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pencil tower penthouses, christopher ryan, and love

Reading

Super-tall, super-skinny, super-expensive: the ‘pencil towers’ of New York’s super-rich.

Any visitor to New York over the past few years will have witnessed this curious new breed of pencil-thin tower. Poking up above the Manhattan skyline like etiolated beanpoles, they seem to defy the laws of both gravity and commercial sense.

Having been there during the construction of 432 Park Avenue with its $95m penthouse, I can confirm that yes, visitors do witness those towers. What I wasn’t aware of though, were the logistics and ground work (lol #BuildingPun) underpinning all those developments. Zoning laws, ‘air rights’, tuned mass dampers, the behind the scenes deals.. Obviously these skyscrapers aren’t built on a whim, but the details are more interesting than you’d perhaps think.

Then there’s the gawp factor. I’ll never go into one of those penthouses, and tbh, I think it’s a little disgusting that they exist. (See that one that went for $238m earlier in the year? Absolutely ludicrous). But, I can’t deny that I like looking through the promo photos and imagining what it’d be like to live there. New York is great, but I’d probably want a bit more space for my money.

Listening to

Tangentially Speaking 338: ROMA 28. This is the first time I’ve listened to Christopher Ryan’s podcast.. I can’t actually remember where I got this recommendation from (and it was for this specific episode) but thanks to whoever it was. I wasn’t sure if I’d like a whole hour of just one dude talking, but he’s definitely got a way with words, and there’s a decent range of topics covered.

If we don’t grieve for the dead, are we necessarily cold-hearted? What’s behind the collapse of the American empire? How to deal with the chaos and uncertainty of being young? How did disabled people fare among hunter-gatherers?

The bits about the collapse of empire are pretty interesting, especially as I’m also really into the Fall of Civilisations podcast at the moment. I swear, give it another hundred years or so and all those NY penthouses will be steel husks populated by radioactive pigeon/rat hybrids. It’s inevitable.

Still no idea why it’s called ‘ROMA 28’ though.


This American Life 317: Unconditional Love. Actually quite a tough listen, as it goes through the story of a Romanian orphan adopted into an American family, and another with a couple who have an autistic son. Sort of teaching someone how to love, or how to appreciate the value of love, sounds like an impossible task at the best of times because it’s such a nebulous concept. But it’s even more difficult in situations like the ones talked about here.

Parenting can be hard, but even through those moments when my kids are furiously refusing to engage, I’m still 99% sure that they love me really. I can’t imagine how tough it might be if I got nothing back from them; I think these parents (in these stories) have handled / are handling things admirably.

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