Archive for the ‘Urban Outdoors’ Category

Daily Office:

Thursday, January 8th, 2009


Matins: It’s as though everyone decided to spend the holidays pretending that things were fine: now that we’re back in the real world, the disasters just pile up like planes over O’Hare. “China Losing Taste for Debt From the U.S.

Lauds: Once upon a time, the Germans copied the French: Imperial princelings replicated, to the extent that their incomes would allow, Louis XIV’s country house (and stealth capitol) at Versailles. Now the Germans have taken the initiative, and the French are just watching.

Prime: The (only) good thing about Web log awards is the chance to discover sites that you haven’t heard about. I don’t remember the category in which I came across Dizzying Intellect — the categories are utterly spurious in any case — but it doesn’t matter, because I found it.

Tierce: Too big to filch? Bernard Madoff has been making unauthorized distributions of assets, according to prosecutors. His attorneys claim that the Cartier watches are relatively inexpensive sentimental items that Mr Madoff would like his family to have. In the dictionary, under the word “chutzpah”…. Alex Berenson reports.

 ¶ Sext: The thing to note about developer Fred Milani — if you can get beyond the House — is that he is “not very political.” Exactly! No politically-minded person would erect a scaled-down adaptation — “replica” is not the word — of the “President’s House.” The politically-minded person would be interested only in the real thing. And that’s not all…

Nones: Trying to find an update on the violence in Greece that the Times reported the other day — it’s coverage, dismayingly, is better than that of the English papers that I’ve checked, as well as the BBC’s — I discover that the Turkish government has rounded up a bunch of secularist critics and accused them of fomenting a plot. This story does come from the BBC.

Vespers: I’ve done just about nothing today but read Brian Morton’s first novel, The Dylanist. Published in 1991, this is a novel to dust off and re-read in the Age of Obama, not so much for any specific political alignment as for its portraits of people who are too richly principled for cynicism.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009


Matins: Mark my words: this is the beginning of something good: Web/House calls by physicians in Hawaii.

Lauds: When I was growing up, art was something that fruity, suspect men couldn’t help producing — the  byproduct of diseased minds. The people around me wished that art would just stop. Even I can hardly believe how unleavened the world was in those days. How nice it would have been to have Denis Dutton’s new book come to the rescue: The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution.  

Prime: My friend Jean Ruaud, who happens to be the best photographer I know, spent the holidays in Houston, the city where I lived for almost a decade but haven’t visted in seventeen years. Even though most of the pictures — all of the ones that don’t feature Downtown — are completely unfamiliar, they’re also distinctly More of the Same.  

Tierce: It’s official.

For those New Yorkers who wondered what the Manhattan real estate market might be like without the ever-rising bonuses of Wall Street’s elite, the answer is now emerging: an abrupt decline in transactions, tottering prices and buyers who are still looking but unwilling to sign a contract.

Josh Barbanel reports.

Sext: The reported discovery of a circle of standing stones forty feet below the surface of Lake Michigan is more than a little intriguing. Quite aside from what the site tells us about prehistoric society, there’s the matter of protecting the site. How do you restrict access to an underwater location? (via

Nones: “Activists” have become “gunmen” in Greece. Anthee Carassava reports.

Vespers: At Maud Newton, Chad Risen mourns the shuttering of the Nashville Scene book page. Hang-wringing news, certainly. I can’t say, though, that I agree with this:

Blogs are great, and in some ways better than book sections, but there’s nothing like a book page in a local, general-interest publication to “cross-pollinate” interest among people who might otherwise never come across serious discussions of the printed word.

This sounds like a paper fetish to me.

Compline:There are two items about the Catholic Church in today’s Times, and although they seem to tell very different stories, I’m not so sure that they do. The first is Abby Goodnough’s report on “rebellious” parishioners who have occupied their church in order to keep the Boston diocese from selling it off. From Spain, meanwhile, Rachel Donadio writes about an impending showdown between observant Catholics and government secularists.


Out & About:
Pillar to Post

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

On the right, the Azure, the luxury condominium whose crane fell, last summer, into the building on the left, scraping and denting a few evidently unrepaired balconies. I can see both buildings from my desk, but I have not drifted this far north on First Avenue since long before the accident.

Here we are in the middle of November: the year-end holidays will be upon us very shortly. More than ever, I wish that I lived in a shack in the Laurentian Mountains, far from everyone; once again autumn has fooled me. I expected to enjoy getting back into the social swim, going to concerts and plays and having dinner with friends at dusky but no longer smoky cabarets. And I’m doing my best. But my mind is elsewhere, because, once again, a summer’s reflections have resulted in what I’m afraid I’m going to have to call a paradigm shift.

Given everything that’s happening in the greater world — the glorious election, the terrifying market — I can’t expect anyone to take an interest in the jumble of ideas that, at some point in August, fell into a bold and clear intellectual pattern before my very eyes. Suddenly the world — my world, my little me-centered world, but nonetheless a world in which I think of myself only when I’m in some sort of physical pain — made sense in new terms. In retrospect, the terms weren’t so new, and the paradigm shift was preceded by plenty of warning. But the newness of things is still as sharp as that good old new-car smell, or the shot of green growth that intoxicates a woodland path on a dewy late-May morning.

I suppose I ought to be grateful that I didn’t have to schedule a fourth-anniversary re-think of The Daily Blague. It happened all by itself. So far at least, the brainstorm has nothing to do with design, format, or “features.” But enough of this repassage, which I’ve mentioned only because the world around me is changing, too.

The election, the market — &c &c! Reason to wonder how economic developments will affect everything from Kathleen’s law practice to our continued tenancy in the heart of Yorkville. The health of a few near and dear relatives. And of course the wedding party.

The wedding party! That’s what brought me to First Avenue and 92nd Street, and this view of the new, safer-looking crane at the Azure (which spent most the summer without so much as a new cinderblock). We’ve booked rooms for my cousin, Bill, and his family at the Marriott Courtyard hotel that neither of us knew existed until a very early morning in June. The driver taking us to the airport for our flight to Santa Monica chose 92nd Street to get to the FDR Drive. Not exactly crazy, but unusual. We can see the hotel out of the window, too, but we didn’t know that it wasn’t just another apartment building. Although, the moment we did know, we thought how obvious it was.

My cousin and his family don’t get to New York very often, so they’ll be striking out on their own when they arrive on Friday. Me they can see when I visit my aunt in New Hampshire. Not to mention on Saturday, at the wedding party. Kathleen, it appears, will be working late; she’s moving heaven and earth to clear her desk before we leave for St Croix next Wednesday. That leaves me fancy-free and unattached on the eve. A dangerous combination, especially as I have two invitations in my pocket, both to gatherings at bars on the west side of Midtown.

One is the crowd that Megan and Ryan are assembling in lieu of a rehearsal dinner. The other is the birthday party of a fellow blogger. That sounds like fun — or would have done until this summer, when being a little bit drunk became, for the first time in my life, genuinely disagreeable. Vis-à-vis alcohol, I’m very much in a limbo between habit and abstinence. Who knows how that’s going to turn out.

Church of the Holy Trinity, East 88th Street.

Between the new Weltanschauung and the seasonal bustle of family and friends, I’m pretty confused. Last night, I came home from a stirring recital at Zankel Hall, as eager to chat about the evening as a teen home from the prom. But the Internet had nothing to offer. I was all fired up to talk about Ives and the Alcotts, but no one was home.

Tonight, however, is a different story. An old friend has just signed up at Facebook, and is going through the same tumult that I found myself in a few weeks ago. We’re being very naughty. I just asked her if her niece (a new Facebook friend) is hot.

I can still do naughty.

Daily Office:

Monday, August 25th, 2008



Denver: We can’t say what the most interesting thing about the Democratic Conventional will have been, but we can expect that it might have something to do with the media and the unmediated. On Friday, the MSM scooped (and thereby foiled) Barack Obama’s attempt to name his running mate directly to supporters’ cell phones.


Safe Conduct: Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, offers sensible rules of order at The Etiquette Effect, in collaboration with Hyatt Place hotels. On “Using Technology Appropriately”:

Just because you can bring your phone with you wherever you go, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to use it. Don’t walk into a meeting or building while still on the phone and don’t bring your cell phone into a business meeting unless you are expecting an urgent call. If a client starts using their PDA during a meeting, you may choose to ignore it. A riskier proposition would be to confront him and say, “Bill, should we reschedule? This doesn’t seem to be a good time for you.” But this is the best way to send the message that you’re not going to tolerate this breach of manners.


Teach: David Olivier (that’s Slimbo to you) has embarked on a truly heroic adventure: teaching math to middle-schoolers in New Orleans. The (first) Week in Review.

Reading Notes:
Buying Netherland

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008


The pallor of the so-called hours of darkness was remarkable. Directly to the north of the hotel, a succession of cross streets glowed as if each held a dawn. The tail-lights, the coarse blaze of deserted office buildings, the lit storefronts, the orange fuzz of the street lanterns: all this garbage of light had been refined into a radiant atmosphere that rested in a low silver heap over Midtown and introduced to my mind the the thought that the final twilight was upon New York.

Methinks I’m in for a good read. The foregoing passage, from pages 20-21 of Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, induced such a mild rapture that I had to stop, to copy it out somewhere. (more…)

The Urban Outdoors:
At Blogger Hill

Saturday, May 17th, 2008


For all the prediction of lousy weather — and the lousy weather that we had yesterday — this afternoon was glorious, and Central Park was a wonderful place to be.