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28 January 2010


Matins: We can't decide if replacing "short-term" and "long-term" with "situational" and sustainable" is a substantial improvement, but we think that it's worth floating for a while. Thomas Krugman recycles the counsels of ethcist Dov Seidman. (NYT)

No doubt, this is a lousy season to be the leader of any institution. We are in the midst of a long period of austerity, where all that most leaders will be able to do is cut, fire and trim. It is so easy to play populism and run against them. But this time is different. When our government is this deeply involved in propping up our economy, and the economy is this fragile, politics as usual will kill us. We badly need leaders inspired by sustainable values, not situational ones. Without that, we’ll just be digging our hole deeper and making the reckoning, when it comes, that much more ferocious.

Lauds: We're not quite sure that we understand the difference between form and content that Anne Midgette maintains in her complaint that classical-music lovers displace passionate response with too much information.

My concern is that we tend to distance ourselves from the work by buttressing it in a carapace of facts that don’t actually affect our direct reaction to it. And as a result, that reaction gets more primitive. You have two extremes in classical music: on the one hand, the elaborate program note filled with facts and information about the piece, and on the other hand the blunted reaction of the listener after the fact: “it sounds pretty.” “It sounded good to me” -- a reaction that has only to do with form, and very little to do with what the piece actually contains. The idea that music is abstract further dissuades some people from thinking about its content at all (though abstract music has plenty of content).

We think that the "content" of classical music here is what it means to you, the listener. Beyond "it's pretty," that is. We think. We're interested, in any case. (Washington Post; via Arts Journal)

Prime: As if on cue, Felix Salmon experiences cognitive dissonance at Davos.

My feeling is that the US poses at least as much of a risk to the global economy as southern Europe does. There's a good chance that 2010 could be the year of walking away from underwater mortgages; there's no sign of the private sector releveraging; and the government has clearly reached its limit in terms of the degree it can step in and borrow on behalf of the rest of us. If the attempt to prop up the still-overvalued housing market fails and there's another downwards lurch, there will be a whole new wave of bank insolvencies and much less fiscal space to bail them out than there was pre-crisis. And the fact that most delegates here at Davos seem blissfully unconcerned about the possibility of a second nasty lurch downwards doesn't reassure me in the slightest.

Also at Davos: Jonathan Harris.

Tierce: The iPad is here, as expected, and — so what? How is there more to it than the next big whoop-di-doo? Well, if you follow the links in mpbx's entry at MetaFilter, you may begin to get an idea of how.

But the most interesting aspect of the computer may not be the technology, but rather its potential for use in creating and participating in content creation which could revolutionize digital magazines and newspapers

Think: vook. It's only a matter of time before the fun fumes burn off and the serious stuff begins to appear. So far as literature is concerned, we expect some exciting developments in graphic fiction (and graphic non-fiction as well) — and we don't mean animation.

Sext: Brooks Peters's confessional entry at An Open Book is as compulsively readable as blogging gets.

I sat up. My head felt as if someone had hit me with a croquet mallet. I was completely naked. That poor lady, I thought, as I searched frantically for a towel or something else to throw on. She must have thought I was dead, that I’d jumped off the roof and landed down on the terrace, my arms and legs akimbo in a kind of human swastika.

Nones: From the BBC News account, you might almost conclude that this is the end of the story for Manuel Zelaya's truncated leadership in Honduras.

His departure will mark the end of his efforts to return to office after soldiers forced him into exile at gunpoint on 28 June. He returned in secret in September and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy.

But Radio France International's report discloses the stinger that we knew had to be there somewhere:

An angry Zelaya issued a parting shot against the "political persecution" that he said was forcing his departure, accusing Honduran judges in particular of treating him unfairly. He also promised to return at an unspecified date.

Vespers: Brooke Allen's lively and penetrating review of Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness made its first appearance at Barnes and Noble That site is not on our list — yet. Thanks to the NBCC's Critical Mass, we didn't miss it altogether. After Ms Allen's engaging consideration of one story, "Some Women," one doesn't doubt the final paragraph in the slightest.

So Alice Munro, despite the hints she dropped that her previous fiction collection (The View From Castle Rock) would be her last, is still going strong, and still growing and developing. It will be interesting to see what surprises she might have in store for the future.

Compline: Martin Amis likes nothing so much as a good poke at a hornet's nest. Calling for public "euthenasia booths" where the decrepit can end their misery with an ice-cold (and lethal) martini. (Guardian; via Arts Journal)

The author of Time's Arrow and London Fields said in an interview at the weekend that he believes Britain faces a "civil war" between young and old, as a "silver ­tsunami" of increasingly ageing people puts pressure on society.

"They'll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops," he said.

Mr Amis himself is sixty, only two years younger than the editor, so we think we're good. For now.

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