Chitlins, Citrus, and the Solstice

I live in a town of about 10,000 in the Midwest. The largest employer in the town is a pork processing facility that handles more than 9,000 hogs per day (the similarity of those two numbers is a bit disturbing). About a mile to the north is the plant's own sewage treatment facility to handle the voluminous waste of newly-processed and about-to-be-processed pigs. Across the highway, to the south of the plant, is a supermarket, and when the wind blows from the north, the complex aroma of viscera and feces is unavoidable as you walk towards the front door to shop. When bacon and hams are being smoked, hickory provides a more pleasing “finish” to the olfactory experience.

Recently, I was scanning the frozen meat section at the market when I happened across a package of pork chitterlings or “chitlins”: Pig intestines. What was astonishing about this particular package was that it was conspicuously labelled as being a “Product of Denmark”. After suppressing immediate thoughts of Shakespearean puns relating to “Hamlet” and “something being rotten in Denmark,” I gasped: Here I was literally across the street from a slaughterhouse and the chitlins came from half-way around the world?! Where were our local chitlins being sent? Did geography no longer matter?
Aunt Bessie's Chitterlings

This is not the first time I've been faced with the paradoxes of our industrial agricultural system. I once remember stopping at a grove-side fruit stand in Florida only to be offered bottled orange juice that contained something like “a reconstituted concentrate of a mixture of juices from Florida, California, & Brasil.” So much for fresh squeezed.

My great uncle, on my dad's side, was a citrus grower in central Florida for many years. When he started his grove just after WWII, oranges were still picked when ripe, shipped, and eaten. Soon thereafter, concentrate technology was developed. Fresh orange juice would be boiled down to a syrup, separated into its constituents, precisely reassembled to maintain quality control, and frozen for easy storage and transport (McPhee 1967). The concentrate could then be reconstituted and consumed at any time in the following year(s). Seasonality was no longer an issue for citrus sales, and production was scaled up to supply juice to make enough concentrate for an entire year for a huge national/international population.


My other great uncle, (on my mom’s side), served in a logistics unit during WWII. When Roosevelt set up a meeting with Churchill on a ship in the Atlantic in the months before we were drawn into the war, he wanted to serve ice cream. Roosevelt claimed he wanted to serve all-American fare but my uncle was convinced it was a not-so-subtle way of demonstrating to Churchill that the U.S. could deliver anything, anytime, anywhere on the planet. My great uncle was tasked with making sure there was ice cream to serve. They packed the ice cream into metal canisters that could be carried like munitions in airplane bomb bays. Unfortunately the air in the ice cream expanded at altitude and it leaked all over. After several trial runs they were able to pack the ice cream in so tight as to squeeze out most of the air and then seal the canisters. It worked: Churchill’s delegation was served ice cream and it made enough of an impact on them that his bodyguard commented on it in a draft of his memoirs (Borgwardt 2005). After the war, my great uncle enjoyed a successful career managing supply chains for garment manufacturers.

This was the Greatest Generation's legacy to us. They survived the Great Depression only to have to defeat fascism in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. As they returned to civilian life, they made absolutely certain that their children, the baby-boomers, would never suffer hunger or want for anything. Roosevelt's vision of anything, anytime, anywhere was channeled into civilian goods, and in the subsequent decades we have elevated this expectation to a high art or perhaps even a pathological obsession. The global merchant marine fleet has nearly doubled in the last 30 years. The tonnage of vessels idled by the current recession just around the port of Singapore is about 41 million tons, which is about equivalent to entire world's merchant marine fleet in 1918, but only about 4% of today's fleet (Bradshear 2009)!

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Music Lessons: On Social Actors, Voices and Aesthetics in the Subcontinent

by Gautam Pemmaraju

I. Deviations Images

Last December, while at a common friend’s house in North London, Steve Savale or Chandrasonic of the British band Asian Dub Foundation played us a video clip of a recent concert of theirs in St Petersburg. Prior to their performance, a local production person had approached the band with a message – there was a man who needed to see them urgently. A Tajik, who had earlier that week been brutally beaten up by Russian police, pleaded with the band to put him on stage for just the one song. In his plea, heartfelt as it was, there appeared to be the promise of the undoing of some wrong, an anodyne correction of injustice and brutality. He went on stage to sing a medley1 of two Bollywood songs, both from the 1982 hit film Disco Dancer – Goron Ki Na Kaalon Ki and Jimmy, Jimmy. Keeping rhythm on a aluminum bucket while providing instrumental phrasing, solos and bridges alike, the impassioned singer incorporated a famous desi trick, well known to and enthusiastically advertised in low-brow entertainment of small town India, as well as in filmi shows that travel to perform for diasporic communities across the world: ‘special item – man singing in ladies voice’. The first song, with its popular humanist message, declares that the world belongs neither to whites nor to blacks, but to those with hearts (or lovers to be less literal), while the second one, well known to many South Asians for its kitschy appeal (and the nostalgia it evokes), was covered by M.I.A a few years ago. A version by the Russian pop singer Angel-A has also made its appearance recently.

This collision of different identities sets up the stage for many a discussion – the insidious and wide influence of Bollywood, shared culture amongst the political allies of the Cold War era, the efficacy and appeal of humanist and polemical messages, dynamic appropriations of fringe elements in pop-culture, and issues of ‘authenticity’ and ‘false-consciousness’ in fetishism and bricolage. Amidst all the elements that may find themselves in the mix, so to speak, the twin processes of creation and mediation and the actors involved, provide fascinating insights into what seems a duplicitous web of irresolvable complexity.

Having been associated with music, musicians, music television and music production for a significant part of my professional life (and continue to be), I am resigned to many unanswered questions and contentious issues– there are no hit formulae, there only appear to be some at certain times; finding ‘voice’ is unpredictable and imprecise; what people like is highly complex and yet seems, oftentimes, really quite simple; resonance is both a physical and psychological phenomenon. What I can though say with absolute certainty is that I still remain profoundly enamoured by music and its diverse gratifications.

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An Insignificant Series of Stories for the Season

One balmy evening in this decade's youth, I sat al fresco at a South Floridian restaurant with another couple. They were advancing to the further reaches of middle age; they had done well; they had prospered. As two men at our table cornered one another in conversation, the wife leaned toward me. Something flashed in the dusk. “Look,” she whispered, “Do you like my new diamond ring? I bought it as a present to myself. With my first Social Security check.”

“It's very beautiful,” I replied, thinking but saying nothing about those reports I'd recently heard – that Social Security would be bankrupt by the time I'd be eligible to collect. After all, she was entitled. Entitled to the money she'd earned, that was set aside for her; entitled to spend her money as she wished. “It's very beautiful,” I replied. “Good for you,” I said, thinking it was indeed rather lovely, that diamond we'd all just bought for her.

One chilly, rainy evening this November, I was talking turkey on Manhattan's Upper East Side. I was introduced to a lady who was advancing to the further reaches of middle age. She asked me what I did. I said I was a writer, on politics among other things.

“Oh yes?” she asked, with a certain delight in her smile. “Where do you stand?” And my mind flitted back (as it does) to all the events of our now decrepit decade. I stammered, with an inward, rueful smirk. And then surprising myself, I jovially blurted, “Well, I'm kinda of the opinion George W. Bush is the antichrist, and we can go from there,” scandalizing five people within earshot.

“Well, we're certainly not going to change one another's opinions at this point,” she said laughing. With a knowing chortle, I agreed, which somehow relaxed her and allowed her a conversational license. So we talked some more.

She said, “And you know, everything they're saying about global warming, 'the world our children and grandchildren will live in'? Well, I don't have any children, so what's it to me?”

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Murders, Monsters and Mirrors: The Ethics of Killing and Cannibalism

‘Murder’ differs from ‘killing’ – and must differ for the words to have their moral impact – because killing is a neutral term. Surprising as it may seem, it is most helpful for discussions on killing if we recognise that the word itself is mostly and simply ‘the taking of organic life’. It is another matter whether it is all or certain forms of organic life we are concerned with.

‘Murder’ falls within the category of ‘killing’, in that the organism in question is killed but did not want to be killed. How we assess this is also another matter, but for humans we can infer in most instances whether or not someone willingly wants to die. If she does not wish to die, but still has her life taken away – violently or not is beside the point – then she was murdered.

Armin-meiwes I say this because I think we need clarity in the case of infamous German cannibal, Armin Meiwes. In March 2001, Meiwes killed and ate a willing, consenting man, Bernd Brandes. Meiwes had advertised on online chat-rooms, without euphemism or innuendo, his seeking a “young well-built man, who wanted to be eaten”. Brandes was a year older than his killer, but this didn’t seem to faze Meiwes who held auditions for the position. The other potential candidates thought that “being gobbled up” was a metaphor concerning sexual-actions. Four candidates travelled to Meiwes’ house, but eventually were told the seriousness of the description. Meiwes “let them” leave and was not impressed with another, who he found sexually unappealing.

After finally meeting Brandes, they started up the ritual that would lead to Brandes’ death and devouring. Brandes had drawn up a will and testament, where his money and estate would go to his live-in partner. Also, Meiwes video-taped both Brandes whilst alive and later, after his death. After all these final sentences of conscious human experience were given their appropriate full-stops and commas, Brandes ingested sleeping-tablets. Meiwes cut off Brandes’ penis, cooked it, and ate it with Brandes (eventually it was given to the dog apparently because of a poor recipe choice). Eventually, Meiwes killed (not “murdered”) Brandes, chopped him into pieces, and ate him over several days.

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Are children getting meaner younger?

Sasha There’s probably a little bit of mean girl in all of us; everyone wants to be accepted, to be a member of the in crowd. And for there to be an “in” crowd, there have to be people who are left out. A sense of exclusivity can be intoxicating for adults, let alone kids, and we seem to have a very primal instinct for how to fabricate this exclusivity, how to make membership in a social group seem both desirable and almost unobtainable, almost.

My 7 year old daughter is a social butterfly; everyone wants to be Sasha’s friend. She has very strong opinions about what clothes are cool (none of mine, apparently), and what music is worth listening to – yes, she’s only 7! For Sasha, it’s not about fashion in the traditional sense that you can go and buy the latest styles off the rack. It’s about a very innate sense of how to put clothes together in a unique, funky way that is “cool”. She’s really very good at this and has a look all of her own. But she can make rather harsh judgements about people, including her parents and sister, who don’t share her aesthetic, and has been known to extend this judgement to girls in her class. At a recent parent-teacher conference, Sasha’s second grade teacher told us that there had been some less than ideal behavior towards another second grade girl, and Sasha was at its epicenter. It seems that the behavior leant more towards the exclusionary, rather than name calling, but even so. The teacher had spoken to Sasha and the other girls about it, and of course, we did as well, a few times. It seems that things are much better now.

Jostling for a place in the social hierarchy is never going to go away, its part of how humans, and other animals, interact with each other. But that doesn’t mean that we should just accept this and turn a blind eye. Particularly if, as this NY Times article points out, bullying of various sorts seems to be happening ever earlier these days.

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Angel, A Fable (or: Why Are Angels So Fascinating To Think About?)

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

I usually write about politics here on 3QD, which often means trying to deal with my disappointment in America and the Disappointment-in-Chief Obama. But what with it being Christmas and all, I thought I should take this occasion to tell you a bedtime story for grownups. Here it is.

* * *

Angel1 There was great consternation on the day the baby was born.

“I never saw anything on the scan,” Doctor Brown said.

“How would I be able to tell?” asked Jane, the mother.

“There’s nothing odd about me,” said the father, Bill. “I’m very normal.”

But there it was. The baby girl was not like other babies. In fact, she was like no other baby born in the history of babies.

Snugly against her back, folded down so neatly that you hardly noticed them, were two wings.

* * *

Jane passed her hand over the wings.

“She doesn’t feel like a Miranda to me,” she told her husband.

“Please, Jane,” said Bill. “We can’t do that again. First Jennifer, then Shirley, then Priscilla, then Rose, then Emily, then Babette, then Courtney, and finally Miranda. I like Miranda. It’s original. It’s not like Jennifer or Shirley or Priscilla or Rose or Emily or Babette or Courtney.”

“I want to call her Angel.”

“Angel?” asked Bill.

“Yes, dear. Angel.”

“Please, Jane,” said Bill, and sighed.

* * *

Angel has Bill’s nose and my eyes, thought Jane. But who do these wings belong to?

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Einstein’s God

Einstein_karsh Michael Shermer in Big Question:

What did Einstein mean by “God” playing dice, or “us believing physicists”? Was he speaking literally or metaphorically? Did he mean belief in the models of theoretical physics that make no distinction between past, present, and future? Did he mean belief in some impersonal force that exists above such time constraints? Was he just being polite and consoling to Besso’s family? Such is the enigma of the most well-known scientist in history whose fame was such that nearly everything he wrote or said was scrutinized for its meaning and import; thus, it is easy to yank such quotes out of context and spin them in any direction one desires.

When he turned 50, Einstein granted an interview in which he was asked point-blank, do you believe in God? “I am not an atheist,” he began. “The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”

That almost sounds like Einstein is attributing the laws of the universe to a god of some sort. But what type of god? A personal deity or some impersonal force? To a Colorado banker who wrote and asked him the God question, Einstein responded: “I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals or would sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

The most famous Einstein pronouncement on God came in the form of a telegram, in which he was asked to answer the question in 50 words or less. He did it in 32: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

A Real Science of Mind

Stone_perpetual-tmagArticle Tyler Burge in the NYT:

Imagine that reports of the mid-20th-century breakthroughs in biology had focused entirely on quantum mechanical interactions among elementary particles. Imagine that the reports neglected to discuss the structure or functions of DNA. Inheritance would not have been understood. The level of explanation would have been wrong. Quantum mechanics lacks a notion of function, and its relation to biology is too complex to replace biological understanding. To understand biology, one must think in biological terms.

Discussing psychology in neural terms makes a similar mistake. Explanations of neural phenomena are not themselves explanations of psychological phenomena. Some expect the neural level to replace the psychological level. This expectation is as naive as expecting a single cure for cancer. Science is almost never so simple. See John Cleese’s apt spoof of such reductionism.

The third thing wrong with neurobabble is that it has pernicious feedback effects on science itself. Too much immature science has received massive funding, on the assumption that it illuminates psychology. The idea that the neural can replace the psychological is the same idea that led to thinking that all psychological ills can be cured with drugs.

Correlations between localized neural activity and specific psychological phenomena are important facts. But they merely set the stage for explanation. Being purely descriptive, they explain nothing. Some correlations do aid psychological explanation. For example, identifying neural events underlying vision constrains explanations of timing in psychological processes and has helped predict psychological effects. We will understand both the correlations and the psychology, however, only through psychological explanation.

Beyond Borders: From Vienna to Beirut

Frederic Lezmi in lensculture:

Lezmi_25 I have been searching for the “in between” – whatever lies geographically as well as culturally between my world here in the midst of Europe and my long term focus of interest in the Middle and Near East. Being half Lebanese myself, I have been studying cultural interfaces within the distant Arabic World. From August to December 2008 I traveled between Vienna and Beirut. I encountered people in versatile worlds, inside or in front of architectural places, both real and artificial, public and private. In my photographs, people emerge either as just passers-by or while waiting, as subjects and objects of the viewer’s eye, moving about in their urban or rural environment. These are distanced views in which locals and tourists are on similar paths, randomly congregating and forming elusive compositions. These pictures represent neither precise documents nor do they create artistic worlds. They are constructions of multicolored, fragmented impressions, like looking through a kaleidoscope.

More here.

This Will Change Everything

From The Telegraph:

Everything_1786961b It is not hard to think of examples of wide-eyed predictions that have proved somewhat wide of the mark. Personal jetpacks, holidays on the moon, the paperless office and the age of leisure all underline how futurologists are doomed to fail. Any predictions should thus be taken with a heap of salt, but that does not mean crystal ball-gazing is worthless: on the contrary, even if it turns out to be bunk, it gives you an intriguing glimpse of current fads and fascinations. A few weeks ago, a science festival in Genoa, Italy, gathered together some leading lights to discuss the one aspect of futurology that excites us all: cosa farà cambiare tutto — this will change everything. The event was organised by John Brockman, a master convener, both online and in real life, and founder of the Edge Foundation, a kind of crucible for big new ideas. With him were two leading lights of contemporary thought: Stewart Brand, the father of the Whole Earth Catalog, co-founder of a pioneering online community called The Well and of the Global Business Network; and Clay Shirky, web guru and author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

Shirky meditated on how, during his formative years, it was thought that the decades to come would be dominated by nuclear power and the great adventure of space flight. Decades later, it is now clear that those technologies may have dominated discussions of the day but their direct influence remained firmly with the technological elite. With the benefit of hindsight, his early years were the age of the transistor and birth control. When it comes to the forces shaping our lives today, Shirky points to how coordinated voluntary participation is on the rise, thanks to online tools. With the help of the internet, people are now learning how to make use of the increasing amounts of free time that have been afforded to them since the 1940s for creative acts rather than consumptive ones.

More here.

Sunday Poem

A Letter in October

Dawn comes later and later now,
and I, who only a month ago
could sit with coffee every morning
watching the light walk down the hill
to the edge of the pond and place
a doe there, shyly drinking,
then see the light step out upon
the water, sowing reflections
to either side—a garden
of trees that grew as if by magic—
now see no more than my face,
mirrored by darkness, pale and odd,
startled by time. While I slept,
night in its thick winter jacket
bridled the doe with a twist
of wet leaves and led her away,
then brought its black horse with harness
that creaked like a cricket, and turned
the water garden under. I woke,
and at the waiting window found
the curtains open to my open face;
beyond me, darkness. And I,
who only wished to keep looking out,
must now keep looking in.

by Ted Kooser
from Weather Central
University of Pittsburgh Press
Copyright 1994

Twelve theses on WikiLeaks

Geert Lovink and Patrice Riemens in Eurozine:

Thesis 5

The steady decline of investigative journalism caused by diminishing funding is an undeniable fact. Journalism these days amounts to little more than outsourced PR remixing. The continuous acceleration and over-crowding of the so-called attention economy ensures there is no longer enough room for complicated stories. The corporate owners of mass circulation media are increasingly disinclined to see the workings and the politics of the global neoliberal economy discussed at length. The shift from information to infotainment has been embraced by journalists themselves, making it difficult to publish complex stories. WikiLeaks enters this state of affairs as an outsider, enveloped by the steamy ambiance of “citizen journalism”, DIY news reporting in the blogosphere and even faster social media like Twitter. What WikiLeaks anticipates, but so far has been unable to organize, is the “crowd sourcing” of the interpretation of its leaked documents. That work, oddly, is left to the few remaining staff journalists of selected “quality” news media. Later, academics pick up the scraps and spin the stories behind the closed gates of publishing stables. But where is networked critical commentariat? Certainly, we are all busy with our minor critiques; but it remains the case that WikiLeaks generates its capacity to inspire irritation at the big end of town precisely because of the transversal and symbiotic relation it holds with establishment media institutions. There's a lesson here for the multitudes – get out of the ghetto and connect with the Oedipal other. Therein lies the conflictual terrain of the political.

Science’s Breakthrough of the Year: The First Quantum Machine

Over at Eurekalert:

Science and its publisher, AAAS, the nonprofit science society, have recognized this first quantum machine as the 2010 Breakthrough of the Year. They have also compiled nine other important scientific accomplishments from this past year into a top ten list, appearing in a special news feature in the journal's 17 December 2010 issue. Additionally, Science news writers and editors have chosen to spotlight 10 “Insights of the Decade” that have transformed the landscape of science in the 21st Century.

“This year's Breakthrough of the Year represents the first time that scientists have demonstrated quantum effects in the motion of a human-made object,” said Adrian Cho, a news writer for Science. “On a conceptual level that's cool because it extends quantum mechanics into a whole new realm. On a practical level, it opens up a variety of possibilities ranging from new experiments that meld quantum control over light, electrical currents and motion to, perhaps someday, tests of the bounds of quantum mechanics and our sense of reality.”

The quantum machine proves that the principles of quantum mechanics can apply to the motion of macroscopic objects, as well as atomic and subatomic particles. It provides the key first step toward gaining complete control over an object's vibrations at the quantum level. Such control over the motion of an engineered device should allow scientists to manipulate those minuscule movements, much as they now control electrical currents and particles of light. In turn, that capability may lead to new devices to control the quantum states of light, ultra-sensitive force detectors and, ultimately, investigations into the bounds of quantum mechanics and our sense of reality. (This last grand goal might be achieved by trying to put a macroscopic object in a state in which it's literally in two slightly different places at the same time—an experiment that might reveal precisely why something as big as a human can't be in two places at the same time.)

Strauss and Schmitt Go to China


A few years ago, when I was still teaching at the University of Chicago, I had my first Chinese graduate students, a couple of earnest Beijingers who had come to the Committee on Social Thought hoping to bump into the ghost of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish political philosopher who established his career at the university. Given the mute deference they were accustomed to giving their professors, it was hard to make out just what these young men were looking for, in Chicago or Strauss. They attended courses and worked diligently, but otherwise kept to themselves. They were in but not of Hyde Park. At the end of their first year, I called one of them into my office to offer a little advice. He was obviously thoughtful and serious, and was already well known in Beijing intellectual circles for his writings and his translations of Western books in sociology and philosophy into Chinese. But his inability to express himself in written or spoken English had frustrated us both in a course of mine he had just taken. I began asking about his summer plans, eventually steering the conversation to the subject of English immersion programs, which I suggested he look into. “Why?” he asked. A little flummoxed, I said the obvious thing: that mastering English would allow him to engage with foreign scholars and advance his career at home. He smiled in a slightly patronizing way and said, “I am not so sure.” Now fully flummoxed, I asked what he would be doing instead. “Oh, I will do language, but Latin, not English.” It was my turn to ask why. “I think it very important we study Romans, not just Greeks. Romans built an empire over many centuries. We must learn from them.” When he left, it was clear that I was being dismissed, not him.

more from Mark Lilla at TNR here.

In praise of older women


If the pram in the hall is the enemy of good art, what happens when the babies grow up and the pram is replaced by a Zimmer frame? Until recently, most women did not live long enough for us to find out. But now old age among female artists and writers is the new chic, as increased longevity trumps the time-worn complaint that after 50 a woman is socially and professionally invisible. In the 21st century, creative women in their eighties and nineties such as Louise Bourgeois (born 1911), Leonora Carrington (born 1917) and Diana Athill (born 1917) emerged from the tunnel of obscure middle-age to become glamorous if not household, at least drawing-room names. In 2010 the prominence of such figures in the visual arts became inescapable. The National Gallery in London is currently showing 79-year-old Bridget Riley’s engagement with the Old Masters (to May 22). At Frankfurt’s Städel Museum the furious neo-expressionist work of 91-year-old Austrian Maria Lassnig concludes a survey of paintings from the 14th to the 21st centuries (to June 26). In Paris, the most flamboyant installation in the Tuileries for this autumn’s FIAC was the mirrored sculpture “Narcissus Garden” by Yayoi Kusama, who is 81 and lives in a Tokyo mental hospital. Surreal Friends, a British touring exhibition which closed last week, introduced 93-year-old English-Mexican artist Carrington’s menacing surreal paintings to a wide new audience.

more from Jackie Wullschlager at the FT here.

e-books be good


Take heart, readers. A Pew Internet & American Life Project report released this month found that just “[e]ight percent of the American adults who use the Internet are Twitter users.” I can’t be the only one to find this heartening in a culture awash in instant information, in the slings and arrows of the 140- character tweet. For a long time, I’ve regarded Twitter as the ultimate expression of our shared distraction, a virtual game of telephone in which the chatter is by its nature reductive, stripped of complexity, nuance, all those subtle shades of gray. And yet, what may be most interesting about the Pew study is its timing, since this is the year e-readers took off. What does it say about us that, on the one hand, we don’t seem so enthralled by the hit-and-run of Twitter while on the other, we can’t get enough of electronic books? Only this: that technology is not a barrier to depth, to engagement, to the cultural discussion, and that perhaps we want the same thing from our reading as we always have, regardless of the form it takes. E-books, after all, are the story in publishing this year, with more than seven million iPads sold in the eight months since the device went on sale in April, joining millions of Kindles, Sony Readers, Kobos and Nooks. Just a week or so ago, Google launched Google Editions, an e-book retailer designed to compete with the iBook and Kindle stores.

more from David L. Ulin at the LA Times here.