Are Our Writers As Lousy As Our Bankers?

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

Jonathan_franzen_time_magazine There is a certain kind of art made here in America for a lofty but banal purpose: to enliven the contemporary educated mind.

You know: the mind of you and me, dear 3QD reader — the NPR listener, the New Yorker reader, the English major, the filmgoer who laps up subtitles, the gallery-goer who can tell a Koons from a Hirst.

This art is superior to the cascading pile of blockbuster kitsch-dreck-crap that passes for pop culture, but only superior by a few pips.

This art sure ain't Picasso, or Joyce, or Rossellini, or the Beatles, or even Sondheim. It's more Woody Allen than Ingmar Bergman, more Joyce Carol Oates than James Joyce, more Jeff Koons than Duchamp, more Arcade Fire than the Beatles.

It does not expand the borders of art or wreck the tyranny of the possible or enlarge our hungry little minds.

It is art of the day to inform the conversation of the day by the people of the day who need to be reassured that their taste is a little more elevated than that of the woman on the subway reading Nora Roberts.

For want of a better label, here's a suggested honorific for this kind of art:

Urban Intellectual Fodder.

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A Simple Desultory Philippic

by David Schneider Obama goat Hope

I'll give one thing to the demagogues – they sure know something about basic human psychology. For those of us waterboarded by the economy, we're close to Depression desperation. It's a commonplace that depression is “anger focused inward”; and the cheap-and-easy way out, if you're too cash-strapped for the shrink or the meds, is to displace that anger outward to the nearest, easiest target.

O America, if there's anything we suck at, it's adequate self-reflection. Oh sure, we love looking at ourselves, we paragons of self-flattery on the flat screen; but thinking about ourselves (by which we mean, interrogating history) – well, that's injurious to our self-esteem. After all, we tried it a couple times: Jimmy Carter, and what the right-wing called the “politics of resentment” in the “radical left-wing” academy of the '80s and '90s. Reagan's “Morning in America,” and the Neoconservative revels after Communism's collapse, sure showed those liberal pantywaists. The power of positive thinking. Huh.

I've thought a lot about the acolytes of that cipher, George W. Bush, as the last decade broke and darkened. And I thought of my father, who, as I was growing up, could do almost anything but admit he was wrong. I thought about hard-line Communists in the Politburo, as the Soviet Union dissolved: what happens when everything you've believed in is a lie?

When the economy collapses and your phallus is your finances, you're getting kicked in the nuts. Pretty humiliating.

So you can actually feel really embarrassed, humiliated and ashamed – and pledge to reform, and actually reform – but that involves a lot of thinking, and gee, there's so much to think about already. On the other hand, you can get angry. Throw that anger away from yourself, as far as you possibly can: to the Other: socialists, terrorists, illegal immigrants, and the mythical chimaera of all three, the President of the United States of America.

In Britain, August is “the silly season”; in America, we scapegoat. It's a necessary action, according to the Old Testament – all the sins of the Israelites, placed upon a goat's head, which is then thrown off a cliff or banished to the wilderness. It's the prerequisite to Atonement, which Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck pantomimed before the giant of Lincoln, in the shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr. Only then, after the scapegoat is cast out, and the ceremony of Atonement is complete, can you re-establish the Covenant, and be written into the Book of Life again, as the new Republican Pledge attempts.

Tragedy is the goat's song.

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Powering Up Education

IMG_0117 If you have children, you have probably noticed a fascinating and common phenomenon: seemingly without instruction or reading manuals, they know more about computers and cellphones, in fact most technology, than you do. They impatiently seize controls out of your hands saying, “Let me show you how to do it.” And then, you the parent, weary and old, with too many mundane details of life clogging up your brain say, “How do you know how to do that?” Then your child, whether they’re 5 or 15, rolls their eyes and says “Duh!” Children get technology, seemingly instinctively, and they love it.

Over the last 10 months or so, I’ve ruminated in this blog on two major themes that seem, at first glance, only casually to have anything do with each other: educating children for 21st century success and children’s use of social media and technology. As it happens, I think that these two topics can and should be thoroughly integrated. We can debate the value of test taking and how else students’ progress might be evaluated, discuss the virtues of rote memorization and heavily invasive teaching methods, where most of the communication is a one-way transfer (or attempt to transfer) knowledge from the teacher to the students, but I would assume there can be little argument when I say that children, everyone really, learn best when the thing they are learning about interests them, or the teaching method is enjoyable. And there is no doubt that most children find technology enjoyable. Whether computers, cellphones or video games, these clearly engage children (and adults). So why don’t we utilize technology to better effect in education?

Most schools spends a lot of time trying to stuff facts into children’s heads and then repeatedly test to see how quickly and efficiently those facts can then be pulled out again. But we have ample evidence everyday that this is not the way children really learn; they’re curious, they explore, they experiment, they learn from each other. So why do we expend so much time, money and energy trying to educate them in these other, counterintuitive ways?

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angels’ hands, hurt feelings, and a little roman


Few players have ever glided across the field like Randy Moss. Moss is the wide receiver for the New England Patriots. I sometimes imagine him playing in slippers. He’s just gotten up from a long winter’s sleep. He is heading out in the snow to pick up the morning paper. And then, he drifts out on to the field of play, lifts up his long right arm, and into his fingers drops the oblong spherical object we call a football. He has scored a touchdown, and he hasn’t even spilled his coffee. He did that against the New York Jets. He slid down the field in his slippers and raised his arm to the heavens. In dropped the football. He didn’t even bother to use his other hand. All he needed was the gentle lift of his right arm. One or two fingers were enough. An absolute economy of motion. A beautiful thing. A beautiful thing. Like the hand of an angel. For a moment it did not bother me that the Patriots had pulled ahead 14 to 7.

more from me at The Owls here.

Real Americans

Hogeland_35.5_bryan William Hogeland in The Boston Review:

“Save America.” “Take the country back.” “Armed and dangerous.” “Lock and load.” Such are the slogans of the right-wing populist resurgence that began in 2008.

The new populism embraces members of the Tea Party, who object to what they see as confiscatory taxation, excessive government debt, and assaults on the right to bear arms; fans of Sarah Palin, who assails the Obama administration and the Democratic Party for being out of touch with what she defines as the lives and aspirations of ordinary Americans; and some Republican elected officials. They not only reject Obama administration policies, and political liberalism in general, but also cast their rejection in questing, confrontational language as an epic battle for the soul of American democracy, which they accuse liberalism of defiling.

In the face of this rejection, liberal voices in the press largely have failed to illuminate the new right-wing movement. Frank Rich, a columnist for The New York Times, applies epithets (“cowed” Republican politicians bowing before “nutcases”), makes airy dismissals (“the natterings of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Michael Steele”), and, using scary metaphors (the grass-roots right as “political virus,” “tsunami of anger,” even “the dark side”), warns of threats to civilization itself. The historian and critic Jill Lepore, in an otherwise thoughtful New Yorker article on a Tea Party rally in Boston, becomes uncharacteristically bemused when it comes to interviewing Tea Party members directly. Chip Berlet, asking his readers to view with compassion what he and others have called right-wing American populism, reveals an even deeper prejudice.

How animals made us human

Drake Bennett in the Boston Globe:

ScreenHunter_01 Sep. 26 15.55 Pets take up resources that we would otherwise spend on ourselves or our own progeny. Some pets, it’s true, do work for their owners, or are eventually eaten by them, but many simply live with us, eating the food we give them, interrupting our sleep, dictating our schedules, occasionally soiling the carpet, and giving nothing in return but companionship and often desultory affection.

What explains this yen to have animals in our lives?

An anthropologist named Pat Shipman believes she’s found the answer: Animals make us human. She means this not in a metaphorical way — that animals teach us about loyalty or nurturing or the fragility of life or anything like that — but that the unique ability to observe and control the behavior of other animals is what allowed one particular set of Pleistocene era primates to evolve into modern man. The hunting of animals and the processing of their corpses drove the creation of tools, and the need to record and relate information about animals was so important that it gave rise to the creation of language and art. Our bond with nonhuman animals has shaped us at the level of our genes, giving us the ability to drink milk into adulthood and even, Shipman argues, promoting the set of finely honed relational antennae that allowed us to create the complex societies most of us live in today. Our love of pets is an artifact of that evolutionary interdependence.

More here.

John Searle’s Making the Social World

4103V9NtgML._SL500_AA300_ Savas L. Tsohatzidis reviews John Searle's Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization, in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:

This book will be useful to readers familiar with Searle's work in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind, but unacquainted with, and curious to learn about, the 'philosophy of society' that he has been busy building since the mid-nineties. Such readers are offered a lengthy exposition (Chapters 1, 3, 5) of an updated version of the account of institutional facts that was the main theme of Searle's The Construction of Social Reality (1995), as well as shorter discussions (mostly drawing on material already presented in two subsequent books, 2001 and 2007) of what Searle perceives as the implications of his account of institutions on issues pertaining to rational action, free will, political power, and human rights (Chapters 6, 7, 8). The book will also be useful to readers who have developed an interest in Searle's account of institutional reality while lacking sufficient exposure to his philosophies of mind and language, since it includes brief overviews (Chapters 2, 4) of his extensive work in these fields, which he presents as providing the foundations of his account of society. Readers already familiar with Searle's major works on mind, language, and society will probably be mainly interested in considering whether the account of institutional facts he currently adopts differs significantly from the one he had originally proposed, and, if so, whether it places him in a better position than before to attain his stated goals.

Common to Searle's old and new accounts is a conception of institutional facts according to which such a fact (a) cannot exist unless a community collectively accepts it as existing; (b) requires the assignment to an entity of a “status function” (that is, of a function that an entity can only have by virtue of collective recognition, and not merely by virtue of whatever properties it might have prior to such recognition); and (c) characteristically generates, once in existence, “deontic powers” (in particular, rights and obligations) within the community whose behaviour brings it to existence.

One difference between Searle's old and new accounts is that the generation of “deontic powers” is now taken to be a universal consequence, and not merely, as was previously the case, a nearly universal consequence, of an institutional fact's creation (24). But the main difference between the old and new accounts has to do with the way in which Searle proposes to combine theses (a) and (b) above in providing an explanation of an institutional fact's creation. On the old account, the creation of institutional facts was invariably supposed to be the immediate result of the collective acceptance, within a community, of linguistically expressible “constitutive rules” that specify conditions under which status functions of various sorts are assignable to entities of various sorts.

The Correspondences Between Leni Yahil und Hannah Arendt, 1961-1971

Liebe_hannah_arendt-1 In Eurozine:

370 Riverside Drive, New York 25, N.Y.53[53]


4 Hamaapilim St.


Dear Hannah Arendt,

The bond between us has been broken or has petered out – whatever you want to call it, and for my part I haven't done anything to re-establish it. Now your articles are forcing me – I'm almost tempted to say against my better judgment – to ask you a question. So far, I've read only 4 articles, I haven't got hold of the 5th one yet, but it is a matter of days only and it won't in principle provide anything new, just the conclusions from all the previous material. I don't want here to give you a description of the impression your attacks and portrayals are making here – I'm sure that – if you're not informed of this – you will probably be able to imagine this yourself. Nor do I want to give you my opinion, analysis, general and personal reactions – I don't know how far you're interested in that, and there's not really space for that in a letter. Nor do I want to go into your presentation of the Scandinavian events in general, and the Danish ones in particular – although I could say a great deal about this.

As I've said, I'd like to ask you a question: what was or is your own innermost intention that you were pursuing? Whom do you think you are serving in this way: Historical truth? Justice? The present or the future of the German or the Jewish people? Or do you wish to prove specifically to the latter that it isn't worthy or doesn't have the right to exist as a nation among the nations? I am asking you seriously, not polemically, I just don't understand.

The Unappreciated Power of Honor

100917_BOOKS_honorCodeTN Paul Berman reviews Kwame Anthony Appiah's The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, in Slate:

Kwame Anthony Appiah is a philosopher at Princeton, and, in his new book, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, he cites two large and indisputable examples of this strangest and most majestic of historical phenomena. A handful of Quakers organized the earliest anti-slavery committees in America and Britain late in the 18th century. The likelihood of doing away with slavery seemed pretty small, given that plantation slavery in the western hemisphere was proving to be, for entire industries in America and Britain both, an economic bonanza. The slave laborers were suffering horribly, but a lot of other people, not just the plantation owners, were benefiting.

Even so, in England during the 1820s and '30s, enormous crowds of earnest and indignant citizens took to attending marathon anti-slavery meetings and affixing their signatures to petitions. Parliament bestirred itself. And, as a matter of law, in 1833 slavery was duly abolished almost everywhere in the worldwide British Empire—one of the hugest, speediest, most peaceful and consequential moral revolutions ever to occur.

Something vaguely similar took place in China in the decades around 1900. For 1,000 years, upper-crust Chinese and not-so-upper-crust Chinese had followed the custom of painfully binding the feet of little girls, and even toddlers, such that when the girls became women, their hobbled feet might turn out to be the size of a man's thumb. A small group of reformers launched a campaign against the horrible practice. And although Chinese tradition was more than weighty, and although some people found an erotic appeal in deformed feet (Appiah supplies details on the exotic erotica of “the golden lotus,” or the broken and bound feminine foot), the millennial custom descended into obloquy with amazing speed. And then, poof!, it was gone.

Appiah recounts these episodes with a cheerful verve, but he also applies himself, in his capacity as philosopher, to seeking out the hidden mechanisms of persuasion that, in his estimation, drove the campaigns forward. His search leads him to inquire into still another remarkable reform movement from the early 19th century, whose history, as he interprets it, sheds a useful light on the question of moral revolutions as a whole. This was the campaign in England to suppress the aristocratic custom of dueling with pistols.

To an Aesthete Dying Young

A National Book Award–winning writer pays tribute to a Yale roommate who killed himself last year.

Andrew Solomon in Yale Alumni Magazine:

In February 1982, in the middle of my freshman year, I was invited to a party by the most glamorous sophomore I had ever met (now one of my closest friends), and I was wildly excited about it. It was in that perfect proportion for a social event: a third of the people were people I actually knew; a third were people I had seen around and wished I knew; a third were people I had never seen because they inhabited a stratosphere too exalted to have been visible to me, some of them even juniors and seniors. The party was in a dorm room in Pierson. Spandau Ballet, Pat Benatar, the Human League singing “Don’t You Want Me Baby,” which nowadays feel to me as sweetly nostalgic as “Dixie,” were at that time fresh as the morning dew. People were dressed in clothing that might in 2010 be coming back into fashion for the fifth time, but that was then just coming into fashion for the first time—even though much of it had been cleverly selected at the Salvation Army. In those days, the drinking age was still 18, and so there were drinks, and there were some people doing cocaine in the bathroom, because it was, after all, the 1980s. I would not have been more thrilled and dazzled to have been invited to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer one year earlier. People were witty and funny, having a truly good time, dancing well, laughing. Some were sitting around in the disco half-light of the room itself, others in the glaring fluorescence of the stairway, and some in little knots in the moon-drenched courtyard. I had hated high school and had always felt marginal there, and now here I was with all these amazing people, and I was having one of the best times of my life. It’s hard to remember the full cast of that party, but I tried it as an exercise recently and realized that I am still good friends with more than 20 of the people who were there, and am Facebook friends with at least another 25. I always say that Yale was the beginning of the self that I have been ever since, that I was someone else in elementary and high school, someone I barely remember, but that at Yale, I started to be me, and that party has always stuck in my mind as the moment when the shift became official.

More here.

The perils of false equivalencies and self-proclaimed centrism

Glenn Greenwald in Salon:

Md_horiz I think Jon Stewart is one of the most incisive and effective commentators in the country, and he reaches an audience that would otherwise be politically disengaged. I don't have any objection if he really wants to hold a rally in favor of rhetorical moderation, and it's also fine if, as seems to be the case, he's eager to target rhetorical excesses on both the left and right in order to demonstrate his non-ideological centrism. But the example he chose to prove that the left is guilty, too — the proposition that Bush is a “war criminal” — is an extremely poor one given that the General in charge of formally investigating detainee abuse (not exactly someone with a history of Leftist advocacy) has declared this to be the case, and core Nuremberg principles compel the same conclusion.

Leave aside the fact that, as Steve Benen correctly notes, Stewart's examples of right-wing rhetorical excesses (Obama is a socialist who wasn't born in the U.S. and hates America) are pervasive in the GOP, while his examples of left-wing excesses (Code Pink and 9/11 Truthers) have no currency (for better or worse) in the Democratic Party. The claim that Bush is “a war criminal” has ample basis, and it's deeply irresponsible to try to declare this discussion off-limits, or lump it in with a whole slew of baseless right-wing accusatory rhetoric, in order to establish one's centrist bona fides.

More here.

New England’s hidden history

From The Boston Globe:

Slave In the year 1755, a black slave named Mark Codman plotted to kill his abusive master. A God-fearing man, Codman had resolved to use poison, reasoning that if he could kill without shedding blood, it would be no sin. Arsenic in hand, he and two female slaves poisoned the tea and porridge of John Codman repeatedly. The plan worked — but like so many stories of slave rebellion, this one ended in brutal death for the slaves as well. After a trial by jury, Mark Codman was hanged, tarred, and then suspended in a metal gibbet on the main road to town, where his body remained for more than 20 years.

It sounds like a classic account of Southern slavery. But Codman’s body didn’t hang in Savannah, Ga.; it hung in present-day Somerville, Mass. And the reason we know just how long Mark the slave was left on view is that Paul Revere passed it on his midnight ride. In a fleeting mention from Revere’s account, the horseman described galloping past “Charlestown Neck, and got nearly opposite where Mark was hung in chains.” When it comes to slavery, the story that New England has long told itself goes like this: Slavery happened in the South, and it ended thanks to the North. Maybe we had a little slavery, early on. But it wasn’t real slavery. We never had many slaves, and the ones we did have were practically family. We let them marry, we taught them to read, and soon enough, we freed them. New England is the home of abolitionists and underground railroads. In the story of slavery — and by extension, the story of race and racism in modern-day America — we’re the heroes. Aren’t we?

More here.

The Mindfulness Chronicles

From Harvard Magazine:

Mind In 1981, early in her career at Harvard, Ellen Langer and her colleagues piled two groups of men in their seventies and eighties into vans, drove them two hours north to a sprawling old monastery in New Hampshire, and dropped them off 22 years earlier, in 1959. The group who went first stayed for one week and were asked to pretend they were young men, once again living in the 1950s. The second group, who arrived the week afterward, were told to stay in the present and simply reminisce about that era. Both groups were surrounded by mid-century mementos—1950s issues of Life magazine and the Saturday Evening Post, a black-and-white television, a vintage radio—and they discussed the events of the time: the launch of the first U.S. satellite, Castro’s victory ride into Havana, Nikita Khrushchev and the need for bomb shelters. There was entertainment (a screening of the 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder with Jimmy Stewart) and spirited discussions of such 1950s sports greats as Mickey Mantle and Floyd Patterson. One night, the men sat glued to the radio, listening as Royal Orbit won the 1959 Preakness. For the second group it brought back a flood of memories; for the other group, it was a race being run for the first time. As a young professor of psychology, Langer hoped to document through these men what she had long suspected: that our fixed ideas, internalized in childhood, can affect the way we age.

What she found, however, surprised even her own team of researchers. Before and after the experiment, both groups of men took a battery of cognitive and physical tests, and after just one week, there were dramatic positive changes across the board. Both groups were stronger and more flexible. Height, weight, gait, posture, hearing, vision—even their performance on intelligence tests had improved. Their joints were more flexible, their shoulders wider, their fingers not only more agile, but longer and less gnarled by arthritis. But the men who had acted as if they were actually back in 1959 showed significantly more improvement. Those who had impersonated younger men seemed to have bodies that actually were younger.

More here.

Tariq Ramadan Debates Moustafa Bayoumi on Proposed Islamic Center Near Ground Zero

Park51-siteOver at Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN:…We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go first to Oxford to Professor Ramadan. Why do you feel—and it might surprise many, the op-ed piece that you wrote—that the community center should not be built near Ground Zero?

TARIQ RAMADAN: Look, first, of course I’m aware of all the discussions, and I’m supporting anything which has to do with the rights of Muslims and American Muslims living in the States. I think that this is clear even in the op-ed that I wrote for the Washington Post.

My position is that in this situation, where we are struggling with something which is now built—is instrumentalized by, you know, political forces in the state and trying just to make it a symbol, I would say that the Muslims should think about, you know, the overall picture of their struggle for their rights and respect in the country. So, in my position, if this is a symbol—and we have to listen to this collective sensitivity of the Americans after what happened in September the 11th—is to say, look, on that, we can understand. We are not accepting anything which has to do with, you know, a free Muslim zone, but we should listen to what is said and what is felt. But at the same time, it was—should be quite clear that our struggle for our rights—you know, there are twenty mosques that are now facing problems in the local areas, because people are rejecting. It’s a very huge struggle. But sometime, we have to think about the symbol. And my position is, if this is possible, Muslims should think about, you know, not being instrumentalized in the whole process by political forces, but, say, understanding the collective sensitivity and to go for the struggle and saying we are not going to accept America becoming a country which is—has something which is an institutionalized discrimination and racism.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Bayoumi, your response?

MOUSTAFA BAYOUMI: Well, I certainly—excuse me, I certainly understand the desire to lower the temperature today on this hot-button issue, but I really think that we have to ask ourselves, you know, what kind of society do we want to live in? Are we going to be a society that’s ruled by our passions or by our principles? And I feel that if we adopt the view that we are willing to trade away the mosque to another location, then we’re also willing to trade away the principle of the free exercise of religion for Muslim Americans. And that’s true not just then for Muslim Americans, but really for all Americans. I feel that, by now, the issue has become so important that it has to be something that we understand as being a central question around our rights as a collective, as a nation. And I feel that there’s something at stake here that is missed if we’re only looking at being sensitive to what is a controversy that is fueled by outside forces.

Does Minimalism Matter?

MinimalismleadStephen Bayley in More Intelligent Life:

Last June I shared a cab with Grayson Perry, one of Britain’s best-known artists. He had just returned from the Basel art fair, where he had been struck by something. “Everything is now happening all at once,” he told me with a roll of the eyes. There was no longer a ruling style or taste, no common agreement on what is avant-garde and what is retrograde. Today the happening thing is just what is happening. We have reached the end of “isms”.

Minimalism was the last, and most curious, ism of all. The late 20th and early 21st centuries were peculiarly receptive to its poetics of purity—in architecture, in art, in food, in design. This autumn it receives what might be either its coronation or its obituary. “Plain Space” is the title of both an exhibition at the Design Museum in London, and a book by its subject, John Pawson—the elegant Old Etonian architect who, more than anyone, turned a cerebral art-world cult into a deluxe style for the stratum of society where fastidious aestheticism meets high net worth.

The exhibition is not, Pawson insists, a retrospective, but an account of work-in-progress. Still, when estate agents are touting properties as “minimalist-style”, you suspect that the vitality of this ism may have left the building. Was minimalism the last absurd, exhausted spasm of neophilia, the cult of the new that so defined modern taste? Or is it still, and will it remain, the ultimate refinement of aesthetic sensibility: the place we go when we have been everywhere else? The answer to both questions is yes.

In one sense, minimalism had a beginning and end as (nearly) precise as the beginning and end of, say, baroque or pre-Raphaelitism. German architects first used the term “Existenzminimum”—referring to low-cost social housing—in the mid-1920s. The term “minimal art” first appeared circa 1965. Journalists writing about interior design began mentioning minimalism in the mid-1980s. But, unlike baroque or the pre-Raphaelites, the minimal aesthetic has been a continuous element in European culture. It’s been with us in some form since the fifth century BC, when Socrates declared that a well-made dung bucket was better than a poorly made gold shield.

The Non-Economist’s Economist

RV-AA080_GALBRA_DV_20100921215155James Grant in The WSJ:

The Dow Jones Industrials spent 25 years in the wilderness after the 1929 Crash. Not until 1954 did the disgraced 30-stock average regain its Sept. 3, 1929, high. And then, its penance complete, it soared. In March 1955, the U.S. Senate Banking and Currency Committee, J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, presiding, opened hearings to determine what dangers lurked in this new bull market. Was it 1929 all over again?

One of the witnesses, John Kenneth Galbraith, a 46-year-old Harvard economics professor, seemed especially well-credentialed. His new history of the event that still transfixed America, “The Great Crash, 1929” was on its way to the bookstores and to what would prove to be a commercial triumph. An alumnus of Ontario Agricultural College and the holder of a doctorate in agricultural economics from the University of California at Berkeley, Galbraith had written articles for Fortune magazine and speeches for Adlai Stevenson, the defeated 1952 Democratic presidential candidate. He was a World War II price controller and the author of “American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power.” When he stepped into a crowded elevator, strangers tried not to stare: he stood 6 feet 8 inches tall.

On the one hand, Galbraith observed, the stock market was not so speculatively charged in 1955 as it had been in 1929 On the other, he insisted, there were worrying signs of excess. Stocks were not so cheap as they had been in the slack and demoralized market of 1953 (though, at 4%, they still outyielded corporate bonds). “The relation of share prices to book value is showing some of the same tendencies as in 1929,” Galbraith went on. “And while it would be a gross exaggeration to say that there has been the same escape from reality that there was in 1929, it does seem to me that enough has happened to indicate that we haven't yet lost our capacity for speculative self-delusion.”

graphic novel time


Christopher Nolan’s recent £125m blockbuster film Inception concludes with a 45-minute setpiece in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s team of brain-hopping idea thieves descends through nested dreams, in each of which time runs more slowly than in the previous layer. Any graphic novel fans in the audience would have watched this complex sequence with nods of recognition. But perhaps with sighs of exasperation, too: the film’s showpiece effect – creating the illusion of relative time, of events happening simultaneously but being experienced at different paces – is difficult to achieve in the linear medium of cinema but easily suggested in comics and graphic novels. Inception is rigid with explanatory dialogue to help the viewer interpret the final hour: a kind of endless tutorial leading up to a deft but soulless showpiece. When it comes to the medium of graphic novels, however, years of experimentation, combined with certain defining features of the form, have resulted in a complex medium that excels at portraying multiple time schemes and shifting conceptions of reality.

more from Tim Martin at the FT here.