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Initially, any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention. This was true as early as the invention of writing, which Plato complained hollowed out focal memory. Similarly, William Wordsworth’s sister complained that he wasted his mind in the newspapers of the day. It takes time and adaptation before a balance can be restored, not just in the “mentality” of the reader, as historians of the book like to say, but in the social systems that complete the reading environment. Right now, networked digital media do a poor job of balancing focal and peripheral attention.–“A New Metaphor for Reading,” Alan Lie, The New York Times
Three debatably good things: the Internet and the “absolute destruction of credentialism”; the demise of the professional man of letters; a cybersquatter defeated
A 45-year-old policeman was hacked to death with a machete while he was swimming with his wife near his home in Preah Vihear province’s Kampong Pronak commune. The attacker approached the policeman in a boat, and after committing the crime, docked and hired a motorbike taxi, travelling to the police station to confess. In his confession, the man said that he attacked the victim because of an incident several years ago in which the victim threatened to kill him with witchcraft.–“Cop Chopped for Witchcraft Threat,” Ramsey Kampuchea, The Phnom Penh Post
In March 2009 New York-based GfK Custom Research and British “place branding” consultant Simon Anholt released the global Nation Brands Index (NBI). It rates countries based on international perception of various categories, including tourism, investment, and immigration and governance. Germany ranked 1st overall, the UK 3rd, Canada 4th, the US 7th and China 28th. Iran placed 50th and Israel failed to make the top 50. While it’s tempting to dismiss nation branding as an example of the PR industry’s cynical commodification of the world, its assumptions can shed some light on Israel’s self-inflicted inability to re-brand.–“The Israeli Brand,” Craig Smith, Adbusters
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”