A new structure is cause for pause and reflection. After years of political squabbles the new M.H. de Young Memorial Museum is about to open in San Francisco. Designed by Swiss architects Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog, the resurrected fine arts museum is over 293,000 sq. ft, offers breathtaking interiors, and is draped in a copper skin that blends into the trees of Golden Gate Park and simultaneously stands in stark relief.

The most controversial element of the design is the soaring, twisting tower that rises above the redwood trees. Some derisively compare the tower to an aircraft carrier, others to an undulating snake. It’s clearly the signature design element of the exterior, and one meant to be provocative. John King, the Chronicle’s Urban Design writer muses:

The tower, for instance, defies all efforts to pin it down or sum it up. It is a presence more than a distinctive form -- blunt from one angle and statuesque from another, muddy in the fog and aglow in bright sun. On the north and south sides it seems to dissolve, where the copper encasing the fire stairs becomes a lacy web that lets the light stream through.

The original de Young was irreparably damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. City voters twice turned down initiatives to fund the rebuilding of the de Young and instead turned to private financing. Museum board president Dede Wilsey led the fundraising effort, a challenge that was compounded by contentious battles over parking, park use, and the collapse of the dotcom economy. Wilsey’s pitch was created when she spoke with a wealthy patron at a cocktail party, ``You have money, and I need some.'' She never stopped asking. And now in the year 2005 San Francisco has its de Young back. (Quicktime tour of the musuem)

King goes on to describe how Mueron and Herzog refreshingly create structures that place function over form and make full use of familiar materials in evocative ways. The duo is notable by the fact that they don’t have a signature look. The space, materials, purpose, and location have a greater impact on their designs than does their egos. King writes, “The key to Herzog and de Meuron's work: They're interested in sensations, not forms. They strive to create architecture that touches all your senses -- an overall experience rather than an image on a page.”

This sensual construction occurs, perhaps most successfully, with the interior. Kenneth Baker, the Chronicle’s art critic, takes us on a (podcast)tour of the inside, describing the building and the pieces it houses.

The new de Young deploys its resources to encourage our recognition that the meanings of art, even of the decorative arts, lie neither wholly within the art object nor wholly outside it.

The layout of the building encourages visitors to take a path of their choosing, rather than creating a de facto hierarchy of branches of art. The central court, which has elements left from the original de Young, is at the beginning (or end) of any path taken. As always with Herzog ad de Meuron’s designs that materials on the inside are precise, stoic, and generous. From the rich eucalyptus of the second floor, to the grand staircase leading up to the Oceania collection (the one section that could truly be called extravagant) the importance of materials to the overall design of the museum becomes apparent.

Kenneth Baker ponders at the beginning of his review “What should a 21st century museum look like?” Pierre de Meuron, Jacques Herzog, and Dede Wilsey have given their answer.
So Catholic bishops in England have discovered (or more germane, disclosed) what most of us accepted once we grew past believing in Santa Claus, the Bible shouldn't be literally interpreted.

Â?We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,Â? they say in The Gift of Scripture

Now if we can get Bussupportersrs on board, we might start making progress.
Malcolm Gladwell on Harvard's long history of using a variety of tools and tactics to keep the university WASP-y enough to maintain its "elite" perception.
Vlad Putin stole Robert Kraft's SuperBowl ring. There's nothing odd about that story at all.
The fall television season is a few weeks old and all ready winners and losers are starting to emerge. As always, there is a mix of quality and dreck, shows that are at risk too soon, and shows that should have been shot at the first pitch meeting.

Perhaps the biggest potential flop is NBC's latest offering from the Apprentice franchise. The Martha Stewart version has the hottie ex-con running an obstacle course for a bunch of nattily attired, upwardly mobile, professionals. The reality genre seems to be showing its age in general, the Apprentice in particular, and Martha's comeback appears to have hit a road block. The lastest ominous sign is that NBC has moved the program's start time (never a good sign) and positioned it against ABC's juggernaut Lost.

Showing more early success is the Geena Davis vehicle Commander in Chief. The show, about a woman ascending to the Presidency, enjoyed strong support from ABC, driven by a Disney-sized marketing campaign that included an inaugural ball. In a minor controversy reminiscent of the political wrestling that is occurring over movies, conservative critics have pointed out that the show is actually a nefarious effort by liberals to promote the notion of a female president.

The successful new shows run the gamut in terms of networks and show a return of sorts for scripted programming. Winners include the Chris Rock project Everybody Hate Chris. Considered by many an updated Cosby show, it has all ready become one of the most successful shows in UPN history. NBC has scored with My Name is Earl the story of a ne'er-do-well who wins the lottery and attempts to go back and do good to all the people he has done bad to. Fox is enjoying a surge with the serial Prison Break, a bright light on a dark night for Fox. Prison Break follows two quality programs that seem headed to oblivion. (It's not a new show, but Fox treats it like a new show. Arrested Development is so money, if anyone has a cousin who works at Fox, implore them not to cancel the show)

Another struggling new show is FX's ripped from the headlines Over There. Steven Bochco, of Hill Street Blues and LA Law fame, has brought a searing and poetic look into the lives of soldiers serving in Iraq. A verisimilitude that is perhaps, a little too close for comfort.

Perhaps even more than the movie business, television responds and reacts to the whims and desires of the viewing public. And like the variety that marks the American populace there are a variety of television shows, one of which is perfect for you.
This defies the imagination. Bush is threatening to veto (his first veto ever) the recently passed anti-tortue bill.


Apparently God is giving foreign policy advice to the President.


"We are being propelled into this new century with no plan, no control, no brakes." -Bill Joy

Ray Kurzweil is on a speaking tour promoting his new book The Singularity Is Near. In it he describes a not too distant reality where human and machine traits will blend, "a destiny we have come to refer to as the Singularity."

"The Singularity" argues that technology is a continuation of the life-improvement process commonly called evolution. DNA created biological life forms. Biological life forms advanced over eons and developed Homo sapiens. Their big brains and opposing thumbs and forefingers made them adept toolmakers. Today their cutting-edge tools -- computers, software, gene-splicing techniques and nanotechnology -- are poised for integration with human biological systems to evolve a hybrid life form.

Near term advancements like respirocytes, artificial hyper-oxygenated red blood cells, powerful computers that will seamlessly augment our ability to think (which as Kurzweil reminds us is nothing more than pattern recognition), and nanotechnologies which might be applied to the most basic of human functions.

Kurzweil welcomes this future but understands that the potential for abuse exist and admonishes that research be conducted in an open and vigorous environment.

Others are concerned about the Singularity movement. Bill McKibben 2003's book Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age. McKibben is an modern day proponent of Ghandhi's adage; "There is more to life than increasing its speed"

McKibben laments "satisfaction inflation" or the idea that the greater the capabilities of the individual the greater the challenge required to fulfill him. "What actually makes people happy is full engagement," McKibben said. "You are most alive when working at the limit of your abilities."


There is no more fundamental axiom of American freedom than the familiar statement: In a free country we punish men for crimes they commit but never for the opinions they have. - Harry S. Truman

It began as an off-the-cuff response to a caller on his radio show and has turned into a Rorschach test for political pundits, Washington watchers, and black and white America. Bill Bennett responding to the suggestion that if abortion had been illegal Social Security would be more solvent offered an argumentum ad absurdum:

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

The reference to Freakonomics, of course, refers to Steven Levitt's controversial, but as of yet irrefuted, research that shows a correlation between the legalization of abortion and a nationwide decrease in crime. Levitt, commenting publicly on the controversy, clarifies that he draws no significant connection between race and crime (as related to the abortion debate) and further explains:

It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide.

Bennett is clearly opposed to abortion and isn't advocating the abortion of blacks, but the question for some observers is why he reflexively inserted race into a discussion about crime. Many blacks fret that much of America has an atavistic reaction to blacks in general and black men specifically. One that equates blackness with crime or crime with blackness. Others argue this is because (Levitt's findings notwithstanding) blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crime in America, so it's not only understandable, but appropriate to ponder the relationship of race to crime.

What is apparent is that Bennett's comments once again demonstrates the risks of voicing controversial ideas. Bennett believes the controversy is driven by "a campaign making hay of my remarks and taking them out of context and totally reversing my obvious meaning". Some suggest that Bennett's "mistake" was publically proclaiming what many others privately believe.
An ad from Boeing claims their new chopper "descends from the heavens. Ironically it unleashes hell". Folks are not amused.
The FBI sometimes taps the wrong phones during Patriot Act-enabled terrorism investigations. That's comforting to know.
Steven Levitt weighs in on the Bill Bennett/abortion controversy. He pretty much nails it on the head I believe. Essentially Bennett was speaking off the top of his head (always a risky proposition) but reflexively going to race demonstrates a bias that is unsubstantiated by Levitt's research.

And Bennett's tepid defense is here. Along with a fisking of his comments.