Monday, February 8, 2010

Montgomery County sex-party host must role-play by the zoning rules

From the Washington Post, an article so hysterically true that it should be satire.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Americans Outraged at Sudden Realization Interstate Highways Are Government-Run

A brilliant post from the Beast... even the graphic is the dog's bollocks.

"As the debate continues to rage on over whether or not the U.S. should include a public, government-funded plan in its healthcare reform, many citizens abruptly noticed that the federal government funds and regulates all Interstate Highways in the nation, and has done so for over 50 years.

Now, many are up in arms over the largest public works project in history, which has somehow gone unnoticed since the mid-20th century.

"I can't believe I didn't think of this before," said conservative analyst Paul Dobson, slapping his forehead in disbelief. "We were all so focused on the idea of the government ruining healthcare forever that we forgot how President Eisenhower -- who was obviously tricked by President Barack Hussein Obama -- already ruined our highways by building and then socializing them in the 1950s."

Go visit them for the rest ...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

High Line voted top place for urban stonage

Marseille, 4:36 EDT.

In a first for a rookie urban space, the Walter Benjamin Society for Urban Stonage announced Thursday that New York City's new bourgeois jewel, the HighLine, had been chosen as the top urban space for wandering around high making pointed comments about society, capitalism, urban development and pretty people. Voter's cited it's brilliant use of native plants and landscaping to highlight the vigorous mix of prewar buildings and New York's first decent modern architecture in ages, and it's outstanding collection of uberrich South Americans, young lovers, and people from Jersey. "To find a place that central to pretty much everything and be able to float above the street like a postmodern Baudelaire is just fucking awesome," noted Genevieve Maisonneuve, a delegate from Sheboygan.

As is often the case at the Benjamin Society annual meetings, the flaneurie awards votes were loud, intense and incoherent, with a vocal European contingent vociferously opposing the selection of the Highline. Some argued that it was too soon, while others disagreed with the sudden fetishization by some society members with the railroad truck turned pretty planted promenade. "Look, I have nothing against New York. It is a great city," said Tordsten Albroek from Freiberg. "But my colleagues only love it because it is so unAmerican (sic). For the first time you are actually seeing an alternative to it's shitty streets, which is a big reason they have such shitty cities. I mean fuck, you should see what happens with these American urbanists come see our bike lanes and pedestrian spaces. They are so excited they start to stutter slightly and jiggle around like they have to pee. And that is the sober ones."

Others felt that the massive billboard of Posh and Becks in their underwear gave the HighLine an unfair advantage, as it was a temporary visual, emotional and psychological orgy that could easily be replaced by an ad for Burger King. This too was rebutted by those who argued that the ginormous sign of two of the world's most attractive and richest people would most likely be replaced by some other monument to sex, beauty and capitalism which at least theoretically should be of equal or even greater interest. They argued in fact that the board served as a rotating gallery of sensory information that stood nicely in the urban gaze between the city and the Sunday strollers, and should be included as a permanent part of the urban experience.

This may be the last year that the East Coast is strongly represented in the awards. With the proliferation of legal medical marijuana in western states, the Benjamin society is considering abandoning its spiritual and intellectual roots in Europe and relocating to Hollywood, as society members seek to take advantage of the fact that the herb in Cali is just off the hook right now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hipsters Officially an Ethnic Group

Following a brochure announcement by the Heart of Brooklyn Partnership which describes the greater Prospect Heights area as one where "you can encounter Caribbean, Hasidic or American hipster cultures," the Census department announcement plans to count the skinny-jeaned wonders in the upcoming decennial count of Americans. Preliminary evidence suggests that they/we are fucking everywhere.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

French fire coach after poor showing on the Planetizen 100

The Societe General d'Urbanisme in Paris announced today that Jean Baudrillard, the noted postmodernist intellectual and urbanist who was expected to lead France to a strong showing on this years list, has been removed as coach of the French team. Baudrillard, who is dead, defended his leadership of the French team, which was shut out completely from the top 20, and placed only four thinkers on the list overall.

"Our team was well prepared to think deeply about the metropolis and the contemporary urban experience. We produced excellent theory, and were simply blindsided by the fact that the voters considered porches more important than critical thinking."

The porch reference is due to the fact that the New Urbanists dominated the list, placing two of their own Andres Duany and Christopher Alexander, in the Top 3. The top French performers, Pierre L'Enfant and Baron George Haussmann, came in 21st and 22nd respectively.

Many close observers of the French team argue that internal dissension is at least part of the problem. Haussman reacted furiously that L'Enfant, whose design for Washington DC was ultimately overwritten by the American Congress, could place higher than he, the man who single-handedly rewrote Paris and urban modernity. There were some in Paris who were celebrating the victory of Henri Lefebvre (28) over Richard Florida (29) as a sign that the right to the city may just trump the creative class, but overall the feeling on the streets of Paris is bleak.

Commented one young parisian urbanist on the last second victory of Emily Talen over famed Situationist Guy Debord for 84th place, "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Editorial: The Heeb 106

In a sign of disrespect for the importance and sexiness of urban planning, the editors at Heeb Magazine declined to include a category for urbanists in their recent Heeb 100 list of the hippest, coolest young Jews. Despite sit-ins and protests outside of Heeb's offices, they refuse to budge from their position that fashion is more important or interesting than sewage or bike lanes.

We at Saturbia recognize that it would be all but impossible to select a half-dozen enterprising members of the tribe from amongst then legions of Jews engaged in urban activities these days. Therefore, we will examine another Top 100 list - Planetizen's Top 100 Urban Thinkers of All Time - to nominate candidates for what will surely be an important category in the 2010 Heeb list.

Despite some internet reports, there is little evidence that the #1 person on the list, St. Jane Jacobs, is Jewish, despite a good last name. This means that the leading Jewish urbanist of all time is...

7. Lewis Mumford. It seems that Mumford's feelings towards his Jewishness were highly ambivalent, as were his feelings about cities, people and anything that wasn't the medieval city. Makes him similar to Max Weber (definitely not a Jew) or Robert Park (Jew), except that neither of them managed to make the list.

20. Jaime Lerner. Heeb, are you listening? Do you even know there are Jews in Curitiba, Brazil, let alone ones that are working to redo how you move about the city?

23. Robert Moses. Alas. Just like Lerner, albeit the opposite.

27. Scott Bernstein. Everyone is excited about Scott making the list - he's young, cute, knows a lot about cargo and WATOD and TOD and lots of other cool things. Heeb, this guy is cover material, assuming he is actually Jewish.

31. Bruce Katz. An urban wonks wonk, Herr Katz and his Brookings team keep it real with great reports that you can get for free, cite and look smart. And what a good, strong, American Jewish name. Could be president of the shul.

There are of course a handful of others, complicated only by all of the Germans and German Americans whose names sound Jewish but probably are not. Yet we at Saturbia must mention the patron saint of Jewish urbanism, #58 Walter Benjamin, arguably the first urban hipster intellectual. Heeb, are you listening?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Planner on vacation solves critical urban issues in unsuspecting global city

In a bold, three-step maneuver over the past two weeks, an American urban planner on a fortnight’s vacation in Istanbul has developed a clear and concise mental map for solving the burgeoning global city’s nagging problems through a new urban politics. The city, which has doubled in size since his last visit in 1995, tempers its glorious scenery, deep and complex patrimony and vibrant artistic and intellectual scenes with brutal traffic, an inadequate public realm and a growth machine threatening to wreak havoc on its human, built and natural environments.

“It’s really quite simple,” said Arthur Schatzburg, between sips of Efes™ while sitting in a funky outdoor café in Cihangir after a particularly challenging five lira yoga class at a nearby studio. “First of all, the global city discourse is a canard in the case of Istanbul. You could argue that it was one of the first global cities, and has always been a major crossroads of capital flows. The question is not how to resist globalization, but how to make the current round of globalization work for the majority of Istanbullers, as opposed to just a few. This stance will infuriate the radical Turkish left, but they just need to study judo and adopt a progressive community benefits framework where they insist on getting something out of development, as opposed to nothing, which is what is currently happening.”

“Second, this shift towards a community benefits framework will enable planners to focus on making the city more livable, which is its largest problem. The flight of the upwardly mobile middle classes to gated communities on the periphery is akin to suburbanization in the United States a generation ago. The core is hard to live in – too much traffic, terrible pedestrian realms, little access to parks and nature, almost impossible to bike without being killed. Take the Barbaros/Buyukdere corridor, the main boulevard going from Besiktas in the historic center through the burgeoning corporate towers of the Levent and now Maslak. Buyukdere may mean big stream or big river in Turkish, but in Istanbul it means big pedestrian nightmare that tears through the city and leaves dense older neighborhoods isolated from one another. It is a grade-level Cross-Bronx Expressway. People may associate Moses with Hausmann, but they are very different. This is pure Moses in Istanbul. Buyukdere and Tarlabashi Blvd. are just urban highways designed for movement. At least Hausmann built sidewalks. The only chances for leisurely flannerie in Istanbul is on Istiqual Street, which explains why it is so packed and popular, or the new shopping malls. Even walking on the street in bourgeois Bebek means dodging cars in between bites of waffle. The city must begin to extract concessions from the developers to rebuild the public realm in and around these development corridors, ensuring that local residents’ ability to walk to transit, to shopping and to parks and plazas is increased.”

“Third, this emphasis on livability may be the key to providing any sort of political traction to the various forces looking for a new direction for development in Istanbul. Right now, developers are running the show, and transportation planners seem to be operating in a vacuum, building two systems that barely talk to each other and certainly don’t communicate with the street and the neighborhoods. But opposition is tricky – the neighborhoods under threat of eviction are very different from each other and are having a hard time coming together across class and ethnic divides. The opposition to the third bridge is broad but shallow, and it is facing a powerful machine being driven from both Ankara and Istanbul, not to mention Dubai and London. Livability is about the little things – the ability to get where you need to go in less than two hours, the ability not to be killed by a minibus, the ability to get some exercise if you can’t afford the gym. This does not substitute for basic civil rights in a democracy or basic human rights under capitalism, but it is one thing that we all have in common. Poor people’s movements in urban cities ignore the middle classes at their own peril, and this could be one discursive shift that can restructure the redevelopment machine. It may not stop the third bridge, but perhaps it can work to shift ‘regeneration’ policy from an emphasis on buildings to an emphasis on the public realm, accessibility and mobility.”

In response to challenges from more learned colleagues native to Istanbul who actually have PHD’s and have been working on Istanbul’s problems for years – challenges which ranged from the difficulty of doing any of this given the power of capital and a semi-autocratic and highly centralized state to Schatzburg’s stunning naïvete and classic western arrogance – Schatzburg took another sip of his beer and continued talking about sidewalks and how awesome the Metrobus would be if you could get there without feeling like you were going to die.