Weekend 342.0

“A real city is full of life, with ever-changing moods and patterns: the morning mood, the bustling day, the softness of evening and the mysteries of night, the city on workdays so different from the city on Sundays and holidays.” – Victor Gruen

Weekend 341.0 (Project X)

What do you do with several gigs of photos from various trips to Walt Disney World and a bevy of books on the same subject? How about a project that uses both? The scan is from The Art of Walt Disney World Resort by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon. My photo of Space Mountain is from inside the Tomorrowland Arcade during a rainstorm.


A Gruen inspired renaissance?

(1) The Mall Rises Again: How to breathe new life into America’s much-maligned indoor shopping centers. (City-Journal)

(2) A related quote from Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Imagineers said that when they were planning Tomorrowland, Walt would carry books around on city planning and mutter about traffic, noise, and neon signs, and he kept three volumes in his office to which he frequently referred: Garden Cities of Tomorrow by Sir Edward Ebenezer Howard (originally published in 1902 and reissued in 1965), which promoted a vision of a more pastoral urban life; and The Heart of Our Cities and Out of a Fair; a City, both by an architect and mall designer named Victor Gruen, who urged the reconceptualization of the city as more ordered, rational, and humane.

*You can see a copy of the Gruen book on Walt’s desk in the Fall 2010 issue of Disney twenty-three.

(3) Excerpts from Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks by Karal Ann Marling

Both his office bookcase and the studio library contained multiple copies of architect Victor Gruen’s 1964 The Heart of Our Cities, a study that proposed remedies for an “urban crisis” the author described in chilling detail. The reason for the crisis was the decay and disappearance of the ancient city center under the influence of cars and suburbs and media, the television, that made face-to-face contact irrelevant. When the center eroded, the sense of community usually vanished along with it…Southdale, which was built as Disneyland was being completed, was a Main Street for a new suburb that lacked one, having many of the same characteristics that made Walt’s streetscapes so appealing. For example, Gruen championed the interests of pedestrians at Southdale. He reassured the frazzled shopper with open, lively, readable interior spaces and codes that harmonized the facades of stores, to stave off visual fatigue. In the absence of an organized political structure, he fostered a sense of place by providing urban amenities in the form of public sculpture, artist-designed benches, and fountains.

Somerset Bridge Station

(1) Bermuda carriages found in Guyana (The Royal Gazette)

Want to learn more? Find a copy of The Bermuda Railway (Gone – But Not Forgotten) by Colin A. Pomeroy.

Weekend 339.0

(1) The Secret Life of Yo-Yos: The modern version of the toy is practically unrecognizable, an Object Lesson. (The Atlantic)

Credit: Bear

Weekend 338.0

(1) How theme parks like Disney World left the middle class behind (Washington Post)

(2) The Brave Old Temeraire by James Duff

Our friends depart, and are forgot,
As time rolls fleetly by;
In after years none, none are left,
For them to heave a sigh;
But hist’ry’s page will ever mark
The glories she did share,
And gild the sunset of her fate,
The brave old Temeraire

(3) My first Playmobil photos since December 31, 2014 (a very small tribute to Horst Brandstätter):

Dry Dock
For the purpose of being broken up…
Oak, and iron, and man

Weekend 337.0

“If we love, we are running; and the more consistently we love, the faster we run.”

– St. Augustine

Kurt Vonnegut delivered the commencement address at my brother’s graduation from The Beekman School in NYC. It was similarly profound, pointed, and poignant.

(1) In 2006, Kurt Vonnegut sent this excellent letter to a high school class

“What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”

Weekend 336.0

“Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains.”

– Thomas Carlyle?

le coup d’oeil de gĂ©nie

Finished the Michael Korda tome on Ike. I still need to excerpt quotes, but love that his favorite painter was J.M.W. Turner. He “owned” a watercolor of Culzean Castle (by Turner) that hung in his bedroom and that he donated to the National Trust for Scotland shortly before his death.

(1) What happens if Greece can’t pay its debts? (The Guardian)

(2) A crazy European storm: The six days that might change the world. (POLITICO)

(3) Government employees — the true 1 percent

(4) Reckoning for the Fed (The Hill)

l’air du temps

(4) Love love love

Weekend 335.0

“…the fate of two great nations seems to be determined by some god-damned things called LSTs and LCIs.”

– Winston Churchill

Weekend 334.0

“Like always sticks to like. If you live an abandoned sort of life, only abandoned people will attach themselves to you. Start living a good life, and you’ll see how many companions surround you.”

– St. Augustine

A Gen Xers Top 20 Video Game List

Super Pac-Man Get out that David Bowie record and grab a can of Jolt Cola because it’s time to rank my Top 20 all-time favorite video games.

The rankings are based on qualities like story, playability, cultural influence, immersion, creativeness, and a happiness quotient roughly calculated using memories/age * 1.023MHz * (1 KB/1980).

This is for my friend Milton and anyone who knows (and those who don’t) that video games are a fount of creativity.

(1) Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (IIe) – The game included a cloth map and ankh amulet and required adventurers to meditate at shrines, collect artifacts, and “understand and exercise the Eight Virtues” on their path to becoming an Avatar. I played most of the titles in this series, but Quest of the Avatar receives an almost perfect score against my fancy criteria for it’s groundbreaking gameplay, inventiveness, storytelling, and lasting influence.

It was published by Origin and developed by Richard Garriott, an industry pioneer who’s currently working on Shroud of the Avatar.

I kind of wandered around the gaming universe after Ultima IV trying to find a title so immersive. It wasn’t until The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Kingdom Hearts that I discovered something comparable.

Bonus: You could import your Avatar into Ultima V. The games also included two books- The History of Britannia and The Book of Mystic Wisdom. Skara Brae is referenced on Playmobil365.com on 7.6.2014 #187.

(2) 2400 A.D. (IIe) – Join the rebels and fight the Tzorg! Set on Nova Athens in 2400 A.D. this dystopia had robots, subways, slidewalk systems, hand blasters, and supercomputers! I am still mesmerized by this gem from Chuck Bueche (Chuckles to Ultima fans). I replayed it a couple of years ago and it’s still fun. It missed being #1 in my Top 20 by 1000 bytes.

Bonus: It shipped with tiny metal robots. I wonder if E. Cline played this game?

(3) Kingdom Hearts (PS2) – Sora, Riku, and Kairi meet Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. The pop-cultural influence of Disney and Square Enix are undeniable, and this series has inspired maquettes, gachapon, books, and user-made artwork. Every detail of this game was perfect…from the opening chords of Simple and Clean…to the selection of summoned characters and lands. I replayed the ending a half-dozen times just to watch the credits.

Bonus: Flying over London to fight the Phantom. It’s like this.

(4) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) – The SNES was my first console, and after watching my brother and neighbors play The Legend of Zelda on the NES, this was the ideal foray into the Zelda universe. What I love about Zelda is its reverence for storytelling, detail, continuity and tradition.

(5) SimCity (Mac) – It makes the top five based on playability. I wonder how many future city planners it inspired?

Bonus: A couple of years ago on a trip to Austin I found a SimCity card game at King’s Hobby Shop.

(6) MicroLeague Baseball (IIe) – It’s the only sports title in the list. I used to print the lineup and box score on a dot-matrix printer with perforated paper. I was amazed the first time the game was delayed by rain. I get a little weepy whenever I hear the sound of a dot-matrix printer.

(7) AOE III (PC) – I would play as General Sir William Howe, protecting the colony, whilst routing the French, negotiating peace with the Germans, and expanding the Empire. I have hours of HAPPY memories playing with my brother on our LAN. I can still hear him yelling, “I need more peasants. I NEED more peasants.”

Bonus: The Art of Empires adorns my bookshelf.

(8) RollerCoaster Tycoon (PC) – A lifelong obsession with creating my own version of Walt Disney World finally realized! The best description of the joy I felt playing RollerCoaster Tycoon is on pages 75-76 of Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World.

(9) Pirates (IIe) – The first of two titles from Sid Meier in my Top 20. Before the release of this classic, my pirate adventures were limited to the Audio-Animatrons in Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World, my Playmobil pirate ship, and The Goonies (1985) and Walter Matthau in Pirates (1986).

(10) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) – Every happy memory from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was unleashed when I launched the game for the first time and heard that familiar music, but it turned into a torrent when I fought a Moldorm again in the Tower of Hera. The ability to merge, and its impact on the gameplay and storyline, is demonstrative of the subtle genius that threads this franchise. Majora’s Mask in Link’s House was a nice nod to the Zelda canon.

Bonus: The mural in Hyrule Castle is conceptually similar to the one in Ultima IX.

(11) Railroad Tycoon (Mac) – Capitalists of the world unite! This is the second title from Sid Meier in my Top 20. I didn’t need all those economics courses in college because everything I needed to know about interest rates, commodities, pricing strategies, bonds, back panics, and stock markets I learned in this game.

(12) Futurama (PS2) – Bite my shiny metal a**. This was a clever title for one of the best science fiction cartoon series ever created. It was part Space Quest III by Sierra and part 2400 A.D. by Origin.

Bonus: Futurama was an exhibit designed by Norman Bel Geddes for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

(13) Crimson Skies (PC) – Um. Dirigibles and airplanes in an alternate 1930s universe.

(14) Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?!! (3DS) – Bytes of endorphins Ooo from this title. The overview and gameplay were reminiscent of Zelda, the deluxe version shipped with Ultima-like goodies, and the characters and colors scratch your brain in funny places.

(15) Wings of Fury (IIe) – This is one of the few arcade style games in the list. I used to don a leather flight helmet and goggles while playing (if you were at volunteer at NYCC in 2011 you would have received proof). It was set in the Pacific during WWII and required a great deal of dexterity to land your F6F Hellcat on the deck of the USS Wasp.

(16) Robotech: Battlecry (PS2) – I was introduced to Robotech in the 80s but had to wait more than 15 years to pilot a veritech fighter! It was worth the wait (even if the fate of Jack Archer, like Xion, made for a somber ending).

(17) President Elect (IIe) – You could use it today to predict the winner of Kang versus Kodos in 2016.

(18) Warcraft: Orcs & Humans/Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness/Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (Mac OS & PC) – I am not a BAD Dad.; I am not Clara from The Guild.

(19) Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS) – The Dustflier was such a pesky secret boss, but so satisfying to defeat. The storyline with Roxas and Xion was a potent and emotional arc. The graphics in Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance were incredible, but the story of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days trumps them.

(20) Earth Orbit Stations (IIe) – NASA’s Space Shuttle program was the source of great national pride in the 80s and this space station management simulation allowed future engineers, project managers, astronauts, physicists, and astronomers to dream big.

Honorable Mentions
Dark Cloud 2
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS)
Locomotion (PC)
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (PSP)
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (IIe)
Ultima VI: The False Prophet (SNES)
1602 A.D. (PC)
Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel
Astrosmash® (Intellivision)
Autoduel (IIe)
Space Quest III
A-Train (Mac)

Weekend 333.0 (Planetesimals)

Steve Ross was at the center of two great documentaries- Atari: Game Over and Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos. The subject matter of both documentaries (video games and soccer) remain a BIG part of my life.

(1) How to dig up a landfill

(2) Steven Spielberg to Direct Sci-Fi Film ‘Ready Player One’

It’s kind of ironic too that Spielberg, a player in Atari: Game Over, is going to direct Ready Player One.

Weekend 332.0

(1) Eminent domain on steroids? New bill threatens cities, towns (Fairfield Citizen)

(2) How Bad Religion Has Bequeathed Us ‘An Anxious Age’ (The Federalist)

Weekend 331.0

“To be an acorn is to have a taste for being an oak tree.”
– Thomas Merton