Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Strand East

How many frustrated white people does it take to assemble a town with hex keys and mashed potato board? We'll soon find out. The Swedish retailer, IKEA, is building an entire neighborhood in East London. I'm just hoping that the buildings will have names like Linberpank and Krud.

It's called The Strand East. I'm not sure why. I'm not going to bother to Bablefish it. I'm sure it's a nonsensical Scandanavian word. It couldn't possibly, simply mean "strand."

Beyond the absurd imagery that comes from an entire town made out of IKEA furniture, the endless jokes you could make about quality of construction, the most humorous quality might be in the cliched rhetoric that reads straight from the Yupster's Bible (Yes, I combined Hipsters and Yuppies).

As if a town built entirely by the capital of obscure mainstream wasn't enough to appeal to the organic breast milk ice cream eating British trendies, the town will be devoid of cars and operate on hydroelectric power. Its most entertaining feature might be the organically shaped "creative zone intended for creative-minded businesses." In other words the designers had some space left over and didn't know what to do with it so they filled it in with some buzz words.

An open, organically shaped public space? Isn't that the same Rogerian philosophy that gave us all the UFO buildings built in the 60s and 70s? Those circular schools with one hallway that had no beginning or end? I've literally had nightmares about Wynne Hall at Longwood College. 

Every room was "organic" as to allow for "creative and collective debate." You know what they found out? People don't like organic spaces. They like sitting in a row in a square room with a clearly defined front and back. Even in art class. 

You know what you get in one undefined organic "creative space" without a leader? You certainly don't get "creative-minded businesses." You get a crowd of angry, unbathed idiots talking about how great anarchy is. 

Oh, and I almost forgot. This throw back to our bat shit crazy mid-Century attempts to rewrite a concept as old as homo-sapiens - civilization - wouldn't be complete without some completely Jetsonian, quasi-futuristic oddities. 

Like the moving sidewalks and push button kitchen cabinetry the 1950s promised we'd see everywhere by now, The Strand East will remove trash from its units with a series of vacuum tubes a lot like the ones used at your bank's drive through window. Hang on to your animals and small children. Sometimes it's just easier to take out the trash yourself.

The one good thing about IKEAville is it's cheap, and when it melts in the rain, its entire replacement comes in a box designed specifically to fit into your 1988 Saab 900.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Philadelphia's Doing Just Fine

Daniel Stone's Daily Beast article isn't painful to read because it points out Philadelphia's flaws. It isn't annoying because he refers to Urban Outfitters as an "older, legacy" company. It isn't even annoying that his familiarity with Philadelphia is limited to cheesesteaks. 

No, the thing that annoys me about Daniel Stone and the Daily Beast (which makes the Huffington Post look boringly objective) is that he used a single study (conducted by Philadelphia's own Pew) and an apocalyptic photo of our skyline to make Philadelphia sound like it was a recently Utopian reserve now barely clinging to a cliff a few miles above Hell.


I'm not even going to begin to detail the inaccuracies in his assertions. They have all been beautifully summarized in Patricia Kerkstra's Inquirer article, here. You can also find more reliable and inclusive information in the comments section of Stone's article, usually reserved for misinformed rants that sound a lot like the article itself

As pathetic as this article is, there's silver in the muck he's raking. The fact that bloggers like Stone are citing Philadelphia's woes as a way to make them feel better about their free falling investments in cities like New York and Washington means that Philadelphia, even with our problems, has arrived. 

Twenty years ago, pretentious snobs in the Silicone Valley thought that Philadelphia was a little city "somewhere in Pennsylvania." Today our purported plight is national news, leaving us scratching our heads and wondering how this is newsworthy. After all, Philadelphia today is the Bizarro World's opposite of Philadelphia in 1992. And we're humble about that. 

So many other cities are populated with people that love to claim their home is the greatest place in the world. San Franciscans can't get enough of themselves, New York is "the center of the universe," and DC is still a little town on the Potomac bankrolled by the rest of the country full of so much ego it makes Los Angeles look genuine. 

But Philadelphia is a funny place. We know we're dirty, we kind of like it. I find myself defending Philadelphia weekly from blind hatred around the world, usually ceding with, "well, I like the grit." 

We know we're dangerous, we know we're poor, and we know we have nothing to prove (except when it comes to sports). So many other places are just as poor and just as dangerous, yet they profess to be bastions of perfection and idealism. 

We embrace our flaws and maybe that's what pisses people off. We're diverse, truly diverse, and we like it. Other cities like Portland love to tout their liberal ideology of tolerance; but black, white, green, or orange, they're all upper middle class Judeo-Christians that drive Jettas. San Franciscans are free to criticize Philadelphia's socioeconomic diversity as soon as they start carrying Oakland on their shoulders. 

We put up with a lot of shit in Philadelphia, shit that douche bags like Stone could never put up with. Instead of extending us props for being the most tolerant grab bag of DNA in the country, they tell us we're poor, ugly, sick, and teetering on the brink of self-destruction. 

We truly are bad ass. Chicks dig us. Guys want to be us. And the losers at the dork table can't stand that we set the bar for cool. 

Philadelphians aren't dealing with anything we weren't dealing with 20 years ago. In fact we're doing better, but I'm a Philadelphian so I don't need no brag. If you're reading this from you iPad in Griffith Park you can go online and see, like you, we're doing fine in some places and not so fine in others. That's right, Philadelphia is a big city. 

We've got some rich people, some poor people, some smart people, some stupid people. We've got big business and small business, good business and bad business. 

What's more, compared to most major metropolitan areas we fared the recession significantly better for the simple fact that we didn't try to be New York. We weathered the recession because we ignored the balloon. After all, we're too cool to be Park Slope South.

While Miami tries to figure out what to do with their forest of uninhabited skyscrapers and San Francisco smugly ignores the fact that they hid their poor people in the suburbs, Philadelphians are pioneering the revitalization of new neighborhoods and topping global lists for parks, museums, singles, food, and everything in between

Sounds like a death spiral to me, Daniel Stone.