Sunday, January 20, 2008

Monsanto Westinghouse’s Mid-January 2008 NY Times/LA Times Recap

Monsanto Westinghouse’s Mid-January 2008 NY Times/LA Times Recap Over hors d’oeuvres, we stumbled into a friendly quarrel over the idea that anyone’s life has ever really been changed by a book or a film ========== FREE LABOR A labor organization in San Francisco is looking for an anchor for a series of short monthly videos “to promote our organization online.” Qualifications include the ability to “read and speak, in a clear voice, in front of a camera.” At the bottom of the unidentified organization’s ad on Craigslist is this crucial bit of information: “Compensation: no pay.” ====================================================================================== The Copyright Act sets out a four factor test (although other factors can be considered). The factors include the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the original work, the amount taken from the existing work and the importance of what is taken and the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Thus, as a legal matter, a case-by-case analysis remains the standard. Books begat films, character merchandising, giant fan guides, remix videos, fan art and other forms of secondary authorship that simply didn’t exist 100 years ago. These forms of authorship are in a gray zone; likely to fail the “four factor test” of fair use, but nonetheless largely tolerated by firms like NBC as a form of marketing. It is a sign of how ridiculous things are today that a copyright lawyer cannot give you a straight answer as to how much of Wikipedia is actually legal. ==== Josh Quittner of Fortune magazine’s Techland blog thinks that is just what should happen. “If I were an evil genius running a board games company,” he wrote, “I might do this: Wait until someone comes up with an excellent implementation of my games and does the hard work of coding and debugging the thing and signing up the masses. Then, once it got to scale, I’d sweep in and take it over. Let the best pirate site win!” == How to Spot Important Trends Years Ahead of the Crowd World Future Society members have access to the work of futurists around the world in the pages of THE FUTURIST magazine. In the age of the Internet and 24/7 news, there is a serious glut of information, making it hard to determine what's really going on. THE FUTURIST gives you a way to make sense of our rapidly changing world. Each issue of THE FUTURIST will brief you on the most important trends that affect your business, career, family, investments, and the world in general. We present the most significant trends divided into six sectors that are commonly used by professional business planners. Nanotechnology Breakthroughs of the Next 15 Years Nanotechnology — the manipulation of materials and machines at the nano-scale — one billionth of a meter — promises exciting new developments. Interviews with a group of nanotechnology experts yielded this list of likely developments: Two to five years from now: 1. Car tires that need air only once a year. 2. Complete medical diagnostics on a single computer chip. 3. Go-anywhere concentrators that produce drinkable water from air. Five to 10 years 4. Powerful computers you can wear or fold into your wallet. 5. Drugs that turn AIDS and cancer into manageable conditions. 6. Smart buildings that self-stabilize during earthquakes or bombings. 10 to 15 years 7. Artificial intelligence so sophisticated you can't tell if you're talking on the phone with a human or a machine. 8. Paint-on computer and entertainment video displays. 9. Elimination of invasive surgery, since bodies can be monitored and repaired almost totally from within. Exploring Tomrrow Get complete details in our new special report Exploring Tomorrow. To find out how you can get it FREE with membership in the World Future Society The sectors are: * Breakthrough Technologies — You'll see the impact of new technologies and the latest innovations, discoveries and new solutions on the horizon. * Economic and Business Forecasts — You'll get vital updates on major economic, business and consumer trends, and investment and financial outlooks. * Environment and Resource Outlook — New ideas and reports on natural resources, habitats, sustainable communities and more. * Social Trends — Changes in values and lifestyles and topics such as religion, entertainment, sports, arts, language, sex and family. * Demographics — The latest trends on population, immigration, births, deaths, marriages, and other vital information. * Government and Regulatory Trends — The impact of laws, regulations, taxes, politics, diplomacy and war. This "Six Sector" analysis of trends saves you time by compressing a massive amount of information into six major categories. What you get in each issue is a careful selection of the most interesting and significant current reports on trends, forecasts, and potentially important developments. THE FUTURIST will help you navigate through rapid developments and sort through this era of information overload. You'll have ready access to critical information that could affect your future, making this a unique resource. .Nanotechnology Breakthroughs of the Next 15 Years Nanotechnology — the manipulation of materials and machines at the nano-scale — one billionth of a meter — promises exciting new developments. Interviews with a group of nanotechnology experts yielded this list of likely developments: Two to five years from now: 1. Car tires that need air only once a year. 2. Complete medical diagnostics on a single computer chip. 3. Go-anywhere concentrators that produce drinkable water from air. Five to 10 years 4. Powerful computers you can wear or fold into your wallet. 5. Drugs that turn AIDS and cancer into manageable conditions. 6. Smart buildings that self-stabilize during earthquakes or bombings. 10 to 15 years 7. Artificial intelligence so sophisticated you can't tell if you're talking on the phone with a human or a machine. 8. Paint-on computer and entertainment video displays. 9. Elimination of invasive surgery, since bodies can be monitored and repaired almost totally from within. Tomorrow-in-Brief — You'll get updates on breakthrough technologies and high-impact developments that are changing the world. Recent issues of THE FUTURIST have covered exciting new solutions such as: * Fireflies Help Fight Cancer — How researchers in England are using bioluminescence to target and kill cancer cells. * 3-D TV Closer to Reality — Software that merges images from several projectors onto a single screen is about to make 3-D TV a reality. No funny 3-D sunglasses required. It's like "being there." THE FUTURIST Brings You Expert Forecasts and Analyses of Trends November-December 2006 World Future Society membership includes a subscription to THE FUTURIST. A small sampling of well-known experts whose ideas have appeared in THE FUTURIST includes: Peter F. Drucker - business visionary Rosabeth Moss Kanter - management expert B.F. Skinner - psychologist Ray Kurzweil - inventor Harvey Cox - theologian Amitai Etzioni - sociologist Glenn Seaborg - Nobel Prize-winning chemist Margaret Mead - anthropologist Gene Roddenberry - Star Trek creator John Challenger - employment expert Hazel Henderson - economist Anthony Fauci - NIH AIDS expert Nicholas Negroponte - new media visionary Richard Lamm - former Colorado Governor Kofi Annan - U.N. Secretary General Herman Kahn - defense analyst Fritjof Capra - physicist Alvin and Heidi Toffler - authors Julian Simon - economist Carl Sagan - astronomer Neil de Grasse Tyson - astronomer Frederik Pohl - science fiction writer E.F. Schumacher - economist John Naisbitt - author Harold Shane - educator Daniel Yankelovich - public opinion expert Gerard K. O'Neill - space exploration expert Vaclav Havel - statesman Marvin Cetron - forecaster Sir John Templeton - famed investor David Walker - U.S. Comptroller General and far too many more to mention. Get the next issue risk-free. * Grow Your Own Replacement Teeth — Forget about crowns or implants. Soon you'll be able to grow your own natural replacement teeth. Stem cells are taken from an individual, treated and cultured in a laboratory, then reimplanted under the gum line at the site of the missing or extracted tooth. This then grows into a fully formed, live tooth in the same way that teeth develop naturally. Get the Latest Trends & Forecasts THE FUTURIST brings you the most important trends categorized into our 'Six Sector' analysis. You'll see remarkable developments now on the horizon, such as: * New double-duty power plants could ease the water crisis. A new process to remove salt from seawater and make it drinkable can be powered by the excess heat from electric power plants. A small operating prototype shows that tapping the waste heat from a 100-megawatt power plant could produce 1.5 million gallons of fresh water daily. The cost would be only $2.50 per 1,000 gallons—well below that of conventional desalination methods. * New System Reads Body Language — The truth is in your eyes—and your mannerisms. A system developed by University of Manchester scientists uses a camera and artificial intelligence to process patterns of non-verbal behavior. The system can assess levels of deception, aggression, exhaustion and even the initial stages of Parkinson's disease. You'll get reviews of the most significant books and reports on the future, news about the activities of futurists around the world and resources you can rely on for more information. And, of course, you'll also receive… Feature Articles You'll Find Nowhere Else Each issue of THE FUTURIST brings you exclusive articles written by experts in their field. You'll get an in-depth exploration of the most important forecasts, trends and ideas about the future. Articles from recent issues include: * The GNR Revolution — The convergence of genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics may change the very meaning of "human" as we shape our evolutionary destiny. * A New Strategy for Globalization — As business breaks down borders and corporations roam the world in search of profits, we need to be sure the international system is built on a foundation of cooperation and consent. * Learning for Ourselves: A New Paradigm for Education — Why learning should be taken out of the hands of antiquated school systems and put into the hands of learners, according to a leading education consultant. What Experts are Saying The World Future Society offers wonderful tools to grasp unfamiliar issues and help understand new technologies. "I have been an enthusiastic reader of THE FUTURIST for many years, and applaud you on an excellent publication. It is hard to find people or publications that give serious consideration to what the future will be like." Ray Kurzweil, Inventor, Author, The Age of Spiritual Machines “I couldn’t resist the opportunity to join more than a thousand fellow futurists at the World Future Society’s annual meeting.” Michael Rogers, The Practical Futurist, MSNBC * Reshaping Retirement: Scenarios and Options — Retirement may disappear altogether in the future as aging workers outlive their savings or choose to keep working. Here's how individuals and policy makers can help ensure rewarding lives for older persons in the next 20 years. * A Planet Under Stress: Rising to the Challenge — We need to restructure our economy with lower income taxes and increased taxes on environmentally destructive activities, such as use of fossil fuels, says one environmental advocate. * The Superlongevity Revolution — The human species is in the early phases of an expansion of the average life span into the hundreds and beyond. * Virtual Reality Is Getting Real — In the next 15 years VR experiences will be fully integrated into real life. We'll "attend" meetings, practice surgical techniques, travel to exotic places, test design flaws before building things, and create digital clones to be our representatives in virtual worlds. * Prepare for the Opportunities and Challenges of Tomorrow — You'll be able to position your career, your business, your family, and your investments to capitalize on trends and avoid threats. * See the Big Picture while Others Are Down in the Weeds. You'll understand the larger forces shaping day-to-day events. And you'll have advance notice of new inventions, new ideas well before others in your field. * See the Connections When Others See only Random Events. You'll see how the sudden events that make the news in your industry are part of larger pattern of change. * Learn to Manage and Lead Change — Creating change is the essence of leadership. You'll learn how change happens and how to make plans that anticipate a changing world. What Experts are Saying 'The Cutting Edge' "The WFS membership represents the cutting-edge cognoscenti of a host of fields, including science, academia, politics, government, even religion. Ideas that gain acceptance among the WFS crowd soon fan out into the general culture." Michael G. Zey, Ph.D., Exec. Director, The Expansionary Institute; Author, The Future Factor 'Unequaled' "The World Future Society is unequaled in the role that it plays in helping those interested in the future—from around the world—to be exposed to new ideas. Its publications are must-reads." John L. Petersen President, The Arlington Institute; Author, The Road to 2015 * Be First to Know of New Inventions and Breakthrough Technologies — Chances are today's hot tech stock is based on technology THE FUTURIST covered years earlier. You'll get advance notice of exciting new technologies often years before they hit the news. And you'll have a context to evaluate the impact of new inventions. * Gain Peace of Mind – With the perspective you'll gain from membership, you'll understand many of the larger trends now changing the world. As you see the larger view you'll feel much more able to understand and navigate the forces of change. * Save Time — With the Internet and 24/7 news it can seem impossible to keep up with all the information. When you know the trends you can cut through the clutter and focus on the news most relevant to your goals. * Find New Solutions — You'll gain new vision, expand your horizons and be able to overcome mental roadblocks. You'll understand the impact of changes outside your industry or area of expertise. * Make Better Decisions — You'll have a much better understanding of your opportunities, potential threats and the long-term impacts of your choices. * Act with Confidence in an Uncertain World — You'll have unique tools, information and a network to help you succeed amid complexity and rapid change. The #1 Secret of Success What is the key to great success? Is it hard work? Intelligence? Education? I believe real success comes from the ability to create the future. It's the ability to see possibilities that others don't see. And chart a path to get there. Truly successful people are those who are ahead of the curve. They get there first. They see opportunities or dangers far ahead of the competition. In a world of rapid change, the first mover has a huge advantage. That's why truly successful people don't let the future just happen—they create it. What Experts are Saying "Examining the future is an essential competitive intelligence tool. World Future Society publications and conferences make interpreting the future easier for us and our clients." Dr. Michael Jackson, Chairman, Shaping Tomorrow 'A Vital Role' "The World Future Society plays a vital role in the futures field. I am very grateful to the WFS for the wide range of activities it has sponsored and supported over the years." Richard Slaughter, Former President, World Futures Studies Federation "Many thanks for sending THE FUTURIST which I read with great interest..." — Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Author, 2001: A Space Odyssey How much is a view of the future worth to you? This knowledge could help you find ground-floor business and investment opportunities… help you or your children find a new career… give you advance warning of changes or threats from outside your area of specialization… the inspiration to start a new business. And you'll enjoy an exciting adventure on the forefront of change. You'll be first among your colleagues to know about exciting trends… breakthrough technologies… and the paradigm-shifting new concepts that are changing the world. This information, this new, broader outlook can be priceless. But you can have all these resources at your service for just $49 a year—less than 14 cents a day. Many newsletters and professional associations charge many times this amount. And you'll get all the great free gifts described earlier with this no-risk offer. They're yours to keep even if you cancel and ask for a full refund. So this offer is better than risk-free because you keep the gifts. Peter F. Drucker - business visionary Rosabeth Moss Kanter - management expert B.F. Skinner - psychologist Ray Kurzweil - inventor Harvey Cox - theologian Amitai Etzioni - sociologist Glenn Seaborg - Nobel Prize-winning chemist Margaret Mead - anthropologist Gene Roddenberry - Star Trek creator John Challenger - employment expert Hazel Henderson - economist Anthony Fauci - NIH AIDS expert Nicholas Negroponte - new media visionary Richard Lamm - former Colorado Governor Kofi Annan - U.N. Secretary General Herman Kahn - defense analyst Fritjof Capra - physicist Alvin and Heidi Toffler - authors Julian Simon - economist Carl Sagan - astronomer Neil de Grasse Tyson - astronomer Frederik Pohl - science fiction writer E.F. Schumacher - economist John Naisbitt - author Harold Shane - educator Daniel Yankelovich - public opinion expert Gerard K. O'Neill - space exploration expert Vaclav Havel - statesman Marvin Cetron - forecaster Sir John Templeton - famed investor David Walker - U.S. Comptroller General Al Gore - Vice President Newt Gingrich - House Speaker Gerald Ford - President Walter Mondale - Vice President Sir Arthur C. Clarke - author Buckminster Fuller - visionary designer Gene Roddenberry - Star Trek creator Betty Friedan - author Fritjof Capra - physicist Isaac Asimov - writer Alvin Toffler - futurist Marilyn Ferguson - visionary Les Aspin - Senator Hazel Henderson - economist Lester Brown - environmentalist Hubert H. Humphrey - Vice President Marshall McLuhan - media guru B.F. Skinner - psychologist Margaret Mead - anthropologist Timothy Leary - psychologist Jay Rockefeller - Senator Doug Casey - investment author Ray Kurzweil - inventor John Naisbitt - author Glenn Seaborg - Nobel Prize-winning chemist Ellen Burstyn - actress Herman Kahn - defense analyst ================================================== Romney’s response was the predictably clunky one about getting personal, which has become the habitual refuge of the lackwit. “Heckler Stoppers: Snappy Retorts for All Occasions.” Political comic relief is not a trivial subject. All candidates should bear in mind Mark Twain’s edict that “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Whenever I’ve seen him answer a question he has done so thoughtfully, intelligently, manfully, forcefully and articulately. Barack Obama seems a sort of miracle. He has only frightened me once, when he seemed to have fallen into the royal “we.” The quality work was done by the kind of man — so puzzling to us showbiz babies — who convincingly harbors no craving for the limelight and would be embarrassed to tears if I were even to mention his name. I’d hate to go against his wishes, so let’s just say that when the time comes for you to put out your own DVDs, you would be smart not to hire anyone whose name isn’t Robert Bader. (Note to editor: None of this constitutes plugola, but is merely a factual reply to a reader’s lament. Now, if I were to throw in phrases like readily available at . . . that would be different, and reprehensible.) The good feeling you get when hearing from someone you’ve admired like that reminds me of Jack Benny’s asking me if I knew of “that brilliant new young comedian, Woody Allen?” “I know him” I said, “and he’s a big fan and admirer of your work.” The great man beamed, and his reply was almost childlike in its sweetness: “Gee, it’s nice, isn’t it, kid, when somebody you like likes you?” ============= "It's gonna have to happen," he said. "Every illegal download you do, you'd get a $25 ticket, like a parking ticket. What would 10 cuts for $12 feel like compared to that? His solution? Internet police. "If I was just a hayseed from Oklahoma, starting out, I wouldn't do a record anymore," he said. "Every four months I'd release a single with a bonus track on iTunes. That way what radio gets is brand new every time. And then at the end of four or five singles, I'd release a record for the people who want to get it that way." He'd like to see price structuring, so that a popular artist could sell single downloads for more than the industry standard of 99 cents. ("A Lexus isn't the same as a Volkswagen," he said.) Oh, and one other thing. "I would love to be the guy who fixes the Internet technology problem," he said. That's Garth, thinking small, at least for him. ============== BOOK REVIEW By Erin Aubry Kaplan, Special to the TImes January 20, 2008 Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal Randall Kennedy The provocative educator tackles thorny questions surrounding racial identity and loyalty. Pantheon: 222 pp., $22 Harvard University law professor Randall Kennedy closes his new book "Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal" with a confession he should have made in the beginning: He himself has been accused of selling out. That's not surprising, given that among the many definitions of a black sellout he offers is having an Ivy League pedigree like his. But the incidents he details at the end of "Sellout" -- among them testifying in defense of a white man accused of beating a black man he called "nigger" -- are what prompted him to write the book. Why does he bury his lead? The answer is that Kennedy wants to keep himself above the fray. He is a lawyer's lawyer who clearly believes that everything can and should be delineated by logic and argument. He wants to strip emotion and popular mythology from concepts like "sellout" and present historical and cultural machinations so we can judge their validity on our own. But that's possible only to a degree. Emotion underlies American racial politics. Slavery and all the social turmoil it has fomented -- from Jim Crow to the ongoing consternation among black people about "selling out" -- has rested on subjective but very powerful views of blacks as incompetent and inferior. The purpose of laws that were made to undo obvious racial injustice was to change hearts and minds, not simply to mount better and more logical arguments. Kennedy knows this, but he wants a reconciliation of emotion and rationality in matters of race, something America has never achieved. Ironically, he's going on faith and ideals here, not logic -- yet despite this quixotic mission, "Sellout" is worth reading for the light it shines on many subtleties of black history. (Marcus Garvey, for example, thought of W.E.B. Du Bois, the most progressive and influential black public intellectual of his era, as a total sellout.) Indeed, the book is brisk and enjoyable, no small feat given the density of its ideas and Kennedy's penchant for long footnotes that often take up more space on the page than text. Still, the somewhat sticky question is: What are Kennedy's motives? Is he trying to show us what he believes is a more enlightened point of view? Is he sick of living with the burden of race and looking to lay it down? Is he answering his own accusers? These are but a few questions he leaves hanging, even as he exhaustively addresses others. Kennedy may deplore the emotionality and intellectual shorthand of a phrase like "sellout," but he uses it to great effect -- the book's title is sexy, explosive, an entire drama in a single word. It implies struggle, violation, deceit; the subtitle, "The Politics of Racial Betrayal," is more accurate but hardly as compelling. The same could be said of Kennedy's most infamous book, "Nigger: The Strange History of a Troublesome Word." Here, as there, he wants to get our attention first -- that is, to push our buttons -- in order to draw us into an examination of the issues such charged language often obscures. And yet, in some ways, he has it backward. It's not terminology that's the problem but the racial crises that keep the terminology current. Accusations of selling out are often specious, as Kennedy shows us, but that doesn't change the fact that they matter to black people because overall racial progress has stalled and so much is still at stake. It is, therefore, terribly important what positions black public figures like Jesse Jackson and Clarence Thomas take or don't take on a whole range of issues, from affirmative action to family values. This is the unfair -- but critical -- burden of blackness that Kennedy acknowledges but doesn't especially like. In the end, his argument is much more about emotion than he's willing to admit. Kennedy's indignation comes through most clearly when he discusses black identity. More than once, he claims that such identity should be a matter of choice, of individuality rather than community. This puts him on the side of multiracialists who argue that anyone who is, say, one-quarter black and three-quarters white should have the right to identify as white. For Kennedy, however, what's at issue here is more than simple math; he argues that black identity is as much defined by ideology as it is by genetics and should, therefore, be considered optional. The resulting "racial citizenship" should be granted only to those who want it, an arrangement Kennedy says would go a long way toward reducing intraracial strife. "In my view," Kennedy explains, "all Negroes should be voluntary Negroes, blacks by choice, African Americans with a recognized right to resign from the race. . . . By the same token, I see no reason why, in principle, an African American should not be subject to having his citizenship revoked if he chooses a course of conduct that convincingly demonstrates the absence of even a minimal communal allegiance." Kennedy is referencing statutory and constitutional laws here that make expatriation possible. But although he goes on to cite someone whose racial citizenship he believes should have been revoked -- William Hannibal Thomas, a black Civil War veteran whose venal characterizations of blacks (he once described them as "the waste product of American civilization") went far beyond the crime of selling out -- such laws are, Kennedy admits, "difficult to effectuate." That, of course, is something of an understatement, for while I agree with his repudiation of a self-hater like Thomas, banishment makes no sense. It's not even remotely doable, and anyway, allowing or disallowing members based on "minimal communal allegiance" only undermines the black solidarity Kennedy says he wants to bolster. As he notes, a sense of boundaries is essential to the credibility and coherence of any group, particularly one as historically oppressed as African Americans. Proposing black identity as a club that can be joined or left corrupts those boundaries and reinforces the notion that blackness is something to be escaped. Kennedy would rather invent a compromise than face an uncomfortable and inconvenient truth. "Sellout" is at its most persuasive not when Kennedy is making an argument or taking a position but when he's musing -- expressing things that remain unresolved in his mind. Take, for example, his rhetorical questions about racial fealty, a list that builds with the startling force of poetry. "Was it in the best interest of blacks to fight with the American revolutionaries in the War of Independence that gave rise to what became the United States of America?" he wonders. "Or did the interest of blacks require fighting for the British? Was it in the best interest of blacks for antislavery activists to purchase runaway slaves and then emancipate them? Or did the interest of blacks demand an unyielding insistence that any and all transactions in slave markets be condemned as immoral?" These are big questions, and they make one thing painfully clear: Black people have probably all been on the side of selling out at one time or another. The key is knowing that you've been there at all. Kennedy ends up condemning "sellout" as an idea that has outlived its usefulness, especially for the next generation. "It is more of a bane than a benefit to black folks' ongoing struggle for advancement," he writes on the last page of "Sellout." But part of that struggle is always understanding who -- or what -- is holding you back. Erin Aubry Kaplan is a contributing editor to The Times' Opinion pages. ============== Misreading the mind If neuroscientists want to understand the mystery of consciousness, they'll need new methods. By Jonah Lehrer (an editor at large for Seed magazine and the author of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist.") January 20, 2008 Since its inception in the early 20th century, neuroscience has taught us a tremendous amount about the brain. Our sensations have been reduced to a set of specific circuits. The mind has been imaged as it thinks about itself, with every thought traced back to its cortical source. The most ineffable of emotions have been translated into the terms of chemistry, so that the feeling of love is just a little too much dopamine. Fear is an excited amygdala. Even our sense of consciousness is explained away with references to some obscure property of the frontal cortex. It turns out that there is nothing inherently mysterious about those 3 pounds of wrinkled flesh inside the skull. There is no ghost in the machine. The success of modern neuroscience represents the triumph of a method: reductionism. The premise of reductionism is that the best way to solve a complex problem -- and the brain is the most complicated object in the known universe -- is to study its most basic parts. The mind, in other words, is just a particular trick of matter, reducible to the callous laws of physics. But the reductionist method, although undeniably successful, has very real limitations. Not everything benefits from being broken down into tiny pieces. Look, for example, at a Beethoven symphony. If the music is reduced to wavelengths of vibrating air -- the simple sum of its physics -- we actually understand less about the music. The intangible beauty, the visceral emotion, the entire reason we listen in the first place -- all is lost when the sound is reduced into its most elemental details. In other words, reductionism can leave out a lot of reality. The mind is like music. While neuroscience accurately describes our brain in terms of its material facts -- we are nothing but a loom of electricity and enzymes -- this isn't how we experience the world. Our consciousness, at least when felt from the inside, feels like more than the sum of its cells. The truth of the matter is that we feel like the ghost, not like the machine. If neuroscience is going to solve its grandest questions, such as the mystery of consciousness, it needs to adopt new methods that are able to construct complex representations of the mind that aren't built from the bottom up. Sometimes, the whole is best understood in terms of the whole. William James, as usual, realized this first. The eight chapters that begin his 1890 textbook, "The Principles of Psychology," describe the mind in the conventional third-person terms of the experimental psychologist. Everything changes, however, with Chapter 9. James starts this section, "The Stream of Thought," with a warning: "We now begin our study of the mind from within." With that single sentence, James tried to shift the subject of psychology. He disavowed any scientific method that tried to dissect the mind into a set of elemental units, be it sensations or synapses. Modern science, however, didn't follow James' lead. In the years after his textbook was published, a "New Psychology" was born, and this rigorous science had no use for Jamesian vagueness. Measurement was now in vogue. Psychologists were busy trying to calculate all sorts of inane things, such as the time it takes for a single sensation to travel from your finger to your head. By quantifying our consciousness, they hoped to make the mind fit for science. Unfortunately, this meant that the mind was defined in very narrow terms. The study of experience was banished from the laboratory. But it's time to bring experience back. Neuroscience has effectively investigated the sound waves, but it has missed the music. Although reductionism has its uses -- it is, for instance, absolutely crucial for helping us develop new pharmaceutical treatments for mental illnesses -- its limitations are too significant to allow us to answer our biggest questions. As the novelist Richard Powers wrote, "If we knew the world only through synapses, how could we know the synapse?" The question, of course, is how neuroscience can get beyond reductionism. Science rightfully adheres to a strict methodology, relying on experimental data and testability, but this method could benefit from an additional set of inputs. Artists, for instance, have studied the world of experience for centuries. They describe the mind from the inside, expressing our first-person perspective in prose, poetry and paint. Although a work of art obviously isn't a substitute for a scientific experiment -- Proust isn't going to invent Prozac -- the artist can help scientists better understand what, exactly, they are trying to reduce in the first place. Before you break something apart, it helps to know how it hangs together. Virginia Woolf, for example, famously declared that the task of the novelist is to "examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day ... [tracing] the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness." In other words, she wanted to describe the mind from the inside, to distill the details of our psychological experience into prose. That's why her novels have endured: because they feel true. And they feel true because they capture a layer of reality that reductionism cannot. As Noam Chomsky said, "It is quite possible -- overwhelmingly probable, one might guess -- that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology." In this sense, the arts are an incredibly rich data set, providing neuroscience with a glimpse behind its blind spots. Some of the most exciting endeavors in neuroscience right now are trying to move beyond reductionism. The Blue Brain Project, for example, a collaboration between the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, and IBM, is in the process of constructing a biologically accurate model of the brain that can be used to simulate experience on a supercomputer. Henry Markram, the leader of the project, recently told me that he's convinced "reductionism peaked five years ago." While Markram is quick to add that the reductionism program isn't complete -- "There is still so much that we don't know about the brain," he says -- he's trying to solve a harder problem, which is figuring out how all these cellular details connect together. "The Blue Brain Project" he says, "is about showing people the whole." In other words, Markram wants to hear the music. One day, we'll look back at the history of neuroscience and realize that reductionism was just the first phase. Each year, tens of thousands of neuroscience papers are published in scientific journals. The field is introduced to countless new acronyms, pathways and proteins. At a certain point, however, all of this detail starts to have diminishing returns. After all, the real paradox of the brain is why it feels like more than the sum of its parts. How does our pale gray matter become the Technicolor cinema of consciousness? What transforms the water of the brain into the wine of the mind? Where does the self come from? Reductionism can't answer these questions. According to the facts of neuroscience, your head contains 100 billion electrical cells, but not one of them is you, or knows you or cares about you. In fact, you don't even exist. You are simply an elaborate cognitive illusion, an "epiphenomenon" of the cortex. Our mystery is denied. Obviously, this scientific solution isn't very satisfying. It confines neuroscience to an immaculate abstraction, unable to reduce the only reality we will ever know. Unless our science moves beyond reductionism and grapples instead with the messiness of subjective experience -- what James called a "science of the soul" -- its facts will grow increasingly remote. The wonder of the brain is that it can be described in so many ways: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, but we are also just stuff. What we need is a science that can encompass both sides of our being. ================== Thumbs Race as Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular By NORIMITSU ONISHI Published: January 20, 2008 TOKYO — Until recently, cellphone novels — composed on phone keypads by young women wielding dexterous thumbs and read by fans on their tiny screens — had been dismissed in Japan as a subgenre unworthy of the country that gave the world its first novel, “The Tale of Genji,” a millennium ago. Then last month, the year-end best-seller tally showed that cellphone novels, republished in book form, have not only infiltrated the mainstream but have come to dominate it. Rin, 21, tapped out a novel on her cellphone that sold 400,000 copies in hardcover. Of last year’s 10 best-selling novels, five were originally cellphone novels, mostly love stories written in the short sentences characteristic of text messaging but containing little of the plotting or character development found in traditional novels. What is more, the top three spots were occupied by first-time cellphone novelists, touching off debates in the news media and blogosphere. “Will cellphone novels kill ‘the author’?” a famous literary journal, Bungaku-kai, asked on the cover of its January issue. Fans praised the novels as a new literary genre created and consumed by a generation whose reading habits had consisted mostly of manga, or comic books. Critics said the dominance of cellphone novels, with their poor literary quality, would hasten the decline of Japanese literature. Whatever their literary talents, cellphone novelists are racking up the kind of sales that most more experienced, traditional novelists can only dream of. One such star, a 21-year-old woman named Rin, wrote “If You” over a six-month stretch during her senior year in high school. While commuting to her part-time job or whenever she found a free moment, she tapped out passages on her cellphone and uploaded them on a popular Web site for would-be authors. After cellphone readers voted her novel No. 1 in one ranking, her story of the tragic love between two childhood friends was turned into a 142-page hardcover book last year. It sold 400,000 copies and became the No. 5 best-selling novel of 2007, according to a closely watched list by Tohan, a major book distributor. “My mother didn’t even know that I was writing a novel,” said Rin, who, like many cellphone novelists, goes by only one name. “So at first when I told her, well, I’m coming out with a novel, she was like, what? She didn’t believe it until it came out and appeared in bookstores.” The cellphone novel was born in 2000 after a home-page-making Web site, Maho no i-rando, realized that many users were writing novels on their blogs; it tinkered with its software to allow users to upload works in progress and readers to comment, creating the serialized cellphone novel. But the number of users uploading novels began booming only two to three years ago, and the number of novels listed on the site reached one million last month, according to Maho no i-rando. The boom appeared to have been fueled by a development having nothing to do with culture or novels but by cellphone companies’ decision to offer unlimited transmission of packet data, like text-messaging, as part of flat monthly rates. The largest provider, Docomo, began offering this service in mid-2004. “Their cellphone bills were easily reaching $1,000, so many people experienced what they called ‘packet death,’ and you wouldn’t hear from them for a while,” said Shigeru Matsushima, an editor who oversees the book uploading site at Starts Publishing, a leader in republishing cellphone novels. The affordability of cellphones coincided with the coming of age of a generation of Japanese for whom cellphones, more than personal computers, had been an integral part of their lives since junior high school. So they read the novels on their cellphones, even though the same Web sites were also accessible by computer. They punched out text messages with their thumbs with blinding speed, and used expressions and emoticons, like smilies and musical notes, whose nuances were lost on anyone over the age of 25. “It’s not that they had a desire to write and that the cellphone happened to be there,” said Chiaki Ishihara, an expert in Japanese literature at Waseda University who has studied cellphone novels. “Instead, in the course of exchanging e-mail, this tool called the cellphone instilled in them a desire to write.” Indeed, many cellphone novelists had never written fiction before, and many of their readers had never read novels before, according to publishers. The writers are not paid for their work online, no many how many millions of times it is viewed. The payoff, if any, comes when the novels are reproduced and sold as traditional books. Readers have free access to the Web sites that carry the novels, or pay at most $1 to $2 a month, but the sites make most of their money from advertising. Critics say the novels owe a lot to a genre devoured by the young: comic books. In cellphone novels, characters tend to be undeveloped and descriptions thin, while paragraphs are often fragments and consist of dialogue. “Traditionally, Japanese would depict a scene emotionally, like ‘The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country,’ ” Mika Naito, a novelist, said, referring to the famous opening sentence of Yasunari Kawabata’s “Snow Country.” “In cellphone novels, you don’t need that,” said Ms. Naito, 36, who recently began writing cellphone novels at the urging of her publisher. “If you limit it to a certain place, readers won’t be able to feel a sense of familiarity.” Written in the first person, many cellphone novels read like diaries. Almost all the authors are young women delving into affairs of the heart, spiritual descendants, perhaps, of Shikibu Murasaki, the 11th-century royal lady-in-waiting who wrote “The Tale of Genji.” “Love Sky,” a debut novel by a young woman named Mika, was read by 20 million people on cellphones or on computers, according to Maho no i-rando, where it was first uploaded. A tear-jerker featuring adolescent sex, rape, pregnancy and a fatal disease — the genre’s sine qua non — the novel nevertheless captured the young generation’s attitude, its verbal tics and the cellphone’s omnipresence. Republished in book form, it became the No. 1 selling novel last year and was made into a movie. Given the cellphone novels’ domination of the mainstream, critics no longer dismiss them, though some say they should be classified with comic books or popular music. Rin said ordinary novels left members of her generation cold. “They don’t read works by professional writers because their sentences are too difficult to understand, their expressions are intentionally wordy, and the stories are not familiar to them,” she said. “On other hand, I understand how older Japanese don’t want to recognize these as novels. The paragraphs and the sentences are too simple, the stories are too predictable. But I’d like cellphone novels to be recognized as a genre.” As the genre’s popularity leads more people to write cellphone novels, though, an existential question has arisen: can a work be called a cellphone novel if it is not composed on a cellphone, but on a computer or, inconceivably, in longhand? “When a work is written on a computer, the nuance of the number of lines is different, and the rhythm is different from writing on a cellphone,” said Keiko Kanematsu, an editor at Goma Books, a publisher of cellphone novels. “Some hard-core fans wouldn’t consider that a cellphone novel.” Still, others say the genre is not defined by the writing tool. Ms. Naito, the novelist, says she writes on a computer and sends the text to her phone, with which she rearranges her work. Unlike the first-time cellphone novelists in their teens or early 20s, she says she is more comfortable writing on a computer. But at least one member of the cellphone generation has made the switch to computers. A year ago, one of Starts Publishing’s young stars, Chaco, gave up her phone even though she could compose much faster with it by tapping with her thumb. “Because of writing on the cellphone, her nail had cut into the flesh and became bloodied,” said Mr. Matsushima of Starts. “Since she’s switched to a computer,” he added, “her vocabulary’s gotten richer and her sentences have also grown longer.” Links to Japanese Sites: Book Uploading Site of Starts Publishing Orion, a Cell Phone Novel Site for Goma Books The Novel, "If You" Mika’s blog ===================== “Instead of buying expensive CD players, people are starting to migrate to hard-drive devices, in many instances substituting an iPod for a CD machine,” he said. “The Numark iDJ2s have appeal both to consumers and mobile D.J.’s. You don’t need to haul as much stuff.” The use of the iPod, often wielded by amateurs, has raised eyebrows among some professional D.J.’s. “It’s as though their guild is being infringed upon,” Mr. Majeski said. If the Pacemaker catches on, this invasion may accelerate. But Dan Brotman, a Manhattan-based D.J. whose Web site,, reports on new music technology, isn’t worried. “People looked down their noses when D.J.’s brought in CD players and computers instead of turntables and vinyl records,” he said, and now it is iPods that are scorned. Slowly, though, this new stigma will fade. “If you are rocking the house,” he said, “who cares what equipment you are using?” ======================= TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE DAY Country that gave the world its first novel a millennium ago? Japan. “The Tale of Genji” =================== QUOTATION OF THE DAY "This is a phenomenon that could be called the growth of state capitalism as opposed to market capitalism. The United States has not ever been on the receiving end of this before." JEFFREY E. GARTEN of Yale School of Management, on the purchase of American companies by investment funds controlled by foreign governments. Overseas Investors Buy U.S. Holdings at a Record Pace By PETER S. GOODMAN and LOUISE STORY Foreign investors are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar. Hanging on the skyline of New York is a sign reading: “U.S.A. Now a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Foreign Investors.” As Warren Buffett has said, we are giving ourselves a party to feed our appetite for oil and imported goods and paying for it by selling off the furniture, our most precious assets. The country is engaged in a fit of nativism and Lou Dobbsism, obsessing about the millions of Mexicans who might be sneaking across the border when billions in foreign money are pouring into Citigroup. You figure out what might be a bigger problem. The national boundaries that really matter are the financial ones: Who’s going to own the American economy? The Construction Site Called Saudi Arabia By JAD MOUAWAD In a massive city of steel at the edge of the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia is trying to move beyond oil to become an industrial power. ============= A Cutting Tradition By SARA CORBETT Published: January 20, 2008 When a girl is taken — usually by her mother — to a free circumcision event held each spring in Bandung, Indonesia, she is handed over to a small group of women who, swiftly and yet with apparent affection, cut off a small piece of her genitals. Sponsored by the Assalaam Foundation, an Islamic educational and social-services organization, circumcisions take place in a prayer center or an emptied-out elementary-school classroom where desks are pushed together and covered with sheets and a pillow to serve as makeshift beds. The procedure takes several minutes. There is little blood involved. Afterward, the girl’s genital area is swabbed with the antiseptic Betadine. She is then helped back into her underwear and returned to a waiting area, where she’s given a small, celebratory gift — some fruit or a donated piece of clothing — and offered a cup of milk for refreshment. She has now joined a quiet majority in Indonesia, where, according to a 2003 study by the Population Council, an international research group, 96 percent of families surveyed reported that their daughters had undergone some form of circumcision by the time they reached 14. These photos were taken in April 2006, at the foundation’s annual mass circumcision, which is free and open to the public and held during the lunar month marking the birth of the prophet Muhammad. The Assalaam Foundation runs several schools and a mosque in Bandung, Indonesia’s third-largest city and the capital of West Java. The photographer Stephanie Sinclair was taken to the circumcision event by a reproductive-health observer from Jakarta and allowed to spend several hours there. Over the course of that Sunday morning, more than 200 girls were circumcised, many of them appearing to be under the age of 5. Meanwhile, in a nearby building, more than 100 boys underwent a traditional circumcision as well. According to Lukman Hakim, the foundation’s chairman of social services, there are three “benefits” to circumcising girls. “One, it will stabilize her libido,” he said through an interpreter. “Two, it will make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband. And three, it will balance her psychology.” Female genital cutting — commonly identified among international human rights groups as female genital mutilation — has been outlawed in 15 African countries. Many industrialized countries also have similar laws. Both France and the U.S. have prosecuted immigrant residents for performing female circumcisions. In Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, a debate over whether to ban female circumcision is in its early stages. The Ministry of Health has issued a decree forbidding medical personnel to practice it, but the decree which has yet to be backed by legislation does not affect traditional circumcisers and birth attendants, who are thought to do most female circumcisions. Many agree that a full ban is unlikely without strong support from the country’s religious leaders. According to the Population Council study, many Indonesians view circumcision for boys and girls as a religious duty. Female circumcision in Indonesia is reported to be less extreme than the kind practiced in other parts of the globe — Africa, particularly. Worldwide, female genital cutting affects up to 140 million women and girls in varying degrees of severity, according to estimates from the World Health Organization. The most common form of female genital cutting, representing about 80 percent of cases around the world, includes the excision of the clitoris and the labia minora. A more extreme version of the practice, known as Pharaonic circumcision or infibulation, accounts for 15 percent of cases globally and involves the removal of all external genitalia and a stitching up of the vaginal opening. Studies have shown that in some parts of Indonesia, female circumcision is more ritualistic — a rite of passage meant to purify the genitals and bestow gender identity on a female child — with a practitioner rubbing turmeric on the genitals or pricking the clitoris once with a needle to draw a symbolic drop of blood. In other instances, the procedure is more invasive, involving what WHO classifies as “Type I” female genital mutilation, defined as excision of the clitoral hood, called the prepuce, with or without incision of the clitoris itself. The Population Council’s 2003 study said that 82 percent of Indonesian mothers who witnessed their daughters’ circumcision reported that it involved “cutting.” The women most often identified the clitoris as the affected body part. The amount of flesh removed, if any, was alternately described by circumcisers as being the size of a quarter-grain of rice, a guava seed, a bean, the tip of a leaf, the head of a needle. At the Assalaam Foundation, traditional circumcisers say they learn the practice from other women during several years of apprenticing. Siti Rukasitta, who has been a circumciser at the foundation for 20 years, said through an interpreter that they use a small pair of sterilized scissors to cut a piece of the clitoral prepuce about the size of a nail clipping. Population Council observers who visited the event before the 2003 study, however, reported that they also witnessed some cases of circumcisers cutting the clitoris itself. Any distinction between injuring the clitoris or the clitoral hood is irrelevant, says Laura Guarenti, an obstetrician and WHO’s medical officer for child and maternal health in Jakarta. “The fact is there is absolutely no medical value in circumcising girls,” she says. “It is 100 percent the wrong thing to be doing.” The circumcision of boys, she adds, has demonstrated health benefits, namely reduced risk of infection and some protection against H.I.V. Nonetheless, as Western awareness of female genital cutting has grown, anthropologists, policy makers and health officials have warned against blindly judging those who practice it, saying that progress is best made by working with local leaders and opinion-makers to gradually shift the public discussion of female circumcision from what it’s believed to bestow upon a girl toward what it takes away. “These mothers believe they are doing something good for their children,” Guarenti, a native of Italy, told me. “For our culture that is not easily understandable. To judge them harshly is to isolate them. You cannot make change that way.” ============= Over hors d’oeuvres, we stumbled into a friendly quarrel over the idea that anyone’s life has ever really been changed by a book or a film. Later, I wanted to talk about Romanian cinema, and while they had a lot to say about the subject, they also wanted to talk about Borat and David Lynch, about Sundance and the Oscars, about Japanese anime and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Fost sau n-a fost? You tell me. Those who have seen “Cold Mountain,” “Borat” or “Seed of Chucky” can claim some acquaintance with Romanian cinema, or at least with movies made in Romania. About 20 miles outside of Bucharest, where newly built suburban developments give way to farmland, is the Castel Film Studio, a vast complex that houses the largest soundstage in Europe, a 200,000-gallon tank for underwater filming and standing sets like city streets, a full-size wingless jet and the mountain hamlet from “Cold Mountain.” But a collection of the movies that arose from harmonious relations between filmmakers and their financiers would consist largely of home videos and vanity projects. After a while, we got up, and Porumboiu offered to show me around the screening rooms. At the box-office entrance, decorated with a “4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days” flier, a guard confronted us and shooed us away. The facilities were closed. Porumboiu tried to explain that he wanted to show them to a guest from New York, but he was rebuffed. We could buy a ticket or rent out a theater, but we couldn’t just walk in and look around. And so we wandered away, to find another place to hang out in this bustling, bedraggled city. It occurred to me that maybe there was no Romanian translation of the sentence “Do you know who I am?” — which would have been the first thing out of an American director’s mouth in a similar situation. Or perhaps this was a double-edged metaphor: maybe in Bucharest, nowadays, a filmmaker with a prize from Cannes is nothing special. When it comes to new waves, the critics who announce (or invent) them have more of an investment than artists, who understandably resist the notion that their individuality might be assimilated into some larger tendency. Ever since the French Nouvelle Vague of the late 1950s and early ’60s, cinephiles have scanned the horizon looking for movement. In Czechoslovakia before 1968, in West Germany and Hollywood in the 1970s, Spain in the 1980s and more recently in Taiwan, Iran and Uzbekistan, the metaphor signaled newness, iconoclasm, a casting off of tradition and a rediscovery of latent possibilities. It also contains an implicit threat of obsolescence, since what crests and crashes ashore is also sure to ebb. Puiu, Porumboiu and Mungiu are sometimes described as minimalists or neo-neorealists. But while their work does show some affinity with that of other contemporary European auteurs, like the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who make art out of the grim facts of quotidian existence Because of the stylistic elements they share — a penchant for long takes and fixed camera positions; a taste for plain lighting and everyday décor; a preference for stories set amid ordinary life — Puiu, Porumboiu and Mungiu are sometimes described as minimalists or neo-neorealists. But while their work does show some affinity with that of other contemporary European auteurs, like the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who make art out of the grim facts of quotidian existence, the realism of the Romanians has some distinct characteristics of its own. It seems like something more than coincidence, for example, that the five features that might constitute a mini-canon of 21st-century Romanian cinema — “Stuff and Dough,” Puiu’s first feature; “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”; “12:08 East of Bucharest”; “The Paper Will Be Blue,” by Radu Muntean; and “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” — all confine their action to a single day and focus on a single action. This is less a matter of Aristotelian discipline than of respect for the contingency and loose-endedness of real experience. In each case, the action is completed — Lazarescu dies; the abortion in “4 Months” is performed; the broadcast in “12:08” comes to an end — but a lingering, haunting sense of inconclusiveness remains. The narratives have a shape, but they seem less like plots abstracted from life than like segments carved out of its rough rhythms. The characters are often in a state of restless, agitated motion, confused about where they are going and what they will find when they arrive. The camera follows them into ambulances, streetcars, armored vehicles and minivans, communicating with unsettling immediacy their anxiety and disorientation. The viewer is denied the luxury of distance. After a while, you feel you are living inside these movies as much as watching them. Both Puiu and Mungiu describe this earlier mode of Romanian cinema as “metaphorical,” and both utter the word with a heavy inflection of disgust. “I wanted to become a filmmaker as a reaction to that kind of cinema,” Mungiu told me. “Nothing like this ever happened in real life. And you got this desire to say: ‘People, you don’t know what you’re talking about. ========== Things That Go Burble in the Night By MATT ZOLLER SEITZ Published: August 17, 2007 The eerie suggestiveness of the French-Romanian fright flick “Them” — an almost-real-time thriller, set in and around a besieged house in the woods — seems less old-fashioned than classical. The movie revels in atmosphere, using long unbroken takes and ambient sound (crickets, wind) to lull you into complacency before unleashing nerve-jangling shocks. And yet even the most frightening moments aren’t as punishingly literal as are those of today’s norm. The directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud have reached past the current splatter-flick fad and cherry-picked devices from Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski and early Steven Spielberg (particularly “Duel” and “Jaws,” two masterworks of strategic concealment). The elliptical editing, plentiful medium-distance compositions and haunted-house sound effects (rustling leaves, snapping twigs) obscure the physical facts of menace and violence. Imagination fills in the blanks. Except for a terrifying prologue in which motorists are fatally stranded on a rural stretch of road, “Them” concentrates on just two characters — young lovers named Clémentine (Olivia Bonamy) and Lucas (Michaël Cohen) who teach at the French Lycée in Bucharest and live in a huge house in a remote forest. The plot is really a glorified situation: one quiet night, for no discernible reason, all hell breaks loose, and the lovers struggle to discover the nature of the attack, fight back as best they can and plot their escape. The fear begins when Clémentine gets a late-night phone call; the noise on the other end sounds like scratchy, mechanical burbling. Then her car moves about 100 meters away from its original parking spot, and when the lovers leave the house to learn what happened, the vehicle drives away, seemingly of its own volition. The power goes out but returns intermittently, ensuring that a goodly share of the film’s tiptoeing-down-a-long-hallway sequences unfold in a disorienting flicker. When Clémentine and Lucas peek outside through the windows, their eyes are seared by what could be either flashlight beams or otherworldly illumination. The vagueness of these descriptions is intentional. “Them” is purportedly based on real events, their nature revealed in a splendid closing shot and elucidated in a final series of title cards. But the movie is scarier if you know nothing about it going in. It has no larger agenda. It’s not an allegory, a satire or a commentary. It’s just a modestly relentless suspense picture that propels its characters through a series of dreamscapes: a haunted house, a spooky forest, a dungeon of sorts. A large part of its effectiveness stems from the initially inscrutable nature of the threat. The first hour of “Them” promises a hyperkinetic cousin to Jack Clayton’s great, underappreciated 1961 ghost story “The Innocents,” an adaptation of Henry James’s “Turn of the Screw.” That movie likewise kept viewers guessing as to whether the heroine was imperiled by mortal or immortal enemies and whether the story’s disturbing incidents were real or conjured (in some sense of the word) by her roiling, repressed emotions. When the filmmakers relent and allow the threat to become visible, it’s a letdown. While ambiguity is box-office poison, you wish that Mr. Moreau and Mr. Palud had held onto it as long as possible. Mystery is the marrow of horror.


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