Daily Office:
Wednesday

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Matins: And here we thought that Janet Napolitano had effected a crackdown on smuggling American-bought guns into Mexico. Seems not. Loopholes!

Lauds: Handel meant Handel! Okay, Händel meant business — when it came to business. Everyone knows that he lost his shirt as an opera impresario. It seems that he had another shirt! (Via Arts Journal)

Prime: Margaret Drabble will write no more novels, claiming that she’s too old to remember what she’s already written. This can mean only one thing, and it does —

Tierce: The number of days — as in “days are numbered” — for totally free Internet access to most print publications continues to drop. Journalism Online LLC plans to be operational “by the fall.”

Sext: Interior designers with newly-rich clients have long had ways of dealing with the problem of stocking beautifully paneled libraries with bulk purchases of snazzily-spined volumes, but I was unaware of an online service until yesterday. (via Brainiac)

Nones: Moldovans who want their country, the poorest in Europe, to merge with Romania ought to have a confab with some Flemish Belgians, or some Catalonians, before getting too worked up.

Vespers: At Asylum, John Self writes about Every Man Dies Alone, the newly-translated novel that Hans Fallada (the pseudonym of Rudolf Ditzen, 1893-1947) wrote in a month, right before killing himself. (via The Second Pass)

Compline: From Waking Up, an elegant rebuttal of Wingnut claims that gay marriage is inimical to religious freedom. Step by step, and perfectly lucid. (Via Joe.My.God) Oremus…

§ Matins. It is so pathetic, what this “home of the free” of ours is up to.

Mexican officials are desperate for America to clamp down on the flow of weapons that has kept drug cartels well-armed. Sending straw purchasers into American stores, cartels have stocked up on semi-automatic AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, converting some to machine guns, investigators in both countries say. They have also bought .50 caliber rifles capable of stopping a car and Belgian pistols able to fire rifle rounds that will penetrate body armor.

As for guns in general, Bob Herbert posts another eloquent page on our wailing wall of thwarted regulation.

§ Lauds. Maybe even a few dozen, socked away in his Brook Street house — or in the vaults at Threadneedle Street.

The archivist John Keyworth had fetched down some sample ledgers containing some of Handel’s transactions, all signed with his distinctive hand. As impressive to me as a musical manuscript. But it got better.

John had got out one ledger containing a 1725 signature – earlier than the 1728 accounts written about at length by the great Handel financial expert, Ellen Harris. She holds the (slightly unlikely) post of Professor of Music at the hi-tech Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But then I happened to point at another page, with several South Sea Company annuity transactions bearing more Handel signatures dated even earlier: 1723.

Handel’s father, like any good burgher of Halle, wanted his son to be a lawyer. Maybe the future composer thought that music would be more lucrative — as it undoubtedly was, in his case.

Nothing surprises me, not after learning that Cary Grant made a small fortune arbitraging currencies during the making of Gunga Din.

§ Prime. Ms Drabble’s older sister, A S Byatt, is coming out with a  book next week.

§ Tierce. This is excellent news: journalism as we know it — and hope to preserve it — isn’t viable without meaningful revenues, as the operator of any lemonade stand will tell you. But Internet pundits have been as witlessly ideological about free access as most economists still are about free markets. Claiming that the Internet must be free is a form of not thinking.

§ Sext. Note that Wonder Books, which has two warehouses in Maryland, is having a sale on “Modern Sets” — that would be new-ish encyclopedias and the like. Was $29.99! NOW $19.99! (Per “linear foot.”)

That anybody would pay a premium for such taquois — at only $6.99 a foot, you can load up on “modern cloth hardbacks,” which look like books that somebody might actualy wish to read — tells you a lot about the market for this service.

§ Nones. And whatever happened to Transdniestria? That’s the part of Moldova that broke away in order to remain more Russian — even though its only other border fronts Ukraine, that devoted boulder in Russia’s shoe. Ellen Barry’s Times story doesn’t mention it.

The breakup of the Soviet Empire was one thing — poof! The breakup of the Russian Empire, however, is not even ongoing. It’s just stuck.

§ Vespers. Concerning a small-scale Resistance campaign in Berlin, during the War, this is not something that I want to rush out and read. But it sounds like the sort of book that, once begun, can’t be put down.

The book is not perfect. Fallada wrote it in less than a month, and it is an astonishing achievement with or without that knowledge. But sometimes his haste shows – tenses change mid-scene with alarming frequency – and too often his thumb is on the scales, with melodramatic chapter endings and authorial intervention. Even translator Michael Hofmann, never knowingly underpraised on this blog, makes a few odd choices, such as using words like “mate” which give the impression that the book has been translated not into English but into British. Curiously, the rough edges seem to enhance rather than detract, neatly meeting the book’s promoted status as an unearthed relic, written on the hoof (Fallada died shortly after completing it, having been incarcerated in a Nazi insane asylum during the war). We should be grateful to have it in translation at last. It’s hard not to see Alone in Berlin becoming a widely read modern classic.

§ Compline. Who is this guy? I wish I had his delivery!