Thursday, November 8, 2012

Accidental Studies in Interior Design

Photo courtesy Flickr

This was written last week.

Churning paperwork at home, I’m watching a cheesy broadcast jet-set thriller from the late Sixties or early Seventies. Bikini-clad female deck hands with giant eyelashes are waging a pirate battle with some guy in a shiny grey suit. You know the drill. The interesting parts of this movie are the backgrounds. Looks like authentic neo-classical furniture and architecture, at least to this kid from the West End. Presumably people with big houses to maintain didn’t mind renting them out for a production. If you like this style, it’s not hard to find copies at Episcopal thrift shops. The work dates from a time when the hardwood supply was adequate. Painted a slightly yellowish white, they’re Gustavian.

A few minutes ago I tuned in to the all-Sandy all the time channel to see what was going on, and was treated to a shot of somebody’s soggy rec room, thanks to a missing wall. My great-grandmother used to exhort her daughters to wear decent underclothing when they left the house, in case they had an accident. That’s especially important in a small town. My mother chuckled when she told me the policy, but she did tell me.  

I keep this barn in decent shape so unplanned visits aren’t embarrassing (and because it’s easier that way), but I have never considered the possibility of network cameras broadcasting my design decisions to the world. Should have thought of that the day my kid quietly pointed out the iPhone in his palm. The screen displayed an unflattering shot of me ahead of him in a cafeteria line. 

-30-  More after the jump.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Even The Best Castles Are Fundamentally Disposable

Sottsass' "The Planet as Festival Project" 1972. Photo courtesy Flickr

Ettore Sottsass said that better than anyone else. We who have been spared the disruption visited by last week’s storm are in a good position to design our inventories to support rapid change and the demands it makes on our communities.

Handed a copy of Don Aslett’s Clutter’s Last Stand, in 1983 I began to consider formal inventory control as something other than what to ditch before the movers showed up yet again. I adopted Aslett’s suggestion to keep just a tiny fragment of something with great sentimental value. I took an elegant little plastic pillbox and filled it with precious thisses and thats, one of which was gathered on a personal pilgrimage to retrieve a chunk of my heart I had left years ago in a distant city.

The little medicine bag, as I call it for want of a better term, has freed countless cubic feet of space and lifted a couple of tons of inventory off my back. It’s the navel of the web site, and I’ve tapered off to the point that I believe what really counts is the family’s DNA. 

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Not Even A First Guess...

Photo courtesy Flickr

What has happened on the East Coast is inconceivable. I can’t begin to visualize the disruption, except to remember the 1962 Columbus Day storm in Portland, Oregon, an event stronger than the one portrayed in The Perfect Storm. October 12 taught me to appreciate substantial institutional Tudor architecture and to respect the nervous responses of Manhattan teenagers to a rising wind.

My first thought when composing this week’s first post was to lead with “at least they’re not glowing in the dark”. Then I remembered Fukushima and a tox-haz guy’s remark that northern New Jersey has the largest concentration of superfund sites in the country, all of which have been stirred with a big stick. 

Sandy is the ultimate housekeeping challenge, the haiku expression of which was voiced by an elder on Staten Island, who said she wanted to go home, and home wasn’t there.

My Columbus Day classmates organized a hurricane party. We sat on the floor against stout walls, drinking cheap red wine and chartreuse student home brew by candlelight. I don’t recall much hilarity or any stories, just the experience of sitting shoulder to shoulder, quietly waiting it out, and emerging at three AM into a wildly electrical world that had been transformed.

Knowing almost nothing of Sandy’s arena, my earnest hope is that the Eastern beach resorts will throw the world’s largest hurricane party over spring break, substituting fresh RV parking lots and secure camp sites for rental units, setting up locker room/laundromat combinations, and challenging the food trucks of the country to an Olympic-level competition. Then the kids who helped clean up Louisiana after Katrina/Rita can show up to teach the current generation of volunteers, undergraduate or retired, how to set right things that have gone terribly wrong.

-30-  More after the jump.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Photo courtesy Flickr

In an attempt to condition people to think and behave as if the world were round, mid-twentieth century futurist Buckminster Fuller, aka Trimtab, used the terms out and in rather than up and down. 

George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh was the prototypical global disaster fundraiser. Too soon after, Bob Geldorf was raising funds to feed more hungry people in Africa.

Last week’s Peacock network special concert was a nimble, elegant response to vast need. Nobody parachuted in: most if not all the talent was straight off the beach, their familiar material resonating in unwelcome new ways. Hand-held computers made short work of donating, and the format made short work of any urge to moralize. 

Boardwalk is a term that resonates even for me, the westerner, though only slightly. I’d like to see a fund-raising storm edition of the game Monopoly, even though designing one would mean confronting fundamental environmental and development issues. “Under the Boardwalk” is too good a song to become meaningless.

-30- More after the jump.