Daily Office:


Matins: “Unseemly” is the nicest word that I can come up with to characterize attempts by the Roman Catholic Church (and other religious organizations) to block a temporary repeal of the statute of limitations on child abuse.

Lauds: Is there a movie here? As the UN prepares to evacuate its Turtle Bay headquarters for a four-year renovation, lots of valuable artworks seem to have been evacuated earlier, less officially.

Prime: A new and very smart-looking literary blog, The Second Pass.

Tierce: Muntader al-Zaidi, the journalist who threw his shoes at our last president, was jailed immediately after the “insult, not an assault”; he has just been sentenced to three years in prison. Bernie Madoff will spend less time in jail prior to sentencing — presumably. I must say, prison looks more and more like the waste of a public good in cases involving the crimes (and “crimes”) with which these men have been charged.
Sext: One great thing about the recession so far is the way it has replaced “because I can” with “because it’s smart” as a principle of style. Consider the chic $300 re-think.

Nones: Soi-disant Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “forgives” Ukraine its penalty debts in the wake of winter’s gas crisis.

Vespers: Nina McLaughlin re-reads Scott Spencer’s Endless Love, at Bookslut. It’s not the book she remembered!

Compline: At the Infrastructurist, Barbara McCann writes about a bill in Congress that might make the economic stimulus/transportation vector a lot smarter. Also, a great pair of before-and-after photos.


§ Matins. Those family men just don’t get it, do they? Here’s what they do get:

We believe this bill is designed to bankrupt the Catholic Church,” said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, a group representing the bishops of the state’s eight dioceses. He said that Cardinal Egan and Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn visited Albany this week to voice their opposition, and that a statewide network of Catholic parishioners had bombarded lawmakers via e-mail.

And now wouldn’t bankruptcy be the worst thing in the world that could happen to an organization that systematically obfuscated the almost equally systematic pillaging of young men’s innocence!

I can actually think of nothing healthier for the Catholic Church than the transfer of its real estate titles to local congregations. I would be all for such a move even if it reduced the financial recovery available to former victims. The money is not what it’s about, not for them.

§ Lauds. When I read this story, I wondered if vacancies would be going up in our apartment building. Here on the unfashionable east side of the Upper East Side, there are buildings that used to be virtual dormitories for junior staff at the UN, as well as residents at New York Hospital. But, whether or not the young doctors are still living up here, the UN folk have held on to their apartments and retired.

Who knows? Maybe there are some purloined treasures in the old dump.

[Special Arts link just for Fossil Darling.]

§ Prime. In today’s entry (the third), Henry James writes to his brother, William, that he will be “humiliated” if Williams likes The Golden Bowl, “and thereby lump it, in your affection, with things, of the current age, that I have heard you express admiration for and that I would sooner descend to a dishonoured grave than have written.” And people think that Henry was a wuss!

§ Tierce. Can’t we think of anything more intelligent to do? Mr al-Zaidi was very naughty, at least by the rules of engagement at the time, but what is the point of sending a grown man (and a father) to his room without dinner? As for the other guy, I’d put him to work in a bank vault, where he would have to tend to other people’s money without the prayer of   skimming any of it for himself. You can probably come up with something better. Just remember: his physical dignity must be respected in any hypothetical punishment. We are not brutes.

My saying, the other day, that Mr Madoff would bypass the public recriminations of his victims was not altogether correct.

During the 75-minute court hearing, a few victims were permitted to speak up against accepting the plea. One was Maureen Ebel, who said: “If we go to trial we have more of a chance to comprehend the global scope of this horrendous crime. We can hear and bear witness to the pain that Mr. Madoff has inflicted on the young, the old and the infirm.”

I ought to have said what Ms Ebel said.

§ Sext. Not to mention the impact that working from home has on converting a metastasized dorm room into a humane living space.

“I didn’t have time to focus on the niceties of the environment,” he said.

But as the months ticked by, Mr. Segal, who worked from home for a Boston-based company, grew increasingly bothered by the disorder, which seemed to keep growing by the day. Then in January, a few days after he returned from a vacation in Aruba, he became one of the more than 125,000 New York State residents who have lost their jobs in the last six months. “I was not expecting it,” he said. “I was kind of shocked — you don’t really see yourself as one of those statistics.”

Now, on top of the obvious anxieties that accompany unemployment, Mr. Segal found himself dealing with a less-expected one. Having cut back on weekend trips and visits to restaurants, and having decided to start a new company out of his apartment, he was spending even more time there, and the drawbacks of the living room really started to weigh on him.

§ Nones. It’s always nice to hear Mr Putin speak respectful of other sovereignties. He all too often reminds me of Vaughan Meader’s joke about Khrushchev: when asked what kind of sandwich he wants at a Summit lunch, Khrushchev shrugs, “Oh, I’ll just have a little bit of everybody’s else’s.”

One must be grateful for evidence of Mr Putin’s pragmatism:

In stinging comments on Thursday to miners at Novokuznetsk in south-western Siberia, Mr Putin said Moscow would refrain from levying fines on Ukraine for violating the contracts because they could contribute to an economic crisis in the country.

“Ukraine is not taking from us the contracted volumes [of gas] and should pay fines,” he said, according to Russian news agencies.

“We will forgive these fines because we recognise the reality – they have nothing to pay with. They are on the verge of bankruptcy, and as you well know you should not finish off your partners,” he added.

§ Vespers. And D G Myers, from whom I got the link to Bookslut, writes about his experience with the novel even more, er, grippingly.

Can you think of some books that you’ve either re-read, or wouldn’t dream of re-reading, because they made a powerful impression in early adulthood? (That’s what “adolescence” ought to denote, instead of “protracted childhood.”) I haven’t thought about it very much, but I suspect that all that Hermann Hesse that I read in college wouldn’t sit so well with me now.

(In fact, one of the first truly annealing lines of literary criticism that I encountered was George Steiner’s remark about Hesse in an old New Yorker: “This is not literature; it is incense.” I have carried Steiner’s judgment with me ever since. Today, I took a few minutes to hunt it down online. The issue in question was dated January 18, 1969. A gratifying confirmation.)

§ Compline. Every time I walk on Lexington Avenue, I have to find somewhere else to walk, because it makes me so angry to think of the gross misuse of a city street that is not an avenue (thoroughfare) in conception but rather a mews, serving Park Avenue, and far better thought of as a north-south side street. There ought to be two traffic lanes and an alternating parking line (mornings on the east, afternoons on the west, or somesuch, with right-of-way given to commercial vehicles servicing the shops. The sidewalks ought to be at least twice as wide as they are.  

Bon weekend à tous!

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    I am SO honored to have my own arts section; actually it is an honor long overdue, but I digress :

    It has been 30 years since Carreras lost the sheen of his once glorious voice, a casualty of the late Herbert von Karajan’s powers of persuasion, which convinced him (and others) to sing roles too early or never suited to their voices.

    On top of that he got very sick and while I am delighted he recovered, can still bring in audiences, and raises money for the Hutch and other causes, his voice is s h o t. If you want to see what he once could do, the Met’s telecast of the magical Zefferelli Boheme is living proof.

  2. Nom de Plume says:

    Endless Love: I had that experience that Bookslut had, and would no more admit it to you, RJ, than that I loved The Red Violin. (That is not an admission! That is not an admission!)

    Temporary insanity it is. Was.