Daily Office:


Matins: At Coming Anarchy, the entry “Microstate Madness” describes potential breakaway statelets across Europe, from Sardegna to Scotland. (via Joe.My.God)

Lauds: Now that the bubbling (not to say gaseous) wake of the Venice Biennale has subsided into the barcarolle of the canals, Barry Schwabsky’s lucid report, “Hubbub and Stillness,” in The Nation, is an even greater pleasure to read.

Prime: Variation on an old Chinese curse: business narratives have become (Titanically) interesting.

Tierce: What if the Marshall case veers from incompetence to duress? It’s just as bad.

Sext: How TV news would cover a first moon landing today.

Nones: Honduran would-be president (the only kind, these days) Manuel Zelaya might well take a look at what his opponents are afraid of, as it plays out in Venezuela’s Barinas State.

Vespers: At Intelligent Life, Tom Shone inquires:  Is sobriety good for literary types? (via The Morning News)

Compline: Boudicca Downes discusses her parents’ decision — somewhat more controversial in the case of her conductor father, Sir Edward — to take their lives at Dignitas, a clinic in Switzerland.


§ Matins. It seems hard to believe that the map could change so extensively by 2020, but the mechanics sound right.

So what will independence look like? It won’t have the same meaning that we think of today. At the local level, these newly minted states will enjoy previously unparalleled independence, flexibility and likely prosperity. However, at the same time, they will be subservient to the European Union on international matters such as defense, some foreign policy, trade agreements, transportation and environmental issues. Also and perhaps most importantly, a credible Europe wide defense would have to exist to make the creation of new states viable.

Our only quibble with this fairly comprehensive list is that we don’t understand what “madness” is doing in the header. 

§ Lauds. Writing about art is rarely this articulate:

Just as much as with the neo-Expressionist painting of the ’80s, though perhaps more intelligently, the assemblage sculpture of the present decade has been about the power of artistic subjectivity. If Rachel Harrison is in many ways the midcareer artist of the moment–and her appearance in “Fare Mondi” is merely one more reminder of that–it is because of her uncanny ability to put images and materials together in a way that not only always seems to have a hidden logic but also outstrips the viewer’s ability to explain it. That viscerally experienced distance between the artist’s awareness of the possibilities inherent in her material and one’s own gives the work its sense of surprise but also marks its exemplary status. And the funky, offhand look Harrison cultivates is a permanent reminder that she didn’t have to sweat over creating that oblique logic; when intuition and intelligence are one and the same, it all comes naturally.

Where can I see more of Rachel Harrison’s work?

§ Prime. They must be, if Michiko Kakutani is reading them.

A year ago it would have been hard to imagine a book about the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department making it onto people’s must-read summer reading lists. But the financial calamities of last autumn put the global economy on the brink of disaster and led to continuing fiscal woes. Understanding what happened has become vitally important not just for bankers and economists, but for everyone affected by the fallout, which means … well, just about everyone.

§ Tierce. Now that would be a good one — I doubt that the defense is prepared for it. Under a theory of duress, Mrs Astor would have known exactly what she was doing — and felt coerced into doing it!

“They took away everything and they want me dead,” poor Brooke Astor wailed to her nurse after signing over her fortune to her alleged swindling son, the failing philanthropist’s nurse testified yesterday.

§ Sext. Hint: it’s all about us. (Love the Twitter screen!)

§ Nones. Concepts such as “conflict of interest” rarely make sense to men like Hugo “My Way or the Highway” Chávez.

The governor of Barinas, Adán Chávez, the president’s eldest brother and a former ambassador to Cuba, said this month that many of the kidnappings might have been a result of destabilization efforts by the opposition or so-called self-kidnappings: orchestrated abductions to reveal weaknesses among security forces, or to extort money from one’s own family.

“With each day that passes,” the governor said recently, “Barinas is safer than before.”

Through a spokeswoman, he declined to be interviewed.

In an election last year marred by accusations of fraud, Adán Chávez succeeded his own father, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, a former schoolteacher who had governed Barinas for a decade with the president’s brother, Argenis, the former secretary of state in Barinas.

Another brother, Aníbal, is mayor of nearby Sabaneta, and another brother, Adelis, is a top banker at Banco Sofitasa, which does business with Adán’s government. Yet another brother, Narciso, was put in charge of cooperation projects with Cuba. The president’s cousin Asdrúbal holds a top post at the national oil company.

(What’s with the Carthaginian nomenclature?)

§ Vespers. Certainly rehab and AA sound counterproductive — although it turns out that Elmore Leonard claims that AA meetings have made him a better listener.

“AA can only help weak people because their ego is strengthened by the group,” said Fitzgerald. “I was never a joiner.” Certainly, if what you’re used to is rolling champagne bottles down Fifth Avenue beneath the light of a wanton moon or getting into the kind of barfights that make a man feel alive, truly alive, the basic facts of recovered life—the endless meetings, the rote ingestion of the sort of clichés the writer has spent his entire life avoiding—are below prosaic. Richard Yates professed to find AA meetings impossibly maudlin: “Is just functioning living at all?” he moped, claiming he could not write a single sentence sober. His fall was even more vertiginous, and emblematic of the 1950s; like Kerouac, he was to write one masterpiece (“Revolutionary Road“), then nothing.

We were not surprised to find, in the final paragraph, that our fondness for complicated sentences is “the epitome of the drunken style.”

§ Compline. Although it would be spurious to use this an objection to assisted suicide, it seems clear that, in the short term at least, its availability will be limited to the affluent and educated. People who are neither affluent nor educated will find it very difficult to convince impartial observers that they know what they’re doing.

Unquestionably, the news that Joan was soon to die played a huge part in Edward’s decision to cut short his own life. Nevertheless, he had to make his own case to Dignitas as to why the group should help him to take his life. “The fact that his wife was dying was not a factor in their evaluation of his suitability,” said Boudicca, who dismissed claims that the organisation was not thorough enough in its checks.

“The Swiss government regulates it closely. Dignitas needed to ensure my parents were absolutely convinced of what they wanted to do and they had many occasions throughout the whole process, right up to the minute before, to change their minds,” said Boudicca. “It was so thorough I was worried mum would not be well enough to travel or that she would collapse before they were given a date.” 

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