Daily Office:


Matins: It’s impossible to be cynical about the story of Ivan Cameron, even if his death makes his father the next PM.

Lauds: A show that’s as much about the history of taste as it is about “art”: Cast In Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution. In other words, a little bit of Mannerism and a lot of Bourbon. Quatorze and I went to a preview this evening, and found it all very haut de gamme. The number of objects on loan from HM the Queen was astonishing until we remembered what a fool the Prince Regent was about snapping up post-revolutionary bargains — and mounting them on gilt bronze.

Prime: If Father Tony would just make a greeting card out of his fantastic bit of photoshopping (I’m sure that he uses some other software; hence the lower case), I’d buy boxes. I didn’t even watch the speech, but the photos in the Times made me feel the same.

Tierce: I try to learn something new every day, but I don’t expect to be as surprised as I was by a story in the Times according to which

Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.

James McKinley reports.

Sext: The next time someone claims to have sighted a unicorn, don’t laugh.

Nones: As if the situation in Pakistan weren’t godawful, Bangladesh is experiencing a mutiny among its “Rifles,” as the Border Guards are known.

Vespers: A new algorithm not only identifies the oldest words in the English language, but predicts which ones are mostly likely to slip into obsolescence.

Meanwhile, the fastest-changing words are projected to die out and be replaced by other words much sooner.

For example, “dirty” is a rapidly changing word; currently there are 46 different ways of saying it in the Indo-European languages, all words that are unrelated to each other. As a result, it is likely to die out soon in English, along with “stick” and “guts”

Compline: Is there ever a good time for the academic humanities? “In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth.” An impossible demand; for studying the humanities is priceless.

§ Matins. The death of a child is the one thing that I can’t imagine. If I weren’t a father, I’d think I could. But I know better. It’s something that you find out about when imagination is no longer an option.

§ Lauds. In addition to not stealing any of the fantastic Pigalle busts — I’ll take Pigalle over Houdon any day — I walked away without the rather pricey catalogue.

§ Prime. As an older boomer, however, I do wish for some sort of counterinsurgency drag, so that nobody would mistake me for Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi even though I look older and more encrusted than they do.

§ Tierce. Encountering the headline, “U.S. Is Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels ,” I instinctively moved to clean my reading glasses. Surely it’s the other way round? Not!

§ Sext. When meeting a merperson, it is rude to ask that knockout question from The Producers: “Where do you keep your wallet?

Mermaids are fine, but I draw the line at centaurs and minotaurs. Just because we can dream them up doesn’t mean that we ought to have them around!

§ Nones. But for something new and different, head to India, where an comments posted on an unmoderated social-network page have landed the page’s author in jail.

§ Vespers. Reading the story a few times over, I’m not convinced that the uncredited BBC journalist who wrote the story fully understood it.

§ Compline. Reluctantly enough, I agree with Yale’s Anthony Kronman:

As money tightens, the humanities may increasingly return to being what they were at the beginning of the last century, when only a minuscule portion of the population attended college: namely, the province of the wealthy.

That may be unfortunate but inevitable, Mr. Kronman said. The essence of a humanities education — reading the great literary and philosophical works and coming “to grips with the question of what living is for” — may become “a great luxury that many cannot afford.”

It’s not that “many” can’t afford to study the humanities, but only that they fear that it’s extravagant. The conundrum about this cheapest of all academic curricula — a pile of books to be read under attentive adult supervision — is that it generally takes a worldly sort of wealth to see its value.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Nom de Plume says:

    Oh, the humanities. Je regrette.