Monthly Archives: April 2009

The National Culture: News as Roman coliseum shows


I ran across an article that is pretty interesting. It’s a collection of speeches by Joe Bageant. He’s enamored with South American culture. That’s fine for him, but I don’t particularly identify with that culture. Too much touching. Joe may long for a “daily life in the flesh, belly to belly and soul to soul, lived out in the streets and parks and public places, in love and the workplace,” but that sounds like hell to me. God. The last thing I need is mutual public belly-touching.

However, his critique of American culture is well articulated:

Our daily news is the modern version of Roman coliseum shows. Elections are personality combat, chariot races, not examinations of solutions being offered. None are offered.

I happen to disagree with the implied solution he proposes (emulate the fuzzy tactile family structure of Belize), but I’m grateful that he actually goes so far as to offer up a solution to discuss. I have a different solution in mind. I think we could do a lot better if we spent more time and money on the work of craftsmen. I think it would be great if we were each others’ patrons when it came to individualized beautiful works of art and technology. The corporate, fad-oriented, marketed to death, planned obsolescence, throw-away culture is oppressive. But there’s no need to give up our comfortable “personal space.”

But my dream of a Neovictorian techno-utopia is far fetched. The blogosphere is my substitute for now, though. A place where people can engage intellectually with a little distance from the pervasive corporate interests… and there’s a great book on the subject over at on how to make money while blogging! Buy it through the link at right and support TBU!

(I’m only being half-ironic. Seriously, that button up top? You can buy that too! Know a designer who can spruce that up that design for me for a reasonable fee? Give me a yell.)


Our senses lie. Are you sure you will believe it when you see it?

Hot Tipper Rob (after one year, our number 1 supporter!) sent us this amazing little piece about strange multi sensory illusions. There are lots of optical illusions – certain shapes fool our interpretive abilities. What is surprising is that visual stimuli can produce tactile illusions.

So it turns out that if you happen to look at a bunch of horizontal lines moving upward on a screen for a while, then feel a little vibrating line with your fingertip, the line will feel like it’s moving. Evidently, the visual lines predispose our tactile sense to interpret motion.

Here’s another one (via Wired) I found interesting. It’s called the hollow mask illusion and, evidently, it doesn’t work on people with schizophrenia.

I wonder if the Jester would see the mask, or the face?


More about bottled water: it may sex you up

Via Wired, it seems that bottled water has some contaminant issues (like that whole scare about polycarbonate water bottles). I still think that leachates are not so great a concern as people think, but most things that will get people to stop drinking bottled water are good ideas in my book.

The study referenced used snails to measure the effects of sex hormone analogues (probably pthalates) that are used as plasticizers in all kinds of things these days. Snails grown in bottled water tended to have a lot more little snails. That is an indicator that there might be some hormone analogues coming out of the plastic.

I doubt the effects on humans will be so easily determined.