Obsolescence

March 9, 2010 at 5:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This is Anchorage’s Fourth Ave. Theater, on W. 4th Ave. downtown between F and G Streets.  Designed 1939-41 by Seattle based theater architect B. Marcus Priteca, built by Capt. Austin E. Lathrop late in his life as the crown jewel of his empire, finally finished in 1947 after wartime construction shutdown — it was the pride of the small, young city in its early years.  The last film was screened in the late ’80s and it’s been under-utilized and distressed since then.

Recently sold and then boarded up, there are rumors the development company buyer is going to turn the shell into a chain restaurant, maybe a Hard Rock Cafe [gag!].  Or maybe not, considering the current economic downturn.  We shall see.

The groundswell movement to reclaim the building and somehow restore it to its intended use and former glory is long gone.  It’s amazing to me, how quickly people decided the cause was hopeless.  They rationalized it in the usual ways — there’s not enough parking nearby; the building has problems [decay, hazardous building materials, access challenges, outmoded systems, etc.] that make a renovation too costly for the value returned; it’s not a government responsibility to find a buyer or subsidize a commercial redevelopment project.

All of that may be true, but also should not have prevented us from saving what is one of the five most architecturally and historically significant buildings in the state.  I still can’t believe it when I walk by and see the place in the shape it’s in.

I realized my affinity for supposedly obsolete places, devices and beliefs covers a wide range of topics and choices. 

I’m one of those people who has never owned a mobile phone, and still have no desire to.  The whole switch from land lines seems like a giant mistake to me, in all respects — from honey bees to the plastic waste stream to brain cancer to a string of social faux pas to obsession to cluttering the landscape with ugly towers.

In pursuit of improving fine photography skills, I still prefer old school film cameras.  I’ve used a Mamiya 7, Rollei and Yashica TLRs, and various 35mm SLRs and rangefinders.  I’ve acquired a single digital camera, a Panasonic DMC-LX2 that I use mostly to take the daily photos for this blog — and I like it a lot, especially its small size that lets me bring it everyplace — but I like the film cameras a lot more!  I suppose the silver lining of the digital craze it that it’s made long sought after pro film gear affordable at last on the used market — in fact, the Mamiya RB67, not too long ago the pro standard in the studio portrait/fashion realm is available for dirt cheap now.   It’s big like a tank, but with first class optics that will shame your digital images in tonal range and subtle skin tone variations.

A co-worker expressed deep frustration that his stapler didn’t work half the time, jamming or spitting out and/or crumpling the staple instead of stapling papers together.  I sent him over to the Pack Rat Antique Mall downtown, where a 1950s Swingline Speed model 4 was for sale for $11 — more than the price of a new Chinese made Swingline [that is a POS and doesn’t work right].  He bought it, cleaned it up and it hasn’t malfunctioned yet [and it won’t]!

The best transportation choice since the beginning of the industrial age, the bicycle still doesn’t get any respect.

Is there a point to all this?  Other than I’m becoming a curmudgeon?  It’s tempting to unleash a bunch of platitudes — newer ain’t necessarily better, and the like.  But those already in the know don’t need to hear it, and those who must have all the latest devices still won’t be convinced.

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