Archive for the ‘Have A Look’ Category

Daily Office:
Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

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Matins

¶ Here’s a “big government” story for you: for over twenty years, the federal government has dragged its feet about Jack DeCoster’s atrocious record as an egg-poisoner, forcing the states to adopt a patchwork of partial solutions. Mr DeCoster has only now been summoned to account for himself before Congress. Whatever he has to say, it will be the testimony of a man with friends in “big government.” (NYT)

Lauds

¶ The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas is closing — as how could it not? Most Americans alive today can’t remember the phenomenon personally, and unless they’re charged by actual memories, the entertainer’s relics become lifeless dreck. Stephany Anne Golberg reanimates Liberace just long enough to remind us what he was really all about. (The Smart Set)

Prime

¶ You may know that Jeffrey Stephan, a former executive at GMAC, has confessed that he “robo-signed” foreclosure-related affidavits despite the fact that he had none of the personal knowledge required to validate such documents. (This makes Mr Stephan one whopping perjuror.) GMAC’s successor, Ally Capital, has responded by halting foreclosures. Or has it? We’ve read Yves Smith’s probe of the fiasco with cold-fusion despair — what can be expected of financial companies, and yet how are we ever to extricate ourselves from their muck? — but we’re going to let Felix Salmon point the moral of the tale.

Tierce

¶ The idea of a self-organizing system of traffic lights — one that responds to actual traffic conditions instead of working from a timer — is very, very cool, of course. But marks the story for us is the deeper and wider trend that stories such as this reflect. We are moving away from the authority of binary systems (yes/no; right/wrong; on/off) and toward the understanding of live complexity. In other words, We’re learning who we really are, and not trying to be something that we think we ought to be.

Sext

¶ This just in! Commander Lightoller’s granddaughter tells why the Titanic hit the iceberg! 98 years later, his coverup is revealed! (Guardian; via The Morning News)

Nones

¶ Times columnist David Leonhardt explains why the Chinese renminbi exchange rate is more important than the Chinese say that it is, if less important than American businessmen claim. It’s a matter of little stimulus packages — if $10 million is your idea of “little.”

Vespers

¶ Inspired by Blake Butler’s compendium of books that David Foster Wallace held in high regard, M Rebekah Otto shares her disappointment with books recommended by writers whom she admires. (The Millions)

Compline

¶ At the end of her warm review of Rebecca Traister’s Big Girls Don’t Cry, Connie Schultz offers some really, really good advice — plus a reminder that the young men who “radicalized” Traister’s feminism by denigrating Hillary Clinton are probably not themselves going to become any friendlier to the cause of women’s equality. (Washington Post)

Have A Look

Seven Highly Effective Habits of Facebook. (PsyBlog)

Der Tiefstapler. (Metamorphosism)

Anti-Vampire gizmo. (Good)

Daily Office:
Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

havealookdb1

Matins

¶ If a recession officially ends in a jobless recovery, do we need to overhaul the definition of a recession? (The new thing that we learned about today was the Business Cycle Dating Committee, a branch of the National Bureau of Economic Research that doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page yet.) We think not: we need a new scale that looks at employment regardless of other economic factors. Catherine Rampell reports at the Times.

Lauds

¶ By curious coincidence, adjacent Arts Journal feeds concern the problem with reality that today’s Americans seem to be having, thanks in no small part to something called, heaven knows why, “reality television.” First, in a piece that seems motivated largely by disgust over Casey Affleck’s faux documentary, I’m Still Here, Patrick Goldstein resigns himself to the sway of the “mythmakers.”

Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Risk Research finds that everyone belongs to a choir and is looking for an agreeable preacher.

Prime

¶ Perhaps we’re wanting in seriousness, but one of the things we love about Joshua Brown is his drolly jaundiced view of homo speculator. He gives great graph, too. (The Reformed Broker)

Tierce

¶ At Wired Science, Lisa Grossman writes about clouds, and how they’re made up of — plants, mostly. Except, that is, when they come from man-made particulates. In which case, they’re bigger, whiter, more reflective and — get this — therefore tending to cooling the atmosphere.

Sext

¶ What we like most about the Internet is the way it captures what’s best about going to a good school: interesting people talk about interesting things that you may or may not ever know more about. It wouldn’t have occurred to us to say so when we were in school, but now we’d say that knowing someone like Steerforth, the English used book dealer who shares what passes through his hands, is a super way of expanding one’s mental map of the Known-About Universe — which in our humbler moments we call the Map of Ignorance.

Nones

¶ Status Update: European Royals, Scandals Notwithstanding, Aren’t Going Anywhere. (But they’d better be better at royalishness.) Monarchs are merrier (than politicians)! Patricia Treble, reporting at Macleans, finds that the Swedish crown princess’s consort has an ordinariness problem. (via Real Clear World)

Vespers

¶ As readerly people continue to ponder the fate of David Markson’s library (which also doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page yet — but that’s why there’s Google) — we begin to think that it’s the right fate.The books that Markson owned and annotated were cast to the winds, as it were (and not just after his death; he sold plenty of books just to raise pin money. Having passed through the hands of readers, some of whom will be enriched by having possessed the “Markson edition,” they’ll be collected, in a fine game of acquisitive scholarship, for some university library. Craig Fehrman reflects on authors’ libraries generally, and Markson’s in particular, at the Globe. (via The Morning News)

Compline

¶ What’s the matter with populists, liberals are always asking. Can’t they see that the plutocrats who control the parties of the right are out to oppress them with monopolies and joblessness? In an astringent rebuttal, William Hoagland suggests that the only difference between liberals and plutocrats, in the populist view, is the liberal’s annoying sanctimony. (Boston Review; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Have A Look

Living in Io sono l’amore. (Design Sponge)

Daily Office:
Thursday, 16 September 2010

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

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(Note: The Daily Office will resume on Tuesday, 21 September.)

Matins

¶ It’s our settled idea that the world would be a better, certainly safer, place if narcotic were regulated and not prohibited stands firm, but John Murray’s historical essay on the coincidences that have made Mexico a worse, certainly deadlier country remind us that globalism, like nuclear power, is complicated in ways that may exceed our powers of judgment. (The Awl)

Lauds

¶ Whenever we have occasion to take a sip of New York Social Diary, we find that the cocktail’s bang bypasses elation entirely and goes straight to hangover. At the Obersver, NYSD Publisher David Patrick Columbia shares the current esprit de cour about David Koch, the billionaire benefactor whose family’s political activities have made a lot of New Yorkers sit up and take another look at the State Theatre.

Prime

What’s the best way to monetize a blog? Felix Salmon doesn’t recommend trying this at home, but he’s impressed by John Hempten’s Bronte Capital entry about NYSE-listed Universal Travel Group, a Chinese outfit whose shares lost 20% of their value when Mr Hempten’s readers heard what he had to say about his troubles trying to use UTG’s online services, about his diligent inquiries into UTG’s dodgy financials — and about shorting the stock.

Tierce

¶ Kyle Munkittrick argues beguilingly for pursuing the Transhumanist agenda, precisely because, as Francis Fukuyama has described it, it is “the most dangerous idea in the world.”  (Science Not Fiction)

Sext

¶ Kevin Nguyen’s “Monophonic Memoir” about the major ringtones in his life has been around for a few days, but we keep coming back to it, because it captures the sweetness of youth’s dreams, which are vast because the world is so small. (The Bygone Bureau)

Nones

¶ The only curious thing about Rachel Donadio’s handy Lega Nord update in today’s Times, “New Power Broker Rises in Italy,” is its title, which the story itself contradicts.

Vespers

¶ Lydia Davis’s remarks about her new translation of Madame Bovary are so concise that she doesn’t mention the translator whose version almost everyone alive today has read, Francis Steegmuller. (Paris Review; via The Rumpus)

Compline

¶ The last of Scott Horton’s Six Questions for Julian Young (Reconsidering Nietzsche), at Harper’s. The topic is postmodernism and reality.

Have A Look

Oddee‘s 10 Coolest Desks.

¶ Coming Soon: Dessicant air-conditioning. 90% more efficient, so they say. (Good)

¶ J Carter: What I Did This Summer. (NYT)

Daily Office:
Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

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Matins

¶ David Berreby writes about a intriguing phenomenon: a certain kind of terrorist is more likely to be an engineer. What kind? the ones that claim to fight for the pious past of Islamic fundamentalists or the white-supremacy America of the Aryan Nations (founder: Richard Butler, engineer) or the minimal pre-modern U.S. government that Stack and Bedell extolled.” Not leftist, in other words. (NYT; via The Morning News)

Lauds

¶ We’ve read through Anthony Grafton’s agreeable little disquisition on Paolo Veronese, the Inquisition, and Renaissance research into the details of Jesus’ life — did Jesus and the Apostles sit or stretch out for the Last Supper? — a couple of times, and we’re still not sure that we’ve grasped the point of it all. But we’re always charmed by Professor Grafton’s ability to make scholarship look interesting. (Cabinet; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Prime

¶ Yves Smith takes a moment out from banging her head against the wall — “Why Do We Keep Indulting the Fiction That Banks Are Private Enterprises” — to remark on blog entry (missing link!) by “Jay Rosen of NYU” that appears to substitute concentric circles for “frames.” Round or square, this is the kind of analysis that seeks to map and distinguish the discussible from the impermissible in general critical conversations.

Tierce

¶ Because 9/11 coincided with a new moon last weekend, and followed a week of turbulent weather (remember Hugh?),  thousands of migrating birds were thrown into confusion by the memorial Tribute in Light at the World Trade Center site. (Wired Science)

Sext

¶ Kevin Hartnett reflects on the persistence of “friendships,” thanks to Facebook, beyond friendships’ natural life. (The Millions)

Nones

¶ Sudhir Hazaree Singh considers the burnished legacy of Charles DeGaulle, in Turkey of all places, at Foreign Policy. (via  The Morning News)

Vespers

¶ Elif Batuman’s review of Mark McGurl’s The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing is a well from which we intend to drain many satisfying drafts. Indeed, her analysis of really rather odd graduate writing program priorities cleared up a number of perplexities that we didn’t even know we had — so accustomed were we to bumping up against them in the unlighted portions of the mind. (LRB; via MetaFilter )

Compline

¶ Brent Cox decides that, in the Age of the Internet, he’s simply not going to tell anyone — digitally, anyway — about this great place for dumplings that he has discovered. No coolhunter he. (The Awl)

Have A Look

Close Calls. (kottke.org)

Daily Office:
Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

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Matins

¶ James Surowiecki looks into how “stimulus” came to be a dirty word in Washington — despite the success of the actual Stimulus Bill. The accepted wisdom certainly places the American voter in an unflattering light, but the real default is in our leadership, which can dream up effective policies but can’t be bothered to sell them. (The New Yorker)

Lauds

Jazz pianist Bill Evans died thirty years ago tomorrow. Doug Ramsay reminds us of his legacy and prompts us to pull out The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961. Jazz groups still go for the sound that Evans made with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. (WSJ)

Prime

¶ Joshua Brown’s piece about overpaid stockbrokers (“registered representatives,” in Wall Street parlance) caught our eye because… we’d forgotten about stockbrokers

Tierce

¶ Did you know that Auto-Tune was invented to improve oil prospecting? We didn’t. (Live Science; via  The Morning News)

Sext

¶ One stop shopping: pro and con responses to Camille Paglia’s takedown of Lady Gaga can be had at The Awl. Truth to tell, Julie Klausner and Natasha Vargas-Cooper aren’t all that pro. Maria Bustillos is definitely con, reponding with a smackdown.

Nones

¶ At a site that’s new to us, Humble Student of the Markets, Cam Hui (a portfolio manager by day) writes an entry “Diagnosing America’s Ills.” We couldn’t agree more with this level-headed assessment. 

Vespers

¶ We can’t tell just whom Louis Menand is parodying in the third paragraph of his review of The Oxford Book of Parodies, but we’re sure that he’s parodying somebody. We’ll probably get the new anthology, but we won’t be parting with Parodies: An Anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm, the still-better collection that Dwight Macdonald put out in 1960, back when, as Mr Menand nails it, “Modern Library Giants strode the earth.”

Compline

¶ Regular readers know that we discuss books and bookish things at Vespers; that is why we’re mentioning Daniel Mendelsohn’s review of City Boy, Edmund White’s latest volume of reminiscence, here. The deadliest thing we’ve read in ages, the piece is almost too magisterial to show its claws. It is hard to tell whether Mr Mendelssohn holds Edmund White’s advocacy of “gay literature,” or Mr White himself, in greater contempt. The dishing begins with the title, “Boys Will Be Boys,” and every paragraph draws blood. Animus notwithstanding, the review is a cogent argument against the proposition that homosexuals are alien mutants. (NYRB)(P)

Have A Look

¶ Stanford Kay’s Gutenberg Project, at The Best Part.

¶ At Strange Maps, the “Fool’s Cap” Map of the World.

Daily Office:
Monday, 13 September 2010

Monday, September 13th, 2010

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Matins

¶ When the serious overhaul of America’s health-care reform was first broached eighteen years ago, we were dismayed that health care insurance was being addressed before health-care costs. In our view, you ought to worry about price before you worry about payment. We remain dismayed. Only today, at the bottom of an entry at Naked Capitalism, do we catch the lightbulb’s sudden glow in another venue.

Lauds

¶ Dominique Browning introduces her Beauty of the Beach Salon, where the pedicures are free.

Prime

¶ We are intrigued by the coincidence, in our Google Reader, of two items that aren’t so distantly related as their authors might think. In “Winner-take-all economics,” Alex Tabarrok blandly attributes the pile-up of huge fortunes to “the size of the market that can be served by a single person or firm.” (Marginal Revolution)

This is not the end of the story, though, as a piece at The Baseline Scenario begs to remind us. James Kwak has just read a new book called Winner-Take-All Politics. What goes up, it seems, has an appalling tendency to come down into the pockets of political campaigners.

Which sounds like what Mr Tabarrok was saying, doesn’t it?

Tierce

¶ The sad news is that, if you’re going to take up a life of environmental depravity, you want to make sure to have dozens, if not hundreds, of victims. The more egregious an offense, the milder the penalty our all-too-human nature is likely to call for, according to a study of jury awards.

¶ Jonah Lehrer connects the “halfalogue” perplex, which makes it impossible to block out an overheard telephone conversation, with the delights of serious music. The difference between “too much” and “just right,” we think.

Sext

¶ We were almost wondering how long it would take Chris Lehman, tireless cataloguer of Rich People Things, to tackle Penelope Green’s New York Times irony-laden visit to the Newport, Rhode Island mansion of Richard Saul Wurman, the genius behind TED.

Mr Lehman even wraps up his entry with “plus ça….

¶ We’re reminded of a mordant piece about the “bit of a paradox” that TED helps to solve. It appeared at Stuff White People Like last week.

Nones

¶ At Haaretz, Alon Liel writes an almost helplessly admiring portrait of Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister who, flsuh with victory in yesterday’s constitutional referendum, seems set to leave an imprint comparable to that of Kemal Ataturk —”even if we in Israel are largely united by our distate for him.” A distaste shared by Turkey’s Kemalist elite.  

Vespers

¶ At The Millions, Chris Graham rootles about in the rather absurd idea of “reading for pleasure” — by which he means not so much reading fun books (certainly not!) as reading books simply because you want to — and bumps up against the persistence of the bêtise that work and pleasure are incompatible.

Compline

¶ The three final paragraphs of the late Tony Judt’s essay on Czeslaw Milosz’s classic study of intellectuals and totalitarianism, The Captive Mind, ought to chill every thoughtful reader of this site, suggesting as it does the lightning ease with which an ideology defeated in Eastern Europe transplanted itself to flourishing conditions in the United States.

Have A Look

¶ “Anyway, if your name is also Ted Wilson, expect a lawsuit.” (The Rumpus)

¶ Joanna Neborsky shares a raft of fantastic unused drawings from her forthcoming illustrated edition of the Fénéon/Sante Three-Line Novels. (The Rumpus)

Weekend Open Thread:
Plaza

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Daily Office:
Friday, 10 September 2010

Friday, September 10th, 2010

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Matins

¶ Samuel Freedman’s piece on the Muslim Prayer Room on the 17th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower is required reading. The fact that there was such a spiritual center is unlikely to persuade opponents of the Parc51 center to change their minds — we fully expect to hear someone claim that the Twin Towers were doomed by the contaminating presence of an Islamic facility — nor will it make radical extremists stop to think what terrible damage they do to their values by corrupting them with violence. It’s up to the rest of us to bear in mind what’s right, and to speak out for it. (NYT)

Lauds

¶ In what amounts to a letter of admonition, The Economist berates Damien Hirst for enriching himself at the expense of his “investors.” Since, in our view, the focus of Hirst’s art is in its marketing, we don’t see how investors can lose, no matter how much value their purchases lose. Really, the conned investors are part of the picture.

Prime

Yves Smith is not hopeful that the heightened SEC investigation of accounting fraud at Lehman Brothers will lead to criminal penalties. In part, as Ms Smith points out, this is because the complexities of financial litigation can be counted upon to overpower juries’ judgment. But it also owes, we think, to the hushed respectability of the courtroom environment, in which groomed and suited white-collar types exude blamelessness.

Tierce

¶ At Wired Science, Brendan Keim writes up an interesting study: “Early Warning Signs Could Show When Extinction Is Coming.” As populations are challenged, they rebound less robustly from environmental challenges.

Sext

¶ You can close down Spy Magazine, but you can’t take the stunt out of former Spy-meisters like Tad Friend, who was determined to make his way from the Empire State Building to Central Park without setting foot on Fifth or Sixth Avenues. There’s a burly doorman on Fifty-fifth Street who owes Mr Friend a cigar. Or something. He didn’t think that our hero would find a mid-block route (through some building or other) to Fifty-sixth street. We wouldn’t have been surprised if Mr Friend had hitched a ride with low-lying window washers.

Nones

¶ Gordon Chang tells us what to watch for as the Korean Workers’ Party’s national conference — the first since 1966 — unfolds. Will Kim Jong-Il have his way as regards succession plans? (The New Republic; via Real Clear World)

Vespers

¶ Venerable Oxford bookseller Blackwell’s, in order to avoid “awful takeovers,” is going to adopt the employee-owned business model developed by John Lewis, the British department store. (Guardian; via Survival of the Book)

Compline

¶ From the look of it, Miles Klee already lives in the dystopian near-future sketched by Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story. Which makes his dissatisfied review of the novel a kind of pendant to it. Also it will absolve would-not-be readers of the venial sin of procrastination. (Having heard Shteyngart read from Absurdistan, we have no idea why his publisher hasn’t cajoled him into making an audiobook of Super Sad.) (The Awl)

Have A Look

¶ Virtual restoration of the Abbey of Cluny, founded 910 and one of the great medieval institutions. (Le Monde; via Ionarts)

Reading list recommendations from Jonathan Franzen. (Book Beast)

Daily Office:
Thursday, 9 September 2010

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

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Matins

¶ At Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong tackles a muddle — if we may propose an awkward image to reflect a category mistake that has flooded the intellectual territory once overseen by the mainstream media — “Of Writers and Activists — Are Science Bloggers Being Ambitious Enough?”

Lauds

¶ The Jewish High Holidays prompt Miles Hoffman to discuss the lack of anything like the classical liturgical music that serious Western composers went on composing long after the Age of Faith. (NYT)

Prime

¶ At Weakonomics, Philip takes issue with the notion that the recession has hurt blue-collar workers the most — or, in educational terms, that workers with the least academic attainments have been hurt the worst. His figures suggest just the opposite, and, indeed, people with some college education have witnessed the highest increase in unemployment rates. (For our part, we believe that the unemployment problem is so structural that it preceded the recession and will outlast it, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Tierce

¶ We’re not sure that we know exactly what bothers Jonah Lehrer about the ease of e-readers, or how the problem that he foresees can be addressed, but we’re going to file away the distinction between ventral and dorsal reading, one of the rich cognitive findings associated with Stanislas Dehaene. 

Sext

¶ Bess Levin (Dealbreakder) and Jessica Pressler (Daily Intel) chat LOLlingly about Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. As Bess says in her introduction, ” I’m not going to say it’s so bad you shouldn’t see it, but that’s just because it’s so bad it needs to be seen to be believed and we want more people to be able to share in our collective trauma.” The movie does promise some unintended fun for Wall Streeters.

Nones

¶ We try not to go out of our way to be gloomy in these pages, but we must admit that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s address to the Council on Foreign Relations — her sixth, personally, and her second as Secretary — is a disappointment, for failing to be specific about much of anything in general, and for discussing the narcotrafficking issues that plague our hemisphere without even a whisper about the decriminialization of drugs. Here is her entire response to a question asked by Carla Hills. (via  Real Clear World)

Vespers

¶ A brief profile of reluctant entrepreneur Tim Waterstone. Alex Clark begins: “A man who went on to sell the company to the firm that had made him redundant, and then bought it back; and who, after apparently parting ways with his bookshops for good, made four separate attempts to gain control of them once again? This strikes me as almost a dictionary definition of an entrepreneur. So what’s the beef?” (Guardian)

Compline

¶ President Obama has deplored Rev Terry Jones’s plan to burn copies of the Qur’an on Saturday. We wish that the president had done something this exciting before now, but we’ll take what we can get.

Have A Look

Eraserhead — in a one-page panel. (HTMLGIANT)

¶ So that’s it! We’re supposed to like and admire Vincent Karthesier! (Well, we do.) (Thanks, Greg X!)

¶ How many points of Helvetica would it take to stretch from the Earth to the Moon? If you have to ask, you can’t apport it. (kottke.org)

Daily Office:
Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

havealookdb1

Matins

Ellen Moody writes,

Over on facebook, someone told of a long day’s struggle to order, throw away, pack, and generally empty out his parents’ home (possible so as to sell it). What exhausting work emotionally and physically. Well his words reminded me of a moving diary entry in the LRB by August Kleinzhaler where he told of his experience of selling his childhood home.

The Kleinzahler piece dates from last winter, but it’s instantly engaging, so do click through.

Lauds

¶ The prolific director Raoul Walsh (1887-1980) is the subject of an appreciation by Dan Callahan, at The House Next Door. Two films are singled out for the honor of standing aside White Heat, the great Cagney vehicle: Me and My Gal, with Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett; and Band of Angels, starring Clark Gable and Yvonne de Carlo.

Prime

¶ “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds,” cautions Michael Lewis, in Vanity Fair. His truly sensational account of Greek peccadilloes makes Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief seem muted and forgiving. The following extract, taken from the first half of the piece, is itself relatively forgiving.

Tierce

¶ What’s this? It seems that the leopard can change his spots! And Alan Turing expounded the general principles that make this, and many other pattern shifts, possible.

Sext

¶ Michael Williams (A Continuous Lean) gets invited to a publication party for True Prep, the sequel to/update of The Preppy Handbook, that came out yesterday. He has a much better time than he thought he would — and what could be preppier than that?

Nones

¶ The least we could do: restoring Iraqi antiquities to the country from which they were looted during our misadventure there. Steven Lee Myers reports, in the Times.

Vespers

¶ Garth Risk Hallberg asks: if the Internet is supposed to be shrinking our attention apans, what are we doing buying all these long novels that are coming out these days?

Compline

¶ At The Oil Drum, Ugo Bardi argues cogently that science and technology advance more quickly when sparked by prizes than when fed by research grants. 

Have A Look

The Future Is In Helvetica. (Joe.My.God)

Joshua Marsh: Ten Things. (ARTCAT)

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

havealookdb1

Matins

¶ Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich welcomes us the worst Labor Day in the memory of most Americans,” and explains why we can no longer count on consumers to spend the economy out of its rut. Not to mention the inequity of our growing income disparity.

Lauds

¶ One of the things we love about Felix Salmon is his sense — rare for a financial writer — that money isn’t everything. Sometimes, in fact, it’s completely irrelevant, as here: “It’s a bad idea to regulate the art market.”

¶ Meanwhile, Philip Greenspun has a “Good book for discouraging independent filmmakers.”

Prime

¶ Joshua Brown’s “outliers,” at The Reformed Broker. “I define an outlier as an event that is unlikely but possible.” We have no idea which is the likeliest (or the unlikeliest), but we can’t help thinking that Item Nº 4 would clear the air.

Tierce

¶ At The American Prospect, Chris Mooney reviews a book about industrial polution in the bad old days before the Environmental Protection Act. Guess what? The EPA didn’t put an end to the good old “spill, study, and stall.” Beyond that depressing reflection, Mr Mooney has a very good idea about putting a stop to tendentious, bogus “science.”

Sext

¶ Say that you live in London town, and pay a visit to New York City. How do you compare and contrast these immense and amazing metropolises? Our minds may boggle, but James Ward knows what counts. Which city sells the better souvenir pens? Here is the third wing of his tripartite analysis (which Gotham wins).

Nones

¶ At The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss looks into the labor movement in China — and the help that it’s getting from Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union. (via  Marginal Revolution 

Vespers

¶ A much-discussed book of the moment — a sort of indie Freedom, if you will —is Tom McCarthy’s C. Zachary Adam Cohen’s enthusiastic review, at Slant, bears out our conviction that a favorable review is the most informative kind. We can tell from Mr Cohen’s commentary that C is not for us.  

Compline

¶ We kid you not: the New York City Department of Sanitation has its own resident sociologist, Robin Nagle. (No, we didn’t know, either.) The Believer’s Alex Carp talks with Ms Nagle about the highs and lows of garbage collection. (The highs involve the cognitive issue of “invisibilization.”)

Have A Look

Rough Seas; Major UnseaworthinessHave a drink(Joe.My.God) 

Casa Kike. (BLDGBLOG)

Daily Office:
Friday, 3 September 2010

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

havealookdb1

Matins

¶ Sarah Idzik’s pieces at The Awl about adoption — Sarah herself was born in Korea prior to adoption by an American family living outside of Pittsburgh — is shaping up to be a must-read report on a fact of life that most Americans would prefer to overlook: assimilation into our society doesn’t just happen all by itself. And adoptees are often left with the uncomfortable recognition that no one is to blame for their sense of displacement.

Lauds

¶ The superb Toni Bentley writes about the first great American ballet, set to music by Tchaikovsky that was not intended for the stage: George Balanchine’s Serenade. (Wall Street Journal; via  Arts Journal)

Prime

¶  At The Baseline Scenario, Peter Boone and Simon Johnson discuss the Irish debt crisis that is looming rather horribly at the moment. Their account of the bailout of Irish banks reminds us that the United States is not the only developed nation in which powerful people are overseeing the transfer of public wealth into private pockets — or, as here, converting private debts into public liabilities

Tierce

¶ Peter Smith reconsiders the “nitrite scare” — and notes, in passing, that many “nitrite-free” foods are still loaded with naturally-occurring nitrites. (Good)

Sext

¶ Dustin Kurtz is a very nice guy (we’ve met!), but he has the damnedest time trying to articulate his dislike of that big book that everybody’s talking about. But not to worry: this is only the first part of “Two McNally Jackson Booksellers Argue About Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom’.”

Nones

¶ It’s possible that we like Uwe Buse’s account of Munich Re, the world’s largest re-insurer, because it sparkles with action-movie flash. (Spiegel Online; via Real Clear World)

Vespers

The Rumpus has been running a series of personal essays in which writers reflect on the porousness of life and art. We’re particularly taken by the latest entry, Nº 19, in which Edward Schwarzschild muses richly, and never quite as creepily as he might (part of the thrill of the piece, really), on the ways in which his early middle age has touched upon that of fellow writer Nick Flynn.

Compline

¶ Sheril Kirshenbaum’s initially dismaying account of sexual harrassment at Duke University goes on, thank goodness, to remind us that the struggle for gender equality and the dismantling of male patriarchy are top priorities. (The Intersection)

Have A Look

Clothes on Film (via MetaFilter)

¶ “Don’t Forget to Smile When You Serve Cold Drinks.” (via The Rumpus)

The next edition of The Daily Office will appear on Tuesday, 7 September 2010.

Daily Office:
Thursday, 2 September 2010

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

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Matins

¶ Just in case you were taking consciousness for granted: Daniel Dennett has called it “the last surviving mystery,” and a glance at the Quantum Consciousness theory of Roger Penrose and Stuart Hamerhoff may leave you un-demystified. (Big Think; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Lauds

¶ At the Guardian, Alistair Smith casts a spotlight on the boom in cruise ship theatre productions. (via Marginal Revolution)

Prime

¶ Although he writes as though that detox tea that he has been drinking has fermented, possibly, what we like about Philip’s gaze into the future of economics is the idea that we’re still missing some very important pieces of the puzzle — that is, we don’t know what we’re doing. (Weakonomics)

Tierce

¶ Intensive analysis of Sudanese bones dating from (roughly) the late Roman Empire reveals tetracycline saturation, leading scientiest to infer that not only that the local beer was antibiotic but that the brewers knew what they were doing. Jess McNally reports, in Wired Science.

Sext

¶ It’s that kind of day: we’re in deep sympathy with The Awl‘s Alex Balk, who fell into the WikiHole of a quest for the truth about Ellen Pompeo’s polydactylism. (And Ellen Pompeo would be — ? Oh.)

Nones

¶ Dexter Filkins reports on the run on Kabul Bank, brought by cronyism to the brink of collapse. (NYT)

Vespers

¶ Scott Esposito applies Clay Shirky’s distinction between writers and authors to The Shallows, and concludes that Nicholas Carr is the first but not the second. It’s ironic, in a sour sort of way, that a book bemoaning the deleterious effects of the Internet should betray infection by them. (Conversational Reading)

Compline

¶ Chinese rock — how’s that for an oxymoron? “This is not a society of rebels.” The Telegraph‘s Malcolm More chats with impresario Archie Hamilton.

Have A Look

¶ “Fightin’ iRish: Notre Dame Class Switches to iPads.” (Good)

secondome. (Design Sponge)

Daily Office:
Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

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Matins

¶ Only yesterday, we heard for the first time of Mike Rose, whose books about intelligence and education (and the disconnect between them) promise to appear in our reading pile PDQ; now, today, we encounter a blog about apparel manufactoring in particular and the “sustainable factory floor” in particular, Kathleen Fasanella’s Fashion-Incubator. Adverted to this Web log for designer entrepreneurs by the tirely Tyler Cowen, we fastened with great interest on this discussion of the alarming and fundamentally bogus split between “knowledge workers” and worker workers. Complete with references to Mike Rose!

Lauds

¶ Nige responds to the news that Kazuo Ishiguro’s best-known novel, The Remains of the Day, is being adapted for the musical theatre. We are in complete accord with his dismay.

Prime

¶ In a wittily-titled entry, “Legends of the Fall,” Joshua Brown deconstructs the swarm of financial pieces that presume to posit seasonal doom based on historical indicators &c. Eyewash, cries Mr Brown. What he says for investors goes for us onlookers as well.

Tierce

¶ Here’s a story to chill if not kill the idea that natural ills can be vanquished with genuine once-and-for-all finality. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the cessation of smallpox vaccination 20 years ago opened the door to monkeypox — a not unforeseen development. If you want to see what monkeypox looks like, click here. (Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Sext

¶ New boy in town, “sleight of mind” artist Matthew Michael Cooper makes a big boo-boo mistake (from which he is not shielded by interviewer or editor, and in response to a question out of left field), but he responds well to correction in the comments. New York makes people better people!

Nones

¶ Once upon a time, colonial powers would have dreamed of doing what China is doing, in the way of running railroads into Southeast Asia. China, which still calls itself the Central Nation, is probably untroubled by Western-style pricks of conscience. (China Post; via Real Clear Nation)

Vespers

¶ Lizzie Skurnick does a bang-up job of highlighting the comical parallels — sure to be savored no more richly than by the author himself — between the media hoo-ha already surrounding Freedom, the Jonathan Franzen book that came out, officially, only yesterday, and the awkward scrutiny that’s brought to bear on the novel’s characters, all of them “frequently undone by how poorly their public selves match their private desires.”

Compline

¶ George Packer marks the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the mission that has achieved nothing in over seven years. (Interesting Times)

Have A Look

¶ Josh Barkey’s modest proposal for green high school students. Guys, that is. (Good)

Jane Fonda, Juliette Lewis plug Scissor Sisters. (Joe.My.God.)

Boring Conference 2010: Save the date! 11 December, “somewhere in London.”

Daily Office:
Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

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Matins

¶ Much as we liked James Surowiecki’s column in this week’s New Yorker, “Are You Being Served?,” we wish that it were a tad more penetrating. 

It seems pretty clear to us that “most companies have a split personality when it comes to” human beings. And this is only natural: the modern company, boosted by the extraordinary leaps in productivity that were realized by the Industrial Revolution, has always sought to employ as few human beings as possible. It is for the machines to do the work; in an ideal world, machines can run the factory as well. And who were the customers of large companies? Other companies. It is difficult to imagine, but until the Second World War, the different kinds of mass produced goods intended for the general public could all be sold through a few catalogues and some not-very-large stores.

“The Consumer Society” has been, by and large, a nighmare for the modern company. And, in the everlasting fashion of modern companies, it has simply passed on the headache of that nightmare (the cost of doing business) to customers and employees alike.

Lauds

¶ Anisse Gross begins her interview with the incredible kinetic sculptor Arthur Ganson with what might be the stickiest question that one could ask: what distinguishes Ganson’s constructions from amusing toys? Be sure sure to click through to The Rumpus and enjoy the YouTube clips of Ganson’s art.

Prime

¶ At Baseline Scenario, guest Ilya Podolyako outlines the improvidence of relying, as the Dodd-Frank Act does, upon clearing houses to stabilize the market in derivatives. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Tierce

¶ In case you’re bothered this evening by a grouch who believes that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket &c, you might consider passing on this bit of news: archeologists working in Turkey have discovered evidence of “successful” brain surgery (ie, it didn’t kill the patient) among reamins of a Bronze Age settlement. No evidence of Bronze Age anesthetics is mentioned. (New Scientist)

Sext

¶ Having mistaken Elif Batuman, author of the wildly popular lit crit romp, The Possessed, to be a person of the masculine gender, Ujala Sehgal, our favorite Millions intern, attempts to make amends. As penance, the author suggests that she buy the book.

Nones

¶ Was anybody else surprised by the absence, from Steve Coll’s Pakistan piece in this week’s Talk of the Town, of the word “feudal“? It’s true that we’ve felt a bit wild throwing “feudal” around in our discussions of the broken rump of the Raj — or did, that is, until we read Sabrina Tavernise’s story in Saturday’s Times, “Upstarts Chip Away at Power of Pakistani Elite.”

Vespers

¶ At Good, Mark Peters laments the perverse misusage of the term “Orwellian” — “It’s as if we called criminal scum “Batmanistic” because Batman is so effective in beating them senseless” — but acknowledges that the pigs are out of the barn.

Compline

¶ It goes without saying that we had to read anything with a title as wrong-headed as this: “Urban Legends: Why suburbs, not cities, are the answer.” The further we got in Joel Kotkin’s piece, however, the righter it all seemed, provided that we understood it to be about the deleterious impact of unnecessarily large business organizations, not that of population densities. Cities don’t produce poverty. Mr Kotkin reverses his cause and its effect. (Foreign Policy: via Real Clear World)

Have A Look

¶ Ted Wilson, housesitting, kills the neighbors’ dog. (The Rumpus)

Ask for directions and save thousands. (Good)

¶ Linda “Lovelace” declines to provide an autograph, but sort of does so, anyway. Good for her. (Letters of Note)

Daily Office:
Monday, 30 August 2010

Monday, August 30th, 2010

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Matins

¶ What’s this? Golf courses promote biodiversity? In England, it appears, a study that looked at over two hundred links found that a large majority were as ecologically beneficial as parks and preserves. The bottom line is, as usual, that we didn’t know as much as we thought we did. (via The Awl)

Lauds

¶ Although we’re still enthusiastic about going to the movies, we agree with Bob Lefsetz, writing at The Rumpus, that “If you truly want to succeed in the entertainment industry today, if you want to have a long career, you’ve got to think small.”

Prime

¶ At Weakonomics, Philip offers one of those contrarian, too-good-to-be-true solutions to an everyday problem — pet animal overpopulation, in this case — that really ought to be put to the test right away.

Tierce

¶ Jonah Lehrer writes about that most Proustian of science topics, time and memory. Why does time seem to slow down in a crisis? (The Frontal Cortex)

Sext

¶ From a site that we’ve begun following: I Like Boring Things. What to do when a conference called “Interesting” is canceled? There’s something almost daring about hosting a deliberately Boring Conference — considering all the inadvertent ones. 

Nones

¶ William James week at The Second Pass — last week marked the centenary of the philosopher’s death — has been extended a bit, to accommodate a guest post by James biographer Robert Richardson, who writes about James’s interest in finding a “moral equivalent of war.”

Vespers

¶ Sonya Chung is re-reading The Great Gatsby — she’s going to be teaching it. Among the thoughts that a third reading has occasioned, the most intriguing, if somewhat irrelevant is that in Heath Ledger we lost an actor who might truly have realized the strange Mr Gatz. Her more classroom-appropriate observations are, even so, fresh and astute. (The Millions)

Compline

¶ In an interview with Salon‘s Alex Jung, labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan makes some interesting points about the difficulty of comparing productivity in the US and in Germany. (via 3 Quarks Daily)

Have A Look

¶ Garland Grey’s bullet-pointed Bildungsroman. (The Bygone Bureau)

¶ Truffle hunting in Northern Italy has claimed seventeen lives this season. (Independent; via reddit)

Daily Office:
Friday, 27 August 2010

Friday, August 27th, 2010

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Matins

¶ With a manner only slightly less facetious than that of Gail Collins, Claire Berlinski holds Turkey’s Iran policy up to something like ridicule. The only way that she can explain it is by analogy to the Turkish preference for emotion over logic. Not safe for the politically correct! But good fun withal. (World Affairs; via Real Clear World)

Lauds

¶ Writing about the extent of classical-music ignorance in Britain, Lynsey Hanley makes an eloquent plea for “a common culture, the riches of which are shared, rather than hoarded.” (Guardian)

Prime

¶ At The Awl, “Carl Hegelman” directs our attention to two goodly solutions to our economic disarray: Robert Reich’s proposal to turn defense contractors into infrastucturists, and Milton Friedman’s negative income tax. (If that isn’t one from Column A and one from Column B, we don’t know what is.)

Tierce

¶ E O Wilson, once an early proponent of kin selection theory — an attempt to square the selfishness of natural selection with manifestations of altruism — now spearheads what he thinks is a better idea, which Brendan Keim, writing at Wired Science, never quite calls “colonial selection,” although that’s what it sounds like to us.

Sext

¶ Daniel Adler approaches comfort food from the vantage of a road warrior, and attempts to make bánh mì in his hotel bathroom. It’s all about process. (The Bygone Bureau)

Nones

¶ We continue to believe that the instability of Pakistan, brought to some sort of tipping point by dreadful flooding that has brought about a devastation that the government seems unable or unwilling to redress, is the most alarming crisis on the planet today. Of all the pieces to which we’ve linked in recent months, none has displayed the scope of Ahmen Rashid’s “The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan,” at The National Interest. (via 3 Quarks Daily)

Vespers

¶ Michelle Dean unpacks the “Franzenfreude,” and shakes out the possibility that Jonathan Franzen is highly regarded by critics because he’s the best writer to cover what is uncritically understood to be the American Scene. She notes that Mr Franzen himself is not as deluded on this point as his admirers seem to be. (The Awl)

Reading Freedom with the greatest relish, the Editor wishes that more readers would bracket Jennifer Egan with Jonathan Franzen as a smart, generous, comprehensive American writer with a first-class prose style. Ms Egan happens to be white, but even if you can’t have everything you can have a more inclusive pantheon.  

Compline

¶ Hats off Andrew Price, for asking “Does Anyone Know What the Point of Prison Is, Anyway?” It’s a very practical question, because only a clear and distinct idea of the point of incarceration will fix our bloated, if not entirely broken, prison system. (Good)

Have A Look

Flat Plans. (The Best Part)

Daily Office:
Thursday, 26 August 2010

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

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Matins

¶ GOP panjandrum Kenneth Mehlman has come out as a gay man. (Atlantic) We share Joe’s exasperation.

Lauds

¶ It’s a commonplace — at least among serious readers — that even the greatest novels change over time: the Emma that you read at sixteen is not the Emma that you’ll read at forty, even though not a single word in Jane Austen’s text has been changed. We do the changing. At The Online Photographer, Michael Johnston reports on an interesting variant of that phenomenon: you can never really go back to using equipment that you used to rely on every day.

Prime

¶ So, it has come to this, the current debate about unemployment: “Strucs vs Cycs.” Will “business cycles” restore jobs? Or is there a mismatch between jobs and workers that the market will not solve (in anyone’s lifetime, that is)? We agree (as usual) with Felix Salmon’s refinement on the structuralist position.

Tierce

¶ Jonah Lehrer writes about the crash in housing prices in terms of the cognitive bias known as “loss aversion.” Clearly, what’s needed is a positive rhetoric for freeing homeowners from albatross properties.

Sext

4chan, a site that the Guardian calls “the id of the Internet,” is about to be transformed, via initial public offering, into Canvas. Julian Dibbell writes about Christopher Poole’s venture at MIT Technology Review. (via kottke.org)

Nones

¶ Tyler Cowen on Eliza Griswold’s The Tenth Parallel: “This is the book which everyone is reading…” Our copy is on order!

Vespers

¶ Richard Greenwald writes perceptively about the quest for authenticity in today’s urban writing, which, although he doesn’t mention them, clearly betray “out-of-towner” anxieties. The work of Jonathan Lethem is a perfect foil for this discussion, because the writer grew up in a gentrifying household: Is he really Dean Street?

Compline

¶ One of the Editor’s most electric memories is the look on his adoptive mother’s face when he announced, at the age of ten or so, that he was going to change his name when he grew up — anything but the name that he’d been given would be better. 

In those days, the routine, common among immigrants, of changing names, especially from foreign, difficult ones into tony English ones, was just beginning to fade. Now, Sam Roberts reminds us in the Times, it has become quite unusual.

Have A Look

¶ A project that perfectly captures the mentality of Ayn Rand’s fans. (Brainiac)

Daily Office:
Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

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To read the complete text for any given hour, simply click on the time of day (Matins, Lauds, &c).

Matins

¶ In an Op-Ed piece in the Times, Christine Stansell reviews the rearguard — some would say shameful — history of Southern opposition to women’s suffrage, noting that Mississippi did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1984. (Why’d they bother?) We have now come to take the view that the American Civil War ended in an armed truce, not a Union Victory.

Lauds

¶ At The House Next Door, Elise Nakhnikian argues concisely that Swing Time is the best of the Astaire-Rogers movies.

Prime

¶ Gee whiz, here’s a great idea: let’s turn a major chain of department stores into virtual warehouses and fulfillment centers for online shoppers! That way, they can buy what they want and pick it up at a nearby location, checking it out in the process. It’s certainly working for Nordstrom. Stephanie Clifford reports, in the Times.

Tierce

¶ Finally! An explanation of TED! What “TED” stands for. (“Technology. Entertainment. Design.”) Who started it and who runs it. (Richard Saul Wurman; Chris Anderson). Who pays for what? (Fast Company; via The Morning News)

Sext

¶ We hereby resolve to become better Netizens by following Slate‘s slayer of “bogus trend stories,” Jack Shafer. We like to think that we can smell an under-researched story, heavy on anecdotes contributed by the writer’s friends of friends, but doubtless Mr Shafer can teach us a thing or two. Here, he goes after a recent story in the Times that attributed a rising number of National Park Service searches and rescues to the misguided use of “technology.”

Nones

¶ It is regrettably difficult to interest Americans in the problems of campaign financing and political contributions (not the same thing), and Jane Mayer’s exposé (in the current issue of The New Yorker) of the activities of Charles and David Koch, oilmen whose businesses have only to lose from enhanced environmental protection, is unlikely to rouse an angry citizenry.

Vespers

¶ Alexander Chee tops off an entry about being a published novelist who keeps a blog, and why he continues to keep a blog, with eight pieces of advice for anyone following a similar path. Especially if keeping a blog is the publicist’s idea. Mr Chee is on his second blog.

Compline

¶ A reader of Marginal Revolution asks Tyler Cowen what he thinks of the profession of diplomacy. Not much, is Mr Cowen’s unsurprising answer.

Have A Look

Tastes like chicken. (Discoblog)

Central Asian majesty. (3 Quarks Daily; from Boston Globe)

Pillar of Fire. (Telegraph; via Bad Astronomy)

Daily Office:
Monday, 23 August 2010

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

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To read the complete text for any given hour, simply click on the time of day (Matins, Lauds, &c).

Matins

¶ We begin and end the day with pieces about the late Tony Judt. First, friend and colleague Timothy Garton Ash writes about the spectateur engagé at NYRBlog. (via 3 Quarks Daily)

Lauds

¶ At the Guardian, Stephen Emms makes a bold claim — but one with which we’re in complete agreement: the Pet Shop Boys’ “Being Boring,” twenty years old next month, is the best pop single of all time. (via  Joe.My.God)

Prime

¶ The Reformed Broker (Joshua Brown) foresees civil strife in America arising from contention about public-sector pension benefits and other entitlements.

Our response to this scenario (which seems realistic enough) is that the public/private sectors ought to be largely if not entirely merged, into a third sector that is neither private nor public: highly regulated not-for-profit business organizations. We don’t see a reason for tegarding housing as a private good, but teaching as a public one; all we see on this point is sentimental muddle.

And when we say “highly regulated,” we don’t mean “by the government.” Even the regulators ought to be not-for-profit organizations. (How nice it would be if the Securities and Exchange Commission could be one!)

Tierce

¶ At Wired Science, Duncan Geere writes about the first manned space ship that will be launched without the support of a government. Think on’t!

Sext

¶ Chris Lehmann’s Rich People Things is available for pre-ordering, if, like us, you’ve come to recognize in the Awl writer one of our more mordant social prophets. Today’s target is the vaguely-defined fear of a weak recovery and of “Obamanomics” that supposedly prevents firms from hiring.

Nones

¶ At The Wilson Quarterly, Daniel Akst writes about the friendship deficit in American life. We’re widely recognized as friendly people, but we’re not correspondingly committed.

Vespers

¶ In “Beauty, Youth, and Their Discontents,” Ujala Seghal ruminates on four beautiful protagonists who don’t end well, Julien Sorel, Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina, and Eustacia Vye. (The Millions)

Compline

¶ At The Bygone Bureau, Darryl Campbell, who never met Tony Judt or even went to New York University, testifies to the impact that Judt’s engagement with the world had upon his intellectual (and professional) development.

Have A Look

¶ Bertrand Russell’s “Liberal Decalogue” — ten commandments for good wrongologists. (Common Sense Atheism)

Quicksand: some people crave it! (via kottke.org

Reddi-Bacon. (No, not a WIN)

International Druthers List. (Let a Thousand Nations Bloom)