Archive for the ‘Noblesse Oblige’ Category

Daily Office:
Friday

Friday, December 4th, 2009

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Matins: In an extremely thoughtful piece that may alter the grain of your thought — or, as it our case, highlight the way in which you’re already inclined to think — Tony Judt asks us to consider why it is that, in the Anglophone world, we reduce all political questions to economic equations. He proposes a very persuasive, historically-bound answer to the question. Don’t miss it. (NYRB)

Lauds: Judith Jamison is looking to trade in “artistic director” for, perhaps, “Queen.” Those of us who were lucky enough to see her dance Revelations know just how aptly that very popular ballet is titled. (New York; via Arts Journal)

Prime: As the giving season is upon us, Tim Ogden plans a series of blog entries about the dangers of evaluating charities by overhead alone. (Philanthropy Action; via Felix Salmon)

Tierce: Melissa Lafsky urges us to stop trying to get more women to ride bicycles in urban areas, and focus instead upon making biking a lot safer than it is. (The Infrastructurist)

Sext: The things that Choire Sicha digs up on the Internets! From a blog called firmuhment, a thoroughly wicked “imagineering” of Zac Efron’s newfound, post-Orson intellectual sophistication. (via The Awl)

Nones: More Honduran predictability: the Congress declined, by a very large margin, to re-instate Manuel Zelaya in office for the weeks that remain to his term. The voting, 111-14 against Mr Zelaya, suggests that the ousted president is not a character worth fighting for. (NYT)

Vespers: In a backlist assessment that has the whole town talking, Natalia Antonova convinces us that she loves Vladimir Nabokov’s best-known book not in spite of her history as the victim of abuse but because of it. (The Second Pass)

Compline: Because it’s the weekend, we offer Ron Rosenbaum’s long and “Mysterian” query about consciousness and other unsolved mysteries as a way of killing time in the event of any dominical longueurs. Although we agree with his assessment of the the “facts” (ie questions), we do not, so to speak, share his affect.

While we recognize — insist! — that the universe remains profoundly mysterious, it doesn’t bother us in the least, because, really, it’s much too interesting to live with the mysteries that aren’t so profound. The profundity that Mr Rosenbaum highlights for us is the connection between adolescence and all forms of metaphysics. (Slate; via Arts Journal)

Bon weekend à tous!

Daily Office:
Thursday

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

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Matins: Michael Specter takes a good look at the potentially scary field of synthetic biology — and does not panic.

Lauds: Booing at the Met: Luc Bondy’s Tosca. (Not to be confused with Puccini’s, no matter what they sang. Maybe Sardou’s, though.)

Prime: Engineering in the Age of Fractals, or “Why Bankers Are Like Bacteria.” (via Felix Salmon)

Tierce: Abe Sauer’s quite informative Essay Touching Upon the Economics of Britney Spears’s Circus Tour Show in Grand Forks, North Dakota; or, Don’t Blame Ticketmaster.

Sext: It’s a bit early for us, but our cousin Kurt Holm will be on the Early Show tomorrow morning, and CBS Studios at 59th and Fifth will be the place to hang out.  (Between 7:15 and 9, I’m told.) This week at notakeout: Mark Bittman guests!

Nones: Yesterday, we were reminded of Il Trovatore. Today, it’s Rodelinda. How did Manuel Zelaya get back into Honduras? The sort of question that never comes up in genuine opera seria. Maybe this is opera buffa.

Vespers: The book to read before it’s sold over here: The Queen Mother: The Official Biography, by William Shawcross. Why? Because she was “Past Caring.”

Compline: Mash-ups considered as the model for creative intelligence, at The Frontal Cortex.

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Daily Office:
Thursday

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

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Matins: At Survival of the Book, Brian considers David Ulin’s widely-read LA Times piece, “The Lost Art of Reading.”

Lauds: Prince Charles takes his (architectural) case to the public. (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Robert Cringley poses the Emperor’s-New-Clothes question about American corporations that we’ve been asking for ages — only with greater élan: when did profits become more important than pensions and health benefits?

Tierce: What happens in Oman at iftar, the call to evening prayer? One thing seems to be clear: the orgy is not traditional. (via  Café Muscato)

Sext: Vacationing on Cape Cod, Scout looks at the hostelries along Route 6A between Truro and Provincetown, and finds a romantically abandoned motel.

Nones: In the eyes of the developed world, Muammar el-Qaddafi hovers unstably between dictator and thug. Dictators, while not approved, are accepted; thugs, like terrorists, are not permitted to negotiate. Negotiating the release of the Lockerbie bomber, the colonel may have kicked himself away from the table.

Vespers: While we’re getting all weepy about the end of The Book, maybe we ought to feel a little hopeful about the end of Books Like This, which never ought to be published in the first place.

Compline: Edward Moore Kennedy: a princeling who had a U S Senate seat handed to him (repeatedly)? Or a little prince who had to overcome the allure of accidental advantages in order to find real strengths? We take the latter view, along with the Times, the Journal, and even the Post.  

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Daily Office:
Friday

Friday, August 21st, 2009

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Matins: Edmund Andrews’s story about Ben Bernanke in this morning’s Times is strangely silent about the contribution of that self-made moron, Alan Greenspan, to the mess that Mr Bernanke has had to clean up.

Lauds: These kids today: 91 year-old Arthur Laurents reads “the riot act” to the cast of West Side Story, which has been plagued with calling-in-sick-itis. (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Why not call it the Goldstein Curve? Robin Goldstein culled data from Craigslist (and Felix Salmon turned it into a lovely scatterchart), revealing the inverse relationship between used car/bike prices in seven American cities.

Tierce: Crazy or visionary? The developers of a building to be called 200 Eleventh Avenue (West 24th Street) plan to attach a garage to every apartment — just off the living room. (via Infrastructurist)

Sext: Choire Siche discovers Hallenrad! And shares some of the best.

Nones: Will the new face of Duchy Originals be HRH?

Vespers: Garth Risk Hallberg reminds us of something that has been gently overlooked in the recent craze for All Things Julia: Mrs Child was not so much a great cookbook writer as she was a great writer period.

Compline: Precisely because Reihan Salam’s Foreign Policy essay, “The Death of Macho,” made us uneasy, we think that everybody ought to read it.

Bon weekend à tous!

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Daily Office:
Thursday

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

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 ¶ Matins: At Brainiac, Christopher Shea asks about a “blue collar renaissance.” He has been reading Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, of course. Somewhat more solid evidence that the scope of “knowledge worker” is expanding appears in Louis Uchitelle’s Times story, “Despite Recession, High Demand for Skilled Labor.”

Lauds: At The House Next Door, Shelby Button reports on the deadCENTER Film Festival, in Oklahoma City.

Prime: Robb Mandelbaum traces a small-business-friendly amendment to the Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights Act — and speculates on its demise.

Tierce: When mom forgot his 73rd birthday, Tony Marshall was quick to call the doctor and complain about her growing “confusion.”

Sext: At Inside Higher Ed, Ben Elson reports on the number one problem affecting Americans today: student parking. (via The Awl)

Nones: What? There are Somalian Members of Parliament? Still? Fewer and fewer, perhaps — but that there are any is surprising.

Vespers: Rebecca Steinitz, at The Rumpus, writes so alluringly about Julia Strachey’s Cheerful Weather for a Wedding (1932) that I’ve just ordered a copy.

Compline: In The New Yorker, Jill Lepore draws a distinction between parenthood and adulthood. An important distinction — don’t you think?

Bon weekend à tous!

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Daily Office:
Tuesday

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

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Matins: According to Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, an Indian IT services vendor, American college grads are “unemployable.” They don’t know anything (global history, languages) and they hate to be bored. (via  reddit)

Lauds: Kodachrome comes to an end. Michael Johnston develops the picture.

Prime: What email at Enron can tell us about predicting  big-company chaos/collapse.

Tierce: In what one hopes will be the resolution of a ghastly situation, Anthony Marshall collapsed again (this time from the after-effects of a fall), and his wife, Charlene, attributed his last collapse, two weeks ago, to “a stroke that has resulted in a headache and blurred vision.”

Sext: Department of Crossed Purposes: Philadelphia’s Parking Authority’s venture into reality television, Parking Wars, has complicated life for the city’s marketers.

Nones: Hats off to Tony Judt for saying what needs to be said about the West Bank “settlements,” and for speaking as someone who can remember genuine Israeli settlements. 

Vespers: Cristina Nehring rumbles the contemporary American essay, pronouncing it “middle-aged.” So that’s why you can’t be bothered to read through those worth Best American Essay anthologies!

Compline: Hands on the table! When someone else is talking to you, it’s rude (at best) to check out smartphones, Blackberries, &c, even if “the etiquette debate seems to be tilting in the favor of smartphone use.”

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Daily Office:
Monday

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

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Matins: A trio of guest bloggers at Good write about the replacement of “conspicuous consumption” with “conspicuous expression.”

Lauds: It’s as if Petrus Christus and Rogier van der Weyden had taken up photography — also, recycling. Hendrik Kertens photographs his daughter, Paula. (via Purest of Treats)

Prime: Alan Blinder explains why (in his view) inflation — that bugaboo of the propertied classes — is not much of a risk right now. Find something besides inflation to worry about, he advises.

Tierce: Did the prosecutors in the Marshall trial jump the shark? To compute the value of an estate, it is necessary to venture a date of death. This is not a legal correlative of sticking pins in a voodoo doll.

Sext: Orthodox couple in Bournemouth claims false imprisonment, owing to motion-sensor lightswitch that obliges them not to leave their apartment on the Sabbath lest they turn on the lights.

Nones: Why theocracy cannot work in the modern world: “In the Battle for Iran’s Streets, Both Sides Seek to Carry the Banner of Islam.”

Vespers: It’s increasingly apparent that the book that we ought to be reading is the Bible. Americans think that they know it, but they don’t. (via reddit)

Compline: Is Prince Charles cruising for a bruising?

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Daily Office:
Thursday

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

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Matins: Zachary Wolfe believes (or, at least, hopes) that the future does not look good for a third Bloomberg term. But perhaps Mr Wolfe was writing before the ruckus broke out in Albany.

Lauds: Errol Morris’s remarkable series, Bamboozling Ourselves, looks into art forgeries and other deceptions — although “looks” is putting it mildly.(Master link list here.)

Prime: John Lanchester’s lengthy but extremely entertaining  essay on the banking bailout, “It’s Finished,” has been generating lots of buzz, at least at sites that I visit. Someone wrote somewhere that it ends “unhappily,” but I don’t agree.

Tierce: Toward the end of John Eligon’s account of Astor butler Christopher Ely’s testimony, my heart went into a clutch. The most horrific thing about this trial so far is the damage that it has been done to the reputation of attorney Henry Christensen.

Sext: It’s possible that Matt Blind has been in the bookstore biz too long. He wants to fire all the customers. Find out where you fit in his taxonomy (via kottke.org)

Nones: Michael Sheen meets the Queen. The real one.

Vespers: At The Morning News, Man in  Boston Robert Birnbaum rounds up some good books about Cuba. Sadly, he omits Tomorrow They Will Kiss.

Compline: The Obamas and the Arts: a new model for the United States.

Bon weekend à tous!

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Daily Office:
Tuesday

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

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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.  

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Daily Office:
Thursday

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

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Matins: Despite everything, Wall Street bonuses for 2008 totaled $18.4 billion — thank goodness!

Lauds: Ian McDiarmid’s adaptation of Andrew O’Hagen’s novel, Be Near Me, opens at the Donmar Warehouse to warm if cautious praise from Charles Spencer.

Prime: The site has a few strange navigational problems, but the Curated David Foster Wallace Dictionary might be just what you’re looking for in the Word-For-the-Day line. (via kottke.org)

Tierce: Can anyone tell me the bottom line on the Blackwater story in today’s Times? The headline, “Iraq Won’t Grant Blackwater a License,” must mean that Blackwater will not be allowed to provide security services within Iraq, right? Not if you keep reading.

Sext: Here’s a project for Google Maps: mowing the lawn.

Nones: The best part of this story — ”Putin’s Grasp of Energy Drives Russian Agenda“  — comes at the end.

As far back as 1997, while serving as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, Mr. Putin earned a graduate degree in economics, writing his thesis on the economics of natural resources.

But —

Vespers: Is Allen Bennett the new John Updike? He’s, er, two years younger. And quite as fluently prolific, if as a man of the theatre rather than as a novelist. Razia Iqbal talks about meeting him, but the interview is nowhere to be found.

Compline: We were neither of us in the mood — at all. But we had to go, in that grown-up way that has nothing to do with obligation. So we got dressed and went. And of course the evening was unforgettable: Steve Ross at the Oak Room.

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Daily Office:
Thursday

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

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Matins: It’s as though everyone decided to spend the holidays pretending that things were fine: now that we’re back in the real world, the disasters just pile up like planes over O’Hare. “China Losing Taste for Debt From the U.S.

Lauds: Once upon a time, the Germans copied the French: Imperial princelings replicated, to the extent that their incomes would allow, Louis XIV’s country house (and stealth capitol) at Versailles. Now the Germans have taken the initiative, and the French are just watching.

Prime: The (only) good thing about Web log awards is the chance to discover sites that you haven’t heard about. I don’t remember the category in which I came across Dizzying Intellect — the categories are utterly spurious in any case — but it doesn’t matter, because I found it.

Tierce: Too big to filch? Bernard Madoff has been making unauthorized distributions of assets, according to prosecutors. His attorneys claim that the Cartier watches are relatively inexpensive sentimental items that Mr Madoff would like his family to have. In the dictionary, under the word “chutzpah”…. Alex Berenson reports.

 ¶ Sext: The thing to note about developer Fred Milani — if you can get beyond the House — is that he is “not very political.” Exactly! No politically-minded person would erect a scaled-down adaptation — “replica” is not the word — of the “President’s House.” The politically-minded person would be interested only in the real thing. And that’s not all…

Nones: Trying to find an update on the violence in Greece that the Times reported the other day — it’s coverage, dismayingly, is better than that of the English papers that I’ve checked, as well as the BBC’s — I discover that the Turkish government has rounded up a bunch of secularist critics and accused them of fomenting a plot. This story does come from the BBC.

Vespers: I’ve done just about nothing today but read Brian Morton’s first novel, The Dylanist. Published in 1991, this is a novel to dust off and re-read in the Age of Obama, not so much for any specific political alignment as for its portraits of people who are too richly principled for cynicism.

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Holiday Note:
Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

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This is an odd choice for a New Year’s image, I know; but there’s a warmth in the bogus colours that gives me the feeling that I’m about to be really well fed. 

I’m not a scholar of English country houses, but, with the passage of time, even Buck House seems less peculiar than Blenheim. Blenheim is beyond the English-country-house thing. It’s a (mini) Versailles waiting to be appreciated as such. Only a Queen (Anne) would have tolerated its construction. All the other Great Houses are the country seats of Whigs, but Blenheim, as the postcard says, is a “palace.” In that, it exceeds its original.

Reading Note:
Noblesse Oblige

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

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Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog is narrated by two denizens of 7, Rue Grenelle, in Paris: the concierge, Mme Michel, and Paloma, the twelve-year-old daughter of a parlementaire. From the very beginning, these two have more in common than either of them would guess (comparison hasn’t yet occurred to them); what I noticed right away is that both are sticklers for attentiveness and, perhaps consequently, attuned to the compression of Japanese aesthetics. For her part, Mme Michel is a big believer in noblesse oblige, at least where language is concerned. When the Mme Pallières, a privileged standout in a building tenanted by the privileged, interpolates an unnecessary comman into a utilitarian note for Mme Michel, the latter delivers a tirade:

For all of these reasons, Sabine Pallières has no excuse. The gifts of fate come with a price. For those who have been favored by life’s indulgence, rigorous respect in matters of beauty is a non-negotiable requirement. Language is a bountiful gift and its usage, an elaboration of community and society, is a sacred work. Language and usage evolve over time: elements change, are forgotten or reborn, and while there are instances where transgression can become the source of an even greater wealth, this does not alter the fact that to be entitled to the liberties of playfulness or enlightened misusage when using language, one must first and foremost have sworn one’s total allegiance. Society’s elect, those whom fate has spared from the servitude that is the lot of the poor, must, consequently, shoulder the double burden of worshipping and respecting the splendors of language. Finally, Sabine Pallières’s misuse of punctuation constitutes an instance of blasphemy that is all the more insidious when one considers that there are marvelous poets born in stinking caravans or high-rise slums who do have for beauty the sacred respect that it is so rightly owed.

I must figure out how to make the heart of this paragraph serve as a credo for The Daily Blague.