December 21, 2006

The bridges burst and twist around

Richard Tuttle, Step by Step, 2002

* The Economist on measuring happiness. excerpt:

"The hedonimeter was never invented, and for a century or so economists fell silent about both weights on man's scales. They studied outward behaviour, not inward feelings; choices made, not pleasures taken. But in recent years, economists have become newly confident that they can measure utility as Bentham conceived it: as a quantum of pleasure or pain.

"How do they do it? Mostly they just ask people. Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist at Princeton University who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2002, reckons people are not as mysterious as less nosy economists supposed. 'The view that hedonic states cannot be measured because they are private events is widely held but incorrect,' he and his colleagues argue. Generally, people can say how they feel at a given moment, on a scale of zero to ten.

"And if this smacks of hearsay not science, the new 'hedonimetrists' can appeal to other kinds of evidence, better calculated to impress. They can look into people's eyes; or better still, their brains. People who confess to feeling happy also grin more than others. And they mean it: they smile with their eyes (a contraction of the orbicularis oculi facial muscles), not just their mouths. People's self-reports also tally roughly with what electrodes planted on their scalp reveal about the frequency and voltage of electrical waves in their left forebrain, which sparks up when they are feeling good."
"For many people, work is—as traditional economics assumes—just a way to pay the rent. But Carlyle is not the only one to see it as much more than that. In a string of experiments, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, of Claremont Graduate University, has handed out pagers to thousands of people who agreed to log their mood whenever prompted to do so. People were, unsurprisingly, at their happiest when eating, carousing or pottering around the garden. But some fortunate people also found deep satisfaction from losing themselves in their work: 'forgetting themselves in a function', as W.H. Auden put it."

* New Smog/Bill Callahan song, Sycamore.

* Judge orders that Organist Gets 40% Credit for Procol Harum’s 'Whiter Shade of Pale'. excerpt:

"Yesterday, London’s high court awarded Matthew Fisher, the band’s former organist, 40% of the song’s future earnings, reported Reuters. The judge seemed to enjoy Fisher’s haunting keyboards: 'I find that the organ solo is a distinctive and significant contribution to the overall composition and, quite obviously, the product of skill and labor on the part of the person who created it.' The judge dismissed Fisher’s claim to past royalties because he had 'sat back' for nearly 40 years before asserting his claim.

"Until now, credit had gone to the band’s lead singer Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid. On the Procol Harum Web site, which has pictures of the litigants, Brooker says he’s 'shocked and dismayed' by the claim. ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ was written by Keith Reid and me before Matthew even joined the band,” he says. They said yesterday that they will appeal the ruling."

* "It is all well and good for children and acid freaks to still believe in Santa Claus— but it is still a profoundly morbid day for us working professionals. It is unsettling to know that one out of every twenty people you meet on Xmas will be dead this time next year....Some people can accept this, and some can't. That is why God made whiskey, and also why Wild Turkey comes in $300 shaped canisters during most of the Christmas season." -- Hunter S. Thompson


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