If every city looks alike, then we are failing as a profession

Source: andysinger.com

Source: andysinger.com

In response to a cartoon I posted yesterday on panethos.wordpress.com, (see above) a comment was made that planners are one of the reasons why so many cities look-alike. That was a very thought-provoking and rather disconcerting response.

With reflection, I would have to partially agree with the respondent. In too many instances, we as planners fail to fight the good fight and stand up for sound planning practices. Sure, we can be overruled by boards and commissions, but when one scans multitudes of master plans, long-range plans, comprehensive plans, and zoning codes from across the land, there are numerous similarities. What happened to context? What happened to most appropriate? What happened to all the criteria we should be (and were taught to be) using in our daily responsibilities as planners?

Certainly, some similarities between cities are to be expected. But if Boston looks like Birmingham, if you think you are in Scranton when you are really in Peoria, or if Tucson overly resembles Boise, then that is not a good thing. Variety is the spice of life and our communities should be as diverse, unique, and vibrant as each of us. Otherwise, what’s the point of having individually tailored plans and codes? We might as well have a national set of regulations that are applied uniformly across the nation to every village, town, township, city, or county.

Perhaps this is all simple case of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or of, “if the ordinance survived a challenge elsewhere, it should be good to use here.” Needless to say, these are both somewhat lackadaisical approaches, but they could go a long way towards explaining the conundrum of sameness.

As professional planners, it is our job, no, it is our duty, to develop plans and codes that are best suited to the locality. Planners are not supposed to become one-size fits all land-use fashion designers. Some of you may recall the humorous (and perhaps a tad politically incorrect) Wendy’s commercial from the 1980s mocking a Soviet fashion show. In the advertisement, a model wears the exact same outfit for every purpose. Hopefully, as planners we are not mimicking that commercial in the application of our profession. To do so would be a great disservice to ourselves, our communities, and our profession.

 

 

 

Temples rock the Tonight Show

Source: xfm.co.uk

Source: xfm.co.uk

Temples absolutely kicked arse last night (July 30th) on the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon performing “Shelter Song” from their awesome debut album entitled Sun Structures. Here’s a weblink to the video of their performance. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Temples enshrine the psychedelic era…and more

Temples_-_Sun_Structures - wiki

“Sun Structures” – Source: en.wikipedia.org

I discovered Temples listening to Impact 89fm – Michigan State University’s student radio station when they played the richly 1960’esque “Shelter Song.” As the first track on their debut full-length album, Sun Structures, the song aptly introduces Temples and a whole new generation to the amazing guitar riffs and rhythms of great bands like The Byrds, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, early Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues, and even in one song reminiscent of Heart. While this may sound like sincere flattery and a case of imitation, Sun Structures is also refreshing in its own right – for one it’s a hell of a lot better than most music being released today. It also exudes mesmerizing guitars.  Some may claim guitar rock is dying and/or dead – it sure isn’t when you listen to this album!

The great classic psychedelic rock sounds emanating from Sun Structures evoke memories of songs we Baby Boomers cut our teeth on and is far more enjoyable to listen to than the bass-thumping headaches of rap, the bubble gum schlock of modern pop, or the overtly corporatize and partisan blather of most modern country music.

For a band that formed just two years ago, Temples are a polished, poised, and immensely talented foursome from Kettering, England. So much so, that in 2014 they have already played SXSW, Coachella, and Glastonbury, with Lollapalooza next on their plate.

Sun Structures is my favorite new album to date in 2014 (Beck a close second). It contains 12 songs spread over 53 minutes – a welcome length compared to so many recorded sprint sessions. Of the dozen formidable tracks, my favorites include:

  • “Shelter Song”
  • “Keep in the Dark”
  • “Sun Structures”
  • “Mesmerise”
  • “A Question Isn’t Answered”
  • “Move with the Season” – a guitar riff eerily similar to “Love Alive” by Heart
  • “The Golden Throne”
  • “Sand Dance” – reminds me of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
Who's Next - Source: en.wkipedia.org

“Who’s next” – Source: en.wkipedia.org

Lastly, I have got to say something about the album cover. Not only is it an uncanny reminder of Who’s next, but it is one of the coolest covers I have ever seen from an architectural and historical standpoint. According to the band’s interview on KEXP radio, Rushton’s Triangular Lodge, shown on the cover, is an historic structure built in 1593. Wow! – the building alone is worth a visit for architectural and historical junkies. Given its placement on this debut album, its place in British history has been secured for many centuries to come.

“The Gentleman From Finland” gets derailed

Source: goodreads.com

Source: goodreads.com

I really wanted to enjoy this book. The image of riding the Trans-Siberian Express across the width of the Soviet Union is a fascinating concept. Given how much I enjoyed Robert Goldstein’s more recent book, Riding with Reindeer, I figured this one would be loads of literary fun. It starts out that way, but in the last quarter of the book, it loses steam quickly and he gets caught up in too many dream sequences. It was almost like the author was not sure how to conclude the book, so he derailed the project instead. Don’t get me wrong, there are some quite enjoyable parts to The Gentleman From Finland, but in the end it falls flat leaving the reader wanting a more complete and descriptive travelogue and less tangential side tracks into the abstract.

Mirroring the Beatles in tribute

Kathy and I had a chance to see Michigan’s top-ranked Beatles tribute band, Toppermost last night. They were excellent. Close you eyes and you’d swear you were listening to the original band, even the British accents while talking to the audience.

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The first half of the show was performed in original Beatles regalia, while the second half was in Sergeant Pepper”s attire.

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Kudo’s to Toppermost for a great show!

 

DC’s stunning Chinatown friendship gate

0601140956One of my favorite activities while traveling is to make an effort to see the Chinatown friendship gates in cities that I visit. Among those I have personally observed are the friendship gates in Boston, Chicago, Sacramento, and San Francisco. From a human scale, Boston’s is hard to beat and San Francisco’s is certainly iconic, but the gate in Washington, DC’s Chinatown (just east of the intersection of H & 7th Streets) is simply stunning for its overall beauty, size, and artistic intricacy.

0601140958 (2)

Walking out of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station, the friendship gate immediately captures your attention and holds it tight. It is quite an impressive visual treat. Next time you happen to be visiting our Nation’s capital, hop on the Metro and stop to take a look at the city’s Chinatown friendship gate – it’s worth the trip! Cheers!

0601140954 (2)

 

Ruining the net one ‘Mad ad’ at a time

Source: businessinsider.com

Source: businessinsider.com

I don’t know about all of you, but I find the increased blizzardization of advertising on the net to be quite annoying anymore. Given the trend lines depicted in the chart above, I fear it will only continue get worse. You can’t hardly watch any videos on YouTube without having to wait at least five seconds and usually much longer for Madison Avenue to bore you with some stupid advertisement. Then, as the video is playing, a pop-up annoyance opens at the bottom of the screen every 15 seconds or so. Some news websites would prefer to sell you something than warn the public of impending danger (say a tornado, earthquake, flood, etc.). Anything to make a freaking buck.

I can remember the good old days – just a decade ago, when you could watch videos or read stories online without being inundated with Mad ads. Some sites are so bad, you literally cannot find the “close” or “no thanks” icon to turn off the advertisement. Others keep popping up no matter how many times you hit the “back” or “refresh” button on your screen and/or keyboard. Sometimes, I just press control/alt/delete to get out of advertising purgatory.

My guess is that some enterprising young tech or marketing genius is going to figure out that buffeting people with the visually pollution of advertising only serves to dissuade them from using a website and will make a mint with less obtrusive advertising and marketing schemes. Or…a tech guru will figure out a way to avoid the ads altogether. Hopefully, one of these brainiacs comes along sooner versus later to save society from this scourge of Mad ads. You may now enjoy the advertisements appearing here on panethos.wordpress.com.   :)