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Posts Tagged ‘Time Magazine

“Punctuation, is? fun!”*…

 

The average tweet is not an especially remarkable thing. It can contain letters (and almost always does), marks of punctuation (perhaps more of an acquired taste in this context), and pictures (mostly of cats and/or the photographer themselves). But in amongst these most conventional components of modern written communication are two special symbols around which orbits the whole edifice of Twitter. Neither letters nor marks of punctuation, the @- and #-symbols scattered throughout Twitter’s half billion daily messages are integral to its workings. And yet, they have always been interlopers amongst our written words.

Both ‘@’ and ‘#’ first crept into view during the Renaissance…

Old friend Keith Houston provides “A brief history of the # and the @.”

* Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

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As we hit the shift key, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Time Magazine acquired The Literary Digest— or its one remaining asset of value, its mailing list.  Founded by Isaac Kaufmann Funk in 1890, then published by his company, Funk & Wagnalls, The Literary Digest was an influential general interest publication the grew in influence (its circulation topped 1 million) with it election polling.  Starting in 1920, it conducted straw polls, all accurately predicting the outcomes of presidential elections…  until 1936, when its poll called the race a likely landslide victory for Governor Alfred Landon of Kansas.  In the event, of course, it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was re-elected by a landslide– a result accurately predicted by a start-up polling company, George Gallup’s American Institute of Public Opinion.

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Calling Gil Scott-Heron…

From the good folks at Staple Crops:

Hip-Hop Word Count™

The Hip-Hop Word Count is a searchable ethnographic database built from the lyrics of over 40,000 Hip-Hop songs from 1979 to present day.

The Hip-Hop Word Count describes the technical details of most of your favorite hip-hop songs. This data can then be used to not only figure out interesting stats about the songs themselves, but also describe the culture behind the music.

How can analyzing lyrics teach us about our culture?

The Hip-Hop Word Count locks in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile, cultural reference, phrase, rhyme style, meme and socio-political idea used in the corpus of Hip-Hop.

The Hip-Hop Word Count then converts this data into explorable visualisations which help us to comprehend this vast set of cultural data.

This data can be used to chart the migration of ideas and builds a geography of language.

The readability scores are on a scale from 0 (illiterate) to 20 (post-graduate degree).

So, how do different artist’s fare?  For reference, Staple Crops ran energy policy speeches by both Obama and McCain from the 2008 campaign; each scored a 12– “Educational Level: High School Graduate, Reading Level: Time Magazine.”

By comparison, Fifty Cent’s “I Get Money” scored a 7– “Educational Level: Junior High School, Reading Level: True Confessions.”

At the other extreme, Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents 2” and Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” both scored 16– “Educational Level: University Degree, Reading Level: Atlantic Monthly.”

Grade other artists, pick up a set of the trading cards (exampled above), or buy chocolates (!) featuring reliefs of one’s favorite rappers at Staple Crops.

No child left behind, Sucka!

As we dust off those closeted turntables, we might wish a lyrical Happy Birthday to the painter, poet, playwright, essayist, and Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott; he was born on this date in 1930 on the island of Santa Lucia in the West Indies.

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Time’s past..

From the inquisitive folks over at Reason, an amusing, and at the same time provocative, look at “The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years

Consider for example:

Oh, Just Settle Down: The crack kids myth has been extensively debunked, most recently in the January 2009 New York Times article “Crack Babies: The Epidemic That Wasn’t.” The Times quoted researchers who’ve been following the so-called crack generation of kids, and they’re finding the effects to be minor and subtle, and virtually indistinguishable from other problems that kids of crack mothers might experience, such as unstable families and poor parenting. Persistent scare stories from Time and other media outlets (including The New York Times itself) made “crack babies” a nationwide moral panic, inspiring a racially fueled push for stricter drug laws. As the Times article explains, the crack baby myth itself may now be doing harm to otherwise normal kids: “[C]ocaine-exposed children are often teased or stigmatized if others are aware of their exposure. If they develop physical symptoms or behavioral problems, doctors or teachers are sometimes too quick to blame the drug exposure and miss the real cause, like illness or abuse.”

For similar treatments of Mr. Luce’s Magazine’s hysteria over satanism, porn, crack, and Pokemon see here.

As we contemplate the substitution of hyperbole for reportage in so much– too much– of the mainstream media, we might recall that it was on this date in 1812 that President James Madison signed the declaration of war against Great Britain that formally launched the War of 1812.  Three U.S. incursions into Canada launched in 1812 and 1813 were all handily turned back by the British despite the fact that the bulk of British force was tied up in an unpleasantness with the Emperor of France and his troops.  But the decline of Napoleon’s strength freed the English to devote more resources to the West… leading to the 1814 burning of the White House, the Capital, and much of the rest of official Washington by British soldiers (retaliating for the U.S. burning of some official buildings in Canada.  Still, by the end of 1814 a combination of naval and ground victories by the Americans had driven the British back to Canada, and on December 14, 1814 the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, was signed…  sadly for the British, word of the accord did not reach troops on the Gulf Coast in time to head off an attack (on January 8, 1815) on New Orleans– which was turned back by American forces led by Andrew Jackson.  Jackson became a national hero, who rode his fame to the (rebuilt) White House; Johnny Horton got a Number One record out of it (Billboard Hot 100, 1959)…  and the English had to console themselves with their victory at Waterloo later that year– on this date in 1815…

James Madison (a very cool guy)

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