Archive for February 25th, 2012

February 25, 2012

One-Dimensional Man

drux flux

One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society’ is a 1964 book by philosopher Herbert Marcuse. The work offers a wide-ranging critique of both contemporary capitalism and the society in the Soviet Union, documenting the parallel rise of new forms of social repression in both these societies, as well as the decline of revolutionary potential in the West.

Marcuse argues that ‘advanced industrial society’ created false needs, which integrated individuals into the existing system of production and consumption via mass media, advertising, industrial management, and contemporary modes of thought.

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February 25, 2012

Clock of the Long Now

The Clock of the Long Now is a proposed mechanical clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years. The project to build it is part of the Long Now Foundation, a private organization that seeks to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. The project was conceived by American inventor Danny Hillis in 1986: ‘I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every one hundred years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years.’ The first prototype of the clock began working on December 31, 1999, just in time to display the transition to the year 2000. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, the date indicator changed from 01999 to 02000, and the chime struck twice. That prototype, approximately two meters tall, is currently on display at the Science Museum in London. The first full-scale clock’s manufacture and site construction is being funded by Jeff Bezos, who has donated $42 million, and is located on his Texas land.

The clock is one of several projects through which the foundation intends to promote long-term thinking. In the words of Stewart Brand, a founding board member of the foundation, ‘Such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well-engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.’

February 25, 2012

Heroin Chic

Heroin chic was a look popularized in mid-1990s fashion and characterized by pale skin, dark circles underneath the eyes, and angular bone structure. This waifish, drug-addicted look was the basis of the 1993 advertising campaign of Calvin Klein featuring Kate Moss photographed by Vincent Gallo. Emaciated features and androgyny were a reaction to ‘healthy’ and vibrant look of models such as Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and Heidi Klum. A 1996 article in ‘The Los Angeles Times’ charged that the fashion industry had ‘a nihilistic vision of beauty’ that was reflective of drug addiction. At the time, the popular image of heroin was changing for several reasons. The price of heroin had decreased, and its purity had increased dramatically. The AIDS epidemic had made injecting heroin with unclean needles increasingly risky, and inhalation became a more common mode of use. These changes decreased the stigma surrounding the drug, allowing heroin to find a new market among the middle-class and the wealthy, in contrast to its previous base of the poor and marginalized. The heroin chic trend in fashion coincided with a string of movies in the mid-1990s – such as ‘The Basketball Diaries,’ ‘Trainspotting,’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ – that touch upon heroin use and drug culture.

The trend eventually faded, in part due to the drugs related death of prominent fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti, who was known for his photographs of seemingly strung-out models in stupor-like poses that some felt emulated the blank look of the heroin addict and glamorized drug use. He fell in love with teenage model Jaime King, herself a heroin addict, and began abusing substances himself. In 1999, ‘Vogue’ magazine dubbed Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen ‘The Return of the Sexy Model’ and she was credited with ending the heroin chic era of modeling.

February 25, 2012

Radical Chic

Radical chic is a term coined by journalist Tom Wolfe in his 1970 essay ‘Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s,’ to describe the adoption and promotion of radical political causes by celebrities, socialites, and high society. The concept has been described as ‘an exercise in double-tracking one’s public image: on the one hand, defining oneself through committed allegiance to a radical cause, but on the other, vitally, demonstrating this allegiance because it is the fashionable, au courant way to be seen in moneyed, name-conscious Society.’ Unlike dedicated activists, revolutionaries, or dissenters, those who engage in radical chic remain frivolous political agitators. They are ideologically invested in their cause of choice only so far as it advances their social standing.

‘Terrorist chic’ is a modern expression with similar connotations. This derivative, however, de-emphasizes the class satire of Wolfe’s original term, instead accentuating concerns over the semiotics of radicalism (such as the aestheticization of violence).

February 25, 2012

Monofin

A monofin is a type of swimfin typically used in finswimming and free-diving. It consists of a single surface attached to footpockets for both of the free-diver’s feet. Monofins were introduced in 1972, by a Ukrainian finswimming club, and have been used for finswimming competitions since, allowing monofin swimmers to reach speeds of 12km/h. Monofins can be made of glass fiber or carbon fiber. The diver’s muscle power, swimming style, and the type of aquatic activity the monofin is used for determines the choice of size, stiffness, and materials. To differentiate between the use of monofins and conventional fins, the latter are sometimes referred to as stereo fins or bi-fins. The monofin swimmer extends arms forward, locking hands together, locking the head between the biceps. The undulating movement starts in the shoulders, with maximum amplitude towards the hips, the legs almost don’t bend to transfer the movement to the monofin. This technique is called the dolphin kick.

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February 25, 2012

Hedonic Treadmill

The hedonic treadmill is the supposed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness. Brickman and Campbell coined the term in their essay ‘Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society’ (1971). During the late ’90s, the concept was modified by Michael Eysenck, a British psychology researcher, to become the current ‘hedonic treadmill theory’ which compares the pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep working just to stay in the same place. The general idea of the ‘Hedonic (or Happiness) Set Point’ has gained interest throughout the field of positive psychology.

Research supports a three-factor model, where our level of happiness is 50% determined by genetics, 10% determined by outside circumstances, and 40% determined by intentional activities. That last factor, of intentional activities, is the focus of positive psychology, especially because not all activities are equally effective at helping one to reach the higher end of their happiness range. One study concluded that life goals along with personality characteristics are important determinants of one’s subjective well-being. Life goals that enrich one’s relationships and social resources, such as altruistic and family oriented goals, increase their level of subjective well-being. On the other hand, materialistic life goals, such as monetary achievement, have a negative effect on people’s overall subjective well-being.

February 25, 2012

Moneybomb

March Against Monsanto

Moneybomb is a neologism coined in 2007 to describe a grassroots fundraising effort over a brief fixed time period, usually to support a candidate for election by dramatically increasing, concentrating, and publicizing fundraising activity during a specific hour or day. The term was first applied to a supporter-led fundraiser on behalf of presidential candidate Ron Paul.

The effort combines traditional and Internet-based fundraising appeals focusing especially on viral advertising through online vehicles such as YouTube, Facebook, and online forums. In the case of lesser-known candidates it is also intended to generate significant free mass media coverage the candidate would otherwise not receive. The term has also been used as a verb and apparently arose from analogy with the neologism ‘googlebomb,’ a method of search engine optimization.

February 25, 2012

Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction. In one particular format, established by Steve Moss, Editor of the New Times, the requirement is 55 words; no more and no fewer. Another, unspecified but frequently held, requirement is that the title may be no more than seven words. Other names for flash fiction include sudden fiction, microfiction, short short, and postcard fiction, though distinctions are sometimes drawn between some of these terms; for example, one-thousand words is considered the cut-off between ‘flash fiction’ and the slightly longer short story ‘sudden fiction.’ The term ‘flash fiction’ may have originated from a 1992 anthology of that title. As the editors said in their introduction, their definition of a ‘flash fiction’ was a story that would fit on two facing pages of a typical digest-sized literary magazine. Flash fiction has roots going back to Aesop’s Fables, and practitioners have included Saadi of Shiraz (The Gulistan), Bolesław Prus, Anton Chekhov, O. Henry, Franz Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, Yasunari Kawabata, and Ernest Hemingway. New life has been brought to flash fiction by the Internet, with its demand for short, concise works. Ezines and hypertext literary spaces offer writers a ready market for flash-fiction works. However, flash fiction is also published by many print magazines.

55 Fiction and nanofictions are complete stories, with at least one character and a discernible plot, exactly fifty-five words long. A Drabble is a story of exactly one hundred words, excluding titles, and a 69er is a story of exactly sixty-nine words, again excluding the title; it was a regular feature of the Canadian literary magazine ‘NFG,’ which featured a section of such stories in each issue. Unlike a vignette, flash-fiction often contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. However, unlike a traditional short story, the limited word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten – that is, hinted at or implied in the written storyline. Different readers thus may have different interpretations of the flash fiction. This principle, taken to the extreme, is illustrated in a possibly apocryphal story about a six-word flash reportedly penned by Ernest Hemingway: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ The Micro Award was established in 2007 by author Robert Laughlin to recognize outstanding flash fiction of both print and electronic media. Eligible stories must not exceed 1000 words in length.

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