Daily Office:


 ¶ Matins: At Brainiac, Christopher Shea asks about a “blue collar renaissance.” He has been reading Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, of course. Somewhat more solid evidence that the scope of “knowledge worker” is expanding appears in Louis Uchitelle’s Times story, “Despite Recession, High Demand for Skilled Labor.”

Lauds: At The House Next Door, Shelby Button reports on the deadCENTER Film Festival, in Oklahoma City.

Prime: Robb Mandelbaum traces a small-business-friendly amendment to the Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights Act — and speculates on its demise.

Tierce: When mom forgot his 73rd birthday, Tony Marshall was quick to call the doctor and complain about her growing “confusion.”

Sext: At Inside Higher Ed, Ben Elson reports on the number one problem affecting Americans today: student parking. (via The Awl)

Nones: What? There are Somalian Members of Parliament? Still? Fewer and fewer, perhaps — but that there are any is surprising.

Vespers: Rebecca Steinitz, at The Rumpus, writes so alluringly about Julia Strachey’s Cheerful Weather for a Wedding (1932) that I’ve just ordered a copy.

Compline: In The New Yorker, Jill Lepore draws a distinction between parenthood and adulthood. An important distinction — don’t you think?

Bon weekend à tous!


§ Matins. I’ve been carrying Shop Class around for over a week, but I haven’t had a chance to open it. In light of Mr Shea’s remark, I sat down with the book for a few minutes. This passage from the Introduction ought to reassure anyone that the author is thoughtful and serious.

Allow me to say a word about what this book is not. I want to avoid the kind of mysticism that gets attached to “craftsmanship” while doing justice to the very real satisfactions it offers. I won’t be talking about Japanese sword makers or any such thing, and generally prefer to use the term “trade” over “craft” to emphasize the prosaic nature of my subject (though I won’t observe this distinction rigorously). Compared to any real craftsman, my skills are execrable, so I have no basis for talking about the higher spirituality that is alleged to arise from a perfectly fit mortise or whatever. As a rough working formula, we might say that craftsmanship, as an ideal, provides the standards, but that in a mass-market economy such as ours, it is the tradesman who exemplifies an economically viable way of life, one that is braodly available and provides many of the same staisfactions we associate with craftsmanship. Also, we tend to think of the craftsman as working in his own snug workshop, while the tradesman has to go out and crawl under people’s houses, or up a pole, and make someone else’s stuff work. So I want to avoid the precious images of manual work that intellectuals sometimes traffic in. I also have little interest in wistful notions of a “simpler” life that is somehow more authentic, or more democratically valorous for being “working class.” I do, in fact, want to rehabilitate the honor of the trades, as being choice-worthy work, but to do so from within my own experience, which I find is not illuminated by any of these fraught cultural ideals. Hardly any of the people I have worked with as an electrician or a mechanic have fit the stock image of “blue collar.” Quite a few have been eccentrics — refugees from some more confining life. Some drift in and out of the work, as I have, as their circumstances dictate.

I expect to find the book very sound on the subject of the bond between hand work and intellectual outlook. What I’ll be watching for is slippage back to a past in which women were not expected to work outside the home.

§ Lauds. Here’s the movie that I want to see:

Friday night had a midnight movie vibe going for Lloyd Kaufman’s POULTRYGEIST: Night Of The Chicken Dead. Mr. Kaufman himself was there that night, thanking the audience and promoting his books and films. Before the film, Mr. Kaufman charmed the audience in a montage of short clips of previous POULTRYGEIST screenings. As I am generally familiar with Troma Films, I was pleased to find all expectations met. It is just stupid. When a restaurant opens on an ancient Indian burial ground, murdered chickens return from the dead to exact revenge on the humans that eat them. Cheap jokes and inventive slang pepper the full-steam-ahead dialogue that drives the film. Ridiculous, over-the-top special effects are both gross and funny. Once people start turning into zombies, then there are chicken zombies everywhere and practically the entire end of the film is all zombies. I guess I am not complaining that this is too much but there are really a lot of chicken zombies. This movie is all about the zombies. I can’t help but think that Odienator would have been an ideal film-watching partner of POULTRYGEIST and that would have added considerably to my own merriment.

§ Prime. When people yap about constitutional reform, I won’t hear of it, not until American legislatures develop more transparent house rules. See if you can follow this [Mary Landrieu’s amendment would have extended consumer protection to small business owners]:

One Democratic staffer acknowledged that some Democrats shared Senator Shelby’s apprehension, but others and a lobbyist close to the process believe Democrats were more leery of upsetting the delicate compromise they’d reached with Republicans on the broader credit-card legislation. “Senator Dodd supports protecting small businesses from these credit-card abuses,” says one Democratic aide. “But at the same time, he thought that the Landrieu amendment would kill the whole bill, and he couldn’t afford to lose what he’d been working on for 20 years.” The lobbyist adds that of all the amendments that had been offered, Senator Landrieu’s was the one Senator Shelby disliked most. None of this was apparent in the maneuvers on the Senate floor that sealed the amendment’s fate. First, Senator Landrieu attempted to bring it to a vote, but when that motion failed — she was speaking to a near-empty chamber, though many senators were in the nearby cloakroom or otherwise close at hand — she withdrew it. Then, in a maneuver that some Senate veterans found a little odd, she tried to have her own amendment tabled (postponed, that is, for future debate). It was, Senate aides say, either an effort to preserve her amendment or to force her colleagues to take a stand on it — it depends on who’s speculating. In any event, neither Republicans nor her Democratic colleagues stood to offer a sufficient second, and that tactic, too, collapsed. An aide to the Democratic leadership says Democrats were forced into inaction on Senator Landrieu’s measure because Republicans refused to allow a vote on any Democratic amendments, and a vote to table the Landrieu amendment wouldn’t have changed that — but would have served to put Democrats on record as technically opposing a bill for small business that they actually support.

§ Tierce. Of course, there’s wide gulf between forgetting a birthday and forgetting the implications of executing a will. I would venture that the point of Dr Rees Pritchitt’s testimony has already been made a thousandfold. Still, it may be the making of New York Post reporter Laura Italiano.

Volumes of Pritchitt’s notes placed into evidence today show that by her mid-90s, the doyenne’s complaints included sciatica, acid reflux, arthritis, dizzines, sleeplessness, depression, sleeplessness, fatigue, and ever-increasing memory loss. Then there was Marshall, her only child, who makes several cameos in the records — as if Astor counted his existence itself as just one in the panoply of ailments she needed to keep her trusty physician abreast of. “Upset with Tony and Charlene,” Marshall’s wife, reads one of the doctor’s jottings from 1998. Astor’s beef with Charlene must by now, nine weeks into testimony, be legend among jurors, who have heard Astor referred to her daughter-in-law privately as “that b—-.”

“Legend” wouldn’t be my word for it. The jury is surely going to be happy when the defense takes over.

§ Sext. And, as Choire Sicha noted at The Awl, the best item in this grab bag of parking options comes near the bottom.

But at High Point University, a small liberal arts college in North Carolina, spoiling the students may be exactly the point of valet. The campus, in addition to boasting a valet service, is home to a free ice cream truck, a concierge desk, and a giant hot tub in the middle of campus. Since the beginning of the administration of High Point President Nido Qubein, the noted businessman and motivational speaker has sought to “wow” students in order to encourage their learning.

High Point media relations did not return a call from Inside Higher Ed.

§ Nones. Somalia sounds like an idea whose time has come and gone.

It also emerged on Wednesday that the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, Amisom, is to set up a radio station in Mogadishu.

The station will support embattled President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s fragile transitional government.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists and many reporters faced with death threats have either fled or will not risk working in the country.

Since the latest bout of fighting began last month, 130 lawmakers, including several ministers, have fled to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

About 20 legislators have made their way there in the last week alone, during which time a fellow MP was gunned down, a security minister was killed in a suicide blast, and Mogadishu’s police chief was died in battle.

§ Vespers. Sounds like a lot of fun!

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding takes place on the day Dolly Thatcham, having drunk half a bottle of rum, with an ink stain the size of a teapot on her dress, is supposed to marry the Hon. Owen Bigham, although Joseph Patten, a young man from the previous summer, may have something to say about that. Then again he may not. Think Nancy Mitford, P.G. Wodehouse, Stella Gibbons, and an oblique touch of Virginia Woolf.

Brief, pointed, and utterly complete, it captures a dozen characters, a handful of relationships, and an entire social world in 119 pages. It gestures toward sentiment and revels in slapstick, capturing the complexities of real emotions in a satirical frame. And the weather! It’s a glaring-bright gale: cheerful to the nth degree, deemed delightful by Dolly’s mother, but quite horrendous for everyone else, which is to say the perfect weather for wedding and book.

Of course, knowing me, I’ll discover in the second paragraph that I have read the book before, forgetting only its labels — title and author.

§ Compline. Having brushed off books by Ayelet Waldman and Michael Lewis as “ersatz confession,” Ms Lepore forgets about book reviewing and settles into a very interesting report about Clara Savage Littledale, the Smith grad who was the first editor of the magazine that we know as Parents. Earlier in history, there were mothers and there were fathers; now there were parents — and they were generally clueless. In 1930, Littledale intoned,

Once it was believed that the very physical fact of parenthood brought with it an instinctive wisdom that enabled one to rear children wisely and well. Parents knew best. Today fathers and mothers are unwilling to struggle under such a load of self-imposed omniscience. Even if they were, the facts would be against them. For in this country various studies made in the last ten years present incontrovertible data to prove that devoted but unenlightened parenthood is a dangerous factor in the lives of children.

Ms Lepore’s response is priceless: “This almost passes for a definition: parenthood is being so inept that you’re a danger to your own children.”

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