Archive for the ‘Lively Arts’ Category

Daily Office:

Monday, May 11th, 2009


Matins: Uh-oh. This weekend, both Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich sang what sounded like swan songs. Rehearsals for swan songs, anyway. An appeal to the SpOck in Obama; 2009 as the new 1500.

Lauds: In Istanbul, a shiny new mosque has opened, the first to be designed by a woman, Zeynef Fadıllıoğlu. It’s a knockout. (via  Good)

Prime: Here’s a New York story that has been widely retailed around the Blogosphere, from The Morning News to An Aesthete’s Lament: Drew University senior Maximilian Sinsteden is already an accomplished, sought-after interior designer.

Tierce: We start off the week’s news (there’s only one story) with John Eligon’s wry portrait of Justice A Kirke Bartley Jr.

So, a lawyer, while questioning a witness, tells the judge, Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr., that he has a request pertaining to a diamond-encrusted gold necklace worth tens of thousands of dollars that is in evidence.

Justice Bartley’s response (this is the punch line): “I won’t be wearing it, no.”

This is the lighter side of the trial of Brooke Astor’s son and one of Mrs. Astor’s lawyers.

Sext: If you’re going to be serious about the l-a-t-e-s-t episode of Star Trek, it’s probably best to start at The House Next Door, where Matt Maul confesses (I can think of no other word) to having been a fan for “thirty-five years.”

Nones: On opposite stories of the Atlantic, dueling Chinese heroines. Here, now living in Queens, it’s Geng He, the wife of an insistent dissident who made a daring escape. There, it’s Nina Wang, “Asia’s richest woman,” who has the comparative disadvantage of being dead.

Vespers: John Self considers Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, at Asylum.

Compline: Aside from being a brisk account of clinical depression that reads like one woman’s serious problem, and not the disease of the week, Daphne Merkin’s Times Magazine piece, “A Journey Through Darkness,” dwells on the bleakness of treatment facilities.


Daily Office:

Thursday, April 30th, 2009


Matins: Why conservatives ought to promote transit alternatives to cars — and why they don’t; all spelled out in a lucid essay by David Schaengold, of the Witherspoon Institute (in, but not of, Princeton). “Public transit and walkable neighborhoods are necessary for the creation of a country where families and communities can flourish.”

Lauds: This is the only movie that I want to see right now: Julie & Julia. The trailer is as good as a soufflé.

Prime: Father Tony interviews Andrew Holleran. Imagine that!

Tierce: What a lot of colorful business news there is this morning! Kenneth Lewis is no longer  chief at Bank of America. AIG — now AIU, actually — continues to look for a nicer name. Clear Channel Communications, the media hog, faces “mounting debt payments.” (Yay!) Starbucks isn’t losing money — yet (but can that be a suit and tie that Howard Schultz is wearing?). And, as for Chrysler…

Sext: “What does this thing do?” Danny Gregory’s guide for the perplexed SkyMall visitor.

Nones: Now, here’s a peace initiative to watch: “Kenyan women hit men with sex ban.”

Vespers: Christopher Buckley’s memoir of his parents, Losing Mum and Pup, sounds like just the thing to read in St Croix at Thanksgiving. Something to look forward to.

Compline: Would you be influenced by a “livability index” in deciding where to settle down? If you think you’re too old for that decision, when did that happen? And would you advise the young ‘uns in your life to “choose wisely”?

Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office:

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009


Matins: In what is certainly the most important piece of intellectual psychology that I have seen this decade, Tom Jacobs writes up Jonathan Haidt’s research into moral psychology. A must-read, the article is compulsively readable.

Lauds: Say “cheese!” Conceptual artist Filippo Panseca trowels on the fontina for his startlingly high-tack painting of — who? I don’t remember reading about this scene in Edith Hamilton. (Via  Arts Journal)

Prime: There’s a great cartoon in this week’s New Yorker (okay, drawing). A financial adviser tells his clients that what they ought to do is use a time machine to travel back sixteen months and convert to cash. In case you’re going back further than that, this poster from Topatoco may come in handy.

Tierce: The Rattner imbroglio will probably reprise the chorus of complaints about President Obama’s personnel picks for economic recovery: all too often, they look like the “wizards” behind last year’s financial meltdown. 

Sext: Freshman Composition in the Age of Tweets: “I Can Haz Writin Skillz?” (via

Nones: Christopher Hitchens fulminates about Turkey at Slate, and takes France’s diplomatic kick-turning rather too piously. “Ankara Shows Its Hand.”  (via  The Morning News)

Vespers: Will somebody please tell me why Dwight Garner, and not Janet Maslin, reviewed the new book about (not by) Helen Gurley Brown? A man instead of a woman?

Compline: Hats off to Ben Jervey, a committed environmentalist who hates Earth Day.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


Matins: Matt Richtel and Bob Tedeschi filed an interesting report at the Times on Sunday: people will pay for apps for their phone that they can download onto their computers for free. And guess what. The mobile services collect nickels and dimes without breaking a sweat. In other words: Micropayments are here.

Lauds: Matt Trueman is looking for young critics — in the West End. Where are they?

Let us remember that Kenneth Tynan was 25 when he took up the post in 1952 that is to be vacated by de Jongh, before graduating to the Observer only two years later. And, it was a 26-year-old Michael Billington that first reviewed for the Times in 1965.

Prime: “How Not to Photograph” — a series of drolly incisive blog entries by British photographer Colin Pantall. (via

Tierce: Did Giampaolo Giuliani, a technician at an Italian nuclear physics lab, predict the catastrophic quake at L’Aquila, or was his announcement just a fluke? (Remember radon?) (via  The Morning News)

Sext: For a few years in the mid-Eighties, I worked in an office at 1 Broadway. For me, it was the acme of workplaces. Photos from Scouting NYC — not surprisingly, Scout sees things that I missed.

Nones: A lucid analysis by journalist Asli Aydintasbas of the knack that American leaders, up to but not including President Obama, have had for getting Turkey wrong. (Hint: talk of “moderate Islam” irritates everybody.)

Vespers: It used to be that publishers printed books. Ancient history — except at the most ancient continually-operating publisher in the world, the Cambridge University Press, founded by Henry VIII in 1534. The lithographic CUP is losing £2,000,000 a year.

Compline: It’s a first, all right, and I hope that it lasts. I wish it were the last. The Vermont legislature has overridden a gubernatorial veto to enact same-sex marriage. No judicial activism required this time!


Daily Office:

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009


Matins: Matt Taibbi lays it all out for you, in no uncertain terms. “It’s over — we’re officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock…” (via Mike O’Neill)

Lauds: Listen, it’s disgusting that female actors “age” so much faster than their male colleagues that they find themselves playing the mothers of characters played by men hardly any younger than themselves. But maybe there’s a good reason that has nothing whatever to do with crow’s feet.

Prime: Confucius say, a picture is worth a thousand words. (Citation, anyone?) RJ say, a thousand words is not too many. This week’s Economist cover gets a handy explication at Strange Maps.

Tierce: GM’s goal of recapturing 29% of the American auto market, set at the beginning of this decade, probably contributed to the company’s distress. (And it’s not the “29.”) (via Morning News)

Sext: “You’d better take the highway, because my way is for me only”: memos from Edward Mike Davis, proprietor of the Tiger Oil family of companies, make hilarious reading now. (Via Things Magazine)

Nones: It’s hard to read the BBC’s story about increased surveillance on the Mexican border without feeling that received morality makes people really, really stupid.

Vespers: Is the recession/depression stomping out ambition? Choire Sicha thinks so, and he’s going to write a book about it.

Compline: What impresses me about President Obama’s press conference this evening is his ability to address issues substantively but in terms that almost everyone can understand.


Daily Office:

Monday, March 16th, 2009


Matins: Is President Obama going too far on the economy, or not far enough? Both, says The Economist, in a piece that explicitly opposes voters’ interests (“rage”) and “market confidence.”

Lauds: Steve Martin will “produce” a high school performance of Picasso at the Lapin Agile. That is, he’ll contribute (mightily) toward the costs, after parents banned the play from the high school itself.

Prime: What to do when a much-loved blogger dies? That’s what Robert Guskind’s executor will have to decide, vis-à-vis Gowanus Lounge.

Tierce: Louis Uchitelle’s report on using the railway bailout of the 1970s as a template for saving Detroit reminds me of the importance of taxonomy.

Sext: “How to Write Like an Architect,” Doug Patt’s brisk clip at YouTube, is more than a primer on stylish block printing. Like the most seductive advertising, it holds out the promise of a life well-lived. (via

Nones: You know things are bad if the best thing the Irish can think up at the moment is how to repatriate Irish-Americans.

Vespers: Lance Mannion won’t be reading Blake Bailey’s new biography of John Cheever.

Compline: They’re looking for qualified workers in the Auvergne (“backwater” is a serious understatement) — and beginning to find them.


Daily Office:

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


Matins: Bernard Madoff is expected to plead guilty to 11 felony counts — enough to put him away for several lifetimes. How very dissatisfying!

Lauds: Movie box office is up — so why are the studios laying people off? Because they’re part of ailing bigger conglomerates. Take GE, for example … (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Meet Kate McCully, Boston’s Grammar Vandal.

Tierce: I try to avoid writing about stories that I don’t understand, but Stephen Labaton’s “Some Banks, Citing Strings, Want to Return Federal Aid” has me scratching a hole in my scalp.

Sext: John Tierney focuses his skepticism on the meaning of dreams. (No surprise: he makes it sounds kinda like Ouija.)

Nones: General de Gaulle’s withdrawal from the military command of NATO, in 1966, made great sense. So does President Sarkozy’s return.  

Vespers: Alexander Chee’s “Portrait of My Father,” at Granta Online.

Compline: Christopher Shea shares the outrage of the latest stretch of academic exploitation: not only do TAs have to do a full-time job, but they have to waive all the benefits that go with full-time work.


Daily Office:

Monday, March 9th, 2009


Matins: As a big believer in the effectiveness of no-fly zones, I agree with this proposal for dealing with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Lauds: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest lady in the West End? The answer? A whole deck of baseball cards, leading with playwright Bola Agbaje as “The New Voice” but with plenty of room for “Queen Bee” and “Eternal Siren.”  (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Over the weekend I discovered a constellation of Web sites that seem to be keeping the preppie flame burning. The Trad, for example…

Tierce: A caption from the print edition: “Similarities (and differences) exist in David Axelrod’s relationship with the current president and Karl Rove’s with the past.”

Sext: Great news: Chuck Norris talks of running for President of Texas. (via Joe.My.God.)

Nones: Good news (sort of): Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, insists that the collision that killed his wife, and sent him to the hospital, had to have been an accident.

Vespers: At Emdashes, Martin Schneider has a go at cutting Ian McEwan’s reputation down to size. What might have been an irritating exercise is rather worth reading.

Compline: Now that the “Consumer Society” is on its deathbed, it’s safe for critics to take hitherto unfashionable pokes at sacred cows, and Jonathan Jones, at the Guardian, has his needle out.   (more…)

Friday Movies:
Confessions of a Shopaholic

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009


Jerry Bruckheimer meets Isla Fisher. Who wins? In the long term, I think that the actress will be bringing audiences to this movie years and years past its sell-by date.

Daily Office:

Monday, February 23rd, 2009


Matins: Lest Academy Aware euphoria inspire forgetfulness, let’s travel to another part of California: the sad town of Perris, where Lawrence Downes finds a the housing crisis in a nutshell.

Perris was essentially a company town for corporate home builders. Now parts are a living foreclosure museum, with subdivisions tracing the staggering arc of boom and bust. Some still gleam. Others lie stained and rotting in the desert sun. And some, like Mountain View, are frozen, half-built: accidental monuments to mass delusion.

Lauds: Time joins the chorus of media neurotics who want popular movies to be nominated for Academy Awards. This has got to be the final rejection of Boomer values.

Prime: And here I thought I’d already posted links to Jean Ruaud’s new photoblog, beware, wet paint! In the Daily Office, I mean.

Tierce: Timothy M Dolan, Archbishop of Milwaukee, will be coming to St Patrick’s. At first glance, he seems to be about as good a choice as one could hope for. (Like our Federal courts, the Catholic hierarchy has been packed with conservatives who will persist despite liberalizing trends.)

Sext: There’s a witty French movie to be made from this story . . .

Nones: Just as one thought, people all over India are watching shows about Slumdog Millionaire on televisions, just as, in the movie itself, they’re shown watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Vespers: If you’re feeling a bit tired and beleaguered, worried that the world will still be here tomorrow, then you probably won’t take much comfort from Kate Kellaway’s manifesto (disguised as a news article) in the Guardian: “‘A whole library in wafer-lhin form’.”

This may be the last year in which it is possible to be ebook or mbook (of which more later) illiterate. We in the UK are on the verge of extraordinary changes in the way we read, think about narrative and define the book itself. Already the US and Japan are chapters ahead of us (the UK is a relatively timid, conservative bookworm). This month sees the US launch of Amazon’s Kindle 2 (a refined version of the handheld ebook as yet unavailable here) which will eventually make it possible for book victims like me to put down our heavy bags of books and trip lightly into the future with a whole library contained in a wafer-like, wireless form.

Compline: From time to time, I express my opinion that artificial persons (ie corporations) ought not to be allowed to own intellectual property. I have a number of reasons for this radical idea, but here’s a very clear one. Oxford physicist Joshua Silver has invented $19 eyeglasses for the world’s poor; he’s hoping to bring the price down.

Silver said there has been some resistance from the eyewear industry. Years ago, one vision company offered a “substantial amount of money” to him if he sold them his technology, but Silver said he declined because he had no assurance that it would be used to bring low-cost glasses to the poor.

How stupid did they think an Oxford scientist would be?

Daily Office:

Thursday, February 19th, 2009


Matins: Bill Moyers talks to Simon Johnson about breaking big things (banks &c) into small things, and, by extension, reversing the insane consolidation trend that has beguiled bankers and investors since the Sixties. Have a look at Smashing Telly first.

Lauds: Every New Yorker knows that the guy or gal who takes your order at the corner bistro is probably waiting for some really good news about an audition, but what’s harder to remember is that waiting on tables may continue to pay the rent even after landing the lead in an Off-Off-Broadway show. And who should know better than Terry Teachout? (via Maud Newton)

Prime: A list that I’ll be poring over for the next week or so: Bryan Appleyard’s TimesOnline list of the “100 Best Blogs.” (via Anecdotal Evidence on the list!)

Tierce: New York’s Economic Development Department has launched an initiative to retrain (and retain!) financial-services workers who have lost their jobs. The plan sounds vague enough to generate either a re-education program, a venture-capital bank, or both.

Sext: Sir Bernard Ashley has died, at the age of 82. His business career, hitched as it was to the creative sensibilities of his wife, Laura, who died in a fall in 1985, is a disappointing reproof to the maxim that “no one is irreplaceable.” It would seem that Laura Ashley was.

Nones: Three accessories to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the thirteenth journalist to die in a “contract-style” killing during the rule of Vladimir Putin, have been acquitted by a Russian court.

Vespers: Thanks to a heads-up from George Snyder, I tootled down to Sotheby’s this afternoon for the last day of the Valmadonna Trust Library exhibition. A collection of 13,000 books in Hebrew and, some of them handwritten and most of them quite old. Although I didn’t stay long, I was deeply impressed by the spirit of rigorous and revered learning.

Compline: Ha-ha-ha those crazy women drivers — don’t they know that they lack the “driving gene“? That’s what a would-be funny article in the Lebanese laddie magazine UMen claims.


Daily Office:

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009


Matins: For what it’s worth, I support the mortgage bailout that President Obama is expected to unveil in Phoenix later today. Helping those who can’t afford to pay their mortgages is the right thing to do. Helping homeowners whose mortgages are simply “underwater” — worth more than the home’s likely sales price — is a different problem that ought to be addressed in some other way, and not right now.

Lauds: The whole town’s talking — or so it seems — about Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera, with the one (1) singer who has ever given me pleasure in an opera house, Sondra Radvanovsky. Steve Smith gave the show such an enthusiastic review that I had to get a ticket. 

Prime:  No Sh*t, Please; We’re British: R*tard Rids Reptile Researcher’s Reserves of Reclusive Retrosaur’s Refuse. Okay, I made up “retrosaur.” But it’s pretty cool as neologisms go, don’t you think? In case you’re wondering what it means, a “retrosaur” is a lizard that everyone thought was extinct — which is what this exceedingly English story is all about.  (via Brainiac)

Tierce: More good news from Washington: stepped-up merger scrutiny, and this time with brains. Rob Cox reports.

But there is a growing movement in the antitrust community to challenge this rational choice theory of neoclassical economics in favor of behavioral economics. Under this school of thought — loudly espoused by Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers — economists examine how real people actually make decisions.

Applying behavioral economics to antitrust “risks expanding the scope of agency review to transactions that were previously unassailable,” two lawyers with Skadden Arps, Neal R. Stoll and Shepard Goldfein, wrote in The New York Law Journal last month. It would, among other changes, require the retention of psychologists alongside the economists, marketers and industry experts currently reviewing deals.

Sext: Does anyone remember Lady Fanny of Omaha? (The great Barbara Harris, in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.) Now we have Robert Allen Stanford, Texan financier and alleged swindler, dubbed Sir Allen by the government of Antigua in gratitude for his benefactions, which ranged from cleaning up the state balance sheets to sponsoring a cricket league.  

In Texas, Robert Allen Stanford was just another wealthy financier.

But in the breezy money haven of Antigua, he was lord of an influential financial fief, decorated with a knighthood, courted by government officials and basking in the spotlight of sports and charity events on which he generously showered his fortune.

I know that it’s silly, but I already think of him as “Sir Allen of Obama.”

Nones: The crucifix crisis has flared up in Italy again. A teacher has been sacked for removing the (non-compulsory) crucifix from his classroom, and the supreme court has let stand the conviction of  Jewish judge who refused to serve in a courtroom adorned with a cross.

Vespers: In a classic case of the deadly short-circuiting that can occur when book publishers have other interests — as, being components in media empires these days, they all do — Brian, at Survival of the Book, comments on Barry Ritholtz’s problems with McGraw-Hill, which didn’t like what he had to say about Standard & Poor’s, a McGraw-Hill property.

It’s also interesting to note yet another example of an author going right online with his case, and with a whole lot of material, to prove his innocence. On this post, he includes revised versions of pieces of the manuscript and footnotes, all of which he has every right to post. He’s making the case the he himself did not expose this story to the media but now that it’s out there, he can explain himself and his position as an author at a massive corporate publisher. As more such cases emerge and more authors speak out and get attention for it, perhaps publishers will work more in partnership with authors rather than seeing them as disposable manufacturers churning out products they depend on. As authors are expected to do more marketing, more publicity, more leg work all around on behalf of their books, then publishers must also know that they are armed with tools to broadcast their complaints.

Compline: Now, this is fun: in a new Pew poll, respondents were asked if they were happy where they lived or if they’d like to move.

Seven-in-ten rural men are content where they are, compared with just half of rural women.

Hmmm . . . how mysterious! (via Snarkmarket)


Daily Office:

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009


Matins: Who are these people?

Many Americans have welcomed roundups of what the agency calls “ordinary status violators” — noncitizens who have no outstanding order of deportation, but are suspected of being in the country unlawfully, either because they overstayed a visa or entered without one.

It goes to show how ignorant such “Americans” are of their own family history, which may well have involved deportation or nativist discrimination. Where are the “I’m WASP and I’m proud!” bumper stickers?

Lauds: It’s very late and I’ve been writing all day; maybe that’s why the idea of a play — no, a musical! — about Charles Ponzi, that eponymous person whose name is on everyone’s lips these days, sounds like a great idea.

Prime: We pause to remember Doucette Cherbonnier, Slimbolala’s great-aunt, a ninetysomething who has been laid to her doubtless uproarious rest.

Tierce: Michael Cooper’s depressing report about transit cuts around the nation, forced by receding tax revenues, in an age of rising ridership, gives me an idea.

Sext: Quote of the Day: Richard Skeen, president of sales and marketing at now-defunct Doubledown Media, publisher of Trader Monthly and Dealmaker:

[advertising to bankers and encouraging them to spend money has become] incredibly out of vogue.

Nones: In a strong sign that the Williamson Affair is not going to be swept away as easily as the Vatican would like, German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to press for an “explanation.” Bear in mind that it is very unusual for a European head of state to take issue with the Vatican’s actions.  

Vespers: Literary life isn’t all envy and backstabbing. Alexander Chee shares the pleasure of some richly social moments spent among people who care about letters.

Compline: Receipt of an email from Ms NOLA this afternoon marked a change in my schedule. At 7 PM, I found myself at McNally Jackson, the great NoLIta bookstore in Prince Street, for a reading — more of a racontation — by In the Stalin Archives author Jonathan Brent.


Friday Movies:

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009


Wowser! Is Taken ever the film to see in a dark and cold season. There was applause at the showing that Quatorze and I attended, and a woman in the audience hailed Liam Neeson’s character as “the new James Bond!” I think it just came out.

Daily Office:

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009


Matins: Back to Afghanistan, where the war always made sense: one hopes that this is how our Iraqi misadventure will end, with a withdrawal to the most troubled part of Central Asia known to the West. What happens in Iraq really never did, at day’s end, matter, except to the Iraqis and to the petulant son of George H W Bush. The future of Pakistan (and, with it, India) is however tied up in the mountain fastnesses where a version of Iranian is lingua franca.

Lauds: Although I’m disinclined to poach from coverage of the Book Review, Toni Bentley’s review of a new translation of Akim Volynsky’s Ballet’s Magic Kingdom: Selected Writings on Dance in Russia, 1911-1925 is so chock-a-block with densely beautiful passages about ballet that I must mention it here.

Prime: Is Alaska really that big? Too bad it looks like a maple leaf.

Tierce:  Of all the rackets to complain about in an apparently noisy neighborhood, a Hamburger homeowner has sued to close a nearby day-care center. Carter Dougherty reports.

Sext: Although I can muster a few plausible observations to explain why I didn’t know until today about the Bacon Explosion, a torpedo of cholesterol that was launched on an unsuspecting world on or about Christmas Day, I think it’s best just to admit that I simply not cool. What’s really interesting is that I read about it in the Times. That’s how I found out about the latest (?) Blogosphere sensation.

Nones: Members of Sri Ram Sena (the Army of Lord Ram) assaulted and chased women drinking in a public bar in Mangalore, Karnataka, according to BBC News. The group’s leader, Pramod Mutalik, says it is “not acceptable” for women to go to bars in India.”

For the past two days, he has argued that Saturday’s assault on the women was justifiable because his men were preserving Indian culture and moral values.

Vespers: A few weeks ago, I came up with the concept of “Dorm Lit” — the masculine correlative to “Chick Lit.” A bookcase stocked with Mailer, Vonnegut, Heller, Pynchon, and The Catcher in the Rye is the prototypical Dorm Shelf. Just last night, I was wondering what newer authors might join these august ranks? Ms NOLA mentioned Murakami — Bingo! And now the brouhaha over the facts of Roberto Bolaño’s life reminds me to add the Chilean author to the list. You don’t even have to read any of the late writer’s books, because the quarrel over his biography seems torn from one of his stories.  

Compline: It’s hard to imagine the publication by any mainstream American newspaper or magazine of Seumas Milne’s attribution of social progress in Latin America — and rejection of neoliberalism worldwide — to the Cuban Revolution. Harper’s or The New Yorker might print a watered-down version, but not what appeared in The Guardian.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009


Matins: Davos is shaping up to be the party not to be seen at this year. Our Governor Paterson is the latest defector. The White House is sending Valerie Jarrett.

Lauds: Terry Teachout writes about the unglamorous side of being an opera librettist. Asked how he does it all, the man of letters gives the manly answer:

I’m extremely humble about whatever gifts I may have, but I am not modest about the work I do. I work extremely hard and all the time.

Prime: Now that it’s over, I can read about it: the era of Press Bush. Errol Morris asks three wire-service photographers to talk about their most illustrative photographs of the late President. (via

Tierce: Preserving the death camp at Auschwitz poses a peculiar problem: the installation wasn’t built to last. And parts of it were blown up by the evacuating Germans, who assuredly weren’t concerned about the difficulty of maintaining a ruin.

Sext: Clyde Haberman talks about “nontraditional ‘shaming punishments’,” but I thought that shaming punishments were traditional. It’s prison time that’s new and “improved” (not).

Nones: And here I thought that “slumdog” was a standard insult in Mumbai, applied to anyone (particularly anyone Muslim) from the city’s rather ghastly slums. Not so.

The screenplay writer, Simon Beaufoy, said people should not read too much into the title. “I just made up the word. I liked the idea. I didn’t mean to offend anyone,” he said.


Vespers: Notwithstanding his prodigious output, John Updike was too young, at 76, to leave us. The commodore of American letters, he guided a convoy of writers from the avowedly amoral shoals of modernism to a native harbor of immanence, and he set his ships a high example for polished decks.

Compline: It were churlish not to wish long lives to the eight children born tout d’un coup, in the Miracle of Kaiser Bellflower. What a Mozartstag! John Updike dead, a human octopus born!


Daily Office:

Monday, January 26th, 2009


Matins: When Kathleen read the Op-Ed piece in this morning’s paper, “How Words Could End a War,” her impatience boiled over. “They had to do a study to prove this?”

“This” being the possibility that words to the effect of “we’re sorry” could induce Israelis and Palestinians to consider peaceful coexistence.

Lauds: Can serious actresses have “big bosoms”? Helen Mirren wants to know — in a Michael Parkinson inverview from 1975. That’s so long ago that — is her bust the smaller figure? (via The Wronger Box)

Prime: You may recall that the State of West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1861, when Virginia seceded from the United States. You may be surprised to learn that the Federal government proposed a truly radical redrafting of Virginia’s borders, effectively confining it to the Shenandoah Valley.

Tierce: Big Brother as cruise director: Pesky tenant’s lease is not renewed at community-oriented rental in Long Island City. And he’s surprised!

Sext: Here is a list of recent books that have changed the world. Sorry! They’re about world-changing people, inventions, and whatnot. Or so their publishers want us to believe. (via

Nones: This isn’t funny, I know, but still: Geir Haarde, who has just stepped down as Iceland’s Prime Minister —  “the first world leader to leave office as a direct result of the financial crisis” — wasn’t going to seek re-election anyway, owing to throat cancer. The leader of rival Social Democrat party, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, has ruled herself out as Haarde’s successor; she is being treated for brain cancer.

Vespers: Here’s a book that I will buy the moment I see it in a shop: To The Life of the Silver Harbor: Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy on Cape Cod, by Reuel K. Wilson.

Compline: Now that the children have gone to bed, it’s safe to read about bonobos, or, if you prefer, about what bonobos have taught Meredith Chivers, “a creator of bonobo pornography.”


Weekend Update:
Long Weekends

Monday, January 19th, 2009

I wish I were a better race horse. Pacing is everything, and my pacing is off. Long weekends throw me. Their promise of “three days off” rarely materializes. Perhaps that’s because I’m a self-employed worker who sets my own hours as a matter of course — what do I need with a day or two off, much less three. I could take every day off, if I wanted to. But that’s exactly what the problem comes down to. Because I could take the day off, I can’t.

The movie that we watched this evening was entirely Kathleen’s choice, but it’s my favorite Preston Sturges movie: The Palm Beach Story. Ordinarily, I wonder why this 1942 masterpiece doesn’t generally rate the top-ranking that I give it. But tonight I could see why it doesn’t. A movie about rich, entitled people being foolish and self-indulgent is unlikely to amuse the general public. Only people who have spent time with rich, entitled people being foolish are going to chuckle. Everyone else is going to be at least mildly offended.

I put it to you: how do you feel about the Ail & Quail Club scene? Bang bang!

Daily Office:

Monday, January 19th, 2009


Matins: Frank Rich’s brief memoir of growing up in Washington as the child of parents who weren’t in government occasions thoughts about what the new President and a sympathetic Congress might do for the political orphans of the District of Columbia. “White Like Me.”

Lauds: This morning’s arts link is not primarily motivated by a desire to scoop Joe Jervis. (JMG was my number-one source for news about Flight 1549.)

Prime: I don’t know how long it would have taken me to find AllFacebook on my own — but then, does one find anything altogether on one’s own anymore? In this case, it was a matter of following a Facebook link posted by Jean Ruaud.

Tierce: Haji Bismullah, “no longer deemed an enemy combatant,” is released from imprisonment at Guantánamo and sent home to Afghanistan, just like that!  We’re assured by the outgoing Vice President, however, that the prisoners who remain at the outpost are “hardcore” bad guys.

Sext: Kathleen and I can’t decide if we’re up for Will Ferrell’s one-man Broadway show, You’re Welcome, America. A Final Night With George W Bush.

Nones: In the famous fairy tale, it was enough for a small child to observe that the emperor was wearing no clothes. In today’s more jaded, news-saturated world, it took a pair of shoes to point out that the clothes were worn by no man. Muntadhar al-Zeidi is a hero, and his request for political asylum in Switzerland ought to be expedited.

Vespers: From Hamburg to Montevideo, twenty years after the Great War’s end.

Compline: Stanley Fish has a look at Frank Donoghue’s The Last Professors. A Requiem for the Liberal Arts, in the key of Sharp Business.


Video Note:
True Love

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009


Washing up after this evening’s dinner with Ms NOLA and M le Neveu, I seized on Witness For the Prosecution for quick entertainment, knowing that it would be sharp and clever from the start — so that I could turn it off when I needed to do so.

(Did I say “knowing”? I’ve just spent fifteen minutes trying to copy this clip from the latest version of Corel’s WinDVD. As usual, I might add.)

About two minutes after husband-and-wife team Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester made their first appearance, I realized that Fossil Darling and I have been playing these roles ever since 1963. Both of us, shifting back and forth between the barrister and his nurse. We’re always ready with Lanchester’s officious helpfulness; we know what’s best for Patient! Sometimes — quite often! — we are both Laughton: “Oh, shut up!”

[Someday] I’ll snatch her thermometer and plunge it through her shoulderblades.

That’s why Michael’s sainted mother, and now Kathleen, would/will say, “Oh, you two!”