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Chummy Photo Spread Reveals: Obama Hangs with Yuppies

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

carneyfamily1

Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney recently had his home featured in Washington Mom. The typical chummy photo spread revealed what we already knew: Carney is a yuppie.

Considering Obama’s Marxist roots, hippie leanings, and wife’s penchant for designer everything, the revelation that he works with yuppies should come as no surprise. After all, he is the king of the yuppies – er – President, at least.

Soviet propaganda-turned-art isn’t hard to find for sale on the Internet. Hipsters, the love children of Yuppies, have been equally delighted by the graphic design and amused by the slogans for years. It’s far easier to appreciate Soviet art than to tackle the monster of socialist ideology that stifled the Russian intelligentsia for nearly 8 decades.

In a related story, Russia’s hipsters are fearing for their own modicum of intellectual freedom. The Daily Beast reports that as a result of the potential conflict with Ukraine:

The authorities already have closed media outlets, attacked pro-Western theaters and cinemas and adopted laws aimed against any alternative opinions. Invading the rest of Ukraine would turn Russia into a real fortress under siege. That would mean more of [one hipster's] friends fleeing the country or jumping into what’s called “inner immigration,” the life inside a small circle of people keeping distant from the country’s political flow; remaining liberals but keeping their opinion quiet.

…Every day, the free media sphere shrinks, leaving those who two years ago rallied in freezing wind on Moscow’s squares without any information, today, that they can trust. According to a law adopted last week, repeated arrests at protests that haven’t been given permits are punishable by a jail term now, not just a fine.

“On seeing activists sentenced to jail terms, many decided they were not ready to pay that high a price for fighting Putin,” Fedoseyev admitted. Russia without any free media or the right to protest is definitely going to be a more depressing place, but most hipsters speak foreign languages, and they can still read world news on the Web. They are beginning to make do. And the authorities are trying to make life fun for them.

“Fun” includes “beautifully designed” parks and clubs. If there’s one thing Carney’s photo shoot reminds us, it’s that socialist Russian oppression sure looks good. Heck, it can really tie a room – and a country – together.

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How Not to Turn Into The Shining This Winter

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Tonight’s Gardening Music:

It’s just about the time of year I start to get the desperate, painful feeling that I’ll never see a green growing thing again. The Polar Vortex isn’t doing much to help my cabin fever — I used to get through long winters in Vermont by imagining that somewhere in the continental US (a limit that made the place seem more geographically accessible) it was warm. Now I live below the Mason-Dixon line, my postage stamp front yard is covered in snow, and I heard it was freezing in Florida. Get me out of here.

My roommate and fellow contributor Becky Graebner has been tackling her cabin fever by cooking her way through Ina Garten and documenting it here. I thought I’d contribute some fresh herbs to her cause by pursuing one of my favorite hobbies, gardening. I’m fighting the Polar Vortex Blues by getting a head start on my annual kitchen garden. Follow me, step-by-step, in the coming weeks as I provide garden tips and inspiration — and let me know what you’re planning on growing this season!

Day One: No Gear, No Fear

I got my seeds today.

I know that for a lot of people, a big part of the pleasure of a hobby is acquiring all the paraphernalia — just talk to an amateur photographer and you’ll probably spend more time discussing accessories, upgrades, and programs than you will the actual photographs. But my usual approach to new hobbies (or the restart of old ones) is to keep it simple, and let the results guide my acquisition of more gear.

So tonight, I have three glasses of water and three packets of seeds.

photo (3)

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4 Colly Birds: A Gift Guide for the Hardcore Home Decorators

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Saturday, December 21, 2013.  If this were a literal countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “four colly birds” today. (A “colly bird” is a common blackbird, FYI.)

There are only four days until Christmas! (You shopping procrastinators really better get a move on…)

Here is a gift guide for the interior decorators and home-goods lovers on your list:

61BuWtKiv0L._SL1500_Home Decor:

Vase: Abbott Ceramic Owl Vase

A quirky but unique way to display flowers.

Frame: J Devlin Photo Frame with Vintage Glass and Wire

An elegant way for photo-lovers to display their precious pictures.

Art Glass: Galaxy Art Color Swirl Glass Vase

A beautiful piece that can be used as a vase or appreciated as art.

Candle Sticks: IMAX Kanan Wood Candleholders

These varied candlestick sets are all the rage.  Versatile and easy to arrange and restyle for the seasons

Christmas Nativity Set: Willow Tree Nativity Set

Remind friends and family of the true meaning of Christmas.  This elegant gift will soon become a favorite holiday decoration.

Blankets and Throws: Ultimate Sherpa Throw Blanket

Give the gift of toasty toes with this posh, sherpa throw.

Candle-holder: Moroccan Lantern Blue Glass Candle Holder

A unique gift for the candle-lover.

Storage: Anchor Hocking Heritage Hill Glass 1-Gallon Jar

An empty canvas for savvy decorators.  This jar can be used for practical means (kitchen dry goods) or as a container to display ornaments or other small goods throughout the house.

Casual Pillows: Ojia Cotton Linen Decorative Pillow Covers

Spread the love with these swappable pillow covers.

Fancy Pillows: DreamHome-100% Silk Designer Pillow Cover

Great for entertainers who like their couches to be as festive as the rest of their home.

51Sr6mIpLCLKitchen and Dining:

Wine: Oenophilia Bottle Stopper Bouquet

Perfect for the wine connoisseur in your family.

Wine Glasses: Libbey Vina 12-piece stemless red and white wine glasses

A twist on the “wine glass.”

Chargers: Old Dutch Round Décor Copper Charger Plate

A snazzy, decorating essential for people who like to spice up their traditional china.

Classic Runner: Handmade Classic Hemstitch Natural Table Runner

Simple, classic, and perfect for everyday use or special events.

Luxe Runner: Artiwa Burnt Orange and Brown Silk Decorative Table Runner

A great gift for the artsy home decorator.

Placemats: Reversible Hand-Stitched Organza Placemat

Perfect for those who love throwing formal dinners.

Napkin Rings: Round Mesh Napkin Rings

A little rustic, with a pinch of glam, these napkin rings are sure to be a great addition to any table.

Tablecloths: Roseberry Linen Concerto Spill-Proof Tablecloth

Yes, you read correctly. This tablecloth is spill-proof!  Meticulous decorators won’t have to worry about pesky stains ruining their linen!

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8 Maids a Milking: A Gift Guide for the Bakers, Bartenders, and Chefs

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Tuesday, December 17, 2013.  The reverse “Twelve Days of Christmas” countdown indicates that we would receive “eight maids a milking” today.

This means that there are only eight days until Christmas!

Today’s gift guide is for the people on your list who are so in love with preparing food and entertaining that their blender has a name.  These gifts are sure to serve up some joy–as well as delicious dishes!

img81oFor The Frequent Baker and/or Adventurous Cook:

Scoop it: Le Creuset Silicone 7-Piece Utensil Set

Besides the ingredients and the will, every good chef needs the proper tools.

Prep it: Joseph Joseph Nest 9-piece Compact Food Prep Set

One can never have enough prep bowls. Joseph Joseph’s design allows all 9 pieces to be nested together for maximum use of space.  The brightly colored bowls are also a fun addition to any kitchen.

Slice it: OXO Good Grips Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer

Slice your ingredients ultra thin without cutting yourself.

(Don’t) Cut it: Cut Resistant Gloves (Level 5 Protection)

Keep your fingers safe while you chop.

Roast it: Stoneware 6-Piece 8oz Mini Cocotte Set with Cookbook

From molten-brownie desserts to mini pot pies, you can’t go wrong with this set of bright, durable stoneware.

Stew it: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-iron Round French Oven

The infamous Le Creuset “dutch oven” is a kitchen classic and cookware essential.

Bake it: Doughmakers Grand Cookie Sheet

No burnt cookies! (I can say by experience that these really are the best.)

cuisinart_griddler_350For the Kitchen-Gadget and Appliance Lover:

Read it: ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer

Pen-sized. Digital. Easy to read

Whip it: Ozeri Deluz Milk Frother and Whisk (with 4 frothing attachments)

Froth milk, beat eggs, and whip dressings and sauces galore!

Grill it: Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler

This compact, counter-top grill has five functions: contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, and half grill/half griddle.  The plates are even dishwasher safe.

cocktailFor The Bartender:

Whiskey: Sipping Stones—Set of Grey Whisky Chilling Rocks

Keep your whisky cold in style!

Martini: Stainless Steel and Pewter Martini Picks

Serve your guests martinis with a side of fun.

Wine: Fred Wine Line Reviews Wine Glass Markers

A quirky way to personalize your glass of wine.

“How to” Cocktails: Architecture of the Cocktail: Constructing the Perfect Cocktail from the Bottom Up

Impress your boss, friends, and family by making cocktails the RIGHT way.

Liquor: Visol “Raven” Stainless Steel Flask and Gift Set

A handsome way to carry your clandestine liquor.

Bottle Opener: Vertical Rabbit Lever Style Corkscrew with Foil Cutter

Opening wine has never been easier.

latte-tableFor the Caffeine Lover:

Espresso: Nespresso Essenza C91 Manual Espresso Maker

This espresso maker is compact and simple to use.  The Nespresso brand also has a great “menu” of espressos to choose from that fit your machine.

Tea: Kikkerland Robot Tea Infuser and Drip Tray

Who can resist this adorable robot?

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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:

Supplies

Supplies

Instructions:

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:

Supplies

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

Tools

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

Hardware

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

Accessories

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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4 Safety Systems Steering us Closer to Autonomous Cars

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Google-Car

Autonomous cars have been creating some buzz in the news lately.  From coverage on their capabilities and advantages to warnings about their limitations and security issues, everyone seems to be curious about the autonomous car.  Something else is brewing within this new-age driving hoopla: a battle for control of the stick shift.  Computer-operated driving systems are quickly infiltrating our beloved cars, crossing the line from “human driver” to “automated chauffeur.”  Are you ready?

A lot of the talk surrounding these systems is acronym-heavy and the names change depending on the car manufacturer.  (I see they are already creating aliases to confuse the human competition!)  Here’s an easy-to-read, short guide to the systems that are bringing us closer to autonomous cars.

1. Park-Assist

This is the system that allows drivers who dislike parallel parking to sit back, relax, and let the car do it for them.  The existence of this system does not indicate an fully autonomous car—the driver still needs to help the car out with shifting.

How does it work? Although the computer takes over to maneuver the car into the parking spot, most systems still allow the driver to press the brake, controlling the speed of the system’s parking throughout the entire maneuver.  To begin, the car will indicate to the driver when to stop alongside the car it intends to parallel park behind.  The driver will need to shift into Reverse to allow the system to back the car into the space.  When the car determines it has finished this procedure, it will notify the driver to shift into Drive.  The car will then pull forward, evening out the spacing.  Finally, the car will notify the driver to put it into park.

Available in: Ford Focus Titanium, Toyota Prius V, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GL350 (just to name a few)

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How to Build a Picture Frame in 9 Easy Steps

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 - by Builder Bob

Working the paint counter at a local hardware store, I’ve made quite a mess of my apron. So after about the 300th customer made comments on how it looked like a piece of art, I decided, hey, why not frame it and see if I can make a quick buck? My hopes were soon dashed after a visit to a framing store. They wanted $80 for a basic framing. I though to hell with this, I’m a handy guy, I work in home improvement, why don’t I make a frame and keep with the hardware store look?

I’ll admit that 80% of the time I start a project it’s something I’ve never attempted. People nowadays are either too busy or intimidated to try a project themselves. But you can save a lot of money, get the precise results you want, and receive a sense of satisfaction when you build something with your own hands. I want to encourage people to take a chance and build something fun and personal.

A picture frame is a great starter project. With the exception of the miter box, you should have most of the supplies already in your tool kit. I’ve provided a list of materials with some recommendations of products I’ve found to perform better than most, as well as detailed step-by-step instructions to build a frame that is as unique as you want to make it.

Supplies Needed:

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

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Great Britain Embraces Plastic Money

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
For preservation of your money, do not leave it near a window in summer; or store close to the stove!  Carrying it in your pocket during a hot date is entirely up to you.

For preservation of your money, do not leave it near a window in summer; or store close to the stove! Carrying it in your pocket during a hot date is entirely up to you.

Remember when the derogatory word of the sixties was “plastic”?  To say something was plastic signified it was fake or not quite what it pretended to be.

Well, Great Britain is now all set to embrace plastic money.  And though it will cost more to produce and be more slippery (insert joke here) the money should last longer, be water proof, and of course, be considerably easier to clean.

Charlie Bean, deputy governor, said: “Polymer banknotes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. They are also cheaper and more environmentally friendly. However, the Bank would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes.”

The Bank said it has been researching potential materials for the past three years. When it put its printing contract out to tender last year, bidders were told they would need to be able to use a variety of materials.

Britain’s De La Rue currently has the contract, but rival bidders are thought to include Munich-based printing giant Giesecke & Devrient; Landqart – the bank note division of Canadian wallpaper and pulp company Fortress Paper; Note Printing Australia, a division of the Reserve Bank of Australia; UK-based Innovia Film’s subsidiary Securency; and France’s Oberthur.

Bidders have to demonstrate that they can print 500m notes a year at a single site, and will need back-up premises. Last year, the Bank produced 1.3bn new notes and notes in circulation were worth £58bn. Some 845m notes were destroyed.

However, for all the virtues of plastic, there remains the feeling that it is “slippery” in more ways than one, and not quite the thing.

The UK has toyed with the idea in the past. A plastic £5 note was launched in Northern Ireland to mark the millennium but it did not catch on.

Mark Carney, the Bank’s Governor, introduced polymer notes to Canada in 2011 when he was Bank of Canada Governor. Canadians were not immediately smitten, as they found the notes hard to separate and preferred their “folding stuff” to fold.

Still and all, apparently New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, Canada and Mauritius have made the switch to plastic.  I wonder if we’re next.  Though for an adequate representation of our money’s value we’d need something less durable than plastic.  Kleenex.  Or perhaps hot air.

******

Image Courtesy Shutterstock.com, © t.peter photodesign-tp de

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Another Electric Vehicle (But It’s Not for the Masses)

Saturday, September 14th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner
BMW-i8

A new EV for the super-car stable

Four months ago, I wrote a piece about the reemergence of electric car maker Detroit Electric. In that short piece, I mentioned that the electric car market is “super-saturated” with expensive, super cars.

While the American dream supports Detroit Electric’s pursuit of happiness (and success), I am not 100% sold on what D.E.’s niche will be…  what will make them stand out compared to its competition? The start-up EVs tend to be super-cars on a veggie diet… or electric sports cars.  Tesla has its sporty Model S and now we have, essentially, an electric Lotus Elise in the Detroit Electric SP.01. Keep in mind, buyers also have another luxury option in the electric BMW ActiveE.

The hybrid super-car competitor for Tesla and Detroit Electric, Fisker, is currently exploring bankruptcy and Tesla just made a profit (after 10 years). Do we really need another electric sports car?  It sounds like something isn’t working… and it think it’s the price-tag.

BMW revealed its newest, brightest EV at the Frankfurt auto show last week.  The new EV on the block?  ANOTHER EV super-car.  All I can do is shake my head.

Some stats on this new BMW:

Name: BMW i8 Plug-in

Tops speed in electric-motor mode: 75 mph

Mileage (Electric): 22 miles

Battery: 5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack

Mileage (Gas): 94 mpg

Price tag: $135,925

What else could you buy for this money? According to The Detroit Bureau, almost three Chevrolet Volts…

Bottom line: The new BMW is really cool. It has some amazing horsepower (362hp!) and is luxurious inside and out, but it’s just way too expensive. The creme de la creme of the population has a fleet of EVs to choose from — how about the middle class?!

Heavy-hitter Tesla has heard the complaints and is attempting to bring down its prices so that more consumers can purchase their vehicles. Good plan. I have said this so many times that I am starting to annoy myself: If EVs are actually going to be the car of the future, there need to more affordable options for consumers. Please.  No more super-cars (unless they are under $40k).

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Toyota Prius, the Homo Habilus of Hybrids, is Getting a Makeover!

Thursday, September 5th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner
26024282

A Honda and a Toyota…but who could tell?

We can blame the successful Toyota Prius for the iconic egg-shape that has taken over the electric/hybrid vehicle category. Most manufacturers have sought to duplicate the success of the Prius by adopting its technology—as well as mimicking its exterior design. So, what did the consumers end up with?  Cars like the Ford C-Max, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Insight Hybrid, and the Nissan Leaf hatchback compact—or a dozen EV jelly beans on wheels that are starting to look like car clones.

Well, Toyota might be serving up a new exterior for the Prius in its quest to freshen its image!

Although the Prius was a smash hit, Toyota lost its reign over the car industry a few years ago. A few too many recalls and boring vehicle line-ups cost the mass-market brand some customers. In an attempt to regain their crown, and curb some of Ford and Tesla’s success with EVs, Toyota is hoping to revamp its line and woo buyers. Toyota announced last week that they plan to shed their “frump” and are adjusting their design trajectory so that adjectives for future vehicles include “sporty” and “fun to drive.” Toyota is currently the top-seller of hybrid vehicles, and many of these design changes will primarily impact their hybrid and EV line up. Mr. Toyota wants to “inject energy into designs and driving characteristics in order to appeal to younger buyers.”

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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.

Graffiti

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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American Drivers Still Like to Kick it Old School

Thursday, July 4th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

18058_540

Take a look around. Granted you aren’t alone in your home or isolated in a cubicle, there are probably several people around you and they are either a) on a phone b) on a computer/tablet or c) staring at a TV.

The modern age is obsessed with technology, innovation, and sleek, time-saving gadgets.  The computer has infiltrated our kitchen appliances, car interiors, and home security systems. My parents’ kitchen has a toaster that sings and a microwave with funky, blue LED lights. Why?  Because we love it.  We drool over the simplistic piece of glass that allows us to control just about everything with just a few finger taps.  We just think it’s cool… and it is.

Car manufacturers have taken this proclivity for touch screens and tech and have integrated them into our second living rooms: the car.  Interestingly, the appearance of computers in the car has experienced a mild backlash.  Not only is this criticism fueled by frustration over systems that are too complicated or hard to understand, but also by American drivers’ attachment to buttons and knobs.  Funny, right?  After all our obsessive antics regarding touch screens and “simplicity” and it turns out we still, secretly, like buttons and knobs.  See, we’re still traditionalists.

These days, most car brands have computers in their newest models—the computer is the newest “standard feature.” In the case of Ford and its MyTouch system, reviews have been mixed.  Spotty tech performance aside, the main gripe seems to be that drivers have a hard time operating the system while driving.  Many drivers are unable to adjust the volume or change the radio station because they do not have knobs—and must click through a few computer windows to complete the task via a touch system.  Some brands, such as Infiniti, have actually designed their computer systems to “lock” while the car is in motion. While this is a good safety measure it wouldn’t be necessary if the car still contained a few essential buttons or knobs.

touchscreen

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How to Simultaneously Fuel Both Your Car AND Coffee Addictions

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner
photo 2

A bed of Cobras.

Washington, D.C. is notorious for clogged streets and bridges, road-raging drivers, crazy taxis, and careless pedestrians. For those in D.C. who own cars, parking is slim to none and pot holes are as common as pigeons. Poor suspension. In short, the Capital is the opposite of a driver/car-lovers paradise.

Thankfully, the concrete jungle of D.C. is surrounded by a myriad of curving, picturesque roads and not-so secret hang outs for gear-heads and their roadies. For the next few weeks I am going to be giving you the inside scoop on some great places in the D.C. Metro area for racing fans, car-lovers, and joyriders.

Take the kids, take the dog. Break out that classic car that has been sleeping in the back of the garage and enjoy the weather.  It is summer, after all!

**Note: Dear Readers, if you have any good recommendations for great places to visit, comment below!

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2 More Roadblocks For Electric Vehicles

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 - by Becky Graebner
317465-detroit-electric

..or is it?

As if Electric Vehicles didn’t have it tough already; they’re expensive, require specific infrastructure (that, in some places, is still nonexistent), and buyers are scarce. It seems the month of June has dealt the EV industry a few more unlucky blows. I bet the majority of the public won’t be very surprised…

Setback #1: A new home for Detroit Electric.

Remember Detroit Electric? No, maybe not. Their time in the spotlight was brief.

Detroit Electric made headlines a few months ago when they rose again from their dusty, Detroit grave. Headlines turned into raised eyebrows, mine included, when they released their new super car which was essentially a repackaged, electric Lotus Elise. Been there, done that.

I’m not one to hope for something, or someone, to fail, but I said it before, and I’ll say it again, Detroit Electric’s product and target market are going to be a tough sell. In fact, I don’t think more than 200 of these cars will even hit the market… if any are produced at all. Newest rumors out of Michigan unfortunately support this theory.

Auto Week is reporting that Detroit Electric hasn’t even settled on a place to PRODUCE their new super car, the SP:01 EV Roadster.  To make matters worse, production is (was?) scheduled to start in less than two months. Hiring for the plant has also been delayed.  Reports state that the car maker will hire around 200 employees for its office and new plant… whenever they pick it out.

Prediction: I just cannot help but read these reports and think, “yep, called that.” After years of setbacks, I’m honestly not sure if Detroit Electric’s car will even get off the ground. The combination of expensive super car that nobody can afford + an old design + massive delays = T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  I’m predicting Fisker part deux.

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2 Years Behind! Toyota Struggles Playing Tech Catch Up

Thursday, June 13th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

ToyotaImage

Toyota has dominated the American auto market for decades. The Toyota name became synonymous with high resale value, inexpensive repairs, and rare breakdowns. Subsequently, the Camry and Corolla became two of the best selling cars in America. However, Toyota has hit some snags in the past few years: PR-damaging recalls, design flops, and trouble keeping pace with competitors who accommodate the increased demand for high-tech cars. Brand loyalty dropped in 2010 and Toyota has been trying to retake the margin they lost ever since. But they can’t seem to do it fast enough.

Information and photos on the 2014 Corolla were recently released with features and a design that made splashes two years ago. It seems neither the public nor the critics are impressed. I know I’m not. (Should we throw Toyota some cookies for finally reading the memos at least?)

If Toyota wants to reclaim the crown of top dog it needs to start offering vehicles loaded to match (or exceed) competing models at an amazing price. Loyal Toyota buyers are starting to wake up and chase the coolest cars instead of shopping at the brand they’ve bought from in the past. T0yota cannot rely on brand loyalty to sell cars. They need to engage and outflank the competition, not just play catch up.

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Walt Disney’s Optimistic Futurism

Friday, June 7th, 2013 - by Chris Queen
Progress City, an integral part of Walt Disney's original vision for his "Florida Project"

Progress City, an integral part of Walt Disney’s original vision for his “Florida Project”

Check out the previous installments in Chris Queen’s ongoing series exploring the values and philosophy of Walt Disney:

April 22: 10 Must-Read Books for Disney Nerds

May 3: Walt Disney’s Fascinating Political Journey

May 10: 5 Examples of the Value of Faith in Disney’s Classic Films

May 17: How Disney Culture Values Excellence

May 24: 5 Disney Films That Define Key Family Values

May 31: Patriotism, Disney Style

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Many visions of the future — from 1984 to Silent Spring to Blade Runner to After Earth – lead us to believe a bleak, gray-skied world awaits. The prevailing theme of dystopian futurists is that we and the generations to follow are going to destroy our society or our planet because of our greed. Most futurists view the world through a cynical, grim prism, and optimistic futurists come few and far between. One of them left his mark on the world in a most indelible way — Walt Disney.

When many people think of Disney they feel nostalgia, fantasy, and escapism, but in reality, Walt possessed a strong vision for making the future better than the present. He believed that technology and free enterprise held the key to a positive future.

Walt’s futuristic dreams began to manifest themselves in the science-fiction-crazy 1950s. On the Disneyland television series, he devoted entire episodes to the conquest of space, landing on the moon, going beyond the moon, and using satellites to improve life on Earth. He and director Ward Kimball worked with leading scientific lights such as Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley to create diagrams and dramatizations of potential space travel that even predate NASA — and what ended up on the screen resembled actual space travel in surprising ways!

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If Successful, Hydrogen Could Stir Up a ‘Green’ Arms Race

Thursday, June 6th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Aston-Martin-Hybrid-Hydrogen-Rapide-S-2013-Nurburgring-24-Hours-630x419

Battery, Battery, Battery. Hybrid, Hybrid, Hybrid. Hydrogen.

Well, that’s a word we haven’t heard in a while! Of course, hydrogen has always been around, but the alternative to the “usual suspects” of the alternative energy clique (electric and hybrid-electric cars) has been modest with its time in the spotlight. That’s about to change. Aston Martin showed us that hydrogen could run on the infamous Nurburgring. Now new whispers hint that mass-market hydrogen cars could be hitting the road in the near future. Their entrance is going to stir up some healthy competition in the alternative energy sector. Good.

Hydrogen power has a big advantage over battery-powered cars: the storage tanks can be refilled very quickly. This would take care of the waiting game problem that currently plagues electric cars at charging stations. However, despite this benefit, hydrogen power still faces a major roadblock: in-car storage for the fuel cells is still an unanswered question. It was this problem of “storage” that pushed the alternative energy industry towards batteries in the first place. It seems we have come full circle — due to limits on battery range and their high cost, more and more people are giving hydrogen a second chance — and a bigger chunk of the R&D budget.

It’s been a long process, but BMW has created a 7-Series that burns hydrogen in a modified combustion engine. This allows the driver to switch the car to gasoline when the car runs out of hydrogen in its storage tanks. Essentially, BMW created a gasoline-hydrogen hybrid.

Audi is looking to go the electric-hydrogen route. They are prepping an A7 to run off of an electric motor that is powered by a fuel-cell system. The A7’s “exhaust gas” would be 100% water vapor.

The German government already seems to be on board with BMW and Audi’s hydrogen plans — they have already approved a plan to set up a national network of hydrogen “refill” stations (you can also recharge your battery). In short, Germany is banking on hydrogen’s success.

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Tesla: Miss America of Autos

Thursday, May 9th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

“She’s a show stopper…she’s a jaw dropper…she’s burning hot like fire!  She’s my Miss America!”  

Tesla is on fire right now! (And I mean that in a good way).  If cars had a Miss America pageant,  Miss America Electric Vehicle 2013 would definitely be the Tesla Model S.  She’s got the personality and the looks. Also, Tesla, the ten-year long shot, made a profit—this is better than the underdog winning the Miss America pageant!  Consumer Reports recently gave the Model S a glowing review: “[the Tesla Model S] performed better, or just as well overall, as any other vehicle—of any kind—ever tested by Consumer Reports.”  She also received a score of 99/100.  Wow.  She must have nailed that dance routine.  Electric vehicles (EVs) have had some trouble getting out of the gate the past few years—so this review bodes well for the start-up and gives some hope to the EV cause.

The Tesla Model S is still very expensive and does require some more infrastructure planning in order to make it a serious “every-day American driver,” but the sedan is starting to look like the “It girl”–oops, I mean car–of green transportation.  So what is different about the Tesla that is making it eclipse other EVs?  How did Tesla clinch such a great review and why is she taking the auto world by storm?  I’m not an engineer, thus I will not regale you on its potentially superior features that blow its competitors out of the park, but I would like to talk about Tesla’s design.

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Tomb Raider Lara Croft is Back. But Is She Worth the Hype?

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

The bazillionth episode in the tomb-raiding life of Lara Croft hit Tuesday. Most of the previous episodes have not been good. Many came with flaws that rendered them nearly unplayable in spots. Unlike most of the previous, and especially the most recent, installments, reviews for the 2013 installment have not been mixed. Lara is scoring about a 9.25 across the board on video game-review sites. But is this hype fanboys falling in love with a game babe, or a reflection of a strong game that may just bring a storied but troubled franchise back from the dead?

I spent about an hour with the new Tomb Raider, so while I don’t yet have a comprehensive view of the game’s full story arc, I do have some strong first impressions.

Story

Tomb Raider 2013 is an origins story, picking Lara up on an expedition to find a lost civilization off the coast of Japan. A nineteen year old on her first adventure, Lara isn’t yet the boss chick who greeted the gaming world in 1996. She’s young but determined, and convinced that if the expedition changes course, it will find the lost civilization they’re looking for. Changing course also risks entering the Dragon’s Triangle, an allegedly dangerous region of the Pacific similar to the Bermuda Triangle off Florida.

Things go about as you’d expect when a game amps up a threat — the expedition suffers a shipwreck and Lara finds herself stranded and alone. A knock on the head later, and she’s in a creepy, gory cave filled with bones and hanging corpses. It’s environments like this, and Lara’s tendency to lean on a couple of swears when she reacts to threats, that earn the game its M rating. No longer a cartoon, Tomb Raider is a cinematic beast.

The younger Lara is vulnerable. She picks up knocks and wounds. She scavenges and improves weapons as she goes. She gets hungry and has to hunt, which turns this Tomb Raider into more of an open world than any previous episode. She learns skills and, based on the dialogue, learns to overcome her fears. She thinks.

This Lara develops as the story goes, and is far more interesting and more realistically rendered than in any previous episode. She also eats meat, so she is more Duck Dynasty than Morrissey.

The story of Tomb Raider works extremely well, at least in the early going of the game that I’ve played.

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Dictator Valentine Cards

Thursday, February 14th, 2013 - by Sunny

Some things just deserve to be shared far and wide. I stumbled upon these adorably clever Valentine’s Day cards designed by Ben Kling. It’s not too late to share one with your sweetie, assuming he or she is intellectually deeper than your average Honey Boo Boo, Kim Kardashian-watching zombie straight out of Fahrenheit 451. If you know the last reference but not the first two you are to be congratulated. To buy yours go HERE.

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More satire from Sunny at PJ Lifestyle:

The Top 10 Funniest ‘Right-Sided’ Political Videos of 2012

4 More Foods the Government Should Ban

6 Facts It’s Okay to Forget You Know

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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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What Classic Rock Album Covers Blew Your Mind?

Saturday, December 15th, 2012 - by Myra Adams

My new car comes equipped with a three month trial subscription to Sirius XM radio and when Patriot Channel talk gets repetitive, I occasionally switch to 60′s on Channel 6, where I know the words to every song.

So the other day I happened to hear a song which really jolted my memory bank. It was A Taste of Honey by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, but while listening, all I could think about was the album cover.

And if you are of a certain age, you know exactly what I mean.

In 1965 when the album, Whipped Cream and Other Delights, was released the cover was considered “veddy” racy.

And here is the hit song, A Taste of Honey from the album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Whipped Cream was my parent’s album, but even as a Beatles loving 10-year-old I enjoyed it along with them. However, it was the cover that really made an impression.  I even remember spreading whipped cream all over my arms in tribute to the girl on the cover.

This Sirius XM Radio childhood flashback got me thinking about what other album covers made lasting, even mind blowing visual impressions. So here is that small stack of album covers which came tumbling off a dusty shelf in the far reaches of my brain — presented in chronological order.

The Mamas and the Papas — If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

In the middle of 1966 Beatlemania, this album by the Mamas and the Papas was released. To me, the music and the cover were equally impactful, for sitting in a bathtub fully dressed struck me as rather extreme. Chiefly responsible for the brain dent was Michelle Phillips, who was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, wearing those jeans and cowboy boots. I remember getting into our dry bathtub pretending to be her.  Yes, I was an impressionable pre-teen!

The Beatles — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Of course the most famous album cover in history absorbed hours of 1967 summer time fun for me and my friends as we tried in vain to identify all the faces on the cover. Since we were stumped by so many, I remember having to ask my parents. (Oh the horror of asking your parents to explain a Beatles album cover!) But I had no choice since Google was 31 years in the future. Now, in one Google second here is the complete list.  (How I love the modern age!)

Cream — Disraeli Gears

Psychedelic flower power anyone?  Released in November of 1967, this album cover fascinated me. On the inside I loved Cream’s music too, but something about the album design with all the fuchsia colors, totally blew my 12-year-old mind and opened doors of endless creative possibilities.

Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

This 1971 album by Traffic was so graphically unique with its die-cut design, it truly broke new ground and decades later the title song is still one of my favorite classic rock tunes. So here is a 1972 live version to enjoy, especially if it has been awhile since you have heard Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.

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We must not fret about the passing of album cover art for it now lives on the net with many sites dedicated to its greatness. There are also numerous cover art quizzes that will be used as “game time” trivia at nursing homes around 2040 when I am in my 80’s. (Now at my mother’s nursing home they play trivia contest games with Broadway show tunes and my mother is often the proud winner of a new fluffy nap blanket.)

Speaking of getting old, here is the Whipped Cream girl from that famous 1965 album cover now age 76.

So what classic rock covers blew your mind at a tender age?

And if you can recall them now, remember them for later when a new fluffy nap blanket is at stake.

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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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