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Books Wield a Dangerous Power

While we might point to violent video games or sexually explicit films as potentially dangerous and corrupting influences on tender or vulnerable minds, the novel is treated as uplifting and salutary, regardless of its content: a kale smoothie for the soul. When we do talk about books being ‘dangerous’, it is usually with a knowing nod and a wink: and the implication is that those of us in the know…

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Kids Turn Bratz into Star Wars Rey Dolls

Sometimes, I catch myself thinking there may be hope for the future.    There has been something of an outcry over the toy merchandising associated with Star Wars: The Force Awakens with the apparent dearth of Rey dolls in play sets (Rey being the lead female character in the film). Parts and Crafts, a family makerspace and community workshop based in Somerville, MA, decided to take matters into their own…

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What Jane [Austen] Saw: 1796 Shakespeare Gallery

You are invited to time travel to two art exhibitions witnessed by Jane Austen: the Sir Joshua Reynolds retrospective in 1813 or the Shakespeare Gallery as it looked in 1796. These two Georgian blockbusters took place, years apart, in the same London exhibition space at 52 Pall Mall (it no longer exists). When Austen visited in 1813, the building housed the British Institution, an organization promoting native artists. On her…

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Excessive Copyright Strikes Again in 2016

Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1959 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2016,…

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What Khan Academy’s Fun, Free Learning Empire Has to Do with Dystopian Social Control

Over the Christmas break, I’ve been churning through Khan Academy math drills, so that I can be a more effective homeschool parent. It’s actually kind of fun watching my score go up, and earning badges. In the way that birds who are trained to peck buttons for food think it’s fun to peck their little beaks bloody. As a grad student ploughing through Kant and Derrida, I found it an intellectual relief to run a computer program through…

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Why Do So Many People on YouTube Sound the Same?

So it turns out the “YouTube voice” is just a variety of ways of emphasizing words, none of which are actually exclusive to YouTube—people employ these devices in speech all the time. But they generally do it to grab the listener’s attention, and when you’re just talking to a camera without much action, it takes a little more to get, and keep, that attention…. YouTubers’ monologues often speed up and…