Best (Urban) Articles from The New Yorker

[New Yorker covers love bikes.]
About two years back, my father got me a gift subscription to The New Yorker. I've been relatively diligent about keeping up on it, believe it or not.

Now that the magazine has opened all its articles to the public to read for free (for a short period), I thought I'd share some of my favorite bits that are vaguely interesting if you're interested in cities.

These are all the ones that jump out at me, and what I remember about them without going back and looking at them again.

[In chronological order.]

David Owen, Why Purell is Everywhere 3/4/2013

I guess it answers a question.

David Owen, Watch Where You Step in Florida 3/18/2013

All about Florida sinkholes, which are common there because of the unique geology. This story has some amazing details of all kinds of things coming up out of the ground! Worth a read if you're interested in Floridian eschatology, as I am.

William Finnegan, The Miner's Daughter 3/28/13

Long profile of an incredibly wealthy and secretive Australian mining heiress and magnate. You wonder where copper comes from?

Sean Wilsey, Open Water 4/22/13

Amazing true memoir of a guy who worked as a Venetian gonodlier. It has islands and gondolier codes and stuff. So cool.

Jennie Erin Smith, A State of Nature  4/22/13

OK, so there's this one tiny bit between Panama and Colombia where the roads in either direction don't go. It's kind of amazing that there's this gap. Read all about it. It sounds wild.

Douglas Preston, The El Dorado Machine 5/6/2013

History of people searching for "lost cities" in Central America. Very Indiana Jones. Great read.

Tad Friend, Crowded House 5/27/2013

This is a funny story about people trying a mythical great apartment in New York City that a scammer keeps promising people but never delivers on. It reads kinda like a Seinfeld episode, involving the apartment being rented out to multiple people at the same time.

Larissa MacFarquar,  Last Call 6/24/13

Story of a Japanese Buddhist monk who specializes in talking to people who are about to kill themselves, which is a big thing in Japan. Poignant and illustrates something about our / Japan's individualized culture.

John McPhee, The Orange Trapper 7/1/2013

Great short memoir about a life long hobby collecting golf balls outside golf courses. Very well written and interesting to think about fences and edges and golf.

Calvin Tompkins, Ed Ruscha's L.A. 7/1/2013

A short bio piece about a famous L.A. artist, talks a lot about L.A. in the 70s and 80s and the state of the art scene. Ruscha is the one responsible for this hilarious painting...

John Seabrook, The Beach Builders 7/22/2013

About how much work it takes to rebuild the beaches destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and whether we should even be rebuilding those towns any more. Kind of wistful look at Jersey shore towns.

Julian Rubinstein, Operation Easter 7/22/2013

This one was literally unbelievable. There are people who spend their lives stealing the eggs of endangered birds in the U.K. So wrong! So strange.

Sarah Stilman, Taken 8/12/2013

Civil forfeiture is when police take your stuff when they pull you over. It's straight up extortion and happens all the time in the South. Heartbreaking piece.

Ian Frazier, Walking Normally: The Facts 9/9/2013

The funniest thing on this list. Trust me, you're gonna laugh your ass off.

Rachel Aviv, The Imperial Presidency 9/9/2013

Article about the controversial president of NYU, who has been buying up swaths of Manhattan and opening up a branch in Dubai.

Andrew Marantz, The Unreality Star 9/16/2013

OK I didn't actually read this one, but it looks good about surveillance culture and paranoia.

Calvin Tompkins, A Sense of Place 9/23/2013

If you're into architecture, this is about the guy who did the African American museum in D.C.

Josh Eells, Night Club Royale 9/30/2013

Apparently there's a huge electronic dance music (EDM) scene in Las Vegas now, which is the only think keeping that city from blowing away in the wind. 

Akash Kapur, Rush 10/14/2013

Fascinating story about a big highway being built through a tiny village in India. A lot changes! Learn about roads in India.

Ian Frazier, Bus Ride 4/14/2014

The most dangerous bus in New York is the B46, which Frazier rides from end to end. The quotes from the bus driver are amazing.

Burkhard Bilger, Auto Correct 11/25/2013

Short bit about the Google robo-car.

Calvin Trillin, Mozarella Story 12/2/2013

Lovely ode to an old store in Little Italy that sold handmade mozzarella for like forever. Really well written, of course.

Ian Johnson, In The Air 12/2/2013

Air pollution in China is amazing. Seriously crazy what their cities are like.

Emily Eakin, The Civilization Kit 12/23/2013

Guy in Missouri that is trying to build his own tractor (and all other machines) from scratch.

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Red Light 1/27/2014

All about traffic jam politics and Chris Christie. Pretty hard to believe that New Jersey politics revolves around traffic jams, but it does.

John Colapinto, The Real-Estate Artist 1/20/2014

Artist who is attempting to revive a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, one of the country's largest and poorest black ghettos. Really interesting if you're into Chicago.

Dana Goodyear, Death Dust 1/20/2014

About a plague of crazy disease-inducing dust in California's central valley, another incredibly poor part of the country. Really depressing and mysterious.

Paige Williams, Drop Dead, Detroit! 1/27/2014

Bio piece on this one right-wing asshole who has been in charge of the burbs north of Detroit for years, and made his living cordoning off the white suburbs from the black city. I didn't know this history, but it explains a lot.

Jon Lee Anderson, The Comandante's Canal 3/10/2014

The president of Nicaragua is trying to build a second canal and the Chinese are helping. Incredible, really.

Evan Osnos, Chemical Valley 4/7/2014

Another really poor place, West Virginia, and how deeply rooted the chemical industry is there. it's so hard to imagine people drinking the water and taking showers during the chemical spill, and the government doing nothing about it.

Ian Frazier, Blue Bloods 4/14/2014

Unbelievable stuff about horseshoe crabs. I didn't know anything about horseshoe crabs, which live in on Long Island. I guess I really like Ian Frazier.

Sarah Payne Stuart, Pilgrim Mothers 5/5/2014

A nice memoir about living in Concord, MA, and how strange the old puritan culture is there.

Dale Russakoff, Schooled 5/19/2014

Long and interesting history of school reform in Newark involving Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg. Really. Reforming schools seems almost impossible.

Sarah Stillman, Get Out of Jail Inc. 6/23/2014

For profit work programs is when courts take your money for life when you don't pay parking tickets. It's straight up extortion and happens all the time in the South. Heartbreaking piece.



Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #95

The confrontation under the interstate overpass...

... from the finest capoeira / inner city schools film of the 90s, Shelon Lettich's (1993) Only The Strong.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #94

Pee Wee doesn't sell Francis his bike even though it's his birthday...

... in Tim Burton's (1985) Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #93

A clandestine Miss Piggy gets harassed by some New York City construction workers...

... and goes to town on some scaffolding, in Frank Oz's (1984) Muppets Take Manhattan.


Reading the Highland Villager #110

[A Villager watches for vandals.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]

Headline: City confronts mess that Mississippi left behind; As floodwaters recede, St. Paul assesses damage
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The river flooded, but went back down. Silt must be removed and buildings cleaned. A loose giant clamshell was recovered.

Headline: New streetlights, sidewalks are in store for Village; Other amenities will have to wait for more financing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: They're installing new sidewalks at Ford and Cleveland at great expense. "The worst planters have already been removed." [Darwinian!] The new pavers will be designed to not pop out of the sidewalk. [Makes sense, but seems unexciting.] "Black ice" was planned, but proved be too pricey. [Hm.] Bike racks are planned but not funded. [Sounds about right for Saint Paul!] They're going to remove the message board on the corner because "it is a target for vandals."

Headline: TIF plan paves way for redeveloping St. Paul Post Office; Custom House apartments, hotel planned for 17-story building on Kellogg Blvd.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The old post office is going to become apartments, stores, and a hotel. The city is paying $5M. There is some "contamination cleanup" involved. [What is the source of the contamination? Decades worth of junk mail?] "Some bathrooms have the original 1930s-era plumbing fixtures." They're going to have to add another doorway somewhere, but the sidewalks are really narrow. [Maybe expand the sidewalks!]

Headline: Residents review Shepard-Davern rezoning; They support efforts to attract stores, allow Sibley Plaza remodel
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting about a new plan for a [extremely auto-oriented] part of westernmost West 7th street.  People like the idea of mixed-use zoning, but the large strip mall poses a problem. Some people are worried about losing "drive-thru service" and parking in front of the building. Everyone agrees that the current strip mall is ugly.

Headline: Pawn America plans major renovation
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The pawn shop on University Avenue will get a new entrance and a new parking lot. [Wow! First the Culvers, then the Goodwill, and now this! University Avenue is on the move! Next stop, Saint Cloud.] "The decorative red pyramid above the roof will be removed." [Where is the HPC when you really need them!?]

Headline: STAR board favors several local projects
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A coffee shop, two theaters, and an old folks home will get some money for improvements. Other stuff too, like the West 7th taproom and the Asian night market. Just not the young person's circus.

Headline: Proposed Davern Hill sidewalk is now in hands of City Council
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A place in Saint Paul that has no sidewalk but really needs a sidewalk might finally get a sidewalk despite the HPC's opinion that a sidewalk would "detract from the historical appearance" of a house there. Maybe not though.

Headline: TIF change to help finance renovation of Spruce Tree
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [The city's 4th ugliest] building is on the last year of receiving city money for renovation and expansion. The existing Spruce Tree TIF district dates to 1987 [and was one of the key forces behind Saint Paul's "great Applebee's revitalization" of the 1990s].

Headline: St. Paul City Council to review streetcar recommendations
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council will vote on a plan to study streetcars. "Questions have been raised." [They approved it unanimously. It's almost like they don't read the Villager?]

Headline: Primrose introduces plan for Dayton Avenue day care
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A day care center might open near Snelby. But traffic!

Headline: Bond issues OK'd for projects in Highland Park and West End
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some city bonding process thingy is happening for expanding a treatment center and an old folks home, but apparently it won't cost anything.

Headline: Getten Credit asks City Council to allow new office on Bayard
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An odd quasi-bank is still trying to re-open somewhere.

Headline: City sells vacant Summit-U lots for the moving to two homes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two houses are being moved to places without houses.

Headline: New name in the works for library-rec center complex
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: "Hillcrest" is out. [How about "Center for Village People? Or "Highland Village Parking Lot and Village Library"?]

Headline: St. Paul proposes better lighting, sidewalks, more for tiny Iris Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A small [overlooked] park might be improved someday. "The area has a very high demand for on-street parking." There's a study, including crosswalks, speed tables [great idea!], and lights and more access for people with disabilities. [They might also try putting water in the fountain?]

Headline: Full steam ahead for Hamline station; 108 new apartments to rise on former Midway Chev site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An affordable housing project is costing more than they thought.

Headline: Midway Walgreens corners new store; Move is part of larger plan to redevelop Midway Center
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The old bank on the corner of Snelling and University [and across the intersection from the horrible CVS building] will maybe become a Walgreen's. [No doubt with a huge parking lot and few or fake windows and only one story. Good job Saint Paul! Now if only we had a really nice pawn shop...]