Category Archive 'Bizarre'
30 Oct 2021

Architect On Proposed UCSB Dorm: “Unsupportable From My Perspective as an Architect, a Parent, and a Human Being.”

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Proposed Munger Hall at University of California at Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Independent:

A consulting architect on UCSB’s Design Review Committee has quit his post in protest over the university’s proposed Munger Hall project, calling the massive, mostly-windowless dormitory plan “unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being.”

In his October 25 resignation letter to UCSB Campus Architect Julie Hendricks, Dennis McFadden ― a well-respected Southern California architect with 15 years on the committee ― goes scorched earth on the radical new building concept, which calls for an 11-story, 1.68-million-square-foot structure that would house up to 4,500 students, 94 percent of whom would not have windows in their small, single-occupancy bedrooms.

The idea was conceived by 97-year-old billionaire-investor turned amateur-architect Charles Munger, who donated $200 million toward the project with the condition that his blueprints be followed exactly. Munger maintains the small living quarters would coax residents out of their rooms and into larger common areas, where they could interact and collaborate. He also argues the off-site prefabrication of standardized building elements ― the nine residential levels feature identical floor plans ― would save on construction costs. The entire proposal, which comes as UCSB desperately attempts to add to its overstretched housing stock, is budgeted somewhere in the range of $1.5 billion. Chancellor Henry Yang has hailed it as “inspired and revolutionary.”

McFadden disagreed sharply with what the university has described as “Charlie’s Vision” for the benefits of a “close-knit” living experience. “An ample body of documented evidence shows that interior environments with access to natural light, air, and views to nature improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of occupants,” he wrote. “The Munger Hall design ignores this evidence and seems to take the position that it doesn’t matter.”

So far, McFadden continued, the university has not offered any research or data to justify the unprecedented departure from normal student housing standards, historical trends, and basic sustainability principles. “Rather,” he said, “as the ‘vision’ of a single donor, the building is a social and psychological experiment with an unknown impact on the lives and personal development of the undergraduates the university serves.” …

[I]n the nearly fifteen years I served as a consulting architect to the DRC, no project was brought before the committee that is larger, more transformational, and potentially more destructive to the campus as a place than Munger Hall.” This kind of outlandish proposal is exactly why the committee exists, he said.

McFadden draws striking comparisons between Munger Hall and other large structures to illustrate its colossal footprint. Currently, he said, the largest single dormitory in the world is Bancroft Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy, which houses 4,000 students and is composed of multiple wings wrapped around numerous courtyards with over 25 entrances.

“Munger Hall, in comparison, is a single block housing 4,500 students with two entrances,” McFadden said, and would qualify as the eighth densest neighborhood on the planet, falling just short of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It would be able to house Princeton University’s entire undergraduate population, or all five Claremont Colleges. “The project is essentially the student life portion of a mid-sized university campus in a box,” he said.

The project is utterly detached from its physical setting, McFadden goes on, and has no relationship to UCSB’s “spectacular coastal location.” It is also out of place with the scale and texture of the rest of campus, he said, “an alien world parked at the corner of the campus, not an integrally related extension of it.” Even the rooftop courtyard looks inward and “may as well be on the ground in the desert as on the eleventh floor on the coast of California,” he said.

RTWT

That architect is dead right. It looks like something Stalin would have built.

16 Sep 2021

Amazing Fishing Technique

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11 Jul 2021

How Cool Is That?

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I found this completed needlepoint project, depicting “Cedarhurst,” our recently-acquired Deep South retirement house, on Ebay.

The same seller is offering another of these depicting “Walter Place.”

Holly Springs, despite being a small town of 7000 souls, has over sixty surviving Antebellum mansions, and evidently, back in the 1990s, some needlepoint firm was selling canvases featuring a number of its more notable houses.

I am naturally impressed with myself for owning a house that people portray in needlework.

30 Jun 2021

The Astonishing Eccentricity of Japan

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Philip Patrick, in the London Spectator, marvels at just how differently the Japanese finds ways of doing things.

The late A.A. Gill, in his notorious ‘Mad in Japan’ essay, concluded that the only way you could make sense of Tokyo was to think of it as a vast open-air lunatic asylum, with inmates instead of residents. Gill would have loved Arisa.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything more stereotypically Japanese than Arisa. She’s a multilingual robot concierge at Nishi-Shinjuku station in central Tokyo, one of the thousands of new automatons installed in the city ahead of the Olympics next month. She has a rather creepy Doctor Who look to her — she could be Davros’s girlfriend — and she’s there to assist tourists. I considered testing Arisa by asking how to get to the famous Budokan concert hall, in the hope that she’d answer ‘Practise!’; but I’m not sure she’s programmed for humour.

The eccentricity of Japan is all-enveloping and inescapable: the frighteningly shrill screamed chorus of ‘Welcome’ whenever you enter a shop; the bizarre Japanese–English on packaging and billboards, hastily ‘translated’, presumably by non-native speakers, and apparently never checked. (‘The Day Nice Hotel’ and ‘Soup for Sluts’ are my personal favourites.) Then there are the council rose-bush pruners who wear crash helmets to do their work; the incomprehensible address system that makes a new location impossible to find (even with a robot assistant); the dangerous food, the highly prized but poisonous fugu pufferfish which kills a handful of people each year but is still sold as a delicacy. I could go on.

But Gill’s problem may have been that he didn’t stick around long enough (he hated the food). …

As Dikko Henderson, James Bond’s man in Japan, says as he fixes 007 a drink:‘I’ve been in Tokyo 20 years and I’m only beginning to find my way around.’ I imagine he wasn’t merely referring to directions.

So eventually you come to understand that the crash helmets of the rose pruners are not for safety, but part of a formal uniform. And you realise that Japanese-English is decorative and designed to get your attention, rather than be meaningful (you’ll never forget ‘Soup for Sluts’). And you suspect that addresses may be purposefully confusing to deter casual visitors and reward the truly committed with a sense of accomplishment. And you sense that perhaps the irritatingly inflexible and time-consuming etiquette and the vagueness of so much written information keeps us on permanent edge, always slightly anxious and uncertain, thus warding off complacency, laziness, decadence. And eating the pufferfish adds a certain Russian roulette excitement to a meal.

But it’s another mistake to imagine that the locals understand their own peculiarities or have consciously engineered them. The Japanese are self-absorbed but not necessarily fully self-aware. Nihonjinron — the study of Japanese things by the Japanese — is a life’s work and an end in itself, undertaken by the majority in some form or another but never truly completed.

‘You are an eternal student. You never master anything — you just become progressively less bad,’ said an acquaintance about her 30-year flower-arranging career. Process is more important than product.

As Donald Richie, the great writer on Japanese aesthetics, said: ‘A Japanese person understands Japaneseness in the same way a fish understands water. They are surrounded by it, but have no idea what it is.’ Strange customs evolve over long stretches of time and survive because they serve some often obscure purpose and contribute in a small way to the greater good. There’s method in the quirkiness.

RTWT

27 Jun 2021

Wall of Boxes — Another Japanese Gameshow

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Japan has the most over-the-top gameshows.

15 May 2021

Disgusting Food Museum

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“A jug of rice wine infused with two hundred baby rodents; a dessert made of millions of crushed flies. Jiayang Fan spoke with the creator of the Disgusting Food Museum, in Sweden, which is located in a shopping mall and is designed with an eye for Instagram. But the playful surroundings belie the museum’s more serious messages about who gets to decide which foods are “disgusting,” and how, if we want to live more lightly on the planet, we need to broaden our palates. Just maybe don’t start out with cans of surströmming, a fermented herring. The museum director informed Fan that these fish have induced more vomiting than any other item at the museum.”

24 Nov 2020

Leyat Hélica

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This showed up on Facebook this morning.

Wikipedia tells us:

Marcel Leyat was a French automobile manufacturer, born in Die, established by Marcel Leyat in 1919 in Paris. The automobiles were built on the Quai de Grenelle.

The first model was called Hélica, also known as ‘The plane without wings’. The passengers sat behind each other as in an aircraft. The vehicle was steered using the rear wheels and the car was not powered by an engine turning the wheels, but by a giant propeller powered by an 8 bhp (6.0 kW) Scorpion engine. The entire body of the vehicle was made of plywood, and weighed just 250 kg (550 lb), which made it dangerously fast.

In 1927, A Hélica reached the speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) at the Montlhéry circuit. Leyat continued to experiment with his Helica. He tried using propellers with two and four blades. Between 1919 and 1925, Leyat managed to sell 30 vehicles.

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New Atlas:

Leyat was a biplane designer before World War 1 broke out, but turned his hand to automobile designs, feeling that the aviation world had a thing or two to teach car designers.

First off, he saw early car designs as far too heavy and aerodynamically inefficient, problems that the aviation world had been working hard to solve. Secondly, he felt that driven wheels were another power-sapping exercise in needless complexity, requiring transmissions and clutches and drive shafts and differentials and all sorts of other bits and pieces.

Aircraft, on the other hand, were designed to be aerodynamic and lightweight from the get go, and a propeller could mount more or less directly to the engine’s crankshaft. So why not a wingless airplane for the road? These were early days for the automotive industry, and all sorts of different technologies were being thrown at the wall to see which would stick and which would slide.

Horsepower was a fairly scarce resource back in 1913 when Leyat built his first Helica, which used an 18-horsepower, 1,000cc Harley-Davidson v-twin engine in a lightweight plywood body that weighed just 550 lb (250 kg). His goal was to extract motion from that power in the most efficient way possible. In that respect, he did pretty well; a subsequent Helica recorded a top speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) in 1927, a terrifying speed for the time.

In other respects, Leyat’s propeller car, and several other designs not dissimilar to it, were a roundly awful idea from the beginning, because, well, they had great big propellers on the front of them. While this example is wire mesh shielded, that doesn’t appear to have been a feature of the original designs, so errant pedestrians and wayward pigeons alike could end up getting fed through a several thousand-rpm blender, showering driver and passenger with an exuberance of gore.

What’s more, the spinning mass of the wooden prop could turn into a highly energetic constellation of airborne shrapnel in the event of a rear-ender. When it wasn’t exploding in an accident, it was making one more likely by obscuring the driver’s view and blowing wind directly into his face at high speed. And if that weren’t enough, Leyat had also taken an aircraft-inspired approach to the steering, eschewing the complexities of a steering rack for a very simple, cable-operated rear wheel steering system that threw the back end out sideways to turn the car.

The resulting vehicle looks, shall we say, rather exciting to drive, and thanks to the contemporary footage below assembled by Diagonal View, we can get an idea of how it handled. In even a slow-speed u-turn, the inside rear wheel lifts merrily off the ground, its front wheels wobble around like pin-fixed discs on a toy car, and the whole contraption does little to make us think propeller cars were ever the automobiles of the future.

08 Oct 2020

Love Hurts

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Cell Mate Chastity Cage (Short Model).

A $189 Chinese Bluetooth Chastity Ring designed for Domination games, or mere assured fidelity, has been shown to be vulnerable to hacking, and can be permanently locked by third parties, requiring the use of an angle grinder or other heavy power tool to cut the device off. A drastic solution, to say the least.

Additionally, its security flaws allow the hacker to steal the user’s passwords, birthday, location, and other sensitive data.

Gizmodo

Drudge Now

02 Oct 2020

The Ultimate Rare Book Collection

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Alison Flood, of the Guardian, interviews a very knowledgeable book dealer and authority.

Edward Brooke-Hitching grew up in a rare book shop, with a rare book dealer for a father. As the author of histories of maps The Phantom Atlas, The Golden Atlas and The Sky Atlas, he has always been “really fascinated by books that are down the back alleys of history”. Ten years ago, he embarked on a project to come up with the “ultimate library”. No first editions of Jane Austen here, though: Brooke-Hitching’s The Madman’s Library collects the most eccentric and extraordinary books from around the world.

“I was asking, if you could put together the ultimate library, ignoring the value or the academic significance of the books, what would be on that shelf if you had a time machine and unlimited budget?” he says.

Following up anecdotes, talking to booksellers and librarians and trawling through auction catalogues, he came across stories like that of the 605-page Qur’an written in the blood of Saddam Hussein. “If that was on a shelf, what could possibly sit next to it?” he asks. “I mentioned it to a bookseller and they told me about a diary that they’d had, from the 19th century, written by a shipwrecked captain who only had old newspaper and penguins to hand. So Fate of the Blenden Hall was written entirely in penguin blood.”

There’s the American civil war soldier who inscribed his journal of the conflict on to the violin he carried. There’s the memoir of a Massachussetts highwayman, James Allen, which he “requested be bound in his own skin after his death, and presented to his one victim who had fought back as a token of his admiration”. Or the diary of the Norwegian resistance fighter Petter Moen, pricked with a pin into squares of toilet paper and left in a ventilation shaft; although Moen was killed in 1944, one of his fellow prisoners returned to Oslo after it was liberated from the Nazis and found the diary. Or the entirely fabricated book An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa: its author George Psalmanazar, a blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned man with a thick French accent, arrived in London in about 1702 and declared himself to be the first Formosan, or Taiwanese, person to set foot on the European continent. (“Obviously no one had been there and nobody knew what Taiwanese people looked like, and he became the toast of high society,” says Brooke-Hitching.)

RTWT

08 Aug 2020

Chinese Artist Makes Costumes from Antique Porcelain Shards

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My Modern Met:

Chinese contemporary artist Li Xiaofang uses porcelain to make wearable art that pays homage to China’s past while looking toward the future. Xiaofang takes hundreds of shards of porcelain, some dating back to the Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties, and puzzles them together into magnificent porcelain dresses. His wearable art acts as both a coat of armor and a sculptural masterpiece.

Xiaofang sews together the shards using thin metal wire, and each is lined with a leather undergarment. Looking at the artist’s work, it’s impossible not to marvel at the precision and care taken, not only to find the exact shapes to form the curves of the dresses, but also how the pattern and color of the porcelain are used to create new shades and silhouettes. But Xiaofang doesn’t only limit himself to porcelain dresses, he’s also experimented with creating suit jackets, pants, blouses, and even a military hat.

The Beijing-based artist has seen his work exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has engaged in collaborations with fashion giants like Lacoste and Alexander McQueen. A visionary in his field, his work was by the rapid development engulfing Beijing. “These blue shards, bathed in the sunny skies of socialism and caressed by the contemporary cool breezes blowing from the west throughout the capital, assume a bewildering array of postures as fashion items entering the new century,” the artist once stated. “These are the blue-and-white costumes! These emanate the splendor once crushed! These are the illusions flowing with sorrow!”

RTWT

09 Mar 2020

Jeremy Bentham, Who Died in 1832, Has Recently Visited New York

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The Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham died in 1832 but, in accordance with his own instructions, he still gets to travel and to attend academic meetings. Atlas Obscura

08 Mar 2020

Moutai

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The Wall Street Journal introduces us to a Chinese spirit ranked high as a status symbol in the mystic East, whose taste is both admired and despised.

China’s Kweichow Moutai Co. has become the world’s most valuable liquor company thanks to a fiery spirit that can cost nearly $400 a bottle.

The spirit is baijiu, a Chinese liquor made by fermenting sorghum or other grains in brick or mud pits. The company’s version, known simply as Moutai, has a long association with China’s Communist leaders, and has become a homegrown status symbol for affluent Chinese.

One drawback: many people can’t stand it.

The taste is “very much like ethanol,” said Jenny Miao, a 26-year-old market researcher in Shanghai. At dinners with clients, she said she sometimes has to toast with Moutai, but will then drink water to wash away the aftertaste.

Baijiu detractors say the taste reminds them of paint stripper or kerosene, especially the cheap varieties. It does have many genuine fans, who laud baijiu’s complexity and distinct flavor varieties—strong, light, soy-sauce, and rice aroma.

One liquor website describes Moutai as having “a silky mouthfeel” and says it carries “an undertone of baking spice.” Other reviewers say the drink conjures tastes of nuts, sesame paste, mushrooms, cheese, and dark chocolate.

Moutai is usually served in tiny glasses that contain about a third of an ounce of the spirit. Shots are frequently downed to show respect for someone making a toast. People in China say “gan bei” before drinking, which literally means “dry cup.”

RTWT

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