On “Babbittry”

From The MillionsCyber-Babbittry: Conventionality and Banality Are Alive and Well on the Internet.

Babbittry’s an old word but hardly a dead concept. It first emerged — by that name, anyway — 90 years ago with the publication of Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, a slim, strange novel that drifts through its chapters with little thought to plot…Babbittry refers to the disease of conventionality and banality.

So, just who represents the conventional, the banal, and the “establishment” in these glorious early days of the 21st century?

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The Scientific Blind Spot

From The Wall Street Journal, an excerpt on the review of the book The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date:

The point, according to Samuel Arbesman, an applied mathematician and the author of the delightfully nerdy “The Half-Life of Facts,” is that knowledge—the collection of “accepted facts”—is far less fixed than we assume….

Science, Mr. Arbesman observes, is a “terribly human endeavor.” Knowledge grows but carries with it uncertainty and error; today’s scientific doctrine may become tomorrow’s cautionary tale. What is to be done? The right response, according to Mr. Arbesman, is to embrace change rather than fight it. “Far better than learning facts is learning how to adapt to changing facts,” he says. “Stop memorizing things . . . memories can be outsourced to the cloud.” In other words: In a world of information flux, it isn’t what you know that counts—it is how efficiently you can refresh.

My take: “question everything.”

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8 shocking things we learned from Stephen Hawking’s book

This goes back a while, but it’s still relevant—from Mother Nature Network—in reference to physicist Stephen Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, written with fellow physicist Leonard Mlodinow of Caltech and released September 7, 2010.

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You Missed It: Most Unfairly Overlooked Movies Of The Decade

From Cinema Blend:

When people look back on the early years of the new millennium they’ll remember it for movies like The Dark Knight and Lord of the Rings. Or they’ll geek out with their friends about the cult classics they discovered together, rewatching copies of the original version of Donnie Darko or spreading around copies of Idiocracy and laughing at its accuracy. Or we’ll remember the prestige movies, the big Oscar winners like No Country For Old Men and Chicago.

But in a better world, maybe we’d remember these movies…Unique and strange, funny and weird, challenging and sexy; they’re the most unfairly overlooked movies of the past decade.


I’ve only seen three of the them, all on cable television; but then, I don’t go to the movie theater very much. And yes, all three were quite good, in their own unique way.

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Milestone—1000 blog posts

The milestone was reached with this post, not a very literary subject, but still within the scope of the blog’s intent. Also, the traffic has increased since my beginning in September 2010.

Going forward, I may make some changes….

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The Evolutionary Mystery of Homosexuality

From The Chronicle of Higher Education.—What I find interesting, as gay activist Andrew Sullivan has pointed out in the past, what a conundrum, regardless of your politics, if and when they do find a genetic marker and can detect it in a fetus through prenatal testing. That, and absolute freedom of abortion, will likely result in what has happened to Downs Syndrome births in recent years—the vast majority are aborted. The introduction:

Critics claim that evolutionary biology is, at best, guesswork. The reality is otherwise. Evolutionists have nailed down how an enormous number of previously unexplained phenomena—in anatomy, physiology, embryology, behavior—have evolved. There are still mysteries, however, and one of the most prominent is the origins of homosexuality.

The mystery is simple enough. Its solution, however, has thus far eluded our best scientific minds.


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“21st Century Prudery”

You Can’t Say That On The Internet, from The New York Times (Hat tip: Instapundit) An excerpt:

A BASTION of openness and counterculture, Silicon Valley imagines itself as the un-Chick-fil-A. But its hyper-tolerant facade often masks deeply conservative, outdated norms that digital culture discreetly imposes on billions of technology users worldwide.

What is the vehicle for this new prudishness? Dour, one-dimensional algorithms, the mathematical constructs that automatically determine the limits of what is culturally acceptable.

Consider just a few recent kerfuffles. In early September, The New Yorker found its Facebook page blocked for violating the site’s nudity and sex standards. Its offense: a cartoon of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Eve’s bared nipples failed Facebook’s decency test.

That’s right — a venerable publication that still spells “re-elect” as “reëlect” is less puritan than a Californian start-up that wants to “make the world more open.”


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Two Cheers for Anarchism

The time is right…from CNN Money, a book review of James C. Scott’s Two Cheers for Anarchism. An excerpt:

Alternately insightful, inciteful, and insulting, Scott makes an idiosyncratically intellectual case that technocratic elites aren’t to be trusted, and insubordination is a virtue to be cherished. Needless to say, Scott is the Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale.

Where “community organizer” cum political provocateur Saul Alinksy had his Rules for Radicals, Scott effectively offers aphorisms for anarchists. This book is about the subversion of institutional power. In short, it’s Alinsky with tenure.

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Free Textbooks Spell Disruption for College Publishers

From MIT Technology Review (Hat tip: Instapundit):

Publishers today operate using what Mark Perry, a professor at the University of Michigan, calls a “cartel-style” model: students are required to buy specific texts at high prices. Perry has calculated that prices for textbooks have been rising at three times the rate of inflation since the 1980s.

The price of textbooks has been absurd for years. Cozy protected environments will allow for such shenanigans. Amazing what a little competition will do!

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You Are What You Read

From The Wall Street Journal:

A lucid exposition of how Proust put his reading to work in the creation of “In Search of Lost Time.”

I must admit that I’ve never had the courage to read Proust’s 3000 page novel. And…if “you are what you read,” goodness, I must be a randomly developed personality. My reading is all over the place.

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