Cyborgs, Digital Sabbaths, and Super Sad True Love

Spark

(Spark 120): Gary Shteyngart's new novel is called Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel, and it's been getting great reviews and making waves since it hit the bookshelves back in July. It tells the story of Lenny, a 39 year-old worried about his looks and health in a relentlessly youth-oriented culture, who falls hard for 24 year-old Eunice Park. They fall in love in a near-future New York, where the wealthy get nano-technology treatments to avoid aging, the US economy has collapsed and is tottering under war, class struggle, and a one- party state. And, it's a comedy, with lots of satirical, dystopian, and hilarious things to say about contemporary techno-culture. Ever thought of just taking a break from the constant stream of Twitter updates, emails, news feeds, and texts? Like, really really take a break and turning off all your gadgets and living tech-free for a full day. It's an idea that's come up a lot lately, as more people find the benefits behind unplugging. There are websites like Offlining.com dedicated to promoting the idea of taking "Offline Sabbath" days, or planning "No-device dinners" one day a week. Peter Rukavina has a new e-book reader. No, it's not an iPad, or a Kindle. It's not a Kobo, or a Sony Reader. Rather, Peter's new ebook reader is a human being named Shawn, who prints out Peter's books on paper. Nora spoke with Peter about combining the best of ebooks and the best of printed books. If you're like us, as you're walking around a typical downtown street in North America, you'll notice Cyborgs, everywhere! People with cell phones constantly attached to their ears, or with iPads that tell them exactly where they are and navigating where they're going next. Or what about people with pacemakers, or hearing aids or eyeglasses? All examples of the fusion of the human and the technological. Turns out the term 'cyborg' goes back to the days of the Space Race. And this month--September 2010--is the 50th anniversary of the coining of the term Cyborg! Nora speaks with Tim Maly, who writes and edits Quiet Babylon, a website about cyborgs and architects. Freelance journalist Sarah Bridge brings Spark a look at the intersection of medical technology and the deeply emotional experiences it can bring. In Sarah Bridge's family, an incredibly high number of women have had breast cancer -- four out of five of her grandfather's sisters, for example. And in her mother's generation, the disease continues to spread. As medical technology has advanced, tests for a genetic predisposition have become possible. But these tests have opened a pandora's box of questions for the women in Sarah's family.

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