The Atlantic, June 2010

Several interesting pieces this time:

How the private sector could build railways again, and save neighborhood life in the USA in the process

Mark Bowden explains the Conficker worm and the threat it may represent to computers on and off the internet. 

A piece on the revival of some centuries-old recipes for mixed drinks at fashionable bars in London.  The “shrub” sounds alarming, but might be delicious. 

There are lots of witchcraft trials in the Central African Republic; here‘s an attempt to see the bright side of that state of affairs.

Benjamin Schwarz isn’t impressed with the “New Urbanism,” and tries to dismiss the reading of Jane Jacobs’ works that has inspired many in that movement. 

Michael Kinsley adds a column to the already enormous amount of coverage given to the political movement known as the “teabaggers.”   This paragraph contributes something of value to the discussion:

“I like what they’re saying. It’s common sense,” a random man-in-the-crowd told a Los Angeles Times reporter at a big Tea Party rally. Then he added, “They’ve got to focus on issues like keeping jobs here and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.” These, of course, are projects that can be conducted only by Big Government. If the Tea Party Patriots ever developed a coherent platform or agenda, they would lose half their supporters.

I suspect Kinsley is right and “Big Government” is needed to keep jobs in the USA and lower the cost of prescription drugs, but the big government we actually have doesn’t seem to be geared to accomplishing either of these goals.  Quite the contrary, in fact. 

James Parker tries to find something interesting to say about pop star Lady Gaga.  I don’t think he succeeds, but I do think that it’s a waste that someone who is not a drag queen has monopolized the name “Lady Gaga.”




    Hmm. I read the review twice and don’t see anything like that. It doesn’t say a word about New Urbanism. Seems like everybody involved (Sorkin, Zukin, and Schwartz) like the fine grain of Greenwich Village. Well, so do New Urbanists, which is why NU codes and plans support places like that. Uses change quickly over time, but form tends to endure, particularly if protected by a zoning code that reflects physical character. On my own fine-grained Main Street in Philadelphia, Banana Republic has left the fieldstone building it occupied for a decade. Other shopfronts stand empty. Times change, but good buildings remain and walkable frontages invite walking. Protect all such places for adaptive reuse, for the uncertain future.

  2. My previous comment was supposed to have this quote above it, which originated on this blog, apparently anonymously:
    Perhaps he isn’t impressed with it, but it doesn’t say that in his review.

  3. ….and is apparently designed to disappear. Well, you’ll figure it out.

  4. acilius

     /  May 29, 2010

    @Sandy Sorlien: Thanks for the comments! It’s good to have you here.

    I think that when Schwarz says that Jacobs and others understate the role that deindustrialization played in creating the kinds of spaces she admired, he’s taking aim at the New Urbanists. They’re trying to make permanent something that, by his lights, was just a transitional stage in the life of NYC. Also at the end, the bit about “props” in a drama of community life looks to me like a rather harsh swipe at Jacobs, the New Urbanists, and the idea of community in general. It’s harsher than Schwarz usually is and goes against views he’s expressed elsewhere, so I detect a whiff of deadline about it.

  5. I think *you’re* taking aim at the New Urbanists, whoever you are. That’s fine if you want to make a case, but how about a fair characterization of the article on your blog? As an aside: I just got back from Glenwood Park, redevelopment of an Atlanta brownfield site by Dover Kohl. Beautiful fine-grained neighborhood, inhabited, and evolving. Perfect? No. Needs transit, needs a hardware store… but its form has allowed it to have those things in the future.

  6. acilius

     /  May 29, 2010

    Oh, quite the contrary. I’m all for the New Urbanism, and was registering my irritation with Schwarz’ piece. I don’t want to be unfair to Schwarz, since he has in the past written with sympathy about the aims of the movement, but surely his last two paragraphs in particular would have to be characterized as unfairly dismissive.

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