Daily Office:


Matins: Mark my words: this is the beginning of something good: Web/House calls by physicians in Hawaii.

Lauds: When I was growing up, art was something that fruity, suspect men couldn’t help producing — the  byproduct of diseased minds. The people around me wished that art would just stop. Even I can hardly believe how unleavened the world was in those days. How nice it would have been to have Denis Dutton’s new book come to the rescue: The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution.  

Prime: My friend Jean Ruaud, who happens to be the best photographer I know, spent the holidays in Houston, the city where I lived for almost a decade but haven’t visted in seventeen years. Even though most of the pictures — all of the ones that don’t feature Downtown — are completely unfamiliar, they’re also distinctly More of the Same.  

Tierce: It’s official.

For those New Yorkers who wondered what the Manhattan real estate market might be like without the ever-rising bonuses of Wall Street’s elite, the answer is now emerging: an abrupt decline in transactions, tottering prices and buyers who are still looking but unwilling to sign a contract.

Josh Barbanel reports.

Sext: The reported discovery of a circle of standing stones forty feet below the surface of Lake Michigan is more than a little intriguing. Quite aside from what the site tells us about prehistoric society, there’s the matter of protecting the site. How do you restrict access to an underwater location? (via kottke.org)

Nones: “Activists” have become “gunmen” in Greece. Anthee Carassava reports.

Vespers: At Maud Newton, Chad Risen mourns the shuttering of the Nashville Scene book page. Hang-wringing news, certainly. I can’t say, though, that I agree with this:

Blogs are great, and in some ways better than book sections, but there’s nothing like a book page in a local, general-interest publication to “cross-pollinate” interest among people who might otherwise never come across serious discussions of the printed word.

This sounds like a paper fetish to me.

Compline:There are two items about the Catholic Church in today’s Times, and although they seem to tell very different stories, I’m not so sure that they do. The first is Abby Goodnough’s report on “rebellious” parishioners who have occupied their church in order to keep the Boston diocese from selling it off. From Spain, meanwhile, Rachel Donadio writes about an impending showdown between observant Catholics and government secularists.


§ Matins. Other tools will come along soon, I expect, to help remote doctors improve their diagnoses. Smart thermometers and other cheap tools will provide readouts of every kind of sample that you can think of. Nobody’s going to treat cancer at a distance, at least not initially, but as for fevers and flus…

§ Lauds. The irony is the deepest of wells: it never occurred to my mother that “art” and her beloved “French provincial furniture” had anything in common.

We had an argument, once upon a time — one of our nastier arguments, I recall — about “antiques.” My mother claimed that “antiques” were items manufactured before 1833. I retorted that “antiques” were objects more than a hundred years old; the “antiques” legislation had been passed in 1933 and was meant to float with the times, so that, at the moment when we were spitting at one another — 1967, let’s say — an “antique” was anything made at the height of the Second Empire. My mother, unimaginative literalist that she was, wouldn’t have it. Having outlived and outthought her, however, I am now having the last word, and it is strangely satisfying.

If the year in question had ended in ’89, though, I’d probably have fallen for her view. Anything made before 1789 isn’t just antique, it’s real. Since then, la vida has been no more than a sueño.

§ Prime. In functional terms, Houston is as up to date as any city in the world. But it’s look is something else. The powerlines in this picture, for example, capture Houston’s Third World carelessness.  

§ Tierce. “A lot of brokers are making friends with lawyers and doctors and all those people who were left behind in the heyday of Wall Street, three months ago.”

§ Sext. It’s a problem of our own Early Information Age: knowing about something so new and different that we can’t be exected to know how to handle it.

§ Nones. Has anybody seen a grown-up account of what’s going on in Greece? It’s true: I’m behind in my Economists.

§ Vespers. And the real culprit is the fact that nobody has to pay to play on the Internet.

Newspapers would probably be dying even without the Internet. Their business model — how they price the exchange of information — no longer works, with or without competition from computers. There is something truly witless, though, about the fact that there is only one alternative on the table — exchanging information at no cost.

§ Compline. What these stories have in common, I think, is populism, which has usually been more of a problem for the Church than a boon. The parishioners at St Frances and the demonstrators in Spain share a rock-ribbed determination to preserve what is obviously more of a folkway than a religious precept, and there is something vaguely pagan (certainly the great Reformers of the Sixteenth Century would think so) about the attachment to material things — church buildings and crucifixes. If memory serves, the Italians, who may be the most unobservant Catholics in Europe, nevertheless insisted on keeping the cross in the classroom. Behind each news item, I hear the cackling wheeze of that great punchline: “Shut up; I’m talking to Your mother.”

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    !!!!Feliz cumpleanos!!!!

    Tu intimo amigo de muchos, muchos anos,

    Don Miguel de Arguello

    aka FD

  2. jkm says:

    Happy Birthday RJ!