eta: sometime between pulse and connection

May 31, 2010 at 11:00 am | In just_so | 5 Comments

If you’re reading this in the afternoon on Monday May 31, I’m past the clouds, winging my way to Boston.

The flight out of Victoria was canceled.

I pre-wrote this post and scheduled it to publish while I’m en route. I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to write anything in the morning, and I’m guessing that by the time I get to my destination, I’ll be just a wee tad wrung out.

Yes, I feel wrung out, but only because my plans were overturned so abruptly.

While I’m not a morning person, the tyranny of international flight regulations mean having to be at my local airport – Victoria BC/ YYJ – at 4:30a.m., 90 minutes prior to the departure of a 6a.m. flight to Seattle, from whence I get a connecting flight to Boston.That the 6a.m. flight (there’s no 7a.m.) is the only option is bad enough; having to be there 90 minutes ahead of time is ridiculous. Yes, Seattle may be merely minutes away, but it lies across an international boundary.

Got up at 3:45a.m., taxi to airport at 4a.m., hung around until 5:45a.m. before the airline (Horizon) told us that the 6a.m. flight was canceled “due to mechanical problems” – Horizon #fail. Back in line to re-book, on the phone to reservations at the same time as standing in line – upshot? Earliest possible flight out for the two of us: TOMORROW morning, with a complicated itinerary via Chicago, that would have landed us at Logan Airport around midnight. No thanks, especially not with a return trip already planned for Saturday. We canceled everything and returned home.

I hope to return to regular programming by tomorrow (Tues.) – if you’re in Boston, @ me on Twitter and say “hi” or drop a comment here. I’d love some good conversation and maybe a chance to meet a few Berkman folks, time permitting.

Yes, I suppose a return to regular programming by tomorrow is possible. Unfortunately, it won’t happen in Boston, at least not this week. So sad. Instead of “eta” the title could read “doa”…

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

May 30, 2010 at 2:30 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • More from Richard Florida, who’s currently promoting his latest book, The Great Reset, in interviews and articles. In this interview, the emphasis is on shifting our perspective about “service” jobs:
    What is the future of service jobs in the next decade? How should these workers look for better opportunities?

    We will still have about 10 percent of our population making things because we like to use things. But we can make some personal service jobs into professional ones, like the guys who run the designer cupcake shops or high-end cheese shop or the designer food cart. Another example is my dad, who only has a seventh-grade education. He was good with his hands. He could work up his way up in a manufacturing plant. Service companies have the same type of structure. My dad became a foreman, and then a plant supervisor. He made a decent living and used to wear a blue collar and a white collar. He still went to the factory every day, but he went to meetings. That same example could be applied in the rush to build green buildings. If you think about who knows the most about a building’s energy, well, it’s the janitor who would adjust the heating and cooling systems and know about the insulation. Why do we only think of the janitor as the person who sweeps the floors?

    By getting people more involved in continuous improvement in companies, the country will value service more.

    tags: richard_florida, economy, reset, service_sector

  • Half hour podcast / interview with Richard Florida talking about the Great Reset, which exerts certain pressures or forces:
    Among these forces will be:

    * new patterns of consumption, and new attitudes toward ownership that are less centered on houses and cars
    * the transformation of millions of service jobs into middle class careers that engage workers as a source of innovation
    * new forms of infrastructure that speed the movement of people, goods, and ideas
    * a radically altered and much denser economic landscape organized around
    * “megaregions” that will drive the development of new industries, new jobs, and a whole new way of life

    tags: richard_florida, cities, economy, creative_class, podcast, mega_regions, reset

  • Op-ed by Richard Florida, written for the Toronto Star (republished on Florida’s Creative Class site). Conclusions apply to most urban areas:
    Toronto and its extended region need to grow. Our mega-region, which spans Montreal to Waterloo and across the border to Buffalo and Rochester, is home to 22 million people and generates $530 billion in economic output. But we are dwarfed by the truly gargantuan mega-regions surrounding New York and Chicago, which each produce roughly $2 trillion in economic output annually. Bigger cities and bigger mega-regions have faster metabolisms and bigger markets, and they are more innovative. Greater Toronto has to increase its size and scale fast. But adding more people — even 2 million people by 2031, as the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance anticipates — will not be enough. We have to borrow size by expanding our borders..

    But we have to grow differently. Over the past several decades we have grown bigger but not better, by throwing up cheap condo buildings downtown and creating the worst kinds of suburban sprawl with car-dependent, un-walkable and some would say almost unlivable over-sized housing and related developments, while destroying some of the very best farmland on the planet. We need to grow smarter and greener as we grow bigger. That means increasing density and remaking our suburbs around transit and as mixed use, walkable and livable communities.

    We’ll need new infrastructure that can connect the far-flung pieces of our mega-region and make it more of an economically integrated whole. That means investing now in high-speed rail, which would cut travel time from Toronto to Montreal to just over two hours. It would make Waterloo, with its world-class high-tech cluster, a veritable suburb with an easy commute of under a half-hour. High-speed rail could even help reposition ailing Windsor as part of the Greater Toronto economy by cutting travel time to just 90 minutes.

    Could it be that our stable housing market might blind us to the bigger housing reset going

    tags: richard_florida, opinion, toronto, cities, economy, creative_class

  • Completely agree with Benjamin Hemric’s critical comment (below), about Benjamin Schwarz’s article (which in turn is a review of books by Sharon Zukin and Michael Sorkin and their collective take on Jane Jacobs. 


    While I agree that there is much to criticize in Michael Sorkin’s and Sharon Zukin’s lamentations about gentrification, it’s very disheartening to see that in his article, writer Benjamin Schwarz seems to accept the very same myths about Jane Jacobs that Sorkin and Zukin appear to subscribe to. I think that if one looks at what Jane Jacobs ACTUALLY WROTE (rather than accepting at face value what people “say” she wrote) one will quickly see the differences between Jacobs and Sorkin and Zukin — and also see why Sorkin’s and Zukin’s critiques are so misguided.

    It seems to me that the following, in order of appearance in the article, are the pernicious myths that Mr. Schwarz has, sadly, incorporated into his article:

    1) Myth incorporating statement #1: “She [Jacobs] largely formed her conclusions in “Death and Life . .” . . by closely reading the neighborhood life around her house on Hudson Street . . . “

    The name of Jacobs’ first and most famous book is “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” NOT, “The Death and Life of Greater Greenwich Village.” In it, Jacobs writes about many sections of New York City (e.g., East Harlem, W57th St., Rockefeller Center, Yorkville, etc.), AND about parts of a lot of other American cities too (e.g., the North End of Boston; Rittenhouse Square, Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the four Center City parks of Philadelphia; Back of the Yards, Chicago, etc.).

    For a number of years prior to writing “Death and Life . . . ,” Jacobs was a writer for a prestigious, glossy, national publication, “Architectural Forum,” and she visited, researched (e.g., explored and interviewed government officials, etc.), and wrote about cities all over the country. Furthermore she herself credited experiences in Philadelphia and, especially East Harlem, with really opening her eyes to the ways cities do and don’t work.

    It’s not so much that she didn’t write about other sections of New York City AND about other “Great [meaning large] American Cities” too. It seems, rather, that a) some people, for various reasons of their own, insist on talking just about the Greenwich Village portions of this book (which, furthermore, is only one of her several books dealing, directly or indirectly, with cities); and it seems that b) many other people, people who never seem to have actually read Jacobs (especially cover to cover), then base their opinions on what these other people have said.

    2) Myth incorporating statement #2 (emphasis and lettering is mine — BH): “What Sorkin calls the ‘pathology’ of gentrification is obliterating THOSE ELEMENTS OF THRIVING URBAN LIFE THAT JACOBS FAMOUSLY IDENTIFIED: [a] diversity of uses; [b] the mom-and-pop stores; . . . [c] the ‘cheek-by-jowl checkerboard’ of rich, poor, and middle class; [d] the distinctive identity of neighborhoods.”

    Jacobs was interested in why certain city districts and cities thrived, while other city districts and cities stagnated and declined. She identified the following FOUR general conditions for generating city diversity and health: mixed primary uses; small blocks (or plentiful streets); aged buildings (a diversity of building types); high-densities (“the need for concentration”).

    It also should be noted that for Jacobs, diversity meant far more than just “mom-and-pop” stores, etc. It meant the whole diversity of a “great” city, including skyscrapers, department stores, highways (especially for trucking), big medical centers, etc. Plus, it should be pointed out, Jacobs also writes in “Death and Life . . . ” about the need for cities to have the right kind of political structures, public policies, etc. In subsequent books — which are more or less extensions of “Death and Life . . .” — she further examines the economic needs of cities in more detail.

    Also, it should be pointed out that, for Jacobs, the distinctive identity of neighborhoods was secondary. What was important to her was whether a district was “successful” or not (whether it could attract “people with choice”). Given the specifics of location, climate, population, businesses, a neighborhood is likely to be distinctive anyway if it is genuinely successful.

    3) Myth incorporating statement #3: “When you come right down to it, the image of vibrant, diverse, but neighborly city life . . . that champions of urbanism summon is really the ideal of the West Village neighborhood . . . “

    While this may be Sorkin’s and Zukin’s ideal, this was not Jacobs’ ideal. Jacobs was interested in what “worked” in cities and what didn’t work — and a significant portion of her book, for instance, is devoted to areas that are even largely non-residential (e.g., “downtowns,” etc.). Read what Jacobs has to say about Wall Street, Rockefeller Center and W. 57th Street, for instance. (She does NOT recommend turning Wall Street into Greenwich Village.) For Jacobs, truly healthy cities had a diversity of districts as well as districts that were internally diverse.

    4) Myth incorporating statement #4: “Progressive, reformist city planners . . . favored a relatively low-impact urban-renewal scheme to build hundreds of below-market rate homes in the neighborhood — a plan Jacobs and a group of largely affluent residents successfully fought on the grounds that it would destroy the area’s character.”

    This seems to me to be a misinformed and very sloppy history of the West Village urban renewal controversy — largely leaving out the Jane Jacobs and West Village Committee side of the story (which seems to me to be backed up by the evidence that I’m aware of).

    While city officials claimed the the urban-renewal scheme would be low-impact, the amount of money that was allocated for the intial study indicated that this claim was a deception, and that the plan was indeed to essentially wipe out the neighborhood. Plus, even city officials themselves were open about their desire to separate commercial uses from residential uses — which would be hard to do without destroying many businesses and homes. And a number of prospective sponsors even talked about grandiose plans, like putting buildings on top of platforms, etc.!

    On top of all this, because the city’s planned concept (whichever sponsor would be chosen) involved the demolition of so much existing sound housing, the city’s plan would have produced less NET housing — and at a much greater cost — than the plan that Jacobs is identified with (which was ultimately built).

    Finally, the purpose of the Jacobs identified plan was to produce more affordable housing for, particularly, moderate-income FAMILIES — which is the primary reason they were designed without expensive and child-unfriendly elevators — while the city’s plan, on the other hand, seems likely to have been geared more to the affluent and childless (like so many of the other urban “renewal” projects of the era).

    5) Myth incorporating statement #5: ” . . who, like Jacobs and her husband, eschewed the central part of the Village, around Macdougal Street, that the tourists were blighting.”

    Don’t know for certain whether this is a myth or not, but it certainly would seem to be greatly out of character for both Jacobs and her husband to be “snooty” in this way. Can Mr. Schwartz provide any substantiation for this assertion?

    6) Myth incorporating statement #6: “Thanks in no small part to the fact that Jacobs’ recipe for livable and vibrant cities — keep the scale small, preserve the physical fabric of neighborhoods . . . “

    Again, THIS is NOT Jacobs’ “recipe” for healthy cities. Some people may claim it is, but they do so by ignoring large sections of her first and most famous book, “Death and Life . . .”, as well as ignoring her six other major books, which mostly relate, directly or indirectly (e.g., economies, political structure, etc.), to the health of cities.

    7) Myth incorporating statement #7: ” . . . they pine for — and mistake as susceptible to preservation — the same sort of transitional moment Jacobs evokes in “Death and Life.”

    While there may be SOME truth to this myth, nevertheless for the moment I’m going to call it a myth because it also ignores a very large truth — one that is, perhaps, one of the distinguishing differences between Jacobs and Sorkin and Zukin.

    Although Jacobs was indeed against the self-destruction of diversity, and thus was, to some extent trying to “preserve” diversity, she was greatly in favor of fighting the self-destruction of diversity by SPREADING “gentrification” (not her word) around (e.g., “competitive diversion,” etc.). The more “gentrifiable” (again, not her word) areas that are created in cities, the less pressure there is for the self-destruction of diversity in city areas that are already “gentrified” (again, not her word).

    So rather than being against “gentrification,” the way Sorkin and Zukin are, Jacobs was all for it. One could even say that “Death and Life . . .” is essentially a handbook for creating more and more “gentrifiable” neighborhoods — if one also recognizes, as Jacobs did, that the more “gentrifiable” neighborhoods there are in a city, the more affordable and diverse “gentrified” city districts are going to be. The greater the supply, the lower the cost is going to be for the “consumer.”

    — Benjamin Hemric
    May 13, 2010
    Those interested in Jane Jacobs’s books will find Benjamin Hemric’s other comments are also worth reading. He doesn’t have his own blog, but googling his name turns up a number of thoughtful posts on urban-issues comments boards.

    tags: atlantic_monthly, benjamin_schwarz, benjamin_hemric, cities, nyc, urbanism, jjacobs, gentrification

  • Virginia Heffernan makes a case for parallels between flight to suburbia (for “safety”) and the contraction of the open web in favor of closed platforms. It’s a short opinion piece, not a long article, but interesting (if you happen to be interested in cities *and* the web):
    People who find the Web distasteful — ugly, uncivilized — have nonetheless been forced to live there: it’s the place to go for jobs, resources, services, social life, the future. But now, with the purchase of an iPhone or an iPad, there’s a way out, an orderly suburb that lets you sample the Web’s opportunities without having to mix with the riffraff. This suburb is defined by apps from the glittering App Store: neat, cute homes far from the Web city center, out in pristine Applecrest Estates. In the migration of dissenters from the “open” Web to pricey and secluded apps, we’re witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight.

    The parallels between what happened to cities like Chicago, Detroit and New York in the 20th century and what’s happening on the Internet since the introduction of the App Store are striking.

    tags: nyt, virginia_heffernan, cities, urbanism, web, computing, apps, open_source

  • Here’s to spreading a tendency to (as one commenter put it) “unjacking and single-tasking,” and letting go of the punishing drive to multi-task. Read the article for pointers on how (and why) to stop multi-tasking and embrace single-tasking instead.
    I think it’s because our minds move considerably faster than the outside world. You can hear far more words a minute than someone else can speak. We have so much to do, why waste any time? So, while you’re on the phone listening to someone, why not use that extra brain power to book a trip to Florence?

    What we neglect to realize is that we’re already using that brain power to pick up nuance, think about what we’re hearing, access our creativity, and stay connected to what’s happening around us. It’s not really extra brain power. And diverting it has negative consequences.

    So how do we resist the temptation?

    tags: peter_bregman, harvard_business, multitasking, singletasking, productivity

  • There are lots of good pages with public speaking advice, but this collection of 15 tips by Danielle Laporte really rocks. For example, her last tip (#15) was new to me – it makes so much sense:
    15. Know how you want to feel when you’re done your presentation.
    Ultimately, you can’t really control what the audience does and if try to, you’re likely to fumble. I’ve had what I thought were hilarious stories that didn’t get so much as a giggle. And I’ve had low-engagement audiences that swarmed me after I got off stage. You just don’t know.

    What you can aim for is how you want to feel. And when you anchor into that feeling, your energy gathers a momentum and you get into the magical flow. When I leave the auditorium, I want to feel like I connected, like I was divinely feminine, and innovative–on my personal edge. And if I did my best to be those things, than I can sleep well, even if I forgot to say thank you, or I tripped over a speaker, or got heckled by a bag lady.

    tags: danielle_laporte, public_speaking, tips, whitehottruth, reference

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A bit more on Salim Jiwa’s talk at Social Media Club Victoria

May 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm | In advertising, business, media, newspapers, web | 3 Comments

When Salim Jiwa left his job at the Vancouver Province after a 30-year career in journalism, he didn’t leave his career behind. He instead took the insights he had accumulated – especially in his last years at the Province while heading up its digital media efforts – and started his own online news outlet: Vancouverite.

Last Tuesday (May 25) Salim Jiwa shared his experiences with us at Social Media Club Victoria: I blogged about one aspect of Jiwa’s talk that night (journalism-by-press-release), but Jiwa touched on so many other aspects as well.

First, to recap: “Print media faces extinction,” and the habit of picking up a physical newspaper is gone (or going). By the time a story reaches print, it’s at least 10 hours old, so why bother reading it half a day late? Newspapers used to function on having “exclusivity” (exclusive access to a story, exclusive coverage of a story): this is no more. News-makers (governments, public offices, organizations, businesses) have hired ex-journalists, top of the line pros, who write the organization’s press releases, which are completely press-ready. The journalist who pieces together a story is effectively sidelined: now the “source” writes its own story (huge ethical implications and questions around free press here, too).

At the same time, old-style journalism programs at university continue to prepare journalism students for careers that don’t actually exist anymore. But still they crank ’em out (this reminded me of the conversation I had with Jon Beasley-Murray in the comments thread to my first post on Northern Voice 2010 – about the immorality of producing “workers” for jobs that are gone).

During the Q&A, I mentioned recently hearing of a New York City-area university program that combines journalism and computer science – and here (courtesy of a memory jog via google) are the details: New dual-degree master’s in journalism & computer science announced at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. See also Wired’s coverage of the new program. It all reminds me a bit of Ryan Sholin’s 2007 advice (10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head) coming to fruition. Take, for example, Sholin’s item #6: Reporters need to do more than write. The new world calls for a new skillset, and you and Mr. Notebook need to make some new friends, like Mr. Microphone and Mr. Point & Shoot. Columbia U is jumping ahead even of this: the program doesn’t just teach journalism students to use Mr. Microphone and Mr. Point-&-Shoot, but is supposed to teach them to write software programs with which to address journalism-specific needs.

At Vancouverite, Jiwa single-handedly does what a traditional newspaper does with four to six people. Must be a lot cheaper to operate, yes? Well, an online outlet is definitely more agile and leaner than a mainstream outlet, but in both instances, the underlying question remains: What’s the business model and can it sustain the operation? Mainstream newspapers have seen ad revenue die away, but making [enough] money to make an online news operation fully viable is also very difficult.

If I understood correctly, the numbers are sobering: even with 25,000 visits (unique page views) per month, the money generated through ads hovers around $500 to $600 monthly. (I’m open to being corrected here – perhaps I completely misunderstood, but if I didn’t, sobering it is.) Udate/edit: I’m way off on my remembered numbers: as Salim notes in a comment to this post, Vancouverite “averages about 80,000 to 120,000 visits per month – not 25,000″ – and, in spite of those numbers, even with “80,000 to 100,000 unique visits per month, click ads can produce less than $200 per month.” Very sobering numbers. /update

During discussion, we briefly touched on the question of hyper-local reporting and selling ad space specifically to local businesses (different than generic google ads), which in turn could generate more revenue. It seems to me there are some significant roadblocks here, though: how much would local businesses be willing to pay for online ads, if they’re already either (1) drawing enough business through established local custom (the “we don’t need to advertise, our customers know where to find us” mentality of successful local niche businesses), or (2) generating enough word-of-mouth traffic through social media (earned media)? If you’re so cool that your customers tweet about you, why should you pay to advertise anywhere?

The funding model seems somehow unmapped: terra incognito.

I’d argue that in both cases (traditional media and new online/ digital media) we’re also talking about making accountability journalism viable (that’s Clay Shirky’s phrase). We know that in print media/ traditional media it’s dying. Where is it going online? I found myself balking a bit at the suggestion that “bloggers” aren’t accountable, although I have to admit that there are a bazillion bloggers out there and obviously not all of them will desire to be “accountable” in a traditionally professional journalistic sense. Add to this another twist: I try to be “accountable,” yet I never consider myself a journalist. I’m a writer, blogger, citizen. When I feel especially fat-headed, I might think, “oh, when I grow up, I want to be a public intellectual – wheeee!” Never a journalist, though.

It’s a bit of the Wild West – or Revolutionary France, before the Thermidor.

Exciting times, no matter what we call ourselves – or what others call us

Zombie public art in Victoria

May 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm | In arts, victoria | 9 Comments

A few days ago, Jon Tupper, director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV), published an opinion piece in Victoria’s local paper, Why Victoria deserves great public art. His article took aim at the latest sculpture unleashed on Victoria: a treacly confection in bronze, The Homecoming, which is supposed to commemorate the Canadian Navy.

The piece is installed at Ship’s Point, a prominent spot on the Inner Harbour, where tourists are likely to stumble upon it. The other day I went to see it for myself – didn’t have a camera on me, but the picture used in the local paper gives an idea of what to expect:


Installed in early May, the statue was apparently a gift from me – and the other “people of Victoria”: it is “our” “gift” to the navy on its 100th birthday. (source)

Not one cloying detail is omitted: the bag at the sailor’s side (whose uniform and physique are both generic yet insistent, as though he’s the maintenance man at the refrigeration plant) is stuffed with thoughtful presents (a teddy bear, etc.); trusty Fido accompanies the child; the sailor’s strong, bare forearms (the left manacled by a wristwatch, a wedding band the size of a small donut emblazoned on that hand’s ring finger) prepare for perpetual embrace; and so on and so forth… It’s not for nothing that they say the devil is in the details.

As Jon Tupper puts it:

The problem I have with this work [The Homecoming] is not only that it is overly sentimental, but that after we look at it once we don’t really have to see it or think about it again because it’s all been done for us. Beyond the sugary subject matter, the handling of the figures would make one question whether today’s artists still have the ability to cast and carve with a high degree of verisimilitude.

It might seem odd to challenge The Homecoming‘s verisimilitude, given its hyper-realism and overt insistence on prescribing the viewer’s emotional response. But take a look at the photo by Bruce Dean (aka Professional Recreationalist on Flickr): Zombie Sailor Comes Home.

Click through on the link and see why that title fits.

Meanwhile, the letters to the editor at the local newspaper have rallied to the work’s defense. People like sentimentality and feel put out that anyone should question that preference. See for example Sentimental art has a key place or The Homecoming evokes deep response.

At least three letters published to date echo Tupper’s critique, however. Norman Gidney (editor of Douglas Magazine) writes An abstract touch would help our art:

…The Homecoming is just too cute and kitschy.

I like the sugar rush of something sentimental occasionally, but as a complete cultural diet, it’s lacking fibre and protein. (source)

And Steve Weatherbe, who published a weekly business newspaper until recently, wrote Navy not well-served by The Homecoming:

Jon Tupper’s piece on public art was great (May 23). At last the silence has been broken about the lamentable piece The Homecoming. He is bang on about its sentimentalism.

We all agree with the feelings it intends to depict, but there isn’t much thought there. That is because Canada, after 60 years of high liberalism, no longer knows what to think about the military, or does know but out of political correctness perhaps is afraid to say. (source)

Ines Hanl and Klaus Kinast, the owners of The Sky is the Limit Design, weigh in to say that Victorians get the art they deserve:

Great cities truly deserve great art — but despite its magnificent natural setting it seems that Victoria just got what most of its people seem to deserve (and crave): Sugary fluff in the form of intellectual cotton candy; the mediocre and the forgettable, both in architecture and in art. (source)

Indeed, our architecture is cut down and back until it “fits in,” meaning it’s bland and boring.

And zombified Disneyland sculpture completes the picture.

Women in movies: where are they?

May 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | In arts, guerilla_politics, ideas, media, social_critique, women | Comments Off on Women in movies: where are they?

Last night, while I was scribbling away on my “-ectomy” post, the spouse and son popped My Man Godfrey into the DVD player. We’ve all seen the movie multiple times, but it has such great dialogue that it’s a cinch to watch often.

Tonight, I’m not writing the blog post now in my (imaginary) “must-write” queue (namely, a follow-up to Salim Jiwa’s presentation at Social Media Club Victoria) because I went to PechaKucha Night Victoria Vol.2. Instead, tonight’s post is a quickie about movies.

So I’ll just leave you with a short video I watched this afternoon, The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies (only 2minutes 2seconds long). It made me wonder how well My Man Godfrey stands up to Bechdel’s test.



Even though My Man Godfrey is a classic romantic comedy where everything revolves around the girl-gets-guy story, I’d say it passes the test. Cornelia and Irene (sisters) talk to each other – often enough it’s sibling rivalry and they fight about men, but they also talk about other things; Angelica (mother) converses with her daughters; and Molly (maid) talks to Irene – albeit about Godfrey. Godfrey certainly does, as per the film’s title, dominate many of the conversations, but at least the women have personalities and can talk to one another about different topics.

Then what’s with the slew of more recent films that fly by in feministfrequency‘s video – all of which fail Bechdel’s test?  Have men become more immature in recent decades and lost their balls (or are we – all of us – too culturally adapted to “swallowing” cartoonish men)? Even Princess Bride – a wonderful film – fails the test. Sure, it’s tongue-in-cheek, but let’s prick the fairy-tale balloon for a sec. It’s as if Buttercup is a proto-mommy, a mother in waiting, on the cusp of taking care of the boy who ran away to become a pirate.

Women don’t have conversations amongst themselves on topics not related to the little boys who are the apples of their mommies’ eyes (stuck in some strange mirror stage)… It’s segregation, a mono-culture (one-dimensional), over-processed (like Wonder Bread) – comfortable, goes down easy, practically digests itself.

Possible solution? Go to film festivals and watch movies outside the Wonder Bread mainstream.


The mirror stage describes the formation of the Ego via the process of identification, the Ego being the result of identifying with one’s own specular image. At six months the baby still lacks coordination (see Louis Bolk); however, it can recognize itself in the mirror before attaining control over its bodily movements. The child sees its image as a whole, and the synthesis of this image produces a sense of contrast with the uncoordination of the body, which is perceived as a fragmented body. This contrast is first felt by the infant as a rivalry with its own image, because the wholeness of the image threatens it with fragmentation, and thus the mirror stage gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image. To resolve this aggressive tension, the subject identifies with the image: this primary identification with the counterpart is what forms the Ego. (Dylan Evans, op.cit) The moment of identification is to Lacan a moment of jubilation since it leads to an imaginary sense of mastery. (Écrits, “The Mirror Stage”) Yet, the jubilation may also be accompanied by a depressive reaction, when the infant compares his own precarious sense of mastery with the omnipotence of the mother. (La relation d’objet) This identification also involves the ideal ego which functions as a promise of future wholeness sustaining the Ego in anticipation.
The mirror stage shows that the Ego is the product of misunderstanding – Lacan’s term “méconnaissance” implies a false recognition – and the place where the subject becomes alienated from itself: the process by which the ego is formed in the Mirror Stage is at the same time the institution of alienation from the symbolic determination of being. In this sense méconnaissance is an imaginary misrecognition of a symbolic knowledge that the subject possesses somewhere. It must be emphasized again that the Mirror Stage introduces the subject into the Imaginary order.
The Mirror Stage has also a significant symbolic dimension. The symbolic order is present in the figure of the adult who is carrying the infant: the moment after the subject has jubilantly assumed his image as his own, he turns his head toward this adult who represents the big Other, as if to call on him to ratify this image. (source)

Gertrude Stein might agree: -ectomy is an ectomy is an ectomy

May 26, 2010 at 11:07 pm | In architecture, cities, heritage, land_use, real_estate, scandal | 5 Comments

File this one under “why not?”

It’s not a new item, but it made me go wow…

A while back, I read that Vornado Realty Trust left a big hole in Boston’s Downtown Crossing …after demolishing Filene’s Basement.

That was “wow” #1 (not a good wow): Gertrude Stein smelled a rat when she wrote, “there is no there there,” which I’m freely marrying to her “rose is a rose is a rose” to say that “-ectomy” is an ectomy …is an ectomy …is an ectomy.

In another context, we might easily just call it a hatchet job.


Realize, dear reader, that Filene’s Basement was surmounted by a venerable piece of architecture, … namely Filene’s. (… ^Illustrated above)

Alright, I admit to an attachment to traditional (old) department store architecture: it’s a built form that has tons of embedded intelligence, and yep, it’s one of those built forms that, once you tear it down, it’s gone. And it takes a huge chunk of civic and urban history with it.

But alright, let’s move on: since it is already torn down – and the new project is not being built – at least (for the love of it all) put something interesting and striking (and bloody useful!) in its place (even temporarily).

Like this:


Arthur Dent, faced by a Vogon destroyer, might wonder, “what the hell is that?” – but you, dear reader, can rest easy knowing that it’s made-by-humans it could be made by humans (if, that is, it weren’t left unbuilt, and if, that is, humans could overcome their imagination-deficit). What is it? Bio-Fuel Growing Eco Pods [to] Rejuvenate Stalled Boston Project (Sept. 2009).

One can dream. In the waking interim (knowing it’s not gonna happen), some juicy links to the doings of Vornado (and its CEO Steven Roth):

Mayor Battles Vornado in Boston

Downtown Crossing’s money pit

Menino threatens to oust Filene’s site developer

Boston Mayor Blasts Vornado’s Roth Over ‘Blight’ Speech

Is City Truly Wise to Vornado’s Roth Deliberately Stalling Filene’s?

Curbed New York’s articles tagged “Vornado”

All in all, if you read through those links you’ll see that Steven Roth and Vornado have done a heck of a job – the company has given development a very very bad name. That by itself should get them a black eye. That this company has taken out department stores (like Filene’s and Alexander’s) and the social history they embody makes it even worse.

PS: I was going to write a “part 2” to last night’s post about Salim Jiwa’s talk at Social Media Club Victoria. It will have to wait until a later date – I want to gather my thoughts about this, and have had no time to do so today.

Salim Jiwa at Social Media Club Victoria

May 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm | In free_press, newspapers, victoria | 9 Comments

This is not a press release…

Tonight I had the great good fortune to attend Salim Jiwa‘s presentation at Social Media Club Victoria. Focusing on newspapers, the industry of professional media, and the revolution that is digital media, Jiwa’s talk was one of the most refreshing I’ve heard on the subject. It was the kind of open, forward-looking perspective I wish Kirk Lapointe had offered listeners at Northern Voice 2010 earlier this month (or had been on offer at an earlier Social Media Club Victoria panel).

“Print media faces extinction,” was Salim Jiwa’s key message: like it or not, we’re living through a revolution created by digital media. In this new paradigm, the economic models of sales and advertising that we may have grown up with don’t apply anymore. Whether you’re getting your news for free online or shopping for the cheapest tires online (and then taking that quote to a bricks-and-mortar retailer for a price match – which you’ll probably get), the bottom is falling out of old-style business models.

Note the common denominator in both consumption practices (consuming news, buying tires): o-n-l-i-n-e. Consumers, driven by the need to find the best price for everything (with “free” being the jackpot), are changing their consumption habits. But as Salim noted, traditional newspapers depend on reader habits – such as picking up a physical newspaper in the morning, to read over coffee. The people who still have that habit are aging, and they’re not being replaced. Our new habits let us reach for online news sources instead.

And we want news quickly. Why bother reading a story in print when that story is already ten hours old by the time it gets printed? When that story can be read online within minutes of an occurrence? Canwest (the Canadian media corporation) says it plans to “go web-heavy,” but doing so means cannibalizing its print outlets even more. If you’re going web-heavy by putting all your good content online as soon as it becomes available, why should anyone bother to read that content in print, given it’ll be a day old by the time it finally appears?

Those were just some of the cold facts Salim Jiwa described. But for me the biggest “aha!” moment came when he spoke about press releases – or journalism-by-press-release.

Consider this: The White House keeps up a running stream of information (including press releases) on its site, to the point that journalists become nearly redundant. You could just as well outsource the story-writing itself to a journalist in India: all he or she needs to do is read the official press releases online and cobble together the story. Eventually, you could ask, “why bother doing even that?” Interested readers are probably already following @WhiteHouse on Twitter, reading those same press releases as they appear. The newspaper no longer has (1) exclusivity; or (2) the financial wherewithal to do investigative journalism – which at any rate is being obviated by press releases and an open stream of information from the source itself.

That combination (funds drying up even as cultivating sources behind the scenes becomes redundant because organizations and institutions are releasing news and information through official channels) means that a kind of press release culture is actually helping to make journalism obsolete (also see this article).

This is funny (not haha-funny, but weird-funny).

On the one hand, we’re living in this incredibly open, accessible digital age where anyone with access to the internet can set up a website (blog) for free and produce content (including news content), or, consume (for free) content created by others. We should be awash in information – and we are, for the most part. I would hope that with the push for Open Government, there’s hope that enough information is available in addition to sanitized press releases, meaning we will need journalists (and others) who can interpret (and investigate?) the information and present it back to readers.

On the other hand, however, consider the agencies that don’t release information in an open way and instead over-rely on corporate communications to “inform” the public and the press (albeit a tame lap-dog – not watch-dog – press).

Take, for example, the City of Victoria, which is one of 13 municipalities in the Capital Regional District (which locals and outsiders often refer to simply as “Victoria,” even though the City of Victoria proper is just one small piece of that agglomeration). The City of Victoria has a population of just ~80,000 people (the Capital Regional District has ~350,000). Yet the City of Victoria has a Department of Corporate Communications (headed by a director whose 1998 salary was only $2,000 under the six-figure $100,000 mark). In addition, this department of Corporate Communications is staffed by two coordinators and a graphic designer, and the City found $180,000 worth of spare change to hire two additional communications coordinators, …and (since that was not enough) the City recently hired another basic communications person at $61,000 annual salary (a two-year replacement, possibly for maternity leave?).

All this, just so Victoria can issue well-groomed press releases and control the outgoing message. Where are the reporters digging in at City Hall? The newspaper for the most part relies on what the City tells it, and what the City tells citizens is massaged by Corporate Communications (which does not, however, appear to have its own webpage on the city’s site: it is opaque and unavailable to scrutiny…).

Journalism-by-press-release does not help democracy or make for a healthy city.

Tomorrow: more on Salim Jiwa’s talk, with special reference to his digital news project, Vancouverite.

(Update May 29: Second part of my report posted here.)

PechaKucha Night Victoria, Vol. 2

May 24, 2010 at 10:19 pm | In architecture, arts, creativity, ideas, innovation, local_not_global, victoria | Comments Off on PechaKucha Night Victoria, Vol. 2

Three months ago, on February 25, 2010, Elisa Yon and some friends helped instigate Victoria‘s first PechaKucha Night. That was Vol. 1, and it was a blast.

Now, get ready for Vol. 2, happening this Thursday, May 27 at the Victoria Event Centre.



I know I’ll be surprised by Vol. 2, just as Vol. 1 surprised me with Victoria-based presenters who had fascinating stories and experiences and talents to share.

But here a few I’m particularly looking forward to: architects Keith Dewey of Zigloo (houses made from shipping containers) and Ayrie Cunliffe (who will perhaps tell us about tree houses?, not sure…); Manjinder Benning of Karmetik (“…a think tank of artists and engineers exploring a digital renaissance, seeking to question and redefine the boundaries between music, the visual arts, and technology” – read more or check out Wired Magazine‘s video of the Karmetik Machine Orchestra); designer Tara Tyreman, who also designed the poster (used as illustration, above) that advertises Thursday’s Vol. 2; Quinton Gordon of the amazing Luz Centre for the Photographic Arts; and Rhonda Ganz whose blog is all about getting rid of stuff.

That list, by the way, represents fewer than half the participants, so I know I can expect double the interestingness alluded to via the above links.

The event starts at 7:30pm, but doors open at 7pm. Judging from the throng that attended the first event, my advice is to get there early.

The brilliant folks at Anonymous Advertising put together a fun video, filmed on the spot (during intermission) at the Vol. 1 event: 10×10 (10 audience members who speak for 10 seconds each), which gives a sense of how energizing that first evening was. Check out the other videos (Vimeo) of Vol. 1 presentations – great stuff.

Follow PechaKucha Victoria on Twitter for updates. Can’t wait to see Vol. 2 in action!

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

May 23, 2010 at 2:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Fine example of how LACMA leverages its web presence and uses it to connect to audiences.
    The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has a reputation for being digital-savvy. Earlier this year, it was one of the first museums to bring exhibition catalogues online, beginning with out-of-print titles and moving on to include current material. Its blog, Unframed, is considered one the best museum blogs around; and now, in a move sparked by listening to what its audience wanted (“more images”), LACMA has launched a new all-collection landing page with an interesting “remix” option.

    tags: lacma, los_angeles, art, art_museum

  • File under “inspiration”:
    Over the past two years, the Brazilian artist has created a series of photographs of the facades of contemporary architectural gems from a skewed point of view. Looking straight up the surface of modern skyscrapers, [Bruno] Cals composes pictures that look more like surrealist landscapes than depictions of buildings.

    tags: architecture, photography, skyscrapers, flavorwire

  • Interesting article by Steven B Johnson on conceptions of privacy and how they have evolved through internet communication.
    What we do online is something quite different: we curate our private lives for public exposure. We don’t serve up a raw feed of our existence. We edit out certain bits, and highlight others. We fiddle with the privacy controls at Facebook. We define the circles of exposure.

    There used to be a large crevasse separating the intimate space of private life and what’s exposed by the klieg lights of fame. But in the Facebook age, that crevasse has broadened out into a valley between the realms of privacy and celebrity, and we are starting to camp out there and get the lay of the land. What happens in the valley should not be mistaken for fame. When you sift through the birthday party pictures of a friend of a friend, you are not mistaking her for Lady Gaga. That isn’t her 15 minutes of fame. That is your private life colliding that of a person you could imagine being friends or colleagues with, but aren’t. Call it the valley of intimate strangers.

    The fascinating and troublesome thing about the valley is that the rules of engagement there are not clearly defined, and it’s likely that they will stay undefined. Some of us talk about our relationships online; some allude to them indirectly; some keep them behind a cone of silence. Jarvis was so eager to blog about his cancer diagnosis that he felt almost restricted when he had to wait for his son to return from camp so he didn’t find out via a tweet that his dad was sick. But at the same time, Jarvis draws the line at talking about his personal finances. (“l’ll blog about my penis,” he says, “but somehow it makes me uncomfortable talking about how much money I make — I’m still too American, I guess.”)
    … In the old days, life was set by default to be private unless you happened to be famous. Now, we have to choose whether we want to venture into the valley of intimate strangers, and how exactly we want to live there. That requires a k

    tags: steven_b_johnson, privacy, facebook

  • This is the structure/ set-up that Andres Duany would like to see used for making (urban) land use decisions. It’s certainly very different (and much better) than the City of Victoria’s new set-up (using Citizen Advisory Councils [or Panels] – which are much more limited, meet endlessly over months, aren’t remunerated for their time, and are hand-picked by the mayor, and don’t report out with minutes of their meetings!).
    What Is a Citizens Jury?
    In a Citizens Jury project, a randomly selected and demographically representative panel of citizens meets for four or five days to carefully examine an issue of public significance. The jury of citizens, usually consisting of 18–24 individuals, serves as a microcosm of the public. Jurors are paid a stipend for their time. They hear from a variety of expert witnesses and are able to deliberate together on the issue. On the final day of their moderated hearings, the members of the Citizens Jury present their recommendations to decision-makers and the public. Citizens Jury projects can be enhanced through extensive communication with the public, including a dynamic web presence and significant media contacts.

    tags: citizen_juries, cities, democracy, participation, jefferson_center

  • An essay written by Adam Bahlke, posted to my WetPaint wiki, Victoria City Style Council. Adam was 14 when he wrote this.
    This essay was written in the summer of 2005. How I came to write an essay on the history of the Upper Harbour was partly because of all the buzz generated around the then recently proposed Dockside Green project, and also because my interest in the Upper Harbour’s history had been sparked after several walks along Harbour Road and the Railyards development. Happily, this essay also managed to fulfill a school requirement, so I therefore felt justified to spend several afternoons going through old books and records at the Maritime Museum and looking through the online Royal BC Museum archives. However, since this essay is nearing a year old, whenever the words “current” and so forth are used, it has to be remembered that the events are a) no longer “current” and b) the companies/people involved might no longer exist in Victoria, BC.

    tags: adam_bahlke, victoria, history, harbors, economic_development

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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