Sunday, December 23, 2007

omigosh, omigosh, omigosh...

What makes me giddy like a teenager?...A photoset of Hugh Ferris's sketches just posted to Flickr by Martin of KSMGRD. That was so damn nice of him.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ismael writes...

Photo by Ira Lippke

Ismael emailed me today:

"dear brother i miss u i hope u r. healthy do u get marred i wish u hapyy new year mery xmas i hope to see u soon in jerusalem"

...Ah, habibi, it is always a special Christmas gift to get a note from you.
Here is Ismael's latest poem, strange for its libidinous and acurate depiction of Jerusalem. She is a warm coquette, a promiscuous mistress. She has many lovers...
Between hills it is vainglorious and by heaven amazement and coquette bride...
Adornment with the stars of heaven.
Blessed by the highest god and ennobled by the prophets.

By her name the birds responding in the morning
And in the evening the doves cooing over its walls
And dozing and the kids dozing between its bosom

My spirit united with your spirit
As the light united with darkness
As the water united with thirst
Death cannot separate us
Nor anyone can kill our love
Bride once more...more fondling and coquettish
Jerusalem city of lights.
By my spirit I soar to you
My feet rushing to your dooors every day
Flying high...far...far...with the breeze
Takes me the smell of incense and perfumes
In the the yards...and every courtyard.
I ascend the balconies which waves to me by the flags
Of peace...flags of love and rejoice
And promise happiness.

As the spirit carries the seeds of love to you and planted
I carry my spirit and plant its grwoth and blooms
When seen by eyes

With sunrise I kiss every piece of your land
And with evenings full moon I whisper my passionate love.
By your love I am king and you are my queen
And the queen of hearts everywhere....Jerusalem

Full of promise I will stay on your love Jerusalem
Your love is everlasting
When everything is gone everything extinct
Gay bright more and more coquettish
Bride and mistress of cities
City of of of lights.
Words of Prof. Isamel Obydat

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What the World Eats

Above is the Ahmed family of Cairo (food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53; family recipe: Okra and mutton), which is definitely my favorite of the bunch. It looks similar to the kind of fare I could get in the market in Jerusalem's Old City, where I onced survived on $25.00/week...God, I miss that food. The vegetables, btw, are tasty in a way typical American produce is not - one of the things I actually miss the most about life in the M.E.!

Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Favorite foods: sashimi, fruit, cake, potato chips

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp

Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent Reflection

Last night, a friend of mine querried me about the meaning of some of the parables of the Kingdom, which Christ used to describe how one should approach the kingdom in an all-embracing way. The treasure hidden in the field is one example...Calling us to waste no time to get off our current life-mill to "invite the will" of God in our lives. Sadly, I cannot use the word "Torah" with my Christian friends, the Law being a enormously loaded term (a stumbling block to the gentiles?), but it was curious to me how I noticed how central Torah is to Jesus' message and how unavoidable it is to comprehension of the Kingdom Parables. I'm used to using cicumlocutions for "Torah" with Christians, but here my words faltered. Confronted with the Kingdom Parables of Jesus, at last, Torah (as the enterprise of the Jews) simply cannot be hidden, redressed or decorated.

Pondering the message of hope and light this advent, part of me is getting sick of the games of circumlocution in my church. Part of me wants to finally lay down the dark riddle to finally stammer to all my Christian friends that being born-again means being alive to the Torah of God...But I'm already averting my face from their blank stares. Curious this...Christian theology. I sadly can't avoid seeing a twinge of truth all throughout Harold Bloom's Jesus and Yahweh remarking of this irony of ironies. Myself a "Jesus Quester" (as Bloom calls me), I take great exceptions to most of what he says though I cannot remember reading a book with so much truth on the subject. I cannot help but to see his point that Christianity has so completely conquered, it has conquered Jesus. I must say I envy Bloom's Jewish childhood, and cannot but be jealous of his first exposure to Jesus in Yiddish (as a child, Bloom read a copy of the New Testament in Yiddish, which a missionary left on his doorstep). For the immediacy of Jesus' message is not averted in the language of Judaism, in Bloom's case provided via the Yiddish armature. It is only in that Synagoguic reality where Jesus demonstrates his naked genius. Indeed, Bloom writes,

"Father John P. Meier, the author of three magisterial volumes under the somewhat misleading tile A Marginal Jew (with a much-needed fourth volume to come), accurately terms Jesus 'a Jewish genius.' One can go further: Jesus was the greatest of Jewish geniuses. It is as though the Yahwist or J Writer somehow was fused with King David, with the Prophets from Amos through Malachi, with the Wisdom authors of Job and Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), with the sages from Hillel through Akiba, and with the long sequence that goes from Maimonides through Spinoza on to Freud and Kafka. Jesus is the Jewish Socrates, and surpasses Plato's mentor as the supreme master of dark wisdom." different our worlds are, Harold Bloom. Though you trust no covenant, belated or otherwise, in the darkness where you beat your chest I bask in its light.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Less Couldn't Be More

No words necessary...

Kosmograd worries that the act of building architecture is increasingly going to seem like a redundant step.

And now...The World's "BEST" Urban Spaces

bus stop, originally uploaded by kjpm.

In response to the World's Worst Urban Places and Spaces Pool on Flickr, someone has started the World's Best Urban Places and Spaces Pool.

Is it just me, or do I think some of the images on both of these pools could belong just as well to the other? This is a perfect visual commentary on why one can't really be sure what makes the 'best' or 'worst' of an urban anything. Urban is urban and it is disturbing or exciting depending on the time of day, your mood, your frame of reference.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Impoverishments of Nationalism

Vukovar III., originally uploaded by GolemG.

"The trouble with this nationhood, however, is that whereas before, I was defined by my education, my job, my ideas, my character - and, yes, my nationality too - now I feel stripped of all that. I am nobody because I am not a person any more. I am one of 4.5 million Croats."

-Slavenka Drakulić
(commenting on her experience of Croatian Nationalism during the Yugoslav wars)

poetry time

quiet, originally uploaded by ali bishop.


Some faces we dismiss lightly, colour by colour we peel away
the stretch of pain within the eye, wearied by dousing.
We do not see the eyes of those slowly leaving,
we will not recall that they had eaten,
what they spoke of to themselves.
We ended all the tales without them.
We shall gather deep voices, waning to silence,
for those remaining, see them home,
to a neglect more sensuous.
The whole space we shall draw behind us
to weightless bodiless words, words
made rich by the first of their meanings.
In them all our abandoned landscapes grow dark and ripen,
all those beautiful properties sloping towards travellers, shadows and distances.
Now, right now, all we can do is rise and move away.
Lacking the strength to forget, even one more time.

Marijana Radmilović

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Mentally Sunny Day

21, originally uploaded by jamie mckerral.

It is overcast outside, but I'm enjoying a mentally sunny day. Which means I'm deep in thought pondering the fate of all humanity...Seriously, that is what gets me really going in the morning.

Over at BLDGBlog, a thoughtful post contemplates Server Rooms and the Future of Humanism...Seriously, they are threatening our existance (and we're not talking just mentally)!

Over at Matthew's House Project there is an interview with film writer/critic Doug Cummings on the re-release of Blade of my all time faves. Just the kind of tasty tart in the morning to get all my apocalyptic synapses firing. In my opinion Blade Runner and ET were the last films to understand what Sci-Fi was about, prodding the depths of the human empathy bug in mankind's encounter with the Other.

But Cummings makes a more down to earth point on the difference between Blade Runner and contemporary sci-fi:

"The one thing I really noticed was what a historical last gasp Blade Runner was for pre-digital cinema. Pretty much everything in the film is either live action or props or models, and it just sort of resounds with an overwhelming physicality that’s missing from so many contemporary films that depend so heavily on digital effects. I don’t know…you watch today’s films…a lot of them have this sort of ethereal, weightless, artificiality to them, because everything is so digital..."

I couldn't agree more.

These two posts beg the question: If our history is now digital...Does that mean that it is becoming weightless? ...hmmm...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How Drivable is Your City?

Day 7: Mad Bus Driver, originally uploaded by arthur's design.

I saw this post at Sprawled Out and couldn't help having a great chuckle to start my morning.

You smart growth people need to lighten up...It was funny, ok?

Sheez....This is why I call myself a 'camp urbanist' - unlike the CNU folks, camp urbanists appreciate a sense of humor. (That and there's Plaza Central - an environment no New Urbanist could dream up).

Monday, December 3, 2007

World's Worst Urban Spaces

worst_urban_places_asb_21, originally uploaded by andreasbaeing.

Digital Urban has organized the World's Worst Urban Places and Spaces Pool on Flickr. Above is the first example uploaded showing a scene from Manchester, UK...

Looking through this photo set, I can't help but to ask myself, So, what is it about these places that I find so fact, beautiful? Is it my love affair with failed modernist housing projects?

I doubt it. In our era of revivalization aesthetics, we only see the hope these places represent. A speculator sees artist lofts and dollar signs. An urban designer already begins composing 'Before/After' images in his mind. Interestingly, we are sublimating the primitive idealism of the original designers of these worlds in the push toward revitalizing the core...This is the new hope for the postmodern (modern nostalgic) designer: we are able to peer at the morose carcasses of yesterday's failures to recast entire cities as regenerated, glittering, Bobo New Jerusalems in the post-apocalyptic world.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

An Issa to Save Buffalo

Old HERTZ Car Rental, originally uploaded by KGM.

As many of us with offices inhabited by recent transplants from NY know, part of Charlotte's success has been predicated on the continuing demise of Buffalo, NY. Well, an Iraqi developer is hoping to change things around! Check it out: Buffalo's Field of Dreams.

If I were an investor I'd definitely be exploring every nook and cranny of Buffalo...Not because I believe the tide is about to change (I don't think a skyscraper will do the trick), but because I actually do believe in the power of place and the long vision of a community with staying power. It's an opportunity to get in the door in the kind of cool places that are out of reach in most cities.