Daily Office:


Matins: Matt Richtel and Bob Tedeschi filed an interesting report at the Times on Sunday: people will pay for apps for their phone that they can download onto their computers for free. And guess what. The mobile services collect nickels and dimes without breaking a sweat. In other words: Micropayments are here.

Lauds: Matt Trueman is looking for young critics — in the West End. Where are they?

Let us remember that Kenneth Tynan was 25 when he took up the post in 1952 that is to be vacated by de Jongh, before graduating to the Observer only two years later. And, it was a 26-year-old Michael Billington that first reviewed for the Times in 1965.

Prime: “How Not to Photograph” — a series of drolly incisive blog entries by British photographer Colin Pantall. (via  kottke.org)

Tierce: Did Giampaolo Giuliani, a technician at an Italian nuclear physics lab, predict the catastrophic quake at L’Aquila, or was his announcement just a fluke? (Remember radon?) (via  The Morning News)

Sext: For a few years in the mid-Eighties, I worked in an office at 1 Broadway. For me, it was the acme of workplaces. Photos from Scouting NYC — not surprisingly, Scout sees things that I missed.

Nones: A lucid analysis by journalist Asli Aydintasbas of the knack that American leaders, up to but not including President Obama, have had for getting Turkey wrong. (Hint: talk of “moderate Islam” irritates everybody.)

Vespers: It used to be that publishers printed books. Ancient history — except at the most ancient continually-operating publisher in the world, the Cambridge University Press, founded by Henry VIII in 1534. The lithographic CUP is losing £2,000,000 a year.

Compline: It’s a first, all right, and I hope that it lasts. I wish it were the last. The Vermont legislature has overridden a gubernatorial veto to enact same-sex marriage. No judicial activism required this time!


§ Matins. I wasn’t altogether surprised to read this, because I gathered that Amazon was doing something of the kind for Kindle users who subscribe to newspapers &c. But I felt awfully stupid for not having failed to see that there is no technical obstacle to collecting small fees economically. The difference between phones and computers is purely cultural.

It may have to do with each industry’s origins. “Information wants to be free” has long been the rallying cry for many Internet pioneers. As the mythology goes, the designers of the Internet envisioned it as utopian and open — two words rarely used to describe the phone experience.

One example of the stark difference between the phone and the computer is the concept of micropayments. Newspapers and other content producers have examined the method — getting people to pay for content with a nickel here and a dime there — as a possible answer to their revenue problems on the Web.

But the phone industry has had a micropayment system for decades. Ever since the local telephone company charged a customer an extra 35 cents to hear a recorded weather forecast, the phone industry has been charging for content.

Mind you, my belief that creators of Internet content ought to be paid for their work is coupled to an even stronger conviction that no artifical persons (ie corporations) ought to be allowed to own intellectual property.

§ Lauds. What has changed since Tynan started out is the development of new critical fields, particularly in “pop culture.” The New York Times, after all, reviews video games — and the machines on which to play them. There are far more kinds of critics today than there were fifty years ago.

Which only explains where the talent has gone, not why it hasn’t gone into theatre. Again, age and cultural developments seem to hold the answer. Mr Trueman writes,

In contemporary criticism, authority is everything, and it is nothing without both expertise and experience. As far as I know, there are no regularly employed theatre critics under 30. For all their vim and vigour, their self-assurance and their passion, the young critic is inevitably a naive one.

One can hear Tynan’s loud snort, had anyone said that to him. Tynan came on the scene when theatre was undergoing a profound change, abandoning the “well-made play” once and for all — or at least for a half-century. To imagine such a change today, suppose that the legitimate theatre were under attack by conceptual artists. It’s very much not! We’re living in an Augustan age of theatre, exulting in coruscating performances of classics by highly individuated stars. Today’s theatre critic is more of a wine connoisseur than a young turk. Mr Trueman is right: experience is very important today.

Although he must be aware of the fact, Mr Trueman doesn’t say that he is conducting his search on the decks of a seriously listing ship. Experienced critics are losing their perches; the business model for delivering criticism to common readers is sinking fast. I may have neglected to mention that Mr Trueman’s piece appears on the Guardian’s Theatre Blog.

§ Prime. With magnanimous humility, Mr Pantall uses his own photographs as examples of what not to do.

The only exception is when it’s my (or your) own work – and then this kind of emptiness takes on a miracle transformation. It becomes endlessly fascinating and engaging. But only to me, which is no good at all, because I have an audience of one and I’m back in the solipsist nightmare of talking to myself, alone again in the darkroom of my soul .

§ Tierce. It appears that earthquake prediction, after a few decades of no-it’s-this, has settled into a disillusioned agnosticism.

“This happens all the time,” said Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, who is also principal investigator on a worldwide project called the Collaboratory for the Study of Earthquake Predictability. “People send out predictions based on various stuff. It’s always hard to evaluate.”

Reporter Jia-Rui Chong notes that some residents of nearby Sulmona, where the radon emissions were detected, evacuated but returned prior to the L’Aquila event. The good news was that the earthquake, when it came, didn’t hit Sulmona — if you can call that good news. The bad news — for earthquake prediction — is, why didn’t it?

§ Sext. Something about Brown Decades proportions underlying Beaux Arts cladding makes 1 Broadway an extremely sophisticated-looking package, and I can think of no building that better deserves its front-row seat on New York Harbor.

I can’t say that I remember the armorial cartouches that Scout catalogues. It’s possible that they were hidden prior to the 1992 restoration. But the “First Class” and “Cabin Class” porticoes were and are elegant reminders of the bygone era of Transatlantic steamer travel. (As I understood it, the ground-floor booking offices were operated by the United States Lines, for which my father served as an assistant bursar one summer in the Thirties. He got the job, I should think, because his father, a judge in the building just across Bowling Green — the Customs Court — was essentially a very connected politician.) Just up the street, at 25 Broadway, the grand Cunard Line booking office can still be visited, although it has come down in the world: it’s a Post Office.

§ Nones. The president’s visit to Ankara and Istanbul was probably the most substantive encounter of his European trip; Mr Aydintasbas’s essay suggests how vital it was to Turks themselves.

Mr. Obama’s visit to Ankara was a carefully calibrated series of messages and symbolic gestures that spoke to Turkey’s different segments. He met with the government leadership as well as opposition leaders from secular, nationalist and Kurdish parties. He pledged to support “Ataturk’s vision of Turkey as a modern and prosperous democracy,” as he wrote in the guestbook at the mausoleum of the founder of secular Turkey.

In our eternal identity crisis, we Turks have lately been thinking only in opposites — that you are either secular or religious, Kurd or Turk, European or Middle Eastern. It took a young foreign leader on his first visit here to remind us that we are all of those things, and much more.

That last bit sounds very familiar.

§ Vespers. Since the Press is, for all intents and purposes, a charity, workers argue that charity begins on the shop floor.

They say their arguments were sympathetically received and that this has led to a change in tack from the former accountant and current chief executive of the press, Stephen Bourne and his fellow-managers.

Tomorrow, Unite is set to meet CUP management again, amid mounting hope that at least half of the jobs threatened by the restructuring will be saved in what looks like a U-turn by the publishers.

But the management is more cautious. Peter Davison, CUP’s corporate affairs director, confirms that the company is trying to soften the blow in a harsh employment environment but says structural change in the printing industry has swept away pretty much every lithographic printing company in the high-cost south of England.

§ Compline. I wish that marriage were gender-blind throughout the land. I don’t mention the issue very often, because I don’t see anything to discuss; dismantling the patriarchy is almost entirely a matter of waiting for its wrong-headed upholders to change their minds or, more likely, to die off.

I’ve believed, ever since the Sixties, that activism outside the legislature is never genuinely effective; it only sometimes appears to be when it is in fact no longer necessary. I acknowledge that this is arguably a self-serving rationalization of my horror of collective action. As I always say, two’s company; three is a performance.

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