Saturday, April 10, 2010

Design debate

"People are passionate about design and architecture and the internet has generated a whole new way to discuss it. Design websites have a high level of debate compared to sites on other subjects." - Marcus Fairs
Mr. Fairs is the impresario of dezeen, which draws a million visitors a month. Making a comparison to print would be even more dramatic, given what passes for debate on the pages of the leading design and architecture journals. Just finding a writer on architecture as good as Catherine Slessor is pretty hard these days. There are still a few print-based critics who maintain the tradition, like Trevor Boddy (of late) and Chris Hawthorne. Architect's Journal and the Architectural Review provided a real debate a generation ago, when they had AD as a prod. They still do, but not so consistently or frontally. (The quote is from Nicole Sweingley, "Click to chic," Financial Times, 10-11 April 2009, "House & Home," US edition, page 1.)


I could never look after it myself. That's why we have four gardeners to look after the estate, which includes 15 acres of woodland we've been restoring; an Italian garden; an orchard of peaches, apricots, and apples; and a herd of alpacas. - Sir Bob Worcester
Sir Bob, once at McKinsey, labors on, feeding money to his castle in Kent (described above) and his houses in London and the Caribbean. He hails from Kansas, and always wanted a castle.
Not like you or me. (From the home section of the Financial Times, 10-11 April 2010, US edition, page 3)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Venice & China

It was at this time of rapid industrialization that Venice became the victim of its earlier extraordinary success. Its victories at sea, its conquest of the Terraferma, its command over the northern Italian balance of power combined in enabling it to absorb the effects of the ongoing world contraction without having to reorganize and restructure its governmental and business institutions. - Giovanni Arrighi
Reading this made me think of China, which sails on, apparently the exemplar for a new age. It also made me wonder if Taiwan won't emerge in the end as the seed bank of the more robust form of government China will need - the only one, really, in all of Greater China, now that Hong Kong has been co-opted by its parent (despite heroic rear-guard efforts by its democrats). Singapore is what China looks toward, a corporatist state. It may work for a city, but can it work for China? M. Braudel (Arrighi's source) has his doubts. (The quote is from The Long Twentieth Century, Verso 2010, page 186.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Public vs. private

In 2009, the average state or local public employee received $39.66 in total compensation per hour versus $27.42 for private workers. For every $1 in pay and benefits a private employee earned, a state or local government worker received $1.45. - Wall Street Journal
As the Financial Times noted earlier this year, federal workers make twice what private workers make, on average. The ratio for state and local workers is less, but those governments are also in much worse shape than the feds (since they can't print money). The pension overhang alone is vast and unsupportable. Meanwhile, my own city of Berkeley is proposing to address its fiscal crisis by laying off garbage collectors, who - as I far as I can see - work hard for a living. I don't think they're the problem. ("The Government Pay Boom," WSJ, 26 March 2010, page A18.)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

On the radio

It is the very intimacy of radio that tricks you into believing that these academics speak to you and you alone; it also helps that you can't see them, so that you might in fact be closeted under some vast and capacious duvet with weighty somethings being whispered in your ear. - Will Self
At Christmas, my second son - the broadcast journalist and producer John E. Parman - told Bill McClung (of Berkeley's University Press Books) and me that radio is a much better medium than the Internet, in his opinion: faster to build an audience and easier to monetize. A few days before, he noted to me that when you have the radio on, it stays in the background, but if you hear something that interests you, you focus in. I think this is the way most listeners hear it, but I find I can't tune it out. Still, I agree with John. As a medium that predates TV and should have fallen away long since, it persists. (Quoted from "Diary," London Review of Books, 25 February 2010, page 34.)