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by Lara Killian

15 Dec 2008

Over several thousand years the human brain has been changed by the act of reading.

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Our brains continue to evolve, and a number of scientific studies as well as popular nonfiction works are exploring this fascinating issue. Recently I read an accessible introduction to the subject by Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University. Her book, Proust and the Squid (2007), describes how the evolution of learning to read has helped to change the way humans think as a species.

The way we view and use textual information today has changed dramatically from the ancient clay tablets where Wolf begins her discussion. In her book she examines major shifts in literacy and the tools which make it possible to disseminate information, including electronic formats. What does it mean to be literate in today’s increasingly digital society? For me personally, reading online tends to be a more superficial process than sitting down for quality time with a novel.

It turns out that our brains actually do process text differently depending on the format, and just as Nicholas Carr pointed out in his provocative Atlantic magazine article, “Is Google Making us Stupid?”, of July/August 2008, some people are now finding that as they read more online, focusing on longer narratives becomes tougher.

The experience of reading varies dramatically between mediums. Is the way we process the information we read also changing, depending on the media in which we view text? As the next generation grows up immersed in digital text and spend little or no time reading traditional narratives, will the ability to follow traditional plot structure and character development become a skill of the past?

by Sarah Zupko

15 Dec 2008

These nearly microscopic cards hold 1GB of music, liner art, photos, videos and whatever other little extras artists may want to include with their albums. The players are very inexpensive at only $19.99 ($34.99 for the artist editions like the nifty Abba one I have) and make quite affordable gifts. They also don’t require a computer to either buy the music or play it. None of this would matter if you could only use these mini music cards on the player itself. The music needs to be transferable, and it is. The card contains unrestricted MP3s with very good sound quality that you can put on your phone if it has a slot or easily transfer to a computer with a USB adapter that comes with the player. I had those Abba tracks from the card blasting from my stereo speakers mere moments after popping the card in my computer. So, you can make playlists with the music you purchase this way and unlike music bought from iTunes or eMusic, you get host of extras with releases even beyond what appears on most CDs.

SANSA

by Karen Zarker

15 Dec 2008

Rough Guide books are always gorgeous, comprehensive, and engaging reading, but this one, Wow! The natural world truly is your oyster, here. Each adventure, wherever it lay on/above/below/floating on/diving into this planet, clearly indicates the level of fitness required (Physical), how scary/dangerous an experience will be (Psych), how surefooted one must be to get there (Skill), and even how awe-inspiring the trek is guaranteed to be (Wow!). There’s delightful trivia about the regions (animals, history, lore, even recipes from local fare), and a chart to easily determine the best time of year to experience the place that catches your fancy. Surely at least one trip recommended here in literary fashion (yes, these write-ups are quality travel writing, too), is something one must do before one dies. First step in inspiring your hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone friend to ‘live a little’: give him this book. He’ll be requesting his vacation time from his boss by week’s end.

AMAZON

by Karen Zarker

15 Dec 2008

The buzz on Barack Obama is that he’s a great speaker. Well, you haven’t listened to Winston Churchill lately, have you? You can compare these two notables while pondering the significance of their historical era, as well as other politicians, activists, newscasters, sportscasters, celebrities and more from this 5-CD set (so that’s 500 greatest, total) from the reputable Shout! Factory, whose catalogs includes Grammy®-nominated box sets. I’m listening to a radio announcement that the Russians are in Berlin, right now (100 Greatest News Stories), and it feels right now. These audible excerpts, the highlights of stories from modern history, are chilling, inspiring, funny and tragic. They’re historical earworms that wriggle right into your head and settle in your heart. This is stuff you never forget. Your history buff, your pop culture collector, the teacher in your family, the audio sampler (who will appreciate the alphabetical, rather than chronological organization) will want this, too.

AMAZON

by Karen Zarker

15 Dec 2008

A two-page spread shows photos of zeppelin’s floating in grayscale skies. Magical. Turn the page: a massive explosion and the fast disintegrating Hindenburg (1937). Ideas aloft, then burning guitars. That’s frickin’ perfect rock, man. Interviews, quotes and concert coverage by notable journalists and music insiders. Concert photos.  Album covers. The entire discography. Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin is a whole lotta coverage of the genre-busting band from ‘A’ to ‘Zed’, 1968-1980 and 2007’s reunion concert. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba doom, doom / Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba doom, doom.  Give this and stand back to make room for air guitar freak-out.

AMAZON

//Mixed media
//Blogs

The Specter of Multiplayer Hangs Over 'Door Kickers'

// Moving Pixels

"Door Kickers is not a multiplayer game, but for a while there, I couldn’t tell the difference.

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