Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Art and "Art"

Social engineering is a funny thing. I usually think of it in terms of government policies where people with families get more benefits from their employers, people with mortgages get tax deductions, and things like that. Rewards for certain behavior.  

In Brazil, according to the Washington Post and Inter-American Development Bank, telenovelas--the super soaps--are responsible for social engineering: lower fertility rates, higher divorce rates, and other social and family life phenomena. What's the corollary in the United States? Will people become really diligent about vacuuming up their hair and fibers after watching all those CSI episodes? That might not be too far from the truth, now that I think about it, because some studies have shown a change in jury behavior because evidence is always so fully determinative on shows like CSI. 

This isn't quite social engineering, but a neat experiment about art and news. The Haaretz newspaper in Israel, which is like the Economist, with a small but very elite readership compared to other newspapers, used National Book Week to create a day where almost all of its news was reported and written by novelists and poets. You've got to love a TV column that begins, "I didn't watch TV today," a weather report written as a sonnet about summer being an unsharpened pencil, and a business report written by a children's book and cookbook author. One of the only beats not surrendered to artists was sports. I will brush up on my Hebrew and report further. 

יום אחד

And in other Kindle-related news, there are some funny tweets from Mark Glaser who is being tormented by the crappy teenage material being "whispernetted" to his stolen Kindle.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Week Was So Bad that THIS Is What Cheered Me Up

Newspapers accounts of 

  • a "Parents Council" listserv war where one woman called the leaders "purveyors of evil" and "inebriated beavers"
  • a Humane Society report on a "tormented guinea pig," where the reporting officer had to rescue said pig from a child trying to groom and dress it like a doll
  • a nearby restaurant closed by the Health Inspector because of a "gross unsanitary occurrence"
I guess this is the fun side of newspapers no longer having a lot of real reporters to provide stories. I guess that doesn't cheer me up so much after all.