Archive for the ‘Day Job’ Category

Daily Office:

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009


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.


Daily Office:

Thursday, June 25th, 2009


 ¶ Matins: At Brainiac, Christopher Shea asks about a “blue collar renaissance.” He has been reading Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, of course. Somewhat more solid evidence that the scope of “knowledge worker” is expanding appears in Louis Uchitelle’s Times story, “Despite Recession, High Demand for Skilled Labor.”

Lauds: At The House Next Door, Shelby Button reports on the deadCENTER Film Festival, in Oklahoma City.

Prime: Robb Mandelbaum traces a small-business-friendly amendment to the Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights Act — and speculates on its demise.

Tierce: When mom forgot his 73rd birthday, Tony Marshall was quick to call the doctor and complain about her growing “confusion.”

Sext: At Inside Higher Ed, Ben Elson reports on the number one problem affecting Americans today: student parking. (via The Awl)

Nones: What? There are Somalian Members of Parliament? Still? Fewer and fewer, perhaps — but that there are any is surprising.

Vespers: Rebecca Steinitz, at The Rumpus, writes so alluringly about Julia Strachey’s Cheerful Weather for a Wedding (1932) that I’ve just ordered a copy.

Compline: In The New Yorker, Jill Lepore draws a distinction between parenthood and adulthood. An important distinction — don’t you think?

Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office:

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


Matins: At the risk of sounding impetuous: my response to the Times‘s account of Archbishop Dolan’s first news conference is a happy smile. His way of reminding reporters that the Church’s position on same-sex marriage is “clear” suggests that he doesn’t care what it is.

Lauds: Go ahead, it’s Thursday: kill the morning by feasting your eyes on jacket art at the Book Cover Archive. (via Arts Journal)

Prime: A touch of White Mischief for the weekend: Lady Idina Sackville, subject of a forthcoming biography by one of her great-granddaughters: The Bolter.

Tierce: The nation’s second-largest mall operator, General Growth Properties, has filed for bankruptcy. As usual, the culprit was good-times leverage that opened up an abyss.

Sext: Pesky rodents driving you crazy? Do what the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department plans to do: blow the varmints to kingdom come by igniting a “calibrated mixture of oxygen and propane” in their burrows. It’s “humane,” they say. Watch for yourself!

Nones: It’s very difficult not to have problems with the religion called “Islam” after the remarks of a Shiite madrasa leader in Kabul, commenting on protests by Afghan women against a repressive new “home life” law.

Vespers: Patrick Kurp reflects on the difference between a public library and a university library.

Compline: How George Snyder, one of the most inquisitively literate men I know, manages to get from day to day on Planet Arrakis in Los Angeles is quite beyond me. But he does; and, as Irene Dunne put it, “he’s pretty cute about it, too.”

Bon weekend à tous!


Weekend Update (Friday Edition):
Stewardship Under Fire

Friday, April 10th, 2009


You hear a lot about “stewardship” these days — and you’re sure to hear more. Stewardship is an old mode of thought that is being refitted for unprecedented circumstances. In the past, stewards took care of things on behalf of powerful employers, better known as magnates; stewards constituted, in turn, a very small clutch of employees. Just as there weren’t many magnates, there weren’t many stewards. From now on, though, we’re all going to be stewards, and we’ll be taking care of things on behalf of unborn generations. We don’t really know how this works.

One thing that stands out in Mark Bowden’s Vanity Fair profile of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr, the current ruler of the grand duchy known as The New York Times, is that Mr Sulzberger is an honorable steward, a man who has done everything that he can think of to make sure that the newspaper that he inherited is passed on to readers of the future. As Mr Bowden’s parallel sketch of the parlous state of the newspaper industry in general and the Times in particular makes clear, however, this essentially conservative mission may well be wrong-headed, even disastrous, endangering the very thing that Mr Sulzberger wants to protect.

To their credit, the Sulzbergers have long treated the Times less as a business than as a public trust, and Arthur is steeped in that tradition, rooted in it, trained by it, captive to it. Ever the dutiful son, he has made it his life’s mission to maintain the excellence he inherited—to duplicate his father’s achievement. He is a careful steward, when what the Times needs today is some wild-eyed genius of an entrepreneur.

Glimmering beneath the sparkle of Mr Bowden’s stern but compassionate prose is the sorrow of a young man — nearing sixty, Mr Sulzberger still seems to be young, almost inappropriately so — who is neither a journalist nor a businessman, but only a well-intentioned citizen, trying to steer an institution through rapids that require a cracking expertise in one field or the other (probably business). At only one point does Mr Bowden advance a possible solution.

In fairness, no one has the answer for newspapers. Some, such as former Time managing editor Walter Isaacson, Alan D. Mutter, a former newspaperman and Silicon Valley C.E.O., and Peter Osnos, of PublicAffairs, all of whom have experience as executives, are pushing some form of micro-payment. If the Times, in partnership with the big search-engine companies, got paid a few pennies for every person who clicks on a link to its content, it might replace the old business model for advertising. The price of accessing a single item would be so small that it would hardly be worth the trouble to hunt up a pirated version. Some have suggested that all of the major news providers should band together and withhold their content from the Internet until such a pricing agreement can be put in place. It seems clear that drastic action is required. One top editor at another newspaper put it this way: “Ask yourself this—if the Internet existed and newspapers didn’t, would there be any reason to invent newspapers? No. That tells you all you need to know.”

Let us hope that people close to Mr Sulzberger make sure that the urgency of this paragraph is made clear to him, and that he finds the courage to delegate leadership to the best wild-eyed genius, not just to the one who hits it off best with him.

The Week at Portico: Kate Lindsey sang at the Museum last Friday, accompanied by Ken Noda. Kathleen was too tired to go — although not too tired to join me afterward at Caffè Grazie for dinner. She missed a good one! ¶ I wrestled with John Wray’s Lowboy for days before realizing that I’d been misled by the sheaf of careless reviews that this somewhat mixed book has generated, but James Wood came to the rescue, and helped me to clear away the common reading. It happens from time to time that I read a “hot” book and like it well enough, but come away thinking that it can’t be very good, because it doesn’t measure up to the run of reviews. Instead of feeling out-of-it and curmudgeonly, I must remember that most reviews are dashed off by harried Grub Streeters, and quite likely to mischaracterize unusual, but compelling, books such as Mr Wray’s. ¶ Somehow, I don’t fall into the trap where movies are concerned; I believe that I don’t expect very much from movie critics, with whom, in any case, I expect to disagree. I may be wildly wrong about Un baiser, s’il vous plaît, but I certainly enjoyed thinking (and writing) about it. ¶ Joseph O’Neill kicks off this week’s Book Review with an appreciation of Samuel Beckett’s youthful letters. It’s hard, though, to think of Beckett as ever having been youthful.

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:

Thursday, February 5th, 2009


Matins: Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for Uncle Niall. This time, “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid” really means what it says. A tsunami of economic disarray is barreling toward the ship of state. Unlike the pooh-bahs in Washington, Professor Ferguson believes that the ship is at present upside-down, rather like the SS Poseidon you might say, and that trying to borrow our way out of the problem à la Keynes is rather like what “climbing” for the boat deck was in that disaster.

Lauds: The 25 Random Things meme (see below) is one thing; the truly daring will be sending their Facebook portraits to Matt Held to have them painted (possibly) and exhibited in all their unflattering glory. (via ArtFagCity)

Prime: I never miss a chance to rejoice that I’ve lived into a new epistolary age; when I was younger, people didn’t answer my letters because they were “intimidated.” The 25 Random Things meme, however, is something altogether and delightfully new. Memes like it have been circulating for “ages,” but something about the Facebook tag has prompted a lot of scribbling — 35,700 pages of randomness. Douglas Quenqua reports — without saying a thing about himself!

Tierce: Learning about the Bacon Explosion in the pages of The New York Times — and not on the Internet — was bad enough. Discovering the frabjilliant Web log of Sandro Magister there is really the limit!

Sext: A fantastic slideshow: The End — or words to that effect. Repeat 189x. Brought to you by Dill Pixels.

Nones: The last thing China needs right now is a major drought, but that’s what’s afflicting the north-central, wheat-growing provinces.

Vespers: Sheila Heti interviews Mary Gaitskell for The Believer.

Compline: Something to chew on over the weekend: where both quantity and quality of work are measurable, as, say, in academia, is the childless candidate for a position intrinsicially preferably to the parent? Ingrid Robeyns kicked off the debate at Crooked Timber. (via Brainiac)


Daily Office:

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008


Matins: “The athlete is on the floor”: listening to Warren Buffett discuss the credit crunch with Charlie Rose. The American economy is a great athlete, but it has suffered cardiac arrest. The only thing to do is to get it back up and running. That will involve convalescence in the form a two-year recession.

I piously wish that everyone in the country could listen to Mr Buffett’s remarks and, wherever necessary, have them explained just as clearly.

Tierce: Brent Staples writes concisely about the flummery surrounding college-entrance exams. Schools aren’t the only institutions whose reliance on test scores is lazy.

Sext: Except for brief and urgent messages, I refuse to have cell phone conversations with people who are driving. Here’s why.

Vespers: David M Herszenhorn files an interesting report about senatorial dissent to the rescue package, “A Curious Coalition Opposed Bailout Bill.”  


Daily Office:

Monday, September 29th, 2008


Matins: The extent of Paul Newman’s philanthropies does not, and ought not to shade by a hair, our estimation of his talent as an actor — which, in any case, needs little boosting. But it’s not a bad thing that he set the bar for matinee idols very, very high. Aljean Harmetz reports (as I suspect she hoped she’d never have to.)

Lauds: Lucky me. I’ve got tickets, for next weekend, to The Seagull, a Chehov play that I vowed I’d never see again ever after the last time, which was an adaptation, as, in fact, have been all the Seagulls that I have seen. Next Sunday, I’ll see it for the first time straight, and what an introduction: Kristin Scott Thomas as Arkadina.

Tierce: Memo to financiers: Banks ought to be boring! Virginia Heffernan laments the rise of “Shiny Happy Bankers.”

Sext: Meet Nora Dannehy, our latest Special Prosecutor.


Daily Office:

Thursday, August 28th, 2008



“G” is for Goltz: For the true skinny on what’s been going on in Georgia, visit Michael J Totten’s Middle East Journal, where reporter extraordinaire Tom Goltz — the go-to guy for what’s going on in the Caucasus — backs up Georgian government spokesman Patrick Worms, making only a few small corrections in the official account.


Creative Contradiction: Lance Arthur warns that you do not want the creative director job — especially if you’re creative.


Bloatware: When I went back over this story, about how Best Buy is handling bloatware (the come-ons for software that are loaded by manufacturers onto new computers), I thought that there was something about customers telling a representative what they wanted; but, no: that was in this story, about camera phones.