Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Path to Freedom

This is the title of an essay by Jonathan Franzen published in the Guardian, apparently as part of the publicity surge around his new essay collection. In this piece, he explains how he “overcame a sense of shame, guilt and disloyalty” (to his former wife, mostly) in order to became a great writer. What he doesn’t seem to have overcome, though, is an awkward degree of self-absorption. It is this self-involvement which allowed Franzen to slam last year in the New Yorker David Foster Wallace, ostensibly a friend and undoubtedly a competitor, as a narcissistic jerk – someone who contemplated his suicide as an adulation-craving career move, committed as if to spite him, Franzen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Free to live

Terry Castle, a professor of English at Stanford, makes in the Chronicle of Higher Education ("Don't Pick Up") “the case for breaking up with your parents." She ridicules her own students a bit for being constantly in digital touch with mom and dad. She tells them that when she was a college student back in the 1970s, they DESPISED their parents.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Free to die

According to the title of an article which came out in Der Speigel two months ago, a Dutch NGO “pioneers mobile euthanasia.” The plan is to initially bring death to the homes of people who are terminally ill and suffering. But the end objective is to increase public acceptance and eventually achieve the full legalization of assisted suicide – so that this service can become available to anyone who fancies to die, no questions asked. After all, if someone thinks it is in their best interest to die, why should they be persuaded otherwise?

Friday, May 18, 2012

The evil empire strikes back

Tetris is described in a NYT article on “stupid” video games (“Just One More Game”) as a “simple but addictive puzzle game.” It came pre-installed on Nintendo’s first-generation Game Boy. That, of course, was the device which launched the hand-held gaming revolution back in that iconic year – 1989. As it turns out, Tetris had been designed in a Soviet computer lab back in 1984 – another curious coincidence. 

The efficient life

In a NYT interview, a 28-year old digital consultant shares tips about the countless cool web sites, “niche social networks,” apps, etc. she uses on a daily basis. Why is she almost continuously plugged in? Very simple: “Its [sic.] not just my geeky love for the Internet that keeps me trying new products,” she said. “It’s a quest to find things that will ultimately make my life more efficient and run smoothly.” This must be a truly epic quest. Self-betterment as self-optimization, if you will.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Harvard and the superrat race

Harvard’s alumni magazine carries a feature article reporting on the lives of its undergraduate achievement freaks. Called “Nonstop,” the piece begins with a description of the crazy schedule of a female student who rises long before the sun has done so, has rowing practice at 6:00 a.m., attends multiple activities late into the night – and does this every single day.