The Daily Blague


Daily Office:
Wednesday, 4 November 2009


Matins: Manisha Verma's essay on Jon Stewart's effectiveness as a de-fogger suggests that Comedy Central may have discovered the cure for television.

After McCaughey's Daily Show appearance, James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly described her role in the healthcare debate as: "She has brought more misinformation, more often, more destructively into America's consideration of health-policy issues than any other individual. She has no concept of "truth" or "accuracy" in the normal senses of those terms, as demonstrated when she went on The Daily Show. Betsy resigned from the board of directors of Cantel Medical Corporation the next day.

Mr Stewart's secret appears to be an ability to engage his guests in conversations that gently satirize conventional interviews. Nothing speaks truth to power as strongly as successful satire. (3 Quarks Daily; via The Morning News)

Lauds: The sale of the Lehman Brothers art collection, although it brought in twice the projected total, demonstrates the wishful thinking behind much art investing. Quite aside from the fact that Lehman was not in the business of purchasing artworks in order to profit from their resale (as indeed it was supposed to be doing with its other investments), the proceeds of the sale are but a drop in the bucket of Lehman's bankruptcy — $1.35 million as against $250 billion.

And yet! Who would have thought that provenance would mean much of anything — or that, if it did, the impact would be positive?

“The Lehman name has been having a greater effect than anyone expected,” said Kelly Wright, a New Hampshire-based art and antiques appraiser who consulted with the Lehman estate on the sale. Wright estimated that a quarter of the sale’s audience was affiliated with Lehman in some way.

We don't believe that corporations and other artificial persons ought to own any intellectual property, including the art that they hang on the wallpaper. They ought to lease it. (Bloomberg; via Arts Journal)

Prime: Steve Tobak doesn't buy the theory, advanced by The Daily News, that Galleon-Scandal insiders Hector Ruiz and Bob Moffit were lured to their doom by a comely lass called Danielle Chiesi — but that's only because he doesn't think that she's much of a "cheerleader."

This leaves him with a whopping "why?"

According to a Wall Street Journal report, wiretaps revealed that Moffat told Chiesi about AMD’s turnaround plans and that IBM’s earnings would be better than expected. He also allegedly revealed that Sun’s revenue and earnings would beat expectations (IBM was considering acquiring Sun). 

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Ruiz revealed to Chiesi details and timing of AMD’s upcoming restructuring and spinoff of Globalfoundries, including statements like “you know, we’re going to shock the hell out of everybody.”

What do you think? (The Corner Office)

Tierce: Michael Williams looks back to the days when he delivered firewood on autumn weekends. (A Continuous Lean)

All of the wood would have to be counted, twice. We would load the truck and count every piece, planning for however many deliveries we had. Many times we would have to come back to the yard and reload several times on a busy Saturday. Then, when back at the delivery spot we would have to count each piece again as we unloaded. This made it difficult to bullshit with your coworker, because you would lose count and that was a major pain in the ass. But the work was good and you were your own boss. Once the wood was all delivered you were done and it was easy to see the progress and gain a sense of accomplishment. That is the real beauty of manual labor — you have a job to do for the day and when it is done, so are you. Every fall I remember those firewood delivery days fondly.

Sext: Meanwhile, Choire Sicha takes his lorgnette (or is a loupe?) to a new line from Michael Bastian that Michael Williams probably won't be covering: Homeless Chic. $525 just for long underwear! (The Awl)

Nones: The man who helped to take "primitive people" off the map, Claude Lévi-Strauss, died on Friday. From Edward Rothstein's obituary (NYT):

The accepted view held that primitive societies were intellectually unimaginative and temperamentally irrational, basing their approaches to life and religion on the satisfaction of urgent needs for food, clothing and shelter.

Mr. Lévi-Strauss rescued his subjects from this limited perspective. Beginning with the Caduveo and Bororo tribes in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, where he did his first and primary fieldwork, he found among them a dogged quest not just to satisfy material needs but also to understand origins, a sophisticated logic that governed even the most bizarre myths, and an implicit sense of order and design, even among tribes who practiced ruthless warfare.

Vespers: A long appreciation of Cheever's Journals from Geoff Dyer — a writer of very similar lyrical gifts. Mr Dyer persuasively ties Cheever's craftsmanship as a published writer to his repressed homosexuality, and sees both as prisons.

Cheever, then, was wrong to talk about his talent being "confined"; but it is entirely appropriate that this was a word to which he insistently returned. As he explained in 1976, the novel Falconer did not come from his experience of prison but from the myriad different kinds of confinement he had experienced "as a man". What he does not say – how could he? – was that the forms in which he gave dramatic expression to this sense could be enlarged manifestations of confinement, that the hard-won craftsmanship that stood him in good stead at the New Yorker worked against his being able to plumb the complex depths of his being. Only in the shapeless privacy of his journal could he do that. If he was "writing narrative prose" Cheever believed that "every line cannot be a cry from the heart". So he stopped crying. In the journals, meanwhile, he wept "gin tears, whiskey tears, tears of plain salt" and stopped worrying about narrative. The irony is that, while he was instinctively hostile to the splurging of "the California poets", his own best writing would derive from a sustained 40-year word-binge with no thought of form or – at least until very near the end – of publication. A further irony follows: the consummate craftsman ended up being reliant on the posthumous intervention of an editor to turn this repetitive mass of bellyaching, "booze-fighting" and self-lament into a book with immense narrative power. This power derives from three, closely intertwined sources.

We would still take the Collected Stories over the Journals any day. (Guardian; via Critical Mass)

Compline: Nick Paumgarten advises us to abandon our hopes for multitasking, which "doesn't work. You just perform each task less efficiently." Not that he's optimistic:

The cops in New York staged a one-day crackdown recently, which resulted in more than seven thousand summonses but probably little in the way of changed behavior. Good intentions and police action may be no match for the encroachments of gadgetry and wirelessness. Life is and always has been full of distractions, yes; it may be that life itself is a distraction—from death. But our attention flits and wanders as never before. The consequences, outside the cockpit and the driver’s seat, are as yet unclear. In August, a burglar in West Virginia broke into a house and stole some diamonds, but before fleeing the scene he decided to check his Facebook page. He forgot to log off. The victim discovered it on her computer when she got home.

We have always been too clumsy to maintain even the illusion of effective multitasking. Our attention, moreover, is magnetically susceptible to anything genuinely interesting, no matter how ill-timed its appearance on the scene. (The New Yorker)

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