Archives for category: urban theory

My life, since I came back from Cuba, has been all about the dream deferred. I haven’t minded taking care of my mother, and taking care of, once and for all, my terrible upbringing — the epiphany is entirely quotidian but earthshaking.

As an ACOA once described it to me, it is pausing at the door of the hospital room and realizing, in one tsunami of emotion, that they had never taken care of you and now you must break the chain of karma alone. Then there was what I call the vortex of mayhem, managing two storage spaces, five or six dwellings, three of them (including the $8000-a-month-room in the big house, and the $2000 a month one) infested, moving the Aged Parent six times in two years, from shithole to shithole, the voice in the burning bush which told me last year I was “working out of the wrong energy” and that the “answer is in your house” — but it has been a job. I resent having the goalposts moved, just as I was fixing to start to sell my book. I resent, terribly, the financial and health implosions, and have noted that being the victim target of terrible helpless insane peoples’ cruelty is humiliating. Don Miguel’s second agreement, and all the forgiveness work I’ve been doing, speaks to this.

What I have forgotten is what the job coach started to talk to me about just before the shit hit the fan. First, that nobody would hire me as long as the Aged Parent was not in a nursing home. (Having to move her to five different ones and two “rehabs” did not solve this problem.) Second, a 10 year plan. I find myself with artifacts of that straight talk of so long ago — a plus size work wardrobe for a woman of a certain age, budget wise, confected to convey readiness to work, [false] able-bodiedness and up-to-date skills. This itself is as big a mountain to move as was a suitable work wardrobe in 1969, when there was no such thing.

The 10 year plan was then and is now, I have realized, over the last month, about New York City. I wasn’t wrong to choose it then, and I am not wrong to choose it now. Ariele and Amelie’s posts about finally getting studio space in Brooklyn crystallized it for me, as did the dawning realization that Macondo is all about being too far away from God, and Forty-second Street, with the A-bomb, Camp Ped and [redacted from private blog]. I came here because the nursing homes were one-quarter the price of the ones in D.C. and I had to plan for a life that including my mother’s living for another 10 years. My recent visit to Phoenix, which, while it is literally 107 degrees in the shade, overwhelmed me with the happiness and agency and purposive well-kept optimistic and artistic public spaces, entirely lacking here in Macondo. And don’t blame it on the Indians or the Chicanos. They got them, and their genocided ghosts, in Phoenix too. I blame it on the Hispano Inquisition penitente karma, the caudillismo. Macondo. First in the nation in prison rapes. First with the A-bomb.

Sore-eye poppies at ground zero, Trinity Site, White Sands, NM

The fireflies in Gramercy Park. I just remembered that, and realized it is still completely within my grasp.

http://leftfieldcards.wordpress.com/

http://brooklyntowest.blogspot.com/

I want it. I have never gone without anything I wanted.

Laura Foster Nicholson ribbon.

http://www.lfntextiles.com/servlet/the-ALL-RIBBONS/Categories

I am sometimes amazed at the accuracy of my nose for news. The reading of omens is, you will comprehend, a child survivor strategy which, because it operates on an almost limbic, and yet learned level, I never really credit as fully evolved intelligence.

But it is. Thanks to the colloquy over at [a friends-locked blog] on bloviatin’ bloggers’ overuse of the term curating, I am reading, finally, a generation after everybody else, Douglas Crimp‘s admirably crystalline On the Ruin of Museums, which you can gank in PDF form here.

He says everything I’ve been thinking about for 20 years, while I was aware, in a mildly amused way, of the Foucauldian museum wars.*

These were at their fiercest while the Jews, the Native Americans, and the African Americans were all playing the race card to jockey their museums into one of the last few spaces of the Mall in D.C. — the Mall having been designed as America’s great democratic gathering space, bookended by the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

Of the pomo museums, the Holocaust Museum is the most Disneyesque — Epcot Auschwitz — I have yet seen, truly insulting.

(I hasten to add that its library, all honey-colored wood and carpet and clerestory light, is almost as gorgeous as the I.M. Pei library in the East Wing of the National Gallery, which may be the best modern space ever. You know I dote on library architecture, and had a long discussion once on my private blog about what a lady’s library might look like. Part of my love is that qua public space, libraries — like museums — are the very instrument of democracy. They are the tool with which nations are built, as Foucault argued, and as the Jews, and the Native Americans and the African Americans knew before he did. This piece, about America’s busiest library, in Queens, N.Y. makes me want to stand and sing every time I read it. Sometimes I can still believe. Rejecting the canon is for people who have a nation; and the very identity politics “museumization” seems to decry are the tell-tale, self-destructive, modern earmark of post-modernism.)

The best thing about the Native American museum is the way the pond has attracted and shelters “wild” birds within view of the Capitol.

It surprises me to think that people say Foucault defines post-modernism, as Crimp asserts, as rupture from past historicism. I thought (schooled by Marxists, I admit; I think Marx got modernity right, and I’m thrilled that Crimp quotes clever old wrong Adorno first) modernity itself was defined as rupture, coalescing, rupture — thesis, antithesis, synthesis. And that pomo, like fascism, is just one of modernity’s….antitheses? Or backlashes.

My latest theory is, we haven’t worked out the ideas and problems raised in the 19th century’s great access of modernity yet. The 20th century was all reaction to that shit, without any time spent working out you know, the issues raised in Saturn Devouring His Son or Faust or Our Mutual Friend, surely three of modernity’s greatest documents, much less Darwin and Marx. (Museumization note: Googling for an image to illustrate Faust building his metropolis, the number four image for “Faust’s metropolis” is a Flickr shot of my own backyard, which I’ve tagged “Faust’s Metropolis”. This is….sputter…sputter… retromingent.)

To which end, I am going to try to read Louis Menand’s Metaphysical Club. You will congratulate me for the marathon achieved in completing the 800 page bio of William James, exceedingly well written, I must say, on a subject worth every page, fascinating as a survey of the enormities of the 19th century (Swedenborg! holy crap! the Civil War! Boston as the capital of the republic of women! America as the laboratory of modernity!), and accurately subtitled In the Maelstrom of American Modernism,  touched upon above. In short, a true portrait of modernity at its most influential, the point to which, my nose for news tells me, we are just now getting back to.

As one of the major progenitors of modernity, you don’t want to mess with Goya.

_____________

*I think they are well-taken, the essentially feminist, queer, subaltern arguments of the baby boomer counterculture. Nuthin’ pomo about that.

Brown invented go-go music, which defines the independent alt. culture history of Washington D.C. as the capital of the African diaspora.  Music theorist and visionary. Culture czar of Chocolate City.

“It’s about love, the communication between performer and audience,” Mr. Brown said of go-go. “When you’re on stage, the people put that love to you and you give it back. There’s no other music like it.”

Next time you hear a politician say he’s running against Washington, think of Chuck.

My go-go at the Smithsonian epiphany: I went down to the brown bag lunch time lecture on D.C.’s indigenous music, expecting a crowd of perhaps 50 — the usual size for these esoteric yet superficial talks.

There were at least 3,000 people there, all of them in crisp creased blue collar uniforms. The subway drivers, the UPS guys, the janitors, the mailpeople, the bus drivers, the dental hygienists and LPNs in their pink scrubs, the people you always wondered about how they kept their shit together to send their children to Catholic school and on to college. The answer? Go-go. The godfather of go-go, Chuck Brown, was there. Everyone had mind-bogglingly sophisticated questions about studio technology, entertainment law, music theory and so on, and Chuck Brown — also amazingly groovy after 180 years of playing rough, nut-cuttin’ crowds at the Ibex — oh, the Ibex — had nothing but the sweetest love and brilliant advice to give back.

Everybody had both a right livelihood and a right vocation, as Buddha in his Noble Eight-Fold Path recommends. I call this my go-go vision.

Keep what you got
Until you get what
You need y’all
You got to give a lot
Just to get what
You need sometimes y’all
Gimme the bridge now
I feel like busting loose
Busting loose

XHHNXesVW88

Most revolutionary children’s book illustrator of the 20th century. New Yorker. Mensch.

Everyone who ever read In the Night Kitchen understood it was a love song to Brooklyn, to the democracy of the public space and all the people in it.

Mr. Sendak, sweetheart, your parents always knew you were gay. They’re proud of you. They have supper waiting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/10/arts/design/10sendak.html?pagewanted=all
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/books/maurice-sendak-childrens-author-dies-at-83.html

Technorati’s top ten websites 5.7.12.

The Washington Post lost $22 million in its last quarter, are aggressively buying out senior, rain-making, prize-winning reporters, and apparently turning the newsroom into a click-thru sweatshop, complete with a screen recording story hits in real time.

The bigfeet reporters are worried.
http://www.adweek.com/news/press/secret-meeting-has-washington-post-buzzing-140036

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting rid of expensive old reporters and replacing them with young ones.

I do think there is a difference between the clickhound journalism of Gawker or The Mail Online, however, and reporters.

News is curated for the public good. You need to keep your eyes on the prize. I think the public good is high, if not universal, voter turnout, and the journalism version of Friday Night Lights. Grassroots issues and community.

The Washington Post needs to figure out what that prize is, and cover the two local industries they have — U.S. politics and Chocolate City — with what I’m thinking of as Freakonomics Politico, a journalism paradigm for the 21st century. I think the old avatar of Freako Politico is Mike Davis, the Marxist. His City of Quartz is probably the very best Holy Shit Story of his generation, as Steven Levitt (I am still checking him out) may be of his generation.

Everybody knows from writing their own blogs what gets the most clix. Use the word porn in your headline and your clix will increase 20 fold.

I once posted a photograph to Flickr of the weird python-like process of creating and stuffing a cloth doll. I called it Getting Stuffed. It got nearly a thousand hits in two hours until I changed the headline. In 10 years of blogging privately, this Getting Stuffed photograph was my greatest hit in what we shall call, for journalism curriculum purposes, the Scandanavian Christmas Elf Tomte Syndrome:

Getting stuffed.

So the perfect capitalist tool of a newspaper, as WaPo president and general manager Steve Hills  seems to have told the senior reporters, to maximize the website, would be 10 rainmakers, 1,000 clix drones, and the words “Getting Stuffed” in every headline. Today’s lede stories in the NYT:

At Cusp of Major Power, Bo Xilai Gets Stuffed by Own Hard Tactics

A Scramble as Biden Gets Stuffed on Same Sex Marriage

Stock Trading Is Still Getting Stuffed After ’08

Hollande Calling for ‘Get Stuffed’ Amid Cuts in Europe

Even more trenchantly, for the clix hix, this minute’s top four most e-mailed stories from the NYT:

For the Hard of Hearing, Clarity Out of the Getting Stuffed

When Illness Makes a Spouse Get Stuffed

Those Getting Stuffed Europeans

Black Women and Getting Stuffed

Stephen P. Hills, ad guy, Harvard B School, former San Mateo, CA sports reporter. President and general manager of The Washington Post.

Good luck with that. Other newspapers are making it online, as the Technorati top ten screen cap shows. Why can’t the Post?

One, no one in the national and international audience a website is going for is interested in the politics they cover or the way they cover it. Stop being provincial.  Let Politico do that for the local wonk readership; they like it, they’re good at it, let the tiny niche wonk market go.

Two, The Root D.C. is not a substitute for covering The Post’s other great franchise, Chocolate City. Last I checked, the demographics for black people in the D.C. metro area were that they were the best-educated, richest per capita black people in the U.S. and probably in the world. The Post’s new Root D.C. website is attempting real time coverage of the grassroots issues for people of color the world over inherent in the local coverage of Chocolate City. There never was a story like the D.C. riots, which the late Bob Maynard, the founder of the Maynard Institute, covered for The Washington Post wearing his clogs. There never was a story like Marion Barry or the suburbanization into redneck Prince George’s County of D.C.’s upwardly mobile Talented Tenth.  I’d simply like to point out to you that Ron We’re-an-empire-now Suskind, one of the great Freako Politico reporters, won his Pulitzer prize in The Wall Street Journal, telling the story of one black kid trying to get though the D.C. schools and into the Ivy League. And The Wire, recently voted the best TV show of the last 25 years by New York magazine, was set in inner city Baltimore and written by a Baltimore reporter.

Eyes on the prize, Hills. You’re not from around here, are you? Get George Pelecanos to give you some story ideas.

Ever since I noticed a back channel used car business, conducted entirely in cash and Espanol, running on Saturdays in the large suburban Maryland parking lot where the last outpost survives of a grand store, G Street Remnants, that fled the city for the burbs during the Martin Luther King riots, I have known parking lots were a beat.

I was not surprised to find a good number of Cambodian refugees manning the suburban cutting tables at the venerable fabric store.

I have also said, in a private blog, if I were a young reporter starting out I’d invent and cover the parking lot beat. I think all kinds of things take place there, including drug transactions, lovers’ lanes, dances, suburban teenage life, the entry level immigrant life (see back channel economy, above) whereby the brown peoples have taken over the close-in, formerly lily-white, burbs, and in which the D. C. snipers invented a new kind of crime which can paralyze the megalopolis.

Now comes a report, due out in March, from MIT urban planning professor Eran Ben-Joseph, called Rethinking a Lot, which proposes upcycling and greening parking lots, “the single most salient landscape feature of our built environment”.

You read it here first.


Police search highway verge at Seven Corners Shopping Mall in Virginia after the D.C. snipers, parked in a car across the four-lane highway, shot and killed Linda Franklin in the Home Depot parking lot. The motive was probably to frighten Mohammed’s former wife, who worked in a mall-based Michael’s hobby shop store.

Behind the cut, I have italicized the important propositions that greening the parking lots have for The New Economy.

The most important concept, not fully worked out in this NYT piece, is the pop-up or flash-mob day care center, one of the things the post office workers in the near-abandoned ’70s shopping mall in Fishkill, NY, told architects they wanted. These could be fabricated from school busses or RVs. Children don’t need play equipment or $100-a-square-foot soft-fall surfaces — they’re a boondoggle. Scores of unsupervised city children over the centuries have come up with asphalt games, well represented at the 2001 Smithsonian folk life festival which feattured New York City, ranging from street hockey to jumprope, broomstick/Spaldeen softball, the paraffin-filled bottle cap game, whose name I’ll be Googling in a minute. Skully.

Before he became a physician and a PhD. in education, Bill Cosby was a kid playing football between the cars on the streets of Philadelphia.

I think any reporter who spent time in a parking lot where back channel economies are practised, nights and weekends, would discover, for example, back channel soccer leagues where important community projects — job markets, fake IDs — are played forward as vigorously as the second-hand soccer balls. While I didn’t love Tom Wolfe’s last novel but one or two, A Man in Full, it was important in ways no other prose writer — except perhaps Ehrenreich, in Nickeled and Dimed — is aware of. For this, Wolfe is still, aged 193, a reporter to watch, for the as-yet undeveloped insight that the back channel, or Blade Runner, economy is where we’re all headed.

It takes place in parking lots. Be there or be square.

Pamphlet on <a href=”http://www.laforum.org/content/publications/pamphlet/dead-malls-pamphlet”>2003 Dead Malls competition</a> which Interboro, the Brooklyn architectural firm cited in the Kimmelman piece, seems to have won.

Copyright Jeannette Smyth, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Kimmelman’s NYT Parking Lot Piece

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