The Daily Blague

Daily Office Archives

Daily Office:


9 February 2010


Matins: "Well, America is not yet lost. But the Senate is working on it." Paul Krugman in the Times.

The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government. Senators themselves should recognize this fact and push through changes in those rules, including eliminating or at least limiting the filibuster. This is something they could and should do, by majority vote, on the first day of the next Senate session.

Don’t hold your breath. As it is, Democrats don’t even seem able to score political points by highlighting their opponents’ obstructionism.

It wouldn't be a bad thing if the Democrats could simply cohere in both Houses. But we discern an awful equivalence in American politics: only the intellectually challenged have any respect for leadership.

Lauds: Morgan Mies is inspired by the Bronzino exhibit at the Museum to ask what, if anything, was "lost" when the "Renaissance" shaded into "Mannerism." (The Smart Set; via 3 Quarks Daily)

There's a drawing by Bronzino called “Standing Nude” (ca. 1541–42). I think of it as Mannerism's response to Leonardo's famous sketch of the "Vitruvian Man," meant to emphasize the Golden Ratio. Leonardo's drawing has come to symbolize the classical humanism of the High Renaissance. Bronzino's “Standing Nude” tells another side of the story, no pun intended. He's a swishy guy, that nude, holding his hat just so. He isn't trying very hard to live up to the Golden Ratio or anything else, he's just living. For all of Leonardo's brilliance, for all of his studies in the sciences hard and soft, you aren't going to find anything in his corpus that captures the mood of Bronzino's drawing.

Indeed, one almost wants to say that Leonardo's words have been made flesh.

Prime: Felix Salmon considers a strange development: did the exemplum of Giacometti's Walking Man break auction records because it's not unique?

The previous work to hold the record for most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction was the Guennol Lioness, which sold for $57 million in 2007, despite being only three inches tall. It’s much more unique than the Giacometti, and can reasonably be described as “the greatest sculpture on Earth” by Sotheby’s auctioneer Richard Keresy; no one is likely to say that about cast 2/6 of the Walking Man. But the Giacometti, largely by dint of its existence in ten different places around the world, is a cultural icon in the way that the lioness never could be.

Every so often, people ask me why I allow my work to be reprinted on Seeking Alpha without them paying me — or Reuters — any money. And I think the answer might lie here: the more you replicate something, the more valuable it becomes. And not just in aggregate, either.

We forgive Mr Salmon, just this once, for "much more unique."

Tierce: DIY sperm count tests: a good idea? A "lab-on-a-chip" has been developed that would permit men to diagnose themselves at home. But that's just the problem: It's one thing to know what the device finds. It's quite another to provide the interpretation that's implicit in a diagnosis.

"Even if the technology is ready for the marketplace," says Morgan, "whether society is ready to use it is an issue."


Sext: With contributions from Seth Colter Walls and the inimitable Mr Wrong, The Awl outdoes itself in Super Bowl disdain. Mr Colter:

At any rate: if you like football and are really interested in the Super Bowl's outcome, then you don't need me to tell you to have watched it, no matter your politics. Enjoy the shit out of it! But if you only watch the Super Bowl because everyone else watches it and you feel like you ought to watch it, too, allow me to suggest that, next year, you give it a rest. If your interests have to do with anything other than sports or celebrities, at least know that the same courtesy of mass-interestedness will never be extended in your direction during peak moments of excitement related to whatever it is you care most about.

Meantime, there's no need to inflate the numbers of Super Bowl watchers–and no urgency to make its ad time all the more lucrative for the proponents of cheap chauvinism to trade in on–unless you really want to be there. Personally, while I'm quite content to pay higher taxes in New York so that the rural dudes I grew up with can have some sort of subsidized health care available to them while they are increasingly out of work, I confess I'm somewhat weary of simultaneously having to listen to cultural products aimed at my male cohort proffer the casual suggestion that I simply must be a sissified queer for paying attention to a girl instead of that game where a bunch of dudes play grab-ass. Just saying.

Joe MacLeod (Mr Wrong):

There will also be some sorta "marathon" of something that is Specifically Designed To Interest people who Do Not Want or even Understand or even Want To Understand what is: Super Bowl. There's even Church and stuff for a lot of people, and Video Games and Movie Theaters, and Shopping, and all this shit is just like, the Loyal Opposition, because it's all effecting an extra kick in the be-hind to The Economies, Stimulus-wise, on account of the magnetic/repulsion effect of Super Bowl. Hey, you could even purchase and read one of those Electronic-Kindling books while you watch Super Bowl! Arrrooo! Plus: One Nation Under Snacks. I'm gonna make two kinds of chili. There's lotsa Bowl jokes around Super Bowl time.

Sometimes we wonder if Fafblog used to read Mr MacLeod to sleep at bedtime.

Nones: And the pendulum swings back: Viktor Yanukovych, thrown out by voters in 2004, has had the pleasure of seeing his successor, Yulia Tymoshenko, given the same treatment. BBC News:

Under the 59-year-old former mechanic, Ukraine's foreign policy is expected to become more pro-Russian.

Our correspondent says a Yanukovych win would be an extraordinary indictment of the pro-Western Orange Revolution leaders' failure to deliver on their promises, which has left people deeply disillusioned.

Politics in Ukraine has now gone full circle, our correspondent adds.

Be sure to have a look at the bottom of the page. The pink and red parts, which voted for Ms Tymoshenko, constitute, roughly, Ukraine proper, so to speak. The blue portions are regions conquered by Russia in the Eighteenth Century. Does this bifurcated polity make sense?

Vespers: A young person of the Gen M^2 persuasion finds that he can break his compulsive reading habit by hanging out the Harvard COOP. What, read books? (The Millions)

Mine is the generation of the Kindle – er, iPad. Apart from the little remaining sentiment felt for the hard copy, we are inexorably moving entirely online. And as for those last remnants of nostalgia, our inherent resistance to change? They are the life support to which current print media clings. The problem is, sooner rather than later, the support will wither, wane, and expire as the online revolution – one which I experienced on a Cambridge summer day at the Coop, one which lives each time a teen types a text message – tweets on.

We do not despair. Young people have always done odd things.

Compline: Charles Petersen's meditation on Facebook — a very well informed meditation, to be sure, but, still, meditation is what it is — must be read by anyone, anyone, who is reading this. The thrust of the carefully-wrought piece is not so much about how Facebook has changed the world as it is about what the world has learned from living with — and shaping — Facebook. The final paragraph ought to be memorized, if only because that's the easiest way of lodging a solid understanding of what it has to say in the mind. 

It's true that Facebook can lead to a false sense of connection to faraway friends, since few members post about the true difficulties of their lives. But most of us still know, despite Facebook's abuse of what should be the holiest word in the language, that a News Feed full of constantly updating "friends," like a room full of chattering people, is no substitute for a conversation. Indeed, so much of what has made Facebook worthwhile comes from the site's provisions for both hiding and sharing. It is not hard to draw the conclusion that some things shouldn't be "shared" at all, but rather said, whether through e-mail, instant message, text message, Facebook's own "private message" system, or over the phone, or with a cup of coffee, or beside a pitcher of beer. All of these "technologies," however laconic or verbose, can express an intimacy reserved for one alone.

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