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It's rather absurd, but I'm getting a feeling here in the office that eating a meal is a sign of weakness, especially if it's early. Somebody who takes a lunch break before noon gets more than a couple of looks, and I can't figure out if the looks are of jealousy, disinterest, or disdain. People who do get lunch wolf it down at their desk with a spreadsheet in their other hand, looking around nervously. Personally, I subsist on coffee all morning, take oatmeal at noon, small lunch at 3 (which makes the afternoon very, very short), and a BIG DINNER. Then there's this woman who makes a bag of microwave popcorn at exactly 3:15 every afternoon, and while it was sort of nice the first couple of days, I am now not all that excited to feel like I'm visiting a movie theatre all the time. That smell of popcorn used to be special. But now...

On the train home from New Haven and it looks exactly like the scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind--also gray day, cloudy, spare number of people on the maroon and navy seats. Elin and I spent a weekend doing a fine job of posing as Yale students, and stayed with her high school friend Abby who is starting in the Anthropology department, and her boyfriend John, who is a genius at pointing out puns.

This is my third visit to a prestigious university when it's been raining and cloudy the whole time--Oxford, Princeton, and Yale--and it's adding to a romantic image I have of places like them, where people live a melancholy life of the mind, subdued on the outside, a mirror of some intellectual detachment that is soundtracked by the patter of rain. It's really rather nostalgic, the idea that intellectuals and writers reside in rainy cities laced with a feeling of sadness, which, for me, is a close cousin of the profound. No great novel was written in a sunny veranda in Mexico. Not a true statement, but it's still a stereotype I hold on to.

We ate well: had fantastic Eggs Benedict with avocado and roasted tomato in a small corner place, which Howard Dean walked into halfway through our meal; garlicy tomato-bread salad with basil in a park watching an outdoor jazz concert; coconut ice cream bar at the top of the New Haven bluffs; homemade strawberry pie at the potluck.

We also saw a lifeless movie called "You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her", a faux-artsy thing from the late 90s which chronicled the lives of seven women and how they were utterly depressing (though sewn together, however patchily, with the thread of some silver-lining fate). It never took off the ground and was sort of frustrating. I think what I didn't like was the way the movie pretended to be very important and was weighted down by a lot of self-seriousness, when really its story was conventional, the writing was self-consciously "artsy", and the way characters functioned and interacted felt canned and un-human: homeless woman who is actually a prophetess and serves nicely to insert all important themes; lesbian psychic who takes care of revealing the character's personality via a tarot card reading (while the character says absolutely nothing); precocious children to explain to the adults how-things-really-are.

On the whole, spent great time with Abby and John who are the best of the best when it comes to people.


1. The final resolution or clarification of a dramatic or narrative plot; The events following the climax of a drama or novel in which such a resolution or clarification takes place.
2. The outcome of a sequence of events; the end result.

As in: Realism in painting, at the advent of Modernism (especially abstraction), devolved in a rapid denouement. Brush strokes, line, color, and form became more important (see Monet and the Impressionists, for example) and eventually became the subject of painting, breaking through in a leap to pure abstraction with Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich.

This assumes, though, a very linear progression of art, i.e. as a straightforward evolution. This isn't the case--see Duchamp, Rauschenberg--and by the 60s the whole thing really fell apart with the Minimalists and Pop Art and a million other "-isms".

Anyway, I like the word.

There is a feeling, which most would probably anticipate, that corporate offices discourage idiosyncrasies and individuality. I started thinking about this idea when I read a (partly tongue-in-cheek) definition of "collaboration" in another's blog: "the means by which idiosyncrasy is overridden by mutually intelligible procedure". This is mostly true in an environment in which there is one underlying goal that motivates most decisions: making money. Spend less to make more, which translates to a slavish adherence to some abstract ultimatum, which is the "bottom line"--save a few at the top, no one knows much about it, but nevertheless lives in its shadow. Working at a place like The Economist, I thought that I could save a certain idealism in that there is a parallel goal of providing some service to society. But anything outside of the editorial department has very little to do with that idea. Editorial is upstairs in a quiet, sun-filled office, scattered with books and punctuated with the clacking of keyboard keys. They are absolutely isolated, suspended in an otherwise idiosyncratic-less world of mailrooms and check acquisitions, excel spreadsheets and hushed phone conversations. Editorial could not exist without this web around it, holding it up, but they have almost no interaction with it. The people down here are either oblivious to the writers upstairs, or have a vague respect for them and make sure to tiptoe when they go by their office.

I try to joke around as much as I can, like when someone prints out a large number of pages, I say "Printing War and Peace again?" Not all that funny but deserving of a smile, I'd say: but nothing. Interestingly, the higher-ups in this department are the most humorless, while those near the bottom harbor a small part of themselves in which they can laugh knowingly.

What is idiosyncrasy, exactly? I think that the sense in which we use it only refers to one of its definitions, and we stretch it slightly. We mean it as a general word for strange quirks in a person's makeup, a personality anomaly. But really it has more to do with structures and systems, or physiology, and it can refer not to an individual, but a group. The people down here think that the entire editorial department is idiosyncratic, I suppose, that as a group they are peculiar. They are using the word correctly. Man, I wish I were working up there.

Go see Billy Murrary in Broken Flowers. Jim Jarmusch’s new film is gloriously awkward, better so than Coffee and Cigarettes, which was merely awkward and only glorious at the very end. While Coffee and Cigarettes was interesting in its variety, the strange pauses and fumbled words did not accumulate into lasting place in the narrative, to expand and become comfortable. What I loved about Broken Flowers was that the lack of grace in the interactions between Bill Murray’s character and the rest of the world passed, until one could inhabit the movie and find freedom in the disconnectedness that Murray’s character felt. It allowed one to turn off, or perhaps to live a vicarious life in which social normality wasn’t important. In this sense the film felt approximately real. Jarmusch’s film style is rather painstaking, and I was glad for the large coffee I bought right before the show. Yet there is something to be experienced at the breaking point of an attention span, which is where Jarmusch forces you.

I suppose Murray’s ability to mine the depths of the “past his prime” character--see Rushmore, Lost in Translation, The Life Aquatic--plays well into the slow-to-the-point-of-lethargic style of filmmaking that Jarmusch uses. In that way they are suited well to one another, actor and director. I’m inclined to say that Lost in Translation was the peak, with Rushmore being an essential primer and The Life Aquatic the point when it became old, but I was surprised by his performance this time. There was something more genuine to it, a level of subtlety that seemed impossible, and if the performances of those other three movies swayed close to the inherent self-parody (certainly The Life Aquatic), Murray moved past that in Broken Flowers. Suspended in Jarmusch’s otherwordly dimension, I think that Murray felt undeniably more human.

It’s my first time out of the city since moving in, and I am sitting in what strikes me as an extravagantly large room. Elin and I took a bus to Montclair to spend a few days with a family friend, who lives with six cats. I’m allergic to all six of them, I’m afraid, but knowing that, she quarantined the guest bedroom and everything seems to be fine. Better than last time we visited (at that juncture, there were ten cats in the house), when my throat began to close up and I eventually conceded after an hour of stubborn denial to the fact that I am, indeed, allergic to cats.

We have internet installed in our apartment now, so the blogging shall resume. I have a number of things fill in from the last few weeks, most of them strange experiences that I’d be amiss to not record.

We are leaving for Ikea to fill in the last corners of my five foot wide room. It’s a cloudy day. It’s always seemed interesting that on a cloudy day, the sun’s more indirect light causes everything to seem brighter, like each thing gives off its own light.

Many apologies for the lack of posting--our free wireless internet disappeared into the woodwork, so we're left stranded. I'm at work sneaking in sentences while the boss goes to fix her coffee. At least she isn't asking me to get it for her, which is what I suppose is expected.

9-5 takes more out of you than you'd think, especially considering that fact that you tend to do very little that is physically exerting. I had more energy when I worked construction and spent the majority of days getting sunburned on the roof of a half-completed garage. But today is Friday, and Friday means jeans! Go denim!

Went to a concert in someone's store-front apartment in Brooklyn last night. It was pretty average until a guy wearing a bumble bee costume came out (fishnet stockings, fabric wings), turned on a smoke machine, and started hopping and dancing around like a character from Yellow Submarine. Except the music wasn't nearly as good. Nonetheless, this city continues to suggest the ever-present reality that if you can imagine something, it's probably happening somewhere.

A job posting just went up on The Economist Intranet for a fact-checker in the New York office, which I would give my arm for. I am eating free hummus and losing my eyesight via tedious spreadsheet entry. And I'm picking up Elin from the airport in five hours.

About me

  • Blake
  • Chicago, IL, United States

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