Stand and Deliver

This Washington Post article on standing up at work struck home for me because I recently got a motorized desk that allows me to stand up at my desk all day. The article cites experts on both sides of the debate, some in support of the health benefits of standing and others who think it's ridiculous.

Standing feels better though it's more taxing over long stretches. Until they settle the health debate, I'm standing until I can't anymore and then sitting for respite. It may seem like a hedge but it's just listening to my body.

Which type of happiness matters to you more?

More on the relationship between parenting and happiness. Much of interest within. One of the many noteworthy passages:

Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you to maintain its upkeep; if you had a family business, the kids helped mind the store. But all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained in prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time, and once college degrees became essential to getting ahead, children became not only a great expense but subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed. (The Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer describes this transformation of a child’s value in five ruthless words: “Economically worthless but emotionally priceless.

Beyond the museum

My 2009 was the year of the half-formed post. I need to try to clear more of those out, like spring cleaning for my mind.

As more and more of our lives move online, the physical world occupies a smaller percentage of our daily concern. We sit in cafes and meetings and movie theaters with our heads tilted down in iPhone/Blackberry prayer mode.

So it is with art. You won't find this at MOMA in the surrealist section, but that's no fault of the Day Job Orchestra. I did, when I was at MOMA over the holidays, pull this video up and play it on my iPhone as a tiny tribute.


An interview with Philip Glass.

The kind of music I was doing in the Seventies was very radical. The structure became the music itself. It became identical. In that way it was closer in a way to maybe Jasper Johns was painting and I was very influenced by his painting — when Jasper Johns did a painting of a flag, he painted a flag. So the question is: is it the flag or is it the painting of the flag? In the same way when I did a piece, I had reduced everything to scales and to a few simple notes. The process of the music became the structure of the music. So what was interesting for me was that the content and the form were identical — that was a very radical idea in music and in many ways it may still be a radical idea.


Atul Gawande turns his investigative eye towards the high cost of healthcare in the United States in this week's New Yorker.

Providing health care is like building a house. The task requires experts, expensive equipment and materials, and a huge amount of coördination. Imagine that, instead of paying a contractor to pull a team together and keep them on track, you paid an electrician for every outlet he recommends, a plumber for every faucet, and a carpenter for every cabinet. Would you be surprised if you got a house with a thousand outlets, faucets, and cabinets, at three times the cost you expected, and the whole thing fell apart a couple of years later? Getting the country’s best electrician on the job (he trained at Harvard, somebody tells you) isn’t going to solve this problem. Nor will changing the person who writes him the check.

In an earlier Q&A online, Gawande noted:

The most important transformation going on in health care worldwide, I think, is that the complexity of medical know-how has exceeded the abilities of individuals. Medicine now requires teams of people to work together to prevent and treat disease for patients successfully. Medical schools don’t teach students how to work in teams or how to bring teams to be successful at this work. It requires communication skills and an ability to monitor and improve team performance. Some of this I touched on in a previous article called “The Checklist.

Surowiecki on the AIG bonuses

James Surowiecki has the most pragmatic assessment of the public outrage against the AIG bonuses that I've read yet, posted over at the New Yorker.

It may be true, as Andrew Ross Sorkin has argued, that not paying the bonuses would actually end up hurting taxpayers, either because we’d be setting a precedent that contracts can be easily broken or because we need to keep the A.I.G. employees in-house lest they start trading against the company. (I don’t buy either argument, but I can see the logic behind them.) But I think it’s pretty clear that even if the “this will hurt you more than me

She was serious

In her appearance on Ricky Gervais' Extras a few years back, Kate Winslet bemoaned that "if you do a film about the Holocaust, you’re guaranteed an Oscar". Well, it seems she heeded her own advice to good effect.

In this high-stakes competition for Oscar gold, look for Harvey Weinstein to produce a movie casting a beautiful woman playing a historical Holocaust survivor who overcomes a childhood physical deformity that mars her beauty to become an accomplished violinist whose performances help to overcome racism and elect the first black President of the U.S., but only after being discovered living on the streets homeless, this discovery being made by a down-and-out reporter who's seeking redemption of his own after being ousted from a renowned newspaper for continuing to cry Chicken Little about an impending financial crisis that ultimately comes to pass, at which point the renowned newspaper offers him a job to come back to write, but he turns it down to launch his own website for citizen journalism, because he's seen the light and no longer wants to work for the man, and who's with me? Nobody? Really? No, wait, there's a hand in the air, it's the Holocaust-survivor violinist, not Renee Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd, but perhaps some fresh young face like her, she comes along, and they fall in love, because we want the two telegenic leads to fall in love, and it's good box office if they do, but only after she almost marries her agent, a solid if somewhat dull and straight-laced guy played by, say, James Marsden. Oh, and somehow we need to work in Will Ferrell playing a comic sidekick, maybe the reporter's college buddy who runs an adult website but turns his technical skills to launching and maintaining our reporter's citizen journalism website which will become such a hit that our lead gets a blogger crossover book deal. And to appeal to the kids, we will have an animated pet ferret who can talk and sing (voiced by Jennifer Hudson) and who at one point in the movie does the Beyonce "Single Ladies" dance number which can provide a quick 5 second zing for the movie trailer so people realize it's not entirely a downer of a Holocaust movie, and also because the musical is back, baby!

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Oh, now the U.A.W decides to offer some concessions to the Big 3, when the Big 3's potential demise might drag the U.A.W. down with them. As Superman said at the end of Superman II, "Too late, Luthor! Too late."

In economic terms, the demise of the U.A.W. would be a good thing for the Big 3. In the U.S. auto industry, as in the airline industry, labor unions have long left those companies incapable of profitability, which is hard enough when the Big 3 can't make a car anyone wants to buy.


Six habits of highly respectful physicians.

...medical schools may be underemphasizing a much simpler virtue: good manners.

I agree, many doctors behave like asses, but how do I resolve that with my favorite doctor, Gregory House?

This week's New Yorker

This week's issue of the New Yorker is entirely online for free. Usually, only some articles are posted online.

The subjects this week? Malcolm Gladwell dissects the comeback of the Wildcat offense, Alex Ross delves into the musical influences of the Gears of War 2 score, and...

...oh, okay, it's an issue mostly about Obama.

Had enough of this Election yet? No? Me either.

Tomb of the Unknown Designer

One of the stars of these Summer Olympics, in addition to Michael Phelps, has been Beijing National Stadium, forever to be known as the Bird's Nest.

But whereas you can't help but know Phelps' mom and coach by now thanks to NBC's extensive coverage, you probably have not heard of Herzog & de Meuron. That's the Swiss architecture firm that designed the Bird's Nest, in addition to the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the Tate Modern in London. In 2001, Herzog and de Meuron won the Pritzker Prize.

The article notes that architects, outside of celebs like Gehry or Koolhaas, don't get the level of respect they deserve here in the U.S. That's a shame. If you read a book you like, you'll probably remember the author. If you like a movie, you may know or find out who the director is. It shouldn't be any different for design or architecture.

Fiction issue

This week the Fiction Issue of The New Yorker arrives, and in it are new short stories from Nabokov and Tobias Wolff and George Saunders, among others. I look forward to getting my print copy, which, now that I live in LA, never seems to arrive as quickly as I'd like. In NYC you receive it on Monday, but in LA it usually comes on Wednesday.

And yes, the issue contains Anthony Lane's review of Sex and the City, a review written in the blood he seemed to have coughed up during the screening he attended. I'm not always in the mood for Lane's reviews, which can seem more like vehicles for him to tune his own voice than to delve into the merits of the film, but this one is a keeper. Yes, the movie will make its millions regardless of its critical skewering, but the movie Lane describes (and which I have not seen) sounds like a feminist disaster, which one would not have said of the TV show, at least the episodes from earlier seasons which I've seen.