Daily Office:


Matins: Why conservatives ought to promote transit alternatives to cars — and why they don’t; all spelled out in a lucid essay by David Schaengold, of the Witherspoon Institute (in, but not of, Princeton). “Public transit and walkable neighborhoods are necessary for the creation of a country where families and communities can flourish.”

Lauds: This is the only movie that I want to see right now: Julie & Julia. The trailer is as good as a soufflé.

Prime: Father Tony interviews Andrew Holleran. Imagine that!

Tierce: What a lot of colorful business news there is this morning! Kenneth Lewis is no longer  chief at Bank of America. AIG — now AIU, actually — continues to look for a nicer name. Clear Channel Communications, the media hog, faces “mounting debt payments.” (Yay!) Starbucks isn’t losing money — yet (but can that be a suit and tie that Howard Schultz is wearing?). And, as for Chrysler…

Sext: “What does this thing do?” Danny Gregory’s guide for the perplexed SkyMall visitor.

Nones: Now, here’s a peace initiative to watch: “Kenyan women hit men with sex ban.”

Vespers: Christopher Buckley’s memoir of his parents, Losing Mum and Pup, sounds like just the thing to read in St Croix at Thanksgiving. Something to look forward to.

Compline: Would you be influenced by a “livability index” in deciding where to settle down? If you think you’re too old for that decision, when did that happen? And would you advise the young ‘uns in your life to “choose wisely”?

Bon weekend à tous!


§ Matins. Actually, Mr Schaengold only treats the political history of conservatives’ association with cars, suburbs, and road construction.

This association can be traced to the ’70s, when cities became associated with social dysfunction and suburbs remained bastions of ‘normalcy.’ This dynamic was fueled by headlines mocking ill-conceived transit projects that conservatives loved to point out as examples of wasteful government spending.

But there’s also the sense that the conservative mind is divided against itself. The conservatives whom I’ve met are schizophrenic about the personal freedom afforded by the automobile. They cherish it for themselves, but they regret the autonomy that it grants to those who want to escape family structures (that is, themselves).

As someone who has no desire whatsoever to hop into a car and drive off to new horizons, I own a simpler conservative than the Rushians’.

§ Lauds. I don’t know who had the bright idea of conflating two books in the plot of one film, but it’s an ingenious one. Julie & Julia will be the true-life cap to a run of fictional films that have generated heat by shifting between eras (to name but two Michael Harrington projects, The Hours and Evening — but we could reach as far back as Heat and Dust).

In one sense, Julia Child will be the role of Meryl Streep’s career. Not only was Mrs Child a monumental American, but she became that monument on television, right before everybody’s eyes. The only comparable performance that I can think of is Faye Dunaway’s, in Mommie Dearest. This movie, at least, will be fun.

Now, repeat after me: Boh-zhoo!

§ Prime. After reading the interview, I pulled down my (recent) edition of Dancer from the Dance and opened it up to the middle. I’d still be reading it if pleasure were all I thought about.

Dancer is the most romantic novel that I have ever read. When I discovered it, not long after it was published — the first paperback edition, I believe — I didn’t know John Ashbery’s famous observation about happiness —

(I am assuming that from the moment that life cannot be one continual orgasm, real happiness is impossible and pleasant surprise is promoted to the front rank of the emotions.)

— and I can’t imagine what I’d have made of it if I’d known it (although I’d certainly have disagreed from the bottom of my whatever). But the line would have helped me to understand the agony of Mr Holleran’s gay lovers. They won’t admit that life cannot be one continual orgasm, so instead they pretend that the intervening stuff isn’t really life.

Many people (not, perhaps, Mr Halloran’s readers) would find the atmosphere of Dancer from the Dance to be tedious, but I find it tragic, in the way that the Oresteia is tragic. Extremely powerful writing, in both instances, makes the case that, awful as they are, things could not be otherwise.

I don’t envy Mr Halloran’s insatiable lovers any more than I envy Agamemnon, but the simplicity of their obsession is compelling.

In fact the entire realm of daytime existence became meaningless to Malone, and he wondered how it was possible for men to do anything but pursue amorous interests; how it was possible for them to found businesses, build buildings, play squash.

For my part, it is much easier to imagine founding a business or building a building (if not playing squash) than to conceive of Malone’s “vow to sleep with everyone just once.” As I say, though, this is the most romantic book in the world. Everyone, as it happens, wants to sleep with Malone — and not just once. I’d have asked Mr Holleran if he meant, by “the entire realm of daytime existence,” to invoke the matchlessly impossible love of Tristan and Isolde. But it doesn’t matter what he had in mind. Dancer from the Dance is one long Liebestod.

§ Tierce. But the most interesting story is Mickey Meece’s look at partnerships between start-ups and behemoths.

These small-business/big-business partnerships have spread beyond technology and now can be found in every industry, said Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research in Lafayette, Calif.

In the service industry, for example, Luggage Forward started a white-glove shipping business in 2004 with the help of larger partners like FedEx. This year, it has enjoyed double-digit quarter-to-quarter shipment growth, even in the middle of the economic downturn.

It will be interesting to watch this symbiosis develop, as mature industries recognize that their stability (which is good for everyone except speculators) is so inimical to commercial innovation that it makes sense to outsource R & D completely. And that’s just the beginning.

§ Sext. Speaking of which, Kathleen just discovered the Yodeling Pickle this morning. Her eyes rolled all the way to the office, beating her by twenty minutes, even though she took a taxi.

§ Nones. Uh-oh!

But the BBC’s Anne Waithera in Nairobi says the campaign is likely to meet resistance from some men.

Our correspondent says some would argue that Kenyan men cannot even abstain for two days.

This could be great for gay marriage in homophobic Africa!

§ Vespers. It’s not the famous conservative intellectual who interests me, but his witty consort, who dared the world, basically, to tell her something that she did not already know. I remember a short piece in which the author was interviewing his mother about fashion, for some reason, and, in the middle of her thought, Pat Buckley interrupted herself. “You don’t believe that anybody’s interested in this crap, do you?” Or words to that effect.

§ Compline. Or, like me, would you just coast on living in the 49th out of the top 50?

International relocation would appear to be a young person’s move, but the Mercer index is skewed toward cities of and for the not-young. Vienna? Have you been to Vienna? Frankfurt (#8) wakes up once a year for the Book Fair (if that’s your idea of fun — or culture). Switzerland? You have to wonder what’s wrong with Basel, since Zurich, Geneva and Bern (Bern!) all figure in the top ten. (Maybe Basel is too small.) When Luxembourg outclasses Paris (#19 and #33, respectively), you know that “night life” must involve milky drinks.

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