weekend | 10 may 2013



Douglas Brinkley | Rolling Stone

Bush and Cheney and Clinton and Gore famously had their weekly lunches together. Do you have regular, unstructured one-on-one time with the president?

Matter of fact, I just had lunch with the president. I spend an average of four to five hours a day with him, every single day. When I first got asked to do this job, I said, “No, thank you. I’ll do anything I can to help you, but I’m not interested.” Then he said, “Go home and talk it over with your family.” When the actual offer came forward, he asked me what portfolio do I want, and I said, “I don’t want a portfolio; I don’t want to be Gore” – who was a great vice president – “I don’t want to be Cheney. You said you wanted me here to help you govern, and I have a lot of experience.” I wanted a commitment that I get to be the last guy in the room on every major decision – not generally, but specifically. My job is to accommodate what he wants done and, internally, to make my cases for what I think we should be doing different. So it’s been a really good relationship, and everybody knows that – around here and around the world. Think about it: Even our critics have never said that when I speak, no one doubts that I speak for the president. I speak for the president because of the relationship. And the only way that works is if you’re around all the time. Literally, every meeting he has, I’m in. You don’t have to wonder what the other guy’s thinking; I don’t have to guess where the president’s going. So it’s been really great. Once a week, no matter what, we sit down for between 35 minutes and as long as an hour and a half, depending on what we have to say.

We talk about everything, and our wives are friends. Today, we talked about foreign policy at some length, we talked about China, we talked about Russia and we talked about Syria. So that’s more than you wanted to know, but this is the nature of the relationship, and that’s why it works.

We have very different styles, but we are simpatico. At all the debates we had – trying to get the nomination in ’08 – we’re the only two who never disagreed on a single substantive issue. He has a great line. He said, “We’re the ultimate odd couple,” he says. “We make up for each other’s shortcomings.” He makes up for a hell of a lot more of mine than I do of his, but it’s worked. When you leave the Senate, they let you buy your Senate chair. I have two sons, and I didn’t know what to do. He said, “Look, give Beau your chair; I’ll give Hunter my chair.” So Hunter has President Obama’s chair from when he was a senator. That’s major league. On Saturday mornings, it’s not at all unusual to see the president, the first lady and the second lady and the vice president sitting in a little tiny gym in suburban Maryland, watching my granddaughter Maisy and his daughter Sasha in this basketball league. The president always talks about my granddaughter on national television: “She’s going D1.” “Mr. President, didn’t your daughter’s team win their championship?” “Yeah, it was because of the vice president’s granddaughter Maisy Biden.”





Chad Mann | Vimeo

Despite living with ALS, screenwriter Scott Lew maintains his voice in the world through his scripts, giving added meaning to the expression “living to write.”

Director: Chetin Chabuk | Producer: Diane Becker | Editor: Chetin Chabuk | Director of Photography: Chad Mann





Josh Barro | Bloomberg

But here’s the really odd thing about the blase attitude on Wall Street: While the crisis is asymmetrical and its worst effects are on the poor, it’s terrible for the rich, too.

The accompanying chart shows two ways of looking at the S&P 500 index. The yellow line is the index itself, which is indeed higher than ever. That’s no surprise: In the past few years, corporate profits have grown as a share of the economy, at the expense of wages.

But the blue line shows the overall price-to-earnings ratio of the companies that make up the S&P 500. This figure remains low: Companies are trading at 15.9 times earnings, substantially below their usual level over the past 30 years. So while stock prices are up a lot over the past three years, they’re not as high as you would expect given how profitable corporations are.

And that’s because of the weak economic outlook. Companies need customers to sell their products and services to, and if the outlook for consumer demand is bad, so is the outlook for corporate growth. Profit margins may be high, but growth of profits is likely to be weak. This is the same reason the Federal Reserve has so easily been able to keep long-term interest rates low: Bond investors don’t demand much of a return on their money because they don’t see a lot of good ways to invest in equities and make profits.



Josh Barro | Bloomberg

Yesterday, in an interview with Bloomberg Television, House Speaker John Boehner warned that the U.S. government must balance its budget. After all, he said:

We have spent more than what we have brought into this government for 55 of the last 60 years. There’s no business in America that could survive like this. No household in America that could do this. And this government can’t do this.

It’s hard to think of better evidence for the sustainability of budget deficits than the fact that we have run them for 55 of the last 60 years. If our fiscal practices haven’t caught up to us after 60 years, when will they? Or does Boehner take a David Stockman-like position that the last several decades of American advancement have in fact been a ghastly failure?


Jonathan Chait | New York Magazine

The doctrine of expansionary austerity — the premise that we must cut deficits not just eventually but immediately — has suffered a series of disastrous reversals. It has failed repeatedly in Europe, and its most prestigious academic basis, a paper by Harvard’s Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, was exposed for a series of fundamental errors. A New York Times article this week represented a watershed, baldly stating in its headline, as the entire macroeconomic forecasting field has understood all along, that the short-term deficit was too low, no longer a counterintuitive dissent but a clear and barely contested reality.

Less visible, and possibly more interesting, is the growing mass of evidence that the health-care-cost inflation problem is indeed solvable. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that health-care costs, which have historically risen far faster than general inflation, pose the central threat to long-term fiscal stability. The Affordable Care Act attempted to control it at the same time as it expanded coverage to the uninsured.

. . . Over the last few years, health-care inflation has indeed decelerated — far more deeply than even the most optimistic backers of the law dare hoped. The federal budget for Medicare and Medicaid in 2020 is now projected to be 15 percent lower than forecasters expected a few years ago.





Design Boom

Arguably the largest restoration project in the Mediterranean basin, the ‘Tudela-Culip (Club Med) Project’ by Spanish firm Estudi Marti Franch, involved a careful deconstruction of 450 abandoned buildings in an effort to reclaim the original orographic makeup of the mountainous seaside terrain. An endeavor that could have quickly become a routine habitat reclamation project was instead sensitively considered and developed into a skillful orchestration and reframing of the site’s peculiarities. The Club Med that was built on northern tip of the Iberian peninsula was designed as a holiday village suited to connect some 900 visitors to connect with nature. Tthe complex is cited as a notorious manifestation of the modern movement on the Mediterranean coast. In the summer of 2003, the Club Med was permanently closed and the area was declared national park with Outstanding geological and botanical value. The task of re-monumentalizing the land opened the opportunity for changing the relationship between the public and the land.

A new generation of visitors is carried through the site with cor-ten insertions into the landscape; the sculptural planes of steel serve a range of purposes, from lookouts and view-framing devices to animal identifiers and paths. The material palette emphasizes the confluence of culture and nature that the project accomplishes so well. 42000 m3 of architectural residue was removed, and virtually 100% of the material was recycled. additionally, all invasive exotic species of plants, in particular the infamous ‘ice plant’, were removed in favor of restoring the natural geomorphology, drainage system, erosion and sediment transport dynamics of the 90 hectares of rocky outcroppings.

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Robert Kaiser | The Washington Post | print

act of congress - robert kaiserIn July 2010, nearly two years after the 2008 financial crisis exposed the vulnerability of the world’s economic system, Congress passed sweeping changes to laws regulating the U.S. financial industry. Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser persuaded the bill’s main sponsors, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), to give him behind-the-scenes access to observe the bill’s journey from conception to enactment, an 18-month odyssey that involved extensive maneuvering and dealmaking. This account of one deal, reported here for the first time, is drawn from Kaiser’s new book, “Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t.”

. . . Frank knew he could not find such a partner at the American Banking Association (ABA), whose attacks on the bill had already provoked his famous temper. In late July 2009, Frank had wandered into a meeting between Jeanne Roslanowick, his top aide on the committee, and Floyd Stoner, a popular lobbyist for the ABA. Stoner was explaining what his members wanted to see in the final bill.

Frank cut Stoner off. “I’m told we’re in all-out war,” Frank said, repeating the phrase he had heard the banking industry lobbyists use to describe their effort to block the CFPA. “So what do I care what you want in there?”

Stoner, a former House Democratic staff member who felt he enjoyed good relations with Frank, was taken aback.

. . . Frank said he would allow the Gutierrez amendment to go forward if FDIC Director Sheila Bair approved. Fine already knew she was sympathetic. The change would save community banks about $1.5 billion a year—more than 30 percent of what they were paying in FDIC assessments. This was money that went “straight to their bottom lines,” as Fine put it. Rarely is a Washington lobbyist able to deliver such a cash benefit to his clients.

In return, Fine said, Frank wanted the ICBA’s help on the CFPA. “Barney said, ‘I’m not asking you to come out in support, but will you just stay silent?’ . . . I said: ‘I can make that work. We’ve got a deal.’ . . . I reached across the desk and shook his hand.”





Josh Wallaert | Design Observer

A hundred years from now, when architectural historians consider how humans lived in the 20th century, most will look to the commercial centers of the world’s great cities — the early modern skyscrapers of New York and Chicago and London, and successors from São Paulo to Shanghai — and read therein a story about the rise of global capitalism. But perhaps a few will take a cue from archaeology. They will look instead to the modern temples: defense towers, nuclear reactors and industrial facilities sited around the globe, in remote forests and on rocky coastlines, wherever there was oil to extract or a shipping lane to defend.

Paris photographer Thomas Jorion has been documenting these structures in a series about human vanity, specifically the vanity that drives people to construct buildings for the sake of power or glory. Pictured here are political monuments and munitions depots, hulking concrete forms that marked the edges of empires.





Kerry Anne Renzulli | Narratively

he kick came fast and from just ahead as Dorcas Conde stepped off the curb and into the 23rd Street crosswalk in Manhattan. She didn’t even feel her cane fall from her hand at first. Between curled fingers and a sweaty palm, all she sensed was air. She walked forward a few paces, feigning unawareness that it was missing. She stopped midway through the crosswalk, unsure what to do. Should I try to find the cane? I didn’t hear it fall. Use my foot to find it? I don’t know where it is. It could be outside the crosswalk. It could be in traffic.

The cars behind her would soon begin moving and she didn’t want to be trapped in a crosswalk as horns blared and cars she couldn’t see attempted to swerve around her. Now she really felt blind.

Though highly independent and wary of assistance, the then thirty-seven-year-old Woodhaven, Queens, native thought of her teenage son away at school and quietly hoped someone had seen what happened, that they would find her cane, or help her get to her office. But no one stopped or offered Conde help, perhaps because, in her spotless white coat with camel accents, sporting immaculately coiffed burgundy tinted hair and perfectly-placed lipstick, she did not fit common stereotypes of what blind people look like.

Conde knew which street she was on and which direction she was going, and decided that would have to be enough. She walked to the other side of the crosswalk using her foot, clad in a stiletto pump, to feel for the curb. She stepped onto the next block, her cane somewhere behind her. She walked forward until her outstretched hands met the side of a building, which she used as a guide to feel her way to the office two blocks away.

That was fourteen years ago, and although Conde got to work safely that day, she couldn’t shake a newfound sense of vulnerability. That same week she began searching for a guide dog.

Conde found her perfect partner in a Lab named Hope Beauty. The two were inseparable until last year, when Beauty became too old to continue and retired.

“It felt very strange, like someone took a limb off me,” Conde recalls about losing Hope Beauty. “It felt like there was a piece missing from me.”





James Cartwright | It’s Nice That

One of the finest gallery experiences I’ve had in the past few years took place during the London Design Festival 2011 when Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec decked out the V&A’s Raphael Court with Textile Field, a giant carpeted surface raised above the ground that allowed you to pad around the gallery in only your socks, enjoying the works on display in a most decadent and relaxing fashion. Of course the Bouroullecs’ practice extends to much more than carpeting galleries; they design furniture, interiors, functional products and other, fine art-directed work.

So I’m pretty excited, and you should be too, that the brothers Bouroullec have a retrospective show at Les Arts Decoratif in Paris that encompasses their entire career and where you’ll be able to enjoy Textile Field once again, along with a whole host of other Bouroullec creations.









Mara Cohen Marks | The Hairpin | via Longreads.com

My brother Danny lost his virginity at age 25. To a call girl named Monique. Hired by our mother.

My mother didn’t bother asking Danny for his permission before engaging Monique’s services. She didn’t ask my father to condone the transaction. Nor was she troubled by social mores or laws against solicitation. She deserves a Mother of the Year Award.

There was a reason for my mother’s taboo-busting parenting. Danny was born with a rare, incurable genetic disease that affects the development and function of the nervous system. The typical lifespan for children born with Familial Dysautonomia was then about five years. My mother rolled up her sleeves, strapped on her stilettos, and ignored the statistic. A parent now myself, I wonder if I have half my mother’s grit and grace.





Geoff Manaugh & Nicola Twilley | Venue

Geoff Manaugh: While you were making those measurements of different real-world cities, did you discover any surprising patterns or spatial relationships?

Librande: Yes, definitely. I think the biggest one was the parking lots. When I started measuring out our local grocery store, which I don’t think of as being that big, I was blown away by how much more space was parking lot rather than actual store. That was kind of a problem, because we were originally just going to model real cities, but we quickly realized there were way too many parking lots in the real world and that our game was going to be really boring if it was proportional in terms of parking lots.

Manaugh: You would be making SimParkingLot, rather than SimCity.

Librande: [laughs] Exactly. So what we do in the game is that we just imagine they are underground. We do have parking lots in the game, and we do try to scale them — so, if you have a little grocery store, we’ll put six or seven parking spots on the side, and, if you have a big convention center or a big pro stadium, they’ll have what seem like really big lots — but they’re nowhere near what a real grocery store or pro stadium would have. We had to do the best we could do and still make the game look attractive.





Not Shaking the Grass | tumblr

Reflection Model: Perfect Bliss (2010-12) – Japanese cypress and wire. Scale replica of the Byodo-In, a 10th-century temple near Kyoto.

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Herman Mellville | Lapham’s Quarterly

That night, in the midwatch, when the old man—as his wont at intervals—stepped forth from the scuttle in which he leaned and went to his pivot hole, he suddenly thrust out his face fiercely, snuffing up the sea air as a sagacious ship’s dog will in drawing nigh to some barbarous isle. He declared that a whale must be near. Soon that peculiar odor, sometimes to a great distance given forth by the living sperm whale, was palpable to all the watch; nor was any mariner surprised when, after inspecting the compass, and then the dog vane, and then ascertaining the precise bearing of the odor as nearly as possible, Ahab rapidly ordered the ship’s course to be slightly altered and the sail to be shortened.

The acute policy dictating these movements was sufficiently vindicated at daybreak by the sight of a long sleek on the sea directly and lengthwise ahead, smooth as oil, and resembling in the pleated watery wrinkles bordering it the polished metallic-like marks of some swift tide rip at the mouth of a deep, rapid stream.

“Man the mastheads! Call all hands!”





Javin Lau | Vimeo

I remember when I first arrived in Hong Kong almost a decade ago, I felt like I had walked into an actual movie set. It was a place that I had only seen on TV as a kid, with its strange red taxi’s, odd stop lights and driving on the other side of the road.

My intent with this project was to illustrate the grandeur of Hong Kong that most people would never get to see. When I had recently watched the movie Oblivion, it had somehow starkly reminded me of Hong Kong, with the feeling of being so insignificantly small — almost irrelevant to my surroundings. Hong Kong is an unbelievably dense city, where much of the world can be accessed at your fingertips. But in a city where you can access the material world in a matter of seconds, it also has the ability to isolate you from the 8 million people around you as well.

With this piece, I hope that you are able to engage in this contradiction.





Yudhijit Bhattacharjee | The New York Times Magazine | print

Zeelenberg, a stocky man with a shaved head, led Stapel into his living room. “What’s up?” Stapel asked, settling onto a couch. Two graduate students had made an accusation, Zeelenberg explained. His eyes began to fill with tears. “They suspect you have been committing research fraud.”

Stapel was an academic star in the Netherlands and abroad, the author of several well-regarded studies on human attitudes and behavior. That spring, he published a widely publicized study in Science about an experiment done at the Utrecht train station showing that a trash-filled environment tended to bring out racist tendencies in individuals. And just days earlier, he received more media attention for a study indicating that eating meat made people selfish and less social.

His enemies were targeting him because of changes he initiated as dean, Stapel replied, quoting a Dutch proverb about high trees catching a lot of wind. When Zeelenberg challenged him with specifics — to explain why certain facts and figures he reported in different studies appeared to be identical — Stapel promised to be more careful in the future. As Zeelenberg pressed him, Stapel grew increasingly agitated.

Finally, Zeelenberg said: “I have to ask you if you’re faking data.”

“No, that’s ridiculous,” Stapel replied. “Of course not.”





Makerbot Blog

When Richard Van As, a master carpenter in Johannesburg, South Africa, decided to make a set of mechanical fingers, it wasn’t just for fun. He’d lost four of the fingers on his right hand in an unfortunate work accident. For a tradesman like Rich, having a disabled hand is a big professional detriment, so Richard decided on the day of his the incident that he would use the tools available to him to remedy his situation. Watch the inspiring video above to hear how Richard’s project, Robohand, is changing lives with patience, spirit, and a MakerBot Replicator 2.





David Talbot | MIT Technology Review

Researchers at IBM, using movement data collected from millions of cell-phone users in Ivory Coast in West Africa, have developed a new model for optimizing an urban transportation system.

The IBM model prescribed changes in bus routes around the around Abidjan, the nation’s largest city. These changes—based on people’s movements as discerned from cell-phone records—could, in theory, slash travel times 10 percent.





Teinosuke Kinugasa

Winner of Academy Awards for best foreign-language film and best costume design, Gate of Hell is a visually sumptuous, psychologically penetrating story of obsession and unrequited love from Teinosuke Kinugasa.





Michael Alexander Chin | michaelisawriter.com

evan van kouwenberg

Evan Van Kouwenberg’s sound rests on a needle-width divide between two deeply unalike tones: that of his instrument — a ukulele strum as frail as the bones of a baby bird, and his voice — a soul that resonates with the sweeping weight of a forming hurricane.

It’s an odd combination, ukulele and soul covers, but the notes harmonize for Evan. “I can’t play guitar,” he says, chuckling. “I feel like you can play any song on an ukulele. It doesn’t matter. It’s all just chords, y’know?”

Tonight, he rocks back and forth in white denim and flannel, never quite keeping still as his shaggy hair flops around Union Square’s NQR stop to the beat Procol Harum’s “Boredom” and the White Stripes’ “Hotel Yerba.” He occasionally switches to older tunes and Beatles covers. He gets good response, several people approaching him within a few minutes to talk to him — it’s tough to corner him in a silent moment though, since his covers slur together into strings up to six, seven songs through. Sometimes travelers wait, some even skipping trains, but nonetheless more than a few have to settle for a passing “You sound great!” as they slip into a train’s closing doors. But he doesn’t always get positive response.


Reuters | The Guardian

David Bowie’s latest music video featuring him as a Christ-like figure surrounded by women in skimpy outfits and priests in a bar was pulled from YouTube on Wednesday, before being returned with an adult-only rating.

The video for the single The Next Day was temporarily removed from the video-sharing website with a screenshot saying it had been taken down because its content violated YouTube’s terms of service, the singer’s publicist said.

The video also stars Oscar-winning French actor Marion Cotillard as a woman with blood spurting from stigma-like wounds, as well as Oscar nominee Gary Oldman as a priest condemning Bowie.


Carine Khalife | Vimeo | via Colossal

‘Blown Minded’ is from the album SHAPESHIFTING by YOUNG GALAXY on Paper Bag Records!
Produced, directed, animated and editited by Carine Khalife.


Montreal-based visual artist Carine Khalife produced, directed, animated this music video for the 2011 track Blown Minded, off the album Shapeshifting by Young Galaxy. The entire clip is comprised of oil paint on glass photographed above from a camera. Khalife explains her process a bit more on her site:

Basically, my technique was to paint on a piece of glass fixed to a light box. I would paint on the glass with oil so that it wouldn’t dry, and I could play with it for hours. A camera, fixed overhead above the animation table and plugged in my computer, would capture my paintings frame by frame and create the animation using the software Stop Motion Pro (the aardman studio software). This process took place inside a dark room so that there wouldn’t be interference or changing lights on the paint. The single light source came from beneath the glass, revealing the textures and details of brushes movements.

I worked a lot with transparency. The more paint, the darker the image, and therefore the animation becomes about gesture, and the texture of brushstrokes; it’s a very physical, organic process. I based the number of frames per second (sometimes 8 sometimes 12) on the rhythm of the music. Everything is based on the rhythm. It was important for me, especially for the abstract parts, that I was responding to the song conversationally; like a running dialogue. I think I’ve listened to the song more than a thousand times. And because i would often listen to it and focus solely on drums, voice, lyrics, or melody – I was still able to hear new things each time.

The film has screened in festivals around the world and Khalife won a Director of Photography award at the Salon International de la Luz.