Author: Rebecca Solnit
Title: A Paradise Built in Hell
Publication Info: Viking Adult (2009)
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 books: The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
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.
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.
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
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: http://mymindonbooks.com/?page_id=562.
Here comes everybody : the power of organizing without organizations / Clay Shirky.
New York : Penguin Press, 2008.
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.
This month’s Tour of the Month is a reprise of The Greenway and Beyond focusing on what has replaced the elevated Central Artery since the Big Dig and what’s still to come. I wrote about the tour in detail when it was offered last August so I won’t repeat that here. But I do want to mention a few quick things:
- If you missed the Tour of the Month, The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and Boston By Foot are offering a series of tours of segments of the Greenway this summer, many offered at lunchtime.
- If you like the new parks downtown and want to support the Conservancy’s care of the parks you can purchase a paving stone and dedicate in honor of your mother or other caregiver. The Mother’s Walk sounds like a sweet thing to do although at $500 it’s out of my price range. Still, it’s worth mentioning because even if one person reading this is inspired to sponsor a paver, I’ll have done a good thing.
- The parks are in place, but the cultural institutions are still under development and may be so for a while. To me, he cultural institutions are even more exciting than the parks. Here are some places that may need your help becoming a reality:
- Finally, the Greenway is constantly changing as you can see most clearly in my photos from last year compared to my photos from this year. The Bostonscapes photo blog also has some nice photos in the post entitled 15 Billion Later.
Avenir, a residential-commercial development by North Station was just a fence last summer. Now there is a frame for a multi-story building.
Last summer, the North End Park was still being paved. Now children can play in it’s fountains.
Less than a year ago the Wharf District Parks were a construction zone, now they are lush and lovely.
First, an explanation of the title. Lilac Sunday is an annual event at Arnold Arboretum celebrated this year for the 100th time. 8 years ago Susan and I were walking through Central Square in Cambridge talking about going to Lilac Sunday and maybe sending lilacs to our mothers for Mothers Day. At this point, the man walking in front of us turned around, looked right in my face and said “YEAH!” He then turned around and resumed his stride as if nothing happened. To this day I don’t know if he liked the idea or if lilacs didn’t agree with him. Regardless, neither of us can talk about Lilac Sunday without interjecting a random “YEAH!” here or there.
After 8 years of being typical Somervilleans who avoided long trips across the river, we could not avoid Lilac Sunday since the Arboretum is next door to our current residence. The first thing we noticed about Lilac Sunday is that it attracts a lot of people, especially babies, and dogs. I’ve grown accustomed to the solitude of walking Peter through the Arboretum on weekday mornings so the crowds were a bit overwhelming. Still it was a nice day to inspect the lilacs, sniff their aromas, and relax in the grass.
Peter checks out the lilacs.
Lilacs up close.
Another type of lilac. What do you want, I’m a librarian not a botanist!
This is not a lilac. It’s called Orange Quince, but we did not have runcible spoons.
This also is not a lilac, but it sure is pretty to see blossoms against the blue sky again.
People, people everywhere. And trees, yes there are lots of trees in the Arboretum.
Adam at Universal Hub posts links to other bloggers’ commentary on Lilac Sunday.