Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Another Beautiful Garage Mahal

Mini Mansion architecture keeps getting better!

Here's a lovely spread in Indiana. The design concept was "big," but to keep costs down, builders decided to brick only the front of the house. Why spend extra money bricking the sides? Let's just leave that a bright white aluminum siding! Your friends won't really notice!

The cost-cutting arctic white garage doors work fabulously with the red brick, no? You've got to park those 3 SUV's somewhere!

(In reality, the garage is actually full of Chinese-manufactured junk the kids don't play with anymore. And maybe an old refrigerator filled with Cokes.)

Despite a century of progress in Prairie architecture from guys like Frank Lloyd Wright, this sexy number takes its cues from Beacon Hill, circa 1776. With a big garage, of course. Thomas Paine would be proud!

I hope the buyers didn't sign an adjustable rate mortgage for this humble piece of architectural poetry...

That tree out front should be at least 10 feet tall by 2020!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Movie Review: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

I really, really wanted to like this movie.

Indiana Jones has been my favorite screen character since I was 12. Over the years, I've seen all the movies, read the novelizations, and subscribed to the comic books. I was thrilled when I heard "Indy 4" was finally in production!

Sadly, the movie has turned out to be a dud.

Whose fault is it? Not Harrison Ford's. He clearly worked like a dog to get himself in shape. He looks tremendous for a 65 year old man. But he's still A 65 year old man, and too old to be a credible action hero.

Is it Steven Spielberg's fault? I don't think so. He still directs with a simple, clear style. He stages some amazing action sequences, albeit it with some pretty flat looking CGI.

Is it Shia LaBeouf's fault? Not at all! I was afraid he'd be another Short Round, or Jar Jar Binks, but he actually injected some welcomed vigor into the film.

Is it screenwriter David Koepp's fault? Maybe a little. The storyline is jagged and clumsy, and there are too many non-essential characters strewn about. The dialogue isn't really funny or sharp, like Tom Stoppard's touch-up work on "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." But in his defense, it's pretty clear that he had to work with some difficult egos who weren't about to allow much creative freedom.

The biggest problem with this film is George Lucas. By most accounts, Lucas desperately wanted an aliens and UFOs plot. He rejected scripts that Spielberg and Ford loved until the project nearly died. All the while, Ford got older, and older and older.

Finally, the three were able to agree on a script with a somewhat tempered alien connection. But by now, Indy's age had to be dealt with. Sure, it makes for interesting pathos, but we didn't fall in love with "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for pathos!

Long stretches of the movie are tedious. There's a lot of walking around, a lot of chatter, and precious little suspense. There's loads of navel-gazing, giving the film a vibe that reminds you of a couple of drunk guys at their high school reunion: "Hey, anybody remember "American Graffiti?" Or "E.T.?" How about "Close Encounters?" It all seems calculated by Lucas and Spielberg to remind us how awesome they once were.

Lucas is clearly in a creative funk. The Star Wars prequels were abominable. I suspect he surrounds himself with synchophants eager to ride the gravy train, the same kinds of friends who didn't bother to tell Fat Elvis not to wear tight, shiny jumpsuits.

"Indy" was meant to be the blockbuster that kicked off the summer. Instead, it felt like the Last Day of the Last Summer of Your Childhood. I could sense the audience weren't getting lost in the action; we were getting lost in our own melancholy. We wanted Indy to make us feel like a kid again; instead, we got served up a big 'ole plate of lost youth.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Very Ironic American Tragedy

A wealthy white Christian musician adopts poor godless yellow baby from China.

How noble! Now she'll be raised in a big house with lots of "stuff."

But ironically, she'll be crushed to death in her own driveway by her big brother's SUV.

How incredibly tragic... how very American.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Pops" on Route 66

Cami and I finally made it over to Pops. It's quite a gas station! I'd describe it as post-modern kitsch. The architecture, by Rand Elliot, is clean and white. Sharp angles and thick tubular steel echo classic Googie architecture from the mid-20th century. The neatly arranged soda bottles in the window create a stained glass effect. This place elevates a gas station to a cathedral!

The pièce de résistance is the big soda bottle monument. It's fantastic!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mark Cuban on CEO Salaries

Here's an interesting tidbit:

• In 1965, U.S. CEOs in major companies earned 24 times more than an average (non-management) worker.
• In 1978, they earned 35 times more than an average worker.
• In 1989, 71 times more.
• By 2005, the average CEO was paid 262 times that of an average worker.

With salary discrepancies like this, it's no wonder the middle class in the United States shrinking. When the middle class shrinks, we all suffer. People stop buying cars, they stop buying houses and furniture, and the economy suffers. The CEOs are doing fine, though, don't worry about them.

Why have we seen such a shift in 40 years? It's more complicated than I can understand, but I think the bottom line is this: our economy used to be based upon making things (manufacturing), it's now based on speculation (financial services). Google, a company not even 10 years old, is worth $585.00 a share. Coca-Cola, founded in 1886, and as healthy and strong as a corporation can be, is worth $57.00 a share. It's more important to have Wall Street hype than to be financially sound.

This hyper-speculative environment led to the debacle of the 1990's, the current mortgage lending crisis, and will ultimately lead to the next Great Depression. No one will be able to stop it; anyone daring to suggest CEO pay is based on smoke and mirrors will be labeled un-American, a Marxist even.

Mark Cuban explains the situation, and tells us how to fix it. Read his take here.