Daily Office
Grand Hours
April 2011: Third Week

{Blague We Must}


¶ It looks crazy now, and let’s hope it stays that way: Joseph Harris, an Emergency Financial Manager in Benton Harbor, Michigan, empowered by recent state legislation, has prohibited elected officials from doing their jobs. He, in effect, is now the local government. (AlterNet; via MetaFilter)


¶ Writing about the latest in opera — from Tod Machover’s “robot chorus” to the Met’s goggle-less 3D — Mark Swed interposes a wise note of caution.

This is the spectacle of opera trying hard to be more movie-like, to retain the pleasure of the company of flesh-and-blood singers and of the live, unamplified (or possibly lightly enhanced) human voice all complemented by the immersive experience of cinema. The problem with the approach is that opera is an art form with artificial surfaces and a deep interior. Singing is not speaking but rather a projection of an inner voice. Too much exterior realism hinders the all-important suspension of disbelief.

How easily some people forget the lesson of Capriccio: “Prima la musica, dopo le parole.” (LA Times; via Arts Journal) ¶ Maybe what perennial rediscovery candidate Preston Sturges (our favorite dramaturge) needs for permanent exaltation is some zippy approval from David Foster Wallace. Faute de ça: Martha Polk’s cheeky “PRESTON STURGES CAN YOU SAVE ME NOW?What keeps this piece vital is its refusal to decide whether The Palm Beach Story is better than The Lady Eve, or vice versa. (The Hairpin)


¶ P


¶ Elizabeth Abbott ventures to make a liberal defense of polygamy, but concludes that she cannot. Whereas free-speech protections of homophobic utterances and the recognition of same-sex marriages expand the coverage of “an existing system of rights,” polygamy threatens that system. We agree, but we wish that the argument were more strongly made. (The Walrus; via The Morning News)


¶ Every party has a pooper, but, really, can’t Christopher Hitchens do any better? His royal wedding dyspepsia does, it’s true, reach surprisingly to criticism of Her Majesty Herself, but the crimes are ancient (quashing Margaret’s first love; abandoning Charles to his father’s pedagogical mercies). Even the would-have-been Countess of Finchley would have found Hitchens’s contumely to be uninflammably Wet. (Slate; via MetaFilter) ¶ Intentionally or not, Kevin Nguyen shows how the map has succumbed to the GPS navigator. (The Bygone Bureau)


¶ Tyler Cowen perpends: “Why do Brazilians emigrate so infrequently?” Is everyone having too much fun there? Is internal migration a viable alternative? How about the Portuguese angle (it is so not the language of Latin America)? (Marginal Revolution)


¶ Sir Thomas Browne is near the top of the list of writers whom we’d like to spend more time with, or think we would, but never quite get round to; perhaps the newly published New Directions edition of Urn Burial, sized for portability, is the answer. At The Millions, Greg Gerke writes a lovely appreciation of Browne’s baroque prose that makes us wish we had the summer off.


¶ At The Infrastructurist, Eric Jaffe reports on the growing popularity of “smart-growth” residential areas, with smaller lots and rich alternatives to automobile transport — but he notes that people like these neighborhoods for everybody else.

Have a Look

¶ HL


¶ Habit Judo. (via MetaFilter) ¶ Putting Malcolm Gladwell to the test, at no proximate cost to Malcolm Gladwell. (TampaBay.com; via The Morning News)