3 May 2004
I probably shouldn't have started reading this book when I was sick, since the last one by this guy annoyed me a bit. But I'm still interested in the subject matter, and it's been on my pile for awhile, so what the heck. I dove into a collection of comparative photos of local scenes over time, Larry Millett's Twin Cities Then and Now, after this stupid virus and the Maple Leafs' ignominy already had me in my cheeriest mood.
Okay, here's how to qualify as a good building in Larry Millett's world: 1) get built before 1950 (before 1910, if possible); 2) attempt to look as old as possible for that era. Pseudo-Gothic is all right, neo-neo-Classical even better, and if you could manage to look like you were trying to be a pre-dwelling-building cave, I'm sure that'd be the best. That's it; those are the only ways to be a good building. Oh yes, and 3) make no provision for transportation. The city I love, my city, constantly gets comments like, "Nothing much needs to be said of this dreary view" and "this lifeless scene." The author's childhood memories are sacrosanct; mine are not to be considered; actual present use is beneath mention. The highest praise a modern scene can get from Millett is that it contains two or three nondescript pseudo-Gothic buildings from 1900 or so. Whoopee ding.
He further gets under my skin by projecting like crazy ("the street seems a bit forlorn, like someone trying to cope with the loss of two dear friends" -- no, sir, that would be you, not the street); by calling things inevitable that aren't (the skyways were not inevitable! They were a choice, and a good one!); and by ignoring his own sampling error. He stated in the introduction that he was deliberately choosing old photos he considered lively, pictures with lots of horses, cars, and/or people, pictures with lots of activity. But he then went to take the modern views and didn't, I assume, wait to see people coming out of a game or a play or work. He has the material to notice his sampling error, but it fits in so neatly with the points he so desperately wants to make that he can't resist.
And oh, can he not resist. He absolutely must say things like, "A variety of small businesses, taverns, and entertainment venues continue to occupy these serviceable structures -- proof that old places need not be destroyed." Oooooor -- ooh, check this out, Lar, I bet you'll dig this one -- it could be proof that some old places need not be destroyed while others are useless and/or ugly. How 'bout that? No? Yeah, I thought not.
He has decided that pedestrian traffic is an unmitigated good on sidewalks but is no good at all in the skyways. He just hates my city, the city I love, for being modern and livable and navigable and all those other things. It upsets me. But the pictures are interesting.
I read Asimov's Banquets of the Black Widowers, book four of his Black Widower short story series collections, and the very strange thing about it is that for several stories it lacked women. Everyone in it is intermittently called by their -- er, his -- last name, and so my subconscious kept filling in that this one or that one was a woman. Members of the Rubin or Avalon families, after all, can be female as easily as male. Then I got to a story where the guest at this banquet was female, and one of the men pitched a fit. And it threw me totally out of the story and I just sat there a minute going, "Huh?" Maybe if I'd read the first story in the series, there would have been something about why it was against the rules to bring in a woman. Maybe someone would have a motivation in this regard. But it totally changed the stories for me. Now they feel much more puzzling and foreign. Strange effect, that.
I am, by the way, still sick. In good moments, I can muster enough voice to sound like Harvey Firestein whispering. I will wait for one of those good moments to call my mom and wish her a happy birthday, unless she calls first with news. She's 50 today. We're going to celebrate soon, but today is a Monday, and she has to go to the doctor about her thumb (which some yahoo at work crushed between desks for her -- happy birthday to her, thanks, bozo), and I wouldn't blame her if she just decided it wasn't her birthday at all yet.
Mark says it's okay as long as I keep getting better from one day to the next. I asked what if I didn't, and he said then I would be nagged. The horror. The humanity. Really, though, I'm all ready to be done with this crud. I could be getting so much done. Instead, I'm still at the level where taking a shower wears me out. Mom wants me to go to the doctor. I told her tomorrow if I'm not better. So, yes. Definitely tomorrow. If I'm not better. Which of course I will be. For sure. I really mean it. Yep.
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