The feral city, a military nightmare

In a 2003 paper for the Naval War College Review, author Richard J. Norton defined the term feral cities. “Imagine a great metropolis covering hundreds of square miles,” Norton begins, as if narrating the start of a film pitch.

With the city’s infrastructure having collapsed long ago—or perhaps having never been built in the first place—there are no works of public sanitation, no sewers, no licensed doctors, no reliable food supply, no electricity.

The feral city is a kind of return to medievalism, we might say, back to the future of a dark age for anyone but criminals, gangs, and urban warlords. It is a space of illiterate power—strength unresponsive to rationality or political debate.

From the perspective of a war planner or soldier, the feral city is also spatially impenetrable, a maze resistant to aerial mapping. Indeed, its “buildings, other structures, and subterranean spaces, would offer nearly perfect protection from overhead sensors, whether satellites or unmanned aerial vehicles,” Norton writes.

Read the rest BLDGBLOG: Cities Under Siege.

Therapists report increase in couples’ green disputes

By Leslie Kaufman

In households across the country, green lines are being drawn between those who insist on wild salmon and those who buy farmed, those who calculate their carbon footprint and those who remain indifferent to greenhouse gases.

“As the focus on climate increases in the public’s mind, it can’t help but be a part of people’s planning about the future,” said Thomas Joseph Doherty, a clinical psychologist in Portland, Ore., who has a practice that focuses on environmental issues. “It touches every part of how they live: what they eat, whether they want to fly, what kind of vacation they want.”

While no study has documented how frequent these clashes have become, therapists agree that the green issue can quickly become poisonous because it is so morally charged. Friends or family members who are not devoted to the environmental cause can become irritated by life choices they view as ostentatiously self-denying or politically correct.

via When Trying to Preserve the Planet Strains the Relationship –

Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now


THE country has fallen on hard times, but those of us who love cities know we have been living in the dark ages for a while now. We know that turning things around will take more than just pouring money into shovel-ready projects, regardless of how they might boost the economy. Windmills won’t do it either. We long for a bold urban vision.

With their crowded neighborhoods and web of public services, cities are not only invaluable cultural incubators; they are also vastly more efficient than suburbs. But for years they have been neglected, and in many cases forcibly harmed, by policies that favored sprawl over density and conformity over difference.

Such policies have caused many of our urban centers to devolve into generic theme parks and others, like Detroit, to decay into ghost towns. They have also sparked the rise of ecologically unsustainable gated communities and reinforced economic disparities by building walls between racial, ethnic and class groups.

Correcting this imbalance will require a radical adjustment in how we think of cities and government’s role in them. At times it will mean destruction rather than repair. And it demands listening to people who have spent the last decade imagining and in many cases planning for more sustainable, livable and socially just cities.

The changes needed may seem extravagant, but they are not impossible. Many of those who see the current economic crisis as a chance to rebuild the country’s infrastructure have pointed to previous major government public works projects, like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Projects Administration in the 1930s and 1940s and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, as a reminder of what this country was once capable of.

To read complete article by Nicolai Ouroussoff go to

Green with envy: Keeping up with the eco-Joneses

 In the Valley, our bragging rights are stuck in a season of suffering: Recession rumblings make vacation talk gauche, and no one is reveling in real estate anymore. Instead, even gloat-worthy chatter topics have gone green.

We’re comparing gas mileage over morning coffee, jealous of those smug Prius pioneers and their 44 miles per gallon. There’s that guy at the office who walks to work – and talks about it each morning. The envy factor is higher for the neighbor with new bamboo floors than the friend who bought a Tuscan abode in Troon. In Hollywood, the new movie-star-laden waiting list isn’t for a motorcycle or a private plane but for a just-released Simmons Natural Care mattress constructed from the milky sap of the rubber tree.

It seems eco-pride is the fun new bragging right. Living large now means living small, and he who has the most canvas grocery bags wins.

To read complete article by Jaimee Rose go to

Good Guys, Bad Guys and Spies, All Wrapped in ‘Edutainment’

WASHINGTON — “If I told you what secret documents I had in my briefcase,” I said in response to a jocular inquiry from a fellow visitor at the International Spy Museum here this week, “I’d have to kill you.” And if I did that, I added silently, I might end up in a homicide exhibit at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, which opened in May a few blocks away. After spending a morning there, I wasn’t sure I was ready to return.
It isn’t that the new crime museum isn’t worth seeing. Its 28,000 square feet contain a Who’s Who of history’s bad guys — pirates, gangsters, bank robbers, serial killers — encompassing Blackbeard, Lucky Luciano, Jesse James and John Wayne Gacy. It features punishments like the colonial-era pillory (a model offers the requisite photo op for adventurous heads and hands), as well as the Tennessee electric chair affectionately nicknamed Old Smokey that was responsible for 125 executions. (No comparable photo op is offered.) And its law enforcement artifacts range from an 1862 Colt police revolver to a wax figure of J. Edgar Hoover.

To read complete article by Edward Rothstein go to NYTimes .com

Bucky’s Very Large Dome


Buckminster Fuller’s inventions didn’t always work, but his ideas still inspire.

In the summer of 1948, the maverick inventor Buckminster Fuller was teaching at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and his audacious reputation preceded him. “Here comes Bucky Fuller and his magic show!” said Merce Cunningham, the choreographer and fellow teacher. Fuller indeed attempted an act of levitation, of sorts. He had his students take slats from aluminum Venetian blinds, lay them on the ground and connect them according to his mathematical calculations. The precise triangular configuration Fuller devised for the slats was meant to transform them into a semispherical frame for a structure of unusual strength, stability and lightness. Unfortunately, the damn thing barely rose before it collapsed, as if he’d opened the oven door too soon on a soufflé. It was quickly dubbed the “Supine Dome,” though Fuller eventually managed to perfect the design—and the geodesic dome became his most ubiquitous invention.
To read article by Cathleen McGuigan go to

It’s Zaragoza’s Turn to Make a Splash


UP to now, one could be forgiven for knowing next to nothing about the ancient Spanish city of Zaragoza, capital of Aragon and the country’s fifth largest metropolis. For some reason, it’s never had the same mystique as, say, Granada, Salamanca or Toledo. But that seems likely to change very soon.

Following the example of Barcelona, Seville and most recently Valencia — site of the 2007 America’s Cup races — Zaragoza is now poised to spring, or at least step, onto the world stage. The transforming event is Expo Zaragoza 2008, an international exposition that opens this weekend and focuses on the timely themes of Water and Sustainable Development.

To read complete article by Andrew Ferren go to

India Cow Killer Bagged, but Deaths Continue



Cows in India’s cities have been suffering from a strange malady.

Back in 2000, a senior police official in Lucknow, India, announced that cows in his city were mysteriously dying of some kind of new wasting disease. No one could explain why, but normally healthy cows were being released, as usual, into the city’s streets to graze on garbage. Yet they were getting skinnier and weaker, and then dying of what appeared to be starvation.
To read transcript or listen to audio story by Robert Krulwich go to

Oasis A-Z: celebrating everything under the Arizona sun


At 107, Livermore centennial lightbulb is still a real live wire

oldestlightbulb.jpg Tom Bramell, a former Livermore fire chief, gazes reverently at the longest burning lightbulb in the world. The bulb uses four watts of power, and its carbon filament is protected by an airtight seal.

The low-watt firehouse bulb has been burning continuously since 1901. It’s generated awe and respect, even among the boosters of a Texas rival.

LIVERMORE, CALIF. — Five years after his retirement, ex-firefighter Tom Bramell still likes to visit Station No. 6 for old times’ sake, whistling in amazement at all the changes — the strange faces and slick high-tech engines.

But one thing remains exactly the same, and it’s what Bramell misses the most about his firefighting days. The sturdy little object hangs from the ceiling in the firehouse’s engine bay, emitting its familiar faint orange glow.

He calls it the long-lived lightbulb of Livermore.

That’s actually something of an understatement.

At 107 years and counting, the low-watt wonder with the curlicue carbon filament has been named the planet’s longest continuously burning bulb by both Guinness World Records and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
To read article by John M. Glionna go to LA