Daily Office:


Matins: Now that health care reform is back in the news, an aspect of the much-maligned Canadian system ought not to be overlooked.

Lauds: Call it Cats and Rats — or whatever! Just write the book about the buck that stopped with Cai Mingchao, the Chinese dealer who had “second thoughts.” Now he’s having thirds: tears.

Prime: Jean Ruaud went to Hyères, and took a load of great pictures comme d’hab’; but did he see Mrs Wharton’s place?

Tierce: China’s unlucky number: 6521. These are “interesting times.”

Sext: They call this “counter-cultural”? Flash-mob pillow fights irk San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department. (via Morning News).

Nones: President Obama’s first visit to a Muslim country will take him to Turkey. Great news indeed.

Vespers: Michiko Kakutani’s review of William Cohan’s House of Cards — the Bear, Stearns post-mortem — makes compelling reading in its own right.

Compline: Franchise Christianity? Robert Wright recasts early-Christian history in terms of business models and globalization.


§ Matins. And my source is, of all people, economist Amartya Sen, writing in The New York Review of Books.

There is, however, also a need for better understanding of the options that exist. In US discussions of health reform, there has been an overconcentration on the Canadian system—a system of public health care that makes it very hard to have private medical care—whereas in Western Europe the national health services provide care for all but also allow, in addition to state coverage, private practice and private health insurance, for those who have the money and want to spend it this way. It is not clear just why the rich who can freely spend money on yachts and other luxury goods should not be allowed to spend it on MRIs or CT scans instead. If we take our cue from Adam Smith’s arguments for a diversity of institutions, and for accommodating a variety of motivations, there are practical measures we can take that would make a huge difference to the world in which we live.

§ Lauds. But let’s not talk about an entrepreneur from Xiamen. Let’s talk about the Jesuits in Ming and early Qing China; the Versailles-like complex that these Europeans promoted during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor; the sack of this Western-flavored pleasure garden by Western troops in 1860 (marking a bored lull in the Second Opium War); the theft of China’s artistic treasures during the “Unequal Treaties” period; the acquisition of (at least) two of them by couturier Yves Saint Laurent; and the fantastically rich auction of YSL’s tchotchkes in Paris just a few weeks ago, against a background of financial turmoil to rival Corregio’s La tempesta. Let’s have a book about all of that!

§ Prime. If he didn’t, then I’m going to have insist that he make a photographic piligrimage to Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt (a matter of mere kilomètres to the north of the Périphérique), where Mrs Wharton’s other place is.

§ Tierce. The lucky number is Chinese shorthand for the sixtieth, fiftieth, twentieth, and tenth anniversaries that will be coming up between now and October.

To outsiders, this fixation on dates may seem odd, but it has both cultural and political explanations. Numerology and the calendar have ancient and honored roles in China, Elizabeth Perry, a China scholar and professor of government at Harvard, said in an e-mail interview. Even today, while Americans identify most major events by their locations (the Boston tea party, the Alamo, Gettysburg, Oklahoma City), the Chinese tend to rely on dates.

§ Sext. This is so Fifties! “These kids today!”

The soggy stuff clogged drains in nearby Four Embarcadero Center, flooding the Osha Thai Restaurant, said Norm Dito, a manager with Boston Properties, which owns the center. He estimated his firm’s cleanup costs at more than $10,000.

Feathers also filled the Vaillancourt Fountain and threatened to jam and burn out its pumps. Workers had to drain the cubist fountain’s 12,000 gallons of water – it had only recently been filled – clean it out and refill it, said Dito.

The city had to dispatch two engineers to check the fountain along with a five-person crew that filled three pick-up trucks with feathers, all at a cost of more than $2,213, said Dennis Kern, director of operations for the Recreation and Park Department.

“It was quite a mess, much more than we have experienced in previous years,” said Mohammed Nuru, deputy director of the Department of Public Works. “Everywhere was feathers.”

§ Nones. Secretary of State Clinton told the Guardian that no details have been worked out yet, so it’s unclear whether the president will visit Ankara, Istanbul, or somewhere else altogether. Symbolism is extremely important in Turkey right now, so the president has only to show up to do a world of good. Because Istanbul is regarded by Turks more or less as New York City is regarded by Americans, it would be wiser to visit the capital.

§ Vespers. Mr Cohan was working on this book when the bottom dropped out from beneath Jimmy Cayne’s fiefdom a year ago, so he was uniquely poised to observe the story’s finish.

§ Compline. Mr Wright makes an interesting point about Mark, one that I didn’t know: no Mr Nice-Guy Jesus in the earliest of the Gospels. Presenting ancient struggles in the language of current problems certainly makes them easier to grasp, but anachronism can tempt us to make distinctions that would not have occurred to, say, the Apostles. What do you think?

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Vespers : One question I get alot from clients is about NYC and the default of its notes in the mid 1970s. (They called it a ‘moratorium’ but it was a default although never on the City’s bonds).

    Many firms would not take orders from retail clients without a letter of non-solicitation.

    Bear Stearns, however, put ads in the newspapers and trade jouernals professing its faith in the City and its willingness to make markets. And the person behind this?? Jimmy Cayne. It’s how he made his ‘bones’ at Bear.

    He stayed too long at the party. As did all the senior management.

  2. JR says:

    pardon my ignorance, I didn’t know that Mrs Wharton had a house in Hyeres !