Daily Office:


Matins: Food for thought this weekend: Alain de Botton proposes “A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success,” in a presentation at TED. The main point: make sure that your idea of success is your own idea.

Lauds: Every time Jeremy Denk adds a new bit of music appreciation to his blog, the technical support gets better. Now, we think, it has caught up, in a piece about one of Brahms’s three sonatas for violin and piano (all beauties).

Prime: Felix Salmon: “When Stretching the Accordion Makes Sense.” Makes sense! It sounds like the best idea ever. But it does pit one idea of growth against another.

Tierce: Meet Judy Natkins — you can see her in court.

Sext: For those of you who haven’t seen Elizabeth Moss off the Mad Men screen, there’s Amy Heckerling’s Intervention parody.

Nones: We thought it might be Iran aiming to shut down Twitter, but it was more likely Russia and Georgia, trying to shut down one another — propaganda-wise, at least.

Vespers: Some Friday fun from Tao Lin, at The Stranger. “The Levels of Greatness a Fiction Writer Can Achieve in America (From Lowest to Highest).”

Compline: The weekend must-read: Jonah Lehrer’s “The Truth About Grit.” At last, a truly cogent demolition job on IQ testing (and testing in general).

Bon weekend à tous!


§ Matins. And lose the word “loser.” Because it says more about you than it does about the person whom you’re scorning.

Party quiz: What famous play would be headlined by the tabs as “Sex with mum was blinding”?

§ Lauds. We can keep up with Mr Denk because we had years and years of piano lessons. We never practiced; we were never serious about playing. But we loved music. Perhaps music lessons ought to be reconceived (for entry-level students) as a portal not to performance but to appreciation.

There is something about this asymmetry that is flirtatious, too (most affections are asymmetrical). All the elements of the practiced flirt are there. The violinist offers but the one bar each time: a minimum of attention, but just enough to keep the piano interested. The violinist flatteringly repeats back what the piano offered, but with a more sensual, flowing rhythm: a good mixture of stroking the pianist’s ego and suggesting an alternative. This one “extra” bar is not an insertion but a compressed, distilled meaning: not just the tentative beginnings of a dialogue, but a symbol of encounter itself, a parenthetical musical rendezvous.

Candor compels us to confess that we had to look up “hemiola.” So that’s what it’s called!

§ Prime. Downtimes are great for giving wild ideas a try.

Much more intelligent, in a creative company, to do something potentially very valuable with temporarily-underemployed executives and staff. If it works, that’s fantastic; if it doesn’t, the employees have still had a valuable and productive experience, and the company hasn’t bogged down in bureaucracy. Meanwhile, layoffs have been avoided, and top employees don’t end up working at a competitor.

It’s a matter of recognizing that real capital is the full intellectual resources commanded by staff, not just the ones required to get the everyday work done.

§ Tierce. Now this is a summer vacation.

Nearly every day for 13 weeks, Ms. Natkins, a substitute teacher from Queens, has taken a seat on the unforgiving wooden benches behind the prosecution, watching the proceedings in the over-air-conditioned confines of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan. In a slow-moving, often technical trial that has, at points, put defendants and jurors to sleep, she watches rapt. During breaks she occasionally offers words of encouragement to the witnesses and chats with the defendants.

In more serious news,  handwriting expert Gus Lesnevich testifies that a key signature is a forgery.

“I have absolutely no doubt it’s not Brooke Astor’s signature,” Mr. Lesnevich said on Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

That testimony by Mr. Lesnevich, a forensic document examiner and prosecution witness, appeared to be a blow to Francis X. Morrissey Jr., an estate lawyer whom prosecutors have accused of forging Mrs. Astor’s signature on the document, a codicil to her will, dated March 3, 2004.

Wednesday was one of the rare days in this trial, now in its 15th week, in which Mr. Morrissey overshadowed his co-defendant, Anthony D. Marshall, Mrs. Astor’s only son. Both men are accused of scheming to take advantage of Mrs. Astor’s dementia to fool her into changing her will in order to funnel millions of dollars their way.

But it is Mr. Morrissey who has been charged with forgery, and if convicted on that count he faces up to seven years in prison.

In the annals of What Were They Thinking, the claim that Mr Morrissey ever represented the likes of Brooke Astor deserves prominent mention.

§ Sext. “Delete! Delete!” Why do we think we know Sharon Sheinwold?

§ Nones. What still dismays us is how many people seem to think that the long Twitter outage was nothing but an inconvenience for a lot of solipsistic chatterboxes.

Concern over the service disruption underscores the role Twitter has come to play in everyday communications. Businesses and individuals use the service to communicate using 140-character messages, known to users as tweets.

It also played a role as an unfiltered source of information in political protests after the recent Iranian elections.

“Big companies are reliant on Twitter for marketing and consumer outreach,” Mr. Cluley said. “People feel a very real pang when a site like this goes down.”


§ Vespers. We drive a used Honda Civic in “great” condition.

Frequently cited in comments sections of blogs with 2,000–4,000 unique visitors a day as “Great American Novelists,” or sometimes “the greatest writer ever that is still alive and American.” Published novels at first, then got distracted and published nonfiction books, story collections, essay collections, and other things that made them less powerful. Also held back by their inability to write about the Holocaust, genocide in Africa, racism, or the immigrant experience; that they sometimes publish in places that are not the New Yorker; and that photos of them exist where their faces do not convey “I am very smart and this is my serious literature.”

Get better than Franzen and Foster Wallace and the air is too thin to breathe.

§ Compline. In the middle ages, as we all know, science and technology had nothing to do with one another; science was all theory (make-believe, really), while technology was all mortar. Mr Lehrer’s essay reminded us of this disconnect, because a similar divide seems to have opened up in the past sixty-odd year, separating academia from the real world: between “intelligence” and labor.

Unfortunately, in the decades following Terman’s declaration, little progress was made on the subject. Because intelligence was so easy to measure – the IQ test could be given to schoolchildren, and often took less than an hour – it continued to dominate research on individual achievement.

The end result, says James J. Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, is that “there was a generation of social scientists who focused almost exclusively on trying to raise IQ and academic test scores. The assumption was that intelligence is what mattered and what could be measured, and so everything else, all these non-cognitive traits like grit and self-control, shouldn’t be bothered with.”

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Fernando says:

    The American prison syestm is a joke; the amount criminal activity allowed within prisons is an embarrassment. Muslim prisoners should be prevented from organizing in anyway and should not be given any special considerations whatsoever. Muslim prisoners if allowed to organize will be able to run jihadist and criminal activities just like gangs do in so many institutions.