I Will Say The Bus Looks Neat Though


I’m running late on stuff this week. I always am, which raises questions about the use of “late” as a concept. Never mind. For this week I blame that I got to reading an article about the 70s Disaster Movie genre. And that lead me to the 1976 spoof of the 70s Disaster Movie genre, The Big Bus. There’s many shocking things about this, starting with the idea that 70s Disaster Movies were somehow not already their parodies. The difference between The Towering Inferno and SCTV’s spoof of The Towering Inferno is mostly that the SCTV version opens with fewer scenes of the violently 1970s lobby of the doomed building. I mean, the Towering Inferno lobby looks great in a 1974 way. It’s only hard to watch because of thinking how it would look if it were a real building. I can’t see it without imaginaing what soul-destroying monstrosity it would have decayed by 1988, before its mid-90s renovation into something too lacking in personality even to be ugly.

Also startling: I remember nothing of this movie (The Big Bus) even though it seems like it should have been filling space whenever channels needed to have a movie throughout the early 80s. Yes, yes, Airplane! seems to have been as much spoof as the whole 70s Disaster Movie genre ever needed, in case we were taking it seriously, but between Airplane! and Airplane II! that’s only like four hours of programming. Even the rudimentary cable channels of the 80s needed as much as six hours before going over to “weird foreign cartoons” and “public domain Three Stooges shorts”.

Wikipedia describes the movie in fascinating detail. The plot summary makes it sound like the movie was trying about three times too hard and on all the wrong subjects. It comes out sounding whimsical in the way a gigantic iron woolly mammoth in a potato sack race across a field strewn with creme pies is: my metaphor is trying way too hard to cram in funny-flavored stuff.

Also, per Wikipedia: look at that movie poster. That’s your classic style, the kind of poster they don’t make anymore. Back then, movies were still mysterious things and we audiences just wouldn’t go to it if we didn’t have some proof that there were actors in the movie, as demonstrated by passport photos or, better, caricatured illustrations of the principal actors. Today movie poster style has moved on to showing abstract patterns of shadow and light, possibly featuring ruins where the villain blew up the plot. And that’s fine and stylish as far as it goes, but then you get surprises like last year where Star Trek Beyond turned out to be 105 minutes of kaleidoscope patterns and then a four-minute scene of Spock and McCoy trash-talking each other. Not saying it wasn’t good. I’m saying, back in the day, we’d get a big old grid of Actor Face staring out at us.

Then where I get permanently hung up by the Wikipedia article is in the sections about the movie’s production. Specifically this:

According to articles in 1976 issues of both Motor Trend magazine and the now defunct Bus World magazine

I’m sorry, I can’t finish that sentence or anything else, really. I’m assuming that Bus World was a trade publication for the large-person-road-transport industry. But it would be only eight percent stranger if it weren’t. What if it was a fan magazine? Don’t tell me there aren’t bus fans. There are fans of everything, including fandoms. What kind of journal was Bus World, though?

The difference between a trade journal and a fan magazine is in how they spin the articles. The point of a fan magazine is to follow up every bit of news with the question, “Will the industry ever manage to be more awesome than this?” The answer is, “No way, but we’re looking forward to them trying”. The point of a trade journal is to follow up every bit of news with the question, “Will the industry be able to recover from this?”. The answer is, “Conceivably, but likely not”. I don’t know that there are fan magazines for trade journals, but I hope there are. Also I hope there are trade journals for the fan magazine business, because the politics involved in everything would be awesome.

What do I hope the reality of the now-defunct Bus World was? I don’t know, and I’m too busy pondering that.

In short: Bus World.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped another five points today which we’re willing to blame on that Access World/London Metals Exchange/zinc warehousing scandal. It’s probably good for another couple of points off the Another Blog, Meanwhile index. Just you wait and see.

116

Service With A Smile


I forget what exactly got me looking up the “Matawan-style” Texaco gas stations of the 60s, although it’s probably a sense of home patriotism. I grew up not far from Matawan, New Jersey, famous for … being the namesake of this one kind of Texaco gas station. Also for two of the shark attacks of 1916. Anyway I wasn’t sure what made something a Matawan-style Texaco gas station of the 60s as opposed to, say, a Manalapan Texaco or a Manahawkin Texaco. There’s a lot of places in New Jersey with names that sound kind of alike, because we paid the Leni Lenape three thousand dollars back in like 1804 to go away and leave their places behind and stop making us feel guilty about it, and this is what we’ve got.

Anyway, the Matawan-style Texaco design question led me on an Internet voyage that revealed, wonderfully, there are enthusiasts of different gas station design who gather in communities that talk about, say, spotting where a Matawan-style station got mutilated but was still identifiable in Benton Harbor, Michigan. And then sometimes interrupt to explain how the Teague was a more versatile design anyway. And all this stuff about gas station architecture fandom has me feeling like the world might just be a good idea despite it all.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped four points today on revelations that Automan came out on DVD last year and we’re only hearing about this now? By accident? What did you think we were paying you for, Miss Tessmacher?

99

Local Architecture Critic Derides Seasons, Nature


I’m sorry to get to this late, but other stuff kept coming up. Remember the architecture critic for the local alt-weekly? The one who took his mandate to ridicule shabby and run-down buildings around town as a chance to explain how ugh but the vertically oriented windows do not work with the lines of the house? He’s still at it.

In a recent issue he named the Eyesore of the Week — “our look at some of the seedier properties in Lansing” — to be Power Lines and Trees, found “everywhere”. He says:

With autumn in full flush, one’s eyes are naturally drawn upward to enjoy the resplendent colors of the season. Unfortunately, that view is diminished when the bright colors are pruned away to allow for the unrestricted distribution of utility lines.

So my headline here is a bit unfair since he isn’t actually decrying the natural progression of seasons. He’s more protesting that we have power lines. To be fair, the city was hit badly by an ice storm two winters ago that knocked out power for a lot of the area. Some homes were without electricity for up to 23 months and reverted, Flintstones style, to having their cell phones charged by trained pterodactyls on bicycles hooked up to generators. And underground power lines would have a harder time being knocked out by ice storms and falling branches. And then we wouldn’t have to trim branches so as to better knock out power lines during ice storms.

Anyway, the cover story of last week’s issue was Art Infusion: Public Art Is Popping Up Around Lansing, But Where Is It Coming From? The question suggests that city officials just patrol the streets each day, and occasionally run across some bright-orange pile of twisted metal girders, and phone the main office to report, “Yeah, looks like we got some new public art on Eight Street. No, don’t think it’s actively threatening. I did hear a rumor of a Dali-esque melted-clock installation at Cedar and Kalamazoo, going to check that next.”

Local Architecture Critic Running Farther Amok


I’ve mentioned the local alt-weekly’s architecture critic and how he’s drifted from the mission of uselessly attempting to shame absentee-owner slumlords. Last week’s issue continued that trend. He slammed a house for “unfortunate alterations and updates”. Among them, “the broad eaves that characterize the [Craftsman bungalow] style have been removed, leaving no overhang on the gable rakes” and that “the ashlar stone veneer selected for the exterior cladding [ … ] does not fit with this home’s original style.”

I’m told that back in the day the Eyesore of the Week critic would try to contact the absentee-owner slumlord of a place to be shamed, so that they could get a proper “no comment” about the house’s condition. The current guy doesn’t seem to be doing that. That’s a pity. I would like to know how the owners would respond to being warned the local alt-weekly was going to call them out for exterior cladding “more appropriate for postwar ranch homes”, and whether the silence would last for more than twenty seconds before the sad head-shaking and turning away from the critic.

Also, the classified ads don’t have the job listing for a Senior Physicist this week, so I guess they found someone they could work with. They do have a listing for a delivery person for Jersey Giant Subs, though, if you feel less like particle physics and more like giant sandwich delivery.

From The Dream Game Show


It was a thrilling-looking game show starting up in that dream. You could tell just from the introduction of the contestants. One was the returning champion, of course, and one was from a place I had lived. Seeing someone from somewhere you know is always thrilling for absolutely no good reason. And the final contestant was the collective of world-famous architecture by the renowned Hugo Gropius. And I’m sorry that I woke up at that point and couldn’t get the dream back because I was eager to see if it would figure into gameplay at all that there was no such renowned architect. I’d love to know whether it was actually the work of Walter Gropius or of Hugo Grotius. Certainly Gropius’s work would be a formidable contestant in any general-trivia quiz show. Meanwhile, Grotius’s work was more about establishing the foundations of international law and for freedom of the seas, but no body of architectural work of any note I’m aware of. Maybe I can catch the reveal in reruns.

Power Challenge of the Week


This week’s challenge: say some nice things about Brutalist architecture without it coming out sounding sarcastic. Here are some attempts.

  • “That one looks pretty inviting.”
  • “That actually makes a dramatic end to the green-roof part of campus.”
  • “I can see how the concrete fountain the plaza originally had would have balanced the composition.”
  • “Hey, that’s right, this side does look like a child’s harmonica.”
  • “It’s the way the entrance looms over people that makes gives the building character.”
  • “I would not have guessed this was built in 1975.”
  • “The patio area certainly doesn’t need plants.”
  • “It’s not until a winter storm that you appreciate those concrete pillars on the southern side.”
  • “It’s very effective in the way it overpowers the people walking around it.”

Also, Local Architecture Critic Running Amok


So in non-Momma news: our local alternate weekly has an Eyesore Of The Week column, one of those things you’re supposed to read for the vicious joy of watching some slumlord get called out on, like, how there’s been a garbage bin stuck through the front door for over three years now and it’s been on fire since November and nobody does anything about it. Oh, they excuse the column as a public service, shaming absentee owners into cleaning up their properties, but if they could be shamed they wouldn’t be absentee-owner slumlords.

Anyway, the paper hired a real proper experienced architectural critic, which has had weird effects, such as now sometimes what makes it the Eyesore of the Week is just that “the community college built it and it was 1973 and these things just happened like that back then and everybody involved is sorry”. And now the last one I read went on about a house where the major sins are — and I’m not deliberately exaggerating — that the aluminum siding pieces are too tall, and the upstairs window is horizontally divided rather than vertically.

And the critic didn’t content himself with the picture of the Eyesore, but called out some rendering software to show what the house would look like if the siding were replaced with narrower wooden siding and the upstairs window vertically divided. I guess it looks different and I’ll trust the architecture critic that it looks better, since that guy’s the critic and I just read the alternate weekly, but what I really noticed was that in the computer-generated image the neighboring houses are completely different. It suggests the problem is only a bit of detailing on the house, and that it instead ought to be in a different neighborhood, one with houses that take much less rendering time. This may be true, but I don’t see how it’s anything that the owner can do anything about.

From the Local News: Pole Barn Controversy Resolved!


The local news at noon had some great news for the top story: the pole barn controversy was settled! The controversy was, this company built a new research building too near a neighborhood full of people who complain about these things. We’re not talking about a hideous building, the kind that parents warn children to avert their eyes from, that collects awards from embittered architectural societies seeking vengeance, and which naturally accrues collections of modern art. This is more … think of every light industrial building you’ve ever passed that was too boring to notice. Have that in mind? No, because it’s too boring a building for you to even imagine noticing it. Even now you’re forgetting how I described it. But that’s what the whole controversy was about.

I don’t argue this wasn’t right for the top story in the local news, because it’s obviously local news-worthy, unlikely to get on the national Sunday morning talk shows where elderly white men complain how nobody’s LISTENING to them enough. Plus, if it wasn’t pole barn controversies they’d have to fill the program with traffic accidents and student housing fires unexplained but possibly linked to the fireworks they might have been setting off, just wanted to get that idea of students and fireworks out there even if we aren’t sure there were fireworks, and calling the weather forecast all kinds of silly things besides “forecast”, like Precision FutureCast Doppler 8000 or some such rot.

What delights me is that the anchor went from announcing there’d been a settlement in the pole barn controversy to tossing it to the reporter in the field, who just had that there was a settlement in the pole barn controversy and hopefully there’d be more details later. Then everyone looked at the building and yawned and curled up for a nap.

Oh, yeah, the company that owns the building? They make particle accelerators. I would have thought that could have settled the argument sooner. “Stop complaining,” they could have said, “or you’ll see a bunch of kaons where you don’t expect them!” But no, they just fell back on ordinary settlement processes like painting and property tax abatement requests. Where’s the imaginative scope?