April 30, 2006

This is breathtaking: Liza Minnelli in 1987, letting the press sit in on a rehearsal of "I Happen to Like New York" at Carnegie Hall. One of Liza's last great hurrahs before descending into irreparable freakitude. (I'm glad she got to do the Pet Shop Boys album before that happened.)

April 27, 2006

Dictionary.com word of the day, according to Gmail: rebarbative: repellent; irritating.

April 26, 2006

By now you've all heard that theorist and civic activist Jane Jacobs has passed away at the age of 89. She was an amazing woman: brazen, outspoken, but with a pragmatism that belied her passion. This pragmatism came partially from her grounding in small-scale economics, from also her love of people and her going to bat for the different kinds of people that live in a city -- including night and weekend workers, younger people who don't own homes and aren't raising families, transient types who prefer or need to rent, those for whom property value is not the be-all-and-end-all of human existence, but who are typically capable of making their money talk just like anyone else. "THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN"-style arguments don't hold much water with me, because they never account for everyone who doesn't have a voice, and they don't particularly want to account for them. We need more thinkers like Jacobs.

I'm not a Reason fan and I think their views are too often as simplistic as they accuse the hippie idealists of being -- basically they're just overgrown babies going "waah rules are bad, why can't we do WHATEVER WE WANT." That said, this 2001 interview with Jane Jacobs makes more sense than anything I've read in Reason, and the interviewer actually acknowledges the practicality of Jacobs' ideas and helps make her case more attractive to the conservative readership. It would be easy for a libertarian to co-opt Jacobs' fervent anti-government principles, although I wonder if conservatives understand that the type of government that she was against is the same type they vote for in every election. Pure government (as a benevolent entity looking out for the public interest) is a very good thing and can be extremely effective on the local level; a "free market" government that lets the rich people call the shots is something else entirely.

(I still think Jacobs took an antiquated view of the planning profession -- it's more forward-thinking now than it used to be, and it's less about playing God than about analyzing what is already happening and will be happening if the data forecasts prove correct.) (I also think zoning -- which she hated -- can be useful in some cases, but it needs to be open to change and public debate. I personally believe that the future of cities is in mixed-use development, adaptive reuse rather than reckless bulldozing, and tax incentives for small businesses in residential areas.)

April 24, 2006

I don't really spend as much time as I should trawling YouTube, but clips like the ones I found tonight make me want to change that. If you were in New York in the late '70s, you might remember a couple of our local TV stations, WOR (Channel 9) and WPIX (Channel 11, a/k/a "11 Alive!"), from before they got bought out by big superstation networks. Here's a bit of footage from those halcyon days. Keep your eye out for John Tesh in the CBS spot.

WOR-TV Channel 9 "Million Dollar Movie" opening credits 70s

WCBS Channel 2 News Promo--1970s

WPIX Giants vs. Steelers promo 1979

WPIX 8 O'Clock Movie close 1978

WPIX 11 New York Action News Opening 1979

April 18, 2006

What does it mean to plan in New York? It means accounting for demographic and economic shifts of the past few decades, working with a metropolitan area with such a wide variety of backgrounds and political viewpoints that it's impossible to accommodate everyone, and coming to terms with the realization that the self-styled center of the universe may not be the best model of smart growth and community-conscious planning. Regional Plan Association director Robert Yaro discusses this in light of a population explosion that continues to test the limits of NYC's existing infrastructure and shortage of available land.

April 13, 2006

Urban history/exploration/preservation site du jour: Curating the City: Wilshire Blvd., part of an ongoing (and similarly named) project by the Los Angeles Conservancy. The site is a photo essay, an annotated geography, an architectural tour, and an interactive Memory Book. And it tells you which buses stop at each intersection!

April 06, 2006

This New York cover -- between the color scheme and typography and whimsical jetset cosmopolitanism -- is a perfect distillation of 1964 magazine/movie poster design. Pea green and ketchup red together forever.

I'm taking off tonight for Los Angeles -- there's a welcome event/scholarship reception thing tomorrow at the program I'm starting in the fall. I'm very much looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend visiting friends, record shopping, restaurant-hopping, taking pictures, and navigating L.A.'s complex bus system. And, since my hotel's not far from the beach, maybe I can get a little of that in as well.

I'll be flying into LAX on Song (Delta's low-cost carrier), which will be interesting. I've never flown with them before and they'll be discontinuing their service at the end of the month, when the current fleet will get a new coat of paint and get reabsorbed back into Delta proper, with all of the amenities but minus the lime green and orange color scheme and singing stewardesses. (I'll learn soon enough whether Song is a Chuck E. Cheese in the sky for yuppies, but my guess is that it's fine, and preferable to the soul-sucking Gulag-like atmosphere of other airlines.)