Daily Office:


Matins: Another way of looking at Earthly inequality: 50% of the world’s population inhabits nations that, in sum, produce only 5% of the world’s GDP.

Lauds: Elliot Goldenthal discusses his beautifully moody score for Public Enemies with Jim Fusilli, at Speakeasy.

Prime: Matt Thompson, at Snarkmarket, writes about the long overdue concept of “too big to succeed.”

Tierce: Just when we thought that the prosecution had exhausted its witnesses hostile to defendant Anthony Marshall, in walks the accountant.

Sext: So, we’ll bet you thought that a 50-pound ball of Silly Putty, if dropped from a 10-storey building, would do some awesomly rampaging bouncing. Not so.

Nones: Ethnic riots in Urumqi probably don’t threaten the stability of the Communist Party’s regime in China, but they do suggest that Uighur “aliens” don’t cotton to Shake-‘n’-Bake Han colonization.

Vespers: At The Millions, C Max Magee looks forward to books forthcoming in the second half of 2009. It’s better than Christmas — even if all you want to read is the new Joshua Ferris and a genuine novel by Nicholson Baker.

Compline: A phrase that’s altogether new to us: (to) gay marry. Friendship with (abstract?) benefits.


§ Matins. Truth to tell, we find the figures more starkly illuminating than the interesting map — which, tales of its booming economy to the contrary notwithstanding, nonetheless includes India among the nations that never would be missed if we “disappeared” the bottom 5%.

§ Lauds. In our view, the richness of Mr Goldenthal’s score not only compensates for but redeems the exiguities of digital cinema.

You were faced with the challenge of defining John Dillinger. He’s an unsavory character yet at times he’s actually a protagonist in the film.

Again, it’s a reaction. Sometimes a cue is in reaction to the American perception of Dillinger. When he gets off a plane as he’s being transferred from one prison to another, the music starts off with a moody sense of captivity and then goes into a sense of almost exhilaration. There, I really wanted to have the audience reaction to Dillinger as he emerged as a homespun, Robin Hood-type figure. Another important cue is Dillinger’s death. I wanted to build that in a sense of an edifice in a city that’s created stone by stone to build an icon. He is an icon, for better or for worse, in the American fabric.

Can you tell me about the music in the scene in which FBI Agent Melvin Purvis is pursuing Baby Face Nelson? It seems almost regal.

It’s to underline that Purvis, in a way, is a patrician-type character. He’s not a bad cop, but sometimes he’s forced to do things—the FBI brass puts him in a position he’s not too crazy about. In retrospect, you know that Purvis indeed is a good cop and you also know Baby Face is a bad, bad criminal, a bad person, a no-goodnik. The regal thing came out of the nobility good winning over evil at that point.

§ Prime. Interestingly, Mr Thompson attributes the oligarchical trend of the past fifty years to “a network distortion produced by our industrial-age regulatory framework. And it’s time to leave these things to a quiet rest.” We’d like to know more about that, because we’d have chalked the trend up to the dismantling of “just not done” financial taboos — starting with the hostile takeover, way back when.

But the history doesn’t really matter. Consider “health care,” the crisis of which almost everyone refuses to attribute to elephantine hospitals.

Today, most health care is provided by big, unwieldy hospitals. They tend to cluster in these giant office parks, often far away from the inner city, where they’re needed most. You walk in and have to navigate a maze of rooms, bouncing back and forth between receptionists and nurses and physician’s assistants and doctors.

But the vast majority of medical care people need on a daily basis doesn’t require a hospital to provide. As Tim said in our chat (punctuation mine), “There should be as many clinics as there are coffee shops, pharmacies, or copy stores. Universities do this (at least Penn does). We have a student health center; they have walk-in and appt hours, you pay a fee and it’s free. They see you and administer standard care, run tests, give physicals and vaccines and such, and then refer you to the hospital or a specialist if it’s more serious. You HAVE to go to the clinic if you’re in Philly and it’s not an emergency. And in part b/c it’s a tailored operation, geared towards younger people, it’s tremendously efficient.”

Although it’s not strictly on point, we’d like to point out here that our opposition to large business organizations has little to do with their well-known “dehumanizing” effects, bad as those are. What bothers us is the all-too-human concentration of power and wealth — but mostly power — in the hands of a few top managers. The bigger the corporation, the greater the number of people doing the CEO’s bidding, directly or indirectly.

§ Tierce. There were lots of goodies in the testimony of Stephen Cohen, Brooke Astor’s accountant (where’d he come from?) by my favorite relates to Delphi Productions. In 2003, almost certainly a year in which the late grande dame‘s mind was failing, $500,000 of Mrs Astor’s money went into the coffers of her son’s production company, which mounted the hit play, I Am My Own Wife.

In 2003, Mrs. Astor — then 101 years old — also gave $500,000 to Delphi Productions, the theater company that Mr. Marshall and his wife, Charlene, ran, according to documents presented into evidence. But by a complex calculation, they determined that it was worth only $83,333 to the production company and, therefore, only charged that amount on the gift tax return, Mr. Cohen testified.

Quite aside from the tax-dodgery, this money was different from other sums that Mr Marshall is alleged to have channeled in his wife’s direction: as a Delphi partner, she may be directly responsible for knowing how and whence this money came. You can’t be blamed for her husband’s misdeeds, even if you incited him to commit them. It’s different, though, if he’s your business partner.

§ Sext. Roger Russell, at North Carolina State, explains why the Silly Putty “freezes” and shatters. Cool to watch.

§ Nones. Urumqi is the capital of what was named “New Province” when the Qing subdued it in the Eighteenth Century. It’s still called “Xinjiang,” and it’s still far more provisional than Beijing would like.

Uighurs are the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang but are a minority in Urumqi, where Han Chinese make up more than 70 percent of the two million or so people. The Chinese government has encouraged Han migration to the city and other parts of Xinjiang, fueling resentment among the Uighurs. Urumqi is a deeply segregated city, with Han Chinese there rarely venturing into the Uighur quarter and often warning visitors to stay away from the area.

For a quick geographical perspective on Urumqi, vis-à-vis other Chinese cities, consult the pop-up map that accompanies this link. We count 29 cities with populations over a million, most of them larger than Urumqi and all of them far, far to the east and south.

§ Vespers. The dust jackets are so lovely that it took me a few minutes to realize that we can live without most of the new titles — but that’s as it should be. The following writers are off our list, more or less indefinitely.

  • William Vollmann
  • Thomas Pynchon
  • Richard Powers
  • E L Doctorow
  • John Irving

You will probably not hear us say anything unpleasant about these authors.

And, what’s this? Jonathan Franzen’s great story, “The Good Neighbors,” is an excerpt from his new novel? Cowabunga!

(Regular readers will remember that we cheated, and got our copy of the new Kazuo Ishiguro from Amazon in the UK.)

§ Compline. The phrase, used, as here —

I love football. If I could, I would gay marry it.

— is more than semi-ick, but, as Mark Peters writes, at GOOD, it can be interpreted as a hopeful sign of acceptance.

Underneath the slangy silliness, there is a significance to this trend: the colloquializing of gay marriage is one more sign of how comfortable many people are with the concept. Non-gay people (many of us, anyway) want to support gay marriage, and besides showing support in serious ways like voting, we can accept it in our slang. I may not want to marry a fellow dude, but I do want other dudes to be able to marry. It’s on my mind enough that, like others, I might say I want to gay-marry the Three Floyd’s Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. Or the fifth season of The Shield. I’d gay-marry them both at once, if I could. Such linguistic innovation is small, but it might show our collective heart is in the right place.

It makes us uncomfortable, though. In the instance given, after all, “football” doesn’t seem to have a choice.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Quatorze says:

    In the straight world, football is an entity, with its own soul. It is assumed that it has a choice, ergo the personification which can lead to “gay marry”, since football is MALE.

    One should note that, due entirely to football, boys south of the Mason-Dixon line who are named “Bubba” are invariably white, while north of this inerasable line, they are Afro-American; “Football” does indeed have inordinate powers in this country…