Why Americans don’t like jazz

American ears are getting lazier and lazier. It wasn’t so long ago that most people knew how to play a musical instrument or two. Now the vast majority of Americans couldn’t tell the difference between a saxophone and a trumpet. Thanks partially to music videos, music is now a form of visual art. The American culture is so visually dominant that a piece of music without visuals cannot command full attention of the audience. For Americans, music is a background element, a mere side dish to be served with the main course. If they are forced to listen to a piece of instrumental music without any visuals, they don’t know what to do with their eyes, much like the way a nervous speaker standing in front of a large audience struggles to figure out what to do with his hands.


America, Fairfield Connecticut needs your help

New Orleans, Haiti and Chile have had their tragedies.  And America was there to help. Now the scene shifts further north.  And again, you are needed.

The Counties of Fairfield and Westchester, in the northern New York City suburbs, were battered by a mighty "Nor'Easter" on Saturday.  And life has not returned to normal.

Most of both counties were without power or heat for most of the weekend, and some remain in the dark and cold.  The hardships have been profound.

To combat the sub-50 degree temperatures, many residents were forced to keep their NorthFace down parkas on all day, along with their cashmere socks and sweaters.  Stocks of split and dried Vermont firewood and Ralph Lauren Home candles have grown dangerously low.

Unable to get internet access or charge their iPhones and Blackberries, devastated citizens drove for up to 5 miles to find the nearest Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, and then had to fight unruly crowds as panicky middle aged suburbanites jostled with one another for a seat near an outlet.

In Greenwich, the storm struck to the heart and soul of the community as the roof was ripped off the most revered building in the town -- the center of its spiritual life -- Whole Foods.

Because crews could not remove all the hundreds of fallen trees immediately, many roads are literally impassible, forcing residents to drive their Range Rovers and Lexuses hundreds and sometimes thousands of feet out of their way around winding detours.

Unable to cook even the simplest spinach omelet at home, residents crowded into upscale bistros eager to order a simple swordfish, with just lemon, and a modest pino grigio, before supplies were exhausted.

We need your help.  No donation is too small, but what is needed most urgently are fully charged iPods, UGGS, Hunter rain boots in all colors, and please, for the love of all that is holy, steaming hot grande mocha frappacinos.

// text via anonymous forward, photo (cc attribution) sean terretta 2010

Subliminal flag shifts political views and voting choices

In a shocking testament to the power of subliminal imagery - a quick flash in a laboratory can prime a person's behaviour some time later. It can even affect the most important political action of all - voting.

Do symbols affect the weight we give to different views or do they affect our innate biases? ... For now, the study serves to reiterate how important a simple symbol can be.

The Sham Recovery

Are we finally in a recovery? Who’s “we,” kemosabe? Big global companies, Wall Street, and high-income Americans who hold their savings in financial instruments are clearly doing better. As to the rest of us – small businesses along Main Streets, and middle and lower-income Americans – forget it.

Emergency room myths

The overutilization of emergency rooms is often cited as a dangerous symptom of America’s broken healthcare system.  But a new Slate article from Zachary Meisel and Jesse Pines offers a rosier picture of emergency room usage, and dispels several pervasive myths.  They write that E.R. care represents less than 3 percent of healthcare spending, only 12 percent of E.R. visits are non-urgent, and the majority of E.R. patients are insured U.S. citizens, not uninsured, illegal immigrants.  Meisel and Pines also point out that E.R. visits don’t necessarily cost more than primary care visits: “In fact, the marginal cost of treating less acute patients in the ER is lower than paying off-hours primary care doctors, as ERs are already open 24/7 to handle life-threatening emergencies.”  Ultimately, Meisel and Pines believe that emergency rooms are functioning as they’re supposed to, as “an always-available resource to alleviate pain, make sure your baby is not truly ill, and patch you up after a nasty fall is vital, even if it turns out that your condition wasn’t as serious as you feared.”

/from Slate via Freakonomics