Look for me here.
See you next week.
Creativity. It is sold as the new way to add valies to cities, even the answer to America's job losses. Every organization, every city wants more of it.
This week, we'll explore creativity and its potential to change businesses, politics and our cities. Choreographer Trey McIntyre and and Tuck School of Business professor Sydney Finkelstein are collaborating to bridge the worlds of art and business. Chicago author and editor Charles Shaw and DePaul Visitng Fellow in Arts & Culture Tom Tresser are using creativity to bridge the worlds of art and politics.
...always strike me as interesting. They have charm and personality. They are expensive -- maybe $7-800 per column inch if you commit to 4 ads...something like that.
But are they effective?
I have been thinking of advertising the book City Comforts there. Does anyone have any feedback? Have they worked for you as a seller? Have you ever bought something through one?
My own particular interest of course is the design of ski areas --- what are the principles which are applied to particular terrain? (See for example Designers use natural vegetation, terrain to mold ski slopes.)
But every activity has its issues: Wheeling and Dealing, Local Skateboarders Roll Out Political Agenda.
The city drafted a "skateboard park policy" last summer, which says Seattle is supposed to be friendly to skate parks. Now skaters want to make sure the city follows through and builds parks, instead of letting places like Ballard Skate Park be demolished.
But even if Seattle officials are convinced to site a new park, PSSA's work would not be done, the group decided: They'd have to make sure the parks are built right. "When the cities are putting out money, they aren't putting out good skate parks," said Steve Betton, a guy in a Grinch T-shirt who also goes by the name Swervo. Harrison agreed: "We're tired of skate parks with bad transitions that run into walls. We're tired of parks with no flow." The nascent group wants Seattle to tighten its requirements for construction, so only companies with expertise--like the local outfit Grindline--can squeak through the skate park bidding process.
His modernist works spoke for themselves. That's how a designer wants to be remembered --- each building serves as a monument to its maker.
...and it speaks volumes about the sickness of modern architecture. From a film review of Parallel Lines.
I also read the same Atlantic article about Dr Laura on parental duty as did Brian Micklethwait.
I love it when the right-wing comes out to attack the left-wing for things which are the very basis of upper-class life (which of course is what the right-wing exists to defend). In this case, of course, it is "self-indulgent" parents -- all inspired by liberals, of course --tut! tut! -- who put their own convenience -- such as getting divorced -- ahead of their dear children.
Here's the comment I left:
I didn't go to a fancy prep (public, in British terms) school but it seems to me that that system hasn't done too badly to further a dominant, decisive, self-confident ruling class and it is as parent-centered a system as one can imagine; in one sense it is simply 24/7 day-care for rich kids.
Consider Winston Churchill, for example. His parents, by his own assessment, pretty clearly boarded him from the age of 7 onwards so that they could better enjoy their own lives, parties, hunts, affairs and posturing in the House of Commons. While Churchill clearly didn't enjoy the experience and attached himself to other adults as surrogate parents (Mrs. Evans, was it?) he actually turned out reasonably well. Would he have been a better person if he had had doting parents, always there for him? Children are a lot tougher than we think. Remember what Commander Walker said in Swallows & Amazons: "Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won't drown." It seems to me that children need to be around adults, not hovering parents.
I think it's rather humorously convenient of the right-wing to berate "left-wing parental self-indulgence" when it is the very basis of its own upper-classes.
I guess all I am saying is that I don't believe that there is any clear way to raise good kids. Of course at the outset I don't have any children of my own so I have no direct experience.. But I do have very direct experience of adults and it's my observation that an awful lot of the ones who went to boarding schools of some kind -- 24/7 day care for rich kids -- seem to have turned out awfully well. So the proof is in the pudding and kids don't seem to need to have both (or any, obviously) parents around at every moment to grow into pretty-decent adults.
Like Seablogger I too have been fascinated by accounting, which profession is not so much about counting things as it is about defining and categorizing them. I have always thought that CPAs were widely misunderstood.
Though why Alan has to work in some gibe at Bill Clinton and "the left" (as if Bill Clinton was "left!") in so many otherwise excellent posts -- the one on slavery as another example --- I cannot fathom.
But two worthwhile posts if you can overlook the left/right politics.
Gideon Strauss passes on some interesting questions posed by Pastor Jacobsen to an adult Sunday school class "What would a redeemed city look like?"
He articulated the question further as follows:
Would we notice a difference in how people treated one another when they passed on the street?
Would people be more joyful in their demeanor?
Would there be different traffic patterns on Sunday?
Would bars, strip clubs, and casinos see a change in business?
Would there be less litter in the streets?
Would there be the need for jails?
Would there be less work for police officers?
Read all the questions; it's an interesting way to raise consciousness.
My immediate question --- and you must understand that I am ignorant of the precise theological context within which the Pastor was speaking so I may be mis-understanding the term "redeemed" --- is whether "redeemed" implies a final, end state? Isn't redemption a process which one can never actually achieve in this life time? So how can one have a redeemed city here on earth? Moreover, and more importantly, how can we judge our progress? Unless I am totally mistaken, isn't there an implication in these questions that we would be more redeemed if we were more religious? How can we know that? is there any empirical evidence that a more religious person is more redeemed? Or is my own question merely an indication that I simply don't get it? (Which is probably true.)
...was going to announce that he would be the first one to go to Mars?
He had that out-of-this world tone that made me think that he wanted to be an astronaut or go on Saturday Night Live....sorta working out his post-Presidential career.
Jim Kalb offers --- The City of God and the New Urbanism--- both a logically & factually curious reason for supporting New Urbanism and one which concerns me because of its motive.
...post-war sprawl has promoted an inhuman society deficient in religious foundation, whereas traditional and new urbanist geometries support close-knit social interactions, which in turn support religious cohesion in society. What to do about such things is of course a big question. The New Urbanism takes the issues seriously. One advantage it has from a traditionalist point of view is that it forwards traditionalist and religious concerns without demanding that supporters explicitly intend to do so. They need only support things that even today seem obviously beneficial to almost everyone.
I do not believe that there is any empirical support for the idea that "....close-knit social interactions...in turn support religious cohesion in society."
As the title indicates, it appears to me that the really huge churches are in the suburbs. So from the point of view of making society more religious, I don't see the connection, how supporting New Urbanism (NU) even works to achieve that goal. I have no idea why some people are religious and some people are not. But I do not believe that higher density settlements (and NU is not all that high density, btw) promote piety. Is there any empirical evidence to indicate that it does or even might?
NU offers a better way to live in human settlements on this earth. At least that's how I see it for myself. NU is about creating better settlements, not places to convert people. I suggest that folks who want to use it to make society more religious --- and that of course is the motive which I do not care for at all --- may be sorely disappointed in the results. So I am glad that they support NU but I think that their expectations may be a bit high. NU is about deceptively mundane things such as the location of the parking lot. To make NU into a means of reaching personal connection with God is asking more than it can achieve. Thank goodness.
UPDATE: Jim responds here and I respond as follows:
Well, I guess I am a “fan” of the New Urbanism, though I’d suggest that there are some nuances. But I am confused by:
1. Your use of the term “modernist urban design.” What is that, exactly? There is an awful lot of cant floating around when it comes to the terms “modernist” and “traditional” and it would be helpful to understand your definition of “modernist urban design” to see if we are even on the same page. And hey! We might be!
2. What you mean when you say “He would be right if religion were fundamentally the combination of spiritual self-help and mild and wholly voluntary social connections one finds in suburban non-denominational megachurches.” Surely you could not be saying that people who go to “suburban non-denominational megachurches” are not truly religious? Do you presume to define religion for other people?
Harry's Place also offers a nice post on chip-on-the-shoulder whining of so many self-proclaimed "conservatives."
Here then are the main elements of this Conservative Correctness in the UK.
1. The white, heterosexual male, is a victim of our currently "PC Society". His freedom of speech is restricted, job opportunities are denied to him, his viewpoint is never reflected in the liberal-left dominated media and people who try to raise families and live a decent law-abiding, hard-working life are penalised in favour of all manner of deviants and minorities.
2. The law and the courts and the political elite are biased in favour of the criminal rather than the victim of crime. Criminals are being "understood" rather than punished while the victims of crime are being ignored and left to the mercy of the muggers and burglars. Criminals enjoy the life of Riley in so-called prisons --- at taxpayers expense.
3. Racism doesn't really exist. The accusation of "racist" is just used to shut down any debate about immigration and the threat to our national identity and to assist in the continued PC fuelled attempts to denigrate our indigenous heritage and culture. The term also helps build the continued growth of the 'race relations industry'.
4. Sexism or gender discrimination doesn't really exist. The concept was been invented by feminists and is used to further weaken family values and continue the persecution of men. Women are attracted into this easy but destructive lifestyle by generous government subsidies denied to ordinary families.
5. Homophobia certainly doesn't exist. It has been invented by the "gay lobby" as part of their campaign against the traditional family. We are now reaching the stage whereby to be straight is to be considered deviant. Schoolteachers and the media constantly promote a positive image of homosexuality while denigrating traditional heterosexual, sex.
6. The European Union is our enemy. It aims to destroy the British way of life and our institutions and force us to live under a Franco-German, anti-American, high-tax, federal, socialist super-state.
7. The PC left has succeeded in taking control of almost all areas of society. It dominates not only national and local government but also the civil service, the media, education and the police force.
Now I am trying to figure out how to translate Harry's schema to considerations of the built environment. How do conservatives whine about the physical world? What is CC when it comes to the built environment? Well of course they blame it all on liberals!
Maybe the CC refrain would be:
Liberals caused urban sprawl through the Rockefeller's sponsorship of that notorious socialist Philip Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art; he turned us away from "tradition" and destroyed cities. Liberals insisted that everyone drive a car. The reds at the National Association of Home Builders insisted that the single-family MacMansion be established as the norm. Socialist real estate developers built shopping centers with huge parking lots. All we need to do is return to "tradition" -- subways and tenements.
Hey! I admit that that's not such a great parody. But you get the drift: it's always somebody else's fault; conservatives can never take responsibility and acknowledge that they have been in charge -- uh, this is a capitalist society last time I looked -- for the past several hundred years and that as capitalism takes just bows for its magnificent achievements -- (said with no irony whatsoever as I do believe it is a remarkably effective & even beneficial system in many ways) -- and that since conservatives have been in charge they have to admit that maybe, just a little bit, the system has some flaws? No? Not even a teensy-wheensy itty-bit of flaws?
Maybe conservatism would have more credibility with me if there really was a conservative position on urban design & planning which went beyond a fetish for "columns," hysterical defenses of private property, demands for "tradition" --- a code-word for god-knows-what reactionary repressions ---and vague, usually ill-informed generalities which indicate little practical knowledge of how the built environment is formed.
I have just spent a few days in the wilds of British Columbia and Alberta and so I have some very direct thoughts on the subject of Feudalism and the future of environmentalism, which subject is discussed at Harry's Place and at my first peruse with great intelligence and a blessed absence of cant.
I will reserve my own comments for a bit but I can tell you that they can be summed in one very very simple thought: "Ready to dispense with modern civilization? Go camping first."
(No, I did not go camping. It was minus 9 fahrenheit and even many cars' engine blocks have heaters to keep them warm. I luxuriated in the well-insulated walls and hot water of civilization. I became more aware of those comforts every time I walked outside. It's difficult to fathom that many of our great-grand-parents had to live in such a climate -- but without central heating and indoor plumbing. So laugh at modern civilzation if you like, safely inside its comforts.)
UPDATE: On re-consideration, I again urge you all to read Harry's post. It raises interesting issues. While I am not so sure that "deep ecology" is likely to gather the political momentum to destroy our society, I could well be wrong. Teilhard de Chardin warned half a century ago of the dangers that humanity might "go on strike" and turn its back on its own future evolution.
But as I said just a few posts ago I happen to agree with the major premise of this conference .
But does anyone truly believe that government, the state, the community-at-large, can foster an environment of "eccentric and creative people"? (Obviously the "tolerance" component is partly a matter of application of laws which require equal protection, non-descrimination etc etc. and there I think government has a prime role.) But how do you mandate "eccentricity and creativity"? The very idea is alternatively humorous and terrifying.
UPDATE: Brian's Culture Blog seems to agree.
Orange Cone looks at the issue from yet another perspective: Manufactured Bohemia.
I should constantly remind myself that what I write here, for better or worse, for astute or just plain dumb, may turn out to be imperishable. And that's score one for the web; when I have grown bored with further editions of City Comforts and no longer bother to keep reprinting it, there will be some little bit of me preserved in some foreign field of a server.
That's the good news/bad news about the blogosphere.
My own publishing story is simple. No one else would. Or rather, the terms which they offered or their manner of dealing with an author left no doubt that from the publisher's standpoint it is a buyer's market and that they were very clearly the buyer. I did all the things they say to do: a polite letter with a sample chapter (which looks amazing like the final book -- the proposal clearly was parent to the child) sent to an agent. (The idea of actualy getting directly to an editor at a "real publisher" is just too naive for words.) Well after a few months of that, of letters, and of phone calls to agents personally known to friends (they handled their books), I realized that I was no longer working on my book but working on a their proposal --- for some person who knew far less about the subject than I did. And I realized that that was silly. So I decided to simply publish it myself, if only as a xerox at Kinkos. Undiscouraged, I kept working on the book and in a slightly later version --- maybe 85% through --- I finally did find a publisher. A real one. A terrifc guy, very successful, a real professional who would be well-known to anyone in the publishing biz. He offered an advance, in writing, and it was a very reasonable one in fact; he loved the book and he was sincere, I am sure. But then when I asked about the publicity campaign for my book, and said that I would forego my advance if he would match it with a like amount for promotion, well all of a sudden the phone calls were not returned. I guess publishers don't like authors who ask business questions.
That's ok. It's working out fine and I am having a lot of fun. Just remember that publishing is a whole separate task from writing and that publishers do indeed earn their money. And probably the most important thing they do is hardly the actual manufacturing -- for most simple books like mine, you just find a good graphic designer and a good printer and they do all the work -- but it is the promotion and marketing. And the most important thing publishers do is create 'buzz --- to snow the cultural gatekeepers of our society...the editors of big newspapers and magazines...so that they will actually read the book and review it. The only thing publishers manufacture is opinion.
The problem of course -- and this is my surmise about how things work at say, The NYT Book Review or equal -- is that the editors don't have enough knowledge of the field (and after all they are generalists so that is understandable) to have the self-confidence to be able to determine whether a book is worth reviewing. So they indirectly rely on the opinion of the publisher, who of course indirectly relies on the judgment of the agent. You can argue that it's a reasonable system in that it does separate out a lot of junk. But then again, it also relies on whether a prospective author is institutionalized i.e. connected to an institution to give authority. Without that, the gatekeepers won't let you in.
Alex Tabarrok remarks on a dynamic ignored by libertarian theology: to decline to act is to act. No matter what you do you are making a statement:
More broadly, Hayek warns against the hubris of social engineering - yet what was the post WWII reconstruction of Germany and Japan but social engineering on a grand scale?
Principled libertarians object to state interference because it is "social engineering" --- while ignoring that if the state declines to act it is also social engineering but simply with a different goal. We simply cannot escape "social engineering"; the only issue is the design and its wisdom. Argue against a policy, indeed. But not on the basis that it is "social engineering."
An example, via a quote which I just noticed at Alan Sullivan's blog Fresh Bilge about the Richard Florida-style approach to economic development:
Not only does he believe that marginal attractions like an idiosyncratic arts scene can build economic power, but he thinks that government officials and policy makers like himself can figure out how to produce those things artificially. He doesn't seem to recognize that the cultural attributes of the cities he most admires are not a product of government planning but have been a spontaneous development, financed by private-sector wealth. (italics added -- DS)
I happen to very strongly agree with the author (Stephen Malaga) of that passage. But my agreement is not because I oppose local government's attempt to promote economic development on some theoretical basis that it is "social engineering." I just don't think that government officials (of any party) can do it. It's difficult-enough for people who actually DO business to figure out what works. The idea that government officials can figure it out at a remove is a bit implausible.
UPDATE: A reader comments with a sentence so pregnant it should be a post of its own: "But my lefty brain wants there to be a bigger role for government to play in all this." To which I respond, "Why?" I am not even disagreeing yet. But I just wonder why many people think that government should be able, that it would be nice --- "wouldn't it be loverly?"--- to generate economic development.
Another way to look at it -- and here is where I join force with principled libertarians -- is that "thank goodness that government cannot!" Do you really want to give government even more power? Whenever I hear someone say "Gee! I wish government was better managed and organized!" I simultaneously think "Yes, I do know what you mean. But maybe our freedom is better preserved by a system in which government, with all its enormous power to take your freedom, your property, your life is just a bit disorganized? Do you really want every agency to be able to have every file at its instant disposal? To be able to instantly follow-through on the whims of this year's office-holder. Maybe a little bit of disorganization is a good preservative of democracy?"
So I suggest that government's inability to actually be an active and creative market participant may be a very nice circumstance.
ARMAVIRUMQUE is at it again, but this time judging a book's value according to its table of contents which table of contents by itself gives no indication (except to a mind-reader) whether the subject book is a threat to western civilization or simply (and possibly, I concede) boringly pretentious.
But the book is about disabilities, which seems to be a hot button over at ARMAVIRUMQUE and I guess the thought-police at ARMA don't like English professors getting too uppity and looking at something new. The writer seems alarmed that the MLA is considering how literature dealt/deals with disabilities. On its face, that seems like a narrow but totally reasonable subject. Of course I have no idea if, for instance, the chapter titled "The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography" is nonsense or not. But I would not offer an opinion until I had actually read it. Not so at Arma where they offer this profundity:
Sure enough, the MLA publishes a book entitled " Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities ".
Odd title that - at least the second part. Did they really mean enabling the "humanities" (why would the humanities need enabling?)
Anyway, I didn't get the connection. I kept wondering what has language to do with disability? Then I went to the table of contents, and there it was - the connection. The book is a compilation of essays by several writers on this subject. Here are some sample essay titles:
Narrative Prosthesis and the Materiality of Metaphor
Tender Organs, Narcissism, and Identity Politics
The Twin Structure: Disabled Women in Victorian Courtship Plots
Exploring the "Hearing Line": Deafness, Laughter, and Mark Twain
The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography
Get the connection? I found the experience rather distressing and a little creepy.
Now I don't mind puncturing the hot-air BS of academics -- in fact I love it! -- but I like the way that Ophelia Benson does it at Butterflies and Wheels i.e. she actually reads the materials rather than simply the TOC before offering an opinion.
I have no opinion about Moody's book -- and I probably never will -- but this review by my neighbor clew is quite good if you want to get some sense of Seattle's (that's urban Seattle and some of its suburbs) smug, pretentious, down-to-earth, endearing, kind, cold, cultured and banal character .
"Global warming" does not mean no snow no matter what Philip Stott or any other non-specialist might prefer to believe. I'd suggest it's a tad premature to gloat that 'Global warming' is on hold folks.
I am no expert. But Robert B. Gagosian of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is one and he offers these remarks on Abrupt Climate Change
It is important to clarify that we are not contemplating a situation of either abrupt cooling or global warming. Rather, abrupt regional cooling and gradual global warming can unfold simultaneously. Indeed, greenhouse warming is a destabilizing factor that makes abrupt climate change more probable. (bold added -- DS)
I have no opinion one way or another; this is a complex scientific matter way beyond my knowledge. I am skeptical of any non-specialist who has a strongly-held belief on such a scientific question -- on what basis could they have a strong opinion on something about which they have so little knowledge? And I get especially nervous when I hear people imply that because there is a cold snap in the US northeast then global warming is just a ha-ha to be dismissed as hysteria.
(It's fine for amateurs to offer an opinion about the public policies which might/should flow from certain scientific conclusions, but it seems a bit out-of-our league for us to opine on the facts themselves unless we have some sort of scientific credentials in the area.)
Download PDF on Abrupt Climate Change from Woods Hole here.
UPDATE: It seems to me that the legitimate thing for amateurs to think about and discuss is decisionmaking under conditions of unlear information. I am quite puzzled why so many non-scientists can have such firm opinions on the science --- one way or another, I should make clear. Perhaps they think that faith can substitute for facts.
In any case, the puzzle for me is determining the wise/prudent thing to do when we can't be really sure what is happening. Of course that's all the more argument for intensive scientific research. I can't see how anyone can argue against lots of research.
UPDATE 2: A balanced and un-hysterical post on the general subject: Never Mind That Boiling Kettle....
UPDATE 3: One of the comments at Quark Soup also seemed right on:
Gore's mistake is in talking about global warming instead of climate change. If he were really in touch with science as much as he says he is, he'd talk about climate change. "Global warming" has become a touchstone phrase, a shibboleth, like saying "ancient forests" when you could be saying "old-growth forests." Gore could be leading the conversation a bit better, keeping the Drudges off guard.
UPDATE 4: Ironically, Philip Stott responds. Honestly, I had no idea that he was joking in the post to which I link, above. Now I am wondering if he means his whole blog to be humorous? Hitherto I had taken him seriously, even when I disagreed with his reasoning. Now I am not sure what to think.
That's probably one of the harder things to grasp, at least for those of us who grow up during the transition from B&W to color images. You keep thinking that Ric Burns was society's art director.
But Sound and Fury asks
HOW ABOUT A huge pile of color pics of everyday Chicago in the 1940s and '50s? Oh my goodness gracious, wow. (big files, loads slow)
Indeed wow. Grandma was so young.
Maybe it's a matter of semantics, of the mental image I have of an "arts district." Tyler Green responds here
to my skepticism about arts/culture districts.
...CC's David Sucher asks if the concept has ever worked anywhere? He cites Lincoln Center as an example of an arts campus that has failed from an urban planning point of view. I'd add LACMA.
I'd suggest a couple of successful cultural districts: West Chelsea in NYC, which started with Dia and then attracted arts galleries by the dozens, and the Seventh Street/Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC, which is full of theaters, a sports and entertainment arena, galleries and two Smithsonian outposts (which are closed until, I think,2006). There are several thoughtful comments @ CityComforts that discuss other places too.
Well first off it's interesting to see that Tyler and I seem to agree about Lincoln Center (though since I have not seen it in years you have every right to discount my opinion to basically zero) and of course the whole of LACM and (what I believe is) Bunker Hill. I saw that area recently when I visited Disney Hall (I hope I have my geography right) and it was very boring; we drove away as quickly as possible. And, I don't know West Chelsea or the 7th/Penn areas. So I am pretty much useless.
But from the tone in the way Tyler describes it, those two latter areas appear to have evolved somewhat haphazardly and serendipitously. No? There was no "plan" to create an "area where the arts can flourish" in that cloying language of arts boosterism. True?
I guess the decision about something like a "culture district" turns on how one feels about "culture." I happen to like culture. In fact I feel that I am immersed in culture. Some of it I like, some is garbage. Why would I want a special part of town where I can experience "culture?"
I find the idea of an arts district just too contrived and even a bit embarrassing. If one evolves, naturally, well I guess that's OK, though I'd much rather see concert halls and museums etc etc spread throughout a city, as we have in Seattle (somewhat as there is nothing out in the suburbs). There was talk a few years ago of having a "culture distrcit" here and I think we are lucky that it never happened. Far better to have these various bodies scattered about, drawing people hither and yon to different neighborhoods.
Anyway, what's so great about having a "culture district?" Yes of course we want lively streets where people like to stroll; but I don't see how such a goal and an area dominated by "culture" are congruent. Most of those cultural institutions are so stuffy and build such boring buildings. Honestly, they generally bore me silly. Not the contents of course; I love to look at pictures. (I guess I am not a big one for music, though I am certainly not against concert halls etc and am willing to have my tax dollars go to support them because I think it's good to preserve the past even if I don't get it.) But the atmosphere of those places is usually just so precious. People preening and standing around trying to look 'cultured.' It's sad. Like art gallery openings. Now those are truly the weirdest events; thank god they serve wine. The only thing I can compare them to is standing in a lift line at a fancy ski resort, everyone sizing up the other, checking out the gear etc. No one really very friendly --- what did Tom Wolfe call those smiles? --- because everyone is just too uptight. Well that's what I associate with these cultural institutions -- not the actual paintings or music, mind you, just the institutional context. I love skiing; it's one of the most glorious things in the world; I live for skiing. But I find the atmosphere around ski resorts --- as I find art galleries --- just a bit uncomfortable. I wish I could ski (alpine) without going to a ski resort, just as I would like to look at art without going to a museum.
I think it's a far more useful goal (for me, anyway) to persuade Costco to build an in-city, urban, street-reinforcing store. Because that's truly our culture -- shopping -- and we might as well do it right.
But maybe Tyler and I have simply different things in mind when we think of an arts district.
Tyler Cowen is at it again. At The Volokh Conspiracy he says (in passing):
Most blog readers don't click on the links, I have found.
If true, it means that it is essential to include a longish quote to offer the essence of the linked-to page, which means that the post gets kinda long. Hmmm.
And I wonder what technology allows such an accounting? There are ways to determine how many people click on a link?
An unusual alliance of anti-immigration advocates and animal-rights activists is attempting to take over the leadership of the Sierra Club...
Leaders of a faction that failed to persuade the club to take a stand against immigration in 1998 are seeking to win majority control of the group's 15-member governing board in a spring election --- this time, as part of a broader coalition that includes vegetarians, who want the club to denounce hunting, fishing and raising animals for human consumption.
....Members will vote in the board elections in March, with the results tallied in April. People who join the club by the end of January should be able to vote. (italics added -- DS)
No, I don't think that the Bush Administration is behind this alliance. But if they can take political advantage of it they would be fools not to, as it is prime spectacle.
But I'll tell you one thing, it will be very good for Sierra Club membership numbers -- at least for one year.
Update on Smithson's Spiral Jetty.
SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 12 For nearly three decades Robert Smithson's "Spiral Jetty" lay underwater in the Great Salt Lake. Since 1999, as drought has lowered the water level, this famous American earth sculpture a 1,500-foot coil of black basalt rocks has slowly re-emerged. Now it is completely exposed; the rocks encrusted with white salt crystals are surrounded by shallow pink water in what looks like a vast snow field.
Smithson chose a site called Rozel Point on the northeast shore because he liked the dark pink color of the water, an effect that results primarily from bacteria and algae that grow there.
How to get to Spiral Jetty.
Some of the more radical greens sneer at TNC for being too corporate and this article explains why that view has foundation i.e. TNC is very corporate and that is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on one's perspective. (it doesn't bother me at all because it simply broadens the environmental base to people who otherwise would have nothing to do with such stuff and it doesn't take away anything from the more hard-core elements, who also have things to offer.) The nature of TNC also buttresses my conjecture -- (in that TNC is very much a blue-chip establishment organization of the old school) -- that one of the dynamics going on here is an internal Republican war in which the radical Right is trying to whip the Party's few remaining moderates into line.
You can take a look at the TNC's Board of Governors by downloading a PDF at TNC's Board of Governors. It's a pretty-impressive & corporate group; one name I recognize is a bike-commuting computer-software millionaire from Seattle. (No, not Bill Gates or Paul Allen.)
UPDATE: Accountability is the text. Stop 'em is the sub-text.
Another thing that makes me suspcious about this NGO meme is the way it's framed. (That's another new though obvious concept-of-the-week: framing.)
For instance, the way someone might frame the issue the question is not really "Is TNC doing something illegal/immoral/unethical?" but "Is TNC -- as a stand-in, a metonym, for all NGOs -- doing something bad?" and if it is then that implies...something...clamping down on NGOs...demanding that government get out of a lot of social activities and then knocking down the private organizations which arise to fulfill those functions...furthering the never-ending power-struggle in society and not much else.
Obviously we should hold NGOs accountable. Put 'em in jail if they break the law. But what this NGO meme is about is not showing that people break the law but that you don't like their policies.
Accountability is the text. Stop 'em is the sub-text.
In a post which is sympathetic to the looming crackdown on NGOs Fritz Schranck makes a pregnant point here:
From a political perspective, it also makes sense for the Bush Administration to begin to upgrade IRS audit activities relating to public interest non-profit organizations (the so-called NGOs) by starting with a relatively apolitical charity such as TNC.(emphasis added -- DS)
Right or wrong, it's interesting that I am not the only one who assumes at the outset and with no prompting that it is not some low-level career GS-12 who made the decision to initiate a tax audit on The Nature Conservancy. Fritz --- while ok with the audit --- also assumes that there is approval and may even be impetus for it at the highest political level. An audit of such a prominent organization cannot be done casually, especially if there is not likely much to be found.
Picking up Fritz' remark, I'd suggest that if the Bush Administration truly had an apolitical intent then it would have chosen an even less-political NGO to look at first...maybe the Red Cross, United Way etc etc, for instance. I don't think that TNC qualifies as even remotely apolitical, involved as it is very intensely in local land use dynamics.
Now just to be clear, I am not accusing anyone in the Bush White House of using ordinary government functions to further their own political ends. I have absolutely no information to indicate that the White House would act politically. In fact, call it merely an implausible scenario if you believe it absurd that a White House under any party would use every tool at its disposal to further its own political goals.
Lots of people talking about Cuba in the past few days, for some reason. Did I miss some big story?
Theodore Dalrymple had a story ( City Journal Summer 2002) titled Why Havana Had to Die.
But the scale of the restoration of Havana is as nothing compared with the scale of its ruination. It is quite literally crumbling away. One of the most magnificent of its many magnificent streets is known as the Prado, a wide avenue that leads to the sea, with a central tree-lined marble walkway down which people stroll at night in the balmy air. Some of the beautifully proportioned mansions along the Prado have collapsed into rubble since the last time I was there; others have their facades --- all that remains of them ---propped up by wooden struts. The palace along the Prado that houses the national school of ballet is a mere shell, the ground floor containing nothing but rubble: it is extraordinary to hear the sound of rptiteurs emerging from the upper floor of this shell. Havana is like Beirut, without having gone through the civil war to achieve the destruction.
No words can do justice to the architectural genius of Havana, a genius that extended from the Renaissance classicism of the sixteenth century, with severe but perfectly proportioned houses containing colonnaded courtyards cooled and softened by tropical trees and shrubs, to the flamboyant art deco of the 1930s and 40s. The Cubans of successive centuries created a harmonious architectural whole almost without equal in the world. There is hardly a building that is wrong, a detail that is superfluous or tasteless. The tiled multicoloration of the Bacardi building, for example, which might be garish elsewhere, is perfectly adapted --- natural, one might say --- to the Cuban light, climate, and temper. Cuban architects understood the need for air and shade in a climate such as Cuba's, and they proportioned buildings and rooms accordingly. They created an urban environment that, with its arcades, columns, verandas, and balconies, was elegant, sophisticated, convenient, and joyful.
Looking forward to visiting when we have a national policy which does not succeed in keeping -- whether intentionally or not I don't know -- Castro in power.
STICKS & STONES tells us that Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill, the guy fired by Bush etc etc was the chief executive when Alcoa built its new headquarters and
...O’Neill had dramatically reorganized the old-line aluminum producer, and he worked closely with the Design Alliance, the architect, to devise a building that embodied the innovation-oriented, collaborative culture he had worked to establish. Escalators (a big expense) ascend through dramatic lobbies because he thought people would feel encouraged to gather in these areas and share ideas.
Hmmm...maybe O'Neill really wasn't cut out for the top money job in DC if he could be convinced that a big lobby, even with escalators, could be a hang-out. Well I guess it could be, though I have never seen one like that. I've seen some nice food-courts attached to a big building and that's a start. But I don't think most corporations really want people hanging out in the main lobby...doesn't look professional, security issues etc etc
Indeed while I like the idea, it is so foreign to any corporate building I have ever seen that I am somewhat skeptical. I simply don't think a large corporation or its architect knows how to do create a sociable space, even when they really want to. And the sterile void-of-people pictures at the architect's link (below) are not particularly suggestive that one would want to go hang out there and share ideas. Don't get me wrong, it's a decent-enough looking building and while it's impossible to be sure from this photo, it might even have a trace of street-presence:
Any of you Pittsburgh folks know the Alocoa Corporate Center? Did they succeed in creating a lobby where people feel comfortable? That indeed would be noteworthy.
This should be interesting. The "mad dog" (affectionately speaking) right wing is foaming about various NGOs and the first one up that I notice is the The Nature Conservancy.
Tyler Cowen at Volokh notes a WaPo story (seemingly with delight, characterizing the "details" as "gory" --- I found the on-line story rather sketchy):
Further scandal at The Nature Conservancy: The IRS is starting a large-scale audit of The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest non-profits in the nation.
I don't know what if anything TNC has done or not done. Let the chips fall where they may. If TNC has violated the law then the appropriate penalties should apply. But let's bear one thing in mind folks, TNC is the most corporate-like environmental group. It is a bastion of capitalism and uses free-market methods to preserve land, which is a good thing in my mind i.e. if the public really want to preseve land, buy it.
Nor do I do know anyone at TNC or much about its personnel but I suspect that the corporate culture is inspired more by the Fortune 500 than by the Earth Liberation Front. So when the foamers attack it, they are really atttacking themselves.
Moreover, and this does not excuse either errors of omission or commission, when you are managing $3 billion you will make mistakes. Read the story linked above carefully. Some of the procedures identified -- selling to board members without a public announcement etc --- seems indiscrete in this era if probably legal. But selling land at a price which reflects its decreased utility (due to self-imposed restrictions) well that's the whole idea. From the WaPo story here:
The stories also reported that the Conservancy had repeatedly bought land, added some development restrictions, then resold the properties at reduced prices to its trustees and other supporters. The buyers made cash gifts to the Conservancy roughly equal to the difference in price, thereby qualifying for substantial tax deductions.
Duh. That's what TNC is supposed to do. If this practice has been abused, flush it out. (I would like to see the TNC put these properties up for public bid -- might get even more money -- but that might not be workable if the buyer is also the current land-owner.) But on its face, I don't see the issue. If TNC has violated the law, bad.
But if TNC is simply using the tax laws to get results you don't like (i.e. preserving land), tough nuggies. You set up the game, you play by the rules.
But as I said, let the chips fall but I surmise that this is Republicans cannibalizing themselves and cleaning house internally to get rid of any vestige of decency in the Party.
Anyone know more? Let 'er rip. If this investigation is truly aimed at reforming a worthwhile organization and making it work better in the public interest, send me a nice hat to eat.
UPDATE: Well I don't know Tyler Cowen and so if anyone assumed that I meant to lump him in as a 'mad dog' Republican, I apologize. But I thought his characterization of the scanty details at the WaPo story as "gory" would allow such a humorous characterization in return. I see I was wrong and people are in a very serious mood today. Lighten up, folks. Describing the few details as the WaPo stories contained as "gory" was abolutely straight-up and unbiased. (Though in reality he may have meant it lightly, too.)
Nevertheless, there is such a thing as 'mad dog' Republicans. I assume that none of my readers are; but let me warn you -- they are out there.
...about the WTC design(s) but James Russell does and it is an interesting one:
I'm trying not to hate Reflecting Absence, the winning and now significantly altered design for a memorial at Ground Zero. For one reason, I still remember my own reaction to Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam War Memorial, before it was built. Safe, uncontroversial, content-free minimalism, I thought. No one will complain. And no one will be stirred. How wrong I was.
I'm glad there's an effort to get more liberals on the radio, but I honestly don't like the way they're going about it. They shouldn't, for the most part, be signing Names, they should be signing people with experience in radio. Radio is a unique medium which takes special skills. 3 hours per day, 5 days per week, is a pretty big challenge.
My only proviso would be to substitute (for liberals) the phrase rigorous, fair-handed skeptical thinkers with a bias toward believing that there is such a thing, nebulous though it might be, as the 'public interest.'
And I assure you, I'd be happy with a Republican if I could find one.
A Volokh Conspirator opines very wisely:
I don't in principle oppose state statutes (as opposed to constitutional interpretations) that require governments to sometimes accommodate people who have religious or conscientious objections to generally applicable laws... But I do oppose such rules when they give special treatment to religious objectors and not to others who have equally deeply held secular philosophical views.
The issue is whether a parking lot owned by a religious institution -- let's say a Jewish synagogue -- (I'll use a synagogue as I don't want the trolls out there to get confused) -- should be subject to the same rules as a parking lot owned by anyone else. (Things like its location on the site, screening, number of speces etc etc) Proponents of laws which relieve a religious institution from compliance with codes -- should the Uniform Building Code apply? should a Temple be allowed in a spot where an Elks' Lodge would be prohibited? such as in a single-family zone?-- will tell you not to worry etc etc. that they are simply trying to make sure that the secular culture allows them room. I don't believe it. Impacts of human behavior are no different whether the source is a religious institution or a similar secular institution.
The sort of law discussed by Volokh (there is a Federal version too) are designed to nullify governmental land use regulations by
1. providing an advantage to "religious" institutions in their non-religious manifestation;
2. offering an incentive to make everything in society "religious" i.e. when one can be free of regulations by declaring one's activities to be a manifestation of one's religious beliefs, well then why not join up and claim the cover of "religion"? Cynical, of course. Human, just look around you. And therein lies the danger: distinguishing truly religious people from those who simply adapt the mantle so as to avoid some land use regulation. Well I've got an idea, let's have a panel to decide who is sincerely religious and who is not.
Of course, if you in fact do follow a faith, then please realize that the logical response is that government becomes the gate-keeper to decide what is "truly" and "sincerely" religious and what is not. Seems to me that a step backwards into the 17th century. Osama bin Laden would like it, I am sure.
There is a danger for people who follow a faith. When you get a special privilege you generally have to give up something. It's the normal trade-off. The trade-off here is that in return for the good deal you involve the government in deciding whether a "religion" is truly "religious." That seems to me to be a horrendous thing. Where would Luther be had his followers been required to get permission of some government body (much worse a panel of the established religion i.e. Roman Catholic at that time) in order to build a house of worship?
Any advantage gained by religion through these laws is a short-term one and will come back to haunt it. Special privilege laws logically require the determination by some body (outside the congregation itself) of what is a "real" religion and what is not. Bloody wars have been fought for less.
UPDATE: Here's a related post by Eugene Volokh.
Cox Crow says:
Then we went to Dunkin Donuts.
Then I packed the girls back in the car, and drove across the street to the Key Foods supermarket, for orange juice and a couple of other things. You would think that the International Organization of Soccer Moms and Chaffeurs would protest suburban developments that require them to reload their vehicles more than twice a day, particularly in regions of temperature extremes and other foul weather.
There's a very interesting post over at Samizdata about a book with some currency: Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style. It prompted (the post, not the book which I have not read and probably won't) these remarks, which I repeat here as they have a bearing on (of course) the manner in which we make decisions --- both individually and as a polity --- on the shape of our cities. I wrote:
How come if taste is "subjective" then there is so much agreement about it? There is vastly more agreement about things than there is disagreement. The most striking example is in the standards of physical beauty both within cultures and across cultures: they are remarkably similar.
Landscape too is not something about which there are enormous differences of opinion. (Some time ago I alluded to the question How basic are visual preferences in landscape?. I think that the notion of shared preferences is pretty-well accepted.)
Yes, there are shades of gray in personal preference, but each shade represents millions and millions of people. Writ large, I would suggest that though there are distinctions, what is more interesting is that there is very great agreement, patterns in the Christopher Alexander parlance, about what is beautiful and what is ugly. What is comfortable and what is nasty. You and I may differ, but each one of probably agrees with other untold millions.
Though taste may vary from one individiual to another, en masse these individual's tastes aggregate into what are such large scale agreements that it becomes somewhat coy to suggest that 'oh it's all a matter of subjectivity.' No?
Unless one divorces how one views things from how one feels about them, then we are all a quivering mass of individual nerve endings and yet we all agree that, at one extreme and for example, there should be a a door on the WC which can be locked. Subjective? No I think it is pretty much a universal objective reality shared by everyone. No?
So what does it mean that taste is "subjective" except that individuals may differ. But across the billions of people in the world, there are not a huge number of differences about what is nice and what isn't. Subtleties, yes. Significant differences, I don't think so, at least in the emerging majority world culture. You say "po-tah-to" and I say "po-tay-to" but we both eat pomme frites.
None, on another post at Samizdata, and in totally different context says:
"Excepting the addled few, the vast majority of humanity just wants to live in as relaxed and easy a manner as possible."
An Englishman claims that people who favor alternatives to the auto are against autos and more significantly, against freedom. And of course such people are all his "putative betters."
Maybe in Britian. But anyone who has experience of local transport politics in the USA would know that the only reason public transport gets funded is because the voters (who are typically asked to vote for bonds) have a dream that everyone else will take the trolley thus leaving the streets open for their car.
More seriously, what the Englishman seems to ignore (or pretends not to get) is that auto congestion is indeed a real and very unpleasant part of the day for zillions of people and that --- in trying to twist every event into a momentous political statement as the Marxists do --- we stultify solutions when we think along hackneyed, conventional lines that "car = liberty" and "train = serfdom". That's junior high politics.
I love my car (Volvo XC, 'Cannondale' edition). I have voluntarily organized my life in such a way that I both have a car and can use it freely to go interesting places at any time day or night, fair weather or foul. But it would also be nice to live in a city where I could have the alternative of organizing my life so that I don't have to drive my car for every trip. And it's my choice as a capitalist to vote for such a system! So you can have my monorail token when you pry it from my cold, dead hand!
Are there liberals and greens and such folk who 'hate' cars (presumbaly as some sort of symbol of capitalist culture?) Absolutely. (You can tell by the kind of cars they drive --- joyless little things with no verve.) But they are hardly the driver (no pun intended) of the enormous social investments required to build any sort of public transport system.
Letting your philosophical adversaries decide your opinions for you seems quite un-libertarian. The fact that some greens may be against cars hardly seems a rational basis upon which to argue against public transport. (Unless of course one really doesn't care about getting results, about increasing social mobility in this case, but simply likes the intellectual scuffle.)
UPDATE: Another Englishman has a more subtle, nuanced and sensible view.
Business does. Or at least it should. And Christopher Genovese offers a charming and fascinating example from his youth as a biochemist.
Mussels live in a harsh and turbulent inter-tidal environment where holding tight means survival. And they're good at it. If you climb out onto the rocks and grab mussels, you'll notice that they are held firmly in place by a bundle of strong threads. This bundle, called a byssus, is secreted from the base of their foot (they have only one). At the end of each thread is an adhesive with three notable properties: extreme strength, flexibility, and water resistance. The adhesive binds well to a wide range of surfaces including glass, wood, bone, metal, and even Teflon. Moreover, the proteins in this adhesive neither attack human cells nor provoke the immune system.
Now before anyone from RPPI freaks out and points out that mussels are not an endangered species --- I assume that none are endangered? --- the larger point is that many other species have preceded us and that we can learn from their ways of adapting to the environment. (If we haven't killed them all off.)
UPDATE: Uh...I realized that I was being lazy --- bad! --- when I threw out the question to my few readers about whether there are any mussels on the endangered species list. Especially lazy when the web makes such research so easy. So I Googled it. And what do you know? There are indeed mussels which are endangered. And actually that is not so surprising when you consider that mussles are or were native to busy and polluted harbors.
Here's one example --- the Alasmidonta atropurpurea --- from the The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (I know that's not our American Federal list and I don't know the possible subtleties: which list is more or less inclusive? most respected scientifically? etc etc.)
I should note that Crumb Trail seems to have started off this discussion of Sticky Fingers and makes this interesting remark:
Adhesives are hugely important industrial materials that we tend to overlook or take for granted. Many are toxic and require dirty processes to produce them. Industrials chemistry continues to adopt biological methods to produce better materials without high heat, high pressure and toxic inputs or outputs. Adhesives that can hold fast, resist solvents and heat breakdown, and be applied without special environments or heat can replace existing methods, such as welding, that weaken and distort joined materials.
I am very dubious about special cultural districts (or any kind of single-use planning for that matter) but Tyler Green is in favor of an arts district in downtown L.A. and I will give his idea a close gander before I pontificate. Maybe his suggestion will help salvage the huge social investment in Gehry's Disney Hall, a building so clumsily-designed at the sidewalk that it is unlikely to act as a catalyst for neighborhood change. It's an interesting piece of matter but it's not --- literally --- a place you'd want to walk around. At least not more than once.
UPDATE: I've taken a closer look at the post and my initial skepticism is confirmed and I am still dubious:
Or even "Bad idea."
I just don't get it. Here's an example of a priori rather than post hoc thinking. Before we even get to the theoretical issues, can anyone cite an example anywhere in the world where such a "culture district" is also a diverting, interesting part of a city? I ask that as a serious question. My own impression is that such institutional campuses --- in the few places that exist such as Lincoln Center --- are sterile and boring. In general, in fact, "institutions" produce street-averse and hence city-deadening "institutional" architecture; but of course they are produced by people who are "institutionalized" so perhaps it should be no surprise. (And I suspect that only in a society in which "culture" is something somewhat remote from daily life could such a "culture district" actually be broached much less built.)
So, where I ask is there a model, an example, a potential prototype, of a "culture district" where one would want to spend any time? In Manhattan "culture" seems to be spread out and its heavy hand doesn't seem to oppress any one particular neighborhood. No? That seems to me to be a good model. Since cultural institutions are often ponderously self-important, self-congratulatory, smug, it does make sense to spread them out so that they can't do too much damage to any one particular area. No?
I have always been bemused, puzzled and sometimes distressed about the hysteria with which "gentrification" is greeted. Apparently, Robert Fulford feels the same way:
Urban activists and scholars on several continents have convinced themselves that there's something fundamentally wrong and selfish about improving a neighbourhood. That seems to me precisely the reverse of the truth. In fact, the gentrification movement has helped solve, through the spontaneous decisions of millions of citizens, what once seemed a grave and intractable problem.
Forty years ago, the same sort of people who are now averse to gentrification were worrying that "white flight" was destroying the inner cities. Across the U.S., white middle-class families were moving to the suburbs because downtown neighbourhoods were increasingly populated by blacks. By leaving, the middle classes shrank the tax base of the cities, eroding schools and other services. Everyone claimed that downtowns were dying, even where race was not a major factor.
But the 1960s and 1970s brought a big change for the better -- or so it seemed. Middle-class families began taking over cheap, decrepit housing and improving it. Districts that were called "slums"...
I agree entirely. Many older inner-city neighborhoods have seen an "increase in value." But that simply reflects new consciousness --- an awareness such neighborhoods had been "undervalued."
"Value" is not an independent variable; it is a result of human choice. That we now place greater value in urban living --- close-in and in traditional walkable neighborhoods --- strikes me as a maturing of our society (and something about the new urbanism btw which my friends at RPPI seems to misunderstand.)
That seems good to me and a wise use of society's "spatial resources." In the case of Seattle, I can say with certainty, having been part of the process, that such properties were always transferred through fair-market purchase.
(I am not talking here of "urban renewal" of the 50s to 70s which used condemnation to destroy neighborhoods, nor of landlords who shut off water and electricity to tenants to force them to move so as to re-do a building. Those are bad, even wicked, things.)
Gentrification is a process by which individual buyers and sellers voluntarily transfer property. The buyers usually -- I did it then and my young relations are doing it now -- buy a house in disrepair and through mostly sweat equity bring it back to full functionality. They fix the roof and prune the trees. They value the house and put money into it. Others are encouraged to do the same and the neighborhood revives.
Are there problems for older poor people who do not want to move & sell but who have pay higher taxes? Yes and I favor current use tax assessment for such folks. (And in the big picture let's remember that they in their dottage or their heirs will gain significantly by the increase in property values due to the newcomers.)
Do neighborhood change? Yes. Is that OK with me? Indeed yes.