I realize this is just his thing, his niche topic, but Lord, Wayne Curtis is such a ridiculous plonker:
The long and short of it: After five million years of perfecting the art of walking upright, we’ve lost the battle in maintaining the spaces that welcome us on foot. And this feeds the cycle of our walking less, and thus rendering it less important. “Landscape design” has the sound of something effete and precious, an art practiced by the overeducated for the overcompensated. But it’s not. In fact, creating the right landscape may be central to our survival.
If we want to get people walking and experiencing their environment and community and avoiding the chronic diseases that are the burgeoning byproducts of sedentariness, it’s not enough to hector and cajole people. Landscaper designers must be teamed up with urban planners to create inviting habitat to lure people from their cocoons of steel.
In short, in working the land, we need to also pay attention to genetics, lest we evolve into limbless rubber balls. Or perhaps we’ll regress to a quadrupedal species, unable to move about without four limbs: Two feet on pedals and two hands on a wheel.
Or perhaps we’ll become peripatetic cyborgs who walk in place on machines while watching TV or listening to music through headphones, being that actual evolution is not limited to the unimaginative value-judgments of your romantic fantasies. Speaking of which, my trusty treadmill passed away a few days ago, after more than eight years of loyal, regular service. Thousands, literally thousands of glorious miles spent in each other’s company. Not bad at all for the cheapest, most basic model being sold at the time. If I unreservedly recommend Proform for all your inauthentic walking needs, could I perhaps get a sponsorship from the company? For a free treadmill, hell, yes, I’ll gladly put the company logo in the sidebar and urge all of you to contribute to Curtis’s dyspepsia by getting one yourself. If not, this would be a good time for one of my fabulously wealthy lurking readers to step out of the shadows and become a benefactor. You want me to remain in good health to keep writing indefinitely, don’t you? Maybe I’ll even throw in a picture of my chiseled muscular legs as a bonus.
February 10, 2014 @ 5:35 pm
-Legs, huh? Is that your final offer?
-Curtis's utopia is a nice fantasy, but what's the deal with the Lamarckian evolution references? Don't educated people know that's completely wrong?
-Maybe Obamacare will pay for treadmills. Get a prescription.
February 10, 2014 @ 4:45 pm
I guess because topics like this are my professional interest, I don't see this pablum as all that offensive.
Sorry, Damian, but most American cities are actively hostile to pedestrians. This is not a good thing. Especially as our economy continues to generate mostly sub-survival jobs for people who cannot really afford new cars all the time.
This is pablum, but it is harmless pablum and it addresses bigger and more important issues of urban planning.
February 11, 2014 @ 2:32 am
I eat too badly to be very shapely, but I do have nice legs!
Seriously, though…one can take mundane activities and elevate them to ridiculous levels of pretention and self regard.
In some cases, though, this in itself is a reaction. The hostility cyclists face from (rampantly dangerous three ton piloting while texting scofflaw drivers) leads inevitably to self righteouss cyclists. And, I refuse to apologize for that.
February 10, 2014 @ 11:52 pm
It is harmless pablum; that's why I only pelt him with spitballs rather than seriously attack him.
I have no problem with urban planning either, but that's only a tangential point in the romantic mythology he's trying to create around walking. (He's writing a book on the history of walking in America, so I assume these essays will end up in there.) He's making it into an ideological subject, attempting to draw out all the supposed social and spiritual implications of what it means to be a dedicated walker. If you read back over the earlier essays, you see that they all have this theme of walking being representative of a stereotypically romantic notion of authenticity and profundity, as compared to all those mindless butterballs who don't do it (or at least don't do it in ways that Curtis would approve of).
In fact, I'd go further and suggest that walking is only a proximate subject for him. That just happens to be the hook upon which he's hanging this whole "here's how to know if you're an authentic, profound person" shtick. But you see versions of that theme all the time — think of any silly dichotomy which purports to tell you what kind of person you are based on which side you choose. Are you a Mac or a PC type? "Walking vs. sedentariness" is just a more sophisticated version of the same thing. I could write a version of that based on weightlifting and exercising while listening to music, and construct a whole mythology about what a superior person that makes me.
I don't think he's doing it because he's a dickhead or anything; I think it's more like a creative writing exercise gone on too long. There's just not that much significant to say about walking as a habit or hobby, so we get all these half-baked meditations about how our "survival" depends on landscape design, and how technological determinism makes it impossible to have worthwhile thoughts and experiences while driving or sitting.
Phil Oliver is also working on a book about walking (while posting frequently about it too), but his take on it is refreshingly free of Curtis's status-mongering.
February 10, 2014 @ 11:56 pm
Oh, but these aren't just any old pair of gams. These are the legs of a former soccer player! My massage therapist said they reminded her of the legs of a long-distance runner. Calves to die for!
Besides, while my pecs and biceps and deltoids are looking quite shapely themselves these days thanks to all the weightlifting, they're not really related to the use of a treadmill. Maybe if I get a crosswalk treadmill, though, that might become relevant…
February 11, 2014 @ 9:11 pm
If humanity is to survive… CYCLING! (Walking? Pshaw. Sooo pedestrian.)
February 11, 2014 @ 10:18 pm
Preferrably on colorful Italian carbon fiber frames!