The holidays at the DBR: An ongoing entry from the season of the year in which the same things happen yet again, with inevitable variations, giving rise to much thinking about writing but time for doing it.
Archive for 2011
¶ We’re still reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (slowly), and we haven’t reached the part about the two selves, but we liked the nugget of great wisdom that we found in an interview that the author gave to Sam Harris. We only hope that Kahneman is wrong, or at least unduly pessimistic, when he asserts that few people would want to pursue his course for merging satisfaction and happiness.
There is a road to convergence, but few will want to take it: we could suggest to people that they should adopt experienced happiness as their main goal, and be satisfied with their lives to the extent that this goal is achieved. This idea implies the abandonment of other goals and values, which is surely unappealing.
We would argue that other goals and values can be folded into the pursuit of experienced happiness. (Sam Harris; via 3 Quarks Daily; 12/8) ¶ Alva Noë at the Opinionator:
What we do know is that a healthy brain is necessary for normal mental life, and indeed, for any life at all. But of course much else is necessary for mental life. We need roughly normal bodies and a roughly normal environment. We also need the presence and availability of other people if we are to have anything like the sorts of lives that we know and value. So we really ought to say that it is the normally embodied, environmentally- and socially-situated human animal that thinks, feels, decides and is conscious. But once we say this, it would be simpler, and more accurate, to allow that it is people, not their brains, who think and feel and decide. It is people, not their brains, that make and enjoy art. You are not your brain, you are a living human being.
We need finally to break with the dogma that you are something inside of you — whether we think of this as the brain or an immaterial soul — and we need finally take seriously the possibility that the conscious mind is achieved by persons and other animals thanks to their dynamic exchange with the world around them (a dynamic exchange that no doubt depends on the brain, among other things). Importantly, to break with the Cartesian dogmas of contemporary neuroscience would not be to cave in and give up on a commitment to understanding ourselves as natural. It would be rather to rethink what a biologically adequate conception of our nature would be.
Another way to put this important thought is to say that every part of you is vital to the person you are at the moment; you will be different when you get older. To be alive is to change. There is no all-time you, which is what makes paradise truly incomprehensible. (NYT; via 3 Quarks Daily; 12/6)
¶ Of all the screeds generated by Farhaed Manjoo’s rebuttal of Richard Russo’s praise of independent bookstores, we like Rachel Meier’s defense the best. It stresses the social, live-action nature of bookshops. We believe that every reader ought to support at least one local bookstore, and for the same reason that one might have supported a church. (Monitor; via The Millions) ¶ Johannes Lichtman writes about the suicide’s Suicide: the book that Édouard Levé submitted ten days before taking his own life: “a nonlinear, almost plotless meditation on living and dying, and the torment of time.” (Rumpus; 12/19)
¶ The key phrase in Felix Salmon’s shout-out for Nicholas Dunbar’s The Devil’s Derivatives is this, about the behavior of the New York Fed when confronted by tough questions from the central bank in Washington: it “behaved exactly as you would expect from an institution captured by its big-bank shareholders.” It’s not enough to wave flags and hymn democracy. You have to know how regulation works in order to understand why it doesn’t. (12/2)
¶ It appears that the Eurozone crisis has concentrated the minds of Belgium’s politicans, who are nearing agreement on a coalition government. The nation has lacked a formal government for nearly a year and a half. And there’s more: the likely new prime minister will be Elio Di Rupo, a gay man of extremely humble origins. (BBC News; via MetaFilter; 12/1) ¶ An interesting debunking of Friedrich von Hayek, at least as a neoclassical economist, by David Warsh at his blog.
These are today lively concepts in laboratories and universities around the world. “It could have been that Hayek was running a different race, and the fact that he didn’t do well in the Walrasian race was that he wasn’t running in it—he was running in the complexity race,” says David Colander, of Middlebury College. Hayek may yet enter history as a prophet of evolutionary economics, a discipline dreamt of since the days of Thorstein Veblen and Alfred Marshall in the late nineteenth century but not yet forged, whose great days lie ahead.
“Walrasian“? We learn something new every day. (via The Browser; 12/7)
¶ Using Google Scholar, Mark Bauerlein has developed a way of measuring the effectiveness of academic publications, and discovered that most articles sink without a trace. He argues that the time has come to put quality before quantity, and reduce the pressure to publish. We thought that the time for that came long ago, but better late than never. (Chron Higher Ed; via Arts Journal; 12/6)
¶ Not surprisingly, The Epicurean Dealmaker comes down hard on office romance.
So keep it in your pants, boys. Keep your legs crossed, girls. At least with each other. Because if anything interferes with getting that big LBO pitch for Yahoo! done this weekend, I swear I will fucking geld you.
The problem is, Wall Street is the home of “this time, it’s different!” ¶ Imagine Jessa Crispin’s dismay when a German gent in the Berlin subway told her that she looked like Cosima Wagner — and turned out not to be nuts. It’s not fun to resemble a woman so easy to dislike. (The Smart Set; 12/2) ¶ Alexandra Molotkow, now 25, writes of “coming of age” on the Internet. Needless to say, and notwithstanding, she’s worried about “kids today.” But not too seriously: of one rather gruesome recent story that we’re glad we missed, she writes: “It’s a classic worst-case scenario, and a reminder of how kids have ruined their own lives for millennia, through any medium they can master.” (Toronto Life; via The Morning News) ¶ Nice guys do finish last! They make less money, anyway. (Frontal Cortex; 12/5)
¶ A holiday post-mortem by Craig McCarthy, who went out of his way to have a depressing Thanksgiving, but ended up having an interesting one, that ended nicely. (Bygone Bureau) ¶ Katy Henriksen remembers growing up to Joni Mitchell’s Blue. (The Rumpus; 12/2 ) ¶ Why Love Actually, despite being a terrible movie, is a Christmas classic. Maybe we have that backwards, but you can sort out Bobby Finger’s pros and cons yourself. His lists will definitely make you want to see the film again. If you haven’t already seen it — but of course you’ve seen it! (The Hairpin; 12/12)
Have a Look: ¶ Better than flashmob dancing, an Add-A-Pearl (if abbreviated) performance of Ravel’s Bolero in a Copenhagen’s Central Station. (ClassicalArchives; via MetaFilter; 12/1) ¶ A newly-discovered portrait of Jane Austen? (Guardian; via Arts Journal; 12/6)
¶ The New York Architectural Terra Cotta Works in Queens: is resurrection in the cards? (Scouting New York; 12/13)
Noted: ¶ Leonardo da Vinci was right about trees. (Physorg; via 3 Quarks Daily) ¶ Claire Potter’s Top Ten Turkeys in American academia, 2011 edition. We couldn’t wish Linda Kathei a sweeter prize. (Tenured Radical; via Historiann; 12/2) ¶ Maybe everybody who watches football has CTE: anything less than the “full 22” zoom shot is fragmentary and arguably misleading. (kottke; 12/6) ¶ All about the creators of Marcel the Shell. (The Awl; 12/12) ¶ The Imperfect Husband (Daily Mail @ Hairpin; 12/19)
Today at the DBR: Working through the Christmas to-do list, and trying to keep up with Nicholas Dunbar’s The Devil’s Derivatives.
I seem to be feeling better. I had a bit of swelling in my jaw that posed an unpleasant quandary: was it dental, or was it nodal? I think that it was the latter. It only hurt when I laughed, and now it hardly hurts at all. That’s not how dental problems run their course.
Today at the DBR: Suffering some sort of fever, I rant a bit about the delusion of rationality. What bootstrappers the Greek philosophers were. Yes, man is capable of rationality, every now and then, in small doses, but rarely in the face of emotional conflict. It’s a long way from who we really are to “the rational animal,” which of course hasn’t been invented yet. There’s something profoundly oxymoronic about the term, really.
Today at the DBR: Venturing forth to hear Messiah at Carnegie Hall, with Kent Tritle leading the Oratorio Society, and soloists Emalie Savoy, Mary Phillips, Aaron Blake, and Kevin Deas.
Today at the DBR: About the old movies that I’ve been watching because Ethan Mordden writes about them so well in The Hollywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of the Movies (Knopf, 1988), which I’ve been re-reading with great delight.
The movies, and Mordden’s book, have been welcome distractions in a dark season. I can’t seem to pace anything properly, and I’m either flying about efficiently or flattened by fatigue. I’m completely missing the peace of mind that, more than anythinig else, one wants at Christmas. I’ve even got a touch of agoraphobia (blended with an unattractive self-pity). Well, the movies may be a distraction, but reading isn’t: it’s what I want to do. That and writing. But I also want to be a good grandfather, and for that I’ve got to get off my duff.
Today at the DBR: Will and grace, the latter referring to the grace that was vouchsafed to me in knowing my dear aunt, Ann O’Shea Keefe, who died yesterday in New Hampshire.
As I ran out of steam before the Remicade infusion, one of the regular activities most seriously cut back upon was reading Google Reader headlines. I very nearly declared “bankruptcy,” and marked up the three thousand-odd unread feeds “as read.” But I didn’t do that, and now my head is swimming with news from the beginning of the month. (The old stuff is the last to be read — or it was. I’ve just changed the settings.)
Today at the DBR: Just a little idea for what to do with this building.
What fun it would be to be very rich. The other day, Ray Soleil discussed my idea for superblocks, two avenues wide and four streets deep, with all construction at the perimeter — high-rises on the avenues, walkups on the street fronts, just like today, but all built at once and sharing a common plant — with central courtyards under which service tramways (for deliveries to the street-level shops, moves, and garbage removal) would run the length of the island. Or, not the island, because the place to try this out would be Queens.
The little idea that I had yesterday could be done for much, much less.
Today at the DBR: Movie talk. A few words about My Week With Marilyn, which I saw in the theatre the other day, preceded by even more words about watching Love With the Proper Stranger and Seconds at home
Today’s entry is late because I wanted to report that I’ve had my Remicade infusion and am already feeling the spinach. Nurse Maggie called for the infusion the moment I appeared, and I don’t think that I’ve ever been in and out of the unit in so short a time.
It may take so long to get going today that it will be tomorrow before I make the bed, get dressed, and do all the other ordinary morning things. It will probably be Wednesday when I get out of bed on the early side again.
Today’s low, vitiated mood is perfectly normal for the eve of a Remicade infusion (I’m to have one tomorrow), but there’s an overlay of quite objective sadness: my dear aunt is in hospice care. The sadness takes me by surprise at least once an hour, by crystallizing into jagged-edged grief.
So I’m not good for much today. Attempting to sparkle would probably be regrettable.
Today at the DBR: The taxi driver taking us home after the performance of Standing on Ceremony takes us for tourists — imagine! — and I have no choice but to stake my claim as a native. Richard Thomas moves us to tears, and Paul Rudnick’s lines have us in stitches. (Just reading the header of this entry crumples me with hilarity — I think that it’s a case of humor actually fermenting and becoming more potent.) What I didn’t mention was our pre-theatre snack at the Vagabond Café in Cornelia Street, a semi-self-serve bar with great panini and a group of NYU grad students who do a very passable early Dave Brubeck. How collegiate is that?
And check out the new look. We’re in the process of setting ourselves on Fire.
Today at the DBR: A few words about Tom Perrotta and the American Dream.
Today at the DBR: Despite a case of the vapors — it’s time for another Remicade infusion — I went out last night to see Venus in Fur, which showcases the I-can-do-anything genius of Nina Arianda. Hugh Dancy’s great, too, but he probably wouldn’t look as great in Ms Arianda’s underwear. What Nina Arianda can do better than anything else is scare you to death.
Today at the DBR: How to make really good garlic bread, and why it takes so long to learn all this stuff. Let me rephrase that: I ask why it takes so long to learn all this stuff. I don’t have the answer!
Today at the DBR: A passerby’s remark in the East Village that perhaps ought not to have been so surprising; Hugo, which I liked immensely but with semi-immense reservations, one of which induced me to omit the names of cast members when it came to writing up the film. (Points must be made.) Also, a Happy Birthday party for WQXR at Carnegie Hall — perhaps you heard it on the radio.
Today at the DBR: Listening to Nora Efron, watching a movie that she wrote (When Harry Met Sally…), staying home and missing a chamber concert because I didn’t feel “100%” — not to mention some thrilling new ideas about the organization of paperwork (mention is, in fact, all they get) — I even threw in a James Wolcott anecdote. About Nora Efron, of course.
Today at the DBR: Will tries to fit three train cars into two boots; learns the lesson of WOPR. Also a word about why this blog, the one you’re actually reading right this second, is back. In two words: Kindle Fire. I only wish I knew what that meant.
As you may have noticed…
We hope that you’ve noticed that posting has been frequent at The Daily Blague / reader, and that you’ve changed your feeds and bookmarks accordingly. We hope, too, that you’ve considered commenting at the site’s Fecebook page.
But we really ought not have left it up to you to figure out that our enthusiasm for posting the same entries at two sites, never very keen, flagged into insensibility after the holidays.
Thanks for reading!
Another year! How they pile up. Or rather, how they melt in the mind, into hosts of memories with puzzlingly different time-stamps. Right after taking in a movie that you think you saw “ages ago,” you had dinner with a friend “just the other day.” And then there are the intense experiences that simultaneously whoosh right by while taking forever. All of 2010 was one such experience for me, and today I celebrate its first anniversary, in the birthday of our grandson Will, who seems to have arrived only yesterday but who has palpably been with us always.
The most important thing that I heard in 2010 was William Gibson’s remark (made more than a few years ago) that the future is already here, but unevenly distributed. That’s another way of saying that, while almost nothing ever really happens, everything is happening all the time. Will is a bit of a baby, and a bit of a young adult, but he is mostly a little boy. The only statement that makes complete sense is also completely tautological: Will is — Will.
As are we all; all of us are more complicated than we can know, even if we could strip away the callouses of inattentiveness and the built-in oblivion that make life bearably uneventful. I can’t tell you how much of me is sitting here writing, how much stuck somewhere in last week’s projects, or how much has shot ahead in pursuit of, among other things, plans for the ongoing development of this of this Web log. All of me that’s present wishes you very hearty good wishes for The Daily Blague / reader. the New Year — and all of me that’s anywhere thanks you for reading.