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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Ultimate Usage of "Penultimate"

A common language peeve - certainly one shared by all my relatives - is misuse of penultimate to mean ultimate. Which is bizarre, since, of course, it means "just short of ultimate," or, more literally, "next to last." But somehow the illiterates snuck in and decided that if ultimate is good, penultimate must be better.

Anyway, a review of the latest Lexus in the New York Times uses it perfectly:
The Lexus IS is like the perennial A student who has yet to declare a major. The car shows perfection in individual disciplines. Its creators have done their homework assignments well. But the better-rounded BMW remains the class valedictorian.

INSIDE TRACK: The penultimate driving machine.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blockbuster Pirates-Mets Trade!

OK, not really.
The Mets acquired outfielder Tike Redman from the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday for cash. Redman, 28, hit .251 in 319 at-bats last season
It's down there at the bottom of the Wagner story.

Tike had a solid 3/4 of a season, stretched over 2 years. The Bucs are lucky to have gotten a trading card of Mr. Met for him.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday Mourning Ten

Aerial - Chris Whitley, Terra Incognita
Ghost Dance - Chris Whitley, War Crime Blues
Guns & Dolls - Chris Whitley, Din Of Ecstasy
Power Down - Chris Whitley, Terra Incognita
Phone Call From Leavenworth - Chris Whitley, Living With The Law
Vertical Desert - Chris Whitley, Rocket House
War Crime Blues - Chris Whitley, War Crime Blues
Weightless - Chris Whitley, Terra Incognita
Ultraglide - Chris Whitley, Din Of Ecstasy
Bordertown - Chris Whitley, Living With The Law

Chris Whitley, 1960-November 20, 2005

I won't say much here now, except that I'm not sure I know of a more soulful - in the sense of soul-baring - musician in our time, and now he's gone. If you don't know his stuff - or only know the first album, which got airplay 14 years ago - there are some downloads available at his site.

Here's something I wrote this summer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NYT and Anonymous Sourcing

A whole new paradigm in reporting from the New York Times!
The Mets offered a three-year contract, with an option for a fourth year, valued at $30 million to $31 million, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations who was granted anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize the talks[emphasis added].
So they're now describing the motive for anonymous sources. I haven't seen this innovation oon the news pages yet, but it seems it's only a matter of time:
...according to an aide to Mayor Bloomberg, who was granted anonymity because he wanted to convince Democratic voters that the mayor shares their views.
...according to an associate of Mr. Powell's who was granted anonymity because he wanted to salvage some of the reputation that the Secretary burned before the U.N.
...according to a senior administration official who was granted anonymity because we were all getting tanked over at Sally and Ben's and, frankly, this reporter can't recall which official it was.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

OK, so she didn't kill me....

Turns out she's intrigued by the blogging. But I still expect some ribbing.

Hi, dear.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Great Moments in Community Planning

Writing a comment over at Sucher's place, I was reminded of the following anecdote:

Pittsburgh has a large, historic park on its North Side (once Allegheny City). At a public meeting to discuss improvements to the park, a gentleman - who was raised here but fancies himself far too cosmopolitan for the Iron City - suggested that all play equipment be removed from the park. You see, it wasn't historic, and, furthermore, there are plenty of vacant lots for the children to play in. Said without irony.

As my good friend Bill says, there's one thing I've learned: People are crazy.


Sunday, November 13, 2005


I wrote a post, Blogger says it's there, but I can't see it. So this is just a test....

Baby-making machines.

Or not.

Really good post from Redneck Mother, via Twisty, about a fundamental misconception that seems to underlie an awful lot of patriarchal thinking about women, babies, and pregnancy.
This requirement [from a version of the stupid VA law that required state involvement in miscarriages], my friends, is a flashing red light signaling ignorance. It's based on the notion that pregnant women are simple machines that pop out babies. If the pregnancy ends, the machine must surely just spit out the failed product, right? Won't you smell a fan belt burning or something? You're up in your hot-air balloon, your pregnancy fails, it'll be over in a matter of minutes, all nice and neat and ready for the police report?
This gives a sense of the overall thrust of the piece, but what's great about it is the mixture of personal detail and political insight. As they say, read the whole thing.

PS - Link-gathering for this post, I see that RM's added another post on the topic, in response to the traffic generated by Twisty's link, and a couple others. The gist is two-fold, partly about the dearth of pregnancy/birth celebration/respect in our culture (as contrasted with war celebration/respect) and partly about the loss of what I would term folk-knowledge about pregnancy/birth, so that far too many American women go into the whole thing with little more than vague notions and some limited medical info. I know the latter aspect formed a backdrop to my wife's pregancy a couple years ago - this sense that, while medical knowledge had greatly increased, there was a lot that she didn't know that her female ancestors had. We were blessed with an amazing family doctor to do the delivery and a (relatively) easy pregnancy/birth, so it was OK, but the lingering sense remains....

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More on the East River site

Per David Sucher, I'm rather more interested in this major East River development for its planning character than its architectural style. As David Childs himself says, "This is as much about planning as it is about architecture."

But what's planned seems to be towers in a park. I think we've seen this movie before, and we all know the ending.

I can't find any links showing the proposed site plan discussed in this Times article, so I'll just excerpt some more:
The architects Richard Meier and David M. Childs have completed a master plan for four buildings, a park and an ice rink on part of a nine-acre site near the United Nations.


The landscape architect Diana Balmori is designing the park and skating rink. For the area surrounding the rink, between 38th and 41st Streets, the master plan calls for three residential buildings by Mr. Meier and one largely commercial building by Mr. Childs, with apartments on the upper floors


The specifics of the buildings' materials and design have yet to be determined. Mr. Meier said the four towers would take the United Nations as a starting point, "then spiral around." Individually, they will be distinct while forming a "family of buildings," he said.

The architects emphasized that the project would connect the area to the water's edge, with open views to the water from First Avenue, and sidewalks that extend to the river at 39th and 40th Streets. "To be able to restore the grid of the city at that edge, bring people to it, is delightful," Mr. Childs said.
The main thing that's unclear to me is where the park is relative to the river. If the buildings front the river (actually, FDR Drive, which may be dropped to reduce its barrier-hood), and the park is nothing more than a lawn between 1,000 foot towers, then it's likely to be just as unpleasant and unwelcoming as the old WTC plaza was. But if the rink is in the midst of the buildings (a la Rockefeller Center, an explicit referent) and the park is between the river and the towers, then I could see it working, and I could see the park becoming a neighborhood amenity that draws foot traffic down those sidewalks (why not streets?).

The ideal process, of course, would have been some sort of charette involving, if not the general public, then at least community representatives and city planners, so that input could come from someone other than the developer and his (non-planner) architects. It's interesting to note that, even in a city as famous for both its planning and its intrusive regulation of development, there seems to have been little useful intrusion on the process. I found an old Times article in which Muschamp suggested that the original architecture competition was intended to gain the developer leeway from the city - "you don't have to regulate us, look at our fancy team" - and if so, it was a complete failure as a process. I'll withhold judgment on whether it results in a failure of development.



OK, I don't know if there's an interesting story behind this, and I don't know how to find out, but I wonder how it is that David Childs, who usurped Danny Liebskind's role at Ground Zero, has usurped his colleague's role in a major development just south of the UN complex in Manhattan.

Since the article will disappear behind the paywall in a few days, I'll excerpt a chunk:
Although the design jury selected Henry N. Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and Marilyn Jordan Taylor of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as the winners, Mr. Solow chose to eliminate Mr. Cobb from the project. "I felt there was too much difference in what Skidmore and Cobb had in mind," he said.

Mr. Childs, the architect for the redesigned Freedom Tower at ground zero and the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, has taken the lead on the project for his firm. [emphasis added]
I realize that Childs is SOM's big star - such as he is; he's mostly a decent architect, politically connected - but it smells to high heaven that a (female) colleague of his won an international design commission, then is eased out in his favor.

PS - On a separate note, the yahoos at the Times' website hotlinked Ms. Taylor's middle (maiden?) name to a search of the Times for "Jordan." Dumbasses.


Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Random Ten

Third Stone from the Sun - The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?
Po' Lazarus - James Carter & The Prisoners, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Murmullo - Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club
While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Beatles, The Beatles (White Album)
Here Comes The Rain Again - Eurythmics, Eurythmics
Let The Mystery Be - Iris Dement, Infamous Angel
Horn Intro - Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Invisible Man - The Breeders, Last Splash
Airline To Heaven - Billy Bragg and Wilco, Mermaid Avenue Volume 2
Another Girl - The Beatles, Help!

Do you think Sammy Butera and the Witnesses ever heard of James Carter and the Prisoners?

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Run, don't walk, to read William Saletan's devastating piece on Alito's Casey opinion. The headline - "Why does Judge Alito treat women like girls?" is strong enough, but the actual article completely blows Alito away. The fundamental point isn't simply that Alito's opinion treats wives the same way it treats minors (although it does); the point is that Alito cherrypicks from previous SC decisions to justify his position, while ignoring the substantial facts of those decisions. Doesn't get much more activist than that.

I've bitched (a lot) about Saletan in the past, and I find his take on the abortion issue frustrating, but he hits this one out of the park.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Simple Scalito Strategy

Dems seem to be hinting at this, but I really think it needs to be hammered home - every blogger, every pundit, every pol, when discussing Bush's nominee, needs to simply say:

The Radical Right scuttled Miers because she wasn't radical enough. They are ecstatic about Alito. That tells you everything you need to know about how he will legislate from the bench. America is not a radical nation. We don't need a radical on the Supreme Court.

The thing is, they're handing us this narrative. They really are ecstatic about it. We don't need to do anything to convinve Americans that this guy is out there - look who his supporters are. The fact that he's already ruled that wives uteruses belong to their husbands, the fact that Rehnquist disagree with him on matters of discrimination, the fact that he thinks that, as long as the boss is truly prejudiced, prejudicial results are OK, simply provide the documentation that the guy's a rightwing nutjob. If Dems can't make this argument, they need to go home.