I got a Kindle about a year ago, and I use it much more than I expected to. I like reading on e-ink. I look at glowing backlit displays all day, every day. I’ve been obsessed with computers my whole life. I love glowing screens. When I’m away from my computer for days, I’m happy when I sit down in front of it. There’s a certain feeling I get when I use any computer — a Mac, an iPhone, an iPad, my TiVo, even an ATM or the credit card slider at the supermarket. Cool, a computer. I read books on my iPad, too, but reading on the iPad doesn’t have the same mental-mode-switching effect. When I read with the iPad I feel like I’m doing the same basic thing I do as I read on my Mac all day long — just with a different device. It’s more pleasant, in many ways, and definitely more personal. But I’m still in the same mental mode — fully aware that anything and everything is just a few taps and few seconds away. E-ink feels peaceful to me. The Kindle doesn’t feel like a computer. It feels — not to the touch but to the eyes and mind — like a crudely-typeset and slightly smudgily-printed paper book. That’s a good thing. Battery life is un-computer-like as well: Amazon measures e-ink Kindle battery life in months, and they’re not joking. It’s a surprise when the Kindle actually needs a charge. I was a doubter until I owned one, but now I’m convinced that e-ink readers have tremendous value even in the post-iPad world.
The world belongs to platforms. Everyone wants to be a platform,” said Lou Kerner, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. “Look at Facebook: Two hundred thousand people are writing code to make it better, and none of them are on Facebook’s payroll.” Mr. Kerner sees Zynga making that same leap. “If they can build and control a vibrant gaming ecosystem and tax it appropriately, they can create significant shareholder value,” he said. In this outcome, Zynga would be a little like a movie studio, distributing the work of others. For the moment, however, it is living and dying by its own hits.
In other words, while Mr. Jobs tried to understand the problems that technology could solve for his buyer, he wasn’t going to rely on the buyer to demand specific solutions, just so he could avoid ever having to take a risk. This is what’s commonly known as leading.
Dr Dee: An English Opera,” created by Mr. Albarn and its director, Rufus Norris, had its premiere on Friday night at the Palace Theater here as part of the Manchester International Festival, which commissioned it along with the English National Opera and London 2012. Its title character, John Dee (1527-1608 or 1609), was the historical figure who was probably a model for Shakespeare’s wizard Prospero and for Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. Dee was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, navigator, book collector, philosopher and proponent of empire for an expanding Britain. (Much of Mr. Albarn’s career, from the Britpop of Blur to the global pop eclecticism of Gorillaz, has contemplated the end of that empire; the opera reconsiders its beginnings.) Dee also sought to communicate with angels and was convinced by one scryer (crystal-ball gazer) that he was divinely instructed to share his wife. He was an adviser to Elizabeth I, but her successor, James I, spurned him. In his later years Dee had his library pillaged and his reputation tarnished by accusations of occultism; he died in poverty. Mr. Albarn, in an interview, described the opera’s story not as a tragedy but as “a melancholy.” It helps to know Dee’s story, which flashes by in Mr. Norris’s elegantly hallucinatory staging, suggesting an era that did not divide the natural from the supernatural. In a defining scene Dee (Bertie Carvel) declaims a geometry proof backed by a drumbeat that hints at Elizabethan dances, while drawings and figures swirl around him on scrims.
Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” says technology amplifies everything, good instincts and base. While technology is amoral, he said, our brains may be rewired in disturbing ways. “Researchers say that we need to be quiet and attentive if we want to tap into our deeper emotions,” he said. “If we’re constantly interrupted and distracted, we kind of short-circuit our empathy. If you dampen empathy and you encourage the immediate expression of whatever is in your mind, you get a lot of nastiness that wouldn’t have occurred before.
In theory, those apps should combine the benefits of old and new media. They should be as compact, portable, legible and lusciously visual as print, while scoring eco-points by saving paper. Offering interactive features, moving images and links to alternative information sources also enables them to be as dynamic as Web sites. There are even reports that people with dyslexia find it easier to read words on apps than in print, though no one knows why.
If people [in Boston] want to have things that are solid and defensible, that’s good. But you could reframe that slightly, and say that people want things that are certain and safe. Technology is not certain and safe. It involves high risks of failure, and things going wrong. To the extent that that’s culturally not acceptable, you wind up defaulting to things that are safe. The default would be to stay in school, get your PhD, do your post-doctoral work, work at an existing tech company, and spin out a product that is incrementally better and has incremental value. It’s likely that even in the cases where it works, it won’t be radically transformative. That’s my theory on why things have gone wrong in many places, including Boston. I think Silicon Valley is somewhat better on the willingness-to-take-risks dimension. But even Silicon Valley isn’t willing to take enough risks.
Although scholars once distinguished between “philosophical Taoism” and “religious Taoism,” today most see the two strains as closely related. Taoist worshipers will often go to services on important holy days; they might also go to a temple, or hire a clergy member to come to their home, to find help for a specific problem: illness and death or even school exams and business meetings. Usually the supplicant will pray to a deity, and the priest or nun will stage ceremonies to summon the god’s assistance. Many Taoists also engage in physical cultivation aimed at wellness and contemplation, like qigong breathing exercises or tai chi shadowboxing.