Daily Office:


Matins: It appears that the Plain People have been going native, since the last time you saw Witness, anyway. A run on an Amish bank? (via The Morning News)

Lauds Things Magazine calls Triangle Triangle “one of those abstract sites that seems to distil whole swathes of contemporary cultural production down into just one or two images.”

Prime: Jay Goltz writes about our idea of very cool wheels: the 2010 Ford Transit Connect.

Tierce: More Madoff fallout: J Ezra Merkin will have to sell his $310 million worth of art.

Sext: Hey! It’s just not true: Coca Cola + MSG ≠ aphrodisiac! The idea! And what about the story that metal objects dissolve in Coke? (via The Awl)

Nones: Does the proposed withdrawal of all 27 EU ambassadors from Iran sound like a good idea to you? Not to us, it doesn’t.

Vespers: Emma Garman writes irresistibly about Françoise Mallet-Joris’s The Illusionist (Le Rempart des Béguines, 1951), showing how it goes “one better’ than Françoise Sagan’s much better-known Bonjour, Tristesse.

Compline: Flash from the Past: George Frazier’s truly astonishing liner notes to Miles Davis’s Greatest Hits (1965): forget the blues, man; how’s my suit?

Bon weekend à tous!Oremus…

§ Matins. Fancy coaches — and well-bred horses to pull them. Second homes in Florida. Telephones!

Like Amish in other parts of the U.S., the Indiana community strayed from their traditional reliance on farming in recent decades as their numbers grew and land prices rose. Many opened family businesses, often in furniture and other wood crafts.

By 2007, more than half of Amish men in these parts were working full time in manufacturing, and earning, on average, $30 an hour, says Steven Nolt, a professor at Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., who studies the community.

The great increase in discretionary income spawned a “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality,” says Mervin Lehman, 39, an Amish father of four who says he was making more than $50-an-hour and working up to 60 hours a week as an RV plant supervisor before he was laid off in November.

Some Amish bishops in Indiana weakened restrictions on the use of telephones. Fax machines became commonplace in Amish-owned businesses. Web sites marketing Amish furniture began to crop up. Although the sites were run by non-Amish third parties, they nevertheless intensified a feeling of competition, says Casper Hochstetler, a 70-year-old Amish bishop who lives in Shipshewana.

“People wanted bigger weddings, newer carriages,” Mr. Lehman says. “They were buying things they didn’t need.” Mr. Lehman spent several hundred dollars on a model-train and truck hobby, and about $4,000 on annual family vacations, he says. This year, there will be no vacation.

This is the sort of dislocation that can produce great fiction, if there’s anyone around to write it. (Perhaps Jane Smiley did write it, sort of, with A Thousand Acres.) Following the small steps with which the people of God forsake the path of righteousness and come to worship false idols — it’s a biblical narrative that the Bible never bothers to make all that interesting.

We’re trying to recall if we ever saw any Amish carriages on the roads east of South Bend during either of my stints at Notre Dame. We were usually on the roads west of South Bend, heading for Chicago or the Dunes. No Amish at the Dunes, not that we recall.

§ Lauds. We’ll keep looking until we figure out what “contemporary cultural production” is. 

§ Prime. Basically a sedan with an inflated rear end, this vehicle has a lot going for it, from the sheer familiarity of sedan-driving to the dashboard computer. Now, if only Ford could figure out how to sell it!

“Transit Connect will be a useful small-business tool,” its chief engineer says in the press release. “It drives like a car, works like a van and is engineered to be as tough as a truck.” Not bad, chief. But you know what? This truck is even better than you might realize. In fact, it’s hot. Not in a Porsche sort of way. But in a “this truck is going to save me money so I can buy a Porsche” sort of way. In the small-business world, efficiency is the new passion. Every dollar you save falls to the bottom line. We can no longer expect growing sales and increased margins to solve our problems.

Here’s the math: My delivery trucks drive about 20,000 miles a year. With a Transit Connect and 22 miles per gallon, I would need 909 gallons of gas per truck. At $3 a gallon that’s $2,727. At 15 m.p.g. my current vehicle costs about $4,000. The Transit Connect would save me about $1,300 a year per truck, just on gas.

Plus, there’s a computer in the dash that has Internet access and optional printing capabilities. That means you can bill the customer from the truck. That means the drivers can get information from headquarters and we can keep track of where they are. If the on-board computer can save you 15 minutes a day, you probably save another $1,500 a year in labor.

And there may be other savings:

I’ve found that, with most drivers, the learning curve on driving a van usually includes hitting some parked cars, backing into things and banging a few mirrors. This truck drives like a car so I think these accidents may be less likely to happen.

Also, above the back windows, there’s a space that will easily take a phone number or a Web address — high up for great visibility. Good advertising space: priceless.

§ Tierce. Better sell the stuff soon, before the air runs out of the art market.

Bidding was thin at the sale, which consisted of commercially appealing art by popular, time-tested names. The 40 works brought $31.7 million, in the middle of the estimate of $28.6 million to $40.9 million. Five works failed to sell.

Three paintings, including canvases by Gerhard Richter and Richard Prince, vied for the title of top seller. The winner was a work by the Scottish artist Peter Doig, who has fetched solid prices here recently. On Tuesday “Night Playground,” his densely painted landscape from 1997-98 being sold by Joel Mallin, a New York collector, went for $5 million, well above its high estimate of $3 million. Five bidders competed for the work, which went to a telephone buyer. (Last week Sotheby’s sold “Almost Grown,” a Doig canvas from 2000, for $3.3 million.)

§ Sext. As Balk observes, Coke’s Myths and Rumors page is a lot of fun. Of course, it wakes up our inner lawyer, with his many jolly memories of Products Liability cases. None of them invovled Coke. There was a claim about an adulterated candy bar, and the lady who incinerated herself when she lighted floating candles while wearing a négligé.  

Coke is kind of a dud when it comes to off-use applications, but you can do plenty of things around the house with Crest.

§ Nones. On the spectrum of nation-states, Iran is mostly nation, and not so much state. Punishment by foreign states (there is only one nation: the one that you belong to) usually intensifies nationalist resistance. Even Austria couldn’t be shamed (by shunning) into getting rid of Jörg Haider. Let’s hope that the EU ministers bear that in mind this time.

European countries have not yet agreed on a course of action, with Germany, Iran’s biggest individual trade partner, and Italy taking a cautious position, while Britain pushes for a tougher and more radical response, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue.

Some Europeans believe the Iranians can be persuaded to avert a confrontation by quickly releasing the remaining British Embassy staff member.

§ Vespers. Both novels, like today’s hit TV show Gossip Girls, are inspired by Choderlos de Laclos’s Les liaisons dangereuses, a book that it is truly worth learning French just to read.

And so it is with smooth inevitability that, following the revelation of their first kiss, the next stage will occur, when, in Hélène’s coy words, “Tamara did something more than kiss me.” In the ensuing relationship, Tamara not only seduces Hélène but enslaves her, taking enormous pleasure in wielding an irresistible power, in slapping and taunting, all of which has the desired effect of enthralling Hélène to her lover’s “hardness, her energy, her mocking superiority.” As their affair becomes unambiguously sadomasochistic, culminating in a drunken episode during which Hélène is beaten black and blue with a belt, she falls even deeper under Tamara’s spell, a psychological state so complete that the smitten teenager neither reflects upon her sexual identity as you might expect, nor suffers any particular squeamishness, much less guilt, about sharing a lover with her own father. “The idea that my father enjoyed similar moments of intimacy with Tamara never crossed my mind, did not ever bother me,” she confesses, “strange as that may seem.” Hélène is, like most fifteen-year-olds, enviably, imperviously solipsistic — and as such is a fascinating and remarkably convincing fictional creation.

Meanwhile, in books closer to home, Atlas Books (where Ms NOLA is an editor) has just scored a hit with Times reviewer Dwight Garner: Darrell Griffin’s Last Journey: A Father and Son in Wartime. Hooray!

§ Compline. The gratuitous homophobia is breathtaking now — Frank O’Hara had just died — but it would have been important for Frazier to signal that there was nothing faggy about his interest in clothes.

But the kind of man I do despise is the stupid son of a bitch who, in the arrogance of his ignorance, thinks he’s well-dressed, who assumed that he will arouse admiration because he happens to be wearing a campy blazer by Bill Blass or something swishy created by Cardin. Now that’s the kind of man I can’t stand the sight of, and so much the worse for him if he subscribes to such stuff and nonsense as that somebody named Frank O’Hara was a decent poet. You’d be astonished how many foppishly dressed men respond to O’Hara — the wrong O’Hara. But the hell with that.

Frazier calls Davis “the Warrior of the Weejuns.”

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Coca-Cola is the Rolls Royce of soft drinks. And even if the myths were true, I’d keep drinking it.

    To me, Pepsi is undrinkable. And Diet Pepsi, well, there are no words.

    And of course my beloved TAB, 40 years now………