This story on the Minneapolis building boom notes that it’s mostly residential. That seems telling. Usually you have a boom downtown, it’s office space - but now most of the construction is for living, not working. This isn’t unusual; the big new towers in NY and Chicago are residential as well. The 4th biggest project of the top five: The Soo Line Building. I wonder whether the lobby will have any historical information for tenants, or just pretend the building’s previous life didn’t matter. In case you’re curious, this stood on the site over a hundred years ago:



It was around for less than a decade. The occupant, the First National Bank, was feeling its oazt - and up went this.



A nice exmple of the old "Filedrawer" school of design. The reason we don't have another like this? New York got an example so enormous they changed the zoning laws to make sure buildings tapered at the top instead of going straight up for a mile, and blocking everyone's sunlight. Those zoning ordinances changed the way New York architects designed skyscrapers, and that changed the styles for everyone else. 

Anyway, the FirstBank / Soo It stands today, and that's what they're making into apartments. As for that “Soo Line” name, a vestige of the signage was visible into the late 1990s, when I took this videocam grab:



Here's a 1950s shot of the old bank lobby, fro the StarTribune archives: Probably never occurred to those folk it would all be apartments upstairs some day.



Think of that the next time you go into the IDS. Apartments by 2065? Impossible! Or not.


POP CULTURE This hit the web today: seven whole seconds of shooting. Why are people excited about this?




It's Bioshock Infinite, that’s why. As i understand it, the game has nothing to do with Bioshock 1 or 2, inasmuch as it takes place in a city in the clouds in the “Steampunk” era (how I hate that term), not a city underwater in the post-war era. But the term “Bioshock,” applied to games, now implies a philosophical undergirding, a contest of ideas that gives the shoot-’em-up festival some intellectual heft. The first game played out in an Ayn Rand-inspired city; the second turned it upside down and made Altruism the corrupting idea. From what I gather, “Infinite” goes political - yay! More of that everywhere! - and pits nativist Optimates, to borrow a phrase from the Roman times, against radical egalitarians. Immigration might be an issue, although the idea of a “border fence” really seems moot when your civilization is floating several thousand feet over the surface of the earth.

In other related pop-cult news - for some reason, the BBC is running a story on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit:

From Trieste to Timbuktu, millions would instantly recognise Mickey Mouse. But if a business deal hadn't gone awry in the 1920s could Disney's most iconic character have turned out to be a rabbit called Oswald.

What’s the peg here? A review of “Epic Mickey II,” the Wii came that teams Mickey and Oswald again? The fact that Oswald is finally voiced in the game? Hard to tell. I’m guessing the reappearance of Oswald and the restoration of the rights to Disney came as news to some Beeb editor, so ergo it was news to all. The story hits all the usual points - callow Walt done in by devious businessman, Charles Mintz, who takes the character and leaves the Disney studio without a signature character. The article ends: “The motto of the story is surely that massive corporations still remember the ones that got away.” Oh, more than that. They not only remember, their descendants get their revenge. In “Up,” who’s the bad guy?



Right. Charles Muntz. Pixar's way of payback. Took eighty years, but revenge, best served cold, etc.


SCIENCE Also from the BBC, a story on paleobarometry. What was the weather like billions of years ago? We may know soon: scientists are using “the imprints of raindrops preserved in 2.7bn-year-old rock” to determine the thickness of the atmosphere.

This will probably an educated guess.

Interesting story - who knew that the an ancient raindrop’s imprint could be fossilized, let alone examined for clues? It’s like learning they’ve found fossilized snowflakes, and can tell whether they had White Christmases in the Jurassic Era.

ARCHEOLOGY Imperial splendor: say what you will about the ruthless leaders whose will to dominate upends society and remakes the culture in a backwash of disorder and disruption, they leave interesting houses for posterity. The Global Times reports:

The remains of a massive "imperial palace" have been uncovered at the mausoleum of China's fist emperor, Qinshihuang, archaeologists announced.


Sun Weigang, an associate researcher at the Shaanxi provincial institute of archaeology, said that based on its foundations, the courtyard-style palace was estimated to be 690 meters long and 250 meters wide.


Covering an area of 170,000 cubic meters, the palace was nearly one fourth the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing, the imperial palace of China's last two feudal dynasties of Ming and Qing (1368-1911), Sun said.


It is the largest complex ever found at the cemetery of Qinshihuang, known as China's first emperor as he united the country, he said.

Okay, how much is 170,000 cubic meters in American? I can’t quite say. I think they mean square feet. In any case, it’s big. But Qin thought big. As the Minneapolis Institute of Arts put it: “Driven by an eagerness for immortality, the First Emperor began to plan his burial from the moment he ascended to the throne at age 13.” Well, everyone needs a hobby.

By the way, that’s a typo in the original news story up there: the Fist Emperor. They mean “first,” but if you’re the guy who got seven warring states to combine into one state, and founded a system that lasted for a couple thousand years, it’s safe to say there was a certain amount of Fist involved.

The reason the Institute has anything about Qin the Fist, of course, is this exhibit, still going on. Terra-cotta warriors on loan.


Those are copies from Epcot, but you get the idea. The guy on the right is al pumped for after-life defense; the one on the bottom right cannot BELIEVE he has to spend eternity listening to this guy yell. 

(BTW, the outstate tag applies to this post because of China. If it's not Outstate, nothing is.)