November 19th, 2006

Best correction evah

This week's New Scientist:

'For The Record.
It's neurons not neutrons in babies' brains that seem to affect their susceptibility to SIDS (4 November, p12). An extra 't' erroneously appeared in the text in one of the diagrams.'

Just call this number and ask for Winston Smith

http://www.101.gov.uk '101 is a new 24-hour number provided by your police and local council to deal with community safety issues, including certain non-emergency crime, policing and anti-social behaviour. '

I know that available memorable short phone numbers are in short supply, but if I were going to come up with a number for this I would have chosen, well, anything but this.

Then again, it could have been one of these instances where someone makes an ironic / subversive suggestion and no-one spots it. e.g. There is a factoid, I think Harlan Ellison [who as we know is reliable source for this sort of thing] says in 'The Glass Teat' or 'The Other Glass Teat', that when 'the network' decided that 'The Mod Squad' should have a more mainstream character added to appeal to Middle America, the writers called the character Christian White and this was only spotted and changed at the last minute.

NTNWEC

I come to excoriate the WorldChanging book not to review it, because to review it I would have to read it to the end and life is too short.

"Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century is a groundbreaking compendium of the most innovative solutions, ideas and inventions emerging today for building a sustainable, livable, prosperous future." says their website.

"Like a coffee table book but without the pictures", says the weasel.

It has been compared to the Whole Earth Catalog, presumably by people who have never seen the Whole Earth Catlog or missed the point completely. "I've met Stewart Brand, and Sir, you're no Stewart Brand".

(I haven't met Stewart Brand, but you know what I mean)

Clearly, in these happy days of the web, a Post-Millennium Whole Earth Catalog would serve a different purpose from the pre-web versions, and would probably link to websites as much as books. But the real WEC went into detail about things and where appropriate challenged conventional wisdom. This does neither. I hate to use the phrase 'dumbing down', but most of the prose reads like it was written for one of those rather earnest 'Our World' style magazines with superficial articles aimed at bright twelve year olds.

There is also too much uncritical reporting of Green nostrums. A case in point (this was the point at which I gave up) is the case of Portland being used as an examplar of urban planning. There is certainly controversy about this - see http://www.amazon.com/Sprawl-Compact-History-Robert-Bruegmann/dp/0226076911 - I personally found Bregumann quite persuasive although if you look at the reviews on Amazon not everyone does.

I think there hearts are, in some sense, in the right place, but the execution is very poor.

Avoid.