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Showing posts from January, 2014

Movie Review: "Pom Poko"

For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, I have pretty weird taste in movies.  I like action and adventure films, but I also like animated films from Disney and Studio Ghibli.  Well, this one from Studio Ghibli (more specifically, the English dub version by Disney), takes the cake for weirdness.  To quote one imdb user review, it was "very, very, very strange."

Very strange indeed. "Pom Poko" is from Studio Ghibli, but is not a Miyazaki film, directed instead by Isao Takahata.  The movie follows a group of magical raccoon dogs (tanuki but misleadingly called "raccoons" in the movie) living in the Tama Hills outside Tokyo as their forest is turned into a giant housing development project (Tama New Town), one of the largest developments in Japan.  It felt like the director was deeply conflicted about the entire subject of the film.  The tanuki of the film are the same ones of Japanese folklore, and able to shapeshift, so they do everything the…

Modes of Practice: Architecture for...?

[This post was written in spring 2013, but I was too busy to finish it then - so here it is now!]

Architecture for architects?
Architecture for humanity?
Architecture for the elite, the masses, the academy, the developer?

In thinking about my experiences at architecture school, I realize that our professors have done a great job incorporating principles of "sustainable design" (design and construction that minimize energy and materials use, carbon footprint, etc) into the curriculum, but that we have learned little or nothing about the (emerging?) field of "public interest design," design for social justice and the public good.  Perhaps architecture professors think that this is such a basic tenet of architecture, that we design for the public good, that they don't think it's necessary to make it explicit.  But I think this is far from true.  I only stumbled upon ideas about design in the service of social, economic, and ecological justice through my investig…

Vertical Bike Rack

The work of our hands!

A little backstory:  We bought two bikes as soon as we could after moving here, so we could both bike to work.  After a few uneventful months of chaining up our bikes next to our car in the carport of our apartment building, Justin's bike was stolen.  (Mine was mysteriously left behind, together with Justin's pannier, which the thieves helpfully folded up and placed on top of my bike.  My only guess is that the chain holding my bike was harder to cut than the chain on Justin's.)  Since then, we've kept our bikes inside, hauling them up and down two flights of stairs to our third-floor apartment every time we take them out, which is usually a few times a week.  Ugh.  Better than buying a new bike every few months, though.

We needed a rack that would keep the bikes off the floor, off the walls, and in as small a footprint as possible, without requiring us to drill into or otherwise damage the walls (or floor or ceiling).  This proved a challenge t…

Movie Review: Futuristic Cities, LA Edition

A couple weeks ago I watched Her with some friends, the new Spike Jonze film that follows the romance between a man and his computer's operating system.  While I wasn't very interested in the story itself (spoiler alert: man finds his true love, his true love finds better things to do), I was impressed with the film's vision of a future Los Angeles.  This near-future LA is a city of trains; clean, wide-open spaces; high rises; and high technology.  This future seems like a really nice place, where one's only worry is finding love, and where everyone, including the everyman hero of the film, can fall asleep with a gorgeous nighttime vista of the city just outside his floor-to-ceiling windows.  The colors were beautiful, the advertising tasteful, the buildings new and efficient.  Turns out the movie was filmed in Shanghai, with glimpses of current LA landmarks thrown in to make the setting believable.  I came out feeling much more impressed with the main character's…

New Year, New Resolutions

How much has changed since we moved here in July?  Let's find out!

We've been in California for over 6 months now, and the biggest change is that we've become a two-car family, as of today, January 12th.  Yes, we held out for half a year, but ultimately decided that we each needed our own car.  I fought it for months, starting when the weather turned cold and dark (see: Biking to Work), although not yet rainy - apparently we've been having an unusually dryyear, which has allowed me to bike more than I probably would have during a normal year.  We'll see what happens during the rest of the winter.  At any rate, my dismal attitude toward and fear of biking, combined with the impossibility of scheduling separate evening activities with only one car, conspired to convince us that we needed to go for it.  So with some reluctance we began the search, starting with craigslist and ending up at a dealership near Santa Cruz.  Our actual experience with the dealership was fa…