Daily Office:


Matins: David Kushner files a report from the future — where everyone drives a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. (via The Morning News

Lauds: Forget the Summer of Death: Blanche Moyse turns 100.

Prime: Mistaking the complex for the profound — always a problem for us smartypants. David Hakes, an academic economist at Northern Iowa U, admits that he committed preference falsification.

Tierce: The Aesthete notes an interesting sale at Christie’s: Ismail Merchant’s knick-knacks will go on the block in a few weeks.

Sext: We like Balk’s take on the 19-pound baby.

Nones: More on Manuel Zelaya:

He’s sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and “Israeli mercenaries” are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.

We’re not making this up! (via The Awl)

Vespers: Esquire executive editor Mark Warren writes about the surprise literary thrill of discovering Sartre’s Nausea in Baytown, Texas.

Compline: Josh Bearman writes about automata, the fancy toys, such as Vaucanson’s Duck, that may bring the word “animatronic” to mind. But automata actually do things.

Bon weekend à tous!


§ Matins. Of course, the Villages, a golfing/seniors community in Florida, with a population that’s expected to hit 100K in a few years, was designed with plenty of paths for golf carts.

This laid-back EV lifestyle is spreading. Other communities around the country—from the retirement enclave of Sun City, Arizona, to the all-ages suburb of Peachtree City, Georgia—are expanding and marketing themselves as cart towns. The secret to a successful community, says Peachtree City’s David Rast, is “getting the path system in before or as part of the development.” Integrated into the fabric of a community, the carts cease to be icons of decrepitude and instead become a defining vessel, an icon of a new life. “It becomes more than transportation for a lot of people,” says Gary Lester, VP of community relations for the Villages. “It’s who they are as a community.” Indeed, it creates community. “If your neighbor is in his yard,” Lester says, “you can’t drive by in your golf cart without waving and saying hello.”

§ Lauds. Ms Moyse was one of the founders of the Marlboro Music Festivals. We were unaware of her work with Bach’s church music.

Her choruses were made up of amateur singers; her orchestras, a pick-up band of professionals and semi-professionals; her soloists ran the gamut from young unknowns to Benita Valente and Arleen Auger. There was a touch of the homemade about the whole thing. Perhaps that was why it was able to take on a radiance, or grace, you seldom encounter in professional music: every word, every nuance came to quiet life.

Anne Midgette makes it sound fantastic. And it does sound pretty good! (But we prefer hard copy.)

§ Prime. We don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

The story began, Hakes writes, when an economist friend of his concocted a complex, equation-driven explanation of how some companies used certain kinds of warranties to extract “rent,” or unearned money, from their customers. Trouble was, no one could follow the friend’s argument.

Hakes, who grasped the gist immediately, thought the argument deserved broad circulation. Impressed with Hakes’s explanatory skills, the friend recruited him to be a co-author. After some labor, Hakes writes, “We managed to reduce the equations in the paper to six. At this stage the paper was perfectly clear and was written at a level so that it could reach a broad audience.”

Too clear, apparently: When the authors submitted the paper to a journal, the referees deemed the argument “self-evident.” In response, the editor suggested “generalizing” the conclusion with some mathematical formulas. So Hakes and his friend went back to work, re-complicating their work. “The resulting paper had fifteen equations,” Hakes writes, in his mea culpa, “two propositions and proofs, dozens of additional mathematical expressions, and a mathematical appendix containing nineteen equations and even more mathematical expressions.”

“I personally could no longer understand the paper and I could not possibly present the paper alone,” he added.

If we could only get some of those omedhauns at Harvard-Yale-Princeton to make similar confessions…. but then, everything that one of them says is per se profound, right down to “Honey, I’m home!”

§ Tierce. Have a look for yourself: maybe you’ll spot something from a favorite film.


(From Heat and Dust)

§ Sext. Leave it to Balk to worry about the little guy (in the picture).

I hope his folks do a good job of making him feel like he’s special all on his own, even if he isn’t the Monster Baby. He’s a regular baby, and that’s fine too.

§ Nones. On a slightly more serious note:

“Look at the shape he’s in — sleeping on chairs,” de facto President Roberto Micheletti told a local TV news station.

Micheletti took Zelaya’s place after the military, executing a Supreme Court arrest warrant, burst into Zelaya’s house and forced him into exile. The country’s military, congress, Supreme Court and economic leaders have backed the ouster, arguing that Zelaya was bent on conducting an illegal plebiscite that they feared would ultimately lead to his reelection.

Micheletti said he was prepared to meet with Zelaya and a delegation from the Organization of American States, but only to discuss one topic: November elections.

On Wednesday, the U.N. cut off all technical aid that would have supported and given credibility to that presidential race. Conditions do not exist for credible elections, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

§ Vespers. Mr Warren’s reminiscence not only makes sense, but it makes us wish that we had driven over to take a look at Baytown, during our Houstonian exile.

Wherever you are in Baytown, you can look up and see a refinery in just about any direction. Discharge torches ten stories high burn off excess chemicals from the refining processes, and storage tanks, like giant hatboxes, are strewn across the land as far as the eye can see. A sign with a giant Exxon tiger counts the days since the last fatal accident. As I grew up, the Plant, as it is simply known, dominated life in that town, and say what you will about particulate pollutants released into the atmosphere, those chemicals do make for dazzling sunsets. The novelist Paul Auster once washed up in Baytown as a merchant marine and would later describe a “sad and crumbling little place.”


A book – a book! – shot me through with a joy so pure. I would read for a while, mispronouncing all the French words, and then stop and just look at the physical book, turning it over in my hands, make a pot of coffee, read some more. This guy Sartre knew what he was talking about. Surely he had been to Baytown.

§ Compline. We don’t go in much for illusions, but we like hearing about all the work that goes into producing them.

But Vaucanson’s Canard was not alive; it was a ruse with a thousand parts. The thing was an incredible piece of machinery, but it did not metabolize duck food. (The food went in one way, and the hidden cache of pre-loaded duck poop came out the other.) And the Turk turned out to be concealing a man who was actually the one beating Napoeleon and others at chess. Both mechanisms were, in essence, magic tricks, which again explains why famous illusionists like Robert-Houdin were collectors and builders of automata. Robert-Houdin’s own devices included a singing bird, a tightrope dancer, a cup and balls performer (snicker, snicker), an acrobat, and a full-sized man that would write and draw. When Robert-Houdin died, Méliès wound up with many of his automata. But then Méliès went bankrupt in 1913. Not only were most of his incredible films trashed or melted down to be reshaped into boot heels for the french army (a cruel irony, since Méliès’s father was a cobbler and he escaped his familial trade by realizing his dreams in magic and film and now his dreams were being glued to the soles of shoes), but the automata were also lost, donated to a museum that eventually junked them.

Did we say something about “illusions”? We love the movies!

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Lauds : The fascinating article about Moyse (thanks for pointing it out!) doesn’t mention if she is somehow related to Arthur…….

  2. Nom de Plume says:

    Why, oh why, did I click on “bon weekend a tous”?