Tag Archives: future

Walt Disney, Stephen Miller and the Future of Jersey City

2 Nov

Buildings … are not discrete objects. They are building blocks of a democratic society. W. H. Auden once proposed that a civilization could be judged by “the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity attained.” In the spirit of service, architecture can contribute to both. Without the spirit of service, architecture can be a highly destructive force.

– Herbert Muschamp, Visions of Utopia

No doubt you are familiar with Walt Disney, the guy who made cartoons and nature documentaries, created the world’s first theme park, and gave his name to what is now the world’s largest entertainment company. But it’s been years since Disney himself appeared in the media – he died in 1966 – and his life story isn’t well-known, though there must be at least a dozen biographies of him (I’ve read four of them).

But what does Uncle Walt have to do with Stephen Miller and what do either of them have to do with the future of Jersey City?

And, by the way, WHO is Stephen Miller?

I don’t know how many laser cutters there are in Jersey City – 10, 20, 100, 763? I have no idea – but one of them is in his atelier off Harrison Street between Monticello and Bergen.

What’s a laser cutter?

It’s a high tech device used for cutting materials such as wood, plastic, leather, metal perhaps.

And what the h___ is an atelier?

It’s a workshop and design studio.

OK, gotcha, but what does that have to do with Walt Disney and what do they have to do with the future of Jersey City?

Let’s start with Walt Disney. Disney was an entertainer; he made movies and went on to build a theme park. Miller is an entertainer too, though of a different kind. He’s musician and a very good MC – he tells me he used to front a band. And he’s a slammin’ djembe player.

And I know a little about djembe players. When I lived in upstate New York I performed with Eddie “Ade” Knowles, a percussionist who toured as a percussionist with Gil Scott-Heron early in his career. I hear and feel the same power and nuance in Miller’s djembe playing that Ade has in his.

OK, so he’s an entertainer, there are lots of entertainers in the world…

Just cool your jets. Don’t go getting testy on me. I’m gettin’ there.

Take a look at this video (embedded below). It’s a promotional video that Disney prepared for Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) and it shows a small city that’s very different from and far more interesting than what the Disney Company eventually built in central Florida.

Continue reading

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Jersey City Future: the Twilight Zone

25 Oct

I’ve been feeling that there’s something afoot in Jersey City, but I don’t know quite what. For example, here’s an empty block in Lafayette as it was two years ago (August 10, 2011):

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Here’s the same block earlier this year (September 14, 2013):

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Quite a difference.

Two years ago the block was deserted and derelict. This year it’s blooming with plants, art, and people.

What’s Going On?

In the small, that’s easy. Liz Perry and UMMI (Unified Mothers & Men Initiative) got the lot into Jersey City’s Adopt A Lot program in 2012. That summer a few people put plots into the lot and grew some stuff. The lot looked a bit better, but still rather thin.

This summer, UMMI’s Living Village Community Garden really took off. The City fenced it off, more people took plots, and the artists, poets, musicians, and other creatives moved in, the children, too. The garden won a prize for Seed Sowing, and the seeds are just plant seeds. We’re talking about life and friendship and getting along and getting up in the neighborhood.

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That’s one neighborhood, and I could name a lot more people here.

But I’ve got the impression that this sort of thing is jumping off all over the city. The most obvious indicator is all the street art. Some of that is City funded, but most is not. There seem to be a lot of Liz Perrys in Jersey City, a lot of UMMIs, and they’re building neighborhoods.

What’s driving that?

My first theory is that it’s the recent election. A young upstart, Steve Fulop, defeated a two-term incumbent, Jerramiah Healy. It’s not simply that Healy was a two-termer, but he was a member of the Democratic machine that’s run Jersey City for a half to three-quarters of a century. Continue reading

Will there be water for his children?

24 Aug

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Peak Intel: How So-Called Strategic Intelligence Actually Makes Us Dumber – Eric Garland – International – The Atlantic

5 Apr

Too much power is in the hands to too few organization. More and more, competitive markets are fictions. When the whole world becomes Too Big Too Fail, it surely will, catastrophically and in one big long cascade to the botoom.

Thus, what use is the old model of competitive analysis if you are looking at markets in Greece right now? Which would have more impact on a given market: the clever, innovative actions of a CEO in Athens, or the politics within the European Central Bank? And how about analyzing the future of the housing market in the United States? Are you going to examine how much people are able to pay for accommodations and the level of housing stocks available in given cities, or shall you look at the desires of central bankers and Congressional policy-makers able to start new financing programs to end up with a desired outcome? How can you use classical competitive analysis to examine the future of markets when the relationships between firms and government agencies are so incestuous and the choices of consumers so severely limited by industrial consolidation?

There is no good way to reliably predict the future in these markets anymore, except maybe by being privy to the desires of an ever-decreasing number of centrally connected power players. Companies still need guidance, but if rational analysis is nearly impossible, is it any wonder that executives are asking for less of it? What they are asking for is something, well, less productive.

Denial is the strategy of choice in the executive suite:

One senior executive shut down a half-day event about future trends within the first ten minutes after a slide warning about “global aging populations” came up. The silver-haired alpha dog not only refused to discuss the fact that their average customer was near the age of social security and getting ready to leave active economic life, he asserted that Baby Boomers are not in fact aging, that “60 is the new 40,” that all future strategic problems will be solved by “getting our numbers up,” and that nobody in the company was to mention aging populations ever again.

Government too: Continue reading

Moscow Protests Continue Week Before Russians Vote on Putin – NYTimes.com

26 Feb

Are these Russinas setting  an example for Americans? Do they care about their government’s future more than we care about ours?

The Kremlin has been shaken by the recent emergence of the protest movement among middle-class Muscovites, who only a few months ago were considered to be largely politically indifferent. But tens of thousands have braved subzero temperatures, occasional arrests and the loss of weekend shopping time to attend boisterous protests against Mr. Putin’s rule.

On Sunday, amid slush-clogged streets and a steady snow, a carnival atmosphere prevailed, with vendors handing out free hot tea and pancakes to mark the last day before the beginning of Orthodox Lent.

via Moscow Protests Continue Week Before Russians Vote on Putin – NYTimes.com.

Predicting the Future, NOT

5 Apr

Back in the mid-1960s, Dan Gardner reports, Olaf Helmer directed a group of RAND Corporation experts in forecasting the state of this that and the other in the year 2000, which is now well behind us. The following were deemed “very probable”:

Controlled thermonuclear power [fusion power] will be economically competitive with other sources of power.

It will be possible to control the weather regionally to a large extent.

Ocean mining on a large scale will be in progress.

Artificial life will have been created in a test tube.

Immunization against all bacterial and viral diseases will be available.

Highly intelligent machines will exist that will act as effective collaborators of scientists and engineers.

I don’t know about life in a test tube, but, by my lights, none of the others have come to pass. What’s the chance that we can predict the effects of producing more nuclear power plants, more waste, etc.?