Five Hours of Happy Hour, and Other News


On the Shelf

Still from Happy Hour.

  • Early in the fourteenth century, an Egyptian bureaucrat embarked on the kind of project that many of us attempt on nights off: an enormous encyclopedia designed to contain all knowledge in the Muslim world. The book, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, ran to nine thousand pages, and a part of it will see English translation, after so many centuries, this fall. It illustrates “the sprawlingly heterodox reality of the early centuries of Islam, so different from the crude puritanical myths purveyed by modern-day jihadis,” Robert F. Worth writes. “Reading it is like stumbling into a cavernous attic full of unimaginably strange artifacts, some of them unforgettable, some merely dross. From the alleged self-fellation of monkeys to the many lovely Bedouin words for the night sky (‘the Encrusted, because of its abundance of stars, and the Forehead, because of its smoothness’) to the court rituals of Egypt’s then-overlords, the Mamluks, nothing seems to escape Nuwayri’s taxonomic ambitions.” (We’ll have excerpts on the Daily after Labor Day.) 

  • Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s somewhat misleadingly titled new film Happy Hour is five hours and seventeen minutes—wait, wait, don’t stop reading! What if I told you it was worth every minute? Well, I can’t. I haven’t seen it. But someone else can: “Its length is entirely justified, indeed richly and deeply filled. The recent movie to which it is most similar is Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret; like Lonergan, Hamaguchi is a genius of scene construction, turning the fierce poetry of painfully revealing and pugnaciously wounding dialogue into powerful drama that’s sustained by a seemingly spontaneous yet analytically precise visual architecture … Happy Hour is far more than an intimate drama. Its spectacularly complex grasp of the details of daily life … seemingly tethered by mighty cinematic cables to the vast societal structures below, presents private lives and a political world, a way of life in which ideas and feelings are dominated by the force of law and the weight of tradition.”
  • While we’re at the movies, be sure to check out Herzog’s latest: it’s a “documentary” about an Italian spiced salt called Omnivore, and it debuted on Kickstarter. At two minutes and eighteen seconds, it has the virtue, at least, of being five hours and fourteen-plus minutes shorter than Happy Hour. It finds Herzog complimenting the salt’s creator, Angelo Garro: “Angelo is like a medieval man.” And if you buy the salt you’ll see Herzog’s personal endorsement on the back: “Finally your salt is in the market and I do not need to steal from your kitchen anymore.”
  • Everyone knows that English speakers hate the word moist, but the world is full of people, and those people all find different things to hate about the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary wants to find the most despised word in our tongue: “In the U.K., moist tops the list, followed by no, hate, like, can’t. Moist is also top of the list in the U.S. and Australia. In the Netherlands, by contrast, war and love both make appearances in the list of the top five least popular words, while in Spain, hello is a surprising No. 1. Just one submission, so far, has been made in Gibraltar: yellow. In New Zealand, the first response was phlegm.”