Thursday, September 29, 2011

Calling All Clergy!!

Here's a new calling for you, corrections officers!!

Forget it Hagger. You're Church of England and not American, so you don't count as Christian in Alabama. Margaret Watson, we know you're working for the liberals and the terrorists. And Tobias Haller is a humanist intellectual in a collar, talk about a wolf in shepherd's clothing!

Besides, in Alabama all y'all ain't Christian 'cause you're Piskapalins. Lutherans and UCC ain't Christian neither. Catholics? Go tell it to Mitt Romney!

Synagogue? Mosque? Temple? Sacred Grove? Sweat Lodge? To the slammer you filthy heathens!

But if you were part of GAGCON or ACNE or the Southern Baptist Convention, this would be a dream come true! A priest with a Bible, a badge, and a gun! In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, assume the position!!

For some Catholic priests, this would be a fantasy come true.

This blog is turning into an extension of JoeMyGod.

Elizabeth Warren Vindicated

John Galt is publicly subsidized.

Yet another hat tip to JoeMyGod. Where does he find these things?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Want One !!!!!!

Hat tip to JoeMyGod.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Punching Hippies

Of course nothing will happen. The mayor, the police department, and the police unions have already circled the wagons to head off any meaningful investigation, but this looks very high handed to me.

This happened at last weekend's Wall Street protest.
The cops corralled a small group of protesters, and then one police supervisor very casually sprayed mace point blank into the face of a woman protester in the corral.

The general behavior of the cops was a lot more rough and brutal than was really necessary, but the security of The Casino must be preserved at all hazards, I suppose. A few punched out hippies is but a small price to pay ... for something.

This is actually true to form for NYC cops. The people who own and run the city hate disorder, especially political disorder. It threatens property values. So their agents in the city government come down hard on anyone (especially anyone who isn't loaded with money) who kicks up the dust, complains, makes noise, and looks like trouble.

Someone who has been surprisingly outraged by this and eagerly updating his material is not a usual left wing rabble-rouser (e.g. Digby), but the eminently civilized and learned Atlantic columnist James Fallows.

Indeed, I agree with Mr. Fallows that the chorus of "tsk tsk tsk" coming from the Establishment pundits over these kids who refuse to be "civil" rings hollow in the face of the Establishment's obliging countenance of far right crowds at very well funded and well covered Republican candidates' debates repeatedly baying for blood, even booing an active duty soldier in Iraq. So who's the crazy nutcase here?


The Nation's Allison Kilkenny was there and has a very different take on the event from the NYTimes' very dismissive coverage. She also points out that such events are becoming more and more difficult at a time when the Right to Peaceably Assemble is ever more tightly regulated.

Political "Eunuchs" and "Hermaphrodites"

... thus Frank Rich describes all the centrist movements from "No Labels," to the Tom Friedman/Mayor Bloomberg middle-of-the-road agenda, to the "bipartisanship" and "civility" so beloved of the Washington Establishment punditocracy (Saint David Broder pray for us). Rich calls for more, and even more partisanship in his current column. Why indeed should everyone who is not a flaming right wing freak declare preemptive surrender? He points out that the extremists poised to take over Washington are beyond anything Reagan or Goldwater ever imagined (indeed Goldwater gets posthumously vilified as a "sell out" by today's far right). This generation of the far right wants to sell off every government, from the Feds to your town council, off to the highest bidder. Rich warns, rightly I think, that Perry is far from done in the debates, that he could very well win the nomination, and go on to win the Presidency. The voting population on all sides is angry and frightened in the 3rd year of the "Lesser Depression," and ready to throw everybody, every incumbent regardless of party, out. Rich points out that the Koch brothers must be laughing at how easy their nominal opponents are making their buyout of the whole political process.

As Hendrik Hertzberg pointed out years ago, "niceness is the enemy of fairness."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's A Start

Some kids staged a noisy protest on Wall Street yesterday apparently upsetting the Big Daddies. On the one hand, it appears to be the usual unfocused left wing mess, everything from Save the Polecat to Neuter Rick Perry. On the other hand, the US press coverage is entirely dismissive, as it was for the protests that turned out more than a million each here in the Big Apple at the start of the Iraq invasion. I think those crazy hippy kids may well speak for a lot more people than were actually there. Some people like me are giving them the old Texas A&M cheer, "Gig em Aggies!"

We'll see what happens next.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pastry and the Social Hierarchy: A Sociological Symposium on the Hermeneutics of Class Conflict

by Moses Harry Horowitz, Jerome Lester Horowitz, and Louis Feinberg

So sue me, it's Saturday.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words


Hat tip to JoeMyGod.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Only Reason I'd Ever Watch a Republican Debate ...

... is to see which one would eat a live kitten. My money would be on the ever floundering Newt, but then, I wouldn't put it past Frothy Mix or Crazy Eyes. They're desperate for attention from a crowd eager to kill anything except a fetus. Who will be the Ozzy Osbourne of right wing politics?

Newt? Frothy? Gov. Goodhair? RonPaul? Crazy Eyes? Surely not Mittens! You think?

Justice vs. Revenge

In years past, I was a death penalty supporter. There were crimes so horrific and so vast that no punishment was truly commensurate. Adolph Eichmann deserved to hang at the very least for all the millions of innocent lives he cut short (Israel retains the death penalty, but Eichmann's remains the only official execution that country has ever carried out). I never supported an assembly line approach to the death penalty, as a kind of automatic and inevitable punishment for certain offenses. I always wanted to keep it in reserve for "special cases" like Eichmann's.

Over time, I changed my mind even about that.

Andrew Cohen ultimately takes a "middle position" on the death penalty, but the bulk of his argument points to the conclusions reached by Justices from William O'Douglas to John Paul Stevens to Ruth Bader Ginzburg, that it is inherently impossible to administer the death penalty in a fair and dispassionate way, that the whole process inevitably violates the letter and the spirit of the Eighth Amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment.

Death is the one penalty that cannot be undone. There's no such thing as posthumous commutation, and posthumous "pardons" are more for the living than for the deceased who is beyond all relief. A mistaken or unjust conviction remains forever done and never to be undone.

There is always the common wisdom that fair or not, the condemned got more justice than he ever showed his victims. Cohen replies to that truism thus:
That's why we outlaw lynching, why angry mobs can't storm jailhouses, and why we have judges. It's why we have a Constitution. In America, we aim to give the guilty more justice than they deserve. We do so because of how that reflects upon us, not upon how it reflects upon the guilty. And when we fail to do so it says more about us than it does about the condemned.

I think the death penalty more than any other confounds the line between justice and revenge. Victims of crimes deserve and demand redress. However, people accused of notorious crimes have the right to contest the accusations, and to have a fair review of the evidence and testimony brought against them. An impartial magistrate or jury decides if the case has been made, and if so, what sort of punishment shall be meted out.

And what is the alternative to law and due process? Vendetta. The whole point of a criminal justice system is to spare people the risks and burdens of vendetta. It's to preserve communities from coming undone from the conflicts inevitably generated by revenge. Where would you rather live? In a civil society that functions despite all of its faults and corruptions, or in the State of Nature described by Hobbes, the "war of all against all?"

All religions (yes even Islam) condemn revenge because its fire is unquenchable and destroys everything around it. Revenge distorts justice by turning victims to crime and turning deserving criminals into undeserving victims.

Cohen uses the example of Timothy McVeigh as someone whose crime truly merited the death penalty. On the contrary, I think his death is a great example of vindictive passions distorting the course of justice, and not the passions of his victims, but McVeigh's. McVeigh expressed relief upon his sentencing. He said that the one thing he dreaded was a life sentence without parole. I think it is telling that he eventually stopped all of his appeals. McVeigh wanted to go out in a blaze of glory as a martyr for white supremacy, and he got what he wanted complete with a broadcast recitation of his favorite poem, "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. If it was up to me, he would have spent a long life in short cell, pondering upon what he did.

There are people who do evil things that should not only be punished, but should remove them permanently from society. I'm all for meting out punishment to the guilty. Lawrence Russell Brewer committed about as horrific and evil an act as anyone could imagine, chaining a man to the back of his truck and dragging him to his death for no reason except that he felt that his victim was the wrong color. The passions of revenge would demand that Russell at least suffer the same fate. Vengeance was only partially satisfied by his execution. Was justice satisfied? Brewer is now as dead as his victim James Byrd, and neither is coming back.

And what will happen if it comes out that Brewer's execution was driven by political expediency as much as by justice? The taint of racism hangs heavily over the whole Texas judiciary system. Could it be that the state decided that one homicidal racist was a small price to pay to dispel at least some of that cloud? And would justice really be served then? It's doubts like these that caused even conservative justices like Stevens to turn against the death penalty.

In 1936, Fritz Lang made a very striking movie about the shifting line between justice and revenge called Fury.

And finally, there is this from Albert Camus:
But what then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? For there to be equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.

I Look Forward To the Day ...

... when all the anti-gay bigots are looking out at the world from behind the self-made walls of Idaho compounds along with the racists.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Freedom and Dignity: Forward and Back

A head of state, President Obama, addresses the United Nations General Assembly about the promise of universal freedom and dignity for everyone, and for the first time by a head of state at such an occasion, explicitly mentions gays and lesbians. Realizing the universal claim of humankind on freedom and dignity is a promise that is within our means and within our grasp for the first time in history.

And here is someone who was not a head of state who had a deeply personal investment in that promise of freedom and dignity, Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, New York.

He died Sunday by suicide after the bullying got worse at his school after he made this video.

There are many around the world who believe that Jamey and his family are but a small price to pay for a purer simpler world for those who claim dominion over it.

So, what kind of world do you want to live in?

Do you want a world where everyone, including people like Jamey, can lay their claim upon it and make their own lives in peace?

Or, do you want a world reshaped and purified according to some ideological or doctrinal template where only those who fit perfectly have any real claim upon the world, and others are simply expendable, others like Jamey?

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

--President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, January 6, 1941

Elizabeth Warren

Some people, I suppose, will see this as the rantings of a flaming radical Bolshevik about to set the flag on fire. To me, it reads like a responsible adult describing the responsibilities of citizens in a civilized society, as opposed to the fond wishes of self absorbed teenagers who want to live in something more like a dog pack.

I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No!

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear.

You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Hat tip to Eschaton.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Crossing the Williamsburg Bridge Into Valhalla

I sometimes like listening to the Finale from Das Rheingold when I walk across the bridge. Wagner goes great with girders and rivets.

Of course, the gods are entering Valhalla because they can't afford Manhattan. Not enough Rhine gold for a suitably palatial burg.

Phillip Glass, eat your heart out:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Anselm Kiefer

In 1969, a former law student exhibited a series of photographs of himself called "Occupations." By "occupations," he did not mean trade or vocation, but something that his intended German audience would find very provocative and loaded with associations as radioactive as Plutonium.

Anselm Kiefer photographed himself at a number of locations around Europe wearing riding pants, boots, and making the notorious Hitlergruss. A lot of these locations had associations in German history and national identity. The picture above shows the artist with his back to us saluting the sea, alluding to any number of German Romantic images.
Audiences were shocked and outraged by these photos. These were only the opening salvo in a long artistic career dedicated to reclaiming German history and mythic identity after almost 3 decades of denial. This was a project Kiefer inherited from his mentor, the performance artist, Joseph Beuys. Beuys presented himself as a kind of shaman and exorcist, conjuring and banishing the ghosts of Germany's past. Kiefer would take this project much further, and make it even more provocative by calling into question much of the legacy of artistic modernism.

In the early 60s, Germans commonly referred to 1945 as "ground zero," a fundamental break in their history, and that everything since was a new beginning. It was common in those days to describe Nazism and its exploitation of German national myth as an aberration never to be repeated. In all fairness, I'm not sure Germany could have been rebuilt without such a concept, in its own way that view was as self-serving and false, and yet as necessary, as DeGaulle persuading the French that they were "victors" in the Second World War. Neither France nor Germany could have rebuilt without those constructed historical narratives. And yet, those narratives complicated life so much for the generations that came along after post war reconstruction was complete.

Artists like Beuys and Kiefer wanted to reclaim the authentic German national history complete with all of its tragedy and crime. That history was something to be faced and to be claimed. Both wanted to do so by resurrecting German national mythology exploited and contaminated by the Nazis: "blood and soil," Hermann and the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, the Nibelungen, the great primeval German forest, pioneers of German national identity in the Enlightenment and in the Romantic movement. All of that found itself tragically bound up with Jewish history, self identity, and mysticism in Kiefer's historical vision.

Anselm Kiefer, Inneraum (Inner Space), 1981

This painting is based on photographs of the Mosaic Hall of the Reichs Chancellry designed and built by Albert Speer for Hitler. Kiefer reconstructs it as a dark blasted interior. In the center of the floor is something which resembles traditional images of the Burning Bush. The actual room was close to the center of power in Nazi Germany and designed to recall something like a temple sanctuary with the door to Hitler's offices and personal quarters designed to deliberately recall a kind of entrance to a holy of holies. Kiefer recalls the former power of Speer's deliberate blasphemy, and turns it inside out. The room becomes no longer the proximity to the seat of power, but to the seat of guilt and complicity in a massive crime.
The painting also radically rejects modern form. Since the work of Cezanne, the floor plane in painting turned ever upward until it became parallel with the picture frame. The reality of the flat surface of the picture always asserts itself in modern painting, always subverting whatever imagery appears upon it, always reminding us of the fiction of painting. Kiefer knocks out the picture plane and lays it flat on a floor once again. Here, linear perspective unapologetically returns. The intellectual distancing of form and irony that characterizes modern painting is replaced by passionate engagement. Kiefer suggests (as did another predecessor Max Beckmann) that there are aspects of life, and especially modern life, for which the intellectual distancing of modern art is inadequate.

Anselm Kiefer, Varus, 1976

This painting from the mid 1970s announced Kiefer's engagement with German mythic identity in ways that made his German audience extremely uncomfortable. This painting is named after a Roman general defeated by the German tribes in the Teutoburg Forest in a military disaster described by Tacitus in his Germania. A deserter from the Roman Army, a former general named Arminius (Hermann), a German who returned to his people, led the German forces that destroyed the Roman legions in the forest. Varus fell on his sword after seeing most of his men massacred. For the Romans, this was a terrible humiliation that had to be avenged. They would spend 3 centuries of very bloody and frustrating military campaigns trying to turn that defeat into victory.
Since this text by Tacitus was rediscovered by German scholars in the 15th century, the battle played a central role in how the Germans have understood themselves, as an indigenous people tied to a specific landscape, with a kind of mystical bond to their part of the earth, of superior martial and moral virtue, assaulted by the forces of corrupt cosmopolitanism. German national leaders from Ulrich Von Hutten to Luther to Bismarck to Hitler saw themselves made into incarnations of the ancient Hermann (Heinrich Himmler's SS troops scoured libraries throughout occupied Italy looking for ancient copies of Tacitus' Germania).
Kiefer based his picture on a famous painting of German nationalism by Caspar David Friedrich recalling the recent war against Napoleon's occupation of Germany, The Chasseur in the Forest. In that painting, a lost French soldier wanders ever deeper into the winter woods, along a path to his doom. Kiefer gets rid of the soldier and concentrates on the winter forest. Like Inneraum, this painting uses linear perspective with a deep recession into space, taking us all down to that forest path of doom and defeat rather than the French soldier. The name "Varus" is written in black across the snow. Barely visible on the white snow, Kiefer writes the name of Herman and his wife Imelda on the snow. Kiefer inscribes in the branches the names of major figures in the creation of German national identity; the poets Hölderlin and Klopstock, the philosopher Fichte, the theologian Schleiermacher, and an architect of German military power, General Von Schliessen. Their names appear in the branches transforming the forest into a kind of doomed hall of fame. Red points with running paint, recalling bullet wounds, punctuate the snow. These call to mind not only the massacred Romans but a lot of other massacres perpetrated by the Germans in forests. The path at the end leads to a dead end in the trees.

Anselm Kiefer, Shulamith, 1983

This is another painting based on Nazi architecture, in this case for a proposed memorial for the war dead that remained unbuilt. Kiefer transforms this imagined monument to Germany's war dead into a massive painted monument to those who died at German hands, in particular the Jewish people. The title comes from the Song of Solomon, the traditional name of the Beloved in that poem. The title may also refer to the group of German religious painters in the early 19th century called The Nazarenes. Two of their members, Franz Pforr and Friedrich Overbeck created the story of Shulamith and Maria as an allegory of the harmony between Old and New Testaments, between German and Classical cultures, and their own friendship. Kiefer turns that quaint allegorical friendship into a tragic historical entanglement of two peoples each with an embattled national identity. Kiefer turns a memorial into a vast painted indictment of a massive criminal act. The huge vaults are blackened by fire. We seem to be inside a giant furnace. In the distance at the end of the hall burn seven flames, a reference to the Menorah and to the Seven Spirits of God in Jewish mysticism.

Anselm Kiefer, Osiris and Isis, 1985 - 1987

And there is this painting which is not from German mythology, but from Egypt, from history's oldest surviving death and resurrection myth. If you look closely, the huge pyramid dominating the painting is made up, not of stone blocks, but of massive books. Pieces of broken ceramic are scattered across the face of the painting, each piece connected to a copper wire which joins them all to a circuit panel at the top of the picture. Kiefer incorporates the actual debris of modernity into his work, but he is much closer in spirit to the haunted evocations of Kurt Schwitters than to the disengaged cool of Robert Rauschenberg. This is a very modern technological interpretation of an ancient story, not just of death and resurrection, but dismemberment and reintegration that certainly has national, but also transnational implications.

Anselm Kiefer remains a deeply divisive and controversial figure in Germany. Some accuse him of embracing the very fascism he excoriates in his work. More right wing critics accuse him of wallowing in a paralyzing national guilt. Both his admirers and his detractors describe his work as "Wagnerian," and indeed it is. His paintings are large and their imagery is deliberately stagey and theatrical, "epic."

Anselm Kiefer makes paintings about myth for a very literal-minded age that is not so much opposed to myth as just very bad at it. We make myths all the time, just as much as in ancient times. Except our myths are so very shallow and manipulative, intended to direct human action to a desired result (higher profits) and nothing more. Public relations consultants, advertising agents, and politicos are our myth-makers, the direct descendants of ancient bards singing epics to warriors gathered around campfires. Every new product must be made into something as wondrous and desirable as The Holy Grail. Every candidate for public office has to be made into someone heroic or even messianic. The problem with myth in our time is that ours is an age that doesn't really believe in anything beyond what's written on a price tag. We dismiss the very possibility of meaning. Despite the gods we all declare that we believe in (or not), Mammon is the jealous god who commands our true allegiance, the one that really makes the miracles and works the magic. Myth is certainly possible in such a culture, but it's not going to satisfy much except the most basic needs and childish wishes.

The USA certainly has its own very problematic national mythology, which its inhabitants are deeply reluctant to face. What makes things worse is that our country is caught between two warring fanaticisms, the God crazy and the God hating. Both of those battling camps have a lot in common. For example, both are very literal-minded. Both are completely stone deaf to the language of metaphor and symbol. Both are implacably opposed to the very idea of myth. And yet, both of those very myth-hating camps, the religious and anti-religious, are the most vulnerable to the dangerous enchantments of myth, precisely because they are both so literal minded, and cannot distinguish between the meaning and the symbol. The God crazy certainly have their mythology; the Santa Claus God, American Jeezus, and America, God's Own Country. But the God haters have theirs, everything from the Marxist Leninist Apocalypse to John Galt.

Kiefer is abundantly aware of the power and peril of myth. Its power resides in its poetry, its ability to make the quotidian seem filled with wonder and magic, the poetic power of myth to engage the passions and the imagination as well as the intellect. The brew is always intoxicating and sometimes can be poison.

Anselm Kiefer, Nero Paints, 1974

In this painting, Kiefer paints a burnt out landscape dominated by a torched field. A forest and village burn in the background. In the center of the painting is bright fiery red and yellow outline of an artist's palette and brushes. Both Nero and Hitler had ambitions as artists. They both attempted to realize their visions in the flesh and blood of actual human beings, and upon the earth itself, and very nearly destroyed both. The artist as tyrant, fortunately over worlds of paint and canvas. Myth is at its most dangerous when it is set over and opposite the quotidian world we inhabit. So many mythographers have come to grief down through time. Controversies and accusations of antisemitism continue to haunt the posthumous reputations of Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade.

Perhaps myth is like love, an inexplicable madness that can lead us to crime and destruction, and yet without it, creation would be impossible and life would be unbearable. It is something that may well be integral to our nature as human beings. We don't need myth to explain life to us, but maybe we do need it to make it bearable. Myths are the stories people live by. In that light, their literal reality is simply beside the point. Did the average ancient Egyptian believe that a giant scarab beetle literally pushed the sun up over the eastern horizon every morning? I seriously doubt it. But the daily resurrection that image describes certainly commanded her deepest belief.

Perhaps my favorite insight about myth comes not from any great mythographer, but from from the decidedly prosaic political philosopher and historian Hannah Arrendt: "The best live by legend, the average live by ideology, and the worst live by conspiracy theories."


The Battle of Teutoburg Forest is described in Tacitus' Annales, not in the Germania. German nationalists since the 15th century prized the Germania because it is a geographic and ethnographic study of ancient Germany. Tacitus was a senator during the reigns of the Flavian emperors into the reign of Trajan. He probably had republican sympathies. He pointedly contrasts the martial virtue and moral simplicity of people he considered to be wild barbarians with the sophisticated corruption of imperial Rome.
Thanks to Robert for pointing this out.

Welfare State

Recently, David Brooks concluded a column with this:

Over the past decades, Americans have developed an absurd view of the power of government. Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can’t.

So I'm wondering, since my brother recently lost his job after about 20 years of faithful service because his employers felt that they needed to cut costs, where has he sinned? In what has he offended?
Similarly, if a master cabinet maker loses his livelihood because his company decides to mechanize, where has he sinned? How has someone with skill who has worked hard all of his life now become suddenly consigned to the ranks of the transgressors?

Sorry, I don't buy the Calvinist bullshit. What can a cabinet maker do about the price and demand for furniture in China? What can my brother do about conflicting monetary policies in Europe and Asia? How many of us can claim direct influence on the global economy which determines so much of life, and has for 5 centuries?

We myopic Americans who habitually view the world exclusively through the lens of our own preconceptions (which don't always agree with our experiences) see the European welfare states with their cradle to grave guarantees as naive idealistic liberal generosity at its worst, taking away the goad of failure from the backsides of evil depraved humanity. In fact, the welfare states of Europe were the creations of sober political calculation born of very hard recent experience.

The instabilities of international capitalism, especially in the early 20th century, drove the totalitarian movements of left and right which almost destroyed Europe. The cycles of international markets could make thousands very rich, but they could also impoverish millions through no fault of their own. Huge populations of newly poor people proved to be a mortal threat to democracy and the rule of law as fury and desperation destroyed constitutional governments and replaced them with totalitarian movements and participatory tyranny. After the conclusion of World War II, many Western European governments decided to soften the impact of capitalism's cycles to keep from repeating that experience. They figured that a relatively high progressive tax rate was a small price to pay for domestic and international stability. After almost 70 years of peace, it appears that calculation paid off.

I've always ragged on this blog about Americans being such meek servile peasants quietly suffering abuses and humiliations that would never be tolerated in other countries, not even in China. Well, another sober calculating politician warns that even meek and passive Americans have their limits. Mayor Bloomberg:

As it emerged the number of people applying for unemployment benefits in the U.S. jumped last week to the highest level in three months, the Mayor spoke out, insisting that if nothing is done Americans will start revolting. 'We have a lot of kids graduating college, can't find jobs,' he said on his weekly radio show. 'That's what happened in Cairo. That's what happened in Madrid. You don't want those kinds of riots here.' His comments were in reference to the recent uprising in Egypt, which toppled president Hosni Mubarak, and protests in Spain by people outraged their government was spending millions on a papal visit rather than on dealing with unemployment. The comments came as President Barack Obama put pressure on Republicans to pass his jobs plan.

A Walk To My Studio

Some pictures that I took while walking to my Lower East Side studio from my home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Saturday, September 10.

I live right on the border between very Italian northern Williamsburg, and very Polish Greenpoint. The apartment that I share with Michael has a magnificent sweeping view of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway complete with a Mickey D's and and Staples. Nothing worth photographing there.

The sycamores in McGolrick Park, just a block from my home.

Saint Stanislaus Kostka very Polish Catholic Church from Driggs Avenue.

Corner of Driggs and Manhattan Avenue. Manhattan Ave. is the main drag of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. You can see the Citicorp Tower on Manhattan island at the end of the street.

McCarren Park from Driggs Ave. The park is one big workout field for the affluent professionals who live around it. In the background is one of many buildings in Williamsburg left unfinished because of the economic collapse.

The always crowded Saturday McCaren Park Green Market.

A little bit of old Russia on Driggs. The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration next to McCaren Park.

I took a little detour down North 6th Street to the river front. Above are some of the new towering riverfront condos. For only $600,000, you can get a one bedroom on one of the middle floors with no balcony, and not much view.

Midtown Manhattan viewed from the small park by the Williamsburg ferry terminal on the East River.

The spires of Midtown. Left to right, Empire State Building, New York Times Building, the second mast from the right belongs to Conde Nast on Times Square. And then finally, the new Bank of America Building on Bryant Park, currently the second highest building in the city.

The Empire State Building and the NY Times Building.

The new World Trade Center going up, viewed from Williamsburg. On the left is the top of the Woolworth Building.

The East River Ferry coming in, disturbing the weekend fishing. In the background is the Chrysler Building.

The ugly duckling of East River bridges, the Williamsburg Bridge.

The Manhattan Tower of the Williamsburg Bridge.

The entrance ramp of the Williamsburg Bridge on the Brooklyn side, viewed from Bedford, Ave. The domed structure in the back is not a church, but an old bank, the first Williamsburg Savings Bank built in 1875. Someone is restoring it, but I don't know who.

The pedestrian path on the Williamsburg Bridge, built about 10 years ago to replace the old boardwalk. Looks quiet now, but by evening it will be full of Satmar Hasidim heading home from synagogue.

The Brooklyn tower of the Williamsburg Bridge from the pedestrian path.

Unfortunately, most of my shots of the view from the bridge became pictures of the fence.

The Empire State Building from the bridge.

The M train on the bridge. It usually doesn't run on Saturday, but ran that day because the L train was down for maintenance.

It started to rain, so I had to put away the camera. My studio is only a block away on the other side of the bridge.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

James Harbaugh

An old friend of mine from Saint Louis days, Jim Harbaugh, suffered a heart attack on Sunday and is recovering. His wife Jan sent me the email yesterday.

What little reading I have in theology I owe to him. He was kind enough to give me an informal guided reading course in very basic modern theology a quarter century ago, and it's been a great help to me ever since.

He is now an ELCA Lutheran pastor in Iowa. His wife Jan is an Episcopal priest. They are both wonderful people who've been through so much in their lives.

Please remember them in your thoughts and prayers.

Christine, Jan, and Jim Harbaugh with a neighborhood dog who wandered in, August 1991, Saint Louis.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Conservative and Liberal ...

... two terms that I don't use anymore. They've become meaningless. They are now used by lazy journalists to describe camps of opinion that are neither. What passes for "conservative" these days is in fact radical right wing supremacist politics, and what in a former time would have been described as "liberal" (the laissez-faire schools of capitalist thought from the 19th century, or even the Social Darwinism of thinkers like Herbert Spencer).

The only thing "liberal" about what gets described as liberal these days is a tenuous connection to a 19th century philosophy that advocated universal education as well as laissez-faire capitalism. Most of today's "liberals" would be social democrats of varying degree from center left to democratic socialist. The big distinction from their 19th century ancestors would be the strong belief in universal franchise, a belief that does not always agree with the old Herbert Spencer view of capitalism. Contrary to right wing propaganda, this camp of opinion also advocates definite limits on state power, especially over private family and domestic matters, and on the powers of the state to make war and advance imperial interests.

I will continue to stick to the basic terms "right" and "left."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Congratulations Grandmere Mimi and Grandpere!

June and Tom Butler of Thibadoux, LA celebrate 50 years of marriage today! Congratulations to the both of you!

Straight from Chinatown, Double Happiness with a dragon and a phoenix, flowers, and hearts.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Statue of Liberty

filmed in 1898 by Thomas Edison:

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Eric Leinung

Twenty year old Eric Leinung talks about his life and that of his family since his older brother died in the North Tower on September 11th. There are a lot of stories like his.


Loie Fuller

Tell Stephane Mallarme and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec down there at the Folies Bergere to scoot over. I want to watch this show.

Loie Fuller dances in 1896 in a film by the inventor of motion pictures, Louis Lumiere.

A Loie Fuller lamp.

A poster by Jules Cheret.

Did I mention that Art Nouveau is a big guilty pleasure of mine?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Episcopalianism is Hell

... because Episcopalians have to constantly endure shit like this from Fr. Dave Doveton of the Anglican Church of South Africa:

"... Like the German “Reichs Church”, the Episcopal Church of North America has placed the authority of human experience, human desire and human passion above the clear and unambiguous teaching of holy scripture in its blessing of same-sex relationships. Its leadership has embarked on a campaign to mollify and pacify disgruntled and offended Africans who have demanded the Episcopal Church’s exclusion from the forums of leadership of the Anglican Communion (and in most cases broken communion with them). While other African Primates have taken a stand against their heresy, Southern Africa has not.

There can be no compromise with clear manifestations of heresy. The scripture commands us not to invite false teachers into our home. When they refuse to repent, after repeated calls and pleading from all corners of the International Anglican Community, broken fellowship is the only response. If this is not done they will keep spreading their poisonous teachings until the whole body of the church is infected. It is said that the python hypnotises her hapless prey before crushing it and then swallowing it whole. Like a mouse before a smiling python – will we now be swallowed and absorbed to be spat out later, a pathetic little pile of half digested bones?

Or will somebody stand up?"

And like the old Reichs Church of Bishop Ludwig Müller, right wing Christians insist on singling out an entire class of people for persecution for reasons that are completely arbitrary, that fail all the tests of evidence, reason, and decency. Like the old Reichs Church and its predecessor under Kaiser Wilhelm II, right wing Christianity says that the faith is about nothing more than Kinder, Küche, Kirche. And some in this country would insist that Christianity is all about Blut und Boden and a Herrenvolk of the Elect.

Take a look in the mirror, Fr. Doveton and all who agree with him.

Canon Dave Doveton

Hat tip to Mark Harris at Preludium.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Ground Zero Church

Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was the last remnant of the historic Greek neighborhood that originally occupied the World Trade Center site. They shared the neighborhood with a small Syrian population.
The church was originally a tenement church nestled among other tenements. When the Rockefeller brothers drove out the inhabitants with a ruthless use of eminent domain law, the church became the sole survivor of the community that was. For decades, it stood in strange isolation next to a huge parking lot attached to the original World Trade Center, a functioning Orthodox church primarily for the former inhabitants who continued to use it.

The September 11th attacks destroyed the church, including all of its original furnishings that included some rare and valuable icons. The Port Authority, with the support of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, and the Episcopal Diocese, offered to build the small congregation a new church as part of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese readily agreed.

Now, the future of the rebuilding of the church is uncertain. The Port Authority broke off negotiations with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in March of 2009. Both sides complain about new and unreasonable demands and conditions. The Port Authority originally offered to relocate the church to a different place within the World Trade Center site. They offered to build a new church that would have been far larger than the original together with an attached non-sectarian museum. They also offered a $20 million donation to the parish. The disputes began with an argument over the proposed height of the dome of the new church. Then there were arguments over the money and how it was to be paid to the church.

The Port Authority now says that the church can rebuild on its original very narrow property on the site, that they can build anything they want. The Authority plans to use eminent domain to take the land under the church to build a secure underground truck entrance to the site. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Port Authority still hope for some kind of mutually satisfactory resolution, but circumstances are making that less likely.

The church is now a political football in the ugliest of all the controversies around the World Trade Center site, the fight over the so called Ground Zero Mosque (actually located at 45-51 Park Place, two blocks from the site), a controversy entirely manufactured by right wing talk radio and Fox News (with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud, owning the second largest share of the network's parent company Newscorp after Rupert Murdoch; the Prince is a close friend of Murdoch -- and George W. Bush -- and a major financial backer of "Park 51," the so-called Ground Zero Mosque). A small Muslim congregation made up of local Pakistani shopkeepers and cab drivers prayed in an old warehouse at that address for 40 years with no complaints until now. They've since lost that 4 decade long house of worship for no reason other than people don't like them anymore.

At one time, Orthodox priests sang the liturgies of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom while Syrian muezzins sang the Adnan on the very site where the World Trade Center now rises, long before anyone thought to put so huge a project there, or to destroy it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Separated At Birth: Texas and New York.

When I moved to New York, people asked if the culture shock might be too much. Hell no. New York was easy. Why? because contrary to conventional wisdom, Texas and New York are so much alike. The two places hate each other so much, not because they are so different, but because they have so much in common. This Texan would have suffered far more serious culture shock in one of those earnest taciturn upper Midwest states like Minnesota or Wisconsin.

People hate New York and Texas for the same reasons. Both places think that they are the Center of the Universe with all the planets and galaxies revolving around them. Both Texans and New Yorkers feel sorry for anyone who isn't them. The inhabitants of both places can be loud, vulgar, arrogant, and insufferable. Both places are full of people who can be astonishingly rude (although in my experience, Texans are more aggressive in their rudeness). Both Texans and New Yorkers can be very neurotic (New Yorkers can be very whiny and prosecutorial while Texans always walk around with giant chips on their shoulders). People can also be surprisingly friendly in both places. New Yorkers are never nice, and neither are Texans though they won't admit it, but people in both places can become real friends very quickly. People in the Midwest, in my experience, can be very nice, but are not always very friendly (I've heard the same complaint about Californians).

I've only seen a couple of real differences between Texans and New Yorkers. The first is in hypocrisies about money. Texans are far bolder in their hypocrisies about filthy lucre than New Yorkers. Wealthy Texans will feed you steak and lobster for lunch just to impress you with how rich they are. By contrast, very rich New Yorkers will serve you left over spaghetti on paper plates to show you how little they think of you. While rich New Yorkers always try to buy a measure of culture and class that they don't really have, Texans loudly proclaim that they are rich as Croesus by Divine Right. God gave them all that loot for being so righteous and believing so correctly. New York, by contrast, has a kind of reverse hypocrisy with people frequently pretending to be worse than they really are. That guy on the corner who looks and dresses like a hit man almost certainly isn't, and probably takes his mother to daily Mass. The woman in the store dressed like a femme fatale probably takes care of younger brothers and sisters together with some other kids in the neighborhood.
The other difference is that Texans are acutely self conscious and very prickly about what other people think about their state. By contrast, New Yorkers genuinely couldn't care less about what other people think about their city or about them.

I know that almost everyone who reads this blog hates Texas (and probably New York too). So this month, think of the Red Cross as your swear jar. Go ahead and complain about Rick Perry and Dubya and all those insufferable mean old rattlesnakes who don't believe in Global Warming or gravity, and be generous and swear enough to make a whore blush. Here's the Red Cross site. Please be generous.

2002 WTC Design Competition Also Rans

Here are some of the finalists for the competition to rebuild the site in 2002.

Norman Foster's "Kissing Towers." This was a big hit with the public, and a very fine and beautiful design, arguably better than what is actually being built now. But, it relegated the Memorial to a kind of inconvenient appendage.

The design group THINK submitted this proposal. It takes the opposite approach to Foster's plan. Two skeletal towers were to rise above the sites of the former twin towers. This striking design put the memorial museum high up in the towers and included spaces for public events and performing arts. The whole site would have been subsumed into a memorial that did not make much provision for redevelopment.

This is the proposal by Peter Eisenman. Like Libeskind's design, it emphasizes a balance between memorial and redevelopment in the design. One striking feature of this proposal was a pair of parks that jutted into the Hudson River in the exact size and shape of the shadows cast by the towers at 8:46 that September morning when they were hit.

This is the United Architects proposal which I must confess I was never very fond of. To me, it looks even more like a rejected set from Metropolis than what is being built now.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The WTC Rises Again

The new WTC under construction now.

I've followed the efforts to rebuild the World Trade Center with great interest for 10 years. Now that it's finally taking shape, I haven't really changed my mind about what I said about it three years ago. I still think the design is disappointingly conventional after showing so much promise in the competition and planning stages. I still think that the current design, disappointing though it may be, is still a tremendous improvement over Minoru Yamasaki's twin towers and plaza. As I said three years ago, I credit Yamasaki with making the whole project a lot less brutal looking than the usual Rockefeller projects such as Albany Plaza.

Now that it is all going up in earnest, it looks huge, bigger to my eye than the old WTC. The rising trunk of One World Trade Center already dominates the downtown skyline and remains several floors short of topping out. The building proper will top out at 1,368 feet, the same height as the old North Tower. A broadcasting mast will complete the height of the building at 1,776 feet, the tallest building in the Americas.
Number Four World Trade Center also goes up and is starting to be visible among the Downtown skyscrapers. The Memorial is mostly complete and scheduled to open Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The museum associated with the Memorial will open next year and is on schedule.

The top of the rising One World Trade Center viewed from New Jersey

View of the Battery with the rising World Trade Center

This is currently the largest single construction project in the United States, and probably the biggest building project in New York City since Rockefeller Center was completed. New York always builds big in times of economic downturn. Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building rose during the Great Depression. The original World Trade Center went up in the midst of the city's financial crisis in the 1970s. And the new WTC rises in the middle of the current Lesser Depression.

I won't go into the long tangled history of the WTC, except to say that its planning began as early as 1943. David and Nelson Rockefeller chose the current site in the mid 1960's (it was originally to go up on the east side near the South Street Seaport). They used eminent domain law offered to them by eagerly compliant city and state governments to ruthlessly clear out a historic Greek and Syrian neighborhood on the proposed west side site. They persuaded the architect Minoru Yamasaki to reluctantly design twin towers of unprecedented height. The towers' detractors used to call them "David" and "Nelson." And of course, we all know happened next.

Controversies by the dozen continue to swirl around the site and play a large role in the design and the construction. It took years for planners and groups with interests in the site to design, argue about, and redesign the Rubic's Cube of a substructure before anything was built on the surface; where to put utilities, the PATH train station, subway stations, the museum, storage of human remains on the site, and still respect and incorporate the foot prints of the original towers. This one site is to incorporate a memorial, the final resting place for more than a thousand people, a transit hub, and commercial development. None of those uses complement each other.

The contentiousness around the site shaped the 9/11 Memorial that is the project's centerpiece. The Israeli born architect Michael Arad won a crowded competition with his very spare design that turns the footprints of the destroyed towers into huge sunken pools lined with waterfalls. The Memorial as built places these sunken pools in the middle of landscaping and groves of trees on the street level. Arad originally wanted the whole plaza sunken a few feet below street level, and to be completely bare, preserving in a sense the towers' very striking absence immediately after their destruction.

Michael Arad's original design for the Memorial

As bare as the surface was to be, the substructure of the Memorial was to be elaborate with two subterranean floors, the upper floor opening in the midst of the waterfalls. That floor was eliminated because of cost.

A rendering of his proposed 2nd floor with the glimpse through the falls

The other eliminated feature of Arad's design was a cenotaph in a chapel at the very bottom of the pool on the site of the North Tower. Arad intended this block of black stone to be a focus for commemorations. The floor of this room was to be the original bedrock upon which the tower stood. The chapel adjoined the storage and forensic lab area where unidentified human remains from the 9/11 attacks were to be stored in the hopes that some day they could be positively identified.

A rendering of the proposed, and discarded, cenotaph

Some of the bereaved families wanted to turn the cenotaph into a sarcophagus containing all the remains. When the City Medical Examiner pointed out that the volume of the remains was far too great to be contained in the proposed cenotaph, some families insisted that a portion of the remains be entombed there. The Port Authority scuttled the whole cenotaph idea and transformed this area into a blank empty room whose floor is the original bedrock, and will be accessible only to bereaved family members.
But the controversies didn't end there. There was a very long drawn out argument, complete with lawsuits, over the ordering of the names on the Memorial. Arad, with the backing of Mayor Bloomberg, wanted the names entirely random, a kind of equality in death. Some families wanted firefighters grouped by company, and the families of Cantor Fitzgerald employees wanted their loved ones all together, etc. A settlement was reached. All of the names are to be grouped together according to friendships and associations, which meant a very complicated computer algorithm has to be worked out to make all the names in the desired order and proximity, and come out evenly distributed.

A rendering of the names on the parapet of one of the two pools.

A rendering of the names at night. They will be lighted from within.

Rendering of the final design for one of the pools of the Memorial.

The Memorial under construction last year.

The Museum attached to the Memorial will be completed next year. The all glass entrance pavilion is designed by Craig Dykers working for a Norwegian firm. The frosted glass exterior is intended to call to mind the striated appearance of the Twin Towers.

Craig Dyker's Museum entrance pavilion under construction and almost completed

The pavilion focuses upon a remaining ground floor support beam from one of the towers. That beam is already in place.

Rendering of the recovered ground floor support beams in the Museum entrance.

Arad's design, even in altered (and to my mind unfortunately softened) form, is remarkable. As I said 3 years ago, I'm struck by the success of Minimalism as a form language for public memorials. Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC turns out to have been a watershed in the design of public monuments. The great advantage of Minimalism in such a contentious age where there seems to be no agreement on anything is that it expresses a very general sense of emotion and the momentous without even so much as suggesting any kind of interpretation. Arad's design does this in spades, and the original design in its austerity would have made visible the sense of real loss.
I love Dyker's glass pavilion so far, not having seen it in person yet. It's a beautiful building, but I'm still sorting out my feelings about this new kind of free form architecture that's starting to dominate the look of the city in its newest buildings. I think about this a lot when I pass by the new Cooper Union Building on 3rd Avenue (as I do frequently). On so many levels, it's an admirable building, intelligent, boldly original, with beautiful detailing. And yet, it bothers the hell out of me. Perhaps I'm more of an old time German NeoClassicist than I'm willing to admit (move over Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Leo Von Klenze), but as fine as it is, the new Cooper Union building appears to me to be coldly impersonal, arbitrary, and ahistorical.
Maybe the reason Dyker's pavilion bothers me less is because it's more isolated with less of an architectural context right next door, and because it is programmatic (still a very dirty word in a lot of critical circles, and indeed, some critics have pounced on these structures for being programmatic). The forms are tied to the whole narrative of September 11th making them seem less arbitrary, and certainly more humane. The relatively small scale and the material, glass, certainly help that favorable impression.

The largest part of the World Trade Center, already dominating the downtown skyline almost 2 years before scheduled completion is One World Trade Center, formerly known as The Freedom Tower (I'm delighted to see that title retired, and to see the other Freedom Tower in Miami, a much smaller but arguably more beautiful building, retain its monopoly on the title). David Childs of the historic Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill firm designed the current tower that now rises over downtown. He's built a number of prominent New York landmarks already including the new Time Warner Plaza by Columbus Circle. Childs is an accomplished architect working in what is very much an establishment style.
His vision of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere is a giant glass obelisk on a pedestal.

Rendering of the finished One World Trade Center

This elegantly tapered prism will be crowned by a circular broadcast array and a mast designed by the sculptor Kenneth Snelson. To me, that crown looks like an attenuated version of a lingam. Perhaps that ancient symbol of destruction and creation is appropriate here, though I seriously doubt the toiling employees and executives destined to inhabit this vast building will give a crap about such meanings, or any meaning.
Childs says that his design was inspired by Brancusi's famous sculpture Bird In Space. Brancusi's sculpture sweeps upward in a gesture as beautiful as it is dramatic. There's not much gestural about Childs' design at all. It seems to me to be very static. Even so, that static obelisk is graceful except for one glaring detail, the base. Bases in Brancusi's work are springing points. This one is a huge 168 foot high brutal block. I doubt its brutality will be softened much by the reflective material that is supposed to clad the exterior.

Rendering of the base of One World Trade Center

In all fairness to Childs, a lot of this design was to satisfy the security requirements of the NYPD.

Childs won an epic fight over the design of the tower with a very different architect, Daniel Libeskind. Libeskind won the competition to design the layout and planning of the reconstruction of the World Trade Center. The organization of the buildings, the transportation hub, and the memorial, the general scheme and placement, is his design. In his original plan, he called for a very tall tower echoing the gesture of the Statue of Liberty in the harbor.

Rendering of Libeskind's original design for the reconstruction of the WTC.

A model of Libeskind's proposal featuring his glass garden tower.

Libeskind's original tower was to have an entirely memorial function. It was to be a thin tapering glass tower containing a vertical botanical garden from floor to top. Above that was to be a broadcast mast.
Childs was brought in as a consultant at the insistence of Larry Silverstein, the developer who holds the lease on the site. Libeskind is an expressionist visionary and Childs is a modernist of the old international school. These two very different architects were bound to clash and they did. At first they attempted to collaborate. Libeskind insisted on retaining something like the gesture of the Statue of Liberty despite Childs' public irritation with the whole idea. Childs came up with a beautifully torqued tapering tower that turned slowly as it rose, but it lacked a spire. Liebeskind insisted on a spire, that the original gesture be preserved. This is the compromise design that they came up with, and that was scuttled, not by critics, but by the NYPD for security concerns, especially around the base.

A rendering of the discarded Libeskind/ Childs design for the Freedom Tower

The design incorporates another compromise with everyone's anxieties at the time. The top third of the building was to be just empty steel frame rising up to the spire.
I'm probably alone in my opinion, but I think something like this design could have been made to work. Fill the empty floors and find a better way to integrate the spire instead of making it look grafted on, and it might look something like a large gestural form worthy of Brancusi. The current design looks to me like a larger and more elegant version of any office tower that could be going up anywhere from Beijing to Dubai to Chicago.
As conventional as it may be, the design is a good one, despite the base. It is an improvement over the old twin towers, and worthy to take its place with New York's other giants.

The other building going up is Four World Trade Center designed by Fumihiko Maki, which is turning out to be a lot larger than I expected. It is also commonly known as 150 Greenwich Street.

A rendering of 150 Greenwich Street, 4 World Trade Center

Four World Trade Center under construction

The whole World Trade Center site will remain an active construction site until at least 2020. Among the buildings yet to come are these:

Construction has just barely started on Santiago Calatrava's spectacular entrance pavilion for the WTC transport hub. New York city planners are eager to atone for the destruction of Penn Station and are planning this and other spectacular entrances to the city by rail.

Rendering of Calatrava's Transit Hub entrance

Interior of Calatrava's proposed design; it is aligned in the direction of the sun at the very moment the first plane struck.

Just barely begun, and not due to be completed until around 2020 is Norman Foster's design for Two World Trade Center, which will be the second highest tower. It is the only building to acknowledge Liebeskind's original conception with its striking slanted top pointed down to the Memorial. This building by itself will be so large that it will top out the Empire State Building.

Rendering of Two World Trade Center from Broadway and Vesey.

Rendering of the top of 2 World Trade Center.

Another distinguished British architect, Richard Rogers, designed Three World Trade Center, also barely begun and not scheduled for completion until 2020.

Rendering of Richard Roger's 3 World Trade Center

All of these buildings are very fine, if a bit out of scale (if you want "in scale," you will have to go someplace other than New York). By themselves they are beautiful buildings. Do they work together as a coherent ensemble? Not really. Libeskind envisioned the office towers to be extensions of the Memorial pointing us back toward it. Now, they are a kind of honor guard, or a group of large beautifully dressed mourners, standing watch over the memorial, each a focus of attention, each self-absorbed and barely paying attention to the funeral below.

Here is one last rendering of things to come.

A rendering of the completed World Trade Center from somewhere in Soho.

And why does the opening music of Fritz Lang's Metropolis come to mind when I look at this picture?


Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker, comes to similar conclusions in his essay in the current issue. He said on the radio this morning that this was an opportunity to do something extraordinary, and instead, we got a better more elegant version of ordinary, especially One World Trade Center. Like me, he is a fan of the original Libeskind proposal with its even balance of memorial and renewal. He says, rightly, that the current construction got taken out of the hands of the architects a long time ago by real estate interests.

Also, Goldberger is a little more sanguine about the transformations in the city as a whole than I am. Downtown Manhattan is indeed more full of life now than at anytime since the Great Depression. More people are moving into downtown than all the people moving to Dallas, Atlanta, and San Diego combined. But, Manhattan is becoming more and more a theme park version of itself for tourists and the wealthy. The truly creative parts of the population were priced out a long time ago, and the real estate developers are right behind them, driving them further and further to the literal margins of the city. From the standpoint of the artists struggling to pay the rent on their studios in Bushwick, the arrival of a major international gallery there is not necessarily good news. And where are all the people whose labor makes the city work supposed to live? They can't all be warehoused in the Bronx or east Brooklyn. And that's true not just for the working poor, but for middle class New Yorkers as well.