Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gentrification, Forbidden City style

Call me old fashion, (go ahead, I dare you) but when it comes to historic cities, progress and gentrification is not always a good thing. Growing up in Brooklyn, I know a little bit about the subject, but New York City is a relative new-born in comparison to, lets say, Beijing where some houses date to the Qing dynasty (mid 17-early 19th century). Very little is being done to preserve these fascinating and historic areas in China, especially now with a booming economy and the Olympics on the way. And what's more frightening is, in an Orwellian twist of fate, buildings are being razed and history censored on purpose to eradicate the 1950s-60s Socialist projects-style architecture that is viewed unfavorably by the government today.
The explosion of construction activity that has transformed Beijing into a modern metropolis over the past decade also turned many of its historical neighborhoods — known for their narrow alleyways, or hutongs — into rubble. As grass-roots preservationists began sounding the alarm, the aging wood frames and tile roofs of the ancient courtyard houses that give these neighborhoods their identity were being supplanted so quickly by mighty towers that it was hard to pinpoint where they once stood...

The current wave of demolitions was under way by the early 1990s as free-market changes gained momentum, and real estate speculators saw potential profit in redevelopment. It accelerated after Beijing’s bid to play host to the Olympics was accepted in 2001 and the city began a substantial slum-clearance program to prepare for foreign visitors.

In the Qianmen area, for example, a once poor but thriving neighborhood south of Tiananmen Square that was home to many of the city’s teahouses and theaters, hutongs have been replaced by shopping malls and office blocks with ugly postmodern facades that already look dilapidated, although many are only a few years old...

As affluent foreigners and China’s new rich buy the houses, they are embarking on multimillion-dollar renovations that are robbing the neighborhoods of their souls...

The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who seems to be everywhere in China these days, has argued that designating specific buildings as landmarks creates a distorted version of history. Rather he has proposed carving out a protected wedge through the city in which all of the city’s historical layers, from hutongs on through the Communist-style projects, would be permanently preserved. The result would be a sort of living museum, a place fixed in time even as tumultuous changes unfold around it...

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Dita von PETA - Updated

PETA has chosen the fur-loving burlesque queen herself, Dita von Teese, as their latest spokesmodel. Didn't they do their homework? I have never agreed with PETA's tactics or points of view but where is their integrity? To call them hypocritical would be inane.

From PETA's website: "Dita Von Teese is the definition of sexy. She is a spokesmodel for the MAC Cosmetics Viva Glam campaign and the face of the holiday catalog for Frederick's of Hollywood, performs live burlesque shows, and has graced the cover of magazines around the world, including Playboy, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar. Now Dita is combining her sex appeal with her compassion for animals to launch PETA's new ABC campaign."

From Dita's recent book: "Who wouldn't love an opportunity to don a cuff of mink given them as a gift, or to wrap a luscious stole of fox around her shoulders on a chilly day? (I guess there are some people out there that wouldn't want to, but I am definitely not one of them!) Silks, satins, furs--I have crowded rooms of such sumptuous materials--are decadent. I've always loved these materials for their softness, their beauty, and the added luster of femininity they bestow upon me when I wear them." (Dita Von Teese, Fetish and the Art of the Teese, p. 77)

One of our faithful readers (just so happens to be my sister) e-mailed PETA about this glaring error today and got this really, really long form letter back, excerpts of which I've included below:

"First, please know that, as an organization staffed and run largely by women, we would not do something that we felt contributed to the serious problems that women face. However, we feel that there is nothing shameful or “wrong” about being naked, and we believe that women—and men—should have the choice to use their own bodies as political statements...

Our purpose is to stop animal suffering like this, and we use all available opportunities to reach millions of people with powerful messages...

If you are concerned that a particular celebrity with whom we have worked may not yet be 100 percent vegan or in total agreement with PETA’s views on all animal issues, we can certainly understand your feelings. But we believe that by taking a stand against even one form of animal abuse or exploitation—and by helping us to educate the public about these issues—celebrity supporters can make a big difference...

Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to explain our position on this important topic and for all that you do to help animals.


The PETA Staff

Uhhh... ok, not really what we asked but thanks anyway.

And thanks Maria for the tip!

UPDATE 10/08/07 (from
"PETA's totally aware of me," Von Teese told PEOPLE before performing – in fox fur – her signature striptease at the Macy's Passport AIDS benefit last week. "I'm not working with PETA to tell people to be vegetarians or to stop wearing fur. I am there to strictly speak about spaying and neutering your pets."

The animal-rights organization says it was aware of Von Teese's fur affections before approaching her to star in its campaign.
This is why PETA is a sham and why all it's members are, in my opinion, ditzes who can't grasp larger, more important social issues so they cling to something simple like saving kittens and puppies. Let's not forget PETA's number one gal Pamela Anderson, who sported sheep-skin UGGS for years and then claimed she had no idea they were made of SKIN. That soft supple feeling is a dead animal around your feets Pammy.

How can PETA collaborate with a known fur-advocate? Is this not the same organization that throws paint at women wearing fur, destroying their very expensive personal property??