Archive for the ‘Diplomacy Today’ Category

Daily Office:

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009


Matins: The nightmare of peak oil is back, at least according to an analysis of global production by Raymond James, reported  at both WSJ Blogs and Infrastructurist. You haven’t forgotten what “peak oil” means, I trust.

Lauds: “A book about beauty naturally must deal with its opposite, kitsch.” Really! I thought that ugliness was the opposite of beauty, not some uneducated person’s idea of beauty. Robert Fulford writes about Roger Scruton’s new book, Beauty.

Prime: Michael Klein, who has certainly put in the hours at the track (and just around the livestock), waxes eloquent about Calvin Borel’s Derby win.

He’s won the race two years in a row (and in the same way, basically, finding an opening to shimmy his charge along the inside rail to the finish line)…

Tierce: Mirth in court — not shared by everyone. As more prosecution witnesses testified to the wit and charm of Brooke Astor — and noted that it faded in the early years of this decade — jurors couldn’t help noticing that her son, Anthony Marshall, wasn’t smiling. Michael Daly reports.

Sext: Does life really imitate art? Donald Trump will find out, if and when his plans for a golf resort ever materialize on the North Sea coast of Scotland. Anyone remember Bill Forsythe’s Local Hero, with Burt Lancaster in the the Donald role?

Nones: Celebrate “Serf Liberation Day.” Okay, don’t. But be sure to read Stephen Asma’s extremely lucid account of recent-ish Tibetan history — and ask yourself how it would have worked out if the Cold War hadn’t been simmering. (via  The Morning News)

Vespers: At Survival of the Book, Brian writes provocatively about Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor and “the YA trend.”

Compline: Is anyone out there still seriously attempting to “multitask”? If so, John Tierney and Winifred Gallagher can explain why you find it so hard to concentrate.  


Daily Office:

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009


Matins: Ryan Avent, at Portfolio, is “amazed”:

The truly amazing thing to me is that parental income isn’t just crucial in getting to college, and getting through college — its effects linger on, basically, in perpetuity. One of the most remarkable findings from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project is that a child from a family in the top income quintile who does not get a college degree is more likely to wind up in the top income quintile himself than a child from a family in the bottom income quintile who does get a college degree.

Lauds: Krystian Zimerman read the riot act at Disney on Sunday night. In light of yesterday’s Lauds, you won’t be surprised to hear that I disapprove.

Prime: At Sore Afraid, Eric undergoes laser eye  surgery; has “crispness” issues, but jogs in Central Park and tootles off to Washington just the same.

We had reservations for an activity at the International Spy Museum, but Asaph started feeling unwell, probably from dehydration, but things weren’t helped when he was bitten by a large fly. I tried to reassure him, but I am not so good at that.

Tierce: An exciting, ultimately frustrating story about “cyberwarfare” in the Times  boils down to “be very afraid” boilerplate. The Economist, however, counsels a more cynically relaxed response.

Sext: It’s a living — or is it? A pair of entrepreneurial Pakistani brothers may relocate to East Asia if their prosperous bondage-gear business gets too hot to handle in Karachi.

Nones: Just in case you think that things are bad here in the USA, consider the Balkan States: Lithuania’s economy dropped by 12% from the same quarter last year. That’s an almost unimaginable contraction in terms of everyday business.

Vespers: The return of the British thriller: the Curzon Group (currently comprising three crime writers) intends to restore the lustre of a genre that, in its eyes, has been tarnished by American “production line” methods. (via Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind)

Compline: Along with indoor plumbing, a hallmark of modern civilization at its most basic is street lighting: we take the safety that it provides for granted. But streetlights are in need of a rethink, not least because powering them comes to two percent of our total energy consumption.


Daily Office:

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009


Matins: Your weekend piece: Franklin Foer on governance by nudges: leave the market alone, but manipulate participants’ incentives.

Lauds: Which do you prefer? Richard Rogers’s modernist assemblage for the Chelsea Barracks site in London, or Quinlan Terry’s, which the Prince of Wales has explicitly preferred. (via  Things Magazine)

Prime: Another weekend piece: David’s Smashing Telly! reflections on Susan Boyle, the Great Depression, “the illusion of the benign long tail,” and Sasha Baron Chomsky.

Tierce: In record numbers, Americans are staying put. I’m not sure, though, that I agree with the drift of this headline: “Slump Creates Lack of Mobility for Americans.”

Sext: As a well-known curmudgeon, I will surprise no one by calling for a ticker-tape parade in honor of Madlyn Primoff.

Nones: Reading about the “existential” threat faced by Pakistan, as Taliban forces occupy ever more territory and eject the legitimate state apparatus, I hope that somebody somewhere is developing an efffective means of response. Conventional military reaction to the Taliban has never worked in the long run.

Vespers: Garth Risk Hallberg, at The Millions, kicks off a series of pieces about “The Future of Book Coverage: R I P, N Y T?” He goes back two years, to the closing of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s book supplement — a “disaster” that now makes sense.

Compline: Do you think that President Obama ought to meet with the Dalai Lama, considering how insulting that will be to the Chinese government?

Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office:

Thursday, April 9th, 2009


Matins: Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre take pictures of ruins. Remember when ruins were in Europe? No longer, mon cher. Below the fold, M&M’s photo of Detroit’s Central Station. “The Ruins of Detroit” — sans Beethoven. (via The Best Part)

Lauds: Daniel Barenboim, one of the greatest musicians alive, seems determined to make a mark in a second career: normalizing Arab-Israeli relations. He’ll be conducting a concert in Cairo (Al Qahirah) next week. Bravo!

Prime: Yesterday afternoon, I read at Facebook that my daughter “has gone mental for GoldFish.” I was pretty sure that she wasn’t talking Pepperidge Farm, but I pressed the proffered links anyway. Anybody remember “Captain of Her Heart,” by Blue? The lead has just about the same voice.

Tierce: Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, lists ten principles for a healthier economy. I hardly know which one I like best. (via  The Morning News)

7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to “restore confidence”. Cascading rumours are a product of complex systems. Governments cannot stop the rumours. Simply, we need to be in a position to shrug off rumours, be robust in the face of them.

Sext: Who is Susan Powter? The other day, Everything Is Terrible, a site that curates awful videos, spotted her “How to Shop at a Grocery Store.”

Nones: With the viability of tax havens in doubt, Monaco upgrades its luxury haven operation.

Vespers: Susan Sontag talks! “The elevator swished up like a gigolo’s hand on a silk stocking.” On her way, that is, to interview Philip Johnson, sometime back in the Sixties. (Via Tomorrow Museum)

Compline: Richard Kalnins grew up in Connecticut, but he spent his childhood Saturdays in Yonkers — the whole day at Latvian school.

Inside, we were strictly forbidden to speak English. My classmates and I spent the day in small classrooms, decorated with framed portraits of presidents from the first Latvian republic, where we listened to white-haired octogenarians talk about their lives in Latvia before the war. We picked through the dense pages of nineteenth-century pastoral novels, recited the names of the country’s longest rivers and biggest lakes, chanted noun declensions in singular and plural, masculine and feminine, and sat on stiff metal chairs by the piano in the basement, crooning folk songs about mowing meadows of clover and watching the sun set into the sea. The rooms were stuffy and overheated and smelled of dusty radiators and chalky erasers. Across the street, old Puerto Rican men in shirtsleeves hung out the windows of what somebody’s brother called a welfare hotel. I couldn’t stand it. I hated Latvia.

Because of the holiday weekend, the next Daily Office will appear on Tuesday, 14 April. Bon weekend à tous!

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:

Monday, March 30th, 2009


Matins: Apprehensive about the future of newspapers? Hugging those quaint little object called “books”? Here’s a story to round out your apoplexy profile: “Stop Teaching Handwriting,” by Anne Trubeck.

Lauds: First the good news; then the bad news. It’s the same story, really: Isabel Kershner’s report on a concert given by Palestinian youths for Holocaust survivors gets updated by Khaled Abu Aker, to take account of the fallout.

Prime: If you are not in the mood for it to be Monday, Jonathan Soma’s interactive Singles in America map will make your day. Be sure to play with the slider at the top of the screen, and don’t overlook the cocktail party “feed” down below. (via  Things Magazine)

Tierce: It’s not much of a story, really; and its topic — ostensibly the soon-to-end GM career of Rick Wagoner — is, when you get down to it, inertia. Because only inertia could explain “The Steadfast Optimist Who Oversaw GM’s Long Decline.” You have to wonder where anybody got the idea that corporate America is “dynamic.”

Sext: Far and away my favorite New York City bridge, the Queensboro turns 100.

Nones: If the Obama Administration is really unhappy about the Spanish prosecution of the Bush Torture Team (Gonzales, Addington, Feith &c), it can pre-empt the proceedings by seeking indictments here in the United States.

Vespers: If you’re a mystery buff, you may well know about Sarah Weinman’s blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind: Crime fiction, and more. It looks to be a depot for all sorts of information about the more serious side of murder ink. (via The Morning News)

Compline: From the Matter of Time Dept: “Hard-Pressed Colleges Accept More Applicants Who Can Pay Full Cost.” Depressing, but no surprise.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009


Matins: Now that health care reform is back in the news, an aspect of the much-maligned Canadian system ought not to be overlooked.

Lauds: Call it Cats and Rats — or whatever! Just write the book about the buck that stopped with Cai Mingchao, the Chinese dealer who had “second thoughts.” Now he’s having thirds: tears.

Prime: Jean Ruaud went to Hyères, and took a load of great pictures comme d’hab’; but did he see Mrs Wharton’s place?

Tierce: China’s unlucky number: 6521. These are “interesting times.”

Sext: They call this “counter-cultural”? Flash-mob pillow fights irk San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department. (via Morning News).

Nones: President Obama’s first visit to a Muslim country will take him to Turkey. Great news indeed.

Vespers: Michiko Kakutani’s review of William Cohan’s House of Cards — the Bear, Stearns post-mortem — makes compelling reading in its own right.

Compline: Franchise Christianity? Robert Wright recasts early-Christian history in terms of business models and globalization.


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…)

Daily Office:

Thursday, February 12th, 2009


Matins: Good news on the international justice front:

Judges at the International Criminal Court have decided to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, brushing aside diplomatic requests to allow more time for peace negotiations in the conflict-riddled Darfur region of his country, according to court lawyers and diplomats.

Lauds: What do you think? Does support from dodgy, possibly criminal corporations corrupt the arts that they subsidize? Tom Service, at the Guardian, certainly thinks so.

How can the art made at festivals sponsored by these bankrupt individuals and companies do the job that classical music should do, and have a necessary, critical voice in contemporary culture, if it continues to be supported by the dead hand of big banking?

Prime: Eric Patton celebrates the Darwin bicentennial by turning to The Pillow Book — not Peter Greenaway’s film so much as Sei Shonagon’s book — at SORE AFRAID. What on earth has the one got to do with the other? Having scrolled through Eric’s photographic lists, one will find Darwin’s conclusion all the more immanently enlightened.

I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.

Tierce: Personality clash or whistleblowing? “You decide.” Either way, Sir James Crosby, who fired an evident whistleblower when he ran the now-ailing HBOS, has had to resign as Britain’s deputy chairman of the Financial Services Authority.

Sext: We take you now from the buttoned-down elitism of The Daily Blague to Belfast, Maine, where a trust fund baby from California who collected Hitler’s silverware was found, after having been shot dead by his wife, Amber, to have been stockpiling the raw materials for a dirty nuclear bomb! (Thanks Alexander Chee!)

Nones: Isn’t it amazing? In a mere half-century, we have cluttered inner space with tons and tons of junk. Two items crashed on Tuesday.

But experts now see another potential threat. Richard Crowther explained: “Unique to the Iridium system is that all the remaining 65 satellites in the constellation pass through the same region of space – at the poles.

“So the debris cloud that is forming as a result of the Iridium satellite breakup will present a debris torus of high (spatial) density at 90 degrees to the equator that all the surviving Iridium satellites will need to pass through.”

Intact satellites share Earth’s orbit with everything from spent rocket stages and spacecraft wreckage to paint flakes and dust.

The diffuse mist of junk around our planet is the legacy of 51 years of human activity in space.

Vespers: Valerie Martin has a little list: six great novels about doomed marriages. Before peeking, make your own list. Okay, now you can look.

Compline: An amusingly ambiguous map from newgeography: American states that people don’t leave? Or states that they don’t move to? (via Brainiac)


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.”


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.


Daily Office:

Thursday, January 15th, 2009


Matins: Among the phrases that we’re going to retire for at least a few years, alongside “personal responsibility,” let’s hope that “ownership society” finds a place. It was nothing but code for the enrichment of mortgagebaggers.

Who, like the viruses that they so closely resemble, have found a new line of weakness.

Lauds: At dinner tonight, Kathleen asked me if I’d known about Peanuts and the Beethoven scores. Well, er, yes! But so what? I was never a Peanuts fan. Especially when I was a kid.

Prime: Here is a blog — The Art of Manliness — that I came across during the recent Weblog beauty pageant. I agree with almost everything it says, until author Brett McKay assumes that I know what to do with duct tape. Which, in all fairness, I must confess that he doesn’t. (He might try to teach me, though.)

Tierce: Here’s a story that took a while to appear, at least on my radar screen: How much did she know, when did she know it, and how much is hers? The Ruth Madoff Story. (Part 1/1000)

Sext: Gail Collins says it all in a few words:

I think I speak for the entire nation when I say that the way this transition has been dragging on, even yesterday does not seem like yesterday. And the last time George W. Bush did not factor into our lives feels like around 1066.

Nones: Can this really be happening (Good News Department!)? A clip from BBC World News: three-ton T-walls are coming down in Iraq, no longer needed.

Vespers: No sooner do I begin to digest the news that a new Kate Christensen novel is on the way than I open Harper’s and find a story by Joseph O’Neill!

Compline: Here’s hoping that the pilots and crew of US Air Flight 1549, captained by C B “Sully” Sullenberger, will be able to honor the city with a tickertape parade.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009


Matins: If you want to know why the Times may have to cease publication in May, you need read just this one story about the closing of Guantánamo, which makes sense on only a minimal level. Money aside, the newspaper is incapable of presenting a complex story in three paragraphs. And what else are newspapers for?

Lauds: The stupidest prediction that I’ve read in the past ten minutes (I hate to exaggerate):

Initial predictions by some art investors last year that oil-rich Arab countries, Russia, India and China would continue to spend on art, even as the United States and much of Western Europe stumbled into a recession, proved too optimistic.

Once upon a time, one might have made a remark like this about Japan. Japan could be counted upon to go on buying paintings by Nattier and subscribing to the Neue Mozart Ausgabe no matter what was going on in the European economies.

Prime: After a long absence, V X Sterne is back at Outer Life. Now that the economy is bound for hell in a handbasket, our favorite Californian capitalist is feeling much better.

Tierce: Sarah Palin complains about a class divide in America, with self-proving assertions. There is an élite class in this country, identifiable by its ability to speak clear, articulate English. Ms Palin, on the other hand, speaks what can only be called Ramshackle.

Sext: At last! We’ll be able to drive to Europe. (Via well-spaced aircraft carriers.)

Nones: A “respected coalition” of British Jewish leaders has issued a letter calling for an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza.

Vespers: Remember “writer’s block”? You’re right, I wonder what happened to it, too. Polly Frost waxes nostalgic and she has a plan!

Compline: Prince Harry is back in the news. Boy, this kid just doesn’t get it! Anybody who thinks that he’s really “third in line” for the English throne — or even nth — must be living in a tea cosy.


Daily Office:

Monday, January 12th, 2009


Matins: Of all the outgoing Administrations that I have known, none has excited the prosecutorial zeal of its opponents as keenly as the current one. Bringing the Bush Administration to justice was the main topic in yesterday’s Week in Review section of the Times, with pieces by three visiting commentators and a remonstrance by Frank Rich. Something must be done.

Lauds: The Golden Globes… The Carpetbagger reports.

Prime: Sic transit. Quite a few of the blogs indexed at for my subway stop have closed up, or not featured a new entry in a year or two.

Tierce: In a nice gesture, Bernard Madoff apologized to his fellow co-op owners at 133 East 64th Street: Sorry about that scrum of reporters at the door!

Sext: I’ll say one thing for Joe the Plumber, currently “reporting” from Israel: he’s walking proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing — in front of a microphone, anyway. If people must be entitled to their opinions, then at least they ought to have the decency to acknowledge that their opinions are uneducated. (via Joe.My.God)

Nones: Good news from Thailand: voters seem inclined to heal the urban/rural rift. Even more, the now-more-powerful government  won’t let itself get carried away.

Vespers: Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) has achieved official immortality, in the form of a Library of America volume. The book appeared in September, but William H Gass just got round to discussing it.

Compline: Let’s hope the same can never be said of Barack Obama: “After Receiving Phone Call From Olmert, Bush Ordered Rice To Abstain On Gaza Ceasefire Resolution.” Secretary Rice had carefully negotiated the wording of the resolution, only to have the rug pulled out from under her because of an imperative call from Israel.


Daily Office:

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009


Matins: Here’s hoping that no regular readers of The Daily Blague were under the illusion that the Cold War was “won” — and by US! Andrew Kramer reports on the cold Cold War.

Lauds: The year in music: Steve Smith sums up 2008.

Prime: The last thing you need is yet another blog to check out, but I’m afraid that you’ll have to make room on your list for Scouting New York at least if you have any interest whatsoever in this burg of ours. The site is kept by a professional location scout — what a dream job! (There are no dream jobs, but we don’t have to know that.

Tierce: A story that I’m afraid I was expecting to see: “State’s Unemployment System Buckles Under Surging Demand.” That the outage was repaired later the same day is not the point.

Sext: Will nonbelievers spend eternity at the back of a bus? 800 London buses will begin bearing “atheist” messages, such as “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Sarah Lyall reports.

Nones: Oops! Another I-Lied accounting story, this one involving Satyam, the outsourcing firm that provides back-office services to “more than a third of the Fortune 500 companies.” Heather Timmons reports, with Bettina Wassner.

Vespers: Don’t ask what has taken me so long, but I’ve gotten round at last to adding Koreanish to the blog roster. It is kept by novelist Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh. Yesterday, he posted an entry from this years MLA convention in San Francisco.

Compline: Stanley Fish lists his favorite American movies of all time. Of the ten, only Vertigo makes my list. I don’t begin to understand the appeal of John Wayne, and I could never omit Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, or Fred Astaire, not to mention Preston Sturgis.


Daily Office:

Monday, January 5th, 2009


Matins: What an upside-down world we are in, when Congressional Democrats bashfully support the Israeli attacks at Gaza but the Times dismisses them as “a dismal coda to the Bush administration’s second-term push for Middle East peace.”

Lauds: Ever since Ghost Town, I’ve been a huge fan of Kristen Wiig. Knocked Up was the movie that ought to have taught me, but her role in that film — as the infamously snarky production assistant — struck me as just another Hollywood bitch. As a colonoscopist, however — well! Regular readers will know why I sat up and paid attention.

Prime: Muscato strikes gold — or perhaps, since he always strikes gold, we ought to call it vermeil — with a collection of TV ads for Konsum, the konsumer emporium of the DDR. Who can resist ein tausend kleine Dinge? Don’t tune out before that starts. It could have been called New York Confidential.

Tierce: How do you spell “Idiocracy”? A-r-p-a-i-o. David Carr writes about the showboating Arizona sheriff who may, one hopes, find his true calling as a reality-show fixture — and put a stop to his travesty of public service.

Sext: The nice thing about the juggling LaSalle Brothers, currently wowing audiences at the Big Apple Circus, is that they give credit where credit is due.

According to Jake, the act is more about genetics than balance. “Juggling is such a difficult discipline to perfect,” he said. “You have to be so precise. There are very few good team juggling acts out there now. I think everyone has an individual internal rhythm.

“There’s a difference in internal rhythms,” he added. “With my brother, we’re exactly on the same page. When I watch other professional teams perform, it seems much more forced. There’s a fluency from our luck in being twins.”

Nones: The post-mortem will be interesting, and resurrection oughtn’t to be ruled out; but Waterford Wedgwood has gone into “administration” — receivership. Among the many causes, there is a sad truth:

Waterford Wedgwood has suffered from falling demand for its high-quality crystal, china and other tableware, and has recorded a loss for the last five years.

Vespers: Just when my bibliotechnical energy was failing, I encountered an encouraging entry at Anecdotal Evidence, where Patrick Kurp shares a poem by David Slavett.

“What will I re-read, or even consult?
Let us admit that, for all their heft on the shelves,
books are flighty, become souvenirs of themselves,
appealing no longer to intellect and taste
but playing to sentiment. Why else keep on hand
Look Homeward, Angel, except in the in the hope that the schoolboy
who turned its pages may show up some afternoon?”

Compline: A proper dinner at our house ends not with dessert but with a reading from Harold McGee’s On Food And Cooking. One or the other of us wants to know why such-and-such a thing happens in the kitchen. Our curiosities — Kathleen’s and mine — have very different motivations. I usually want to know What Went Wrong. Kathleen, in contrast, wants to know How Things Work. These are two sides of the same coin, the flip being whether or not you actually spend any time in the kitchen making meals. Tonight, in a rare congruence, we both wanted to the skinny on how something works: the substance known, very unscientifically, as “cream of tartar.”