Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Green Humor: "In our lexicon, 'as-phalt' is two words assigning blame."
I'VE BEEN WATCHING some of the TED Talks online at TED.com. I've yet to see a really good one, good from beginning to end. Bill McDonough's TED Talk starts slowly but gets better. I got particularly interested when he got to his explanation of the 12 Chinese cities his office is designing. It struck me that he has some good ideas that probably aren't written down in detail anywhere - but should be.
I'm not convinced by the public realm he makes, and that will make or break the sustainability. If we don't make great places that people love, they won't last. And a large part of sustainability is long-lasting durability. But New Urbanism and Smart Growth would benefit from more of his techniques and technologies.
It's unfortunate that the word "humility" and the word "architect" have not appeared in the same sentence since The Fountainhead. So if anybody here as trouble with the concept of design humility, reflect on this: It took us 5,000 years to put wheels on our luggage.
Gentile's Fine Foods: The Grumpiest Store in Manhattan?
WHEN I owned a store, I sublet space from an antiques dealer who was one of the best salespeople I've met. The secret, she said, is to repeat to people what they've already said. They say, "Oh, that's a beautiful chair." You say, "Yes, it's a beautiful chair, isn't it." Or they say, "I don't know if I'm ready to buy yet," and you say, "Yes, it's a big decision to make."
Today I went in to Gentile's Fine Foods (1041 Madison Avenue, between 79th and 80th Streets on the Upper East Side) to buy a Coke. While I was digging out exact change for the $2.16 they wanted, I said, calmly I thought, "You charge more than most places."
The cashier said, "You should go across the street and see what they charge." (Note: there is no store across the street that sells Cokes.)
"I buy them all over Manhattan, I know what they cost."
At this point, the man standing next to me said, "Then don't come back.'
"Are you the owner?" I asked.
"Yes, and we don't want your business."
I had paid for the Coke, so I left, obviously not feeling like it was a place I wanted to come back to.
On the way home, I stopped at Dean & Deluca, which has a store a few blocks up on Madison. Of course they are one of the most expensive food stores in Manhattan. They charge $1.63, while my corner store at 85th and Lexington charges $1.50. In other words, Gentile's charges 33% to 44% more, but considered it insulting that a customer had said they were charging more than most places.
My old landlord never would have said that, even though she charged more than everyone else.
UPDATE: Turin's Calling - Vote Now
The voting's over. No towers beat modern towers 53% to 47%. Sounds to me like a lot of architects or developers voted, because I don't believe Torinese wanted to add skyscrapers to that lovely urban fabric (look at the wonderful courtyard apartment blocks here or below).
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Pahk the Depahted in the Mystic Rivah
OF COURSE I wanted the Yankees to win the World Series, but I love New England, I love Bahston and Hahvahd, I love Fenway, and I don't even mind the Sawx when they're not beating the Yankees — but my recent trip to Fenway reminded me there are certain Sox fans I don't like. Those would be the young, male, white guys in the young, male, white guy Southie uniform (skin tight t-shirt and Red Sox hat with the identically rounded bill and cap) who chant "The Yankees Suck" at the drop of a hat.
A lifetime of never seeing the Sox win the World Series (while the Yankees won 27 times) made a lot of Yankee haters in New England, but that calmed down a lot after the Sox won in 2004, and will undoubtedly calm down more now (Congratulations New England). But as films like Good Will Hunting, The Departed, Mystic River and now Gone Baby Gone show, there has been a poor white class in Boston that's had a chip on its shoulder for a long time. Generational poverty and signs saying things like "No Irish Need Apply" can do that to you.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The Red Sox Are the New Yankees (And we get the Curse of the Bambino?)
UPDATE: The New York Times thinks A-Rod may turn out to be more bedeviled than the Devil, because Boras may have turned down the highest offer he's going to get. If that's true — Come back A-Rod, all is forgiven.
But half an hour later -- look here: Damon also expressed hope that Alex Rodriguez will come to some sort of deal with the Yankees. Johnny has tried calling Alex and hasn’t received a call back. The “Can’t Get A Call Back from A-Rod” list is a long one: Hank, Hal, Cash, Cano and now Damon.
MISTAKES were made. Joe Torre left under duress, A-Rod earned himself a nickname that starts with "A-" and rhymes with "baseball," a promise to Donnie Baseball was broken, and who knows what will happen now with Pettite, Mo and Jorgie?
Is Babe Ruth upset that the Yankees are tearing down the House That Ruth Built? The Yankees haven't done very well in the post-season since they announced their new stadium, and it's not going to be easy to beat the New Yankees next year, especially since they have smarter owners than we have.
When Steinbrenner was banned from baseball, Stick Michael built the first Moneyball team with a combination of home-grown talent (Jeter, Posada, Pettite, Rivera, Williams) with trades (O'Neill) and key signings (Brosius, Justice, Stanton, Girardi). The Yanks won 4 World Series titles in 5 years, but that stopped when Steinbrenner came back and went for the most expensive free agents. Boston has made a few of those deals (J.D. Drew made more money last year than C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, Franklin Guttierrez, Jhonny Peralta, Chris Gomez, Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez and Ryan Garko combined), but you have to remember that the Yankees and Moneyball raised the stakes, and teams realized that if they didn't lock up their talent, New York or Boston would sign all the best players. There's a bigger money gap between Cleveland and Boston than Boston and the Yankees.
Then there's another problem. Over in small-market Oakland, Billy Beane has to go for high-on-base-percentage players with flaws in their game. The Yankees don't have to — they can afford the all-round players, or could until the Red Sox decided to bid $51 million (85% of Cleveland's payroll) just to talk to Daisuke Matsuzaka. And Abreu and Matsui are on their way down, while Giambi and Damon are already down.
After a terrible start, we had a great season, and we beat the Sox. But in the end the Sox had the best combination of inexpensive home-grown talent, expensive free agents, and pitching, a new variation on Michael's Yankee formula for success. Not to mention that losing A-Rod is a big blow to the offense. Brian Cashman will have to earn his money this winter if the Yanks are to beat the Sox next year.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Green Architecture & Urbanism Council
Alexandria, Virginia & Washington, DC
Friday, November 30th – Sunday, December 2nd 2007
New Urbanism and traditional building have many convenient solutions for the inconvenient truth of global warming – but they’re not well articulated and they’re not well enough known. For that reason, over 100 traditional architects and New Urbanists will assemble for 2 ½ days at the Alexandria Lyceum and the U.S. Capitol to discuss what needs to be done and how to do it. Presenters include Stefanos Polyzoides, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Robert Adam, Harriet Tregoning, Elizabeth Moule, Paul Murrain, Doug Farr, Douglas Duany, Michael Lykoudis and Ellen Dunham-Jones.
As always, the Council will be meeting of peers with participation from all involved. Jurors and responders will comment on many presentations, and all sessions will include ample time for questions and comments from the audience. Speakers and attendees may all contribute to a Council Report that will be presented at CNU XVI.
To register, go to http://www.tortigallas.com/council.html. There you can register and pay online, and there you will find a schedule and a link to the Council’s block of hotel rooms.
Congress for the New Urbanism
Georgia Tech College of Architecture
Institute for Classical Architecture & Classical America
International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism
Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment
University of Miami School of Architecture
University of Notre Dame School of Architecture
Good News, Bad News
I WENT over and looked at the the changes the DOT is making to 9th Avenue. The good news is that we're remaking our streets and making a serious effort to make New York safe for cyclists.
The bad news is that the street pictured above isn't a good city street. The striping designed by traffic engineers is more appropriate for interstate highways than a place where people walk (the lighting too, look here). And the way the left lane was designed is just plain old bad.
I put a few more photos, along with some comments, at the end of A Street Is A Terrible Thing To Waste II.