Well, its Friday, which means its time for another dose of... required geo-political reading for the weekend. Now, if lots of random morons came here, I'd probably be more interested in coming up with funny lies Josiah-style (that bad, bad man from Home Depot goes to my dad's church, which is utterly irrelevant but the sort of thing that I am contractually required to include on a blog), but they don't, so seriousness it is. And my, what a weighty and serious topic we have today: Jihadism and Oil. Three articles, connected in some manner.
Article 1: From the New Yorker, regarding Jihadism. Very good article. If you only read one, read this one. Good writing, too.
Article 2: From Slate, regarding oil and Jihadism. Not sure that the author finishes making his case, but who does in Slate?
Article 3: From Wired, regarding oil alone. Nice to have an article about oil that doesn't consistent of panicked exclamations that the world is going to end in about thirty years when the Saudi's can't produce so much oil (not that I'm terribly sure that it won't end in about thirty years because of trouble with oil, but I'm hopeful). If I was a deejee I'd give a shout out to Julian on this one, because I don't really know any other Canadians.
Simmons Hall at MIT, from James Howard Kunstler's Eyesore of the Month. Yeah, James is a bit crazy (really crazy). But the buildings (and roads) are hilarious. Student dorms seem to be particularly prone to extreme ugliness, for some reason.
Here's a very interesting article on Christianity and New Urbanism by a Presbyterian pastor from the town of Missoula, Montana. He quotes John Updike's poem "Slum Lords," which I have conveniently excerpted below, and talks about some of the things that I found disquieting in the talk of the New Urbanists. As Jacobsen says, "perhaps the notion of 'community' is one of those elusive ends that cannot be pursued directly". The relationship between wealth and community is, umm, interesting.
The notion of paleo-new-urbanism is also interesting, although I don't know that it really needs that fancy title. I'd just call paleo-new-urbanism "living in and caring for historic towns," which is part of why I like living in Athens so much. Despite living in a decidedly un-historic apartment (constructed, as near as I can tell, around the height of American aesthetic dysfunction, 1980), I have the privilege of living in quite-historic Cobbham, which has the sort of honest character that towns like Seaside can only dream of.
"They buy a house and tear it down
And build another, twice as big, and leave.
They’re never there; they own so many
Other houses, each demands a visit.
Entire neighborhoods called fashionable,
Bustling with servants and masters, such as
Louisburg Square in Boston or Bel Air in L.A.are districts now like Wall Street after dark?
Or Tombstone once the silver boom went bust.
The essence of the super-rich is absence.
They’re always demonstrating they can afford to besomewhere else.
Don’t let them in.
Their money is a kind of poverty."
Experienced American professional soccer (Atlanta Silverbacks v. Kansas City Wizards, in the US Open Cup) for the first time last night. Not a bad experience, although the 1. stadium (nasty, concrete, ugly, hard -- DeKalb Memorial) 2. referee (I think he was paid by the yellow card) and 3. announcer ("Southside Steve" from one of Atlanta's Clear Channel radio stations) left a lot to be desired. The game was nice, though; both teams were pretty good, although Kansas City turned it up in the second half and beat Atlanta pretty badly (4-1). This Davy Arnaud kid (on the right below) scored twice and dished a beautiful assist to Francisco Gomez (Davy flicked the ball up over his left shoulder with his back to the goal, and Gomez volleyed it in mid-air, with both his feet off the ground). That was probably worth the price of admission.
I think I'll take my little sister to one of the games some time.
I'm thinking about trying out National Novel Writing Month this November. But I can't decide if its a great way to spend a month or a loserly way to waste time. I suppose it could be either. I was sincerely excited about the idea, but then I started clicking through some of the 'novels' that people were writing, and they all seemed to be "Last Wizard in the Era of the Dragon LXXI" or "Spaceman Spiff's Krusade Against the Nebulous Space Problem (Part Five in an Epic Series". Which was seriously depressing, although I don't suppose I should have had really high expectations for a National Novel Writing Month (although their t-shirts do come in a really nice shade of brown). Maybe we need a National Don't Write a Really Terrible Piece of Fan Fiction and Call it a Novel Month. (Is it redundant to call fan fiction terrible?)
Required political reading for the weekend includes:
Why I will not be voting for George Bush (encapsulated neatly).
Why its not looking very good for Michael Moore's movie. I still feel like I should bother to see, but I probably won't. Much like Mel's Passion. Maybe Michael should just go spend his wealth somewhere. Like Europe. He likes Europeans, doesn't he? And they like him, right?
Why Gregg thinks that Michael Moore not shutting up and not going somewhere is bad.
Not yet available, but probably coming soon: Why I will not be voting for John Kerry.
I'm sure George and John are quaking in their respective boots at the thought of losing my (one) (if I ever register in the county that I live in) vote.
Maybe if I jump up and down and type the words "Farenheit 9/11" and "Michael Moore" over and over idiots will come and visit me.
Once you get them started, people can't stop thinking about giant squids and whales. But then, once you start thinking about something so interesting, why should you stop? They're at least sixty feet long! No, they're at least one hundred feet long! One guy on a ship saw one that was as long as the ship itself (because its tentacles were at the bow and its tail end at the stern)! The ship was one hundred and twenty feet long! They fight sperm whales, locked in mortal combat twenty thousand leagues under the sea! The whales eat the squids! We know that because we've found their heads in the stomachs of sperm whales (who happen to be the largest toothed predators on the planet -- although some other whales are bigger, those whales are baleen, not toothed). The squids drown the whales! We know that because some guy saw a squid drowning a "baby" whale. Being mammals, the whales can drown, eventually, so the squid's just got to hang on until his suckers and tentacles force the whale to stay down longer than the whale can hold its breath. Now that's mortal kombat.
After contemplating these facts, enjoy the story of Steve O'Shea, a man driven (mad?) by the desire to grow giants squids in tanks in New Zealand.
(The very astute will probably have noticed that the above image is not, in fact, giant. That is because we don't have any images of living giant squids and the dope picture of a guy (Clyde Roper) with his formaldehyde-breathing (dead) squid wouldn't display properly. So anyways, what you see above is a paralarvae from the same family, Architeuthidae -- that's a technical term, as giant squids. I'm not sure if its really a giant squid paralarvae or not, but its close enough. You get the idea. Baby squid. Giant squid. Rwarh.)
(In fact, I like this shot of the paralarvae so much I'm thinking about making it the background of the page. What do you say? Squid? Or Roads? Place bets now.)
I like architecture. I used to read my mom's back issues of home style magazines because they contained architectural plans for houses. Lately, I've been thinking about architecture. Maybe as a job. Maybe as a hobby.
Anyways, there's a movement in community planning called "New Urbanism" that aims to recapture the feel and look of neighborhoods as they existed before the automobile crushed all competing modes of transportation with its lethal (but cozy!) combination of comfort and convenience.
(Ellen Wilson/Townhomes on Capitol Hill, in DC)
I think that just might be worth recovering. I definitely agree that its time people stopped building such supersized houses (a trend that's already been cut down to size with the now-trite expression McMansion). Glenwood Park is probably the closest example of this sort of thing; its a neighborhood in Atlanta that's still under construction, but it has the potential to turn into a shining example of new urbanism. The architects who designed Seaside, Florida (the oldest example of new urbanism in the country -- it was featured in the Atlantic Monthly around 1988) articulated thirteen key principles, such as:
- The neighborhood has a discernable center.
- There is a variety of dwelling types -- usually houses, rowhouses and apartments -- so that younger and older people, singles and families, the poor and the wealthy may find places to live.
- There are shops and offices at the edge of the neighborhood, of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.
- An elementary school is close enough so that most children can walk from their home.
- A small ancillary building is permitted within the backyard of each house. It may be used as a rental unit or place to work (e.g. office or craft workshop).
- Streets within the neighborhood are a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination. The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.
- Buildings in the neighborhood center are placed close to the street, creating a well-defined outdoor room. (I think this one is particularly important. Parking lots can and should be hidden. People can walk a bit, we don't always have to have our parking lots right at the entrances to stores.)
Of course, some people think that the whole thing is just a trite attempt to artificially create the sort of atmosphere that can only exist as the product of history. Maybe, maybe not. I'll admit that it looks kind of loopy or cheesy sometimes. Yeah, I'd rather live in Beacon Hill than Glenwood Park. But consider the alternatives (as most of us can't exactly afford Beacon Hill or its brethren). Seaside sure looks a lot nicer than Panama City, doesn't it?
Two proposals that George or John must advance if they want my vote:
1. Replacing the bloated and regressive income tax system with a progressive consumption tax (weighted, of course, away from basic necessities).
2. Addressing the imbalance in our healthcare system that causes it to favor expensive reactive care over inexpensive preventive care.
They probably won't be getting a vote, will they? Oh well, there are always local elections...
Jess wrote me a poem.
A POEM BY OWEN MEANY
ROSES ARE RED!
VIOLETS ARE BLUE!
I LIKE TO SHOUT
AND BOTHER YOU!