The End of Solitude

What does the contemporary self want? […] It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook.


If boredom is the great emotion of the TV generation, loneliness is the great emotion of the Web generation. We lost the ability to be still, our capacity for idleness. They have lost the ability to be alone, their capacity for solitude.

Food for thought. Everyone should read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (, Amazon UK) the paean to solitude.

(Via The Chronicle of Higher Education.)

The radical plan to destroy time zones

[The] map at the top of this post gives you an idea of what the world looks like now, and what it would like if we instead stuck to single system of Universal Time. The logic of Universal Time is strikingly simple: If it’s 7 in the morning in Washington D.C., it’s 7 everywhere else in the world too. There are no time zones. Wherever you are, the time is the same.

While it may ultimately simplify our lives, the concept would require some big changes to the way we think about time. As the clocks would still be based around the Coordinated Universal Time (the successor to Greenwich Mean Time that runs through Southeast London) most people in the world would have to change the way they consider their schedules. In Washington, for example, that means we’d have to get used to rising around noon and eating dinner at 1 in the morning. (Okay, perhaps that’s not that big a change for some people.)

But in many other ways, […] the new system would make communication, travel and trade across international borders far, far easier.

I’m all for it. As someone in the UK who works a lot with people in the US and Europe, time zones can confuse.

And it’s not just internationally that time zones have surprising effects. I remember listening to an episode of Freakonomics Radio which looked at sleep. It turns out that people in the United States who left at the western edge of a time zone get more sleep, and that:

permanently increasing sleep by an hour per week for everybody in a city, increases the wages in that location by about 4.5%.

One could imagine that the effect would be similar across country borders, where two countries do not share the same time zone.

(Via Washington Post.)

Who Wants to Be a Billionaire? — Andy Ihnatko’s Celestial Waste of Bandwidth

“But if you could win any one lottery, would you really choose to win $1.3 billion?

That’s definitely a dollar amount where winning would become terrifying.”

Andy’s article says exactly what I was thinking when I heard that number. I simply can’t imagine how one could handle suddenly having that much money. You would immediately need to go into hiding – in a luxury hotel – and hire an army of lawyers, accountants, and bodyguards.

I’d love to win a lottery. I could use, say, £1 million or so, to buy a nice house, and to ensure my retirement income. A few million more, and I could help out friends and family. And if I won a lot more, I’d do like John Beresford Tipton, Jr. and give it away, anonymously, one million at a time.

Oh, and I’d probably arrange for a private performance of this play, and perhaps a few concerts. I wonder how much it would cost to have Bob Dylan do a living room concert…?

Source: Who Wants to Be a Billionaire? — Andy Ihnatko’s Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA)

Hey, grown-ups: put down the colouring pens! | spiked

The adult colouring-book industry is a spin-off of the marketisation of wellbeing and mindfulness. In an era when therapy culture dominates the Western imagination, the transformation of the childish hobby of colouring-in into a worthy adult pursuit has been made possible by its association with some mental-health benefits. In a world where ‘mindfulness’ is successfully marketed as a panacea for the existential problems of humanity, it isn’t surprising that colouring books are sold as a remedy for stress.

I find this whole fad interesting. These coloring books seem to have sprung up from nowhere to become best-sellers, one hitting more than a half-million sales. As the sub-head to the article says:

Adult colouring-books speak to the infantilisation of the West.

Apparently these books are marketed as therapy:

The reason adult colouring-books have become bestsellers is that they resonate with the zeitgeist, which communicates the idea that we live in a uniquely stressed-out, anxious world. The popularisation of the idea of wellbeing is itself culturally significant. The perception that wellbeing is something that needs to be achieved through therapy promotes the impression that it is not the norm.

And this statement resonates with something I’ve been noticing a lot recently:

At a time when Western culture distracts adults from taking themselves and their responsibilities seriously, the invitation to grown-ups to return to the sandpit reinforces the trend for infantilising everyday life.

Look at the most popular movies these days: comic book superheroes and Star Wars (well, that one isn’t out yet, but the fervor around it astonishes me).

Source: Hey, grown-ups: put down the colouring pens! | spiked