Medieval

Kalamazoo by  Josephine Livingstone

Every year, three thousand people gather in Kalamazoo for the sake of the years 400 to 1400 (approximately) of the Common Era. The International Congress on Medieval Studies, held annually at Western Michigan University, is the largest gathering of medievalists on earth. They come from all over the world to participate in panels like “Attack and Counterattack: The Embattled Frontiers of Medieval Iberia,” “Waste Studies: Excrement in the Middle Ages,” “Historical, Ethnical and Religious Roots of the Thraco-Geto-Dacians and Their Successors: Romanians and Vlaho-Romanians” and “J. K. Rowling’s Medievalism (I & II).” They are literary critics, historians, experts in numismatics and linguistic datasets, and nuns. There are over five hundred sessions: meetings and drinks parties and bookstalls; groups of monks dressed in black; bespectacled, serious, young men; elderly ladies in capped sleeves. Here is a ragtag bunch of human beings all on the same pilgrimage, playing a part in a story that they can’t read, because they’re in it.

Informare sau promovare

The Problem With Science Writing By Trevor Quirk

Want to hear a seamy insider secret from the science communication industry? The border between journalism and public relations has more turnstiles than Grand Central. Professionals move with relative ease, and little stigma, between newspapers, websites, and magazines and what would otherwise be called propaganda centers—university communication departments, government agencies, corporate PR arms, military research branches, and so on. So it should come as no surprise that the outputs from these two domains are sometimes hard to tell apart. Informing the public about science can become nearly indistinguishable from efforts to promote it.

Think about it. For every article singing the praises of new science, how often do you see one that is critical? Not often. Unless you’re talking about eugenics or fission bombs, a new scientific result or technology is almost always treated as an unequivocally good thing.

Adio telefon

The Death of the Telephone Call 1876–2007. By Timothy Noah

 

The phone call died, according to Nielsen, in the autumn of 2007. During the final three months of that year the average monthly number of texts sent on mobile phones (218) exceeded, for the first time in recorded history, the average monthly number of phone calls (213). A frontier had been crossed. The primary purpose of most people’s primary telephones was no longer to engage in audible speech.

Some were still, of course, making phone calls on their “landlines.” But by 2007, landlines were already being displaced rapidly by mobile phones, in part because you couldn’t send a text on one. Today, we’re mere seconds away from a majority of U.S. households possessing no landline at all, and text messages are five times more frequent on mobile phones than phone calls. You can still call your best friend on the telephone, but he probably won’t pick up. Instead he’ll text you, or ping you on Facebook, and wonder when the hell it was you became so emotionally needy.

It’s a lonely business, this life without telephone calls.

Masa

The Eating Out Habit By Paula Marantz Cohen

When I was growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1960s, my parents would announce periodically that we would be going to go out to dinner. When the announcement was made, the evening was imbued with a festive air. We dressed up — I have a recollection of patent leather shoes and crinolines. Eating out was an occasion; it happened rarely and felt like an extravagance.

I don’t think my family was unique in this. Most people of that era — unless they worked in advertising — rarely ate out.

No longer. Now, everyone eats out all the time.

I say “everyone,” knowing full well that there are people for whom eating out is, at best, a trip to McDonalds, and others who continue to gather around the dinner table (à la Moonstruck) for a home-cooked meal. But most people who graduated from college in the past two decades — even those with mountains of college debt — eat out a great deal. Eating out has become something done routinely — a habit, if you will. The philosopher and psychologist William James defined a habit as something learned through repetitive action: we do it “with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-mechanically, or with hardly any consciousness at all.”

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