Archive for the ‘Morning News’ Category

Monday, 18 July 2011

Monday, July 18th, 2011

¶ News that President Obama will nominate Rick Cordray and not Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which Ms Warren more or less invented, is the latest example of White House expertise at pleasing nobody. The Senate is apparently no more likely to confirm Mr Cordray, an activist former attorney general of Ohio who has worked well with Ms Warren, who, for her part, gallantly supports her colleague. What’s the difference? Binyamin Appelbaum writes that Ms Warren’s “independent streak and her outspokenness … put her at odds with the administration.” Maybe that’s another way of saying that, like the President, Mr Cordray is a Midwesterner, if you know what we mean by that.

Daily Office: Matins
Fuel For What
Thursday, 7 April 2011

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Looking into the future, the pessimist pundits of the past used to worry that food production would not keep pace with population growth. But they never imagined why that might be the case when in fact it happened. “Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears,” by Elisabeth Rosenthal.

Each year, an ever larger portion of the world’s crops — cassava and corn, sugar and palm oil — is being diverted for biofuels as developed countries pass laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels and as emerging powerhouses like China seek new sources of energy to keep their cars and industries running. Cassava is a relatively new entrant in the biofuel stream.

But with food prices rising sharply in recent months, many experts are calling on countries to scale back their headlong rush into green fuel development, arguing that the combination of ambitious biofuel targets and mediocre harvests of some crucial crops is contributing to high prices, hunger and political instability.

This year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that its index of food prices was the highest in its more than 20 years of existence. Prices rose 15 percent from October to January alone, potentially “throwing an additional 44 million people in low- and middle-income countries into poverty,” the World Bank said.

Daily Office: Vespers
Friday, 21 January 2011

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Holland Cotter captures a moment in New York’s artly life that spun bravely at the Tibor de Nagy gallery in the early Fifties: a collaboration of painting and poetry in which the poetry was arguably the more remarkable partner. But the paintings still gleam, poised beautifully between the bellows of Abstract Expressionism and the banalities of Pop.

And a scene it was: amorous, rivalrous and incestuous; at once an avant-garde and — much like the New York art world at present — an avant-garde in reverse. Poetry was pushing into prickly new territory, while art was revisiting old ground, although with some new moves. What made the situation at Tibor de Nagy distinctive was that almost everyone was collaborating, artists and poets alike.

Remember the context. This was the high moment of Abstract Expressionism, with its image of the heroic artist battling his way alone toward some existential sublime. Set that image against another: O’Hara and Rivers, lovers at the time, sitting knee to knee as they worked on a series of jointly made lithographs, each adding drawings, jokes, notes to friends and poems like valentines.

Or consider the poetry books coming out under the Tibor de Nagy imprint, among them Mr. Ashbery’s first collection, with drawings by Ms. Freilicher, and O’Hara’s 1953 “Oranges,” with hand-painted covers by Hartigan. These weren’t weighty tomes. They were pretty pamphlets, so thin and fragile as to be all but invisible on a library shelf.

Daily Office:
Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Matins ¶ While we’re greatly cheered to read Fernanda Santos’s front-page Times story, “A Kitchen-For-Rent Is a Lifeline for the Laid-Off,” in which we’re introduced to a handful of cooks and caterers who are making the most of a professional kitchen in Queens that formerly served as a continuing-education facility for a labor-union constituency. But one or two mysteries stand between us and perfect happiness. What is the name of the kitchen, or of the not-for-profit organization that operates it? And is this organization self-supporting, or will it continue to rely upon grants and subsidies? Who actually owns the plant, which is currently rented to the not-for-profit for $1 per year? There is nothing in the story to make us doubt that it’s presenting a very worthy cause, but whether or not it depends on the kindness of strangers is a very important detail.

Lauds ¶ At The House Next Door, John Lingan frames Godard’s Breathless, one of the most influential films of all time (because it’s also one of the most intriguing), alongside the witless 1983 remake — which we’ve never seen. We’re tempted to, now, though, just to feel Mr Lingan’s perspicacity more keenly.

Prime ¶ Nothing clears up mental fog better than the dismantlement of a sloppy and tendentious financial story, preferably in the Journal, by Felix Salman. “The WSJ mistrusts companies which pay down debt” is a golden example. He shows that Sharon Terlep is still drinking boom-time Kool-Aid, intoxicated by “the leverage-is-good meme [that] simply refuses to die.” Felix carefully unpacks the article’s double-talk about General Motors debt, and raises a serious question about an alleged company statement.

Tierce ¶ The fascination of Chuck Dimock’s “I Was A Male Chatbot” is a little bit perverted: in place of the ironic levity that might so easily have been inspired by his pretending to be an approachable, unthreatening female on a retail sales Web site, we get an orthodox analysis in terms of gender theory and artificial intelligence. The piece is quite lucid, but it seems vaguely Turingesque itself, as if written by a computer with an underdeveloped sense of humor. Which just figures, if you think about it: social theorists, longing for the patina of scientific rigor, are probably going to wind up sounding less than human. (As It Ought To Be; via The Rumpus)

¶ So we’ve added Tom Scocca’s “conversation” with Eliza about today’s “machine-mediated” communications. What’s so funny? 

Sext ¶ We watch The Family Stone every year at Christmas; one of its powerful themes is the terrible but harmonisable dissonance between Christmas and cancer. Tracy Clark-Flory’s “All I Want For Christmas Is Nothing” sounds a carol in the same dark but warm key. In seven beautifully-crafted paragraphs, Clark-Flory brings her parents — a mother weakened by the final stages of lung cancer, a father, overcoming his aversion to Christmas, determined to make his wife comfortable — vividly alive. (Salon; via The Morning News)

Nones ¶ At the Globe, columnist James Carroll refrains from stating what every sentence in his piece points to: the possibility that Ireland entered the Twenty-First Century with an optimism so out of character that calamity was inevitable. Connecting the lending bubble to the religious abuse scandals seems particularly astute: both disasters show it to be harder than expected to get beyond the blacker parts of Irish history. We hope that a genuine Irish Republic will emerge from all the ruin. (via Real Clear World)

Vespers ¶ We share Laura Miller’s belief that readers of popular fiction know what they like, and that literary fiction doesn’t have what they’re after. Ms Miller is responding to novelist Edward Docx’s claim that there would be less Larsson and Brown, and more Franzen and Amis, dust jackets on view in the Underground if only riders could be made aware of the latters’ richly interesting prose. But richly interesting prose is just what most readers can’t abide. The Editor has never forgotten an important critical insight that was imparted by his sister: “And the best thing is that you can skim over a lot of it.” (Salon; via The Rumpus)

Compline ¶ Roxane Gay has the gift of being passionate and level-headed at the same time. Writing about her life in academia, she claims that she “wouldn’t give it up for anything,” but she begs to disabuse readers of any fantasies that they may have about its cushiness. She manages to convince us of her personal satisfaction while at the same time making it clear that her job, or assemblage of jobs, is an underpaid rat-race. We’re left more convinced than ever that higher education in the humanities needs not only a complete re-think but also a detachment from research institutions. (HTMLGiant)

Have a Look

¶ Beethoven snips at YouTube. (MetaFilter)

¶ “Map of Facebook Friends Connections Lights Up the World.” (Discoblog)


¶ The head of Henri IV (1589-1610; decapitated 1793) can be re-interred at St Denis as genuine. (Cosmos; via The Morning News)

¶ The Lawrence/Julie & Julia Project. “ You don’t have the enzymes to honor family either!” (via MetaFilter)

Monday Scramble: Bogus

Monday, July 13th, 2009


A triumph of form over substance, this entry is supposed to be about stories that brewed on the Internet over the weekend. Stories that I considered beneath my notice. It was an unfortunately-timed concept, because you can’t expect a Michael Jackson to die every Thursday.

Better luck next week, eh?

Morning Read "Do Something All Day Long"

Thursday, April 9th, 2009


¶ Casting about for a metaphor with which to describe Lord Chesterfield’s Weltanschauung — an anachronistic inquiry, I know — I keep coming back to opera seria, although I’m quite sure that Chesterfield would have detested the insolence of my conceit. We have heard, in recent letters, of the earl’s contempt for trivialities, and yet he finds in “company,” the most exalted human activity.

I cannot help being anxious for your success, at this your first appearance upon the great stage of the world; for though the spectators are always candid enough to give great allowances, and show great indulgence to a new actor; yet, from the first impressions which he makes upon them, they are apt to decide, in their own minds at least, whether he will ever be a good one, or not…

There is also a touching exhortation to keep busy that’s worth noting.

Do what you will in Berlin, provided you do but do something all day long. … If I did not know by experience, that some men pass their whole time in doing nothing, I should not think it possible for any being, superior to M Descartes’s automatons, to squander away, in absolute idleness, one single minute of that small portion of time which is allotted us in this world.

If youth knew, and age could…

¶ In Moby-Dick, more phrenology.

It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Leviathan, in the creature’s living intact state, is an entire delusion. As for his true brain, you can then see no indication of it, nor feel any. The whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common world.

Melville’s genius for spouting aphorisms to which one’s response is the very opposite of “So true!” is unparalleled.

¶ Don Quixote meets the Knight of the Wood, who is scandalized that Sancho dares to “speak when his master is speaking.” Is he as big a lunatic as our hero? I suspect that we’re in for a bit of aristo-pricking.

¶ In Squillions, Noël Coward discovers Jamaica, and it is love at first sight.

I really think that as a race we [English] must be dotty. Here is this divine place — one of the oldes British colonies and we none of us — thank God — know anything about it. That is except me and Nelson.

Little can Coward have foreseen that his divine place would be boycotted as an egregiously homophobic tourist destination. His was quite another world.

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, March 5th, 2009


¶ Matins: Second only to Flint, MI as a GM-dependent town, Anderson, IN is piecing itself together with small businesses —

¶ Lauds: The Walker Evans postcard show at the Museum ought to be a permanent installation in the American Wing.

¶ Prime: George Snyder reports on the anxiety of celebrity — direct from Hollywood. (There’s a rapper called “Flo Rida”?)

¶ Tierce: Can anyone tell me what a report on the ideological intransigence of academic economists is doing buried in the Arts/Books section of the Times?

¶ Sext: Did you know that a chunk of asteroid as big as fifty metres missed hitting Sidney by only 60,000 miles the other day? (via Morning News.)

¶ Nones: In news that you probably thought can’t be news, the first rail link between Laos and Thailand (or anywhere) is inaugurated,  crossing the Mekong River.

¶ Vespers: Jeremy Denk hates Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, calling the author “one of the most gifted writers of boring sentences in the last decade.”

¶ Compline: The new railroad connecting Santa Fe and Albuquerque, unlike the Interstate Highway, will  cut through pueblo lands. Conductors have been asked to request passengers to refrain from drive-by photography.  


Morning Read: Brit

Thursday, February 12th, 2009


¶ “Brit,” the title of Chapter 58 of Moby-Dick refers, as best I can make out, to the microscopic zooplankton called copepods. But never mind. The chapter is really interested in distinguishing the peaceable land masses of the earth from the hostile oceans, and it ends on an elegiac note.

Consider all this: consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off frfom that isle, thou canst never return!

Like everyone else, I was brought up to nod reverently as this sort of humane sagacity. Now it simply reeks of incense, clouding the view of clearer truths.

¶ In Don Quixote, the only distinguished personage who hasn’t shown up at the inn is Forrest Gump. We have yet another recognition scene, as the muletier with the beautiful voice turns out to be Doña Clara’s youthful admirer from across the road in Madrid. I’d love to find out how this romance will end up, but I have to put the book down, because, after two chapters instead of the usual ration of just one, I’m so sick of Quixote’s antics that I can’t continue.

Just then, one of the horses of the four men pounding at the door happened to smell Rocinante, who, melancholy and sad and with drooping ears, stood unmoving as he held his tightly drawn master; and since, after all, he was flesh and blood, though he seemed to be made of wood, he could not help a certain display of feeling as he, in turn, smelled the horse who had come to exchange caresses; as soon as he had moved slightly, Don Quixote’s feet, which were close together, slipped from the saddle, and he would have landed on the ground if he had not been hanging by his arm; this caused him so much pain that he believed his hand was being cut off at the wrist or that his arm was being pulled out of its socket; he was left dangling so close to the ground that the tips of his toes brushed the earth, and this made matters even worse, because…

I have no idea what Cervantes is thinking, when he interrupts the tale of Don Luis with the roughhousing that Quixote provokes at every turn, but the tale itself is reminiscent not of The Marriage of Figaro but of its “pre-quel,” The Barber of Seville. Although I can’t remember what “Lindoro” (the Count in disguise) is supposed to be. Not a muletier, I don’t think.

¶ In Squillions, at the end of interminable Chapter 17, we learn why Noël Coward took to bunking at Cary Grant’s when he paid wartime visits to Hollywood. No, they were not an affair. The two men were both agents of “Little” Bill Stephenson, sizing up the sentiment of the movie crowd. It’s no surprise to be reminded that Errol Flynn was pro-Nazi.

Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009


¶ Matins: Much as I hate to anticipate good news that might not pan out, I can’t help being excited by the prospect of an end to the infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws.

¶ Lauds: Months before its scheduled opening, the Mandarin Oriental Beijing has been destroyed by fire — one of the Chinese capital’s Olympic-era trophies, designed by Rem Koolhaas.

¶ Prime: Brian Stephenson, at Five Branch Tree, writes about fell0w poet August Kleinzahler, whose work appears regularly in the London Review of Books.

His other techniques are quite American, such as the incorporation of both high and low culture, the symbolic use of pop figures, real and imaginary characters, travel, temporality, displacement and nostalgia. And despite being a native of New Jersey and a long time resident of San Francisco, these poems are particularly American with respect to the experience of the immigrant. Not ‘immigrant’ as a sociological study, but as one of the working myths in American arts and culture.

¶ Tierce: I was thinking that 2009 would be the Year of the Kindle for me, but now I’m not so sure. Amazon has just introduced Kindle 2, a great improvement over the original device in many ways, but also a harbinger of roiling format wars with Google and Apple. So I’ll probably sit out the wait for an emergent standard.

¶ Sext: What’s really cute about Kirk Johnson’s story about the “Hitch,” the souped-up motel in Cheyenne, Wyoming that has served as a kind of tree-house for state legislators is the non-appearance of “woman,” “women,” and “female.”

And the Hitch, as lawmakers came to call it, in turn became more than just a hotel. It insinuated itself into how the State Legislature worked by creating an informal space where lawmakers in their socks, sometimes with a highball in hand, could wander down the hall and knock on the door of a neighbor and talk through the day.

¶ Nones: Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan’s stalking out of a debate with Shimon Peres at Davos has the diplomats’ heads shaking: the man is “erratic.”

Mr Erdogan’s temper tantrums are not new. But they used to be reserved for his critics at home. The Davos affair, says another foreign diplomat, is further evidence of “Mr Erdogan’s conviction that the West needs Turkey more than Turkey needs it.” It is of a piece with Mr Erdogan’s threat to back out of the much-touted Nabucco pipeline to carry gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey. In Brussels recently Mr Erdogan said that, if there were no progress on the energy chapter of Turkey’s EU accession talks then “we would of course review our position”. Meanwhile, Turkey sided with Saudi Arabia and the Vatican in opposing a UN statement suggested by the EU to call for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality.

¶ Vespers: Patrick Kurp writes about the only leading economic indicator that bibliophiles need to be acquainted with.

After completing my rounds, I checked back with Angel who made me an offer: $15.50. I was parting with the most books I had ever sold to Half-Price Books and was, in return, receiving the smallest amount of cash. I took it, silently. I didn’t feel like repacking two boxes, carrying them back to the car and explaining why to my wife. I would have felt like Jack telling his mother about the magic beans, which I did anyway. Angel said, “Everybody’s selling books. They need the money. We can’t afford to pay ’em as much.” The supply and demand of used books: my first economic indicator.

¶ Compline: Scout captures some great keystone demons, only to discover that they’re green men.


Morning Read: 'Corrupt as Lima'

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009


¶ What to make of Chapter 54 of Moby-Dick? “The Town-Ho’s Story” (what an unfortunate title, given &c &c), while long enough to be a short story on its own, is hardly an independent episode; after all, it’s the title character’s first major appearance. Ishmael relates a backstory, as it were, to his adventure on the Pequod, and frames it doubly as a narrative. First, it was told to his shipmates on the Pequod during a “gam” with sailors from the Town-Ho, another whaler. Second, it is told to us as Ishmael claims to have told it to acquaintances in Lima, after the action recounted in the novel itself. The elaborate framing seems to be nothing more than just that — a bit of tarting-up.

What bores these sailors must have been on land! But the Dons of Lima give as good as they get, at least as rendered in Melville’s ridiculously starchy translated Spanish. In a “witty” gloss of Ishmael’s bracketing of the Erie Canal and Venice as equally corrupt, a Peruvian interrupts Ishmael with the following bolt of fustian:

“A moment! Pardon!” cried another of the company. “In the name of all us Limeese, I but desire to express to you, sir sailor, that we have by no means overlooked your delicacy in not substituting present Lima for distant Venice in your corrupt comparison. Oh! do not bow and look surprised, you know the proverb all along this coast — ‘Corrupt as Lima.’ It but bears out your saying, too; churches more plentiful than billiard-tables, and forever open — and ‘Corrupt as Lima.’ So, too Venice; I have been there; the holy city of the blessed evangelist, St Mark! — St Dominic, purge it! Your cup! Thanks: here I refill, now, you poor out again.”

It’s a bit rich.

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008


¶ Matins: The Nation, Thailand’s English-language newspaper, runs a Web site that holds its own as a contemporary news site. Here, for example, is the page of business leaders. It’s better than what one might expect of a South Asian kingdom where English is not really the second language that it is in, say, India.

And here is its capsule report of the king’s exhortation to the newly sworn-in government of Abhisit Vejjajiva. Did I say “capsule”? It’s the entire story. No comment, no color, no links to related stories. Just the royal admonition. I give it entire:

In his speech given before Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cabinet, HM the King said: “If you work well, the country will be in good order and it will be a blessing. If you can ensure happiness and public order, the country will go ahead as wished by all Thais.”

¶ Tierce: The shooting death of a police officer is always a hot-button crime, so it’s especially heartening to see juries pulling back from felony murder convictions in connection with the deaths of Daniel Enchautegui and Russel Timoshenko, two policemen who were shot last year while trying to deter criminal activity. The doctrine of felony murder, which holds individuals to be guilty of any murder committed in the course of a crime to which they are accessories, is a blot on our system of justice.

¶ Sext: Read about the Ultimate Paper Airplane, at Brainiac. It is rocket science!


Daily Office: Monday

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008


¶ Matins: It’s hard to cry real tears over the bankruptcy filing of Tribune Corp, the media empire that, among other things, has imperilled the integrity of the Los Angeles Times.

¶ Prime: At yesterday, Jason Kottke took a look at his own early stabs at Web sites. I hope that someone will undertake a comprehensive overview of Web design history, because I’m sure that the lessons taught by evolution would be useful to know. 

¶ Tierce: What’s this? Riots in Greece? Sparked by the police shooting of a fifteen year-old boy? Okaaay… But wait. Why did you say they are rioting in Greece?

¶ Sext: Timely advice from Debrett’s/Telegraph on how to behave at the office Christmas Party. Nothing you didn’t know — which is why you ought to write it out on the palm of your hand.


Vacation Note: El-eat

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Very grand accommodations: not ours!

The terrorist attacks on Americans and Britons in Mumbai have made it hard for me to work up even a modicum of Thanksgiving spirit. Sorry — I forgot to mention that I’d been reading about all the passengers stuck at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok — among them the mother of a friend. The two incidents are utterly different in one respect: the Thai protests have little or no international dimension. And yet perhaps for that very reason they trouble me more. I’ve been watching Thai democracy founder for a few months now, and what bothers me the most is that I’m on the protestors’ side: my instincts, too, are to disenfranchise uneducated, semi-feudalized rural voters. I’ve wanted to disenfranchise rural American voters ever since I lived in Texas, in the 1970s.

I say “wanted.” I didn’t say that I thought it would be a good idea. Clearly it would be best to bring rural Thai voters into some kind of cultural synch with their educated urban countrymen. But what if they don’t want that? What if, like so many Americans, they’d rather reality television?

My democratic impulses, obviously, are a lot more head than heart at the moment. So it’s a good thing that the most problematic of American holidays (in my book) will find me at a table for two with Kathleen, far from home, eating anything on the menu that isn’t a turkey dinner.

Vacation Note: Uncertain

Friday, November 21st, 2008


I almost fainted at breakfast, when I read yesterday’s Citigroup closing price. I thought that I was getting away for a bit of vacation. Instead, I rather feel that I’ve left the house on fire.

Reading Robert Shiller’s The Subprime Solution yesterday, while edifying, was probably not great vacation reading. Slim, readable, and chock-a-block with magnificent and profoundly capitalist ideas — what could be more capitalist than shorting real-estate futures? — the book is ultimately depressing, because, as Mr Shiller often says (and as I myself know from having attended a couple of panels in which he was a participant), the financial establishment regards him as something of a wild man. In fact, he is the soul of good sense, endowed with an American knack for the new idea. Next to him, the people who actually run things are shown to spout nothing but eyewash and bromides.

Another depressing thing: remembering the awful reviews that Diane Johnson’s Lulu in Marrakesh got in both the daily Times (Michiko Kakutani) and the Book Review (Erica Wagner). Both reviewers completely misread the narrative, which is, to say the least, unreliable. As I recall, they both thought it unlikely that the CIA (unnamed in the novel) would hire a simpleton like Lulu Sawyer. It would appear, however, that she is exactly the kind of simpleton that the CIA goes in for. It takes a special kind of dingbat to refer to a fellow houseguest as “a gangly British laureate poet.” Thanks to Francine Prose’s praise in The New York Review of Books, I realized that my doubts that Ms Johnson could have written the bad book that the ladies of the Times reported were justified.

Daily Office: Friday

Friday, October 17th, 2008


¶ Matins: “10 Reasons Why Newspapers Won’t Reinvent News.” A very persuasive list, and one worth thinking about because of its core idea: today’s newspapers are keeping tomorrow’s from being born, so the sooner they step aside the better. (via

¶ Tierce: Kathleen, who reads the Letters to the Editor if she reads the paper at all, pointed out the following response to the American Dream of “Joe the Plumber”:

To the Editor:

Fair taxation isn’t about “redistributing the wealth” — it’s about giving back to the great country that gave you the opportunity to benefit so greatly.

It’s not about taking money from “Joe the Plumber.” It’s about making sure that “Joe’s Mega-Plumbing Incorporated” gives back to the country and the people who gave him:

¶Roads and bridges for his trucks to roll on.

¶Support for research for his latest plumbing equipment.

¶Public education so he can have a well-trained work force.

¶Markets so he can raise capital.

¶Police and firefighters so his business is protected.

¶Health care so the employees who helped him build his business can stay on the job.

¶Freedom so that he can build his business creatively.

If “Joe” has been able to become wealthy because of the bounty of America, then he should pay his fair share back to America — that is patriotic.

Daryl Altman

Lynbrook, N.Y., Oct. 16, 2008

¶ Sext: One of the best bits in Ghost Town is Kristen Wiig’s turn as a colonscopist. I had not heard of Ms Wiig before, but now I’m not surprised by the comedian’s virtuosic range, from Judy Garland to Suze Orman. (Thanks to Andy Towle)


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, October 9th, 2008


¶ Matins: Regular readers will have learned to sigh when I mention the name of Alan Greenspan. I have certainly felt like something of a crank on the subject of this man’s failure to stanch the market’s foolishness. So I felt rather transfigured by the discovery that I was not alone: witness Peter S Goodman’s “Taking Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy.”  

¶ Prime: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio wins the Nobel Prize for Literature.

¶ Tierce: Cook County Sheriff Thomas J Dart has called a halt to foreclosure evictions in Chicago. John Leland reports. In many cases, diligent renters are unaware of a property owner’s default until the marshalls would show up to evict them.

¶ Sext: Nom de Plume sent me the link to a curious video, of unexplained provenance (and 1999 vintage), concerning, straight-faced, the unlikely bond between a crow and a kitten. I watched it in wait for a surprise, but there was none.

¶ Compline: No sex please; we want to live forever: Clara Meadmore, of Perranporth, Cornwall, attributes her longevity to virginity. She’ll be 105 on Saturday.


Daily Office: Monday

Monday, August 18th, 2008



¶ Health Warning: From the Houston Chronicle: “PETA wants to advertise vegan message on border fence.” And here Mexicans were thinking that what’s distinctive about their diet was hunger.


¶ Alphabet: Luc Sante writes so beautifully about a night in long-ago New York that it’s hard to believe that I might not have been there. Or that it might not have happened — not quite like that, anyway.


¶ OddTodd: Don’t miss OddTodd, proof that gifted people can be counted on to work their butts off for nothing. Todd claims to be unemployed; in fact, he’s just not drawing a salary. (You can help with that!)


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008



¶ Sore Bear: You can cluck and tsk all you like, but Russia’s invasion of Georgia is driven by very high-octane belligerence, distilled from humiliated pride. Ideology not only has nothing to do with the case on the Russian side, but is empty rhetoric in the mouths of Westerners who preach that duly elected democracies are blah blah blah. The foolish expansion of NATO has finally met with Vladimir Putin’s freeze-dried resistance.  


¶ Lunch: Nom de Plume asked  me if I was free for lunch, and Migs asked what I’d be having. Here’s an idea!


¶ Nada: Hey, it’s August. Nothing is going on — niente. That’s why God (in the person of E L Kersten, PhD) invented, which, as my friend George wrote to tell me, has changed its Web site a lot since the last time we visited.


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008



¶ Abandon Hope, Ye Who Can’t Enter Here: The big moment, the major rite of passage in the life of an upper-middle-class child in Manhattan (and parts of Brooklyn and even the Bronx) occurs long before the agonies of adolescence: it’s the move from preschool to kindergarten. An old story! Now, at last, a few of the elementary schools are expanding. Winnie Hu reports.


¶ Introvert: A quick glance at Jonathan Rauch’s essay on introversion in The Atlantic suggests that the Blogosphere might be the hidden-in-plain-sight venue in which the introverts of the world — “a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population” — conspire to take over the world.


¶ Split: From next Sunday’s Times Magazine, Matt Bai’s report on the reservations that prevent the elder statesmen of the Civil Rights movement from more forthrightly supporting Barack Obama.


Daily Office: Monday

Monday, August 4th, 2008



¶ A6: Page A6 of today’s Times (a/k/a “International Report”) features three stories. The one without a picture discusses the “covenant” that the Archbishop of Canterbury has coaxed from his colleagues at the Lambeth Conference. The one with a black-and-white picture concerns the legacy of the reviving Zeppelin industry in Friedrichshafen — one so complicated that I long to read a book about it. The story with the horrific picture, showing a stairway littered with colorfully-clad dead people, recounts the melee that broke out at a hilltop temple in Naina Devi when rumors of a landslide set off a stampede, killing 150 — or 148, at the newspaper’s presumably more up-to-date Web site.


¶ Pie/Sky?: Two stories (CNN, ABC) about really cheap source of power.


¶ Smooth Guide: BBC’s Jennifer Pak presents video guides to getting around in Beijing, in case you’re going to the Games. Even if you’re not, you can see how spanking everything — and hear about how hot it is.