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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles

“By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities”*…

Concept renderings of Robert Moses’ proposed LOMEX (Lower Manhattan Expressway), drawing by Paul Rudolph. Courtesy of Library of Congress

… yes, but in what, Christopher Moon-Miklaucic asks, does that wisdom inhere?

The [Robert] Moses and [Jane] Jacobs debate begins as a disagreement over the future of New York City but ends up becoming a much larger representation of two divergent views of the fate of cities. If Jacobs saw in cities, life, diversity, and complexity, Moses saw infrastructure, efficiency, and the act of building. Robert Caro famously dubbed him the “Power Broker”, symbolizing a top-down, large-scale approach to planning, while Jacobs was seen as the “eye on the street”, in many ways epitomizing a much smaller-scale reading of the city as viewed from the handlebars of her bicycle. Despite looking at the city from different angles, and offering wildly different solutions to improving city life, both Jacobs and Moses were ultimately critics of utopian planners such as Ebenezer Howard, Daniel Burnham, Le Corbusier and other “order obsessed” types. Unsurprisingly, planners have long been fascinated by these two characters, who have been simultaneously celebrated and polarizing. Their disagreements have often served as a proxy of both the power and importance of citizen participation, but also its striking limitations. Today, the debate is being reassessed because despite the romantic allure of Jacobs, the efficiency of the planning process and its ability to strive for change while taking into account a wide variety of needs is still in question, and a longing for Moses’ adept ability to navigate bureaucracies seems to be resurfacing…

[The author unpacks the history of the disagreement, and unpacks the duelling principles/imperatives at work on each side…]

…It might be too simple to say that Jacobs’ view was ethically and morally correct. Clearly, planners should strive to ensure that the will of the people is represented adequately and equally in the plans put forth by developers and local governments. The issue, though, is that Jacobs criticized city planning, but not the “big economic and social forces” that originated many of the projects she opposed. In other words, Moses wasn’t completely alone in his undertaking to shape New York City. There were powerful vested interests behind his actions as well, and his accomplishment was the ability to “get things done” in a manner that most wouldn’t expect of municipal government. If planning is often criticized for being too slow, and even when communities are involved the equity results remain suboptimal, Moses seems to represent an alternative, more efficient approach.

Skepticism of a perfunctory model of citizen participation, which still often rests in procedural and consultative arrangements, may be the reason behind the rehabilitation of Moses and the shifting of the narrative underlying the debate. Perhaps within a context of an ever-changing world that is obsessed with instant gratification, Moses as “America’s greatest builder” is seen as the type of planner needed in order to quickly and efficiently improve current conditions, whereas Jacobs is seen as the “champion of stasis”, content with the status quo and seeking to stifle inevitable change and progress. To some, the Jacobean ideology of community-based planning might represent a decline in the authority and influence of the planner, leading to a nostalgic longing for the golden age of Moses, when planners were considered masters of their domain and free from the bureaucratic shackles that often limit large-scale developments.

Ultimately, the Moses and Jacobs debate remains relevant to planners today because it serves as a proxy for the power and limitations of citizen participation. If the planning sphere often links Jacobs’ life and work to a recently emerging style of communicative action planning, the criticisms of the approach are part of the reason Moses’ legacy is being rewritten. To some, Jacobs’ ideologies have led to a style of city planning that is too cautious and self-reflective, and Moses’ top-down methods symbolize planning that asserts itself in order to focus less on process and more on outcomes. If not slightly alarming, this shift in narrative should lead the planning profession to ask itself a difficult question which lurks within the shadows of this debate: what do we value more, the effects planning decisions have on communities and people, or the physical act of building and getting things done?

A half-century-old debate about New York City’s urban development continues to evoke a multitude of controversies in planning: “Robert Moses, Jane Jacobs, and the Ever-Changing Role of the Planner,” from @chris_moonm in @TDocumentarian.

* Socrates

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As we ponder planning, we might that it was on this date in 1781 that El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles (“The town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels”; in common use, Pueblo de los Ángeles) was settled. By the 20th century it became known simply as Los Angeles.

A map situating the original settlement in more modern Los Angeles

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 4, 2022 at 1:00 am

“It was impossible to tame, like leeches”*…

A replica of the Tempest Prognosticator in the Whitby Museum. (Badobadop/Wikimedia Commons)

Or maybe just not worth it…

If you’re like me, one of the few remaining artifacts of the pre-Internet age that you’re able to regularly revel in is the mail order catalog. I particularly love the desk toys highlighted they show off—often, some of the most luxurious are vintage weather prediction devices. Today’s tedium is about the Victorian “Tempest Prognosticator,” a vintage weather forecast device you’re not likely to see as a desk toy any time soon—because maintaining one also means taking care of a dozen leeches…

George Merryweather, a member of Whitby, North Yorkshire’s then-thriving intellectual scene, masterminded the “Tempest Prognosticator” as a years-long hobby that culminated in its public display in 1851.

As a physician, Merryweather would already have been quite familiar with leeches, but in his essays, Merryweather said he was inspired by a poem, which spoke of how the common “medicinal leech” tends to move up in a jar of rainwater as a storm nears, then settle to the bottom in clear conditions…

To harness this instinct, Merryweather placed 12 leeches in their own jars of rainwater, arranged in a circle to keep each other company. Atop each jar, he rigged a piece of whale bone to a chain that, when yanked, would hit a bell he had placed in the center. As leeches rose to the top of their jars in advance of a storm, they would come into contact with the bone and sound the bell. The more bells that sounded, the more likely there was to be a storm, and the more intense it was likely to be…

At the time, consensus among the leech-invested appears to have emerged that these behaviors were due to the creatures’ innate ability to sense electromagnetic energy gathering in advance of a storm. Merryweather himself was a major proponent of this belief, dedicating a significant portion of his essays to reiterating Michael Faraday’s contemporary work on electromagnetism.

Unfortunately for him, we now know this acknowledgement was likely both unnecessary and uncalled-for. Leeches’ faculties for weather prediction turn out to actually be pretty patchy, and their “instincts” for this are far simpler than it seemed to him at the time. Leeches “breathe” through their body walls by absorbing the dissolved oxygen in the water they inhabit. When atmospheric pressure drops, a fractional amount less oxygen remains dissolved, and they move toward the surface, where the water is more oxygen-rich.

In effect, the “Tempest Prognosticator” was one of the world’s most elaborate barometers…

More of the remarkable story– and what it can teach us– at “The Leech Machine,” from Nathan Lawrence (@NathanBLawrence) in @ShortFormErnie‘s wonderful @readtedium.

* Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Who Could That Be at This Hour?

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As we consult the Almanac, we might recall that on this date in 1949, after two days in which a few flakes fell, Los Angeles “enjoyed” a real snow fall.

Snow at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, La Cañada Flintridge, January 1949. Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL Archive.

“There was something very attractive in all the hidden places, the hidden histories”*…

In the late 1970s, Asian restaurants in California’s cities started booking some unlikely dinner entertainment: punk bands…

Bill Hong was a Cantonese immigrant dad in his late 40s, running a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood with his sister Anna Hong and her husband Arthur, when two young promoters approached him with a business proposition: What did Hong think about renting out the restaurant’s upstairs banquet hall on the evenings when it wasn’t being used?

It was 1979, and LA was struggling. The entire country had plunged into a deep recession just a few years prior, and now Chinatown and the city’s downtown areas were falling into disrepair. More recent Chinese immigrants had started moving to suburban enclaves like the San Gabriel Valley, bypassing Chinatown and its businesses completely; the non-Chinese customers who used to flock to the neighborhood for exotic chow mein dinners were now avoiding downtown altogether.

When Bill Hong said yes to the promoters, he was trying to be practical. He knew the restaurant needed more customers; maybe letting a few young bands play could help bring them in. He never could’ve foreseen that his family’s establishment, the Hong Kong Low—located on a small street called Gin Ling Way—would become a focal point for a seminal music scene: West Coast punk.

Nor did he know how many times the restaurant’s toilet would get smashed in the process.

Hong’s restaurant—known as the Hong Kong Café to showgoers—was far from the only Asian restaurant to incubate the California punk scene. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, from Sacramento to San Francisco, some of the state’s most important punk venues were actually Chinese and Filipino restaurants. At eateries like Sacramento’s China Wagon and Kin’s Coloma, or San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens, now-iconic bands such as X, the Germs, and Black Flag played some of their most memorable early gigs. The Hong Kong wasn’t even the first place in LA’s Chinatown to host gigs: the restaurant across the courtyard, Madame Wong’s, had already been doing the same for at least a year…

Su Tissue of the Suburban Lawns performing at the Hong Kong Café, 1979. Photograph by John Brian King.
Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys, performing at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens—otherwise known as the “Fab Mab”—in 1979 (the same year he ran for mayor of SF). Photograph by Mike Murphy.
Withdrawl, known as Sacramento’s best local punk band at the time, playing at Kin’s Coloma, 1981

Tour the venues: “How Chinese Food Fueled the Rise of California Punk,” from Madeline Leung Coleman (@madelesque)

* “Punk rock, when I was a part of it, was called ‘the underground.’ There was something very attractive in all the hidden places, the hidden histories.” – Mary Harron

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As we muse on the mosh, we might recall that this date in 1979 was “Fleetwood Mac Day” in Los Angeles, as the group was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (about 6 miles northwest of the Hong Kong Café).

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“I’d rather create a miniature painting than a Taj Mahal of a book”*…

Kieran Wright has been in Los Angeles for only three years but has fallen head over heels for his adopted hometown’s landmarks. The 28-year-old from New Zealand spent this spring and summer meticulously crafting miniatures of some of his favorite L.A. places including the Tiki Ti in East Hollywood and the New Beverly Cinema in Fairfax. “I have this deep appreciation of Southern California’s iconic architecture,” he says. “I love driving around looking for old buildings.”

At the beginning of this year, Wright was furloughed from his job marketing Australia as a travel destination and was looking for something new. During his down time, he visited the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and marveled at the complexity of the 14-inch diorama of Disneyland. “I could stare at that for hours,” he said. “It inspired me to give it a go myself.”

A short time later he was having lunch with a friend at Rae’s coffee shop in Santa Monica when he was struck with the notion of recreating the 1958 restaurant in miniature and started photographing every canted angle and bit of neon in preparation for his first model…

The full story (and more pix) at: “This Man Has Spent Quarantine Making Ridiculously Meticulous Miniatures of L.A. Landmarks.”

Long-time readers will know of your correspondent’s fascination with minatures, e.g., Wright’s New York City compatriot.

* Mohsin Hamid

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As we muse on the miniscule, we might recall that it was on this date in 1919 that the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Chicago White Sox to win the World Series. In what became known as the “Black Sox scandal,” eight members of the White Sox were accused of throwing the series (in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein, Aiden Clayton and Aaron Nelson). The hit to baseball’s reputation was sufficiently severe that the sport appointed the ostentatiously-upright federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis the first Commissioner of Baseball.

Landis banned the six players; and even after their acquittal at trial in 1921, refused to reinstate them. The punishment was eventually defined by the Baseball Hall of Fame to include banishment from consideration for the Hall. Despite requests for reinstatement in the decades that followed (particularly in the case of Shoeless Joe Jackson), the ban remains.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 9, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Have you ever bitten a red hot ice cube? That’s curry”*…

 

curry

Sir Joseph Paxton, “Capsicum ustulatum,” Paxton’s Magazine of Botany and Register of Flowering Plants, 1838

 

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and the entire world changed: slavery, war, disease, colonization, and an immense transfer of wealth to Europe. And with that wealth too came New World nightshades—potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, peppers of all kinds. It took some time for these fruits and vegetables to plant themselves into European cuisine. The tomato, for example, wasn’t widely used in Italian cuisine until the eighteenth century. But what about food further out from Europe? What about India?

Soon after Columbus’ first expedition, the treaties of Tordesillas and Saragossa divided the oceans of the newly-known world. The Portuguese effectively took the Atlantic and Indian oceans, while the Spanish took the Pacific. With that, the Portuguese established forts and trading posts along India’s Malabar coast. In time, aloo (potato), tamātar (tomato), and mirchī (chilies) were available on the western coast of the Indian subcontinent. Later, the English set up their first trading posts in India in the eastern Gangetic plain, bringing these same staples into North India.

So what was curry like before Columbus? Well, curry didn’t exist…

The pre-history of one of the world’s most– if not in fact the world’s most– popular family of dishes: “Curry Before Columbus.”

* Terry Pratchett

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As we dig in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that the Hollywood Bowl opened (after a few years of operation, in a less-finished state, as the “Daisy Dell.”  It’s shell-shaped amphitheater set into a hill, against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood Sign to the northeast, it has been the summer home of the L.A. Philharmonic and host to hundreds of other musical events each year.

300px-Hollywood_bowl_and_sign source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 11, 2020 at 1:01 am

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