Archive for the ‘Regime Change’ Category

Daily Office:

Friday, July 31st, 2009


Matins: The Urban Mole won second prize; I’d have made it the first-prizewinner. (via Good)

Lauds: A forgotten instrument from a famous score has been re-invented (one hopes!): the steel glockenspiel that Mozart had in mind for The Magic Flute.

Prime: One of the biggest problems in the way we do business — literally — is the slapdash way in which we do or don’t clean up after ourselves: “When Auto Plants Close, Only White Elephants Remain.”

Tierce: Unexpected but inevitable: what happens when lightweight Smart Cars are parked near canals. (via Infrastructurist)

Sext: How To Cook Like Your Grandmother. (via  MetaFilter)

Nones: After more than six years of expense, it has come to this:

“If there ever was a window where the seeds of a professional military culture could have been implanted, it is now long past. U.S. combat forces will not be here long enough or with sufficient influence to change it,” wrote [Col Timothy R Reese]. “The military culture of the Baathist-Soviet model under Saddam Hussein remains entrenched and will not change. The senior leadership of the I.S.F. is incapable of change in the current environment.”

Vespers: Will Blythe writes up the new new Thomas Pynchon novel — a noir detective story — at The Second Pass.

Compline: At the Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer discusses some recent findings about television as a balm for loneliness.

Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office:

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009


Matins: Ross Douthat writes lucidly about the the problem posed by someone like Sarah Palin to American politics. It has a lot to do with that problem that Americans don’t like to admit that we have: class distinctions.  

Lauds: Plans to house Gap founder Don Fisher’s modern art collection in San Francisco’s Presidio have been gored by a combination of  NIMBYism and very mistaken preservationism. (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Felix Salmon argues very persuasively against subjecting credit default swaps to regulation by state insurance commissioners. Although slightly daunting at the start, Mr Salmon’s entry is definitely worth the effort.

Tierce: They wanted to put Cecille Villacorta away for a long time. But her lawyer, Joe Tacopina (get his card, now!)  convinced the judge that the Saks saleslady had been trained to increase her commissions by sending kickbacks to favorite customers.

“Basically, Cecille’s saying, ‘You told me to do this. You trained me to do this. I made you $27 million. And I became a defendant,” Tacopina said after court yesterday.

Sext: In case you’ve ever coveted one of those Gill Sans “Keep Calm and Carry On” T shirts (complete with crown), Megan Hustad’s write-up may cure you, at The Awl.

Nones: The death of Robert McNamara occasions a great deal of reflection — if only we can find the time.

Vespers: Hey! See action in war-torn quarters of the globe while engaging in serious literary discussions with brainy fellow warriors! Join the Junior Officers’ Reading Club today!

Compline: According to Psychology Today [yes, we know that we ought to stop right there], parks occupy an astonishing 25.7% of New York City’s surface area! That’s what density makes possible. (more…)

Daily Office:

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009


Matins: In the current New Yorker, Steve Coll summarizes the Adminstration’s options in Pakistan. They don’t make for fun reading.

Lauds: Springtime for Hitler: The Producers opens in Berlin.

Prime: Christopher Hitchens on funny women. It’s not only not funny, but it conjures the image of a tar pit for humorists: the harder the writer thrashes about in his bad ideas, the thicker the laugh-prevention fixative becomes.

Tierce:  Wish I’d been there to hear about “this mistress business” myself: Vartan Gregorian testifies that Brooke Astor was already acting up when she was 97, speaking truth to Camilla P-B and dissing Catherine Z-J.

Sext: Why, according to Beth Teitell, newspapers must be saved — even if nobody reads them. (via The Morning News)

Nones: In what looks to be an embarrassing waste of time, Turkey’s “secular elites” have dreamed up an embezzling charge against President Abdullah Gul.

Vespers:Caleb Crain publishes a collection of blog entries, The Wreck of the Henry Clay: Posts & Essays 2003-2009. You can order the book or download the pdf.

Compline: Former Marine (and deputy Secretary of State) Steven Ganyard writes about emergency responsiveness and lays down its golden rule: “All Disasters Are Local


Daily Office:

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009


Matins: In one of those hard cases that the vagaries of editorial wording can decide, an Army contractor, who in what I should certainly call the heat of passion “revenge-killed” a prisoner, was finally sentenced. The prisoner had doused the contrator’s partner, a woman, in flammable liquid and set her on fire. (She later died of burns.) Read the judgment below. (via The Morning News)

Lauds: Nicolai Ouroussoff decries the latest design for a transportation hub at the World Center site as a “monument to the creative ego that celebrates [Santiago] Calatrava’s engineering prowess but little else.” 

Prime: Act today? “The 99 Most Essential Pieces of Classical Music” are on sale, as a set of MP3 downloads, for $7.99. I’m not sure that I can recommend starting a classical library this way. (via

Tierce: For the first time in my life, I bought the New York Post yesterday. How could I not, given this screaming headline: “DISS ASTOR.” Never mind that what it refers to doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. What, though, can Charlene Marshall have been thinking, when she allowed a Post reporter into her apartment?

Sext: Ian Frazier, longtime New Yorker humorist, must have started out in his playpen, seeing that he’s celebrating his fortieth birthday.

Nones: Page A11 of yesterday’s Times was entirely taken up by a call to journalists to recognize the body of water that you probably know as the “Sea of Japan” as the “East Sea.”

Vespers: Joseph O’Neill’s three boys didn’t understand why they couldn’t drop in on President Obama during a recent trip to Washington. Did they know that he was reading daddy’s book? Vintage Books certainly did. (via  Arts Journal)

Compline: In the current issue of NYRB, Sue Halpern goes after a couple of the anecdotes upon which Malcolm Gladwell argues his case in Outliers.


Daily Office:

Thursday, May 7th, 2009


Matins: Same-sex marriage will soon be on the books in Maine — barring a wingnut referendum. The governor, previously opposed to the idea although he is a Democrat, had a change of heart. Meanwhile, it’s now up to the governor of New Hampshire to sign a similar bill that has just cleared the Concord legislature.

Lauds: Hey, you’ve been to San Francisco. You love it! What a great city to walk around! Would it surprise you to learn that local architects deplore the lack of “singular iconic buildings”? Would it surprise you to learn that architects from everywhere else are just as fond of San Francisco as you are?

Prime: Marc Fitten, an Atlantan from New York City, has a new book coming out this month, Valeria’s Last Stand. In the course of promoting it, the author will be touring 100 of the nation’s independent bookstores — and blogging about it. (via Maud Newton.)

Tierce: The Marshall-Morrissey defense won two important motions today. As a result, prosecution may look a bit more gratuitously nasty than it have done if jurors had heard the excluded testimony.

Sext: A neat WaPo video on robotic bike parking in Tokyo. Not a joke! (via Infrastructurist)

Nones: Now hear this: foreign nationals will not be permitted to “live off their ill-gotten gains in the US.”

Vespers: Maud Newton reprints “an open letter from a local librarian.”

We are here working for you, New York City. Come in and use the library, check out books, get on the computers, tell everyone how great it is and how much you love the institution, but make sure you tell your politicians that this is an important issue for you — and excuse us if our smiles are a little bit tight.  

Compline: I didn’t even know that the concept had a name until today, but, boy, I’m all for it: Seasteading. You know, camping out on a big oil rig and declaring yourself to be the sovereign state of Wingnutzembourg.


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:

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:

Thursday, February 26th, 2009


Matins: It’s impossible to be cynical about the story of Ivan Cameron, even if his death makes his father the next PM.

Lauds: A show that’s as much about the history of taste as it is about “art”: Cast In Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution. In other words, a little bit of Mannerism and a lot of Bourbon. Quatorze and I went to a preview this evening, and found it all very haut de gamme. The number of objects on loan from HM the Queen was astonishing until we remembered what a fool the Prince Regent was about snapping up post-revolutionary bargains — and mounting them on gilt bronze.

Prime: If Father Tony would just make a greeting card out of his fantastic bit of photoshopping (I’m sure that he uses some other software; hence the lower case), I’d buy boxes. I didn’t even watch the speech, but the photos in the Times made me feel the same.

Tierce: I try to learn something new every day, but I don’t expect to be as surprised as I was by a story in the Times according to which

Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.

James McKinley reports.

Sext: The next time someone claims to have sighted a unicorn, don’t laugh.

Nones: As if the situation in Pakistan weren’t godawful, Bangladesh is experiencing a mutiny among its “Rifles,” as the Border Guards are known.

Vespers: A new algorithm not only identifies the oldest words in the English language, but predicts which ones are mostly likely to slip into obsolescence.

Meanwhile, the fastest-changing words are projected to die out and be replaced by other words much sooner.

For example, “dirty” is a rapidly changing word; currently there are 46 different ways of saying it in the Indo-European languages, all words that are unrelated to each other. As a result, it is likely to die out soon in English, along with “stick” and “guts”

Compline: Is there ever a good time for the academic humanities? “In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth.” An impossible demand; for studying the humanities is priceless.

Daily Office:

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009


Matins: Although I haven’t parsed President Obama’s joint-session speech, I hail his fundamental premise:

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely — to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

Lauds: Having heard Sondra Radvanovsky sing “D’amor sull’ali rosee” tonight, “I can die,” as Wagner said after writing Tannhäuser. Spinning miraculous pianissimi may not be the singer’s strongest suit — hey, she’s not bad at it, by any means — but her legato is some kind of national treasure, seamlessly winding through a bewitchment of tones and registers in a perfect marriage of judgment and control. 

Prime: Scout captures an installation on West 23rd. Man jumps from ledge!

Tierce: The L train, which connects Chelsea with Canarsie in the only way imaginable — literally — will be operated by computer from now on. Whatever that means.

Sext: It’s interesting that Farhad Manjoo looks back specifically at 1996 in his “Jurassic Web” piece at Slate. That’s when I logged on.

Nones: How about abandoning the War on Drugs and diverting those resources to a War on Weapons. We might even be able to make a difference. How many Monzer al-Kassars can there be?

Vespers: Michiko Kakutani hates Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones.

Indeed, the nearly 1,000-page-long novel reads as if the memoirs of the Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss had been rewritten by a bad imitator of Genet and de Sade…

Compline: Watch for Dating For (Broke) Dummies. Market for Romance Goes From Bullish to Sheepish.”


Daily Office:

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009


Matins: For my part, I’m willing to trust the president to keep his new helicopters reasonably simple and expensive-extras free. Either that, Mr Obama, or please just don’t fly in helicopters! “Roger, pay the two dollars!”

Lauds: This story might appear to have more to do with business cycles than the arts, but it’s a spectacular — and spectacularly frightening — story about Level Zero of the arts, which is: the city. Dubai is just a lot of buildings.

Prime: My good friend, Liz Tilsley Garcia, has climbed behind the wheel again. NOT REALLY! It’s just another sensational road trip story.

At the time, S. owned a very practical Honda to get back and forth to work. I had an equally practical Toyota and our commuting needs were well covered. However, the cars were a bit too practical. Thus, they were basically boring and totally unsexy. S. and I shared a love of driving too fast and somewhat recklessly. Our practical cars were just no fun for that sort of activity. But we didn’t have lots of money to throw around and our jobs weren’t particularly high paying. So practical it was.

Happily, someone says the magic word: “BMW.”

Tierce: A word to avoid during the current economic breakdown is “recovery.” We don’t want to go back to the good old days. Richard Florida tackles home-ownership, once the centerpiece of American economic democracy.

The housing bubble was the ultimate expression, and perhaps the last gasp, of an economic system some 80 years in the making, and now well past its “sell-by” date. The bubble encouraged massive, unsustainable growth in places where land was cheap and the real-estate economy dominant. It encouraged low-density sprawl, which is ill-fitted to a creative, postindustrial economy. And not least, it created a workforce too often stuck in place, anchored by houses that cannot be profitably sold, at a time when flexibility and mobility are of great importance.

Sext: Phil T Rich complains to Clyde Haberman that the new president is making things tough for the Billionaires For Bush.

“He’s difficult to satirize,” Mr. Boyd said. “He’s very self-aware. He calls himself out on stuff. He’s able to leaven his own heaviness.” Self-awareness, Mr. Boyd said, was not a conspicuous trait of the previous president.

Nones: With the onset of tough times, will Russian familiarity with same breed docility or protest? The smart money, according to The Independent, is on docility.

“However bad things get, ordinary people won’t become political,” says the editor of a newspaper based in Ekaterinburg, the nearest big city to Asbest. “The women will grow potatoes to see them through the hard times, and the men will drink more vodka, and that’s it.”

But there’s smarter money: Garry Kasparov.

“People have had a stable life and still think that things will get better again,” says Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion turned opposition politician. “I expect the first waves of protests to start in earnest in March or April.”

Vespers: Mark Greif’s essay on Reborn, the first installment of Susan Sontag’s  notebooks to be published by her son, David Rieff, has startled me like a sudden ray of sun pouring across a dark vault. Sontag’s thought has always felt familiar, but for the first time I have the sense of seeing it. 

Sontag made you acknowledge that she was more intelligent than you. That cost little enough. She then compelled you to admit that she felt more than you did. Her inner life was richer, even if she didn’t fully disclose it. She responded to art more vividly and completely. Not only her sense, but her sensibility, was grander.

That’s the familiar part.

Compline: What if the organization chart were turned upside-down — and the managers were charged with supporting the workers? That’s what good bosses have always done, or tried to do, but it flies in the face of the authoritarian bent of work. Aaron Swartz walks us through the well-run team. Approval plays a tiny, almost invisible role. In effect, you approve a worker when you hire him — subject to learning that you ought to fire him. There is no in-between. (via


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:

Monday, February 2nd, 2009


Matins: Is the Republican Party taking its marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. If so, why? From Frank Rich’s column, yesterday:

Obama no doubt finds Limbaugh’s grandiosity more amusing than frightening, but G.O.P. politicians are shaking like Jell-O. When asked by Andrea Mitchell of NBC News on Wednesday if he shared Limbaugh’s hope that Obama fails, Eric Cantor spun like a top before running off, as it happened, to appear on Limbaugh’s radio show. Mike Pence of Indiana, No. 3 in the Republican House leadership, similarly squirmed when asked if he agreed with Limbaugh. Though the Republicans’ official, poll-driven line is that they want Obama to succeed, they’d rather abandon that disingenuous nicety than cross Rush.

Most pathetic of all was Phil Gingrey, a right-wing Republican congressman from Georgia, who mildly criticized both Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to Politico because they “stand back and throw bricks” while lawmakers labor in the trenches. So many called Gingrey’s office to complain that the poor congressman begged Limbaugh to bring him on air to publicly recant on Wednesday. As Gingrey abjectly apologized to talk radio’s commandant for his “stupid comments” and “foot-in-mouth disease,” he sounded like the inmate in a B-prison-movie cowering before the warden after a failed jailbreak.

Lauds: Just what we need right now — and I’m not kidding. The warm and domestic light of late Bonnard, on exhibit until Kathleen’s birthday.

Prime: Get a cup of coffee and look around you. You are where you are, and everything is fine. It is clear that Tao Lin did not make you up. You can look at his blog now. (via Koreanish)

Tierce: The obvious lesson to be learned from the Geithner and Daschle tax imbroglios is that the nation’s tax system, devised principally for the aid and comfort of tax attorneys and accountants, ought to be scrapped. The very fact that the Senate Finance Committee is “trying to determine whether trips to the Bahamas and the Middle East provided to Mr. Daschle by the company should also have been reported as income” sounds the alarm: we’ve got to come up with something better — and much, much simpler.

Sext: Here’s one of those maps that goes out of its way to be difficult — only to schematize information that you couldn’t care less about: Friseurnamen at Strange Maps. Just for starters: the madness of composing a background from strands of hair. Funny, once you’ve gotten over the immediate unintelligibility.

Nones: As the pool of unemployed migrant workers in China swells, the prospect of widespread unrest looms, and the current regime appears to be no better-equipped to deal with it than its dynastic predecessors. The BBC’s Chris Hogg reports from Shanghai.

Vespers: There Are No Words Dept: John Grisham originally sent his most recent protagonist, in The Associate, to Princeton Law School. Unaware that there isn’t one. (via Brainiac)

Compline: Updating the liberal arts for Internauts: a refreshing topic of conversation in these disturbed times. Jason Kottke links to Snarkmarket, a site that’s new to me.


Daily Office:

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009


Matins: Setting aside, for the nonce, dreams of Camelot restored, let us peer deeper into history, with Russell Baker as our guide.

The blooming of literature about the Hundred Days probably has a lot to do with Barack Obama’s assuming the presidency at a moment of economic breakdown just as Roosevelt did seventy-six years ago. Parallels like this are hard for historians and journalists to resist. Could history be repeating itself? It never does, of course. Still, there are similarities too interesting to be discarded without a glance.

Lauds: Carnegie Hall announces its first “recessional” season.
The Kronos Quartet, China, Papa Haydn, Louis Andriessen, and a Polish double bill: the Chopin bicentennial and a Szymanowski festival. Interesting!

Prime: A young man who used to live in Chinatown — I knew him then — has relocated to a great university in the West, where the ghosts of Mmes Child and Fisher have inspired him (apparently) to take up cooking. I shall refer to him as “Deipnosophistos” — the Learned Banqueter — in honor of his new Web log, which demonstrates that classics scholars may indeed know more about leftovers than the rest of us. We’ll call him “Deep” for short.

Tierce: Will Richard Parsons be as good for Citigroup as he was for TimeWarner? Let’s hope so. For starters, he looks like the best possible choice.

Sext: Alexander Chee’s extensive quotation from the Goncourt diaries at Koreanish today makes me resolve to be a better person by remembering who the hell Princesse Mathilde was!

Nones: Inevitable, I suppose: In the wake of the success of Slumdog Millionaire, an organization called Realty Tours & Travel offers 4½ hour, £12 tours of Dharavi, “the biggest slum in Asia,” on the north side of Mumbai. Nigel Richardson reports in the Telegraph.  

Vespers: Yet another story about changes in publishing, this one, augustly, from Time.

Compline: Can you believe it? They’re still arguing about textbook evolution in Texas.


Daily Office:

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009


Matins: Let’s hear it for the Sexiest Couple Alive. Are. They. Not?

Lauds: Have you heard/heard of George Li yet? He’s the eleven year-old piano virtuoso whom regular reader JKM heard play the Saint-Saëns Second Piano Concerto just the other day.

Prime: George Snyder poses the question that has enchained Americans since the assasination of JFK: Where Were You?

Tierce: I have never envied the great and the good who are expected to sit outside in the January freeze to observe the a new president’s swearing-in. They’re paying the price of being the great and the good.

At least their amenities are seen to, the comforts that make civil life civil. Not so the man in the street who shows up for the ceremony — or, in the case of yesterday’s Inauguration, the millions in the mall. David Johnston and Mark Mazzetti report: “For Some in Crowd, a Day of Cold and Confusion.”

Sext: The cutups at Macmillan’s Digital Marketing department — let’s hope that they’ve all still got jobs — prepared a tongue-in-cheek video clip to show you how books come into being in the modern world.

Nones: President Obama’s Inauguration Speech was partly edited in China.

China Central Television, or CCTV, the main state-run network, broadcast the speech live until the moment President Obama mentioned “communism” in a line about the defeat of ideologies considered anathema to Americans. After the off-screen translator said “communism” in Chinese, the audio faded out even as Mr. Obama’s lips continued to move.

Vespers: I’ve just joined Library Thing, paid lifetime membership and all! How hard can it be to convert my ReaderWare data to Library Thing? I’m not asking yet!

Compline: Food for Thought: How to attract more women into Geek Science. They’re asking Obama to take care of this? If you ask me, Natalie Angier’s piece is looking through the wrong end of the telescope.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009


Matins: Alone among the people I know, I’m not particularly excited about today’s “historical event.” Nicholas Lemann, in this week’s New Yorker, puts his finger on why.

In American politics, the ultimate contest is trying to get elected President. But the very few people who manage to win that contest then enter another, less visible game, with even longer odds: the race to become one of the handful of Presidents who really matter. Excitement about Barack Obama is at such a high level, and the times are so dire, that he is already well into this second race.

Barack Obama has been President of the United States since early November. We have been looking to him for solutions to our many problems, tapping our feet impatiently waiting for his predecessor to go away. We are hopeful, expectant, and yet — polls suggest — patient as well. We have been living with the Obama Administration for some time now.


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.