Daily Office:


Matins: Great news! Our trade deficit widened, as we imported yet more junk in June! That must mean that our economy is doing better, right?

Lauds: A new artists’ colony — this one just for composers — will start up in Westchester next month. (via Arts Journal)

Prime: The shipping news: Los Angeles/Long Beach would rank as the world’s fifth busiest container port, if they were tabulated together.

Tierce: The case that has everything keeps on giving. Subway stabbings! (Almost.)

Sext: Can powdered wigs be far behind? The spoofsters at Being Tyler Brûlé staff the eponymous (amd still fictional) airline.

Nones: Hugo Chávez declares that golf is not a sport; officials move to close courses.

Vespers: Now that everybody seems to be reading The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes’s book about a handful of scientists working between the heydays of Enlightenment and Romanticism, we are ever more mindful that science, however bound to numbers (rightly so!), is practiced by messy human minds.

Compline: Jonah Lehrer on the self: a ghost that runs the machine. “The self feels like a singular thing – I am me – and yet it comes from no single brain area…”


§ Matins. Perhaps somebody is doing well in this economic climate — but most people are not. If most people were doing well, the trade deficit would run the other way — because more Americans would be busy making or doing things that rendered imports unnecessary.

The figures suggested the worst was over for the global economy, economists said, and that demand for American-made goods was picking up. The United States sent more capital goods like civilian aircraft, semiconductors and industrial machines to other countries, and also exported more industrial supplies.

“That’s what gives me a little bit more optimism here,” Mr. Brusuelas said. “That’s what we do — Boeing, semiconductors and telecom equipment. The only thing missing was computer accessories.”

Exports of computer accessories dropped $32 million for the month.

That’s what we do, eh? That’s all?

§ Lauds. Merestead, a large estate in Mount Kisco, will give performances in a cow barn. The main draw, though, is the sheer acreage.

Composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel, who has been awarded residencies at a number of artists’ colonies—such as Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, Sacatar in Brazil and the ­Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio villa in Italy—says the many scattered buildings on Merestead make the estate especially suited for a composers’ colony. While visual artists need a certain amount of space and light and dancers need a particular floor, Mr. Bermel explains, “the unique thing about musicians is that we make a lot of noise. When you build a residency around musicians they drive each other crazy. The great thing about having this large tract of land is it’s actually feasible to have a large number of composers.”

§ Prime. Remember all those pictures of empty freighters in the offing, baleful emblems of the recession? That seems to have changed.

That has certainly fallen off with the global recepression, and the current estimates are that Shanghai’s container volume this year will be about 10 percent below 2007 levels and about 20 percent below projections. But after an abyssmal first half of the year, levels seems to be picking up again and are only a smidge lower than they were last year at this time– at which point, you might recall, Lehman Bros still existed and the phrase “stimulus package” would have just sounded naughty.

We’d be much happier if all those containers were strapped onto flatbed railroad cars, not ocean-going vessels.

§ Tierce. Melissa Grace captured a lurid bit for The Daily News.

The Astor trial took a bizarre twist Tuesday when it was revealed the jury forewoman was attacked by a loon wielding an 8-inch knife on a northbound No. 4 subway.

“I’m a chef and I can cut you with this,” Tanika Williams, 28, told the victim, identified only as “Juror No. 1” in court papers.

§ Sext. It’s all in the writing.

4. CISO – Chief Inflight Service Officer. This one is easiest, by far. We’ll just get Terence, the butler from the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong, straight away.

5. CTO – Chief Timetable Officer.
If you take your airline seriously, you take your timetables seriously. And as often as we’ve had to experience downloaded and badly designed PDF:s, instead of gripping on to a sturdy and finely printed dito – we feel that this is an issue that needs its own manager. Probably a German.

§ Nones. In our book (our book of revolutions, that is), Mr Chávez’s latest move is the sort of gratuitous stake-in-the-heart gesture that irrevocably moderates and fence-sitters. Plus, look at Cuba.

Critics of the antigolf campaign point out that Venezuela’s top ally, Cuba, is going in the opposite direction. Canadian and European investors are seeking to build as many as 10 new courses in Cuba as part of the Cuban government’s bid to raise tourist revenues.

“China has more than 300 golf courses, and look what’s happening here,” said Mr. Torres, the director of the Venezuelan Golf Federation, invoking another Communist country with which Venezuela has warm ties. “We’re going from 28 courses to 18.”

Correction: Mr Chávez says that golf is not a people’s sport.  

§ Vespers. Jeremy Hatch, whose wife teaches chemistry, observes,

Scientific research emerges from a dense network of personal ambition, rivalry, ability, funding (which is made available based on the subjective decisions of funders), institutional support, the profit or prestige motive, and the quirks of individual scientists who decide, often on the basis of hunches and personal preferences within the available possibilities, what avenue of research to pursue next. Once you see a little bit of the world of research up close, you become amazed that anything continues to be discovered at all — not because there’s nothing left to discover, but because the world of science is a very human mess of competing subjective claims that would seem to constrain discovery.

§ Compline. We were intrigued by the plight of Adam Lepak, the young man who, after a motorcycle accident, became convinced that his family members are all imposters, when Benedict Carey wrote about him over the weekend. As is often the case with brain injuries, however, the really intriguing thing is how slender the thread is that holds the rest of us in place: a handful of nerves? Maybe just one?

Given the fundamental role of the self in human experience, it’s sobering how little we know about it. (The fact that we call it an emergent property is a sign that nobody really understands what the self is or where it comes from.) For the most part, we’re forced to marvel at its effects via attention, as the self chooses which sensations to pay attention to. These sensory cells then show increased sensitivity and enhanced firing, making them more likely to enter the narrow stream of consciousness.

No wonder the belief in an ineffable soul is so widespread.

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