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

Summary/Review:

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.

Previously:

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: http://mymindonbooks.com/?page_id=562.

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.

Book Review: Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

I learned about Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (2008) by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from the HBR IdeaCast Episode 91: Be a Social Technology Provocateur.  I was intrigued enough to check it out from the library that employs me but it was quickly recalled.  Luckily, I had gotten far enough to sign up for the Groundswell blog where I learned that Forrester was giving away 100 copies of the book to bloggers for review.  I was lucky enough to snag a copy and I’ve finally read it so I can fulfill my end of the bargain.

The basic gist of Groundswell is that new social networking tools allow the general public to greatly influence how companies and products are viewed by people at large.  The authors define the groundswell as “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations,” (p. 9).  Many companies see this as a threat but the authors encourage organizations to embrace social technologies to give them competitive advantage in business.

Now I’m someone who recoils at the concept of “viral marketing” in particular and really the whole corporate-consumerist ideology in general, but what impresses me about this book is that it comes down to people.  This is not about marketers telling people what to buy, it is about engaging people and learning about what products/services would enrich their lives, how to respond to problems, and even how to influence the purchasing decisons of other customers.  One interesting notion is that while corporations have “product managers,” they rarely have “people managers” although that’s going to be necessary to continue in business in a groundswell environment.  They even make a good point that the customers, not the company, own the brand.

“Marketers tell us they define and manage brands.  Some spend millions, or hundreds of millions, of dollars on advertising.  They carefully extend brand names, putting Scope on a tube of toothpaste to see what happens.  We bought this brand, they say.  We spent on it.  We own it.

Bull.

Your brand is whatever the customers say it is.  And in the groundswell where they communicate with each other, they decide,” (p. 78).

Many executives want to join the groundswell and think it is as easy as putting a blog or comment pages on their website.  The authors warn that engaging the groundswell requires planning with particular goals in mind or one’s efforts will fail.  Groundswell is like a manual for managers that offers case studies, lessons from those cases, and how those lessons may be applied to one’s own business.

I’m obviously not a corporate executive, but I read this book from the perspective that libraries can benefit from the instruction of this book.  Like corporations, libraries would do well to listen to the ideas of their biggest supporters, respond to concerns of those having problems with the library, and engage people in making the library a better place for everyone.  I’d suggest this book be read by any librarians interested in ideas for transforming the library in the web 2.0 world.

Groundswell : winning in a world transformed by social technologies by Charlene Li. Boston, Mass. : Harvard Business Press, c2008.

Boston By Foot Tour of the Month – The Greenway and Beyond 2008

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:

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.

Lilac Sunday, YEAH!

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.

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