Friday, December 23, 2011

Year's End

My friend Kenny's year-end summation leads me to tote a few things up.

Best book: Alexander Nehamas, The Art of Living. Runners-up: The Care of the Self by Michel Foucault; The Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder.

Best restaurant: Flora in Oakland. (I didn't go very far afield). Runners-up: Rivoli in Berkeley, Fringale and Hayes Street Grill in SF. (Tradition runs rampant.)

Best wine shop: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley. Runner-up: North Berkeley Wine Company.

Best play: "School for Scandal" by Richard Sheridan (at the Barbican, London).

Best film: The one by Tacita Dean on Merce Cunningham rehearsing at the Ford Plant in Richmond. Although a friend compared it to watching paint dry, I found it remarkable, both for the play of light and view in that huge, open space and for the way the piece came together with MC's ever-so-polite direction of his thoroughly professional company.

Best live event: The 17 May parade in Bergen, Norway, for which neighborhoods, schools, and university faculties fielded small bands, all of which played well, and everyone dressed in gorgeous handmade, colorful, traditional clothes with silver buttons. Runners-up: Davitt Moroney; Scandinavian Festival in Junction City, Oregon; UC Berkeley MFA presentation at Richmond Field Station.

Best bookstore: University Press Books in Berkeley. Runners-up: Daunts in London, noted by my friend Andrew; Stout's on Solano Avenue in Berkeley (best used architecture books on the planet); City Lights in SF (better even than the London Review of Books bookstore in London); Analog on Euclid Avenue in Berkeley (tiny, but excellent selection).

Best (and possibly last) classical CD store: Musical Offering, Berkeley. Worth preserving.

Best newspaper: The Guardian, which I read now on my iPad; runner-up: weekend FT.

Best place for architecture criticism: Sam Lubell's CA edition, Architect's Newspaper.

Best architecture mag: The redesigned, Catherine Slessor-edited Architectural Review. Runner-up: sister publication Architect's Journal.

Best music video: The wedding Bollywood riff made by my cousin Jonas in honor of his cousin Marius's marriage to Nina. (I'll find a link for this one.)

Best musical discovery: Sviatoslav Richter, noted by my friend Stefan. A lot of Russian classical music recordings from the Soviet era are coming out of the woodwork.

Best company: At this point, the most occasional. Runners-up: lunch division: Kenny; family division: my daughter Elizabeth.

Best news: Nephew Tom on the mend. (He was hit by a truck while walking on a sidewalk in Austin, TX.) Runner-up: Kim Jong-Il joins his dad.

Best reason to be appalled: The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Best reason to fight nascent fascism: Andres Breivik.

Best reason to riot: David Cameron.

Best signs of better times: Women marching against army ugliness in Cairo; SF designers having babies; Pirate Party doing well in Germany; Blue Labour.

Best opportunity for innovation: Higher education.

Best financial quote: "I have no idea what happened to the $1.2 billion."

Best Chinese saying to apply to high finance: "Kill some chickens to scare the monkeys."

Best election to do over: Russia's.

Best single example of blatant hypocrisy: Congress refusing to outlaw its members' insider trading.

Best religious epiphany: The public denunciation by the Irish PM of continued Vatican foot-dragging over turning predatory priests over to the police in Ireland. Runner-up: Theocracy in Iran, the best example of why to separate religion from the state (in case Rick Perry wasn't registering on that front).

Best projects to abandon: Apple's glass ring; Saltworks; California high-speed rail.

Best proof of karma: So many choices this year. Let's hope Berlusconi sticks.

Best candidates for apotheosis: Steve Jobs and Christopher Hitchens. (Both were deeply flawed, but then so are most of the gods.)

Best rich guys not taking it with them: Warren Hellman and Don Fisher.

Best mag: The Jean Nouvel issue of Abitare.

Best running gag: The Republican candidates. (That's "gag" in two senses.)

Best reason to support Obama: The Republican candidates.

Best art exhibit: Kurt Schwitters at Berkeley Art Museum. Runner-up: Francesca Woodman at SFMOMA. (Both obsessive; both unlucky, but in different ways.)

Best cultural organization: Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Artists (SECA) at SFMOMA. Runners-up: Art + Design Forum at SFMOMA; BAM/PFA; Cal Performances (but I miss Robert Cole).

Best moment at SPUR: David Lewis vs. Peter Calthorpe re: Saltworks. (Hate that project.)

Best beach: Stinson. (My Ostia Lido.)

Best cathedral: York.

Best career move: Cathy Ho heads up the US section of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Runner-up, M&A division: Bob Ivy heads up the AIA.

Best proof of sheer ability (and probable exploitation): Julie Kim is replaced at SPUR by three people.

Best living poet: John Burnside. Runner-up: Frederick Seidel.

Best dead poet: Byron ("Don Juan").

Best blog: "Design Faith," my fave, is one of four that I read closely. Each is written by one person.

Best lit review: London Review of Books. Runner-up: BookForum.

Best serious journal: New Left Review.

Best writer on architecture: Catherine Slessor. Many contenders, but she's the best writer.

Best deserving of a national honor received: Mara Hvistendahl, whose book on China's boy bias made top 10 lists of several national publications, including the WSJ.

Best deserving of a local honor received: David Baker. Does what he does really well. Runner-up: Yukiko Bowman.

Best local lecture by a designer: Jeanne Gang at Wurster Hall. More like her, please. Runners-up: Katherine Gustafson and Craig Dykers.

Best live event reporting: Eva Hagberg on Occupy Berkeley (on Facebook). Runner-up (with photos): Sabrina Brennan on Occupy Oakland, Port of Oakland, and Half Moon Bay.

Best coffee: Indoor: Blue Bottle; outdoor: Curbside Coffee - both SF. Beans: Espresso Forte, Peet's; machine: Pavoni (despite everything).

Best cab ride: Oslo (caught the ferry); runner-up: London ("Your president has made an unholy mess of this city").

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas 2011

A look back at some highlights of an interesting year.

In January, I stopped off in Manhattan, where I spent time with friends. Christine Van Lenten and I spent a day at museums. On separate evenings, I had dinner with Jan Lakin and Helen Dimoff. It was great to see all three. Motivated by the cold and a hotel on the west side of the park, I finally cracked the Manhattan buses. In DC, I had dinner with my son Ross, his friends Tamara and Alden, and my nephew Charles. It started snowing that evening, but I dodged the more consequential snowfall that paralyzed NYC.

In May, I went to Europe. My first stop was Bergen, where I watched the Norwegian national day parade on 17 May and spent time with my cousin Turid, her sister Marthe-Katrina, and Turid's sons, daughters-in-law, and numerous grandchildren. Introduced by Turid's son Henning, an alumnus, I visited Bergen's architecture school, meeting its director. I also went to the house of Edvard Grieg and to Galerie Oz, the arts-and-crafts gallery that Turid and Marthe-Katrina own and run. Then, at Turid's suggestion, I took the train to Oslo, barely making it to Nesodden in time to meet my cousins Bente and Helge at the ferry. They drove me home - to a house I first visited in 1953, which they have wonderfully restored - in Bente's swanky new Audi convertible. That night I had dinner with my cousin Margaretha, her friend Knut-Ole, and her sons Espen and Jan-Hendrik. The next day, I saw Elsie, the family matriarch; Bente's daughter Maria and her granddaughter Philippa (the daughter of Maria's sister Henriette, who was away); and my cousins Gunn and Sigurd, having lunch on their sailboat. I had dinner with Bente and Helge. The next morning, I took the ferry back to Oslo and spent an amazing day with Margaretha's brother, Kjell-Olav, his wife Kirsten, their daughters Maria and Sarah, and their landscape architect friend and neighbor, Jostein Bjørbekk, who kindly took me on a planner's tour of downtown Oslo, including stops at the new Opera House and Oslo's architecture museum. Lunch was at Oslo's iconic ski jump and dinner was at Kirsten and Kjell-Olav's house. The guests included Margaretha's younger kids, Marthe and Marius, and Nina, the soon-to-be wife of Marius. On Monday, Maria very kindly drove me to the train station after I missed the airport bus, so I didn't miss my midday plane to England.

I spent 24 hours in Birmingham, visiting my son John. (He went on to get his masters at Birmingham City University in September and is now working in London.) England's second-largest city, Birmingham is an impressive place, much influenced by the Victorian era. This is true, as well, of Leeds, my next destination, where I spent two days with my friends Joan and Vivian Wyatt. They took me into town and then to York, a medieval cathedral town - birthplace of W.H. Auden, I just read. Then I took the train to London, meeting up with three generations of the Wigfall family, converging on Saatchi & Saatchi for an art event in which Clare Wigfall participated. The next day, I had lunch with my friend Andrew Rabeneck (who visited us in the fall in Berkeley), then met the Wigfalls at the Barbican to see Sheridan's "School for Scandal." What better way to end a trip!

Meanwhile, Kathy went with friends to Bulgaria and Romania in late May and early June. She had a really good time. Closer to home, she's become a fan of opera, mostly through the rebroadcasting of Met productions at a local movie theater.

In mid-August, I visited my family in Eugene: my sister Alice, her husband John, my niece Rachael, her husband Ben, and their kids, Jane and Hugh. We went to the Scandinavian Festival, where I met Rachael and Ben's friends the Hagens and their kids. Ben, Jane, and I went fishing on the McKenzie River. At my family's archive at the University of Oregon, I read a small sampling of the correspondence of my parents and grandparents. For a writer, having a family archive is just about heaven!

The real family news this year was all from Norway. My cousin Marius married Nina, who we met a few years ago when they spent a very crowded few days at our house between Christmas and New Year's. (Proof that there's always room for family and friends chez nous.). Then my cousins Una and Espen had a baby boy, Theodor. These joyful events helped take the edge off the sadness of the tragic Oslo bombing and island massacre. 

On our end, in Berkeley, I served on the board of the 2430 Arts Alliance, which benefits University Press Books and the Musical Offering. At the house of Sue and Richard Bender, I saw Yu Serizawa, visiting from Tokyo. We made a lunch together with ingredients Yu brought from the Ferry Building, which was really fun. On Easter, I saw my LA friend Linda Hart and her daughter Rian. On the family front, our son Michael, his wife Bojana, and our grandson Conor moved from SF to the next block. Conor now goes to Black Pine Circle School in Berkeley. Our daughter Liz is living across the street. I really enjoy her presence, which gives rise to interesting conversations and excursions. She's working in SF on art books: Picasso and Gris. Her grandmother Betty is ailing, but rallied to attend Thanksgiving dinner. We expect to see her at Christmas, when Ross will be back. (He and Tamara visited in the summer, then Ross took a new job with the Alliance to Save Energy in DC.) Kathy's sister Laurie, her husband Chuck, and their kids Liam and Roz will be here, along with her sister Lyn, Lyn's husband Michael, and their son Charles. Will their son Tom and his wife Emily make it? I hope so. We saw them in the late summer in Berkeley. A few weeks ago, Tom was plowed into by a drunk driver while walking on the sidewalk in Austin, Texas. Luckily, he's on the mend. Have to watch those sidewalks!

It was fun to see Cathy Ho and her growing family in San Francisco at the gorgeous penthouse of our mutual friend Rob Forbes. That led to a dinner with Jay Powell, Peony Quan, and Canan Tolon at Flora in Oakland. (It was good to have Cathy's sister Betty as my colleague again.) My BART-riding friend Thu Phan gave me a insider's tour of Thom Mayne's SF Federal Building. At Yosh Asato and David Baker's Storefront Lab open house, I met Amy Trachtenberg and her husband, and ran into David Hurley, Kenny Caldwell, and Paul Crabtree. I enjoyed seeing Kenny's art pieces - and running into Amanda Walter - at the SF Art Institute earlier this year. I'm looking forward to hearing Paul's "Ghost Train," a crowd-sourced musical commission. On the work front, my group - led by Mark Coleman - won a Graphis Gold Award for the Gensler 2009 Annual Report. A new design blog, TraceSF, that Yosh and I have worked on with Yuki Bowman and Brad Leibin, will launch soon. I met young artists, including Kari Marboe and Jennie Smith, at Berkeley Art Museum's UCB MFA presentation at Richmond Field Station, and two art patrons, Rimma Boshernitsan and Cynthia Kagay, at events sponsored by SECA at SFMOMA, which they help run. (At some point, just before it turned cold, I squeezed in a short trip to Stinson Beach.) I was glad to meet SFMOMA curator Joseph Becker, who lectured on Dieter Rams; "Mexican Suitcase" designer Martin Venesky (with whom I'm discussing digitizing the Design Book Review archive); and family-law specialist and early-music fan Stefan Spielman. I was impressed by Randolph Langenbach and Chris Andrews' research work on indigenous housing in urban Haiti. I was glad to see that Julie Kim has a worthy successor at SPUR Urbanist in Allison Arieff. I appreciated John King's soiree at House of Shields, where I ran into all of the usual suspects but one.

On my last trip east, in early December, I saw Ross and Tamara again in DC. A business meeting in Charlotte ended early, so I saw the remarkable work of Romare Bearden and Sheila Hicks at the Mint Museum. I was supposed to visit my friend May Ho Hebert and her family in Miami (and glimpse Art Basel), but it didn't work. I'll get there yet!

So this, in a nutshell, is my Christmas news. If you're mentioned above, thank you for your part in making 2011 a good year. It was so good to see you or to have you visit. Facebook is useful to keep ties going, but nothing beats a real conversation! If you're not mentioned, don't think you aren't in my thoughts! I hope to see you in 2012!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Jolly Snowden, 1918-1989

Crumpton Leonard "Jolly" Snowden
My son, Ross Parman, posted this photo of his grandfather, Jolly Snowden, a resident of Arch Street in the 1980s. Described accurately at his funeral as a larger-than-life figure, Jolly was the namesake of his parents, sharing their first and last names. His father, Crumpton Snowden, was the scion of a Revolutionary War land grant family, gentry, in Andalusia, Alabama. His mother, Effie May Leonard, was the daughter of dirt farmers in the same community. She turned the family around. Like the minor aristocracy in France, the Snowdens were in steep decline by the time Crum was born, although he reportedly retained an aristocrat's disdain for ordinary work. Selling the farm, he moved the family to rural Miami, where Jolly and his 14 siblings were raised. George, the oldest of the Snowden cohort, was independent enough by the time he was 10 that a bank in Andalusia made him the cosigner for his daddy's loan. (George went on to run a country store outside Miami that made him a small fortune.) These were self-made men: Jolly and his brother Charles were both All-Americans for the Miami Hurricanes, playing football to get an education. Their high-school paper routes provided the family with cash. Charles became a Florida state senator and judge, while Jolly built Ryder Trucks into a national force, first in Florida and New York, and then in California. In the early 1940s, he worked for Pan Am in the Congo. In those days, the Brazil-to-Congo route via Ascension Island was the fastest route by plane across the Atlantic. In 1941, Jolly was made an officer in the Army and put in charge of the liquor, which was constantly slipping on to the Black Market. "If you sent me to the Congo, I bet I could still find some of the Scotch I hid," he once told me. It was there that he met his wife, Betty O'Rourke, who was broadcasting in French to expat Belgians and French in Africa. She still lives on Arch Street in the building that she and Jolly bought for their daughters, Kathy and Laurie Snowden, when they couldn't find an apartment while attending UC Berkeley. Jolly had cancer in the late 1960s, for which he was treated with radiation. It bought him 20 years. A heart attack in the hospital in 1988 stopped his heart, but his doctors revived him, condemning him to six months on a respirator, a terrible ordeal. They thought they could save him, but his immune system was shot. A cautionary tale.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Afternoon with the MFAs

The scene at Richmond Field Station.

On Saturday, 12 November 2011, I went over to UC Berkeley's Richmond Field Station at the invitation of the Berkeley Art Museum to see and hear presentations by MFA students in the Art Department, some of whom have studio space there. I'd never been to RFS, which is a ramshackle, sandbox kind of place that attracts engineering students as well as artists. The buildings are of all different types and sizes, probably ex-WW II military. They have a weathered, rough-and-ready look.

Presumably this is Building 118.
The students showed a mix of work. Many of them work in several media, but there are also sculptors and photographers. What follows is a quick visual run-through of what I saw. (I'm sorry that I can't also document what I heard.)

Amy Rathbone uses an entire room as her art space.
Her hanging sculpture uses pieces of asphalt or bitumen.
Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck works in video.
He uses clips from a family's home movies from the 1950s.
Jennie Smith was next.
Her paintings address myths like the turtle carrying the world.
Brett Walker is a photographer.
He sometimes stars in his own photos.
Kari Marboe works with text and images, drawing on Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse.
In this work, she collaborated with a sculptor.
Kari Orvik works in photography, including tintypes, and video.
These are a series of tintypes, including portraits.
Tintypes have to be developed immediately. She has a darkroom in car.
Frank Marquez-Leonard is a sculptor.
This is the work he showed us.
A lot of the studios had beautiful light.
Some of them had interesting work by other artists, like this.
And like this.
After hearing the presentations, we gathered in yet another building at RFS for refreshments. One of the artists, Jennie Smith, gave me prints (from Kinko's, not the artist's kind) of two works that I'd admired during her presentation. I'm not sure how to describe them.
Prints of two drawings (?) by Jennie Smith.
I was invited to this event because I joined Berkeley Art Museum as a patron. BAM/PFA is an amazing benefit of living in 94708 (and elsewhere in the Bay Area), well worth joining and supporting. Meeting the MFAs, seeing their work, and hearing the ideas behind it was energizing. There will be an exhibit of their final projects at BAM in May 2012. Look for it!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Charlie Hallowell, the chef-owner of Pizzaiolo.
On Saturday, I met the architect Christopher Andrews at Pizziaolo, a cafe-restaurant in Oakland's Temescal district. I hadn't spent a lot of time there of late, but I worked nearby in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The area is now totally different - a very vibrant scene. 

Chris helped design the garden behind the Pizziaolo, including the chicken coop, which a few years after he built it is now hidden beneath the leaves.

Chris Andrews showing me his chicken coop.
Along with chickens, there's an apiary - a fancy word for beehive. The presence of chickens gives a bucolic flavor to the shared outdoor area behind Pizzaiolo.

Chickens at Pizzaiolo.
The apiary at Pizzaiolo.
Chris and I sat in the art-filled backroom, which wasn't as crowded as the main space. There's a small-town feel to the restaurant, which must reflect the owner. A look at their website puts a lot of emphasis on local ingredients. Hallowell came from Chez Panisse, so Pizzaiolo is in the Alice Waters tradition, but without the French overtones.

Art, bike, and man.

Cow's head painting, not sure by who.
Here are some scenes from the patio, which will give a sense of the ambiance. It reminded me of towns in Italy and Spain, not so much designed as produced by artisans whose aesthetic sense is applied directly, drawing on tradition and memory. Speaking of his chicken coop, Chris spoke of his delight in building it - something that architects don't often get to do.

Detail of the brick terrace, garden, and chicken coop.
Looking west from the terrace.
The bocce ball court.
Outdoor storage for the other restaurant.
The summer's film schedule.
Wood for the Pizzaiolo ovens.
On my way down Telegraph, Chris phoned me and gave me a helpful hint about Pizziaolo, which I'll pass along: you can park in the Walgreen's lot across the street. That was the deal that Oakland cut with the drug chain, and it will save you time and dimes (or dollars, to put it in 2011 terms) to park there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Helios update

Cal's new Helios Building, designed by SmithGroup.
I took BART this morning from downtown Berkeley. On my way, I took this photo of the Helios Building. It shows work on the north facade, using an interesting hybrid of a construction elevator and a window-washing platform to get the crews up in the air. Here's a closer view:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Scenes from the FS Bus

The wetlands park near the Bay Bridge in Emeryville.
My car died last Friday. While waiting for it to be repaired, I started riding the FS bus, which stops at Shattuck and Vine, a mere four blocks from my house. It's a surprisingly fast ride that ends up at the temporary Transbay Terminal, two blocks from my office (in the 1925 George Kelham-designed Hills Brothers Coffee Building). The over-the-bridge route is interesting. I've always liked the wetlands park that borders the freeway in Emeryville. It's full of white herons. The mudflats to the north used to be an informal sculpture park, too, but that tradition has fallen away. 

The mast of the new east span of the Bay Bridge.
Another sight is the new east span of the Bay Bridge. The mast of this single-tower suspension bridge is fast rising, and details of its construction are now visible. The east span itself is taking form, although for some reason it still has a gap in it. 

The gap in the Bay Bridge's new east span.
As the photo above shows, the span has two separate lanes. (I took it from the lower deck of the existing east span.) I wondered how they will connect to the two-level tunnel through Yerba Buena Island: more elegantly, presumably, than the current S-curve that gets the existing roadway out of the way of the new construction.

San Francisco viewed from the FS bus.
My friend and neighbor Katherine Rinne noted on Facebook that part of the appeal of the FS is the skyline view as you approach the city. I agree. (She's an independent scholar and the author of The Waters of Rome, a prize-winning monograph published by Yale.)

I usually park at the North Berkeley BART Station and take the train into the city. It's easier to read on the train, but there's something to be said for the FS. I may start varying the rhythm of my commute, at least during the summer. The bus is quieter than BART, too. As the BART cars age, they've gotten really noisy, especially in the bay tunnel.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Earthquake preparedness

My neighbors Ness and Arash Farahmand at the neighborhood get-together.
The terrible events in eastern Japan in March prompted my neighborhood to get more serious about the likelihood of an earthquake closer to home. On 12 June, people gathered in one of our backyards for a party hosted by Debra Barnes and Kathleen Dolan. There was a mercifully short rundown of our to-do list, the immediate aim of which is to secure a city-donated cache of tools and supplies. All of us in 94708 live in the shadow of the Hayward fault, which runs north-south along Euclid Avenue. There hasn't been a major earthquake on the fault since the 1860s, which means we're overdue. A sharp tremor a while back gave me a sense of how this might go: it was as if a giant were shaking the house. A couple minutes of that would definitely make a mess! That experience prompted us to rebuild our foundation. We joke about laying in some gin against the possibility of "a big one," but in reality, it's worth taking seriously. The rule of thumb is three days' worth of supplies, but I would bet it will be a week or two, in reality. I don't think the powers that be are very well prepared, either.

Helios goes up

The new Helios building, viewed from the north.
The Helios building, replacing the demolished State Health Lab building, is topping out. The colorful facade is temporary, if the rendering on the University's sign is to be believed. In reality, it will look a lot like the Warren Hall replacement by the same architect, SmithGroup. The scale of it isn't too bad - it forms street walls along Oxford and Hearst and is relatively compact in relation to the site. The height seems reasonable from the north. I assume the intent is to redevelop the entire site over time, but I haven't seen the plan, if any, for that eventuality. The design is less interesting than SmithGroup's Sutardja Dal Hall to the east. This is pretty standard university lab fare, as is Warren.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birmingham, England

Victoria Square, Birmingham, UK.
In May, I went to Birmingham, an example of the remarkable impact the long boom of the Victorian era had on English commercial cities. Birmingham is the next largest city after London. It's a city, not a metropolis, with many universities and a real cultural life.

One of the canals that runs through central Birmingham.
I read somewhere recently that Birmingham is considered one of England's uglier cities. I didn't find it so. Of course, it has some dreadful postwar buildings, but the city center has much  to recommend it, including an art museum with a good collection of art and artifacts and a photography gallery that artfully reuses an existing Victorian building. The heart of the city is  compact and walkable, with a good mix of uses and amenities.

Birmingham's Ikon Gallery.

During my travels, I thought about what lessons, if any, Berkeley could learn from the cities I visited. (They also included Bergen and Oslo, Norway and Leeds, York, and London, England.) In the case of Birmingham, the lesson might be to take the public realm more seriously - invest in it; to make the most of older buildings of distinction; and to ensure that new additions to the city are worthy to live among (not dominate) the best of the existing fabric. Birmingham does this inconsistently, but when it works, so does the city. Here are a few examples:

A walkway joining old and new buildings. There's a restaurant with a terrace on the left where I had dinner.
A typical row of shops, with bollards, landscaping, and a good scale.
A good art museum right in the center of town.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Recycling redux

A neighbor questioned my post about the city's criminalization of informal collection of curbside recycling, saying that the program is harmed when it has to buy what's informally collected instead of getting it "for free." Would the overall cost of collecting recycling be less if it was left to the informal sector entirely? I realize that's a step that for a variety of reasons would be really hard for a formal, city-connected organization to take. It would take an act of social imagination, in other words. What I object to is the criminalization of the informal sector implied by the city's "ownership" of recycling when it's placed on the street. My neighbor said that this is not enforced, but it could be, which strikes me as an ethical failure. The photo above is a reminder that informality is the way of the (perpetually unbalanced) world. I also heard a relevant quote: "The typically modern practice is the effort to exterminate ambivalence." (Jeremy Till, citing or quoting Zygmunt Bauman).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

White near-equinox

This photo, from Berkeleyside, shows Solano Ave. on Friday night. I was at a dinner party in the Oakland hills. When I returned to my house on Arch Street, I found the front and back yards and both decks covered with "snow" that felt and sounded like crushed ice. Although hail, in reality, it triggered a lot of merrymaking in the neighborhood. Something similar happened here in the early 1970s, when I lived above Euclid on Hearst.