Tag Archives: humor

Other

Space(frame) Cowboy

I am easily amused

Spaceframe system designer Wendel R. Wendel poses with two node systems he designed. Page 105 of Technology and the Future of the US Construction Industry. AIA Press, 1984.

Other Russia

Marion Barry, Russian Punchline

This is just a small aside from the post about urban planning in Moscow. In the February 2011 Echo of Moscow interview with Sergei Sobyanin comes about halfway through it, when they take a break and offer Sobyanin a book as a token of appreciation.
In response, Sobyanin makes fun of an unspecified Washington mayor. I’d bet money they’re not talking about Adrian Fenty’s cycle club escort.
А.ВЕНЕДИКТОВ: Мэр Москвы Сергей Собянин. Прежде чем мы прервемся на 2 минуты и передадим слово нашим корреспондентам, мы хотим вам сделать подарок, Сергей Семенович. Это книга бывшего мэра Нью-Йорка Рудольфа Джулиани «Лидер», который принял Нью-Йорк городом мафиозным и тяжелым, ну а, как говорят те, кто там живут, когда он ушел, этот город стал пригоден для жилья всем. Так что, я думаю, вдруг она вам понравится.
С.СОБЯНИН: Спасибо, что не от мэра Вашингтона.
А.ВЕНЕДИКТОВ: Да-да. (смеется) От мэра Вашингтона ни в коем случае. 2 минуты перерыва, потом наши корреспонденты.
I’ve included the Russian from the transcript, lest anyone doubt this happened. It’s hard to capture the sarcasm, but the translation is clear:
VENEDIKTOV: We’re with the Mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin. Before we take a two minute break and let our correspondents have a word, we would like to give you a gift, Mr. Sobyanin. It’s the book, Leadership, by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who turned New York City from a frightful mafia-infested wreck to the kind of a city, the residents who lived there when he left said, that was safe for all. So, I think you’ll take a liking to him.
SOBYANIN: Well, thanks for it not being from the Mayor of Washington.
VENEDIKTOV: Heavens, no. (Laughs) No way we’d give you something from the mayor of Washington.  Two minute break, then our correspondents’ questions.

 

Leadership was translated in 2004. I’m not sure why they’re handing it out now, but there it is, next to DC’s shame, circa 1990.

Local

Bear Lawyer v. Lutyens

The Bear Lawyer visited DC last week.

It could have been a real tragedy if he had caused damage to Edwin Lutyen’s only building in the US, the British  Embassy. Lutyens was one of the later examples of the English pattern of idiosyncratic classicists with good plans, along with John Soane and Nicholas Hawksmoor.

Please click through if you get esoteric law jokes… which if you live in DC is quite likely.

Russia

Russia Today covers women like it covers politics

Robert Bridge, courtesy RT

Sloppily. And with lots of zhlobstvo. Actually, Russia Today’s “Russian Women Guide” much less autocratically slanted than the usual RT fare. It’s just sexist. It fetishizes sexist behavior, like it’s meta-ogling the article itself – which uses, as a lens, pricy mail-order date with a woman named “Natasha.” At the end, a genuine, authentic Russian woman is allowed to meekly respond. Were it not so inane, it would probably be a featured text in a class called “GEND V3302 Ridgidity Tourism: Sexism and Orientalism in Expatriate Communities.”

Ah, but the deepest irony is that the guy who wrote it, Robert Bridge is an American expat who has totally adopted the look of a stereotypical Russian bureaucrat, yellow shirt, dead eyes, and all. But the best joke is a ridiculous statement delivered eagerly, let’s let some choice cuts of of Mr. Bridge’s dainty prose stand and fall without intertitles and see if it lightens your morning:

Welcome, cowboy, to the Motherland, the legendary land of milk and honey. So what should a wide-eyed westerner expect from a Russian female? Well, first you must be absolutely willing to leave your big bag of stereotypes at the border. They won’t help you here.

Russian women somehow achieved, without the angst and anger of the western women’s man-eating philosophy, a sense of freedom, independence and, I dare say, happiness that their bra-burning sisters sacrificed a long time ago on the great battlefield of the sexes.

Indeed, the practical value of a Russian woman ranked somewhere between a good tractor and a surplus wheat harvest: extremely useful in the right situations (snowstorm, famine, revolution), but certainly not the most likely candidate to grace the cover of a glossy fashion magazine, for example, or win Playboy playmate of the year.

Thus, painful questions concerning the rightful place of western women in the early industrial system (exposed for its cruelty by progressive writers of the time, like Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle in 1914) were being debated in the West while, half way around the world, Russian women were peacefully picking raspberries and milking goats in the idyllic countryside.

‘Natasha’ lets you open the door for her; in fact, she coolly expects it, and doesn’t even say ‘Spasibo’ as she sweeps past with a violent toss of her blonde locks.

The svelte Slav at your side expects you to help her with her fur coat, position the chair just right under her awaiting derriere, order the food, and yes, even pay the exorbitant bill without even so much as feigning to open her Gucci pocketbook.

All of the unnecessary guesswork between the males and females has been cleared away, or never existed in the first place. For the most part, everybody understands their role.

As it is, Russian women, who deftly use every inch of their femininity – high heels and mini skirts included – to their general advantage, have no desire to ‘lower themselves’ in an effort to obtain equality with men.

Nevertheless, the system did provide some attractive perks that helped to advance the condition of women without the need for unsightly marches and protests.

They are at the controls of their womanhood and the miniskirt and high heels only adds to the sense of their feminine powers that no man has been able to fully explain. Oppressed? Don’t bet on it.

Are Russian women materialistic? Yes, of course they are. After all, they are women, and I can’t think of a single place in the world where the sight of a mall does not cause heart palpitations in the female species.

The film was called “The Dark Knight.” Since it was a story about the superhero Batman, it was not the intellectual movie of the year.

(For any Russian woman who would like to exact some verbal revenge on Mr. Smirnoff, he is still alive and may be hunted down at www.yakov.com).

———-
Oh, but nothing can wholly bad. The article deserves some credit for including a photo of New Holland Island in the top left corner of the article. Ain’t she a beauty?

Local

New Group Opposes In-Ground Rails

This was run as an April Fools joke on Greater Greater Washington, just, like, FYI dude…

No tracks on Ellicott's map.

The debate over DC streetcars has heated up again with a new alliance against DDOT’s plans to install in-ground rails.

In a press release today, the Organization for Moderate Growth With Trackless Functioning and Better-than-Bus Quality announced that they would oppose any technology reliant on a guideway built into the streets of DC. The organization emphasizes the damage rails would do to the historic character of the roads within the Federal City. “Pierre Charles L’Enfant,” the statement reads, “never imagined streets crisscrossed by hideous steel rails. Maps from his period show clean, smooth streets with no indication of any disruptions of the classical beauty of the surfaces.”

Proponents of ground-supported streetcars have emphasized that rail-based vehicles did once crisscross the city. However, the press release seeks to preempt this criticism by arguing that that was an unfortunate aberration. “Washington, DC has a strong tradition of rail-free streets dating back to 1964, when city fathers fought hard to eliminate the unsightly and segregated street-rail system in favor of more democratic buses. Even in the transit-friendly times of the 1950s, the general public recognized that surface rails were an affront to America’s cultural heritage.”

Margarita Masguerra, a representative of OMGWTFBBQ insists her group fully supports the construction of streetcars. “The petition we are circulating emphasizes that we want to see diverse transit options for residents. Buses are not enough, sure. But streetcar tracks would be so devastating to the city’s image of large automobile boulevards that we want DDOT to stop and consider other options. “In Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, and Ponca City, OK, systems have been explored that employ no rails at all,” she continued, “Although we do not understand how these systems work.”

One alternative
One proposed alternative.

“Certain models from Boston and Philadelphia apparently hang from wires suspended above the line, creating the strongly defined structure that our organization recognizes as attracting growth.” Ms. Masguerra pointed out the results she had seen, but commented, “Speaking only for myself, I have been to Amsterdam and Dallas, and had there not been any rails, I think the streets with cafes and buildings could have been really nice places.”

Support for the group’s petition has come from a wide range of interest groups. Lon Anderson of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the American Automobile Association questions the need for surface transit. “OMGWTFBBQ are too polite about the nonsense logic of these railroad people. If they want streetcars, can’t they just put more rails in the subway?”

Other opponents have raised the danger that in-ground tracks might pose to pedestrians. The increased incidence of tripping and stubbed toes is a genuine concern for small-footed locals. Amanda Hess, writing in the City Paper‘s Sexist blog, commented that “rails may disproportionately harm women, who are much more likely to be wearing heels,” saying that the supporters might have darker motives.

“The image of a woman fallen onto the tracks merely recapitulates a sexist image of a woman in need of saving before a big scary train. Sorry, the train died with vaudeville. No doubt, there are many “Nice Guy” transit fans just waiting for this possibility. Just because you help a woman up, doesn’t mean she wants you to take her back to your apartment for a little dissertation on railway signaling. Trust me, she probably doesn’t want to see your lunar signal, vintage or not.”

But even OMGWTFBBQ is willing to compromise and look at a variety of systems. The petition highlights the Wuppertal Schwebebahn, which suspends its rails in the air. “It’s a great system.” Masguerra says, “They’re hardly visible from the ground.” Another system mentioned is the Demontierbares Klappenschienenschutzsystem under consideration in Tübingen, Germany and Alexandria, Egypt. That technology employs panels that cover the rails when a train is not nearby. The tops of the panels can be inlaid with various road materials. When a train approaches the section of track, the panels lift up to reveal the rails and close when the train leaves. Also featured was Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik‘s guided semi-rigid airship system, which has been installed between 25 malls and 14 skyscrapers in Dubai.

Masguerra insists that her organization’s sole interest is in improving transit in the DC area. “Again, I just want to reiterate that we want to see streetcars in Washington,” she says, “And we’re committed to exploring all options to make that happen without rails.”

… and apparently Amanda Hess was pretty amused. No word from the Committee of 100.

Other

God Hates Blog Posts

GodHatesProtesters is the hardest-hitting webstream of tomfoolery that’s come my way recently, and with much more palle than the backroom snickering of  Spotted: DC Summer Interns. While garrulous and hateful protesting isn’t a novel phenomenon, the people doing it do seem to be acting crazier than usual. Likewise, the approach featured in GHP is not the usual counter-protest tactic of more anger. Instead, it builds on the rich tradition of snobby pranks and other high-minded jackassery. Enjoy yo guvmin’t cheese!

Also! This is my 100th post, less than a year from the first. Hooray for arbitrary milestones!

Other

Breaking the Transit Cartel

Today, Streetsblog followed the New York Times in running an astonishing expose on the newest cartel to move in. Unlike most cartels, these guys have both power and political influence in their vast network:

Through a complex network spanning at least four continents, [Gil] Peñalosa funnels innovations from one city to the next. Formerly the parks commissioner of Bogotá, Colombia — where his brother, Enrique, is known as the godfather of “Bus Rapid Transit” — Peñalosa is the mastermind behind the “Mexico City hop,” an intellectual property route whereby Latin American BRT cartels reach massive North American markets with an unslakeable thirst for surface transit improvements.

OK. Obvious parody. Yet when you read the New York Times article on the subject, you can see why satire can come so easily:

In the process, she has run up a travel bill of about $35,000, according to city records. And in some cases, Ms. Sadik-Khan has allowed outsiders, including transportation advocacy groups, to help foot the bill.

So, yes, she did what any professional of a certain caliber does, visiting example projects and speaking at conventions. Sadik-Khan is a professional, not a politician, so issues of working with advocacy groups and going to conferences are likewise professional.  Admittedly, the Times is just reporting on something they found, but the conspiratorial tone over $470 airline flights and a total expense less than the Mayor’s monthly transportation costs is simply whacked. The Times has been playing to the highway set so desperately that they’ve lost credibility. Decent reporting, I suppose, but the creeping editorial is pathetic.

Local planning

Rename or un-name the Bi-Purple County Line Transitway while it’s still possible (or cheap)

So the political wars over the Purple Line largely ended last week, when the light rail option was selected over the BRT one by the National Capital Transportation Board. The decision now frees the transportation enthusiast crowd to fight over petty and superficial little things, like, for example, the name.

The name “Purple Line” was born back to a day when a legitimate discussion was ongoing between an outer heavy rail line, and the inner light rail line. More specifically, it was born when the Bethesda-Silver Spring light rail line was a separate project from the Silver Spring-New Carrollton Purple Line altogether. But they were merged sometime back under Gov. Glendenning (Wikipedia says it was under Erlich, but that contradicts my memories), and suddenly everyone stopped paying attention to the PG County side. Governor Erlich had the decent sense to not oversell the mid-tier transit line, but managed to make the name situation worse. His DOT’s name, the Bi-County “Transitway,” is an unadulterated sample of bureaucraspeak, managing to say absolutely nothing about anything, while also sounding incredibly unexciting. Bi-County? Which counties? Washington and Allegheny? Marin and Cook? Transitway? There’s no meaningful thing that the term “transitway” promises, although it does sound a bit like a moving walkway or even a slidewalk. I hear that when you visit the mausoleum of Kim Il-Sung, they have one of those things.

But calling it the Purple line unfairly associates it with heavy rail lines that operate in a very different way. Mixing the modes damages the legibility of Metro’s human-interface concept, embodied in its map. More importantly, it disassociates the particualr line from its value as part of a larger network of streetcars. When extensions are made elsewhere and it is connected to the Georgia Avenue Streetcar, it will be possible to run trains from Bolling AFB to Bethesda. Rather than hype up one particular service, instead reminding potential riders of the total extent of the system will likely increase ridership.

Frankly, I think any distinctive branding should simply disappear into the area’s future streetcar network. David Alpert had it right in his metro scheme, simply drawing all overground rapid transit purple. But if named it must be, then let’s go with this spiffy dollop of NIMBY fears, presented in the style of Jim Graham:

That Bastard O’Malley/Erlich/Glendenning’s Inflationary-Federal-Fiat-Currency-Funded-Puce-Hued- Two-County-Not-Underground-New-Carrollton-Silver-Spring-Chevy-Chase-Bethesda-Oh-God-Won’t-Someone-Think-of-the-Trees/It’s-a-Combine-Harvester-for-Toddlers-All-Singing-All-Dancing-Thug-Travelator.

Anyone have a better idea? I, for one, can’t wait for the epic battles between the Sharks and the Jetsons.

Other

Delaware feels a little snubbed

In their most recent stimulus certification (PDF), the DOT of the little-but great state of Delaware expressed a little lonely sadness in a project description for their famous toll plaza in Newark:

I-95 Newark Toll Plaza (25-090-02)
Justification: This toll plaza experiences high levels of congestion due to the current plaza configuration. As approximately 55 percent of travelers through the plaza utilize E-ZPass, congestion would be drastically reduced with high-speed lanes. This plaza is a regular complaint of motorists traveling through this state, and leaves travelers with a negative impression – in many cases their only impression — of Delaware, impacting reputation, business, tourism and economic development.

I don’t know whether they were playing for some Charlie Brown sympathy, but they might give off a better impression if they got some FRA money for the Wilmington Rail Station, or even fixed their graphs. Don’t worry,  we’ll come visit soon!

Other

Jester Releases its “Solutions” issue a month ago

It should go unsaid that this is NSFW, but let me just say that this is NSFW.
It should go unsaid that this is NSFW, really.

I’m currently slowed by life-work-sickness issues, so accept this filler material until I finish the Fort Reno planning maps and some other writing.

At some point in the recent past, the Jester of Columbia, with whom I am associated, released its new issue, themed Solutions. Stay tuned for the April issue Recession. Bauhaus cooking is included in this issue, as is a parody of peakniks, and a host of letters and lists, some of which I contributed. Highlights include: The 99 problems Jay-Z does indeed have, Jonathan Franzen’s The Solutions, as well as the introductory Editaurus.

You may also be interested in the issues of the Jester I designed, Tragedy, Light, and Competition. Technology and Liquid are missing due to what one can only presume is incompetence.