Death of Venice

The Times has a couple of sad pieces on Venice.

Kneeling, he touches the foundation of one of the marble columns holding up St Mark’s Basilica, which symbolised Venetian power for a millennium. Fragments come away in his fingers.

“Water now enters the church 200 times a year,” said Mr Tesserin, administrator of the 11th century Italo-Byzantine masterpiece overlooking St Mark’s Square. “The marble is literally crumbling thanks to the corrosive salt.”

Venice is one of the most magical places on earth. I love the light, the architecture, the ambience of inevitable entropy: the faded and peeling, green shutters; the flaking stonework, the timeless, silent side-alleys and back-canals. You can find moments of peace even in the summer when obscene, towering cruise ships vomit their contents over St Marks’ Square and suck them back laden with Made in China masks and glassware.

Sadly though, even the most sincere and diligent traveller can’t avoid the feeling he or she is contributing to the death of a noble city.

This caught my eye:

“Venice needs jobs for the middle classes, and if nothing happens, there will be no one left in 2050,” Mr Gasparinetti said.

It seems a tragedy that a city that has drawn artists from Titian to Hemingway can’t attract creative middle-class jobs.

Read Tom Kington’s article, Crumbling Venice plumbs new depths, here.

 

Image: Andrew Munro

 

Blogs to make you smarter – Cultural Offering

Kurt at Cultural Offering has updated his list of 25 Blogs to Make you Smarter and includes a history of his own Cultural Offering.

I am flattered to be included, although the list includes many, more worthy blogs. A lot of them  are on are on my own list of essential, morning reading.

Check out the list, here.

 

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

The sovereignty of the Ouija board

We sovereign professionals are a strong-willed lot, always completely in control and aware of the forces acting on us. So, I love this psychology study on Ouija users.

Psychologists at Aarhus University tracked the eye movements of users in the normal, involuntary, spirit-driven state and when using the planchette (pointer) to deliberately spell out words in a “voluntary” state.

Spoiler alert!

The experimenters found that:

when looking to see whether at least one participant in a pair made a predictive eye movement, the rates of prediction were just as high as for individuals in the voluntary condition (i.e. for any given move of the planchette, at least one person usually knew where it was going); second, rates of prediction increased in the Ouija board condition, but not the voluntary condition, presumably as the participants became increasingly aware of the diminishing number of meaningful options available.

Read the full spookiness, here.

 

Photo by dragonoak on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

A place to live and work – late addition

A late, but essential,  addition to the previous post.

Apparently, singer Tori Amos is selling her Ballywilliam House, her home in Kinsale, Ireland.

I feel I could both live and work quite happily there.

I love Georgian architecture and this looks amazing. I particularly like how the lawn rolls up to the front door.

The asking price is €1.45 million. More details here.

According to Neil Gaiman, in a recent tweet, “This is where I finished American Gods, where I wrote a lot of Anansi Boys, and where I got flu and completely failed to write any of the Graveyard Book. It’s the most peaceful and magical place. I hope it finds a new person who cherishes it.”

Beyond Binary – Ipsos MORI on Generation Z

Ipsos MORI publishes a fascinating new report on Generation Z, specifically the 5-15 year-old age group: Beyond Binary – the lives and choices of Generation Z.

It summarises seven findings:

  1. Increasingly fluid – “What we mean is that things are more open, less set, because people do have more ways to connect, see and experience more things.”
  2. No turning point on trust – “Our new analysis shows no real differences in levels of trust among the young with regards to all sorts of traditional institutions.”
  3. Just as caring – “But this does not mean that Gen Z are a cohort of activists.
    Neither are they selfish snowflakes, too busy watching YouTube videos of people eating Tide Pods. The evidence suggests they are just as active in social causes as previous generations, sometimes in different ways (using technology), but just as often in traditional ways, such as volunteering.”
  4. Inflection point on health – On obesity: “it’s not getting better either. A lot of this is arguably to do with the environment around young people which is shaped to make it harder to keep a healthy weight – the people they see, the shops they shop at, the food they have available, all create a social norm, and are often geared to make them fat.”
  5. Importance of digital skills – “In some ways, Generation Z already have an
    innate advantage over other generations, just through growing up fully integrated with technology – they are much more discerning of online sources than Millennial children ever were.”
  6. Danger is different – “Generation Z are not the teenage rebels of ages past. Generational declines in youth crime, smoking, drinking and sexual activity reflect a significant behavioural shift.”
  7. And digital is double-edged – “There is a growing body of evidence of the downsides from unfettered use of technology, prompting more strident statements from politicians and officials, including the head of the NHS in the UK. Social media use has correlations with anxiety, bullying, peer pressure, lower self-esteem, alongside much more positive outcomes.
    We’re only in the infancy of understanding the full impact.”

Also, some fascinating data points (in no particular order):

  • In 25 EU countries, the number of young people detained by the police dropped by 42% between 2008 and 2014.
  • In the US in 2015, 22% of high schoolers had been in a physical fight that year compared with 36% in 1999.
  • 66% of Generation Z think of themselves as exclusively heterosexual
    compared with 71% of Millennials, 85% of Gen X and 88% of Baby Boomers.
  • Just 30% of teenagers feel the things they own say a lot about how well they are doing in life, compared with 42% in 2011.
  • Only 39% of teens prefer to buy gender-specific shoes, compared with
    57% of Millennials.
  • 40% of 12-15 year olds in 2010, felt that things they saw on social media were either entirely or mostly true; just 24% of Gen Z 12-15 year olds think that now.

The full report is here.

The Register has a (typically styled) summary here.

 

Photo by David Calderón on Unsplash

Settled science – the Cultural Offering of @HardenKurt

Pressed for time but eager to keep pace with the latest scientific developments?

Cultural Offering brings you Settled Science:

All this plus inspiration and more music than you can shake a stick at (as they say, but as I’ve never quite understood).

And, via Cultural Offering, here’s Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs:

 

Photo by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash

Is your social media addiction changing your perceptions – Jaron Lanier

Here’s the always thoughtful and excellent Jaron Lanier in a 20-minute interview on Channel 4 News, talking about the effect of social media.

Lanier is a fascinating, new-Renaissance man: a writer on computer-philosophy, a computer scientist and programmer of very high regard (one of the fathers of VR), an artist and a musician.

His theme here builds on a point raised in his 2010 book You Are Not A Gadget:  that our perspective on the world is imperceptibly shaped and limited by the tools we use to perceive it: if your spectacles are the wrong prescription, you don’t see things far away; if your search engine tailors results to your tastes, you don’t see what you don’t know. Here, he adds the impact of social media algorithms tailoring your world view based on your response to what you see.

Fascinating.

 

Image: LAVREB University of Siena