Daily Office:
Monday, 29 November 2010

Matins ¶ Cory Doctorow asks: “What Do We Want Copyright To Do?” Putting the question that way cuts through the self-serving claims of “content providers” and the radical eyewash of those who claim that “information wants to be free.” Mr Doctorow offers no detailed proposals, but he argues persuasively that any reasonable copyright system will be (a) based on actual evidence of need and (b) balanced between remuneration and inconvenience. We’re inclined to believe that the question ought to be, “How Do We Want Copyright To Work?” — meaning how, exactly, revenue streams from consumers to creators. But a moment’s thought suggests that this is just another way of framing Mr Doctorow’s call for balance. (Guardian; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Lauds ¶ One of the first things that we read on our return from vacation was Peter Schjeldahl’s report on van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece, “The Flip Side.” [P] The amount of information packed into this extremely readable account of the panels’ current conservation project is astonishing profuse but never miscellaneous; every sentence is informed by Mr Schjeldahl’s understanding thatt the Altarpiece is, above all, a beautiful thing. We also shared his outrage that the masterpiece is a hostage of the Ghent cathedral’s dependence upon gate receipts; it ought to be in a proper museum. (The New Yorker)

Prime ¶ Is Felix Salmon biting the hand that feeds him? We don’t have any idea, to be sure, of how much revenue Thomson Reuters pulls in from retail market reports (possibly none), but the idea that individual investors ” should probably check up on the value of their investments no more than twice a year (and even once every two or three years is fine)” seems radically contrarian, at least for anyone who isn’t Warren Buffett. As if that weren’t renunciation enough, Felix wishes that the White House would release the daily report that Treasury prepares for the Oval Office. “I’m sure that the product would be extremely popular on Wall Street and beyond, and help build a fair amount of free goodwill for the White House.” And it would render television’s moronic market reports superfluous.

Tierce ¶ More from Ed Yong about the strange phenomenon of stereotype threat — strauge because it is really the opposite of a phenomenon, because it is invisible alike to those whose performance falls off simply because they believe that they’re thought to be incapable of doing better, and to those who thrive on the stereotyping, almost always white males. In this double-blind experiment, women taking a university physics course narrowed the gap in gender performance when they completed a writing exercise before the course commenced. Byaffirming their own ideas of what’s important in life in a brief essay, they created a foundation of self-confidence that negated the stereotype threat.

Sext ¶ Bob Cringely has some thoughts about the death — or dying, if you prefer — of email. We thought that it was just us. To the list of factors that Cringely lines up as rendering email less enticing than it used to be, we would add a certain sense of surfeit; those of us who are old enough to have done so certainly gorged on email for about a decade before other media (blogs, social networks) began to alter Internet communication. We said everything that we had to say, and then we said again — and the bums got into the White House anyway. Also unmentioned, and not entirely irrelevant, is the anecdotal evidence that smart people have come to detest phone calls.

Nones ¶ Timothy Garton Ash is astute about the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables, noting that State Department officials come off looking pretty capable. What we’re hoping for is that this heap of clear-eyed analyses of foreign affairs will make it more difficult for our politicians to support bankrupt governments and indefensible regimes. (Guardian; via Real Clear World)

Vespers ¶ Emma Garman writes intriguingly about the last NYRB republication of a Stefan Zweig title, Journey Into the Past. Zweig is one of those mitteleuropäisch writers whose name we’ve always known but whose work we’ve never read. This novella, translated by Andrea Bell (and introduced by Andre Aciman), promises an agreeable corrective. (Words Without Borders; via Conversational Reading)

Compline ¶ Bill Morris is one of those guys who like to type — on a typewriter. The way he talks, you’d think that the typed letter was at some point in the past considered to be “correct,” but that’s not how we remember it. Just as condolence notes and love letters are not supposed to be conveyed via email today, so they weren’t supposed to be typed when we were growing up, either. We’re amused by the romance of Mr Morris’s reflections, but we fail to see an intrinsic difference between letters composed at typewriters and with word processors. The fact that many writers don’t take the trouble doesn’t delete the fact that computer-aided writing is vastly easier to polish. (The Millions)

Have a Look

Ancient Madder. (Ivy Style)

¶ The Espresso Book Machine — a reprise. (via HTMLGiant)


¶ Alexander Chee: Thoughts on writing in a land where it is safe to write anything because writing has been discredited and is considered unimportant. (Koreanish)

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