The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Reread this great review of my 1995 book the other day; had to bookmark it, even if I am tooting my own horn here!
    Inside the deliberately circumscribed limitations of her topic, Yule Heibel makes a profoundly sophisticated contribution to scholarship on post-World War II art history. Concentrating on German artists’ and critics’ efforts to reestablish viable cultural practices, she turns her evaluation of the relatively minor painter Nay into a discussion that has implications for a great range of visual art produced after 1945.

    tags: johanna_drucker reconstructing_the_subject yule_heibel

  • This is frightening. A car where you have to rent the battery (i.e., you don’t own the whole vehicle), and if you let your contract lapse, it stops working?
    As our friends at iFixit say, if you can’t fix it, you don’t own it. Users need the right to repair the things they buy, and that is incompatible with blanket restrictions on circumventing DRM.

    tags: drm eff

  • Creepy. (Reading about this while reading Dave Eggers’s The Circle just makes me want to hurl…)
    By adding an array of features to mobile devices including GPS trackers, cameras, apps and sensors that can improve and record our daily lives and browsing habits, the addition of personal cloud computing gives applications the opportunity to acquire knowledge over time and predict what we need and want in real-time.

    tags: smartplanet smartphones ubiquity tracking dystopia silicon_valley

  • This is the stuff that Evgeny Morozov RIGHTLY would call creepy…
    You’ve just tossed a jar of peanut butter in your grocery cart when your smartphone buzzes. You glance down at the screen to see a message that seems downright clairvoyant: Buy some jelly. Get $1 off.

    Convenient? Certainly. Creepy? Maybe.

    tags: tracking mit_techreview retail shopping big_data privacy

  • Sad state of affairs:
    Saratoga Springs in New York made national news some years ago when a middle school refused to admit a student who, on national Bike to Work day, bicycled to school with his mom. On the other side of the country, Laguna Beach’s schools declined to join the other 425 in California who participated in Walk to School Day in 2010 because walking to school, the decision-makers determined, was inherently unsafe, no matter how coordinated and supervised.

    tags: atlantic_cities kaid_benfield childhood traffic cities

    Girls don’t ride bikes, Wadjda hears repeatedly from her mother and her (all-female) teachers. Such a ban isn’t superfluous from the point of view of controlling society; one feels independent and in charge when pedaling a bicycle, a state of mind that an authoritarian government frowns upon. But as Wadjda secretly practices her balance on Abdullah’s bike, she grows more determined to get one of her own. Her desire for spokes and wheels grows as she begins to realize everything else that girls and women aren’t permitted to do. She’s reaching the age where teachers want her to drape her face and hair on her way to school, lest she pose too much of a temptation to the catcalling men she meets along the way.

    tags: nicole_gelinas city_journal saudi_arabia islam girls equality bicycles

  • Great video.
    The truth is, no matter how hard some media outlets try to spin it otherwise, these new street safety projects have broad community support. And while the story of these changes often gets simplified in the press, the fact is that the benefits of the redesigns go far beyond cycling. A street with a protected bike lane also has less speeding, shorter pedestrian crossings, less lane-shifting and more predictable movements for drivers, and the opportunity to add more trees and plantings. Injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and car passengers drop wherever the new designs go in. And on the East Side, these improvements have been paired with dedicated bus-only lanes with camera enforcement, making service more convenient and attractive for thousands of bus riders.

    tags: urbanism walkability vimeo

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm | In links | 2 Comments
  • The whole article is super interesting, but this bit especially:
    Yet the offline environment is actually more important when consumers connect through a mobile device. With colleagues including Sang Pil Han of the City University of Hong Kong, we studied 260 users of a South Korean microblogging service similar to Twitter. What we found was that behavior on the small mobile screen was different from behavior on the PC. Searching became harder to do, meaning that people clicked on the top links more often. The local environment was also more important. Ads for stores in close proximity to a user’s home were more likely to be viewed. For every mile closer a store was, smartphone users were 23 percent more likely to click on an ad. When they were on a PC, they were only 12 percent more likely to click close-by stores.

    tags: mit_techreview avi_goldfarb retail etail shopping mobile

    You might sit for a drink at the stylish café on Medienhafen, gazing in wonder at Frank Gehry’s incomparable forms and all the rest of it. But then, acting on countless hidden cues in the context of those who don’t do context, you feel compelled to move on. In the Altstadt, though, you want to linger. You decide on one more Altbier, you follow the flow of the crowd down this street or that one, you find a comfortable spot down on the riverfront and stay later than you planned, sinking deeper into a conversation with a friend or reading another chapter of the book you brought. You disappear into the context. You become context.

    tags: chris_turner mother_nature_network architecture starchitecture placemaking cities

  • Not a fan of Rockwell’s work, but Solomon’s article has lots to think about: depression, New England, the “national” character (or at least its regional variant)…
    I thought of his [Robert Frost’s] poem “Mending Wall,” in which the speaker recounts his impatience with his next-door neighbor, who each spring mends the stone wall separating their properties. The neighbor insists, “Good fences make good neighbors,” which, frankly, is not the most inspiring proverb. Certainly there are more important things to endorse in this world than distance and standoffishness.

    But the wall-building neighbor represents another New England, not the caring and concerned Rockwellian society where people gain strength from their neighbors and look each other in the eye when they talk. No, this was the Frost version, in which townspeople went out of their way to put up barriers, where neighbors electrify fences. I suppose the Frost version is closer to everyday life in America than the idealized Rockwell version. But then “art is no less real for being artifice,” as the critic Clive James once observed, and Rockwell clearly dwelled in the kingdom of his imagination.

    In October of 1953, Rockwell and his wife abruptly left Vermont. They moved to western Massachusetts, to Stockbridge. It, too, seemed on the surface like a perfect New England town, with tranquil pastures and grazing cows. What few people realized is that Rockwell moved to Stockbridge to live near the Austen Riggs Center psychiatric hospital. His wife already was an inpatient there, and he was an outpatient. In his final months in Vermont, he had begun seeing the legendary psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, a German-born intellectual who coined the phrase “identity crisis.”

    In the ’50s, Rockwell continued to paint pictures of a mythic New England, where contentment and community ties prevailed. But the national unity bred by World War II was already unraveling. The growing inclination among Americans was to define their battles in psychological terms rather than in political ones.

    Over the years, their searching gave rise to yet another image of New England, one that had little in common with that of Rockwell, Frost or Grandma Moses. Rather, in James Taylor’s telling, New England was a place where people had nervous breakdowns and openly bemoaned their sorrows. He sang of it in 1970 when he described “the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston,” “covered with snow,” with 10 miles behind him and 10,000 more to go.

    tags: norman_rockwell robert_frost deborah_solomon new_england james_taylor mental_health

  • Thoughtful; important read. Agree with the author’s characterization of shows like Breaking Bad as “nihilism porn”…
    There were only so many times I could be told that Breaking Bad was the most amazing show on television before I finally overcame my lack of desire to see Bryan Cranston as anything other than Hal/Tim Whatley and gave the show a go. Though it took a similar process for me to finally start watching The Wire, a show that I could not stop watching and immediately became obsessed with, I found instead that I not only did not want to keep watching Breaking Bad, but that I had to force myself to go through the agony of watching more. From the acting to the storyline to the cinematography, I can certainly see why so many would marvel at the show’s accomplishments, but at the same time I cannot get over what to me appears to be the core of the show, a core that I fear is actually what most of the audience is truly marveling at, the core that I will refer to as nihilism porn.

    From episode to episode Cranston’s Walter White “broke bad,” but once the terminal cancer and fear for his family’s well-being was revealed to be a red herring as motivation, the true motivation of his descent seemed instead to be: I can, therefore I will. Likewise, the audience’s motivation for watching seemed to be: He can, therefore I will. Walt can let a girl die, I can watch. Walt can poison a child, I can watch. Walt can lie, I can watch. Walt can torture his wife, I can watch. Yet this worked both ways, for the writers of the show operated under a similar imperative: They can watch, therefore we will give them a Walt worth watching. To see Hal kill, to see Whatley destroy, is apparently what the audience wanted and it is definitely what the audience got.

    I bring this up not to suggest that we have become distrustful because we have been traumatized by this television show, but rather that the success of the show reveals just how untraumatized we are. Death and destruction were not a cause for alarm but were a cause célèbre. If anything, this seemed to be the show’s point: We want to see a nice sitcom dad as a possible meth dealer, we want to see an annoying dentist as a possible crime kingpin. Why do we want these things? Because we’re desensitized to violence? Because we’re bored by sitcoms? Maybe it’s because we have not lost our faith, but rather have re-discovered it, a faith in He did, therefore I could.

    tags: nolen_gertz nihilism nihilism_porn medium socialcritique philosophy

  • This.
    Lest the conference organizers think I’m putting all the responsibility on them for those all-male speaker lineups (and let me just reiterate that I’m not just talking about conferences here—this applies to hiring, promotions, compensation, status—in short, all the ways we rank people professionally), there’s a whole other side to this, which is the stuff that prevents women, non-white people, and other marginalized groups from entering into “meritocratic” competitions in the first place.

    tags: laura_bacon meritocracy technology gender_gap diversity

  • Ethan Zuckerman live-blogged the conversation (intro’d and moderated by Tom Levenson) between Ta-Nehesi Coates and Hendrik Hertzberg at MIT on 10/29/13. Interesting point re leadership, politics, and its failures …and consequent shift of blame onto media:
    Levenson persists: as a science writer, he’s seen the polling shift on climate change and wonders to what extent that shift (away from a belief in human-influenced climate change) is the responsibility of opinion journalism. Hertzberg notes that the blame is more properly placed on the political system. If we’d not faced filibuster, we’d have had a cap and trade system for carbon emissions. How can we take climate change seriously if our government doesn’t do anything about it? “Our politican institutions can’t give us what we want, and eventually we stop wanting it. We blame the failure on the media,” rather than on the actual machinery of government that is supposed to solve our problems. Hertzberg explains that the filibuster is his “unified field theory” – he writes about it as much as his editors will allow him to.

    tags: mit ethan_zuckerman ta-nehesi_coates hendrik_hertzberg journalism blogging opinion

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

November 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Love the illustration for Betty Bates, Lady-at-Law (ha!). As she slugs a perp (knocking his gun out of his hand in the process), she tells him,”I’ll teach you to lie to a reputable attorney!” Needless to add, not one of her hairs is out of place. Sigh. 😉
    …Betty Bates, Lady at Law, a beautiful but tough attorney with jiu-jitsu skills. This lady lawyer spent more time investigating cases than she did in the courtroom, and often wound up taking the law into her own hands. Two-fisted Betty hadn’t completely left her working class roots behind, and wasn’t afraid to punch a crook in her role as “purveyor of justice.” Eventually Betty became a crusading district attorney and enjoyed one of the longest careers for a female hero, appearing in “Hit Comics” for an impressive run from 1940-50.

    tags: comics heroines mike_madrid dames_divas_daredevils

  • Must-read article.
    We have begun to glimpse how it’s all being done. The NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters), work closely with Internet service providers and telecom companies to amass enormous quantities of data on us. Some of it is done through the front door—formal legal requests. Some of it is done “upstream” of tech companies and phone companies—i.e., intercepting signals in transit. The agencies have attached probes to transatlantic cables, enabling them to vacuum up data on millions of users on both sides of the Atlantic. By last year GCHQ was handling 600 million “telephone events” each day, had tapped more than two hundred fiber optic cables, and was able to process data from at least forty-six of them at a time.

    We have also learned about how the agencies have spent vast sums of money on subverting the integrity of the Internet itself—weakening its overall security in ways that ought to concern every individual, public body, or company that uses it. A trapdoor that lets the NSA into your messages is, most cryptologists agree, quite exploitable by others. If you’re anxious about your bank details or medical records sitting online, you’re probably right to be.

    tags: snowden nsa surveillance democracy privacy

  • More on the wretched temp economy:
    Surowiecki doesn’t say this, but the “world of work” isn’t just “changing.” Like ice floes and Miley Cyrus, its changes over time are the product of human intervention. In this case, the human error has been a jobs-destroying financial crisis, short-sighted fiscal policy, a credit crunch, and a well-funded deficit-reduction movement that has drawn attention away from the jobs crisis. If these things hadn’t happened, we might not be in the position of needing to mortgage decades of future earnings for the chance at a one-time loan. We’d work hard at full-time jobs with benefits, get fixed-rate loans when we needed to buy stuff, and keep our wages for ourselves once the loans were paid off.

    tags: gig_economy economy nymag kevin_roose

  • So damn true. And as for professors writing books about gift economies, no matter how eloquently: it’s easy enough to wax poetic about gift economies when you have the assurance of a tenured job that provides a regular salary…
    I have read Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift,” and participated in a gift economy for 20 years, swapping zines and minicomics with friends and colleagues, contributing to little literary magazines, doing illustrations for bands and events and causes, posting a decade’s worth of cartoons and essays on my Web site free of charge. Not getting paid for things in your 20s is glumly expected, even sort of cool; not getting paid in your 40s, when your back is starting to hurt and you are still sleeping on a futon, considerably less so. Let’s call the first 20 years of my career a gift. Now I am 46, and would like a bed.
    I’d like to add that someone once told me that if you work for free, you must really hate yourself.
    Also, this:
    Practicalities aside, money is also how our culture defines value, and being told that what you do is of no ($0.00) value to the society you live in is, frankly, demoralizing. Even sort of insulting. And of course when you live in a culture that treats your work as frivolous you can’t help but internalize some of that devaluation and think of yourself as something less than a bona fide grown-up.

    tags: nyt tim_kreider gift_economy free_economy economy

  • Too true, all too true.
    Twelve years after September 11, 2001, the United States’ obsession with al Qaeda is doing more damage to the nation than the terrorist group itself.

    tags: usa nsa terrorism surveillance democracy_deficit

  • “The story of L.A.’s hyper expansion is by now a familiar one. With more than a dozen miles sitting between downtown and the beach, Moeller explains, for the city’s budding school of developers, planners and modern architects, at the beginning of this period “it looked like they had as much space as they wanted.” But within this narrative of expansion and experimentation there is an embedded history of how a feverish pace of building changed the face of a city that was actually far from empty.”

    tags: los_angeles exhibitions sprawl urban_development

  • Great to see Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) get featured billing in this thoughtful piece:
    Trevor Smith described artists’ roles as change agents, highlighting their ability not only to create new forms, but to recognize connections between topics and to remix cultural DNA, keeping this DNA “alive in the present tense.”

    tags: boston art_reception

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

In memoriam: Jim Falck, artist

October 15, 2013 at 11:19 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on In memoriam: Jim Falck, artist

On October 5, the painter Jim Falck died. From Fargo ND, he spent many years in Boston and eventually moved to Beverly on the North Shore. From 1991 till 2002, my family and I lived in the house across the street from his. We became friends over that time, and when we moved away to Victoria BC in 2002, Jim made sure we stayed in touch. In 2012, we moved back to Beverly, to the same neighborhood in fact, albeit this time not right across the street from our friend. It was such a gift to reconnect “irl” with Jim after ten years of letters, postcards, and finally emails – he was a very uniquely gifted individual who enriched the lives of those around him.

Although I’ve stopped posting to my blog over the past year or more, it seemed appropriate to publish my thoughts about Jim, his ability to cultivate friendships and gardens, and his painting here, since it was the home of my more thought-felt writing.

In memoriam: Jim Falck, artist

Jim and I met sometime in the months after my husband and I moved into the house across from his. It was September 1991, we had a 5-month old son, and by the time the new year rolled around I was on my first real teaching job at MIT. The semester went by in a blur, and by the summer of 1992 whatever garden had come with the house had disappeared under crabgrass and behind overgrown rhododendrons, which entirely obscured the house’s wraparound porch. Sleep-deprived and shell-shocked from a full teaching load, I can’t recall much of anything, and I’m not sure I interacted with Jim at all, except for a wave or casual hello.

But we must have become friendly, somehow, and eventually (was it still 1992 or was it now 1993 already?) it was my awful rhododendrons that brought us together. Whether it was after I decided to put a proper garden into the front patch of our property, or before, I can’t remember, but Jim just couldn’t bear the sight of those overgrown shrubs any longer. He asked whether I’d mind if he pruned them, and of course I said yes. Across the street he marched, armed with alarmingly gigantic loppers.

Here the word snicker-snack comes to mind, but that wouldn’t do Jim’s pruning justice. It was more a light-sabre job: immensely skilled, fast, and laser-precise. Intense. Almost scary. Surgical. Artistic. The formerly dumpy, lumpy rhodies were now “floribunda”: tree-shaped, elegant, looking like a million bucks. I began to eye this neighbor with a mixture of awe and curiosity. What else could he do?

I didn’t yet know much about him. Seen from my house, Jim’s front garden looked unassuming. A small strip of lawn, a few shrubs, a Dogwood tree he planted; on one side a shared driveway, on the other a small patio, mostly unadorned (the profusion of potted flowers and sculptural reliefs came later, bit by bit). I couldn’t see behind the house – but that was where all the action was.

Jim was intensely private, and unless you were invited in, you could easily miss the amazing magic he wrought. He didn’t keep people out, there were no fences around his house. But unless you had a reason to wander back there, you didn’t see the gorgeous garden hidden in plain sight.

I finally got to see it after he pruned my rhodies and I was falling all over myself about the terrific job he’d done.

No matter where in the growing season we were, Jim’s garden had something going on. He was quirky about it, though, not fussy. He thought nothing of pushing plants around, moving them quickly to where he thought they’d look better. If a plant wasn’t earning its keep, out it went. If, on the other hand, it was flamboyantly showing off, it got the star billing it deserved – for the duration, because of course the garden was changing all the time. What was constant was its beauty, vitality, and vibrant color.

Other gardeners incorporate utility, opting for vegetables or drought-resistant plants or some such useful aspect. As far as I could tell, Jim didn’t concern himself with that. Sure, he had some tomatoes in pots, and if a drought-resistant plant was beautiful, it was welcome in his garden. But the first consideration was always aesthetic, artistic. The garden had to perform as an aesthetic entity.

That garden was in many ways also a metaphor.

After Jim was diagnosed at the end of August, and as he lay dying while friends were calling or visiting from all over the world, I thought about just how immense his garden was, …still is. Just as the plants in his backyard were oblivious of one another, but assembled in an artistic display that spoke to the vigor of the gardener, so his friends often knew nothing of one another, even as together we make quite the tableau.

Because Jim was intensely private, he never boasted about his many accomplishments, his experiences, his many friends. But of course he had them – the accomplishments, experiences, and friends.

And as in a garden where plants are unaware of one another but connected in an ecosystem, taking turns at blooming, showing off, and giving pleasure, his friends contributed to the richness of his life. He appreciated each of us for what we could bring into the mix.

Although he was so very private, there was simultaneously a great intensity and energy to Jim, which I already alluded to in describing how he pruned my rhododendrons. Jim was nothing if not vigorous. He attacked his garden, he attacked the work of pruning shrubs, weeding, and moving plants around. There was nothing halfway about the man. It’s not that he bullied his plants – or his friends. Ever. But he didn’t treat them with kid gloves, either. Never one to hold back, he’d freely give his opinions on the current criminals in power, just as he was willing to rip out an overgrown garden denizen. Likewise, he held strong opinions of people close to him, sometimes changing his mind about how well he liked someone – always based on how he perceived what they did and expressed.

I think this ability to attack, to do battle, was essential to his art. Because Jim was an artist, his nature wasn’t to destroy anything, but attack it he did.

The French talk about “la lutte d’amour,” the battle of love. The idea has given rise to some great art. It’s a very fraught topic, but it used to be a given that men couldn’t understand women and that there is always a battle between the sexes.

It’s also a given that most of Jim’s work is about sex.

Is it about battles, too?

Well, yes, if by “battle” we mean the willingness to engage, to go direct. To go face to face with the object of desire. To engage wholly, holding nothing back. To expose oneself in the heat of battle, to expose oneself to the other, and to render thereby what amounts to a self-portrait of the artist as a lover.

Take a look at Jim’s vibrant output and notice the battle, the engagement, that’s taking place in almost every painting. Jim worked in the great tradition of modernism started by the French Impressionists, pushed forward by Cézanne and Picasso, then continued by an Abstract Expressionism that’s distinctly American. While an art historian can look at his work and see those influences and more, there’s nothing second-rate about Jim’s output. I think that’s because, unlike many younger artists, he wasn’t embarrassed about the tradition. Yes, it was “expressionistic,” and we’ve had it drummed into us that expressionistic work isn’t “cool,” but Jim knew different.

For him to have painted otherwise would be like a gardener wanting flowers that can only bloom on cue, or only in muted shades of pastel, or only if the sky is perfectly cloud-free. And only if the gardener controlled the entire spectacle with a remote control from the safety of his computer.

Not Jim. He got dirty. In his garden he got his hands dirty, and he didn’t shy away from a “dirty” expressive painting, either. He attacked his canvas, engaged with the medium and its limitations, and the figures he painted reflect the battle as they struggle to emerge from his often vehement, always vigorous brushstroke, emerge from the paint that binds them into the flat of the canvas. It was always the “unflat” bits – the naughty bits, if you will: breasts, penises, vaginas – which, being naturally protruding or suggestive of holes and openings, become the focal points. He’d line up the bodies, just as Cézanne did, in pairs or sometimes threesomes or more, with the lines of arms and legs making a nice flat pattern from one edge of the canvas to the other. And then the unflat bits, the voluptuous parts, would bust loose, throwing the two-dimensional logic of the demure canvas to the wind. In his best work – and there’s a lot of it – the tension is palpable, the heat of battle gets into your nostrils.

Hardly anyone gets that elemental anymore.

Here’s hoping that Jim, who was such a great gardener and terrific artist, planted many seeds.

Spring 2013, Jim hanging his show at Montserrat College of Art library

Additional material:

Link to a gallery of some of his paintings

A 2012 video of Jim painting, at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly

(part of a group show of temporary wall paintings)


Started a Tumblr

September 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Started a Tumblr

Prodding myself to start writing again, but unwilling to write here, I started a Tumblr. It’s photos, and short stuff. But I just posted something slightly longer about Happiness. Damn that trip hop music. 🙂


March 15, 2013 at 11:19 am | In just_so | 3 Comments

From my breakfast perch, I can see a beautiful heritage house across the street. The lovely owner runs a home-based daycare.

This morning I watched parents in various makes of cars hurl themselves to the curb, gently and with apparent attention shepherd their children inside, …then run back nearly headless to the cars that would take them to their minutely scheduled lives:

To catch the train to work in Boston?
To take the highway to work in suburban office parks?
To go to a local job?

Where were they all off to, in such a great hurry?

Of course I remembered that I used to do this myself, before I (sort of kind of involuntarily) opted out of that rat race.

commuter rail train boston mbta



Last month I had one of those very blue periods where what should be a broad horizon shrinks down to a tiny speck that feels like a dark, dark hole in the ground.

I’m happy to report that my brain managed to adjust itself and I don’t feel entirely rotten at present. But these things do come and go, as many of you know. One of my sisters calls it having “das arme Tier” (except she’ll say it not in high German, but in an exaggerated Rhineland dialect, “dat aahme Dier”): that poor dear.

weathervane signage

You can have that damn poor dear, you see. And when you do, she’s going to make sure you feel that it’s like that. Exactly like that.

(Note for monolinguists: Tier means animal, here meant as creature. Dier is dialect: in the Rhineland, hard sounds tend to soften: t becomes d, ich becomes ish. In Berlin, on the other hand, pronunciation is harder: ich becomes the famous – infamous? – ick.)

I think it’s ironic that, just as “the poor dear” sticks with me (and to me, sometimes), I also have a special memory of another concept: the Lebenskünstler or life artist. He or she is a person who escapes constricting social norms and manages to live life on her own terms.

In a super-ramped up consumerist world, we may be forgiven if we conflate Lebenskunst (the art of living) with lifestyle and therefore as something we ought to be able to buy.

Money sure is useful (and a validation of oneself, if one is paid for what one does), but Lebenskunst is not just a lifestyle thing.

It’s mostly an attitude, a perspective, and a question of creativity.

In one sense, it’s about being able to count one’s blessings – although, again using my memories as an example, counting blessings or having an attitude of gratitude is something my tribe made fun of, often. Really often. Gratitude, schmatitude. Gratitude was for weaklings, and for optimistic fools who ended up being happy to tend their own gardens – instead of going out there and Doing Something Important. So we made fun. I’m not sure we really understood the corrosive effect on ourselves of our sarcasm. But I think we did it because we assumed that some things were basic social and human rights, and that it was ridiculous to be grateful for anything-and-everything. (People have argued about this for centuries.) I suspect, too, that sarcasm and gallows humor was also a shield – and perhaps a lance – against the poor dear. Today I’m more inclined to conclude that tending one’s own garden isn’t the worst of all possible worlds – provided you have your little plot, that is.

The Lebenskünstler is creative about gratitude, and uses it to build. She’s no hapless naif, or poor dear. He has a sense of style – and therefore a lifestyle – but isn’t a slave to consumption. She builds (creates) with what she’s given, and sometimes that’s the short end of the stick. No matter. It’s a matter of philosophy, and consolation. Most of all, Lebenskunst is about creativity and using what you’ve got.

bridge pilingsGive her half a chance, and my poor dear tells me I’ve got nothing. I have to tell her to shut her uncreative trap. My poor dear makes fun of the Lebenskünstler swanning about, the one who’s busy making plans and creating (largely imaginary) worlds.

The poor dear doesn’t want anyone actually to create anything. At this point I have to show my poor dear the door, although she’s feisty and incredibly difficult to shove away. But push I must, because my poor dear does nothing to help me get anywhere, or even help me get started.

She is the worst rat race in the whole universe because she makes me compete against her, which is no contest at all because she’ll triumph.

The Lebenskünstler must learn to subtract. Ask any sculptor and she’ll tell you that subtraction is as valuable a creative technique as addition. It’s time once again to give the poor dear a Lebenskunst make-over.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

March 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • More on the transportation bias (it’s pro-car and pro-vehicle speed):
    The weight of this hidden hand doesn’t fall on San Francisco alone. “Intersection LOS [level of service] is one of the most widely-used traffic analysis tools in the U.S. and has a profound impact on how street space is allocated in U.S. cities,” writes Jason Henderson, geography professor at San Francisco State University, in the November issue of the Journal of Transport Geography. As Henderson argues, it’s about time cities addressed the problem, and San Francisco is doing just that. It’s currently in the process of drafting a new sustainable transportation metric that will replace LOS and promote livability. Still, the fight is far from over.

    “Every city I’ve ever come across has some use of [LOS],” says Henderson, who has conducted an extensive review of LOS and is writing a book on the politics of mobility in San Francisco. “LOS and the privilege of the car is the incumbent. The way the political process is set up is you have to disprove the incumbent.”

    tags: transportation eric_jaffe atlantic_cities cars cities

  • Important article. The following is a quote from Victoria BC’s Todd Litman of the Transport Policy Institute. Amazing…
    Because it [a vehicle-based planning method] evaluates transport system performance based primarily on travel speeds, conventional planning favor faster but more costly transport modes, such as automobile travel over slower but more affordable modes such as walking, cycling and public transit. This tends to create automobile dependent transport systems which increases total costs.

    tags: transportation planning todd_litman atlantic_cities eric_jaffe cars automobile

  • Interesting article (and the usual vitriol in the comments). An aside: I had to laugh at the washing machines comparison (below) because it reminded me of a conversation between undergrads at UBC in 1981: One young woman (student) described renting a room from an older lady (yes, matron) in a really upscale Vancouver neighborhood. There was no washing machine in the house, and the older woman told the young student that she had objected when her husband wanted to buy her one back in the 40s. She told him, “If you bring that into the house, you’ll be wanting me to do the laundry next.” She always had someone pick it up and deliver. Now that’s an idea I can get behind. All these appliances at home also mean more work at home. Now back to the article:
    We’re used to the notion of sharing libraries, public parks, and train cars. But in many ways, American culture in particular drifted away from sharing as a value when we spread out from city centers and into the suburbs. Molly Turner, the director of public policy for short-term rental lodging website Airbnb, evokes the iconic image of Richard Nixon, in Moscow, introducing Nikita Khrushchev to the modern marvel of the state-of-the-art washing machine, available for private consumption in every American home. Beginning with the era of that washing machine, Turner argues, we forgot how to share.”

    tags: atlantic_cities sharing_economy economies emily_badger

  • Walkability. (But then again, the car’s not dead, either, and there are also signs that Millennials do move to suburbs when they want a bit more space to raise families. However, even those suburbs – which often are small cities ringing a larger metro – benefit from walkability…)
    There’s another important way that most suburbs remain suburban: They continue to lack walkable commercial districts, viable public spaces and public transit systems that allow people of all ages to be together without driving a car. Americans accepted this arrangement 60 years ago, when we valorized domestic life and stigmatized the street. Back then suburban kids played in backyards and culs-de-sac and their mothers spent most of their days around the house. These days, however, women work outside the home and children pursue their individual interests in specialized classes. Moreover, downtowns are desirable. People want to walk and shop and sip coffee on busy sidewalks, but suburbanites need automobiles to reach them. Walking requires driving, which means everyone winds up sitting in traffic or searching for parking.

    Suburbia sentences all those who move there to an unending series of car rides: to school, to work, to the train station. To the grocery store, mall, car wash. To soccer practice, tennis lessons, music classes. To the Olive Garden, movie theater, mall. To go to the city, to come home from the city—and preferably not during rush hour, though these days it’s rush hour most of the time.

    Suburbanites who have moved to the city are evangelical about their liberation from car culture. Parents are especially adamant about the virtues of city living, since they no longer spend afternoons and weekends chauffeuring children nor evenings praying that their teenagers don’t drink and drive. So are cash-strapped car owners who didn’t plan on spending $4 a gallon on gasoline and who know that in coming years $4 will seem cheap.

    tags: walkability playboy cities suburbs eric_klinenberg urbanism

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

February 24, 2013 at 3:25 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Sadly, EveryBlock was shut down. Its founder, Adrian Holovaty, comments.
    More than six years ago, I wrote a blog post that got some attention about how newspaper (and, really, journalism) sites needed to change. EveryBlock was an attempt at that kind of change — in my eyes, a successful attempt. EveryBlock was among the more innovative and ambitious journalism projects at a time when journalism desperately needed innovation and ambition. RIP.

    tags: everyblock adrian_holovaty citizen_journalism local_news localnews

  • And now, a contrarian view of density – it’s not magic after all? (But what about walkability in those sprawling places in TX or AB?)
    Cheaper condos may not be enough to save Toronto or San Francisco. More importantly, sprawling Texas metropolitan regions are becoming more productive. What’s all this fuss about the magic of density?

    Alberta and Texas are attracting a lot of migrants. Birthplace diversity is increasing, rapidly. Up goes productivity and innovation. The magic is migration, not density.

    We needn’t worry about cramming more people into Toronto or San Francisco. The spiraling cost of real estate is forcing relocation, across all incomes. People of modest means are fleeing Los Angeles and putting down roots in San Antonio. Yet the urban core is hollowing out in that Texas metro. San Antonio isn’t booming, converging in terms of productivity, because of density. Talent is pouring in from elsewhere. People develop, not places.

    tags: walkability urbanism density demographics population migration sustainable_cities jim_russell

  • Walkability as a public health issue; lack of walkability as contributor to the obesity epidemic.
    Key Findings:
    *The odds of a student being overweight or obese decreased if they lived in communities with higher walkability index scores.
    *The average prevalence of adolescent overweight and obesity was 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
    *The mean walkability index across communities was 6.38.
    *Key street features associated with reduced prevalence of obesity included increased presence of sidewalks and public transit.

    tags: walkability urbanism communities public_health obesity

  • More walkability.
    [Julie] Campoli acknowledges that having destinations nearby is essential for getting more people walking, but she adds to this several other key qualities of walkable urban neighbourhoods:

    * Connections – a fine-grained network of sidewalks and footpaths with plenty of intersections;
    *Tissue – Great architecture with small human-sized buildings, not big boxes!
    * Density – of housing and population;
    * Streetscape – well designed streets with wide sidewalks and crossings, that are easy and safe to walk in;
    * Green networks – plenty of street trees and green spaces.

    tags: walkability thisbigcity urbanism

  • Walkability. All over the web lately.
    As a follow-up to my review about Jeff Speck’s Walkable City, I invited Brendan Crain, communications manager for the Project for Public Spaces, to have an online chat about the new book. Crain has broad experience working to expand civic involvement in planning urban spaces and had his own review of Walkable City published today.

    tags: next_city walkability brendan_crain urbanism

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

I dreamed about my superpower

February 21, 2013 at 10:23 am | In writing | Comments Off on I dreamed about my superpower

Some pieces

Before going to bed last night, I posted a status update to Facebook that read, “Spent an hour or more reading about maternal haplogroup T2b, from the sublime (well, not really) to the ridiculous (yes, really).”

Then, I foolishly dug around a bit on a new online publishing platform — foolish, because it made me feel like I was missing something.

And this morning, glancing over my email while the coffee brewed, I noticed a link to a yet another new book that teaches you common household and “life” hacks, including something to do with threading needles.


With that word “needles,” bam!, a dream I’d had during the night came into focus, except it came back in that annoying way dreams will: partial, half-remembered, missing key pieces.

The Dream

I was somewhere, doing something (with my hands?). I was somewhere doing something with my hands and it involved trying to repair something.

I was somewhere doing something about stitching something that had torn.

I was somewhere — oh no, it can’t have been there, surely? — trying to put something right.

I was somewhere where I had been …disturbed, hurt.

I was somewhere, on the ground, the earth, the dirt, the field, the patch, the clearing, held down in the place where I was trying to fix something that I didn’t know how to fix, and I gave up hope.

I lost the needle. (I felt, in my dream, how I lost the needle I needed to repair the fabric, but I had no words. I was little.) Someone entered the frame, but because this is a dream half-remembered, I can’t say whether it’s one or two people, nor who it is. Someone — or something — prompts me to look for the needle in the grubby leaf-littered dirt I’m sitting on.

That’s when it happens — the part of the dream I remember most vividly: I find another needle. It’s not the one I lost — it’s a different size — but it’s a needle, a tool. Then I find another one, (again a different size) and another (yet another size). I have three now, all different sizes: my found treasures are turning into a tool kit.

Then I make an amazing find: a tool for threading needles! It’s super-elegant and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. After that, nearby, a fourth needle, and a fifth. At some point in the dream I’m clutching a whole handful of needles, as well as this beautifully designed tool that looks like no other. They’re all available for me to use. It’s amazing.

I’m still trying to sort out what it means, beyond the obvious: finding not just a needle in “a haystack” (or dirt and leaf-litter covered ground), but many needles of varying size, plus a nearly magical new tool for threading them all.


In the dream I don’t have any thread, but it “felt” as though I could probably get some. I also don’t have any clear purpose in the dream: no reason for needing these needles except that I had been trying to fix something at the outset, and lost the tool for it. But I can’t remember what I was trying to fix, nor whether I should still try to fix it, or whether this bounty of needles (and that marvelous threading tool) meant that I could finally move on, like an apprentice who’s graduated from his apprentice piece and now sets out on his trade sojourn, looking for work.

Looking for work, looking for purpose, looking for a way to ply my trade: dream it six ways to Sunday and back, it remains hardened, difficult stuff.

But: I can thread any needle, any needle at all. The needles were always in me, they had fallen out of my pockets — out of my body — and into the dirt. I just have to find them again and pick them up. The threading tool, however? That was newly forged in me, it’s my super-power.

I can thread any needle, any needle at all.

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