If you are an opera lover like me, this clip of the master class in teaching is a riot. My favorite quote comes from Joan Sutherland: “you can’t do anything with any one in a half hour; you can only confuse them”. She also has a very cute encouraging-teaching-face.
F.M. Cornford passed away in 1943, but he is such a marvelous writer that he’s well worth reading yet. I just finished off his Before and After Socrates, which are a series of lectures he read at Oxford. There isn’t much there for a specialist in early philosophy, but it’s an awfully friendly introduction to the important innovations in thought that in occurred in Greece in the 6th and 5th century, and the quality of the prose should put many of us moderns to shame:
“When we speak of Justice as an ‘ideal’, we also mean that it may never yet have been completely embodied in many man or in any system of institutions. It is not a mere ‘idea’ in the sense of a thought or notion in our minds; for the notions in our minds are confused and conflicting. They are only dim and inadequate apprehensions of what Justice is in itself. Justice itself is not a thought, but an eternal object of thought.”
Philip Roth’s loving tribute to a teacher is available via Audible. He discusses the process with the Paris Review:
In those days we had a lot of good teachers. There were a couple of bad ones—boring. But by and large they were inspiring. Bob and I were talking about the time I was in high school. He said, You kids made us good.
(Via The Paris Review)
Paul Romer does a much better job than I could of discussing the NYT piece on Chinese urbanization. Here’s my favorite quote:
The narrative about forced migration — with its charged language about “top down” approaches (not once but twice,) its reference to the “disastrous Maoist campaign to industrialize overnight” — has an obvious emotional appeal for a popular audience that is comfortable with narratives about good guys and bad guys.
The alternative narrative — one about governments all over the world that are trying to cope with the billions of people who want to move to urban opportunity — better captures the deepest and most important undercurrent in the global economy the we and our children will face.
I have to write a section for a handbook on environmental ethics (the update for this very good volume here), and the editors have asked me for a section on transit. I’ve been a bit of a loudmouth over the years about the sloppy environmental assertions made around transit–that is, planners usually start their justifications for transit or TOD with some no-brainer “It saves the environment” talk at the beginning of their articles, with the unstated “and, therefore, we must do it” to follow. Which is fine as long as you are talking to other planners and not fine if you are taking to a TEA party type for whom knee-jerk appeals to saving the environmental sound like fingers on a chalkboard. Since it’s an environmental ethics handbook, I will have to start with consequentialist arguments about the environment and see what we can do with them.
Then there are the rights to the city arguments. Basic good arguments. Where will they go? Those are hard for me because of the standard rights claims and counter-claims.
I’m starting the outline today. You tell me.
I am often suspicious of academ-o-stars, but I had one of those moments where I was skimming through a collection writings looking for things for my planning theory and ethics class in a book called A Companion to Ethics, when my eye stopped on the section on ‘Kantian ethics.’ Oh-ho, thinks I, McFly. These entries are about 2500 to 3,000 words. How is anybody going to distill Kant into that many words?
I start reading. My breath is taken away. Kant is by far the most difficult thinker I teach other than Habermas and Rawls, and I feel such a natural affinity for Rawls that he doesn’t count.
I look to see who wrote this tiny little masterpiece: Onora O’Neill. Hoo Boy. How wonderful.
So I have been encountering this meme on Facebook:
One of my favorite rejoinders comes from Eddie Izzard:
The difference in these perspectives is important to planning and urban design; one perspective places human agency and choice at the center of the negative social consequences. The latter recognizes that the human capacity to develop tools and the resulting material culture changes human agency in important ways. It can magnify or alter that choice. If you drink too much, you will be a drunk, but having seven liquor stores stocked with $3 bottles of T-bird within stumbling distance changes the opportunities you have to act on your agency. Pencils, print, and other tools have changed human society and individual lives, just like computers have. People with pencils misspell words, indeed, and some of it is their fault, but the fact they are writing and literate at all has something to do with the mass availability of pencils as material good.
My peace-loving, easy-going husband routinely shocks me when we are watching a movie by telling me that the guns or the halberds or the long-bows or whatever weapon employed are anachronisms. “How can you possibly know this?” I ask. “I’m a military history guy.” He says. “Just about every new weapon changes war. You can’t understand war unless you understand technology.”
And yet one reason I tend to get grumpy with our New Urbanist friends is that many assume that design will ‘make’ people do things. It will make them walk, make them socialize, make them have more incidental contact with strangers (thus making them more cosmopolitan). It’s better to suggest that design can make the opportunity for people to do things, and some people, when the opportunity manifests, will walk more, socialize, and perhaps become more cosmopolitan.
Just like some, when given access to guns, will do nothing with them, and other people will.
Tony Kushner’s speech to the Whiting Writer’s Award group has a transcript in the New Yorker. I highly recommend looking through it.
I’m utterly unsuited to the task of telling you how to live a happy, disciplined writer’s life. I’m a slow reader, a deliberate tortoise of a thinker rather than the intellectual gazelle I would like to be; I’m undisciplined and unhappy writing and expect to be until the writing stops. I find a remarkable number of things to do in a day much more compelling than writing. I could give you absolutely sterling advice on how to avoid writing, how when you run out of things to do other than going to your desk and writing, when every closet is reorganized and you’ve called your oldest living relative twice in one day to see what she’s up to and there isn’t an unanswered e-mail left on your computer or you simply can’t bear to answer another one and there is no dignity, not a drop left, in any further evasion of the task at hand, namely writing, well, you can always ask your dentist for a root canal or have an accident in the bathtub instead.
So I live in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Los Angeles. I live here because it is close to where I work, which is at my beloved USC. Yes, I still love USC though it drives me nuts sometimes.
As I recently pointed out, there are million dollar homes in my neighborhood because our little neck of the woods was home to the black entertainers of the 1920s onward who had money but were redlined out farther ‘up the hill’ (toward the Hollywood Hills). My house has 12 rooms in it, and it’s on an 8,000 square foot lot. In the middle of a very expensive regional housing market. And we own the smallest house on the block, and probably one of the smaller ones in Wellington Square. These are not people without money to spend. Yes, when the 10 freeway got planted on the neighborhood, the nabe suffered, as things do when you plant 9 to 12 lanes of constant traffic on them. But there’s suffering, and then there’s suffering, and there are black professionals in my neighborhood who are dual income earners, both with much better jobs than mine.
Regular readers will also know I am a frequent consumer of South Central Gardener’s CSA Box. This box of good-for-me stuff (think lots of kale and other yucky vegetables) has been delivered to USC’s campus in various locations, but it has been moved to a location on campus that is just straight up horrible for us to get to. Usually on CSA (aka commie-pinko) box day, Andy just drives the POS Rescue-Mobile to USC’s campus and picks up me and the CSA box at the same time. A better woman than me would take it on the train, but we usually get the big box of kale, and that’s just more than I can lift.
ANYWAY, I was very excited to see that a locavore organization called Good Eggs was going to begin delivering the South Central Farmer’s CSA for $3 over the base CSA share cost. Hey, great. Oh, and look! Lots of other wonderful, lovely edibles! I love edibles! Granted, not everybody really wants to buy $16 gallons of almond milk, but hey, I’m in. Sustainability requires extra effort, and yum! Almond milk. The company has a great concept, and I love it. Vegan cashew cheese. What’s not to love?
$170 worth of tangerines, artisanal chocolate, fresh bouquets and other sundries, including my CSA box in my shopping cart, and I go to check out. Pick out my delivery area. Ok, fine! Great. They say they deliver to Central Los Angeles, which is where my beloved nabe is…..oh wait. Here is a map of their delivery areas for Central Los Angeles, slightly modified by me:
Early on during our acquaintance, my good friend Richard Green and I were on a panel together, where I was talking about how great it would be to get a Trader Joe’s south of the 10 freeway. He made light of it: “Oh, everybody wants a Trader Joe’s.” I was on my good manners that day, and Richard is a very nice man, and being almost brand-new to LA and not being justice person, Richard didn’t understand: saying that everybody wants a TJ’s belies the fact that some people can ALWAYS FREAKING GET the TJ’s when other people NEVER get the TJs. Saying a TJs should try to move south of the 10 as a matter of business ethics is, IOW, more controversial than many affluent people really get because, natch, they know that everybody wants what they already have. Yeah, but for some people, it’s not about the excellent wine selection and the charming holiday plants. Some would like fresh oranges they don’t have to drive 6 miles to get and a pretty good job in retail. And is that asking too much of life in a region of over 10 million people? I don’t think so. A grocery store south of the 10 and north of the 91 is a revolution of sorts. It shouldn’t be. But it is.
But more annoyingly, this is a company selling the South Central Gardener’s CSA! The people in south LA are good enough to farm the food, pick it, and package it, but not able to buy the box through Good Eggs through their own distributor? THIS is the sustainable, community-oriented alternative to corporate capitalism? Um, yeah, except that it mirrors the same locational racism of every other corporate grocery chain, except for Walmart and Target. I mean Ralphs would go south of Pico.
Yeah, I get it, Good Eggs can’t serve every market. But yet, they can serve Culver City no problem, but not Leimert Park, though both are right next to each other, and Leimert Park is right on the way, just off the 10, to South DTLA on the east, which also gets delivery, but not the Round Loop of Blackness carved out in betwixt those neighborhoods in the service area.
I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with the “confederate flag isn’t racist, it’s celebrating our history” arguments. The south seceded over chattel slavery; you can try to gussy it up by claiming it was about state’s rights, but nobody buys that argument. There are so many things to celebrate about the American South that don’t come down to a divisive reminder of worst war ever fought in a nation’s history over the desire to maintain a vicious, bloody institution like slavery. If there’s one thing I hear in white America, it’s that people should ‘move on.” Well, that applies here.
Here’s some things to love about the south if we need help:
1. Some of the most beautiful forests in North America throughout Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas
2. the mountains in Tennessee
3. Bourbon (I mean, come on)
6. Patriotism and military service
7. NASCAR (is pretty damn cool)
8. Some of the most amazing HBCUs in the county (Spelman, Morehouse, etc)
10. Gorgeous cities like New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, San Antonio, and many more.
There are dozens more. Why are we still arguing about flag?