Daily Office:


Matins: May I say that I support President Obama’s decision not to prosecute CIA agents for torture perpetrated in reliance upon Bush Administration legal advice.

Lauds: What a nice year it would be if Susan Boyle turned out to  be the woman of it. The very president of it. For her, that is. For the rest of us, a bit of a lesson is in order, as Colette Douglas Home reminds us. (via A Commonplace Blog)

Prime: A psychopathological breakdown of royals stalkers. (Not to be confused with “royal stalkers,” eg Jack the Ripper.) It made me wonder: how many of Trollope’s bad girls suffer from de Clérambault’s Syndrome? (via  The Morning News)

Tierce: Here’s a little story that, properly followed, will chart the health/malaise of the Italian state — which seems to have less and less to do with “Italy”: “Italy fears mafia quake fund grab.” 

Sext: A sizzling story from the Telegraph: Separate bedrooms keeps the romance alive.” [sic]

Nones: Spain leads the way in new high-speed rail transport. Not everybody’s pleased. (via  The Morning News)

Vespers: Geoff Dyer discusses his new book(s), Jeff in Venice/Death in Varanasi, with Asylum’s John Self.

Compline: On the occasion of QE2’s eighty-third birthday (the real one, not the “official” one in June), we turn to royal.gov.uk for instructions on writing a letter to Her Majesty.


§ Matins. Ever since the Abu Ghraib pictures appeared in the summer of 2004, I’ve wondered about bringing former president Bush and his henchman to justice. One thing has always seemed clear to me: his prosecutor ought to be anyone except his successor.

Most Americans, I believe, remain unaware of the Spanish suit that has been brought against six honchos of Bush-era torture, including former attorney-general Alberto Gonzalez. Let’s see what people think about that before poking President Obama to whack the piñata.

§ Lauds. Until I heard that early demo tape of “Cry Me A River,” I was not very impressed by Susan Boyle. “I Dreamed the Dream”? Please. You have to remember that I was almost asked to leave a Broadway theatre over twenty years ago, because my only response to the piece of crap known as Les Miz was uncontrollable snickering. “Cray Me A River,” though — that’s a song.

I blame Stephen Sondheim for the end of tunes as we knew them. But it was probably the decline in church attendance that marked the end of audiences as we knew them. The only way to understand the power of music is to perform it, even if that performance is limited to singing off-key in the back pew. (I’ve always been struck by the extent to which British pop is readily distinguishable from its American cousins by the backbone of foursquare hymns, from Sting to Queen.)

However: back to Susan Boyle. Susan Boyle has a lovely voice, and I look forward to hearing more. I ought to have been able to hear her ere now, but the gatekeepers thought otherwise. That’s, of course, the lesson of her immense success on Britain’s Got Talent. Lesson? How about a reminder? Great singers are often not great beauties.

What’s disturbing about the current excitement is the general surprise, that anyone as plain and unvarnished as Susan Boyle can sound like — Susan Boyle. Rather than plastering her visage on a poster, lets mount Cowell, Holden & Morgan as this week’s Exhibit A of television-induced brain decay. “Wake-Up Call”? Please.

If it weren’t for television and its structurally rotted values, Susan Boyle would have been a rich would twenty years ago.

§ Prime. The entry claims that twenty thousand police files were examined, but the percentages point to a sample closer to two hundred. It would be nice to know what the American proclivity is. In this day and age, I’m not so sure that I’d treat the “victims” of “Delusions of royal Identity” as pathological. Even in today’s depressed market, Buck House is fab blackacre.

 Mind Hacks is new to me. I lost no time in slapping on a feed.

§ Tierce. Every time I read stories like this one, I ask myself if Italian unification made any sense after the Austrians, the French, and the Pope were kicked out in the 1860s. It makes even less sense, certainly, in the age of the European Union.

§ Sext. If that’s the theory, it’s not very bright.

Let’s be brutal: one of the attractions of marriage for a man is the promise of on-tap nookie so the thought of having to “woo” his wife on a regular basis can seem daunting.

But he pays a high price for his bedmate. Sadly, it seems, it makes him a dullard.

If a bloke has to go wooing, he’s not going to stop at the nearest doorway.

§ Nones. The ETA’s response is particularly interesting, not to say explosive: the Basque separatist organization has threatened to blow up any attempted construction. Which raises the question: what’s the ETA afraid of? An influx of Spaniards? That has already taken place. Ten years ago, only one of the region’s inhabitants in four could speak Euskera. (The figure is probably higher now, thanks to official sponsorship of language instruction — but the Irish are here to tell you how that works out.)

Or is the ETA more anxious about what we’ll call exflux?

§ Vespers. Does Geoff Dyer’s appeal consist in his utterly grown-up and responsible way of being a cutup?

Q: You portray yourself as terminally lazy and uncommitted, but few writers are as protean, or as widely and highly acclaimed. Is Geoff Dyer the George Best of literature, gifted with such a great natural talent that he can get away with not knuckling down to make the most of it? Or is this just a pose?

A: What an unbelievably flirtatious question! I don’t think it’s laziness so much as a chronic, deep-down existential desire to do nothing, to down tools, to just potter away my time. But if I succumbed to that – and I get closer to succumbing to it with every passing year – I would sink into depression. Paris Trance was ultimately about the siren call of that. In a way I would like to have acquired the habits and discipline of the career novelist without becoming one. And since Thomas Mann is lurking in the background of the new book I’ll quote that line of his that I love so much: a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. To be honest, it’s an absolute mystery to me how I’ve ended up writing all these books. When you are younger there are more things to tempt you out but as you get older it becomes more difficult to concentrate.

§ Compline. There’s nothing to it (but the writing):

You can write to Her Majesty at the following address:
Her Majesty The Queen
Buckingham Palace
London SW1A 1AA

If you wish to write a formal letter, you can open with ‘Madam’ and close the letter with the form ‘I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant’.

This traditional approach is by no means obligatory. You should feel free to write in whatever style you feel comfortable.

“SW1” is sweet, don’t you think? And don’t you think that “SW1A” ought to have been enough?

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. jkm says:

    Lauds: I disagree in part but agree in (larger) part. As to disagreement: I was very impressed by Susan Boyle’s rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ because, whatever you think of the song’s merits, it is (in my opinion) a difficult song to sing well, and I thought Boyle sang it very well. As to agreement: Boyle’s rendition of ‘Cry Me a River’ was so much better in so many ways. I also agree with you on the appearance point; while it is certainly possible for a singer to be both physically attractive and immensely talented (Renée Fleming comes immediately to mind; also Barbara Cook who, while on the zaftig side, is a beautiful woman), there are too many singers (again, only my opinion) whose appearance, rather than than their singing ability, has been the primary factor in their success. But while television is the principal culprit, it’s not the only one–remember the incident involving Deborah Voigt, the Royal Opera and the little black dress?