffler
“I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person.* But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time…”—18-Year-Old Sylvia Plath on Loving Everybody and Living with Curiosity | Brain Pickings
“The Museum of Failed Products was itself a kind of accident, albeit a happier one. Its creator, a now-retired marketing man named Robert McMath, merely intended to accumulate a “reference library” of consumer products, not failures per se. And so, starting in the 1960s, he began purchasing and preserving a sample of every new item he could find. Soon, the collection outgrew his office in upstate New York and he was forced to move into a converted granary to accommodate it; later, GfK bought him out, moving the whole lot to Michigan. What McMath hadn’t taken into account was the three-word truth that was to prove the making of his career: “Most products fail.” According to some estimates, the failure rate is as high as 90%. Simply by collecting new products indiscriminately, McMath had ensured that his hoard would come to consist overwhelmingly of unsuccessful ones.”—Happiness is a glass half empty | Oliver Burkeman | Life and style | The Guardian
“While smartness is necessary for competent elites, it is far from sufficient: wisdom, judgment, empathy and ethical rigor are all as important, even if those traits are far less valued. Indeed, extreme intelligence without these qualities can be extremely destructive. But empathy does not impress the same way smartness does. Smartness dazzles and mesmerizes. More important, it intimidates. When a group of powerful people get together to make a group decision, conflict and argumentation ensue, and more often than not the decision that emerges is that which is articulated most forcefully by those parties perceived to be the “smartest.””—Why Elites Fail | The Nation
These videos are so addictive that they are cracking the very foundation of human civilization. The endless barrage of these tiny films erodes the circuitry in our prefrontal cortex that normally enable us to focus for long periods of time and compose Petrarchan sonnets to our loved ones. These videos evade the true complexity of life. They provide us with easy resolutions. They flatter us, rather than forcing us to ask tough questions about ourselves or our political system. We become zombies as the reward centers of the brain explode like fireworks, leaving us helpless victims for mind-controlling masters. Is it any wonder that the rise of these videos to global domination correlates perfectly with the rise of Kim Kardashian? What else could possible account for this coincidence?
Therefore we must take immediate steps to ban TED talks.
A tongue in cheek if accurate article about the pros and cons of the phenomenon that is TED.
“The Internet is, among other things, a massive, chaotic marketplace. Too much information, it turns out, is a lot like no information. “If we researched every single purchase, we wouldn’t have time to make any purchases,” says Anna Kirmani, a marketing professor at the University of Maryland. “I have better things to do with my time.””—Making Choices in the Age of Information Overload - NYTimes.com
“Moreover, there are a lot of merely possible people. How many? Well, very roughly, given the current generation of seven billion people, there are approximately three million billion billion billion different possible offspring—almost all of whom will never exist! If you go to three generations, you end up with more possible people than there are particles in the known universe, and almost none of those people get to be born.”—Is Death Bad for You? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education