US Cities Say: Wi-Fi For All

Hundreds of US cities are working on offering wi-fi internet service as basic city service. “A number of factors have come together to create this marriage of civic activism and a hot technology. First, there’s the decreased cost of key wireless hardware and software components. Jupiter Research estimates that citywide systems will cost $150,000 per square mile for five years of operation. Neff puts it lower, though, saying her costs in Philadelphia were closer to $70,000-100,000 per square mile. Second, broadband penetration in the United States rose above 50 percent in fall 2004, for the first time, which introduced the concept of broadband as a critical service.”

Sleep Deprived – What We Lose

“Most of us now sleep less than people did a century ago, or even 50 years ago. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 poll showed adult Americans averaging 6.8 hours of sleep on weeknights — more than an hour less than they need. Not only how much sleep, but when people sleep has changed. In the United States, six to eight million shift workers toil regularly at night, disrupting sleep patterns in ways that are not necessarily amenable to adaptation.” The question is: What are we losing by sleeping less?

Camille Paglia Unloads On Culture

“We are getting worse writing, worse art. Part of the reason for the much worse writing is that young people have so many other distractions in terms of their time—so many things to do, that reading books has just shriveled. They are assigned books, but few kids read books for pleasure. Too much else is going on. Now I’m a champion of the web—I began writing for Salon in 1995 from the first issue on. But the style of the web, not only the surfing skimming style that you learn—dash, dash—you absorb information not by reading whole sentences. It’s flash, flash, flash. Email, blog, everything is going fast, fast, fast. So the quality of language has obviously degenerated. It’s obvious.”

When Can We Go Back To Just Listening To Music?

The Supreme Court’s Grokster ruling, which held that compaies producing software used for illegal file trading can be held liable for the actions of consumers, has been hailed by the music recording industry and decried by the tech industry. But what does the ruling really mean for a world which in which digital media is obviously the distribution method of the future? “The movie and music bosses didn’t get everything they wanted. The justices left the Betamax doctrine intact. That 1984 ruling said that even though a technology – such as a VCR – might be used to infringe copyright, it could still be sold if it also allowed substantial legal uses.” And then there’s the likelihood that one or both sides in the debate could go running to Congress for relief…

Judge Ye Not So Ye Can Hear

Frank Oteri ponders the limitations of judgment on really hearing music: “I have long thought that the only way to be a receptive listener to music in a world where the Schoenberg/Cage emancipation of dissonance was a fait accompli is to engage in an emancipation of judgment. Such a stance not only liberates dissonance by also re-embraces consonance, any kind of timbre, rhythm or lack thereof, duration, you name it… Once we set up paradigms of good and bad, worthwhile and worthless, cool and uncool, we doom ourselves at best to being tomorrow’s Horatio Parker and, at worst, to being a mirror image of the very thing we claim not to let into our aesthetic purview.”

Assessing London’s “Art Terrorist”

Calling yourself an “art terrorist” probably isn’t a great career move in these times, particularly in London, but the self-styled guerrilla artist Banksy has somehow managed to win himself quite a following anyway. “Over the past few years, Banksy has emerged as an ingenious and dexterous culture jammer, adept at hacking the art world and rewriting its rules to suit his own purposes… Brits have come to expect daring stunts from Banksy, who uses a pseudonym to avoid arrest for past escapades. But critics see him as nothing more than an overhyped vandal.”

The Wonder Of Cuban Ballet

Why does Cuban ballet get such a big response? “How much of a salve art offers is difficult to gauge, but the frustrations of Cuban life are revealed in the ballet audience’s response. There is something in the experience reminiscent of Furtwängler’s rendition of Beethoven’s 9th in wartime Berlin. Yet Cuban ballet is an art form caught in an aspic that has melted elsewhere. The Ballet Nacional is a piece of history preserved by the will of an ageing autocrat.”

What’s Wrong With Public Broadcasting

“The result of public broadcasting’s failure to reinvent itself has been a steady drop in ratings that PBS President Pat Mitchell said in an address to the annual PBS meeting in 2002 threatened to reduce public broadcasting to “irrelevance” in the television universe. Loss of ratings has led in turn to increased time allotted to corporate sponsorship segments and laxer standards concerning their content, making PBS stations less distinguishable from commercial television. It has also forced local stations to rely more heavily on endless “pledge” drives with their pablum programming of mediocre motivational speakers and Lawrence Welk re-runs.”

Writing Off The Movies

“’ Product,’ the old Hollywood moguls used to call the movies they made. Most of them were main-chance Jewish operator types who ran their studios on the factory model. They were aware that the right actors and actresses were crucial and were what people paid their money to see. Directors who knew how to get the best out of these actors were also important, as were producers with a talent for organization and for keeping all these temperamental characters in line. But without writers there was nothing; the game could not even begin until writers had put the ball in play. And yet writers, as everyone knows, have always been thought the most dispensable element in the Hollywood equation.”

Suspiciously (Neo)Romantic

“Neoromanticism has almost always been regarded with suspicion by critics, even though it has been embraced by at least as many composers as has neoclassicism. (The second edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians devotes twice as much space to neoclassicism as to neoromanticism.) Is this because neoromantic music is inferior in quality? Or is it merely the last gasp of the same prejudice in favor of innovation for its own sake that once led avant-garde composers and their critical sympathizers to dismiss all tonal music as “useless”?”