Blacknell.net

Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Friday Notes: Double Stack Edition

Missed this last Friday, so you get double the helping of trivial matters:

First up – I’m big in China!  Yes, if you use the Chinese Google to search for “false statement“, I’m right there on the first page of results.   Ahead of Bush, Cheney, and the “Criminal Tax Manual”, no less. I couldn’t have done it without Mark Ellmore.

(Oh, okay, Mark Ellmore and oppressive governmental control.)

(Update: Sigh. Being big in China is such a fleeting thing.  Already, I’m on the second page.  Maybe I’ll have to settle for being big in Belgium.)

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If you haven’t been reading Pro Publica, you should be.  Start with this story about the half a billion dollars the US has spent on a failed propaganda station.  Looks like the US worked very hard to ensure that no one in the Middle East ever takes anything that comes from the US government seriously.

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Atrios noted what I thought was a pretty sobering reality check, yesterday – GM’s market cap is (take your pick): the same as H&R Block’s, half that of Avon’s, and one fifth of Ebay’s.  I know things have been rough for them for a while now, but . . . wow.

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Speaking of Google – Nicholas Carr asks whether it’s “making us stupid?” It’s a long article, but well worth your time if you’ve ever wondered about the real effects on your thinking of having Google at your finger tips for years.

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You know how the rightwingers are always going on about the coming Islamic invasion and subjugation of America?  Well, in case you missed it, one of their cultural heroes – the mercenary company Blackwater – is trying to avoid responsiblity for the deaths of three American passengers on one of its charter flights by arguing that Shari’a (Islamic law) should apply, since the crash occurred in Afghanistan.

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The Burn Rate as performance art.  Good thing he’s in Ethiopia.

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Neal Stephenson’s new book is coming out on September 9th.  I cannot possibly finish the Baroque Cycle by then.

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The FCC wants to auction off a slice of the airwaves so you can get free wireless Internet!*

*And by Internet, they mean access to pre-approved content, excluding anything that isn’t “family-friendly”, in order to “protect children and families.”

I wish I could tell you that it’s the tidal wave of mockery and laughter that’s going to kill this proposal, but it’ll be the telecoms that prefer to charge you a hefty monthly fee to access your porn.

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3 Comments

  1. Peej

    I think that if I am still mulling over an article you linked to four days ago, it means that I have something to say about it. I will admit to not having reread it since, so I may be paraphrasing or remembering things a bit skewed.

    Also this may be a tad bit long and rambling and very likely full of run on sentences and typos. Proceed at your own risk.

    ***

    I found the article on the impact of Google and the internet, as a whole, on our way of processing information and, specifically, reading approach, quite interesting. As a [previously] self professed deep and voracious reader, I am all too aware of the changes in my own reading habits, process and rituals in the past decade. I mourn the loss of my ability to lose myself, not just in a good book, but in anything written, because for me it was never about the book the itself, as much as it was about reading something written. (especially during the years back home when getting my hands on anything written in English was manna, so I read Mills and Boons imports from before the revolution with as much enthusiasm as my sister’s high school copy of The Brothers Karamazov, or my parents’ 1963 set of Encyclopedia Americana, or my aunt’s copy of Erich Fromm’s Fear of Freedom, or my uncle’s old copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.) I’d lose myself in the words because they were there for me to do so, and because I had all the time and the drive to do so.

    Which brings me to my next point. As much as I agree that the change in the way information is dished and served up to us, as well as the internet age in general, has affected out way of thinking and, in turn, has a hand in the decrease of deep reading, there is also a key point being missed: That the demographic that [I think] is being scrutinized are also the ones who, at this point in their life, would have ceased to be the deep readers they once were, for the most part, *regardless* of which way the information age took a turn, because of that lack of time and drive needed for the all consuming reading marathon. A lack which is natural at this stage of their life. Of course, I am basing this solely on anecdotal and personal experience, but I think that is also what the author of the article is doing, so I’m in good company, so to speak. In any case, let me elaborate. I come from a family of deep reader. My parents and aunts and uncles are the type of people who read Roman Roland’s Jean Cristof as teenagers for fun (if you’ve ever tried to read it, you’ll know that you really need to be enamored of reading and getting to that euphoric state of being oblivious to anything but what you are reading to really get going with Jean Cristof and actually finish it.) Yet, for all their love of reading the vast number of books of prose and poetry, by both Persian and non Persian authors, I never observed them do any of that deep reading as i was growing up when they incidentally, where at the stage of life and fell into the age demographic of those lamenting their loss of reading acumen in the article. They had no internet to change their way of absorbing the written word; they didn’t have hyperlinks to shorten their attention span and create instant gratification. Yet, with perhaps a few notable exceptions of certain books, they took anywhere from a few years to a few decades break from that type of reading, until they reached the stage of life–typically near retirement–where once again time and [freedom of daily thought leading to] drive to read with that same abandon was theirs again. In the last ten or so years, I am seeing how my parents must’ve been as teenage readers, reading with a simultaneous abandon and enthrallment that makes me both jealous and hopeful.

    (As a side note, the fact that I rarely saw my parents pick up a book until I was well into my late teens, and that not affecting my love of reading is why I don’t buy into the whole ‘read to your child from when they’re in utero if you want to nurture a love of reading in them’ hype and that indirect environmental influences–as well as some genetic predisposition–is much more effective. But that’s a topic for another day).

    I also think there is something else that was overlooked and that is how the new way of accessing reading material has actually enabled different type of readers to adopt the deep reading that is eluding the rest of us (this kind of ties back to my genetic disposition comment above). Once again, I am going purely on personal experience, this time using L. as an example. L. was never a deep reader. In fact, by any typical definition, L. was never a reader. What I’ve seen over the last decade–the same period of time when my own powers of reading attentiveness have declined–is that he has become more and more likely to savor the written word and to read certain material of interest to him at length and contained in one document etc, rather in snippets gathered from various jumps from article to article and link to link. He has become adept at seeking what he considers his one stop shopping source for whatever is piquing his interest, and spending time making his way through it, precisely because the information is so readily available now and he feels he has the luxury of choice. In way, having that variety and choice has made him more likely to slow down and read at length.

    ***

    As I warned in the beginning, long and rambling but if I didn’t post now, I might never get around to, what with the short attention span and all. I guess I’m about to find out if your comments have a limit on how many characters can be included.

  2. MB

    What was the four-days ago linked article?

  3. Peej

    Oh, wait, you mean my mind can’t be read over the internet?!

    (The Nicholas Carr one.)

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