Never before have I been so pissed at the design of a form of the media. Mmm I lied.. once before. When Anna Nicole Smith died.
This is the face I see at 5:00 am on the TV while I'm at the gym. It's the face I see at night before I go to bed. It's there during lunch.. and I'm pretty sure it's still there when I'm sleeping. I'm talking about (Thanks for the pic bengoc!)
News [nooz, nyooz]
–noun (usually used with a singular verb)
1. a report of a recent event; intelligence; information: His family has had no news of his whereabouts for months.
2. the presentation of a report on recent or new events in a newspaper or other periodical or on radio or television.
3. such reports taken collectively; information reported: There's good news tonight.
4. a person, thing, or event considered as a choice subject for journalistic treatment; newsworthy material.
I actually really don't care what the official definition of "news" is.. I'm sick and tired of hearing about Spitzer and his "call girl". News or not.. how important is it REALLY? He did what he did.. he's stepping down.. get over it and let his family live their life! Let him pay the consequences, and the rest of "us" can MOVE ON!
This situation really bothers me because there are so many things going on in this world that actually ARE news worthy causes. It would take days.. weeks.. months.. even longer - I don't know - to cover all the truly important things that are happening in our world. Instead, CNN, what I would typically consider a reliable and worthy news source, decides to run a 24/7 report on every single detail you could squeeze out of Spitzer or Anna Nicole's life.
What is more beneficial to the knowledge of the general public: Learning about the outstanding child mortality rates around the world, and what we here in the US can do to help -OR- learning that Spitzer's high-priced prostitute wrote on her MySpace page that she "left a broken home at 17."
People watch TV. Whether or not they actually care about what's on doesn't really matter, because chances are the majority is going to continue watching anyways. I wish I could get our Millennium Goal on an episode of Anderson Cooper 360, or get someone to talk about child mortality with Larry King. People would see, people would hear, and people would listen. Maybe if we could get some actual NEWS on the damn news this week we could get somewhere. Then I'd chill out.
At first when I was thinking about this prompt, I was thinking just in terms of buildings. How do buildings affect me? Mmm.. river of creativity running dry.
Then I realized the designed environment is a whole lot more then buildings, or architectural structures. Really, everything is "designed" in some way or another. My sweatpants? Designed. The paths around Calhoun? Yep. This amazing spicy black bean enchilada I'm about to nosh? That's designed too. Even you and I are designed; weather you believe we were designed divinely or through science, there was definitely a design process there (Ozayr - your hairy arms are just part of the master plan! You'll regret shaving them - don't).
OK.. so the designed environment is pretty much everywhere around me. Now that I think of it, I can't really think of much that wouldn't classify as part of the designed environment. How does it affect who I am, and who I've grown up to be? How will it shape who I'll be in 10 years? To tackle this, I can break it down to PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE.
Back in the day - I grew up in Linden Hills in Minneapolis. I spent a lot of time outdoors, playing at the park or in our yard. My next door neighbor was my best friend, and we were always making up new games and adventures. We got matching red unicycles for Christmas one year and practiced riding them around the block.
So, I'm 18 - I can vote. Wow. I'm a distance runner, a veg[etari]an, and a self proclaimed tree hugger. I still spend a lot of time outside, although I've outgrown that unicycle. It went home with a little wide eyed 9 year old boy at our yard sale this summer. I went through lots of changes through middle/high school, I'm sitting here in my first year at the U of MN, and I'm transferring out next fall.
10 years down the road - A whole lot could happen in the next 10 years. Let's just go with my ideals: I'll have made it through all my "architecture school", have my own [successful] firm that promotes human and ecological health by doing all "green design". I'll have built my own house (check the mag!), and Ed Begley and I'll be buds. I'll also be running Re-Juve (see previous post), not to mention running, in my spare time. I'll have 2 or 3 kids.. or 7. I haven't decided yet.
Now, here are some realities of the designed environment that may affect how I turn out:
1. The school I'm transferring to is way more than I can afford. I haven't gotten my financial aid package from them yet. I may not even be able to transfer If I don't get enough money. College is designed to bring in money, and colleges with bigger names often tend to have a bigger price tag.
2. I've been considering the possibilities of going into psychology. I'm sure I could do great things, regardless of what road I take, but I have to question where I will be the most happy with myself in the end. Luckily, college was designed so that students can change their mind, and change their degree. Not so lucky - it's STILL designed to make money. They don't reimburse you for a degree you got, but won't use.
3. I have endometriosis and it's very possible that I could never have kids. Fortunately, doctors are doing research on what can be done to make this chance less probable. Hopefully, someday, someone will design a medication to cure endometriosis, instead of just treat the symptoms.
Of course there are many, many other things that will happen over the course of my life - none of which I can predict. However, I look at the framework of my life right now - what I'm doing, my relationships with those around me - and the time I have in the next few months (clockworks) to make some very big decisions. These will all help determine where I end up life. And really, what greater phenomenon is there than life?
What would I do with my time, my thoughts, and my $220,000 I'd get back from not being in "architecture school"? (Sadly, the University I'm transferring to next year is not in MN, nor is it public.)
Let me tell you.. or better yet, let me show you.
1. Order a butt-load of Asics GT 2130s.. size 2.5. By butt-load I mean at least 15 pairs - you can only run these bad boys 300 - 500 miles. I'm gonna be doing a whole lotta that.
2. Buy a plane ticket - fly to Santorini.
3. Run every street, staircase, and pebble-paved path in Greece. Head out before sunrise, come back as the sun sets. Absorb every drop of beauty, splendor, brilliance, and sublimity that is Greece.
4. Journal, document, photograph, and capture everything I see to my best ability. Preferably with a plethora of supplies from Russell + Hazel. I may have to marry a Grecian to ensure that I can capture all the goodness.
5. Eat a bounty of delicious amazing vegetarian food. Preferably with the aforementioned Greek god.
6. Return to Linden Hills - my world as I know it. Replace the 43rd street Dunn Bros with my own store Re-Juve: a cafe that caters to athletes who want ginormous homemade granola bars and soy smoothies. (I love that Dunn Bros, but they've got a prime location. Sorry!) I will be in back concocting baking those granola bars, and up at the counter commingling your smoothie ingredients. Ingredients will all come from local farmers, because it's very important to me to support the local economy. Although dairy is completely unnecessary in the human diet past infancy (Yes.. that's the stink-eye for you. I see you chugging that 2%), we will offer dairy and soy options to serve a wider population. The dairy will come from local cows. I will grow them in my backyard. All serving utensils will be re-usable, and bringing your own container/plate/silverware is highly encouraged. I never said I wasn't a tree hugger.
7. I will live out the rest of my life as the little baker/smothie-maker in my little cafe in Linden Hills for the rest of my life. I will make frequent travels throughout the country and the other seven continents to continue to learn that which I do not know, and that which I have not had the chance to appreciate yet. Of course, there will be an occasional trip to Australia to visit my kangaroo rehabilitation ranch. I will run around Lake Calhoun every single day, rain or shine or -37 windchill. Walking and biking will be my main form of transportation, but for those trips to Anoka to pick up the next crate of local berries, I will drive the ZipCar.
Isn't it amazing what you can do with a quarter million dollars saved? This is what I will accomplish:
Architecturally: study different architectural styles and approaches throughout the world. Build my own house that is completely environmentally friendly, a la Ed Begley.
Artistically: Document. Everything. Appreciate. Everything. Enjoy. The. Little. Things.
Bodily: aside from my killer leg muscles from those thousands of racked up miles, I'm getting a tattoo.
Lyrically: I actually am not a great singer, but if you hear someone creeping up on you at Calhoun singing out "I got Me Some Bapes" by Soulja Boy.. it might be me.
Before I pull out my handy dandy notebook of songs and such, I just wanted to get out some of the basics on the Millennium Goal I'm focusing on - Reducing Child Mortality.
The specific goal is to reduce the mortality rate of children under 5 years old by two thirds. According to the 2015 Millennium Campaign's website, 1 of every 10 kids dies before the age of five in a low income country. Even more scary? 1,200 kids under the age of five die every hour from a cause that should be easily preventable. What is causing these innocent children to die? Based on information from UNICEF, over 70% are due to diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infections, pneumonia, pre-term deliveries, or lack of oxygen at birth.
So what's the plan, Stan? "Transform health systems for women and children", says UNDP. Well I hope they have something more specific in mind because that's a pretty damn vague answer for the severity of this situation.
Ok, here we go...
Luckily, we're not building from square one. UNICEF and other organizations around the world have been working hard at making vaccines, clean water, and better sanitation readily available. They're also working to educate mothers and families so they can improve their home health care practices. But there are still children dying - many people still aren't being reached.
One effort being done that really resonated with me is a project put in by iCross Canada. They make and send "African Comfort Dolls" along with HIV/AIDS drugs and other medical supplies. These dolls are doing double duty - serving as packing protection for the medicines and equipment while en route to Africa, and then serving as a source of comfort once they are distributed to children in the community being served. Many of these kids are sick themselves, and sadly, some go to their graves with those dolls.
This one hits a personal note. This picture's actually missing the majority of our family members, but there's one person that will always be missing. My mom's little sister died at the age of three, when my mom was eight years old. If you think about it though, this was only *one* child. She had a funeral and she has a clean grave in the Albany cemetery where we can visit as often as we want. Think of all the families, mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, who lose a child, multiple children, or siblings; think of those who don't have the means to have a funeral; those who don't have the money to make or buy a casket.. and then times it by 1200.. every day.
Soul Influence (different from The Soul Influence!) is an amazing a capella group based in Toronto, Canada, with a mission that's reflected in their name: to influence souls through their music. They're really taking action - not only are they the AIDS Ambassadors of Africa to the world, they've raised millions of dollars for various organizations bringing shelter, food, healthcare, and education children all over Africa. Check them out for yourself at http://www.soulinfluence.org
"There will be no rescue, no intervention for us. We can only save ourselves. Many of you know influential people abroad, you must call these people. You must tell them what will happen to us... say goodbye. But when you say goodbye, say it as if you are reaching through the phone and holding their hand. Let them know that if they let go of that hand, you will die. We must shame them into sending help."
--Paul Rusesabagina, Hotel Rwanda-- I feel like the US could be doing so much for other countries that really need help, but we only chose to take action once we're guilted into it. We know what's going on in the world - we shouldn't be waiting till the last possible moment to jump in on our big white horse and save the day.
What can we do? Right here, right now?
You may not be able to be one of those "Doctors Without Borders", but you sure can help. Know how to knit? Gather your friends and make a bunch of comfort dolls to send to those in need. Get with your whole family and spend a Sunday afternoon packing meals at Feed My Starving Children. Donate $10 to buy a mosquito net, which will protect sleeping children from the malaria. Want to take a step farther? Spend your spring break with an organization like i-to-i, digging wells so communities have access to fresh water, or doing an AIDS outreach program. Way too many children are dying at such a young, premature age, and any effort to better their situation will help.
There's this little phenomenon over here in Linden Hills, and it's such a big deal it even gets it's own trademark.
These "Monster Houses" are popping up quicker than dandelions in July, and that also tells about how much they're liked. When we took this picture, a man actually came out of his house and flipped out at first because he thought we were going to steal the sign (which has happened before!). Once I explained that I'm from the U, I live a block down, and I'm on HIS side, he appolgized about 15 times and wished me well on my project. I honestly thought he was gonna whip out a shot gun.
The Monster houses don't fit the size or style of our existing neighborhood at all. That's not to say Linden Hills doesn't have a mix of some larger and smaller homes, or a change up of ramblers and bungalos. The McMansions don't stick out like a castle in the middle of a trailer park, but when you drive by you can tell they're out of place.
Who's putting up the McMansions? It's not like there are open lots, just waiting to be built on. Developers are buying up homes in the neighborhood, tearing them down to nothing, and then building to the property limits. This leaves the old neighbors these huge towers next door - something they never bargained for when they bought their homes many years ago.
So what can us Linden Hillers do? Build a fence? (Actually more like a wall. A great big wall.) Complain? Write a letter? Go on TV? Even better yet.. make signs.
Honestly, there's not a lot we CAN do. Most developers are staying JUST inside the zoning laws. After all, THEY'RE not going to live in Linden Hills.. they're just building a house and making money. Is that all that design has come down to?
I think this is where we hit that break between the profession and the discipline, practice and education. The developer needs to ask 'What's more important here? Preserving the energy of this neighborhood? Or the money we're about to score from that couple in Edina, who wants to live "In the City" but doesn't want to give up their square footage?' On the off chance that the builder even considered this predicament, judging by the continuation of the new builds even post-signs, it's pretty clear who won.
SO, when I think about how things flow through the city, the story that formulates in my mind begins at Lake Calhoun.
Try to follow me here..
I work at the Tin Fish at Calhoun. I run at Calhoun. I sun tan and fall asleep at Calhoun. I live about a mile from the lake, but in the summer I practically live AT the lake I spend so much time there. And apparently I'm not the only one..
Working at the Tin Fish, we get all sorts of people - the regulars you know by name, the CEO's on lunch break, kids in sailing school, homeless people, grandparents, outta-towners, Greek's, Somalians, just about everyone you can think of. All these people do different things, and have different needs. But still.. they're all coming to this one common place to get [some freakishly delicious] food. They all GET there in their own way (bike, walk, drive, bus, unicycle, motorcycle) and they all order different things (although calamari tacos manage to dominate many of the order cards). But that fact is, everyone has a very unique and different LIFE.
This hit's me like some crazy new revelation every time I go out of town. I see all the houses and neighborhoods and apartment buildings, and I remember - there are PEOPLE out there! More than just Minneapolis or MN. EVERYWHERE. They all have families and problems and religions and traditions and stories. Crazy right?
From my design point of view, I think about all these people in their homes, and I think - Wow. No two people live the same. Jenna bikes to the Tin Fish from the North Beach EVERY day in the summer, and she always gets two chocolate chip cookies. She's super environmentally friendly (hence the bike) and I picture her living in a home that reflects that. I can imagine her recycling in her kitchen and her yoga mat in her bedroom.. (ok, now I'm being stereotypical..)
Francis always orders a halibut taco, with JUST cabbage. No cheese, no salsa or hot sauce. Just halibut and cabbage. All we write on his order card is "Francis Taco" and everyone knows what he wants. He always sits in the same adirondack chair too, and it throws me off whenever I see someone else sitting there. He is from somewhere in Europe. I've never asked him, but now I'll have to. I picture him living in one of those German pre-fab houses.. decked out with Ikea gear.
Everyone has their OWN flow, and they all contribute bits and pieces of their flow to create the energy of a city. In my story, their flow is leading to the Tin Fish for some freaking fantastic food. But it won't just stop there.. they'll continue on in their day and go flow somewhere else. Put that in your creativity cabinet Andy!
This is turning into a novel so let me get to the point. Basically, there are about a bajillion people on this earth, and everyone is completely different. They mold their surrounding environment to fit their lifestyle.. or their lifestyle ends up being molded by their surrounding environment. I want to make those environments and those lifestyles work together the best possible way. For all people.
Side: this has not so much to do with Andy Goldsworthy. But those stone eggs were beastly.