Archive for the ‘Lively Arts’ Category

Daily Office:

Monday, January 12th, 2009


Matins: Of all the outgoing Administrations that I have known, none has excited the prosecutorial zeal of its opponents as keenly as the current one. Bringing the Bush Administration to justice was the main topic in yesterday’s Week in Review section of the Times, with pieces by three visiting commentators and a remonstrance by Frank Rich. Something must be done.

Lauds: The Golden Globes… The Carpetbagger reports.

Prime: Sic transit. Quite a few of the blogs indexed at for my subway stop have closed up, or not featured a new entry in a year or two.

Tierce: In a nice gesture, Bernard Madoff apologized to his fellow co-op owners at 133 East 64th Street: Sorry about that scrum of reporters at the door!

Sext: I’ll say one thing for Joe the Plumber, currently “reporting” from Israel: he’s walking proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing — in front of a microphone, anyway. If people must be entitled to their opinions, then at least they ought to have the decency to acknowledge that their opinions are uneducated. (via Joe.My.God)

Nones: Good news from Thailand: voters seem inclined to heal the urban/rural rift. Even more, the now-more-powerful government  won’t let itself get carried away.

Vespers: Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) has achieved official immortality, in the form of a Library of America volume. The book appeared in September, but William H Gass just got round to discussing it.

Compline: Let’s hope the same can never be said of Barack Obama: “After Receiving Phone Call From Olmert, Bush Ordered Rice To Abstain On Gaza Ceasefire Resolution.” Secretary Rice had carefully negotiated the wording of the resolution, only to have the rug pulled out from under her because of an imperative call from Israel.


Concert Note:
Transcendentally Physical

Thursday, November 13th, 2008


The big picture adorning Anthony Tommasini’s glowing review speaks more loudly than words: the Godly Gatekeepers have decided that Jeremy Denk is a hot-stuff pianist. May my favorite music blogger be deluged with concert dates! Because he’s also one of my favorite pianists. In fact, he is my favorite pianist.

(All right, I’m crazy about Angela Hewitt, too.)

Who else could conjure a brilliant yet engaging recital out of Charles Ives’s Concord Sonata and Beethoven’s equally uncorsetted Hammerklavier?

Out and About:
The Seagull

Thursday, October 16th, 2008


This isn’t the picture that I’d have taken. It’s very lovely, but it’s all about Kristin Scott Thomas in a way that her performance as Arkadina isn’t. The image might suggest that Arkadina is calculating her advantages. Doubtless she is. But that’s because she stands always in the draft of her disadvantages.

We were enormously distracted the night of the performance. The credit market was going to hell. Closer to home, Kathleen would be flying, at the crack of dawn, to London; so we wouldn’t be able to go out after the show and talk it over over dinner. The seats, finally, were tiny; even Kathleen felt cramped.

Director Ian Rickson (and adapter Christopher Hampton) made sure that we saw The Seagull as a comedy. But I didn’t feel the greatness of the comedy until a bit later.

Movie Note:

Sunday, October 5th, 2008


Two weeks ago, Paycheck got a rave review from Kathleen’s brother. When I finally got round to watching it, I was impressed, because the intelligence of the puzzle always rose above the cartoon violence. I ordered it from Amazon right away, and the DVD arrived this afternoon. Kathleen was dead tired, but Paycheck woke her up. When it was over, though, she went right back to sleep. I was unable to engage her in a double feature. The second film would have been Untraceable.

Both movies involve a lot of violence, but the violence is not the same kind of violence. Paycheck is a glorious comic book, perhaps the first one ever to be captured on film. Almost every settled frame is a bande dessiné image. There’s no doubt of the ultimate winner. You could almost say that Aaron Eckhart’s more chiseled features doom him from the moment you note the chiseled cleft in his chin.

Paycheck is an amazingly masculine movie because it combines cartoon violence with a genuinely arresting puzzle. Untraceable is a woman’s movie because women have been kicked around a lot. The violence in Untraceable — like that of Copycat, another woman’s picture — is horrific. Dreadful things not only happen but register as such. Both movies  not only involve but are built around kidnappings. Paycheck’s hero evades capture by means of tricks that the monsters in Untraceable and Copycat would have foreseen and forestalled. Aaron Eckhart has played a lot of nasty men, but to date his serial murders have been strictly metaphorical.

Would I sign over my brains in exchange for Ben Affleck’s looks? I ask the question only because I used to look something like him, when I was young, and what I envy most is his getting away with fleshy stupidity — God knows I didn’t. I don’t mean that Ben Affleck himself is stupid. I will always revere his performance in Hollywoodland. But this movie has the wit to change the question: would I trade my looks for  Michael Jennings’s brains?

Daily Office:

Monday, September 29th, 2008


Matins: The extent of Paul Newman’s philanthropies does not, and ought not to shade by a hair, our estimation of his talent as an actor — which, in any case, needs little boosting. But it’s not a bad thing that he set the bar for matinee idols very, very high. Aljean Harmetz reports (as I suspect she hoped she’d never have to.)

Lauds: Lucky me. I’ve got tickets, for next weekend, to The Seagull, a Chehov play that I vowed I’d never see again ever after the last time, which was an adaptation, as, in fact, have been all the Seagulls that I have seen. Next Sunday, I’ll see it for the first time straight, and what an introduction: Kristin Scott Thomas as Arkadina.

Tierce: Memo to financiers: Banks ought to be boring! Virginia Heffernan laments the rise of “Shiny Happy Bankers.”

Sext: Meet Nora Dannehy, our latest Special Prosecutor.


Daily Office:

Monday, September 22nd, 2008


Matins: The land of opportunity? Not so much. The Polish community in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is moving out as the gentrifiers move in — back to Poland, though. Kirk Semple reports.

But Poland’s admission to the European Union sharply accelerated that trend, business owners and residents say. They note that the momentum has increased as the dollar has weakened against the Polish zloty, the American economy has faltered and the United States has been more aggressive in enforcing immigration rules. (Similar reverse migrations have occurred recently among other New York immigrant populations whose homeland economies have improved, like Brazil and Ireland.)

Lauds: In “The Art of Darkness,” novelist Jonathan Lethem muses on the mirror that The Dark Knight holds up to the nation.

Prime: Sergey Brin’s new blog, Too, begins with the announcement that he carries the G2019S mutation of gene LRRK2. That’s Genomic for saying that he stands a very high risk of developing Parkinson’s. One can only imagine what it must be like for one of world’s most successful knowledge workers to contemplate the degradation of his brain.

Tierce: Brent Staples writes about “uppity,” “disrespectful” people of color, and how Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (Rep, GA) must have been perfectly well aware of the implications of applying the “U” word to Barack Obama.

Compline: Did you know that Cauliflower Cheese is a British alternative to Macaroni & Cheese? I’m going to give it a try one of these days.


Daily Office:

Friday, September 19th, 2008


Matins: John McCain has delivered himself over to the Republican Party handlers whose only objective is a victory for the Party. They’re not taking a chance on Senator McCain (whom they’ve never cared for anyway). No more Mr Nice Guy.

Lauds: Crayons!

Tierce: A while back — at Sext on 10 March, to be exact — I took one of my occasional fliers, and accused today’s right-leaning Federal judiciary of seeking to overturn progressive commercial-law decisions from the early Twentieth Century that underpin our consumer economy. I was teeny-tinily overstating, and if anybody had called me on it, I’d have been obliged to temporize.

No longer. Adam Liptak reports on the so-called “pre-emption doctrine,” a wildly pro-business, anti-consumer principle that is wholly consonant with what we know about Republican Party objectives.

Sext: For seventeen years, Dan Hanna took two self-snaps a day, making one full turn every year. The Time of My Life is stop-action animation with a vengeance! From 31 to 48, Mr Hanna ages very well, but still….  (via

Vespers: Hats off to Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, who is halfway to opening a bookstore in Fort Greene with strong support from the business community, from a $15,000 first prize in a Citibank competition to her business partner, a Random House sales rep.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008


Matins: As the financial collapse continues, I rather egotistically wish that I had the time and energy to comb through old Portico pages in search of I-told-you-so’s. Isn’t that stupid. Let’s say I did. Let’s say I foresaw the whole mess, exactly as it’s playing out (which I most certainly did not). So what? A good idea ahead of its time is really just another bad idea.

Tierce: Patrick McGeehan files a lucid report on the environmental impact, so to speak, of Wall Street’s latest melt-down. It will be bad for the city, of course, but it will be worse for the suburbs — which were already beginning to suffer the tribulations of increased oil prices (home heating and gasoline).

Nones: Two funny videos today: The Cult of the Cupcake and Les Misbarack.

Vespers: Notwithstanding the global gloom and doom, Damien Hirst shattered auction records the other night, bypassing his dealer and going directly to the public. Maybe that’s what you do in a crunch. Carol Jacobi writes in the Guardian about how Holman Hunt did just about the same thing in 1866, in the middle of a bank run. (more…)

Daily Office:

Friday, September 12th, 2008


Matins: Midnight finds me unprepared with an interesting link, so I have to go with this nonsense, which I link to as such. (Laff riot!) I’ve been chatting with a friend about the election, more and more convinced that the United States is a broken wheel, an idea that will never work again.

Lauds: I knew about Stella, but not about Mary, who, like her mother, Linda Eastman McCartney, is a photographer. I came across her name at the Guardian site, where she talks about her best shot (below).

Prime: Feeling jazzy? Dreaming of kidney beans? Well, then, download some Mad Men-inspired wallpaper. (via

Tierce: David Gonzalez writes about the “morality” of double-parking — the theory being one of justification by acclamation: “everybody does it.”

Vespers: Boy, do I need to lie down! I’ve just scrolled through all fifty-four pairs of New York’s then-and-now photos showing recent changes in local streetscapes. (via


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008


Matins: Ms NOLA was kind enough to slip me a link to Leon Wieseltier’s magisterial call to brawn, yet another mandarin voice urging liberals to sock it to ’em. If only we knew how! — even as we digest Mr Wieseltier’s fine talk (and it is fine!) of “the teleological suspension of the ethical.” Who knew that the thickest plank in the Republican Party platform had such a fancy name?

“You remember the teleological suspension of the ethical,” Mr Wieseltier writes with absurd optimism. Happily, he does not count upon the strength of our recollections.

Lauds: Although I’m not sure that I’d like to sit through The Fly — now it’s an opera, with music by Howard Shore (Silence of the Lambs) and book by David Henry Hwang (M Butterfly) — I’d sure like to hear it.

Tierce: While Americans struggle to deal with a resurgent but definitely post-Soviet Russia, separatists within Russia take heart from the formal recognition of new breakaway states in the Caucasus. The interesting thing about Ellen Barry’s story is the refrain of “20 years from now.” Nobody’s talking about anything’s happening tomorrow. Instead, the talk is of death warrants and planted seeds. 

“In the long term, they could have signed their own death warrant,” said Lawrence Scott Sheets, the Caucasus program director for the International Crisis Group, an independent organization that tries to prevent and resolve global conflicts. “It’s an abstraction now, but 20 years down the road, it won’t be such an abstraction.”

Mr Sheets is speaking of Russia.

Nones: If JMW Turner’s watercolor of Merton College, Oxford goes missing, I will insist that I know nothing about it. Having just paid my nth visit to the Turner show at the Museum — easily the sixth, I think — I’m beginning to fall in love with a few paintings just as they’re about to wrenched away, but I fell for the Merton watercolor the moment I saw it. Why?

Compline: Thomas P Campbell, a 46 year-old curator of tapestries, will become the ninth director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the start of the New Year. As a card-carrying Old Fart, I’m happier with Mr Campbell than I would have been with Gary Tinterow, the strong and clever curator of — you have to love this tripartition — 19th Century, modern, and contemporary art.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008


Matins: Even if you have already come across the Kilkenny letter, I urge you to consider it as a model memorandum that, in an ideal democracy, every voter would be sufficiently informed to compose. Anne Kilkenny is a resident of Wasilla, Alaska, who has known Sarah Palin for many years, and who opposed her attempt to fire the local librarian. She is definitely an “interested” observer. But her letter seems candid and level-headed. Her take on Trig, as well as on some of Ms Palin’s political positions, suggests a scrupulous determination not to demonize. The main thing is that she sat down and composed her thoughts. (via Suz at Large.)

Tierce: As someone who ingested a good deal of LSD back in the day, I read today’s Times report on Salvia divinorum with great interest. The recreational aspect of drug use doesn’t interest me very much anymore, but I remain curious about altered states of mind. Overall, though, the story has me spluttering with rage, at the drug’s troglodyte opponents.

Sext: Thank God for France! Nowhere is pleasure more expertly rationalized. From Le Figaro, a review of Mamma Mia! that talks of Shakespeare and “postmodern irony.”

Nones: How big is New York City? As big as the populations of Idaho (Manhattan), Maine (the Bronx), Nevada (Brooklyn), New Mexico (Queens), and Wyoming (Staten Island). (via JMG > Gothamist)

Vespers: Times columnist Bob Herbert enjoins liberals to hold up their heads. It’s a great idea, but he has no suggestions about what to when the wingnuts start shooting at it.

Troglodytes on the right are no respecters of reality. They say the most absurd things and hardly anyone calls them on it. Evolution? Don’t you believe it. Global warming? A figment of the liberal imagination.

Yes, and that’s the problem. Consider:

Daily Office:

Friday, September 5th, 2008


Matins: The frontier of modern humanist research lies in neurobiology, not philosophy. The days of armchair speculation are over: we’re not interested in what ought to be the case (which is all you’ll get out of Plato). Even so, sometimes I think that the researchers don’t quite understand the parameters. In a study announced today, blah blah blah (see below). The part that captured my eye was this:

Experts said the study had all but closed the case: For the brain, remembering is a lot like doing (at least in the short term, as the research says nothing about more distant memories).

How is it possible that anyone, in the age of the computer, doesn’t know that everything is memory. There is no difference between what happened last year and what happened last nanosecond. There is no “other” kind of neural activity, that does not involve remembering.

Lauds: I wish that Jason Kottke had explained a bit after saying that “I could read about con men and tricksters all day.” I believe that he shares my interest in the phenomenon of the con, and is not planning to take up the practice; but it would be nice to be sure, especially as I do rely on for a great deal of “my news.”

Tierce: The first paragraph of Stephanie Strom’s story announces Eli Broad’s $400 million gift. The second paragraph outlines what the Broad Institute intends to do in the way of research. Here’s the third paragraph:

The money will be managed by Harvard University’s vaunted investment unit with the goal of turning it into a $1 billion endowment that will ensure the institute’s future and make it one of the wealthiest scientific research centers in the world.

Sext: “All dressed up and nothing to say” — The Telegraph on Keira Knightley in The Duchess. Sukhdev Sandhu’s review. “Knightley looks woefully, painfully thin throughout. It’s hard to listen to what she’s saying when all you want to do is feed her chips.”


Daily Office:

Thursday, September 4th, 2008


Matins: You have to wonder, how much did it hurt Carly Fiorina to choke out these words:

“This is a well-qualified candidate for vice president and well-qualified to be a heartbeat away from the president,” said Carly Fiorina, a top McCain campaign adviser and former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard.

Without wishing Ms Fiorina any ill, I hope that it hurt a lot.

Tierce: The lead editorial in this morning’s Times highlights the growing weirdness of Republicans: they’re running against themselves. They can do this because, for many of the Party faithful, Democrats and “liberals” are not so much an opposing political faction as a collective bogeyman right out of the Stalinist toybox. What could Mitt Romney meant by “liberal Washington,” if not some spectral equivalent of “international bourgeois financiers”?

Sext: Patricia Storms collects two tales of library crime, at Booklust.

Vespers: Looking for an intriguing, end-of-summer pop movie quiz? Try this one, from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. (more…)

Daily Office:

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008


Matins: Oh, dear: an all-day lunch. The wonderful afternoon on the balcony has left me rather envying the Spanish gent in the photo. Or perhaps it was emptying all those bottles of wine that did me in.

It wasn’t as though we could have gone to the Oak Room. Not yet.

Tierce: IRS agents are turning to YouTube for evidence of improper pastoral politicking.

Sext: In a curious dispatch, the British Government has pronounced the Irish Republican Army’s ruling council “redundant.” This stops a shade short of official disbandment, and it may not satisfy the Unionists who are currently standing in the way of full devolution from Westminster to Stormont.

Vespers: The charming short films of M Ward, at vimeo. In KUBM, Bennett Miller (Capote) co-directs a film with Judd Apatow (Knocked Up). Not in this lifetime.

Compline: Devin Cecil-Wishing is the son of a friend from undergraduate days who has recently found me. Over the weekend, I received a link to the artist’s site, and I have to say: I want one. Be sure not to miss the lustrous works in the “Miscellaneous” category, one of them an album cover.


Daily Office:

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008



Midweek Matinee: I’m off to the movies this morning, to catch the first showing of Tropic Thunder, and maybe get pelted by some demonstrators.


Shot: Take your pick: four International Rescue Committee workers were murdered by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party was murdered by an unidentified assailant in the United States.


Arabic: Inspired by Eric, I picked up the 2-CD Michel Thomas Method Speak Arabic kit this afternoon — on my third visit to McNally Jackson in seven days.

MTC Diary:
Catching Up

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008


Catching up with a bit of backlog (bit!?) that piled up during this year’s life-threatening bout of spring fever, I finally got round to saying a word or two about the last two shows in MTC’s 2007-8 season, From Up Here and Top Girls.

Daily Office:

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008



Intellectual Property: A core tenet of free-market capitalism is that the best product or service wins. On the level playing field, blah blah blah, consumers beat a path to buy the better mousetrap. The brouhaha over Scrabulous, however, shows just how bent our markets have become, as corporations have pushed for expansive application of intellectual property laws — yet another instance of socialism for the rich.


Wallonia: The march toward breaking up Belgium inches forward. In a poll, half of the nation’s Francophones (or Walloons) say that they’d be happier as Frenchmen — and an even higher percentage of Northern Frenchmen agreed!


Naughty Bits: Father Tony went to a wacked-out art show in Chelsea. So far, it seems, none of Robert Fontinelli’s furniture designs have been executed in three dimensions, but that may change.


Museum Note:
Pietre Dure

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008


This afternoon, LXIV and I paid a couple of visits to the pietre dure show at the Met. We saw it right after we met up, and then we saw it again after we’d had lunch and taken another look at the Master Photographers show — for which, by the way, there is most regrettably no catalogue.

Which all the more regrettable in light of the fact that the pietre dure show’s catalogue, Art of the Royal Court, is one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. Available in cloth only, it costs $65. I should dearly like to have it as a reference to this exciting show, but I’m not convinced that it would serve that purpose. As a souvenir of the lovely pieces on exhibit, it is wholly inadequate. (more…)

Daily Office:

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008



Manners: Whether or not there is any truth to the story that Senator John Edwards has fathered a “love” child with documentarian Reille Hunter (thanks, Joe), I’m far more distraught by David W Chen’s report on the bad workplace conduct of Representative Anthony Weiner of New York (Brooklyn and Queens).


Quilts: Ian Hundley designs quilts that look like World War I aerial photographs of the French countryside. Well, that’s what they look like to me.


Moses: Wow! Joe Lieberman, who addressed John Hagee’s Christians United For Israel Washington-Israel Summit yesterday, compared Rev Hagee to Moses! To think that Senator Lieberman might be our Vice President today! D’you think he’d be cuddling up to the man who blamed the devastation of New Orleans on the Big Easy’s having hosted a Pride parade?


Daily Office:

Friday, July 18th, 2008



Mamma: I’m off to the movies — to see Mamma Mia!, if the winds are propitious (if the line, if any, isn’t too long, if the projectionist got a good night’s sleep, &c &c).

A great summer summer weekend to all — stay as cool as you can!