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Xana Huerta
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Undersecretary of Herding Cats, Dean of Youth Education & Marchioness of Sugar Cane Distillates
Undersecretary of Herding Cats, Dean of Youth Education & Marchioness of Sugar Cane Distillates

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My own work, originally published on TwoHeadedCat - 07-07-2003

[title] City of Dreams

I have this fantasy about what the LA basin will look like in the future. Not that I consider any of it remotely possible, but it warms my heart on cold nights. Its based on the near complete destruction and rebuilding of the city – not to mention a severe population check.. Come with me to a Los Angeles that we may never see.

It’s a beautiful city, filled with classic Art Deco high rises, Victorian and Craftsman bungalows and dotted with Spanish and Mediterranean architecture. It also has some new settlements, built with simple sweeping lines – replete with eco friendly materials. And here and there are some funky, creative structures that rise out of the rubble, built with found objects.

The landscape rolls out across valleys and hills, a myriad of brown and green, with crumbling edifices of cement – monuments to a sprawl that once was. Cutting through the land, to the east of what was once downtown, is the Los Angeles river. (Yes, we have a river.) It is no longer bound by concrete. Instead, it flows at a leisurely pace, feeding the willows on the banks and edged in parkland. In some places the river slows to a trickle and disappears underground. But if you follow the dry riverbed about a mile or so, the water comes up in marshland and once again flows as a recognizable waterway. It looks a lot like it was when William Mullholland found it.1

Standing at the base of Griffith Park, across the water from Burbank, I can see a train shooting by on raised tracks. The Los Angeles Pacific Electric Railway rides again.2 Along the routes that used to be eight lane freeways, there are now trains, bike paths bordered by trees and a two lane highway for private electric cars making long trips.

To get around, now, there is a network of high speed trains, trolley cars and shared vehicles. Most people walk or bike to their destinations. Except for special occasions, they don’t need to go too far beyond their neighborhoods.

Say, for instance, I wanted to spend the day at Disneyland. (Of course Disneyland is still there sillies. It’s a common belief out here that a nuclear bomb could hit Los Angeles and those in the Mouse House would never notice.) I would get my friends together by posting a note in the living room of our co-housing community.3 And at the designated time, we would walk four blocks to the trolley and take that, to the San Gabriel Valley Bullet Train Terminal. Then we’d hop on the Southbound Five and get off at the happiest place on earth - simple, cheap, efficient and fun.

But what about the not fun occasions, you know, grocery shopping? Well, in this world, it is fun. On Market Day (think of a cross between a farmers market and a swap meet - for everyone within a five mile or so radius), we’d load the truck (Ethanol powered) with any goods for barter or sale. Or, on those days when there isn’t a whole truckload of stuff, you take the NEV4 cargo carrier downtown. The rest of the family would get there the usual way – public transportation.

The main thing about this utopic City of Angles, is the atmosphere. Everyone is friendly, courteous and crime is nearly non-existent. Oh, sure, you still have Hollywood, where the movie thing happens. The city where starlets are hot one night and the next nobody knows who they are doesn’t disappear. That whole you have to know someone to get somewhere is part of the magic of our Babylon. But, this mecca of plastic people doesn’t really touch the soul of the city – it never has, it never will.5

I know it’s a fantasy, the population halved, the river restored, people having the wherewithal and sense of community to build and live in a way that preserves the environment – idyllic, beautiful and peaceful. But, I can’t help hoping that I might be able to influence the little things and bring us closer to this dream. Who knows, we may avoid catastrophe yet.

1 – William Mullholland was the Chief Engineer and General Manager of the city owned Bureau of Water Works and Supply in the teens and twenties. He purported to love the river and yet, was in charge of the project that paved it over. The DWP website has a whole tribute to his masterpiece – the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
2 - The Los Angeles Pacific Company was one of the large interurban electric properties on the Pacific Coast. It operated between Los Angeles, Hollywood, Colegrove, Sherman, Sawtelle, Soldiers' Home, Port Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Ocean Park, Venice, Palms, Playa del Rey, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and intermediate stations in California. Think about the famous Red Car – one of the plot points in the Roger Rabbit movie.
3 – Cohousing is a fancy modern term for a commune; only instead of sharing everything, people have their own homes. The “co” comes into the common house, that has a large dining room, kitchen, lounges etc. Everyone shares in the chores and upkeep of the common area, has potlucks, baby-sits the rugrats and watches movies together.
4 – Neighborhood Electric Vehicle: A glorified golf cart. Take a look at the GEM for a really cute model.
5 – No. Really. I believe this with all my heart. I’ll explain another time.

My own work, originally published on TwoHeadedCat - 08-05-2002

[title] Do we rebuild with the bones of the dead?

Well, lets’ see. Now that I’m a regular columnist, I guess I should say a little hello. HELLO! and maybe let you in on a few things about me. Nah, you’ll find out about me as the column evolves. Hell, you’ll probably find out more than you really wanted to know.

But for starters, I will tell you that I have an interest in urban planning and architecture. It’s pretty much just a hobby. My inability to add two and two consistently makes being an actual architect too much work for me. But, I love looking at old houses and city plans and dreaming about what I would do with that space given half a chance. Which is actually the point of today’s little project.

Have you seen the new designs for the WTC? I have. There are six of them and they’re pretty much all the same. The only real differences seem to be the shape and use of the space over the footprints of the two towers. It’s boring; it’s office space, big whooptee. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of commercial towers anyway. I mean, let’s face it, big glass buildings are for the most part ugly and only serve to block out the sun.

One thing the planners did do right was plan a grand promenade. And they’ve lined it with hundreds of trees. One for each of the people lost in the tragedy. That, is beautiful. Life to celebrate those lives, which are now past. It gives something for people to enjoy. It’s been a while since I’ve been to New York, but like most cities, they can always use more trees.

Let us agree then, that the promenade is a good idea, but they need to redo the rest of it. I really think that rather than going with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s blah plans, they need to open it up to the people at large. Many an excellent large scale projects has benefited from open submissions.

Have you seen some of the projects out there on the web? Just regular folks making suggestions? Some of them are a bit over the top. Buildings that look like giant angels or giant American eagles and let’s not forget that classic five buildings meant to look like New York is giving the world the bird. While in some ways, that really works as an example of the New York state of mind, it’s really not such a good idea. Some of them are just plain dumb – rebuild the towers exactly as they were, that’ll show them! Then, there are some truly interesting ideas. Admittedly, I’m not sure they are structurally sound, but they look cool.

Laurence King (some random dude) has suggested rebuilding the towers up until the floors at which they were struck and then having the floors above that be nothing but a glass tower, a ghost of what once was. There is also a beautiful pair of deco buildings, a la Chrysler Building.

Part of the problem isn’t just uninspired design. It’s the fact that everyone wants a piece of the pie. It just isn’t that easy to argue the survivors families about wanting to build on the grave of their loved ones. Americans have a great attachment to visiting the remains of the dead.

I read a letter in the New York Times that addressed the memorial specifically. Christine Robertson (some random chica) suggested that the framework of the towers be rebuilt, but nothing be built in them. Two huge metal towers, ghosts of buildings that once were. Frankly, it’s disturbingly grim. The shell of a building that tall will lay some truly stark shadows across the plaza. And it seems to only be about death. It’s one thing to remember things which are horrible, but memorials should not make you cringe. Not like that. They should evoke emotion, not blast you with it.

Also in the gruesome department, is a plan by another random dude, Ben Gorman (must give blame where it belongs) presents an idea for blood on the towers. Not literal blood, figurative blood, symbolic blood – it’s really pretty gross. His design is two towers, just like the originals, only there are red architectural elements (think melting candle) that look like blood. Way to depress the people, Ben.

My suggestion is, I think, a simple one. In the footprint of one tower, make a reflecting pool. Make it from polished black stone so that it looks bottomless. When you look into it and can’t find the bottom, you should feel the empty, the void that comes about with the loss of life. When you look across it, at the reflections on the surface, you should see the sky and be awed by it’s vastness and beauty, be held by the wonder that is the world we live in.

In the footprint of the other tower make a water garden. Make it a maze. Not one that obscures vision, like the classic English shrub maze in Williamsburg. But, shape it with small rectangular pools, footbridges, shrubs and flower beds. Keep the plants no taller than ankle or knee high. Set benches about so people can sit an think. So they can mourn. So they can enjoy the beauty and listen to the water flow. Maybe even, make it one of those new-agey meditative labyrinth. Not in a way that would detract or distract those who simply want to sit, but as a means of allowing another way to find your personal peace.

Whatever is decided on, I think the memorial should evoke memory. It should evoke thought. It should give people a place to purge emotion and find peace in their hearts. But it should not serve martyrdom. It should not be a shout to the world, “Look how we’ve suffered.” The world is well aware. And many countries lost family in this tragedy.

The last thing it should be is a stone slab thrown down to appease the people, so the powers that be can build another commercial monstrosity undisturbed.

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This would be spectacular!

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I just got this email at work. I have verified it's veracity on Snopes.com. Boosting the signal.

Please read the below message from FEMA. On Wednesday, November 9, 2011, FEMA, DHS and FCC willconduct the first
national test of the Nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS). This
nationwide test will kick off at 2:00 p.m. (EST) and run concurrently across
all time zones.

This system test is the first of its kind designed to broadcast a nationwide
message to the American public. In the history of the country, nothinglike
it has been conducted on such a level. As you may be aware, there havebeen
tests in the past, but not of this magnitude encompassing all regions of the
Nation simultaneously. The three (3) minute test will run concurrently on
all radio and TV band stations exceeding the previous messages broadcast
which were anywhere from a 30 second to 1 minute message.

There is great concern in local police and emergency management circles
about undue public anxiety over this test. The test message on TV mightnot
indicate that it is just a test. Fear is that the lack of an explanation
regarding the message might create panic. Please share this information
with your family and friends so they are aware of the test.

Below is FEMAs website that will provide more information regarding this
test:

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OMG, this is the funniest thing. Can someone tell which movie the mice are from?

My google-fu is weak today. Do I have to have video to use Hangouts?
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