Daily Office:
Thursday, 16 December 2010

Matins ¶ Abby Goodnough’s story reminds us that, for the first time in a very long time, there will be no Kennedys in national office. Patrick Kennedy, six-term representative from Rhode Island who declined to seek re-election this year, is packing up for his farmhouse in Portsmouth. One aspect of the Kennedy legacy is stronger than ever: Americans are quite used now to political dynasties. Movie-star dynasties, as well. Indeed, it may be that we’re reverting to the very traditional idea that children follow in their parents’ footsteps because they grow up in them. (NYT)

Lauds ¶ Sebastian Smee weighs in at the Globe about the Hide/Seek/Wojnarowicz controversy — which is, of course, a controversy only the nation’s smaller minds. The idea that art that some viewers find “offensive” must be denied exhibition to all viewers is itself offensive. Underlying the conservative criticism of Hide/Seek is a fear of liberal depravity, which is the counterweight to liberals’ fear of conservative bigotry. The notion that Americans who reject Christianity — or, more particularly, its worldly representatives — are depraved must be staunchly “refudiated.” (via Arts Journal)

Prime ¶ What caught our attention about the “firestorm of controversy” raging in Bedford, New Hampshire wasn’t so much the appropriateness of placing Barbara Ehrenreich’s excellent Nickel and Dimed on a high-school personal-finance curriculum, but the charge, made by complaining parents, the the book contains a “negative depiction of capitalism.”

Really? How so? Capitalism is a system of legally-protected property rights that, notoriously or not, allows investors to make money from the labor of others. As we recall, Ehrenreich nowhere challenges the legitimacy of this system. Rather, she complains about the failure of many businesses, large and small, to provide workers with a living wage. Those businesses may all be as capitalist as you please, but the problem of wages has nothing to do with capitalism — unless you believe that investors own the right to make money from the underpaid (that is, unpaid) labor of others, which is simply another way of saying “slavery.” (Union-Leader; via MetaFilter)

Tierce ¶ The inclusion of the iPad among The Onion‘s list of 2010′s most notable people is a silly joke that’s not so silly. The editors of The Morning News extracted this sentence to cover their link to The Onion: “We replaced the human being you naturally expected in a list of the year’s most prominent newsmakers with an inanimate object.” Anyone who didn’t spend the year in a cave could predict what that inanimate object would turn out to be.

In 1985, when he bought an IBM Peanut, the Editor did not feel that he was anywhere near the leaders of the personal computing pack, and as he becomes more interested in what computers can do, he is less interested in how they work. But he feels that the iPad makes an apt 25th-anniversary celebration of his digital life. We agree: the iPad is the first computer to feel at all personal. So, even though there are millions of iPads out there, the Editor’s feels like the only one.

Sext ¶ Who’d a thunk it? Hitler’s opus, Mein Kampf, topped an Amazon list of legal-thriller ebooks. Briefly. People have actually been paying either $1.58 or $1.60 to own this classic rant. They can’t be reading it, though. Mein Kampf is unimaginably dull. In a test of his First-Amendment rights, the Editor checked Mein Kampf out of the Bronxville School library in the eighth grade, but he gave up when he ran into the word “juxtaposed,” which he did not know. Mrs Cochrane, his savvy home-room teacher, defined the word for him in a way that let him know that she saw this Mein Kampf thing as just another one of his ridiculous stunts. The book was returned to the library long, long before it was due. (Crave; via The Awl)

Nones ¶ At Today’s Zaman, Kerim Balci writes about the Ottoman Commonwealth of Nations. Well, no, such a commonwealth does not exist, except as a dream — which is wha,t Mr Balci argues, it ought to remain. His cogent arguments against the attempt to “restore” the Ottoman Empire in any form are cogent and instructive, making a connection between then and now that is realistic rather than romantic. Interestingly, the European Union currently provides a painful example of what can go wrong with bright ideas.

Vespers ¶ John Self reads They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, and discovers that, yes, there are no horses in Horace McCoy’s grim pulp, which Simone de Beauvoir called the first “existentialist” American novel. The exhausting marathon dance at the end of the line — a pier on the Pacific — is both pure and pungent, an implicit excoriation of broad American failure that never so much as whispers a scolding. A classic on this side of the Atlantic as well, Horses can be found in the first volume of the Library of America’s Crime Novels collection. See the movie if you’re inclined, but do not regard it as a substitute for the experience of reading the book. (Asylum)

Compline ¶ At Smithsonian, historian John Ferling lays out seven “Myths of the American Revolution.” He means the term “myth” properly: myths grow up around some truths and occlude others; that’s what’s “wrong” about them. Briefly, Mr Ferling clarifies the following popularly held understandings: the British began the war impulsive, without knowing what they were in for; American support for the war was unanimous; the American army was bedraggled, and its militia useless; Saratoga was the turning point; Washington was a military genius; and the British could not have won the war. All correct, to a point — except the one about Washington, who was all but incompetent. The omission of France’s indispensable role suggests that it’s not a myth, but we think that it would have been nice to mention. (via 3 Quarks Daily)

Have a Look

Ah Xian. (The Best Part)

¶ Behold Benedict XVI leering at shirtless acrobats. (Joe.My.God)

Noted

Boring 2010 a success! (James Ward: I Like Boring Things)