Archive for the ‘Gotham’ Category

Gotham Diary:
Just a Thought
14 December 2011

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Nick Carr, the superhero who goes by the name of Scout, bringing the brick-and-mortar mysteries of New York City to light even when he can’t solve them, has long been interested in the abandoned headquarters of the New York Architectural Terra Cotta Works, built in 1892 and left to rot during the 1920s. He has recently discovered that the building is being restored by its current owner, Silvercup Studios — even though no actual use for the structure has yet been decided.

May I suggest that, whatever the interior configuration that Silvercup settles upon, the Works Office ought to be occupied by a foundation — a foundation devoted to the nurturing of Internet journalism. I’ll just call it that: Internet journalism. Preferably journalism supported by anything but advertising. Whether bloggers of the future work there or have offices — well, that seems beside the point. The Works Office would serve as an archive, not just of information about New York, but of how to find it. A fellowship at the Works Office would make a decent contemporary journalist out of almost anybody upon whom it was bestowed.

The Works Office isn’t very large, but, as we all know, you can do a lot on the Internet without taking up much square footage. I’m sure that Nick Carr (who would have to be a director!) can figure it out. There’s certainly room for plenty of bicycles — can’t you just see them lined up beneath those great big windows?

Just a thought.

Gotham Diary:
Jour de Collapse
19 October 2011

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

You may think that “Jour de Collapse” is bad French, or not-even-French, but it’s something else: it’s Law French. Having spent as much time with the Graunde Abridgement and the Sergeant Maynards as I did in law school (witnesses can attest to my ostentatious displays of scholarship — those folios are huge!), I am entitled to resort to this pidgin in moments of entropy and inanition; indeed, I claim the right to coin such new terms as come to mind. I did not feel guilty about taking yesterday off; on the contrary, I felt quite entitled to do so. But I did have to remind myself that my mind, lately, has been something of a racing cutter full sail on a winning breeze. The easiest way of urging a rest was to murmur, “jour de collapse, jour de collapse.” 

So I watched three movies, all “in the middle of the afternoon,” and read from three books. The movies were Putney Swope, Out of Sight, and Killers. The books were Railroaded, The Journals of Spalding Gray, and In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. For eats, I ordered in. Kathleen was in Washington, scheduled for a bright and early breakfast meeting, so we had our good-night call on the early side, and I went to bed soon after. Aside from emptying the dishwasher, I did nothing.

The movies: I wish I could remember who recommended Putney Swope recently. I thought that it was Ray Soleil, but no; he’d never heard of it. I called him because, as I watched it, I was puzzled; what about this early indie satire, directed by Robert Downey, Sr, could possibly appeal to Ray? My jaw slack, I was beset by a liminal question: would you describe the production values of Putney Swope as “nonexistent,” or as “fuck you, and your mother, too”? There is certainly more than a flavor of art-house porn — that Lucky Airlines stewardess romp is art-house porn. It’s as though Andy Warhol were making a movie for (and on a budget provided by) Max Bialystock. You have to see Putney Swope, just as I’ve heard all my life, but you only have to see it once. It has its moments, and they are very momentary. It’s astonishing how tedious transgression can be.

Out of Sight I hadn’t seen since it was new, in 1998. I didn’t know either of the principals in those days; Jennifer Lopez was a new face, and I would mix her up with Penélope Cruz, name-wise, for years. George Clooney was new, too, because I hadn’t seen ER. Someone somewhere recently on the Internet wrote that Out of Sight is one of Mr Clooney’s best films. It’s very good, but there’s a problem: like many of the very strongest film actors — Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood, Nick Nolte, and Harrison Ford — George Clooney took a while to grow into his face. In Out of Sight, he still hasn’t, quite. Ms Lopez is much better than her subsequent career (which I’ve only heard about, cringing) led me to fear. As for Killers, I really wanted to see it the other night, but it was too late for delivery from the Video Room. It’s much better than Putney Swope, but it is an odd duck of a film. It is brisk enough to sustain its light-headed satire of suburban life, and Katherine Heigl works some engaging variations — inversions, really — on the damsel-in-distress trope. In the end, though, the picture belongs to Catherine O’Hara. What’s really scary is how close the premise of Killers is to that of The Joneses, the movie that Demi Moore made at about the same time — and how far the result. I’m not sure that The Joneses isn’t the much better picture.

The books: mostly, I read Richard White’s Railroaded. It’s a great book that must be read by every thinking American, but, like Jackson Lears’s even more important Rebirth of a Nation, it covers a rebarbative period. All those whiskers; all that fustian speech. Not to mention the brazen hypocrisy. This last is always good for a laugh (White is an excellent mimic of Mark Twain’s faux incredulousness), especially when Leland Stanford is involved.

The heavy lifting came with Leland Stanford, who at first failed to appear and then asserted that the government actually owed the Central Pacific money, presenting the commission with what amounted to a bill. Why the government should pay any of the items Stanford submitted, which were not part of the original legislation aiding the railroad, was a basic source of wonderment, but some of the calculations were themselves as revealing as they were amazing. included was $17 million the government supposedly owed the Central Pacific for loss of business to competing lines that had also received aid from the United States. And Stanford added almost $20 million, the loss to the railroad from having sold its government bonds at below par.

There is also a sublime line about how relatively unremarkable it would have been “if Stanford had claimed locomotives ran on moonbeams.” Whatever happened to moon beams?

I didn’t spend much time with the other books, which only just came in the mail.  The other day, I read that Spalding Gray kept John Cheever’s journals on his reading shelf for quite a long time, and I was not surprised. As for the Proust, a friend of mine is working her way through In Search of Lost Time, and has just arrived at the second volume — which I still think sounds better entitled Within a Budding Grove; although James Grieve’s translation is much closer in feeling (and freshness) to the original — and I thought I’d read along with her, dipping into my one-volume Tadié from time to time. 

One of the most difficult French words for me is tant. I never know what it means — never know, that is, which of its many meanings is the one at hand. “Sans doute, tant que je n’eus pas entendu la Berma, j’éprouvai du plaisir. My glazed instinct is to translate this as “Insofar as I hadn’t heard Berma, I enjoyed myself,” but of course it’s “until,” not “insofar as”; Proust’s characteristic point is that he delighted in anticipation but was disappointed rather than gratified by his first experience of great acting. (It suddenly occurs to me that Proust wrote the first serious young adult novel.) I can’t understand why “until” isn’t always jusque, but it isn’t.

As you may be able to tell from the picture, we’ve been waking up to rain these days. Until this morning, the clouds have given way to sunny clear skies, but I’ve got a feeling that that’s not going to happen today. Which means that today would have made a much better jour de collapse; if one thing did bother me yesterday, it was doing nothing on a fine day. But we can’t have everything, and renters, after all, don’t enjoy usque ad coelum rights.


Gotham Diary:
23 September 2011

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

What I had to go through to take an out-of-focus shot! All right, maybe it’s not out of focus; maybe it’s a little beyond the lens’s capacity. I had to RTFM to find out how to use the camera’s self-timer, and I had to fish the tripod out of a dim corner. I had to remember to zoom in on the scene. The “manual,” by the way, is nothing of the kind: it’s A Short Course In Canon PowerShot S95 Photography, and I’d hate to see the Long Course. There is no index, and the instructions for using the self-timer appear on page 76, something that you find out only by reading the text on page 17 that points you there. Or you could just scroll through the Table of Contents with your index finger, hoping, hoping… I don’t usually mark up books, but I think that I ought to make an exception here.

I did not go to the movies yesterday. I got a haircut and lunched on a club sandwich at the Hi-Life. In the late afternoon, after I’d said goodnight to Kathleen in London, I went over to Fairway. I had a short shopping list, but I started out in the meat and fish section downstairs, because I was looking for ideas for dinner. I wasn’t hungry, and almost everything looked unappetizingly heavy. Even a game hen — half of a game hen — seemed too much. So I wound up with chicken livers. Talk about heavy, right? But a few go a long way. Several weeks ago, David Tanis offered an interesting recipe in the Times: French Chicken Liver and Green Bean Salad with Garam Masala. I didn’t have the clipping with me, of course, but I was confident about improvising. Having (I later discovered) confused this recipe with another, I misremembered the Indian accent as a Mexican one, and bought a bottle of Cindy’s Chipotle Ranch dressing, along with a small head of frisée, a Belgian endive, an ounce of baby spinach, a Crispin apple, and a bag of Fairway’s own croutons. I had to go back downstairs for the croutons — there is still much to be learned about Fairway, but the tiny thrill of rolling my shopping cart onto a freight elevator (something that I’ve done from time to time at Eli’s over the years) hasn’t worn off — but they valait le détour.

I sautéed four livers in clarified butter (two would have been enough), and pointlessly deglazed the pan (would you have tossed the resulting very brown syrup into a salad?). I tossed the greens with half of the apple, cubed, and I kept adding more Cindy’s. At the last minute, I grabbed a hunk of Emmenthaler and cut it into very small cubes. Toss, toss; still more Cindy’s. The result was very earthy, and it took a while for the chipotle to make itself known. I still can’t decide if cherry tomatoes would have been an improvement. A poached egg, chopped bacon, and raw mushrooms would all have been wrong, at least for last night’s appetite. My chicken liver salad was earthy — very earthy. But it wasn’t heavy.

It was a day for taking care of little things, and I’m afraid that today will be the same. I worked a bit on my Emma essay — I’m making the case that the novel’s structure is implicit in its choreography (so to speak) and its corresponding shifts in linguistic tone — so it wasn’t an entirely brainless stretch. The “problem” with getting up very early in the morning is that the afternoon yawns like a vast and vacant cave: you’re not used to having so much extra time. You might say that the whole point of getting up very early in the morning is to have as much time as you need to get everything done, and to manage your day accordingly, instead of flying from task to task in a frenzy, always doing the things that must be done but never, or only rarely, getting to the more interesting items on the to-do list.

But I’m not happy about what I’m reading. Blame it on Gchat. I misunderstood Ms NOLA’s references to Amy Waldman’s The Submission, which were frequent when the book was being talked about everywhere else, for raves. In fact, she had put the book down, as I was tempted to do midway through the first chapter. The best thing that I can say about this novel is that it makes a very good scenario. I can see the movie that will be made of it. The worst thing that I can say about it is that I haven’t mentally cast this imaginary movie, as I do whenever I’m engaged by the characters in a novel. There is a glibness about The Submission, a professional savvy that gives the book the pop of beautiful food photography. Except you can’t eat it because there’s no actual food there. You can only go out and write your own 9/11 novel. I’m not far in, but I’m afraid that I’m hooked. Maybe it will get better, and I’ll start to care about Claire and Paul and Mo.

Gotham Diary:
13 September 2011

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

This is just to report that I have no brains today, just mush in my skull, after a long afternoon of moving just about every other item in the blue room, including the contents of two tall bookshelves.  It was the first part of a two-day project that will wind up with Kathleen’s having the secretary desk close to her bedside. We have always known that Kathleen is a secretary-desk sort of person, but it has taken years to figure out how to put the user and the accessory in the same room. The second part of the project is scheduled to take place on Friday.

What’s all that got to do with the blue room, you may ask. (I flatter myself.) It would take too long to explain; the thing to know about yesterday is that the rooms two computer constellations were disassembled and reconstituted in new places. I can’t count the number of digital doodads that got unplugged and disconnected, reconnected and plugged back in, partly because I didn’t do any of it myself; the wonderful Jason Mei was on hand to oversee all of that. Ray Soleil and I did the heavy lifting, almost all of which involved the three pieces of furniture shown above.  I managed to do my share of the work with the help of the few remaining globs of Remicade in my bloodstream. As Ray said later, I too tired to fuss about anything, and the hours flew by in strange harmony. When Kathleen came home from work, Ray and I were gossiping about the duc du Maine and Mme de Maintenon as usual, and presently we went across the street to Maz Mezcal for dinner. I turned in on the early side.

When I got up this morning, not on the early side, I really wanted to read the Times, but I was firm, and booted up the laptop instead. During the time at Fire Island, I broke myself of the habit of beginning the day with the Grey Lady. Now the first voice that I hear in the morning is my own, and for me at least that gets the day off to a much better start, even on days like this when my mind is blank. Even if my mind is blank, my list of starred items at Google Reader is anything but, and I’m reminded that I was thinking about a provocative blog entry that I read the other day. In a down-hearted entry entitled “What is the point of learning history?” Historiann writes, “What have we learned in the past 2,500 years or so that Herodotus didn’t already warn us about:?  Hubris!

 Du calme! Is the stretch between Herodotus and us a meaningful one? I don’t think so, not when you back it up with the 170,000 years, give or take, of fully human existence, most of which was spent untroubled by abstract formulations. For most of that time (I speculate, rankly), human beings were just doing what all the other beings do, struggling to survive by any means available. The problem isn’t that we haven’t learned anything since Herodotus — and I think that we’ve learned a very great deal although, admittedly, not much about will-power. The problem is that we’re still, constitutionally — genetically, if you will — what used to be called “savages.” For several millennia, the Judeo-Christian stream of religious belief attributed this to a “fallen” state. Better to grasp that we haven’t quite got round to rising yet. We can imagine what it would be like to be better, but it’s perhaps just as well that our ideals remain out of reach. If our ideas of “better” are vastly superior to those of an educated person of merely a thousand years ago, they still need work. It’s a good thing that we can’t really live up to them.

A really convenient way of looking at things if your brains are mush, you will say.

Gotham Diary:

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

This evening, we had our first family dinner. I didn’t cook, but that’s beside the point. We all sat round the table — Megan, Will, Ryan, Kathleen, and I — and carried on like a family that has been eating together forever. We joked, we complained, we forgot that there was anywhere else to be.

We have enjoyed such evenings before, but tonight, for the first time, Will set the tone. In doing so, he marked what Henry James used to call an era. He had been devouring spoonfuls of banana-rice cereal. I can’t decide whether to tell you about the evolution of this evening’s plat, because, like most baby-food stories, there’s an unavoidable impasto of ick. This one involved my ricing a banana onto Megan’s open palm. (She’ll always be able to say that she had Will eating out of her hand, technically.) Later, the banana was mixed with rice cereal and water and no forumula just like I said but we’ll let that pass. Will joined the Clean Plate Club with flying colors. But then he did something remarkable. Really!

He picked up a paper napkin and dabbed his lips. Then he put the napkin back down on the table, without having tried to eat it as well. He indicated that he was ready for another spoonful of ambrosia.

Ryan, seated to Will’s right, was initially horrified — how could he have overlooked such a shredable menace right alongside Will’s dish? It was only when Will didn’t eat the napkin that his father could appreciate what had happened. (Or so it seemed to me; in this Rashomon moment. Ryan is more likely to be a Responsible Dad than an Impressed Dad.) But Megan and Kathleen were jolted by the composure of Will’s gesture, and they both jumped as if shocked. They cried out, even. And that’s what shocked me. What were they upset about? I saw what Will had done, but it didn’t seem at all odd to me.

I must have been getting tired. We all knew that Will hates to have his mouth wiped; how nice, I thought, that he had decided to take care of it himself! If he had started quoting Shakespeare’s sonnets, I’d probably have taken that in stride as well. Addled with admiration for my grandson as I am, I’m not one of those DID YOU SEE WHAT HE JUST DID grandfathers. I’m the more maddening kind. I smile sweetly, as if to say, “What did you expect?”

What I did actually say, though, was “You know, of course, that he’s not going to do that again until he’s six.” He has five and a half years to prove me wrong.

Out & About: Illuminations

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010


Even though I’ve got a bit of sore throat, and could really use a day at home (writing writing writing), I got myself to the Morgan shortly before eleven this morning for an outing with Quatorze and Lady D. (Lady D, although new to these pages, has been resident in New York City for nearly fifty years, a stylish British secretary right up to her retirement from an eminent foundation — and still stylish.) It was all my idea: we would look at the two world-class illuminated manuscripts that (a) happen to be domiciled in our fair city and (b) have been unstitched for one reason or another, making it possible to mount all the interesting pages at once.

Of course, no one but specialists knew about the more recent of these manuscripts, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, until the day before yesterday. The prayerbook, broken up into two books by an unscrupulous dealer in the 1850s, had only recently fallen completely into the Morgan’s possession. The sheer novelty of the book’s presence in New York harmonizes deliciously with the novelty of the book itself, which is not your father’s book of hours. Indeed, it seems designed to suit a post-modern agenda. Scurrilously humorous marginalia are a hallmark of medieval devotional manuscripts, but the trompe l’oeil jewelry (a rosary, a necklace, some gold coins) and the outsize naturalism (moths, shellfish, pretzels) completely up-end any idea that you might have of Fifteenth-Century miniatures, while the scenes in the margins often upstage the vignettes at the center of the page. The jokey quality of this book of hours is best characterized by the utterly immodest image of the donor/owner herself in the margin of a vignette featuring Mary and the infant Jesus. Mother and Child appear in timeless attire, but Catherine has the air of an ambitious hostess from Massapequa who has just tottered off the LIRR with only seconds to spare for her lipstick. It is not surprising to learn that Catherine spent the better part of her marriage waging war on her husband. Military war, that is, with battles and dead soldiers.

In other words, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves really does belong here in New York.

The Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, also belongs in New York, because it is best known for not being the Très Riches Heures of Jean d’&c, which belongs to the collection at Chantilly, outside Paris. Fantastic as the TRH is, I’m devoted to the Belles Heures, and have been ever since I first saw them, many long years ago (more than forty), at the Cloisters. I can say, I think, that this creation of the Limbourg brothers (natives of Nijmegen, it seems) is the first work of art that I loved on my own and just for itself. Of course, it is not just a work of art. It has a literary/liturgical quality that, as regular readers of this site will not have to be told, made a profound impression on my teen-aged mind; the “book of hours” is more than ever a construct with which I live in deep communion from day to day. I may not be a believer in the higher object of the book of hour’s devotions, but its varied regularity is sacred to me. And it is so taken for granted that I can see how beautiful the art of it all is.

The borders of the vignettes (illuminations) of the Belles Heures are relentlessly uniform, with only the smallest variations placed among the sprays of ivy that delicately frame quire after quire. The vignettes themselves, however, are magnificent final expressions of medieval narration, where space is temporal as well as physical. (See the illumination of Gethsemane, for example.) In contrast to the vignettes in the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, which are earnest but rudimentary early-Renaissance scenes, the illumination of the Belles Heures is accented by Gothic arabesque. There are crowd scenes that might remind you of Giotto, until you remember that Giotto called a halt to that sort of medieval shimmying and swaying. The compositions of the Belles Heures are Giotto, if at all, before Giotto.

The parade of spot-on images exhausts any idea of comprehensiveness. The Office of the Blessed Virgin begins with the Visitation of St Elizabeth and ends with the Flight into Egypt. The Office of the Passion begins with the Agony in the Garden and ends with the soldiers asleep over an empty sarcophagus. Catherine of Alexandria is the subject of a virtual novella, and the stories of St Jerome, of Saints Paul and Anthony (with their red Red Sea), and of St Bruno and the Chartreuse all inspire mini-cycles of illumination. The suffrages — miscellaneous prayers to the saints — bring stirring dramatizations of the doings of Saints George, Nicholas, Ursula and Charlemagne (!), and of course St Michael the Archangel. Amidst all this colorful glitter, the somber grisaille of Passion’s Nones is almost lowering.

In between our museum visits, we had a jolly lunch at Demarchelier. Lady D told us about the appalling organist at her parish church, which is down in Turtle Bay. The woman is not so bad at the keyboard, but she can’t carry a tune to save her life. There came a moment when Lady D could stand now more, and she stopped her ears with her fingers. This was, unsurprisingly. noticed. After the service, the harpy asked Lady D if “she had a problem”! Indeed she did, our Lady D, and “since, after all, she did ask me, I told her what was wrong.” Whereupon the organist demanded Lady D’s name (she didn’t get it). Imagine such goings-on! At dinner, Lady D’s story was repletely corroborated by Kathleen, who, for reasons of her own, has sat through many services at the selfsame church. One thing’s for sure: neither Catherine of Cleves nor Jean de France would have put up with such incompetence. But that’s what the Church has come to, no? 


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009


¶ Matins: At New Geography, Aaron Renn looks at the outmigration of the middle class from “cool” cities, and attributes it, persuasively, to the failure of civic responsibility among “global” elites.

Clearly, the current models for organizing metropolitan areas are wholly inadequate. In our view, layers of government (state, country, local, school district) ought to be replaced by types of government: highly coordinated networking authorities (transit, power, hospitals) coexisting with highly localized service providers (schools, clinics, and parks). (via The Morning News)

¶ Lauds: Cityscape critic Blair Kamin is surprised to be supporting the destruction of a shed designed by Mies van der Rohe. The accompanying photograph is a bit of a tease: the shed hides behind a fence. (Chicago Tribune; via Arts Journal)

¶ Prime: PIMCO’s Mohamed El-Erian finds in the Dubai debt standstill “a reminder to all: last year’s financial crisis was a consequential phenomenon whose lagged impact is yet to play out fully in the economic, financial, institutional and political arenas.” We knew this, but it’s great to hear it from an eminent fund manager.

In our own front yard, Wall Street’s influence inside the White House needs to be muzzled, if not baffled. (Telegraph; via Marginal Revolution)

¶ Tierce: Michael Bond briefly but lucidly reviews Eli Berman’s Radical, Religious and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism, a new sociological study that, notwithstanding its title, sees beyond the religious angle. (New Scientist)

¶ Sext: Nico Muhly, writing from Amsterdam, finds “a sort of childlike pornography” in Nederlands orthography. (This vanishes when you learn how to pronounce things.) He is also “obsessed” by the common digraph, ij. (via Snarkmarket)

¶ Nones: Predictably, Sunday’s election in Honduras settled almost nothing, even though Porfirio Lobo appears to have won more or less fairly. The Honduran Congress will vote today on whether Mel Zelaya will finish out his term in office. (NYT)

¶ Vespers: n case the popularity of a current blockbuster has you wondering if you’d like to read the book, Jenny Turner not only reconsiders her review in the London Review of Books but also supplies a list of blogs that offer highly entertaining spoilers about the later novels in this peculiar series.

¶ Compline: Having got wind of special treatment for denizens of the eastern-most block of West 61st Street on Thanksgiving Day, Clyde Haberman investigated in person. His worst fears are confirmed. (NYT)

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009


¶ Matins: We stand at the dawn of the Age of Chrome, and  Bob Cringely advises us to expect something of a tussle between Palo Alto and Redmond. (I, Cringely)

¶ Lauds: The bad news — brain damage — once again yields good news about how the brain works. Jonah Lehrer discusses the artistry of confabulation; doctors call it “lying.” (Frontal Cortex)

¶ Prime: Rumors of the demise of Borders, long burbled, have intensified with the news that Borders UK’s Web site is no longer accepting orders. (Guardian; via Arts Journal)

¶ Tierce: What could be more curious than learning that American Ivy League styles took root in Japan among gangs? (Ivy Style)

¶ Sext: Could you do worse than give the Awl diet a try? As long as you’re up, Fernet Branca and stir-fried Romaine sounds great to us.

¶ Nones: We’re rather tired of cataloguing what’s wrong with the United States, but Ahmed Rashid makes things easy: it’s basically everything.

OMG! We meant “Pakistan”! (BBC News)

¶ Vespers: Gordon Wood hopes that historians will wake up and tell stories. (Washington Post)

¶ Compline: Some things are forever, more or less. Complaints written and sent to the Mayor of New York of the moment, at Letters of Note.

Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009


¶ Matins: The editors of The Awl analyze today’s NYC ballot, and render a nice distinction between “douchebaggery” and “dickslappery.” By Frank Rich’s account, things were much more exciting upstate — until just before his column went to press. (NYT)

¶ Lauds: Two sensationally (if unintentionally) amusing write-ups for coming art shows downtown: Avant-Guide to NYC: Discovering Absence and Crotalus Atrox (Or Fat Over Lean).  (ArtCat)

¶ Prime: The economics of Swedish meat balls — which we share for the woo-hoo fun of being in completely over our heads! (Marginal Revolution)

¶ Tierce: Eric Patton sighs over the beauty of Italian, while collecting a nice armload of local street signs for you to puzzle out. (SORE AFRAID)

¶ Sext: In case David Drzal’s Book Review rave didn’t convince you that William Grimes’s Appetite City is an absolute must-read, we’re sure that Jonathan Taylor’s more expansive review at Emdashes will do the job.

¶ Nones: Did they settle that thing in Honduras? Maybe yes, maybe no. But one thing is certain: the Micheletti coup did a number on Honduran business. (NYT)

(At first, we believed that ousted president Manuel Zelaya was an idiot. Over time, we came to appreciate the fact that Roberto Micheletti used to be his mentor.)

¶ Vespers: Daniel Menaker considers Tim Page’s Parallel Play, an expansion of the New Yorker piece in which Mr Page shared his relief at finally having been diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome. (Barnes & Noble Review; via  The Second Pass)

¶ Compline: Being a terrible driver may mean that you’re not going to develop Parkinson’s! (Wired Science; via The Morning News)

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, September 17th, 2009


¶ Matins: Is there such a thing as good luck? Ayn Rand’s fans are certain that there is not: hard work is everything. Jonathan Chait assesses the Rand legacy in light of this conviction, at The New Republic. (via The Morning News)

¶ Lauds: Our latest discovery: MetEveryday. (Thanks, Ms NOLA!)

¶ Prime: David Leonhardt profiles Robert Shiller — in the Yale Alumni Magazine, naturally. (via Marginal Revolution)

¶ Tierce: A violin repair shop in Morningside Hides has been told to cease and desist from violating antiquated zoning restrictions. No, noise is not the issue.

¶ Sext: Links to an assortment of Lost Symbol reviews, at Speakeasy.

¶ Nones: True-life ghost fleet — container ships and other freighters parked off of Singapore. (via  The Infrastructurist)

¶ Vespers: John Curran, author of Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, lists then top ten titles in her ouevre. How many have you read? (Film adaptations don’t count!) (via Campaign for the American Reader)

¶ Compline: Jason Kottke asks (in a footnote, no less):

You’ve got to wonder when Apple is going to change the name of the iPhone. The phone part of the device increasingly seems like an afterthought, not the main attraction. The main benefit of the device is that it does everything. How do you choose a name for the device that has everything? Hell if I know.


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009


¶ Matins: The nation of which Amsterdam is the capital is rightly considered to be one of the most densely-populated sovereignties in the world. But it’s as empty as Arizona when compared with the former New Amsterdam.

¶ Lauds: On the eve of shooting Wall Street 2, Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas chuckle ruefully over the unintended aura projected by Wall Street, twenty-three years ago.

¶ Prime: Bob Cringely reconsiders the virtual university, and obliges us to do the same. What seems at first to be an unlikely monstrosity may indeed provide the most effective education for most students.

¶ Tierce: Assault By Actuary: the Bruce Schobel Story. Or not, since, perhaps for legal reasons, Mary Williams Walsh never does describe the crime of which the (then teenaged?) in-and-out president-elect of the American Academy of Actuaries was convicted.

¶ Sext: Tom Tomorrow catches up with Goofus and Gallant.

¶ Nones: The latest story on the Fall of Lehman Brothers, from the Guardian‘s Larry Elliott and Jill Treanor, highlights the soverignty problem in global regulation.

¶ Vespers: Ben Dooley offers a short list of books to read about Japan, in case you’re boning up for a trip. Read Murakami if you must, but for a real Japanese novel…

¶ Compline: In a Talk piece from this week’s New Yorker, “Zoo Story,” Lauren Collins registers the general public’s dislike of the seating arrangements in Times Square, as well as its approval of the Thigh Line and the Eyeful Tower.


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009


¶ Matins: Edward Glaeser reviews Anthony Flint’s book about the Jacobs-Moses Wars in Midcentury New York, at TNR. (via Marginal Revolution) 

¶ Lauds: The painting of Kim Cogan; detail below the fold. (via The Best Part)

¶ Prime: Felix Salmon provides some helpful background on the most upsetting story of the past weekend. Here’s hoping that he’s right, and that “life settlements” won’t go anywhere this time around, either.

¶ Tierce: Roman Hans has a problem with his cable bill.

¶ Sext: Carrie Fisher admits that she USED TO BE hot.

¶ Nones: At the LRB, Thomas Jones digs out an 1880 book about the futility of waging Western-style war in Afghanistan. Lots has changed since then, but Afghanistan hasn’t, not much.

¶ Vespers: Gadzooks! A New England prep school with no library! No books! Instead, a “learning center,” and a $12,000 cappuccino machine. (via Survival of the Book)

¶ Compline: Failure and free markets: is it any wonder that the inhabitants of a small island kingdom would be far more risk averse than the settlers of a resource-rich continent? Peter Goodman filters last week’s election through contrasts between Japan and the United States.


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009


¶ Matins: Lawrence Krauss is not joking when he suggests, on the Times Op-Ed page, that the best way to get men to Mars is to abandon the idea of bringing astronauts back home.

¶ Lauds: Luc Sante reminisces about Jean-Michel Basquiat. “I was happy for him, but then it became obvious he was flaming out at an alarming pace.”

¶ Prime: William Cohan profiles Chris Flowers, a financial Icarus — of sorts (he’s still worth $1.5 billion). (via Felix Salmon)

¶ Tierce: MetaFilter Discovery Nº 1 (we made two of them, the other day): amassblog, designer James Phillips Williams’s catalogue blogué of the things that he collects.

¶ Sext: MetaFilter Discovery Nº 2: Stuff Christian Culture Likes. Mordant and wry but not patronising.

¶ Nones: Visiting Dansk on the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denounces the Nazi-Soviet pact as “immoral,” and deplores the Russian atrocity at Katyn in 1940.

¶ Vespers: Michelle Huneven explains the not-so-pedestrian charm of listening to books while taking a daily constitutional.

¶ Compline: We only just finished reading “Critical Shopper,” Justin Wolfe’s magnificent essay on the pleasures of reading about exotic foodstuffs and expensive scents, neither of which he expects to sample in this lifetime. Take your time, but be sure to read it yourself!


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009


¶ Matins: Our hero: Judge Arthur Schack, who has rejected 46 out of 102 foreclosure claims in the past two years.

¶ Lauds: Jeremy Denk at the Highline Ballroom: Bach, Ives, Chopin, Liszt, T-shirt and running shoes. Alan Kozinn reports.

If classical music is dying, as we’ve been hearing for years, why are so many rock clubs suddenly presenting it? And why are so many people, with the young outnumbering the old, coming to hear it?

¶ Prime: How about some advice? We may not follow it, but we’re always interested in hearing what someone else considers to be good advice. Especially when it’s phrased as a reminder: “My needs don’t motivate anyone.”

¶ Tierce: Tom Vanderbilt argues persuasively for treating vehicular offenses as no less serious than other criminal acts. (via  The Morning News)

¶ Sext: Mary Pilon reports on “recession haircuts” at the Journal. Alex Balk: Please, don’t let the Seventies happen again!

¶ Nones: East Timor — ten years on: “Mixed emotions.”

¶ Vespers: Philip Lopate talks about his recent Notes on Sontag, at The Millions.

¶ Compline: Ann Leary contemplates Moses Pendleton’s sunflowers.


Daily Office: Friday

Friday, August 28th, 2009


¶ Matins: Impressed by Apple’s emailed receipts — no paper! — Chadwick Matlin looks into the costs of “retrofitting” other retailers, and finds that they’re not inconsiderable. “So I begrudgingly and all-too-appropriately wave my white flag. You win, receipts.” (via Good)

¶ Lauds: Micahel Kimmelman writes about Tatort (Crime Scene), the German detective show that has been running since 1970 — with different versions for different cities!

¶ Prime: It’s when you succeed that running a business becomes truly tough. Jeffrey Pfeffer has one little word: Focus!

¶ Tierce: Tweeting, the old-fashioned way: Robert Keith posts commercially-printed “ads” in the window of his Brooklyn bed-and-breakfast: “Credit Default Swaps Should Be Prosecuted — Not Paid.”

¶ Sext: Well, what do you know! New York Governor David Paterson has hired The Awl’s Alex Balk to do a bit of “clarifying” speechwriting!

¶ Nones: Yesterday: Muammar el-Qaddafi at home. Tomorrow: New Jersey.

¶ Vespers: Beyond Orhan Pamuk (although not entirely): Selçuk Altun’s top-ten Turkish books. All are available in English translation (at least at Amazuk).

¶ Compline: Whether concerned about predatory old partiers or determined to wring more moolah from its base, MoMA defines “Junior” as “<40.”

¶ Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009


¶ Matins: Sounds like a great idea, but probably isn’t: “As Voter Disgust With Albany Rises, So Do Calls for a New Constitution.”

¶ Lauds: Sounds like a great idea, and probably is: “Scottish laser pioneers lead way in preserving world heritage treasures.”

¶ Prime: Robert Rubin, Citigroup, and Glass-Steagall: a brief entry by Felix Salmon (with help from Charlie Gasparino) snaps the pieces of the puzzle right where they belong.

¶ Tierce: Meg Hourihan administers First Aid/CPR without doing anything more than holding an elderly lady’s hand and keeping her talking. (via  Mr Hourihan)

¶ Sext: And here we thought of England as a green and pleasant land! “Pubs warn over plastic pints plan.” 5,500 customers are year are stabbed with broken pint glasses! (via The Awl)

¶ Nones: What happens when a sovereign power violates its own laws in the interest of self-defense? Barack Obama is willing to think twice.

¶ Vespers: Carlene Bauer reviews the reissue of Elaine Dundy’s The Old Man and Me, at Second Pass.

¶ Compline: Matthew Fleischer writes provocatively about the death of a squirrel in Los Angeles. (via The Morning News)


Daily Office: Friday

Friday, August 21st, 2009


¶ Matins: Edmund Andrews’s story about Ben Bernanke in this morning’s Times is strangely silent about the contribution of that self-made moron, Alan Greenspan, to the mess that Mr Bernanke has had to clean up.

¶ Lauds: These kids today: 91 year-old Arthur Laurents reads “the riot act” to the cast of West Side Story, which has been plagued with calling-in-sick-itis. (via Arts Journal)

¶ Prime: Why not call it the Goldstein Curve? Robin Goldstein culled data from Craigslist (and Felix Salmon turned it into a lovely scatterchart), revealing the inverse relationship between used car/bike prices in seven American cities.

¶ Tierce: Crazy or visionary? The developers of a building to be called 200 Eleventh Avenue (West 24th Street) plan to attach a garage to every apartment — just off the living room. (via Infrastructurist)

¶ Sext: Choire Siche discovers Hallenrad! And shares some of the best.

¶ Nones: Will the new face of Duchy Originals be HRH?

¶ Vespers: Garth Risk Hallberg reminds us of something that has been gently overlooked in the recent craze for All Things Julia: Mrs Child was not so much a great cookbook writer as she was a great writer period.

¶ Compline: Precisely because Reihan Salam’s Foreign Policy essay, “The Death of Macho,” made us uneasy, we think that everybody ought to read it.

¶ Bon weekend à tous!


Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, August 20th, 2009


¶ Matins: You laugh now: “The Inspector Clouseau of robot cops.” Wait till it comes back as Peter Weller.

¶ Lauds: A new blog to follow: The Footnotes of Mad Men. (via

¶ Prime: Are there really any such thing as “banking stars,” worth being hired away for that competitive edge? Jeffrey Pfeffer thinks not.

¶ Tierce: The irresistible Mr Wrong wonders why no one wants to shoot the breeze at Starbuck’s.

¶ Sext: Almost as good as “Rollo Tommasi”: When people ask where you’re vacationing next summer, just tell them, “Buss Island.” Tell ’em it’s the undiscovered Nantucket.

¶ Nones: North Korea will send a delegation to the funeral of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung.

¶ Vespers: Alain de Botton will be writing from Heathhrow Airport.

¶ Compline: That really was a storm on Tuesday night! More than a hundred trees were felled in Central Park alone. (Thanks, Tom!) (more…)

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, August 6th, 2009


¶ Matins: The High Line may be cute, but we disapprove (an understatement) of elevated highways in urban areas. So does everybody with a brain. Jonah Freemark and Jebediah Reed contemplate the elimination of seven American monstrosities.

¶ Lauds: Matt Shepherd ruins Rashomon for everyone, forever. (via MetaFilter)

¶ Prime: Gracious! All of a sudden, defunct Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers owes New York City gazillions in back taxes! Was Mayor Bloomberg perhaps a bit too pally with Richard Fuld?

¶ Tierce: Four months in, and the prosecution is still at it. Not even the newspapers are paying much attention; what about the Marshall Trial jurors?

¶ Sext: Who will replace Frank Bruni as the Times’s restaurant critic? [Sam Sifton, that’s who.] This may be the last time that anybody cares. (via The Awl)

¶ Nones: And, just the other day, we watched The Hunt for Red October: “Russian Subs Patrolling Off East Coast of U.S.”

¶ Vespers: Aside from Pride and Prejudice, we haven’t read any of the books on Jason Kottke’s best-book list (why only six). That may change.

¶ Compline: James Bowman regrets the fading of the honor culture. We don’t, not a bit, but Mr Bowman’s very readable essay can’t be put down.


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009


¶ Matins: Josh Levin consults “the world’s leading futurologists” to hear how the United States might come to an end within the next century. Not that it will; just, how it might. (via The Morning News)

¶ Lauds: Anne Midgette considers the pros and cons of tweeting at classical-music concerts. An intriguing discussion that left us feeling somewhat frustrated.

¶ Prime: We’re very heartened by the news that one of two bidders for the Boston Globe contemplates running it as a not-for-profit operation.

¶ Tierce: Christopher Shea may be forgiven for wondering: “But how many pieces about Child’s cultural significance can media outlets run before it starts to look as though reporters and editors have a financial stake in the forthcoming Nora Ephron movie about her?

¶ Sext: We may have found the killer ap for the iPhone: Diaroogle. (via This That These & Those)

¶ Nones: The Miskito population of Eastern Nicaragua renews its bid for independence.

¶ Vespers: The protagonist of Ian McEwan’s next novel, likely to be called Solar, sounds familiar, but we’re not naming names.

¶ Compline: Brooks Peters engages in “battle royale” with pretentious but ignorant mispronunciations of French words.