Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Economy of Attention

A very interesting clip from bloggingheads tv here about autism and the "economy of attention". The economy of attention is understood here to mean an economy running parallel with the fiscal economy. Martin Cowen himself has cognitive characteristics associated with the autistic spectrum. He has some interesting things to say not only about what such "diagnoses" may mean, but also about the implications of certain cognitive traits for the way our culture of information functions. So his book is not only about autism and economies, it's also about stereotypes and diversity. Really thought-provoking.

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Sunday, 9 August 2009

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Through the Sonia Sotomayor Looking Glass

Matt Semino hits the nail on the head in his article about Sonia Sotomayor and the effect of race and gender issues on the judicial system. Western culture still has a long way to go before it reconciles itself to the dismantling of a male-white-dominated perspective in its key institutions. The important thing, however, is that the debate should be out in the open, and conducted with honesty.
Through the Sonia Sotomayor Looking Glass
These issues, and the denial, hypocrisy and cultural angst they have engendered, are woven into the fabric of our everyday life and institutions. Britain made a fortune out of the slave trade, and exported it to the United States, where it continued to live on despite, or perhaps even because of, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". The man who wrote these words, some of the most inspiring in the English language, fathered children by a slave who was his wife's half sister. Thomas Jefferson. Over two hundred years later, a Michael Jackson or a Sonia Sotomayor still find that their faces don't fit, and Jefferson's own grave misgivings about where this institutionalized denial would lead have been proved more than justified.
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Thursday, 6 August 2009

E-publishing: To E or not to E?

The new permutations of writing and publishing made possible by the internet are exciting, confusing and distracting all at the same time. Knowing what to invest time and energy in, and how, and above all why, calls for great creative self-confidence, skill and discipline on the part of writers. Some interesting perspectives on some of these issues can be found at Books Ahead.
The recently retired General Manager of Microsoft Prague, making a keynote speech at the school where I work, in my view made the point about technology and all forms of work:
Content is King! What applies to the world of education - where we have a tendency to forget that the effective classroom does not revolve around interactive white boards and other bells and whistles - applies to the world of words. It's so easy to get carried away with the buzz of communicating that we can neglect the art of good content.
How we express ourselves is also part of the message: the music industry, for example, has worked itself into a cleft stick of creative rigidity, devoid of experimentation with instruments and arrangements. Hey, I live in Moravia in the Czech Republic, where ethnic folk musicians are trained in classical music at conservatoires and think nothing of experimenting with jazz and other genres. This is high quality art that is alive!
The real creative potential of the internet for authors is the opportunity it provides to break free of rigid institutional hierarchies and inject something fresh, trenchant and playful into the world of letters, without the constraints imposed by having to reach a wide enough audience for commercial viability. Not that there's anything wrong with being commercially viable! It's just that the dog should be wagging the tail, not the other way round.
This is a cultural vicious circle that runs deep: once the tail starts wagging the dog, art becomes a production line trundling out what will sell. Tastes, in turn, are shaped by what makes it out of the culture factory, resulting in a culture of sound-bites, cliches and lowest common denominators. This state of affairs is not just artistically lamentable: it's positively dangerous. We are human: our wits have always been the only thing that stand between us and extinction. If we allow our wits to grow dull, we're finished.
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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Celebrate MJ's Birthday 29 August 2009

Click on the Youtube link below to see how MJ's birthday is going to be celebrated around the world on 29 August 2009:



See also MJ's charity foundation healtheworld
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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Not such a freak after all?

I am fascinated by mystical traditions and hidden schools, but I used to think these interests made me a bit of a freak! My novel Moldavite deals with these themes, among others. I am currently writing a novel about the discovery of hidden mystery traditions in Prague and the Middle East, going back to Egyptian star maps.
If you like this kind of thing as much as I do, check out the Tarcher Books (a favorite of mine for publishing my role-model Julia Cameron) Book of the Month by Graham Hancock: Occult America. This promises to be a fascinating read. Being a social scientist by training, it is my "tick" to look for the cultural connections here. John Dee lived in an age when arrant mumbo jumbo flourished side by side with extraordinary scientific discoveries and scholarship, sometimes in the same individual. Perhaps it is no accident that we are rediscovering these mysterious undertows in our own culture now? Happy reading!
And before I head off for beddy-byes, more tomorrow on the planned event for Michael Jackson's birthday on 29th August.
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Michael Jackson the "Wounded Messenger"

Matt Semino's piece The Wounded Messenger
is the best review of Michael Jackson's life and work I have found. At last a review of his life and work that is worthy of the name. Matt Semino is an international corporate lawyer and legal commentator who advises clientele in the entertainment, media, fashion, real estate and private equity industries.

For those interested in a blow-by-blow comparison of the media distortion and mudslinging surrounding MJ, watch the TV program put together by Maury Povich using the footage that didn't appear in the infamous Martin Bashir documentary about MJ. Here is the first of a series of clips:

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