Literature Synchronicity: Feed and Branded Nation

While on my trip I read Feed (by M. T. Anderson), a novel set in the next century in which media and the internet and pretty much everything are tied directly into people's brains. It's a quick read, and a striking novel about shortened attention spans, corporate dominance of government, loss of ability to communicate complex thoughts (and perhaps even think them), and the consequences of these, such as exploitation of the environment and human labor.

Don't take this as a strong endorsement to go out and read this book. It's decent but not exceptional. The reason I'm blogging about it is because it became more obviously relevant because of two coincidental events.

One is that immediately after finishing this novel, I started to read the other book of the many on my list to read that the library had available. It is Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld (by James B. Twitchell ). It seems as if it speaks directly toward Feed, showing the ways in which both corporations and other organizations (including those that we don't normally think of as trying to advertise or influence our decisions) really do, in many overt and subtle ways, brainwash us and change the way we think about things and indeed the way we think at all. The future Feed postulates is coming true sooner than it or we realize!

Two is my reaction to a recent speech by George W. Bush. In Feed, the brain implants reduced the need for / ability to reason and communicate effectively. In the novel, even the President of the United States, a person one would expect to be smarter than most, bumbles and stumbles and simply confuses many of his speeches. Meanwhile, in the real world George W. made some comments about there not being a need or desire for a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. But in discussing this topic, he really sounded almost as bumbling as the President and most people in Feed. (For his comments, use the above link and search for "timetable." The paragraph starts, "PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. You've picked up a good American trick" ...)

Interesting Articles: June 20-26 2005

* Looking Long Term? Get Your Glasses. i.e., most investors don't look more than a few years ahead, even for trends that are quite predictable into the future. (New York Times)
* Gay or Straight? Hard to Tell. (New York Times)
* Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes. i.e., yet another article relating relating high-level behaviors with genetics. (But, in contrast to the previous articles mentioned in this blog about this, they have not determined how complex the genetic control of these opinions are.) (New York Times)
* Black Market in Stolen Credit Card Data Thrives on Internet. i.e., the eBays of stolen credit card data. (New York Times)
* Steve Jobs' Stanford 2005 Commencement Speech, and the article covering the commencement. (Stanford Report)
* I read this New York Times article, On Autism's Cause, It's Parents vs. Research, right after reading this New York times article, Opting Out in the Debate on Evolution. They provide an interesting contrast: in the first, politicians and the religious right aren't listening to / believing the scientists; in the second, parents aren't. (I wonder if the parents in this latter argument are conservative or liberal... I'd actually guess liberal, which would make the contrast even more striking.)

Interesting Articles June 13-19 2005

* Justices Expand Rights to Experiment With Patented Drugs. i.e., one can infringe on patents for medicinal research purposes. Sadly, according the article the ruling only seems to apply to drug patents (but then I didn't read the ruling myself so I could be wrong). (New York Times)
* All That Calcium, and Maybe Weight Control Too. i.e., drink your milk. I drank a lot of milk growing up and through college, so maybe that's why I'm pretty thin. (New York Times)
* Joe Strauss to Joe Six-Pack. i.e., What happened to middle American trying to act and learn about (high) culture? (New York Times)
* For 20 Bucks, Is It Worth It?. i.e., is New York's equivalent to SF Dine About Town worth it? (Kept for future reference because it includes many discussions of restaurants, including mainstream and offbeat.) (New York Times)
* The Anti-Michelin: Caution and Anonymity Not Required (about a famous French restaurant reviewer) (New York Times)
* Legends of ThinkPad: Amazing Feats A Thinkpad Can Endure (with videos!) (IBM)
* Conan O'Brien's Take on The Future of Television (MSNBC)

Interesting Articles: June 6-12 2005

* Freakonomics: Monkey Business (New York Times)
* The Old College Try (short series of fun puzzles) (New York Times)
* Redefining the Power of the Gamer (on AI and computer games) (New York Times)
* Female orgasm all in the genes (The Guardian)
* For Them, Just Saying No Is Easy (on asexuals) (New York Times)
* DNA of Voles May Hint at Why Some Fathers Shirk Duties (Similar to the article from last week, single genes may control surprisingly complex behaviors.) (New York Times)

Interesting Articles: May 30-June 5 2005

* Bless Me, Blog, for I've Sinned (i.e., web sites for posting confessions and secrets) (New York Times) And especially the much discussed site:
* Devoid of Content (i.e., teaching writing emphasizing style over content) (New York Times)
* Researchers Say Intelligence and Diseases May Be Linked in Ashkenazic Genes (New York Times)
* For Fruit Flies, Gene Shift Tilts Sex Orientation (i.e., a single gene can control complex sex behaviors) (New York Times)