Daily Office:
Monday, 6 December 2010

Matins ¶ Until just the other day, what frightened us most about zombies was their immense popularity: The Walking Dead quickly claimed an audience more than twice the size of Mad Men‘s. Had, we worried, the social fabric frayed so badly that Americans have come to regard their neighbors and co-workers as living dead? Then along came Chuck Klosterman in last Friday’s Times. He briskly swept away the nonsense of our grandiose theorizing. “In other words, zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche.” Aha! We get it, now. (But we’re still not going to watch. We don’t get 400 work emails a day.)

Lauds ¶ The fiasco of what we have heard was billed as “An Interactive Conversation with Steve Martin” has become New York’s querelle du jour: you must have an opinion regardless of how little you actually know. At Emdashes, Martin Schneider sticks to his guns. Mr Schneider was there, and he insists that interviewer Deborah Solomon made a hash of things by discussing the details of a book that no one in the audience could have had time to read. Not surprisingly, dissatisfaction was expressed digitally — by remote viewers — long before anyone in the hall expressed unhappiness. In the end, however, we think the management’s intervention was inappropriate. The price of a ticket does not include a guarantee that a good time will be had by all.

Prime ¶ Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World was already in our shopping basket before Tyler Cowen hailed it: “I am convinced by the major thesis.” We already were; now all we have to do is read the book. Tyler links to a provocative interview at the National Review, where the author enjoins, “We need a humanomics, not more freakonomics.”

Tierce ¶ Here’s a really bad idea — right out of Idiocracy! Let’s let voters decide which science projects ought to be funded! Democracy in the laboratory! Peerless peer review! That’s what Nebraska omedhaun Adrian Smith is proposing. ” Help us identify grants that are wasteful or that you don’t think are a good use of taxpayer dollars.” The silver lining may be that the request generates a list of projects that ought to be retitled. That’s precisely where a good science writer such as Chris Mooney comes in. Professional elites have a lot to learn about communicating the importance of their work to non-specialists.

Sext ¶ In his Times column this weekend, “She Who Must Not Be Named,” Charles Blow made a very important vow, and right-thinking Internauts ought to do likewise, and let a certain former vice-presidential candidate go nameless. There is no need to feed a fire by trying to extinguish it. “The never-ending attempts to tear her down only build her up. She’s like the ominous blob in the horror films: the more you shoot at it, the bigger and stronger it becomes.”

Nones ¶ What does Julian Assange want? At 3 Quarks Daily, Robert Baird comments on Aaron Bady’s analysis, which is a bit on the complicated side but worth working through all the same. Transparency and muckraking are not the ultimate objectives; destabilizing the “conspiracies of power” is. This is naiveté of an elderly vintage, and nothing demostrates the emptiness of Mr Assange’s theoretical constructs more forcibly than the contents of last week’s mammoth diplomatic dump. Again and again, the cables reveal that official thinking, while more complex and detailed, is more or less in accord with public understanding of official objectives. The idea that power is exercised by secret cabals is laughingly nostalgic: today’s power is quite cynically flexed right out in the open. The American foreign policy problem appears, indeed, to be that everyone else practices conspiratorial duplicity.

Vespers ¶ In the course of doing his day job, Ivebeenreadinglately‘s Levi Stahl came across an old Paris Review interview from 1978 in which Anthony Powell speaks sublime truths on the subjects of children and marriage. “Well, there again it’s frightfully complicated, but clearly people don’t tell you what their life with their wife is like if they’re at all satisfactorily married.” (Not until the Times began encouraging women to write “Modern Love” columns, anyway.)

Compline ¶ Ross Douthat’s reconfigured anatomy of the “culture wars” seems sound to us. Committed Christians have been making great gains in educational status, and now challenge liberals more from within the academy than from without. Meanwhile, these Christians and liberals are in accord about the seriousness of sex and the importance of marriage. On the other side — and apparently outside the arena of cultural conflict — lie that 58% of Americans without a college degree, whose family arrangements increasingly disregard the order of married life and feature high rates of divorced and unwed parenthood. (NYT)

Have a Look

Cameras at auction in Vienna. (The Online Photographer)

¶ Jim Kazanjian’s Fun Houses. (The Best Part)


College Radio Rag. (NYT)

Comments are closed.