Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Chicago's Grant Park: Fighting for the Future

I finally finished the PBS American Experience documentary, "Chicago - City of the Century" and found plenty to talk about in the paleo-future department. One particularly interesting element of the doc was the creation of Grant Park. Apparently plans were set in place to use the park for commercial purposes after the Great Fire of 1871. That is, until Montgomery Ward, (yes, that Montgomery Ward), took it upon himself to fight and attempt to preserve Grant Park for future generations.

According to the documentary, "Ward led a 13 year campaign to enforce the decision made in 1836 that the lakefront remain forever open, free of any buildings or obstruction. He even opposed Marshall Field for wanting to build a museum in the park. 'I fought for the poor people,' he said, 'not the millionaires.'"

With the Chicago Tribune against him as well as the other owners along Michigan Avenue he had "very little support" which seems evident given his 13 year campaign.

Grant Park has an interesting history in the 20th century as well. It was a scene of clashes between Chicago Police and protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It is also the home of many music festivals most recently becoming the semi-permanent home of Lolapalooza.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Future was Built on Steel

Apparently U.S. Steel never saw Dustin Hoffman in 1967's The Graduate. According to this U.S. Steel commercial from the 1970s, the future will be built on steel rather than plastic. The future will also be built piece by piece in beige factories to make beige buildings.

Disney's Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World, Orlando is a testament to the forgotten future. The Mary Blair designed mosaic is by far her ugliest creation, reminiscent of a 1970s kitchen that threw up brown acid on itself. The hotel stands as a reminder of misplaced creativity for Disney and Mary Blair and arguably the dying breath of the steel industry.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hello and Welcome

I first came across the word "Paleo-Future" in a Flickr group of the same name. However, the topic first sparked my interest when I visited Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center, (now Epcot), and realized that Disney's version of the future was based upon what they thought the future would look like in the 1980s. As is important when depicting the future, your opinions must change with the times, unless you happen to be omnipotent, which means you have no need to revise your vision of the future and have probably used your powers for such noble endeavors as guessing my weight at the local carnival or writing horoscopes that tell me, "you should find time for yourself tonight."

While I might poke fun at the outlandish ideas of 1950s America, corporate puffery, or Jules Verne I do it with an admiration for the idealism we seem to be losing in our post-modern society. The belief that technology has the potential to improve the lives of everyone on Earth seems rare. Just remember that an optimism for the future and the attempt to better the world for all humanity is hidden somewhere within each sarcastic comment about flying cars and space farms. In that same vein, I will always remember that the dystopian societies depicted by George Orwell or Alan Moore are just as plausible if we surrender freedom in the name of security. Here's to a "great big beautiful tomorrow."

Thanks for reading,

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