Daily Office:


Matins: GOOD announces the winner of its Livable Streets Contest. (All the contestants are here.)

Lauds: The sketch blog of Jillian Tamaki, the artist whose work graced the cover of this week’s Book Review. (via The Best Part)

Prime: Michael Lewis revisits Warren Buffett. (via The Awl)

Tierce: No poop on the poop: testimony about dog droppings on Brooke Astor’s dining room floor was ruled inadmissable yesterday. Justice Bartley: “It would seem to me the transient conditions of the apartment – I would include in that dog feces – would be a problem of the staff.”

Sext: This faux Wes Anderson trailer is an elegant little satire, more loving than harsh, of the filmmaker’s foibles.

Nones: The digital universe, like the “real” one, is expanding at speed. Continue reading for a delicious factoid.

Vespers: John Self writes about White Noise, a book that I’d always felt guilty about not reading until I finally gave it away unread.

Compline: Caleb Cage writes about the future of warfare (“RMA“) at The Rumpus.


§ Matins. Perhaps because I’m a New Yorker, no entrant came as close to winning my heart as the example provided by Carly Clark and Aaron Naparstek, which transforms the intersection of 76th and Amsterdam. Chop up that pavement!

§ Lauds. Ms Tamaki’s drawing of Michael Phelp’s has all the strength of a very dramatic manga moment.

§ Prime. The piece, which is a review of Alice Schroeder’s The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, underlines the “Omaha” in “Wizard of Omaha.” The man is really good at a few things but rigorously resistant to (distracting) new experiences.

Perhaps the most interesting bit concerns Mr Buffett’s somewhat odd decision not to transform Berkshire Hathaway into a private equity firm back in the Eighties. Read the following carefully:

Buffett’s second great decision was to maximize, at great financial cost to himself, the interest that the public might take in his business affairs. In 1986, Congress passed a tax reform that changed how Berkshire Hathaway’s capital gains were taxed. Previously, those gains had been taxed only once, when a shareholder sold his shares. Now, so long as Berkshire remained a public corporation, Buffett would need also to pay tax on any gains from the sale of stocks inside his portfolio. There was an obvious solution, and it was seized upon by public fund managers everywhere in Buffett’s position: shutter the corporation and become a private equity fund. At the time Berkshire had $1.2 billion of unrealized capital gains. Buffett might have doled these out, and then restarted as a partnership free of corporate double tax. Instead, at a cost to himself that Schroeder puts at $185 million, he kept Berkshire intact.

A man who cares so deeply about money reveals himself most wholly in his decisions to part with it. Buffett had exchanged cash for an audience. The first twenty years of his investing life had been spent more or less in obscurity. (In 1981 only twenty-two people attended the Berkshire Hathaway conference.) By 1986, however, Buffett’s every move was being watched, and usually cheered. His fame became not only a pleasure but an asset.

It’s never too late to crave a place at the cool kids’ table.

§ Tierce. I don’t think that I’m with Justice Bartley on this one. As I recall from chitchat at the time, Anthony Marshall was calling the shots on the running of his mother’s apartment by the time that canine continence got to be a problem. That was why Philip Marshall sought to have his father replaced as her conservator. The staff’s failings were attributable to him.

§ Sext. The trailer made me want to grab my favorite Anderson movie, The Royal Tenenbaums.

§ Nones. According to Richard Wray, of the Guardian,

The world’s store of digital content is now the equivalent of one full top-of-the-range iPod for every two people on the planet, following the explosion of social networking sites, internet-enabled mobile phones and government surveillance.

At 487bn gigabytes (GB), if the world’s rapidly expanding digital content were printed and bound into books it would form a stack that would stretch from Earth to Pluto 10 times.

It’s a wonderfully useless image. All digital information is sized on one scale, while books contain hugely various amounts of information. A comparison that worked in something about how many words there are in the British Library, or the Library of Congress, would have been rather less silly. Pluto isn’t even a planet anymore.

§ Vespers. If I hadn’t hated Mr DeLillo’s big fat Underworld, I might have given White Noise a chance. But for how many pages?

I can tell that when I was younger, I would have lapped up White Noise: its suggestiveness, its modishness, its lists and its non-sequiturs and its media mash, but right now it just feels like a Bret Easton Ellis novel without the jokes. Except it’s pretty clear that DeLillo thinks it’s full of jokes. They are easy enough to spot, but they are the sort of jokes which seek not to make you laugh or smile but to nod and go, Yeah, I’m in on this!

Even worse:

These timeless questions, however, are subsumed into a surface of modern – that is, early 1980s – culture. And with its interest in natural and unnatural disasters, White Noise – 25 years old – seems curiously more dated than, say, a 50-year-old John Wyndham novel, because of its reliance on the minutiae of brand names, technology and cultural contemporaneity.

§ Compline. P W Singer’s Wired for War: the Robotics Revolution in the 21st Century sounds fascinating, but Mr Cage is understandably more interested in the humanist argument advanced by Capt Paul K Chappell’s Will War Ever End?: A Soldier’s Vision for Peace for the 21st Century. (Mr Cage and Capt Chappell were also classmates at West Point.)

Humans are inherently peaceful beings, Chappell argues, and we require cooperation and community for basic survival. He details “the indestructible bond” of unconditional love between soldiers, and from the soldiers to those for whom they are fighting and willing to die. Aggression and posturing, on and off the battlefield, are tactics to avoid a fight altogether by mentally overwhelming the adversary.

Chappell offers two key terms, redefined for the psychological lexicon of warfare: fury and rage. Fury is the combination of unconditional love and adrenaline that makes us fight for loved ones who are in danger. Conversely, rage is the combination of hatred and adrenaline that leads to a limitless and irrational violence. “Fury,” Chappell notes, “is a survival instinct that makes us natural protectors but not natural killers.” Rage results not only in harm to our fellow man, but also to ourselves because of the diminishing qualities of hatred.

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