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A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma...

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    Flight or Fight? Grace in the Face of the Freak Show

    Flight or Fight? Grace in the Face of the Freak Show

    In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed. We are in a strange season: Russia, Healthcare, Special Investigating, Trump Mania are in a screaming Opera of Hatred. Cable TV, the Internet, dinner parties (dinner parties!) are amped up to the point where you can just shut down. Coping with work, kids, spouse—whatever else there is, your mission is often now in overload mode. This may be the Era of Being Overwhelmed—especially in politics. The response to all this overload is to feel threatened by it, and so anger is our default mode.

    We can fight the sense of…

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    Suburbia at the Mid-Century: Church

    Suburbia at the Mid-Century: Church

    Two thousand years of Jesus in our lives had a crest when The American Dream was real.

    It was Mid-Century: after America rose from the fugue state of The Great Depression to wrest control of the globe from evil. The extreme, violent and costly effort changed the world – but especially America. Millions had died, were physically wounded and everyone was deeply affected. Those warriors who survived were wounded: some physically, but all were changed by a life or death struggle.

    1945 saw those millions come home to create a new place – a sanitarium of peace in a new juggernaut: the…

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    Giddy Godless Weddings

    Giddy Godless Weddings

    ’Tis the season.

    More than any other time of the year people are celebrating their connection in marriage. Having aged into “friends of Mom and Dad” status, my wife and I have been to many weddings in the last few years. We’ve noticed that this ceremony, which was languishing in our culture, has been enlivened in recent years by my generation’s children getting married.

    These days the act of marriage is at best deferred, but definitely its inevitability has been diminished. Weddings happen, but fewer, later — and these long-planned, very expensive, highly produced gatherings are pretty programmed affairs.

    But the real story is…

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    On Being Fat (and Life's Other Unavoidable Criteria)

    On Being Fat (and Life’s Other Unavoidable Criteria)

    I have always been fat.

    From earliest memory, my mother took me to De Pinna’s “husky section” to buy fat kids’ clothing. When I was playing at 189 and 10% body fat, my BMI was close to “morbid” — and I have not been below 200 in 37 years. When I lost a third of myself 10 years ago, I was, and am, still fat.

    Weight is the most obvious criterion of my life. It was once grades. It’s also money — not the love of family, God, or being “saved.” No, I prefer numbers — especially the hard ones — but my weight…

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    The Girls of Whitehaven: Love and Friend Requests in Cyber Space

    The Girls of Whitehaven: Love and Friend Requests in Cyber Space

    In 2009 I was invited to join “Facebook.” I already knew all about it, because my best friend from high school had gone to Harvard, where I had visited her and had seen it in 1974, in her freshman room. Back then, “Facebook” was paper and had all the Radcliffe girls listed in it.

    It was mostly a catalog of pictures. Many of those pictures were of Groucho Marx — those who did not submit photos were represented by the specter of the huge mustache, glasses and cigar. This mid-century Facebook was a proto-dating service. High tech as it was — Xeroxed (versus mimeographed) and mass produced, I…

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    Taking a Dip in the Dark Side

    Taking a Dip in the Dark Side

    I am over sixty, so I know a lot of people over sixty. Several of those — measured, responsible leaders — have giddily announced they are visiting Holland. I have always loved the Amsterdam School of early twentieth-century modernism-meets-craftsman housing design, but no, that is not why these good folks are going to that part of the world.

    They want to re-live dope.

    Most of them have not touched marijuana since the 1970s. They are amused by the Colorado experiment with legalization. They fought tooth and nail to have their kids avoid the Grass Pit, some unsuccessfully. But they themselves are giddy to…

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    An Irrational Lack of Fear…

    An Irrational Lack of Fear…

    Politics is becoming overwhelming. Listening to today’s endless snipes, tweets, melt-downs, and outrage filling all airwaves, I am left bemused at the bubble of now. Politicians are vengeful, reporters are angry. Commentators are in high dudgeon. It matters not what “side”; the basis is fear and loathing.

    I think they are missing something.

    The news is filled with perpetrators and zealots: it’s the loudest world, screaming in each instant. The breathless desperation of healthy, free, employed participants lives in a tiny place amid the immeasurable context of everything.

    For me, there is a perverse joy in seeing the irrational rampaging — it’s delightfully…

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    Designing Justification: A Conference Talk Preview

    You would think that having a full belly, a good night’s sleep, love, and shelter is the bottom line. But it’s not. Things disappoint. Promise thrills, and expectations rise.

    I wanted to play. I wanted to start. Then captain. Then Harvard (got Cornell). Then Alison, Helen, Jane, Barbara, finally Liz. Marriage became babies, then Great Kids, then adults. Degree became license, became firm. Building became awards, lectures, writing.

    Now I receive justification I did not ask for. But then kicked ass to get. I never wanted to be a part of the American Institute of Architects. I helped make places to live for 25 years then my publisher made me join at 48 to sell the next book.

    Then the world had a decade that said my last 25 were part of economic salvation: homes were the way everyone could be great again: forever. I helped make a place for architects who did that: and the instant I joined they asked to get me in ever deeper, running a tiny piece of the AIA.

    No, I said.

    I always had had my own obsessions – and soon the balloon popped. I kept on doing what I do for the last decade, but there are, now, 50% less of us doing it – like it was 20 years ago. Between 3 or 4 other booms.

    But now, in 2 weeks or so, I get to be one of 3,000 of 111,000. First you need justification enough to get licensed (down to the 200,000 who have degrees), then pay $700 a year to be a member of the AIA (down to 60,000). Then a branch has a committee who reviews nominations (are you kidding?) or as per me, that committee, one of a hundred, finds the Fellow in their midst.

    So, at 61, but only just after the AIA decade required for nomination, I get the verification I never sought – but always wanted, and that can never be had and go to Florida to wear a robe – 9 hours on the ground.

    Doing is not satisfaction. Getting things done is not verification. Swimming to push air over your gills is not breathing.

    There are infinite measures, goals, achievements: but, really, there is only one: living – being given everything – Everything – by a simple, completely unknown, Faith.

    I do not think that guy asked to have his last 3 years become billions of humans 2,000 years ago. I do not know if he, in this last week, felt verification. I doubt it.

    To hear Duo’s full talk, “Architect: Fellow & Failing,” join us Saturday morning, April 29, at the 10th Annual Mockingbird Conference.

    As you may have read elsewhere, we have officially reached capacity for dining at the NYC conference. If you have yet to pre-register but would like to eat, please purchase your tickets ASAP and send us an email at info@mbird.com to reserve a spot on the waiting list. We’ll do all we can to accommodate everyone and will let you know as soon as your plate(s) is guaranteed. Thanks for understanding! Please note: there’s still plenty of room for those who want to attend the sessions. Last-minute walk-ins are always welcome.

    Something Missing (in Recovery Services)

    Something Missing (in Recovery Services)

    Compulsion is brutal.

    But the last decade has seen a huge cultural effort to remove spiritual death from the tragedy of addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous was, and largely still is, the model for treatment, but a Higher Power does not play well in the wave of commercial exploitation of “recovery services.”

    Squeaky clean, dead serious ads put coifed “addicts” and similarly serious “therapists” in front of us. With all the sincerity of “ethical” car sales shills, the very worst in any of us has the same cure as a dirty floor: buy me. There is a new, aggressive PR explosion everywhere, which loudly…

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    April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

    April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

    As faithless as it is calculating, college admission becomes a decade of denial for most.

    The first of April becomes the focus of lifetimes. Many parents and their issue have connived, planned, even negotiated for this date: college admission — April First. This April Fool’s Day, millions of households will have their 17-year-old collegiate lay locked and loaded, kinder-glued to their laptops. No, it’s not porn, binge-watching, or even OD-ing on FB. It’s all about admission to college. That’s Decision Day.

    It used to be so simple: you got a fat envelope and were IN, thin envelope OUT, middle envelope MAYBE. We…

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    I Did Not Build Me: Politics, Fragility, and the Self-Made Life

    I Did Not Build Me: Politics, Fragility, and the Self-Made Life

    “Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own… If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

    – Barack Obama July 13, 2012

    When I heard President Obama utter those words I just about lost it. Usually I view the entire freakshow of politics as an insane sidebar — but this statement, made during the 2012 presidential campaign, marked one of those moments when a candidate inadvertently got up in my kitchen. All politics is local, but in this case it got personal. For…

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    The Magic in Magical Thinking

    The Magic in Magical Thinking

    “…conscious uncoupling…”

    “…and Mexico will pay for it!”

    “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

    We cannot help it. Humans desperately need to square the circle. I want to find a cosmic thread or Special Sauce that allows the New York Football Giants to somehow, over about 6 coaching changes and zillions of players post-LT/Simms, to somehow get to the Super Bowl every year.

    That is Magical Thinking.

    But not every illogical extrapolation is as delusional as the Giants making the Super Bowl in the next few years. Not all desire-driven reality-bnding is magical. Heroin, smoking, and bacon have no objective merit: to…

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