Second Sundays

A Second Sunday. A first month.

I didn’t know of Jim Haynes until I read about him this week in Leo Hollis’s Cities Are Good For You: The Genius of the Metropolis. He’s an American in Paris who, for almost 40 years, has held an “endless dinner party” in his apartment at 38 Rue de la Tombe Issoire in Paris, inviting anyone and everyone, a salon for the world.

There’s no prior screening, no invitations, “Mr. Haynes, 78, said. “I just say the first 60 or 75 that call can come and that’s the mix.

More about Jim Haynes: Sign up for his dinner!

Inviting the World to Dinner

Jim Haynes: Godfather of the Supper Club

My goal for Second Sundays has been to create community around food like this, albeit with more structure. But structure, which can often be freeing in its application of constraints, can also be limiting, binding, onerous, and suffocating: perhaps it’s time for the structure to go, the strings to loosen, the lid lifted off. Perhaps it’s time to approach this dinner series like Jim does: Open. Trusting. Que sera, sera.

Q. How does your supper club operate?

A. We have a volunteer chef system. I have a Rolodex of 12 cooks. I just call them up and ask who’s ready for the next one. The food changes. The woman cooking this weekend is Russian; last weekend, the chef was Macedonian. The meals are almost always three courses, and there’s always a vegetarian option. There’s a suggested donation of 30 euros, but you give what you want. – Dinner? Paris? Invite Everyone!

John Locke said that ‘trust’ was at the heart of any society; and this notion of ‘trust’ has too often been ignored in the discussions of how to make a happy city. –Leo Hollis

Our last supper club was hosted at Andrew’s house in the Central District, including Andrew, me, Debra, Chris, and Aaron. Debra plans to host our next one (in April). But after that, I’m loosening, billowing, opening this supper club up to the world. Jim has the irresistible draw of hosting in an atelier in Paris and Seattle is no Paris, this is true. But Paris is no Seattle, either. There are beautiful, interesting people where ever you go.

Will you spread the word and cook for us?

Generalized trusters are ‘happier in thier own personal lives and believe that they are the masters of their own fate. They are tolerant of people who are different from themselves and believe that dealing with strangers opens up opportunities more than it entails risks. –Leo Hollis

Second Sundays

Andrew, Deborah, Aaron, and Chris. Sunday, January 10, 2016. Seattle.

Second Sundays.

Chris and Aaron. Sunday, January 10, Seattle’s Central District neighborhood.

Second Sundays

Hot buttered rum, compliments of Chris. Second Sundays, January 10, 2016.

Parisians at a café on the Left Bank, engaging in the most Parisian of activities. Paris, March 2014. Photo by Callie Neylan.

Vive la France! Or why I fly the French flag.

Why would I go to the funeral of a friend or relative but not all of the funerals happening in my city that day? Why would I visit my own sick child in the hospital but not the hundreds of other sick ones, too? Why do I, an American, fly the French flag after the attacks of last Friday, and not the flags of other nations who’ve suffered similar tragedies?

 

Muslim girl on the Seine.

A young Muslim girl on the banks of the Seine. Paris, France. March 2014. Photo by Callie Neylan.

 

So Much For Freedom Fries: America’s New BFF is France

Because it boils down to this: personal, shared stories.

See also: A Brief History of Pierre L’Enfant and Washington, D.C.

Without the French, there would be no America. Without America, there would be no France. Our very first ally, they helped us win the Revolutionary War; sold us the Lousiana Purchase; lent us their architects inspiring the beautiful, classic, timeless design of our capital city;  housed and inspired many of our greatest writers, like Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; and most importantly, provided many of the philosophical frameworks on which we built our American ideals.

Few terrorist attacks in foreign lands have seized the attention of this country like the carnage in the streets of Paris, a city an ocean away but glittering in the memories of countless American honeymoons, junior years abroad and bucket-list vacations. – The New York Times

In turn, we saved them from the Germans during World War I, saved them again during World War II, and cry more for their cities and their people when, all other things equal, tragedies happen on French soil. The first thing our earliest refugees saw when immigrating to American shores was the Statue of Liberty. Our first tangible face to the world, a French face: one of our most recognizable icons, a gift from the French people to a foundling, idealistic, starry-eyed democracy. Of course we pledge their allegiance first: that’s what old friends with these kinds of intimate, shared stories do.

 

Waiters on the Left Bank, Paris. March 2014.

Waiters on the Left Bank in the 6ème Arrondissement, Paris. March 2014.

2014-03-10 08.00.05 2014-03-10 07.57.20 2014-03-10 07.56.37

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2014-03-08 13.43.43 2014-03-08 10.47.17 2014-03-08 10.39.33 2014-03-08 10.26.05 2014-03-08 09.27.22 2014-03-08 09.25.52 2014-03-07 03.23.46 2014-03-07 03.23.20 2014-03-06 12.52.31 2014-03-06 10.35.12 2014-03-05 08.15.55 2014-03-05 07.45.46 2014-03-05 07.01.53 2014-03-05 06.48.22

Paris

Photos taken by me during our trip to Paris in March 2014.


The first time I ever set foot on foreign soil, it was French soil. I’ll never forget that day I emerged wide-eyed in the gates at Charles de Gualle airport, July 1996, on my way to southern France to study for the summer. I’ll never forget the first time someone spoke to me directly in French and how in an instant, theory met reality and everything I learned in my years of French study alluded me for an instant, rendering me speechless as I struggled to find les mots justes.

I’ll never forget stuffing three Americans, four suitcases, and two French hosts in a Citroën not much bigger than a smart car, driving from Marseille to my French family’s apartment in Aix-en-Provence.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked down a French cobble-stoned street, presented with the golden ratio embedded in beautiful architecture, everywhere I looked.

I’ll never forget my little French room with the terracotta balcony overlooking a dozen more terracotta balconies in the Mediterranean sun. I’ll never forget the bowls of coffee every morning for breakfast and the paté-smeared French bread everyday for lunch.

I’ll never forget Corrine, Lauren and Astrid Machulka, my wonderful host family, who greeted me with a cheerful French “Coucou!” every morning when I woke up. I’ll never forget how she a single mother, and me, a single one too, used to compare notes as we drove her daughters along the sea to their father’s in Avignon for le weekend avec leur pere.

I’ll never forget meeting my dear friend Christina – my friend to this day – and how we used to make fun of the French and their condescending rudeness even though we both loved the French and everything about them. Nor how we used to laugh our brash American laughs as we imitated Texans speaking French on the curbs of the Cours Mirabeau. Our friendship, nee en France, is a true French citizen.

I’ll never forget my first French pain au chocolat and French crepe, my first topless sunbathing experience on a rock by the Coté d’Azur followed by my first cliff jumping into a deep sparkling sea. Nor my first ride on the TGV and that time in the Latin Quarter on my last night during that first summer in France, laughing and joking and speaking much more fluent French with a long table of French, who pulled us, les jolies Americaines! into their fold as we walked down the street.

I’ll never forget how that first travel abroad expanded my world and changed me forever.

#newyorktimes #peaceforparis

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Paris, je t’aime.

On Microsoft Excel, Big Software, and Brazilian Favelas.

I often telling people designing for Excel is more like urban design than anything else. Because like a city, big software is a messy, chaotic system that is constantly evolving with millions of opinionated inputs by passionate, feeling, needy inhabitants and feisty, exuberant, competent and just as often, incompetent (but well-meaning) builders.

And this: How Would You Build Up a City from Components?

Like a city, big software is a living, breathing, often slow moving thing that requires a very different mindset than that required for designing a book or a chair or a house or any other artifact that has a finite endpoint. So how do you design big software? I am learning that it takes more political charm than design talent. More spontaneous, shifting kit-of-parts than immaculately planned, solid structure.

“The art of politics is a curious business. It combines, as no other profession or occupation does, rigorous reasoning, sincere emotions and extroverted body language, with what are sometimes painfully cold, slow and planned strategic interactions. It is about leading, but not directing: What people love most is when you write on the blackboard a risky first half of a sentence and then recognize their freedom to write the other half.” – The Art of Changing a City

and also:

“As a consequence of the historic lack of regulation that defines informality, favelas are partly characterized by their strong flexibility. The capacity to adapt to a specific context differentiates them from formal housing which is planned and built following a rational project with specific targets for the buildings, such as a specific number of residents or their integration to the city. In opposition, informal settlements are characterized by an organic and evolving architecture, constantly adapting to a topology, a context, and most importantly to the needs of residents.

While the rigidity of planned housing causes it to decay in the long term, favelas can be easily modified, facilitated by the use of cheap and largely accessible materials, allowing them to evolve quickly in their environment.” – Qualities of Urban Informality: Case Study of Rio’s Favelas

On how good design makes food taste better.

I never knew I was a foodie gourmande until I didn’t have access to good food. Misery loves company, and some of my first conversations with my friend Paolo, who moved to D.C. from the West Coast about a year or so after I did, were about how much we missed West Coast food.

Top 10 Foodie Words We Hate: Starting with Foodie

Let’s Burn Foodies at the Stake

He, San Francisco’s and me, Seattle’s. In our analyses and comparisons about what made food out west so much better than what we were resigned to eat in the mid-Atlantic, we pinned it on a couple of factors. First, the obvious: the West Coast has easier access to and better sources of good food. The ocean, the wineries, the orchards. Second: the experimental chefs who, for whatever reason, feel compelled to combine fresh, local ingredients in unique, delicious ways (inspired by the same sense of risk and rugged individualism, I think, that has long compelled people to “Go west!”).

There’s a strong link between rounded edges and sweet flavors. Use a room with lots of curves and no sharp edges. Make sure that your plates, glasses and other accoutrements are rounded, even bulbous, if you want to make things sweeter. –The Singleton Sensorium

Changing Taste with Sounds, Scents, Textures & Colors

And third: good design. The same creative spirit that inspires chefs to create innovative cuisine also inspires them to create innovative spaces. It’s not just the food that is good, but everything around the food: from the logo to the lighting to the linens.

Rainier Tower.

On the yonic and the phallic.

I have never had any desire to go to Dubai. But that changed this week when I listened to this BBC podcast on why we build skyscrapers, and learned about the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. I want to see it.

“Yonic – yo• nic, adj. –  a stylized representation of the female genitalia that in Hinduism is a sign of generative power and that symbolizes the goddess Shakti.” – Merriam Webster

Related: After Zaha’s “vagina” stadium, here are six more examples of yonic architecture

But why do we build skyscrapers, anyway? Power, ego, and from a practical standpoint, to make the land pay. Nothing increases the financial output of a piece of urban land than building up. But what if women were in charge of the built environment. Would we have skyscrapers at all? Architecture at this scale is, in essence, one big pissing match writ in tons of glass and gleaming steel.

On the competition between Chicago and New York for possessing the tallest building in the western hemisphere: “The two cities have fought continuously for supremacy in the skyline,” which continued with the debate on whether the spire of One World Trade Center should be counted in the overall height of the building, in competition with Chicago’s Willis Tower. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, who governs these issues, ruled in favor of the trade center, despite the fact that the council is headquartered in Chicago.

“People in Chicago are very secure about their architecture. They realize that being the tallest isn’t what matters. It’s being the best that matters.”

Size doesn’t matter? Don’t let that fool you, boys. Because in other contexts, it sure as hell does. Happy International Women’s Day.

On the Great Works of Software and Detroit.

I have never been to Detroit, but as a lover of cities, I am interested in what happens to it. Interested to see how it transforms itself from ruin to revival. I did live in Baltimore for four years, though – a city facing nearly identical problems. I am interested in Detroit, Baltimore and cities like them because I am a designer for one of the world’s canonical pieces of software.

Is there such a thing as a software canon? On The Great Works of Software.

I am a designer who believes that great works of software are a lot like great cities: i.e., large, beautiful, complex systems beholden to the human quirks, tantrums, and whims of those who build and inhabit them, entrenched and cemented behemoths, characteristics which at the same time spell a system’s life and death. Life because these traits are essential for the very livelihood of millions of people in a fundamental, familiar form. Death because this form is too often heavy, immalleable, and resistant to evolution.

Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves. – Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

The University of Washington’s College of Built Environments hosted Detroit Future City: Design for Rapid Change, a lecture and panel discussion exploring how Detroit can tap into its own seeds of regeneration to rebuild itself. I went asking myself what software designers might borrow from urban planners to help make complex software programs better? For what is complex software if not a built environment?

There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plan. – Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

In pondering, considering, and connecting after the lecture, I came upon this, an Urban Design Framework put forth by the city of Perth in Australia:

The Urban Design Framework is a design tool that provides a physical interpretation of the City of Perth’s vision and strategies. It helps to ensure that the built environment we create reflects the community’s vision and the Council’s strategies, and it underpins an integrated approach to better physical environments.

The Urban Design Framework focuses on the broad scale and the long term, and sets an overall planning and design context within which more detailed and localised strategies, studies and projects can be coordinated. It also identifies administrative actions, economic, environmental, and social initiatives that have a bearing on the creation of a great city.

The need to have an urban design ‘manifesto’ has been acknowledged by other Australian cities, such as Melbourne’s ‘Grids and Greenery’ which has provided a sound policy framework for over 20 years. Such a strategic document includes directions for improving both the public and private realm, reflects a political commitment to urban design, and guides urban design quality and consistency through future capital works programs.

What if we approached design for software like design for cities and had design frameworks, manifestos, and broad scale plans? What if we asked ourselves this: What would Jane Jacobs do?

The sound of a city.

Watching House of Cards makes me miss D.C. If ever there was an audio portrait of a city, this theme song is one.

Mood and musical palette of a city. Gravitas. Gritty. Scintillating. Titillating. Dark and foreboding. What you don’t see. The underbelly.

The riptide. Puppet master riff. Different cadence. Iconic. Heroic. One lonely trumpet.

Composer Jeff Beal deconstructs his music for the series:

The Holocaust Museum. Washington, D.C. August, 2007.

The Holocaust Museum. Washington, D.C. August 2007. Credit: Callie Neylan

The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. Washington, D.C. August, 2007.

The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Washington, D.C. August 2007.Credit: Callie Neylan

snowcone stand

On Macklemore, white privilege, and being clueless at Princeton.

Dear Privileged-at-Princeton: You. Are. Privileged. And Meritocracy Is a Myth.

Entrepreneurship: The Ultimate White Privilege?

Maybe it’s because Bria is half black. Or maybe it’s because I lived in black-majority cities on the East Coast for five years, an experience that had a profound effect on me. Or maybe it’s because I chose the wrong profession and should have been a civil rights attorney instead of a software designer. Or maybe it’s because I simply cannot fathom how someone this oblivious to nuance got into Princeton. But whatever the reason,  I can’t stop thinking about white privilege. Macklemore can’t either.

It’s realizing that as a white male in America, I have privilege. As a white male who happens to be an artist with a fan base, I have a platform to spread awareness about that privilege. However, songs about race and privilege are very difficult to A) write and B) dissect as a listener. They’re heavy. That line is acknowledging the guilt that I have for not bringing those issues to the surface, and the privilege that keeps me comfortable, whether I acknowledge it or not. – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Find Clarity, Interview Magazine.

And these lyrics from A Wake, a song from The Heist album:

See also:
A Wake lyrics on Rap Genius.

I grew up during Reaganomics
When Ice T was out there on his killing cops shit
Or Rodney King was getting beat on
And they let off every single officer
And Los Angeles went and lost it
Now every month there is a new Rodney on Youtube
It’s just something our generation is used to
And neighbourhoods where you never see a news crew
Unless they’re gentrifying, white people don’t even cruise through
And my subconcious telling me stop it
This is an issue that you shouldn’t get involved in
Don’t even tweet, R.I.P Trayvon Martin
Don’t wanna be that white dude, million man marchin’
Fighting for our freedom that my people stole
Don’t wanna make all my white fans uncomfortable
But you don’t even have a fuckin’ song for radio
Why you out here talkin race, tryin’ to save the fuckin’ globe
Don’t get involved with the causes in mind
White privilege, white guilt, at the same damn time
So we just party like it’s nineteen ninty nine
Celebrate the ignorance while these kids keep dying.

Letters from Paris: Why don’t we build like this anymore?

The Notre Dame. Sacre Coeur. L’Hotel de Ville. Places des Vosges. The Saint Michel Fountain and the Louvre. The rows upon rows of perfectly-proportioned French dwellings that constitute Paris. Beautiful, classic architecture, built of enduring masonry and aesthetics. The great Pyramids of Giza, the Roman Colosseum, the Pantheon and Notre Dame. Built using the latest technologies and via tremendous feats of collaborative engineering, these manmade structures responded to human needs for their time: housing, entertainment, access to God. Why don’t we build buildings like this anymore?

(Okay, so this isn’t really a letter from Paris. I’ve been back in Seattle for over a week now, but this post was inspired by Paris, so the lede still stands).

Architecture is a social act. And architects always have to justify their decisions to certain institutions. [These] institutions can be the family who wanted to have their house built, or the CEO of a million dollar company. – A Reddit commenter.

There are a multitude of reasons why we don’t: technical, social, political, functional, practical, financial. And because frankly, we’ve been there, done that. We’ve proven our human intelligence and prowess through the creation of many a beautiful, technological, cutting edge building. Now, humanity’s priorities are different. Instead of tens of thousands of man hours being spent on intricate carvings of a cathedral facade, paintings on a ceiling mural, or engineering calculations for a flying buttress, we focus our collective brain power on stuff like this:

See also: A Star in a Bottle in the March 3, 2014 New Yorker.

This is why we don’t build buildings like that anymore.

Au Lapin Agile, Paris

Letters from Paris: Montmartre and the Digital Cabaret.

It was on the northern slope of the Butte Montmartre on a cobbled street that this enchanted house became a place for sing-alongs and folk songs around the year 1850. In 1875 a painter and caricaturist called Andre Gill painted a sign that had a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan. In French, this painting was called Le Lapin à Gill and so the name soon became changed slightly to the Lapin Agile and then the full name of Cabaret Au Lapin Agile, which is still the same name this cabaret in Paris has today. By the end of the 1800s, there were many writers, poets, artists, sculptors, painters, comedians, musicians and singers that all came together of an evening for fun and laughter, yet influencing each other. – History of the Lapin Agile Cabaret in Paris

In his popular TED Talk A Darwinian Theory of Beauty, Denis Dutton explains how we make beautiful things to impress and influence others.

Homo sapiens – as they were then called, finally – were doubtless finding new ways to amuse and amaze each other by, who knows, telling jokes, storytelling, dancing, or hairstyling. Yes, hairstyling – I insist on that. – Denis Dutton

Twitter, YouTube, Sound Cloud, Tumblr, WordPress, and Instagram are our cabarets. Like the charming French cottage and storied wooden tables at Au Lapin Agile in the shadow of the Sacré-Cœur, they allow us to come together in a digital space, performing, sharing, and lauding our individual talents in an effort to appreciate and be recognized. To influence and be changed. To listen and be heard.

Our Digital Cabarets. What a beautiful thing.