Peter Turchin is a Professor of Mathematics, and of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. For the last nine years, he's been taking the mathematical techniques that once allowed him to track predator–prey cycles in forest ecosystems, and using them to model human history -- a pattern identification process he calls Cliodynamics. The goal of cliodynamics (or cliometrics) is to turn history into a predictive, analytic science. By analysing some of the broad social forces that shape transformative events in US society: historical records on economic activity, demographic trends and outbursts of violence, he has come to the conclusion that a new wave of internal strife is already on its way, and should peak around 2020. [more inside]
Both inside and outside the walls of Facebook, the story of social games has become one of dead geese and golden eggs, flatlined growth, formulaic games and shady practises. Many warned that the sector was slowing down, but sometimes giants need to fall. It needs to get bad enough before people start to really consider what's next... So what comes next?
"Confessions of an Ex-Mormon: A personal history of America’s most misunderstood religion." by Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air and Lost in the Meritocracy. (Via)
Where Are Your Keys? (WAYK) is a language-learning game that starts with identifying a few simple objects and builds into a conversation dealing with abstract concepts — in the space of an hour or two, with minimal supplies. [more inside]
In July 2007, NPR published a two part series (direct links: 1, 2) about a four year old uninvestigated rape case at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Sparked in part by a 2006 report (pdf) from Amnesty International that included a startling statistic: "One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime," NPR's investigation led to the reopening of the case and Congressional hearings. In February 2011, Harper's published an update of sorts: Tiny Little Laws: A Plague of Sexual Violence in Indian Country (Via)
Thank you for killing my novel - A negative review in the NYT sparks a dialogue between an editor there and a fictional character from the book in question. [more inside]
A quarter-century of responses to the Pew Research Center's American Values survey statements show some surprising trends when graphed over time. A sampling:
- I think it's all right for blacks and whites to date each other
- Books that contain dangerous ideas should be banned from public school libraries
- School boards ought to have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals
- I don't believe that there are any real limits to growth in this country
In May, YouTube announced they would be hosting a lineup of original video channels, in a possible attempt to compete with network and cable television. Among the new offerings was WIGS, the (NSFW) brainchild of director/producer/writers Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia, of original, scripted dramatic series and short films exploring female characters. [more inside]
In yet another attempt to bring order and usefulness to the comments section of a high traffic news site, Gawker has implemented a new comment system. They are borrowing the basic concept from Slashdot that most comments will never be seen, and thus the focus is to find the interesting conversations that do occur under the article, and promote them with no regard for chronological order . The system shows some promise, although it clearly has a ways to go as a recent article failed to highlight replies in the comments from the subject of the article. Also of note, the photo of Nick Denton used in the article is by MeFi's own mathowie.
In Praise of Leisure - "Imagine a world in which most people worked only 15 hours a week. They would be paid as much as, or even more than, they now are, because the fruits of their labor would be distributed more evenly across society. Leisure would occupy far more of their waking hours than work. It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called 'Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.' Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all... He thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years — that is, by 2030." (via) [more inside]
19-year-old Kelly Hofer grew up in a Hutterite colony in Manitoba, and his photography captures his life as a Hutterite. Recently, Kelly left the community to start a new life in Calgary.
In the wake of their grunge-y breakout hit "Creep" and the success of sophomore record The Bends, Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead were under pressure to deliver once more. So they shut themselves away inside the echoing halls of a secluded 16th century manor and got to work. What emerged from that crumbling Elizabethan castle fifteen years ago today was a shockingly ambitious masterpiece of progressive rock, a visionary concept album that explored the "fridge buzz" of modernity -- alienation, social disconnection, existential dread, the impersonal hum of technology -- through a mosaic of challenging, innovative, eerily beautiful music unlike anything else at the time. Tentatively called Ones and Zeroes, then Your Home May Be at Risk If You Do Not Keep Up Payments, the band finally settled on OK Computer, an appropriately enigmatic title for this acclaimed harbinger of millennial angst. For more, you can watch the retrospective OK Computer: A Classic Album Under Review for a track-by-track rundown, or the unsettling documentary Meeting People is Easy for a look at how the album's whirlwind tour nearly gave Yorke a nervous breakdown. Or look inside for more details and cool interpretations of all the tracks -- including an upcoming MeFi Music Challenge! [more inside]
The Mommy-Fight Site. What does it mean to raise a child in "America’s highest-income, best-educated Census area? D.C. Urban Moms and Dads might be as close as it gets to a field guide to parentis Washingtonianis" [more inside]
On Why Soup Is So Bad for Diurnal Rhythms: “Certainly. Carrot soup mimetically resembles a carrot only in color.” John was worried by the mainstream diet of soup. Not only is frantic chewing part of the joy of feeding, but widespread and protracted ingestion with minimal effort could derail diurnal cycles. Originally food was partly invented for sustenance, and partly to pass time and to mark it, and so John, in any given day, would scrupulously observe all nine meals: an early breakfast on rising; a second breakfast, in the German tradition, as rumbling recurred around nine; brunch, closely followed by elevensies, or vice versa if you favor Bohr’s algorithm; lunch; tiffin at four, with the focus on small savory sandwiches rather than cake, to avoid a mid-afternoon sugar coma; dinner; supper, and, of course, a final midnight feast to salute the day as it retires. Each meal consists of one, two, or three courses, plus intercourses where appropriate, and the main cycle might be accessorized with any number of subcycles of casual snacking.
Jimmyjane (NSFW) makes luxury, design-oriented vibrators and other sex toys and accessories. ("Design inspired by Apple, not Hustler.") They'd like to change the way Americans think about them: instead of as 'dirty little secrets,' they're hoping for mainstream acceptance and to usher in an "Age of Great American Sex." (Via) [more inside]
Reuters photographer Jim Urquhart recently captured these scenes from a fading culture, as he followed Montana ranchers on their final horse drive, moving more than 300 horses down from their winter range. Every spring the Mantle family, along with with a group of wranglers, drives the herd north over 35 miles and three days, through the small town of Three Forks to their ranch. After decades of supplying and tending to horses, the Mantles, citing financial challenges, now plan to sell off their herd and shift to raising beef cattle. Take a moment to travel with the Mantle family through big sky country, on a journey once so familiar and iconic, now fading into memory with the rest of cowboy culture.
Fungible: A treatise on fungibility, or, a framework for understanding the mess the news industry is in and the opportunities that lie ahead. The younger the person you ask, the less likely it is you’ll find that link between wanting to know what’s going on and grabbing a paper or opening up a news website. They use Pinterest to figure out what’s fashionable and Facebook to see if there’s anything fun going on next weekend. They use Facebook just the same to figure out whether there’s anything they need to be upset about and need to protest against.
There are comics, print and online, and then there are comics reporters and comics critics finding obscure yet remarkable manga and strips. High-Low offers reviews of comics from a Comics Journal critic. The Comics Reporter recently published a list of upcoming comics events. Comics212 founded the Toronto Comic Arts Festival which is going on today. Comics Worth Reading weeds out the chaff so you don't have to. Comic Book Resources is a news source with columns and reviews. The Beat take a look at comics culture. [more inside]
A chronic public health disaster. Complex trauma and toxic stress puts children into a state of reflexive fight, flight, or freeze responses to a perpetually threatening world. The traditional authoritative response only serves to reinforce those behaviours and, perhaps worse, has long-term health consequences:
With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; suicide, 1,220 percent.One doctor describes it as “a chronic public health disaster”. Remediating this problem is going to require listening, kindness, and parachutes.
Women are often referred to as crazy when remembered by exes. A magazine article propagating this view was forcefully rebutted. Have the times changed for women with a wide range of emotions?
Evening the Odds: Is there a politics of inequality? (Nicholas Lemann in New Yorker)
The National Association of Afro-Swedes calls for the resignation of Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Roth after photos and video surfaced of this "living" cake, which was part of a celebration of World Art Day. The cake's creator talks a bit about the cake.
The Vikings Of Bjornstad a "a living history and educational group, concentrating on the Viking age " reviews every viking movie ever made for its authenticity in depicting Vikings and Viking Culture. Every. single. one. [more inside]
Wired called them, digital graffiti and John Carmack spoke of them at QuakeCon 2011 but they remain little known. A recently released full-length documentary (download) gives a portrait of the creative digital subculture from 80s to the present day. [more inside]
"Poetic excess takes the devil’s side, in the Anglo-American mind, of the Artificiality/Authenticity binary, and thus is highly suspect."
Cultural critic Mark Dery discusses his new essay collection. Interview by R. U. Sirius. Dery has previously written on the cultural influence of Edward Gorey, the effects of social networking, the popularity of cephalopods, dead malls, and Surrealism and the Visual Unconscious.
"The fantasy of the sociopath, then, represents an attempt to escape from the inescapably social nature of human experience." Adam Kotsko on Why We Love Sociopaths.
The Incentive Bubble (ungated pdf) - "The fraying of the compact of American capitalism by rising income inequality and repeated governance crises is disturbing. But misallocations of financial, real, and human capital arising from the financial-incentive bubble are much more worrisome to those concerned with the competitiveness of the American economy." [more inside]
"And with millions of chicks checking in daily, there's never been a better time to be on the hunt...."
A column by John Brownlee over at Cult of Mac yesterday highlighted his privacy concerns about the app Girls Around Me -- which used a mashup of FourSquare check-ins, Google Maps and Facebook public profile information to show the user women who were nearby. In response to the story, Foursquare cut off the app's API access to their data, effectively knocking it out of commission. CNET: How to prevent friends checking you into locations at Facebook Places. [more inside]
So Tara Tiger Brown of Forbes.com wrote an article begging fake geek girls to go away. Leigh Alexander of Sexy Videogameland responds with "This is the worst kind of thing to me, because not only is it sad for her, but it sucks for all of us. Women in our space, having once been something of a scarcity, face particular challenges. We lack for companions and mentors. " Followed by The Mary Sue's Susana Polo "So yes, I understand the desire to weed the “posers” out of your personal life and interactions. But I have never, actually, in the flesh, met a “fake” geek girl. Or guy. "
Why Nations Fail - In a nutshell: "Proximately, prosperity is generated by investment and innovation, but these are acts of faith: investors and innovators must have credible reasons to think that, if successful, they will not be plundered by the powerful. For the polity to provide such reassurance, two conditions have to hold: power has to be centralised and the institutions of power have to be inclusive." [more inside]
290 cultural Icons in their own words - a nicely curated collection of audio & video clips of great artists, writers & thinkers ... Einstein, Eliot, Beckett, Nabakov, Malcom X, Muddy Waters, Georgia O'Keefe, Zora Neale Hurston & 282 more
"Fast Company’s four-hour interview with [Martin Scorsese] for their December-January cover story: How to Lead A Creative Life, was ostensibly about his career, and how he had been able to stay so creative through years of battling studios. But the Hugo director punctuated everything he said with references to movies: 85 of them, in fact." Welcome to Martin Scorsese’s Film School: The 85 Films You Need To See To Know Anything About Film [more inside]
The Control Revolution And Its Discontents - "the long process of algorithmisation over the last 150 years has also, wherever possible, replaced implicit rules/contracts and principal-agent relationships with explicit processes and rules."
The Great American Novel -- will there ever be another? ...even if a new Melville or Twain, Faulkner or Fitzgerald were to appear in our midst, his work would fail to achieve the critical traction and existential weight of those earlier masters. We lack the requisite community of readers, and the ambient shared cultural assumptions...The diffusion or dispersion of culture brings with it a diffusion of manners and erosion of shared moral assumptions. Whatever we think of that process—love it as a sign of social liberation or loathe it as a token of cultural breakdown—it has robbed the novel, and the novel’s audience, of a primary resource: an authoritative tradition to react against.
Kirby Ferguson's fourth and final installment of Everything is a Remix: System Failure has been released. (Also on YouTube.) It covers intellectual property rights, the derivative nature of creativity, patents and copyright. Transcript. [more inside]
The Atlantic explores whether Michael Jackson's contributions, like those of other black artists, are minimized because of his skin color.
The Clock is a film that is also a clock. It runs for 24 consecutive hours, and is made of thousands of samples, some lasting only seconds, others minutes, from hundreds of films and videos. All of it edited into a seamless whole by video artist Christian Marclay. When it is shown, it is synchronized to the real time, so if it's 2:15 on a clock shown on-screen, it's 2:15 in real time. Harrison Ford is in it. So is John Cusack, Humphrey Bogart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lon Chaney, Roger Moore(and all the other James Bonds), John Cleese, Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, the Beatles, Jody Foster, Gregory Peck, Nicole Kidman, Nick Cage and a few hundred others. You'll see The Simpsons and The Office. You'll see The Avengers. You'll see stuff you have no clue about. Here's what it feels like to watch all twenty four hours of it in one sitting. [more inside]
A decade after the death of renowned folklorist Alan Lomax, his vision of a "global jukebox" is being realized: his vast archive — some 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts, much of it tucked away in forgotten or inaccessible corners — is being digitized so that the collection can be accessed online. About 17,000 music tracks will be available for free streaming by the end of February. NYT article here.
James McBride talks about The Help, Hattie McDaniel, why black women are still winning awards for playing maids, how black culture is appropriated and represented, and whether marginalized groups in America all serve the purpose of "cultural maids". [more inside]
In 2002, Doug Monroe placed his parents in assisted living. A decade later, he's looking back at "the weighty financial and emotional costs that come with a parent's immortality": The Long Goodbye.
Results of a new survey by the Washington post and Kaiser sheds some light on black women in America in a way that some others have failed to do. 2011 saw a record number of articles, books and shows dedicated to analyzing the "plight' of black women in America. Naturally, most of it devolved into popular tropes about black women being undesirable, ugly, angry, and lonely. This new survey shows that for some black women, the path to happiness doesn't necessarily have to be through companionship with a mate.
You may have never heard of them, but they definitely have your email address. They are the Yahoo-Yahoo Boys; the young Nigerian men who cut wide swaths of cash by preying on the naiveté of moneyed Westerners vis a vis their dreaded 419 emails. ...But if you check your spam folder right now you might notice that it is slightly lighter these days. That's because it's been a tough week for Nigeria’s most infamous internet enthusiasts. Due to the week-long strike action that took place in response to the government’s decision to remove a national fuel subsidy, it has become increasingly difficult for the Yahoos to extract funds from their “clients”. [...] The Yahoos' disposition towards #OccupyNigeria is also worth paying attention to because 419 culture is essentially a street-level microcosm of the institutional corruption that has plagued Nigeria for the past forty years. And although the Yahoos are often blamed for distorting Nigeria’s image abroad, they've also become part of the cultural fabric.