Thursday, November 27, 2014

On This Thanksgiving Day

Poetry on Gratitude
Denise Levertov:
That Passeth All Understanding - Oblique Prayers
New Directions, New York, 1984, p. 85


 An awe so quiet
I don't know when it began.

A gratitude
had begun
to sing in me.

Was there
some moment
dividing
song from no song?

When does dewfall begin?

When does night
fold its arms over our hearts
to cherish them?

When is daybreak?
Praise Wet Snow Falling Early - 
  - New Directions, New York
(1995)
 Praise wet snow
          falling early.
Praise the shadow
          my neighbor's chimney casts on the tile roof
even this gray October day that should, they say,
have been golden.
                    Praise
the invisible sun burning beyond
          the white cold sky, giving us
light and the chimney's shadow.
Praise
god or the gods, the unknown,
that which imagined us, which stays
our hand,
our murderous hand,
                    and gives us
still,
in the shadow of death,
          our daily life,

          and the dream still
of goodwill, of peace on earth.
Praise
flow and change, night and
the pulse of day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tomas Young, R. I. P.

Tomas Young, one of the first Iraq veterans to publicly oppose the war, passed away on Monday, November 10, 2014. He was 34 years old. He was shot and paralyzed shortly after he started his tour of duty. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. May he never be forgotten. Bill Moyers interviewed Phil Donohue and Ellen Spiro about their documentary Body of War, which was about Tomas Young:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Terminology: women, words, and violence

GLOSSWATCH, always good:
Anyhow, today I am angry. I am angry because a violent male has been sentenced to four days – just four days – in prison for a sustained sexual assault on a female victim. We are required to refer to the perpetrator as a “she”. We are asked to call the rape of a woman, using a penis, a “lesbian” assault. We are expected not to call this male violence, for that would make us “violent TERFs”. But it is male violence. It is.
If there is a problem with terminology here – if the right to self-define clashes with the right to call violence by its proper name – then that problem is not caused by feminists. It’s caused by males who rape women and all those who refuse to identify them as such. It’s caused by a gender hierarchy which non-feminists both defend and refuse to acknowledge. Feminists don’t owe anyone a solution to the linguistic contradictions emerging from this mess. It’s not for us to tiptoe around with language so that no one feels “erased” by the description of a male penis violating female flesh. It’s not our fault. We didn’t create this gender hierarchy. We challenge it. If you prefer to micro-manage it, making tweaks here and there while those at the bottom of the pile continue to suffer, go ahead. But again you are not a feminist.

Monday, September 22, 2014

310,000 can't be wrong

Surely not; 310,000 marched in NYC. Matt Sutkowskiwriting about yesterday's global climate march, praises the intent if the marchers, but wonders if the momentum for policy change will be maintained - and will the politicians listen? He's got his doubts, and so do I.  (Juan Cole's Informed Comment gives background on their effectiveness, with a little history about these protests.). It's all about momentum. Sustained momentum.

Because there's this, from the Guardian:

US will not commit to climate change aid for poor nations at UN summit

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tear Downs. Progress in Houston?

HOUSTON CHRONICLE REAL ESTATE BLOG:
Demolition crews began taking down the 1930s-era Josephine Apartments this morning.
In May, the Houston Chronicle reported the 75-year-old complex was sold to Tricon Homes, a local homebuilder known for putting up new townhomes in Inner Loop neighborhoods. At the time, the company said it did not know what plans it had for the complex, which sits the corner of Ashby and Bolsover in a Southampton neighborhood.
The complex was built in 1939 by architect F. Perry Johnson with one-bedroom units arrayed in a U-shape, a floor plan common to that time period. The exterior is notable for horizontal bands of dark brown brick on the sides and parapets to mask the roof. The units, roughly 750 square feet each, have hardwood floors and faux fireplaces. The original owners had it built with central air conditioning to make the units more marketable.
The residents were previously asked to move out by July.
Well, there ya go. I lived in this neighborhood. These are charming 1930's Art Deco apartments in Houston gone to be replaced by cheap yuppie hovels. Another neighborhood trashed.  

Years ago, I'd take out of town visitors on the AIA Houston walking tours.  On one tour, the guide pointed out the Medical Arts Building and sadly commented that the next day it would be demolished. True, it had fallen on bad times, and when I saw it in the early 80s it was filthy and neglected, but the design and detail were memorable. 




If a town has no historic features left, it shows itself to be short-sighted and lacking in the ability to recognize what is valuable and in the innovation necessary to repurpose and preserve old structures. But the developer who bought the Josephine Apartments property clearly didn't want to do that. 

WASHINGTON POST: An economic defense of old buildings
Jane Jacobs, a woman akin to the patron saint of urban planners, first argued 50 years ago that healthy neighborhoods need old buildings. Aging, creaky, faded, "charming" buildings. Retired couples and young families need the cheap rent they promise. Small businesses need the cramped offices they contain. Streets need the diversity created not just when different people coexist, but when buildings of varying vintage do, too.
"Cities need old buildings so badly," Jacobs wrote in her classic "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," "it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.”  

Ever since, this idea -- based on the intuition of a woman who was surveying her own New York Greenwich Village neighborhood -- has been received wisdom among planners and urban theorists. But what happens when we look at the data?
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has tried to do just this, leveraging open property-parcel data in three cities to analyze the connection between the kinds of places Jacobs was describing and the numbers that economists and businesses would care about: jobs per square foot, the share of small businesses to big chains, the number of minority- and women-owned businesses.  

The novel geospatial analysis, drawn from the District of Columbia, Seattle and San Francisco, suggests that older, smaller buildings do matter to a city's economy and a neighborhood's commercial life beyond the allure of affordable fixer-uppers. In Seattle, the report found one-third more jobs per commercial square foot in parts of town with a variety of older, smaller buildings mixed in. In Seattle
San Francisco, it found more than twice the rate of women and minority-owned businesses. In the District, it found a higher share of non-chain businesses.
The findings don't necessarily mean we should save all old buildings from demolition, or even that one old building is better than one new one. But they give preservationists (and Jane Jacobs enthusiasts) new data in fierce development debates over how rapidly changing and relatively older cities like Washington should grow.
Photo credits - Josephine Apartments, Preservation Houston. Medical Arts Building post card photo, CardCow.com.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bridging the gendered toy gap

NEW STATESMAN, Glosswitch usually nails it: 'We are happy to allow girls to indulge in equality make-believe every now and then (check out these pink NERF guns!), just as long as boys are not being unmanned by insufficiently boisterous play (indeed, it has reached a stage where some parents might even question whether a boy who likes Disney princesses, Hello Kitty and My Little Pony can be a boy at all). It is as though girls, preparing for a life of flexible multi-tasking, must bend to different roles, whereas boys must remain static and fixed. Gender liberation itself is run along strictly gendered lines.'

Is that who we are now?


"Oh no … really? Is that who we are now? Blind, unquestioning, warlike? Are we that violent, that childish, that silly, that shallow? Are we that afraid of others? Of ourselves? Of the possibility of genuine change? Are we that easily swayed, that capable of defending “American interests”, whatever “American interests” means? Are we that racist, that terrified, that protective of an idea that we don’t even question what the idea has come to represent?"
  
"There’s another way I look at the Twin Towers that’s perhaps more specific to myself. Every time I look at where they used to be, I try to think about New Yorkers in the 1960s and 70s who were horrified when they were built. The towers that were going up must have destroyed not just the skyline but, in their minds, also what the downtown stood for. So, I guess, historically speaking, I feel sad about the towers being there in the first place, although architecturally they were pleasant enough to look at from my late-70s forward perspective. And if nothing else, the Twin Towers helped the direction-impaired (me) know which way was north and south. And there were some great, wild dance parties at the rooftop restaurant. It was a moment and that moment is gone. But I am being nostalgic here and romantic." 

 "Someone asked me, “Do you think children born after, say, 1994, will ever feel the same things about 9/11 that people born before then feel?” More and more, what we “feel” about collective history seems like something manufactured, and kind of pumped into us, rather than a real emotion. It’s all so framed by the sense that reality doesn’t exist any more, or at least not in a way that is alterable or questioning. 

-- Michael Stipe - the former REM frontman on Douglas Coupland’s 9/11-inspired artwork and the images that still haunt the US

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I AM NOT GENDER PROUD

Oh dear... here's a poster I saw this morning on City Market's notice board:




I am not gender proud. Gender is a hierarchical structure that favors patriarchy and oppresses women. 

I found this tweet:




Thus Speaketh NPR's New Boss

So, along with news, underwriter announcements are choreographed on NPR. Peter Hart on Common Dreams: "Anyone who listens to NPR has heard plenty of corporate sponsorship announcements, and some listeners have raised substantive questions about whether those financial ties compromise NPR's journalism.... According to the new boss, nothing's going to change–you're just going to hear more about 'brands that matter' because you'll be 'interested' in them."

Here's a part of his interview with On the Media's Bob Garfield (9/5/14):
GARFIELD: You've said you can generate a lot more underwriting revenue than NPR has been getting, that we've essentially been undervaluing our ad inventory, considering the size and affluence of our audience. Which makes perfect sense, but it also infuriates and terrifies some listeners who fear for NPR's independence, and for its very soul. What can you say to talk them down?
MOHN: They're not going to, as a listener, notice anything different. We're not talking about adding more units to each hour. The only thing that I think they might perceive differently is that we're going to be talking about brands that matter a little bit more to them, ones they're interested in. And we're going to ask for larger commitments from these underwriters…. The audience is growing. It's not just affluent, it's a smart audience and it's very engaged. What more could a brand want than this type of audience?