Daily Office:


Matins: Will George Dangerfield’s 1935 classic, The Strange Death of Liberal England (one of the few history books that everybody ought to read, if only because everybody who has read it seems to love it) be echoed by a book called something like The Strange Death of Labour England? David Runciman foretells.

Lauds: Scott Cantrell wonders if piano competitions ought to take place behind screens (as orchestral auditions are); he doesn’t think that a blind pianist would have won this year’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition had the jury been blind.

Prime: Andrew Price notes the gender gap in unemployment, at GOOD.

Tierce: After Mily de Gernier’s testimony, prosecutors will have to rethink the top count in their indictment of Anthony Marshall. That’s the one that describes Mr Marshall’s sale of the late philanthropist’s Childe Hassam as “grand larceny.”

Sext: Choire Sicha: Which gender is superior, and why this means holding women to higher standards.

Nones: Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë has awarded the Dalai Lama honorary Parisian citizenship. Not an act of state, stutters President Sarkozy!

Vespers: Stephen Elliott interviews Dave Eggers, at The Rumpus. Once Mr Eggers’s forthcoming book (Zeitoun) has been dealt with, the conversation turns, very interestingly, to print and poor kids.

Compline: Alex Krupp shows how the Industrial Revolution’s grudge against human nature leads to intellectual impoverishment — via Benjamin Spock! “How intellectual pollution has crippled American children,” at Sensemaking.


§ Matins. Mr Runciman’s entry is a miracle of concision, laying out the British isle’s political landscape in a single paragraph, plus one sentence.

Scotland, where a governing party of the centre-left (certainly to the left of Labour) won handsomely. The Labour government in Westminster should be terrified.

Why? Well, assuming anything even close to the results of last Thursday’s elections are reproduced in a general election next May, Labour will be trounced by the Tories in England (in some parts of the country it has already disappeared as an electoral force altogether – in the South-East and South-West barely 1 in 30 registered voters chose to vote Labour), but will also lose seats in Scotland to the SNP, where the Tories are unlikely to make many gains. So a 2010 referendum may well take place with the SNP riding high in Scotland, the Tories in total charge in England, and Labour squeezed out in both. Scots are hardly likely to be reconciled to the Union by the sight of a David Cameron government with a huge Westminster majority but only a handful of Scottish MPs. Nor is it certain that a Cameron government, faced with the possibility of Scottish independence, will be in any position to resist – the more Machiavellian among them may even see this as an opportunity to kill off the Labour party once and for all, since deprived of its Scottish base in Westminster the Labour Party ceases to have any plausible hold on power.

§ Lauds. Mr Cantrell was impressed by Nobuyuki Tsujii’s performances, but not that impressed.


Tsujii prompts mixed feelings.

It’s almost beyond imagining that he has learned scores as formidable as Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata by ear. (There are Braille editions of some music, but that’s a cumbersome and very slow way to learn.) Through all three rounds, he played with unfailing assurance, and his unforced, utterly natural Chopin E-minor Piano Concerto was an oasis of loveliness amid too much point-making from other contestants. He brought delicate expressivity to Debussy’s first book of Images and admirable proportion to the first movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata, and he managed to make Liszt’s La campanella fun but not vulgar.

Others, apparently including the jury, found other Tsujii performances compelling. I did not, much as I was and am in awe of his accomplishment. There were just too many phrases that plodded along without shape or clarity of voicing. Even with allowances for what must have been formidable difficulties in coordinating the Rachmaninoff concerto, too much of Tsujii’s performance was limp and colorless.

It would interesting to split classical-music competitions into two components, a private, screened performance for the jury, and a public performance on which the audience (but only the live audience) gets to vote via cell phone.

§ Prime. Mr Price notes that economist Gregory Mankiw attributes the gap to the kinds of business that are laying off workers. I wonder if size may not be a factor as well.

§ Tierce. According to John Eligon’s report in the Times, Ms de Gernier “said that Mrs. Astor told her in 2002 that she was giving her son money for selling a Childe Hassam painting for her.” There’s a long distance, though, between “money” and “$2 million,” which is the commission that Mr Marshall awarded to himself. 

The size of the commission sits ill with other conduct to which Ms de Gernier and Christopher Ely testified.

Testifying about Mr. Marshall’s frugality in spending on his mother, Ms. de Gernier said that in February 2003, Mr. Marshall denied her request to buy a special gate to be placed at the top of the stairs of Mrs. Astor’s duplex apartment. He asked Ms. de Gernier not to send the rugs in the apartment away for cleaning as she had every summer, she said.

In 2004, she said, Mr. Marshall told her that his mother had too many people working for her. And the following year, she said, he told her that she spent too much money on flowers for the apartment and asked her to get them from a Korean market instead of the normal florist she went to.

Mr. Ely testified that Mr. Marshall brought up similar issues in conversation with him, saying that Mrs. Astor’s staffs at her homes in Westchester and Northeast Harbor, Me., were too big and that it was very expensive to maintain the trees at the Westchester home.

Mr. Ely also spoke of Mrs. Astor’s mental confusion. “She once asked me if we were married,” Mr. Ely said.

And, he added, she sometimes referred to her son as her husband.

§ Sext. Mr Sicha is so right about groups of straight men. Whenever I find myself in one, I long for a brain amputation. Or at least a temporary hearing loss. I have never understand how gay men put up with their dates; conversely, I do understand why some gay men are interested in sex only.

While laughing over this —

And all this is why when I meet stupid bitches, which I do with some regularity, I hold them to a higher standard. (And, uh oh, I think I sound like Lizz Winstead right now! Except unlike Lizz Winstead, I like sluts. And bitches. But not stupid sluts. Or stupid bitches.) But it’s like when priests molest children. Priests should be the last people molesting children! It’s extra-gross! And yet apparently they do it constantly. Similarly, shocking or dim lady behaviors are twice as shocking.

— a good working definition of “stupidity” came to me. Stupidity is thinking that you’re smarter than you are, and the intensity of your stupidity increases with the strength of your delusion. The problem with this definition is that you cannot apply it to yourself. Stupidity is totally in the mind of the beholder.

That’s why good manners are so important. They’re all you’ve got.

§ Nones. Mr Delanoë’s gesture strikes as typical of the political and humanitarian opportunism that swirls around Lhamo Döndrub, a powerfully charismatic man and, it increasingly appears, a Cold War relic. If he were not on the scene, it is unlikely that there would be rioting in Lhasa — staged or genuine.

He said on Sunday that the rioting that erupted in Tibet in March last year had been fomented by agents of the Chinese state in order to justify a subsequent crackdown and smear local activists as rioters.

“Despite a heavy security presence throughout Lhasa from 10 March onwards, it remains unclear why the Chinese forces of order remained inactive for so long in the centre of the city,” the Dalai Lama said.

“On 14 March, Tibetans unknown to anyone in Lhasa started to burn shops and throw stones at the Chinese without police interference, while film crews already in place filmed the scene and broadcast it throughout the world.

“Only then did the security forces crack down on the disturbances. It is hard not to suspect a deliberate staging of riots,” he said, speaking in Tibetan through a French translator.

I don’t claim for a moment that the Chinese government is conducting itself properly in Tibet. But restoring the status quo ante is almost certainly not preferable.

§ Vespers. Dave Eggers’s experience at 826 Valencia confirms my suspicion that the children of wealthy parents are being raised as idiots.

Rumpus: I know a lot of your optimism comes from your working with kids at the 826 centers.

Eggers: The students we serve at 826, by and large, just aren’t addicted to electronic media — not in the way we’re led to believe all kids are. Most of our students don’t have cellphones of their own, and they don’t have computers at home. So they come into 826, and they work with paper and pencil on their homework. Honestly, that’s about 80 percent of what we do. Even at the high school level, the students we work with aren’t soaking in the Internet all the time. To some extent all the doom about the printed word is a class thing. Wealthier kids who can afford their own phones and computers are probably spending more time online and in some cases, less time with books, but the kids we work with are honestly pretty enamored of books and newspapers. It means a lot to them to have their work between two covers, an actual book that they can see on a shelf next to other books. There’s a mystique about the printed word. And the students who come into 826 every day really read. These middle schoolers have read everything. Judy Blume came into the center in San Francisco one day and she was mobbed. Fifty kids swarmed her. They practically tackled her. Same thing with Daniel Handler, who writes the Lemony Snicket books. These are by and large kids whose parents immigrated here from Latin America, and English isn’t spoken at home. But they’ve read all thirteen Lemony Snicket books. So I have optimism about print because I see these kids, and how much they love to read. And they work on our student newspapers, and anthologies and a dozen other print projects. They really have a thing for print. And I do too. I fear sometimes we’re actually giving up too soon. We adults have to have faith. And we have to rededicate ourselves to examining what in any given issue of our daily papers is really speaking to anyone under 18. That’s a challenge. I was just in Chicago, and the Tribune there does all kinds of very interesting stuff to reach out to younger readers. It’s something that we all have to think about.

§ Compline. I don’t think that I could agree more heartily.

In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote a book that would change the course of history. His book, Baby and Child Care, became internationally famous for promoting the idea that when it comes to raising children, “you know more than you think you do.” In other words, when it comes to raising your children you should follow your intuition. This idea proved revolutionary, and remains the dominant advice from pediatricians to this day.

The only problem is that it’s completely wrong.

Think about it. When deciding how much calcium to give your kids, would you just eyeball the container of Tums and pick an amount that feels right? Of course not. And yet there are many other parenting best-practices that have been determined in exactly this way.

Sensemaking is yet another very interesting site that the heaps and heaps of posts at reddit has turned up for me.

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