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These Breathtaking 3-D Liquid Floors Transport You to Exotic Locations Without Leaving Home

Monday, May 4th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

A company in Dubai has created an innovative type of flooring that they say “fundamentally changes” the way we will think about what’s beneath our feet. The eye-catching floors, created by Imperial Interiors, are composed of a self-leveling screed which is covered by the 3-D image, followed by a transparent polymer and then finished with a protective lacquer.

Though they were originally used in large spaces like hotels and office buildings, the company says they are ideal for any room size, and in fact, can visually enlarge small spaces.

Here are some examples from the company’s Facebook page and from Talenthouse:










Imagine walking into a room in your home and feeling like you’ve crossed the threshold into some exotic locale — like you’re taking a homecation every time you use the bathroom. (Considering all the time you spend in there, it might not be a bad investment!)

But I’m not so sure about this next one. There’s no way I’d want these guys peering up at me every time I’m having my “quiet time” (as we euphemistically refer to it at our house). It’s just a bridge too far for me.



Same with this one:



It’s a shame we have to go all the way to Dubai for these. Hopefully we’ll see them in the U.S. soon.


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How to Build the World’s Manliest Paper Towel Holder…

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 - by Builder Bob

When I start a new project I often dive in head first and make a big mess in the process. Paint splatters, sawdust, motor oil, spilled glue, calf’s blood, dismembered limbs–you know the usual workshop messes. So after I’m done digging wells and building hospitals for the underprivileged in Africa, I need a bunch of paper towels to clean up the aftermath of my construction destruction.

Sure I could just buy a cheap plastic paper towel holder for my workshop and  be done with it, or I could build an everlasting testament of testosterone for my man cave. Using 3/4″ iron pipe and some rust preventative you can build a beefy bar for your towels that will one day be discovered by future archeologist, inspire them to power down their construction bots, rediscover their masculinity, build something awesome, and stop making babies in the lab and start making them the old fashion way, thus reintroducing genetic diversity to the world and saving the future of mankind.

So for the sake of humanity I need everyone to to build their own beacon of badassery, to ensure they are found for future generations.  Here’s how you do it.

Supplies Needed:




1. The first step is to secure the fender washers to the end cap and base so the paper towels don’t move around or slide off the bar.  I used a combination of E6000 automotive glue–which works great on metal–on the contact surface of the washer and cap. Then I wrapped a bead of JB weld epoxy putty around the outside. The last step is overkill for the amount of stress put on this project, but hey, if you’re building something to survive the apocalypse why not?  Make sure you clean any glue over run out of the pipe threads before it has a chance to set, otherwise you will have a hard time fitting the pieces together later. Clamp the parts overnight to let the glue and epoxy cure fully.

2. I advise coating the iron pipe with a protective finish to prevent rust. Either a clear acrylic finish or rust-inhibiting spray paint (black is the only acceptable manly color). Tape off the thread areas of the pipe before you spray or it could interfere with joining the pieces.

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How To Hang Pegboard To Finally Get Your Garage Organized

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Builder Bob
Hanging Pegboard

Hanging Pegboard

After moving to my new place, I had access to a great studio space. It had cabinets, shelves, and a large counter top work surface. But after my first few projects digging tools out of cabinets, tool cases, and packed boxes I decided it was time to organize my work space more efficiently. Adding Pegboard to your work shop, garage, or garden shed is a cost effective way to organize all your material. It makes your tools easy to find, close at hand, and up out of the way of your work surface.

Special mention to my wonderful co worker Miss Carol Ann for some helpful tips and advice before I started this project.

Materials needed:


Pegboard Sheets, 1×3’s or pegboard spacers, High Gloss paint and rollers


Drill, Stud Finder, laser level and torpedo level, tape measure, straight edge, and a pencil


2-1/2” and 1-½” wood screws, flat or finish washers


Pegboard hooks, holders, bins, and lock downs. .

  1. The first step is to determine the dimensions and use of your project. Peg board comes in 2 flavors, you can use ⅛” hole board for small areas to hang hand tools, or larger ¼” hole board to cover an entire garage wall and hang heavier lawn equipment, folding chairs, etc. You will want to place your pegboard at a height and location that is easy to access but clear of your horizontal working space. Using your tape measure, laser level, straight edge and pencil mark the outline of where your board will be.

  2. You need about a ½” of space between the pegboard and the wall so the hooks have room to lock in place. There are two methods for spacing. I chose to use lengths of 1×3’s attached to the wall studs to act as a frame, however the lumber will block the peg holes behind it and limit your hanging options. The first step is to find the wall studs using a stud finder then mark the center line using your straight edge. I found my stud spacing to be 16” so after finding the first two studs you can make short work of the rest. Once located you can start hanging your framing using the longer 2 ½” wood screws. After inserting the first screw part way put your bubble level on top to ensure your frame stays straight while securing the rest of the screws.  I alternated full length board with half length  on each stud to maximize the peg holes available, you can also build a full box frame for the most stability but you will lose peg spaces. At this point I painted the wood frame to help hide it once the board is hung.

    • The other method of hanging involves using plastic spacers to offset the pegboard. This frees up a considerable number of pegs available but will require at least two people to accomplish.  While one person holds the pegboard in the position you want it, the other can mark the holes where the spacers will be. If not anchoring to the studs you can place hollow wall anchors to hold the screws. A trick to use is once you have your locations marked and wall anchors installed, use a small dab of superglue to attach the spacer to the wall and let them dry. This will save pinched fingers in the next step. Make sure your spacers are level at this point because you will not be able to adjust them later on.

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New York City’s Buried Museum To Its Opulent Past

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 - by Chris Queen

City Hall Station

We all know about New York City’s famed subway system. What many of us – especially those of us who haven’t visited the city since the pre-Giuliani years – don’t realize is that there are some parts of the system that the public hasn’t seen in 70 years. One example is the ornate, century-old City Hall Station, which the city closed in 1945. The only tourists who have seen it have dodged security guards and footlong rats – until now.

It was opened in 1904, with the hope of making it the crowning glory of the New York subway system in elegant architecture and a place for commemorative plaques to honour the work that had resulted in such a successful underground mass transit system. It was to be the original southern terminus of the first ‘Manhattan Main Line’; however the station was closed and boarded up in 1945. The gem of the underground began gathering dust, forgotten by the general public, as passengers were forced off at the Brooklyn Bridge Stop before the train continued on to the terminus to make its turnaround.

The reason for its closure was that newer longer cars were required to match the demand of passengers that passed through the system. But as the stations tracks were severely curved, a dangerous gap between the train doors and the platform was formed making it an unsafe area. This combined with the fact that only about 600 people used it, resulted in its closure with only mythical plans of turning it into a transit museum. But this was never followed through.

Gorgeous tile work and beautiful stained glass ceilings highlight the lovely station, which at least appears to remain fairly intact. The blank concrete walls inside have turned into canvases for graffiti artists, who have put surprising work on display.


And finally the public will be able to view the City Hall Station in its glory when one subway line ventures through the station as a sort of moving museum.

…the 6 Train will now allow the passengers who have been enlightened with the knowledge of its whereabouts to stay on the train during its turnaround and see the Station. You won’t be able to get off, but you’ll be taken for a slow tour of the platform and see what a beauty it was in its heyday!

Here’s hoping more of New York City’s lesser known history will become available for public sight soon.

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Death Wish: Mr. Bronson’s Planet

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll


Is it possible for a veteran actor to star in a motion picture that makes him a legend, assures his cinematic immortality, and ensures that while he’s still alive, he’ll always find work, and yet be completely miscast? Actually, it’s happened at least twice. In the late 1970s, Stanley Kubrick cast Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining. The film made Nicholson a legend, but in a way, he’s very badly miscast — Nicholson’s character seems pretty darn bonkers right from the start of the film, long before his encounters with the demons lurking within the bowels of the Overlook Hotel.

But arguably, a far worse case of miscasting is Charles Bronson in Michael Winner’s 1974 film Death Wish. When novelist Brian Garfield wrote the 1972 book that inspired the movie, he was hoping that if Hollywood ever adapted his novel to the big screen, a milquetoast actor such as Jack Lemmon would star. And Lemmon would actually have been perfect, since his character’s transformation from bleeding heart liberal white collar professional to crazed vigilante would have been all the more shocking. Instead, we all know it’s only a matter of time before Charles Bronson reveals his legendary tough guy persona on the screen. Back around 2000, I remember reading Garfield’s notes on his book’s Amazon page, which was something along the lines of, “Would you want to mess with Charles Bronson?”

Currently the cinematic adaptation of Death Wish is available for home viewing in standard definition on DVD, and in high definition, via Amazon’s Instant Video format. And while the latter version is in sharp 1080p HD, the film could use a restoration from Paramount before it’s issued onto a Blu-Ray disc. The Amazon version has its share of scratches and dust on its print, though it’s certainly cleaner than the Manhattan it depicts on screen. I watched the Amazon HD version the other night, and I was reminded that Bronson’s casting dispenses with the film’s credibility almost as explosively as Bronson himself dispatches assailants onscreen. There are eight million stories in the naked city, and apparently, in 1974, almost as many muggers stupid enough to go up against Charles Bronson.

But otherwise, the timing of the film was absolutely perfect. As Power Line’s Steve Hayward noted in The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order: 1964-1980, film critic Richard Grenier dubbed Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film Dirty Harry, “the first popular film to talk back to liberalism,” a movie made during the period that then-Governor Ronald Reagan “liked to joke that a liberal’s idea of being tough on crime was to give longer suspended sentences,” Hayward added.

Which helped set the stage not just for Death Wish, but for the era of moral collapse in which it was filmed, and in which it too became a hit by talking back to liberalism.

Peter Biskind’s 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls documented Hollywood’s near-complete takeover by the left beginning in the late 1960s, but there were a few holdouts during that era: John Wayne was still making movies, Eastwood’s long career was beginning its ascendency, and British director Michael Winner was also a conservative himself.

But on the East Coast, in the early 1970s, New York had essentially collapsed. Saul Bellow was one of the first novelists to document the moral and increasingly physical carnage. As Myron Magnet of City Journal wrote in the spring of 2008, “Fear was a New Yorker’s constant companion in the 1970s and ’80s. … So to read Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet when it came out in 1970 was like a jolt of electricity”:

The book was true, prophetically so. And now that we live in New York’s second golden age — the age of reborn neighborhoods in every borough, of safe streets bustling with tourists, of $40 million apartments, of filled-to-overflowing private schools and colleges, of urban glamour; the age when the New York Times runs stories that explain how once upon a time there was the age of the mugger and that ask, is New York losing its street smarts? — it’s important to recall that today’s peace and prosperity mustn’t be taken for granted. Hip young residents of the revived Lower East Side or Williamsburg need to know that it’s possible to kill a city, that the streets they walk daily were once no-go zones, that within living memory residents and companies were fleeing Gotham, that newsweeklies heralded the rotting of the Big Apple and movies like Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy plausibly depicted New York as a nightmare peopled by freaks. That’s why it’s worth looking back at Mr. Sammler to understand why that decline occurred: we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

That was the milieu in which Bronson’s Paul Kersey character resided at the start of Death Wish. Flying back to New York after a relaxing Hawaiian vacation with his wife (played by veteran actress Hope Lange), Kersey’s wife is murdered and his daughter raped by home invaders led by a young Jeff Goldblum at the start of his acting career. (Near the end of the film, a pre-Spinal Tap Christopher Guest plays a nervous rookie NYPD cop). On a business trip out to Tucson, both to take his mind off the horrors that had befallen his family, and to get a real estate development project back on track, Bronson’s Kersey discovers that it’s possible to defend yourself against crime.

The businessman that Kersey meets during the film’s Tucson scenes, played by character actor Stuart Margolin, is a staunch Second Amendment supporter who invites Kersey to a gun range, and asks him,“Paul, which war was yours?” That was a common question among middle-aged men during the latter half of the 20th century. Kersey admits he was a “C.O. in a M*A*S*H unit” in Korea.

“Oh, Commanding Officer, eh?” Margolin’s Good Ol’ Businessman approvingly asks.

“Conscientious Objector,” Bronson’s Kersey drolly replies as Margolin rolls his eyes in disgust.

Kersey explains that he became one as a teenager, after his father was shot and killed in a hunting accident, quickly fleshing out his character’s backstory. Evidently, Kersey’s own skills as a hunter haven’t degraded much over the years, since he then aims and fires the pistol that Margolin’s character had handed him, splitting the paper target at the gun range dead center.

And away we go.

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Everything You Know About the 1920s Is Wrong

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 - by James Lileks

With the publication of Amity Shlaes’ biography of Coolidge, you might expect a sudden burst of Twenties Nostalgia. Everyone will get it wrong. There wasn’t any such thing as “the Twenties.”

But we think there was. The Simpsons’ Kent Brockman summed it up perfectly: “The Twenties! When Al Capone did the Charleston atop a flagpole.”

That’s as accurate as saying that everyone in Seventies was Kung Fu Fighting.

Decades get boiled down to songs, pictures, celebs, and fads, and we think we know them. The Forties: War! Then five years of something-or-other. The Thirties: everyone stood in breadlines waiting for the Wizard of Oz to be released so they could have some color. The decade before the Twenties — well, not so clear. The Titanic sunk, triggering World War One, somehow.  The Twenties? Jazz and bathtub gin and F. Scott Fitzgerald throwing up on a flapper during a Jolson movie.

So what was it like? I’m no expert on the era, but I’ve studied the pop culture — movies, songs, magazines — for the segment of my Website devoted to the 1920s. It can be a stubborn era to grasp. The Gatsby stereotypes loom too large; 1929 seems like a different world than 1921; the era that followed reinvented movies and created characters much more vivid than the overacting shades of the silent era. The ‘30s speak to us. The ‘20s gesture.

In retrospect, it seems rather goofy. Like this:

A Woody Allen movie parody — except that’s exactly what it sounded like. Quaint to modern ears. Now try this: a tune made popular by the most unlikely fellow to be known as the King of Jazz, Paul Whiteman. Okay, it’s dated 1930, but this is right out of the top of the bubble.

The song is all over the place, throwing one instrument after the other — full band, then violin and guitar, heading towards that 2:22 spo-de-oh-dee moment where everyone puts their hands up in the air and shimmies their palms. Because the good times are here and youth culture is finally giving grown-up culture a run for its money, and everyone’s spifficated on liquor the crooks brought over the river from Canada.

Here’s what it sounded like if you were there:

It’s different when you hear the Twenties in stereo, isn’t it?

(The graphics chosen for the video, by the way, are from the game “Fallout,” which uses ’50s-style graphics in a post-apocalyptic world. But hey, does it matter? Anything that didn’t happen before 1995 is “retro” now.)

So is that the Twenties? Yes and no. The Twenties led up to that; the music evolved. Everything evolved — or least got faster and racier, if you call that progress. You start with a naughty joke book in 1921, and by the middle of the decade, the lid’s off:

Click to enlarge.

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Jesus Is The Reason For The Season But He Influences Us Daily

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 - by Myra Adams
YouTube Preview Image

With over 40 million views, this video captures the essence of the article you are about to read.

A funny thing happened “on the way” as I was contemplating writing this piece. While listening to a Christian radio station the announcer said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

At that moment this very familiar phrase hit me like a thunderbolt. For not only is “Jesus the reason for the season,” but Jesus is the reason our world, nation, history, culture and society are the way they are.

So regardless of whether you believe in Jesus, practice another faith, or are devoid of faith, Jesus has impacted you by virtue of the fact that you are alive.

For no person has affected mankind – past, present and future –more than this Jewish teacher who lived over 2000 years ago, whose birth we will celebrate with great fanfare.

Although Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were the impetus behind His followers’ establishing Christianity, the world’s largest religion itself is only the starting point for the influence Jesus spawned in countless non-religious venues as people over the centuries were moved and motivated by Him to express themselves in a multitude of ways that we continue to see played out everyday across the planet.

With so many examples of Jesus Christ’s effect on mankind it is impossible to even mention them all in this short piece — the purpose of which is to not only enhance your celebration of “the reason for the season” but to also increase your awareness of just how much Jesus impacts the world around you every day of the year.

If after reading this piece you are moved to delve deeper into this topic, I recommend a book published in 1994 that has since become a “modern classic,” What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, co-authored by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and the still very much alive Jerry Newcombe.

This book had a profound influence on me as it oriented my thinking about Jesus in ways that I had never contemplated.

So here in alphabetical order is only a short, incomplete list of the most obvious “non-religious” aspects of how Jesus Christ has impacted the world.

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Mies van der Rohe: Creating the Architectural Language of 20th Century America

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 - by Ed Driscoll

Television’s Mad Men would have you believe that America was a monolithic bastion of Puritanism, untrammeled by European or socialist influences (despite the rise of Woodrow Wilson and FDR!) until the Beatles touched down at JFK Airport in 1964. The reality though, as Allen Bloom memorably wrote in The Closing of the American Mind, was that almost immediately upon the US winning World War II, America began to slowly — often unwittingly — become an unofficial enclave of Germany’s Weimar Republic.

Take architecture. As Tom Wolfe noted in From Bauhaus to Our House, his classic debunking of modernism’s excesses, because America’s intellectuals tend to think of themselves as an artistic colony in thrall to Europe, when the leaders of the Weimar-era German Bauhaus of the 1920s were evicted by the Nazis, they were welcomed by Depression-era American universities as “The White Gods! Come from the skies at last!”

[Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bahaus] was made head of the school of architecture at Harvard, and Breuer joined him there. Moholy-Nagy opened the New Bauhaus, which evolved into the Chicago Institute of Design. Albers opened a rural Bauhaus in the hills of North Carolina, at Black Mountain College. [Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, its last director, when the Nazis shuttered its doors in 1933] was installed as dean of architecture at the Armour Institute in Chicago. And not just dean; master builder also. He was given a campus to create, twenty-one buildings in all, as the Armour Institute merged with the Lewis Institute to form the Illinois Institute of Technology. Twenty-one large buildings, in the middle of the Depression, at a time when building had come almost to a halt in the United States— for an architect who had completed only seventeen buildings in his career—

O white gods.

Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) is the titular subject of the newly published biography by architectural historian Franz Schulze and architect Edward Windhorst (who studied his craft under a protégé of Mies). They’ve collaborated on an extensively — very extensively — revised version of the biography of Mies that Schulze first published in 1986, the centennial of Mies’s birth.

Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 Barcelona Pavilion, May 2000. Photo © Ed Driscoll.

While he was America’s most influential postwar modern architect and teacher, Mies never quite become a household name on the same order as Frank Lloyd Wright. (Despite a prominent Life magazine feature in 1957.) But he’s been the subject of numerous biographies and book-length profiles, beginning with his prominent role in The International Style, the pioneering Museum of Modern Art exhibition by Philip Johnson and Henry Russell Hitchcock, which first put modern architecture on the map in America, back in 1932.

Even as Mies was associated with several prominent buildings deserving of respect after World War II, perhaps his greatest accomplishment was to singlehandedly invent the language of postwar American architecture. We take tall steel and glass office buildings and apartments for granted, but it was Mies who created their look, beginning with 1951′s Farnsworth House (which would also provide the inspiration for Philip Johnson’s own Glass House) and from that same year, the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive apartment complex.

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Atheist Lawsuit Against World Trade Center Cross Makes Me Want to Scream

Monday, September 10th, 2012 - by Myra Adams

Two days after September 11, 2001, a construction worker discovered amidst the rubble of one of the collapsed World Trade Center towers two intersecting steel beams that became known as the World Trade Center cross.

The cross immediately became a symbol of faith, comfort, and hope to the rescuers who presided over the massive recovery and to the nation at large.

The WTC cross is now considered an icon and currently stands as the emotional centerpiece of the National September 11 Memorial.


Until I started researching this piece, I was unaware that there was a movie produced in 2007 about the miraculous WTC cross. Here is the trailer of The Cross and the Towers by John Schneider.

YouTube Preview Image

An organization called American Atheists  filed a lawsuit in July 2011, after the WTC cross was moved back to its permanent home on the memorial grounds.

Apparently those two offensive steel beams — which happened to collapse in the shape of a cross — are, according to Edwin Kagin, the group’s legal director, “a violation of both federal and New York law in that public funds will be used to establish the Christian religion on public land.”

Adding to that argument is the organization’s president, David Silverman, who describes the cross as “a clear instance of a violation of the separation of church and state in its extreme.”

If you visit the American Atheists web site, be sure to read their account of the legal fight. What I found especially exasperating is that the WTC cross is repeatedly referred to as “the girder set.”

Fortunately, this past August, officials at the 9/11 memorial museum started to fight back by taking the necessary legal steps to have the lawsuit thrown out of court. The museum’s argument is that it is an independent non-profit organization and not a government agency. But more importantly, “the cross is an artifact and not a religious symbol.”

Actually, one could argue that is it both and that that is precisely what makes the WTC cross so significant.

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From Bauhaus to Ed’s House

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 - by Ed Driscoll

Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion, May 2000

(We take a break from the usual day to day political and media bias stuff for a long rambling discussion on modern architecture and aesthetics written in the first person voice. As with our earlier explorations of the topic, we’ll understand if you bail on this one. And yes, that’s my use of the royal we. At least for this post.)

I’m not sure what initially attracted me to the aesthetics of modernism. I do remember studying Art of Western Civilization in college, which, as with Western Civilization itself, largely concluded with the arrival of the 20th century. But modern art fascinated me — unlike traditional aesthetics, cracking modernism, whether it was architecture, or artists such as Mondrian, was a bit like deciphering a puzzle box. Of course, that complexity was considered a feature, not a bug, by the men who founded the movement. Reviewing C.P. Snow’s 1959 book, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, Orrin Judd of The Brothers Judd book review site and blog wrote:

As Snow notes, as late as say the 1850s, any reasonably well-educated, well-read, inquisitive man could speak knowledgeably about both science and the arts. Man knew little enough that it was still possible for one to know nearly everything that was known and to have been exposed to all the religion, art, history–culture in general–that mattered. But then with the pure science revolution of which Snow spoke–in biology and chemistry, but most of all in physics–suddenly a great deal of specialized training and education was necessary before one could be knowledgeable in each field. Like priests of some ancient cult, scientists were separated out from the mass of men, elevated above them by their access to secret knowledge. Even more annoying was the fact that even though they had moved beyond what the rest of us could readily understand, they could still listen to Bach or read Shakespeare and discuss it intelligently. The reaction of their peers in the arts, or those who had been their peers, was to make their own fields of expertise as obscure as possible. If Picasso couldn’t understand particle physics, he sure as hell wasn’t going to paint anything comprehensible, and if Joyce couldn’t pick up a scientific journal and read it, then no one was going to be able to read his books either. And so grew the two cultures, the one real, the other manufactured, but both with elaborate and often counterintuitive theories, requiring years of study.

Or at very least, a crash course for an enthusiastic auto-didactic to pick up the basics. I began by taking out books on modern art and New York’s Museum Modern Art from my college library and my local public library. Eventually, I came across Henry Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson’s early 1930s book, The International Style, which put modernism on the map in America, and Peter Blake’s mid-‘60s book The Master Builders: Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright, both of which have been perennially in print and still available from the gift shop at NY MoMA. And given that I had loved the Right Stuff, The Purple Decade and The Bonfire of the Vanities, I also read Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House.

Oddly enough, reading From Bauhaus to Our House, I found myself loving the satire, but also finding myself strangely fascinated by the images, in spite of Wolfe’s best efforts to take the mickey out of them. Reading Blake’s Master Builders, and other books on modern architecture, initially, I admired Corbusier’s works, particularly his pre-WWII buildings, but found myself increasingly put off by his post-war efforts, which replaced the white stucco of the homes he designed for his earliest wealthiest patrons with massive forms built largely out of raw concrete. Corbu’s postwar style was dubbed Béton Brut, and the New Brutalism, and brutal it was indeed. (Even Blake, the former editor in chief of Architectural Forum magazine, would have second thoughts.)

Georg Kolbe's statue, "Dawn," in the Pavilion.

But Mies van der Rohe had worked out an architectural language that was logical (or at least seemed logical), and at its best a sort of industrial poetry. It was also the vocabulary of post-war American cities. As Wolfe wrote in From Bauhaus to Our House, Mies, the Bauhaus’s last director, and Walter Gropius, its founder, both settled in America after fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s, and both we’re welcomed by academia, as Wolfe famously wrote, as…The White Gods!

Gropius had the healthy self-esteem of any ambitious man, but he was a gentleman above all else, a gentleman of the old school, a man who was always concerned about a sense of proportion, in life as well as in design. As a refugee from a blighted land, he would have been content with a friendly welcome, a place to lay his head, two or three meals a day until he could get on his own feet, a smile every once in a while, and a chance to work, if anybody needed him. And instead—

The reception of Gropius and his confreres was like a certain stock scene from the jungle movies of that Bruce Cabot and Myrna Loy make a crash landing in the jungle and crawl out of the wreckage in their Abercrombie & Fitch white safari blouses and tan gabardine jodhpurs and stagger into a clearing. They are surrounded by savages with bones through their noses—who immediately bow down and prostrate themselves and commence a strange moaning chant.

The White Gods!

Come from the skies at last!

Mies in particular created a sort of systems-based design philosophy, which he taught to his students at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which was essentially his private educational fiefdom in the 1940s and ‘50s. By the 1960s, it became common to say that Mies’s architecture was the easiest architectural language to teach, as Blake himself writes in The Master Builders. But as Chicago-area architectural historian Franz Schulze, Mies’s best biographer, would write in 1985, “Indeed it was not at all, and may have been among the least teachable. The acres of stillborn design in the Miesian manner that transformed the American cityscape in the 1950s and 1960s are a palpable indication of this.”

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New Porsche Design Highrise Condo Lets You Park At Your Front Door

Friday, November 18th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

For those who like to be able to admire their automotive possessions even when they aren’t driving, the Porsche Design Group is working with a Miami developer on a high rise condominium development where you will park your car right at your front door. You’ll pull in at the ground floor and an automated system will place your car in a glass elevator. As you ride up the 57 story tower, you’ll have a spectacular view of the Miami skyline and oceanfront. Once you reach your floor, still behind the wheel, another automated system removes your car and places it at your front door. Developer Gil Dezer is himself a big Porsche fan and he’s not unfamiliar with storing his car in his apartment. His 1950s vintage 550 Spyder is mounted on the wall of his current 8,000 sq ft condo.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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San Jose’s Santana Row: The Future of Shopping?

Friday, October 14th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

We take shopping malls for granted, although they’re actually a relatively new phenomenon, all things considered. The first indoor shopping mall in America opened in 1956 and is — not surprisingly — located in Minneapolis, which seems during wintertime to be located above the arctic circle. James Lileks has a section of his sprawling Website devoted to its history.

But malls change and adapt to current trends, or risk dying (and for shopping mall necrophiliacs, Dead Mall.com is your Website). Around 20 years ago, Starbucks and other retailers began to implement the idea of the Third Place, a term which was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in the late 1980s, and explored by Virginia Postrel in her 1998 book, The Future and its Enemies:

Or consider the proliferation of coffee houses in the 1990s. Until recently, many U.S. social critics made much of the lack of “third places,” neither home nor work, where people could hang out and chat. Unlike Europeans, they complained, Americans have no café culture; shopping malls, suburbia, and commerce in general, they charged, have destroyed the democratic conversation of bars and social clubs.25 Such criticism was overstated, ignoring the many informal interactions that occur in such places as malls, restaurants, and doughnut shops. But the “third place” critique did identify a real source of discontent—as Starbucks discovered when its stores took off in ways the company never expected.

The original idea, writes CEO Howard Schultz, “was to provide a quick, stand-up, to-go service in downtown office locations.” Instead, the fastest-growing Starbucks stores turned out to be those near where people lived—the ones that functioned as neighborhood watering holes. The young adults who had grown up hanging out in shopping malls were looking for safe, friendly places to be with other people, places where, in Schultz’s words, “No one is carded and no one is drunk.” In focus groups, Los Angeles customers said they went to Starbucks because the place felt social. The company adjusted its strategy accordingly, building more and larger neighborhood stores, with more tables to sit around. It now deliberately seeks to foster a social, European-style café environment.

But what happens if you build a whole mixed-use development, a combination of stores, restaurants, professional offices and apartments around that notion of “a social, European-style café environment”? You get San Jose’s Santana Row development, which opened slowly in November 2002 and has since expanded into a sprawling project, despite California, and America’s, current sluggish (dare I say European-style) economy.

As I wrote on my blog back in early 2005, my wife and I stumbled onto our own local European-style development rather by surprise:

 There’s a sort of mixed use shopping center/condominium complex that opened in San Jose a couple of years ago called Santana Row. (No relation, best as we can tell, to the psychedelic guitarist.) It’s located opposite a conventional indoor shopping mall that’s existed for decades. Whenever we’ve driven past its new opposite number, all we’ve seen are a few megastores, such as an enormous Best Buy and a surprisingly large Crate & Barrel. One night in 2003, we drove over there–I think to check out the Crate & Barrel, or maybe just to explore. After parking the car in the requisite multistory concrete garage, we emerged…in the Village.

[Enough with the Village stuff, OK??-Ed]

I dubbed it that when I first saw it, because its developers chose to house its group of smaller high-end boutique stores and restaurants in a sort of pretend 19th century-ish Parisian block, with condominiums on top of them (and a high-tech network underneath. But for better or worse, no signs of evil weather balloons patrolling the perimeter). Leaving the sprawling suburban section of San Jose that it’s located on and entering this alternate universe for the first time really does feel like you’re Patrick McGoohan being knocked out in London and waking up in the who-knows-where-in-the-world Village.

The photo above gives a sense of the Santana Row’s McGoohan-esque feel. Its the facade of a small stone chapel imported from France, and serves as Santana Row’s “Vintage Wine Bar.”

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‘Bumper Sticker Stone Age Culture’

Thursday, October 13th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), guest contributing at Ricochet, wonders how culture went off the rails:

A cursory review of American art paints a chiaroscuro chart of our intellectual decimation.  In music we’ve tuned out Duke Ellington for R. Kelly.  In dance, we’ve stumbled from Gregory Hines to Hines Ward.  In television, we’ve turned off Roots for Real House Wives of New Jersey.  Mirroring political developments, in motion pictures we’ve replaced Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with Jackass II (apparently the seminal cinematic tour de force Jackass insufficiently slaked our thirst for cerebral stimulation).  In art, we’ve turned a blind eye to John Singer Sargent’s World War I inspired Gassed to gape at the comic book derived insipidity of the Obama Joker poster.  In literature, we’ve skimmed through F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night to Nikki Sixx’s This is Gonna Hurt.  (It did.)  Keeping abreast of portentous events, we’ve discarded Chambers’ Witness for Kourtney’s Kardashian Konfidential.  And, in poetry – the art of distilling intense feeling through the concise use of language – we’ve replaced Emerson with emoticons.

Pardon me, tweeple?  “:-)”?


Art has always been reflective of the culture that supports it — and needless to say, culture has changed dramatically over the last couple of hundred years. As Tom Wolfe wrote back in 1975, in The Painted Word:

All the major Modern movements except for De Stijl, Dada, Constructivism, and Surrealism began before the First World War, and yet they all seem to come out of the 1920s. Why? Because it was in the 1920s that Modern Art achieved social chic in Paris, London, Berlin, and New York. Smart people talked about it, wrote about it, enthused over it, and borrowed from it, as I say; Modern Art achieved the ultimate social acceptance: interior decorators did knock-offs of it in Belgravia and the sixteenth arrondissement.

Things like knock-off specialists, money, publicity, the smart set, and Le Chic shouldn’t count in the history of art, as we all know—but, thanks to the artists themselves, they do. Art and fashion are a two-backed beast today; the artists can yell at fashion, but they can’t move out ahead. That has come about as follows:

By 1900 the artist’s arena—the place where he seeks honor, glory, ease, Success—had shifted twice. In seventeenth-century Europe the artist was literally, and also psychologically, the house guest of the nobility and the royal court (except in Holland); fine art and court art were one and the same. In the eighteenth century the scene shifted to the salons, in the homes of the wealthy bourgeoisie as well as those of aristocrats, where Culture-minded members of the upper classes held regular meetings with selected artists and writers. The artist was still the Gentleman, not yet the Genius. After the French Revolution, artists began to leave the salons and join cénacles, which were fraternities of like-minded souls huddled at some place like the Café Guerbois rather than a town house; around some romantic figure, an artist rather than a socialite, someone like Victor Hugo, Charles Nodier, Théophile Gautier, or, later, Edouard Manet. What held the cénacles together was that merry battle spirit we have all come to know and love: épatez la bourgeoisie, shock the middle class. With Gautier’s cénacle especially … with Gautier’s own red vests, black scarves, crazy hats, outrageous pronouncements, huge thirsts, and ravenous groin … the modern picture of The Artist began to form: the poor but free spirit, plebeian but aspiring only to be classless, to cut himself forever free from the bonds of the greedy and hypocritical bourgeoisie, to be whatever the fat burghers feared most, to cross the line wherever they drew it, to look at the world in a way they couldn’t see, to be high, live low, stay young forever—in short, to be the bohemian.

By 1900 and the era of Picasso, Braque & Co., the modern game of Success in Art was pretty well set. As a painter or sculptor the artist would do work that baffled or subverted the cozy bourgeois vision of reality. As an individual—well, that was a bit more complex. As a bohemian, the artist had now left the salons of the upper classes—but he had not left their world. For getting away from the bourgeoisie there’s nothing like packing up your paints and easel and heading for Tahiti, or even Brittany, which was Gauguin’s first stop. But who else even got as far as Brittany? Nobody. The rest got no farther than the heights of Montmartre and Montparnasse, which are what?—perhaps two miles from the Champs Elysées. Likewise in the United States: believe me, you can get all the tubes of Winsor & Newton paint you want in Cincinnati, but the artists keep migrating to New York all the same … You can see them six days a week … hot off the Carey airport bus, lined up in front of the real-estate office on Broome Street in their identical blue jeans, gum boots, and quilted Long March jackets … looking, of course, for the inevitable Loft …

But the best of the original modern artists of the early 20th century were those who had traditional training, but who used those techniques in the quest for new forms and styles. Mondrian could pain exceptional portraits and landscapes before going off in search of black lines and primary colors; Mies van der Rohe was highly influenced by German classical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781 – 1841), and could effortlessly draw buildings in Schinkel’s traditional style, before ultimately narrowing his own palette down to plate glass and I-beams, which keeping a sense of Schinkel’s proportion and grouping in his best buildings.

By the time the Bauhaus arrived on the shores of America in the 1930s and WWII was concluded though, traditional forms of art and architecture were effectively dead, as far as the academy was concerned. In a way, it was a variation on the Whig school of history, which taught that all the divergent paths of history ultimately lead to the liberal freedom of 19th century England, (or the Marxist school of history, for the flip-side). If all roads lead to modernism, minimalism and “starting from zero,” why bother to learn the techniques of the past?

In pop music, the Beatles absorbed large influences of traditional popular musicians such as Cole Porter and George Gershwin, and via producer George Martin, classical music, in addition to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly. But today, so dominant was the Beatles’ influence on pop culture, traditional forms of music have been bulldozed over by rock and rap. The classical orchestra is now reduced to a key on a synthesizer; as McCotter notes above, language has effectively been condensed down to emoticons. Orwell’s outer party worker drones in the Ministry of Truth boiling down the Newspeak Dictionary into successively smaller new editions had no idea how tiny the final version would ultimately become.

Modern art and rock music were both countercultural forms; but today, there’s no dominant popular culture for them to push against, and hence there’s no reason for them not to recall the techniques, or the culture of the past.

By the way, apropos of nothing, there’s a direct line between Wolfe’s artists making the Apache Dance and jettisoning their individuality (and likely a good chunk of their technical skill) for the extremely long odds of stardom in the New York Art World to this.

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Times Square To Go ‘Noir’?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 - by James Lileks

OK, maybe not this noir.

The cycle of urban renewal is always the same. Always. Set your watch by it, count off the paces. A run-down block looks ominous and debauched; developers pitch a new vision with shiny glass walls and lots of chic retail and people walking around having a Pedestrian Experience — that’s a good thing, not a dull thing; means the streets are friendly to low-carbon-impact activities. Eminent domain is applied if the owners balk; money gushes; the ball swings; a new complex arises, and the old ugly block, with its piecemeal storefronts and variegated buildings and venerable architectural styles, is replaced by a big Thing. It’s packed with Chili’s and Applebee’s and a book store and a place that serves premium ice cream. Look ahead five years, and it’s dead. Perhaps the local magazine has a Bygone Days section that runs old photos, and when they show the picture of the block everyone was anxious to raze, well, it looks . . . interesting. It looks cool, in a seedy sort of way. Lick of paint, sandblast the buildings, get a flatfoot to patrol and move along the pervs and bums, and you’d have the very sort of urban environment the new plans promise we’ll get, but never get around to providing.

42nd Street in 1993. Photo by author.

New York isn’t completely regretting the massive clean-up of Times Square, but they’ve finally conceded one of the lingering, stinging critiques: it’s too clean. C’mon, this is New Yawk. Times Square is supposed to be gritty. (“Gritty” usually means hookers.) If you never saw it at its worst, you probably think the visions in Taxi Driver look almost . . . well, romantic. All those marquees, jutting into the stream of pedestrians like the prows of once-great ocean liners. The vibrant community of hustlers, pornhounds, streetwalkers, square-johns down for a walk on the wild side. Animated neon signs that drew pictures in the night, instead of great blaring walls of color that make you feel trapped in a Blade Runner remake.

But no. Those were the bad old days. That was Beame-time, Kojak-land, an age of sagging civic fortunes and needle-park panic and grindhouse theaters showing chop-’em-up horror films for mouthbreathers who would have to wait years for Quentin Tarantino to tell them how this movie was actually art, man, art. No wants to go back to that. Any other historical references we can slather on the place, then?

Why yes. The New York Post reports:

 A new $27 million plan to redesign Times Square’s famed “bow tie” calls for an atmospheric “film noir” look for the five-block area . . .

Of course. The Forties! Times Square in its full glory. Men in hats, women in hats, men in suits, women in . . . okay, suits, but also dresses, and lots of black cars gliding under the marquees, the lights reflected in their shiny hoods. Except that you can’t drive in the area as much as you used to, and no one wears hats that aren’t backwards, but otherwise, great. So how are they going to do it? Dress code? Ban color? Put in some dime-a-dance parlors and some all-night hash-houses and hire guys to walk around dressed as sailors? Require cabbies to be cynical and call the passenger “Mac” and step on it when asked to do so?

If only. The area will feature…

…permanent pedestrian plazas with a smooth, dark pavement studded with reflective metal disks designed to recapture the gritty feel of the city’s past.

“It’s not taking its cues from some pretty little things in Europe or something,” said Craig Dykers, an architect with Snohetta Design, the firm that also designed the 9/11 Museum downtown.

“Our design has a film noir feel to it; it’s more muscular. Paris or London can have these little benches, but New York has a toughness to it,” he said during a presentation to Community Board 5’s Transportation Committee Monday night.

What does that mean, bench-wise? Spikes? Hard to see how reflective metal disks in the pavement stand for the city’s grit-related past, and in fact it’s the opposite of the way things were. Pavement was light, and there were dark blotches everywhere, probably formed by gum spat out by antisocial idiots who couldn’t troubled to dispose of it in a civilized way. If you’re reducing “noir” down to an element of set design, pass the mandatory Venetian Blinds act and you’re done.

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