15 February 2011

Five Minute Fashion

My cycling philosophy, as it were.

It's quite simple.

I don't care what you say, I think that this guy...

...looks much cooler than this guy.

10 February 2011

The Day We Caught the Train

Randomly came across this video, a segment from a 1982 episode of PBS' Nova called "Tracking the Supertrains", all about the great, then-new advances in high speed rail. Included are details about a planned Shinkansen from San Diego to Los Angeles. It didn't happen. Funny to realize that France's TGV has been up and running for thirty years now, and we've yet to see a fast train in this country.


The Damen Avenue CTA Blue Line station, as seen on Google Streetview. Did somebody lock a shopping cart to the bike rack?

Anybody recognize their bike?

09 February 2011

I Care About Detroit

There are many reasons why one cares about a city. Why you care about it's problems, its people, and, indeed, its very future. Is it friendly, warm, hospitable? And are there good job opportunities, educational facilities and a cultural center? Are you proud to call it your hometown? When you come right down to it, I venture to say you'll all agree to a resounding "Yes" when you're talking about Detroit.   -   Smokey Robinson, 1967

One of my earliest posts on this blog shared the 60s promotional film Detroit: City on the Move with you all. That post has received a fair bit of traffic from search engines over the months, I think because people are clearly fascinated by the city's decline, and ruin porn exposés can be found all over the internet.

During the Super Bowl the other night, Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" ad featuring Eminem garnered a lot of positive buzz, even from people who don't really like cars or Eminem, for offering what was likely the first positive media view of the city in decades. You may have missed this, though. Last summer, iconic French bootmaker Palladium released a film featuring, uh, Johnny Knoxville showcasing some of the more positive things going on in Motown. It features interviews with local artists & entrpreneurs, as well as musicians like Martha Reeves, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, techno pioneer Carl Craig and members of the Dirtbombs, and a soundtrack that draws on the city's long and storied musical history. Hipster street style meets urbanism, and it's surprisingly effective stuff on both levels.

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

There's more on the brand's "explorations" page, with pieces on abandoned buildings in New York, Cold War relics in Berlin and London pirate radio. Excellent marketing, in my opinion. (It worked on me.)

PS: I can state with 99.997% certainty that this is the only time Eminem or Johnny Knoxville will be mentioned on this blog.

04 February 2011

Night Falls on Hoboken

I would like to send a message to the nation's governors. Please stop with the whole "let's lure businesses from Illinois" trip. I just can't keep up. Latest on the bandwagon is Chris Christie, 55th Earl of New Jersey. On one hand, I don't mind this one as much. Jersey is clearly a part of a different region, so it stings a lot less than when Wisconsin or Indiana gets in on it. But on the other, Christie has already proven himself to possess tunnel vision (pardon the pun) regarding New Jersey's place in a broader mid-Atlantic region. And let's face it, New Jersey without New York City & Philadelphia across the rivers is just...Delaware.

Christie is in Chicago today to play up New Jersey's recent income tax cuts, because taxes are always bad. As I've written, tax rates aren't everything. I doubt the governor's presentation mentions that New Jersey has the highest fifth-highest median home prices in the nation, and that the state has some of the highest property taxes in the country. He also probably won't mention that New Jersey receives significantly more federal aid per capita than Illinois does. These are inconvenient facts when one is trying to portray one's fiefdom as a tax haven.

Rather than attempting to poach jobs from fellow Americans, states like New Jersey should be making investments in new businesses, incubating entrepreneurship in economically depressed places like Camden and Newark. Investment is key not just for businesses, but for the modern infrastructure that this country (and New Jersey) is sorely in need of. New Jersey on it's own is nothing. Without adequate transportation links within the New York and Philadelphia metros that drive the state's economy, it would die. All of this might require (gasp) temporarily raising taxes. Putting things off for the next occupant of the office is the way of American political life, and it is killing the country's economic future. Americans will always complain about taxes being too high, until they actually start seeing a return. Voters in Scandinavia don't seem so preoccupied with this issue, even though their tax rates make the United States look like a libertarian's wet dream. This is because they know exactly where those taxes go. They pay for first-rate infrastructure and health care and for their children to attend college, not to subsidize corporate interests and fund despotic regimes and endless wars. Meanwhile, China is investing in infrastructure and planning on a regional scale that will ensure their continued ascent. We'd better get used to looking up.