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Current Topic: Society

Davos Dispatch
Topic: Society 7:53 am EST, Feb  1, 2010

Jonathan Harris:

It was a bit like standing on a cliff above an ocean cove carpeted with nesting squawking sea gulls, but these sea gulls were wearing blazers and instead of squawking and shitting out guano they were making deals.

They say that people do a year of business in three days here, assuming you do the kind of business that can be done in three days and helped by men in suits, which, unfortunately, I don't.

There is a lot of public snow building up, and nobody knows when it might start sliding.

When the danger of an avalanche is getting high, it's good to install a snow fence, which will protect you for a while. But it's even better to find or make a landscape where the mountains and the valleys don't have such a giant gulf between them.

Turkeys Voting for Christmas:

In contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.

Clive Thompson:

There's value in obscurity.

C.S. Lewis:

It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don't matter, that is much worse.

Davos Dispatch

The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University
Topic: Society 8:14 am EST, Jan 13, 2010

Louis Menand:

Has American higher education become a dinosaur?

Why do professors all tend to think alike?

What makes it so hard for colleges to decide which subjects should be required?

Why do teachers and scholars find it so difficult to transcend the limits of their disciplines?

Why, in short, are problems that should be easy for universities to solve so intractable?

The answer is that the institutional structure and the educational philosophy of higher education have remained the same for one hundred years, while faculties and student bodies have radically changed and technology has drastically transformed the way people produce and disseminate knowledge. At a time when competition to get into and succeed in college has never been more intense, universities are providing a less-useful education. Sparking a long-overdue debate about the future of American education, The Marketplace of Ideas examines what professors and students -- and all the rest of us -- might be better off without, while assessing what it is worth saving in our traditional university institutions.

Mark C. Taylor:

Graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning.


Bart, don't make fun of grad students! They just made a terrible life choice.

Andrew Lahde:

The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University

David After Dentist
Topic: Society 9:54 pm EST, Dec 16, 2009

David, after the dentist:

Is this real life?

Yes, David. Yes, it is.

David, after the dentist:

Is this going to be forever?

Yes, David. Yes, it is.

David Clark:

If the gathering, storage, and processing of information puts us all in the center of a digital panopticon, the failure to forget creates a panopticon crossbred with a time-travel machine. Don't forget about forgetting.

David Lynch:

So many things these days are made to look at later. Why not just have the experience and remember it?

David After Dentist

When Folly Is Forever
Topic: Society 7:42 am EST, Dec 11, 2009

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger:

Remembering has become the norm, and forgetting the exception.

Adam Keiper:

The implications are uncertain but potentially troubling.

But what's so bad about a little self-censorship?

Eric Schmidt:

If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

Georgie Binks:

Where do computer files go when you die?

Greg Conti:

Time is of the essence.

William Deresiewicz:

Facebook holds out a utopian possibility: What once was lost will now be found. But the heaven of the past is a promised land destroyed in the reaching. Facebook, here, becomes the anti-madeleine, an eraser of memory.

Mementos, snapshots, reunions, and now this -- all of them modes of amnesia, foes of true remembering. The past should stay in the heart, where it belongs.

David Clark:

If the gathering, storage, and processing of information puts us all in the center of a digital panopticon, the failure to forget creates a panopticon crossbred with a time-travel machine. Don't forget about forgetting.

Thom Andersen:

Perhaps "Blade Runner" expresses a nostalgia for a dystopian vision of the future that has become outdated. This vision offered some consolation, because it was at least sublime. Now the future looks brighter, hotter and blander. Computers will get faster, and we will get slower. There will be plenty of progress, but few of us will be any better off or happier for it.

Louis CK:

Everything is amazing right now, and nobody's happy ...

When Folly Is Forever

Lost in the Waves
Topic: Society 6:04 am EST, Dec  3, 2009

Justin Heckert:

Swept out to sea by a riptide, a father and his 12-year-old son struggle to stay alive miles from shore.


Only his breath in the darkness, a silence as everything settled in. For half an hour, Walt had yelled, begging for Christopher to answer. He had given up conserving energy, had been swimming as hard as he could to try and find his son. "Who's my best boy?" Nothing. "Christopher, who's my buddy?" Only the fish beneath him, brushing against his back and legs.


Walt spun in every direction, trying to spot the small white face and the dark-brown hair.

But he was gone.

David Foster Wallace:

If you've never wept and want to, have a child.

Julian Schnabel:

Being in the water alone sharpens a particular kind of concentration, an ability to agree with the ocean, to react with a force that is larger than you are.

Cormac McCarthy, "The Road":

We're going to be okay, aren't we Papa?
Yes. We are.
And nothing bad is going to happen to us.
That's right.
Because we're carrying the fire.
Yes. Because we're carrying the fire.

Lost in the Waves

We Like Lists Because We Don't Want to Die
Topic: Society 7:05 pm EST, Nov 29, 2009

Umberto Eco:

The list is the origin of culture.

What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order -- not always, but often. How, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible?

We have always been fascinated by infinite space, by the endless stars and by galaxies upon galaxies. How does a person feel when looking at the sky? He thinks that he doesn't have enough tongues to describe what he sees.

Michiru Hoshino:

Oh! I feel it. I feel the cosmos!

Rudy Rucker:

It is in the realm of infinity that mathematics, science, and logic merge with the fantastic. By closely examining the paradoxes that arise from this merging, we can learn a great deal about the human mind, its powers, and its limitations.

Found Magazine:

We collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles -- anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life.


Schools ought to teach the high art of how to be discriminating.


I'm going to file "Giddy Anticipation of an Apocalypse" next to actually having an AK-47 on your flag as God's way of telling you that you're bat shit crazy.

Alan Kay:

If the children are being instructed in the pink plane, can we teach them to think in the blue plane and live in a pink-plane society?


Culture isn't knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes.

We Like Lists Because We Don't Want to Die

Crankster, the Anti-Social Site for Networking
Topic: Society 8:24 am EST, Nov  4, 2009

Roz Chast:

Wendy doesn't care what you're doing now or ever, so please keep it "under your hat."

Jonathan Franzen:

Privacy, to me, is not about keeping my personal life hidden from other people. It's about sparing me from the intrusion of other people's personal lives.

David Lazarus:

For many Californians, the looming demise of the "time lady," as she's come to be known, marks the end of a more genteel era, when we all had time to share.

Crankster, the Anti-Social Site for Networking

A New Theory of Awesomeness and Miracles
Topic: Society 8:24 am EST, Nov  4, 2009

James Bridle:

Today I'm going to talk about the idea of the miraculous, or at least the appearance of the miraculous. Humans have a strange relationship to the miraculous, but the prime emotion it seems to stimulate is awe, and awesomeness is pretty much what we're all striving for.

A New Theory of Awesomeness and Miracles

Ghost Story
Topic: Society 8:03 am EDT, Oct 28, 2009

Anne Frank:

Whenever you're feeling lonely or sad, try going to the loft on a beautiful day and looking outside. Not at the houses and the rooftops, but at the sky. As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you'll know that you're pure within and will find happiness once more.

Stefany Anne Golberg:

That's Anne Frank in a nutshell. A girl at a window, looking fearlessly at the sky.

Ghost Story

Play Politics
Topic: Society 8:12 am EDT, Sep 17, 2009

Advice from Garry Wills:

Play to your strengths.

Learn to write well.

Read, read, read.

Seek out the most intellectually adventurous of your fellow students.

Do not fear political activism.

Richard Hamming:

If you do not work on an important problem, it's unlikely you'll do important work.

How The Average U.S. Consumer Spends Their Annual Paycheck

Reading: $118
"Entertainment": $2,698

Donald Rumsfeld:

If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.

Ira Glass:

If you're not failing all the time, you're not creating a situation where you can get super-lucky.

Play Politics

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