The Daily Blague

Daily Office Archives

Daily Office:


30 March 2010


Matins: Over the weekend, Times columnists Charles Blow and Frank Rich made one thing clear: the white Christian teabaggers who want "their country" back can't have it, now or ever.

The problem is that the country romanticized by the far right hasn’t existed for some time, and its ability to deny that fact grows more dim every day. President Obama and what he represents has jolted extremists into the present and forced them to confront the future. And it scares them.

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy. [Blow]

Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded. [Rich]

Like Mr Rich, we're hardly comfortable with any of this. It makes us worry about what we call "the Searchers Option."

Lauds: Jazz and rock photographer Jim Marshall died last week. At The Online Photographer, Mike Johnston reviews the monographs, in and out of print.

The classic monograph is Not Fade Away from ten years ago, now out of print. It's a nomad at my house: it never found a comfortable home and keeps turning up in the oddest places. At the moment I, um, can't find it. If you want that one, it's going to be either hard to find or a little on the expensive side. When mine turns up again I'm going to lasso it and ensconce it in the new bookcase, alongside my other Marshall books. Maybe it'll settle down.

Prime: When we saw David Segal's piece in the Times about "Day Traders 2.0: Wired, Angry and Loving It," we were embarrassed. Is this Brides Magazine, where the same articles get trotted out at periodic intervals? Tyler Durden thinks so.

One of the most amusing side effects of the recent non-stop, free-liquidity, forced-covering rally, is a deja vu flash back to a decade ago: a surge in day traders. The New York Times presents a romantic look at this rare breed of traders which emerges every time the market is in melt-up mode, be it in the days, during the credit bubble, or now. And, just like so many times before, as soon as the market peaks, and subsequently crashes, these various "traders" evaporate, and the assorted business models associated with catering to the day trading clientele, be it heatmapping services by every discount broker, or assorted Twitter services, go the way of the dodo. Until the next bubble re-emerges. As for the fabled secrets behind day trading technique, the NYT is laconic: nothing more than Newton's First Law of Motion.

Tierce: Daniel Lametti's "How to Erase Fear — in Humans" is unfortunately titled, because it will be a long time before anyone develops a practice for erasing real-life fear in humans. But we find the concept of reconsolidation amazingly on. Every time you remember something, you recreate, reconstitute — reconsolidate — the memory. No wonder &c! (Scientific American; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Ledoux concluded that the neural connections in which memories are stored have to be rebuilt each time a memory is recalled. And during rebuilding—or reconsolidation, as he termed it—memories can be altered or even erased. Neuroscientists now believe that reconsolidation functions to update memories with new information—something of an unsettling idea, suggesting that our memories are only as accurate as the last time they were remembered.

Since the discovery, scientists have been searching for ways to use similar methods to alter the fear memories that cause posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This, however, has proven difficult. Test subjects participating in research experiments are, of course, not lab rats, and scientists can’t simply inject them with drugs as they please. But in her new paper, Schiller and her team may have discovered a noninvasive method to bring Ledoux’s memory-erasing experiment to humans.

Sext: The pregnant futurism of the letter R. "Sound poetry"? Headsets recommended. (triplecanopy; via The Morning News)

While sound poetry has always been a scarce, ephemeral practice, new archives allow for reconsiderations, recontextualizations, and rereadings, and of these archives I have availed myself, resurrecting the rolled r from various historical and contemporary instances by editing performance recordings and stringing their rs together. Both with the morbid curiosity about what would result from the monstrous reanimation of these amputations and with the properly scientific attitude a new form of media analysis warrants, I proceeded to assay the unique properties of this remnant as it has passed from artist to artist. As perhaps a shibboleth of loyalty to the first sound poems,

Nones: A lament by Ewen MacAskill about the "Special Relationship Partnership" between the UK and the US. (Guardian)

A visit by Gordon Brown to the White House is no more important than that of, say, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who was in DC last week, or the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be there this week. It is not as important as a visit by the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, – Washington is currently wondering anxiously whether he will turn up for next month's nuclear review summit.

Obama, the first president with a primarily Pacific-orientation, sees relations with China as vital, not least because Washington needs Beijing to swing a UN vote on sanctions and persuade North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons and, in the long term, not to sink the US economy. That is a special relationship.

Vespers: On the need to believe that Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare: The Economist reviews James Shapiro's Contested Will. The unsigned review makes at least one important point about the history of literary appreciation. 

The authorship controversy turns on two things: snobbery and the assumption that, in a literal way, you are what you write. How could an untutored, untravelled glover’s son from hickville, the argument goes, understand kings and courtiers, affairs of state, philosophy, law, music—let alone the noble art of falconry? Worse still, how could the business-minded, property-owning, moneylending materialist that emerges from the documentary scraps, be the same man as the poet of the plays? Many have shaken their heads at the sheer vulgarity of it all, among them Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Henry James, his brother William, and Sigmund Freud.

Mr Shapiro teases out the cultural prejudices, the historical blind spots, and above all the anachronism inherent in these questions. No one before the late 18th century had ever asked them, or thought to read the plays or sonnets for biographical insights. No one had even bothered to work out a chronology for them. The idea that works of literature hold personal clues, or that—more grandly—writing is an expression and exploration of the self, is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Compline: Merrill Markoe, at least, knows where to find a laugh as the country breaks in two. (Speakeasy)

Holidays and disasters provide us with many things that we value. They tell us what season it is. They remind us to renew our cherished values and traditions. But mostly, they bring us reasons to join forces with our loved ones at family get-togethers which, of course, bring everything full circle. Because nothing unites our two hobbies of Celebration and Freaking Out quite like families. Even people who get on well with their families have to agree that a multi-generational family gathering on a holiday is an emotional minefield. Particularly this year, when we need to approach everyone with an extra degree of caution that takes in to account the amount of hot buttons in our midst. After all, we don’t choose our family members based on compatibility. They are bestowed upon us by birth or by marriages that took place when we weren’t looking. And I doubt that even if we did pick out our families by scouring a Web site full of photos of virtual relatives, it would be any different. Perhaps you’ve noticed by now how successful we all are at picking our own mates.

Permalink  Portico

Copyright (c) 2010 Pourover Press

Write to me