I don’t quite get this post by Atrios. He says he’s often skeptical of urban parks, which is understandable (depending on the park), but to judge by the link he provides, the places he’s talking about aren’t really parks. I’ve never seen Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway, but the picture here in the Boston Globe is not a picture of anything I’d call a park. It looks like a median strip in the middle of a wide and busy road – a street that might be called a “way”, perhaps, with some “green” in the middle.
Incidentally, unless other sections of the Greenway have wider “parklands”, I doubt the solutions proposed in that Globe article will do anything for the “park” even though they would probably benefit the neighborhood. But that pictured section is probably never going to be better than something to look at while driving by.
It’s just incredible to me that the temperature has fallen to near freezing tonight, and possibly will drop below that. Don’t get me wrong, even though I’m from the mildness of coastal California (the Bay Area, mainly), I’ve spent the last three winters on the east coast (not the Canadian one). Those winters, at their coldest, were much colder than just about any time I’ve been here except a brief clear cold period in early December – a clear cold that I welcomed, in fact. Though I must admit I was happy to drive through it and out of it and on down to California for the winter break.
No, what’s incredible to me is that I’m leaving for the summer, and when I do, the weather will have been more or less the same, on aggregate, from mid-October to late April. And by the same, I mean cold and overcast, cold and drizzly, cold and rainy, cold-but-not-as-cold and rainy, or even colder and clear. And this is the warm part of this country.
I finally remembered to bring “my” camera to the library today. Keep in mind that the windows are dirty, I’ve actually borrowed this camera and barely used it before, I don’t know anything about how to set lighting/zoom/etc properly though I did manage to do basic things like turn on flash/macro/etc., my hands aren’t very steady, and the last time I took photos for myself was about fifteen years ago using a film camera that had almost no customizable settings. Any advice on very beginning photography would be appreciated. I guess I might finally use flickr.
Anyway, as spring has sort of come in, I’ve come to realize this area has something in common with LA: when the visibility is high, it’s really strikingly beautiful. Too bad about the architecture, though.
Looking right (a partition kept me from turning further):
Apparently, many New York Public Library branches used to have live-in superintendents, some of whose families also lived in the library buildings with them. I wonder how many other non-residential buildings had this kind of set-up – and if other libraries around the country or the world had live-in supers as well.
I’m a huge fan of re-photography – the practice of re-staging old photographs as precisely as possible and then comparing the earlier and later. Third View, focusing on the American west, is a good example. But these shots of St. Petersburg today/Leningrad during the seige take the concept to a whole new level. It’s like you can see through time (with English text here, which might actually be the original posting location – I’m not sure).
A quick follow-up to the Baltimore post: the mayor has now been indicted too.
I couldn’t help but think of the redevelopment and politics subplot in The Wire when I read this (via):
A Baltimore grand jury indicted a city councilwoman and a developer with close ties to Mayor Sheila Dixon Wednesday on bribery charges related to tax breaks for luxury buildings under construction on the city waterfront.
The indictments of Councilwoman Helen L. Holton and developer Ronald H. Lipscomb are the most prominent charges to emerge from a wide-ranging probe by the Maryland state prosecutor into corruption at Baltimore City Hall, an investigation that included the search of the mayor’s home last summer.
Prosecutors say Holton, head of a committee that oversees tax incentives, approved tax breaks worth millions of dollars for projects involving Lipscomb at Inner Harbor East, after Lipscomb paid $12,500 for a political survey for Holton last year.
Holton, first elected in 1995, was charged with perjury, for failing to list the payment on her annual financial disclosure statement, and with misusing her office. She said in a statement issued by her lawyers that she was “disappointed” in the grand jury’s decision and would continue in office while the legal proceedings continue.
The development stunned City Council members, who have been in recess for the past month, and fueled speculation that the nearly three-year investigation might be reaching its climax. The current grand jury expires Friday and to date the probe has seemed to focus on contracts and hearings held by Dixon when she was the president of the City Council and on her relationship with Lipscomb.
Those who have seen Boiler Room, which I just watched last night, can see the irony in this:
But systemic corruption—and that is the right word—has been unveiled at lenders across the board. Two of the most revealing stories on the culture that overtook the lending industry were published early—February 4 and March 28, 2005—by the Los Angeles Times. Reporters Mike Hudson and E. Scott Reckard found court records and former employees who described the boiler-room culture that pervaded Ameriquest—hard-sell, scripted sales pitches, complete with the “art department” in Tampa. Ex-employees confirmed, as did Lisa Taylor, the loan agent quoted at the top of this story, that copies of Boiler Room, the movie about ethically challenged stockbrokers, was indeed passed around as an Ameriquest training tape.
[Ex-employees] described 10- and 12-hour days punctuated by ‘power hours’—nonstop cold-calling sessions to lists of prospects burdened with credit card bills; the goal was to persuade these people to roll their debts into new mortgages on their homes.
Power hours. And if the power-hour culture pervaded the market leaders, what of smaller lenders and mortgage brokers? Here is Glen Pizzolorusso, a young sales manager at WMC Mortgage, an upstate New York brokerage, who earned—get this—$75,000 to $100,000 a month:
What is that movie? Boiler Room? That’s what it’s like. I mean, it’s the [coolest] thing ever. Cubicle, cubicle, cubicle for 150,000 square feet. The ceilings were probably 25 or 30 feet high. The elevator had a big graffiti painting. Big open space. And it was awesome. We lived mortgage. That’s all we did. This deal, that deal. How we gonna get it funded? What’s the problem with this one? That’s all everyone’s talking about . . .
We looked at loans. These people didn’t have a pot to piss in. They can barely make car payments and we’re giving them a 300, 400 thousand dollar house.
To business reporters of a certain age, boiler rooms are associated with the notorious stock swindlers of the late nineties—A. R. Baron, Stratton Oakmont—criminal enterprises all. But all the elements of the bucket shops of the past—the cold calling, the hard sell, the bamboozling of over-their-head civilians, not to mention the outright lying, forgery, and fraud in its purest form—were carried out on a massive scale and as a matter of corporate policy by name-brand lenders: IndyMac, Countrywide, Citi, Ameriquest.
It’s really sort of remarkable, the lengths some people will go to in order to hide the metropolitan reality of this country. And that’s assuming that Wasilla and all other similarly-sized cities are small towns that are not, as surely some of them are, actually suburbs just on the edge of urbanized areas.
Capitalizing on Russia’s growing economy, Moscow is embracing cafe culture (weather permitting):
When it comes to enjoying the outdoors, Russians have always been adept at taking what they can get: sunbathing standing up beside frozen rivers or growing a year’s worth of vegetables at their country houses during the short, bright summers.
But outdoor cafes have taken on a special importance in Moscow, where over the last decade people have slowly colonized street spaces that once offered little in the way of coziness.
Cafes have filled in the architectural nooks and crannies away from the city’s wide avenues — behind apartment houses, in park buildings. And, like New Yorkers willing to squeeze into tiny cafe tables next to dry cleaners or even garbage cans, some Moscow diners happily sit outdoors next to 10-lane boulevards.
Every spring, restaurants and cafes hammer together wooden terraces that they call, in honor of their short window of operation, summer cafes.
Prices are not cheap; it is common to pay the equivalent of $4 to $8 for cappuccino. Yet popular chains like Shokoladnitsa, whose name is Russian for chocolate girl, and Kofe Haus offer an accessible treat to the growing class of urban professionals, like architects, accountants and designers, who cannot afford the luxury goods marketed to the richest Russians but have made a little extra money from the country’s oil-driven consumer boom.
And for those who have not made a little extra money? Well:
Outdoor cafes underline the growing gap between rich and poor. Nastya Fomina, who was smoking with four teenage friends at Prime Star, a deli-like cafe near the Kremlin, said it disturbed her when passers-by asked for money.
I wonder if she’s read the relevant Baudelaire (link should go to pages 52-3).