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May 12, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Does buying organic food make a difference? And if so, what kind?

* Allan Wall sizes up Mexico's billionaires, and wonders why they aren't doing more to help their country's poor. Fun fact for the day: Public officials in Mexico pay themselves better than public officials do in rich countries.

* Is it unthinkably inhumane to treat illegal immigrants as felons? (Currently the U.S. treats them as mere civil offenders.) If that's the case, then how odd it is that Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Egypt, and -- oh, yeah -- Mexico all do just that.

* Hey, Pauline Kael's superb essay about Cary Grant is now online. You don't read writing like that in magazines any longer.

* The BBC has climbed on board the happiness bandwagon. Meanwhile, Psychology Today asks whether happiness is even possible in the absence of adversity.

* Supercute girlpunk! Shades of Bananarama, the Go-Gos, and Shonen Knife!

* Thanks to Tatyana, who sent along a link to this doozy of a Daniel Libeskind tower soon to go up in Sacramento. Two questions: 1) What kind of idiot thinks that buildings should resemble pieces of abstract/conceptual sculpture? And 2) Why is the word "luminous" so prominent in today's high-end real-estate/ architecture market?



posted by Michael at May 12, 2006


When my boss The Traditional Minimalist saw the picture of Libeskind' new tower he utered only one word: Random.

It's a death verdict, in his book.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 12, 2006 1:37 PM

I spent the last two weeks of jury duty parking in the underground lot of Frank Gehry's Disney Center auditorium in downtown LA. I finally figured the place out. It's a fairly conventional box of a building with a vast sheet metal abstract sculpture plopped down owner it. In the modern age of architecture, they'd put up boxes and then put pieces of plop art down in the plaza in front of the box. Here, the plop art has engulfed the box.

The good news is that, at least when viewed from its showcase vantage point to the northeast, Gehry's concoction is a pretty nice piece of abstract sculpture. It embodies a lot of nautical curves, formations that look like the billowing sails of a boat and others that look like waves.

It's a lot less of a sharp stick in the eye than the plop art across the street at the LA Museum of Contemporary Art which consists of wreckage from crashed airplanes wired together. I suppose it's a monument to the failures of the Southern California aerospace industry.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on May 12, 2006 1:50 PM

Sadly, very little is "unthinkable" these days. I'd settle for "stupid and wrong".

It's wrong to treat immigrants of any sort as felons for the mere fact of having come here. As a US citizen, I don't grant the government the moral right to exclude people from the country on my behalf. (But, heck, it's just as wrong to treat drug users as felons, and we do that too.) So it would be unthinkable for ME, but not for others.

Posted by: Glen Raphael on May 12, 2006 2:00 PM

On the subject of Happiness:
I always wonder why we focus so much on Happiness when it seems like it is Satisfaction that people really pursue.

For instance, my brother is doing something with his motorcycle with every one of his free moments.

My fried spends all of his time working on his house and baby-issues (i.e. new stroller, crib, etc. He is very handy). This is not to say that he does not enjoy his time with his wife and daughter, he does. But he rarely seems satisfied with what they have. He just knows that he can make it better.

For myself, it seems that no matter how much I know about Architecture and Economics, I could know more. But I can't say that it makes me happy. Granted, I get excited when the Blowhards put up a new Architecture post, but a smile rarely comes across my face.

However, the show "That 70's show" rarely fails to make me laugh, yet I rarely remember or care to watch it.

I think that happiness is over-rated. And I think that our pursuit of satisfaction is a testament to the Human Race. We want our Families, friends, environment, organizations, all to be better. And with Time and Space, we work damn hard to make that so.

And when we finally do have moments of satisfaction (Wow, that new deck looks great!), we can sit back for a moment or two, and smile.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on May 12, 2006 2:02 PM

I am curious, how many illegal aliens do you have trekking across your lawn? Leaving garbage. Urinating on your plants?

And when you tell them to stop: No hablo InglÚs.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on May 12, 2006 2:10 PM

In addition to "luminious"---don't forget "translucent" and "Curvilinear" (isn't that an oxymoron?). Do you want to live in a translucent apartment? What does that even mean? Can you see your neighbors showering? I guess cool words make it seem cool to live there!

Under the heading of "unthinkable"---am I the only one who's been surprised about finding out that being an illegal immigrant isn't already a felony? Who knew?

Posted by: annette on May 12, 2006 2:15 PM

Well, if we make illegal immigration a felony, then we'd have to give them trials, with lawyers, and all those other kinds of constitutional due process guarantees.

From a law enforcement perspective, it is more efficient to deport illegal aliens without having to go through all that...

Posted by: Frankenstein on May 12, 2006 2:48 PM

Ian: None, but two illegal immigrants helped me move to my new apartment, several regularly help my parents with gardening and construction tasks (they probably are "crossing the lawn" frequently to do that job.), and I used to pay a couple to clean my house once a month.

Posted by: Glen Raphael on May 12, 2006 3:24 PM

I am so glad to see you employing Non-Americans over wonder they have a lower unemployment rate.

I feel humbled.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on May 12, 2006 3:33 PM

Actually, Glen, I too had experience with illegal workers: ones that my legal Colombian-born GC employed working on my backyard patio.

They were never on time, never the same people, didn't understand basic English and/or drawings, had a habit of disappearing after lunch and spreading empty cervesa bottles all over freshly-poured concrete foundation. With one exception: one guy, Gus, a civil engineer from Mexico, who couldn't find any work at home and didn't have enough money/connections to legalize himself via usual route - but who was diverting part of his earnings to an immigration lawyer to become a legal resident.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 12, 2006 3:48 PM

Given the way the real estate market seems to be weakening, not to mention the fact that Sacramento is still a somewhat untested market at the high end, my fearless prediction is that it will take a long time to sell all the units in the Libeskind tower. Probably long enough for the developers to take a big loss on the project.

Posted by: Peter on May 12, 2006 3:52 PM

On organic food, I'm pretty sure P.T. Barnum said it best.

Oh, and from the linked story: "The plastic package of Earthbound Farm baby arugula in Whole Foods was grown without synthetic fertilizers..."

They're growing plastic packages? Now that sounds like a useful innovation.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on May 12, 2006 5:31 PM

The New Yorker piece was interesting. I like Michael Pollan, but he sometimes gets caught up in the whole anti-capitalist smugness. I spoke for one of my classes in college once, and I asked him if he thought that the corporate drive for efficiency might be naturally directed towards sustainable ends, and cited a few examples in California where I believed that this was happening. He stuttered out some non-answer and moved on...
But still, he is worth reading.

Posted by: Peter on May 12, 2006 8:38 PM

Did you know that Princeton University is putting up a Frank Gehry building right in the middle of its bucolic Gothic campus? It's funny to watch the Establishment disgracing itself, but still...

Posted by: Brian on May 12, 2006 11:38 PM

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