Archive for the ‘Sic Transit’ Category

Daily Office:

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009


¶ Matins: Truckers engage with communications devices — cell phones, on-baord computers — up to “90%” of their driving time. Efforts to curb that distraction are likely to meet with frustration.  

Lauds: Textile designer Ilisha Helfman, in Portland, Oregon, fashions outfits for her antique paper dolls from the covers of the Sunday Times Magazine.

Prime: Felix Salmon comments on the economics of the Urban Diet.

Tierce: The cheeky devils at Improv Everywhere had some fun on the subway: the Class of ’09, Lexington Avenue Laughing Academy. (via

Sext: This time, the descent into the Dark Ages will be recorded — at craigslist.

Nones: President Obama will campaign on behalf of his wife’s hometown, seeking the 2016 Olympics for Chicago.

Vespers: Richard Crary gets round to Civilization and Its Discontents, enjoying the read for the most part but pricking his ears at Freud’s anthropology.

Compline: Don’t expect that famous writer sitting across the table to be a gifted conversationalist, critic Arthur Krystal warns.


Daily Office:

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009


Matins: It appears that the Plain People have been going native, since the last time you saw Witness, anyway. A run on an Amish bank? (via The Morning News)

Lauds Things Magazine calls Triangle Triangle “one of those abstract sites that seems to distil whole swathes of contemporary cultural production down into just one or two images.”

Prime: Jay Goltz writes about our idea of very cool wheels: the 2010 Ford Transit Connect.

Tierce: More Madoff fallout: J Ezra Merkin will have to sell his $310 million worth of art.

Sext: Hey! It’s just not true: Coca Cola + MSG ≠ aphrodisiac! The idea! And what about the story that metal objects dissolve in Coke? (via The Awl)

Nones: Does the proposed withdrawal of all 27 EU ambassadors from Iran sound like a good idea to you? Not to us, it doesn’t.

Vespers: Emma Garman writes irresistibly about Françoise Mallet-Joris’s The Illusionist (Le Rempart des Béguines, 1951), showing how it goes “one better’ than Françoise Sagan’s much better-known Bonjour, Tristesse.

Compline: Flash from the Past: George Frazier’s truly astonishing liner notes to Miles Davis’s Greatest Hits (1965): forget the blues, man; how’s my suit?

Bon weekend à tous! (more…)

Dear Diary:
The Boxer

Thursday, May 28th, 2009


Having seen a woolly mammoth in the mirror over the past couple of days, I was determined, this morning, to visit Willy’s for a haircut and a beard trim. I hustled down and back in time for my lunch appointment with Steve Laico, the man who keeps my sites looking great. (It helped, enormously, that Steve was running late. What he would have seen in the apartment had he walked in at the appointed hour!) I listened to the iPod Shuffle while in transit (ie, on foot) — Rufus Wainwright and the Pet Shop Boys. Also on the Shuffle: I Muvrini, a Corsican group that sings in French and Basque, too; and Madredeus, a great Portuguese band that Jean Ruaud turned me on to years ago. Go figure.

I mention all of this music because Willy was playing WCBS FM — a format targeted at people my age or a little younger. People my age or younger who still want to hear “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” that is. I almost asked Willy what happened to the Peruvian music. Willy comes from Peru, and once, when he was playing an album of palatially schlocky aubades and serenades by Juan Diego Florez, he announced to his customers that only Peruvian music would be played in his shop. I have been wanting to snitch on the relief men who ran the place when he went home for his annual vacation last month: the music that they played was distinctly Brazilian. Today, though, I wanted to ask for the Peruvian. Anything but a Memory Lane that I stayed far away from. But I kept quiet.

The next thing I knew, the radio was playing “The Boxer,” a song that everybody my age or a little younger knows, by Simon & Garfunkel. The interesting thing is, I didn’t know that the song was called “The Boxer” until today. I realized, sitting there listening, that I have never owned a Simon & Garfunkel album — not so much as a 45. I didn’t dislike Simon & Garfunkel; it wasn’t that. But something made me hold back from declaring allegiance to the duo — which is what buying an album amounted to back in the Sixties. The music was absolutely inescapable, which is how I came to know “The Boxer” so well without knowing that it was called “The Boxer.”

The announcer at WCBS FM reminisced about the night in 1975 when Paul Simon was the host of SNL, and the producers surprised him by producing Art Garfunkel, with whom he was not on the best of terms. They greeted one another awkwardly and sang — “The Boxer.” Paul Simon would go on to have a vibrant solo career: I have several of his CDs from the Eighties, and if I don’t listen to them very much now it’s because they remind me too strongly of the second biggest mistake in my life, which I made round about when they were new. I believe that Art Garfunkel had an afterglow career of sorts, but when I think of him alone I remember a heartbreaking story that was told to us by a friend.

The heartbreaking part is that our friend had no idea how heartbreaking her story was. Flying across the Pacific in first class, she struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to her. One thing led to another, and soon he was outlining the details of his comeback concert tour. He, too, was the less famous name in a very well-known duo — trust me; you’d recognize the name if you’re over forty — but what hit us, when our friend recounted the story, was that she had no idea who he was. Not a pop fan by any means whatsoever (I wash Cindi Lauper’s laundry by comparison), she had never heard of X & Y. So here is this once-famous name, desperate to make a comeback, full of hope and needing a bit of wind in his sails, and the passenger next whom he’s fated to pass the hours between here and Narita is the one person in his demographic (out of — what? — twenty five?) who has never even heard of him. Encouraging, eh?

Kathleen has a very funny story about Art Garfunkel, but we can’t tell it yet. We’d have to shoot you. The funny part isn’t the Art-Garfunkel part but the what-Kathleen-did-with-it part. In a word, she made everybody at Willy’s laugh. Not my Willy’s; her Willy’s. “If you know what I mean by that.”

Daily Office:

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009


Matins: For many of us, it’s not happening fast enough — but it is happening. “Call to relax Guantanamo regime.”

A US defence department review of conditions at Guantanamo Bay detention camp has called for an easing of the isolation of prisoners there.

The Pentagon report says inmates should be allowed more social interaction and opportunities for recreation.

Lauds: How bad can things be, if the Saint Laurent auction brought in $264 million — on the first night!

Prime: An intriguing graphic from GOOD Blog: trackage/ridership of the top five US/top five global subway systems. While New York’s system is by far the longest in terms of miles, and its ridership is several times larger than other American cities by a factor of five or more, ridership in Tokyo, Moscow and Seoul is considerably greater. (via Infrastructurist)

Tierce: From the Dept of Schadenfreude: “Nearly 75% of ex-Bush officials looking for jobs are unemployed.” (via Koreanish).

Sext: Rachel Getting Married meets Donald Barthelme: Frank Ferri’s “My Ideas For Staged Photos Set Me Apart From Other Wedding Photographers.” (via Morning News)

Nones: In the absence of a truly interesting story from the global news network, we bring you the following dog’s tea, with contributions from Sweden, the UK, Japan, and — inevitably — Zimbabwe.

Vespers: Ian McEwan’s tribute to John Updike may be just what we’ve been waiting to read; but, if you ask me, it’s too nice.

And now this masterly blasphemer, whose literary schemes and pretty conceits touched at points on the Shakespearean, is gone, and American letters, deprived in recent years of its giants, Bellow and Mailer, is a leveled plain, with one solitary peak guarded by Roth. We are coming to the end of the golden age of the American novel in the twentieth century’s second half.

Mighty praise, but for accomplishments rather too precisely detailed.

Compline: When I think of the impact of dodgy finances on airline safety, I think of maintenance, but Captain Sullenberger’s testimony before Congress introduces a new worry — or, rather, confirms a worry that was introduced by last week’s crash in Buffalo. (more…)