Archive | April, 2006

Broadway Fillmore Alive!

30 Apr

The Spree has a great article – and it’s online – about Chris, Mike, and Michele’s Broadway Fillmore Alive!

Check it out.

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Lotus tunes a Lada

30 Apr

You read that correctly. Lotus. Tunes. A. Lada.

Stephen Colbert is a Genius

30 Apr

He gave a speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Here’s a link to the transcript. Some nuggets:

Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us; we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in “reality.” And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

So, Mr. President, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass — it’s important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means its 2/3 empty. There’s still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn’t drink it. The last third is usually backwash. Folks, my point are that I don’t believe this is a low point in this presidency. I believe it is just a lull, before a comeback…

…So don’t pay attention to the approval ratings that say 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also logically mean that 68% approve of the job he’s not doing? Think about it.

and

The greatest thing about this man is he’s steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday, that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change, this man’s beliefs never will. And as excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of fox news.

Fox News gives you sides of every story, the president’s side and the vice president’s side.

Check the whole thing. It’s funny. Here, he auditions for press secretary:

Award

30 Apr

spreeaward.jpg

Thanks to everyone who voted.

Urbanism

30 Apr

I confess that I’ve never read a word that Jane Jacobs has ever written. Although I plan to. And I know that others have commented on her recent passing.

But I read this in today’s New York Times, and found some of it quite thought-provoking.

It praises her for staring down Robert Moses and his plan to raze parts of Greenwich Village and SoHo to build an Expressway, but…

But the problems of the 20th-century city were vast and complicated. Ms. Jacobs had few answers for suburban sprawl or the nation’s dependence on cars, which remains critical to the development of American cities. She could not see that the same freeway that isolated her beloved, working-class North End from downtown Boston also protected it from gentrification. And she never understood cities like Los Angeles, whose beauty stems from the heroic scale of its freeways and its strange interweaving of man-made and natural environments.

The threats facing the contemporary city are not what they were when she first formed her ideas, now nearly 50 years ago. The activists of Ms. Jacobs’s generation may have saved SoHo from Mr. Moses’ bulldozers, but they could not stop it from becoming an open-air mall.

The old buildings are still there, the streets are once again paved in cobblestone, but the rich mix of manufacturers, artists and gallery owners has been replaced by homogenous crowds of lemming-like shoppers. Nothing is produced there any more. It is a corner of the city that is nearly as soulless, in its way, as the superblocks that Ms. Jacobs so reviled.

SoHo is, indeed, a mall with cobblestones. But those galleries, artists, and manufacturers have moved on to other, previously neglected parts of New York City. Brooklyn didn’t become hip until people started getting priced out of Manhattan.

Perhaps her legacy has been most damaged by those who continue to treat “Death and Life” as sacred text rather than as what it was: a heroic cri de coeur. Of those, the New Urbanists are the most guilty; in many cases, they reduced her vision of corner shops and busy streets to a superficial town formula that creates the illusion of urban diversity, but masks a stifling uniformity at its core.

This is true in large-scale projects as diverse as Battery Park City or Celebration, Fla., where narrow streets and parks were supposed to create an immediate sense of community. As it turns out, what the New Urbanists could not reproduce was the most critical aspect of Ms. Jacobs’s vision, the intimate neighborhood that is built — brick by brick, family by family — over a century.

For those who could not see it, the hollowness of this urban planning strategy was finally exposed in New Orleans, where planners were tarting up historic districts for tourists, even as deeper social problems were being ignored and its infrastructure was crumbling.

The answer to such superficiality is not to resurrect the spirit of Robert Moses. But in retrospect his vision, however flawed, represented an America that still believed a healthy government would provide the infrastructure — roads, parks, bridges — that binds us into a nation. Ms. Jacobs, at her best, was fighting to preserve the more delicate bonds that tie us to a community. A city, to survive and flourish, needs both perspectives.

On the one hand, the author makes some interesting points. Once in a while, the grand project isn’t so bad. Lincoln Center is brought up as an example.

On the other hand, I’m reminded of a character that David Cross used to periodically play on Mr. Show. The freakish intellectual who dresses in a scarf and trench coat even on a hot summer day. He scoffs at the idea of listening to music CDs, and relies on his old Victrola because it’s so “pure it hurts“, refuses to own a TV, etc.

New Urbanism may be nouveau and all, but it tries to maintain the principles that make a neighborhood a neighborhood. And a contrived neighborhood is better than a soulless concrete block or thruway.

Lutz lashes out

30 Apr

I like Frank Lutz. He’s a consummate car guy. GM brought him in (he helped revive Chrysler in the 90s) to improve its product.

He’s the mastermind behind GM’s ongoing restructuring. Interiors aren’t quite as cheap as they used to be; everything has a better perceived quality and feel to it. Engines are more reliable and less coarse. Exterior design is no longer done by committee (see Pontiac Aztek), and is now done by actual designers (see Pontiac Solstice).

Last year, Lutz showed up at the NY Auto Show and declared Buick and Pontiac “damaged”, launching speculation that one of the marques would be discontinued. Buick has several all-new models out that aren’t quite up to Lexus standards yet, but are a vast improvement over what was out before.

This year, a journalist asked Lutz to comment on the notion that GM doesn’t build cars that people want to buy – a charge that was certainly true in, say, 2000.

Lutz’s reply, according to page C2 in the Buffalo News:

The Corvette C6 is sold out. The Corvette Z06 is sold out. The Pontiac Solstice is sold out. The Saturn Sky is sold out. Demand for the Chevy HHR is 200% higher than supply. The Chevy Impala outsold the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger combined in the first quarter of this year, and Chevy overtook Ford in total sales last year.

That’s great news for GM, and all of those cars (‘cept maybe the Impala, which is still boring to me) are gorgeous. I’m also wondering whether the Impala’s higher figures are due either to fleet sales or high demand/low supply of the 300 and Charger.

Lutz adds:

So then people say, ‘I’ll give you the Corvette, Solstice, Sky, HHR, and Impala, but overall your vehicles stink.’ And we’re getting this from analysts who live in New York and don’t even own a car.”

I’d go on and say that the Chevy Cobalt (especially the SS supercharged version) is a huge improvement over the venerable, mediocre Cavalier. The Malibu and Pontiac G6 (Epsilon platform) could use a freshening, but are huge improvements over their predecessors. Pontiac has shed the cheap, grey, rental car interiors and ubiquitous body cladding. Saturn is due genuinely to become the import-fighter it was always meant to be when it releases the Aura, the Outlook, the next-gen Vue, and especially when a rebadged Opel Astra replaces the design abortion called the Ion.

The more GM improves its lineup, the better it is for folks in Tonawanda and Lockport, incidentally.

Loonies and Twonies

30 Apr

One Canadian dollar now buys almost 90 American cents.

In 2002, a Loonie bought 65 US cents.

Good for us, because we’re much more of a bargain for Canadian shoppers. 8.75% tax beats 16-or-so% GST/PST, too.

But T.O. is less of a bargain for us than it used to be.

Albany in the Spotlight

30 Apr

The News’ Viewpoints section (the op-ed section) kicks off a comprehensive examination of what’s wrong with Albany and offers ideas – mostly culled from the Brennan Center report – how to fix it.

Term limits? I’m not a fan, but when you hear about some people in Albany being there for 50-odd years, there’s something wrong.

Objective redistricting? Yes! Gerrymandering to ensure re-election has got to stop.

Transforming legislative committees into true deliberative bodies? You should be shocked they’re not already so.

Capping debt and halting the practice of using public authorities as conduits for increased borrowing? Not only that, but ensure that the authorties become the direct responsibility of the governor and his staff, and that authorities act pursuant to laws passed by elected officials. No more fiefdoms.

My favorite, of course, is ending the practice of electoral fusion whereby little nothing parties with zero platform, zero candidates, and zero ideology get to wield a disproportionately large amount of power in the electoral process.

Giddy Up

29 Apr

So, as I type this…Matt Leinart is falling down the NFL draft board. Tennessee passed on him as did the Jets. Three picks remain between Matt and the Buffalo Bills.

Green Bay and San Francisco hold two of those picks and neither team is looking for a QB. Oakland has the other pick and no one really considered whether they would take Leinart if he was available. I think they’ll pass and take Vernon Davis or Michael Huff. At least that’s what I’m hoping for…

That would leave Matt Leinart on the board for the Bills.

Holy Shit.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Update: Oakland is the only thing standing between Matt and the Bills. I’m hoping for a flash of stupidity from Al Davis.

Holy Shit, unbelievable. The Raiders passed on Leinart.

Update 2: If the Bills take Bunkley, Justice, or Ngata over a franchise QB in Leinart…it will go down as one of the dumbest moves in the Bills ignominious draft history.

Please, please. please, please, please, please take Leinart.

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!!#!@#! DONTE WHITNER????!!!???

If they didn’t want Leinart or Bunkley, they should have traded out of the spot to get Whitner at the end of the first round, early second…WHERE HE WAS PROJECTED TO GO! The biggest draft reach since Erik Flowers. I’m now convinced that Ralph Wilson is trying to make us hate this team to the point where he and his senile GM just take it right out of town.

We hire a no talent assclown of a head coach, give up Moulds, Milloy, and Adams…give the Moulds money to Peerless god damn Price, sign Craig Nall, and draft this guy?

Someone kill me now.

Update 3: John Clayton said on radio that Bills had offers of a 2nd rounder from teams, including Denver, to drop down in 1st. Sure these guys could pan out BUT..they also could still have drafted these 2 guys, added a mid 2nd and still had their own high 3rd. Horrible job by Levy. Trading with Denver would have moved us down THREE spots. Seriously, I’m really beginning to hate this team.

The Problem With Politics

29 Apr

Do you know who George Allen is? Neither does 75% of America but, he’s the “insider’s choice” to be the Presidential frontrunner for the Republican Party in 2008.

The process of building name recognition is a slow and deliberate process that begins with fluff introductory pieces in magazines like The New Republic, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and newspapers profiles in the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc. If you start to build a little credibility, you show up on Hardball, Fox News Sunday, and other pundit shows to let America know who you are. If that goes well, you get a spot on Meet The Press and get personal features written about you in Time and Newsweek. It takes time and it’s a carefully crafted process that can ill afford slip-ups or bad publicity along the way.

George Allen is having trouble getting out of the gate in stage one.

The Republicans like him because of his “folksy charm”, southern appeal, and that he’s the son of a famous football coach. He grew up in California but has sold himself with a subtle southern accent, tobacco chewing, a love for Travis Tritt, cowboy boots, and an “aw shucks” kind of vibe. It’s all bullshit but, it was for Dubya as well. He grew up a wealthy white kid in Southern California. There’s nothing “southern” about him.

Anyhow, the reason he is being marginalized and run out of the Presidential discussion? He wore a confederate flag lapel pin in his high school yearbook picture in 1970. Uh, ok.

Who cares? Are we seriously discounting people for office because of what they wore or might have said nearly 40 years ago? Don’t get me wrong, I think Allen is a tool and I’m not certain he’s a quality candidate for the Presidency but, my position is based on his lackluster legislative record and not the quality of his wardrobe when he was 17.

I did a lot of stupid things when I was a teenager, hell, I did many things I regret during my mid-twenties. Does this mean I’m disqualified for running for office? Does our desire to blow every small transgression out of proportion and the pursuit to scoop other reporters with a scandal dissuade other qualified candidates from running for office? What’s the cutoff for disqualifying stupidity as transgressions of youth?

At the local level, I’m sure there’s many people who would love to run for office but don’t want Len Lenihan or Joe Illuzi leaking embarassing stories of their youth to the public at large.

It’s a problem that retards growth in government and precludes a slew of qualified candidates from serving the public as citizen representatives.