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Archive for February 19th, 2009

Venerable Harper’s Magazine, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the “Harper’s Index,” its popular listing of unexpectedly revealing numerical data, has made the entire index available for searching and browsing by categories. The index database includes all 12,058 lines from all 300 issues, with more than one thousand linked categories.

harpers_index_homepage

Found when searching “Dick Cheney“:

(9/03) Year in which Dick Cheney said that his policy as CEO of Halliburton was that “we wouldn’t do anything in Iraq”: 2000

Price of the oil-field supplies sold to Iraq by two Halliburton subsidiaries during Cheney’s tenure: $73,000,000

(1/09) Days after Hurricane Katrina hit that Cheney’s office ordered an electric company to restore power to two oil pipelines: 1

    Days after the hurricane that the White House authorized sending federal troops into New Orleans: 4

Found when searching “George W. Bush“:

(7/06) Number of times that President Bush’s “signing statements” have exempted his administration from provisions of new laws: 750

Total number of times for all other presidents since Washington: 568

(8/07) Number of Bush White House officials who are authorized to discuss pending criminal cases with the Justice Department: 711

Number of Clinton officials who were: 4

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dark-knightOn the eve of the Academy Awards announcements, the National Review has released its list of the “25 best conservative movies of the last 25 years.” The list, chosen from nominees submitted by National Review readers, includes, among others, The Lives of Others, The IncrediblesJuno, Forrest Gump, Ghostbusters, The Dark Knight and Gran Torino, films conservatives enjoy because “they are great movies that offer compelling messages about freedom, families, patriotism, traditions, and more.”

w-movie(via National Review Online)

[As for the rest of us, there’s always W.]

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greek-laughing-face1“One of the most famous one-liners of the ancient world, with an afterlife that stretches into the twentieth century (it gets retold, with a different cast of characters but the same punchline, both in Freud and in Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea), was a joking insinuation about Augustus’ paternity.

“Spotting, so the story goes, a man from the provinces who looked much like himself, the Emperor asked if the man’s mother had ever worked in the palace. ‘No’, came the reply, ‘but my father did.'”

(via Times Online)

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kafkaIn his fine essay published earlier this month in The Nation, Alexander Provan considers the recent literature on the life and work of Franz Kafka and argues for a more expansive appreciation of the novelist and short story writer than the impression of him in “the popular imagination [which has] been subsumed by a one-word slogan: Kafkaesque.”

“Kafka’s singular insight,” writes Provan, “was that the ‘rationalization’ of society, with the bureaucracy as its engine, was increasingly shaping individuals and relations between them. His genius was to make this observation into something more than a trope or a theme in his writing, to give this new social force a literary form.”

Yet if “Kafkaesque” is as author Louis Begley describes — the existential predicament of struggling “in a maze that sometimes seems to have been designed on purpose to thwart and defeat [Kafka’s characters]. More often, the opposite appears to be true: there is no purpose; the maze simply exists” — then, as Provan enumerates, these are indeed Kafkaesque times:

Kafkaesque “is the explosion of the international market for mortgage-backed securities and derivatives, in which value is not attached to the thing itself but to speculation on an invented product tangentially related to (but not really tied to) that thing. It is FEMA’s process for granting housing assistance after Hurricane Katrina: victims were routinely informed of their applications’ rejection by letters offering not actual explanations but ‘reason codes.’ It is the Bush administration’s declaration that certain Guantánamo Bay detainees who had wasted away for years without trial were ‘no longer enemy combatants’ and its simultaneous refusal to release them or clarify whether they had ever been such.”

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morgan-cartoonWith the stir over the New York Post’s economic stimulus cartoon unlikely to die down any time soon (unlike the stimulus bill-writing chimp), there may be no better time to visit the ongoing exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, “On the Money: Cartoons for The New Yorker From the Melvin R. Seiden Collection.”

“Celebrating the art of the cartoonist, On the Money: Cartoons for The New Yorker features approximately eighty original drawings by some of The New Yorker’s most talented and beloved artists who have tackled the theme of money and the many ways in which it defines us. . . .

“The works are drawn entirely from the collection of Melvin R. Seiden, a longtime supporter of the Morgan, who has assembled one of the largest and most representative private selections of this art form which spans the history of The New Yorker. The Seiden collection of New Yorker cartoons, numbering nearly 1,500 sheets, complements the Morgan’s holdings in the history of satire and humor, which range from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. . . .

“Since 1925 The New Yorker magazine has served as the leading forum for American cartoonists to reflect and comment on the nation’s social and cultural environment.”

The exhibition runs through May 24th.

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