The Daily Blague

Daily Office Archives

Daily Office:


18 February 2010


Matins: The ACLU has brought suit on behalf of a student who was unreasonably detained by TSA operatives simply because he was carrying Arabic-language flash cards ("to smile," "funny," &c). This sort of thing makes us feel that we're in a Laurel & Hardy sketch, but one in which the pratfalls really hurt, and may even be fatal. (Crooks And Liars; via MetaFilter)

Here's the problem: During George's ordeal, no fewer than seven law enforcement officers took part in detaining and questioning him. The unnecessary arrest, detention and questioning of someone who, like George, poses no threat to flight safety, makes everyone less safe by diverting resources away from real threats.

Lauds: We've all seen the tantrum scene from Der Untergang (Downfall) at least half a dozen times, each reiteration spliced to different, highly parodic subtitles. Linda Yablonsky is brave but correct to praise the latest entry, "Hitler Learns MOCA Job Goes to Jeffrey Deitch."

As in politics, it’s only too easy to ridicule contemporary art and the social networks that propel it. Yet one hallmark of the best new art is its nerve. Artists can never be afraid of going too far – nor can satirists. And 334point5 is both. “I think it’s someone who must know me very well,” said Deitch when I asked for his reaction. “I’m delighted that there’s art being made in reaction to my appointment, even before I’ve had a chance to commission any. Everything we do has to have art.” In a perfect world, maybe. Meanwhile, we might as well enjoy it.

The clip is apt in a way that it wouldn't be if, say, it were "Hitler Learns New Yorker job goes to William Shawn."

Prime: Felix Salmon slams the nonsense that is "market reporting."

Are markets worried about Greece? Are they rallying as their worries about Greece ease? The answer is that anthropomorphizing markets in this way is supremely unhelpful. It’s just not often as obviously unhelpful as it was today.

Tierce: At The Infrastructurist, Yonah Freemark reports on the use of robots to clear the floor of the Baltic Sea of mines left over from World War II, in connection with the controversial laying of a natural gas pipeline.

Which is where the robots come in: Bactec International, which works to remove mines in conflict-plagued areas like the Falklands, estimates that there are 150,000 unexploded bombs sitting on the floor of the Baltic Sea, left there by the Russian and German armies in the 1940s. Clearing them all will constitute the biggest commercial mine-clearance project ever. About 70 of these mines, each filled with 300 kg of explosive charge, sit in the pipeline’s path, mostly in its northern section just south of Finland. Once each mine is identified, Bactec will begin a two-day robot operation to ensure the mine’s safe disposal.

Here’s how it will work: A research ship deploys the robot to the seabed, where it identifies the exact location of the explosive. After sounding a warning to surrounding ship traffic, scaring fish away using a small explosive, and then emitting a “seal screamer” of high intensity noises designed to make the area around the blast quite uncomfortable for marine mammals, Bactec’s engineers erupt a 5 kg blast, forcing the mine to detonate. This process ensures the safety of humans plus any animals living in the surrounding environment.

Sext: Maria Popova shares links to six on-line sources of inexpensive artwork. (Brain Pickings)

A relative newcomer on the affordable art scene, Eye Buy Art offers limited-edition fine art photographs by emerging talent from Canada, the UK and the US, priced as low as $25. (The prints, not the photographers — though how great would it be to buy yourself a photographer for a twenty?)

We went right over and bought two photographs by Ryan Schude.

Nones: Slow boats to China are hot right now — and maybe forever. Elisabeth Rosenthal's "Slow Trip Across Sea Aids Profit and Environment." (NYT)

By halving its top cruising speed over the last two years, Maersk cut fuel consumption on major routes by as much as 30 percent, greatly reducing costs. But the company also achieved an equal cut in the ships’ emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The previous focus has been on ‘What will it cost?’ and ‘Get it to me as fast as possible,’ ” said Soren Stig Nielsen, Maersk’s director of environmental sustainability, who noted that the practice began in 2008, when oil prices jumped to $145 a barrel.

“But now there is a third dimension,” he said. “What’s the CO2 footprint?”

Vespers: Garth Risk Hallberg nominates Dave Eggers as the next editor of The Paris Review, and follows it up with a persuasive discussion, placing both the periodical and the writer in a context that has them looking made for each other. (The Millions)

The Paris Review, too, is an institution, but one with a broader mission and a broader potential audience – a place where readers of McSweeney’s, readers of Newsweek, and readers of The New York Review of Books might meet and mingle en masse. And because its appeal is less bound up with youth, it might offer Eggers, now pushing 40, new and different challenges…even as McSweeney’s continued under the able hands that one sort of imagines mostly run it now anyway.

Compline: We've been reading bits and pieces of Lawrence Lessig's "How to Get Our Democracy Back" for so many days now that we didn't think that it could be news (according to Christopher Shea at Brainiac) that the proposal is the "most trafficked" item at The Nation's site in the past six months. In fact, it is dated 3 February, so we have been reading it for ages. But it has begun to sound the ring of a classic declaration.

The source of America's cynicism is not hard to find. Americans despise the inauthentic. Gregory House, of the eponymous TV medical drama, is a hero not because he is nice (he isn't) but because he is true. Tiger Woods is a disappointment not because he is evil (he isn't) but because he proved false. We may want peace and prosperity, but most would settle for simple integrity. Yet the single attribute least attributed to Congress, at least in the minds of the vast majority of Americans, is just that: integrity. And this is because most believe our Congress is a simple pretense. That rather than being, as our framers promised, an institution "dependent on the People," the institution has developed a pathological dependence on campaign cash. The US Congress has become the Fundraising Congress. And it answers--as Republican and Democratic presidents alike have discovered--not to the People, and not even to the president, but increasingly to the relatively small mix of interests that fund the key races that determine which party will be in power.

This is corruption. Not the corruption of bribes, or of any other crime known to Title 18 of the US Code. Instead, it is a corruption of the faith Americans have in this core institution of our democracy. The vast majority of Americans believe money buys results in Congress (88 percent in a recent California poll). And whether that belief is true or not, the damage is the same. The democracy is feigned. A feigned democracy breeds cynicism. Cynicism leads to disengagement. Disengagement leaves the fox guarding the henhouse.

This corruption is not hidden.

Mr Lessig calls for a Constitutional amendment with regard to campaign contributions. We'd prefer to see an amendment that denied corporations "natural person" status.

Permalink  Portico

Copyright (c) 2010 Pourover Press

Write to me