Thursday, February 28, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
It sounds pretty sinister, but also kind of wonderful.
Mass-Observation was a United Kingdom social research organisation founded in 1937. Their work ended in the mid 1950s but was revived in 1981. ....
Mass-Observation aimed to record everyday life in Britain through a panel of around 500 untrained volunteer observers who either maintained diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires. They also paid investigators to anonymously record people's conversation and behaviour at work, on the street and at various public occasions including public meetings and sporting and religious events.
Here's the lead to a New Yorker profile on Mass Observation from 2006:
On January 30, 1937, a letter to the New Statesman and Nation announced that Darwin, Marx, and Freud had a successor—or, more accurately, successors. “Mass-Observation develops out of anthropology, psychology, and the sciences which study man,” the letter read, “but it plans to work with a mass of observers.” The movement already had fifty volunteers, and it aspired to have five thousand, ready to study such aspects of contemporary life as:
Behaviour of people at war memorials.
Shouts and gestures of motorists.
The aspidistra cult.
Anthropology of football pools.
Beards, armpits, eyebrows.
Distribution, diffusion and significance of the dirty joke.
Funerals and undertakers.
Female taboos about eating.
The private lives of midwives.
The data collected would enable the organizers to plot “weather-maps of public feeling.” As a matter of principle, Mass-Observers did not distinguish themselves from the people they studied. They intended merely to expose facts “in simple terms to all observers, so that their environment may be understood, and thus constantly transformed.”
From our man in the trenches, A. Mitchell, comes a link to be reckoned with: The Worst Book Titles of the Year. I feel that I am not infrequently treated to truly strange books, but Cheese Problems Solved has got to far weirder than anything I am likely to see on a syllabus anytime soon.
Fortunately for us, democracy is not dead in superlative-book awards. You can help decide which book sports the absolute worst title. But as always, "worst" should be written "best slash worst slash best again," since we are looking for the best worst-title, which in itself is a mark of excellence.
I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen
How to Write a How to Write Book
Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues
Cheese Problems Solved
If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood
Horace Bent, The Bookseller diarist and custodian of the Diagram Prize, said: "I confess: I have been anxious that as publishing becomes ever more corporate, the trade’s quirky charms are being squeezed out. Lists are pruned, targets are set, authors are culled. But happily my fears have been proved unfounded: oddity lives on. Your submissions for the 2007 Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year were as rich and varied as ever. Drawing up the six-strong shortlist was a fraught and wildly controversial process.
"I must pay homage to those books that narrowly missed out on a shortlist place. These were, in no particular order: Drawing and Painting the Undead; Stafford Pageant: The Exciting Innovative Years 1901–1952; and Tiles of the Unexpected: A Study of Six Miles of Geometric Tile Patterns on the London Underground. All sound like they are positively thrilling reads, and I do hope that the authors will try again next year. Honourable mention should also go to two titles that were ruled out because they were published too long ago: an unlikely-sounding HR manual called Squid Recruitment Dynamics, and the fascinating anthropological tome Glory Remembered: Wooden Headgear of Alaska Sea Hunters.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
"It's the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated," Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Liberty Project, told CNN last month.
Hold on to your butt. The future is here, and you've been converted to pure data. For your own protection, of course. (Don't blame Bush; blame the terrorists for forcing totalitarianism upon us.)
Welcome to Oceania. From Thomas.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
A Baltimore police officer was suspended Monday after a YouTube video surfaced on the Internet showing him berating and manhandling a teenage skateboarder at the Inner Harbor.
On the video, the officer, Salvatore Rivieri, puts the boy in a headlock, pushes him to the ground, questions his upbringing, threatens to “smack” him and repeatedly accuses the youngster of showing disrespect because the youth refers to the officer as “man” and “dude.”
This pales in comparison to last year's debacle in Little Rock, where a cop went totally nuts on a couple of skaters.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
“Names, once they are in common use, quickly become mere sounds, their etymology being buried, like so many of the earth's marvels, beneath the dust of habit.” ~ Salman Rushdie
I thought you'd want to know what this day is all about:
- 1763, Amer.Eng., perhaps from caucauasu "counselor" in the Algonquian dialect of Virginia, or the Caucus Club of Boston, a 1760s social & political club whose name possibly derived from Mod.Gr. kaukos "drinking cup." Another candidate is caulker's (meeting). The verb is from 1850.
- 1471, "of the first order," from L. primarius "of the first rank, chief, principal, excellent," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)). Primary color is first recorded 1612; primary school is 1802, from Fr. école primaire.
"The Paris journals ... are full of a plan, brought forward by Fourcroy, for the establishment of primary schools, which is not interesting to an English reader." [London "Times," April 27, 1802]Primary election is recorded from 1792, with ref. to France; in a U.S. context, recorded from 1835; earlier primary caucus (1821).