The Daily Blague

Daily Office Archives

Daily Office:


9 December 2009


Matins: At the Guardian, Ian Buruma considers the Swiss ban on minarets. Like Tyler Cowen, he disapproves of referenda. (So do we.) Beyond that, he finds an interesting an unexpected resentment.

But there has been a price to pay for our newly liberated world. Freedom from faith and tradition has not always led to greater contentment, but, on the contrary, to widespread bewilderment, fear, and resentment. While demonstrations of collective identity have not entirely disappeared, they are largely confined to football stadiums, where celebration (and disappointment) can quickly boil over in violence and resentment.

Populist demagogues blame political, cultural, and commercial elites for the anxieties of the modern world. They are accused, not entirely without reason, of imposing mass immigration, economic crisis, and loss of national identity on ordinary citizens. But if the elites are hated for causing our modern malaise, the Muslims are envied for still having faith, for knowing who they are, for having something that is worth dying for.

Do we really live in a world where those who do not feel that they belong to the elite have a compensating need for something to die for? (via 3 Quarks Daily)

Lauds: Film historian David Thomson hears the penny drop: Method Acting is over. Forget "truth"; let's pretend!

Sean Penn is a steadfast Methodist still, but Johnny Depp, it seems, has an itch to pretend if only people would write comedy for him. The most influential actor in America today is not a man. It's Meryl Streep, whose stress on skill has made her one of the most glorious of pretenders. Method actors take their roles home with them: Once in they can't get out—Vivien Leigh nearly went crazy playing Blanche Du Bois. I'm sure that Ms. Streep feels the other self at home, but no one supposes that she was "doing" Julia Child all the time. She was nimble enough to go from one to the other with professional speed.

Haven't the English been pooh-poohing Method all along? (Wall Street Journal; via Arts Journal)

Prime: Not for the first time, Felix Salmon asks, "Why are bankers so — " Ahem. How Banks Fail at Foreclosure Auctions.

But here’s the thing: the average loss associated with selling a foreclosed home is just that — it’s an average of homes where you lose a little, and homes where you lose a lot. What happens when you start allowing speculators to pick off the best homes at auction? They’re going to buy the 21% of houses where the bank would have lost only a little money (relatively speaking), and leave the bank with the 79% of houses where it’s going to end up losing a lot of money.

The bank then sees its average loss go up, since it no longer takes possession of the good properties to offset the bad. It then determines that this particular property market is even worse than it had thought, and lowers its minimums even further. It’s an outright gift to the speculators, directly from the bank and the owners of the underlying debt.

Okay, we'll ask: why are bankers so lazy?

Tierce: Natalie Angier muses on Kandinsky's circles and the physics of spheres.

In a star, gravity is pulling the mass of gas inward toward a central point, while pressure is pushing the gas outward, and the two competing forces reach a dynamic détente — “simultaneously stable and unstable,” you might say — in the form of a sphere. For a planet like Earth, gravity tugs the mostly molten rock in toward the core, but the rocks and their hostile electrons push back with equal vehemence. Plutoids are also sufficiently massive for gravity to overcome the stubbornness of rock and smooth out their personal lumps, although they may not be the gravitationally dominant bodies in their neighborhood

One thing we don't know: why are eyeballs spherical? (NYT)

Sext: Amy McDaniel presents David Foster Wallace's quick grammar-and-usage test. (htmlgiant; via The Morning News)


With regard to the first question, we quite deliberately flunked that, because we're bucking the convention about each other/one another. We think that conventional use is deaf-headed.

Nones: The European Union's foreign ministers have called for a sort of partition of Jerusalem, allowing to serve as a dual capital of Israel and Palestine. (Most foreign embassies have remained in Tel Aviv.) Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin is all for it. (via BBC News)

LET'S ADMIT it to ourselves, we, as Israelis, don't really care about the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem. Even though they have been under our rule for the past 42 years, we don't treat them as equal parts of the city. They do not receive nearly the same services as Israeli neighborhoods. Their educational system is backward, underfunded, crowded and incapable of filling the needs of the people there. Today, one of Jerusalem's Palestinian neighborhoods, Kafr Akab, is located beyond the separation wall after the Kalandiya checkpoint.

We have to sincerely ask ourselves: Do we really want the Shuafat refugee camp as part of the eternal undivided capital of the State ofIsrael ? To the best of my knowledge we do not chant: If I forget thee Umm Tuba, let my right hand wither, or by the waters of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered thee Jebl Mukaber.

Vespers: Now that we no longer have Susan Sontag to tell us which novels (a) in foreign languages that (b) we've never heard of we ought to read, Quarterly Conversation is there to inspire translations.

So, to acknowledge all that’s out there, to inspire readers to thirst for more literature not originally written in English, and to do a service for those publishers in search of the next great translated book, we offer this collection of recommendations.

We’ve talked to some of the top translators into English working today; we’ve talked to publishers big and small; we’ve talked to agents, journalists, and foreign-language authors. We’ve asked them all for the best books that still aren’t in English. And have they responded. They’ve told us TRANSLATE THIS BOOK!, and now we pass that on to you.

We know that we weren't supposed to, really, but we went ahead and ordered a copy of My Mercedes Is Not For Sale, a book that, thanks to coincidence, effectively blocked the translation of the "more elegant" The Explosion of the Radiator Hose.

Compline: We like to suggest that everyone ought to be upper class — we don't really mean it as a joke. Now Adam Waytz explains why this is so.

The sum of these findings can begin to explain the troubled circumstances of those lowest in status.  Ongoing efforts to maintain a positive view of oneself despite economic and social hardships can engage psychological defense mechanisms that are ultimately self-defeating.  Instead of ingratiating themselves to those around them – this is the successful strategy for status attainment - low-status individuals may be more prone to bullying and hostile behavior, especially when provoked.  Research identifying factors that lead to successful status-seeking provides some optimism, though.  Individuals capable of signaling their worth to others rather than being preoccupied with signaling their worth to themselves may be able to break the self-defeating cycle of low-status behavior.

It isn't poverty that makes people touchy. It's disrespect. But then, didn't we know that? (Mind Matters; via The Frontal Cortex)

Permalink  Portico

Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

Write to me