insular habits of mind, more alone than ever, burn the books and the ideas survive

The Internet has changed many things, but not the insular habits of mind that keep the world from becoming truly connected

A central paradox of this connected age is that while it’s easier than ever to share information and perspectives from different parts of the world, we may be encountering a narrower picture of the world than we did in less connected days. During the Vietnam War, television reporting from the frontlines involved transporting exposed film from Southeast Asia by air, then developing and editing it in the United States before broadcasting it days later. Now, an unfolding crisis such as the Japanese tsunami or Haitian earthquake can be reported in real time via satellite. Despite these lowered barriers, today’s American television news features less than half as many international stories as were broadcast in the 1970s.

The pace of print media reporting has accelerated sharply, with newspapers moving to a “digital first” strategy, publishing fresh information online as news breaks. While papers publish many more stories than they did 40 years ago (online and offline), Britain’s four major dailies publish on average 45 percent fewer international stories than they did in 1979.

Why worry about what’s covered in newspapers and television when it’s possible to read firsthand accounts from Syria or Sierra Leone? Research suggests that we rarely read such accounts. My studies of online news consumption show that 95 percent of the news consumed by American Internet users is published in the United States. By this metric, the United States is less parochial than many other nations, which consume even less news published in other countries. This locality effect crosses into social media as well. A recent study of Twitter, a tool used by 400 million people around the world, showed that we’re far more likely to follow people who are physically close to us than to follow someone outside our home country’s borders, or even a few states or provinces away. Thirty-nine percent of the relationships on Twitter involve someone following the tweets of a person in the same metropolitan area. In the Twitter hotbed of São Paulo, Brazil, more than 78 percent of the relationships are local. So much for the death of distance.

I use Twitter much like I used to use an RSS reader. While I subscribe to narrow specialized topics like astrobiology for instance, I also subscribe to international news. One is a very good Australian internet based newspaper. As the conservative war on women rolls on here, it is interesting to see the issues faced by women in Australia – very easy to fall into homelessness and poverty. That news is also interspersed with news about human rights about women and humanity in general n countries like Turkey ( which seems to be taking a half step back at the moment). Yet both Australia and Turkey look less awful in comparison to Saudi Arabia or Syria. While we are caught up in our issues, which do seem overwhelming – currently there are approximately 400 separate bills in state legislators right now that infringe on women’s rights, and by proxy men’s rights. I can click over and sign the occasional petition – who knows if those are even read by those in power, but despite the power of the internet, time still does not expand to allow that naive, if noble notion of global connections. Plus, like most people I need some time to decompress. That means consuming some lighter news, watching TV or just watching the birds outside the window. In the never-ending race to save the world people do need to save their sanity. Backing off all that connectedness a little bit is one way to do that.

Via here Going Solo: A Brief History of Living Alone and the Enduring Social Stigma Around Singletons.

In the 4th century BC, Aristotle admonished:

The man who is isolated, who is unable to share in the benefits of political association, or has no need to share because he is already self-sufficient, is no part of the polis, and must therefore be either a beast or a god.

[  ]….Until recently, most of us married young and parted only at death. If death came early, we remarried quickly; if late, we moved in with family, or they with us. Now we marry later. We divorce, and stay single for years or decades. We survive our spouses, and do whatever we can to avoid moving in with others — even, perhaps especially, our children. We cycle in and out of different living arrangements: alone, together, together alone […] [T]oday, for the first time in centuries, the majority of all American adults are single. The typical American will spend more of his or her adult life unmarried than married, and for much of this time he or she will live alone.

I’ve noticed people in abusive families or personal relationships over the years and noticed how people stay in them. Sometimes they have no real choice because of financial considerations or geographic isolation. Other times I think people stay because they are of something like Aristotle’s observation. Better an abusive relationship – emotionally abusive – than the beast of being alone.

And by way of here, these amazing creatures –  Aliens Are Living Under the White Sea. I’m just posting the one shot, but all of them are worth a look. They were captured by the head of the diving department of Moscow State University. The White Sea at Wikipedia.


A counter and contrarian argument for book burning – Can an E-Book Be Burnt?

I myself believe the Qur’an is a rich historical document, one among many others, and for this reason I hope you will understand that I can’t really convince myself that burning it would shake up the cosmic order any more than the incineration of old newspaper (a pastime at which I have much experience). I particularly don’t enjoy thinking that fear of reactions outside the United States should prevent people within the United States from performing a perfectly legal and merely symbolic act such as the burning of whatever book it is that they happen not to like. What would ordinarily be a distasteful gesture from a clueless yokel such as Jones is for me transformed by the threat of a violent reaction into a question of sovereignty and freedom.

I am against book burning. Any book burning. Though doing so is largely symbolic. If you burn the Bible or Slaughterhouse-five or a flag, you just make people who like those things like them even more. It is ultimately counter productive. In some instances as in the Qur’an burning is is about people who have neither the imagination, emotional strength or ideas to combat what they see as wrong. There is a lot of awful religious writing out there and even more people who will take even the best of what is available and still do evil in its name. It’s a battle of ideas. The burners have generally surrendered. They reach for a match instead of a better argument.

paint colors wallpaper

Susan Wright, mother of the Wright brothers, was brought something to her marriage her husband did not. A fair amount of mechanical know how she learned growing up. She passed on that aptitude to the kids.

“We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity. In a different kind of environment, our curiosity might have been nipped long before it could have borne fruit.”– Orville Wright


Inside the New York Times ‘Lively Morgue’. Video about the NYT  archives, not death.


banks and robbers, professional weasels, there was never a perfect fairy tale

Fayetteville, N.C. —Two men convicted of robbing a Fayetteville bank in 2010 will spend decades behind bars on federal charges. Rodney Atawan Brown, 30, was sentenced this week to 32 years in prison, and Larry Rodgers Jr. to 17 years. If they wanted to steal money without fear of going to prison they should have become bankers.

May 8, 2012. Connyland Marine Park in northeast Switzerland – Toxicology reports found a heroin substitute in the systems of dolphins Shadow and Chelmers, who died soon after a massive party at the amusement park where they lived. So much for friends in the sky looking out for the sweet and innocent.

Tim Carney, professional weasel apologist for Mitt Romney uses media appearance to bash media because the media asked questions about Mitten’s past that conservatives do not want to answer. Tamron Hall replies that if you do not like the questions and knew what they would be, why did you appear. Did Carney think he would be asked about Romney’s favorite soup. The media, cowed by conservatives, thinks it is fine to ask questions about Obama’s past, including the past made up by conservative web sites, yet it is not good journalism to report on Romney’s actual history. This is not the introduction to a science fiction short story. This is the reality that other people frame for us. M’s Hall dared to question that plastic reality.

90 year old actress Betty White endorsed President Obama. Conservatives suddenly decide one of the most beloved people in the country is senile.

Fenerbahce Riot: Soccer Fans Clash With Police In Istanbul After Turkish Championship Game. Soccer is not so much a sport as much as the prelude to a tribal-like ritual in which pent up male aggression go bunkers. Better the stadium than the living room.

Syracuse Herald, Syracuse. Report from Wilmington, Del., Feb. 2, 1912 –  While a large sled containing twenty young men and women was coasting at the rate of more than a mile a minute on a steep hill on West Fourth street here last night the steering gear gave way. The sled crashed into a fire plug with fearful results. Robert McFarland, aged 20, the steersman, was fatally hurt. All those Currier and Ives prints of carefree sleigh rides through the snow are a lie.

1903 – First Silent Movie: The Great Train Robbery. Produced by Thomas Edison but directed and filmed by Edison Company employee Edwin S. Porter, The Great Train Robbery was the first narrative movie, one that told a story. America thus started its spiral of moral decline. Or highlighted the tendencies of Americans to blame their moral failings on inanimate objects, art and technology rather than take a long hard look inward.

@New_Mexico_News – Samuel Tso, 89, one of WWII’s 400 Navajo Code Talkers—who used the Navajo language to baffle Japanese code-breakers—has died in Farmington.

Skater girls photographed by Nikki Toole

Photographed by Nikki Toole

Much of my work explores notions of unconscious expression and the vulnerability of existing within a group or at the margins of a group. For me, the skater typifies both extremes of this existence.

How many times does an economist who has been right more often than most have to repeat himself – Panics Happen

Apropos something I’m working on, there’s a very widespread belief on the right that banking crises only happen because either the Fed or Barney Frank cause them; go back to a gold standard, and there would be no need for financial regulation or anything like that.

This is, of course, nonsense; Walter Bagehot knew all about financial crises, which have been a constant feature of modern economies since at least the early 19th century. Just to drive the point home, I thought it might be worth posting Gary Gorton’s chart (pdf) of “panics” before the Fed went into operation:

Rather than fusion or hydrogen how about a power generated by ground conservative or libertarian unicorn horn. It seems to be available in abundant never ending supply.

Legendary Bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn Passes Away At Age 70

Born in Memphis in November 24, 1941, Dunn started playing bass at the age of 16. “I tried the guitar but it had two strings too many,” he wrote on his website. “It was just too complicated, man! Plus, I grew up with Steve Cropper. There were so many good guitar players another one wasn’t needed. What was needed was a bass.”

Cropper and Dunn soon formed a band, The Royal Spades, which grew into the Mar-Keys. The mother of the band’s saxophone player, Charles “Packy” Axton, was Estelle Axton, who owned the fledgling Satellite Record label. Shortly after their song ‘Last Night’ became a national hit, the label changed its name to Stax.

The electric piano technology of the time would make a good semi-torture device, but the song still sounds pretty good. If you click over there is a related HQ version of Booker T & the MG’s – green onions. I used this video so you can see Dunn playing.

orange on black splash wallpaper