Either I’m stupendously dense or this is the stupidest thing I’ve read all day. Of course, both are possible. It’s an i09 piece about the strange Incan economy, which had no trade, and no money.

The secret of the Inca's great wealth may have been their unusual tax system. Instead of paying taxes in money, every Incan was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life.

Of course, not everybody had to pay labor tax. Nobles and their courts were exempt, as were other prominent members of Incan society. In another quirk of the Incan economy, nobles who died could still own property and their families or estate managers could continue to amass wealth for the dead nobles. Indeed, the temple at Pachacamac was basically a well-managed estate that "belonged" to a dead Incan noble. It's as if the Inca managed to invent the idea of corporations-as-people despite having almost no market economy whatsoever.

It has nothing to do with the “corporates-as-people” construct at all. It’s a slave state. Why, it’s almost Communism in its pure & perfect state, no?

And now, let’s see what’s going on down in Bloomington. Well, the last time we looked in our little community,* the city fathers had decided that this quintessential suburb needed a downtown. Someplace dense and walkable. Right now the Penn area is home to low-slung shops - an old mall called Southtown, which had one of the best 60s-style movie theaters around.

The rest of the mall is not pretty anymore. But it’s popular. There’s a Target across the street and a smattering of smaller strip malls. It’s not lovely, but it’s useful.

The problem? People drive there. What the city wants, in addition to the endless acres of single family homes and stores and offices, is a dense multi-story housing units. Fine! Nothing wrong with that, and more interesting to look at than a car dealership or a strip mall set back from the street. If you’ve been reading my thoughts on urban design, you know I hate and despise them, and applaud with gusto a building that fronts the street. Unless it doesn’t work, which it doesn’t, half the time, because most of the time it looks like someone who shaved his head and had a face tattooed on the back of his head.

Anyway. This isn’t any just apartment / condo project. It’s a piece of New Urbanist wishful thinking built to stand as an example of all that is true and right and good: pedestrians walking around, people biking to nearby Best Buy to work. They might. They might indeed. If I was a young tech-type working at Best Buy, I’d rather live in Uptown, where there are attractive mating partners and rooftop bars, and drive to work, especially living within eyesight of the angular blue whales of the corporate HQ, sitting in your new apartment, looking out the parking lot at the freeway could get rather depressing. But the initial description put such hopeful longing for the concept of people having a glass of wine in one location, then walking to another, pausing to look in store windows. That’s urban!

It’s urban when it arises naturally according to what people want. Otherwise it’s a project. There’s one of these in St. Louis Park, ten times the size - it has a little downtown with a fountain and a statue, good housing, a Trader Joe’s, a drug store, a coffee shop. As far as I can tell it’s doing well, and as far as I can tell no one walks around and looks in windows. I don’t go there except to visit Trader Joe’s. I’d live there, sure. But for walking around and looking in windows I’d go elsewhere.

Here are the windows they want people to walk around and look into:

That’s the ground-floor retail. Oy. Recessed, so you can’t see anything from the street.

My stars and garters: found the official page for the project. It has a vision.

Imagine a combination of retail, office and residential uses along tree-shaded streets that are attractive for outdoor dining and strolling. Imagine apartments, coffee shops, doctors’ offices and a distinctive urban park. Imagine buses coming by every 10 minutes headed north, south, east and west. That's the potential of the Penn-American area.

Imagine buses coming by every ten minutes! Oh I can, I can! This will indeed be a nice area with tree-shaded streets that are attractive for residents to stroll to the distinctive urban park, but only if they level the shopping mall. It’s in the redevelopment area.

So how’s it look so far? This looks plenty urban:


But this is every modern apartment building built in the last ten years.



Here are the windows they want people to walk around and look into:

That’s the ground-floor retail. Oy. Recessed, so you can’t see anything from the street.



The parking lot view.



What it's better than: 20 story high-rises; another small development with 20 houses; blocks of flats with no underlying design theory - better they try this than just slap up four-story buildings sitting at angles in a parking lot. Also, better than nothing.

What it's not better than: the type of neighborhood in the older city it is designed to emulate. Because it's conjured by decree.

*bonus Bleat Points to anyone who knows what the first paragraph of this section was intended to parody.

Nerdery ahead. Want to skip to the update? Slide down to the Motels pane, and click away.

<majelvoice> And now, the conclusion. </majelvoice>

I mentioned the other day that I was enjoying "Enterprise" season 4. I knew they found the Defiant in Tholian space:



I'd forgotten about this:



Yes, it's the crew of the first starship Enterprise, onboard a Constitution-class starship, which didn't exist yet. Time travel? That sorry old plot device, time travel? No.



It's bearded-Spock alternative-universe Enterprise. This is how you end a TV show that's spanned five decades and as many series. Right down to the bad alt-Trek guys putting on Starfleet uniforms when they're on the Federation Defiant.



Bakula overacts poorly in the two-parter, but it doesn't matter. It's just a joy. I mean, they built one of these.



A Jefferies Tube. Named after set designer Matt Jefferies, of course. He also worked on "Love, American Style," and "Little House on the Prairie." Wikipedia notes:

When Jefferies saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture he fell asleep. He never watched subsequent incarnations of Star Trek, remarking that they had turned his Navy-esque bridge into "the lobby of the Hilton."

Oh, there's also this guy:



Not content with bringing back Bearded-Spock World, and the Tholians, they threw in a fargin' Gorn.


New Motels, and lots of them! Enjoy, and I'll see you around.









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