Tuesday, June 01, 2010

It's Official: Going Green Has Gone Stupid

City Hall has replaced trash cans in our offices with blue recycling containers - for office paper only. We have to walk across the room to the common trash bin to throw away anything else.

Office paper is a fraction of what I throw away on a daily basis. There's nothing for cans or bottles, and as a former janitor in the office once said, 'most of it is food wrappers.'

Expect a decline in efficiency and tighter buns.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Metro Transit: From Bad to Asinine

I used to say, 'Blame Jefferson City for our bad transit system,' but that was before I got off the bus this morning at 14th and Spruce. The 14th Street transfer center was always somewhat of a joke; it's nothing more than a glorified turn-around stuck on a spare piece of ground next to a Metrolink station whose only point of merit is its adjacency to the Train/Bus Depot. This transfer center is totally underdeveloped even for the traffic it saw prior to the down-scaling of the bus system. Worse, it lacks any access to services such as a coffee shop, newsstand, or confectionary. I suppose some of these services exist in the depot, but what good is that to the commuter who now has to wait up to thirty minutes on a narrow strip of pavement stuck between a highway and its on-ramps.

All service east of 14th Street has been eliminated, and I'm baffled at how this could possibly save Metro any money. Buses that travel Broadway now make a detour to 14th Street to serve the Civic Center Station instead of continuing in a direct path that would take them to the Convention Center Station, adding time to the route and burning gas that needn't be burned. More critically, though, this removes service from the densest area of ridership without any logical justification.

At first, I thought Metro wanted to send a message to businesses that they need to push for better transit, but the sheer disaster of the 14th Street transfer center has me thinking otherwise. Nearly every bus that travels in the city of St. Louis converges on this grossly inadequate spot, where the sidewalks are two narrow for two people to pass, where pedestrian access crosses a highway on-ramp, and where there is absolutely no opportunity for commercial development to take advantage of the presence of so many pedestrians. It takes pedestrians away from a dense area with abundant opportunity for commercial development [not that the city's administration or downtown's property owners are smart enough to take advantage of their captive population of consumers].

This morning, as two other buses were discharging passengers to the same sidewalk, a bus driver was struggling to figure out to extend his wheel chair lift. Meanwhile, the man in the wheel chair was struggling to figure out how to maneuver onto a lift that extend most of the way across the four-foot wide sidewalk, between a cluster of bus shelters and a retaining wall that left him no room to move. Any reasonably intelligent person should have been able to look at the bus schedules, then look at the 14th Street transfer center and realize that this is an extremely stupid idea.

The only possible explanation that remains is that Metro is blackmailing the cash-strapped city for an increased transit allotment.

This isn't the city's responsibility. It's the state's and the federal government's. These are the entities that initiated the poor planning and development policies that made public transportation subsidy-dependent, so these are the entities that should be paying for public transportation.

If anybody from Metro is reading this: GIVE IT UP! Give up the asinine transfer centers, and give up your childish ploys to force subsidies.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Participate in Earth Hour

That's an order!

Information here and here.

On Saturday, March 28, 2009 people around the world will switch off their lights from 8:30 to 9:30 PM local time to demonstrate their support for environmental awareness.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tarot Card of the Day for the Ides of March, AT6

Cups represent the elementals of Water that rule emotions.
A seven represents dissatisfaction, or the impetus to improve a situation.
As a feminine suit, Cups tells of the inner nature and passiveness. So, the message is one of looking within and analyzing your feelings.

The iconography of this card suggests a man seeing a vision of all that he desires: legacy, spirituality, knowledge, property, wealth, fame, and power. But, it's only a vision, he has not achieved these things. He has to stop dreaming and get his ass in gear.

The reversal of this card possibly indicates a lack of motivation, which is the case in the life of Your Prophet. I've been lazing about for too long. Today, especially. I had big plans of starting yard work and getting the basement organized today, but I slept in. I want to think this is the result of having dedicated to Earth two years in a row, which I did to explore that aspect of Cernunnos, but he's lost interest in this. I decided several months ago that I would dedicate to Fire this year, and sure enough, my energy is back. It's just that my habits haven't changed to take advantage of that. Reading up on Shiva to glean clues about Cernunnos, though, I'm reminded of their strong association with Fire. It's time to step away from the Green Man and commune with the Sacred Dancer.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Blazing Goat Day

Inspired by arson in Gavle, Sweden, St. Louis Pagans gather each year to herald Spring by burning a straw goat. Actually, it's more accurate to say a goat-like form with some straw on it or in it. This was the fourth year of this new tradition.

This year's goat was the creation of the Woodman, and we teased him pretty hard about it. He can take it. It suffered a hump in its back that made it look a bit like a camel. The first goat was an unstable pile of straw somehow shaped into the general form of a goat. Year two, was a plywood-cutout on a sawbuck, but it was so damp that year that even a blowtorch and a whole bottle of torch fuel failed to ignite the effigy, so year three was the same goat. It burned that year. The Queen of Jefferson County Trailer Trash had no problem igniting the Woodman's work, and the small gathering watched as the straw quickly burned away.

In the past, we've had a Goat Queen, but the ritual aspect of the tradition has been in decline. Instead of a high priestess of the goat this year, we designated Wifey as the Goat Queen, and dedicated its destruction to her recovery. She's been in the hospital for several weeks; as Spring Blooms, so may her health.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Tonight at Powell Hall

A strange thing happened at the office today. I got a call from the Powell Hall box office. Thinking they were going to put the squeeze on me to decide on next year's season ticket, I asked my secretary to take a message. As it turned out, they wanted to 'upgrade' my seat. In hindsight, I think 'upgrade' was code for "we can sell a pair of seats if we move you somewhere else". I think my original seat would have been better.

Tonight, the St. Louis Symphony performed with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. So, I figured, no problem, they'll scoot the orchestra back and dance up front. Nope. They built a stage extension and 'wings' out of convention center partitioning--lots of black burlap and a touch of red velvet for style. My seat looked right into a wall of black. I couldn't see the orchestra at all, and only about two thirds of the stage. The orchestra was on a raised platform behind the dance floor.

The performance, or what I could see of it, was stunning. The opening piece was a post-modern rendition of Bach, using movements from the Brandenburg Concerti and cello and harp solos from some other suites. It was my least favorite of the four pieces in the concert. Boys in fey little doublets and girls in flouncy skirts pranced around the stage with rather militaristic gestures. There was some kind of story about the court jester being shunned then accepted by the courtesans and an interesting, tho chaste, strip tease in which one of the girls lost her sleeves and skirts. In one impressive move, the boys lifted her and spun her head over heels in a sort of slow-motion back flip as they carried her downstage. You'd have to see it. She floated as if defying gravity.

First intermission.

The second part of the concert featured Stravinsky and Bernstein. The dancers didn't participate in the Stravinsky, but the orchestra nailed it like the pros they are. 'Three Pieces for Clarinet' showcased the remarkable skill of Scott Andrews, who awed a restless audience into silence; 'Symphonies of Wind Instruments' showcased the Symphony's greatly improved horn section delivering a great performance. But all this paled as Hubbard Street took back the stage for Bernstein's 'Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs'. First let me say that I haven't explored much of Bernstein's music due to a fear of the atonal, but this piece was astounding--lively and timeless, showing the best potential of Jazz. The dancers, though, brought it to life in a kind of jitterbug on crack. It was synchronized hopping, or Irish dance without the kicking, that framed some dynamic choreography that truly expressed the character of the music. All dressed in identical business suits, the cast came alive for this piece much more than they had for the Bach.

Second intermission.

Bolero. We've all heard it, many of us are preternaturally fascinated with it. I'm one of those. I almost jumped out of my shoes when I saw the poster proclaiming 'Hubbard Street Dance Chicago/ Bolero'. I thought, OMG! they're going to dance Bolero! No such luck. It was a heartbreak to read nothing following 'RAVEL: Bolero (1928)' at the end of the program; no dancers, no choreographers, no lighting designers. I was faced the with prospect of staring at black burlap while sound wafted from the mysterious hidden platform where the chorus usually sits. It brought back memories from earlier in the season when a great mezzo performed on a bill that included the Liebestod, only she didn't sing the Liebestod, it was the abominable and useless orchestral version--just like the prospect of Hubbard Street dancing Bolero, it was a tease.

But, alas, they moved the chairs forward and I got to watch a second violinist toy with her neighbor, teasing him about not being able to see the conductor, trying to steal his bow, kicking his shoe. It was cute. It was virtually all I could see; but I don't want to dwell on my bad seat.

The audience was incredibly rude, coughing and fidgeting as David Roberson presided over the first muted bars of Bolero. The air conditioning was louder than the snare drum. I could barely hear the opening rendition of the melody. Bolero droned on. But this was not your garden variety Bolero. This was a Bolero that built slowly and steadily, with a subtlety you wouldn't think an orchestra of this size could achieve. You know how the rhythm shifts from instrument to instrument? And you know how on every recording you've ever heard, you know exactly when that shift takes place? None of that was audible in Powell Hall tonight. The rhythm and melody alike snuck around the orchestra and popped up in surprising places. Yes, this is Bolero, possibly the most over-played piece of classical music ever, and it sounded like I have never heard it before or ever dreamt it could sound. Those pesky transitions that mar every performance I've ever heard were gone. By the time my second violinist had to pick up her instrument and leave her stud muffin alone in favor of teasing out the rhythm, the audience was rapt. Everybody knew they were hearing the best performance they'd ever hear of this piece.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Campaign Irony

In boasting of all he's done for the city's neighborhoods, Mayor Slay's campaign commercial cuts to a scene of a brick wall falling under the bucket of a caterpillar.

Why doesn't he just do a montage of the Century Building coming down?

Urban neighborhoods depend on density for stability, so this is just another example of the cluelessness of our elected officials.

By the way, I'm not saying any of his opponents will be any better. Our politicians are dismally ignorant when it comes to building a sustainable, vibrant city, pretty much across the board. This especially applies to the aldermen in our most successful historic districts.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Word on the St. Louis Public School System

Does the administration building have lead water pipes or what?

What agenda underlies the special adminstrative board's assinine proposals?

Someone suggested to me recently that the Powers-That-Be want to destroy the public school system because it would be easier for them to control a less-organized collection of charter schools. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but this is St. Louis, after all.

Most assinine of all is to build new elementary schools in a district that already has too many buildings for its current population, one of which would replace Mann School in Tower Grove South. WTF? Have they seen a modern school building?

Less assinine, but equally appalling, is the deed restrictions to forbid charter schools in the buildings they close.

Oh yeah, that's right, it's only been a few years since they gave away the breath-takingly beautiful Stix School, and the charming Michael School to Barnes Hospital and replaced them with a gyp board box. Lead in their water is the only possible explanation for their mental lapses.

That, or none of them have had a good education.

Our school buildings are among our great acheivements as a city. It seems to me that the board could put them to better use; lease them out to generate income; invite our colleges and universities to make more use of them; tap the growing need for professional continuing education and involve corporations in supporting these critical neighborhood institutions.

Maybe if the board showed some imagination, we'd have a good school system.

Let's not hold our breath.

Destructive Stimulus

MODoT just doesn't get it. It's proposing to toss a paltry sum at the city of St. Louis to repave Memorial Drive, and spend a massive amount of money extending highway 141 in northwest St. Louis County. The bulk of the funds would go into rural highway projects. In other words, stimulus funds intended to boost the economy are going to be thrown away on the wasteful practices that got us into this mess in the first place.

Repaving Memorial Drive will do nothing to boost the economy. It is a place devoid of anything but motorists moving between freeways and that offers no opportunity for other development. Extending 141 will certainly lead to development, but it will be the same old story of new strip malls and big-box retail that will suck the life out of strip malls and big-box retail in other parts of the county. Suburban sprawl can only sustain itself on the constant duplication of existing infrastructure; there's just not enough population to support the rapidly expanding amount of commercial space that is cluttering the suburban fringe. MODoT's plan plays right into this wasteful cycle by opening new tracts of north county to developers who will build the boxes, take the profits, and disappear with the asphalt compactors.

The stimulus funds offer an opportunity to build the 14th Street Metrolink line, which will draw vital investment into North St. Louis and promote the development of sustainable commercial space that will actually feed neighborhoods instead of bleed them dry. Improvements to rail service between the state's major cities could relieve pressure on the interstates. A high-speed train between St. Louis and Kansas City would go a long way to creating sustainable freight and passenger transportation in Missouri, and bolster smaller cities along the way, such as Fulton, Columbia, and Sedalia. Instead of drawing traffic out of the small towns of Missouri, as the interstates do [just look at the tawdry development at every exit ramp], a rail line would spawn freight transfer depots in the decaying industrial districts of town all along the line, and bring visitors into the depots of downtowns that desperately need investment.

Last time I was in northwest St. Louis County [and I avoid it], it didn't strike me as a place that needs stimulus. Last time I walked Memorial Drive [which everybody avoids], it struck me as a place that needs massive redevelopment to turn back over to the pedestrians who sustain urban cores, not a place that needed to accomodate more cars.