Archive for the ‘Faits Divers’ Category

Daily Office: Monday

Monday, May 11th, 2009


¶ Matins: Uh-oh. This weekend, both Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich sang what sounded like swan songs. Rehearsals for swan songs, anyway. An appeal to the SpOck in Obama; 2009 as the new 1500.

¶ Lauds: In Istanbul, a shiny new mosque has opened, the first to be designed by a woman, Zeynef FadıllıoÄŸlu. It’s a knockout. (via  Good)

¶ Prime: Here’s a New York story that has been widely retailed around the Blogosphere, from The Morning News to An Aesthete’s Lament: Drew University senior Maximilian Sinsteden is already an accomplished, sought-after interior designer.

¶ Tierce: We start off the week’s news (there’s only one story) with John Eligon’s wry portrait of Justice A Kirke Bartley Jr.

So, a lawyer, while questioning a witness, tells the judge, Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr., that he has a request pertaining to a diamond-encrusted gold necklace worth tens of thousands of dollars that is in evidence.

Justice Bartley’s response (this is the punch line): “I won’t be wearing it, no.”

This is the lighter side of the trial of Brooke Astor’s son and one of Mrs. Astor’s lawyers.

¶ Sext: If you’re going to be serious about the l-a-t-e-s-t episode of Star Trek, it’s probably best to start at The House Next Door, where Matt Maul confesses (I can think of no other word) to having been a fan for “thirty-five years.”

¶ Nones: On opposite stories of the Atlantic, dueling Chinese heroines. Here, now living in Queens, it’s Geng He, the wife of an insistent dissident who made a daring escape. There, it’s Nina Wang, “Asia’s richest woman,” who has the comparative disadvantage of being dead.

¶ Vespers: John Self considers Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, at Asylum.

¶ Compline: Aside from being a brisk account of clinical depression that reads like one woman’s serious problem, and not the disease of the week, Daphne Merkin’s Times Magazine piece, “A Journey Through Darkness,” dwells on the bleakness of treatment facilities.


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, May 7th, 2009


¶ Matins: Same-sex marriage will soon be on the books in Maine — barring a wingnut referendum. The governor, previously opposed to the idea although he is a Democrat, had a change of heart. Meanwhile, it’s now up to the governor of New Hampshire to sign a similar bill that has just cleared the Concord legislature.

¶ Lauds: Hey, you’ve been to San Francisco. You love it! What a great city to walk around! Would it surprise you to learn that local architects deplore the lack of “singular iconic buildings”? Would it surprise you to learn that architects from everywhere else are just as fond of San Francisco as you are?

¶ Prime: Marc Fitten, an Atlantan from New York City, has a new book coming out this month, Valeria’s Last Stand. In the course of promoting it, the author will be touring 100 of the nation’s independent bookstores — and blogging about it. (via Maud Newton.)

¶ Tierce: The Marshall-Morrissey defense won two important motions today. As a result, prosecution may look a bit more gratuitously nasty than it have done if jurors had heard the excluded testimony.

¶ Sext: A neat WaPo video on robotic bike parking in Tokyo. Not a joke! (via Infrastructurist)

¶ Nones: Now hear this: foreign nationals will not be permitted to “live off their ill-gotten gains in the US.”

¶ Vespers: Maud Newton reprints “an open letter from a local librarian.”

We are here working for you, New York City. Come in and use the library, check out books, get on the computers, tell everyone how great it is and how much you love the institution, but make sure you tell your politicians that this is an important issue for you — and excuse us if our smiles are a little bit tight.  

¶ Compline: I didn’t even know that the concept had a name until today, but, boy, I’m all for it: Seasteading. You know, camping out on a big oil rig and declaring yourself to be the sovereign state of Wingnutzembourg.


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009


¶ Matins: The Justice Department has decided, provisionally, that the Bush Administration lawyers who okayed torture, while “serious lapses of judgment,” ought not to be prosecuted. Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens explores the unnecessary folly of those lapses. (via  The Morning News)

¶ Lauds: The first “Madoff” art sale? The co-founder of Nine West, Jerome Fisher, one of the fraudster’s investors, has consigned one of  Picasso’s “Mousquetaire” paintings to Christie’s. (via  Arts Journal)

¶ Prime: If you liked that article with the spaghetti on the back page of the Book Review, there’s more, at Psycho Gourmet.

¶ Tierce: Geriatrician Howard M Fillit testified yesterday that, without her ample support staff, Brooke Astor would have been tagged with Alzheimer’s at least three years earlier.

¶ Sext: First the good news: “China cigarette order up in smoke.” Now the good news:

The authorities in Gong’an county had told civil servants and teachers to smoke 230,000 packs of the locally-made Hubei brand each year.

Those who did not smoke enough or used brands from other provinces or overseas faced being fined or even fired.

¶ Nones: The truly interesting detail in Carlotta Gall’s Times story about the impending government assault on Taliban forces in the Swat valley of Pakistan is the absence of two words: “civil war.”

¶ Vespers: DG Myers has written up an Orthodox and (culturally) conservative reading of Zoë Heller’s The Believers that all serious readers of the novel, I expect, will have to consider.

¶ Compline: Making the New Yorker Summit rounds yesterday was Jason Kottke’s appreciation of Milton Glaser’s Rule #3 (“Some People Are Toxic Avoid Them“)


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009


¶ Matins: The nightmare of peak oil is back, at least according to an analysis of global production by Raymond James, reported  at both WSJ Blogs and Infrastructurist. You haven’t forgotten what “peak oil” means, I trust.

¶ Lauds: “A book about beauty naturally must deal with its opposite, kitsch.” Really! I thought that ugliness was the opposite of beauty, not some uneducated person’s idea of beauty. Robert Fulford writes about Roger Scruton’s new book, Beauty.

¶ Prime: Michael Klein, who has certainly put in the hours at the track (and just around the livestock), waxes eloquent about Calvin Borel’s Derby win.

He’s won the race two years in a row (and in the same way, basically, finding an opening to shimmy his charge along the inside rail to the finish line)…

¶ Tierce: Mirth in court — not shared by everyone. As more prosecution witnesses testified to the wit and charm of Brooke Astor — and noted that it faded in the early years of this decade — jurors couldn’t help noticing that her son, Anthony Marshall, wasn’t smiling. Michael Daly reports.

¶ Sext: Does life really imitate art? Donald Trump will find out, if and when his plans for a golf resort ever materialize on the North Sea coast of Scotland. Anyone remember Bill Forsythe’s Local Hero, with Burt Lancaster in the the Donald role?

¶ Nones: Celebrate “Serf Liberation Day.” Okay, don’t. But be sure to read Stephen Asma’s extremely lucid account of recent-ish Tibetan history — and ask yourself how it would have worked out if the Cold War hadn’t been simmering. (via  The Morning News)

¶ Vespers: At Survival of the Book, Brian writes provocatively about Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor and “the YA trend.”

¶ Compline: Is anyone out there still seriously attempting to “multitask”? If so, John Tierney and Winifred Gallagher can explain why you find it so hard to concentrate.  


Daily Office: Monday

Monday, May 4th, 2009


¶ Matins: Of the 1929 crash, veteran Al Gordon (who died the other day at 107) once said, “Young men thought they could do anything.” Things haven’t changed, as an autopsy of Lehman Bros’ real-estate operations shows.

¶ Lauds: RISD prof Anthony Acciavatti teaches an “advanced studio” that has spawned Friends of the Future, a traveling exhibition that, on the side, will distribute 36,000 postcards at popular stops: gas stations and McDonald’s. (via Art Fag City)

¶ Prime: Is Daily News gossip columnist Joanna Molloy writing the juiciest items about the Marshall trial? Or is the Post’s Andrea Peyser more your style (who knew that Louis Auchincloss grew up in Five Towns?)

¶ Tierce: On the front page of today’s Times, an old story — one that I’ve been reading since 9/11 at the latest: “Pakistan’s Islamic Schools Fill Void, but Fuel Militancy.” What the madrasas really fill is poor little boys’ stomachs. Instead of spending billions on ineffective warfare, why can’t we?

¶ Sext: Patricia Storms discovers Struwwelpeter. Here’s hoping that the Toronto artist will conceive an update.

¶ Nones: The more I think about NATO, the less sense it makes, and the more it looks like a club with which minutemen want to beat up Russia, while shouting, “You lost the Cold War! You lost the Cold War!” John Vinocur reports on Georgia (from Brussels).

¶ Vespers: Marie Mockett on girls, ghosts, Genji, and her own forthcoming novel, Picking Bones from Ash, at Maud Newton.

¶ Compline: Silvio Berlusconi not only refuses to reconcile with his wife, but he demands an apology as well! Now, that’s a spicy meatball!


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


¶ Matins: May I say that I support President Obama’s decision not to prosecute CIA agents for torture perpetrated in reliance upon Bush Administration legal advice.

¶ Lauds: What a nice year it would be if Susan Boyle turned out to  be the woman of it. The very president of it. For her, that is. For the rest of us, a bit of a lesson is in order, as Colette Douglas Home reminds us. (via A Commonplace Blog)

¶ Prime: A psychopathological breakdown of royals stalkers. (Not to be confused with “royal stalkers,” eg Jack the Ripper.) It made me wonder: how many of Trollope’s bad girls suffer from de Clérambault’s Syndrome? (via  The Morning News)

¶ Tierce: Here’s a little story that, properly followed, will chart the health/malaise of the Italian state — which seems to have less and less to do with “Italy”: “Italy fears mafia quake fund grab.” 

¶ Sext: A sizzling story from the Telegraph: Separate bedrooms keeps the romance alive.” [sic]

¶ Nones: Spain leads the way in new high-speed rail transport. Not everybody’s pleased. (via  The Morning News)

¶ Vespers: Geoff Dyer discusses his new book(s), Jeff in Venice/Death in Varanasi, with Asylum’s John Self.

¶ Compline: On the occasion of QE2’s eighty-third birthday (the real one, not the “official” one in June), we turn to for instructions on writing a letter to Her Majesty.


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


¶ Matins: At the risk of sounding impetuous: my response to the Times‘s account of Archbishop Dolan’s first news conference is a happy smile. His way of reminding reporters that the Church’s position on same-sex marriage is “clear” suggests that he doesn’t care what it is.

¶ Lauds: Go ahead, it’s Thursday: kill the morning by feasting your eyes on jacket art at the Book Cover Archive. (via Arts Journal)

¶ Prime: A touch of White Mischief for the weekend: Lady Idina Sackville, subject of a forthcoming biography by one of her great-granddaughters: The Bolter.

¶ Tierce: The nation’s second-largest mall operator, General Growth Properties, has filed for bankruptcy. As usual, the culprit was good-times leverage that opened up an abyss.

¶ Sext: Pesky rodents driving you crazy? Do what the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department plans to do: blow the varmints to kingdom come by igniting a “calibrated mixture of oxygen and propane” in their burrows. It’s “humane,” they say. Watch for yourself!

¶ Nones: It’s very difficult not to have problems with the religion called “Islam” after the remarks of a Shiite madrasa leader in Kabul, commenting on protests by Afghan women against a repressive new “home life” law.

¶ Vespers: Patrick Kurp reflects on the difference between a public library and a university library.

¶ Compline: How George Snyder, one of the most inquisitively literate men I know, manages to get from day to day on Planet Arrakis in Los Angeles is quite beyond me. But he does; and, as Irene Dunne put it, “he’s pretty cute about it, too.”

¶ Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009


¶ Matins: Sometimes it seems that everything that has gone wrong in the United States since the first Reagan Administration can be described by the same sentence: “Let’s make conservatism sexy!” Consider this report about municipal bonds, which used to be safe as houses. (Little joke.)

¶ Lauds: Glenn Gould foresaw iPods, Audacity, Michael Hiltzik writes (so to speak) in the LA Times. The pianist was not, in other words, crazy when he stopped giving recitals.

This week marks 45 years since Glenn Gould made his last public performance. He preferred to offer recordings that someday, he wrote, could be altered by the listener in different ways.

¶ Prime: And now for something perfectly ridiculous: the PUMA, a joint project of General Motors (ha!) and Segway. (via  Good)

¶ Tierce: Tourists in Kyoto grab hair, pull sleeves, trip geisha. Also interfere with dialy fish auction. Walt Disney, what hast thou wrought?

¶ Sext: From the droll humor site, EnglishЯussia, a blast from the past: isn’t that Dave Thomas, of SCTV, hosting the spoof “What Fits Mother Russia?”

¶ Nones: The Grand Duke of Luxembourg may be reconstituted. New! With Fewer Absolute Powers!

¶ Vespers: Marina Warner writes about a new edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

¶ Compline: If you find yourself up late tonight with nothing that you’re in the mood, here’s just what you’re looking for: Jeremiah Kipp interviews film writer Glenn Kenny about working with David Foster Wallace.


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009


¶ Matins: There must have been other stories making the same point, but this is the one about libraries reminds me of what I know of the Depression.

¶ Lauds: At least it’s free. Download John Cage’s celebrated composition, 4’33 at iTunes, and you won’t be charged. That’s because, well, you know….

¶ Prime: Here’s a truly benighted project: “Make Your Own Morandi.”

¶ Tierce: In an admirable move, Attorney General Eric Holder has dropped charges against former Alaska senator Ted Stevens — who would probably still be senator if it hadn’t been for his conviction of ethics violations. 

¶ Sext: Maira Kalman glosses Tocqueville; attends town meeting in Vermont, also elementary-school student council meeting; illustrates beautifully. (via

¶ Nones: Just in time for the weekend, a palatial clip showing the meeting of two Anglophone heads of state in a remote corner of Mayfair (or is it Belgravia?).

¶ Vespers: Here’s a book that I would definitely read, if only I had time for such fun: Allegra Huston’s Love Child. Janet Maslin, mildly disapproving, makes it sound particularly delicious.

¶ Compline: Gmail turned 5 yesterday. Seems like just yesterday… and yet, how did we live without it? Just thinking about it is a sort of April Fool’s joke. Michael Calore sends an ecard from Wired. (Via Snarkmarket)


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009


¶ Matins: What’s next, starving quarterhorses? “Boats Too Costly to Keep Are Littering Coastlines.” And here you were worried about fossil fuel emissions.

¶ Lauds: In June of next year, the Toronto summer festival, Luminato, will mount the premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s opera, Prima Donna. The work was to have been created at the Metropolitan Opera, but the composer rejected Met director Peter Gelb’s demand that Prima Donna be translated from French into English.

¶ Prime: Whatever you think of HRH’s fire station at Poundbury — and I don’t think that it’s so bad; in fact, I rather like those black drainpipes — you have to love the no-less-traditional irreverent fun that Justin McGuirk has talking about the “daft mess.”

¶ Tierce: Sounds like a good idea: Cash for Clunkers. You bring in your old car — old car — and get a credit toward the purchase of a new one — a smallish, greenish one. The move is unlikely to provide help for Cerberus, though — the private equity firm that bought Chrysler a few years ago.

¶ Sext: It’s a great day for checking out Despair, Inc.

¶ Nones: While the Times thinks that Velupillai Prabhakaran is indispensable to the Tamil insurgency, the BBC expects that the rebels would be able to carry on without him.

¶ Vespers: Not only are they both cartoonists whose work is regularly published in The New Yorker, but their styles are not remarkably dissimilar. Liza Donnelly and Michael Maslin have even collaborated on a book, called My Funny Valentine. It’s about them: they are married to one another.

¶ Compline: Kathleen called in the middle of the afternoon to report that the people in London who had to sign off on a deal this afternoon couldn’t — they were without power. Here’s why.


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009


¶ Matins: Over the weekend, the Times published architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff’s summary of good ideas for urban infrastructure, “Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now.” Although Mr Ouroussoff never uses the term, one leitmotif of his essay is the importance of undoing the long modernist trend of treating cities as “factories for living.”

¶ Lauds: How about some eye candy? (via

¶ Prime: Moscato goes shopping at the One Rial Store in Oman. I want a Mosque Shape Alarm Clock!

¶ Tierce: In this week’s New Yorker, James Surowiecki shares a misgiving that has been bothering me for more than a few years: what if the bank bailout works?

¶ Sext: Just what I needed: a “Variety Show” of Borden’s line of cheeses. (Remember Borden’s? Elsie the Cow?) And not only that, but a new-to-me “pop culture” site, Curly Wurly. Eight mouth-watering ways to “meet the royal family of Borden’s fine cheeses.

¶ Nones: Athens bombers said to be anarchists, not terrorists — well, that makes me feel better!

¶ Vespers: Maud Newton writes about Brad Gooch’s biography of Flannery O’Connor at “In its painstaking honesty, the book is both a great gift and a curse to O’Connor’s fans.” If you know anything about O’Connor, you know that Ms Newton is referring to the writer’s unconsidered racism.

¶ Compline: An appropriately colorful obituary for Sir Reresby Sitwell, Bt, of Renishaw Hall, in the Telegraph. It’s amazing how much family dysfunction can be fitted into a few paragraphs with hardly a mention of Auntie Edith.


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, March 12th, 2009


¶ Matins: “Unseemly” is the nicest word that I can come up with to characterize attempts by the Roman Catholic Church (and other religious organizations) to block a temporary repeal of the statute of limitations on child abuse.

¶ Lauds: Is there a movie here? As the UN prepares to evacuate its Turtle Bay headquarters for a four-year renovation, lots of valuable artworks seem to have been evacuated earlier, less officially.

¶ Prime: A new and very smart-looking literary blog, The Second Pass.

¶ Tierce: Muntader al-Zaidi, the journalist who threw his shoes at our last president, was jailed immediately after the “insult, not an assault”; he has just been sentenced to three years in prison. Bernie Madoff will spend less time in jail prior to sentencing — presumably. I must say, prison looks more and more like the waste of a public good in cases involving the crimes (and “crimes”) with which these men have been charged.
¶ Sext: One great thing about the recession so far is the way it has replaced “because I can” with “because it’s smart” as a principle of style. Consider the chic $300 re-think.

¶ Nones: Soi-disant Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “forgives” Ukraine its penalty debts in the wake of winter’s gas crisis.

¶ Vespers: Nina McLaughlin re-reads Scott Spencer’s Endless Love, at Bookslut. It’s not the book she remembered!

¶ Compline: At the Infrastructurist, Barbara McCann writes about a bill in Congress that might make the economic stimulus/transportation vector a lot smarter. Also, a great pair of before-and-after photos.


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


¶ Matins: Bernard Madoff is expected to plead guilty to 11 felony counts — enough to put him away for several lifetimes. How very dissatisfying!

¶ Lauds: Movie box office is up — so why are the studios laying people off? Because they’re part of ailing bigger conglomerates. Take GE, for example … (via Arts Journal)

¶ Prime: Meet Kate McCully, Boston’s Grammar Vandal.

¶ Tierce: I try to avoid writing about stories that I don’t understand, but Stephen Labaton’s “Some Banks, Citing Strings, Want to Return Federal Aid” has me scratching a hole in my scalp.

¶ Sext: John Tierney focuses his skepticism on the meaning of dreams. (No surprise: he makes it sounds kinda like Ouija.)

¶ Nones: General de Gaulle’s withdrawal from the military command of NATO, in 1966, made great sense. So does President Sarkozy’s return.  

¶ Vespers: Alexander Chee’s “Portrait of My Father,” at Granta Online.

¶ Compline: Christopher Shea shares the outrage of the latest stretch of academic exploitation: not only do TAs have to do a full-time job, but they have to waive all the benefits that go with full-time work.


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009


¶ Matins: Now that health care reform is back in the news, an aspect of the much-maligned Canadian system ought not to be overlooked.

¶ Lauds: Call it Cats and Rats — or whatever! Just write the book about the buck that stopped with Cai Mingchao, the Chinese dealer who had “second thoughts.” Now he’s having thirds: tears.

¶ Prime: Jean Ruaud went to Hyères, and took a load of great pictures comme d’hab’; but did he see Mrs Wharton’s place?

¶ Tierce: China’s unlucky number: 6521. These are “interesting times.”

¶ Sext: They call this “counter-cultural”? Flash-mob pillow fights irk San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department. (via Morning News).

¶ Nones: President Obama’s first visit to a Muslim country will take him to Turkey. Great news indeed.

¶ Vespers: Michiko Kakutani’s review of William Cohan’s House of Cards — the Bear, Stearns post-mortem — makes compelling reading in its own right.

¶ Compline: Franchise Christianity? Robert Wright recasts early-Christian history in terms of business models and globalization.


Daily Office: Monday

Monday, March 2nd, 2009


¶ Matins: In a foreseeable development that few wanted to think about very much, the downside inequalities of European Union constituents threatens to pull the EU apart. Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle report.

While Western European countries are reluctant, with their own problems both at home and among the countries using the euro, there is a deep interconnectedness in any case. Much of the debt at risk in Eastern Europe is on the books of euro zone banks — especially in Austria and Italy. The same is true for the problems farther afield, in Ukraine.

Having watched the Soviet Union collapse, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe embraced the liberal, capitalist model as the price of integration with Europe. That model is now badly tarnished, and the newer members feel adrift.

¶ Lauds: In the Chicago Tribune, Mike Boehm asks, “Will the Obamas’ interest in the arts create an inflation of appreciation?” The prospect of presidential interest in theatre and dance is so dizzying that he doesn’t stop to ask why it would be a good thing.

¶ Prime: Perhaps you’ve already discovered Look At Me, the Web site of found photographs, but it’s new to me, and I’m checking it out every day. (I’ve linked to a recent posting that shows what has to be an old Howard Johnson’s — looking not so old.)

¶ Tierce: As usual on Monday mornings, I begin with the Times’s Business section, because that’s where the interesting stories are, even if they would fit just as comfortably in the first section, alongside the “regular” news. Two stories today that generate a certain twinned-snakes synergy:

¶ Sext: A party who signs himself “MDL Welder” seeks advice about a romantic “att[achment].” The Non-Expert replies in an odd demotic.

You are very att. To each other. Man we all know that, we can all see it. When you two are passing yes there will be kiss in return, geddit? So obv. Most people wish they were with someone who was so att. To each other. So you say “Do you think she is falling for me?” and all of us here are LOAO because YES YES YES she’s falling for you and she’s already falling so far down you have to reach down and catch up. You need to jump that diving board and triple flip and angle downwards for minimum air resist. She att. You att. To each other. It’s the best way to be, it’s the best way to start. And we say aww.

This drollery has me imagining a novel yet to be written, set, like Then We Came to the End and Personal Days, in the workplace — but not in a very literate workplace.

¶ Nones: I’ll be watching to see how the US press in general and the New York Times in particular cover this story (from the BBC): “Israel ‘plans settlement growth’.”

¶ Vespers: Charles McGrath paves the way for a revival of interest in John Cheever, soon to appear in the Library of America.

¶ Compline: The Infrastructurist lists the top ten hot infrastructure jobs, complete with tips about getting one. For example (“Smart Meter Installer”):

There are 150 million electric meters in the US. About 90 percent of them are “dumb.” Obama has offered a plan to upgrade 40 million of the meters, but eventually they will probably all be replaced. Some utilities are well under way: PG&E in California is putting in 10.3 million smart meters, while Oncor in Texas is planning to install 3 million in the next four years.


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, February 26th, 2009


¶ Matins: It’s impossible to be cynical about the story of Ivan Cameron, even if his death makes his father the next PM.

¶ Lauds: A show that’s as much about the history of taste as it is about “art”: Cast In Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution. In other words, a little bit of Mannerism and a lot of Bourbon. Quatorze and I went to a preview this evening, and found it all very haut de gamme. The number of objects on loan from HM the Queen was astonishing until we remembered what a fool the Prince Regent was about snapping up post-revolutionary bargains — and mounting them on gilt bronze.

¶ Prime: If Father Tony would just make a greeting card out of his fantastic bit of photoshopping (I’m sure that he uses some other software; hence the lower case), I’d buy boxes. I didn’t even watch the speech, but the photos in the Times made me feel the same.

¶ Tierce: I try to learn something new every day, but I don’t expect to be as surprised as I was by a story in the Times according to which

Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.

James McKinley reports.

¶ Sext: The next time someone claims to have sighted a unicorn, don’t laugh.

¶ Nones: As if the situation in Pakistan weren’t godawful, Bangladesh is experiencing a mutiny among its “Rifles,” as the Border Guards are known.

¶ Vespers: A new algorithm not only identifies the oldest words in the English language, but predicts which ones are mostly likely to slip into obsolescence.

Meanwhile, the fastest-changing words are projected to die out and be replaced by other words much sooner.

For example, “dirty” is a rapidly changing word; currently there are 46 different ways of saying it in the Indo-European languages, all words that are unrelated to each other. As a result, it is likely to die out soon in English, along with “stick” and “guts”

¶ Compline: Is there ever a good time for the academic humanities? “In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth.” An impossible demand; for studying the humanities is priceless.

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009


¶ Matins: Although I haven’t parsed President Obama’s joint-session speech, I hail his fundamental premise:

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely — to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

¶ Lauds: Having heard Sondra Radvanovsky sing “D’amor sull’ali rosee” tonight, “I can die,” as Wagner said after writing Tannhäuser. Spinning miraculous pianissimi may not be the singer’s strongest suit — hey, she’s not bad at it, by any means — but her legato is some kind of national treasure, seamlessly winding through a bewitchment of tones and registers in a perfect marriage of judgment and control. 

¶ Prime: Scout captures an installation on West 23rd. Man jumps from ledge!

¶ Tierce: The L train, which connects Chelsea with Canarsie in the only way imaginable — literally — will be operated by computer from now on. Whatever that means.

¶ Sext: It’s interesting that Farhad Manjoo looks back specifically at 1996 in his “Jurassic Web” piece at Slate. That’s when I logged on.

¶ Nones: How about abandoning the War on Drugs and diverting those resources to a War on Weapons. We might even be able to make a difference. How many Monzer al-Kassars can there be?

¶ Vespers: Michiko Kakutani hates Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones.

Indeed, the nearly 1,000-page-long novel reads as if the memoirs of the Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss had been rewritten by a bad imitator of Genet and de Sade…

¶ Compline: Watch for Dating For (Broke) Dummies. Market for Romance Goes From Bullish to Sheepish.”


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009


¶ Matins: For what it’s worth, I support the mortgage bailout that President Obama is expected to unveil in Phoenix later today. Helping those who can’t afford to pay their mortgages is the right thing to do. Helping homeowners whose mortgages are simply “underwater” — worth more than the home’s likely sales price — is a different problem that ought to be addressed in some other way, and not right now.

¶ Lauds: The whole town’s talking — or so it seems — about Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera, with the one (1) singer who has ever given me pleasure in an opera house, Sondra Radvanovsky. Steve Smith gave the show such an enthusiastic review that I had to get a ticket. 

¶ Prime:  No Sh*t, Please; We’re British: R*tard Rids Reptile Researcher’s Reserves of Reclusive Retrosaur’s Refuse. Okay, I made up “retrosaur.” But it’s pretty cool as neologisms go, don’t you think? In case you’re wondering what it means, a “retrosaur” is a lizard that everyone thought was extinct — which is what this exceedingly English story is all about.  (via Brainiac)

¶ Tierce: More good news from Washington: stepped-up merger scrutiny, and this time with brains. Rob Cox reports.

But there is a growing movement in the antitrust community to challenge this rational choice theory of neoclassical economics in favor of behavioral economics. Under this school of thought — loudly espoused by Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers — economists examine how real people actually make decisions.

Applying behavioral economics to antitrust “risks expanding the scope of agency review to transactions that were previously unassailable,” two lawyers with Skadden Arps, Neal R. Stoll and Shepard Goldfein, wrote in The New York Law Journal last month. It would, among other changes, require the retention of psychologists alongside the economists, marketers and industry experts currently reviewing deals.

¶ Sext: Does anyone remember Lady Fanny of Omaha? (The great Barbara Harris, in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.) Now we have Robert Allen Stanford, Texan financier and alleged swindler, dubbed Sir Allen by the government of Antigua in gratitude for his benefactions, which ranged from cleaning up the state balance sheets to sponsoring a cricket league.  

In Texas, Robert Allen Stanford was just another wealthy financier.

But in the breezy money haven of Antigua, he was lord of an influential financial fief, decorated with a knighthood, courted by government officials and basking in the spotlight of sports and charity events on which he generously showered his fortune.

I know that it’s silly, but I already think of him as “Sir Allen of Obama.”

¶ Nones: The crucifix crisis has flared up in Italy again. A teacher has been sacked for removing the (non-compulsory) crucifix from his classroom, and the supreme court has let stand the conviction of  Jewish judge who refused to serve in a courtroom adorned with a cross.

¶ Vespers: In a classic case of the deadly short-circuiting that can occur when book publishers have other interests — as, being components in media empires these days, they all do — Brian, at Survival of the Book, comments on Barry Ritholtz’s problems with McGraw-Hill, which didn’t like what he had to say about Standard & Poor’s, a McGraw-Hill property.

It’s also interesting to note yet another example of an author going right online with his case, and with a whole lot of material, to prove his innocence. On this post, he includes revised versions of pieces of the manuscript and footnotes, all of which he has every right to post. He’s making the case the he himself did not expose this story to the media but now that it’s out there, he can explain himself and his position as an author at a massive corporate publisher. As more such cases emerge and more authors speak out and get attention for it, perhaps publishers will work more in partnership with authors rather than seeing them as disposable manufacturers churning out products they depend on. As authors are expected to do more marketing, more publicity, more leg work all around on behalf of their books, then publishers must also know that they are armed with tools to broadcast their complaints.

¶ Compline: Now, this is fun: in a new Pew poll, respondents were asked if they were happy where they lived or if they’d like to move.

Seven-in-ten rural men are content where they are, compared with just half of rural women.

Hmmm . . . how mysterious! (via Snarkmarket)


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, February 12th, 2009


¶ Matins: Good news on the international justice front:

Judges at the International Criminal Court have decided to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, brushing aside diplomatic requests to allow more time for peace negotiations in the conflict-riddled Darfur region of his country, according to court lawyers and diplomats.

¶ Lauds: What do you think? Does support from dodgy, possibly criminal corporations corrupt the arts that they subsidize? Tom Service, at the Guardian, certainly thinks so.

How can the art made at festivals sponsored by these bankrupt individuals and companies do the job that classical music should do, and have a necessary, critical voice in contemporary culture, if it continues to be supported by the dead hand of big banking?

¶ Prime: Eric Patton celebrates the Darwin bicentennial by turning to The Pillow Book — not Peter Greenaway’s film so much as Sei Shonagon’s book — at SORE AFRAID. What on earth has the one got to do with the other? Having scrolled through Eric’s photographic lists, one will find Darwin’s conclusion all the more immanently enlightened.

I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.

¶ Tierce: Personality clash or whistleblowing? “You decide.” Either way, Sir James Crosby, who fired an evident whistleblower when he ran the now-ailing HBOS, has had to resign as Britain’s deputy chairman of the Financial Services Authority.

¶ Sext: We take you now from the buttoned-down elitism of The Daily Blague to Belfast, Maine, where a trust fund baby from California who collected Hitler’s silverware was found, after having been shot dead by his wife, Amber, to have been stockpiling the raw materials for a dirty nuclear bomb! (Thanks Alexander Chee!)

¶ Nones: Isn’t it amazing? In a mere half-century, we have cluttered inner space with tons and tons of junk. Two items crashed on Tuesday.

But experts now see another potential threat. Richard Crowther explained: “Unique to the Iridium system is that all the remaining 65 satellites in the constellation pass through the same region of space – at the poles.

“So the debris cloud that is forming as a result of the Iridium satellite breakup will present a debris torus of high (spatial) density at 90 degrees to the equator that all the surviving Iridium satellites will need to pass through.”

Intact satellites share Earth’s orbit with everything from spent rocket stages and spacecraft wreckage to paint flakes and dust.

The diffuse mist of junk around our planet is the legacy of 51 years of human activity in space.

¶ Vespers: Valerie Martin has a little list: six great novels about doomed marriages. Before peeking, make your own list. Okay, now you can look.

¶ Compline: An amusingly ambiguous map from newgeography: American states that people don’t leave? Or states that they don’t move to? (via Brainiac)


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.