Author Archives: pinboard

Frederick Law Olmstead and the Creation of Central Park – The Atlantic

When I was a child it was easy to arrange my crayons in order, like the rainbow, yellow next to orange, next to red, next to purple, next to blue etc. but very difficult to arrange colors so that no color had a color next to it that contained that color.

[Reminds me of your discovering how difficult it is to make a rock arrangement seem “random”.] An unmistakable irony creeps vinelike through Olmsted’s landscape theory: It takes a lot of artifice to create convincing “natural” scenery. Everything in Central Park is man-made; the same is true of most of Olmsted’s designs. They are not imitations of nature so much as idealizations, like the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School. Each Olmsted creation was the product of painstaking sleight of hand, requiring enormous amounts of labor and expense. In his notes on Central Park, Olmsted called for thinning forests, creating artificially winding and uneven paths, and clearing away “indifferent plants,” ugly rocks, and inconvenient hillocks and depressions—all in order to “induce the formation … of natural landscape scenery.” He complained to his superintendents when his parks appeared “too gardenlike” and constantly demanded that they “be made more natural.”

(August 11, 2016 at 03:42PM)

The Destruction of Economic Facts – Businessweek

One of the features of information revolutions is that the size of the relevant unit increases: villages become cities, city states become kingly states, kingly states become nation states etc.

One of the drivers of this change is size is that the ability to keep track increases: orality and human memory supplemented by simple notation, simple notation is supplemented by writing, writing is supplemented by printing, printing is supplemented by telegraph, etc.

And, according to this post it comes because of a perceived need in the society.

During the second half of the 19th century, the world’s biggest economies endured a series of brutal recessions. At the time, most forms of reliable economic knowledge were organized within feudal, patrimonial, and tribal relationships. If you wanted to know who owned land or owed a debt, it was a fact recorded locally—and most likely shielded from outsiders….

To prevent the breakdown of industrial and commercial progress, hundreds of creative reformers concluded that the world needed a shared set of facts….

The result was the invention of the first massive “public memory systems” to record and classify—in rule-bound, certified, and publicly accessible registries, titles, balance sheets, and statements of account….

Over the past 20 years, Americans and Europeans have quietly gone about destroying these facts. The very systems that could have provided markets and governments with the means to understand the global financial crisis—and to prevent another one—are being eroded….

Markets were never intended to be anarchic: It has always been government’s role to police standards, weights and measures, and records, and not condone legalized sleight of hand in the shadows of the informal economy.

(December 16, 2015 at 11:11PM)