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compos mentis. Concision. Media. Clarity. Memes. Context. Melange. Confluence. Mishmash. Conflation. Mellifluous. Conviviality. Miscellany. Confelicity. Milieu. Cogent. Minty. Concoction.

Innovation and Incentives
Topic: Intellectual Property 1:34 pm EST, Mar 12, 2005

"... a masterly synthesis ..."

"... covers the entire waterfront of intellectual property ..."

"... a wide-ranging, rigorous, and lucid synthesis of the economics of innovation and the law of intellectual property. It is packed with useful information and penetrating critique."

Innovation and Incentives

An Agenda for Another Einstein
Topic: Science 1:16 am EST, Mar  3, 2005

Albert Einstein achieved scientific fame by asking questions and solving problems that nobody else had realized were problems.

The next big revolution will probably also come from an unexpected direction, but here are some of the Big Questions that are haunting physicists today.

An Agenda for Another Einstein

The Ditty Bops
Topic: Music 10:49 pm EST, Mar  1, 2005

The Bops are Hot.

Listen to "Sister Kate." (Navigate to Songs and Lyrics; it's track 4 on the album.) Also try "There's A Girl", which is track 9.

From the All Music Guide: Purveying an utterly charming sound that borrows from folk, pop, Western swing, and early vocal jazz, Los Angeles' fancifully named Ditty Bops feature the tightly woven harmonies of Amanda Barrett (who also handles mandolin and dulcimer duties) and Abby DeWald (who also plays guitar).

From the Amazon editorial review: Los Angeles duo The Ditty Bops call upon a 20th century grab bag of musical trends for the dozen songs that make up their eccentric debut album. DeWald and Barrett employ their effortless harmonies as instruments as they sashay through an influential spectrum that spans Bix Beiderbecke’s swinging twenties, through the Hot Club Quintet of France by way of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, and into the contemporary experimentation of producer Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Suzanne Vega).

Give the record three spins. You’ll know every song.

Their web site has the debut album. You'll find two live shows at

The Ditty Bops

The Road to Reality : A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe
Topic: Science 9:23 am EST, Mar  1, 2005

"A truly remarkable book."

"Genuinely magnificent ... the most stimulating book I have read in a long time."

"What a joy it is to read a book that doesn't simplify, doesn't dodge the difficult questions, and doesn't always pretend to have answers."

"... the high point of the year ..."

Roger Penrose has a new book.

The Road to Reality : A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe

The Tipping Points
Topic: Current Events 4:49 pm EST, Feb 27, 2005

Can you know you are in the middle of a tipping point, or is it only something you can see in retrospect?

The Tipping Points

Ben Kweller
Topic: Music 11:41 pm EST, Feb 15, 2005

You should check out Ben Kweller.

From the mini-review on Rhapsody:

Ben Kweller mixes Beck, the Pixies and Jonathan Richman into an odd-but-endearing sound overflowing with attitude.

Kweller is a new school indie rock singer-songwriter who draws comparisons to Matthew Sweet, Beck, and Elliott Smith all in one breath. Kweller lives in an alternate universe where influences like Sonic Youth and Ben Folds can coexist peacefully.

At his best, Kweller sounds like a cross between Jonathan Richman and Brian Wilson, but having said that he also sounds a little like Paul Simon too, if you envision that. The good news is, Kweller manages his influences in such a way as to expand on them, rather than engaging in empty imitation. The result is inescapably enjoyable indie pop with great drum sounds every time out.

For his latest album, "On My Way", his adolescent-like delivery skims the lean, stripped-down surface of his music, creating space for his poignant lyrics. Start with "Hear Me Out," "Different But the Same," and "I Need You Back."

From the All Music Guide:

Enthusiasm is what Ben Kweller brings to his work; his Ramones-like perennial goofy-teenager attitude and lack of antipathy are his golden attributes; combine that with a keen songwriting sense and you've got a pop powerhouse.

Over the course of 11 songs on "Sha Sha", he plays acoustic, folk-rock, alternative, power pop, and straight-ahead rock; his lyrics are consistently heart-sung but they aren't lite.

Kweller isn't afraid to wear his top-drawer influences on his sleeve, either: "No Reason" soars on guitar like a Frank Black tune and he sings "noooooo reason to cry" with the same vehemence with which Johnny Rotten sang "nooooo future."

On the follow-on album, "On My Way", a somewhat more mature approach is contrasted and balanced by Kweller's voice, which still sounds charmingly, vulnerably adolescent as he ventures further into his twenties. Best of all are the power pop-influenced songs, which are urgent, plaintive, and funny at the same time.

Six of his songs are available for free download (in MP3 format).

"On My Way"

I want to kill this man but he turned around and ran.
I'll kill him with karate that I learned in Japan.
He wouldn't see my face. I wouldn't leave a trace.
I wouldn't use a bullet cause a bullet's a disgrace.

Aw, mom, I never thought that I was a murdering man
but tonight I'm on my way.

"My Apartment"

Sometimes I wish I had a farm
where the only pollution is your cigarettes,
where your mind is clear.
But I like it here in my small space.
New York's the place where the sidewalks know my face
as I walk to

my apartment, the home where I hide
away from all the darkness outside.
I'm there all the time.

Ben Kweller

Lizzie West
Topic: Music 11:33 pm EST, Feb 15, 2005

From the All Music Guide:

Singer/songwriter Lizzie West is a wandering spirit, matching the heartbreak of Neko Case and the crass humor of Lucinda Williams and Kristin Hersh.

Lizzie West has lived her life as a wanderer. Time spent traveling cross-country shaped her sunny character as a young 20-something and strongly impacting her work as a poet and as a songwriter. West's self-titled EP was merely a glimpse into her wild imagination, and "Holy Road: Freedom Songs" vividly reflects upon her spiritual quest, collecting some of her brightest adventures for a brilliant debut album.

Lizzie West

Sensitive, Smart-Ass, and Really Fucking On
Topic: Music 9:40 am EST, Feb 15, 2005

Rilo Kiley has quickly turned from a twee LA pop band to the assured, anthem writing rock and roll heroes of today.

At their best, they're giving us catchy anthems both sensitive and smart-ass, leading us in sing-alongs about love, depression, the environment, and death. Punctuated by Sennett's knotty guitar lines and soaring climaxes, Lewis wields her pen like Liz Phair when she was relevant.

All Music Guide had this to say:

For More Adventurous, their Warner-distributed hello to the big time, the Los Angeles band is more cohesive, more spotless, and tidier in its tangle of indie pop, torch song, and too-cool-for-school cynicism. "More Adventurous" is a near perfectly-appointed collection of the various sounds the band does best. They're well-dressed conversationalists from the underground, armed with glockenspiels and extremely comforting handshakes.

That Rilo Kiley jump around so much stylistically could slow down More Adventurous' heat-seeker status. But the old-schoolers will enjoy greater attention to detail, and the newbies have hooks to love aplenty.

Sensitive, Smart-Ass, and Really Fucking On

The Greatest Love Story of the 20th Century
Topic: Music 7:47 pm EST, Feb 13, 2005

This American Life, Episode 247, Act Three. A Love Story.

Sarah Vowell tells "The Greatest Love Story of the 20th Century," Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. (10 minutes)

All true Johnny Cash fans should know this story.

Act Three begins at 47:10. Sarah's voice is gloriously annoying, don't you think?

The Greatest Love Story of the 20th Century

Missing Marshall McLuhan
Topic: Society 12:57 pm EST, Jan 17, 2005

"You know, Marshall McLuhan would have utterly hated this. He couldn't stand this sort of thing. He was a medievalist; he was a classical scholar."

"Engineering Future Culture," held in the basement of the Drake, was devoid of any real grounding in McLuhan. It became an interminable discussion on the preservation of Internet blogs. Terms like "revisioning" and "recontextualize" were tossed around like lighters at a Ku Klux Klan meeting, and frequent citations were made to "engineering social change," which led one to nervously recall another group of people who, during the Weimar Republic, also met in basements and advocated social change. As one festival-goer succinctly observed after spending three hours listening to "Engineering Future Culture," "This is shit."


As the last few intellectual thrusts of "Probing McLuhan" wound down, a figure rose from the crowd and said a few words. The voice was eerily reminiscent of the Master, as was the rhetoric. It was Eric McLuhan. "The new media won't fit into the classroom," he told the audience. "It already surrounds it. Perhaps that is the challenge of counterculture. The problem is to know what questions to ask."

For the first time that afternoon there was silence, and it spoke volumes.

Missing Marshall McLuhan

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