Saturday, July 30, 2005
The call of beef is hard to resist in Texas, especially when it smells like barbeque. Tonight I had a plate of chipped beef and fixin's from Bodacious Barbeque in Gilmer. The slaw was fine--chipped cabbage instead of julienned, which is OK--but maybe a little too much mayo. The potato salad was great, mustardy, a bit of German influence. The bread, on the other hand, was unforgivable: two slices of white bread. The meat was moist, juicy, scarlet red on the inside and charred on the outside, just as it should be. But there's no getting around it: it's the wrong animal.
The interesting thing about this story is that it's basically about a web site: Richard Pisani's futuro-house.net. People contribute to the site with Futuro sitings from all over the world. (Only about 80 of them are known to be left, most, for some reason, in New Zealand.)
My own picture of the one on Hatteras is filed under North Carolina. Along with more pictures is more information.
The Hatteras house, now silver, used to be green. It was on the other side of Hwy. 12, and it was a hot dog stand (scroll down). Paul and I remembered that much. What we didn't know is that it was buffeted about by Hurricane Dennis (1999). That's when it was moved to the other side of the road. But how did it land on Hatteras in the first place, and when? Who owns it now and what is its future?
Much about this Futuro House remains shrouded in mystery.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
"Raleigh police officials say when an officer is in full uniform and the car is visible, just cooperate." Or else.
About eight years ago, when we were new in our house, I was home
I didn't think twice about calling 911, and fortunately the person on the other end didn't either. As I remember, I was told to call any time I had a suspicion.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Today there's a new new light (a mast arm no less) on a wider highway, and the DQ has morphed into a forlorn-looking Chinese buffet. The county jail, which began by taking over a Safeway and then colonized the entire block into one big concrete block, looms over it. So much has changed in my little town, not all of it for the good.
Luckily, on the road between Gilmer and Tyler there are at least three Dairy Queens. The other night on the way home from the hospital, I stopped in at one of them for a Blizzard. The Blizzard was invented 20 years ago, which means it is new to me (I left DQ Country well before that). I had no idea--so many choices! Luckily Eric Muller steered me in the right direction: the chocolate chip blizzard. It's kind of like the original DQ soft ice cream cones with the chocolate they would pour on top that would harden to the shape of the ice cream. That was great, but when you had eaten off all of the chocolate, well, you were out of chocolate. The "chips" in the chocolate chip Blizzard are made from taking the hardened chocolate shell and blending it all up with the ice cream. (The chips that keep on giving.) I'd call this an improvement.
Now, there is a whole ritual that goes along with making the Blizzard. I paid careful attention that the chips were the real thing as Eric had described, but I'm not entirely sure that the man who served it to me actually turned it upside-down before he gave it to me to confirm its firmness. I kind of think he did, but I'm going to have to try another one to make sure.
UPDATE: Bottom's up! In Tyler, they do it by the book. Yum.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
She's in the East Texas Medical Center's rehab unit now. It's new, light and airy with helpful positive people all around. We don't know how long she will be there--a good long time we hope, for she seems far from travel-worthy. She has lots of company there, people lacking limbs or the use of them, people of many colors, all sorts and conditions of men, as the prayer book says, united by trauma and the hope of recovery. And she has a steady stream of visitors--one, even, from his room on the floor above her.
I'm staying at her house, which was never my house, a wonderful house perfectly suited to her. Until now. It is on four levels. One problem at a time. We'll worry about that one later.
I still don't know how long I'll be here. At least through next weekend I think. Weekends are tough at hospitals because of the shift differences. I'm getting the hang of being the patient's advocate.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Also recommended is my council colleague Mark Kleinschmidt's new blog. He's up at the Kennedy School of Government for three weeks in a program for state and local leaders. He's off to a great start as a blogger, and the program he's in sounds really wonderful.
This great first lines game is fun too.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Friday, July 15, 2005
The Freedom Tower, the building proposed to fill the World Trade Center site, or a least the most prominent one on that site, has been redesigned yet again. Apparently all the self-congratulatory design competitions and ceremonies for the site in the years immediately following the attack were just for show, as this most recent proposal has nothing to do with higher ideals of any sort.
The new proposal is a glass tower on a massive fortified concrete base. 20 stories (!!) high almost windowless concrete. Basically, a fortress. Or a prison. It wouldn’t look out of place to have a gun turret or anti-aircraft weaponry on the roof. My daddy’s reaction was, “this says: ‘we have no faith in the future.’” I think he’s right. The site could have stood for all that is good and open and innovative about the United States. The can-do spirit, the possibility of re-invention, tolerance of all kinds of weirdos, mixtures of a multitude of races and creeds, all living together. Sometimes the U.S. is like that anyway. And the site could be a way of saying THIS is what we believe in and what we stand for.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
"Wartime" judges are precisely what we do not need. We don't need judges who will suspend us in a state of emergency. More than ever we need judges who dare to act as if things were the same as before--who stand up for freedom and due process and democracy as we thought we knew it.
I'm still amazed at how relevant the spring 2002 issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly is. I pulled it out for Stanley Hauerwas but am drawn now to Archbishop Rowan Williams. This was the point he made then. Yes, it was natural that our first reaction to September 11 was the thought of violent retliation, but we had time. We had time to think better of it. We had time to become more, not less, of what, in our ideal imaginations, we aimed to be.
We have the freedom to think what we actually want, to probe our desires for some kind of outcome that is more than just mirroring what we have experienced. The trouble is that this means work of the kind we are often least eager for, work that will help us so to understand an other that we begin to find some sense of what they and we might recognise as good. It means putting on hold our immediate feelings--or at least making them objects of reflection; it means trying to pull apart the longing to re-establish the sense of being in control and the longing to find a security that is shared. In plainer English, it means being very suspicious of any action that brings a sense of release, irrespective of what it achieves; very wary of doing something so that it looks as if something is getting done.
It means acknowledging and using the breathing space; and also acknowledging and using the rage and revengefulness as a way of sensing a little of where violence comes from. I'd better say it again: this has nothing to do with excusing decisions to murder, threaten, and torment, nor is it a recommendation to be passive. It is about trying to act so that something might possibly change, as opposed to acting so as to persuade ourselves that we're not powerless.
The kind of judge that would meet Archbishop Williams' approval is one who would understand "that the punishment of terrorist crime and the gradual reduction of its threat cannot be translated into the satisfying language of decisive conquest." It is someone who would recognize "the place of risk and even loss in ordinary civil society" while summoning "the moral resources needed to grapple with the continuing problems of shaping a lawful international order."
I know, it's way too much to ask now. We're at war.
Also of note: a billboard for Archangel Custom Cycles--with a tie-in to a biker church. God's people are on the move.
Monday, July 11, 2005
[T]hrough violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.
This is a hard argument to make in our country today. And yet a few folks have been making it since September 12, 2001. John's essay returns me to Stanley Hauerwas, to his essay in the special Spring 2002 issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly, "Dissent from the Homeland: Essays after September 11." The entire volume is interesting to revisit, because it was written before we went to war in Iraq; almost quaintly, the bad guy is bin Laden. Hauerwas, who teaches up the road from John and me, is a deeply committed pacifist and the truest Christian I know. He writes,
American imperialism, often celebrated as the new globalism, is a frightening power. It is frightening not only because of the harm such power inflicts on the innocent, but because it is difficult to imagine alternatives. Pacifists are often challenged after an event like September 11 with the question, "Well, what alternative do you have to bombing Afghanistan?" Such a question assumes that pacifists must have an alternative foreign policy. My only response is I do not have a foreign policy. I have something better--a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill. . . .
What a gift bin Laden has therefore given America. Americans were in despair because we won the cold war. Americans won by outspending the USSR, proving that we can waste more money on guns than they can or did. But what to Americans do after they have won a war? The war was necessary to give moral coherence. We had to cooperate with one another because we were at war. How can America make sense of what it means for us to be "a people" if we have no common enemy? We were in a dangerous funk having nothing better to dothan entertain ourselves with the soap opera Bill Clinton was. Now we have something better to do. We can fight the war against terrorism. . . .
Which means Americans get to have it any way they want it. Some that are captured, for example, are prisoners of war; some are detainees. No problem. When you are the biggest kid on the block, you can say whatever you want to say, even if what you say is nonsense. We all know the first casualty in war is truth. So the conservatives who have fought the war against "postmodernism" in the name of "objective truth," the same conservatives that now rule us, assume they can use language any way they please.
That Americans get to decide who is and who is not a terrorist means that this is not only a war without clear purpose, but also a war without end. From now on we can be in a perpetual state of war. America is always at her best when she is on permanent war footing. Moreover, when our country is at war, it has no space to worry about the extraordinary inequities that constitute our society, no time to worry about povery or those parts of the world that are ravaged by hunger and genocide. Everything--civil liberties, due process, the protection of the law--must be subordinated to the one great moral enterprise of winning the unending war against terrorism.
At the heart of the American desire to win endless war is the American fear of death. . . . Americans are determined to be safe, to be able to get out of this life alive. On September 11, Americans were confronted with their worst fear--a people ready to die as an expression of their profound moral commitments. Some speculate such people must have chosen death because they were desperate or, at least, they were so desperate that death was preferable to life. Yet their willingness to die stands in stark contrast to a politics that asks of its members in response to September 11 to shop.
The notion that "no one gets out of this life alive" is classic Hauerwas, central to his ethos. As he puts it in an earlier, shorter version of this essay, "Part of the space Christians can provide at this time is the space given to us as a people who have learned . . . that the worst thing that can happen to us is not death, but dying for the wrong thing."
This is a hard position to take. It's one thing to say it, but who could live it out? Even Hauerwas, who like all of us of a certain cast of mind has a rage to explain, confines himself in this essay to a modest goal: to speak honestly. "Explanation domesticates terror, making it part of 'our' world. I believe attempts to explain must be resisted. Rather, we should learn to wait before what we know not, hoping to gain time and space sufficient to learn how to speak without lying. I should like to think that pacifism names the habits and community necessary to gain the time and place that is an alternative to revenge. But I do not pretend that I know how that is accomplished."
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Off into the mists of time . . . somewhere in the future.
Many amazements were to be found, for example Hubo,
but none so amazing, or scary, as Philip K. Dick.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Now, where the prairie was is the Univeristy of Chicago's new Graduate School of Business, designed by Rafael Vinoly.
The horizontal lines do a really nice job of relating to the icon across the street.
The Robie House is in the middle of an $8 million restoration (jump-started by Hillary Rodham Clinton's securing of a Pritzker Foundation award of $1 million). The exterior has been done; the interior has a ways to go. But they'll let you tour the work in progress, partly to encourage you to participate. The house was all that I expected, even down to the low ceilings that are supposed to make you feel suitably coccooned. But there was something you don't get in the picture books, as you mark faded carpets, crumbling foundation walls: "Time, which antiquates antiquities, and hath an art to make dust of all things, hath yet spared these minor monuments," wrote Sir Thomas Browne of some ancient urns that chance had preserved. Not even Frank Lloyd Wright's monumental structures are completely immune from the works of time and chance.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Watch one quicktime movie from the fly-by craft and another from the impact probe. Imagine, by the way, that you're going about 23,000 m.p.h. "[T]he resulting blast of icy debris stunned scientists with its size and brightness."
At our last Council meeting before our summer break, last Monday night, we finalized the budget. As you know by now, it has been a tough process, complicated by the new Town Operations Center. We ended up with an increase of 2.9 cents per $100 property valuation. With next year's debt payment on the Town Operations Center consuming around 3.8 cents per $100, please note that if it weren't for the TOC project, the tax rate would actually have gone down. The Council very much appreciates the efforts of our citizen budget review advisory committee as well as the work of town staff in helping us reach this result.
Also from Monday's agenda, I want to highlight the inclusionary zoning initiative. In April we resolved to go forward with drafting an ordinance that will be considerably stronger than our existing regulations in requiring developments to include affordable housing. At my suggestion, we are planning to go about this important project by forming a task force of citizens with particular interests in the outcome: developers, affordable housing advocates, bankers, real estate professionals, neighborhood advocates, people who need workforce housing, etc. My sense is that this community is very aware that we need to do better, and that we want to do so. I'm looking forward to the process of coming together to create an ordinance that works.
Please take a look at this item and consider joining us in this effort--or pass it along to a friend or neighbor you think would be interested.
Library Building Committee
Many of you are aware that in 2003, we passed a $16.23 million bond referendum for expanding the public library. It passed with the highest margin of any of the bonds on the ballot, reflecting the fact that Chapel Hillians are the most avid public library users in the state--by far. Because of budget issues when the current building was built, it was too small on the day it opened. The new bond money will enable us to increase the square footage of the library from 27,000 sq. ft. to 70,000 sq. ft.
The Library Building Committee, charged with helping to select a designer for the expansion and seeing the project through, met for the first time Tuesday evening. From library director Kathy Thompson we got a good review of library's master plan and the history of the project so far. We heard from town staff members who outlined various issues and challenges that will be involved in the planning and development of an expansion on this property. The library is in a park! It is situated in the middle of Pritchard Park, which has been waiting patiently to be transformed into a park until the library building's final shape takes shape.
The project will take several years to design and construct. It's exciting to be there "from the creation" (OK, "from the re-creation"). Of course, it will be a very public process, and we will welcome your participation.
On Wednesday morning I met with the work group for the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness. Our funding goal was to come up with $60,000--largely to be spent hiring a project coordinator. Orange County, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, and the Triangle United Way all generously gave what we asked for. Our request to UNC for $10,000 has not met with a response, though, so the funding we have now is $50,000. But we are still able to go ahead and solicit applications for a project coordinator for the process of creating our 10-year plan to end homelessness. By early fall, we hope to have a steering committee in place.
At Wednesday morning's meeting, we accepted an invitation to participate in a class project in UNC's School of Public Health next year. The two-semester class is called "An Action-Oriented Community Diagnosis Including Secondary Data Analysis and Qualitative Data Collection." Despite the name, it promises to be a productive way to get real, meaningful information about our homeless population and to encourage them to become more involved in the community. The best way to understand what we stand to gain from it is to see the results of a similar class conducted in Durham.
This collaboration will help us get off to a good start in achieving a real understanding of who our homeless are, what their needs are, and how those needs can best be met. I thank Kate Shirah of the School of Public Health for her presentation this morning. She said there was a lot of interest among different community groups in participating in the class, that there was only one slot left this year, and that she was saving it to see if we wanted it. I'm grateful for that.
Lot 5 & Wallace deck architecture summit
For two hours on Wednesday afternoon, the Council met again in a work session with members of the Ram Development team for more discussion about architecture. As promised, they presented us with a series of photos of various styles of urban mixed-use developments as a way of trying to get a sense of what we liked. I was not sure this process was going to be very productive--it seemed like a was a good way to ensure that we went down the road of generic, derivative architecture--but I think it was good in that the Ram team now has a clearer sense of our collective aesthetic sense.
We don't agree on everything, but we mainly do agree on the following: we don't want neotraditional, we don't want postmodern, either of which style ends up in fakery. Thumbs down on a building designed to look as if it were once an old warehouse. Many cities have old warehouses that are morphing into condos--Chicago, where I've just been, is full of them--but that's not for us. What we do want is design that is real: exposed steel beams are fine, for example (whereas nonfunctional columns making statements in the neat postmodern way are not). We like texture (wood is a nice complement) and warm colors. As I said to the Ram folks, trying to synthesize what we were hearing, I think that we have a basically modernist sensibility. I've said a little more elsewhere.
Nothing is anywhere near settled yet, but I'm confident that we're headed in the right direction. The team that will be negotiating the development agreement with Ram--which I'm on--will meet over the rest of the summer. The Ram folks will be back in September to the full Council with design sketches for consideration. I've heard from many of you who are as interested as I am in the success of this project; thanks for your comments. Please stay involved, and continue to let me know your thoughts.
Thanks as always for your interest in all that's going on here in Chapel Hill, and happy summer!
In 1900, most Americans sincerely believed there was no problem that a little "Yankee know-how" and a dash of common "American" decency couldn't fix. George M. Cohan's writing reflected this jingoistic exuberance, expressing it as no other playwright or songwriter had.
He's been called "American Theater's first mega-star." When it came to his birthdate, he didn't let facts get in the way.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Now that the early hopes of redevelopment at ground zero that would both honor the dead and speak optimistically to the living have grown dimmer and dimmer, consider Millennium Park.
Crown Fountain: the twin pillars of glass block 50 ft. high are monumental enough to stand up to a "big shoulder" skyline.
The faces change before your eyes. They're the faces of real Chicago people.
As the park turns a year old this month, architecture critic Blair Kamin (reg. req.) can hardly contain himself:
In the national conversation, Millennium Park is being hailed in some quarters as an example of how business and political leaders can pull together -- in sharp contrast to the feuding among powerful interests that has turned the rebuilding of ground zero into a textbook case of civic inertia. "One of the great new models for a new kind of urban park," The New Yorker's architecture critic, Paul Goldberger, told television host Charlie Rose on Rose's show in May.
For those who live with it every day, it may be just as important that Millennium Park has begun to fulfill its social promise, evolving into a widely used public space. . . .
. . . it is well on its way to achieving its potential as a great democratic space, a mixing chamber for people of different races and classes, who normally live entirely segregated from one another.
Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion encloses and embraces.
But for many, Cloud Gate (under wraps till late summer while the seams between the steel plates are buffed out) is the best thing about the park.
In the years that Millennium Park was under construction all anyone could talk about was the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion. People talked about the signature Gehry style that would move Chicago's architectural sensibilities from the 1970's, firmly into the new millennium. Once the protective bubble surrounding "Cloud Gate" came down, people stopped talking about Gehry as the vision of the future. They talked about the acoustics of his creation. They talked about his ability to capture the feel of the city. They talked about the view he created of the orchestra. But they stopped talking about his art. Anish Kapoor clearly stole the show and in television interviews seemed mildly embarrassed by his success.
Paul and I visited Millennium Park during a heat wave--so we didn't linger. That we stayed as long as we did is another small testament to this great big space.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
I was in law school when O'Connor was appointed in 1981, but I don't remember thrilling to it. She was a conservative Reagan appointee. Whatever effect she had on the status of women in the law, I would have to say it was uneven. Forty percent of my law school class was female. Yet when I clerked in Dallas in the summer of 1983, I got a message in no uncertain terms: the courthouse would not be a welcoming place. Women don't do well in the courtroom down here, one lawyer told me ("except in domestic relations cases"). It's just the way it is. So I high-tailed it back to Washington and never looked back.
Slate editor Dalia Lithwick, a decade my junior, writes, "Justice O'Connor is a huge mystery to most women of my generation."
Ruth Bader Ginsburg made more sense to my female colleagues. She used her law degree to advance women's rights before she came to the court and continues to do so today. Justice O'Connor always seemed like a fullback in a lacy jabot - testy and aggressive and with the expectation that feminism means stop whining and do for yourself.
Even so, I suspect we'll fondly remember the great feminist judge from Arizona once her replacement is found.
Maybe you've heard about the 50th anniversary supersized McDonald's. It was not on my destination list, but we ran smack into it one night as we were on our way to dinner at the Frontera Grill. Vastly underestimating how popular the Grill was, we didn't get in. Our second choice, on second thought, should have been this place, if for no other reason than to see the designer furniture. But the food, we're told, is just the same.
Friday, July 01, 2005
I first heard about this phenomenon last year in a speech by Gov. Jim Hunt at the N.C. Bar's celebration of 50 years of Brown. Hunt lamented that the progressivism that North Carolina became known for during the civil rights movement--together with the real gains made--is at risk, a perverse byproduct of "progress." We're about to forget our history, he said. Jonathan Tilove, who covers race for the Newhouse News Service, has just published a great story on how it's playing out down in Charlotte.
Kind of makes you see what Howard Manning is up against.