Wired: We’re Changing the Way We Think

30 12 2008

Clive Thompson on “How YouTube Changes the Way We Think”:

So here’s my question: What exactly is this? What do you call MadV’s project? It isn’t quite a documentary; it isn’t exactly a conversation or a commentary, either. It’s some curious mongrel form. And it would have been inconceivable before the Internet and cheap webcams—prohibitively expensive and difficult to pull off.

This is what’s so fascinating about online video culture. DIY tools for shooting, editing, and broadcasting video aren’t just changing who uses the medium. They’re changing how we use it. We’re developing a new language of video—forms that let us say different things and maybe even think in different ways.

Most Laughable Politics of 2008 — Video Galore!

28 12 2008

Don’t miss this as you prepare for the New Year.

(Daniel Kurtzman edits the Political Humor page of About.com, part of The New York Times Company. He is author of the books “How to Win a Fight With a Conservative” and “How to Win a Fight With a Liberal.”)

“Wonderful Tradition of Philosophy and Science”

28 12 2008

. . .[and] the beauty of reason, too. Philosophy grows from religion as astronomy grew from astrology, chemistry from alchemy.

So sayeth Christopher Hitchens.

But as intelligent and reasonable as humans now may be, people the world over including our own American media when the cartoonish becomes scary enough, still pretend and defer to religious claims that divinity plays humanity like puppets in a scripted play, a play that casts most humans as unworthy and doomed no matter what.

Thus in the third millennium “there is no bigger subject than God” and religious leaders still can bully this modern world into abandoning it all — our hard-earned philosophy, science and reason — via their (heavenly or hellish?) weapons of mass destruction, from controlling education, information and economic progress, to genital mutilation and genocide, to the increasing threat of nuclear bombs.

Frisky cock of the snook to Lynn for this six-and-a-half-minute CNN video of Lou Dobbs and Christopher Hitchens talking about the danger of organized religion as politics and policy. The interview ends with Hitchens’ own citizenship journey as Thomas Jefferson’s biographer and finally becoming our “fellow American” on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday at Jefferson’s memorial in America’s capital, in the name of the First Amendment and the essential wall of separation Jefferson himself once imposed between church and state in Virginia.

Mortimer Adler’s definition of education was “the freeing discipline of wonder.” Religious education seems like an oxymoron then, unless we change our definition of religion, to match. Make it freeing rather than oppressive, wondrous rather than warlike, open to questions and new discovery and change. That was the thought when I wrote this:

Maybe human spirituality is evolving [for the next cultural era] as we discover and accept truths not through patriarchal personification and studying “authoritative” writings spelled out for our dutiful performance on demand, but through an “unschooled” direct [and democratic if you will] personal connection to each other, and to the universe as a system?
Read the rest of this entry »

If You’re Still Near a Computer. . .

23 12 2008

Go here for intelligent human holiday home magic. A quirky classic collection of stories, including five different takes on the Nutcracker ballet tradition alone — “I Hate the Nutcracker” for example, by a lovely-sounding lady who otherwise seems un-Scroogelike. . .we didn’t do the Nutcracker this year because the kids were cast in an original Irish fairy tale dance instead, The Snow Queen. It was Saturday night here, what a show! (More on that later if I get some pictures or video uploaded.)

And this should keep you busy, a Santa’s stocking full of stuff to bake, eat, drink, buy, read, watch, laugh at, dance to, and be culturally Jewish or Persian to, too . . .

“Look inside,” Francois said.
That’s when I noticed the mocha butter cream filling in the Yule log was missing two inches on each end.
“Your parents ate this while we were upstairs, probably with their fingers,” he said.

. . .The Yule stump was the one part of the meal that my parents ate with gusto.

“The inside is the best!” they told Francois.

If your kids are presently out of the room or else past the literal faith-of-a-child stage as you sit at the computer —  here’s Dave Sedaris as Crumpet the Elf unwittingly getting his real-life career start on NPR in 1992, reading his own “Santaland Diaries.”

To read rather than listen to another classic Sedaris story and pick up some cross-cultural Christmas history to astound the kiddies besides, click here for “Six to Eight Black Men” and be prepared with a plausible answer for passersby, about what’s making you laugh out loud:

One doesn’t want to be too much of a cultural chauvinist, but this seemed completely wrong to me. . .

And while you’re browsing, listen to this. If after you’ve heard it, you still think some Christmas music would be nice, go here and click on the “holiday music mix” hotlink for instant streaming gratification, holiday music picked out by smart people for smart people, that will sound a bit fresher than the department store or tv fare. 🙂


When the World Laughs With You. . .

18 12 2008

Our local health club just sent me this by email:

Do you ever wonder whether happy people have something that keeps them cheerful, chipper and able to see the good in everything? It turns out they do; they have happy friends.

New research from Harvard Medical School and the University of California suggests that happiness is influenced not only by the people you know, but by the people they know. The study shows that happiness spreads through social networks, sort of like a virus, meaning that your happiness could influence the happiness of someone you’ve never even met.

“We have known for a long time that there is a direct relationship between one person’s happiness and another’s,” says study co-author James H. Fowler, PhD, University of California. “But this study shows that indirect relationships also affect happiness. We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends’ happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ happiness.”

They concluded that the happiness of an immediate social contact increases an individual’s chances of becoming happy by 15 percent. The happiness of a second-degree contact, such as the spouse of a friend, increases the likeliness of becoming happy by 10 percent, and the happiness of a third-degree contact, or the friend of a friend of a friend, increases the likelihood of becoming happy by 6 percent.

Surround yourself with happy people, because happy friends can make you happy.
Source: webmd.com

Not like I didn’t already know that just about everything, good or bad, spreads through social networks. 😉

(Remember the study about how fat people have fat friends??)

“We’d Have Homeschooled Him, Our Boy Would Still Be Alive”

18 12 2008

“We would have home schooled him or taken him to another psychologist,” said [dad] Don King. “If we would have known, our boy would have never been in that room. He would still be alive.”

Barack Obama, Rick Warren and Dan Dennett for Thinking Parents

18 12 2008

Lynn at Bore Me to Tears is writing about Saddleback’s Rick Warren being tapped to do the official praying for America at Obama’s inauguration.

I found rival TED videos I’m watching and trying to connect this morning, first by author-pastor Rick Warren and then by philosopher and cognitive scientist Dan Dennett, refuting Warren’s best-selling book about humans and our “purpose” for being who we are, starting about 15 minutes into his talk and going great guns from there:

The key to our [human] domination of the planet is culture, and the key to culture is religion.

Bringing purpose to their lives is a wonderful goal and I give [Rick Warren] an A-plus on this . . .a fantastic achievement. . How does he do it?

. . .It’s been going on for thousands of years and he’s just the latest brilliant practitioner of it. . .Every time you read it or say it, you make another copy in your brain!

[Philosopher Dan Dennett calls for religion — all religion — to be taught in schools, so we can understand its nature as a natural phenomenon.] More about Dennett here.

Whose truth are we gonna listen to?

[Warren says] “Surrendered people follow God’s word even if it doesn’t make sense.”

. . .You don’t like my interpretation? Don’t listen, don’t listen, that’s the Devil speaking!

Dennett’s last line is particularly good imo: “I wish this meme would go extinct!”