The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Friday, June 24, 2005

Friday Top Eleven

An extra one to show it's not ALL Beatles:

1. Secret Message [Melora Mix] - Rasputina, Frustration Plantation
2. Inside You - The Clarks, Another Happy Ending
3. I Will - The Beatles, The Beatles
4. In My Time Of Dyin' - Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan
5. You Won't See Me - The Beatles, Rubber Soul
6. Wonderful Life - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Nocturama
7. No Reply - The Beatles, Beatles for Sale
8. Under A Stormy Sky - Daniel Lanois, Acadie
9. Lovely Day - Pixies, Trompe le Monde
10. I'm Looking Through You - The Beatles, Rubber Soul
11. O Pato (The Duck) - Coleman Hawkins, Next Stop Wonderland

-40% for lack of bandical variety, +30% for musical variety (even if you lump Rasputina together with Nick Cave, which half of my family most certainly would not).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bike Update

Maybe it's the impending start of the Tour de France, or maybe it's the 1/2" higher that I accidentally put my seat this morning, but: Best Time Ever.

This would be on my +/- 4.6 mile ride in - basically level, with one big downhill in the middle. It's a great ride, which I'll probably say more about one day, but in the meantime, here's the best I've ever done it in:

19.7 MPH avg.

Looks like I'm peaking right on time....

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

History: First Draft

Tom Paine used to be my favorite internet outpost, but their redesign a few years back turned me off, and the burgeoning blogosphere (god help me) absorbed my surf time. As a result, I missed this from Russ Baker. I found it on Dave Neiwert's invaluable Orcinus, and it really seems to me to be the most revealing thing I've read about Bush in a long time. It's not surprising - almost obvious, really - but it's a reliable source (Bush's pre-2000 speechwriter), and it has a lot of explanatory power. I daresay that, in 50 years, it will be the conventional wisdom about Bush and Iraq:
"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade . . . .if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."

I mean, just read that final clause. What more affirmation could a serial failure like W want?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

When architects critique architects.

This started as a comment over at City Comforts. Below is the director's cut, where it gets a bit off David's topic.

Thinking about the relationship between the last post and this one. It seems to me that architects, potentially, are the ones best placed to critique "genius." For a layman to critique a widely-touted "genius" smacks of, "I don't know much about architecture, but I know what I like" - it's as if bowing down to genius is the price of admission.

But for actual architects, we've paid the price of admission - we know whereof we speak. So when I critique (to say the least) Corb or Mies or Johnson, I'm doing it as someone who a. has greater-than-average familiarity with their works; and b. has done, in some sense, similar things. I may not have Corb's sense of proportion, but I've designed a church, and I made sure none of the facades looked like the service entrance. Etc.

The problem, of course, David has identified: most architects lack the distance to actually employ their critical faculties. They might snipe about the competitor across town (it can be a small, petty clique of a profession), but heaven forbid they question St. Frank II.

A lot of this goes back to archischool. My program was a fairly pragmatic, construction-oriented one, quite unlike the hothouse Design environment of, say, Columbia. And by the time I was in school, High Modern was a purely historical phenomenon. But the names of Corb & Mies (and, to a much lesser extent, Wright) were still whispered: "Why don't you take a look at what Corb did at...." Of course, these people did some good things, and if we don't learn from history, etc. But as someone who was raised with a contempt for Modernism, it was a bizarre experience. But 3 of my classmates came back from France with a picture of themselves bowed down before Ronchamps - no irony in sight.

My point being (and there is a point), despite this residue of hero-worship, I am in a profession where the dominant ethos of almost the entire 20th century has been debunked. While the White Gods may still be worshipped, their progeny are forgotten or held up for derision. This has had a profound effect on my other views, in that I have little patience or respect for dominant paradigms. This has caused some friction with, say, economists, 90% of whom would never question certain orthodoxies, even though there are significant alternative views. It's not that I'm some great iconoclast, but I can't fathom failing to question authority.

All of which could or should put me in position to be an effective critic of architecture and the built landscape. But I can't claim that I spend a lot of effort on it, nor do I think there's a legion of similarly-minded architects out there. For all the blow-harding of starchitects, I'm not sure most architects care much about ideas and theories.

A good building doesn't leak.
A great building leaks, but nobody cares.