Daily Office:


Matins: Christopher Shea surveys the world of Letterman Apology Evaluations.

Lauds: Soon to be arriving on your iPhone: an original picture by David Hockney.

Prime: Versace will close its three outlets in Japan.

Tierce: Linguist John McWhorter frolics and detours at  Good: The “For Themselves” Love Drug. (Did we say “linguist”?)

Sext: “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, as long as both are covered with a sharp, original, Awly take.” The Awl turns five months, sixteen days old. Two days ago.

Nones: And you thought Honduras was this boring provincial story. Ha! Bet you didn’t even know the word Chavista! (We didn’t.) As in “Chavista authoritarianism” and Cold War think tanks — in Washington.

Vespers: Levi Stahl reviews the Man Booker winner, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, at The Second Pass.

Compline: Amazing study about city people with guns — and how much more likely they are to be shot dead.


§ Matins. Not having seen David Letterman since the Lillehammer Olympics (to which Dave sent his mom, right?), we can’t claim to be very interested in the talk-show host’s personal life. But the brouhaha is extremely interesting.

We suspect that most viewers (at least) are in agreement with Gawker. It may be regrettable that David Letterman has succumbed to the general rule that holds that powerful men enjoy sex on demand, whether or not they think they’re in love &c. But the problem is the general rule, not Mr Letterman.

How to deal with “sex in the workplace”? Hmm, let’s see. We avoid the problem by staying at home, alone (although that is not why we stay home, alone), but it occurs to us that it may be time to give one of our most popular nostrums a try: transparency.

If the gal in the next cubicle is “dating” the boss, then that ought to be a matter for open discussion, and certainly not behind her back. No: at the water cooler, in the ladies’ room, wherever, she ought to be consulted for insights into the big guy’s mentality. Also: to what other department does she fancy a promotion, and what are the odds that her paramour will be able to pull off the shunt? As for the boss, he ought to be commended on his prowess. “Nice work, CK — although we also thought that you and Doris were a cuter couple.”

In short: grow up! We’re not Victorians anymore! We believe that it’s healthy, and not at all embarrassing, to talk about sex openly, especially when we have a little problem with someone else’s taking advantage of it for personal gain and at our expense!

Just let anybody try to fire you.

§ Lauds. And we can thank writer Lawrence Weschler — although Mr Hockney’s apprehension of an iPhone was probably inevitable.

Hockney first became interested in iPhones about a year ago (he grabbed the one I happened to be using right out of my hands). He acquired one of his own and began using it as a high-powered reference tool, searching out paintings on the Web and cropping appropriate details as part of the occasional polemics or appreciations with which he is wont to shower his friends.

But soon he discovered one of those newfangled iPhone applications, entitled Brushes, which allows the user digitally to smear, or draw, or fingerpaint (it’s not yet entirely clear what the proper verb should be for this novel activity), to create highly sophisticated full-color images directly on the device’s screen, and then to archive or send them out by e-mail. Essentially, the Brushes application gives the user a full color-wheel spectrum, from which he can choose a specific color. He can then modify that color’s hue along a range of darker to lighter, and go on to fill in the entire backdrop of the screen in that color, or else fashion subsequent brushstrokes, variously narrower or thicker, and more or less transparent, according to need, by dragging his finger across the screen, progressively layering the emerging image with as many such daubings as he desires.

Reality television and the fine arts have just collided, to produce who-knows-what. Certainly a new way of belonging to the art world.


§ Prime. Gee, only a year ago, Versace “expected Asia to surpass the United States as its biggest market after Europe this year as it expanded in China.”

Mr. di Risio, who had run the brand for five years, left amid speculation about clashes over strategy with Donatella Versace, the company’s chief designer.

Under Mr. di Risio, Versace sold unprofitable units and took control of distribution in Japan and Taiwan to compete more effectively with Gucci Group and Giorgio Armani.

Where’s the bit about making better stuff than the other two wings of Varmucci?

§ Tierce. Very amusing food for thought! Mr McWhorter proposes a drug that would make us fall in love with someone “for him- or herself.” Just how that “self” might be detachable from its packaging (good looks or bad) remains, to put it nicely, unclear.

Not to mention the strange concept of falling in love with attractive but nasty people. This is best seen as a pathology in the lover, not a magical charm that the malignant beauty possesses.

§ Sext. Who knew that traffic was so good?

Beyond our wildest hopes when we started last April. We closed September at a million billion monthly unique readers and 35 million trillion page views, which is up 70 percent and 220 percent, respectively, since our first month. It took me two years to build my Tumblr to less than half that number. And the readers are loyal: 60 percent of them come back again within 24 hours. Lord, do they ever. It’s like they NEVER STOP COMING AND NEVER SHUT UP. Of course, keeping ‘em satisfied is a 8/5 task. I know what the tireless blogger Andrew Sullivan means when he told me last summer that he sometimes gets so high on weed he can see through time itself.

§ Nones. Oh, no! It’s Otto Reich! (He only sounds German.)

“The current battle for political control of Honduras is not only about that small nation,” Mr. Reich testified in July before Congress. “What happens in Honduras may one day be seen as either the high-water mark of Hugo Chávez’s attempt to undermine democracy in this hemisphere or as a green light to the spread of Chavista authoritarianism,” he said, referring to the Venezuelan president.

Mr. Noriega, who was a co-author of the Helms-Burton Act, which tightened the United States embargo against Cuba, and who has recently served as a lobbyist for a Honduran business group, declined to comment for this article.

Mr. Reich, who served in key Latin America posts for President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush, said he had not lobbied officially for any Honduran group. But he said he had used his connections to push the agenda of the de facto government, led by Roberto Micheletti, because he believed that the Obama administration had made a mistake.

Manuel Zelaya’s heart may be in the right place — maybe — but his head is up his asshole. The Honduras coup is a classic intramural prep-school fight — which isn’t going to help people who didn’t go to prep school understand the dynamic. No matter what either side says, nobody cares about the good people of Honduras. About the rich ones, yes. But just the rich ones. Even Señor Toca. 

§ Vespers. We liked the review principally because it warned us off this book, by an author whom we haven’t read, as definitely not our cup of tea. Calling it a “taut, moving study of the intersections of power, principle, duty, love and capability,” Mr Stahl suggests that the texture of the book is psychologically anachronistic, something that the quoted extracts make clear.

While she represents Cromwell as a supremely political animal, Mantel also draws him as deeply human: She can break your heart with a single word. We feel for Cromwell when he loses his wife to the plague; when he dives into work as a wearing distraction after her death — “It’s two o’clock, then it’s three; sometimes it’s freeing, to think you don’t have to go to bed because there isn’t a bed. He doesn’t need to think of going home, because there’s no home to go to, he’s no family left.”; when he learns, as they look at Holbein’s portrait, that his own hardness runs so deep that even his son thinks he looks like a murderer; when he simultaneously regrets and admires that same son’s inherent softness. Mantel’s Cromwell — as he was historically — is a secret friend to heretics, a proponent of the forbidden vernacular Bible, a skeptic about received wisdom. He is also fundamentally a noticer, unconstrained by blinders of rank or privilege, alert to the latent capability of everyone around him, telling his enemy the Bishop of Winchester, “In a generation these people can learn to read. The ploughman can take up a book. Believe me, Gardiner, England can be otherwise.” He is in many ways — perhaps too consciously on Mantel’s part — a man for our own times: skeptical, shifting, adaptable, refusing to be straitjacketed by outmoded doctrine or musty superstition.

We have such a horror of anachronism on this level that most historical fiction is closed to us, no more attractive than science fiction, and for much the same reasons. We nonetheless congratulate Hilary Mantel.  

§ Compline. Maybe there’s a way to deal with ballistic violence without tripping over Second Amendment claims.

Despite the US having the highest rate of firearms-related homicide in the industrialised world, the relationship between gun culture and violence is poorly understood. A recent study found that treating violence like an infectious disease led to a dramatic fall in shootings and killings.

Overall, Branas’s study found that people who carried guns were 4.5 times as likely to be shot and 4.2 times as likely to get killed compared with unarmed citizens. When the team looked at shootings in which victims had a chance to defend themselves, their odds of getting shot were even higher.

While it may be that the type of people who carry firearms are simply more likely to get shot, it may be that guns give a sense of empowerment that causes carriers to overreact in tense situations, or encourages them to visit neighbourhoods they probably shouldn’t, Branas speculates. Supporters of the Second Amendment shouldn’t worry that the right to bear arms is under threat, however. “We don’t have an answer as to whether guns are protective or perilous,” Branas says. “This study is a beginning.”

Beyond not wanting them in the neighborhood (read: New York City), we don’t have anything against guns. We don’t get the appeal at all, but we do recognize that the more upstanding contributors to the National Rifle Association live in a different culture. There are lots of things about that culture that we don’t get — most things, probably — but we don’t have to think about them. Only guns, because guns make our world a lot more dangerous than it ought to be.

If we could keep our culture gun-free without impinging on that other culture out there, we’d be fine with it.

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