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Our Last 50 Referrers

« Movie Posters 'R' Us | Main | Erma Bombeck »

February 10, 2005


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* La Coquette delivers an R-rated account of drinking some good Parisian hot chocolate. Tyler Cowen provides a list of his favorite French culture-things. No hot chocolate, but a nice mention of the immortal Serge Gainsbourg.

* Fred confesses that he's only seen a few operas, and that there aren't many others that he's much interested in checking out.

* Steve suspects that the Democrats want people to remain unmarried and childless.

* Book agent Deborah Schneider tells Backspace that the book market is becoming like the movie market: "Itís about mass-market entertainment, high concepts, name brands and formulas. Publishers are looking to build franchises."

* John thinks that New York City's most recently approved skyscraper will drag the city down a notch.

* It's that time of year when I feel an obligation to link to my long-ago posting about the pros and cons of 10-Best lists. Funny that the world hasn't taken much note of it yet ...

* Alan offers some tips on how to get yourself into the lotus position. Patience and hard work seem to play discouragingly big roles in his explanation.

* Do you want to know what these women look like undressed? Click and find out. Almost as good a gizmo as those eyeglasses red-blooded boys used to imagine wearing, the ones that enabled you to see through girls' clothes.

* Forager thinks that the filmmakers Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson and Guy Maddin are One-Note Wonders.

* Murray McMillan, an artist who makes installations, talks about why live performers sometimes suit his needs better than videotape.

* Robby dared to raise a conservative voice in a Boston grad-school classroom. Despite his foolhardiness, he somehow lived to tell the tale.

* The Wall Street Journal takes note of the 75th anniversary of the publication of "The Maltese Falcon." My own wee posting on the topic is here. And don't I enjoy gloating whenever the MSM (mainstream media) are playing catchup to the blogosphere.



posted by Michael at February 10, 2005


Have you read Jeffrey Steingarten's It Must Have Been Something I Ate? The book has a fantastic, easy-to-prepare recipe for chocolat chaud, the ecstasy-inducing Parisian hot chocolate. Well worth trying.

Also: local Starbucks have begun serving a similar hot chocolate drink. It's expensive, but it's good.

Posted by: J.D. on February 11, 2005 2:32 AM

Grrr. Did I really not close that tag?

Posted by: J.D. on February 11, 2005 2:33 AM

I'm going to ask the same question Tank Mommy did upon first posting. So...where's your ten best list?

Posted by: annette on February 11, 2005 9:38 AM

Apologies in advance for the length of the following.

In my book Calatrava can't do wrong. I adore him, period. And, as certain [selective] socialists around here told me some time ago, "What's wrong with making money?"
John Massengale thinks something apparently is wrong:..."it will be solely for 12 families with the ability to pay $30 million each for the townhouses in the sky. It towers over its neighbors, sits in a prominent position near the river where it would be highly visible, and is the ultimate symbol of conspicuous, extravagant consumption". (from his earlier post on the subject)

Strange to hear from a man who said
...Everyone thinks Manhattan is terribly expensive. But..." - and he proceeds to recite "small pleasures" of his - and his dogs - city life - Met, NY Society Library, and Central Park - all "a few blocks away" from his apartment. Mind you, apartment on one of the most expensive real estate stretches in the world.

So, I guess, it's a scale issue, arithmetical ratio, a constanta. Let's say, my dwelling in Brooklyn to Massengale's "1-block-to-Central-Park" apartment = said apartment to one of the 12 proposed 35 mln residences in the Calatrava building.
Isn't it nice to have your incentive for progression in front of you, Mr. Massengale?

And who said private buildings should not domineer the neighborhood? Why the hell not?
Don't mention chocolate to me today, please.

From yesterday's "Chocolate pre-Valentine Party"'s menu:

*Chocolate crepes, prepared with warm berries, Chambord Chantilly Cream and powdered sugar; paired with Calera Pinot Noir 2000, California

*Mini chocolate ganache tartlet with candied apricot, paired with Muscat St.Jean de Minervois, Languedoc, France

*Miniature chocolate mousse cake, paired with Dalton Estate Moscato Kosher, Israel

&c, don't remember anything afterwards...

Posted by: Tatyana on February 11, 2005 11:12 AM

JD -- Thanks for the tip. Steingarten's smart and funny , isn't he? And good hot chocolate rules. Is it better than sex? Well, maybe as good as some sex?

Annette -- I don't think I saw 10 new movies in 2004. I'd have to put together something like "the ten best movies I saw in 2004, many of which were made in other years," which seems a cheat. Caught up with "Sideways" the other eve and enjoyed it. May blog briefly about it. What's at the top of your 2004 list?

Tatyana -- Calatrava seems like your kind of designer. Not fond of him myself, but I can certainly see why some get a kick out of his work. How do you think his whacky new apartment building will look downtown? BTW, I don't think your menu included enough chocolate ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 11, 2005 11:55 AM

What, you think I'm lacking sweetness?
Blame *bitterswett Grand Marnier fondue with brioche*...

Can you expand a bit on why you're not so fond of Calatrava? I can see why Mr.Massengale isn't (he calls him "an engineer", hmmm), but what stops you? His buildings and bridges anything but cold and inhuman, nothing like Gehry, f.ex. and I can't wait to see his new Transpot center (remember that animation, with retractable wing of a roof?)@ downtown starts construction phase.

As to where I'd like to see the apt. building- what about north of Central Park, right in the center of the island? It is too tall to be noticeable from below, it will blend with other surrounding buildings - from the park's visitor point, and being that tall, it'd have unobstructed 360 deg. views, with bit of green on south windows; to get the money worth.
Oh, well, why nobody consulted me prior to location approval?

Posted by: Tatyana on February 11, 2005 12:24 PM

R-rated?! I mean, my hot chocolate experience wasn't exactly Chloť in the Afternoon :) I really enjoy your site. Even though it's a shame-inducing reminder of all the French films I still need to see. Les Enfants du Paradis is next on my list. Merci pour le lien, Monsieur Blowhard.

Posted by: Coquette on February 12, 2005 9:28 AM

Whatsamatta? We can admire David Smith's sculpture Cubi, but not the idea when it is rendered (quite elegantly, IMO) in architectural form, for "the rich?"

Sheesh, socialism is tiresome!

Posted by: ricpic on February 12, 2005 10:51 AM

Tatyana -- I like your idea of plopping the Calatrava close to the park! It'd make a lot more sense there -- it'd be some crazy thing at the heart of the city -- than it will at the end of the island, where it'll seem to hanging out over a cliff. I'm sure Calatrava's brilliant and talented. Eager to hear from you what you see in him. I just don't like swoopy, vision-of-a-future-on-Mars whiteness. I think it can look great on the cover of a sci-fi novel, but I find it out of place in the messiness of a real city or countryside. I don't even like those streamlined, swoopy new bridges, which seem to me very bleak. I could be all wet, but I'm also betting his work won't age well, both in the sense that it'll look very "period" in no time, and in the sense that age and decay will make it look very bad very quickly. One of the strengths of traditional architecture is that it often looks better with age; modern stuff often gets to looking stained, cracked and depressing in a surprisingly short time.

Coquette -- De rien. Plus, we pleasure-centric types have to stand up for each other, no? Pleasure needs its advocates too.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 12, 2005 11:35 AM

15 min of Googling revealed existence of whole industry around Calatrava - his 3 offices in Paris, Zurich and Valencia, pilgrimages of architects from all over Europe (at least) coming to see his concrete calculations and the end result, architectural schools writing thesises and PhD's on his bridges and buildings, and simply massive amount of books and sites dedicated to him. He was nominated for Gold Medal-2005 by American Institute of Architects and recieved his award, if I'm not mistaken, yesterday, in Washington, DC.

So, with little that I know, I'm afraid I am not qualified to write all-encompassing essay on Calatrava in your comments, Michael.

After looking at images of his works done 10 and 15 yrs ago (railway stations, bridges, stadiums) and feeling extreme envy to people who can walk by - and through and into- them, I keyworded in Google "maintenance problems Calatrava" and was able to fish out two (2) results. Only.
Here's one, mentioning issue with whiteness that bothers you:

"...While Calatrava's flawless white surfaces invite maintenance problems (graffiti, water stains), the whiteness has a purity and crispness that become all the more striking against the backdrop of blue sky and water"

Now - personal experience.
The most uplifting, closest to religious feeling in my life I, an atheist, had 2.5 years ago, on a brilliant August morning, in Milwaukee, when I walked towards the building on the footbridge of Calatrava's Art Museum.
And later, in that long asymmetric dynamically balanced like ikebana arrangement sculpture gallery at its base, and than on a second floor in expositions' enfilade, with breathtaking views of the lake. Talk about masterful framing... Francis, have you been there?

Those moving "seagull" wings of the brise soleil, with it's shadow and light touching my face as I looked up walking...I understood than how a peasant felt entering medieval cathedral.

As somebody with engineering and design degrees I had a general idea of the structure beneath this miracle; I could even guess who the manufacturer of the mosaic walls is and what technological process was used to achieve the beauty of those polished concrete floors. And it's all such a secondary topics, so irrelevant in light of absolute astonishing beauty, this prayer expressed with architectural and engineering means.

And what was more striking - the building is not tremendous in size, definitely not compartible to Metropolitan Museum, f.ex., or Hermitage. You don't feel like a pigmy next to it, but the opposite - like some kind giant just shared his joy of life with you ant lifted you up, to the clouds.

Now, on a prosaic note - opinions of fellow architects, and I'll keep my opinion of these opinions to myself.

"...One architect who would speak openly about what he sees as Calatrava's limitations was Aaron McDonald of New York City. McDonald dismisses Calatrava as "more of an engineer than an architect," who will be seen less as a pathbreaker than as a brilliant oddity in the vein of Antoni Gaudi, the Barcelona visionary (1852-1926) whose undulating, Art Nouveau buildings had little impact beyond their own time and place.

"I don't use him for inspiration, because there is nothing I can steal from him," says McDonald, who worked under the modernist pioneer Philip Johnson. "Calatrava's buildings are exercises in structural issues. You could chop off pieces of the buildings, and it wouldn't change them. Conceptually, they're a little thin - they're one-liners. Seeing them as skeletons is as good as it gets."

But author and architectural theorist Alexander Tzonis strongly disagrees. Tzonis, who teaches at the University of Technology in Delft, the Netherlands, compares Calatrava to Leonardo da Vinci, the very definition of a Renaissance man, and to Mozart. Like them, he says, Calatrava holds out the vision of better life.

"He is polyphonic," says Tzonis, who has written extensively about Calatrava. "His is the voice of a mathematician, an engineer, a symbol-maker, a sculptor, a painter. His works don't just solve structural problems, but they also pose questions. He is concerned about landscape and neighborhood. And he will be remembered as someone who desperately tried to find meaning in technology. There is the hope that when you look at his work, you will say, 'Let's do things better.' "

More information (and images) you can find here, here, and here

Posted by: Tatyana on February 12, 2005 6:19 PM

""...One architect who would speak openly about what he sees as Calatrava's limitations was Aaron McDonald of New York City. McDonald dismisses Calatrava as "more of an engineer than an architect," who will be seen less as a pathbreaker than as a brilliant oddity in the vein of Antoni Gaudi, the Barcelona visionary (1852-1926) whose undulating, Art Nouveau buildings had little impact beyond their own time and place."

Wow. And being in league with Gaudi is a BAD thing?!?!!?!?! What planet does this guy inhabit? I plan to go to architecture school and if anyone ever mentions my name next to Gaudi's, I might die from joy.

I dislike this building because it towers over all the other buildings in the city. The height and cost of the building screams extremely wealthy people literally looking down upon the rest of us. It's a living manifestation of economic inequality and the supposed superiority of enormous wealth. This is why I object to it. I want New Yorkers to storm it one day the way the French stormed the Bastille, assuming it does get built.

Posted by: lindenen on February 12, 2005 8:34 PM

Coquette: love the new color scheme.

Posted by: Tatyana on February 12, 2005 10:24 PM

Hi Lindened -

Okay, I'll tell you what planet I inhabit. You'll note the quotes around what I said, and no quotes around what I didn't say, which is the Gaudi analogy, so please chill out.

The article referenced was three lines culled together from an hour long discussion I had with the author on the subject of architecture and influence. It wasn't a discussion of whether Calatrava was good or bad, or Gaudi was good or bad, read the quote again. The negative statement I had about Calatrava is that conceptually his work is thin, which is something I stand by.

But the more interesting question for me, and the point I was discussing with the author, is why some architects have followings and some do not. Wright had hundreds of followers and did everything in his power ot make sure of that, even starting his own school. Le Corbusier has imitators to this day. But there are brilliant architects out there -- even mainstream ones -- like Renzo Piano, who are doing sophisticated, beautiful work and do not have a school of imitators. And I was placing Calatrava in the context of those doing strongly individual work but are not apparently pulling others in his direction. That's not necessarily either a good or a bad thing, and furthermore it's too early to really say what kind of impact he'll have.

I was explaining to the author that for me personally, in my own work, I am always more interested in architects that I feel work in a similar vein to me but are different enough that I can learn new things from. That's where the rather facetious quote about "nothing to steal from" comes from.

Posted by: Aaron on February 24, 2005 11:28 AM

Thank you! Chinese Apes.

Posted by: Yellow Monkey on February 28, 2005 5:52 AM

Thank you! Chinese Apes.

Posted by: Yellow Monkey on February 28, 2005 5:52 AM

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