Daily Office:


Matins: Despite everything, Wall Street bonuses for 2008 totaled $18.4 billion — thank goodness!

Lauds: Ian McDiarmid’s adaptation of Andrew O’Hagen’s novel, Be Near Me, opens at the Donmar Warehouse to warm if cautious praise from Charles Spencer.

Prime: The site has a few strange navigational problems, but the Curated David Foster Wallace Dictionary might be just what you’re looking for in the Word-For-the-Day line. (via kottke.org)

Tierce: Can anyone tell me the bottom line on the Blackwater story in today’s Times? The headline, “Iraq Won’t Grant Blackwater a License,” must mean that Blackwater will not be allowed to provide security services within Iraq, right? Not if you keep reading.

Sext: Here’s a project for Google Maps: mowing the lawn.

Nones: The best part of this story — “Putin’s Grasp of Energy Drives Russian Agenda”  — comes at the end.

As far back as 1997, while serving as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, Mr. Putin earned a graduate degree in economics, writing his thesis on the economics of natural resources.

But —

Vespers: Is Allen Bennett the new John Updike? He’s, er, two years younger. And quite as fluently prolific, if as a man of the theatre rather than as a novelist. Razia Iqbal talks about meeting him, but the interview is nowhere to be found.

Compline: We were neither of us in the mood — at all. But we had to go, in that grown-up way that has nothing to do with obligation. So we got dressed and went. And of course the evening was unforgettable: Steve Ross at the Oak Room.


§ Matins. Am I a beneficiary of this injustice? You bet! Oh, not directly. No amply lovely bonuses enriched our household budget. But Federal, State, and City coffers will collect a hefty slice of that gravy. Not enough to keep the state and city running at anything like optimal levels, but enough to prevent the toxic shock of cold turkey.

For those keeping tabs. $18.4 is the sixth-highest figure.

§ Lauds. It’s not very likely, I suppose, that the show will come to Broadway, or even Off-Broadway. And, even if it did, I’d still be recovering from the cost of seeing Speed-the-Plow next week. While I hubba-da-hubba-ded, Kathleen said, coolly, “That’s what it costs for a pair of good seats.”

§ Prime. If you find out what “brachistochrone” means, let me know. Oh, never mind; I looked it up, the old-fashioned way. If you can put it to intelligent use in a sentence, though, I’ll be mighty impressed.

§ Tierce. Blackwater has been operating without a license all along.

That “American officials” must depend upon private security when posted abroad says something about our military might, and even if I don’t know exactly what it is, I know that it’s not flattering.

§ Sext. Little did those bored, homesick Australian soldiers know it, but someday — where is it? Embedding a link hasn’t worked for me, but if you open up Google Maps and look for Compton Chamberlyne, Salisbury, Wiltshire, your eagle eye will spot a patch of funny diagrams to the southwest of the village, across the A30. The regimental badges mentioned at Strange Maps are all there. But Australia seems to have vanished.

§ Nones. — there’s more:

Later, when scholars at the Brookings Institution analyzed the text, they found 16 pages had been copied without attribution from a 1978 American business school textbook called “Strategic Planning and Policy,” by David I. Cleland and William R. King of the University of Pittsburgh. Mr. Putin has declined to comment on the allegation.

Tellingly, the passages they say were plagiarized relate to the indispensable role of a chief executive in planning within a corporation — the need for one man to have strategic vision and control.

§ Vespers. Yet another play that won’t cross the Pond in these uncertain times: Mr Bennett’s Enjoy, a play that didn’t well in 1980 but that is enjoying a very strong revival at the moment — Alison Steadman’s in it!

§ Compline. Were we too young to go in the Eighties, when he re-opened the Oak Room? In a way, yes; at least I was. This evening, toward the end of a program devoted to songs with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Mr Ross dashed off a short piano medley of three tunes from the most famous of Lerner’s shows. A tear rolled out of one of my eyes, not because “I Could Have Danced All Night” surprised a heartstring, but because I could not account for the passage of time between then — when I was eleven or twelve years old and seeing My Fair Lady on Broadway — and now. How have I covered all that distance? The answer posed by Mr Ross was simple: I hadn’t gone anywhere. Then and now were collapsed into the present. In the Eighties, I was still young to appreciate such miracles.

Steve Ross sang a song that I didn’t know, the Burton-Lane ballad, “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” Googling this song, I see that it has served such ladies as Liza Minelli and Eydie Gorme. (No wonder it was unfamiliar to me.) You don’t have to know more than the title of the song, though, to grasp that it’s an infinitely sadder song when sung by a man, for then it cracks the myth that what’s best about men is inexhaustible and ageless.  

Here’s a story that Mr Ross told about Maurice Chevalier and the sound recording of the film Gigi. After his performance of “Thank Heaven For Little Girls,” Mr Chevalier asked the songwriters and the producers about his “accent.” No problem, they told him; we could understand every word. No, he replied: was it enough? The old jambon.

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