It's difficult to be young today

“One should also appreciate the extent to which it’s very difficult to be young today because there is such an excess of the dead in our lives, in our media, in everywhere one turns because one sees that some forebearer has done it already there is so little left open for the kind of new horizon, adventure or accomplishment of some sort.”

“Money has detached itself from work…” - in response to a question about the recession.

Robert Harrison, chair of the department of French and Italian at Stanford University

Thinking back to my gut reactions to many Core posts, I notice some trends. When I see a beautifully studied work of modernism, I’m attracted, but when I see a blind reverance to modernism, I’m repulsed. We’ve all seen the massive success of well designed products in todays market, such as Apple, Puma, BMW, Flip cameras, etc, but its the same market that has brought us inhumane air travel, fast food and Wal-mart.

Also, there are so many posts about copycats, but also about how ideas come back, just like the seasons change. With regards to my responses to modernism, perhaps it’s my adventuresome spirit that is repulsed by the reverance that we’ve held to modernism lately. When I see Braun or BMW spit in the face of Raams and the 2002, I applaud. Not so much at the results, as the feeling like they are trying to find that “new horizon” that I’ve been searching for.

As I said in another thread, it seems as though our culture has elevated money above happiness and beauty. I mentioned how public architecture has plummeted in North America (largely) over the past century (I mistakenly attributed Grand Central to the government, which Yo! promptly scolded me for, but isn’t the fact it was built on someone’s own dime even more damning for our culture of strip malls?). Also, let’s look at wealth. We’ve seen the biggest explosion of wealth in history over the last 10-20 years, but where is it? In the hands of traders, bankers, lenders, gamblers. I know it’s popular in America to say this wealth has been earned, but what does that say of our culture that the most wealthy among us are those who gamble on something so mundane as commidity trading?

Perhaps it’s not the entire culture though. Returning to Apple, isn’t it strange that the same people that indulge in the luxury of an iPod or iPhone also are the ones buying McMansions and taking cattle-herded commercial flights? Perhaps they do understand the value of beauty, but just can’t afford it everywhere in their lives? I certainly hope so.

I don’t really have any question or ultimate truth for this post…it’s just some things that I’ve been thinking of. I’m curious how others feel though, so chime in.

Your looking at the past through nostalgically rose colored glasses… it was a lot crappier than you think. The largest explosion of wealth in history is sitting in all of our hands, we just choose to spend it poorly. If you look at the quality of life of the average person today, 100 years ago, 250 years ago, 500 years ago, and 1000 years ago you will see a steady trend that is closing the gap between the haves and the have nots. Apple sells iPods to your average person at the mall and to the President (who gave it to the Queen). The Queen’s iPod is not better than yours, it is the same. Compare that to what the Queen had 500 years ago and what your humble ancestors had… she had an orchestra and a resident composer, you had the town crier.

The NY Guggenheim was built 50 years ago, Bilbao just over 10 years ago. Good things still get made, but we are not going to transform the world into some kind of crystal Utopia. The new gets layered over the old, and a slow transformation takes place over time. To you and me it seems like we are standing still, but if you could teleport the 30 year old version of your grandfather to today, he would be shocked… kind of like when the old guy gets out of prison after 50 years in Shawshank Redemption, the cars freak him out.

I don’t know 914, it sounds like you might need some cheese with all that whine…

Also, I recommend reading “Guns, Germs, and Steel” Guns Germs, & Steel: Home

[/quote]What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it…
Andy Warhol 1975[/quote]

It cracks me up when people bring up traders and CEOs but nobody brings up the mandated minimum for Hollywood movie actor in a leading role: I believe several million is the minimum… this might be a 40 day job by the way. Don’t forget all those endorsements.

Mankind has foolishly spent riches, hunted animals till extinction, and over used resources until conflict and aggression was the only solution for centuries. We’ve actually been getting better about these things… the problem is we are no where near good enough, you are feeling the pinch, and reaching the conclusion that yesterday was better. It wasn’t, we just couldn’t watch the web cast from Iran. Today we are only now beginning to really grasp what we do. It sucks, its chilling, it is the start of some exciting change.

“Capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all the
others.” Winston Churchill

The last century has shown that pure socialism and pure capitalism have failed, most successful governments use a blend. Maybe another system will come out of this, we aren’t there yet…

In the end there are things we can effect, there are things we can be a part of, and there are things out of our control all together but we can choose to support or not.

Whenever I hear, “the good old days” I reply, “It wasn’t the good old days, it was the we-didn’t-know-any-better days”

While I’m certainly a nostalgic bloke, I think you are reading my post with that thought a little too far in the front of your mind. Note, I also said that I feel repulsed by the blind reverence for modernism. I picked those words carefully, because there is a bad side to modernism. Modernism tried to be scientific and industrial, and in such, created many objects that are cold, uncomfortable and artificial. That same kind of thinking, that we could escape suffering through science leads to organized oppressive social organizations such as socialism. Of course, the fathers of modernism didn’t know what that would mean at the time…now we do.

Also, don’t take it as though I don’t recognize the advances that we do have. It’s incredible what we can do. I mean, 500 years ago, I might be the only metal smith and town and only meet another when during my apprenticeship and when I took an apprentice of my own. Perhaps 100 years ago, I could send a letter to a magazine for engineering (?). Now I can sit at work during my coffee break and send a message visible to the majority of industrial designers in the world. That’s pretty amazing.

Moreover, I’m optimistic. I have no doubt that when I retire, I will be spooked by some new technology, just as the prisoner in your example was scared of cars.

Just wanted to make sure your glass was half full, I thought maybe otherwise… it’s not running over, but it’s half full guys.

I think maybe the crux of your question might be why do we seem to “get it” for short periods and then regress, 2 step forwards, one step back if you will. The long view is still positive, but in the short run, sometimes we do go backwards. The trains thread comes to mind, while in the past 80 years many things have gotten much better, but trains as an individual example have gotten worse. Public architecture is another good example as you pointed out 914. Though I would argue public architecture as built by the US government has never been great. I can’t think of a single US federal building I would use as an example of great architecture (OK, maybe the Hoover Dam, that is beautiful, great detailing), but I can think of the Chrysler Building (built by Chrysler) the TWA terminal (built by TWA now owned by the airport and operated by Jet Blue) and many others… to your point, these are in the past. But we’ve come though our boom period in the West. We’ve gone through our major physical expansion. Not to say we won’t still be prosperous for a long long time, and i don’t think we’ve peaked as a culture… we just don’t need to build as much massive scale stuff anymore. That is happening in China now. Their arch is about to get steep, this is just the beginning.

New Trains and Planes still suck.

Modernism originally was trying to liberate the masses. Remove ornament and ostentation and replace it with economy of design and you open it up beyond those with legions of workers and servants. Things went off the rails like you said when clinical dogma excluded human interaction. Anyway, as an ex-urban dweller, I haven’t found too many better defenses for the much maligned shrines o suburbia:

http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/01.24.02/cover/stripmalls-0204.html

There is something to be said for strip malls, although they suffer the same oppressive top-down organization that hangs over the new trendy urban centers. This is mostly due to very poorly thought out zoning laws. I don’t think several acres of repeating condos is any better than acres of bungalows or strip malls. They are artificial, created by large capital with no where to go.

Something I like about Montreal is how the strip mall experience of surprise described in that article is alive in an urban mixed use landscape.

But it’s in the older strip malls, locally, that the real treasures can be found. Like Space Cat collectibles, comics and cards, on South Bascom in San Jose. Or the Cardinal Lounge on Meridian Avenue in San Jose, where you can take the kids to dinner in the restaurant or drown your sorrows in the adjoining lounge. These places offer the thrill of discovery in the strip mall jungle.

Apparently, Montreal got the message late that we are supposed to zone everything and separate residential, commercial and industrial space. I used to work at an office/warehouse that was next door to a block of apartments with a small grocery store at the end. The factory space that dotted that neighborhood had been turned into warehousing, rather than lofts or being abandoned. It’s that kind of organic change that I think makes a community.

Having said that, this is now way off of where I was when I wrote my first post.

The big solution to strip malls around where I live now is the truman show-y “lifestyle center”. Its like a modern day, studio backlot old west set or Main Street, USA

The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be.” - Yogi Berra.

I’m wondering about this “waxing nostalgic” theme and if it is a middle-age phenomenon. Is it a universal desire for a simpler life, as we age? And if it is, how will the current crop of designers (and everyone else for that matter) view the “good old days”. Like they always have is my guess.

With regard to expansion as a country, and the western hemisphere (not implying they are one and the same), I believe the “massive stuff” period may still lie ahead of us; increasing population will demand it. Witness the mess we are in in California today; a once great freeway system now choked by far more traffic than was envisioned in sixty years ago, and restricted by rights-of-way, now so densely developed, that there is no where left to expand. Water shortages dictate new dams, and levies to protect developed areas. And that rail system we have been discussing … it’s imperative to the future of the United States and the hemisphere; we can not continue to all drive privately owned vehicles forever.

The western hemisphere (and the rest of the planet) must be envisioned as a megalopolis, because that is what it will undoubtedly evolve into … provided the Mayan calendar is incorrect :wink:

First, my original post: I didn’t intend it to be about the “good old days” I thought I was pretty clear talking about modernism that I was seeing it as glass-half full, as Yo puts it.

I’d read my post as being about cultural values (value of work, happiness and money), the burden of history (all our great designers: Marcel Breuer, Hector Guimard, Raymond Loewy, Harley Earl, Ettore Sotsass, William Morris, etc) and the strive for a new adventure.

I’d like to see some responses to those points…I think it’s a lot more interesting that arguing about transportation or the superiority of economic systems (although these things are certainly linked).

Transportation: LMO, I think personal transport still has legs. What if personal transport looked like this:

Commuting on two wheels could ease congestion if it popular enough. Italy and India both have large amounts of motorcycles as transport.

We could just downsize our cars.

Also, I think bright minds could come up with car sharing schemes, scheduling schemes, etc to reduce traffic, congestion and pollution. I’ve always wondered why so many business are 9-5. It’s so arbitrary. I’d love to work 12-8 or have a flexible schedule. My factory is even open 18 hours a day, but I work 7h30-17h00 everyday. Why not spread that commute out over a larger period?

Also, why private car ownership. Why not a mixed society. Of course, these problems are tied. I know some of the bike sharing schemes I’ve read about have a huge problem with all the bikes being left in one part of town leaving the organizers with the task of constantly redistributing the bikes back out to the regions. Staggering commutes could reduce this problem by never having 80% of the population going one direction, but mixing it up.

Anyways…back to the salt mines.

The 9-5 hour day has roots in history and work-hour reforms. Hit up wikipedia and check out how slow progress actually was back then in reducing the hours expected of workers. The internet and tech-related jobs have probably had one of the largest overall impacts on that, with certain jobs now able to be done from anywhere. Not only can you do work from home, but your work can also be done by someone sitting in a chair across the world. Bad for you, good for them.