Daily Office:
Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Matins ¶ “Keep your identity small” — Paul Graham’s excellent maxim. Don’t identify yourself as anything — Catholic, American, sports-crazed — unless it’s absolutely necessary (and it rarely will be). “The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.” Our bet is that most self-labeling is inspired by other people’s thumbnail questions. So the corollary to Graham’s law would be: resist the temptation to describe yourself. Nothing particularly newsworthy here; we followed a link from Tyler Cowen to Ben Casnocha.

Lauds ¶ Blake Gopnik rightly blasts the National Gallery for yielding to the Catholic League and “various conservatives,” in shuttering a video by artist and AIDS victim David Wojnarowicz, allegedly because of an ant-covered crucifix but, hey, let’s not kids ourselves, because the work is rawly homoerotic. We were a little shocked ourselves by a Wojnarowicz show at the New Museum in their old Soho location, but, as Mr Gopnik points out, there is no “common standard of decency” in this country — not at the moment, anyway — and nobody’s distaste is grounds for censorship. Écrazey l’infâme. (Washington Post; via Arts Journal)

Prime ¶ “Books After Amazon,” Onnesha Roychoudhuri’s report on the dark side of the online behemoth’s business dealings — with publishers — may make you wonder if the good people at Amazon have the sense to know when to stop pricing books underwater. Ever inclined to be sanguine, we expect that small publishers will be forced by Amazon’s coercive discounting and co-op practices to rethink their business from the ground up, perhaps setting up a book distribution network of their own (after all, their scale is vastly smaller than Wal-Mart’s or Amazon’s). They’ll think of something. It’s a matter of distinguishing the true books from the cans of soup. (Boston Review; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Tierce ¶ “In silico” — we like the sound of that. It makes digital goings-on sound less “virtual,” even if only by a hair, so far as our actual comprehension is concerned. Have you heard of the Avidians? According to Brandon Keim, they’re “digital organisms” that mutate in distributed computer networks according to parameters that simulate what we know of organic evolution. And, what do you know: the Avidians have evolved the ability to flash synchronously, like fireflies, more or less (not the ones we remember). (Wired Science)

Sext ¶ We know that it’s shameless, but we’re going to direct your attention to The Bygone Bureau‘s list of Best Blogs without having checked out any of their recommendations. You know, you could help out around here if you wanted to. You could send us your own report. Anything that you recommend, we promise to read. So, get on it.

Nones ¶ The recently-ended civil war in Sri Lanka appears to have produced one good thing: a bumper crop of accountants. Another side-effect of the war, equally helpful to the island nation’s bid to sop of lots of outsourced bookkeeping, is that nobody is very well paid there. As William Gibson said, the future is here, but it’s unequally distributed.

Vespers The Daily Beast reprints Colum McCann’s preface to Aleksandar Hemon’s collection of the Best European Fiction 2011, which begins with a very strange statement: “The writer’s proper destiny is to know where he or she comes from, confront his conscience, draw the border line, then step beyond it.” Did he just make that blarney up? When he later suggests that Europe is now, in a literary sense, more American than America itself, the nonsense of it would be cleared up if he simply said that Europe is a great big New York City. He ought to know that, living here as he does. (via The Morning News)

Compline The Crimson calls for “randomizing admission” to Harvard by lottery. The model is the medical residency program that has been in place for some time. Having identified the 80-to-90% of Harvard applicants who are qualified to be Harvard students, the university ought to stand back from the process instead of helping privileged kids — the ones with the greatest access to resume-building programs — who don’t need it. (via Felix Salmon)

Have a Look

Mamie and Scaasi. WHO. KNEW. ?. (Stirred, Straight Up, With a Twist)

Noted

¶ “Was TGI Friday’s America’s First Singles Bar?” A pressing question! We go to the Baker Street Pub (the bar that’s there now) so often that they just bring us the black-and-tan without our having to ask. That’s about all we pick up, though. (Brainiac)

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