Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tab-clearing, 9/22

  • TNC on Kanye, "manners" and all that:
  • Even Brooks view of the "Greatest Generation" is myopic. In 1948 Strom Thurmond authored the segregationist Dixiecrat charter, while immodestly fathering a daughter with a black women. In 1946, Isaac Woodward, a veteran of World War II, was beaten and blinded--while in uniform--by South Carolina police. The police were prosecuted, but the jury acquitted them, and a court-room full of Americans broke out in immodest applause.

    This is history through the veil, again. It's virtually impossible to be a black person and believe that Americans were somehow more humble in the past. Our very existence springs from an act of immodesty.
  • The Internet is not making us stupid. Stop saying that it is.
  • I start with Plato's critique of writing where he says that if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember things. Our memory will become weak. And he also criticizes writing because the written text is not interactive in the way spoken communication is. He also says that written words are essentially shadows of the things they represent. They're not the thing itself. Of course we remember all this because Plato wrote it down -- the ultimate irony.

    We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won't have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there's no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant -- it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of "this is going to revolutionize everything" versus "this is going to destroy everything."
  • Classic book titles, 21st-century style:
  • Then: The Wealth of Nations
    Now:  Invisible Hands: The Mysterious Market Forces That Control Our Lives and How to Profit from Them

    Then: Walden
    Now:  Camping with Myself: Two Years in American Tuscany

  • The ghost fleet of the recession:
  • "A couple of years ago these ships would be steaming back and forth. Now 12 per cent are doing nothing.."
  • The relative energy efficiency of transport modes, revisited. Cyclists still win! (Thanks, Adam!)
  • Surface area required to power the world with sun and wind.
  • And finally, it turns out Ayn Rand and her cultists were kind of weird. Who knew?

1 comment:

Gar Lipow said...

Note on bus figures. These are coach buses - travel between cities. If you use urban or commuter buses which are NOT filled as much and which make more stops, the efficiency drops drastically.