Daily Office:


Matins: Sam Harris’s Newsweek piece, “When Atheists Attack” gets to the heart of the Palin phenomenon — and why I call her “The Infernal Machine.” For a Democrat or a Progressive to notice her is to contribute to her magnetism.

Tierce: From the editorial pages of the Times, today’s moving piece by Lawrence Downes on Vets 4 Vets, a network of veterans of the War on Terror (a/k/a Iraq) who get together to talk about what they can’t tell anyone else; and an  Op-Ed piece by Roger Cohen, “Kiplin vs Palin,” datelined yesterday but not to be found in “The Week in Review,” about what we might call Sarah Palin’s larger heedlessness (the lady appears to be rivetedly mindful of her own career).  

Compline: Just what the world needs right about now: the authorized sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Authorized by his heir and great-grand-nephew, Dacre Stoker; he’s going to write it, too. (“Dacre”? What were his parents thinking. He can’t not have been “Dracu” all through school.)


§ Matins. Mr Harris writes,

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin’s lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. “They think they’re better than you!” is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. “Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!” Yes, all too ordinary.

He notes, quite correctly in my opinion, that “Her fans seem inclined to forgive her any indiscretion short of cannibalism.” Even then, I suspect, they’d be inclined to ask just who got eaten before “criticizing” their girl.

§ Tierce. Mr Downes reports:

Some gave me tips to pass on to the civilian world: Don’t ask The Question (Did you kill anybody?). “Support the Troops” magnets mean nothing to them. And military culture is not big on touching: the main things civilians want to do to soldiers — hug them and get them drunk — are generally not welcome.

Mr Cohen makes one of those out-of-thin-air connections between remote items, in this case the campaign of Sarah Palin and a 1919 poem by Rudyard Kipling, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings.”

A copybook was a school exercise book used to practice handwriting. At the tops of pages, proverbs and sayings (like “Stick to the Devil You Know”) appeared in exemplary script to be copied down the page by pupils. The truisms were called “copybook headings.”

The idea of instilling proverbial wisdom by forcing young hands to copy home truths in penmanship exercises sounds terrific, something that we really ought to consider re-introducing. I should suggest, however, that the new copybook headings be lapidary quotations from literature somewhat beyond the reach of young minds. Wisdom that schoolchildren can understand (“a stitch in time saves nine”) is almost certainly doomed to adolescent contempt and a shrugging adult deprecation.

It would be far more clever to plant little bombs of understanding, making a world full of thirtysomethings suddenly “getting it,” seemingly out of thin air.

§ Compline. Somewhere early on in my undergraduate career, Dracula replaced the Titanic as my favorite horror story. I was electrified by the book — the Count’s crawling upside-down along his castle’s tower walls was a really shocking image to conjure. Now I can hardly think of vampires without glossing the psychological symbolism that they embody. The Titanic, in contrast, becomes ever more horrific.

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