Daily Office:


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.


§ Matins. How quickly yesterday’s road engineering triumphs have become today’s garbage.

During the Beaver Cleaver era of American history, it was almost impossible to conceive of a bad road–after all, paving things over was synonymous with “improvement.” Sadly, planning mistakes made at highway speed back then will require a huge amount of effort and money to undo today. But as we discussed in an earlier article, doing so is often the best decision a city can make: razing an ill-conceived highway can have huge social, economic, and aesthetic pay offs for a city. And if it’s done right, it can actually improve traffic flow.

Due to efforts of organizations like the Congress for the New Urbanism–which has made and eloquent case for urban freeway removal (we’re echoing a few of their top candidates )–this idea is starting to go mainstream. A number of US cities are poised to follow the examples set by Portland, Milwaukee, and San Francisco and start knocking down poorly planned roads. Here are seven elevated highways doomed to meet the reaper at some point in the not-to-distant future, and views of how their respective cities might look like after they’re gone:

Will the Twentieth Century be remembered as a age of great inventions and terrible ideas?

§ Lauds. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand pictures. (“It’s only a movie!”)


We think that Kurosawa’s most famous (but hardly best) picture has moments of great visual beauty (all that wonderful rain!), but the story leaves us feeling underwhelmed.

§ Prime. We have to wonder why this just came up. The bankruptcy filing is timely, but the back taxes? $627 million?

Some experts question whether the city was too lax in pressing Lehman to pay its taxes because Mr. Bloomberg has long been a staunch defender of the financial services industry.

“It makes you wonder whether there was a wink-wink-nudge-nudge arrangement because of how important Wall Street is to the city,” said David A. Skeel Jr., a professor of corporate law at the University of Pennsylvania. “It may have made sense for the city not to hold the reins too tightly.”

One New York State official familiar with the claim, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the litigation, added: “Obviously there could have been more action on this earlier. Someone wasn’t watching it.”

§ Tierce. As we said from the start, this case has everything — now with infinity! Oops! There is one thing that’s missing.

Unfortunately for prosecutors, “This doesn’t appear to be a case with a smoking gun.”

“There is a lot of circumstantial evidence, and prosecutors have to lead the jurors as they connect the dots,” Aidala said.

Juror can “get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “But they can also say to themselves, ‘We’ve been here for four months, somebody here has to be guilty of something.'”

§ Sext. The idea that the newspaper’s critic would pay visits incognito (Mimi Sheraton’s wigs!) always struck us as pretty dim.

“The Times critic can’t go on TV!” he said. “What would you do with that power? You can’t go to the restaurants you like, you can’t shmooze with the chefs and writers you like. You can’t go on Top Chef!”

“As far as I’m concerned, you have to be on television,” he continued. “You can win the National Book Award and you can write on the front page of The Times every day, and you’re still not as famous as some busty tramp on Tough Love on VH1.”

Mr. Ozersky is part of an army of writers who don’t profess to be critics, or to do what Mr. Bruni does—he, instead, is trying to do something entirely different, he said.

People patronise good restaurants for many different (and occasionally contradictory) reasons. More people than will admit it couldn’t care less about the food, as long as it’s “okay.” Horn & Hardart’s ads for the Automat used to claim that “you can’t eat wallpaper,” but who’s eating?

§ Nones. Presidents Obama and Medvedev are in touch, which is reassuring.

President Obama spoke by telephone with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Tuesday, but it was not clear whether the subject of the submarines came up, although another source of friction between the two countries did. Mr. Medvedev called Mr. Obama to wish him a happy birthday and the White House said the president used the opportunity to urge Russia to work through diplomatic channels to resolve rising tensions with Georgia.

We’re not excited. We agree with naval historian Norman Polmar.

“It’s the military trying to demonstrate that they are still a player in Russian political and economic matters,” Mr. Polmar said.

Like we said: Red October. Another Russian-on-Russian thing.

§ Vespers. If we knew about The Victorian Internet, we forgot.

Even though it’s a history of the telegraph, this book is always relevant. The rise of the 1830s communication device continues to be a fantastic metaphor for each new Internet technology that comes along, from e-mail to IM to Facebook to Twitter.

The plug for Russell Shorto’s Manhattan book is a goose, too. That one was on our not-on list.

§ Compline. Diligent readers will discern a fear of “feminization” in the background of Mr Bowman’s thinking.

There is even an insulting name for those who would reassert the claims of those local honor groups: judgmental. Honor groups do judge us, I’m afraid, and often in stark, black-and-white terms. If we don’t like being judged, whether for good or ill, we’re likely to avoid them. Yet in gaining the freedom that comes from operating under the loose supervision of “the planet,” we also lose the good that comes from membership in lesser but face-to-face honor groups, namely the sense of belonging, which always has come and always will come when people are able to say that these, but not those, are my people. The need of the young to belong, to fit in with some honor group less shadowy and insubstantial than the earth itself cannot be denied, but in the prevailing moral climate of today it also sets up a psychic disjunction between the moral fantasy world which makes no serious demands on them, except the demand for toleration of others, and the honor groups which do, or might.

We have written about honor; we prefer decency. The difference is that decency is not blindly loyal.

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