Pebble Beach

September 30, 2008

“Pebble Beach”  (2008), acrylics on canvas, 20″ x 16″

Click on the image for a better view.


The Russians Keep Buying

September 30, 2008

The Russian oligarchs are becoming the Roman nobility of our generation. They just can’t seem to stop buying stuff — and always the most expensive.  We’ve seen them gobble up art (and skew the markets) and Mediterranean houses (and skew the markets).   They are the primary buyers of mega-yachts, no doubt skewing those markets upwards also.

Well, it seems they are doing the same thing at home.  A seven-storey townhouse condo near the Kremlin in Moscow has been purchased for $99 million, or 2.5 billion rubles.

Property agency Agent 002 said last Friday an unnamed buyer had splashed out on the seven-storey 1,300 square meter apartment near the Kursk railway station. “For Moscow, it’s an absolute record,” said Agent 002’s spokesman Ruslan Barabash. Barabash declined to identify the purchaser, but said he was an “active businessman” aged around 40 and not one of Russia’s most well-known tycoons.

“It’s a completely beautiful home. The design is in the ‘high-tech’ style,” said Barabash. The townhouse apartment, close to the Kremlin in the center of a sprawling city of 12 million people, has its own swimming pool, a children’s floor and a winter garden on the roof …

Real estate analysts believe the current record could soon be broken, with demand strong at the top of the market. “I think this is price of 2.5 billion roubles is not the limit for Moscow and in the near future there may be even more expensive sales,” said property analyst Tatiana Makeeva.

Crazy times all over!

This Sporting Life #3

September 29, 2008

The Fall basho passed quietly.  After the marijuana scandals of the summer, and the lifetime suspension of three Russian rikishi, I think everyone connected to sumo breathed a sigh of relief as the tournament itself went off wellYokozuna Hakuho has settled in as the reigning champion, easily winning his 8th Emperor’s Cup with a 14-1 record.  Our man Ama, smallest rikishi at the highest level, was second at 13-2, winning the Outstanding Performance Award and adding to his claim for promotion to ozeki.

The great champion Asashoryu seems to be winding down his career.  He lost 4 of his first 7 fights and retired from the tournament with “injuries”, the second time in a row he has pulled that stunt.  There will be pressure on him for sure to either pull up his socks or to retire.  Asashoryu has 22 Emperor’s Cups and was hoping in a few years to have taken the record from Taiho’s 32 wins.  However, Hakuho, Ama and a few up-and-comers will probably put paid to that idea.  Of course, if he comes back for a win in November, then all bets are off.

Hooray, the European football season is back!  It is a treat to watch good football each and every Saturday morning.  I am especially pleased that Chelsea are already top of the English Premier Division, a position I hope they hold until the end.

Also starting is the North American ice hockey season.  We are still in exhibition play for another couple of weeks, but the Canucks have begun what was supposed to be a “transitional” season for the team with a surprising 4-0 record.   Vigneault has been putting out some fascinating line combinations with our young prospects and a few of the talent acquired over the summer.   Today is the big pre-season cut day; a dozen or more players have to be cut from the roster.  It will be very interesting to see what the coach does with fewer options.

And finally, there is cycling.  Alberto Contador joined the list of only four other cyclists who have won all three Grand Tours: the Tour de France in 2007, the Giro d’Italia this May, and the Vuelta a Espagna this month.  It has been hard to follow the post Tour season.  My heavy load at work and no TV coverage has made it very difficult.  I love to watch cycling, and following it on text just doesn’t cut it.  Hopefully the 2009 season will be better covered by OLN and others.

Happy Birthday Gemma!

September 28, 2008

Today is our granddaughter Gemma’s sixteenth birthday.  She has grown up to be the most beautiful young woman and we love her dearly.

She is already a great cake maker and decorator, and we hope she’ll appreciate this design for her big day.

Have a great day, Gems!

I Love Burgers

September 27, 2008

It’s true. I know they’re bad for you, with no redeeming features, but I just love them. Burgers are one of North America’s gifts to the world, along with jazz and playing golf for money. Here on the Drive, Fet’s makes the best burgers in the city; and every once in a while I just gotta have one. And I do.

In the Weekly Standard this week, is a review by Victorino Matus of Josh Ozersky’s Hamburger: A History“.  The history of the burger, something I have read a great deal about, is the history of American merchandising and the development of consumer capitalism.  It happens concurrently with  the development of other forms of retail merchandising such as supermarkets and malls.  It is all about brands and systems and algorithms that can calculate customer satisfaction-per-dollar-spent.

As the “History” reminds us, there were fast-food systems before Roy Kroc.  There was Walt Anderson and Billy Ingram and the “White Castle System”, as well as Bob Wian’s Big Boy system in California.   But Roy Kroc was special, even though, by the time he met the McDonalds brothers they had:

already successfully converted their drive-in that once served barbecue and employed carhops into, according to Ozersky, “a profit machine that you would turn on in the morning and turn off at night,” thanks to the McDonalds’ Speedee Service System. The menu was shortened and the food preparation resembled an assembly line (involving six-foot griddles, precision condiment pumps, and a heat bar to keep the sandwiches warm). In addition, the owners’ target customers were no longer teenagers but the family–particularly busy postwar mothers. By 1961, annual sales totaled $61 million; today, that number soars to $29 billion.

This would be a fascinating book to take with me next time I simply can’t resist one of Eric’s special Fet’s Burgers.

R.I.P. To A Genuinely Good Guy

September 27, 2008

Paul Newman (1925-2008)

A New View Of Paris

September 26, 2008

Quoting directly from BD The Architect’s website:

This 180m-high Herzog & de Meuron-designed pyramid tower is a proposal for the first skyscraper in Paris for 30 years.

The 50-storey building will be situated in the south-west of the city at the Porte de Versailles.

It has been nicknamed the ‘Delanoë tower’ after the city’s socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë, who won the fight to bring high-rises back to Paris after convincing the city council in July to make exceptions to the 30-year-old ban.

The ban prohibits buildings of above 37m-high and was inspired by the 210 Tour Montparnasse.

I have a soft spot for spectacle.  But I don’t know about this.  Not everything has to be prime time.  There are good reasons to break through barriers with more mundane (though no less superbly engineered) designs, designs that deliver a purpose, designs that improve without causing so much fuss.  Maybe that’s what’s needed first to get Paris comfortable with the high life again.