Jul. 10th, 2013 09:46 pm
danalwyn: (Default)
So, I have a soft spot for LEGO. I have a soft spot for cities. I have a soft spot for science fiction. So it's really not much of a surprise that I find this photo set fascinating. Doubly impressive are the quotes that the artist has created for some of the images, exploring the nature of his creation.

Some pictures under the cut:

Photos! )
danalwyn: (Default)
I've put up some time lapse videos of cities before. It's quite a well developed genre by now. People are used to the brilliant glittering spires of the ultra-new cities, the rising titans of Asia, Seoul and Shanghai, Bangkok and Beijing, the glittering spires that now dominate the world economy. Of course, other cities have reinvented themselves into modern marvels. Abu Dhabi in the Middle East now rises like a glittering star over the Persian Gulf, alongside the new buildings of Lagos, of Rio de Janiero, and of ... Chicago?

In the American imagination (and the world when it gets thought of) Chicago is still the city of Al Capone and Upton Sinclair, of gangsters and communities of poor immigrants clinging to their new life in the browning brickwork of cramped housing. It is narrow lanes and darkened buildings, old factories and warehouses, corrupt politicians and smoke filled backrooms choking with gangsters. It is New York without the redemptive glitz and glitter of America's cultural capital. It is the Gotham of Batman. It is a city of perpetualities, the immigrants will always stay immigrants, dark alleys will always be dark, crumbling buildings stay crumbling, the mob will always be the mob, the wind off the lake is always cold, and the Cubs will always finish the season with disappointment.

But Chicago has been reinventing itself. Slowly, surely, and stumbling for an entire decade at a time, Chicago is doing what the rust belt cities wish they could, slowly changing what it is. It is a city of glass skylines, of open parks and glittering lights, well-lit sidewalks, and cozy cafes. It is cutting itself free of twentieth century roots it will never escape. It is, in the way of cities, becoming something both old and new.

And they sure know how to make a spectacular light show (HD recommended):

Video )


Dec. 12th, 2012 08:57 pm
danalwyn: (Default)
Hardly anyone will be surprised to learn that I like cities.

A lot of people like cities, but they have trouble expressing what about the city they find some fascinating. They have tried to capture its essence, in photography, and patience, in music, but it is hard to capture the sum of a city without the city in its entirety.

A city moves, a city lives, it breathes. It is a moving part made of moving parts, a machine constructed from other machines. It is a clock with a million hands, each beating at its own unique beat. What is the heartbeat of a city? Is it the time it takes for a person to walk across the street? The time it takes a car to drive the length of a block? A single working day? The time it takes the retail clerk on break to smoke a cigarette? From sunrise to sunset? A season? The length a skyscraper takes to rise from pit to pinnacle? What is the city's heart? Where are the lungs? What are its eyes? We all are. We are all the city's heart, and each of us beats at the city's own beat.

One of the best mediums to show this, in my opinion, is the time lapse video. It is one of the few mediums that can, in an instant, step from one concept of time, one pulse, to another, letting the viewer instantly transcend their own frenetic life and enter the slower pace of the cogs of the city. There's been something of a renaissance of them with advances in video technology, so here are a few of my favorites.

All of them should be watched in HD:

Time-lapse Cities )
danalwyn: (Default)
It occurs to me that there's a much better way to have traffic lights along major arterial streets. Really they need three modes - green, yellow, and blinking red.

If you think about it, either traffic along major roads should be flowing smoothly (when there's not much traffic in the perpendicular directions), or it should be doing its best to ensure everyone goes where they want to go. If there's no cross traffic, the light should just be green. When there is, it should just switch over to stop sign mode and let drivers alternate in the order in which they get to the starting line. It will avoid the problem of having to wait at stoplights while nobody is going in the other direction and the road is clear. Why not just have drivers proceed in a queue through the intersection at that time.

It won't work on big intersections between two large streets, but it seems that when you have one very large street and one much smaller this is probably the best way to handle the mess that our current system leaves.

Or at least not leave me so frustrated while sitting at stoplights with no other traffic.
danalwyn: (Default)
Note: I am about to make an argument with no regard to human values. That's on purpose. I'm not talking about helping people, but saving money. I can make an argument based on helping people too, and it's easy, but that's not this argument.

Everyone complains about the suburbs - it's become so common that it has passed through one end of cliche and out the other again. Environmentalists complain about suburbs. Drivers complain about suburbs. Urban planners complain about suburbs. Civil rights activists complain about suburbs. Cultural elites turn up their noses at the thought of the suburban cultural wasteland. Hipsters complain about suburbs as a matter of course. Teens complain about there being nothing to do out there - seniors grumble about how things were better when they lived wherever they did.

But one group that doesn't complain a great deal about suburbs is fiscal conservatives. This is because fiscal conservatives often seem to live in the suburbs, the bread and butter conservatives who fill the ranks of the Objectivist corps and the libertarian movement seem to prefer their nice house on a block full of identical houses, making suburbia the headquarters of the Independent American.

Which is odd, because there hasn't been a government social program that I can think of that has been funded at such a level for so long as the great suburban experiment. Of course there's no formal budget, but the US government spends an enormous amount of money on the suburbs.

How do they do that? Let's look at the ways:

This Is How Much a White Picket Fence Costs )


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