Tagged: boston

Artificial Scarcity Two Ways

Listening to the radio and drifting in and out of sleep this morning, I thought I heard somebody say that “destroying stockpiles of ivory will dampen demand” for it. Eh?Apparently, Hong Kong is planning to destroy 28 tons of elephant ivory that it has confiscated over the years. Other countries, including the USA, have been doing similar things to reduce demand for ivory. I thought that when you reduced the supply of something, it would tend to increase the price of that thing.

It makes sense to me to destroy weapons or drugs that are seized, those things could be dangerous if somebody got hold of them, and might not be safe enough to general re-use. But with ivory, the damage to the elephant is already done and the criminals have already lost their goods, so what’s the additional benefit of destroying it? Even PETA gives away fur coats to the homeless.

Wouldn’t releasing all this ivory onto the market drop the price of the stuff and make poaching less attractive? Couldn’t the proceeds of those sales also support anti-poaching law enforcement, education and elephant conservation? I understand the desire to make a point and tell the world that it’s not OK to kill endangered elephants for decoration but these high profile destructions just seem like advertisements for ivory – “it’s getting scarcer, so you better buy some now!”

That seemed entirely too loony, so I turned over and went back to sleep for while. The next time I stirred, the story had shifted to the controversy over “micro-apartments” in Boston’s “Innovation District,” formerly known as part of South Boston.

People have got their real estate panties in a knot over whether or not developers should be able to build small apartments, even tiny ones, to chip away at Boston’s 25,000 unit housing shortage. After a great deal of wrangling, it sounds like developers have been approved for 350 such units, and 77 are under construction or already built.

These “innovation units” are apparently super modern and somewhat less than 450 square feet. That doesn’t really seem like some weird new form of housing. I’ve got a 450 square foot condo in Cambridge, and I know there are plenty more. Of course, I’m enjoying the profits from renting out my condo, but if the city would allow the housing it needs to be built, prices for both rentals and sales would most certainly fall. Allowing a few hundred new units of just one kind when thousands of every kind are needed won’t change a thing.

I can’t help thinking that if the tech innovators whom Boston wants to attract were subjected to the same kinds of restrictions that real estate developers are to meet the market need, they’d be trying to develop mobile apps in BASIC.

Maybe allowing a trickle of additional supply to make product more affordable is less crazy than destroying product to reduce demand, but neither path seems quite optimal. Can’t we do better for elephants and Bostonians?

At Gallery Kayafas, it’s about time

If you haven’t been lately, it’s about time you visited Gallery Kayafas. It’s about time that you visited because the current shows on view are closing in a bit more than a week. Also, both of the major shows are about time, even more so than the way every photograph is.

In one gallery, there are a number of Daniel Ranali’s Snail Drawings. Ranali gathers small snails on the beach and arranges them in simple patterns, a line, a circle, a spiral, and takes a photo, the first half of a diptych. Then, some time later, he makes the second half by shooting the scene again, revealing the paths the snails had made in the wet sand as they escaped their imposed order and went about their snaily business.

Snail Drawing by Daniel Ranali Walden, 16th Walk, by Stefan Hagen

On the other side of the gallery is work by Stefan Hagen from several of his projects, mostly his “crossings” series. Hagen walks, drives, and boats around significant sites with the camera shutter open for minutes or hours or maybe longer. The results are more coherent than I would have guessed – mistakable at a distance for a conventional landscape – but still completely dream-like, short on specificity and long on feeling.

Also on view, “Ten Small Prints” including work by Berenice Abbott, Anonymous, Harry Callahan, Susan Derges, Harold Edgerton, Peter Kayafas, Helen Levitt, John Pfahl, Aaron Siskind, and Ralph Steiner. I suggest you bundle up and head on over before the shows come down on January 18.

Are farmers afraid of the dark, or is it just Boston?

This evening, I was making my semi-usual Monday after work loop heading to the Boston City Hall Farmers Market to pick up raw material for dinner. As I approached the market I thought, “wow, it’s nice that they have those lights so people can still shop after dark now that they set the clocks back.” As I got closer, I saw that some of the stalls were already empty and the rest were packing up fast, a whole hour before what I thought was closing time.

I was able to buy a stalk of brussels (with a final s) sprouts from a farmer who explained that they changed the hours because “who wants to be here in the dark.” Reds Best was long gone, quashing the evening’s protein plan.  I’m not sure if the farmers were leaving because they didn’t want to stay after dark (I guess the business from after-work shoppers like myself isn’t that rich) or because some official had decreed that you can’t buy fresh produce outdoors after sundown. It was clear that the vendors I saw had plenty of inventory left. It was one of those “not world class city” moments that I keep wishing Boston would outgrow.

Clutching my stalk of brussels sprouts and grumbling to myself on the T, I realized two things: first, you get more room on the T if you’re brandishing a stalk of brussels sprouts, and second, the real problem here is that sham called Daylight Saving (no final s) Time.

Storrowing credit for a neo-neo-neologism

This morning the estimable editors at UniversalHub described a truck as “freshly storrowed,” meaning that it had been driven under a famously (but not famously enough I guess) too-low overpass on Storrow Drive and either gotten stuck or had the top ripped off or both.  Bostonians know this phenomenon all too well, mostly around the traditional moving seasons at the start and end of the academic year.

The earliest (easily found) search result for this use of storrowing is a Tour De France blog post by Dave Chiu from this past summer with a photo of a bus that had tried to squeeze under some signage that was not high enough.  Over at Urban Dictionary, there’s another sense of storrowing that is probably as old as the hills in practice if not in name, and also a portmanteau of steal and borrow.

to borrow something intending to not return it or to borrow something and decide to keep it.

More searching uncovers what might be an even earlier meaning for storrowing that also comes with a handy opposite in astorrowing which apparently is to be avoided if possible.

STORROWING PEATS: Three weeks after cutting the peats are ready to be storrowed – that is placed on end in little wigwam like piles so that the air can circulate freely round them. In a wet year those piles sometimes have to be taken down and built up again, outside in. This is known as “astorrowing” and no one does it if they can help it. After another three weeks the peats should be ready to come home.

What would James J. Storrow think? Maybe his ancestors were in the peat business back in the old country. One hopes his descendants are careful when driving trucks on the family road, though the headline writers would certainly love it if they weren’t.

— Update 10/15 —
Some time after I wrote this, somebody added Storrowed to Urban Dictionary using the same UniversalHub story as the basis. Also, a video.