Daily Office:


Matins: Roger Ebert’s complaint about the “CelebCult” — the news about “divorces, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals” that is killing contemporary journalism at the speed of liver cancer — is remarkable for the quality of comments that it has attracted, most of which are (dauntingly!) worth reading, especially the ones that Mr Ebert has answered.

But when I read Jason Kottke’s entry about the post — Mr Kottke shares Mr Ebert’s dismay — I thought: all very well, but what are we to do? This led me to wonder if a misguided interest in gossip is really the problem.

Tierce: This morning’s Times brings a nice column by David Leonhardt, “Budgets Behaving Badly,” that extends the hope that Barack Obama will staff his administration with behavioral economists. He has already nominated one, Peter Orszag, for budget director.

Compline: Now that the Episcopal Church is finally splitting, with the conservatives abandoning the mother ship for their shriveled-up future, one can only wonder how long it will take American Catholics of conscience to break with Rome in the name of true Christian values.


§ Matins. What if the problem is simply the addiction to now, to the conviction that something interesting is happening right now — and one had best be in the know! Commenter Will Oliver, who describes himself as slightly autistic, takes this rush of interest for granted:

I confess that I used to spend too much time browsing the Internet. When I did, my attention span got very obviously shorter. I’d watch a 10 minute video on Youtube. Then a 5 minute video, then a 3 minute video. It was addictive. I kept looking for a “quick fix,” another trivial, amusing thing. This habit made my attention span get shorter, and temporarily numbed me intellectually and emotionally. After some time, individual things I saw no longer had integrity in my mind–the videos, attractive articles, and amusing Top 7 lists all blurred together. In addition, staring at the computer screen so long made it difficult for my eyes to focus on individual things in the room I was in–appropriate, I guess.

You have to ask, as Mr Oliver does not, what was interesting about the Internet in the first place.

Newspapers are not going to be made profitable by exhorting citizens to lavish time and attention on them. It might be better, actually, to point out that there has, for example, been but one real news story in the past week (the Mumbai massacre). Everything else has been fill. It’s nice to know who’s going to be in Barack Obama’s White House, but you don’t need to know it right now. Once you accept the fact that most “news” will reach you when you need it to do so, Brangelina will be able to stand on the sidewalk while the valet brings their car round, just as Joe and Marilyn did, outside Toots Shor’s.

§ Tierce. Behavioral economists would have helped us to see that Alan Greenspan was not the Apollo but the Dionysus of finance.

§ Compline. Were it not for desperate poverty and unthinking tribal loyalty, the Bishop of Rome would have found himself without an audience about a century ago. It’s not too late to hope that Catholics will wrest their Church from his epochally benighted grasp.

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Nom de Plume says:

    Noam Chomsky advises eschewing daily news in favor of a balanced array of monthly periodicals and books. I can’t wait until my life allows me to unplug entirely. I’m so tired of stimulation.

  2. Fossil Darling says:

    Celeb Cult : I honestly cannot understand why people care about Angelina and Brad. Really. They are decent actors, can give fine performances, but why they adorn the covers of all the weekly magazines every week is a mystery.

    What really worries me is the future of the NY Times. It is all well and good that the Sulzberger Family has ultimate control, but as the family grows and disenchantment with Pinch’s management grows, well, it is a worry.

    Yesterday morning it was not delivered in time for me to have it to take to the office and I was so discombobulated I forgot my cans of TAB, so it was a rocky morning here on ye olde trading desk.