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10 December 2009


Matins: In his review of Tyler Cowen's Create Your Own Economy, Austin Frakt touches on what makes our working day possible. (Incidental Economist; via Marginal Revolution)

Cowen does, as do I. Two simple tools, Google Reader and the iPod, have dramatically changed the nature and volume of information I receive and process. In the course of a day information from over fifty sources is presented to me, organized as I like (within the limits of the tools). In less time than it would take me to fully read a newspaper I am able to grasp the day’s events I care to notice at a deeper level than provided by traditional sources and turn some of this information into new content of my own making (on this blog, on Facebook, Twitter, and so forth), augmented with my own perspective and unique mix of knowledge. My posts are then read by others, a few of whom integrate them into content of their own.

"Over fifty sources"? I should hope so. We're well over a hundred.

Lauds: How Terry Gilliam completed The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus after Heath Ledger's death. It wasn't just technical. (Speakeasy)

His celluloid reveries can be truly dark and ironic, but Gilliam is known to be easy-going and jovial. Except, of course, on the subject of Ledger’s death. “I’ve been with Tony for over thirteen years,” says Ray Cooper, an actor who’s had recurring roles in practically all of Gilliam’s films. “It was the only time he couldn’t speak to anybody. He was beyond grief. He and Heath adored each other. Terry was inconsolable.”

Prime: David Segal's update on the failure to reform the ratings-agency biz in any meaningful way suggests that the conflict has little to do with lobbying (for once) but reveals a clash of visions, between bold (reckless) expers and cautious (ineffective) legislators. (NYT)

The ease with which Moody’s side-stepped provisions of the 2006 law — which also gave the S.E.C. more authority to inspect the agencies, among other measures — has some critics arguing that Washington is now simply pushing a stronger version of old and ineffective medicine. At minimum, much of what is in the House and Senate bills sounds familiar.

Both bills enhance the power of the S.E.C. to supervise the rating agencies and both require the companies to bulk up their compliance teams. The Senate bill allows individuals to sue a rating agency for a “knowing or reckless failure to investigate or to obtain analysis from an independent source.”

Tierce: Bad as "fast food" is, it may be safer than the stuff that the government provides to school cafeterias. (Good)

In a speech earlier this year, President Obama called school lunches "the most nutritious meal" that many school children have in a day. If they're wolfing down a Big Mac in the evening though, that might not be the case, as testing and sampling procedures for assuring that quality beef is getting into our schools are a lot more lax than those required by the fast food industry—by up to an order of magnitude. (The standards in schools are still higher than USDA standards for what hits a grocer's shelf—though the businesses have a financial stake in assuring the safety of their inventory.)

Sext: Does Mo'Nique really want that Best-Supporting-Actress Oscar? She sure sounds new to the Industry. (And the Winner Is...; via Arts Journal)

I guess that my feeling is just different in reference to this campaigning. I’m really trying to understand it. When everybody first started telling me about all of this buzz and everything that’s going on, I said, ‘You know what? Let me talk to my brothers and sisters who’ve been through it, who know what it is.’ Because when they say ‘campaign,’ I’m like, ‘Well, wait a minute. President Barack Obama had to campaign ‘cuz he had something to prove: that he could do it. Well, the performance is on the screen! So at what point am I still trying to prove something?‘”

Nones: The opera buffa in Honduras too a turn for the seriously dramatic on Tuesday, with the assassination General Julian Aristides Gonzalez, the Honduran drug czar. The crime opens a window on our view of the local economy. (BBC News)

On Monday, Gen Aristides had presented a report about drug trafficking through Honduras and voiced concern about the number of landing strips in Honduras that traffickers were using.

Bear in mind that Honduras is primarily a ranching country, with plenty of back forties. Cutoffs of various forms of international aid and cooperation during the Micheletti coup have apparently occasioned a surge in drug-trafficking activity.

Vespers: Christopher Tayler (of the Guardian) visits Sir Frank Kermode on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday. (via The Second Pass)

One beneficial side-effect of his isolation when he first went to Cambridge was his deepening interest in the Bible: with no students to lecture, he read the New Testament in Greek, and "a whole subject opened up". His discussions of the Gospels in The Genesis of Secrecy (1979) were thought for a while to put him in the high-theory camp. Yet his known openness to new ideas gave him increased authority to reprehend lazy or dogmatic new-style critics. What survives of the 80s theory boom, he thinks, "is bits and pieces rather than any whole approach. There are some very able theorists around, and I don't think they should be discouraged. What's wrong, or annoying, is the way that a quite small lexicon of jargon can be acquired, and as long as you can write decently you can get away with anything, no matter how bizarre your ideas."

A modest sun, our Frank is.

Compline: They all laughed... but everybody's looking at Roadtown now. (treehugger; via Good)

"The idea occurred to me to lay the modern skyscraper on its side and run the elevators and the pipes and wires horizontally instead of vertically. Such a house would not be limited by the stresses and strains of steel; it could be built not only a hundred stories, but a thousand stories or a thousand miles....I would take the apartment house and all its conveniences and comforts out among the farms by the aid of wires, pipes and of rapid and noiseless transportation."

Dixit Edgar Chambless in 1910!

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