Posts Tagged ‘Community’

Book Review: A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit

Author: Rebecca Solnit
TitleA Paradise Built in Hell 
Publication Info: Viking Adult (2009)
ISBN: 0670021075

Previously Read by the Same Author: Wanderlust

Summary/Review: Solnit’s book is built on the hypothesis that times of disasters bring out the best in humanity as people band together to help one another to survive.  It’s an optimistic view that runs counter to the usual narrative of self-interest and mob violence but one Solnit illustrates with examples from history including the San Francisco Earthquake, the explosion in Halifax harbor, the London Blitz, the Mexico City earthquake and Hurricane Katrina.  In all of these cases ordinary people responded to help one another and build community.  The response of governments and authorities in these scenarios is depicted as at best too slow to mobilize to respond to the immediate needs of communities in distress and at worse too ready to treat citizens as criminals through policies such shooting “looters.”  Solnit introduces the interesting concept of “elite panic” where the wealthy and power expect chaos and anarchy and thus respond with force where none is needed.  Solnit details how this negative view of human nature misinforms public policy in response to disaster and leads to greater suffering.  Hurricane Katrina is a particularly horrifying account as authorities were ready to arrest and imprison people rather than offer rescue and relief.  Armed white people were able to get away with slaughtering poor black people because of the belief that they were criminals rather than survivors in need of compassion.  This book is a must read to gain a better understanding of human nature in both its best and worst elements.

Recommended booksThe Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Rating: ***

Lilac Sunday

Jamaica Plain continued welcoming in the spring with Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum.  We took some time to pedal our bikes and sniff the petals.  Here are a few photos.

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Book Review: The mom & pop store by Robert Spector

Author: Robert Spector
Title: The mom & pop store : how the unsung heroes of the American economy are surviving and thriving
Publication Info: New York : Walker Pub. Co., c2009.
ISBN: 9780802716057


This Library Thing Early Reviewers free advance review book is a tribute to independent business.  Through historical discussion – including the business of the author’s own family – and through case studies of independent shops around the country the author tells the story of the success and importance of “mom & pop stores.”  Spector’s writing is an unabashed booster but despite his unbiased approach it remains convincing.  Spector also isn’t the best writer, but many of the stories of the individuals, families, and groups who go into business on their own are inspiring.

Recommended books: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann
Rating: ***

Arnold Arboretum’s Lilac Sunday

I hesistate to put “Lilac Sunday” into the title of this post since I didn’t see any lilacs on my visit.  Susan, Peter & I took a lovely Mother’s Day walk on a sunny, blustery day and arrived at Arnold Arboretum fairly early in the morning.  This is a good time to get there on Lilac Sunday before approximately 3.25 kajillion people descend on the Arbortetum.  Peter received a lovely tatoo of the Earth with flowers and a recycling logo and immediately set to work on removing it with his teeth.

Next we joined Arnold Arboretum curator Michael Dosmann lead an excellent tour to the lilacs (“just to the lilacs, not of the lilacs” he specified).  We learned fascinating things about maples, lindens and tulip trees.  After the tour I chose to luxuriate in the grass while Susan chased Peter up and down the hill to the lilacs.  So my family saw the lilacs on Lilac Sunday while I lay splayed in the grass photographing buttercups.

I will have to return on a less-crowded day this week to visit the lilacs.  Until then, here are my photos from Sunday, 100% lilac-free.

Previously: Lilac Sunday, YEAH!

South Station & Greenway Inaugural

Today, my son Peter & I took a tour of South Station, a continuing education for members of Boston By Foot (one of the reasons why you should become a member).  I love railroad stations so it was fun to poke around and see old artifacts, granite pilings, and even the exclusive Acela waiting room.

Unfortunately, railway stations are crowded, noisy places so I didn’t learn much to report back.  South Station is also difficult to photograph.  There are so many people and iPod ads in the way. The highlight of the tour for me was a story from a BBF docent who remembers riding in his friend’s aunt’s private train to go to New York for Mets’ games (the aunt of course was Joan Payson).  There’s a good history of the building online at the South Station website.

I thought about catching the commuter train to Forest Hills, but just missed it.  Instead we walked along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and enjoyed the Greenway’s ignagural event.  It strikes me that the Greenway makes an excellent location for a street fair, so I hope other events like this will be held in the future.  Peter enjoyed boogieing in the grass to the Jewish-Cuban sounds of Odessa Havana.  After that we went home for a nap.


Book Review: Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008) by Clay Shirky is yet another book about the effect of social networking on the internet.  And a pretty good one at that, kind of like Groundswell without the business management emphasis.  Shirky’s main point is not so much that new technologies are changing the world, but that they are allowing people to collaborate in ways that weren’t possible before so that they can change societal and cultural norms (and by extension the world).  It’s a good and highly-readable summary of what’s going on in the world today.

I found in a Library Thing review this great webibliography of resources related to the book:

Shirky, Clay.
Here comes everybody : the power of organizing without organizations / Clay Shirky.
New York : Penguin Press, 2008.

Book Review: New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg

Following up on Ric Burns’ New York, I read New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (2007) edited by one of the stars of that series Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.

This collection of essays looks back with some nostalgia and some disgust at the City in the 70s, 80s, & 90s.  For most of the authors, New York once was full of crime, sex, and drugs, yet the rents were low and the City maintained its own character.  Today they sneer that interlopers have moved in, built luxury lofts, priced out everything that made New York unique and replaced it with typical American suburbia. Most of the essayists to some extent sink into insufferable self-importance which makes this book hard to read at times.

There’s a lot of hyperbole, but there’s truth mixed in.  And there’s still a lot to love about New York.  Each borough gets its own tribute, with the one on Staten Island being the most illuminating since I know little about that area.  There are also great stories on graffiti, civil rights, art, rock music, and ethnic foods.  If you love New York, this book is worth checking out.  If you hate New York, this book isn’t going to change your mind.

New York calling : from blackout to Bloomberg / edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.
Publication Info. London : Reaktion, 2007.
Description 368 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.


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