Daily Office:


Matins: Joe Bagent considers the growth of the white underclass. Anecdotally.

Lauds: How about a very plausible mash-up of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Let You Down”? (via MetaFilter)

Prime: Felix Salmon disagrees (violently) with Robert Shiller’s reconsideration  of sub-prime mortgages.

Tierce: What’s the difference between $700 million and $50 billion — aside from the number of victims and the size of their losses? Who was the bigger spender — Bernie Madoff or Mark Dreier?

Sext: Lately, I’ve tugged by an existential anxiety: why, week after week, can’t I bring myself to open — not even to open — the Sunday Times Magazine? Happily (and hilariously), Tom Scocca and Choire Sicha have the answer: “Memoirs! Leer At Yer Crazy Memoirs! From A Circus of ‘Times’ Employees, A Thousand Magazine Excerpts Bloom“.

Nones: Just say ‘No’: “Georgians Hope U.S. Will Join Boundary Monitors.” I propose Chinese troops for this job. The Chinese and the Russians have a long history of border disputes.

Vespers: Ann Leary proposes some “Good Books for Hard Times.”

Compline: Although we strongly disapprove of performance-enchancing drugs of any kind (we just read Methland!), we think that it would be a mistake to dismiss Jamais Cascio’s Atlantic essay, “Get Smarter,” as just another piece of futurism.


§ Matins. “Underclass” used to be a word for the incorrigibly homeless, unemployable, or insane. Mr Bagent would like to use it, instead, to refer to the immorally underpaid. Sociological studies will not be required in order to address this problem.

Call all of this anecdotal evidence. You won’t be the first. I was on a National Public Radio show last year with a couple of political consultants, demographers as I remember. One, a lady, was obviously part of the Democratic political syndicate, the other was part of the Republican political mob. The Democratic expert said dismissively of my remarks, “Well! Some people here seem to believe anecdotal evidence is relevant.” Meaning me. I held my tongue. But what I wanted to say was this:

Sister, most of us live anecdotal lives in an anecdotal world. We survive by our wits and observations, some casual, others vital to our sustenance. That plus daily experience, be it good bad or ugly as the ass end of a razorback hog. And what we see happening to us and others around us is what we know as life, the on-the-ground stuff we must deal with or be dealt out of the game. There’s no time for rigorous scientific analysis. Nor need. We can see the guy next door who’s drinking himself to death because, “I never did have a good job, just heavy labor, but now I’m all busted up, got no insurance and no job and it looks like I’ll never have another one and I’ve got four more years to go before Social Security.” He doesn’t need scientific proof. He doesn’t need another job either. He needs a cold beer, a soft armchair, some Tylenol PM and a modest guarantee of security for the rest of his life. Freedom from fear and toil and illness.

I quite agree.  

§ Lauds. How formidably is Aut0-Tune going to change the musical earscape? It’s still a toy, as the YouTube clips makes clear, but eventually, tomorrow’s Steve Reichs and Terry Rileys are going to get serious, composing (literally!) daunting contrapuntal collages of existing works.

It has been remarked that Mozart’s piano concertos are his most dramatic compositions. What if they began to sing?

§ Prime. Our preliminary response to the kerfuffle a feeling that Mr Shiller’s piece is perhaps a bit too brief; we wish that he had clarified the difference between people with bad credit histories and just plain poor people; the latter were victims of a great deal of predatory financing at the beginning of this decade, in the Outer Boroughs and the Poconos especially.

And both Mr Shiller and Mr Salmon ought to have explicitly observed that what made subprime mortgages pernicious was the swell of funny money at investment banks that needed to be invested in something. There can be no bubble if there is no actual cash to pay to sellers.

§ Tierce. You can spend only so much money on yourself. Sure, Mr Madoff caused a lot more heart-ache than Mark Dreier did. And yet. The Dreier implosion seems to have delivered a bigger wallop to those standing near the culprit.

Of all of the assets, Mr. Finzi said, perhaps the biggest challenge to recover was Mr. Dreier’s sleek $18 million yacht, the Seascape, which had been found in a Caribbean port.

he crew had not been paid in weeks, was confused and seemed almost mutinous, Mr. Finzi said. “What followed was a long series of negotiations, comfort calls, bickering, pressure — you name it,” he said.

Receiver Mark Pomerantz: “I will never do this again.”

§ Sext. The exuberance of the conversation is itself rejuvenating.

Tom Scocca: Did they let Howell Raines write about fly-fishing in the magazine?

Choire Sicha: Oh, hello, 1993.

Tom Scocca: Howell Raines was such a terrible writer about fishing.

Choire Sicha: Yes but he is more interesting on the Hoover Cabinet! Also this is impressive: “Sounds like you bent a shaft when you went aground,” the President said. A president, who knows about boats! Too bad that was all he knew about.

Tom Scocca: Wait, I’m losing count of how many different trivial cultural practices Howell Raines declares were responsible for the defeat of Jimmy Carter.

Choire Sicha: Oh those were the days!

Tom Scocca: He is quite the expert on the fatal follies of powerful men, Howell Raines is.

§ Nones. Today’s Stupid Prize goes to David Kramer.

David J. Kramer, who was a senior diplomat in the administration of President George W. Bush, said American participation would powerfully reinforce the need for stability along the enclaves’ boundaries. Already, simply by visiting Ukraine and Georgia, he added, Mr. Biden is making it clear that the United States will still respond to post-Soviet countries that are reaching out.

“Post-Soviet” is one thing — we’re there. “Post Russia,” however, has yet to happen. The sooner that Washington wonks knock the water out of their ears and realize that there is nothing crypto-Soviet or -Communist about Vladimir Putin’s aggressive stance on the Caucasian border states, the less likely the US will be to commit a fatal folly.

§ Vespers. While we wouldn’t want to characterize this in any limiting way as a woman’s list, there are a few titles that we’ve never known a man to read, even though his wife probably has the book nearby. Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea, for example. It’s such a shortie that we’ve often thought about just reading it. But when we flip through the pages, an emission of ectoplasm warns us away. Warns us away, that is, not from an unsatisfactory read, but from finding it hard not to “ask” Kathleen, in a familiar, not altogether charming tone of voice, “what on earth” she sees in it.  

At the end of the entry Ms Leary solicits suggestions from her readers, asking only that titles not begin with Chicken Soup.

§ Compline. Two bits stand out like gems. One is a quote from William Gibson: “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” That’s interesting. But we’ll attest from experience that the following is as true as true gets:

Moreover, the technology-induced ADD that’s associated with this new world may be a short-term problem. The trouble isn’t that we have too much information at our fingertips, but that our tools for managing it are still in their infancy. Worries about “information overload” predate the rise of the Web (Alvin Toffler coined the phrase in 1970), and many of the technologies that Carr worries about were developed precisely to help us get some control over a flood of data and ideas. Google isn’t the problem; it’s the beginning of a solution.

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