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29 January 2010


Matins: Can we call this "gesture substitution": Vijay Anand has discovered a way to fight corruption. Instead of resisting or cooperating with demands for bribes, people use his zero-rupee notes to "pay" crooked officials. (CommGAP; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Anand explained that a number of factors contribute to the success of the zero rupee notes in fighting corruption in India. First, bribery is a crime in India punishable with jail time. Corrupt officials seldom encounter resistance by ordinary people that they become scared when people have the courage to show their zero rupee notes, effectively making a strong statement condemning bribery. In addition, officials want to keep their jobs and are fearful about setting off disciplinary proceedings, not to mention risking going to jail. More importantly, Anand believes that the success of the notes lies in the willingness of the people to use them. People are willing to stand up against the practice that has become so commonplace because they are no longer afraid: first, they have nothing to lose, and secondly, they know that this initiative is being backed up by an organization—that is, they are not alone in this fight.

Lauds: Here's a good one: the directors of the art museums in the homes of the Super Bowl contenders have made a bet: either Turner's The Fifth Plague of Egypt will go to New Orleans, or Claude Lorrain's Ideal View of Tivoli will go to Indianapolis, depending upon whether the Saints or the Colts win the Super Bowl. (Speakeasy)

The idea for the wager was spurred by arts blogger Tyler Green, who earlier this week tweeted and wrote on his Modern Art Notes blog that the two should make a bet on the Super Bowl. Anderson took the bait right away. “I thought it was a great way to get people who follow sports but don’t necessarily consider arts at the top of their agenda to pay attention,” he tells Speakeasy.

Naturally, both museums are convinced that they won’t need to bust out the packing materials and spackle come Super Bowl Sunday. Anderson says he’s already spoken with his curator of early European Art and determined where the Claude Lorrain painting will hang. “We’re in full battle cry, preparing for the glorious arrival,” he says.

Bullard says New Orleans is looking forward to the potential loan. “We’re the magic team this year,” says Bullard of the Saints. “I’m absolutely confident.”

Prime: We're hoping to see some hard-ball analysis of AT&T's quarterly earnings report, which claimed a boost of 26%. Here in New York City, where new iPhones are not being sold at the moment, because AT&T's network is inadequate to existing demand, the company's good news strikes a dissonant note.

AT&T is the sole United States carrier for Apple’s iPhone. The companies have not said how long their contract lasts, but Apple appeared to reaffirm its commitment to AT&T on Wednesday, when it announced that AT&T will be the sole United States data provider for its new tablet-style computer, the iPad.

Christopher King, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, said it was unclear what motivated Apple to stay with AT&T, whose network is straining under the load of iPhone traffic in some places. Mr. King said the decision did not necessarily preclude the possibility that the iPhone could come out with another carrier, including Verizon Wireless, later in the year.

One wonders where the nation's anti-trust watchdogs have been. It would appear that we've seen a classic case of the disadvantages (to consumers) of monopolies. Free-marketeers might argue that it would be in Apple's interest to force AT&T to make improvements, but accordingly to anecdotal evidence, nobody close to Steve Jobs cares very much what happens on the East Coast. (NYT)

Tierce: Habitats by the (cubic) foot: Maria Popova writes about One Cubic Foot. (Brain Pickings)

Armed with a 12-inch cube, a green metal frame, and a team of assistants and biologists, Liittschwager set out to probe five sharply different environments — water and land, from New York’s temperate Central Park to a tropical forest in Costa Rica — putting down the cube in each, then waiting patiently, counting and photographing all the creatures that lived or crossed that space, down to those about a millimeter in size.

Sext: Choire Sicha explains "mansplainin," with the help of a few good women. (The Awl)

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Internet? A woman wrote about mansplaining. This, as you know if you are a woman, is when a man explains reality to you in a way that is intended to overrule what you very clearly know is actual reality, or to tell you things you have already said, or to tell you that what you are doing right is wrong.

Nones: The LRB's Asia correspondent, Joshua Kurlantzick, suggests that the Malaysian government, in an attempt to win back the support of ethnic Malays, may be playing with matches.

Pressed by a more vocal and united opposition, which for the first time in Malaysian history threatens the ruling coalition’s stranglehold, the government has made a fateful decision to more or less allow the race card out in public. It has pushed the idea of Malay dominance – ketuanan Melayu – by supporting a creeping Islamicisation, with religion standing in for race: nearly all the Muslims in the country are ethnic Malays, and most non-Malays are Christian, Buddhist  or Hindu. The government normally cracks down hard on any political gathering of more than five people, but it’s shown a notably light hand on Malay protests against non-Muslims. Police have begun taking a tougher line enforcing Islamic morals, arresting people for drinking and unmarried couples for sharing hotel rooms.

Vespers: Bookmark this: Timothy Egan's provides a handy snap of the state of play in bookland at the dawn of the iPad, particularly with regard to two currently roiling issues: bookstores and royalties. Prognostications are widely avoided, and Mr Egan concludes on the wisest of notes. (NYT)

In the end, whether books come on clay or wrapped in vellum, whether they are as ornately illustrated as “The Book of Kells,” or as plain as a city directory, I have to place my trust in readers. Tactile readers, e-readers: Save us all! Never give up on the power of the written word, no matter the form, and hold its gatekeepers accountable.

Whether books flourish the future, textbooks are probably doomed. (VentureBeat; via Marginal Revolution)

Compline: Louis Auchincloss's death marks, as Henry James would say, an era; but Louis himself would be the first to pooh-pooh talk of nostalgic backward glances.

Even near the end of his life, Mr. Auchincloss said the influence of his class had not waned. “I grew up in the 1920s and 1930s in a nouveau riche world, where money was spent wildly, and I’m still living in one!,” he told The Financial Times in 2007. “The private schools are all jammed with long waiting lists; the clubs — all the old clubs — are jammed with long waiting lists today; the harbors are clogged with yachts; there has never been a more material society than the one we live in today.”

“Where is this ‘vanished world’ they talk about?” he asked. “I don’t think the critics have looked out the window!”

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