The Daily Blague

Daily Office Archives

Daily Office:


26 November 2009


Matins: Kenneth Davis writes about the first Thanksgiving to be given on land that would one day be part of the United States — by Huguenots in Florida. Their base, Fort Caroline (named after Charles IX), did not last very long; nor did they: the Spanish eradicated everything in 1565.

Starting with those massacred French pilgrims, the saga of the nation’s birth and growth is often a bloodstained one, filled with religious animosities. In Boston, for instance, the Puritan fathers banned Catholic priests and executed several Quakers between 1659 and 1661. Cotton Mather, the famed Puritan cleric, led the war cries against New England’s Abenaki “savages” who had learned their prayers from the French Jesuits. The colony of Georgia was established in 1732 as a buffer between the Protestant English colonies and the Spanish missions of Florida; its original charter banned Catholics. The bitter rivalry between Catholic France and Protestant England carried on for most of a century, giving rise to anti-Catholic laws, while a mistrust of Canada’s French Catholics helped fire many patriots’ passion for independence. As late as 1844, Philadelphia’s anti-Catholic “Bible Riots” took the lives of more than a dozen people.

This litany exhorts us to regard Thanksgiving not as the commemoration of a hallowed past but as a celebration of how far we have come from our dark origins — and a reminder of how far we have yet to go. (NYT)

Lauds: Charis Wilson, Edward Weston's most notable muse (and his only "art wife"), died last Friday in Santa Cruz, aged 95. (Los Angeles Times; via Arts Journal)

Soon after they met in Carmel in 1934, she began to pour her writing talents into advancing his career. Along with editing his articles for Camera Craft magazine, she wrote some of them under his name, she recalled in her memoir. "My goal was to make the articles sound exactly like Edward Weston," Wilson wrote.

"She did write under his name," Ollman confirmed. "It was easy for her and slavishly hard for him."

Wilson also managed Weston's studio, captioned and cataloged his negatives and kept up his business correspondence. In 1936, she helped him write an application for a Guggenheim fellowship, expanding on his brief statement to make it a five-page presentation. He won a Guggenheim in 1937, the first one ever granted to an art photographer. It was renewed for a second year in 1938.

As it happens, we've been reading about Charis Wilson in Francine Prose's The Lives of the Muses. Great reading!

Prime: We're not terribly interested in the recent privatization of Chicago's parking meters — or, rather, we weren't until Felix Salmon decided to look into the matter. His conclusion: the city didn't do too badly, and the contractors are idiots. The detail worth noting is that what Chicago's alderman wanted, of course, was to raise parking meter prices without being accountable.

The only way of baking in these price hikes was for the city government to tie its own hands — which is exactly what it did. And more broadly, it’s possible that the only way it could tie its hands in this manner was precisely by pushing the bill through in a rushed and bullying manner. (It’s not the first time that’s happened in Chicago, and it won’t be the last: it’s called politics.) Maybe doing the deal in this way was the only way a deal could be done at all.

The tying of hands is the opposite of leadership. That's what Chicagoans ought to be complaining about.

Tierce: The Aesthete unearths the strange figure of George Sebastian, an adventurer who married American money and used it to builid Dar Sebastian, still a breathtaking edifice in Hammamet, Tunisia. (An Aesthete's Lament)

The Sebastians divorced in the mid 1930s. In 1937 Flora married Eric Dunstan, a British film critic and journalist known as the "Golden Voice of Radio"; she died two years later, leaving him her considerable fortune. George stayed on at Dar Sebastian, presumably content with his divorce settlement, and there he reigned as the undisputed leader of Tunisian society's array of European expatriates and seasonal socialites, a group one writer described as a "collection of international oddities settled down on the African shore to do some rather elaborate sinning." His beloved Dar Sebastian, however, was requisitioned by Nazi forces during World War II and hosted the presence of General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, a Nazi officer known as "The Desert Fox." After the war, Sebastian returned to his post as Dar Sebastian's chatelain and ultimately sold the house to the Tunisian government in 1962. When he died is anybody's guess.

Where is Paul Bowles when you need him?

Sext: We love a good prank as much as anybody — probably more, as long as we're not the victim — and so we're rejoicing at the news that The Awl now has a whole department devoted to reviewing "pranks and their aftermaths." Okay, they have Juli Weiner, who we hope is still enrolled in a good college.

We weren't able to come to a consensus about whether it would be funnier to supply actual facts or realistic-seeming lies, so we just put down both. "His education: Graduated from Upper Dublin High School in 2006, will receive a B.F.A. in studio art with a concentration in ceramics from New York University in 2010." (True, false, false, true!) For "his employment (company, location and title or position)" we put: "He had sold a number of clay pieces in New York City to private buyers and is hoping to one day be signed to a gallery." (False, false, false!) For the photo, Asa's mom volunteered to let me wear her wedding ring and let Dan borrow her hairbrush.

Nones: William Finnegan's New Yorker excellent report on the situation in Honduras is not, sadly, online, although an abstract is available. For regular readers who have been following the matter here, there is little substantially new in the piece, and in fact we were gratified to read that coup leader Roberto Michelletti, in television appearances, "tends to glower, and speak from the side of his mouth, like Dick Cheney." However, we hadn't encountered anything like Mr Finnegan's thumbnail of the constitution that ousted president "Mel" Zelaya wants to replace.

The Honduran constitution, which was produced under the last military government, is seen as a prime obstacle to political reform: the executive branch is weak; the Army has extraordinary responsibilities; faulty reasoning and contradictions abound. (Oscar Arias, the Costa Rican President and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has described the Honduran constitution as "the worst in the world.")

Vespers: We've read Lauren Elkin's review of Jeremy Davies's Rose Alley several times now, and while we're not certain that we want to read the novel, we're intrigued by Ms Elkin's account of it. (The Second Pass)

The novel is structured as a trip into the archives of the film, decades later, compiled and catalogued by an unidentified narrator. You read it as if you’ve found a scrapbook of people you don’t know. (This involves a lot of rereading and cross-checking to make sure you’ve got everyone straight in your head; Davies has anticipated this, and has helpfully provided an index.) One by one, Davies trains his lens on the producer, director, leading lady, screenwriter, and assorted members of the cast and crew, zooming in tightly to look for the wrinkles and pockmarks, and just as the frame clicks into focus — just as we think we have a handle on this terribly strange and specific character — we cut to someone else.

Compline: Maria Popova (of Brain Pickings) takes "a look at what the Intenet is doing for learning, curiosity, and creativity outside the classroom." There's a lot about TED, which appears to be better understood in Europe than it is here. (Good)

In my own experience, I can frankly admit that the first month of watching TED gave me more knowledge,  insight, and inspiration than all four years of the glorified status symbol that is Ivy League education. Which says something about traditional academia’s continued failure to compel, but mostly about the power of neo-education to do so. This paradigm shift is redefining both our relationship with education and our conception of “free”—tuition-free freedom of access and choice, an empowered self-guided tour of knowledge, validated not by a framed diploma but by something far more meaningful: The gratification of having pursued and explored our deepest intellectual curiosity.

To see how traditional education appears on the Internet, have a look at the Syllabus of Dr E L Skip Knox's fully online course, sponsored by Boise State University, in HIST101 — The History of Western Civilization (via MetaFilter).

Permalink  Portico

Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

Write to me