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but finishes badly

I. The New Iowa City Noodle Place.

I have already forgotten the name of this place. You know what I'm talking about, though—it's the new one on Dubuque a few storefronts down from Prairie Lights. Early returns are promising. I had the vegetarian bow-tie pasta, which was tossed around in an extremely light white-wine sauce and was quite tasty except for the broccoli, which I dislike. I gave the broccoli to Peyton, who had the spicy peanut sauce on the thin (egg? rice?) noodles accentuated with carrots. Also good. Aimee and Matt apparently didn't fare so well—Matt ordered the teriyaki bowl and got a few strips of beef and no vegetables to speak of on a rice bed. (At the counter, they told me they had underestimated the lunch rush and were running low on many ingredients.) But assuming they get their logistics figured out, they will make for a salutary addition to the Iowa City "culinary" scene. Whatever their name is. I'm about to leave, of course.

II. Remote Controlled Rats.

From Justin.

Aside from the technological challenges, he said there may be ethical concerns about turning animals into "intelligent robots" serving humans.

"It's one thing to see a rat running around like this, people don't get too emotional about that, but as soon as you get into dogs or work animals, people start getting real excited," he said.

The potential of using such implantable electrodes to control humans—which a Tulane University researcher tried during the 1960s, with unclear results—is something Chapin said he opposes so strongly he believes it should be illegal.

III. Walter Benjamin Anticipates the Weblog—Or Rather, Envisions Something Weblog-Like, but Way More Erudite Than Most Weblogs, Including This One.

At any rate, nothing was more characteristic of him in the thirties than the little notebooks with black covers which he always carried with him and in which he tirelessly entered in the form of quotations what daily living and reading netted him in the way of "pearls" and "coral." On occasion he read from them aloud, showed them around like items from a choice and precious collection. And in this collection, which by then was anything but whimsical, it was easy to find next to an obscure love poem from the eighteenth century the latest newspaper item, next to Goecking's "Der erste Schnee" a report from Vienna dated summer 1939, saying that the local gas company "had stopped supplying gas to Jews. The gas consumption of the Jewish population involved a loss for the gas company, since the biggest consumers were the ones who did not pay their bills. The Jews used the gas especially for committing suicide" (Briefe II, 820).


From the Goethe essay on, quotations are at the center of every work of Benjamin's. This very fact distinguishes his writings from scholarly works of all kinds in which it is the function of quotations to verify and document opinions, wherefore they can safely be relegated to the Notes. This is out of the question in Benjamin. When he was working on his study of German tragedy, he boasted of a collection of "over 600 quotations very systematically and clearly arranged" (Briefe I, 339); like the later notebooks, this collection was not an accumulation of excerpts intended to facilitate the writing of the study but constituted the main work, with the writing as something secondary. The main work consisted in tearing the fragments out of their context and arranging them afresh in such a way that they illustrated one another and were able to prove their raison d'être in a free-floating state, as it were. It definitely was a sort of surrealistic montage. Benjamin's ideal of producing a work consisting entirely of quotations, one that was mounted so masterfully that it could dispense with any accompanying text, may strike one as whimsical in the extreme and self-destructive to boot, but it was not, any more than were the contemporaneous surrealistic experiments which arose from similar impulses. To the extent that an accompanying text by the author proved unavoidable, it was a matter of fashioning it in such a way as to preserve "the intention of such investigations," namely, "to plumb the depths of language and thought... by drilling rather than excavating" (Briefe I, 329), so as not to ruin everything with explanations that seek to provide a causal or systematic connection.

—Hannah Arendt, introduction to Illuminations


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