Book Review: Holy Spokes : The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels by Laura Everett


AuthorLaura Everett
TitleHoly Spokes : The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels
Publication Info: Grand Rapids : Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017.
Summary/Review:

Rev. Laura is someone I know, mostly from Twitter, but occasionally at church or out biking the streets of Boston.  This is a book about bicycling and as it’s set in Boston, it’s very familiar to me, especially the growing community of bike users that has become more active in the past decade, as well as the more somber remembrances of people who have been killed riding their bikes in recent years.  Everett writes about the spirituality of bicycling, beginning with her own conversion to commuting by bike.  Her ministry to the city grows as she travels the streets of the most vulnerable communities, seeing them up close without the windshield view.  And biking also gives an understanding of vulnerability to the rider as bicyclists are generally maligned community, their bodies always at risk, and any protections gained despite fighting tooth and nail are generally still insufficient.  It’s a beautiful book that touches on many things, cities and bikes, faith and justice.  I highly recommend it.

Recommended books:

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist by Pete Jordan, and Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes
Rating: *****

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Book Review: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin


Author: James Baldwin
TitleThe Fire Next Time
Narrator:  Jesse L. Martin.
Publication Info: BBC Audiobooks America (2008)
Summary/Review:

This pair of essays published in 1963 discusses racial relations in the United States at the time and remains depressingly relevant in the present day.  Baldwin, in a letter to his 14-year-old nephew, describes what it means to be black in America with unrestrained anger and compassion.  The essays also examine the ineffectiveness of religion in dealing with these problems and his disillusionment with Christianity.  Baldwin’s analysis of America’s problems – among both white and black people – is unrelenting, but he does offers some hope that people can eschew their narrow beliefs.

Favorite Passages:

“You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do (and how you could do it) and where you could live and whom you could marry. I know your countrymen do not agree with me about this, and I hear them saying “You exaggerate.” They do not know Harlem, and I do. So do you. Take no one’s word for anything, including mine- but trust your experience. Know whence you came.”

“I do not know many Negroes who are eager to be “accepted” by white people, still less to be loved by them; they, the blacks, simply don’t wish to be beaten over the head by the whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet. White people will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this — which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never — the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”

“I know that what I am asking is impossible. But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand — and one is, after all, emboldened by the spectacle of human history in general, and American Negro history in particular, for it testifies to nothing less than the perpetual achievement of the impossible.”

Recommended booksBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Rating: ****

 

Book Review: Boston’s South End by Russ Lopez


AuthorRuss Lopez
TitleBoston’s South End, The Clash of Ideas in a Historic Neighborhood
Publication Info: Boston, MA : Shawmut Peninsula Press, [2015]
Summary/Review:

I read this book while researching for a walking tour of the SoWa District.  While only a portion of the book was relevant to my research, I found the entire book an engaging and comprehensive history of the Boston neighborhood.  It’s particularly revealing if you know today’s South End – a prosperous, upscale urban area – and compare it to the near past when it was a home to working class people of color and considered for complete demolition under urban renewal.  Lopez is good at telling a bottom-up story using quotes and stories to tell the life of ordinary South Enders.

Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week (s) (August 12-25)


Once again, I’ve gone two weeks without posting the must-hear podcasts.  But lucky for you, podcasts are asynchronous so you can listen to them any time!

First, I want to promote a couple of podcasts I recently started listening to that I think are worth subscribing to:

  • Five Questions With Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso – This is the first podcast I’ve heard created by someone I know, an old friend from college.  As the title aptly applies, Betsy interviews everyday people, asking them not just five questions but also providing five facts and asking to list five items on topic.  The answers are always insightful and I seriously want to get to know and become friends with every single person interviewed in these podcasts.
  • Slate’s Hit Parade – This podcast is actually part of a larger anthology podcast called the Slate Culture Gabfest and appears once per month in that feed.  Host Chris Molanphy dedicates about an hour each episode to investigating where art and commerce intersect on the popular music charts by delving into the background of how certain songs become #1 hits.  So far the podcast has told the story of UB40’s “Red Red Wine,” the circumstances behind The Beatles occupying all of the top five spots in 1964, the Elton John & George Michael’s “imperial periods” when they ruled the charts, and how “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” made big hits out of charity megasingles.  Every episode is detailed and absolutely fascinating.

And some other podcast episodes you should listen too:

  • Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu – this podcast remains a go to source for insights on our political climate, and the three most recent episodes deal with removing Confederate monuments, Charlottesville and the aftermath.
  • The GistThe Politics of Police Unions – I’m extremely supportive of labor organizations but equally troubled by how police unions have become vehicles for racism, right wing politics, and protecting the most violent and corrupt in their ranks.  The interview with former Boston cop Tom Nolan gives some background.
  • Hub History Canoes and Canoodling on the Charles – this Boston history podcast introduced to me the history of the late nineteenth century recreational canoe craze and how kids used it to perform scandalous behavior.

 

Boston By Foot Tour – South of Washington (SoWa) – Aug. 27 at 2 pm


Do you know anything about the SoWa district in Boston’s South End?  I didn’t, so I participated in researching and writing a new Tour of the Month for Boston By Foot and will be one of the guides as the tour goes out this Sunday, August 27 at 2 pm from the Broadway MBTA station on the Red Line.

While South of Washington moniker goes back to the late 1990s, the area has a rich history of transportation, industry, immigrant and working class residences, urban renewal, and its latest reincarnation as an arts district.  Come join me on Sunday to learn more about this fascinating Boston enclave.

Tickets are $15/person and can be purchased online or in person before the tour begins on Sunday.

Photopost: Oldtime Baseball Game


Last Thursday, my daughter and I attended the Oldtime Baseball Game in Cambridge, MA. This annual event features players wearing woolen baseball uniforms in the style of classic major and minor league teams of the past. The players are mostly college and high school players from across the country, plus a handful of celebrities. This year Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez returned to the mound and with him came big crowds.

I’d attended the Oldtime Baseball Game several times before, but not since I moved south of the river from Somerville to Jamaica Plain ten years ago. It’s good to see that the fundraiser is growing more popular even though it meant that we ended up having to sit 4 people deep behind the outfield fence. And it was a treat to see Pedro pitch again. I believe he allowed no baserunners in his two innings pitched, and he even came to bat (albeit striking out), something he didn’t do all too often in a Red Sox uniform.

Trying to take photos with a chainlink fence in the way and my daughter grabbing my arm at the wrong moment was challenging, but here are some of the photographs that came out ok.

Photopost: Solar Eclipse


Here is what the sun and the moon looked like from Bussey Hill in Arnold Arboretum this afternoon in Boston, MA.

Resistance Mixtape – Anti-Fascist Anthems


I’ve been meaning to make this a regular feature, and this is a good time to collect some songs written in opposition to fascists, white supremacists, and right-wing extremists of all stripes.  It seems that folk and punk are the favored genres of anti-fascism, but if you know a good ripping tune from some other genre to add to the fight, let me know in the comments.

Woody Guthrie – “All You Fascists Bound to Lose”

Peggy Seeger – “Song of Choice”

Fishbone – “Subliminal Fascism”

Anti Flag – “This Machine Kills Fascists”

MDC – “Born to Die”

Aus-Rotten – “Fuck Nazi Sympathy”

Sonic Youth – “Youth Against Fascism”

Rage Against the Machine – “Killing in the Name”

Podcasts of the Week (s) (July 22-August 11)


I’m way behind on posting anything to this blog.  Here are some podcasts from the past few weeks that are worth your while:

BackStory – Are We There Yet?: Americans On Vacation

An interesting history of how Americans made use of their leisure time in the past.  Oh and try not to get fumed about the idea that people who worked with their brains needed vacations while manual laborers did not, an idea still well ingrained in labor policy today.

Ben Franklin’s World – Rosemarie Zagarri, Mercy Otis Warren and the American Revolution

Mercy Otis Warren – writer and revolutionary activist – is a remarkable women of her time and someone you should know more about.

Decode DC – Should Historians Be Pundits?

Doing a better job of comparing our present political situation with the past, and finding what in the past brought about the political climate of the present.

LeVar Burton Reads“The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami

I’m really enjoying this new podcast series, which is basically Reading Rainbow for grownups.  In addition to LeVar Burton’s great reading voice, the production values are really strong.  This was the story that introduced me to Murakami over 20 years ago, and coincidentally I first heard it read aloud on a radio program.

99% InvisibleWays of Hearing

This podcast introduces a new series exploring the changes in sound between analaog and digital audio.  As an added bonus, there’s an appearance by Red Sox announce Joe Castiglione.

Politically Re-Active – Is this what democracy looks like? Jake Tapper & Jessica Byrd give their take

I enjoyed learning about Jessica Byrd who helps underrepresented communities engage in the political process.

The Story Collider Epidemics: Stories of Medical Crises

The first story by Ken Haller is a particularly powerful reminiscence of his personal experience of the first signs of the AIDS epidemic.

Twenty Thousand Hertz – Sound Firsts

Some of the oldest surviving recordings provide a jaw-dropping window into the past.  Check out FirstSounds.Org for more.