Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Morning Linkages

As I said last week, I'll be writing over at the Morning News this week for their yearly Book Club Blog. My first entry is now up:
It is one thing to discount peak oil. It is entirely another to misunderstand (or misrepresent) it and put it into print as a rational defense. About peak oil, he delights at those actual experts who seem to "think oil will run out." On the contrary, peak oil is not about running out of oil, as he would like you to believe. It is about the peak and eventual decline of production, that the cheap stuff is becoming increasingly difficult to locate, extract, and refine. Hear of any problems lately in the extraction of oil; say a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf?
Be sure to keep up with it throughout the week at the link above.
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Author of Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt has a new post on Slate wondering why Hollywood portrays the car-less as losers. Japan disagrees.
Or perhaps it's the wider society that has trouble conceiving of life outside the omnipresent sphere of what sociologist John Urry calls "automobility," one tenet of which is "the dominant culture that organizes and legitimates socialities across different genders, classes, ages and so on; that sustains major discourses of what constitutes the good life and what is necessary for an appropriate citizenship of mobility; and that provides potent literary and artistic images and symbols.
My take, if anything the car is about as hollow of a status symbol as any. As we return to truth, choice, and meaning, there will be far more perceived value and admiration for those who are able to reject societal impositions for true freedom, in living the way you want.
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The New Yorker has an extract of the print edition of an article on traffic in Moscow, a city truly invaded by the overshoot of automobility, in copying all of the things we did wrong in their shift towards a capitalism-like substance rather than what we do right. How do 6 hour traffic jams strike you?
Then came capitalism. By the end of the nineteen-nineties, there were more people in Moscow from all over the former Soviet Union than there had been when the Soviet Union was a single state. All of them wanted cars. The city’s plan with regard to this was not to have a plan at all. Writer interviews traffic expert Mikhail Blinkin, who tells him that the number of cars in Moscow went from sixty per thousand residents in 1991 to three hundred and fifty in 2009. Muscovites continue to buy more cars that Mayor Luzhkov can build roads to drive them on.
It will be interesting to watch which direction they head with in response.
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And lastly, a Manifesto for the Present. How often do designers hide behind the "architecture must be of our time" mantra when their design is some futuristic nonsense that doesn't even begin to address the problems of our day. The first statement:
Nostalgia for our past and utopian dreams for our future prevent us from looking at our present.