Old Paper

On Tuesday, that scary bump on the subway came at the exact moment a tall man sneezed violently. By the time I got to the last few steps to exit the 23rd Street station, I felt a different kind of ache in my legs. It has been nearly a year since I closed and reopened. Maybe I’m just out of shape.

The security gates along the row of stores to my gallery still sat tight against the blackened dots of forgotten sidewalk gum. The chill in the breeze swirled at me with bits of paper and leaves. I entered my shop, tossed my coat to the chair, turned back to scan the exhibit, and noted to mop the floor. I went back outside and took photos of the black dots. I tried to connect the gum with the footsteps that made them, but I couldn’t. By the next day, those uncomplicated, conventional actions shifted my outlook unexpectedly, and I was not fond of the way I was thinking.

Art must be allowed to die the way Sleeping Beauty did. That was my conclusion. No matter how writers twirl fine phrases into your mind or painters watch your puzzled eye, the paint will dry in the tube, absent the story’s truth. All the while, music plays and plays to the silent, moody listeners of its class. The tedious work of sense-making only consumes a lack of purpose with the fear of survival. Forgive me, I felt this in my bones all of Tuesday. Today is Wednesday, and I feel a bit better.

It was pointless to think of anything else that could be worse. I still had my joy of novelty, black dots on a sidewalk, red tail jets, the joy of getting a sudden smile, and sitting in playgrounds filled with giggles. My darling partner called this odd attentiveness my silly stupidness. The art I chose for the season reopening was fresh but steadily becoming more frivolous each hour since that Tuesday. The questions friends and lovers asked were the right ones. Still, I could not prevent a sense of meaninglessness from spreading amongst us. Science was injecting a different way of thinking about playfulness within the arts. But I wouldn’t say I enjoyed one bit of this intrusion.

I rattled my newspaper and spread it across my desk. I heard Leslie enter early, as expected. Up went the gallery lights to their entire “buy me” intensity. She nodded hello, sat across me, already reading strange tensions in my so-called “aura of the day.” I put up with that silliness. Having her back could save the shop. I never had a better managing salesperson and partner. Once after a profitable sale of several paintings, she said, “I could sell eggs to hens.” I made the mistake of asking something like how or why. Hand on hip, turning with a glint, she said, “Right after the rooster’s vasectomy.”

On the other hand, my aura was not vaguely humorous. Tapping my desk she said, “What are you reading in the dead tree press this morning.” She liked to say the word ‘this’ with emphasis. It was a sales thing. I want to hold a newspaper even at the cost of three dollars daily. So I looked up and said, “discrete-time crystals.” The ceiling became interesting to her at that moment. I continued, “I’m not silly. They may be a way to measure the parts of matter that oscillate in a repeating cycle for use in quantum computers, and that could improve everything.” No reaction.

The story told me that humanity needs quantum computers to solve today’s unsolvable problems faster. But, I am watching a long and terrifying list of them grow. And abruptly, like that sneeze on the train the other morning, there was the Sleeping Beauty problem laid before me. We are fearful of not waking up in a dream going bad. But, unlike this beauty, maybe we can find a way to permit a kiss from a quantum sovereign prince.

“Leslie,” I said, sitting there in my old paper world, “My aura, as you call it, is getting pushed into the new news. It is wrapped up neatly in a purple dimension of existence I barely understand. I wheeled to my laptop. “Look here,” I said. “It is a world without art, but there remains the need. This story is about truth and hope, instead of beauty, money instead of love, speed instead of rest, yet it is still about dreams. Innovation in a new brand of reality. Maybe it will wake us up, but for now, please give Gregory a call and see if he can clean up our sticky gummed-up sidewalk and put that nonslip polish on the floor before the weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and for your information, I’m already feeling a little bit of red in the binary digits of my so-called aura.”

“Okay,” she said. Then, standing, she turned, walked out, waving her arm back and forth above her head. “Off, no, on to the deeds of the day.”

Source: Natalie Wolchover Quantum Magazine, Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real

Mega Region Design

In November 2007, Bruce Katz presented the challenges of the “mega” urban world. The exquisite logic of Blueprint for American Prosperity was this century’s “Rachael Carson” moment. The truth is almost impossible to believe, and as it turns out, no one did. That is a serious problem.

Megaregion Design

The 2050 population estimate by the U.S. Census is about 440 million people.  This is a 60% increase from 2000 at 280 million and sufficient to sustain modest GDP growth were it not for one salient fact.  One-third of the population in 2050 will be 60 years or older.  They will need walkable communities, or they will ask to have everything delivered.

Where will the majority of this population decide to live? Economists think it will be in warm places that are becoming hot and dry or hot and wet. This brings many critical questions. One of them confronts an enormous labor shortage expected to begin around 2025. However, perhaps the most compelling policy question involves the demands of this population for elder care services concerning the quality of its provision in the marketplace.  The impact everything urban where the efficient use of energy depends directly on density.

Knowing how this population will decide to live also goes a long way toward knowing where density can work and be well received.  In order of preference, the following answers are probably accurate – people will be:

  • living the same way since settled, and will stay there until we drop dead, or
  • seeking a village-like setting with easy access to leisure– theater, movies, dining, and health sports such as running, cycling, golf, tennis, or name it
  • moving closer, but not too close to the kids, their kids, and some friends
  • be living with the children in their house as they become caregivers or receivers
  • be looking for elder care or nursing facility/hospice eventually

One way to resolve the conflicts of prediction is to define the population’s cohorts by the 2050 geography of megaregions from Brookings and work back to now. So say it is 2025 – you have a few years to arrange policy and resources.

Google “Overpass”

Change the Subsidy and Alter the Incentive

Planners and developers know the analysis well. Work in the context of the above categories and then modify a carefully selected yet thin wash of possible local development sites with existing services or links to centers of density most likely to provide specialized services. The question of where is then partially resolved. It is least risky to recognize high demand potential regressed to the mean of less predictable costs, including displacement events associated with the climate change event, including COVID-19. The choices also involve a broad landscape of existing housing, large to small retail districts, office parks, and industrial areas.  All megaregions will require analysis of the historically contrived municipal boundaries organization with rapidly changing demographic characteristics.

There is no reason to believe the economic and social forces that accelerated central city decay is not at work with similar consequences in the spread city. A guidebook called Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs documents those who have taken this approach.  (see: Ted Talk by Ellen Dunham Jones). She observes how planners can diagnose low-density areas for possible problems. The failure of grey-field office parks, dead or dying malls, and housing subdivisions altered by illegal or loop-hole conversions are good examples. Suburban communities are feverishly working to stabilize or lower personal and property taxes by urgently digging for new options in more haphazard manners than ever before.

Face it, successfully injecting an urban design agenda into these communities will require a much sharper, top-down “Brookings, APA, AIA, Lincoln, ULI” coalition and a public focus on how impossible it is for local government agencies to direct development in a free market economy.  It comes down to one question. Why are people such as Bruce Katz and his team all alone on the significance of this make-or-break analysis? Where is the public capacity to ban all shovels until all projects proposed to comply with regional rules that clearly recognize the age cohort and highly disruptive displacement events? 

Mandatory rules in the following order of priority are available. The guidebooks and manuals for a more successful urban world are well written.  The missing element is a coalition level of political enforcement that would help assure community planning, urban design, and architecture will accomplish the following:

  1. a residential environment that is safe and walkable to meet convenience needs
  2. design solutions that allow for the routine use of human-powered and power assist vehicles
  3. provision of mass transit access serving all comparison goods, needs, interests, or desires
  4. zero footprint impact and plus-grid (micro) energy, natural and technologically advanced waste (of all kinds) management systems
  5. integration of open space systems responsive to natural environmental conditions of wilderness (preferably not fragmented).
  6. Oh, and end the crapshoot presented by the following image of Atlanta as it really exists.

Experience plus reflection produces knowledge. The Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program back in 2007 presented the real challenge of the American urban world.  Why has it not taken hold in a way that ordinary people can absorb? I think the exquisite logic of Blueprint for American Prosperity failed to convince Atlanta. Except for NYC, nobody got it because the hard truth was impossible to believe. Time to repeat it, SAM.


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The Red Tail Plane

Toward the end of 2018, in New York City during blue sky days, several planes with red tails would catch my attention. Was this more than coincidental? I did what any curious person would do in this situation; I Googled it. The universe answered. People photograph, collect and share tail images. The phrase “red-tail plane” yielded a loyal constituency sharing photos of the tails and planes of the entire airline industry. Each tail is captured and graphically consolidated into the wonderfully thematic world. Lesson: a strange query can keep you going.

The desire to share observations, coupled with the capacity to do so on millions of free-to-edge platforms, yields a subset of individuals who have leaped from that edge to ask and answer one question. What do I want and need to know? As any economist will tell you, descriptions of the differences and links between want and need fill volumes of hard textbooks and soft, entertaining paperbacks. The “what to know problem” remains at the core of the debate in a world where there is nothing you can’t add.

The business of discovering how people, communities, even whole nations choose what they want and need to know begins with a helpful relationship with the world no matter what the experience. The ability to establish other relationships based on force is another where the red tail plane exists. What do these planes want from me? Why are they constantly in my line of sight? I eventually solved my planes with red tails problems like odors make your nose blind. I don’t see red tail planes anymore, and that is when it hit me like a slap in the face.

I got a hold of Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, to hear about his experience since his work at Wired and his book.  Jumping from “red tail” to “long tail” is a switch to allow yourself to use the power-law to focus on modern life. Anderson’s real-time number-driven vision of the world became future-driven by playing robotics with his kids and online. This is where the red tail and the long tail get interesting. He talked about meeting youthful engineers online and ended up building a drone factory in Tijuana. (Details).

When a sense of injustice threatens well-being, people flee, often in high numbers. Chris’s experience straightened me out.  He sees the importance of a north-south vision of the American continents and, in his way, foretold the futility of Xenophobia slapped in our face like a wall. Then I saw it, the long tail of a 4,000 km march beginning in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras and ending along the Mexico border.

I know why the red-tail plane brought me to a 4,000 km long-tail walk through Mexico. People like Chris Anderson figure out ways to prevent bloodshed and make those numbers in the long tail work. Sí, se puede my brothers and sisters, Sí, se puede.