Dynamist Blog


Amazon is now shipping copies of The Substance of Style.

The book is supposed to be in bookstores by Tuesday. If you look for it and don't find it in your local bookstore, please drop me a line with the store's name and location. Thanks.


On Tech Central Station political scientist Eugene Miller has a long (for TCS) and important article called "Mapping the Technology Debate." It starts from, amplifies, and in some ways improves on, the dynamist/stasist idea developed in TFAIE, by creating a two-by-two matrix:


I might disagree with some of his classifications of particular thinkers, but the article is must reading (and the graphic is a lot easier to read when it hasn't been shrunk to fit on my blog).

In related news, Tech Central Station launches a new format on Tuesday.


I have an essay in Sunday's NYT Magazine. The title, Going to Great Lengths, refers to the FDA's recent approval of a biosynthesized growth hormone for the treatment of very short children who have no other apparent ailments. That's tne news peg. Here's the thesis:

We think some biological phenomena deserve treatment and sympathy and others don't. If you have chronic migraines, we'll help. If you're ugly, too bad. If we say that being short is treatable and offer medicine to change that biological fate, then we're saying there's something wrong with being short.

We need a new, less pejorative category: "biological conditions we don't like." Not diseases or disabilities, simply dislikes - conditions that keep us from being whom we want to be. We can treat dislikes without shame. Or we can leave them untreated without entitlement. Otherwise, we will label everything we don't like a disease, no matter how absurd the consequences.

For those wondering what The Substance of Style and The Future and Its Enemies have in common, here's one theme.


Following up on the post below, Ed Driscoll points me to his recent Blogcritics article "The Many Lives of Les Paul. And to think I knew Paul only as the father of the electric guitar--an achievement that by itself would be enough.


In the Fall issue Strategy+Business, published by Booz Allen Hamilton, I have a short piece on how businesses are using aesthetics for competitive advantage. The piece is online here (requires free registration, with minimal info).


It turns out that HughHewitt wrote about California's outrageous "Indian sacred sites" bill way back in May. He now picks up the cause again on his blog, including a link to the earlier piece. That article's lead:

LAST FALL California Governor Gray Davis vetoed a bill the legislature had presented him--S.B. 1828. The bill would have transferred a large amount of authority over "sacred sites" to the California tribes. The definition of sacred site was broad; so too was the power that was to be transferred to Native American representatives. When the governor vetoed the bill, he proclaimed that it wasn't wise to place such enormous power in the hands of a single interest group.

The tribes have since regrouped and a new bill is moving through the legislature. If passed, it will cover every "site that is associated with the traditional beliefs, practices, lifeways, and ceremonial activities of a Native American tribe." Though dressed up in the dense language of land-use planning, the bill will empower the tribes with huge authority over private property. Consultation, avoidance, and mitigation will become watchwords in the land development process.

Read the whole thing. This sort of land use control, not labeled as such, is one reason housing costs so much in California, which is a major reason--possibly THE major reason--middle class people are leaving the state.

On his blog, Hugh promises a lawsuit if the bill becomes law and predicts that it will be overturned by the courts.


The efficiency of the two sites' search functions could not be more different. Just try searching for my book on BN.com, using "postrel" for the author or "substance of style" for the title (or, worse, "virginia postrel" for the author). You've got to click through screen after screen irrelevant books to find it--or, if you do an author's name search, even to find the paperback of TFAIE. Worse, A home page search for "postrel" in the bookstore, without specifying that it's the author's name, yields a list topped by Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. Imagine what would happen if any other authors actually shared my last name.

By contrast, just about any reasonable search, including misspellings, will easily find the book on Amazon, which is serious about its information technology and doesn't hide books that haven't yt been officially released. No wonder TSOS's rank on BN.com rank is currently 1,000 times lower than its Amazon rank.


I'll be on CNN's "Live Today" show on Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. ET, talking about The Substance of Style. It's a short segment, 3-5 minutes, and may also air at other times of the day.


People outside Dallas--OK, people in New York--sometimes wonder how on earth I could have written a book on style here. Of course, they don't know how important aesthetic value is in Dallas. (Neither did I before I got here.) It's not just hair and fashion. The front page of today's DMN business section features a real estate story that could have come straight out of The Substance of Style:

Before Palladium USA could go ahead with its new apartment community in Irving, it had to have a plan. Not just any design would do for the high-profile Las Colinas location.

"We actually had a design competition with several architectural firms — it was that important," said Spencer Stuart, who heads the developer's Dallas office. "With this project, we challenged the architects to come up with something very unique.

"We're spending more time and attention on our building designs than we have ever done before," he said.

Palladium is not alone. After years of turning out homogenous rental units, developers are stepping out with bold building styles and expensive materials. The builders say bold exteriors attract tenants--and that with today's higher rents, tenants demand better-looking projects.

Lots of good example, including several from my neighborhood. The real estate market here is intensely competitive, which means style matters more than ever.

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