Friday, February 22, 2008

And Yet Another...

Book Lust

Every now and then, someone who is brilliant says something stupid — often the result of spending too much time riding a jet stream of high praise. Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple Inc., did such a thing last month when he all but declared the death of reading.

Asked about Kindle, the electronic book reader from, Jobs was dismissive. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is,” he told John Markoff of The Times, “the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”

This is nonsense on several levels. But before we get to reading, let’s stipulate that Jobs is deserving of his 2007 ranking by Fortune Magazine as the most powerful person in business. Anyone who can cause revolutions in five industries, as Fortune noted, is a titan— capable of touching a billion lives.

You can find the rest here.

Tip to Greta.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

And now for the other side...

The Dumbing Of America
Call Me a Snob, but Really, We're a Nation of Dunces
By Susan Jacoby
Sunday, February 17, 2008; B01

"The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself." Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today's very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble -- in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

This is the last subject that any candidate would dare raise on the long and winding road to the White House. It is almost impossible to talk about the manner in which public ignorance contributes to grave national problems without being labeled an "elitist," one of the most powerful pejoratives that can be applied to anyone aspiring to high office. Instead, our politicians repeatedly assure Americans that they are just "folks," a patronizing term that you will search for in vain in important presidential speeches before 1980. (Just imagine: "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain . . . and that government of the folks, by the folks, for the folks, shall not perish from the earth.") Such exaltations of ordinariness are among the distinguishing traits of anti-intellectualism in any era.

The classic work on this subject by Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life," was published in early 1963, between the anti-communist crusades of the McCarthy era and the social convulsions of the late 1960s. Hofstadter saw American anti-intellectualism as a basically cyclical phenomenon that often manifested itself as the dark side of the country's democratic impulses in religion and education. But today's brand of anti-intellectualism is less a cycle than a flood. If Hofstadter (who died of leukemia in 1970 at age 54) had lived long enough to write a modern-day sequel, he would have found that our era of 24/7 infotainment has outstripped his most apocalyptic predictions about the future of American culture.

read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Literacy in the Digital Age

I was having a conversation with my friends Goa and Jeff about this very issue just last night and, lo and behold, I came across this compelling article by Howard Gardener in the Washington Post today:

What will happen to reading and writing in our time?

Could the doomsayers be right? Computers, they maintain, are destroying literacy. The signs -- students' declining reading scores, the drop in leisure reading to just minutes a week, the fact that half the adult population reads no books in a year -- are all pointing to the day when a literate American culture becomes a distant memory. By contract, optimists foresee the Internet ushering in a new, vibrant participatory culture of words. Will they carry the day?

read the rest here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Good Luck With That In November...

Funny send up.

The original can be found here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Henry Mancini's Barnacle

A triumphant return to Flarf (well, a return anyway)...

Henry Mancini's Barnacle

welcome to theocracy
the perfect world of
bald eagles and born-aginners a'calling
bombshells are for eastern cultures, not barmaids

never underestimate the importance of
mud-slinging, highly caffeinated
performance enhancing Republican leaders
returning to slaughter everyone who is not a Christian

globalization's valuation
as intense as 9/11 on steroids
someone should stop that ludicrous summer solstice
and agree to have a plucky duck religious first impression instead

not so sure about marine crustaceans
crazy kids with their colons
how big will I get from a bottle of steroids?
odds are it's probably steroids that got Jesus fingered

analyze abalone, abacuses, bilious vapors, and a barnacle encrusted blow-up pool
authorities also said they are investigating
whether steroids may have been a factor in Henry Mancini
he does have some outstanding baggage

for every human being on earth, there are about 200 million insects
abandon barleycorns and bald cypress, scrambled eggs, and scotch chasers at your peril
They invoke the nightmarish possibility of juxtaposition
That is—you can probably thank a trilobite for your soaring profits

four slim legs borrowed from the truth

The Joy Of Writing
by Wislawa Szymborska

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence - this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh
Copyright © Wislawa Szymborska, S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Truth About Meerkats

so I'm reading about meerkats
because there's just something I like about them
and I find out they belong to the mongoose family
which seems strange, because meerkats are pretty cute
while mongooses seem pretty nasty
but then I remember Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
who seemed nice enough
except to cobras
but he was just a character in a story
by the guy who wrote Gunga Din
so anyway, I find out meerkats sometimes share their burrows
with yellow mongooses
which are sometimes called red meerkats
and I wonder whether they like being labelled
and then I think maybe meerkats invite yellow mongooses
into their homes so they can treat them
the way the British soldiers treated Gunga Din
and if they do, what does that say about meerkats?
and, because we think they are so damned cute,
what does that say about us?

Saturday, February 2, 2008