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Giant Houses: Impermissible?

Bill McKibben has a new essay on climate change in National Geographic, and while I have some quibbles (it may be a disservice to our forebears to sweepingly assert that global warming is "the greatest test we humans have yet faced"), it's a good overview of the problem. One line jumped out at me: "We build ever bigger homes even as our family sizes shrink..."

Because you see, yesterday I went for a walk and eventually found myself on a street where the homes skew very large. Most of them are not ostentatious, but they're big, solid houses. But there's one house under construction along that street that makes all the other homes look like shotgun shacks.

I'm guessing it's upwards of 8,000 square feet, maybe 10,000. (What's really astounding is that there's no place left on the lot to grow tomatoes.) Out front there's a construction sign with all the building permits on display. There are at least 10 permits.

The owners have paid a fee to get a permit to build a retaining wall. They've paid the fee for the permit to bulldoze a vacant lot. They've got two permits for tree removal, and a permit for keeping a dumpster on the street in front of the construction site. There is a permit for the plumbing: 10 "water closets," 6 bathtubs, 2 showers, etc.

So in principle we have a government that says that you can't alter your environment without getting permission, and that permission costs money. But -- correct me if I'm wrong -- we don't require people to get a permit to be a carbon pig.

For some people, energy costs aren't much of a factor compared to the more expensive items in daily life (jetting to the Riviera, buying art at auction, expanding the ranch at Jackson Hole, etc.). But if someone wants a Godzilla of a carbon footprint (while cutting down trees to make room for their mansion), they should have to pay for it.

Though of course this makes me realize I'm not exactly the greenest guy on the block. Excuse me while I dash out to the hardware store for some more of those compact fluorescents.


What to make of Sally Field last night at the Emmys? I thought she was trying to outdo her infamous "You like me!" Oscar speech. In the category, that is, of Worst Acceptance Speech Ever. She lost her train of thought for longer than it takes the Acela to go from DC to New York.

And then she got bleeped:

'Sally Field praised mothers when she won an Emmy for lead actress in a drama series but also let her anti-war sentiments surface with a God-related swear word.

'"And, let's face it, if the mothers ruled the war, there would be no (expletive) wars in the first place," Field said.'

Um, is a God-related swear word in the category of something that can't be spoken on broadcast TV? I've lost track. At some level it's kind of ludicrous for the FCC to police broadcast TV while, on cable, they're romping around buck nekkid and saying words that are extraordinarily indecorous. Have you seen "Tell Me You Love Me"? Heavens to Betsy! That's a whole different ballgame, there.

But in any case, Field should have been bleeped not for the vulgarity but for being such a space cadet.


Here's what I don't get about the O.J. arrest: He was in Vegas to attend the wedding of a friend. But who invites O.J. Simpson to his or her wedding? Or was this at a little roadside chapel?

I'm not saying I think he's a bad apple or anything. No. Won't go out on that limb. But I'd say his presence would be just something of a bad omen. Same way I feel about playing golf with him: You know he uses the foot wedge when no one's looking. And can't you just see him demanding all those Mulligans?

[more to come...I am going to search my O.J. file for any stories predicting that he'd wind up in the slammer on an armed robbery charge...]


This is where I was this weekend. And in the little town next door.


Here's today's water cooler story .

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 17, 2007; 8:42 AM ET
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