Daily Office:


Matins: Is it taking Frank Rich longer than necessary to reset his outrage gauge, even though the new administrations failings and disappointments are barely venial by comparison to those of the old?

The tsunami of populist rage coursing through America is bigger than Daschle’s overdue tax bill, bigger than John Thain’s trash can, bigger than any bailed-out C.E.O.’s bonus. It’s even bigger than the Obama phenomenon itself. It could maim the president’s best-laid plans and what remains of our economy if he doesn’t get in front of the mounting public anger.

Lauds: Chinese Tags, from the Kwan Yin Clan in Beijing. At first, you may not even seen the graffiti-inspired spray paintings; they blend right in with the traditional scroll art. (via Tomorrow Museum).

Prime: Maud Newton contributes to the online extension of the Granta issue on fathers. Upbeat tone nothwithstanding, it’s one of the saddest things that I’ve ever read. But then, I’m a father.

Tierce: Eluana Enlargo, in a coma since 1992, is about to be let go . . .  or is she?

Sext: James Surowiecki talks. On Colbert. And now I have to stop referring to him as “James Soor-oh-vyetsky.”

Nones: Slumdog Millionaire — but without the ‘millionaire’ part. Meet Rewa Ram, as Rupa Jha reports on the sewer cleaners of Delhi.

Vespers: I can’t remember where I came across the recommendation in the Blogosphere, but somebody said that Maria Semple’s This One Is Mine is a smart novel, so I bought, and I’m reading it, and — I don’t know why, really — I’m finding it really, really depressing. It isn’t the novel, I don’t think. It’s Los Angeles.

Anyway, Maria Semple talks to Marshal Zeringue, of Campaign for the American Reader, about her work. She’s not depressing.

Compline: Plenary indulgences . . . How is the Catholic Church like the Bourbon Dynasty? Paul Vitello reports.

Like the Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, the indulgence was one of the traditions decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, the gathering of bishops that set a new tone of simplicity and informality for the church. Its revival has been viewed as part of a conservative resurgence that has brought some quiet changes and some highly controversial ones, like Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to lift the excommunications of four schismatic bishops who reject the council’s reforms.


§ Matins. Americans may be outraged, all of sudden, now that so many of them are truly hurting, by the inequities that the $18.4 billion in Wall Street bonuses exemplified, but surely it is the job of our better commentators to remind them that there is nothing new here, and that, at least since Arthur Levitt’s failed attempt to tighten accounting accounting requirements at the SEC, during the waning days of the second Clinton Administration,  most Americans have stood by and not complained as all three branches of government collaborated in eroding and abrading everything that’s fair about this country.

Blaming Barack Obama for not getting everything exactly right, simply because he’s the man in office when all too many folks are waking up, is dim, and failing to criticise that, and not the Obama Administration, is pandering populism.

§ Lauds. If my Chinese were, uh, better, perhaps I could read this scroll.

§ Prime. The gimmick with the Granta issue seems to be that problems, if alluded to, are not explained.

As I grew older, and I discovered his penchant for subterfuge, and an elaborate tangle of lies far too complex to explain here, I realized that he was one of the things I didn’t want to get mixed up with. I cut ties with him a little more than eight years ago, determined to extricate myself permanently from his toxic web. But as I ponder this photograph of the two of us laughing and slouching and fidgeting in tandem on a seemingly happy holiday I have no recollection of, I wonder if it was his influence, after all, that led me to hide the prostitute so skillfully and with such premeditation even as a preteen.

A normal person would still be wondering who the hell the prostitute was, the one referred to in the first sentence. (I myself suspect that it was a bitch — a lady dog.) I hope that Mr Newton is still around, so that his daughter can re-establish some sort of connection before mortality makes that impossible. After all, it’s not our fault that we’re boomers.

§ Tierce. Like the Terry Schiavo case a few years ago, Ms Enlargo’s life support presents issues so unknown to traditional philosophy that even the analogies are thin reeds. Conservatives and religious leaders don’t appear to be capable of absorbing the idea that the car-crash victim is never going to regain consciousness. That is, they argue that it doesn’t matter; so long as Ms Enlargo can be kept alive, we must keep her alive. And they incorrectly call “letting her die” euthanasia. More progressive mentalities understand that technology has made it possible to preserve Ms Enlargo’s body in a zombie-like state.

§ Sext. Even if his voice is rather higher than I expected, I still regard Mr Surowiecki as one of the top economic diagnosticians. (The segment begins at 8:25.)

§ Nones. The job may be gross beyond belief, but Rewa Ram’s dignity is what’s truly untouchable about him.

I asked Rewa Ram, still breathless and covered with the sewage from the drain: “How do you feel about having to do this work?”

With folded arms, he replied: “I am not educated, I come from a very poor family of untouchables. What else can I expect?

“At least I have a government job and I am able to feed my children. I get into this hell everyday but then this is my job.

“I live smelling death, but it is fine.”

§ Vespers. Friends took us to Kate Mantilini once, and I thought it was great. Reading the scene that Maria Semple sets there made me halfway ashamed of myself.

This brings me to something so funny about getting a book published. You’re there writing your book in a bubble, trying to make it true and compelling and have internal logic, etc. I didn’t have an agent, didn’t have a publisher. It almost didn’t occur to me that anyone would read it. I just worked really hard and loved doing the work. Then the book comes out and it’s all “Wow, you’ve taken a bunch of hateful people and made them sympathetic.” Really? Because I had no idea. All I can say is, thank God I didn’t set out to do that, or I’d never have been able to pull it off.

§ Compline. Let’s talk about the Scriptural support for the existence of Purgatory. It won’t take long, because there isn’t any — not a shred. (The Church knows better, of course.)

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Compline : I asked my many Catholic co-workers if they had heard of plenary indulgences and they all looked at me as if I had said I had voted for McCain. What are you talking about.?????

    Rather than try to explain, and likely getting some of it wrong, I made them copies of the Times article.

    Once a year for Confession, eh? Luckily the priest to whom I confessed on the eve of my First Communion, my Uncle, is still going strong and I will get my annual purging over with him in April.