Monthly Archives: March 2008

Navigating the vast wasteland of YouTube

March 14, 2008
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Navigating the vast wasteland of YouTube

How many videos are available on YouTube? That number isn’t easy to find. But consider this: ten hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. The simile about drinking from a firehose doesn’t do justice to the flood. How can you find anything worth watching in a collection of content exploding like a super nova? Well, you could rely on the wisdom of the crowd and restrict your YouTube viewing to just those videos that are rated five stars. How many is that? I heard that cited a few weeks ago as seven million, which means it’s probably up to eight million now. Have at it. Five stars has got to be good, right? Or you could be guided by Dan Colman at Open Culture who has assembled a list of “50+ Smart Video Collections on YouTube.” We are happy to see our YouTube channel among them. Colman’s list is interesting in a number of ways. A YouTube channel is like a publisher’s imprint—it reflects editorial direction and judgment. Gather quality imprints and you have a quality collection of content. The obvious need to compile such a list exhibits the dysfunctional aspects of YouTube: the system of search and . . .

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Vicki Hearne in Poetry

March 13, 2008
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Vicki Hearne in Poetry

Vicki Hearne’s (1946-2001) posthumously published Tricks of the Light: New and Selected Poems has received a positive review in this month’s issue of Poetry magazine by critic Joel Brouwer. Praising her work for transforming her practical knowledge of the dogs and horses she trained into a unique philosophical exploration of “language and the mind,” Brouwer writes: Nearly all of Hearne’s writing, regardless of genre or audience, drew upon her work as a professional horse and dog trainer. But to think of this poet in those terms alone would be as misguided as thinking of E.O. Wilson as an entomologist. Communicating with animals helped Hearne to think through a variety of philosophical concerns, particularly questions of representation. What stories do we tell ourselves about our relationships with the animals we live and work with, feed and eat, love and fear? What really happens, and what do we imagine happens, when two species with fundamentally differing consciousnesses and languages—people and dogs, say—attempt to communicate? Above all, how might our investigation of such questions lead us to more general insights about representation and reality? The review concludes: “Hearne’s verse is … rigorously intelligent, rhetorically supple, wholly unafraid of complexity, formally deft, and, … . . .

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Weather as Science and Culture

March 12, 2008
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Weather as Science and Culture

An interview with Jan Golinsky author of British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment was posted yesterday to Benjamin Cohen and David Ng’s science blog, the World’s Fair. The interview begins with an interesting synopsis of the book and its unique contribution to both cultural history and the history of science. From the World’s Fair: WORLD’S FAIR: What do we have here? When you sent in the prospectus to Chicago, what did you tell them this would be about? JAN GOLINSKI: The book explores beliefs about weather and climate in eighteenth-century Britain and its colonies. I argue that these beliefs reflect some of the important social and cultural changes of the period. People began to study the weather in a way that we recognize as more “scientific,” but traditional attitudes also survived, even what we might call “superstitions.” The tensions between scientific and traditional approaches seemed to me symptomatic of the age, and to some extent of modern attitudes to the natural environment in general. WF: You’re a premier historian of science, respected, influential, articulate, good-humored, don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this…namely, what does a book about the weather contribute to our understanding of the history of science? JG: . . .

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Review: Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book

March 11, 2008
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Review: Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book

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John Nagl on the surge and the strain

March 10, 2008
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John Nagl on the surge and the strain

In an op-ed published in last Sunday’s Washington Post Lt. Colonel John A. Nagl, author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and contributor to the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, draws on his hands-on knowledge of counterinsurgency operations to deliver an insightful analysis of current U.S. strategy in the Middle East. While praising the success of last year’s “surge” Nagl warns that it may still be a bit “too soon to take a victory lap.” Nagl writes: The “surge” of five brigades and the extension of Army combat tours in Iraq from 12 to 15 months has strained the Army to the breaking point. Neither the Army nor the Marine Corps has a reserve of ground troops to handle other crises. Meanwhile, the Taliban is regaining strength in Afghanistan and the lawless border regions of Pakistan,… and the foreseeable consequences of a hasty U.S. withdrawal from Iraq… could easily reverse last year’s gains and provide a new home for terrorism in the Middle East. The best short-term solution is rapidly expanding the Iraqi and Afghan security forces to hold towns cleared by U.S. forces. Local forces, stiffened by foreign advisers, have . . .

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The iconic photographs of Ashley Gilbertson

March 7, 2008
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The iconic photographs of Ashley Gilbertson

In No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy authors Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites undertook a fascinating survey of some of the most iconic images of the last century, analyzing their profound effects on the American political and social landscape. Since the 2007 publication of their book, the authors have also started a blog where they continue their critique of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in democratic society, bringing their ideas to bear on current issues and new media in real-time. . . .

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Memorable moments from presidential debates

March 6, 2008
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Memorable moments from presidential debates

Newton Minow is more responsible than any other individual for the televising of presidential debates—an oasis in what he famously termed “a vast wasteland.” From the creation of the Kennedy-Nixon debates to his current service on the Commission on Presidential Debates, he has worked to bring political discussion into the mass media. He is uniquely situated to write the just-released Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future, which he authored with journalism professor Craig L. LaMay. Minow and LaMay reviewed the history of presidential debates in their book and from their comments we culled some of the memorable moments from past debates, supplemented with images and links to online videos where available. Nixon sweating, “I knew Jack Kennedy,” presidential scowls and more—review them and relive them. We also have an excerpt about the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy. . . .

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Review, Bliss: The Discovery of Insulin

March 5, 2008
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Review, Bliss: The Discovery of Insulin

Writing for the February 28 New England Journal of Medicine Dr. Chris Feudtner reviews our new edition of Michael Bliss’s The Discovery of Insulin, a fascinating account of the struggle of four Canadian scientists—Frederick Banting, J.J.R. Macleod, Charles Best, and J.B. Collip—to make one of the most important medical discoveries of the modern age. Feudtner writes: During the past century, medical science has produced numerous remarkable therapeutic achievements, but few accomplishments can rival—in terms of importance or drama—the development of insulin in 1921 and 1922.… Twenty-five years ago, the historian Michael Bliss composed his remarkably illuminating recounting of this saga. It has proved to be the definitive account. Bliss, now a university professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, has also written highly regarded biographies of the inimitable physician Sir William Osler, the polymath surgeon Harvey Cushing, and the fascinating, albeit mercurial, Banting. But as Bliss confides, “The Discovery of Insulin is my favourite,” and the book has now been released in a 25th anniversary edition, with a new preface and an updated concluding chapter. You can find the full text of the review on the New England Journal of Medicine website, or find out more about the book here. . . .

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Review: Greeenberg, Science for Sale

March 4, 2008
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Review: Greeenberg, Science for Sale

Daniel S. Greenberg’s Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards, and Delusions of Campus Capitalism has already generated much interest in the U. S. where the effect of the marketplace on academic science has been news for quite some time. But last Friday London’s Physics Today ran a positive review of Greenberg’s insightful analysis of campus capitalism as well, noting the book’s applicability to science policy in the UK. Greg Parker writes for Physics Today: When I joined the University of Southampton’s microelectronics group in 1987 after spending 10 years in industry, I shared some of my commercial ideas for advancing the group into the 21st century with my academic colleagues. To say that my personal vision of paradise was close to their vision of hell is probably a pretty accurate observation. Two decades on, I now understand why they felt that way. Science for Sale contains a lot of information that explains this vast difference in perception, and the book also does a good job of highlighting how academia and industry differ on practical and ethical levels. Parker continues: My first worry on picking up the book was that it would be almost totally inapplicable to the current situation in . . .

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Heat Wave: the play

March 3, 2008
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Heat Wave: the play

Based on Eric Klinenberg’s Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, a new play by Steven Simoncic looks at the 1995 heat wave that hit the city of Chicago with 106 degree temperatures and caused the deaths of over seven hundred people—one of the deadliest disasters in Chicago’s history. Reviewing the play for the Chicago Sun-Times theater critic Heidi Weiss writes: Mayor Daley is known to be an avid theatergoer. But it’s unlikely that he, or City Council members, or a slew of officials from major city agencies who were on the job during the summer of 1995, will be stopping in at Pegasus Players in the coming weeks to catch Heat Wave. If they do, they will be subjected to a most uncomfortable two hours. As for everyone else, this world premiere (produced with Live Bait Theater) will serve as a vivid reminder of a moment when (a decade before Hurricane Katrina) both municipal government and that far more diffuse thing that might be termed “the human safety net” failed miserably. More about the play is available at the Pegasus players website. More about the book is at our website and in our interview with Eric Klinenberg. . . .

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