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Warning: Great (Cultural) Links Here! (Part 1)

Regular readers may have noticed how rarely I’ve done a link dump on this blog as of late. I read just as much as before and come across a ton of interesting things (I just don’t have time to blog about them).  When you have been blogging a while, you realize that blogging about the daily scandals matters little in the grand scheme of things, and when time is scarce, it’s better to write something  personal in nature than try to outblog the current events bloggers. Actually, my work situation should be changing in about a week; this should permit a lot more time on creative projects and of course blogging. Anyway, I find some great stuff and email a link to someone only to realize that gosh, I should be blogging about it.

This first linksdump will contain links related to current events, culture, politics and literature. All just amazing stuff!

First, youtube videos:

Stop worrying about global warming. Start worrying about colony collapse disorder!

Maryellen Driscoll on how to choose a chef knife.  According to consumersearch.com, the best kitchen knife is the $60 Wusthof Classic.

James Fallows Interview with a leading Chinese financier.  About derivatives:

In 1999 or 2000, I gave a talk to the State Council [China’s main ruling body], with Premier Zhu Rongji. They wanted me to explain about capital markets and how they worked. These were all ministers and mostly not from a financial background. So I wondered, How do I explain derivatives?, and I used the model of mirrors.

First of all, you have this book to sell. [He picks up a leather-bound book.] This is worth something, because of all the labor and so on you put in it. But then someone says, “I don’t have to sell the book itself! I have a mirror, and I can sell the mirror image of the book!” Okay. That’s a stock certificate. And then someone else says, “I have another mirror—I can sell a mirror image of that mirror.” Derivatives. That’s fine too, for a while. Then you have 10,000 mirrors, and the image is almost perfect. People start to believe that these mirrors are almost the real thing. But at some point, the image is interrupted. And all the rest will go.

When I told the State Council about the mirrors, they all started laughing. “How can you sell a mirror image! Won’t there be distortion?” But this is what happened with the American economy, and it will be a long and painful process to come down.

James Fallows has been doing some outstanding blogging on his Asia Blog. The reason I enjoy his writing so much is that he focuses more on the cultural and social issues than ephemeral politics. I

Clay Shirky  comments about his 1993 prediction about newspapers:

In fact, I’d only arrived on the net in ’93, a complete newbie, and most of my opinions about newspapers came from talking with Gordy Thompson of the NY Times and Brad Templeton of Clarinet. Instead, what struck me, re-reading my younger self, was this: a dozen years ago, a kid who’d only just had his brains blown via TCP/IP nevertheless understood that the newspaper business was screwed, not because this was a sophisticated conclusion, but because it was obvious.

And once that became obvious, we said so, over and over again, all the time. We said it in public, we said it in private. We said it when newspapers hired us as designers, we said it when we were brought in as consultants, we said it for free. We were some tiresome motherfuckers with all our talk about the end of news on paper. And you know what? The people who made their living from printing the news listened, and then decided not to believe us.

I’m too lazy to verify this, but I think this article mentioned that local newspapers are no longer relevant to readers because they have failed to distinguish themselves from the national media. I think that the New York Times site for example satisfies a lot of my reading needs. The Houston Chronicle has done a great job localizing the news and opening up their sites to reader comments and user blogs. Here’s the main problem: 1)75% of reader comments are incomprehensible/offensive and 2)95% of user-created blogs are boring.

If you haven’t been following Robert Reich’s blog every other day, you are missing out on amazing insights about the current financial crisis. See Why Citigroup doesn’t deserve a bailout, against TARP. Here’s his thoughts about the size of the stimulus:

People often ask where the money for the stimulus will come from. The answer is the same places from which the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have financed their far larger attempt to rescue the financial system. The bulk of the money will have to be borrowed from abroad, largely from China and Japan. This is less than ideal, but failure to adequately stimulate the U.S. economy, resulting in years of economic stagnation, would be far worse – both for us and for the rest of the world. Moreover, our current ratio of debt to gross domestic product is still below 50 percent, not substantially higher than that of most other industrialized nations. In 1946, our debt to GDP ratio was over 100 percent. Most of the declines in our debt-GDP ratio over the years have been achieved through higher levels of economic growth rather than through less debt. The sooner we return to growth, the better able we will be to reduce this ratio.

Ironically, when Reich announces that he won’t be blogging for the next week, he receives 69 comments!

David Carnoy sums up current knowledge about self-publishing.

Mike Cane talks about the horror of paper books:

I found a book I would have liked to have.
But I couldn’t bring myself to buy it.
I kept having flashbacks to all the times I’ve had to get boxes, put the books in boxes, carry the damned boxes, move the damn boxes, unpack the damn boxes, and again arrange the damn hundreds and hundreds of pounds of printed paper books.
That book would have been another pound to lug around. Another frikkin object hanging like an albatross around my neck, limiting my mobility, weighing me down, reminding me that it will remain when I’m gone.
Let me say again: I really wanted the book.
But I physically could not buy it.
I’ve developed a bizarre allergy to printed books — of the kind that are bought and owned and have to be moved around and that are always looked at and that are also a reminder of one’s mortality.
Library books I don’t have that problem with.
I can temporarily lug them home, even have a pile, read them, and then poof! back to the library they go.
But I want to own books.
I feel a guilt at not giving writers their rightful payment for reading.
Plus, with things being the way they are — and have been — I can no longer count on any public library having a copy of anything on its shelves. I once had to go to the Northern part of Manhattan just to read a short story by Barry N. Malzberg because only the City University had a back issue of the pulp magazine it was printed in!
This is another reason why I am an eBook militant.
I’ve never been a paper fetishist. My first collection of books were mass-market paperbacks. I never liked the size and weight of trade paperbacks and hard covers. But I eventually amassed a collection of those too. I couldn’t help it: Publishing had changed and there was no longer a guarantee of anything in hardcover or trade paper moving down to cheap paperback!
But the book as an object I came to see for what it is: A cage for the words within it.

From Cane’s blog, found a great essay by Adrian Hon about the Long Decline of Reading. He covers why the problem is not that people can’t read, but that they choose not to:

Reading is not simply a faster form of listening; it is a qualitatively different process that involves completely different pathways in the brain. The field of language acquisition is a messy and contentious one, but few would disagree with the statement that it is much easier – for whatever reason – for children to learn how to talk than to read.

Not only that, but as we read more and more, the process of reading requires less effort, allowing us to draw comparisons and make connections to other things we have read and seen in the past. Advanced readers really do have a completely different reading experience than learning or basis readers, one that is richer, more entertaining and more engrossing as we can catch the references and asides and jokes. This is what some people call ‘deep reading’, the type of reading the involves analysis and comprehension rather than just word recognition, and it takes time and practice.

Kindergarten students define what love is:

Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.
When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.  So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis, too.  That’s love.
When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You know that your name is safe in their mouth.
Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.
Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your fries without making them give you any of theirs.
Love is when someone hurts you.  And you get so mad but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings.
Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.
Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is okay.
Love is when you kiss all the time.  Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.
My mommy and daddy are like that.  They look gross when they kiss.
Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.
When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you’re scared they won’t love you anymore.  But then you get surprised because not only do they still love you, they love you even more.
Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.
Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.
During my piano recital, I was on a stage and scared.  I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.  He was the only one doing that.  I wasn’t scared anymore."
My mommy loves me more than anybody.  You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.
Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken.
Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.
Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.
I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.
I let my big sister pick on me because my Mom says she only picks on me because she loves me.  So I pick on my baby sister because I love her.
Love cards like Valentine’s cards say stuff on them that we’d like to say ourselves, but we wouldn’t be caught dead saying.
When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.
Love is when mommy sees daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.
You really shouldn’t say "I love you" unless you mean it.  But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget.


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