Monday, December 29, 2008
I Voted for Obama for Change We Can Believe In, Not to Give State DOTs $750 Million Dollars to Build New Highways
UPDATE: Here's the good news. But here's more bad news:
Washington Post, 'Green' Jobs Compete for Stimulus Aid, Obama Weighs Them Vs. Traditional Projects
Washington Post, Stimulus, Jobs, Billions: Obama’s Huge Challenge
Bloomberg, Rail Takes Back Seat as States Target Obama Stimulus for Roads
CHRISTMAS WAS HERE and we're vacationing in Greenwich Village, so I've been sitting on this post for a week. But something has to be done. Our worst fears — that the trillion dollars in Obama economic incentive money would go to the usual suspects, the state DOTs who only know one way to spend it, building bridges and highways to nowhere while subsidizing more carbon-burning sprawl — are coming to pass. Reports are trickling out here and there that almost all the money is going to highway construction, when it should be going to mass transit, sustainable communities, and other green construction for the future.
When President-Elect Barack Obama announced he was planning the largest new investment in national infrastructure since “the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” he probably didn’t mean that the U.S. should literally start building highways as if it’s the 1950s all over again.
Even Click and Clack, the Car Talk Guys, know we don't want to continue more of the same. In their last show, Ray called for a national gas tax, and suggested the Big Three of Detroit should become train manufacturers. (If Click and Clack agree, maybe my train idea wasn't so crazy after all.) They're quoted at the blog Hub and Spokes:
"I think it's an idea whose time has come," Ray said. "I know most politicians have been too wussy to do it, but I think the logic of raising the gasoline tax right now is unassailable.
"Gas is less than two bucks a gallon. There's never been a better time to do this. If we added a 50-cent national, gasoline tax right now, and gas cost $2.50 a gallon, would that be the end of the world? Hardly.
"This new tax would generate between 50 and 100 billion dollars every year for the treasury. That money could be used to help rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and develop new technologies for more fuel-efficient cars... further decreasing demand for oil. This is a way for us to get on the wagon, and stop sending money to countries that don't like us. We could become energy independent.
"The other thing that the gas tax revenue could fund is high-speed-train infrastructure between major cities. And who would build all of the new high-tech, high-speed trains we'd need? GM and Ford! We'd help them start a mass-transit division, convert some of those factories from building inefficient gas hogs to building high-speed trains."
What do you think? Is Ray on to a genius idea that will point our country towards a sustainable transportation future? Or does he have his headlight firmly implanted in his tailpipe? Is it even a political possibility?
Says our humble co-host, "I'm sick of people whining about a lousy 50-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline! I think its time has come, and I call on all non-wussy politicians to stand with me, because our country needs us."
Ray's right. There has never been a time when the public would as readily accept a gas tax. The idea that Detroit should been things like trains and streetcars becomes more and more popular (look at the support the idea gets in the comments section of their website). We need new thinking, and if we're going to spend money we need a better return on our investment than more sprawl. It's Dumb Growth like this that got us in a lot of the mess we're in today.
The next few months are some of the most important months in US history.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Evelyn Waugh On Modernist Architecture
EVELYN WAUGH had a daughter named Tessa, so it seems reasonable to think that the Tessa Waugh who currently writes for Country Life might be a granddaughter. In any case, my letter to Country Life made me think of Evelyn Waugh's comments about Modernism (below). I don't necessarily agree, but it was an interesting insight for the time.
The comments come from Waugh's first novel, Decline and Fall, published in 1928. The rich and glamorous socialite Margot Beste-Chetwynde has decided to demolish her centuries-old house, "King's Thursday," and commission a young Modernist to replace it with "Something clean and square."
Professor Silenus - for that was the title by which this extraordinary young man chose to be called - was a 'find' of Mrs Beste-Chetwynde's. He was not yet very famous anywhere, though all who met him carried away deep and diverse impressions of his genius. He had first attracted Mrs Beste-Chetwynde's attention with the rejected design for a chewing-gum factory which had been produced in a progressive Hungarian quarterly. His only other completed work was the décor for a cinema-film of great length and complexity of plot - a complexity rendered the more inextricable by the producer's austere elimination of all human character, a fact which had proved fatal to its commercial success. He was starving resignedly in a bed-sitting-room in Bloomsbury, despite the untiring efforts of his parents to find him - they were very rich in Hamburg - when he was offered the commission of rebuilding King's Thursday. 'Something clean and square' - he pondered for three hungry days upon the aesthetic implications of these instructions and then began his designs.
'The problem of architecture as I see it,' he told a journalist who had come to report on the progress of his surprising creation of ferro-concrete and aluminium, 'is the problem of all art - the elimination of the human element from the consideration of form. The only perfect building must be the factory, because that is built to house machines, not men. I do not think it is possible for domestic architecture to be beautiful, but I am doing my best. All ill comes from man,' he said gloomily; 'please tell your readers that. Man is never beautiful, he is never happy except when he becomes the channel for the distribution of mechanical forces.'
The journalist looked doubtful. 'Now, Professor,' he said, 'tell me this. Is it a fact that you have refused to take any fee for the work you are doing, if you don't mind my asking?'
'It is not,' said Professor Silenus.
'Peer's Sister-in-Law Mansion Builder on Future of Architecture,' thought the journalist happily. 'Will machines live in houses ? Amazing forecast of Professor-Architect.'
Professor Silenus watched the reporter disappear down the drive and then, taking a biscuit from his pocket began to munch.
'I suppose there ought to be a staircase,' he said gloomily. 'Why can't the creatures stay in one place ? Up and down, in and out, round and round ! Why can't they sit still and work ? Do dynamos require staircases? Do monkeys require houses? What an immature, self-destructive, antiquated mischief is man! How obscure and gross his prancing and chattering on his little stage of evolution ! How loathsome and beyond words boring all the thoughts and self-approval of his biological byproduct! this half-formed, ill-conditioned body! This erratic, maladjusted mechanism of his soul: on one side the harmonious instincts and balanced responses of the animal, on the other the inflexible purpose of the engine, and between them man, equally alien from the being of Nature and the doing of the machine, the vile becoming!
Tradition - It's Not Just For Tories Anymore
I'm a Classical architect and a traditional urban designer. I found myself disagreeing with some of Tessa Waugh's remarks on vintage prams for two reasons (Forget Bugaboo: why vintage is best).
First, I'm a Classicist and the pram illustrated seems very Victorian. When it comes to buildings, some people like great Victorian piles, others don't. For my taste, the pram shown is heavy and ill proportioned.
Second, Waugh likes the old Empire and class associations inherent in the old prams. I'm American and more democratic. I like antiques for their beauty, not because they look as though they belong in Upstairs, Downstairs or suggest the baby's great-grandmother had servants. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
One of the reasons I like beautiful things is because they are timeless. I'm less interested in nostalgic remembrances of a better past. Whigs can love the countryside and tradition too.
(PS: I just discovered this was published by Country Life in their December 17 - 31 issue, with perhaps a quarter of the letter edited out.
Since this letter a few weeks ago, Country Life has ruined its design. One would think they would better understand the timeless.)
Merry Christmas Yankee Fans, While The Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To Tex
YES, they spent an incredible amount of money, but the Yankees are now better, younger and more athletic, and next year's free-agent crop is very weak — so Cash(man) made hay while the sun shone, and more power to him. Teixeira will plug a a big hole at first base and fill the three or four spot for years to come. At the same time he prevents a game of musical chairs in the outfield and at DH that would have weakened the defense.
Meanwhile, have you noticed that the Boston Globe (owned by the New York Times) gives more coverage to Yankee rumors and signings than the home town Times? Not only that, but the coverage is usually either schadenfreude central or full of an inferiority complex that you would think two World Series titles in four years might have knocked off their shoulders.
After a stunning turn yesterday, Red Sox fans are waking up this day before Christmas with a new hardball villain. Mark Charles Teixeira is a New York Yankee after agreeing yesterday to a contract that will pay him roughly $180 million over eight years, in the process jilting the Red Sox and reminding them that the Yankees still hold an unconquerable edge over them.
An "unconquerable edge"? As Globe columnist Tony Massarotti wrote:
Please, no whining, crying, kvetching or moaning. The Red Sox had their chance. They have the money. They ultimately lost Mark Teixeira to the Yankees for maybe $1 million-$2 million a year, roughly 1 percent of their 2008 payroll.
What a kick in the pants.
Whether or not you wanted to see Teixeira in a Red Sox uniform next year, youíre missing the point. The Red Sox wanted him and they wanted him badly.
Yankee pitchers and catchers report in 47 days. The Times hasn't had nearly enough Teixeira coverage.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
No wonder I don't like Manohla Dargis's movie reviews in the New York Times
Optimism, I should add, perhaps needlessly, does not come naturally to me. Hope is for suckers ... I tend to embrace my inner Caden Cotard, the theater director played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, a grievously underloved film about life and death and every agonized and beautiful thing in between, including art and the scratch-scratch of those who are trying to leave their marks on the world.
Like Caden, I generally don’t see the proverbial glass half empty; I tend to see it drained to the last drop, chewed up and swallowed, jagged shard by shard.
PS, from Wikipedia: "Following her negative review of the first Garfield movie, the second movie, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, names the main villain, played by Billy Connolly, Lord Dargis."
Here's further Dargis buzz, courtesy of Jeffrey Wells' recent "Hollywood Elsewhere" column on what he calls film critic nutters: "I'm speaking of critics whose rave about a certain film makes you think right away, 'Well, I guess I won't see that one' or, at the least, has you saying 'Uh-oh.' Or, conversely, hearing one of them talk about how much they despise this or that film leads you to think, 'Hmmm, this could be interesting or even good. If Blankety-blank hates it, it can't be all bad.'" Dargis swept top honors among the ladies. [Pyrrhic victory, mayhap? After all, how many did/could they consider?]"I think Manohla Dargis is out of her mind. The 'Ask the Critic' column just irritates the hell out of me. Even when I agree with her, I wish I didn't have to -- she's so in love with her own quirks. I never get the feeling that she just loves movies; she loves writing about them." -- Post-Production Polly "I would put Manohla right up there with Rosenbaum or Wilmington or Armond White. What they all are are intellectuals who by definition have a strong and particular point of view, and who sometimes go off the board. Except there's really no such thing as off the board...except maybe to say FREDDIE GOT FINGERED or FEMME FATALE are the greatest films of their respective years." -- Los Angeles based Hollywood columnist
"Manohla Dargis, though obviously smart and impassioned, comes pretty close [to nutter status]." -- Oakland-based internet editor/film critic --
"This is completely ridiculous, since Manohla is one of the only interesting daily critics in the country right now. It's so ridiculous that I have to wonder who you're asking for their takes, and I have to really wonder what their reasoning is." -- Los Angeles-based film critic
Wells comment: Dargis is the best thing to happen to the LOS ANGELES TIMES in a long while, and my kind of fruitcake.
One Can Only Hope
NOW that the Red Sox have frozen their Mark Teixeira assets in the high- stakes poker game with super-agent Scott Boras, it creates an opening for the Yankees.
The Yankees are in this game, make no mistake. The Red Sox are not completely out either, despite owner John Henry's e-mail claiming otherwise. The Yankees, according to multiple industry sources, have had serious conversations with Boras about Teixeira and will continue those talks.