In Praise of Idleness

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Let’s face it: We Americans work too much. Well, at least I do. And being one of those progressive-minded workaholics who gaze jealously across the Atlantic at Europe — with their five weeks of vacation and 35 hour work-weeks — I always enjoy seeing a compatriot who rises above the American workplace pressure to produce non-stop and takes a break from it all.

Allow me to introduce you to Josh Glenn, a former Utne Reader editor who now the edits and publishes the Boston cultural magazine Hermenaut. Josh preferred to sit idly by this month and enjoy the summer weather rather than slave over new material. In that idling spirit, last week he revived (read ‘re-published’) a wonderful article he wrote in June of last year, in which he ruminates on the cultural implications of a planned Chinese Disney theme park. ‘What’s most significant about the prospect of a Chinese Disneyland is the triumph of the modern American notion of ‘leisure’ over the ancient Chinese ideal of ‘idleness.”

Glenn continues: ‘Shaking his head at the American go-getter, who strives for perfect efficiency even in his so-called ‘leisure,’ [Chinese scholar Lin Yutang suggested in 1937] that Americans would enjoy living more if they could only learn to be ‘idle’ — to drink, smoke, and loll in easy-chairs, like the Chinese do. East would meet West soon enough, he predicted, because the rapidly developing ‘machine culture’ would bring with it increased amounts of free time for all — at which point the ancient Chinese ‘cult of the idle life’ would ‘invade’ the Occidental world.’ Go there>>

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Press Release: Napster’s Official Response to RIAA Legal Action,
On Monday, the Recording Industry Association of America and the Big Five record labels (Sony, Warner, BMG, EMI, Universal) filed a court injunction alleging that Napster, the music file-sharing utility that has taken the Internet by storm, is harming CD sales in music stores near college campuses. Napster fired back in a statement yesterday arguing that the industry’s attempts to drum up proof of lost sales due to Napster fall flat. ‘The RIAA ignores the 8% overall increase in sales in 1Q 2000, when Napster was a factor. Instead, they dredge up the discredited Soundscan Report that studied sales ‘near colleges’ in 1Q 1997 through 1Q 2000. The report shows that a minor decline in college store purchases happened from 1998 to 1999–before Napster even existed. There is nothing to suggest that Napster in late 1999 early 2000 had any impact the course of sales.’ Rather, Napster argues that its software ‘is a sampling and listening experience, not a permanent copying experience,’ that actually boosts conventional CD sales. Go there>>

Harnessing Money for Eco-Power,Wired News
The global campaign to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases may soon get a big boost. ABB, the world’s largest maker of power generation machinery, wants to snag $1 billion in the global market for wind power and other renewable energy technologies, making alternative energy sources economically attractive for the first time. ‘Especially important is the information technology and communication features that we’ve built into the systems, making them easier to operate and maintain and much more cost effective than conventional approaches,’ said president and CEO Goran Lindahl. Go there>>

–Your host Leif Utne surfs the Web so you don’t have to. But he always loves a good tip. Have one? Send it in.

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