Daily Office:
Monday, 13 December 2010

{The next edition of the Daily Office will appear on Wednesday.}

Matins ¶ Having called for just such an initiative, we’re following the Young Entrepreneur Council with interest. This band of self-employed men and women between the ages (at the moment) of 17 and 33 is not waiting for corporate America to provide comfortable berths — especially now that even the most satisfying corporate jobs are hardly more secure than the ones they create for themselves. Their maxim — “Never Get a Real Job” — ought to be taken seriously; it’s what Noël Coward (a workaholic if ever there was one) had in mind when he said, “Work is so much more fun than fun.” (NYT)

We have a business idea for the Young Entrepreneurs: develop an inexpensive kit for renovating the typical suburban home by converting the garage into office space, complete with (monastic) sleeping quarters. Not only will this dignify heading back home after college and making the most of parental support, but it will probably shame genuine loafers into finding their own place.

Lauds ¶ The Times sent its leading arts critic, Michael Kimmelman, to attend opening night at La Scala, and the evening provided a handy pretext for glancing at arts and heritage budget-cutting by the Berlusconi government (the prime minister, notoriously, has no use for such folderol). Although Italians don’t go to the opera the way they used to do, and seem to take their unmatched cultural patrimony for granted, opening night at La Scala is still a very big deal, and everyone shows up for it (except Mr Berlusconi). But it’s jarring to think that the season began with Die Walküre. According to Mr Kimmelman, the performance was excellent, at least from a musical standpoint, and it’s nice to know that La Scala can deliver a first-class production of Wagner. But surely one of Verdi’s masterpieces would have been more opportune. Otello might have been used, perhaps, to show the tragedy of a heroic people seduced by a wily nihilist into mistreating its prize resources (Pompeii).  

Prime ¶ Splashed across the front page of Sunday’s Times was Louise Story’s story about a cabal of Wall Streeters that controls trading in derivative commodity contracts. It is all very lie-down making, what with universal derivative fatigue in the wake of the late subprime mortgage — credit default swap — anything-involving-tranches calamity. So instead of plowing through the newspaper report itself, you can read the glosses, of which we highlight two: Chris Lehmann’s indignant pitchforkery at The Awl, which hails Ms Story’s determination, and Felix Salmon’s relatively becalmed wish for more rigorous substantiation of charges against the bankers.

Tierce ¶ A big story toward the end of last week was the study showing that you can cut down on your calories by imagining consuming them, as long as you do so carefully, one calorie at a time. As usual, Ed Yong gives the clearest account of the findings. We only wish that we had a better imagination. We cannot really conceive of the crisp cruch of a salty potato chip unless there happens to be a real one between our teeth. (Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Sext ¶ “After three or so hours of sleep, it was time to get up. It was like waking up to take an early flight, or for surgery, or for execution — all things I dislike.” Our friend Eric hauls himself off to New Jersey for an extreme obstacle course “race.” Read all about it; you’ll learn what “marathon” is in Greek. “The course flew by, just like my youth. Saudade stirred in my stomach, hüzün hit my heart, and melancholia (μελαγχολία) muddled my mind. I had never been around guys like this much in my life, and this seemed a pity. They seemed like the salt of the earth (מלח הארץ), although I’m sure that many of them must have been jerks. Still, I felt some envy and regret.” (Sore Afraid)

Nones ¶ Nursultan Nazarbayev, now 70, wants to leverage his not inconsiderable influence as president-for-life of Kazakhstan to spur his nation’s research scientists to defeating old age, and possibly death itself. “That’s what people are studying these days,” he recently announced. “Those who do are the most successful states in the world – those who don’t will get left on the sidelines.” We imagine a wizened little old man ruling from his coffin, like Titurel in Parsifal. (Discoblog)

Vespers ¶ When Frances Wilson’s review of Elizabeth Abbott’s book about mistresses (subtitled A History of the Other Woman) bumps up against the influence that myth and literature have had upon the careers of actual kept women, the air gets unbreathably powdery. For one thing, who’s on the record here? Angie Dickinson, it seems — with a dig at JFK. (It was Prince Charles’s great-great grandfather, by the way, who was his wife’s great-grandmother’s lover.) For another: since today’s powerful man can marry whomever he pleases, why should he support a mistress? This is clearly the sort of book that Victorians were determined to keep out of the hands of young girls — but the fallen life does not sound very appealing. (Guardian; via 3 Quarks Daily)

¶ We were riveted, speaking of cheating, by Wendy Plump’s view from both sides of marital infidelity. Betraying is apparently no more agreeable than betrayal. (NYT)

Compline ¶ Dominique Browning writes about breaking the Stuff Cycle. This is an entry that middle-aged readers will find handy right now, but young folks can learn a tip or two as well. When you’re young, and life is more a matter of possibility than of probability, it’s good to try out different things. Whatever different things you try out, however, the accumulation of Stuff is inevitable. (There are very few possibilities that don’t involve some kind of equipment.) Don’t imagine for a moment that you can anticipate the difficulty of getting rid of stuff when you’re middle-aged, and have become attached to everything that you own (even if you don’t like it). You wouldn’t know what to get rid of. Nobody under the age of fifty-five does.

Have a Look

Seven red states with fewer inhabitants in toto than my home town. (Scocca)


Keeping Siegfried Sassoon alive. (Ivebeenreadinglately)

One Response to “Daily Office:
Monday, 13 December 2010”

  1. Golli says:

    We love the Runaway Latkes. Maybe next year I will try to make latkes. We are hniostg over 50 people for Christmas this year so we have been busy preparing and haven’t had a chance to do anything for Hanukkah. Plus, R and K have been sick. If I don’t get back here before Christmas, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!