Harvard tears down a SEVENTEEN-year-old Museum

Here’s an expensive lesson in unintended consequences from Otto Hall at Harvard:

Sebor says that both construction methods and curatorial demands were changing in the years leading up to the Otto. “We engineers let architects and museum people go off on their own,” he says. “There was a lot of wishful thinking.” He notes many oddities, such as the fact that at architect Louis Kahn’s gallery at Yale, heating elements were installed in the wall cavity, keeping it dry in winter. Kahn thus solved a problem he may not have known existed. Architects today, says Sebor, are more sophisticated.
There are a couple of other lessons to be learned from Otto. One is that long-term institutions like Harvard should build durably. They’re short-sighted when they indulge in the cost-cutting that’s common in the commercial world. At Otto, the exterior limestone and metal panels were connected to the framing structure by what are called “ties,” small metal connectors. Otto’s ties were made of galvanized steel, a material that eventually rusts when subjected to moisture, as it was at Otto. They should have been stainless steel.
Another lesson, perhaps, is that architects should be more wary of new ways of building. In Boston we’ve seen two other costly cases of architectural skin disease, the failure of windows at the Hancock Tower and of granite panels at 28 State St., the former Bank of New England – both of which were designed by noted architects. And recently the problems of the Stata Center at MIT, by Pritzker winner Frank Gehry, have been in the news.

Don’t worry – they can afford it.

I have never written a letter to a liturgy committee.

I have never written a letter to a liturgy committee, but there’s always a first time for everything.
The parish has instituted an evening mass at the Colleges’ chapel as a year round thing – yay! mass on campus is no longer under threat! However, the music has been pretty – um – minimal. Tonight was a man and woman – he played the guitar. They both had quite nice voices. I didn’t like their hymn selections much (we started out with “They will know that we are Christians” and went on from there), but it was the recessional that has me stunned:
“How Great Thou Art” to a harmonica accompaniment.


I can’t find the manual for my big camera. I had it in Rome. I’ve looked at home, at the office, at home, at the office . . . in all the zipper compartments in my luggage! Argh!
I know I can look at pdf versions online, but I don’t LIKE them. I want to flip around.

The Importance of Being Earnest

Have you read about the Sustainability Conference where they’re also going to formally nominate the Democratic party candidate for the presidency?
Wild earnestness. I’d already heard about the colorful food requirements, but I hadn’t heard about compostable utensils:

Compostable utensils, she [one of the caterers] says, are often shipped from Asia on fuel-guzzling cargo ships. As for the plates: “Is it better to drive across town to have china delivered to an event and then use hot water to wash it, or is it better to use petroleum-based disposables?” she asks.

Prof. Soltan on Ms. Winehouse

Prof. Soltan says:

Winehouse’s music gathers grief and pity. It may be a pleasure – an aesthetic pleasure – to hear her music, but the pleasure has to do with letting go of the natural noise of good for the sake of a free-fall into the perverse and malign. Along with Charles Baudelaire, Malcolm Lowry, and many others, Winehouse is part of the expeditionary team to hell. (my emphasis)

Well put.
Listen here – Back to Black. Baudelaire, but with a beat you can dance to?
Rehab (a live version from the Jules Holland show – actually an interesting contrast to the video issue version). Me, I like the skirt. So arch it’s Huysmanian?

Something New in Architecture

The building that rotates – no, each floor rotates separately! Solar! Wind power! Prefabrication! Dubai!
I think I may just have to go there some day – but not until they build the rotating building.
Here’s the architect’s site. The link above takes you to Gizmodo, where the pictures are more immediately accessible (being less stylin’). This subpage, with the architect’s biography, has the helpful view Gizmodo used, too. This page has a plan of a typical floor for the Dubai building.

When Smart People Write Silly Things

It’s hard to take all this seriously if you know any conservatives, just as it’s hard to take Lakoff’s neurodeterminism seriously if you know any science. As he acknowledges, current brain-imaging technology is far too crude to see specific neural activity. Cores? Narrative structures? Issue-to-worldview binding? It’s all speculation.
Lakoff’s historical claims are easier to assess. They’re demonstrably false. In his quest to explain the 21st century, he seems to have forgotten the 20th. He writes that progressives have opposed presidential power, that Roe v. Wade “seemed settled” in the early 1970s and that Democrats have neglected to preach responsibility, community and empowerment through government. It’s as though the New Deal, the Roe backlash and the Clinton administration never happened.
When you fancy yourself a scientist of humanity, it’s easy to mistake the patterns of your era for natural laws. In Lakoff’s taxonomy, conservatives exalt “obedience to authority,” insulate leaders from accountability, oppose checks and balances against the president and rely on fear. The myth of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, he writes, was “invented by the Bush administration to strike terror into the hearts of Americans and to justify the invasion.”
Except it wasn’t. President Clinton, Senator John Kerry and other Democrats warned of such Iraqi weapons in 1998. It’s easy to forget this, since conservatives spent that year impeaching the president for lying under oath. Then Clinton pardoned Susan McDougal, who had refused to testify about his role in the Whitewater affair. Lakoff ignores this, even as he attributes Bush’s commutation of Lewis Libby’s jail sentence to authoritarianism. And what about conservative suspicion of government? Isn’t that anti-authoritarian? Lakoff quotes Senator Bob Dole’s mockery of the idea that “Washington knows best,” but he never draws the connection.

A lovely book-review-length example of why we’re still better off being governed by the first 500 names in almost any phone book than by the faculty of a research university. Perhaps especially that at Berkeley? Nah – any faculty. Please disregard this judgment, however, when considering my candidacy for Dictator – eliminating multiple citation styles is too important.