Audiobook Culture: The past weekend’s Sunday Book Review in the New York Times had an extensive section of audiobook coverage, including a review by Dave Itzkoff of Tim Robbins reading Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451. The conflict in Itzkoff’s piece seemed to be how the rise of the audiobook somehow is part of the gadget-ization of culture. And he credits Bradbury’s book for having posited the notion “that it was not a distant stretch from dismissing books as quaint and obsolete to banning them outright.” He writes, as well, “Fortunately, a few thousand years ago, we gave ourselves a sustainable and still reliable mechanism to provide shelter from these distractions, as well as the option to use it or not” — this “reliable mechanism” is, of course, the physical book. What he doesn’t mention in the review is how Bradbury’s book itself closes with an image of an even more ancient mechanism, in which people — not just people, but maintainers of culture — tell each other stories out loud. Full disclosure: I didn’t so much “read” Itzkoff’s review as listen to it via text-to-speech thanks to the function that is part of the New York Times’ Android app. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/books/review/fahrenheit-451-read-by-tim-robbins.html
Sonar Sabotage: The headline says it all: “Study Shows Bats Jam Each Other’s Sonar to Snatch the Best Prey” (via Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner). Rishi Iyengar reports in Time magazine on research published in the journal Science that bats can block each other’s frequencies. Science’s Penny Sarchet likens it to “sonar sabotage.” It’s nature’s own EMP. The researchers are Aaron J. Corcoran and William E. Conner. http://time.com/3571704/study-bats-jam-sonar-hunting/
Secular Robot Choirs: Unsilent Night is the annual secular caroling event, in which communal processions of boomboxes layer ambient scintillates provided by the composer Phil Kline. The schedule for the 2014 holiday season is now appearing online, including Manhattan on December 13, San Francisco also on December 13, and Toronto on December 19, with more dates to be added soon. I’ve walked the route in San Francisco, in the Mission, for many years, listening as Kline’s music fills narrow alleys and disperses into the street, as slight variations in playback create false echoes backward and forward in time. If it’s coming to your town, don’t miss it. If it isn’t, consider taking a trip. http://unsilentnight.com/schedule.html
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