"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Smart Beautiful City

A CITY WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
All photos in this post ~ Astana, Kazakhstan ~ August 2017

Earlier this week, I spent two days at Purdue University's Dawn or Doom Conference, an annual event that takes a close look at both the rewards and risks of emerging technology. The theme for Dawn or Doom '17 was inspired by Professor Michael Bess's insightful, disturbing book about biomedically enhanced humans: Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future. Topics ranged from Designing Humans (think Gattaca) to Designing Food (think Monsanto) to Designing Information (think fake news) to Designing the Workforce (think Brave New World) to Designing Cities:

"Whether it was Uruk,* the first ever human city, or Sumerians throwing up ziggurats like they were temporary housing, or the social engineering dreams of the 19th century utopians or the Puritans' visions of a godly “city on a hill,” humans have always seen cities as a way to solve humanity’s hardest problems.

"Of course, reality is a different beast. Cities are notoriously hard places to manage, among other things because of the amount of information required to allow them to run at all, let alone perfectly. But that doesn't mean people don't try to build perfection. And the latest incarnation of these utopian cities are known as “smart cities” their deep and embedded technology."
~ Gerry McCartney

*Uruk, was in Sumer but is regarded as pre-Sumerian.
Ur was up the road about 300 miles.

We then listened to two speakers who explained how these new “smart cities” are going to enable us to build the technological advanced “city on a hill” of the 21st Century: Mike Langellier from Techpoint and Paul Singh from Results Junkies.


Gerry's thought - provoking introduction to "Smart Cities" brought to mind a few connections worth sharing:

1. from Song of Myself, Part 42 ~ Walt Whitman

"A call in the midst of the crowd,
My own voice, orotund sweeping and final. . . .

This is the city and I am one of the citizens,
Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets,
newspapers, schools,
The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories,
stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate . . .

the fathomless human brain . . . "


[See also Ferry Connections & House With a Past]


2. from the novel Benediction ~ Kent Haruf

"What if we said to our enemies [or at the national level, what if we said to our citizens]: We are the most powerful nation on earth. We can destroy you. We can kill your children. We can make ruins of your cities and villages and when we're finished you won't even know how to look for the places where they used to be. We have the power to take away your water and to scorch your earth, to rob you of the very fundamentals of life. We can change the actual day into actual night. We can do these things to you. And more.

"But what if we say, Listen: Instead of any of these, we are going to give willingly and generously to you. We are going to spend the great American national treasure and the will and the human lives that we would have spent on destruction, and instead we are going to turn them all toward creation. We'll mend your roads and highways, expand your schools, modernize your wells and water supplies, save your ancient artifacts and art and culture, preserve your temples and mosques. In fact, we are going to love you.
"


3. from the musical Godspell ~ Stephen Schwartz

Beautiful City

sung in the movie adaptation,
featuring Victor Garber, Lynne Thigpen, et. al.

Come sing me sweet rejoicing
Come sing me love
We're not afraid of voicing
All the things
We're dreaming of
Oh, high and low,
And everywhere we go

We can build
A beautiful city
Yes we can
Oh yes we can
We can build
A beautiful city
Call it out
And call it the city of man [and woman]

We don't need alabaster
We don't need chrome
We've got our special plaster
Take my hand
I'll take you home
We see nations rise
In each other's eyes

We can build
A beautiful city
Yes we can
Oh yes we can
We can build
A beautiful city
Call it out
And call it the city of man [and woman]

Come sing me sweet rejoicing
Come sing me love
We're not afraid of voicing
All the things
We're dreaming of
Oh, high and low,
And everywhere we go

We can build
A beautiful city
Yes we can
Oh yes we can
We can build
A beautiful city
Call it out
And call it the city of man [and woman]
**

**A simple suggestion, as Schwartz is
not exactly known for inclusive gender.


In closing, I'm charmed by these contrasting thoughts about the men and women who populate the cities. Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) offers an expansive view, complete with quaintly agrarian metaphor:

"In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.
"

from Song of Myself, Part 20)

For others, the human density not only of a large smart city but even of a beautiful college town can be overwhelming. A hundred years before Whitman, English poet Thomas Gray (1716 - 1771) wrote:

"Cambridge is a delight of a place now, there is nobody in it.
I do believe you would like it, if you knew what it was without inhabitants.
It is they, I assure you, that get it an ill name and spoil all.
"

from the Works of Thomas Gray

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, October 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

More Dawn or Doom Links

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Read A Book About Reading

A BOOK CLUB WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Painting by Vittorio Matteo Corcos (1859 - 1933)
Book by Stefan Bollmann (b 1958)
Foreward by Karen Joy Fowler (b 1950)

Thanks to my friend Katy B. for giving me this gorgeous and inspiring book. I read the foreword and introductory material months ago, just after Christmas, and since then have had the book on my coffee table, where I pick it up at random quiet moments and study the classic paintings (plus a few photographs) of reading women, beautifully explained by author / editor Stefan Bollmann. I was delighted to note the inclusion by Bollmann of a few prints that have appeared previously on my Book Blog (e.g., Young Woman with Book, by Alexander Deineka; Reading Girl by Franz Eybl; and Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard). Great minds!

by Alexander Deineka

Speaking of great minds, thanks to my friend Katie F. for suggesting earlier in the summer that I might enjoy reading The Jane Austen Book Club, which I promptly ordered and placed carefully atop my towering "to read" stack.

The connection was right in front of me, but I missed it until, by happy coincidence, Katie F. stopped by to visit, noticed and admired Women Who Read laying out in pride of place on my table, and then exclaimed "Foreword by Karen Joy Fowler -- she also wrote The Jane Austen Book Club! Have you read it yet? No, I hadn't, but I did so right away, then re-read Fowler's opening remarks about dangerous reading women, and typed up the following favorite passages from each:

Women Who Read Are Dangerous

"Centuries upon centuries . . . women have read on -- the unacceptable books as well as the acceptable, Gothic novels in the time of Austen, Harlequin romances, horror novels, space operas, mysteries, police procedurals, chick lit, biographies . . . Now they are joining book clubs . . ." (16, emphasis added).

by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

"One might wonder why artists so often choose a woman reading as the subject of a painting or photograph. . . . the image is an interestingly complicated one. . . . She might, while the book lasts, be a completely different person from the one we are seeing. . . . She might be having trouble concentrating, or she might be spellbound. She might be escaping from boredom into a frothy romantic comedy [by Jane Austen!] . . . she might be experiencing some transformation so profound that she will never be quite the same again. At the very moment we see her, the scales might be falling from her eyes" (13 - 14).

The Jane Austen Book Club

"Austen suggests that Udolpho is a dangerous book, because it makes people think life is an adventure . . . But that's not the kind of book that's really dangerous to people. . . . All the while it's Austen writing the really dangerous books . . . Books that people really do believe, even hundreds of years later. How virtue will be recognized and rewarded. How love will prevail. How life is a romance" (141).

by Franz Eybl

"There was something appealing in thinking of a character with a secret life that her author knew nothing about. Slipping off while the author's back was turned to find love in her own way. Showing up just in time to deliver the next bit of dialogue with an innocent face. If Sylvia were a character in a book, that's the kind she's want to be" (171).

Another timely connection: As I was pulling this post together, my good friend and reading buddy Cate sent me an excellent article:

"Why Books and Reading Are More Important Than Ever"

containing these inspiring words by Will Schwalbe
"I wrote that books remain one of the few defenses we have against narrowness, domination, and mind control. But only if we read them – and then only if we spring into action based on what we’ve learned and discovered. Books can’t do anything by themselves. They need us.

"Today we need to read more than ever. And we need to act now more than ever.

"If you are reading this essay, you aren’t reading a book. At least, not this very second. But you’re probably a book reader or you wouldn’t have found your way here or clicked on the shared link that brought these words to your attention. And there’s the rub. I’m writing a piece about the importance of books for an audience already sold on the concept. And it’s taking you (and me) away from them."


additional titles from Schwalbe:

Books for Living & The End of Your Life Book Club

I had to write straight back to Cate:

"I love this essay and it fits right in with the blog post that I'm working on right now: "Read A Book About Reading." No kidding -- that's the title that I gave it before reading this essay, in which he talks about the very same conundrum of reading an essay about reading! I'll add the link here as soon as I get done! Hey I've got writing to do! As Schwalbe commands us: 'Seriously. Go! I've got books to read. You do, too.' What a great conclusion!"

Dreams, 1896

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, September 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ BEAUTIFUL POEM FROM CHARLOTTE ERIKSSON ~
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST ~ THIS MONTH ~ MORE FROM CATE ~
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com