Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for January 19th, 2007

19 hours, 7700 air miles, and 13 time zones

Posted by metaphorical on 19 January 2007

To my thousands and thousands of devoted readers and subscribers: I leave for Shanghai early Saturday morning, returning the evening of the 31st. Posting may be sporadic, and might take a travelogue-like turn. But don’t expect the stylistic second coming of Paul Bowles (more like Jane Bowles, I would think). Mambo-king: I expect to see a draft of your first assignment, no matter where I am.

Oh, and for the sticklers: the figure of 19 hours is door-to-door, or at least terminal-to-terminal, including a 2-hour layover in Chitown. I’ll only have 17 hours in the air, and only 14:30 on the main leg. Luckily I’ll have about 137 hours worth of reading material with me.

By the way, might be a good time to point out, as Brooklynite does on his blog, that this is National DeLurking Week 2007!

More posts from Shanghai here and here.

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Why would a newspaper promote literacy?

Posted by metaphorical on 19 January 2007

Would you say there’s a direct connection between literacy, the ability to use the English language, and promoting interest in reading and in reading newspapers? There used to be one in Rhode Island, but not anymore.

The Providence Phoenix, the city’s alternative paper, is reporting that Rhode Island’s main newspaper, the Providence Journal, has withdrawn its “sponsorship for the Rhode Island Statewide Spelling Bee — resulting in the cancellation of this year’s competition.”

The Journal’s decision to no longer serve as the event’s main sponsor was communicated in a letter sent just before Christmas time to the Rhode Island Association of School Principals, which helps to coordinate the bee. “Unfortunately, it won’t happen this year as a result,” says John Golden, the association’s executive director.

Being the lead sponsor for the bee, which was scheduled for March, “is expensive and it eats up a lot of staff time,” particularly in the ProJo’s promotions department. Golden, who was unable to identify the precise cost of lead sponsorship, places it at “something in excess of $5000.” Because of the cancellation, schools have been encouraged to conduct their own local spelling bees.

The Phoenix reports that “a number of ProJo staffers are angry and flabbergasted by the newspaper’s withdrawal of sponsorship, which has gone unreported in Rhode Island’s newspaper of record.”

“This is just incomprehensible,” says reporter John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild. “I don’t see how you could have an event that is more connected to a newspaper’s mission, which is reading, and learning about the world, and expanding your vocabulary. These are things that you need to learn if you’re going to be a newspaper reader or a Web site reader.”

Hill recalls having covered a packed Rhode Island spelling bee last year in which study guides provided by the ProJo were a ubiquitous sight. “To throw that away, I’m completely baffled by it,” he says. “It just betrays a tone deafness to what the Journal’s role in the community ought to be, and we are diminishing that role.”

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Does anybody know what time it is — armageddon-wise?

Posted by metaphorical on 19 January 2007

How close are we to the end of the world? And will it come from a nuclear Armageddon, or global climate change?

I haven’t seen this discussed much, but the Doomsday Clock was moved forward two minutes the other day. It’s not a trivial change—from 7 minutes to midnight, to 5 minutes is a change of more than 25 percent. The clock has been moved only 17 times since it was created 60 years ago.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Adjusts Clock From 7 to 5 Minutes Before Midnight; “ Deteriorating” Global Situation Cited on Nuclear Weapons and New Factor: Climate Change. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. and LONDON, ENGLAND /// January 17, 2007 /// The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) is moving the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight. It is now 5 minutes to midnight. Reflecting global failures to solve the problems posed by nuclear weapons and the climate crisis, the decision by the BAS Board of Directors was made in consultation with the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.

More than the percentage, the change is significant in another way, though—this is the first time a reason a reason was cited other than nuclear proliferation.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project and were deeply concerned about the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear war. In 1947 the Bulletin introduced its clock to convey the perils posed by nuclear weapons through a simple design. The Doomsday Clock evoked both the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero).

The BAS statement said, “The dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons.”

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