Who really cares

On the way to work the other day in San Francisco, I walked past a parking place that had a sign saying the lot was under new management, and the new folks are “passionate about parking.” I had a cup of coffee in one hand and my briefcase in the other, so I didn’t take a picture. But when I got to work I did a web search and found out that indeed there is an outfit, one Pacific Park Management, that declares itself passionate about parking, and it manages the 7th and Harrison lot I’d just walked past.

Does their passion make me more likely to park there? If parking really is the thing they not only do, but obsessively think about, and are proud of that, should it? And why do they bother? It’s so hard to park south of Market, they can’t really need a declaration of passion, or indeed anything beyond the most minimal effort—open the gate, swipe the cards, one after the other—to fill the lot from the minute it’s open until whenever they feel like closing it.

Or perhaps this passion is one they declare to win over the various whoevers who own the various lots they manage—if you’re going to lease out a lot to someone and everyone’s offering the same for it, why not go with the passionate bidder, even if that weirds you out a bit? Or perhaps, as I suspect is the case with many people who use “passion” in a context decidedly non-passionate, in the traditional sense—that is, to declare, oddly, to me, anyway, how much they love their work—the Pacific folks are engaged in equal parts marketing to others and marketing to themselves, convincing both, they hope, that whatever they do is indeed, ultimately, an exercise in self-actualization, and the better for it, for all concerned. I do wonder.

Not all artists are bohemians /
not all bohemians are artists

What exactly is a “bohemian” environment? Many of us love the idea of living in such a place, and indeed make decisions about where to live based on an assessment of which place is the most bohemian, in the sense of most accepting of the widest possible variety of work and lifestyle choices. But the received definition of “bohemian” – and the one, disappointingly, accepted by urbanism maven Richard Florida – equates bohemianness with working in “the arts.” Certainly artistic activity is an important component of any bohemian culture, but hardly all artists are bohemians, particularly professional artists – including, notably, those who once counted as bohemians but whose mold-breaking has become a style or an affected life-tic. So, as Daniel Silver notes, contra RF, it’s not in LA and Nashville – filled with professional artists – that we should look for bohemia, and it’s not at what certain people do for a living, but at how the bulk of people, in a particularly area, live, all the time. Where, though, do we find his “concentrations of [certain specific] expressive practices?” He leaves the elaboration for another post, which I look forward to reading.

What Papua New Guinea is good at…

…or at least, has the most of, per capita. Same info available for every other country too, in the full-size, lightly interactive map at this link. Be sure to click through if you, like me, need another argument to convince your wife that the whole family, little kids included, should move to Montevideo.

In which Peter Stevenson is (briefly)
Gay Talese, and Christopher Walken
is Frank Sinatra

For me, the best non-fiction writing is the stuff that leaves you wondering, is the writer really that good, or the subject just so interesting, that anyone could write well about it? A case in point – and an indication that however by-the-(boring)-book its fiction, and political pieces, might be, the New Yorker is still worth reading – is Peter Stevenson’s account of his brief jaunt through Astoria with Christopher Walken.

Fantasy camp

According to Snopes, early on in his effort to turn Cuba into his personal fantasy camp, Fidel Castro created a more obvious predecessor of the US institution of the same name:

Cubans know that Fidel Castro was no ballplayer, though he dressed himself in the uniform of a spurious, tongue-in-cheek team called Barbudos (Bearded Ones) after he came to power in 1959 and played a few exhibition games. There was no doubt then about his making any team in Cuba. Given a whole country to toy with, Fidel Castro realized the dream of most middle-aged Cuban men by pulling on a uniform and “playing” a few innings.

More at the link above. I await photos of Hitler pole-vaulting in the 1936 Olympic trials, Stalin nailing a goal from the offside line, and Moctezuma dunking at the buzzer, at the end of a hard-fought game of tachli.

(Via the matchless Kottke)