Daily Office:


Matins: Our hero: Judge Arthur Schack, who has rejected 46 out of 102 foreclosure claims in the past two years.

Lauds: Jeremy Denk at the Highline Ballroom: Bach, Ives, Chopin, Liszt, T-shirt and running shoes. Alan Kozinn reports.

If classical music is dying, as we’ve been hearing for years, why are so many rock clubs suddenly presenting it? And why are so many people, with the young outnumbering the old, coming to hear it?

Prime: How about some advice? We may not follow it, but we’re always interested in hearing what someone else considers to be good advice. Especially when it’s phrased as a reminder: “My needs don’t motivate anyone.”

Tierce: Tom Vanderbilt argues persuasively for treating vehicular offenses as no less serious than other criminal acts. (via  The Morning News)

Sext: Mary Pilon reports on “recession haircuts” at the Journal. Alex Balk: Please, don’t let the Seventies happen again!

Nones: East Timor — ten years on: “Mixed emotions.”

Vespers: Philip Lopate talks about his recent Notes on Sontag, at The Millions.

Compline: Ann Leary contemplates Moses Pendleton’s sunflowers.


§ Matins. He’s only doing his job: reading the fine print.

Justice Schack, like a handful of state and federal judges, has taken a magnifying glass to the mortgage industry. In the gilded haste of the past decade, bankers handed out millions of mortgages — with terms good, bad and exotically ugly — then repackaged those loans for sale to investors from Connecticut to Singapore. Sloppiness reigned. So many papers have been lost, signatures misplaced and documents dated inaccurately that it is often not clear which bank owns the mortgage.

Justice Schack’s take is straightforward, and sends a tremor through some bank suites: If a bank cannot prove ownership, it cannot foreclose.

“If you are going to take away someone’s house, everything should be legal and correct,” he said. “I’m a strange guy — I don’t want to put a family on the street unless it’s legitimate.”

(Good show, Michael Powell!)

§ Lauds. This comes as no surprise to us. Mr Denk is both a serious musician (ultra-serious) and a performer who gets at least as involved in what he’s doing as any rock star.

Mr Kozinn, who gives the recital a great review from a strictly musical point of view, has a few suggestions for future events:

The Highline is a comfortable place to hear a recital, but if it is to continue experiments with classical music (this was the last such concert listed on its Web site), some details should be seen to. Stacking plates during the performance is a generally bad idea. Programs would be helpful. And although subtle amplification may be necessary, it must be done sensitively: Mr. Denk’s piano was pumped through big speakers that thickened its textures and robbed the playing of some nuance.

We would not have cared for the amplification. At all.

§ Prime. Corner Office readers were asked to submit the best advice that they had ever received, and Steve Tobak combed through the inbox for some gems. Other favorites:

  • You make choices based on what you believe in or what you fear. Guess which one makes you stronger?
  • Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
  • Always leave a party while there’s still beer in the keg and boys (girls) still want to dance with you.

§ Tierce. Blessedly carless, we’re in favor of logarithmic increases in traffic tickets! The war on terror begins with automobiles — as the histories of Timothy McVeigh and Mohammed Atta teach us.

But another factor is that people with off-road criminal records have been shown, in a number of studies, to commit more on-road violations. A U.K. study (whose findings have been echoed elsewhere) that looked at a pool of driving records as compared with criminal records found that “2.5% of male drivers committed at least one primary non-motoring offense between 1999 and 2003 but this group accounted for 30.6% of the men who committed at least one ‘serious’ motoring offense.” (Interestingly, the proportion was even more marked for women.)

§ Sext. As you can imagine:

A few blocks away, at the Minardi Salon, co-owner Carmine Minardi warns against the “at-home” method. “We get a lot of people who screw up their hair,” he says. He estimates that roughly a third of all business now consists of “corrective” styling. There is no mercy reflected in the bill, which dings clients as much as 50% more for a corrective color than a regular dye job.

In Idaho Falls, Idaho, Melodie McBride’s salon handles three or four repair jobs a week. One client “looked like his head had been through a thrasher,” she says. Another man came in with an eyebrow that had been mistakenly shaved off.

The salon, called Lifes Balance, recently slashed eight inches of hair off a teary-eyed 18-year-old client’s head after the teen’s own creative attempts backfired. Huge chunks were missing, Ms. McBride says.

We can see Mr Balk on his knees all the way from here.

If we really are entering a new Era of Frugality, where we’re not spending everything we make and then some on gadgets and personal grooming supplies, are we headed into an environment where we start to resemble the denizens of that last historical era of malaise, the 70s? I have very few memories of that decade, but the brief images that stick in my mind are all of people with terrible hair wearing a lot of muted brown or sickmaking green. Please don’t tell me that’s what we’re going back to. I promise to work twice as hard!

§ Nones. East Timor has endured one of the worst post-colonial nightmares. When the Portuguese were thrown out, in 1975, the Indonesians moved in, from the other half of the island. The occupation was motivated by much the same reason as that behind Britain’s occupation of Ireland: to preclude the formation of a hostile power base in neighboring independent territory. Religious differences were not, at least originally, an issue.

§ Vespers. Although lengthy, the entire interview (with Anne Yoder, a sometime pupil) is well worth reading. We came away with the distinct sense that Sontag’s literary values have given way to an outlook closer to Mr Lopate’s.

Certainly I think that fiction has more status than nonfiction, just as poetry does. In the beginning of MFA programs, God created fiction and poetry and saw that it was good. Some upstarts came from nonfiction and said, “Hey we want to get in on this boat, too.” I think that if you look at the prizes that are given out every year, there are many more given out in fiction and poetry than are given out in essay writing or other kinds of nonfiction. I don’t think that Sontag was alone at all in this. She was part of a whole generation of writers who actually can be said to have been better at nonfiction than fiction but preferred to think of themselves as fiction writers. I include in that James Baldwin, Mary McCarthy, Gore Vidal, possibly even Norman Mailer, Joan Didion.

We couldn’t agree more.

§ Compline. The entry is beautiful on several levels; the ending is particularly lovely.

I told Moses that I thought that sunflowers followed the sun during the day, that their big, brilliant heads always faced the sun. Moses explained that during most of their growth, they do that, but when they reach maturity, they stop following the sun. In the morning, they may be facing it, but in the evening, they keep it on their backs. They are their own sun now. Their heads are so heavy and full of pollen and seeds, they don’t need any more sustenance. They’re sort of like people, in their middle years, I thought, as Moses, Cynthia and I pedaled off on our bikes. At a certain age, you become saturated with the knowledge that comes from a lifetime of alternating darkness and light, until one day, you’re just your own source of light. Your own sun.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Nom de Plume says:

    Sext, and 70s hair: When I returned to live in Ithaca in 1997, soon after I attended a classical concert with my beloved Aunt Barbara at Bailey Hall. While we chatted amiably with our fellow first tier attendees (including quite a few notable Cornell heavy weights like Hans Beta), I looked down over the the orchestra and noted to my aunt all the messy beards and unkempt hairdos. “Oh,” said my Aunt Barbara, waving her hand over the imaginary collective like a wand, “This is LAND of bad hairdos.” In the next ten years, there was to be an observable improvement in Ithaca hair, as usual 30 years behind the times.