Daily Office:


Matins: In case you’re still opposed to Federal nationalization of troubled banks, let former IMF economist Simon Johnson explain the advice that his outfit would give.

Lauds: It dates from March, but I just heard about it at Things Magazine: truly punchy graphic art commissioned by Swiss pharma giant Geigy (now part of Novartis).

Prime: Jean Ruaud has retooled Mnémoglyphes which has to be the most news-deprived statement that I can think of. Jean changes the look and feel of his sites all the time! This is more substantive, though: Mnémoglyphes has become a Daily Blogue.

Tierce: David Carr considers the confected nature of last week’s “tea party” tax protests, which were not so much covered by the cable news networks as cultivated by them.

Sext: Would you help out a robot? If you live in Greenwich Village, you might not give it a second thought: Of course you would help out a robot! (via  The Morning News)

Nones: The Italian government has finally recognized its humanitarian responsibility and begun deboarding 140 migrants from a stranded tanker. To understand the kerfuffle with Malta, though, you may need to look at a map.

Vespers: In the current Harper’s, Francine Prose reviews an odd but irresistible new book with a faux-catalogue title as long as your arm: the account of a fictional breakup as told in terms of pictures at an exhibition — pictures of lamps, postcards, and pictures.

Compline: The post office as a profit center? What a concept! It works in Switzerland…


§ Matins. The bottom line: break the oligarchy that has captured American finance. It has been every bit as foolish as Indonesia’s, or Argentina’s, or Russia’s, or — you name it.

Oversize institutions disproportionately influence public policy; the major banks we have today draw much of their power from being too big to fail. Nationalization and re-privatization would not change that; while the replacement of the bank executives who got us into this crisis would be just and sensible, ultimately, the swapping-out of one set of powerful managers for another would change only the names of the oligarchs.

Ideally, big banks should be sold in medium-size pieces, divided regionally or by type of business. Where this proves impractical—since we’ll want to sell the banks quickly—they could be sold whole, but with the requirement of being broken up within a short time. Banks that remain in private hands should also be subject to size limitations.

It’s common sense — call it Titanic 101: no institution as essential to economic healthy as a major commercial bank can be allowed to become “too large to fail.” Big institutions are run by mortals just as flawed as the folks who run small ones — moreso, perhaps, when  checks are removed.

§ Lauds. Of course, these pieces are punchy as graphics, perhaps too punchy to transmit a strong message about anything besides their design.

§ Prime. A substantial change, too. Jean leads with one his strong suits, his terrific photography. Then there’s some classic bloguerie: a “Note du Jour.” The “Mot du Jour,” however, is usually an English word, and for us Anglophones the feature works as an ingenious reverse dictionary. From last Wednesday:

“Kidnapping” {en} n’a rien à voir avec la sieste (“nap”) mais tout à voir avec “to nab” : voler, kidnapping est bien le vol d’un enfant. Plus léger : “to nap” ( pret: napped, pp : napping) signifie faire un court sommeil, une sieste. “To catch someone napping” signifie prendre quelqu’un par surprise.

Très bien dit!

§ Tierce. And not just by Fox, either.

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC frantically belittled the rhetoric and motives of those involved in the tea party events, even as she spent oodles of air time on the rallies.

Cable news stations have been criticized for “event-izing” all manner of minor news occurrences — President Obama’s first news conference comes to mind. But the Tax Day Tea Party was all but conceived, executed and deconstructed in the hothouse of cable news wars.

The headline, “Cable Wars Are Killing Objectivity,” does make me wonder where Mr Carr has been. A reference to the real Neil Postman, whose Amusing Ourselves to Death convinced me that television cannot be truly educational, ever, would have impressed me a great deal more than mention of the fictional Howard Beale.

§ Sext. I’m still not sure what Kacie Kinzer’s mission statement really means —

I wondered: could a human-like object traverse sidewalks and streets along with us, and in so doing, create a narrative about our relationship to space and our willingness to interact with what we find in it? More importantly, how could our actions be seen within a larger context of human connection that emerges from the complexity of the city itself?

— but her experiment demonstrates that New Yorkers are not only generous but almost compulsive about sharing information.

§ Nones. And you thought that “Lampedusa” wrote The Leopard.

§ Vespers. The book is called Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, and it’s the work of Leanne Shapton. Ms Prose writes,

Told more traditionally, this story—New York hipsters meet and fall in love, set up housekeeping, and ultimately drift apart in the first decade of the twenty-first century—might wring a weary sigh from the long-suffering creative-writing instructor. But what Important Artifacts demonstrates—and what, in my opinion, can never be demonstrated often enough—is how much less the tale matters than the way in which it is told. Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Pet Dog” is, after all, a story about a relationship.

It must have been a fun book to compose.

§ Compline. What if the post office used the Internet? This is entirely too much concept for one sitting!

Swiss Post Box is powered by technology from Seattle-based Earth Class Mail. The service emails multi-sided color images of incoming envelopes and parcels to their recipients as soon as the mail reaches the first sorting center nearest where it was collected by the post office. While the mail and parcels are held in an automated temporary cache, recipients decide which mail pieces they want to have opened and scanned to PDF inside an ultra-secure scanning center at the Post Office (where confidential documents for Swiss banks are also scanned), and which are to be delivered physically to the address on the envelope, redirected to another address, shredded, recycled or archived for safekeeping. Three-quarters of the mail ends up leaving that first sorting center bound straight for recycling, either after being scanned to PDF or discarded unopened by customer’s choice. The energy savings implications are obvious.

Georg Jensen reports that the USPS is about to follow the lead of Detroit — and that its liabilities are Madoff-sized. And yet the Postmaster General, more delusional than any Bourbon, dreams of a recovery when the recession ends! Personal mail, it seems, accounts for only 4% of the mail.

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Thanks for pointing out the Simon Johnson article : sobering reading on a Monday morning…….

  2. Davion says:

    Fell out of bed feeling down. This has breithengd my day!