Archive for the ‘Ha Ha!’ Category

Daily Office:

Monday, June 1st, 2009


Matins: Read it and weep: the Pakistani government (and military) is not as committed as you might like it to be to getting rid of Taliban invaders.

Lauds: Holland Cotter faults The Pictures Generation, a new show at the Museum, as bad history. All right, iffy history. But since when were museums in the business of history lectures?

Prime: Julie Cresswell’s obituary for the Archway/Mother’s Cookie business ought to be read, at a minimum, by every still-solvent tycoon who’s thinking of establishing a chair at a “business school” (such as the one at Harvard).

Tierce: I myself think that Terry Christensen was just doing his job, but if he’s not disbarred after the Marshall trial, it will mean that nobody is paying attention.

Sext: Has the world really turned? Or is Jon Peters in fact the pipsqueak that this story suggests  he is?

Nones: Every time I read about the European Union, I think about this map — except that I didn’t even know it existed until just the other day.

Vespers: “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, They Ride Hogs Over It” — what is reviewer Dwight Garner trying to prove?

Compline: Manhattanhenge Primo. Secondo comes in July. Between now and then, the sun will set to the north of the island’s east-west grid.


Daily Office:

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009


Matins: The two items have little overtly in common, and yet they seem related (if “opposed”): President Obama has settled on Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the Supreme Court nominee to take David Souter’s place, and Prop 8 was upheld by the California Supreme Court.

Lauds: This week’s New Yorker cover was created on an iPhone. Jorge Colombo (published in the magazine since 1994), drew it with Brushes. (via  Emdashes)

Prime: John Lanchester’s review of three current whahappen? books about the “economic downturn” musn’t be missed.

Tierce: In the Marshall trial, Mrs Astor’s last white-shoe lawyer, Henry Christensen, takes the stand. Meanwhile, defendant Tony Marshall is asking $17 million less for his late mother’s Park Avenue apartment.

Sext: Oh, no! “Texting May Be Taking a Toll on Teenagers.”

Nones: Is the Sri Lankan civil war really over? Whether it is or not, Christopher Hitchens (at Slate) has the piece that you want to read. (via reddit)

Vespers: Very different (but equally fond) appreciations of John Updike, by Julian Barnes and Alex Beam.

Compline: Alan Beattie writes about Argentina’s failure to become a great power, at FT. (via  The Morning News)


Daily Office:

Thursday, May 21st, 2009


Matins: At a blog, new to me, called Reddit, readers were asked to identify “closely held beliefs that our own children and grandchildren will be appalled by.”  Then Phil Dhingra, at Philosophistry, composed a bulletted list of a dozen possibilities. Be sure to check it out.

Lauds: Sad stories: No JVC Jazz Festival this summer, and no more Henry Moore Reclining Figure — forever. The festival may or may not limp back into life under other auspices, but the Moore has been melted down.

Prime: David Segal’s report on the planning of Daniel Boulud’s latest restaurant, DBGB, on the Bowery near Houston Street (it hasn’t opened yet) has a lot of fascinating numbers. 

Tierce: Attorney Kenneth Warner’s attempt to discredit Philip Marshall strikes me as desperately diversionary, but you never know with juries.

Sext: This just in: “The 1985 Plymouth Duster Commercial Is Officially the Most ’80s Thing Ever.”

Nones: The Berlin Wall, poignantly remembered by Christoph Niemann — in strips of orange and black.

Vespers: The other day, I discovered An Open Book, the very agreeable (if less than frequently updated) blog of sometime book dealer Brooks Peters. (via Maud Newton)

Compline: At Outer Life, V X Sterne resurfaces to post an entry about an unhappy moment in his job history. (We’ve been through this before, young ‘uns.)

Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office:

Monday, May 18th, 2009


Matins: The President speaks at my alma mater. (via JKM)

Lauds: Mike Johnston writes about Andrea Land and quotes Bill Jay, at The Online Photographer . Mr Jay’s advice to young photographers palpably lends itself to wider application; ie to planning a life.

Prime: The times they are Auto Tune.

Tierce: It’s old news — it’s not news — but it would be remiss to omit a link to the Post’s photograph of “Rapunzel,” Brooke Astor’s last social secretary (Naomi Dunn Packard-Koot, who, it seems, has a nasty chewing-gum habit) striding along while Charlene Marshall dips into the Ladies’.

Sext: Giles Turnbull, of The Morning News, has a blast with the British MP expenses scandal. Did you know —

Nones: Oman, home of Café Muscato (very incidentally), is taxing smugglers. Well, at least the ones who deal in goods bound for Iran, across the Gulf of Oman. (You knew that.)

Vespers: While you were busy following Kindle pricing, Amazon went into the business of publishing actual books. Re-publishing them, actually, under the imprint AmazonEncore.

Compline: What makes us happy — over decades? Or, JFK, “no one’s idea of ‘normal’,” was a member of the sample.


Daily Office:

Thursday, May 14th, 2009


Matins: Here’s a story that stinks. Costco has been given permission to disturb East Harlem with tractor-trailers making wee-hour stock deliveries. But Costco won’t accept food stamps, which sustain thousands of neighboring households. Jim Dwyer reports.

Lauds: Move over, origami masters: Look what Simon Schubert can do  by creasing paper gently. (via Snarkmarket)

Prime: Criticism or curation? A misunderstanding between Tim Abrahams, of Blueprint (a print magazine with Web site) and Things Magazine (online only) yields a rich discussion, or at any rate a nice piece by Mr Abrahams and two just-as-nice responses by Things, with some good comments along the way.

Tierce: Joanna Molloy, at the Daily News, takes a breath and asks, “When did the Brooke Astor trial become all about Charlene Marshall?

Sext: Movies you won’t have to think about seeing this weekend, or any weekend. (Did I just jinx it?) Romatic comedy pitches involving gay vampires and crossbows, at McSweeney’s.

Nones: In 1975, Professor Karel Zlabek proposed linking Bohemia, via a tunnel, to the Adriatic. That’s over four hundred kilometers, maybe not so much in American terms (but), beneath the soil of two other sovereignties, one of which, Austria, was not a member of the Warsaw Pact.

Vespers: What, we ask ourself, is the Derek Walcott kerfuffle really about? An inappropriate sexual advance? Or even more inappropriate revenge when the advance was rebuffed?

Compline: Not to be confused with the foregoing: Vanity Fair gentleman curmudgeon James Wolcott looks back fondly on Manhattan in the Seventies.

Bon weekend à tous!


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, 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 1st, 2009


Matins: What’s next, starving quarterhorses? “Boats Too Costly to Keep Are Littering Coastlines.” And here you were worried about fossil fuel emissions.

Lauds: In June of next year, the Toronto summer festival, Luminato, will mount the premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s opera, Prima Donna. The work was to have been created at the Metropolitan Opera, but the composer rejected Met director Peter Gelb’s demand that Prima Donna be translated from French into English.

Prime: Whatever you think of HRH’s fire station at Poundbury — and I don’t think that it’s so bad; in fact, I rather like those black drainpipes — you have to love the no-less-traditional irreverent fun that Justin McGuirk has talking about the “daft mess.”

Tierce: Sounds like a good idea: Cash for Clunkers. You bring in your old car — old car — and get a credit toward the purchase of a new one — a smallish, greenish one. The move is unlikely to provide help for Cerberus, though — the private equity firm that bought Chrysler a few years ago.

Sext: It’s a great day for checking out Despair, Inc.

Nones: While the Times thinks that Velupillai Prabhakaran is indispensable to the Tamil insurgency, the BBC expects that the rebels would be able to carry on without him.

Vespers: Not only are they both cartoonists whose work is regularly published in The New Yorker, but their styles are not remarkably dissimilar. Liza Donnelly and Michael Maslin have even collaborated on a book, called My Funny Valentine. It’s about them: they are married to one another.

Compline: Kathleen called in the middle of the afternoon to report that the people in London who had to sign off on a deal this afternoon couldn’t — they were without power. Here’s why.


Daily Office:

Monday, March 23rd, 2009


Matins: It’s time for Larry Summers to be deported to Australia. Somewhere! Hiring him in any capacity is to date the president’s biggest boo-boo. As Frank Rich reminds us, “Summers worked for a secretive hedge fund, D. E. Shaw, after he was pushed out of Harvard’s presidency at the bubble’s height.”

Lauds: Looking for an old house with new wiring, preferably something truly Palladian? Look no farther. (via Things Magazine)

PrimeDio mio! Thomas Meglioranza will be singing in New York in June — Beethoven at Mannes. Must I wait to buy tickets at the door?

Tierce: Michael Cooper reports on the stimulus perplex from Houston:

But to ensure that the money is spent quickly, the law leaves decisions of how to spend some $27.5 billion in transportation money up to the states — and quite a few are using their shares to build new and wider roads that will spur development away from their most populous centers.

Sext: Today, I want to share with you a masterpiece of sixth-grade humor. N!S!F!W!

Nones: France rethinks its version of colorblindness.

Vespers: And, in more news from France, Benjamin Ivry reports on the inevitable dustup concerning the publication of Roland Barthes’s diaries.

Compline: The personal-responsibility folks won’t see a problem with this, but Pablo Torre reports, at Sports Illustrated Vault, that “within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke. (via Morning News)


Daily Office:

Monday, March 2nd, 2009


Matins: In a foreseeable development that few wanted to think about very much, the downside inequalities of European Union constituents threatens to pull the EU apart. Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle report.

While Western European countries are reluctant, with their own problems both at home and among the countries using the euro, there is a deep interconnectedness in any case. Much of the debt at risk in Eastern Europe is on the books of euro zone banks — especially in Austria and Italy. The same is true for the problems farther afield, in Ukraine.

Having watched the Soviet Union collapse, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe embraced the liberal, capitalist model as the price of integration with Europe. That model is now badly tarnished, and the newer members feel adrift.

Lauds: In the Chicago Tribune, Mike Boehm asks, “Will the Obamas’ interest in the arts create an inflation of appreciation?” The prospect of presidential interest in theatre and dance is so dizzying that he doesn’t stop to ask why it would be a good thing.

Prime: Perhaps you’ve already discovered Look At Me, the Web site of found photographs, but it’s new to me, and I’m checking it out every day. (I’ve linked to a recent posting that shows what has to be an old Howard Johnson’s — looking not so old.)

Tierce: As usual on Monday mornings, I begin with the Times’s Business section, because that’s where the interesting stories are, even if they would fit just as comfortably in the first section, alongside the “regular” news. Two stories today that generate a certain twinned-snakes synergy:

Sext: A party who signs himself “MDL Welder” seeks advice about a romantic “att[achment].” The Non-Expert replies in an odd demotic.

You are very att. To each other. Man we all know that, we can all see it. When you two are passing yes there will be kiss in return, geddit? So obv. Most people wish they were with someone who was so att. To each other. So you say “Do you think she is falling for me?” and all of us here are LOAO because YES YES YES she’s falling for you and she’s already falling so far down you have to reach down and catch up. You need to jump that diving board and triple flip and angle downwards for minimum air resist. She att. You att. To each other. It’s the best way to be, it’s the best way to start. And we say aww.

This drollery has me imagining a novel yet to be written, set, like Then We Came to the End and Personal Days, in the workplace — but not in a very literate workplace.

Nones: I’ll be watching to see how the US press in general and the New York Times in particular cover this story (from the BBC): “Israel ‘plans settlement growth’.”

Vespers: Charles McGrath paves the way for a revival of interest in John Cheever, soon to appear in the Library of America.

Compline: The Infrastructurist lists the top ten hot infrastructure jobs, complete with tips about getting one. For example (“Smart Meter Installer”):

There are 150 million electric meters in the US. About 90 percent of them are “dumb.” Obama has offered a plan to upgrade 40 million of the meters, but eventually they will probably all be replaced. Some utilities are well under way: PG&E in California is putting in 10.3 million smart meters, while Oncor in Texas is planning to install 3 million in the next four years.


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:

Monday, February 16th, 2009


Matins: Alex Williams’ cheeky piece, “Bad Economy? Good Excuse,” seems to me to capture something about the Zeitgeist that is being overlooked. Isn’t it possible that a good deal of downsizing going on throughout the markets is motivated not by panic or uncertainty but by a desire to pass a lot of the gas that the economy has been building up for fifteen or twenty years (or more)?

Lauds: Regular readers will know that Lauds is for the arts that are not literary — but even so, Laura Cahill’s “readable furniture” seems closer to the library than to the gallery. (via Survival of the Book)

Prime: You know how people have their pictures taken by the Campanile in Pisa, so that it looks as if they’re holding it up, ha-ha. Pseudo Jeff at Ads Are Boring snapped photos of people while they were posing, but the posing is all that you see in his images, not the “joke.” Don’t they look silly!

Tierce: I’ve kicked off yet another category of blog entries: Capital Sins. This will be the rubric for the various manifestations of American anti-humanism, much of which appears to be one kind of racism or another. With its bloated prisons, the United States is clearly going about crime & punishment in a very bad way. Illegal mmigration is another matter that, try as they might, critics can never persuasively sell as a merely economic problem. An editorial in yesterday’s Times shows why.

Sext: The funniest thing that I’ve read in these unfunny times is Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s Letter from Frankfurt in the current issue of Harper’s, The Last Book Party.” The piece is funny even before the reporter gets to the Messe.  

That is, contemporary late-corporate publishing is a fallen world in which Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada, gets really rich, while Richard Ford, one of the indisputably important novelists of our time, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Independence Day and The Sportswriter, gets slightly less rich. None of the elegists say: What is coming to an end is the idea that Richard Ford is going to be richer than Lauren Weisberger. None of them say: What is coming to an end is the wishful insistence — for it is, ultimately, a wish, deeply felt, by a lot of people—that Richard Ford is going to be rich at all.

Nones: The highest court in France has acknowledged the state’s responsibility in the deportation of 76,000 Jews to prison (and death) between 1942 and 1944.

Vespers: At Emdashes, Martin Schneider writes about that singular anomaly, the smart person who “hates” The New Yorker. Matthew Yglesias, it turns out, is one such — although he has “caved.”

Compline: You just know that a 4% sales tax is going to chill purchases of online porn. Mean old Governor Paterson! (Thanks, Joe.)


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.


Weekend Update:
Interruption of Service

Friday, January 23rd, 2009


My good friend LXIV sent me the following very definitely not laugh-out-loud-funny joke:

Dear World: 

We, the United States of America, your top quality supplier of the ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for our 2001-2008 interruption of service. The technical fault that led to this eight-year service outage has been located, and the software responsible was replaced November 4. Early tests of the newly installed program indicate that we are now operating correctly, and we expect it to be fully functional on January 20. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage. We look forward to resuming full service and hope to improve in years to come. We thank you for your patience and understanding, 



It was all I could do to smile. Eight years is nearly an entire decade of one’s life.

What makes it all the more satisfying, if also the less tee-hee making, is that the end of Shrubbery coincides with the end of Irrational Exuberance. I honestly can’t determine which was worse.