Daily Office
Grand Hours
Saturday, 22 January 2011


¶ At GOOD, Noam Ross asks, “If Everyone Moves to the City, What Gets Left Behind?” His accompanying graphic is a bit less exciting. Although China’s rural population is predicted to drop by half, 2000-2050, the rest of Asia and Africa look to be stable. The thin slice of country-dwellers in Europe, the Americas, and Oceania is expected to drop by about a third. Still, this is an interesting think piece. One thing that goes unmentioned is that rural poverty will probably increase sharply in regions not served by railroads. ¶ Also at GOOD, an important word about elevators, which Alex Goldmark rightly calls the capillaries of urban life.


¶ No one is going to be surprised that we wish the Guardian had spoken a little more firmly: “Behind the music: Why music education cuts could be a dumb move.” Could be?  How on earth are talented kids who don’t happen to be rich going to be discovered and nurtured without publicly-funded programs? Scratching our heads about Helienne Lindvall‘s version of this perennial story, we wondered if there’s a positive explanation for why music ed is always the first to go in Anglophone schools: it’s classical, and our natural tradition is vernacular. (Can there be any doubt that English-speaking writers and composers, born no matter where, have generated the richest spectrum of popular song forms?) This is no excuse for failing to educate children in the arts, but understanding the weakness of political support is a start. (via Arts Journal) ¶ In “Link Rot,” Connor O’Brien wants us to bear in mind how easily the whole Internet thing could callapse into a state of 404. Of course we already knew how right he is but his talking about it gave us asthsma. (The Bygone Bureau)


¶ We’re hoping that Max Chafkin‘s much-talked-about Norway piece, “In Norway, Start-ups Say Ja to Socialism,” inaugurates a truly serious examination of the relation between rates of taxation and prosperity. It seems, offhand, to be the very reverse of what the Reaganauts told us it was. “Socialism” seems a strong word for the Norwegian régime, which tolerates, after all, the likes of coiffeur-queen Inger Ellen Nicolaisen, the “Donald Trump of Norway.” She pays plenty beaucoup taxes, but she still owns plenty beaucoup. We don’t remember plenty beaucoup property rights as a feature of textbook socialism. Chafkin’s piece is a must-read, even though, at the end of the day, there are only five million Norwegians to share all that North Sea oil. ¶ At Weakonomics, Philip touchingly wonders if capitalism might be at an “inflection point,” by which he means (and hopes) that capitalists might see the advantage of taking a longer view than the quarterly. (No doubt, that sounds like socialism!) We quite agree with the point that he makes toward the end of the entry: “I like to support programs that solve problems before they start…” Poor corporate governance is definitely the place where trouble starts.  


¶ A recent study correlating two genes with behavioral probability, one with friendship and one with aversion, is almost laughingly preliminary and — literally — precocious. The correlations may have been established, but working out their meanings, much less their mechanics, will take years, if only to amass correlations for hundreds if not thousands of other genes. But the research is probably on the right track, and it will be fought vehemently by people who refuse to recognize free will as an unpredictable distallate of chaotic events, deterministic at the atomic level but not higher up. Patrick Morgan reports at Discoblog. ¶ We’re wondering if there’s a gene that explains why some people get worried about whether one or two spaces follows the full stop. We strongly believe in inserting two spaces between the abbreviation for a state and the ZIP code on an evelope, but that’s not what’s agitating Farhad Manjoo.  We’re having so many problems with the idiocies of Platform WordPress that we don’t feel entitled to venture an opinion. (Slate)


¶ The bloom is definitely off the rose so far as business blogging is concerned. Ben Bradley, a marketer in Illinois, told Lisa Bertagnoli that blogging “wasn’t a giant time investment, but I’d rather be on the phone with a client.” Plus,  sales calls were whoppingly more effective. (via The Awl) ¶ Leigh Alexander catalogues Five Emotions Invented By The Internet. Unfortunately, they go unnamed. “The need to say something has lapsed and leaves a dim, fatigued sensation in its place. In advanced cases, a sensation approximating ‘headache’ but not as tangible nor identifiable as ‘headache’ sets in.” We think that Alexander must have been reading Oblomov. (Thought Catalog, via kottke.org)


¶ Meet Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister. James Traub profiles the man from Konya who both intellectually and diplomatically argues for Turkey’s importance in international affairs — not as the “sick man of Europe,” but as quite the opposite, a conciliating power. Mr Davutoglu’s program may have been swamped by the Mavi Marmara incident, and Traub suggests that he may have overestimated Turkey’s importance — a possibility that would not surprise his critics. (NYT)  ¶ Faced with one of Edward Hugh‘s prodigiously comprehensive analyses of economic developments, we glance over the introduction and shoot straight to the conclusion, which in the case of “Turkey’s Audacious Experiment In ‘Post-Modern’ Monetary Policy“ provides a persuasive examination of the factors that have put Turkey on a path that’s contrary to ours (and to Europe’s as well);  beyond that, you’ll get a sense of why the outlook for ”young” economies — which unlike ours are not immediately saddled with the problem of ageing populations — is so rosy. (A Fistful of Euros) BTW: How to deal with the problem of ageing populations? Throw open the doors to immigration, that’s how!


¶ Rodney Welch writes lucidly and with great pleasure about two of Henry James’s three big late novels — The Ambassadors and The Golden Bvwl — which have at long last appeared in Library of America volumes. (The Millions)

You’re in the company of a writer who sees and imagines in depth. I occasionally thought “Where is he going with this?” but I also thought “I can’t wait to see where he goes with this.” There’s a purpose behind those metaphors – he wants you to see, to visualize the inner life of his characters. He knows how people think, and he has a superb sense of how they reveal themselves, the way looks give away clues, the way people may not even know their own mind until they see another person’s reaction. These novels are set against great geographical backdrops and big fancy homes, but all the action is inside, where people plot, conceal, and create. These novels are broad French comedies and existential mysteries, stories you understand piece-meal, along with the characters, who are feeling and (quite often) thinking their way through.

¶ “So what are we to make of the Major and his minors?” asks Brooks Peters, in an essay at Open Book about the ardent canoeist, naturist, and ephebist, Rowland Raven-Hart, a tall, thin, bearded gent who appears to have had no trouble in the world picking up legions of comely youths to accompany him on his paddlings through Europe and elsewhere. Prepare for Major eye-rolling, is what we make of it.


¶ Do we value killing? This odd question is posed by philosopher Alva Noë, at NPR’s 13.7. Grappling with the Tucson shootings, Noë argues that emergencies, far from triggering instinctive responses, reveal our values; and that the contingencies of the event determine which values will be revealed. “Why is one man a war criminal, and the other a great soldier? Look to the situations in which they respectively find themselves to answer this.” (via Arts Journal) ¶ Any doubts that American society values killing will be killed by Charles Blow‘s graphic report, correlating firearms possessions with per capita homicides. The United States is in a class by itself, it seems. (Any doubts that handguns have any other purpose than to wound and kill other human beings ought to be cleared up by a moment’s sober and honest thought.) (NYT)

Have a Look

¶ Felicia Honkasolo. (The Best Part)


¶ “How to Actually Read Things on the Internet.” (My Life Scoop)

¶ Dan Hill’s illustrated account of the Australian floods. (City of Sound)

¶ The Philosophical Novel. By the way, what would David Foster Wallace have looked like had a good barber tended his hair? (NYT)