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Current Topic: Society

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

The Ends of the World as We Know Them
Topic: Society 12:19 am EST, Jan  2, 2005

How long can America remain ascendant?

Where will we stand 10 years from now, or even next year?

History warns us that when once-powerful societies collapse, they tend to do so quickly and unexpectedly.

A society contains a built-in blueprint for failure if the elite insulates itself from the consequences of its actions.

Could this happen in the United States? It's a thought that often occurs to me here in Los Angeles.

Take a deep lesson from history. We must be willing to re-examine long-held core values, when conditions change and those values no longer make sense.

This isn't "just another book promo" pseudo op-ed. There's a political element to it.

The Ends of the World as We Know Them

Mathematics Elsewhere : An Exploration of Ideas Across Cultures
Topic: Society 12:35 am EST, Dec 17, 2004

This book belongs on the shelves of mathematicians, math students, and math educators, and in the hands of anyone interested in traditional societies or how people think.

This scholarly work describes the anthropology of mathematical ideas in traditional societies and shows how the same ideas might be expressed by standard mathematical expressions.

Examples include traditional calendars, fortune-telling devices, systems of family and societal relationships, stick-charts used as navigation maps by Polynesian cultures, and more.

Through engaging examples of how particular societies structure time, reach decisions about the future, make models and maps, systematize relationships, and create intriguing figures, Marcia Ascher demonstrates that traditional cultures have mathematical ideas that are far more substantial and sophisticated than is generally acknowledged.

Mathematics Elsewhere : An Exploration of Ideas Across Cultures

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Topic: Society 11:55 pm EST, Dec 16, 2004

How can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?

Jared Diamond's new book is coming out at the end of the year. Publishers Weekly gave it a "starred review."

Brilliant, illuminating, and immensely absorbing, a fascinating comparative study of societies that have, sometimes fatally, undermined their own ecological foundations.

Diamond examines storied examples of human economic and social collapse, and even extinction. He explores patterns ... that lead inexorably to vicious circles ...

He finds today's global, technologically advanced civilization very far from solving the problems that plagued primitive, isolated communities in the remote past.

Diamond is a brilliant expositor of everything from anthropology to zoology, providing a lucid background of scientific lore to support a stimulating, incisive historical account of these many declines and falls. Readers will find his book an enthralling, and disturbing, reminder of the indissoluble links that bind humans to nature.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

American Mania: When More Is Not Enough
Topic: Society 11:51 pm EST, Dec 16, 2004

As a nation of acquisitive migrants, our insatiable quest for more now threatens our health and happiness.

An affluence in America far outstrips our need, and a rampant greed spawns the addictions of consumer culture -- food, money, and technology.

Publishers Weekly wrote: The indictment of American society offered here is familiar. What's more idiosyncratic and compelling is the author's grounding his treatise in political economy as well as in neuropsychiatry, primatology and genetics.

Whybrow's analysis of the contemporary rat race is acute.

American Mania: When More Is Not Enough

Bono's New Casualty
Topic: Society 9:35 am EST, Nov 22, 2004

For anyone who doubts that we are entering a new era, let's flash back just a few years. "Saving Private Ryan," with its "CSI"-style disembowelments and expletives undeleted, was nationally broadcast by ABC on Veteran's Day in both 2001 and 2002 without incident, and despite the protests of family-values groups.

What has changed between then and now?

A government with the zeal to control both information and culture has received what it calls a mandate.

Bono's New Casualty

Powell's Rules
Topic: Society 10:45 am EDT, Oct 23, 2004

Colin Powell kept a set of rules on his desk. Here are a few:

Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

Get mad, then get over it.

Have a vision. Be demanding.

Check small things.

You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.

Be careful what you choose. You may get it.

I've posted these before, but it's worth reviewing them periodically.

Powell's Rules

RE: Protect Consumers, or Big Business?
Topic: Society 1:03 am EDT, Aug  3, 2004

Vile wrote:
] What are you recommending?

I'm recommending that you read the text I quoted. Nothing more. Whether or not you click through is of secondary importance. The idea should stand on its own, more or less independent of the article in which it appeared.

It appears that you read it, or at least looked at it long enough to reply. Mission accomplished.

RE: Protect Consumers, or Big Business?

Remix Culture on Le Show
Topic: Society 10:27 am EDT, Jun  1, 2004

(This meme is extremely difficult to categorize ...)

Sunday's Le Show features a sampling of remix culture, based on mispronunciations in Bush's recent Iraq strategy speech.

As usual, the whole show is worthwhile -- there's more about "apples", for example -- but the remix culture bit in question can be found near the 15-20 minute mark.

Remix Culture on Le Show

Sports Illustrated - 2004 Swimsuit Edition - Models - Veronica Varekova
Topic: Society 1:15 am EDT, May 28, 2004

When asked, "Who is the person you would most like to meet?", Veronica Varekova, the cover model for the 2004 swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, replied:

Charlie Rose.

Charlie, not a man to keep a beautiful woman waiting, promptly complied, inviting her to the show for an interview. (The date was February 20. It is not available online, but I can confirm that it was a good interview.)

Sports Illustrated - 2004 Swimsuit Edition - Models - Veronica Varekova

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