Thursday, June 14, 2012

What I’m reading #65

Tim Worstall approves of Michael Gove’s idea that seven-year-olds should be taught languages. He thinks it is:
[. . .] an absolutely fabulous idea. Grammar, vocab, spelling, pronunciation: I cannot think of a better preparation for the life ahead.
We could start with English…..
The longlist for the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award for best New Zealand crime novel is out:
Collecting Cooper by Paul Cleave (Simon & Schuster)
Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross (Simon & Schuster)
Furt Bent from Aldaheit by Jack Eden (Pear Jam Books)
Traces of Red by Paddy Richardson (Penguin)
By Any Means by Ben Sanders (HarperCollins)
Bound by Vanda Symon (Penguin)
The Catastrophe by Ian Wedde (VUP)
How to talk to a judge. This PDF of a transcript of a Queensland trial has gone viral but here it is in case you missed it. It’s only 167KB so is a tiny download and well worth it. A small sample follows (warning: this is from Australia so may contain coarse language):
HIS HONOUR: Now, Mr B-----
DEFENDANT: You can get stuffed.
HIS HONOUR: -----the trial will be-----
DEFENDANT: I don’t give a-----
HIS HONOUR: -----preceding-----
DEFENDANT: -----fuck, you and your trial, mate. Stick your trial up your fucking arse. I'll go.
HIS HONOUR: Sit down please, Mr B.
DEFENDANT: ... No, fuck you. You don’t tell me what to do, who do you think you are?
Books can be useful. Who knew?

James le Fanu, a doctor and author of the excellent The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine, reviews David Healy’s Pharmageddon. Money quote:
Certainly drug companies, like any investor-owned enterprise, have a fiduciary responsibility to increase their shareholder stock by ‘growing the business’ and maximising their market share. But, Healy alleges, they have done so by systematically subverting the intellectual apparatus of science and its methods of distinguishing truth from falsehood, thus exposing the sick, and indeed healthy, to the hazards of potent and unnecessary treatments. 
 Adam Mars-Jones reviews Martin Amis’s new novel Lionel Asbo. Money quotes:
Amis doesn’t so much inhabit his characters as leave them to seethe like charged rods in a viscous bath of language. The pleasures of reading Amis are electrolytic.
Of course Lionel Asbo is overwritten – it’s by Martin Amis! The problem is that it’s under-overwritten. And there it is, the voice in a generation’s ear, charming without charm, insistently dazzling, milking the paradoxes until their teats are sore and they have no more nourishment to give. It’s easy to write Amislike sentences, hard to write good ones, and there are signs that Amis feels this too.
Finally, a conference in August I will pass on even though it will be just up the road. It is at Waikato University and titled “The Creative University: Education and the Creative Economy Knowledge Formation, Global Creation and the Imagination” (sic). In their call for papers the organisers mention “economy”, “economic” and “economies” many times, e.g.:
This conference investigates all the aspects of education in (and as) the creative economy. The conference objective is to extend the dialogue about the relationship between contemporary higher education and the changing face of contemporary economies. A number of terms describe the nature of the contemporary capitalism of advanced economies: ‘cognitive capitalism’, ‘metaphysical capitalism’, ‘intellectual capitalism’, ‘designer capitalism’. The conference will explore the relationship between the arts and sciences and this new form of capitalism. It will look at the global reach and international imperatives of aesthetic and scientific modes of production, the conditions and character of acts of the imagination in the range of fields of knowledge and arts in this period, and the role of the research university in the formation of the creative knowledge that has a decisive function in contemporary advanced economies.
Pretty economics-intensive, then. So how many economists will speak at the conference, you ask? None so far: four speakers are listed, all of them education academics. Sample topic: “Beautiful Minds and Ugly Buildings: Object Creation, Digital Production, and the Research University. Critical Reflections on the Aesthetic Ecology of the Mind”.

Speaking of economists, Tyler Cowen asks, “Is popular music becoming sadder?”. He quotes a study published in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts which finds that over the last 50 years pop songs have become “longer, slower and sadder”:
“As the lyrics of popular music became more self-focused and negative over time, the music itself became sadder-sounding and more emotionally ambiguous,” according to psychologist E. Glenn Schellenberg and sociologist Christian von Scheve.
 Analyzing Top 40 hits from the mid-1960s through the first decade of the 2000s, they find an increasing percentage of pop songs are written using minor modes, which most listeners—including children—associate with gloom and despair. 
Cowen ends:
By the way, the Turtles song “Happy Together” is mostly in a minor key.
Of course it is – it’s about unrequited love. Not a happy song at all, though the Turtles made it sound that way. Fun fact: vocalists Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan sang backing vocals on T Rex’s Electric Warrior, and with Turtles bassist Jim Pons were part of Frank Zappa’s band in the early 70s. So here are three former Turtles and Zappa live in 1971 with “Tears Began to Fall”, which was released as a single in 1971 with  their version of “Happy Together” on the B-side. Pop music was different then.

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