August 31, 2007

Yesterday's hero   {Comments: 0}

Interesting that Tommy Franks wouldn't be considered radioactive by Republicans running for president. I guess he was the smartest general of the lot though -- he had the foresight to resign before the occupation really got started.

Ho hum   {Comments: 0}

After seeing various mentions of the Simone Dinnerstein, Tyler Cowen's recommendation finally pushed me over the edge, and I listened to them while running this morning. A few things about them impressed me, but I couldn't really get over how cavalier she was with the tempi throughout. Maybe I've spent too many years listening to Glenn Gould, but it just seems like when you're playing this kind of music you shouldn't be slowing down and speeding up in the middle of a variation -- at least not so perceptibly. I did like that she drew out certain lines (usually bass lines) a little more, so that I felt like I was hearing them for the first time. And I loved the couple of places where she quoted Gould's ornaments (from the 1981 recording, of course, because that's the one she's more indebted to). But overall I just don't get the comparison with Gould. The worst part was the way she played the final few variations for their individual personalities instead of using them to build on one another toward that glorious Quodlibet.

By the way, I love this bit about how to take Tyler's recommendations from a commenter there this morning:

Tyler is on record as saying he skims books and reads only their beginnings in most cases. He is also on record as being interested in deception (to wit, his recent experiment about the secret blog). Most of his lists of favorites could have come from a Top Ten list published by any existing critic. What I'm saying is, he probably knows as much about Gould and the Goldberg Variations as anyone else would learn by reading the New York Times. Also never forget that the name of this blog is Marginal Revolution. Tyler only needs to commit the tiniest fraction of time and effort to extract the majority of influence and intellectual power. He is leveraging our tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt, by saying superficial things and forcing us to assume there's an iceberg beneath the tip. He has shown time and again a very deep knowledge of economics, and on economic subjects I would trust him almost implicitly. But on cultural matters I think he's playing the odds and making you blink.
August 21, 2007

A slice of heaven   {Comments: 1}

The picture on top of this story really startled me because I visited this stand only a week ago with Miriam when we were in Indianapolis. I examined the signs pretty closely too, because I was curious about what they were deep frying these days at the fair -- although I didn't end up ordering anything because what I was really after was an elephant ear (which, apparently, wasn't as bad for me as I thought it was at the time). And of course, I was wondering what "Pepsi Balls" could possibly be.

August 20, 2007

Who dunnit?   {Comments: 2}

It sounds like J.K. Rowling is writing a crime novel. I certainly agree with the various folks in the linked article who think she'll be good at it, given how much like mysteries the Harry Potter books are, but I have a hard time imagining a long career of crime writing for her. Will crime novels really be satisfying after the full-featured alternate universe of the Potter books? For her? For us? It seems to me she will eventually have to take a stab at one-upping herself, whether or not it's in a children's book context.

By the way, who knew PD James was still alive? And isn't it funny that she too goes by her initials?

August 19, 2007

What I've been reading   {Comments: 0}

At first I thought Tyler Cowen's new book was a self-help book. But what it really is is a pretty straightforward statement of Tyler Cowen's approach to life and the unique ways in which he has shaped his tastes and interests and manners and even his morality. Not surprisingly, given the subtitle of Cowen's blog, the book eschews sweeping, transformational ideas in favor of juicy, incremental ones that tickle your sense of symmetry, order, causality. I don't think the writing is particularly great -- the book lacks the immediacy of the blog and sometimes seems disorganized -- but if you're interested in Tyler Cowen at all, it's just a fascinating read.

A global epicenter   {Comments: 0}

David Schalliol links to a great piece on the latest and greatest in Chicago architecture. I must not make it downtown enough these days because there are several buildings that I have never seen before, and some of them are just gorgeous. Maybe I need to spend a day taking some photographs.

A resident-of-Chicago friend recently returned from a trip to NYC and complained that it was just an ugly city, mainly because the architecture was much less interesting, and the comment surprised me a little. Obviously Chicago is the more planned city, owing to the fire, but I was under the impression that a lot of really wonderful stuff is going up in New York these days. Maybe my impression is skewed by reading the Times too much? I've never warmed the Chicago papers, especially online.