Saturday, December 08, 2012

Best #CityReads of the Week

The Atlantic Cities' weekly roundup by Sommer Mathis of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days. Share your favorites on Twitter with #cityreads.

"In the Traffic of Cairo's DIY Highway Exit, an Urbanist Movement Grows," Joseph Dana, Next American City

Sunday, September 23, 2012

City, Empire, Church, Nation

by Pierre Manent, City Journal Summer 2012. Is modernity a condition, a place along the way, a destination ever disappearing into the horizon as we approach? Unapproachable. Aleph or illusion. Ever the city at the center...
The Acropolis in ancient AthensWe have been modern for several centuries now. We are modern, and we want to be modern; it is a desire that guides the entire life of Western societies. That the will to be modern has been in force for centuries, though, suggests that we have not succeeded in being truly modern—that the end of the process that we thought we saw coming at various moments has always proved illusory, and that 1789, 1917, 1968, and 1989 were only disappointing steps along a road leading who knows where.... 
Modernity is characterized by movement, a movement that never reaches its end or comes to rest....The movement of the West began with the movement of the Greek city....To be more precise, Western movement began with internal and external movements of the Greek city—that is, with class struggle and foreign war. Cities were the ordering of human life that brought to light the domain of the common, the government of what was common, and the implementation of the common. The Greek city was the first complete implementation of human action, the ordering of the human world that made action possible and meaningful, the place where men for the first time deliberated and formulated projects of action. It was there that men discovered that they could govern themselves and that they learned to do it. The Greek city was the first form of human life to produce political energy—a deployment of human energy of a new intensity and quality. It was finally consumed by its own energy in the catastrophe of the Peloponnesian War.
Subsequent Western history was, on the whole, an ever-renewed search for a political form that would recover the energies of the city while escaping the fate of the city—the city that is free but destined to internal and external enmity. 
So what would the Greek peripatetic be the original flâneur? Read the rest at City, Empire, Church, Nation by Pierre Manent, City Journal Summer 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The NYPD Shut Down a Stoop Sale

…so how do you have a yard sale without a yard, a garage sale without a garage? 

2012_08-Stoop-Sale.jpgOver the weekend, a stoop sale in Park Slope that was composed of some clothes, dishes, a bike, and a floor lamp was shut down by the police. The seller, a commenter on the message board Brooklynian, said that two police officers parked their car and plainly said, "You can't do this here." They then proceeded to ask whether or not he or she had a license.
The license, in that case, most likely meant a Secondhand Dealer General License, ... needed by "a person or business that buys or sells secondhand articles in New York City." Exempt from that, however, are garage sales, used boat dealers, not-for-profits, and curiously, used clothing stores. 
Here are a few points to consider, if we're going to have this debate: Most New Yorkers don't have a front lawn to host a garage sale, if we're going to have this debate: Most New Yorkers don't have a front lawn to host a garage sale, but that doesn't automatically mean the word "stoop" is a legitimate substitute. 
A rent-paying resident doesn't own his stoop... but even though they're occasionally kind of annoying to the rest of a building's tenants, stoop sales (much like sample sales are naturally occurring phenomena that most city dwellers—particularly Brooklyn residents—have come to accept and enjoy.
 Read the rest at The NYPD Shut Down a Park Slope Stoop Sale - Controversies - Racked NY 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kabbalah on Book Drum, 13 Aug 2012

…reposting this puppy as received & beating the drum for Book Drum as a site for book flâneurs to bookmark. No mystery to it. If this is not to your tastes, there are plenty more on the site.

Kabbalah is a system of knowledge that originated in Jewish thought, and uses stories of the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) as metaphors to explain its teachings. It seeks to unlock the mysteries of the universe, explain the relationship between the creator and creation, and to explain the nature of human beings and the purpose of existence. Its teachings are meant to help people attain spiritual realisation and well-being. Its teachings are not part of traditional Jewish scripture, and it is not a denomination of Judaism, though some denominations do use it heavily.

Kabbalah has enjoyed a huge rise in popularity in recent years. Here is what 'The Kabbalah Centre' website says about the ancient wisdom:

Kabbalah - Tree of Life"Approximately 4,000 years ago, a set of spiritual principles was communicated to humanity in a moment of divine revelation. These ancient revelations unlock all the mysteries of humanity; the secret code that governs the universe. It's the grand unified theory pursued by Einstein. It's an incredible system of logic and a phenomenal technology that can alter the way you view your life. It is the oldest sacred document in existence, filled with wisdom. This extraordinary, powerful set of tools is known as Kabbalah—the original instruction manual for life."

Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeKabbalah - Tree of Life - Image Credit: Alan James Garner/wikimedia commons

Read More

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Carte du Jour: Brain Pickings

…The wandering one couldn't decide which to post so settles for most of the week's as usual smashing newsletter, somewhat but not excessively trimmed. Still wondering why you haven't subscribed yet...don't count room service being a habit here when the internet is one big buffet...

An extraordinary love letter from Balzac, Susan Sontag on the commodification of wisdom, humanistic hope for the present from 1930, and more

An extraordinary love letter from Balzac, Susan Sontag on the commodification of wisdom, humanistic hope for the present from 1930, and more.
Looking crappy?
View here
 If you missed last week's edition – Carl Sagan's reading list, Francis Bacon on studies, Vita Sackville-West's love letter to Virginia Woolf, and more – you can catch up right here

Green Card Stories: A Visual Catalog of Immigrants' Triumphs and Tribulations

Poignant portrait of a system caught between hope and despair.
Having spent a good portion of my adult life wrangling the nine circles of my very own immigration hell, I feel a profound personal investment in the immigration debates that have swelled to particularly prodigious proportions around this year's election. Green Card Stories (public library) tells the heartening, and often dramatic, tales of fifty immigrants who recently attained their American residency or citizenship, accompanied by powerful profiles by journalist Saundra Amrhein and evocative portraits by documentary photographer Ariana Lindquist.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Credit Alchemy!

… or the Alchemical Roots of the Financial Revolution. Not just alike in opacity and aim (gold from base material whether metal or sweat), credit and alchemy are  more connected historically, than you might imagine. 
When the philosopher Baruch de Spinoza received word of a successful transmutation of lead into gold in December of 1666, he quickly sought to quell his skepticism by personally visiting the adept, and the visit left him fully convinced of the veracity of the adept’s account.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to Think

…advice from Chris Hedges that many need but few recognize. That includes education systems, most ed theory wonks working for Foundations and government agencies…indeed society itself,

Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artists, writers, poets, activists, journalists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster

Chris Hedges: How to Think - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We Built This City

Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, by David Harvey, Verso, 206 pp. Reviewed in Berfrois by Jonathon Moses. Image below: 1871 Paris Commune.

It would be impossible to cover here the range of ideas in Harvey’s recent book, Rebel Cities, but it is worth considering one of its key themes: how might the city, rather than the workplace, be the key site of anti-capitalist struggle?

The Urban Proletariat

In prioritising the site of production and the industrial proletariat as the revolutionary class, traditional Marxism created a number of problems. To begin with, it excluded all those who did not, or could not work from possessing any kind of agency – with the result that the struggles of domestic labourers (women), the unemployed, the disabled were largely ignored. It also left us blind to other forms of value creation outside of the sphere of ‘work’, or indeed forms of exploitation centred not around production but consumption....For Harvey, it is the city which offers a way out – since everyone who lives in the city creates the city but only a minority take ownership of the value that is created. 

Read the rest of We Built This City by Jonathan Moses, originally published at Open Democracy |Creative Commons. See also, David Harvey essay, "The Right to the City" in New Left Review.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Multilingual Protest and Scholarship

An essay from Mobilizing Ideas, a production of The Center for the Study of Social Movements at the University of Notre Dame, editorial home of the journal Mobilization.

The increasing development of transnational ties and coalitions among social movement activists and organizations through the decades reveals how multilingualism can act as a vital and empowering resource for promoting sociopolitical change. Yet, the global hegemony of English also reveals how underlying power dynamics present dilemmas for progressive movements founded upon inclusive principles of multiculturalism and participatory democracy. Social movement scholarship also reflects this linguistic power dynamic and scholars should take heed. By providing more opportunities and venues for non-English speakers to participate in shaping academic debates and discussions new insights and theoretical perspectives are more likely to develop.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What kind of Muppet are you, chaos or order?

Chaos, of course... and you?

Every once in a while, an idea comes along that changes the way we all look at ourselves forever. Before Descartes, nobody knew they were thinking. They all believed they were just mulling....These dialectics can change and shape who we are so profoundly, it’s hard to imagine life before the paradigm at all.

Cookie Monster.The same thing is true of Muppet Theory, a little-known, poorly understood philosophy that holds that every living human can be classified according to one simple metric:

Every one of us is either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet.

What kind of Muppet are you, chaos or order? - Slate Magazine 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 10 Best Museum Web Sites

Virtual museum flânerie... ça c'est bon

Museum buildings have long been a redoubt of architectural innovation and a dependable method for institutions to refresh their images and programming — just look at the Guggenheim Bilbao, whose name has become synonymous with museum-led urban renewal. Given that new buildings and renovations are a rare occasion, what’s another way for 21st-century museums to get a brand boost? They might choose to redesign that other gallery space — their Web site.

Which one is #1? Read on to find out and learn more about the rest at ARTINFO Ranks the Top 10 Best Museum Web Sites, From the Hirshhorn to the Aspen Art Museum | Artinfo ~ then click through their links for a virtual visit. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Walk like a Roman | TLS

quelques mots sur l'histoire de la flânerie... c'est classique... 

A foot on a fourth century wall mosaicIn Walking in Roman Culture, Timothy M. O’Sullivan eloquently explains that how and why a person walked were crucial cultural indicators in ancient Rome: ways of walking divided barbarians from Romans, and good Romans from bad. If this aspect of Roman culture has not often bulked large in modern studies of the ancient world, that is partly because – as O’Sullivan notes – we have chosen not to recognize it, or have even actively “translated it away”.

The key Latin word is incessus, which literally means “gait” or “how a person moves on their feet”. It is now regularly translated as “bearing” or “demeanour”; but that removes all the sense of movement from it. “He has a noble bearing” may seem to us a more “natural” thing to say than “He has a noble way of walking”. It is not often what the Romans said, wrote or meant. In ancient Rome how you walked was a sign of who you were....Walking was also closely related to morals and social status. 

Walk like a Roman | TLS

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What European Austerity?

... and why should we be worrying about someone else's when we're so absorbed with our own and hoping that someone else will be doing all unpleasant austerity stuff? It's the economy, stupid. Like it or not, we're all in it together. Too important to take it straight from your favorite pundit or any single source. We've been remiss but plan to resume reading Jesse's Café Américain, starting right now with a scary piece on defaulting and unsustainability. Be brave and do the same when you finish the "Dish" just served. 


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Why City Kids Need to Play in the Street

Why City Kids Need to Play in the StreetStreets aren't just for jaded flâneurs. Sarah Goodyear writes in Atlantic Cities about not being a soccer mom anymore and how her son discovered the joy of spontaneity and kept his love of playing just about anything involving a ball. 

What he hasn’t always loved is organized league ball – the early morning games, the shlepping, the lack of spontaneity.

What my kid really gets a kick out of, we’ve learned, is taking the ball into the street or the nearby park and organizing his own games – with the other children on the block, with his friends from school, with random kids he runs into at the park or the schoolyard. Heck, even with me.

Of course, that’s the way it used to be all over New York and every city in the country. Kids playing stickball and hockey and skelly in the street, jumping rope, making up their own arcane rules and forming their own shifting alliances.

It’s a type of game-playing that has been gradually eroding over the years. You can find lots of things to blame for that....I wrote last week about “the invention of jaywalking” – the history of how America was gradually sold on the idea that urban streets were meant for cars and not for people. Research has shown how the social lives of city dwellers have suffered as a result....

Why City Kids Need to Play in the Street - Neighborhoods - The Atlantic Cities

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Best Resources For Learning About May Day

If this does not cover all the May Day iterations and variants, from Maypoles to marches, nothing will.... just add graphic and serve. No tourists in wicker cages this year, no revolution either. Decorating horses? Couldn't say. I'm adding the source of this image, from Palimpsest, where National Trust employee Ben Cowall blogs about heritage, history and landscape,

Though May Day is an ancient celebration, since the late nineteenth century it has primarily been recognized as a time to celebrate workers’ rights. Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About May Day:
Additional suggestions are welcome. If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free. You might also want to explore the  900 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

The Best Resources For Learning About May Day

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Reading from zunguzungu

looking for something to read? fat link collection from zunguzungu should keep you busy, maybe even engaged or enraged. if the latter, bear in mind that messengers are not season ~ ever. Scroll to bottom of site for a gander at source blogs and categories (i.e. blogs that are trained, embalmed blogs, stray dogs and others). zunguzungu seems a flâneuse kind of blog; otherwise, our multiple online personae have been hard put picking an appropriate folder. despite academented provenance, we went with snark. zunguzungu explains itself here.

Sunday reading, as usual, blah blah. EXCEPT! Today, with special bonus links from two awesome guests! Scroll down to the bottom!
The Debate over Student Loan Interest is Nothing But A Sideshow:
“Keeping the cost of borrowed money a bit lower for one more year won’t cure the rising cost of higher education. It’s not even a bandage. It’s more like giving some comforting words to a critically injured patient. It might make a few people feel better, or win some votes, but it won’t do much to help our problems."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dreamers and Storytellers: E. O. Wilson on Art and Reconciling Science and the Humanities

... is re-posted from BrainPickings in its luminous entirety and with the fervent hope that readers will follow links to read the complete E.O. Wilson essay and other related articles revisiting C.P. Snow and Johan Lehrer .... and why art and science need each other. Follow the link in the footer to subscribe to weekly email Brain Pickings.

‘In the early stages of creation of both art and science, everything in the mind is a story.’

This month, legendary Harvard sociobiologist E. O. Wilson — who once famously said that “the elegance, we can fairly say the beauty, of any particular scientific generalization is measured by its simplicity relative to the number of phenomena it can explain” — penned a terrific Harvard Magazine piece on the origin of the arts. One of Wilson’s most urgent points is something we’ve already seen articulated by C. P. Snow, who in 1959 lamented a dangerous cultural dichotomy, and Johan Lehrer, who spoke of a “fourth culture of knowledge” — the need for bridging the sciences and the humanities. Wilson writes:
Since the fading of the original Enlightenment during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, stubborn impasse has existed in the consilience of the humanities and natural sciences. One way to break it is to collate the creative process and writing styles of literature and scientific research. This might not prove so difficult as it first seems. Innovators in both of two domains are basically dreamers and storytellers. In the early stages of creation of both art and science, everything in the mind is a story.
Wilson’s great talent is perhaps the gift of bridging the poetic with the scientific:
If ever there was a reason for bringing the humanities and science closer together, it is the need to understand the true nature of the human sensory world, as contrasted with that seen by the rest of life. But there is another, even more important reason to move toward consilience among the great branches of learning. Substantial evidence now exists that human social behavior arose genetically by multilevel evolution. If this interpretation is correct, and a growing number of evolutionary biologists and anthropologists believe it is, we can expect a continuing conflict between components of behavior favored by individual selection and those favored by group selection. Selection at the individual level tends to create competitiveness and selfish behavior among group members—in status, mating, and the securing of resources. In opposition, selection between groups tends to create selfless behavior, expressed in greater generosity and altruism, which in turn promote stronger cohesion and strength of the group as a whole.
But the most expansive beauty of Wilson’s essay lies in his articulation of art, at the heart of which is a sentiment common to the greatest definitions of science and of philosophy:
A quality of great art is its ability to guide attention from one of its parts to another in a manner that pleases, informs, and provokes.
Image by Desert Stars Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Paris versus New York

Playfully pitting Paris and New York against each other, graphic designer Vahram Muratyan has created a visual homage to two evocative cities.

Vahram Muratyan says:
"It all started when I wondered, if I was stranded on a desert island, what aspects of Paris and New York would I keep? What would be the perfect collection of things? They could be habits, or landmarks or food, anything that would bring the two cultures together in one image."
Paris versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities, Penguin, £11.99

Paris versus New York - in graphic form | Books | The Observer

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Further Thoughts on Your Inner Pigdog from Plato, Freud and Zizek

Trevor Malkinson writes in Beams & Struts

chariotA couple weeks back TJ published an article called Are You Controlled by Your Inner Pigdog? - the Neurobiology of Choice. I was one of the editors of that piece, and I sent some resources TJ's way that ended up on the cutting room floor of the final article (you can't get it all in), so I'm going to pop them into a Bricolage here as a sort of extended footnote to that piece.

chariotWhen I read TJ's article one thing immediately sprang to mind- Plato's famous Chariot Allegory. In it a charioteer (us) has to keep a handle on two very different horses pulling his chariot. The first one "is noble and of noble breed". The other? Not so much.... Some contemporary readers of Plato noticed the similarity of his second dark horse with Freud's notion of the Id (literally das Es, or "the It") ....

And lastly for this Bricolage, what would happen if we lived in a culture where the Id, our inner pigdog, was actually encouraged to come on out and run the show? Well, in many ways, we already live in that culture.

Read all of Further Thoughts on Your Inner Pigdog from Plato, Freud and Zizek

Friday, February 17, 2012

Gin & Tacos February Potpurri

 & illustrated by this picture from Let them Read Beckett at occasional links & commentary, thereby combining two of flâneuse's favorite blogs. The juxtaposition, c'est trés amusante, n'est-ce pas?

Everyone loves getting blown on a Friday. Mind-blown, that is. So without further ado, here's a bunch of stuff for your "I could work, but why?" period this afternoon, [whether or not you are working: let's not make it the sine qua non of our identities]
1. The proper plural for "octopus" is "octopodes", and Britney Spears is a perfect anagram for "Presbyterians."
2. In this staggeringly interesting Fresh Air interview, voice actor Billy West (Futurama, etc.) describes how his research and preparation for voicing Popeye required mastering the art of Tuvan throat-singing. Apparently original voice actor Jack Mercer had unwittingly employed it to create the classic Popeye voice in the 1940s. Listen to this interview. It's fantastic.
3. Chinese officials were forced to shut down a supercomputer this week because it was learning. What was it learning, you ask? To give vaguely sexual answers to queries from users. Apparently when supercomputers finally become sentient they will be like 15 year old boys.
and there's more at Gin & Tacos' (opiate of the asses) February Potpurri

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

PBS Special: Slavery By Another Name

WSJ 071601-Alabama convict labor.doc Download this file


Reposted from the UALE mailing list:


As you may be aware, PBS broadcast a special 90-minute film Monday, Feb. 13, 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT, in most cities, as part of Black History Month.  

[KQED in San Francisco will broadcast at 10pm PT, and WTTW in Chicago at 9pm CT; below is a list of some larger media markets where the times are different.].  

This film vividly presents the little-known story of thewidescale reimposition of actual slavery in the South, after Reconstruction, which reached its height in the early 20th Century and continued -- with its condoning by the US Dept. of Justice -- until Pearl Harbor.  |

The consequences for African-American families and communities in the South were horrific.This severe abuse represented a form of judicial, political and economic terrorism which still reverberates in American politics.  

The film concentrates on a few stories of the hundreds of thousands of African-American men dragged into the “convict-leasing system” – and assigned to coal mines, brick factories, farming and other industrial-sized enterprises, with murderous consequences for them and incredible profits for the corporations which used them. In coal mining, the slave labor system was explicitly used to stop one of the most important strikes in Southern history – the UMWA’s effort to stop convict leasing at the US Steel mines in Birmingham. That strike was smashed by the Alabama state militia in an incident every bit as brutal as the well-known incident in Ludlow, CO.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Netizen Report: Uprising Edition

Photo by Yogesh Mhatre

Most of this report was researched and written by Weiping Li, Mera Szendro Bok, and edited by Sarah Myers.

Netizens around the world took collective action with a mass Internet blackout on January 18 to protest the United States' Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act, which, in its effort to enforce copyright online, would have compelled Internet service providers and platforms to monitor and censor their users or risk being blocked or penalized in the United States, and would have weakened the Internet's domain name system, among other things. Global Voices and Global Voices Advocacy participated in the protest along with over 7,000 websites, including Mozilla, Wikipedia, Reddit, Flickr, TwitPic, Boing Boing. Advocacy groups including Public Knowledge and Free Press blacked out their sites and posted information about how to get involved in the fight against these bills.

Many protest websites tracked the bill's Congressional Representatives' supporters, ultimately pressuring many representatives to withdraw their support. In the end, Congressman Lamar Smith, SOPA's sponsor, pulled the bill and said it would not go to a vote until “issues are addressed”. Inspired by the American protests, netizens took action around the world on digital rights, including Chinese activists. An article in Ars Technica neatly summed up the impact of the legislation on the rest of the world.

After SOPA and PIPA’s Death

Now it seems that SOPA and PIPA are dead. But concerns about illegal file-sharing persist, and commentators warn that similar bills may be reincarnated. Ben Huh, The CEO of I Can Has Cheezburger?, states that we still have more work to do in order to defend Internet freedom and sustain the engine of netizen mobilization. His opinions echo an article by Alex Howard on O’Reilly Radar, which argues that citizens need to band together to work out alternatives to SOPA. Internet and Politics guru Micah Sifry discusses the broader political environment that produced the bills, and the need for Internet companies and netizens to work for political reform. Internet law Professor Yochai Benkler offers seven lessons and four proposals on where we go from here.


Major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen have enforced a registration system that requires users to register their real name on Weibo, the prominent Chinese microblog. Although the new regulation has been widely criticized by Chinese netizens, including Pony Ma (Ma Hauteng), the founder of Chinese Internet service company Tencent, the Chinese authority still plans to implement the rule in other parts of the country.

In contrast, South Korea, which adopted online real-name registration in 2007, has taken steps to abandon the practice. Having faced criticisms of infringing freedom of expression and concerns over hacking, some Internet companies have decided to stop asking customers’ resident numbers, and the Korea Communications Commission is also planning to abandon the real-name registration requirement.


The Argentinean government is launching a program to build a national biometric service named “the Federal System of Biometric Identification (SIBIOS)“. This system combines Argentinean citizens’ biometric information with other databases and be used by law enforcement. According to Katitza Rodriguez’s report for Global Voices Advocacy, the information gathered through the SIBIOS system would include not only biometric identifiers but also “an individual's digital image, civil status, blood type, and key background information”. The program has raised serious concerns over the government’s unrestrained power to surveil its people.

Sprint has promised to remove CarrierIQ tracking software from the cell phones using its network, making good on its word to improve security for its users.

To fight against the government’s intrusion into netizens’ personal Internet information, EFF and ACLU filed an appeal to challenge the U.S. district court’s decision to refuse disclosure of all orders in the Twitter/Wikileaks case.

A hacked document revealing that RIM, Nokia, and Apple provided the Indian government backdoor access to users’ communications may be fake. The three companies and security company Symantec have argued this document was full of incorrect information, and is not from the Indian directorate general of military intelligence.

Netizen activism

A recent study found that in Colombia, the Internet is changing the media landscape. The research pointed out that online journalism emphasizes local perspectives and incorporates more interaction with readers.

According to the Statistical Report on Internet Development published by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the number of Chinese Internet users hit 513 million in 2011, which is almost equivalent to the number of Twitter users. Half of the the 513 million netizens are microblog users.

Is citizen journalism rising in China? Maybe. With the prevalence of digital cameras, videos, and social media, more and more Chinese citizens shoot newsworthy events and are uploading the clips to websites. Media scholars expect this trend may promote societal progress.

Want to know more about hacktivists who often hit the Internet activism headlines? This documentary may provide the audience with insight into hacktivist group Anomymous.

Sovereigns of Cyberspace

Twitter has announced that it now has the capability to restrict content from appearing in certain countries. The company says this will allow it to comply with local laws in different countries without having to remove content globally. When content is restricted in this way, the action will be reported to users through the Chilling Effects website.

Twitter also acquired a start-up company which has developed a service to summarize social media content and solve the information-overload problem.

Google announcement of an “upgrade” of its privacy policy and terms of service that integrates user information across its search engine, GMail, YouTube and its 57 other services stirred criticism from privacy groups and some members of Congress. In the weeks before the announcement, Google launched a “Good to Know” campaign to educate the public on how to stay safe online. Meanwhile, Google is also readjusting its China business strategy. Setting its past confrontations with the Chinese government over censorship aside, Google has decided not to miss out on this big market and plans to introduce more services.

And much more: read the complete report at Netizen Report: Uprising Edition

The Art of Mastering Many Tongues

Peter Constantine in the New York Times Book Review writes

ScreenHunter_15 Jan. 26 17.59Among the most surprising qualities of “Babel No More,” Michael Erard’s globe-trekking adventure in search of the world’s virtuosos of language learning, is that a book dealing with language acquisition and polyglot linguistics can be so gripping. But indeed it is — part travelogue, part science lesson, part intellectual investigation, it is an entertaining, informative survey of some of the most fascinating polyglots of our time.

How is it, Erard asks, that certain people are able to accumulate what for the average person is a daunting number of languages? What are the secrets of polyglots who can master 6, 26, 96 languages? What are their quirks and attitudes? Are their brains wired differently from ours?

Erard, a journalist who writes frequently on language and whose previous book was “Um . . . : Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean,” begins by visiting Bologna, Italy, the hometown of one of history’s most distinguished polyglots, the 19th-century cardinal Giu­seppe Mezzofanti. The cardinal is said to have known 45, 50, 58 or even more languages, depending on whom you ask. Victorian travelers who met him at ecclesiastical banquets reported that he affably conversed in all directions with foreign visitors in languages ranging from French, German and Arabic to Algonquin and “Californian.” (Lord Byron, who challenged the cardinal to a multilingual contest of profanities, was not only summarily defeated but walked away from the contest having learned a number of new Cockney gibes.)

The Art of Mastering Many Tongues, 3 Quarks Daily. More here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Assorted links, January 20

Assorted links from economics professor and author (Creative Destruction) Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution covering personal computing, economy and spending, a protest strategy, Facebook's timeline and a possibly prescient 2006 post about future generations paying for deficits

The week the web changed Washington - O'Reilly Radar

SOPA = Stop Online Productivity Altogether. Chalk one - and a big one - up for Electronic Civil Disobedience and the League of Digital Ankle Biters. Does this qualify as Occupying the Internet?

"Think about that for just a second: A well-organized, well-funded, well-connected, well-experienced lobbying effort on Capitol Hill was outflanked by an ad-hoc group of rank amateurs, most of whom were operating independent of one another and on their spare time. Regardless where you stand on the issue — and effective copyright protection is an important issue — this is very good news for the future of civic engagement."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My favorire "stop sopa" page is Zachary Johnson's shadowbox with the moving light (just move your cursor) on Zachstronaut. Adding this one to my feed reader... tomorrow. Today ..... 

Sites are striking in all different ways, but they are united by this: do the biggest thing you possibly can and drive contacts to Congress. *Put the source code for this page your site* ~ it's my main page at Mountainair Online (the web page). I have no control over blog policies. I'm not really up to tinker with source code to show a black out page on my blogs. So I am settling for posting information and exhortations (like this one). Except for following #sopastrike on Twitter and @fightfortheftr) and Reddit, I'm staying off public pages today. No Facebook or 

Personal blackouts seem to be running either 24 hours (midnight to midnight) or 8AM EST to 8PM EST. Major supporting sites like Wikipedia, WordPress, Google, Internet Archive (+ Wayback Machine), Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tucows and many, many more are striking for 24 hours. Looked like a major slow down on Facebook when I checked (before 8 am).  

What can you do to support the strike if you don't have a blog or web page, can't blog and RT #sopastrike stories? Make a call; sign the petition; learn more; the action of the hour is to speak out. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, opposing the bills. Contact local news stations and let them know that this is an issue worth covering. And there is still email, what they could be coming after next...

Today's Google search page:
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