Dec 15 2008

we built this city

I read somewhere recently that the DC area was – because of big government – immune to the recession we’ve got going on.  At the risk of seeming crass, I’d like to counter with this fact: that’s a load of fucking horseshit.  My pal Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo recently sent me the link to this article in the Washington Post.  In short, it describes how virtually every major construction project in the area is on hold, and how those communities who were depending on expanded tax bases and developers’ proffers are now left empty-handed.  Joey Jo-Jo has a somewhat differing opinion on the local impact of the economic downturn.  He worked on five of the eight now-stalled projects mentioned in the article and is wondering how long things will be this bad.

But enough of the doom and gloom.  In more awesome news: I’m doing great!  The marine biology business is booming and thanks to Vanna’s “Yoga Is Easy Challenge,” I’m now a certified yoga instructor.  It won’t be long before I’m able to quit my bullshit desk job.  I’ll never be a nine-to-fiver again!  Yay!

Sep 12 2008

hello, i’m johnny cash

I was asked recently what I might do for a living if I wasn’t a marine biologist, which is a tough question for me to answer.  I never considered doing anything else.  Even as a kid, I never wanted to be an astronaut or a fireman.  I watched the fish swim around in their little tank – sometimes let them loose in the pool – and dreamt of a day when I could watch the fish swim all the time.  So even though I sometimes hate being a marine biologist, there’s nothing else I think I would want to do more.

Unless I could be Johnny Cash.  If I wasn’t a marine biologist, I’d want to be Johnny Cash.

He’s been gone five years today.  It seems like just yesterday.  Where does the time go?

Jun 10 2008

womprats aren't much bigger than two meters

I'm a marine biologist by trade, but I always wanted to pretend to be an architect.  Maintaining my "talkitecture" game used to prove to be problematic, but since the advent of Web 2.0 all the discriminating scientist needs to do is keep current on the latest architecture blogs.  Alas, I've been quite busy down at the lab of late, so I am a little behind.  It's been some time since I checked in on one of my favorites – Life Without Buildings (written by a fellow displaced Toledo native) – so I was both shocked and pleased to see a proverbial finger still on the pulse of the architectural community.  To wit: was a Tunisian hotel the inspiration for the Jawas' Sandcrawler in the original Star Wars?

The short answer seems to be yes.  But wait, there's more.  Just two weeks earlier, there's another post about architecture and Star Wars, this time suggesting that an unbuilt design for a Vienna bank is the inspiration for the Millennium Falcon.

It seems pretty cut and dry to me.  They design our office blocks and our Target stores and our abattoirs.  They know all the ins and outs of handicapped accessibility so we don't have to.  And now, apparently, they provide inspiration for blockbuster motion pictures.  Architects – is there anything they can't do?

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May 27 2008

sketches of sydney pollack

So this guy Sydney Pollack died yesterday.  He’s probably best known for his acting roles as a skeevy doctor in Stanley Kubrick’s criminally underrated Eyes Wide Shut and skeevy lawyer in last year’s sublime Michael Clayton.  But he was a director, too.  A few years back he made a boring documentary about a boring architect.

May 21 2008


According to the counter to the left (and why would it lie?) this humble post is our 500th here at  Five hundred posts, and nearly all of them are like spun gold.  Wow.  We pretty much rule.  We’re pleased to have lasted this long, especially considering that the numbers marking our more recent output indicate that we may be running out of things to say.  We’re thinking we need to develop a new hobby like philately or spelunking or yoga.  Otherwise we might have to resort to composing thrilling tales about fish and other assorted marine life.  And we think it’s safe to say that nobody wants that.

Nov 25 2007


Well, we barely saw any manatees, and we wouldn’t have been able to swim with them in any case.  In hindsight, I’m not sure why I thought we would.  I’m such a tard sometimes.  Most of the time, really.  We didn’t see any sharks either, but the rays delivered as promised.  I’ve gotta say it was a little unnerving, and I don’t think I ever quite got used to it.  That lurking barracuda I saw when I first jumped in probably didn’t help any.

Jun 30 2007

bein' green

If, in the future, you should require the services of a LEED Accredited Professional – as certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, naturally – for any of your marine biology needs, feel free to give me a call.  I just passed my exam this morning.

[UPDATE:  See?  Here's the proof.]

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May 10 2007

pining for the fjords

a couple of months ago, the opening of the grand canyon skywalk – with its glass walkway – was all over the news.  i took note and remarked to myself that yes, it would be unnerving to venture out over the grand canyon on a glass-floored cantilevered structure.  that, i presume, was the desired reaction.  leave it to the europeans once again to upstage us.

it's fair to say i'm obsessed with scandanavia.  if i had to pick another country in which to reside, it'd be iceland.  i've spent a week in finland and some time on the ground in sweden.  (i had a layover at arlanda and went through customs so i could go outside to smoke.  they didn't stamp my passport though.  bastards.)  i've never been to norway, though, and if the prospect of visiting hammerfest weren't already enticing enough, these images of the aurland lookout came across my desk this afternoon.

it's impossible to overstate how much this appeals to me.  on every level.  the juxtaposition of the structure and the landscape is inspired.  the simplicity and subtlety of the design against the majestic vista make me just ache to see it in person.  and it looks so cold – not "cool," mind you, but actually cold.  if nothing else is true, you can bank on this: cold places are always better than warm places.  a big vacation is long overdue, and i'm supposed to go to chile next.  i may have to rethink my plans.  i only wish i were joking.  i've been dying to see the atacama.

Aurland 2Aurland 3Aurland 4Aurland 5Aurland 6

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Mar 28 2007

mr. rogers' neighborhood

i am merely a humble marine biologist, but i always wanted to pretend to be an architect.  i even went so far as to take a few architectural history electives in college so i could speak more eloquently on the subject.  so it probably won't surprise you that news of the field's highest honor – the pritzker prize – would pique my interest.  i know yinz have been waiting anxiously for a whole year now, so i won't keep you in suspense.  this year's winner is: lord richard rogers.

lord richard ('dickie,' to close friends) rogers rose to fame – as it were – in the late seventies with a couple of high-profile hyper-modern buildings in paris and london.  the professor of one of my survey classes infamously declared that rogers' lloyd's of london building was the one that most "made his pants tight," but i prefer the centre pompidou.  lloyd's is too much; it's over the top.  pompidou uses the same mechanical and structural vocabulary yet is still somehow more restrained, more confident.  lloyd's just seems like a building where the architect just couldn't bear to throw away any ideas.  but then, what the hell do i know?

it is somewhat telling, however, that pompidou was a collaboration.  in fact, both of rogers' former partners – renzo piano and lord norman foster – have already won the pritzker.  they won almost a decade ago, at that, and presumably because they knew when to tell dickie to cut it out.  incidentally, other former pritzker winners include the unfortunately named gordon bunshaft.  you know you've got some real problems when "gordon" is the least funny part of your name.

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Mar 2 2007


i saw the photos below earlier today on a marine biology blog.  it may not look it at first blush, but trust me – it's very funny.  the image on the right is the construction detail and the image on the left is how the contractor built it.  haha!  what fools!!  oh, mercy….

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