Home/Prufrock/Breakdancing at the Olympics, Remaking Notre Dame’s Clock, and Addicted to Beta Blockers

Breakdancing at the Olympics, Remaking Notre Dame’s Clock, and Addicted to Beta Blockers

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I started breakdancing in the fifth grade (and stopped in the seventh), but I’m not sure how I feel about breakdancing becoming an Olympic sport. I suppose if synchronized swimming is an Olympic sport, why the hell not breakdancing: “Called breaking in Olympic circles, its medal debut was last October at the Buenos Aires Youth Summer Games. The street dance competitions will have 16 athletes in each of the men’s and women’s medal events in Paris. IOC members formally endorsed requests from Paris officials in February and their own executive board in March to provisionally add breakdancing to the program, pending a final decision in December 2020.”

Andrew O’Hagan remembers the former Talk of the Town columnist, Lillian Ross, in a review of her re-released Picture: “I’ve never met anybody who hated as many people as Lillian Ross did. She would count their names off on her fingers, regularly within spitting distance of them, and her voice wasn’t quiet and she wasn’t shy. Bending back each digit and making a face, she’d offer a defining word after each name: ‘Gloria Steinem – phoney. Janet Malcolm – pretentious. Renata Adler – crackpot. Susan Sontag – nobody. Nora Ephron – liar.’ Other hand: ‘Kenneth Tynan – creep. Truman Capote – leech. George Plimpton – slick. Tom Wolfe – talentless. Philip Roth – jerk.’ It was a mercy she only had two hands. To be fair, there were some men she liked. They tended to be showbusiness people . . . We were friends for a few years – you could say I was briefly her lapdog – and saw each other every time I came to New York . . . She was the sort of person who rated the people from her past so highly that all living people faced a struggle from the start. If you were lucky enough to say something funny, she’d smile for a second and then tell you Thurber would have made it funnier. If – heaven forfend – you tried to pinpoint a social nuance, she would look at you somewhat pityingly before telling you that her friend Joseph Mitchell could have made poetry out of it. She hated the New York Review of Books with a vengeance, resenting its ‘assumption of power’ and its ‘critical faculties’, and she told me there was no real writing in it and I should stop associating ‘with people like that’.

Melvil Dewey’s name is removed from American Library Association award: “The council of the American Library Association (ALA) passed a resolution this week to rename its top professional award, the Melvil Dewey Medal. The resolution explains that Dewey did not permit Jewish people, African Americans or other minorities admittance to the resort he owned, the Lake Placid Club. He also ‘made numerous inappropriate physical advances toward women he worked with and wielded professional power over’ and was ostracized from the ALA after four women accused him of sexual impropriety, the resolution continues.”

A clock that is nearly the same as the one that was destroyed in the Notre Dame fire has been discovered: “The ruined clock in Notre-Dame, which measured two metres (6.5 feet) across, was located beneath the roof and spire of the Gothic monument which crashed down in the blaze that stunned France in April. With original drawings lost and no digital records, photographs of the historic clock were the only clue experts had about how they might rebuild it. Then French clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Viot stumbled across an almost identical version while completing an inventory last month at Saint Trinite church in northern Paris, four kilometres (2.5 miles) away from Notre-Dame. ‘It’s incredible. It’s the same,’ he said. ‘It’s like finding a second copy of a burned book.’”

Texas Monthlysold to Randa Duncan Williams: “Two and a half years after the award-winning publication was sold to Genesis Park, the Houston-based private equity firm founded by Paul Hobby, it has been purchased by Texas Monthly, LLC, a newly formed affiliate of Enterprise Products Company (EPCO), a privately held firm also based in Houston. The chairman of both Texas Monthly, LLC, and EPCO is Randa Duncan Williams.”

John Wilson recommends David Lyle Jeffrey’s In the Beauty of Holiness: Art and the Bible in Western Culture: “His project in this book is of course deeply unfashionable. “Holiness” is in bad odor, even in Christian circles. You may protest. Just the other day, your pastor quoted from A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. And so on. Well, yes, talk about ‘holiness’ hasn’t entirely disappeared. But since the 1950s, when I was first going to church as a boy, there has been a steady decline in emphasis, especially marked in recent decades. In part, I think, that has to do with the odious, blustering way in which many preachers, evangelists, and popular theologians talked about holiness and the holy. But this can’t be the only explanation. By contrast, Jeffrey’s sense of holiness is winsome.”

Essay of the Day:

In Slate, Shannon Palus writes about how she became addicted to beta blockers and how difficult the habit was to break:

“Beta blockers felt like magic. Never mind the panicked cat, talking in front of people was now like ice skating down the Rideau Canal. I popped one a half-hour before an interview with the paper’s editorial board and won the position of science editor. I told friends about my marvelous new trick, recommending beta blockers for nerves of all kinds—public speaking nerves, job interview nerves, social interaction nerves. Next time you are at the doctor, I Facebook messaged a friend dealing with similar issues, ‘pick up beta blockers!’

“The feat of the beta blocker is that it slows down your heartbeat—but only just. The drug, which debuted in 1964, was created by pharmacologist James Black to treat chest pain and heart arrhythmias. The pill’s success at doing exactly that eventually helped earn him the Nobel Prize in medicine. A few years after their invention, psychiatrists started prescribing beta blockers off-label for anxiety. The same thing that makes them work for treating heart conditions helps mask the physical symptoms of panic one might feel when experiencing anxiety. While they are mostly prescribed as a blood pressure medication, general practitioners and psychiatrists will still administer them for performance jitters now and then. Today, you might pop one before giving a wedding toast, or doing an interview for a big job. Though not quite in vogue the way that, say, Xanax is, they are common in some circles, particularly among performers. According to one survey, nearly three-quarters of musicians have tried beta blockers to stave off nerves, including pop star Katy Perry, who once said that she takes a beta blocker before performances to help her cope with the singular pressure of holding down the entire stage (as she put it, ‘there are 500 b*****s behind me.’)

“Because it is 2019, today you can order beta blockers online. Hims, and Hers, a pair of websites where you can get prescriptions for everything from birth control to erectile dysfunction medication, added propranolol—the form of beta blocker commonly used for performances—to their repertoire in February. Though the Food and Drug Administration still hasn’t approved blockers as a treatment for anxiety, they’re marketed for anxiety on these websites. ‘Calm never felt so close,’ promises a marquee on Hers’ beta blocker page; if you place an order, the blockers will arrive with a card that says ‘ain’t nobody got time for chamomile tea.’ Kick, a startup that specializes exclusively in connecting customers to propranolol, launched its services in January, describing its one product as ‘prescription strength confidence.’ As someone who once loved these drugs, I was curious.”

Read the rest.

Photo: Hermitage Saint Domingo

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about the author

Micah Mattix is the literary editor of The American Conservative and an associate professor of English at Regent University.  His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Pleiades, The Washington Times, and many other publications. His latest book is The Soul Is a Stranger in this World: Essays on Poets and Poetry (Cascade). Follow him on Twitter.

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