Archive for April, 2011

Stories From The City

Kind of an interesting article about the history of apartments in NYC, as seen mostly through the eyes of the fabulously wealthy. This being NY Magazine, of course, the way the common folk lived is referenced only insofar as it relates to how the top 5% or so. But the article is interesting none the less, mostly because the New York described seems so foreign.

There are still plenty of people who genuinely prefer living in single family homes, but we sort of take it for granted that to live like that, you have to get out of the city. Many years ago we divided our world up into Urban, Suburban, and Rural, and we don’t really recognize any grey areas. The demarcation we use is density. You get to choose between sprawl and life in a box. In what has been a pretty big reversal, many people are generally moving towards little boxes, and away from cookie cutter ranches and opulent mini-mansions. I’m too lazy to Google the actual demographics, but it seems pretty clear that people of my generation have found the last vestige of rebellion against our hippy parents. We moved to the city en-masse.

Anyone my parent’s age who’s been payment attention for the last 50 years must be pretty cynical by this point. There’s not much they haven’t seen. We’re talking about a generation that was responsible for the Weather Underground, key parties, and Ronald Reagan. If there is a way to piss off a parent, then someone I know must have tried it. From drugs to tattoos to joining a cult, nothing seems to phase these people (unless you’re lucky enough to have a type A parent who goes ape shit about everything). The only thing that could possibly get them is to reverse what I think they see as their greatest achievement: getting the fuck out of the city.

The Baby Boomers didn’t invent the suburb, exactly. But they honed them into a lean, merciless culture destroying machine. Neighborhood shops were bulldozed in favor of Costco’s and Walmarts. Soccer practice became America’s pass time. Kids learned to drink and to drive at approximately the same age.

Even those who don’t plan on moving to Manhattan can dip their toes in the water. A lot could be said, both positive and negative, about the recent redevelopment in some growing parts of NJ but part of the reason that it’s exciting is that these towns are allowing walkable urbanism. They’re creating mixed use areas, where someone can walk downstairs from their apartment and find places to right there, so close you could spit. For years that was a foreign idea in most places. That was what the people who ran these town councils were trying to get away from. They wanted their front doors to open on bland, cookie cutter America.

Now making areas designed so that you don’t need to power a couple tons of steel just to go pick up some Slim Jims is a good idea in and of itself. It’s better for the environment, and it’s safer in a lot of ways (cars are dangerous).  The question is, once the last generation is too old to care, will we have the stamina to keep moving forward?

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If you’re like me and mostly listen to music recorded before Bonzo first went to Bitzburg you’ll probably notice that record labels believe you’ll keep re-buying the same albums as long as they keep “remastering” them. Remastering can, in some cases, lead to better sounding records, but it’s sadly become a cynical cash-in rather than a way of putting out better music. Columbia has released a remastered Dylan’s Love and Theft , which came out less than 10 years ago. I’m pretty sure that mastering technology hasn’t changed that much in the past decade.

The message I’m getting is that the record labels feel that no one knew how to properly master an album prior to about 2005. Or maybe this is all a conspiracy to explain the delay behind Chinese Democracy. I can only hope it’s the latter.

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What You Gotta Learn For Yourself

Do you remember that guy who kept insisting, loudly, whenever someone looked like they might have been having the least bit of fun, that Dec 31st 1999 was not the last day of the millennium? Instead, we had to wait until Jan 1st, 2001 for the new millennium to begin? He may have been technically correct, but mostly you just nodded until he stopped talking so you could go for another champagne and Jack.

By that logic, I have just hit my 30’s now. It seems strange. By most cultural measures, you could probably say I’m an adult. I’ve got a steady job, I’m in debt, and often buy cauliflower on purpose. So when my parents offered to take me out some place for dinner for my birthday, I thought maybe it’d be fun to go some place in the city. Some place fancy. I found myself thinking it’d be fun to dress up like a grown up and go to restaurant that doesn’t offer “buffalo” anything.

Of course it’s a bit silly to be 31 years old and still think it’s subversive to pretend to be an adult. But then I realized that what they don’t tell you when you’re a kid is that there’s no one thing labeled “adulthood”. It’s goal you eventually reach. It’s just a continuum and if you play your cards right you can end up finding a spot that’s comfortable for you. But that comes from trial and error more than anything.

Shortly after college, I fucked up an important relationship, in part because I had these terrifying notions of “growing up”, and what that would entail. I didn’t know how that happened to someone, but I I couldn’t abide any little instance of change, fearing that any given step forward would end in a mortgage and 2.5 kids. I had bought into the idea that just because most of the people I’d seen over 30 were empty shells, then settling into a stupefyingly dull middle age was as natural as puberty.

The reality is that there are different ways you can choose to live. You just need to stop being as much of a fuck up. Even if you find yourself in a situation that would have seemed unimaginable to the 14 year old you, it is essential to find your joy somewhere. You may feel encumbered by accidents of fate or piss-poor decision making, but there is plenty of beauty in this world for you to take with you. Hold on to that and you won’t feel old.

People find that not everything worked out for them as planned. Then they blame that on growing up. If only it were so easy. The truth is that that’s life. We all have challenges and regrets. The trick is to not get bogged down in old expectations. In the end, the only way to truly be an adult is to accept that there’s no such thing.

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Not much time to blog today, but apparently you can watch Motorama, one of the great hero myth retellings of our time, in full on YouTube. Here’s the beginning (trust me, keep with it):

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Mad Men Coming Back

Good news for fans of infidelity and drinking during the day.

All the details released point to the fact that AMC likes having an award winning show on it’s roster, but doesn’t think it’s making enough money. Budget cuts, shorter episodes (so they can sell more ads) and even more product placement (which doesn’t make sense to me because the companies that hire SCDP usually end up looking like clueless idiots. Utz Potato Chips, I’m talking to you).

My question is why all the cost cutting/income maximizing? It’s going into Season 5. Did the other 4 lose money? Or is AMC now expecting this show to subsidize more of their other programming? For all the good press AMC gets for Mad Men and Breaking Bad, most of the time they’re still AMC, I guess.

Since we’re talking about it, what do they show when Mad Men and Breaking Bad aren’t on? I honestly have no idea. Do they still just replay Mr Mom every 2 hours?

Props to AMC for taking the risk with these shows. They had no idea if people would find their way to this backwater network to watch great television, but they trusted these creators and let them run wild. Now it’s paying off, and they’re trying to cash in. Lets just hope they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Mad Men’s good because it’s well written. It’s popular because it’s cool. If Don Draper suddenly switches from gin to Mikes Hard Lemonade, it’s as good as gone.

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