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27 August 1999

If you think of yourselves as helpless and ineffectual, it is certain that you will create a despotic government to be your master. The wise despot, therefore, maintains among his subjects a popular sense that they are helpless and ineffectual.
-- Frank Herbert, The Dosadi Experiment

Alert the media: Some people extrapolated too far on the limited findings of a research study, and marketers took advantage of it! Big surprise.

  • Mozart's nice but doesn't increase IQs [CNN]
    According to two studies reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature, classical music has no ability to increase basic intelligence in adults or children.

    The 1993 finding [that college students could raise their spatial-temporal IQ scores by listening to Mozart] set off many parents who reasoned that if classical music could enhance college students' intelligence, then babies might benefit as well.

    Frances Rauscher, co-author of the original study ... agrees with her critics on one point: There is no evidence that playing Mozart in the nursery is going to raise an infant's IQ. The researchers who did the original study in 1993 never claimed it would.

I hope this makes it to a cable station near me:

  • Python flies again [BBC News]
    The surviving members of Monty Python's Flying Circus are returning to the BBC for a one-off special to celebrate the classic comedy's 30th anniversary. John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones are to record new material for a Monty Python theme night on BBC Two this autumn.


  • Cartman tops with kids [BBC News]
    Eric Cartman, the animated outcast in the South Park cartoon series, has been named favourite personality in a poll of [British] children [8 to 9 years old]. The obscenity-spouting character pipped a host of pop stars, footballers and actors to top the list compiled by the NatWest Bank.

    Kenny, another star of the controversial post-watershed series, was also included in the top 10, along with fellow animated hero Bart Simpson.

What does "post-watershed" mean?

And what's wrong with Kyle and Stan, anyway?

On a serious Scott McCloud puts it in Understanding Comics, the more simplified and abstracted a character's appearance, the easier it is for a viewer to identify with him/her/it. It's hard to get much more simplified than the South Park animation style (particularly their depiction of Canadians), unless you go all the way to the endpoint of the plain smiley face. Food for thought.

Here's a fine page/cluestick you can refer people to/whack people upside the head with when you get one of those adorable 'everybody gets $1000 from Bill Gates' e-mails:

  • Thousand Dollar Bill [Urban Legends Reference Pages]
    No, you're not going to be receiving money, merchandise, or free trips from Bill Gates (or anyone else), no matter how many people you forward this message to. Tracing all recipients of an e-mail message is not yet technically possible, and even if it were, Bill Gates certainly wouldn't be testing software that performed such tracking by blindly sending messages out to the Internet with a promise of financial reward to the recipients.

It also mentions some subsequent variants that have made their way around the net (Nike gift certificates, free Nike shoes, Disney trips, Gap clothes, Old Navy clothes, free IBM computers, cases of M&Ms).

It scares me that these things get forwarded by even one person. People must not think very hard about it.

Though at first blush, participating in such pie-in-the-sky wishfulness appears perfectly harmless, such participation only serves to clog up already overtaxed resources. Oh yes, it does one other thing -- it gives the idjits who cooked up these frauds a great big laugh at your expense.

And here's a comment from the Man Himself:

  • On Spam: Wasting time on the Internet (3/25/98) by Bill Gates [Microsoft]
    Even more annoying than spam, in some respects, are hoaxes. I'm acutely aware of this because my name was recently attached to a hoax e-mail message that was widely distributed.

    As people forwarded it to everybody they knew who had an e-mail address, they appended wishful commentary: ... "I am sure this is a big bunch of hooey . . . but what if it isn't????"

    Well, it is hooey. There's a lot of hooey on the Internet, and a lot that's rude. But that doesn't mean the Internet isn't wonderful, that it won't change the world or that it won't get a lot better over time.

Kansas/evolution humor:

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