December 9th, 2005


Five years ago yesterday

I am reminded by various posts on blogs I read regularly that John Lennon and my father share the same date of death, which is pretty much all they had in common. It's for sure I miss my father more than I do John Lennon.

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And now a few words about smart growth

I'm agin' it, which should be no surprise to anyone; the whole movement smacks of the "we know what's best for you" elitism endemic in what's left of the Democratic party - and, unfortunately, in far too much of the GOP as well.

Fresh ammunition for my grumpy opposition to "anti-sprawl activists" is provided by Robert Bruegmann's Sprawl: A Compact History, nicely reviewed by the Blogfather himself. Bruegmann's main point is that sprawl, like so many other things, was always practiced by those who could afford it, and only started to become a problem when the common folks started doing it. Reynolds goes on to highlight the author's points that spawl is neither uniquely American nor necessarily bad for the environment.

As it happens, though, the TCS column gave rise to a post by Jim Bennett at Albion's Seedlings which provides an interesting illumination of a minor point: the song "Ticky Tacky Houses", which some of you may remember from your encounters with folk music, was an early shot in the smart growth Kulturkampf - and the people behind the song are probably not the kind of folks the modern activists would care to be associated with*...then again, Hubert Humphrey and his legacy have both been dead for years, and DFL activists show no shame when wearing their chic Che Guevara T-shirts these days.

The last word (well, probably not, given that this is the blogosphere we're talking about) goes to Ed Driscoll, who quotes extensively from Bennett:
The specific houses in question were the multi-colored developments on the hills just south of San Francisco. I remember seeing them on my first trip to that area and thinking them charming. Eventually I learned that they were the "ticky-tacky" in question. It's a sort of reverse Marie Antionette --- criticising the peasants for eating cake when they could have had nice Soviet-style high-rise concrete block apartments instead.
and asks mordantly:
And that certainly worked out just swell for all concerned, huh?

Indeed, as Professor Reynolds might say. ^^
Don't miss the late addition to Driscoll's post, an e-mail from a reader who was lucky enough to grab one of those "ticky-tacky houses" in the south end of San Francisco ten years ago. Heh.

*I knew there was a reason I thought most folk music sucked.

What I read on my winter vacation

To say nothing of before and after said vacation.

Rivers of Gold, by Hugh Thomas, is a brief (sic) history of the Spanish conquest of the New World. Unfortunately it stops shortly after the conquest of Mexico, since it only covers the first thirty years of Spain's history in America, and takes 700 pages to get there. Paul Kennedy is right in describing this book as " old-fashioned, almost self-indulgent narrative, and thus rich in its descriptions of characters, events and landscapes." Personally, I thought Thomas spent far too much time on the domestic politics of Spain and the accession of Carlos V to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire, to say nothing of dozens of minor characters, but the book does give a quite detailed picture of how and why Spain rose from fractured obscurity to command a vast empire. Good, probably not worth buying if you already own Morison's European Discovery of America: The Southern Voyages. (Which, as a matter of fact, I do.)
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