Archive for the ‘“Have you no sense of decency?”’ Category

Daily Office:

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:

Thursday, July 30th, 2009


Matins: At Politico, nutritionist Katherine Tallmadge writes from up close and personal about the runaway unhealthiness of life in our Capitol. (via The Morning News)

Lauds: At the London Review of Books, Michael Wood exposes the “rococo” nonsense of North By Northwest, and thereby explains why Hitchcock’s masterpiece is so gripping.

Prime: In two posts, Felix Salmon asks two good questions: Has the NYC housing market bottomed? (No.) Have we “wasted” the financial crisis? (Yes.)

Tierce: Lee Landor, deputy press secretary to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, resigns subito when some of her Facebook comments, calling Henry Louis Gates a racist and referring to “O-dumb-a,” were forwarded to her boss.

Sext: In a somewhat more serious social app boo-boo, Amanda Bonnen of Chicago has been sued by the company that managed her former apartment, for libel by tweet.

Nones: At the London Review Blog, Hugh Miles writes about a scandal in Libya — or is it a scandal on Capitol Hill?

Vespers: In The Atlantic Fiction 2009 issues, four international writers, all of them Anglophone but none American (although Joseph O’Neill has become a US citizen), discuss the tension between nation(alism) and literature.

Compline: Any story that links soldiers and information makes us happy. “In Battle, Hunches Prove to Be Valuable.” And we remember when intuition was for girls.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009


Matins: Ben Flanner’s Rooftop Farms, in Greenpoint, is six thousand square feet of vegetables — atop an industrial building.

Lauds: At Speakeasy, Jim Fusilli asks if there will ever be another Michael Jackson. He’s not talking about artistry, really, but rather about the business. His answer is that not even Michael Jackson at his prime could sell 750 million albums today.

Prime: Malcolm Gladwell reviews Chris Anderson’s Free; Tom Scocca and Choire Sicha have a laff.

Tierce: Bernard Madoff was sentenced to one hundred fifty years in prison today, but as far as victim Burt Ross is concerned, that’s not even the beginning of what’s appropriate. “When he leaves this earth vitually unmourned, may Satan grow a fourth mouth…” The reference is to Canto XXXIV of Inferno.

Sext: Being Tyler Brûlé, a blog that makes exquisite fun of (Jayson) Tyler Brûlé. (via Things Magazine)

Nones: It’s rather maddening, but I can’t confirm my hunch that the ouster of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was engineered by the “European” elites that own most of the property in Central America. Update

Vespers: John Self writes about Marilynne Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping (1981). If you missed it, Mr Self may whet your appetite for a fine novel.

Compline: V X Sterne is back, at Outer Life, and it will surprise none of his regular readers that he unplugged the second flat-screen monitor that was recently installed at his place of business.


Daily Office:

Monday, May 11th, 2009


Matins: Uh-oh. This weekend, both Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich sang what sounded like swan songs. Rehearsals for swan songs, anyway. An appeal to the SpOck in Obama; 2009 as the new 1500.

Lauds: In Istanbul, a shiny new mosque has opened, the first to be designed by a woman, Zeynef Fadıllıoğlu. It’s a knockout. (via  Good)

Prime: Here’s a New York story that has been widely retailed around the Blogosphere, from The Morning News to An Aesthete’s Lament: Drew University senior Maximilian Sinsteden is already an accomplished, sought-after interior designer.

Tierce: We start off the week’s news (there’s only one story) with John Eligon’s wry portrait of Justice A Kirke Bartley Jr.

So, a lawyer, while questioning a witness, tells the judge, Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr., that he has a request pertaining to a diamond-encrusted gold necklace worth tens of thousands of dollars that is in evidence.

Justice Bartley’s response (this is the punch line): “I won’t be wearing it, no.”

This is the lighter side of the trial of Brooke Astor’s son and one of Mrs. Astor’s lawyers.

Sext: If you’re going to be serious about the l-a-t-e-s-t episode of Star Trek, it’s probably best to start at The House Next Door, where Matt Maul confesses (I can think of no other word) to having been a fan for “thirty-five years.”

Nones: On opposite stories of the Atlantic, dueling Chinese heroines. Here, now living in Queens, it’s Geng He, the wife of an insistent dissident who made a daring escape. There, it’s Nina Wang, “Asia’s richest woman,” who has the comparative disadvantage of being dead.

Vespers: John Self considers Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, at Asylum.

Compline: Aside from being a brisk account of clinical depression that reads like one woman’s serious problem, and not the disease of the week, Daphne Merkin’s Times Magazine piece, “A Journey Through Darkness,” dwells on the bleakness of treatment facilities.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009


Matins: Davos is shaping up to be the party not to be seen at this year. Our Governor Paterson is the latest defector. The White House is sending Valerie Jarrett.

Lauds: Terry Teachout writes about the unglamorous side of being an opera librettist. Asked how he does it all, the man of letters gives the manly answer:

I’m extremely humble about whatever gifts I may have, but I am not modest about the work I do. I work extremely hard and all the time.

Prime: Now that it’s over, I can read about it: the era of Press Bush. Errol Morris asks three wire-service photographers to talk about their most illustrative photographs of the late President. (via

Tierce: Preserving the death camp at Auschwitz poses a peculiar problem: the installation wasn’t built to last. And parts of it were blown up by the evacuating Germans, who assuredly weren’t concerned about the difficulty of maintaining a ruin.

Sext: Clyde Haberman talks about “nontraditional ‘shaming punishments’,” but I thought that shaming punishments were traditional. It’s prison time that’s new and “improved” (not).

Nones: And here I thought that “slumdog” was a standard insult in Mumbai, applied to anyone (particularly anyone Muslim) from the city’s rather ghastly slums. Not so.

The screenplay writer, Simon Beaufoy, said people should not read too much into the title. “I just made up the word. I liked the idea. I didn’t mean to offend anyone,” he said.


Vespers: Notwithstanding his prodigious output, John Updike was too young, at 76, to leave us. The commodore of American letters, he guided a convoy of writers from the avowedly amoral shoals of modernism to a native harbor of immanence, and he set his ships a high example for polished decks.

Compline: It were churlish not to wish long lives to the eight children born tout d’un coup, in the Miracle of Kaiser Bellflower. What a Mozartstag! John Updike dead, a human octopus born!


Daily Office:

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009


Matins: If you want to know why the Times may have to cease publication in May, you need read just this one story about the closing of Guantánamo, which makes sense on only a minimal level. Money aside, the newspaper is incapable of presenting a complex story in three paragraphs. And what else are newspapers for?

Lauds: The stupidest prediction that I’ve read in the past ten minutes (I hate to exaggerate):

Initial predictions by some art investors last year that oil-rich Arab countries, Russia, India and China would continue to spend on art, even as the United States and much of Western Europe stumbled into a recession, proved too optimistic.

Once upon a time, one might have made a remark like this about Japan. Japan could be counted upon to go on buying paintings by Nattier and subscribing to the Neue Mozart Ausgabe no matter what was going on in the European economies.

Prime: After a long absence, V X Sterne is back at Outer Life. Now that the economy is bound for hell in a handbasket, our favorite Californian capitalist is feeling much better.

Tierce: Sarah Palin complains about a class divide in America, with self-proving assertions. There is an élite class in this country, identifiable by its ability to speak clear, articulate English. Ms Palin, on the other hand, speaks what can only be called Ramshackle.

Sext: At last! We’ll be able to drive to Europe. (Via well-spaced aircraft carriers.)

Nones: A “respected coalition” of British Jewish leaders has issued a letter calling for an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza.

Vespers: Remember “writer’s block”? You’re right, I wonder what happened to it, too. Polly Frost waxes nostalgic and she has a plan!

Compline: Prince Harry is back in the news. Boy, this kid just doesn’t get it! Anybody who thinks that he’s really “third in line” for the English throne — or even nth — must be living in a tea cosy.


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, December 16th, 2008


Matins: The Cutup-in-Chief is unflappable: ““I’m pretty good at ducking, as most of you will know…”

President Bush ducked — and didn’t get it. He seems to have thought that Muntader al-Zaidi’s outrage was a party prank gone awry, and certainly not representative of any widespread feelings about Duckya’s screwups in his homeland. Who knows what kind of an afterlife the episode is going to take on? Will Mr al-Zaidi one day head Iraq, in the manner of dissident playwright Vaclav Havel?

Tierce: In yesterday’s “Deal Book,” there was a squib about what John Kenneth Galbraith’s study of the 1929 Crash has to tell us about the Madoff Fraud: the first is not the worst.

Vespers: Joseph O’Neill writes! Well, of course…but don’t hold your breath between publications. How exciting, then, to read, at Maud Newton, that Mr O’Neill is a contributor to the current issue of Granta! I rush to yesterday’s mail, and there it is, “Fathers.” Turn to page 76, “Portrait of My Father” — a common title in the book. But what’s this, only three pages! 


Midday Craving:
The Designated

Thursday, December 11th, 2008


This afternoon, at Feldman’s Housewares, the ladies behind the counter tried to sell me one of these. Whether it was the charm of their attempt, or the delicious incongruousness of a plastic pickle that, upon request, produces a rather cackly yodel, I can’t say. But although I didn’t buy one, I think that I must have one.

Like Philip the Good, late duke of Burgundy, I shall “entertain” dinner guests by making them wonder why such a ghastly sing-song seems to be pouring forth from their derrières.

Here’s the rub: do I order the Yodelling Pickle from Amazon, at a savings of three or four dollars? (I should note that even Feldman’s, on Madison Avenue in Carnegie Hill, isn’t charging Amazon’s “list price” of $22.96) Or do I support the neighborhood by trekking back up to 92nd Street? Either way, I’ll be mincemeat when Kathleen finds out.

LXIV tried to explain this to the salesladies. “If he buys it, his wife will never forgive me,” he pleaded. I nodded. “He’s the designated grownup,” I said. The ladies loved that one.

Daily Office:

Friday, November 7th, 2008


Matins: Timothy Egan puts his finger on exactly what’s been bothering me since Barack Obama’s victory — bothering me like an itch, not like a problem.

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice on the question of what to do when your dreams come true: don’t tell anyone.

Conversely, what do we do when our darkest fears, our hardened conventional wisdom and our historic homilies are all found to be hooey? Shout it from the rooftops.

I can’t believe that I can really shout good news from the rooftops.

Lauds: A European friend of mine decided to spend his vacation in Chicago. Boy, did he choose wisely. Before the election, he visited the Art Institute and took this picture, which we’ve all seen so many times that we can’t remember or even imagine not knowing it.

Tierce: Aaron Ross of Bergenfield, in a Letter to the Editor, claims,

“Equality’s Winding Path” (editorial, Nov. 6) reveals the true rift over the divisive issue of gay-marriage bans.

You refer to the “ugly outcomes” of the votes, the “defeat for fairness” and “unfair treatment” of “vulnerable groups” — all terms indicative of the fact that you see this issue as one of rights.

The fact that 30 states have now passed similar bans on same-sex marriage should perhaps alert you to the fact that not everyone has accepted that version of the issue, and that many Americans have chosen to define gay marriage not as an issue of rights but as one of morality.

As a country, we are still firmly rooted in a Judeo-Christian ethic that leaves certain unions outside of the pale of acceptability.

This language, although calm enough is startlingly reminiscent of the outraged opposition to granting full civil rights to Black Americans fifty years ago.

Daily Office:

Thursday, November 6th, 2008


Matins: Perhaps, with the White House out of wingnut hands at last, humanists of all stripes, religious and not, will be able more effectively to confront the fringe of christianists who abuse everything about their ostensible faith in order to sustain a doddering status quo. Consider what they’re doing to my good friend Joe. This, from the spokesman for a law firm called the “Liberty Counsel”:

“Gays” Call for Violence Against Christian Supporters of Prop 8…

Meanwhile, over at, “World O Jeff,” said, “Burn their f–ing churches to the ground, and then tax the charred timbers.” While, “Tread,” wrote, “I hope the No on 8 people have a long list and long knives.” “Joe,” stated, “I swear, I’d murder people with my bare hands this morning.”

Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Alliance Action and Liberty Counsel, said, “This is not just a matter of some people blowing off steam because they’re not happy with a political outcome. This is criminal activity. The homosexual lobby is always calling for ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’ and playing the role of victim. They claim to deplore violence and ‘hate.’ Here we have homosexuals inciting, and directly threatening, violence against Christians. This is not free speech; these are ‘hate crimes’ under the existing definition. Imagine if Christian Web sites were advocating such violence against homosexuals. There’d be outrage, and rightfully so. It’d be national front-page news. Federal authorities should immediately investigate these threats and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law. I also call on the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other leaders within the homosexual lobby to immediately call for an end to these homosexual threats of violence against Christians.”

Anyone who hasn’t paid attention to the Prop 8 fight in California just might think that Mr Barber has a point, but nobody else will.

Tierce: Nicholas Kulish writes about the resurgent popularity of the legendary Baltic pirate, Klaus Störtebeker. Störtebeker, beheaded in 1401, stole from the rich (Hanse merchants) and gave to the poor — or at least divvied up the loot with his mates. What with the rising income inequality that’s bothering more people everywhere, Germans are dusting off a legend that hasn’t, in fact, gathered much dust: Störtebeker was a hit with the Nazis and also with the East Germans, at least in the early days of the DDR. One hitch:

Sext: From Taipei, Edward Hong reports on a rare, high-level, but calm and dipomatic meeting of officials from the Republic of China and from the People’s Republic of China.

Compline: In the midst of all this suffocating seriousness, there’s a new magazine of fresh air: Dowager Quarterly. This month’s tattle-tale story: “Wild Nights at Frogmore: the Victoria I Knew.”


Daily Office:

Thursday, September 11th, 2008


Matins: Lucy Q Denett, former associate director of revenue management at the Minerals Management Service, the government’s second-best source of revenue after taxes, was frank with investigators — up to a point:

But the report quotes Ms. Denett repeatedly telling investigators such things as “obviously I did it and it doesn’t look proper” and that in retrospect she had made a “very poor” decision. She also told them that “she had been preoccupied with a very stressful personal issue at the time,” which the report did not spell out.

Justice (Dept of) has already decided not to prosecute. Charlie Savage reports.

Lauds: What a concept: a clutch of readable novels is up for the Man Booker Prize. That would exclude Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence.

Tierce: In the Times, this anniversary morning, a few then-and-now photographs of notable structures that are no longer backdropped by the Twin Towers.

What do you see first when looking at the old photographs on the left? Almost certainly not the intended subjects. One of the pictures is meant to show the Woolworth Building. Another is of the Brooklyn Bridge. The third is supposed to depict Division Street.

Well, the thing is, I do see the Woolworth Building. It is in every way a more meaningful building than the lost towers, which achieved significance only in destruction.

Sext: Queens University Belfast will be offering a course called “Feel the Force: How to Train in the Jedi Way.” Won’t Mum and Dad be glad to hear about that! That old lunchbox will be great for lugging mobile, iPod and other kit to class.

Compline: Jean Ruaud reports that his cousins in Houston are staying put. So is my sister, in Port Aransas. The other day, she wrote to say that she’d be evacuating the next morning at six. Carol, if you can read this, our prayers are working!