Food trend

“‘I can tell all our new customers by all the questions they asked,’ [Harford County farmers’ market seller Cindi] Umbarger said. ‘They asked about how our animals are housed. They asked about hormones and antibiotics. They asked about where our feed comes from.’”

The Sun offers a Baltimore-region picture of the surge this season in consumer interest in locally grown produce.

Bring back the Pinhead!

Baltimore’s primary newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, recently cut its daily comics section by four strips, effective this week. A few weeks ago, the paper offered an online survey in order to get the people’s judgment on the published strips. There were some thousand-plus responses, the paper reports. Presumably the survey results decided, or helped decide, the cuts.

Three of the strips cut I am happy to see go. They’re old storyline-type titles that were undoubtedly good examples of the strip form at one time, but that are now long since degenerated, in different ways, to an appalling state in both the writing and the drawing. (Other titles, among those retained, certainly could have been cut by the same reasoning. Not that I know what reasoning was applied, in fact, in making the cuts.)

But the editors didn’t cut from the bottom without also cutting from the top, taking away what I regard as one of the strips most to be prized — perhaps, I would even say, the best thing I know of being created for the comics pages today.

Here’s my brief response on the cut, emailed to the editors a little while ago:

You dumped some of the worst, strips that had declined years ago to an embarrassingly low level of staleness, or even simply to mere amateurishness. I applaud that.

But you also got rid of one of the very best! Bill Griffith’s Zippy is constantly fresh, constantly a reader’s intrigue & delight, constantly alive & engaging as graphic form — and all in spite of the severe limits the newspapers place on the comic strip format today. You ought to have held on to Zippy regardless of the poll results, simply because it is one of the enduring standards of artistic effort and meaningfulness for the comic strip genre in our time. [That sounds a little overblown, I know. How much cultural value do we really want to attribute to the funny pages, after all? But I meant it.]

Sure, I can still get the strip online, and I will. But it meant a lot to me that my city’s paper was an outlet for Griffith’s work. A comic strip is made for the newspaper, after all. And publishing Zippy seemed to me to be a way that The Sun said to its readers that despite market pressures it would seek to remain a reader’s newspaper.

Please consider finding some way to re-instate Zippy. Thank you.

(Complete coincidence, by the way, that the last post’s title is a phrase that comes to us from the Pinhead.)

Are we having fun yet?

Oh boy. Speaking of hot dog stands, novelty architecture, and ‘the ambition to transform all of life into a playground’ — have a glance at ‘Worship Centers Create Town Center Atmosphere’ in today’s edition of AIArchitect This Week.

Both Waldon Studios and Visioneering Studios have collaborated on several church projects around organized themes. The design is set in the context of the overall site plan, says Waldon. While Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., has a main street design, Heritage Christian Church in Fayetteville, Ga., is designed with the idea of the Georgia State Parks and includes a lake, Georgia Pines, and campground. The Northside Church in Texas actually suggests the wildness of Western towns in casual forms, almost like an old cowboy town, and is based on a crescent of trees.

Kimball on Eisenman/Krier

When someone erects a hot dog stand in the shape of a giant hot dog, the result may be in bad taste — maybe comic bad taste — but no great harm is done. The problem is that more and more architecture is coming to resemble novelty architecture. I don’t mean that architects are slavishly mimetic. But novelty architecture comes in several varieties. Is a building that allegedly illustrates linguistic vertigo any less preposterous than the hot dog stand? How about something that could have come from the set for Ben Hur? Novelty architecture has a place . . . . Only we need to keep it in its place: roadside refectories, amusement parks, universities, and other retreats from the serious business of life. . . . .

There is a largely retrospective, even autumnal, ingredient in the current celebration of work by Peter Eisenman and Leon Krier. We are invited to look back a couple of decades or more to explore the work of two energetic architects whose words and whose work helped set the agenda for important aspects of contemporary architectural theory and practice. It is, in all senses of the word, heady stuff, full of breathtaking ideas. Are they, for all that, good ideas? Well, I will leave you all to answer that question — or to leave it unanswered if that course seems more expedient. Leaving it unanswered, I suspect, is what Brendan Gill would have done, if for no other reason than he wanted to keep the fun of architecture going as long as possible. Fun is nice. I like fun. But fun remains most fun when it keeps its appropriate place. The ambition to transform all of life into a playground is a prescription for the ruin of fun.

From the end of Roger Kimball’s remarks at a 2002 Yale symposium looking back on three decades’ (or so) friendly antagonism between Peter Eisenman and Leon Krier, respectively representing opposite extremes among theorists of architecture’s role vis-à-vis ‘civilization’ in the period from the sixties until today. Published in the collection Eisenman/Krier: Two Ideologies, 2004.

Alternative lifestyle trial

In a story run in Sunday’s paper, Sun reporter Jill Rosen tells of her one-week experiment in car-free living. ‘I wanted to see if, in Baltimore, I could have the lifestyle of a Manhattanite, a Londoner or a Parisian. I would do everything I usually do, go everywhere I usually go, but without getting behind the wheel, taking taxis or begging rides from friends,’ she says. No surprise if the answer to her question seems to be Well, kind of.

I live three miles outside the city, incidentally, near Baltimore County’s boundary with neighboring Howard County. It’s a dense, semi-urban area, broadly speaking, and I can walk to a range of retail & services (with allowance for time). But there’s enormous difference between my surroundings and Rosen’s, even so. It’s likely that her full-reverse lifestyle experiment wouldn’t get off the ground around here, if her situation were that of the typical area resident.

An excerpt

From Spe Salvi, the papal encyclical of last year:

‘We do not know what we should pray for as we ought,’ [Augustine] says, quoting Saint Paul. All we know is that it is not this. Yet in not knowing, we know that this reality must exist. ‘There is therefore in us a certain learned ignorance (docta ignorantia), so to speak,’ he writes. . . . I think that in this very precise and permanently valid way, Augustine is describing man’s essential situation, the situation that gives rise to all his contradictions and hopes. In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death; yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven. We cannot stop reaching out for it, and yet we know that all we can experience or accomplish is not what we yearn for. This unknown ‘thing’ is the true ‘hope’ which drives us, and at the same time the fact that it is unknown is the cause of all forms of despair and also of all efforts, whether positive or desctructive, directed towards worldly authenticity and human authenticity. The term ‘eternal life’ is intended to give a name to this known ‘unknown.’ Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. ‘Eternal,’ in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; ‘life’ makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction . . . . To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality — this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time — the before and after — no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John’s Gospel: ‘I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.’