29.1.09

<<< Newsflash Friday >>>

Sidewalk Rating: Geological

The sidewalks are snowy, and its the time of year when snowbanks pile up and collect themselves in odd ways. They persist, eroding and striating, slowly over time. The funniest things happen, infinite variegations of ice and snow and everything in between form stalagmites of the most curious nature. Ice turns into dollops of drops freezing onto the concrete like Pollock. The funniest things happen on the way to the bus stop...

For example, here is a foot divot:



This formed over time, as many feet fought through the ever-mounting snowbank... gradually it formed its crevasse. Today it looks more asymmetrical, as the occasional wayward footstep wore away the starboard parts. How is this any different from Utah buttes?


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A cover of a John Prine called 'Sabu visits the Twin Cities alone'...


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Speaking of music, I like this song about the midtown Greenway.


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It's wonky, but here's Uber-Geographer David Harvey's recent piece on how democracy and urban planning should operate together.

One step towards unifying these struggles is to adopt the right to the city as both working slogan and political ideal, precisely because it focuses on the question of who commands the necessary connection between urbanization and surplus production and use. The democratization of that right, and the construction of a broad social movement to enforce its will is imperative if the dispossessed are to take back the control which they have for so long been denied, and if they are to institute new modes of urbanization. Lefebvre was right to insist that the revolution has to be urban, in the broadest sense of that term, or nothing at all.


He uses 1850s Paris to talk about how capitalism pervades the cityscape... mostly at the expense of democratic public space.

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Here's an excellent writeup with photos of some of the sidewalks in San Francisco / Oakland, CA, and how the width of streets makes a huge difference in terms of creating space on streets.


It looks like a great blog.

27.1.09

Signs of the Times #11


['Warning upside-down construction worker' sign in Savannah, GA.]





Clary Co.
Still Here!
Downstairs
(Basement)

[Sign on door on University Avenue, Saint Paul.]




INTERTEL

[Sign on sidewalk in Brookline, MA.]





New Plants
no beer
no butts
no trash

[Sign in flowerpot in Boston, MA.]




['Careful! Hula-Hooper Crossing' sign at Logan Airport in Boston, MA.]

25.1.09

Twin City Sidewalks on the radio!

I was interviewed a few weeks ago for the Weekly Minnesota Notebook Newscast on Radio K.



Check it out if you wanna hear me gush about sidewalks and this blog. Many thanks to Ryan Wilson over at Radio K.

23.1.09

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #14

Edward G. Robinson is stuck on a noir sidewalk ...





... in the mugging scene that gets him into Joan Bennett's troublesome arms in Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street (1945).

22.1.09

Crossing Guards of the World, Unite!

I've written about this corner before, which despite its bourgeois pretension, is really a terrific Twin Cities neighborhood with terrific sidewalks.

But I was hanging out near Carter Avenue the other day, and saw what must be a twice-daily sight in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood... the crossing guard parade.


[Kidlins crossin' the streets on Carter Avenue.]


It's such fun to watch these kids fearlessly parade out into the crosswalk and wave their giant orange flags in front of cars, which become utterly helpless before this group of highly-visible munchkins. I like it for a lot of reasons:

First, it completely upends the typical power relationship between machines and people, so that even the smallest people rule over even the largest SUVs. Compare this to the way in which children are clutched by parents along every other busy street. This image strikes me as far and away more just.

Second, to all appearances, the kids are actually in charge. Sure, there's probably an adult hovering overhead somewhere, making sure sharp sticks stay out of eyes, etc. But, these kids seem to me to be self-determined, in charge of their one task... making the streets safe for pedestrianism.

[Adults watching trustfully as their children stand in the middle of the road.]


And finally, crossing guards are a sign that kids are actually walking to school. No more paranoia about abduction... down with lazy, bored, and fat children! Instead, we have the noble virtues of fresh air, exercise, and exploration. Plus, it's far cheaper and better for the environment.

Of course, I'd like to see more of this, but it's an incredibly difficult task to change a school dynamics from a car- to a foot-culture. Growing up, my schools all had huge parking lots.

20.1.09

Epantsipation Proclamation

I've long been a fan of Improv Everywhere. Their work does volumes to illustrate why cities are such interesting places.

One of the basic city behavior principles that they illustrate is this: When one person does something it can be creepy. When everyone does it, its A-OK!

The perfect example? Pantsless subway riding. This has long been a tradition in New York, and this year has taken hold on our very own TC light rail.




Warning: Don't try this alone. You're liable to go to jail.