theastralcity

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Inspired by another post here on Tumblr, I decided to look into the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong a bit more, it truly was one of the most amazing and terrifying places on earth.  Being slightly smaller than an NFL stadium, the structure was built of 350 smaller interconnected buildings and hosted, at it’s peak, a population density of 5 million people per square mile.

To put those numbers in perspective, this would be like taking the entire population of metro Philadelphia, the 4th largest in the US, and putting it in 1 square mile instead of 1,744.

The area was also largely ungoverned and unregulated.  Factories, apartments, schools, temples, churches, shops, cafes, hotels and almost anything else one could imagine were housed within the structure that never had a full blueprint of it done. Buildings were built onto buildings, expanded, rebuilt, and re-purposed as needed without a central authority of any kind.

Within the structure, natural light was almost non-existent, and an unknown number of miles of jury-rigged wires provided electricity to everything.  Water constantly dripped down to the lower levels from both rain and leaking pipes, while garbage filled every passage.  A constant yellow haze filled the structure and there were never any government safety inspections.

The Kowloon Walled City was demolished in the early 1990s as part of the deal that returned Hong Kong to the Chinese from the British. The entire area is now a park.

I find places like this fascinating, it is just incredible what we, humans, build and live in. This, hive, for lack of a better term, was one of the most interesting structures I’ve yet looked at.

For a documentary shot inside of the Kowloon Walled City, check here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lby9P3ms11w

Clement Attlee, voted many times over as one of the greatest Prime Ministers in the history of the United Kingdom, served from 1945 to 1951 in the position and was Winston Churchill’s Deputy Prime Minister during World War II.

After the war, when he lead the government, he brought Britain through the austerity period while raising the standard of living for the people by 10% a year, instituting living wages across all sectors, starting pensions for most workers, doubling spending on education, starting the National Health Service (universal healthcare) and maintaining full employment for the British people.

Attlee proves that even in times of economic hardship, government can help the people, and indeed make their lives better despite the challenges, but only so long as the people in that government put the people first.

This is an example of a McMansion.  Demand for them created a housing bubble, and crashed the entire world’s economy. 

They are a big reason the rest of the world thinks America is a soulless wasteland of bastardized artistic styles and borrowed gaudiness which we use to lie about our status. 

They tend to be made out of the cheapest materials in order to give the “luxury” feeling to the teaming masses of idiots that wish they could be “rich” but are just up to their eyeballs in debt instead.

This is an example of a McMansion, the enemy of taste and good design, and the enemy of our recovery to any kind of standing in the world.

Avoid them at all costs.

Let’s hear it for the Porsche 912, the amazingly underrated and much more nimble little sister of the 911.

Instead of using the flat-6 of the 911, the 912 uses a much lighter but very strong flat-4. This made the car much more stable and greatly reduced the notorious under-steering problems on the 911.  Not to mention the car got 36mpg, completely unheard of in 1965.

Instead of ripping through Circuit de la Sarthe and Nürburgring, the 912 found glory in rally racing. Even today the 40+ year old cars are still racing. On January 29th, 2012 a 912 came in first-in-class and 7th overall in the London to Cape Town World Rally Cup. The race took a month to run, spanned across Europe and Africa as well as parts of Asia; totaling almost 9,000 miles.

Behold my dear readers: the ugliest McMansion I have ever seen! 

May it be caught in the foreclosure mess and be torn apart by the evilest of banks, and dragged down to dust by every measure of natural disaster that may befall it.

And may the idiots who built this house, and the idiots who bought it be cursed with the scorn of anyone with taste for the rest of their miserable lives.

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The London North Eastern Railway Class A4 “Streak”

Now for another installment of the things-that-I-find-very-pretty file, this class of locomotives, as well as being the fastest proven steam engine ever built, was an icon of British Deco design.  Introduced in 1935 they were the LNER’s major answer to a technological rivalry between Britain and Germany.  They are still one of if not the most beautiful locomotives of all time.

My favorite Simon & Garfunkel line on an abandoned building in Saginaw, Michigan.

Lines from their song “America” have been popping up on abandoned buildings in the city, which is referenced in the song, for a bit now.

There is still a lot of creativity and eagerness left in this nation, though what “America” really means any more is getting harder and harder to see.