It has been a long week. This repeat from 2010 goes to the physical nature of economic restructuring and where it must come from – our cities. The recent snow disaster in Atlanta (brilliantly discussed here) is more about infrastructure not keeping up than anything else. So what do we need? Let’s start with the basics of what a city is for, and how it will serve us.
Cities mark the landscape across this nation and all others. Images of the handiwork of a culture often define the people who come to inherit the space and, in turns, mark it with their own generation’s values. Yet they are so much more than static collections of icons – they are where people come together and live their lives right now. They are always ultimately about the connections that make them alive.
Even the bricks and mortar or glass and steel is ultimately a connection across time to what made the city what it is today. Though it’s the stuff that makes up a city which gets photographed and noticed, they are much more than that.
What are you worth as an employee? A good check for anyone working is to add up what it takes to keep them employed and what their net value is to the company. A strong positive value means job security, something pretty valuable these days. But to do it right, what you cost the company is a lot more than just your salary. There are benefits, like health care and retirement plans, yes. The total cost is far more than even that and it can roughly be called the “overhead per employee”.
By the simplest calculation that’s more than 42% above what you take home, and it could be much more than that. And this overhead is one of the biggest barriers to increasing employment, reducing hours, and generally creating a better quality of life for working people in the US. Not to mention it puts us at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to creating high quality jobs.
“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”
– Pablo Picasso
Long ago, artists were called on to, more or less, represent the world around them in some form that ennobled the subject at hand. In the Baroque Era, paintings usually depicted either the ruling class or the saints in ways that made mythologies of power real. Music was used to provide dignity to a setting or to magnify the glory of God himself to every heart that pounded along with the moment. Not today.
An artist today is supposed to be someone who pushes the boundaries of our world by creating a new understanding of what it means to be human. The mythology is something otherwise dormant within us. That makes the statement by Picasso, a creator and master practitioner of this view of art, even more troublesome.
Another week, another crippling cold. It is January, after all, and numbing cold is only to be expected. But expectations are the key to surviving Winter, especially one as brutal as this one. As long as you expect it will be deadly cold, the few days spent actually above freezing turn into a blessing. And there is always the greatest expectation of all – that this can’t last forever and some day it will be Spring.
Expectations are also the key to understanding predictions and the sinking feeling of disappointment when they don’t come true. Barataria has come under some fire for insisting that predictions are the key to a worthy blog’s identity, so it’s only natural that we should deal with three stories of expectations gone horribly wrong in today’s news.
Now that the Eurozone Crisis is over, we can all breathe a little easier. Right? While it’s good to not be loping along from one crisis to the next, the aftermath of the flood that lasted from 2008-2012 in drips and drops is still being mopped up. The hits are just being absorbed by the banks and growth is going to be sub-par through 2014, meaning that the lingering unemployment problem is not going away.
There are two parts left to this clean-up – what comes next and what can we learn? They are both important and will dominate 2014 in Europe and the developed world.