31.7.12

Twin Cities Shop Windows #3

[University Avenue, St Paul?]


[University Avenue, St Paul.]


[Highland Park, St Paul.]


[Location Forgotten (maybe Portland?*).]


 [Selby Avenue, St Paul.]


[Stadium Village, Minneapolis?]


[Lake Street, Minneapolis.]


[University Avenue, St Paul.]


*Portland is my default answer for just about every question.

Sidewalk Poetry #23

A Street

I used to be your favorite drunk
Good for one more laugh
Then we both ran out of luck
And luck was all we had

You put on a uniform
To fight the Civil War
I tried to join but no one liked
The side I’m fighting for

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street
 

You left me with the dishes
And a baby in the bath
And you’re tight with the militias
You wear their camouflage

I guess that makes us equal
But I want to march with you
An extra in the sequel
To the old red-white-and-blue

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street


I cried for you this morning
And I’ll cry for you again
But I’m not in charge of sorrow
So please don’t ask me when

I know the burden’s heavy
As you bear it through the night
Some people say it’s empty
But that doesn’t mean it’s light

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street
 

It’s going to be September now
For many years to come
Every heart adjusting
To that strict September drum

I see the Ghost of Culture
With numbers on his wrist
Salute some new conclusion
Which all of us have missed

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street




[Montreal's Lower Main.]

30.7.12

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #74

The Joker celebrates Gotham's 200th...



... in Tim Burton's (1989) Batman.

Reading the Highland Villager #65

[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]


Headline: CIB committee recommends replacing Village’s sidewalks
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: [After many years of rejection] The St Paul Long-Range capital improvement budget committee voted to devote $300K for re-doing the [slippery when wet red brick patterned] sidewalks in “the Village” [the semi-creepy code name for the neighborhood around the Ford and Cleveland intersection in Highland Park]. The money is available thanks to a NIMBY rejection of a re-construction of the Cleveland and St Paul Avenue intersection. The debate over the sidewalk reconstruction was between "The Village’s" business community who think the current sidewalks are dangerous and rapidly deteriorating, and people who serve on the Community Improvement Budget (CIB) board who think that sidewalks shouldn’t be ranked ahead of “street and utility projects.” [I am a defender of sidewalks, FYI. The CIB ranking basically pits different parts of the city against each other for investment priorities. Ideally, those areas that most need city investment and have the most economic development potential would receive the CIB money, i.e. not just the folks that make the most noise or have the most political connections. –Ed.]  Article includes [odd recursive meta-self referential] quote about the sidewalk from local neighborhood group member: “We’ve had numerous letters to the Villager … asking when the village sidewalks will be fixed.” [This is like The Villager having a headline that says, “Concerned Citizens Write Letters to Local Newspaper Decrying Government Overreach,” where they report on their own existence. Now that I think about it, that story could replace about 29% of The Villager’s actual headlines. –Ed.]

Headline: With lawsuit pending, judge allows Pizza Luce to open new parking lot
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The lawsuit against Pizza Luce filed by  “neighborhood resident Eunice Smith” has failed to block the construction and use of the off-street parking lot on Selby Avenue by the popular [quasi-punk veggie-friendly] pizza restaurant. Article includes the apt phrase “latest salvo.” [Basically, it’s like Robert Moses said, that if you get the bulldozer working and start knocking down stuff, the project becomes inevitable and you win. –Ed.]

Headline: Vote set on land swap, funds for new ballpark
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the City Council’s vote to prepare the city’s portion of the money for the St Paul Saints’ lowertown stadium. The deal also involves a swapping of the land between the St Paul port authority and the site of the current saints stadium. Article [is really interesting actually,] includes details about funding [$10M from the Saints, $17M from the city, $1.5M from the aforementioned STAR program, and $27M from the State (hopefully)], some [unsupported and probably outrageous] claims about economic impacts [stadium will have $10M / year “economic impact, and “create 500 full- and part-time jobs”], and quotes from Saints officials, Mayor Coleman, and CM Thune. [“I don’t want to be in a position where the community doesn’t have a say in what’s happening in Lowertown.” The vote passed, incidentally, and the city is now waiting to hear what the State (read: Governor Dayton) is going to do. –Ed.]

Headline: STAR board favors 18 projects citywide
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: [The Villager is really milking the STAR board report this fortnight, and for good reason.] List of STAR grants approved by the board includes $600K for affordable housing along University Avenue, $400K for the Schmidt Brewery, $74K for a housing at Selby and Dale, $100K for the Hulme building on W. 7th, $30K for Golden’s Deli, 150K for a bakery on E. 7th, and $42K for an Eriterian banquet hall on University. [Bedlam Theater’s grant request got shot down.  -Ed.]

Headline: Prospect of installing Miracle Field at Dunning discussed [This headline is a real clunker.]
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: A district council is thinking about whether to take private money to improve a ballfield in Dunning Park.

Headline: Drivers will see new St Paul parking meters next month
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: St Paul is installing new credit card-friendly parking meters on University and around the Capitol.

Headline: St Paul budget discussion percolate in neighborhoods
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Mayor and council members are still having public meetings throughout the city to talk about the budget

Headline: Skyline Tower streetlights OK’d
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: New “lantern-style” streetlights are going in around the Skyline Tower [the large 20+ story apartment building near 94 and Hamline. –Ed].

Headline: Infighting by Union Park board raises red flag for key supporter
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Inside baseball-type dirty laundry-type] Piece on the politics of the Union Park District Council, featuring quotes from the administrator of Macalester College’s donations to the neighborhood group about “controversy and acrimony.” Quote is this: “our trustees read the Villager and they’re concerned… We’ve reviewed meeting minutes and we’re concerned.” [Another recursive Villager meta moment.] Examples cited are: conflicts between board members and neighborhood residents over Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) rankings, Pizza Luce parking lot, and the [Anti-Tommie] student housing overlay [which got expanded by city staff to include the area near Macalester, BTW]. Article includes specific residents of the district council’s secretary and editorial control over the meeting minutes. [Disclosure: this person is an acquaintance of mine.] Article includes the following quote from board member: “I’m very, very embarrassed to be on this board… I hope the individuals who aren’t getting along come to some kind of an agreement because its holding up these processes and its holding up this board.” [My sense from elevator conversations is that the Pizza Lucé issue was, above all, the one that caused the most conflict in this neighborhood group, though Macalester can’t be too happy with how the student housing situation was handled either. –Ed.]

Headline: Ayd Mill Road bike trail falls flat*
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The CIB committee voted to transfer funds that had been earmarked for the “St Paul Greenway” [see here for details] to a streetscape project on the East Side’s Payne Avenue. The projects was scuttled because of the obstinate inflexible stance by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, which owns the crucial right of way. Includes quotes from disappointed people, lots of puns. [“It was the nail in the tire for the long envisioned trail”, etc.]

Headline: How sweet it isn’t: Cupcake abandons Grand for Megamall
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Cupcake Bakery decided to open its new store at the Mall of America. Plans for the Grand Avenue location is “on indefinite hold.” Article includes understated quotes from neighborhood group president (“It’s been a big of a saga”) and CM Thune (who “echoed that sentiment”). [Article doesn't really point fingers. -Ed.]

Headline: Financing for brewery development slowly falls into place
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council approved “up to” $69M in bonds for the Schmidt brewery.

Headline: Efforts continue to save vacant Hill District homes
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version:  CM Carter III is attempting to “save” two homes that have been abandoned for years and are falling apart. One is on Iglehart; the other is on Selby.

 
*Ladies and gentlemen: Your RTHV Pun Of The Fortnight (RTHVPOTF) Winner!

27.7.12

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Halcyon


Once you caught your first glimpse of the refinery towers you were no longer in the city. There were freeways and interchanges and overpasses and then there was the sprawl of the airport and then you crossed the river and left it all behind and there was just the one straight road running south through the industrial scrub.


[Hibiscus flowers in South Minneapolis.]


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The still widely used Roman numeral V (upper-case letter ‘V') - despite appearing as a quasi-alphabetical numeral - is actually a numerical figure of a far older type, exhibiting a vestigial link to pre-symbolic tallying systems (such as the ‘five-bar gate' (see ‘one')).

[this.]

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Told through the eyes of tenants, city planners, business owners, scholars, and politicians, The Vanishing City exposes the real politic behind the alarming disappearance of New York’s beloved neighborhoods, the truth about its finance-dominated economy, and the myth of “inevitable change.”

[this.]

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Perhaps my view of things is distorted since I was born in an inner city.  I have always assumed that living in a city brought with it distinct advantages versus living in the suburbs.  In a city, one can walk to any number of things that would not be possible in a suburban environment.  For example, within walking distance of our house is a grocery store, a hardware store, a barber shop, a movie theater, a bike shop, restaurants, a bank and a liquor store among many other amenities and businesses.  I could even buy a cello if I chose to do so.

[this.] 

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26.7.12

Run For Your Life! It's the #WARONCARS

[WARNING: If running for your life, always look both ways before crossing the street.]


["Franklyn Cater": NPR reporter or Thomas Pynchon character?]
Not too long ago, in our nation’s capital, Washington DC, Franklyn Cater was having a bad day. As a reporter for noteworthy semi-quasi-public national news network National Public Radio, he had to come up with ideas for news on an exhaustingly regular basis. But after years of living in Washington DC (our nation’s capital) and doing stories on LEED certified buildings, he was tired and out of ideas. He had a deadline to meet, and nothing to show for it.

“Darn it!” Franklyn Cater yelled at his 2012 Collie-of-the-month wall calendar before forcefully placing his almost clenched hand upon his antique milkbottle collectors mousepad. “Where am I supposed to get ideas?”

Franklyn Cater wheeled his chair away his desk and began to pace. Semi-furiously he walked back and forth in an ellipse until also amusingly-named NPR colleague Cory Flintoff told him to cut it out. With purpose, Franklyn Cater strode down the hallway and turned to face the window of the NPR headquarters in Washington DC (our nation’s capital). “Darn it all!” he repeated purposefully.

That’s when Franklyn Cater noticed something he’d never noticed before. As he gazed out out at the vast city around him, Washington DC (our nation’s capital), Franklyn Cater realized that everywhere he looked cars were stuck in traffic. So many cars! He squinted his light brown eyes to see more clearly the faces of the drivers. They looked angry, Franklyn Cater thought to himself. Yes, they looked sad. They looked angry and sad, thought Franklyn, in that way that depressed people look angry and sad, where that you can tell that the anger and sadness is not just an fleeting emotional peak but rather a consistent and erosive anger and sadness, a deep pathos made all the more poignant by its everyday attrition of joy so that the intensity of feeling is almost entirely offset by its continuity and one’s emotional register is amputated by timelessness such that one's sadness assumes a haunting aura that can only be similar to how you imagine a phantom limb feels.

“Oh my gosh,” Franklyn Cater muttered imperceptibly to himself. “People hate being stuck in traffic.” Nobody noticed Franklyn Cater dancing the world’s smallest jig. “I’ll do a story about how pissed off they are,” he thought. “I bet that’s a doozy!”

And so the #WARONCARS media frame was born.

As it turns out, the great thing about doing a story about how people hate being stuck in traffic is that, because the #WARONCARS is all around us everywhere, you don’t have to do any actual reporting. It’s not like you have to go out and interview people on the bumper-to-bumper beltway. Instead, you can just browse around on the internet.

[You don't learn how to do this until the second year of J-school.]
For example, in this case Franklyn Cater went to Bing (his favorite search engine) and typed “cars” and “traffic.” Voila, Franklyn's suspicions were confirmed! Angry sad people exist not only in Washington DC (our nation’s capital) but everywhere, in cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Toronto and Boston.

Franklyn Cater had his lede:
In cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Toronto and Boston, some people go so far as to claim there is a "war on cars."

Thank goodness for “some people.” It turns out the internet is full of bitter people ranting about traffic. I’m sure you’re wondering, who are the “some people” referred to in the article?

Meet Lon Anderson, regional media representative for the American Automobile Association, a historically popular institution that makes money by catering to car drivers' insecurities. Clearly, this is a well-informed expert. How do we know? Because he has been published by the media.
Lon Anderson, chief spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, wrote an op-ed in 2010 about what he called a "war on drivers" in Washington. He says he sees it in the more than 1.6 million parking tickets issued annually in the city, not to mention increasing automated enforcement, red light cameras and speed cameras.
Good point, Lon Anderson of the mid-Atlantic branch of the American Automobile Association. It’s not like we’d want people driving cars to do things like "drive the speed limit" or "pay for parking." The next thing you know, evil government fascists will force people to get “licenses.” (Not in my America! These colors don’t run.)

Surely a city enforcing its laws concerning the movement of the automobile requires some kind of superlative suggesting extreme violence. If only there were an appropriate metaphor, you know, something properly connoting the stakes of the issue, something that captures the way that “government officials” (socialists) in their “police cars” (state-sponsored death weapons) hand out “tickets” (new taxes) to people when they don’t put money in “parking meters” (big brother invasive surveillance technology).

[Burning draft card or parking ticket to protest Vietnam or #WARONCARS.]
How about "war" as a proper metaphor? I'd go so far as to suggest that war is precisely the correct metaphor because, you know, having to pay for parking your car is just like having shrapnel rip through your leg when a bomb explodes. Because having to wait to make a right turn because a bicyclist is in front of you is just like that movie about the land mine in Kosovo where the guy is stuck on the land mine and can't move forever or else he'll die. It makes perfect sense because getting a speeding ticket for blowing through a red light is exactly like 623,000 people dying in the Battle of the Somme.

[A lot of people don't know that Picasso's Guernica is an elaborate surrealist metaphor depicting people stuck in traffic.]


Why? Because Lon Anderson, spokesperson for the Mid-Atlantic region of the American Automobile Association, says so. And if you don’t believe Lon Anderson, just continue reading. Expert witnesses abound, for example: 
Political consultant and Washington resident Chuck Thies, who has written about what he calls the "war on automobiles" for the Huffington Post, says, ultimately, that war is over resources.

For a moment, ignore the fact that everyone who lives in Washington DC (our nation’s capital) is a “political consultant”, and almost anyone can get published on the Huffington Post (which is an internet blog). You can be sure that "Washington resident Chuck Theis" is a legitimate source who knows a lot about war and is properly using language when metaphorically comparing white stripes on the asphalt to the most extreme form of violence in the history of human civilization because he is knows how to “face the reality.”

Why? Because the war on cars involves “resources,” and resources, as we all know, are "limited." Not only are they limited, but they are “essential to the economy.” Check out this illustrative example:
Some cyclists, and other nonmotorists, may have a negative attitude toward cars. But Thies, a cyclist who for years didn't own a car, says critics need to face the reality: We can't get rid of cars. They're essential to the economy, he says.
"[Cars are] the predominant form of transportation in America. In fact, it's something that we can't live without," Thies says. "When you get a refrigerator delivered ... they don't bring it on a bicycle. ... They bring it in an automobile. It's easy to vilify the automobile, but it's not productive."
 Another good point, though Theis does slightly undermine his argument about not being able to “live without” a car by inclusion of the biographical detail that he lived without a car “for years.” (Maybe he was in a coma? You don’t need a car when you’re in a coma.)

[Apparently, they don't have a #waroncars in China.]
Theis continues with an impeachable economic argument about refrigerator delivery. (Take that Milton Friedman!) Here's a joke I just heard in the elevator:

Q: Why do all Americans own cars?

A: Refrigerator delivery.

Haha LOL Get it? How could we possibly have a society filled with cooled foodstuffs without cars? How would we deliver fridges to each other?

Oh wait, hold on… I just heard the doorbell ring.

[long pause]

OK, I’m back. I had to get that. It was my refrigerator deliveryman. He comes through the neighborhood every other Thursday delivering refrigerators with his “automobile.” Thank god we live in a completely car-dependent society!

And as it turns out, the #WARONCARS isn’t just about the intractable problem of appliance distribution. Cast your eyes on this terrifying anecdote:

In Boston, a local columnist for The Boston Globe accused the mayor of waging war with a proposal to turn parking spaces into tiny parks called "parklets." Some even accuse the U.S. federal government of waging a war with money that helps cities make these kinds of changes.

Clearly for “some”, the #WARONCARS is getting more sophisticated. Not only are cities dropping parks on unsuspecting urban neighborhoods, but they’ve developed new park technology called “parklets.” In the war on cars, parklets are the analogy for the “bomblets” used by the military, by which I mean cluster bomb munitions that carpet large areas with small explosives that either explode right away and kill you or (even worse) don’t explode and bury themselves in the earth so that decades later farmers in Laos are still getting blown up when they try to plant their crops. I’d say that the only difference between a “parklet” and a “bomblet” is that the bomblet is designed to fly through the air and explode to kill human beings, while a parklet is architectural space intended to invoke pleasant and peaceful feelings.

[One of these is an unexploded cluster bomb; the other one is a park.]

As Franklyn Cater, credentialed reporter for one of our nation’s most respected journalistic institutions points out, “cast about North America and in just about any city you'll find heated rhetoric about urban transportation.” Obviously “the government” is “waging a war with money,” and the only significant difference here is that instead of shooting cruise missiles that explode to kill people as might occur in a war, in this case, you’re giving away money. The story even contains a photograph of a bike lane in Washington DC (our nations capital), so that you know the #WARONCARS is really happening. If you zoom in, you can see lots of dead bodies and maimed babies in the background.

[The  #WARONCARS is all around you. Wake up America!]

The only good thing about the #WARONCARS is that it will make journalists' lives easier, as they’ll never have to do any difficult “framing” of issues again. Never again will heads be scratched while attempting to identify which story will appear above the fold, because now there’s a #WARONCARS right here in the USA in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Seattle. Now Americans trapped in traffic jams during rush hour can tune into NPR and hear journalistic radio stories about themselves and how upset they are because they’re in a war involving terrifying 3,000 lb. rapidly moving metal machines that are constantly killing people.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it's not an exaggeration to suggest that every city in America is occupied by terrifying 3,000 lb. rapidly moving metal machines that are constantly killing people. The more that I think about it, the more this starts to ring a bell.

Hold on. Let me do some quick research.

["Bing" is the sound your car makes when it hits a 12 year old on a bicycle.]

I just found out some rather astonishing facts! Compare the amount of people who are killed in the #WARONCARS with the number of soldiers who die in the non-metaphorical war in Afghanistan:

290: Total number of pedestrians killed by cars in New York City in 2008.
295: Total number of US and UK soldiers killed in the War in Afghanistan in 2008.

Or, check out this comparison between the most protracted war in US history and the death toll from the US automobile and freeway system:

58,902: Total number of US casualties in the War in Vietnam.*
684,654: Total number of motor vehicle deaths in the USA from 1963 - 1975.

Maybe the metaphorical use of the term “war” to describe the constant movement of motor vehicles isn’t so far off after all.

* 2,118 Afghani civilians died in the Afghanistan war in 2008 according to the NY Times, which is undoubtedly a lowball estimate.
** It is estimated that 2,000,000 Vietnamese people died in the Vietnam War. I'm not sure if that includes Cambodians or what...

18.7.12

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #73

Clark Kent feints / faints...



... in Richard Donner's (1978) easy-cheesy Superman.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #72

Carl Denham delivers his postmortem...



... in Creelman and Rose's (1933) über-classic, King Kong.

New Post at Streets.mn: Vibrancy is for People

I just put up a spur of the moment reaction post at Streets.mn, taking Thomas Frank to task a bit for his anti-public art diatribe. To be frank, Frank has been annoying me. I unfairly blame him for the long slow demise of Harper's, and I'm baffled at his scapegoating artists for the even longer slower demise of the industrial Midwest. Here's my favorite highlight:
“Vibrant” joins a long list of empty planning jargon that includes “vitality,” “sustainabiltiy,”  “best practices,”  and (my doggerel champion) “stakeholder.” Gertrude Stein demonstrated long ago any word repeated enough times reduces to noise, and vibrancy is no exception. The world itself seems specially dumbing — vibrant, vibrant, vibrant — the dull notes of ‘v’ and ‘b’ thudding on the ears like a rubber drainplug. 

If midwestern cities like Ackron or St Paul are going to blow huge sums of money on mediocre economic redevelopment schemes -- and believe me, they will -- I'd much rather they spent the money on museums, street festivals, and grassroots arts programs than the typical placebos like sports arenas and casinos. Of all the possible boondoggles, supporting arts are probably one of the better choices you can make. It's not going to bring back the rubber industry, but at least you'll have people collecting old tires and making sculptural crap.

Bonus:

Here's a picture of the escalator to nowhere:

[Springfield is in Missouri, right?]