Monday, September 11, 2006

Random Notes

I'm stealing bandwidth from Konrad Lawson. This picture, which I believe is the Catholic Cathedral of Reykjavik, is an interesting example of neo-Gothic architecture: the elements of the medieval cathedral, reduced to their essentials, absence of decoration, the vertical lines that emphasize the height (in absence of spires). For a different interpretation, see Reykjavik's other cathedral. Konrad has some interesting post on his stopover in Iceland (here, here, here).

Gothic Is it the "“desperate but somehow empowering feeling of loneliness"” I was talking about the reason Reykjavi­k seems to be a mini-gothic capital of the world? Or is there just some kind of gothic get-together going on this week?

Freedom for the Dictionary: The latest battleground in France's memory wars is the Petit Robert, the prestigious, multi-volume dictionary that adorns the bookshelves of those who care about French and have the space to house it. The complaint? The definitions of colinisation and coloniser (colonization and to colonize, respectively) whitewash France's imperial legacy, being "in the spirof ot the loi 25 Fevrier 2005, evoking a positive role of colonization." Two groups have called for a boycott. Pierre Assouline point out that the dictionary and lexicography in general, although they "cannot claim absolute neutrality, detached and unaffected by all ideological imprints," definitions mark use, and thus "evolve with society and the mentalities they reflect." Freedom for the dictionary, just like the historians' cry for the freedom of their own profession from political intrusion from any side.

No Bible-Thumping in Early Church: Phil Harland has the story.

NOLA and Katrina: Joel at Far Outliers was kind enough to put a little extra into a post about government failures in face of Katrina, noting that the federal government had devolved control (as well as resources) to the states in Mississippi Valley for flood control in the mid-19th century. Interesting point, but I think the question still needs to be asked: why have cities become so powerless in the modern era? Where once they waged war, now they cannot sweep the streets. Why are they incapable of initiating major public works projects? (And cities are almost nothing without water control.)

Corrections Department: Frog in a Well's Alan Baumler sets the record straight on the Shanghai textbook without Mao.


At 5:26 PM, Blogger Joel said...

How would you characterize the style of the other Reykjavik cathedral? Stalinist Gothic?

On the question of impoverished, poorly run cities, perhaps great cities require powerful elites with huge amounts of wealth concentrated in their hands, and wealth derived from the cities themselves. In a more egalitarian age, with jet-setting elites less tied to particular locales, cities are no longer the showpieces of those elites, and therefore no longer the beneficiaries of their largesse.

At 10:50 PM, Blogger Nathanael said...

Good question. The front reminds me of the style present in Metropolis (which is about the easiest comparison that can be made). I'd like to think this was an interpretation of Gothic based on Viking culture, but that could mean anything. I really wish I knew more, which is why the picture fascinates me.

On the other point, I would mention that in the modern era elites have been more than willing spend on beautification while neglecting public works.


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