The Daily Blague

Daily Office Archives

Daily Office:


2 March 2010


Matins: Peggy Nelson outlines the End of the Etiquette of the Individual in the Beginning of the Etiquette of the Flow. Or, in our view, the Apotheosis of ADD. (Hilobrow)

We’re beginning to inhabit ad hoc, overlapping, always-on virtual salons—you’re talking to someone, and then you both get pulled off into different directions, to form different shapes and vectors within the conversations, and then come together again, having never really been apart. You can even have multiple conversations via multiple media with the same person at one time. Single conversations are one-dimensional chess. Once you master multiplicity, who’s to say how far you will go? Correction: how far we will go. For we will all go together, wherever it is that we are going.

We're, oddly, not very concerned.

Lauds: Yale Art Dean Robert Storr had a good time at the Kunsthaus Graz last year, but by and large he is horrified by "Death Star" contemporary art museums. (Frieze, via The Morning News)

One would be tempted to say that the contemporary museum is a machine for ‘slipping glimpses’ – to misappropriate Willem de Kooning’s famous description of his painting, while noting that the essence of appreciating his work consists in looking hard and long at what he captured in a blink of the eye and the flick of a wrist. But, in truth, the mechanisms in play are horridly like those of a sci-fi monster that ingests people in great gulps, pumps them peristaltically through its digestive tract in a semi-delirious state, and then flushes them out the other end with their pockets lighter and with almost no memory of their ‘museum experience’ other than a mild anaesthetic hangover. In short, one leaves the halls of culture much as one does a colonoscopy clinic.

Goodness, what a comparison! I'm happy to say that no museum has yet left me cramped and gassy.

Prime: At FiveThirtyEight, Hale Stewart piles on a lot of numbers showing that the American economy has not given up manufacturing. The plethora of graphs is worth the wade. What we're losing jobs to is not foreign factories but domestic productivity. (But maybe you knew that.) (via Abnormal Returns)

In conclusion, the data appear to show that the real factor in goods job creation (or loss) is the relationship between productivity and production, which unfortunately leaves little room for protectionism (even sans the trade war implications that would create), as unless productivity falls precipitously we would see no net job creation from any such endeavor.

And just so we don't define this as a US problem, I will direct you to a conference board study that highlights China's loss of manufacturing jobs to productivity too.

Tierce: While readers are busy digesting Jonah Lehrer's piece on depression in the Times Magazine — and his response to early criticism — we fastened on his contribution to a blog about insomnia, which ends with the following horrible conundrum, all too familiar to the Editor. (Frontal Cortex)

One of the paradoxical implications of this research is that reading this article probably made your insomnia worse. So did that Ambien advertisement on television, or the brief conversation you had with a friend about lying awake in bed, or that newspaper article about the mental benefits of R.E.M. sleep. Because insomnia is triggered, at least in part, by anxiety about insomnia, the worst thing we can do is think about not being able to sleep; the diagnosis exacerbates the disease. And that's why this frustrating condition will never have a perfect medical cure. Insomnia is ultimately a side-effect of our consciousness, the price we pay for being so incessantly self-aware. It is, perhaps, the quintessential human frailty, a reminder that the Promethean talent of the human mind -- this strange ability to think about itself -- is both a blessing and a burden.

Sext: How to grow a beard. At BYU, that is. (Cynical-C Blog; via Marginal Revolution)

The doctor will fax his recommendation. The student then needs to come to the Honor Code Office to fill out some paperwork and receive the letter allowing the growth of the beard, if approved. If a yearly beard exception is granted, a new Student ID will be issued after the beard has been fully grown, and must be renewed every year by repeating the process.

Nones: Here's hoping that a Tennessee's judge's grant of political asylum — to a German couple that want to home-school their children, illegal in their native Germany — is overturned by a higher court. (NYT)

In a harshly worded decision, the judge, Lawrence O. Burman, denounced the German policy, calling it “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” and expressed shock at the heavy fines and other penalties the government has levied on home-schooling parents, including taking custody of their children.

Describing home-schoolers as a distinct group of people who have a “principled opposition to government policy,” he ruled that the Romeikes would face persecution both because of their religious beliefs and because they were “members of a particular social group,” two standards for granting asylum.

We could not disagree more heartily. Bad as schools are (and they're terribly), home-schooling is unconscionable.

Vespers: John Self likes The Unnamed more than he thought he would.

Ferris’s approach, to settle a seemingly allegorical story in a grounded reality, makes for a strange and uneven book.  He spends a good deal of time dealing with the implausibility of Tim’s condition, addressing presumed reader FAQs like why he doesn’t handcuff himself to the bed, or hire a bodyguard, filling and filling and filling in background like pouring sand into a jar of rocks, when the oddness of the premise should, in my view, have been celebrated and embraced and not explained away.  I felt that Paul Auster or Magnus Mills would have been braver with the material.

Then I began to recognise that Ferris’s angle has a bravery of its own.  By insisting on the details of Tim’s work, family, and history, he humanises the story and makes the bold progression of the narrative increasingly troubling and moving.

Somewhat maddeningly, Mr Self asks if anyone has read Alan Lightman's The Diagnosis, a novel with a seemingly similar "story." We just gave our copy away! (The Asylum)

Compline: Graham Robb writes about the semiotics of gargoyles, or somesuch. (London Review of Books)

The first readers of Hugo’s novel who gazed up at the scene of Quasimodo’s acrobatics must have been disappointed. In 1831, Notre-Dame was a blackened husk, softened by centuries of rain into a hideous, warty mass. An early daguerreotype of the west front shows what Camille describes as ‘a disintegrating patchwork pile’. It looks like a tenement cathedral, designed to fit in with its slum surroundings. Viollet-le-Duc called it ‘a ruin’. Whenever Notre-Dame was used for a national ceremony, it was covered with awnings, festooned with cardboard sculptures and dressed in whichever architectural style happened to be in vogue. It was not until 1864 that the restored cathedral was unveiled and Hugo’s historical vision was vindicated. It seemed as though the old church had finally recovered its ‘fantastic, supernatural, horrible’ appearance: ‘eyes and mouths were opened here and there; one heard the barking of the dogs, the wyverns and the stone dragons, which keep watch night and day, with outstretched neck and open jaws, around the monstrous cathedral.’

Apart from its horns and folded wings, one of the restored chimeras might have been the spitting image of ‘Quasimodo deep in thought’. In fact, the similarity was hardly surprising since Hugo’s novel had been one of Viollet-le-Duc’s models. People who jokingly referred to Notre-Dame as ‘Victor Hugo’s cathedral’ were closer to the truth than they knew. The sculptures that jutted out all over the towers and galleries and gave the cathedral its creepy, horripilating appearance were not just restorations, they were up to the minute examples of Hugolian Gothic.

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