Daily Office:


Matins: A word from venture capitalist Peter Rip:

Corporate America, its public boards, and now, the United States government would be well served to take a few pages on governance from America’s venture capital-backed companies.

Lauds: Queen Nefertiti’s bust a fake? What fun! I love fakes! (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Now I know what to get for my grandchildren (when & if): littleBits. “PLUS magnets are FUN.” (via kottke.org)

Tierce: More excluded testimony at the Marshall Trial yesterday — and everybody but the jury heard proposed testimony by the late Mrs Astor’s social secretary. The Post, the Daily News.

Sext: Last night, I asked about the “backlash” to Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker piece about the full-court press. Voilà! Tom Scocca buttonholes Choire Sicha at The Awl. (via Brainiac)

Nones: Mark Landler reads the tea-leaves of Iran’s release of Roxana Saberi (who by the way is gawjus!): Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reverses course to improve his re-election bid.

Vespers: Rebecca Dalzell bids adieu to the Times’s City section, soon to be cut from the Sunday paper.

Compline: Built on a former French military base (hence its having been named after Louis XIV’s fortress engineer), the Freiburg suburb of Vauban could not have accommodated civilian auto traffic anyway. You are allowed to own a car if you live in the upscale development, but you can’t park it at your house.


§ Matins. Almost everything that Mr Rip has to say — and it’s not only very sensible but supported, negatively, by recent “In This Economy” events — suggests that smaller is better. (Certainly smaller is better when it comes to closing down unpromising start-ups!)

Venture-backed companies are small (at least when they start out) and they grow only by generating cash. There’s no sophisticated financial engineering taking place and no slush or rainy-day funds hidden in the books. There is no place to hide. Unlike in public companies, boards of venture-backed companies have no reluctance to replace C.E.O.’s or key managers when things aren’t working. “Wait until next year, again” is not tolerated because the companies cannot afford it. Cash is king. Crucial measures of value creation are monitored with frequent board meetings to see if promises made are promises kept. If not, change happens.

§ Lauds. I am so hoping that Laocoön and His Sons will turn out to have been chiseled by Michelangelo and Raphael and then “discovered” on the Esquiline Hill.

§ Prime. Which reminds me of Heathkit… OMG: Is this the one that I built in college? The one that had to fixed by the very tidy guy down the hall — and even then it didn’t work very well? I learned from building this radio that I was not put on this earth for any kind of precision work. Sadly, that didn’t stop me.  

§ Tierce. According to Birgit Darby, Mrs Astor’s social secretary at the time, Charlene Marshall was alleged to have said, “She’s killing him, she’s fucking killing him… And if he dies before she dies, I get nothing.” And you thought life would be dull without W to kick around!

Justice Bartley quite properly excluded Ms Darby’s testimony as irrelevant: Mrs Marshall is not on trial. (Not in the courtroom, anyway.) It also sounds off to me. Why would Charlene have such a conversation with Birgit Darby? Ill-advised thinking out loud? I suspect that contextualizing patches of the conversation have been “forgotten.”

§ Sext. I must confess that I haven’t gotten to Mr Gopnik’s encomium to candlelight, but I know that he’s not going to convince me. I did the candlelight thing when I was in my teens, and didn’t believe in electric lighting — So crude! So Mamie Eisenhower! — and even then my eyes weren’t up to it.

§ Nones. I for one think that sending a beautiful woman of Iranian background to serve as an NPR correspondent was a tremendously foolish move. (Of course she’s gawjus — she’s a former Miss North Dakota!)

§ Vespers. Ms Dalzell is not slow to mention the great Joseph Mitchell, who rebottled the old-timey brew of urban sketches (which always sound like Melville to me) and spiked it with jazzy ironies and knowing complicities. If you haven’t got Up In the Old Hotel, you must not like cities.

§ Compline. Not surprisingly, the first American development to follow the Vauban model is located in the Bay Area, outside of Oakland. Here’s a hitch that will have them laughing in a hundred years or less:

Sherman Lewis, a professor emeritus at Cal State and a leader of the association, says he “can’t wait to move in” and hopes that Quarry Village will allow his family to reduce its car ownership from two to one, and potentially to zero. But the current system is still stacked against the project, he said, noting that mortgage lenders worry about resale value of half-million-dollar homes that have no place for cars, and most zoning laws in the United States still require two parking spaces per residential unit. Quarry Village has obtained an exception from Hayward.

The transformation of the suburban life — the only imaginable way of life for most Americans — requires an intelligent leadership that is nowhere in evidence at the moment. We need a variety of experimental models to start up as soon as possible, so that the transition to a car-less way of life can be made with enthusiasm, before it becomes dire necessity.

Comments are closed.