Sunday, January 30, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 4): Changing Higher Ed. Book Awards, Pippi, 007, Forecasting Technology, Michael Lewis

From The Chronicle of Higher Ed, an open letter to President Obama about the way education is changing and how we need to adapt accordingly:
The new regulations that your education officials have imposed suggest that online instruction isn’t as good as the old fashioned way of learning … you know, the sleep-in-the-back-of-the-room or catch-up-on-your-e-mail or text-all-of-your-friends-about-Saturday-night-while-the-teacher-yaks-at-the-front-of-the-room kinds of classes. For example, when a student is enrolled in a classroom-based class, the Department of Education considers him to be engaged in an academically related activity by virtue of the act of walking into class. It doesn’t matter if he sleeps through the entire class. I guess learning will just happen by osmosis. However, starting on July 1st of this year, when a student is enrolled in an online course, and she performs the equivalent of walking into class by logging into the electronic classroom portal, the Department of Education will not consider this to be an academically related activity. Well, is entering the classroom an academically related activity or isn’t it? Meanwhile, a faculty member is far more likely to know the level of engagement of an online student versus a classroom-based student because in the online environment, the professor can monitor all of the activities in which a student has been engaged—all day—and not just those that took place during a regularly scheduled 50-minute period.
How are books selected for the National Book Critics Awards (Beast):

The confidential awards nomination and voting process begins at the first meeting of the new board in March. Awards committee chairs in all six categories are elected and committees of at least eight members are formed. Throughout the rest of the year, committee members nominate books on a password-protected online Writeboard, and discuss them on dedicated email listservs. The conversation ebbs and flows through the summer months. The afternoon of the September board meeting is devoted to the first discussions of the books, led by committee chairs. It’s not breaking any rules to suggest that the words one hears include these: “Formulaic.” “Doggerel.” “Brilliant.” “Thin.”

Noted before (but it's been weeks since a Larsson link) the connection with Pippi Longstocking (Millions):
Pippi’s endlessly obliging world certainly isn’t Salander’s; Pippi is a children’s book heroine, after all. But Pippi and Salander do share a fundamental character trait: a deep sense of justice and courage in the pursuit of justice—very real, if increasingly rare, human qualities. In one of Pippi’s first adventures, she stands up to five boys bullying a younger boy. She interrupts the bullies’ taunting of the little boy and brings their taunts on herself. The bullies tease Pippi about her red hair and her clown shoes, but Pippi just smiles her friendliest smile and seems not to hear their taunts. This enrages the ringleader and he shoves her. So, Pippi calmly lifts the bully up and hangs him on a high tree branch, telling him, “I don’t think you have a very nice way with the ladies.”
Intellectualizing James Bond (Atlantic):
It was time to bring 007 back in line with the rest of the world. After 20 films spanning 4 decades, it took a full reboot of the series, with 2006's Casino Royale, to make the Bond franchise relevant again. Casino Royale depicts a ruthless, unpolished 007 on his inaugural mission, under MI6 boss M's watchful (and occasionally skeptical) eye. But Casino Royale was more than just a simple reboot; it was an aggressive rejection of the series' best-known conventions. There's no banter with familiar characters like Miss Moneypenny or Q to lighten the mood. Le Chiffre, the film's primary villain, doesn't want to rule the world; he wants money, and he's willing to work with terrorists to gain it. When Bond is captured, Le Chiffre's torture method isn't a laser or a shark tank; it's beating Bond's genitals with a knotted rope. And, most significantly, despite Bond's legendary womanizing, much of the film is devoted to an honest-to-God love story (between James Bond and the enigmatic Vesper Lynd).
Regrettably falls flat: No Bond would be caught in this (Link) Explaining the future of technology is the purpose of science fiction (Slate):

What's valuable about this for societies is that science-fiction writers explore these issues in ways that working scientists simply can't. Some years ago, for a documentary for Discovery Channel Canada, I interviewed neurobiologist Joe Tsien, who had created superintelligent mice in his lab at Princeton—something he freely spoke about when the cameras were off. But as soon as we started rolling, and I asked him about the creation of smarter mice, he made a "cut" gesture. "We can talk about the mice having better memories but not about them being smarter. The public will be all over me if they think we're making animals more intelligent." But science-fiction writers do get to talk about the real meaning of research. We're not beholden to skittish funding bodies and so are free to speculate about the full range of impacts that new technologies might have—not just the upsides but the downsides, too. And we always look at the human impact rather than couching research in vague, nonthreatening terms.

About Charles Portis from The Telegraph:

After three years in Little Rock, Portis moved on to the Herald-Tribune, working for three years in New York before his spell in London. Based near the Savoy Hotel, he combined reporting with his duties as bureau chief. He was amused rather than annoyed by the constant clicks of the telephones that indicated British intelligence were tapping his calls. He also dealt with Downing Street, as he remembered: “The Prime Minister was Sir Alec Douglas-Home. He gave us – a handful of American correspondents – one or two off-the-record interviews and spoke of Lyndon Johnson as, 'your, uh, rather racy president’, referring, I suppose, to Johnson’s barnyard humour.” He quickly became disillusioned with the whole business of “management comedies”. As he says: “I wanted to try my hand at fiction, so I gave notice and went home to America.” That was in November 1964. Four years later, he had published True Grit to widespread acclaim. Roald Dahl – who rarely reviewed books – wrote in praise for the American first edition dust jacket: “True Grit is the best novel to come my way for a very long time. I was going to say it was the best novel to come my way since…Then I stopped. Since what? What book has given me greater pleasure in the last five years? Or in the last 20? I do not know. I expect some have, but I cannot recall them right now. Marvellous it is. He hasn’t put a foot wrong anywhere. What a writer!”
Michael Lewis on book tour in the UK (Observer):

Lewis says he isn't surprised that the four Republican members of the commission refused to sign off its findings. "There is a big effort by the right wing to carve a narrative out in the public mind. It runs as follows: it was government intervention that created the crisis; Bill Clinton forced the banks to lend money to black people; Barney Frank [former Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives financial services committee] turned a blind eye to what was going on at [mortgage companies] Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which then generated demand for these loans." A few people have worked on that story, because whenever I speak at lectures, somebody always jumps up to peddle this line. But if you look at the facts, Fannie and Freddie's share of the sub-prime market fell in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The crash happened because of a dramatic failure of free markets and capitalism in general. To top it all, the banks were saved by the taxpayer. In other words, banks benefit from socialism, while everyone else has to live under capitalism. The people who are paid the most live by a different set of rules to everyone else. How absurd is that?"

From the twitter this week: Borders delays payments to conserve cash The Differential Rates Of Digital Change Problem Go To Hellman: It's No Pocalypse at Digital Book World Summit Business Media Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection Thomson Reuters’ Culture of Organizational Curiosity And in sports, two morons get what they deserve (BBC)

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