If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.
The [Glee iPhone app] uses a special, gentle version of auto-tune, the recording effect that rounds off your notes to the nearest correct pitch. (Most pop singers today are, in fact, routinely auto-tuned during the recording process.) You’re also given generous reverb and other effects; it’s the high-tech version of singing in the shower.
But the app also somehow multiplies you, duplicates your own vocal line and assigns your clones to other notes. Now you’re singing in lush four-part harmony with yourself, with absolutely zero effort. If you can carry a tune, you can turn off the processing and go it alone.
The result — professional backup band, you processed to sound gorgeous and perfect — is exhilarating, no matter how rotten a singer you are. It’s pop-star fantasy fulfillment for a buck, and everyone who tries it goes nuts. . . .
What both apps teach you along the way is that to sound like a pop star, technical singing talent is not necessarily a prerequisite. (This is especially apparent when, ahem, you isolate Taylor Swift’s vocal track in her app.) With these apps, you now have the same support structure the pros do. You get all the benefits of state-of-the-art vocal processing — and even a taste of the public adoration — that comes with being a star.
In previous studies, dogs and chimps taught to open a box and retrieve a toy copied their teacher’s toy-seeking behavior only when it proved efficient. When the instructing adult added irrelevant actions, such as brushing a feather along the edge of the box before opening it, the animal trainees skipped them, doing only what was necessary to get to the hidden toy. But human children copied every detail, even the pointless brush of the feather.
“Animals focus on getting the job done,” explains Mark Nielsen, a psychologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. “Humans seem to almost forget about the outcome and copy everything we see.”
We may disagree about our favorite artists and musicians, but it’s relatively easy to agree that a particular color is blue, or that a particular note is C-sharp. They’re described by wavelengths and frequencies along a clearly defined spectrum. That’s why the technologies of visual and auditory reproduction—photo, video, audio—work so well, relatively speaking.
With taste and smell—the so-called “chemical” senses, which are more complex (humans have about 400 different types of olfactory receptors) and less well understood than the others, we don’t have the luxury of those points of reference. That’s why we so often resort to loose analogies—“tastes like chicken”—and it’s also why reproducing tastes and smells is so difficult (grape soda doesn’t taste much like grapes, and nobody’s yet synthesized a bottle of 1945 Pétrus—an activity that would surely yield tremendous profit).
To challenge this barrier, we resort to analogy. Coffee tastes like nuts and chocolate; Sauvignon Blanc smells like grapefruit and cat pee. In a Sauternes, you might sense the brine of the first green olive you tasted in Italy; in a Pedro Ximénez sherry, the viscous maple syrup that your grandmother once drizzled on your pancakes.
But how carefully are we really choosing these adjectives and analogies? How often do they correspond to real chemical commonalities? Does that matter? Do the analogies more frequently serve a more poetic (or at least suggestive) purpose, forging new neural assemblies that connect relatively arbitrary taste and smell memories with each other—connections that, reinforced over time, turn into sensory reality?
By improving access to a worldwide market, eBay has inadvertently created a vast market for copies of antiquities, diverting whole villages from looting to producing fake artifacts, Stanish writes. The proliferation of these copies also has added new risks to buying objects billed as artifacts, which in turn has worked to depress the market for these items, further reducing incentives to loot.
Ich steh’ auf Jeans und Country Music
Wenn es Nacht wird in Old Tuscon
Der wilde, wilde Westen
Hier spricht der Truck
Ich und mein Diesel
Sturm und Drang
Trucker, Cowboy, Mann
Mama steht auf Jesus
Die Cowboys der Nation
Banditos der Liebe
Komm her du bist mein Cowboy
Ich bin CB-Funker
Cisco, Lucius, Erich, Uwe, Teddy und ich
Cowboys küssen besser
Keine Angst (die Nacht ist warm)
Blue Jeans, Rock ‘n’ Roll und Elvis
Mit dem Hammer in der Hand
Der Trabbi und der Truck
Darf mein Hund in die Himmel?
Cowboys und Texasboots
Danke, Johnny Cash
Hallo John Wayne
Hinnerk, der Supertrucker
Deine Freiheit heisst Whiskey
Ich hab’ den Honky Tonk Blues
Mit dem Jeep durch den Canyon
1000 und 1 Nacht (Zoom!)
Shanzhai, which literally means “mountain fortress” and implies banditry and lack of state control, refers to China’s vast array of name-brand knockoffs. Shanzhai versions of Apple Inc.‘s iPhone, for example, include the HiPhone, the SciPhone and the deliberately misspelled citrus-themed iOrgane.
Recently, the definition of shanzhai has expanded. On China’s Internet, blogs, bulletin boards and news sites carry photos of automobiles jerry-rigged to run on railroad tracks (“shanzhai trains”), fluffy dogs trimmed and dyed to look like the national mascot (“shanzhai pandas”) and models of the Beijing Olympic Games’ National Stadium made out of sticks (“shanzhai Bird’s Nest”). . . .
Once a term used to suggest something cheap or inferior, shanzhai now suggests to many a certain Chinese cleverness and ingenuity. Shanzhai culture “is from the grass roots and for the grass roots,” says Han Haoyue, a media critic in Beijing, who sees it as a means of self-expression. “It gives people another choice and the possibility of resisting dominant cultural values.”
Chinese authorities appear to regard shanzhai warily, especially when it comes to intellectual property issues. “The shanzhai culture as a celebration of the DIY [do it yourself] spirit or as a parody to mainstream culture can add fun to our daily lives,” said one recent editorial in an official state newspaper. “However, we should remain vigilant against it as a justification for rip-off products.”
Architecture | Can you copyright an iconic building? That’s the issue raised by an expensively marbled clone of India’s Taj Majal built in Bangladesh by a wealthy filmmaker, who says he built it for Bangladeshis too poor to travel to see the real thing. Indian official: “You can’t just go out and copy historical monuments.” Bangladeshi: “Show me where it says that emulating a building like this can be illegal.” [Times of London]
Taking a page from the evangelical mega-churches that have popped up around the country, Muslims have begun setting up multi-site “mosque chains” to accommodate increasingly large religious services, Mallika Rao reports for the Religion News Service. Often branded as more progressive than other mosques, some of the organizations have begun offering gymnasiums, adult education classes, and even mixed-gender prayer areas. The strategy seems to be paying off, both financially and organizationally. Abeer Abdulla, a media specialist for the Islamic Society of Central Florida in Orlando, told Rao, “because of how streamlined we are, you can get off the highway from anywhere and find a mosque that is well-maintained, well-structured and that will always be open.”
(Thanks, Pew Forum.)
“Love your neighbour to the point of denying yourself” is the ethical core of the Gospel. “Fight selfishness; serve the people” is the ethical core of Mao Tse-Tung Thought. “By their fruits you shall know them” is the decisive criterion of the Gospel. Marxism has sworn by the same test of “fruits” or “practice,” and in the case of China at least has both preached and practiced “continuing revolution” in its name. . . .
The social and political transformations brought about in China through the application of the Thought of Mao Tse-Tung have unified and consolidated a quarter of the world population into a form of society and life-style at once pointing to some of the basic characteristics of the kingdom of God. . . .
Christians . . . have to free themselves from the parochial Western context in which many of their Churches have developed and realize that the Gospel might be more powerfully expressed and fulfilled in the new type of society which is promoted in China.