18 September 2010

Readings, 2010.09.17

Friday's Readings

Politics

Chris Hedges at TruthDig has a blistering manifesto on the how the corporate state has undermined and co-opted democracy: "Do Not Pity the Democrats."  The piece is a rant and reads like one:  but it's a rant that I think is largely true (although I think that it is difficult for those with relatively safe positions within current institutional structures to see that it is).

Via the level-headed John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts, who goes on to explain how Hedges' points also apply to Australia.

And as an example of how money utterly corrupts democracy, read Jane Mayer's disturbing profile in The New Yorker of "libertarian" billionaires Charles and David Koch, who spend untold millions in a deeply cynical agenda to promote their own corporate ends.  I will never again knowingly buy or use anything produced by any of the Koch industries (and I am going to do my best to inform myself about this), and I urge you to do the same.  That means no more Dixie Cups, for one thing.

Privacy

Emily Badger at Miller-McCune Online writes on the movement to institute a "Do Not Track" option for those who wish not to have companies track their browsing in order to provide targeted marketing.

Climate

Elizabeth Strickland at 80beats summarizes what climate scientists have to say about the summer of 2010.  It was hot.  Very hot.  In fact (quoting ScienceNOW):
According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the first 8 months of 2010 is the warmest such January-to-August period in climate records stretching back 131 years.

Autism

Via Mind Hacks:  An outstanding article by John Donvan and Caren Zukcer at The Atlantic, "Autism's First Child," on Donald Gray Triplett, the initial case that led Leo Kanner to formulate the notion of autism as a distinct condition, after meeting Donald in 1938. Donald, now 77, still lives in his home town of Forest, Mississippi, and is by every appearance happy and content, playing golf, driving, and traveling the world, accepted by and integrated into his community.  A fascinating story, beautifully told.  Highly recommended.

And an outstanding post by Neuroskeptic on a new study that examines the relative roles of deletions in two genes in the case of two brothers with autism:  "A Tale of Two Genes." The article is:
Alistair T. Pagnamenta, et al. (2010), "Characterization of a Family with Rare Deletions in CNTNAP5 and DOCK4 Suggests Novel Risk Loci for Autism and Dyslexia," Biological Psychiatry 68:4. The article is currently freely available for download.

Philosophy

Scott Horton at Harper's Magazine poses six questions to Julian Young, author of Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, a book that has gone onto my "to read" list. My musical readers will be especially interested in Young's claim to have discovered precisely what led to the final break between Nietzsche and Wagner:
Wagner had long disapproved of Nietzsche’s close friendships with men—love he held could only exist between the sexes—and by 1877 he was offended by the developing anti-Wagnerian tenor of Nietzsche’s thought. To Nietzsche’s doctor he wrote that the cause of the patient’s many health problems–which included near blindness–was “unnatural debauchery, with indications of pederasty.” His former disciple was, in other words, (a) incipiently gay and (b) going blind because he masturbated. Somehow Nietzsche learned not only of the existence of the letter but of its the exact wording. That was the “deadly insult.”
What Young has to say in general about Nietzsche and music is extremely interesting.  And the interview even makes me want to read Nietzsche (Vonds take note).

Young has made recordings of 17 compositions by Nietzsche available here.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has just posted a revised version of the article "The Language of Thought Hypothesis" by Murat Aydede.  The LOTH "postulates that thought and thinking take place in a mental language."

Music


Alexander Rehding has a guest post at Amusicology which some may find enlightening, on the "birthday of tonality, the 200th anniversary of the use of the term "la tonalité" by Alexandre Choron in the "Sommaire de l'histoire de la musique" at the beginning of Choron and François-Joseph Fayolle's Dictionnaire de musiciens.

From the Using-Mozart's-Name-in-Vain Department:  The Amadeus Music Awards, recently given out in Vienna.  The recipients were not....how can I put this?....by and large associated with those parts of the music world that the name of the award might lead you to expect.... (reported at derStandard.at).

Literature

Wieland Freund at Welt Online reviews the German translation of the "Urfassung" (the one typed on a 40-meter-long roll of paper) of Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

Architecture

Wolfgang Jean Stock at FAZ.NET reviews the exhibition "Geschichte der Rekonstruktion – Konstruktion der Geschichte" at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich (through 31 October), on the history of architectural reconstruction, with 300 examples from around the world.  It sounds fascinating; I wish I could see it.
Eine Kopie ist kein Betrug, ein Faksimile keine Fälschung, ein Abguss kein Verbrechen und eine Rekonstruktion keine Lüge.
&c.

Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology examines various theories of why gonorrhea is called "the clap."  The most painful of these:
A strong possibility is because of a once-prescribed treatment: clapping the penis hard, for example, with a book against a table or a swift clap with the hands.
 *

Those of you who follow this blog regularly will know that I'm always partial to free software that allows me to play with language or numbers.  The Natural Language Toolkit was one example (see my Daily Digest for 23 July), and Frink was another (see my posts here, here, and here).

On Friday, I downloaded and played with eSpeak, an open-source program for speech synthesis.  eSpeak is a command-line program with versions for Windows, Linux, and OS X.  It's not difficult to install on OS X (you just have to move a one file and one folder to the correct directories).  The syntax is very command-line like, but it works and it's fun to play with.  Several regional accents are built in.  Here is the first sentence of Pride and Prejudice read in a synthesized Scottish accent in a whisper:


 
The command to create this file was: speak -ven-sc+whisper -f austen -w scottishausten.wav

This is the first time I've tried to embed a sound-file of my own in a web post.  I'm using SoundCloud, which worked in my test run; but let me know if you have any trouble.  SoundCloud requires Flash, and if you're using a Flash blocker (as I do) you may need to enter SoundCloud into the list of exceptions (as I did).

Wortschatz

mürbe
wittern
der Herumtreiber
schwadronieren
zuhauf
plump
scharenweise
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