Daily Office:


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.”


§ Matins. I have been trying to explain to a dear friend that the interests of the American people generally and the interests of investors are sharply opposed at the moment. Americans want more jobs; but for investors, there can never be too few. Only when this disagreement is grasped and accepted as a fact — it certainly isn’t now! — will the president be able to charge ahead on the job-creation front. Until then, investors’ boo-hoos will be taken more seriously than they ought to be.

§ Lauds. The other three principals were pretty fantastic as well, but the overall air of Les Miz was off-putting for me, even if it’s just what the Met needs to revitalize audiences. I missed the old audience, the knots of opera queens gathering at intermission for invidious comparisons. Oh, they couldn’t have been more tedious, but, like scientific peer review, they kept things on a rigorous footing.

I had never actually seen Verdi’s opera before. For most of my life, I’d have sworn that it would be the last opera that I’d ever see (I hope that it wasn’t!). Sitting through the “Anvil Chorus” and the Miserere was pretty hard on the meta-parsers. Both were performed smashingly well.

Since I intended to enjoy the opera, I focused my critical attention on the strangeness of being at the Metropolitan Opera House in the first place. It’s not my church — I go to Carnegie, where the services are very different. Among the many interesting sights in the lobby was a beautiful black velvet kippa. It was a bit too small for the wearer’s head, and it completely outclassed the rest of his shambolic attire, but I now know that if I must have a kippa of my own, it will have to be cut of black velvet. I was afraid that I’d forget this interesting discovery — my memory, in crowds, is a sieve — but, as it turned out, the kippa sat right in front of me.

§ Prime. I find this very inspiring, in that I hope that inspires all grown men who insist on dressing like boys to follow suit.

§ Tierce. Someday, we’ll all look back and say “wow,” but right now I’m more concerned about living to see the completion of the Second Avenue subway.

§ Sext. Not that I had any idea that I would toiling in its vinyard ten years later.

The arresting thing is how utterly we forget the condition of living without an appliance or a technology that we’ve gotten used to. The occasional breakdown that deprives us of these goodies does not take us back to the innocence of not knowing about them.

§ Nones. At his trial in New York — where he received a 30-year sentence, al-Kassar tried to make nice.

In a bid for leniency from the judge, al-Kassar said he was not “against Americans, America or against any other kind of nations.”

He also quoted Jesus, the Koran and an old Arabic poem, Reuters news agency reported.

He defence lawyers had said he was a legitimate arms dealer, and had passed on information to Spanish authorities as an informant.

But Judge Rakoff called al-Kassar “a man of many faces”.

“It’s a tragedy that a person as intelligent has spent so much of his life in activities that were certainly not calculated to advance the human race.”

§ Vespers. I stalled at just over 100 pages into Les Bienveillantes — although the son of American thriller-writer Robert Littell, the author chose to write this book in French, and the translation has only just now appeared — largely because the vocabulary is immense and I was tired of running to the dictionary only to find a new word for muck, or for a car part. What I read, though, has stuck with me, and I do intend to finish the novel. Not in English, though.

§ Compline. Although its relation to the WaPo story is tangential, let me put in my two cents: cities are terrible places for meeting potential spouses. Unless it’s your hometown, don’t expect a busy urban environment to make it easy to get to know someone well enough for marriage. Just my unscientific observation.

3 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Nom de Plume says:

    Your mere description of Sondra Radvanovsky’s singing makes me want to die. Wow.

  2. Fossil Darling says:

    And the opera queens are still tedious, only now they’re on-line, as on my Opera-L forum.

    I miss gathering in groups to talk about performances. In the rarified air where I normally sit now, the Balcony, I occasionally see some of the old faces, and we are getting older!! But in addition to the normal winnowing out by age/retirement, my generation was the most impacted by AIDS and that has certainly reduced our numbers.

    And of course, the advent of the CD and the Internet has changed the way opera gets passed on from one generation to another. Thirty, forty years ago when I was learning about opera, we listened together. Your choices of records were limited by the imagination, or lack thereof, of the record companies. Tebaldi and del Monaco were usually recorded together, whether or not it was suitable, because they had signed deals with Decca. Likewise, Sutherland and Pavarotti. We all longed to hear “legendary” performances, like the Callas Berlin Lucia, or the Met Frau broadcast of 1966 and would go to the Discophile on 8th Street off 6th Avenue to see what pirates they had, and lamented how expensive they were. It was a way of socializing, having people over and each would bring a new and different recording to share…and I made an endearing and important friendship while talking about pirated reel-to-reel recordings on the long gone Mr. Tape.

    Nowadays pirates are part of the mainstream, you can see and hear many legends on YouTube, and the whole world has been transformed. Got a rare CD? Burn it and send it on. Fabled Met broadcasts? Find a friend who subscribes to Sirius, and get a copy.

    I do hope there’s another generation out there getting hooked on opera. When I look at the audiences, I am not encouraged…………

  3. jkm says:

    As I was awaiting the start of the telecast of President Obama’s speech last night, I clicked over to the Sirius Metropolitan Opera channel, which was broadcasting the performance of ‘Il Trovatore’ (at least the caption on my tv screen said it was a live performance). I tuned in just at the start of the trio that ends the first act–one of my favorite parts of the opera–but I was kicking myself for not having tuned in earlier to hear ‘Tacea la notte placida.’ Now I’m really envious that I won’t have the chance to hear the opera in person, but I’m looking forward to listening to the entire performance on the radio this Saturday.