Office/Diary: Wednesday


One of those deeply satisfying day-in-the-life novellas could have been written about my morning, afternoon, and evening, thanks to a note that I found in my inbox when I got round to looking at it in the late afternoon. Even without the note, it would have been a rich day, from a narrative standpoint. How could it not be? The very idea of lugging myself down to ABC Carpet at eleven-something in the morning, and on a rainy day, too. In the early stages of responding to a flu shot!

¶ Matins: Elizabeth Kolbert considers Cass Sunstein’s latest book, On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done, and, in general, agrees that the Internet has helped to make this a Misinformation Age. She points out that being fair and balanced about people like the “birthers” can be self-defeating. 

The most plausible explanation for this dark, post-Enlightenment turn is unavailable to Sunstein; so hard is he trying to be nonpartisan that he can’t see the nuts for the trees. Several decades ago, a detachment of the American right cut itself loose from reason, and it has been drifting along happily ever since. 

(The New Yorker) 

Quatorze had found a very inexpensive rug for our bedroom. When it was unfolded on the floor, my first thought was that Kathleen wouldn’t look twice at this rug. My second thought was that the background, a muted grey-blue, was really rather dingy, and that Kathleen would actively dislike it. Apprised of these reservations, Kathleen nevertheless plumped for purchase. So we looked at another rug, one that was nearly twice as expensive. Curiously, the second rug, which had a lot of hanger appeal, made Quatorze’s choice look quite a bit more appealing. (This was not a trick engineered by my friend, I’m pretty sure; although, if it was, I’m tremendously impressed, so not to worry!) By now, I had written a story for the rug, a story that I would tell myself every day when I walked on it: This rug was left to me by someone in my father’s family who spent her entire life in Clinton, Iowa.

¶ Lauds: Joanne McNeil doesn’t think much of Lars von Trier. “He’s just clever enough to come up with an idea that could be a great art film, but too thick to follow through with it.” In case you’re thinking of sitting through Antichrist. (Tomorrow Museum)

You wait, though: on Friday, after Quatorze and I have completed the ordeal of laying the rug in the bedroom (which needn’t be described in advance), I’ll be in love with its Victorian marigolds and chrysanthemums.

¶ Prime: Jeffrey Pfeffer writes about the difficulty of identifying core competence. “The question of what businesses to be in and what to stay away from is one of the fundamental questions of business strategy, and it’s important for both individuals and companies.” (The Corner Office)

There was a fracas when we tried to leave the store. It turned out that I hadn’t paid for the pad that will underlie the rug. (I hadn’t been asked to.) Quatorze cleared it all up, but for at least seven and a half minutes — at least, mind you; no need to specify exactly! — I was the client from hell.

¶ Tierce: The top-ten rediscovered photographs. Among others, Helen Keller, Edward VII, and Anne Frank’s one true love, Peter Schiff. (listverse, via The Online Photographer)

The ABC staff who do all the work (and who don’t wear suit jackets) hailed a taxi for us, and we took Park Avenue all the way up to Yorkville. The ride was not egregiously slow, but when we finally drove through Grand Central Terminal (as one does, on the futuristic flyways of 1912), I felt as one does after an hour in the dentist’s chair.

¶ Sext: The top-ten rules of the Internet. The 35 rules of the Internet. The many, many rules of 4chan. (via /b/).

We dumped the rug and the underlying pad at the apartment and headed to the Café d’Alsace for lunch. Then we walked uphill to the 92nd Street Y, for two hours of Schubert.

¶ Nones: A French court determines that Scientology is fraudulent. But the sect has not been barred from operation. (NYT)

When I was a young man in Houston, Sharon Robinson was a rising cello soloist whose parents both played with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. She was tall and blonde and very much not one’s idea of a concert musician. Although she is a year younger than I am, she is still beautiful. And a great cellist, too — especially at the bottom, where, looks to the contrary notwithstanding, she likes to growl. She was playing with her husband, Jaime Laredo, and her chamber trio partner, Joseph Kalichstein, a program of  both of Schubert’s big piano trios.

¶ Vespers: Orhan Pamuk reads “My Russian Education,” an excerpt from Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory that was published as fiction in 1948. (The New Yorker)

I can’t remember the last time that I listened to serious music in the middle of the afternoon. Yes, I can: it was at Tanglewood, and Sylvia McNair sang a cycle of songs written by André Previn to texts by Toni Morrison — who was there. More recently, now I think of it, there was an hilarious misadventure on 57th Street, featuring a very red piano.

¶ Compline: Admit it: you’ve always wondered if one of your ancestors screwed around with a Neanderthal. Svante Pääbo, of the Max Planck Institute, is sure of it. (Short Sharp Science)

Quatorze and I repaired to the apartment for a pot of tea. While we sipped, he asked where the temporary bookshelf was. (You’ll find out what that means soon enough.) I said that I hadn’t heard, but I reminded the both of us that it had been ordered not even two weeks ago. Shortly after he left, I received a note from Home Depot saying that it is on its way. Eventually, a handsome hardwood case from England will take its place, but that won’t be for months.

Eventually, I found myself at my desk again, and there it was, this note that I’m not going to talk about. I’ll say two things: (1) It concerned my writing and (2) there was not only no offer of any kind but no promise of an offer. Nevertheless, it was a gratifying note, and it made me very happy that I do what I do, writing thousands of words every day. (Oh, dear, did I say thousand-s?)