The Bean

New updates to Chicago on Google Maps' satellite coverage finally show The Bean and a completed Millennium Park. In case you were wondering if every last square inch, including the very tip-top, is polished, here's your proof.



Do people actually read Jane Jacobs anymore, or has she become a misappropriated symbol for old-guard thinking in the same way that she was misappropriated as a symbol for David-vs-Goliath preservationism? Even Kazys now suggests that we throw her out in the face of gentrifying and demographically inverting cities -- things that make her core arguments for variation, limited regulation, and localism more relevant than ever. Her most revered book is nearly 50 years(!!!) old, he exclaims. What good could she be to us now?

Token Jacobsism.

A F%@$ing Break: Give me one, Please

It seems like every couple of weeks there's another city ranking list, and the extremely flawed methodology of each one is ever more extremely flawed than that of the list before it. Add to the pile: Forbes' recently-vomited-up list of America's Most Stressful Cities.

Obviously, I'm being melodramatic. And obviously, this means that I have some emotional stake in the results. So let's be done with it: Chicago topped the list. Which...I'm sorry, I have to laugh at that. Hard. Just last week, I was talking to a close friend about my growing desire to head out East, because Chicago has such a relaxed atmosphere. It's very casual here, and thus harder to get things done. A bit of procrastination is built into the way of life. Thus, working on more than a couple of projects at once gets more difficult. You feel almost pressured, in a weird way, to do less.

The merits and problems associated with this way of life are fodder for another discussion, but help to frame my reaction to Forbes' list. How, I wondered upon reading the article this morning, could this possibly be? And then, there it was, in the list of reasons Chicago placed so highly: "rising unemployment rate, expensive gas, high population density and relatively poor air quality."

I'll give them the rising unemployment. I'll even toss in an E for Effort on the air quality, even though it's really not that terrible. Wind blows a lot of our air pollution up to my good ole' hometown to the north, Milwaukee, giving the metro of only 1.7 million some of the worst air quality for a city in its size range. Milwaukee, in turn, dumps sewage into Lake Michigan, which then floats down to Chicago and closes our beaches (though this has been happening a lot less in recent years thanks to the Deep Tunnel project...but again, I digress).

Rising gas prices I had to roll my eyes at, because crowding issues on the CTA and Metra have been evidence of the fact that people are taking advantage of alternate options here. If anything, transit ridership should have been taken into account for determining stress in Chicago. Though it appears that these are metro area rankings (something Forbes is continually foggy about with its lists), so whatever.

But density?? This is a negative factor in determining stress? For my official position on this criterion, please refer to the title of this post.

I will grant -- as any pro-density advocate worth their salt will -- that there is such a thing as an unhealthy level of density. Chicago, my friends, comes nowhere near that level. There are plenty of residential high rises springing up around town, but it's hardly anything that you can compare to, say, the high-rise blocks of Hong Kong. Chicago has wide streets, many of them lined with trees. There is plenty of parkland, much of it well-maintained and relatively safe. As a friend once noted when visiting from New York, "My God, you can actually see the sky here."

Forbes' list is blatantly skewed toward older, more densely-populated cities (more commonly referred to by those with sense as "real cities"). Chicago is followed by New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with San Diego, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Providence (yes, seriously), and Philadelphia finishing things out. Only one of these cities, you'll note, is not located in the older, more highly-urbanized Northeastern and California Coast regions.

Density wasn't the only thing to play a part, but it had a noticeable effect on the outcome. At any rate, this seems to be a better indicator of stress levels. I'll take living in a high-rise over living on the freeway any day of the week. Now excuse me, I have to o relax.


A Letter to Barack

Dear Senator Obama;

Of America's four largest cities, Houston and Chicago are partially underwater, and New York's financial heart is having a coronary. Los Angeles seems to be in the best shape right now, and when you can say that, you know that we have a very, very serious situation on our hands.

Meanwhile, Senator McCain and his moose nugget continue to their banshee screeching about your lipstick on a pig comment in an effort to move the election further and further into their party's most familiar territory: the character assassination campaign.

For over a year and a half, you have promised us a different campaign. You have promised us that you would rise above the pettiness and catscratching that usually passes for political discourse in this country. You gave us your word that, this time, things were going to change. You practically trademarked the word.

Senator Obama, the idea that Americans don't want to hear about actual issues, that the last thing they want to hear is policy talk -- this is the most insidious lie that has been told. True, there are those in both camps that would follow their party out of a plane in flight without a parachute. They are of little concern.

You can run the same campaign that we have seen time and time again. You can continue to get caught up in the scuffle that the GOP is so desperate to get you caught up in. When they will launch an attack ad that oh-so-coyly (tee hee, tee hee) suggests that you just might be a pedophile, what line is left for them to cross?

There is no winning, here, sir. The deeper you get into their fight, the less energized your base will be. The more of us young, tech-savvy folks who launched you past Senator Clinton into the position where you now sit will feel duped, cheated, and used.

Our greatest cities are on their knees. What will you do, Senator, to rectify the situation on Wall Street? In the plainest of terms (because no one loves wonk but a wonkette), tell us what happened, and how you intend to address it if you are elected. What can be done for Houston and Chicago, and other waterfront cities, to protect them in the future? Yes, the current relief efforts are important, but what will you do, specifically, to address the problems that are creating these increasingly dangerous storm systems that travel further inland each year?

Senator Obama, you are at a crossroads, and the current polling information has little good to say about the way that you've responded to Senator McCain's attacks thus far. If you cannot live up to your promise of change on the campaign trail, you have little hope of winning this election, because it speaks very poorly of your ability to affect change once you are in office.

We are still holding our breath. Change the conversation.



I'm a big fan of Jay Smooth over at Ill Doctrine, but he's outdone himself today. I was sick to my stomach when I heard about Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani mocking community organizing at the Legion of Doom's GOP's convention in St. Paul last night. But Mr. Smooth's vlog response today does a brilliant job of sucking the political bluster out of the scenario and presenting their banter plainly as what it is: an incredibly careless, openly disdainful slap in the face of everyone who actually goes out and works hard to make a difference in their community. It's a surprisingly moving take-down. Don't miss it.