The Weekender – The Urban Life – 06 October 2012
Welcome to the 06 October edition of the Weekender! We bring you today some of the articles that we’ve been reading for the past week or so. I’m happy to say that we are not including any following the 2012 United States elections. ‘Phew! So sit back, relax and enjoy your weekend with our personal, curated recommended reading list.
The Utah Man and His Ghost Town: a Love Story, John Glionna, The Los Angeles Times:
Twenty years ago, Ray Pogue was a disabled veteran without a steady job or family life. He still kind of is, but his life changed when he purchased the little town of Woodside, three hours south of Salt Lake City. It’s a veritable ghost town, long deserted by settlers tripping over each other in a quest for gold along the West Coast. As were many other such towns, Woodside was once bustling and noisy. Now? Now it’s just Ray Pogue and a roaming pack of llamas. It’s a haven, a place where Pogue has been able to rule his own fate, as a “one-man sheriff, judge jury and good Samaritan.” Sound nice? This little hamlet fetches a pretty penny, nearly 400 million of them . Think anyone will purchase 700 dusty acres and their matching tumbleweeds for $4 million? Ray Pogue certainly is betting that they won’t.
4 Decades After Clashes, Boston Again Debates School Busing, Katherine Seelye, The New York Times:
When Boston courts ordered public schools to desegretate their schools through busing, the city saw itself thrown into violence. The uproar reflected a sort of Northern racism. Now, nearly 40 years later, the city is facing a different question. At first, busing was used to transport minority students to schools in wealthier, and of whiter, districts. Today, the public school demographic has changed dramatically and many within the school system are weighing the pros and cons of the busing tradition. Students who live on the same block are being carted to any of 128 schools around Boston. Few end up at local schools. Many, the mayor included, are arguing that, because of busing, fewer families and their children are actually invested in their neighborhood. Strong bonds “create a strong neighborhood and can improve othe aspects of life, like public safety.”
What do you guys think? Civil rights and demographics have shifted much in the past half century. Certain policies appear to be outdated, flawed and simply ineffective. How do we address the civil rights issues of the 21st century?
+See also, Peg Tyre of The Atlantic, on The Writing Revolution that has completed changed a failing Staten Island public school and inspired a fleet of new initiatives within the New York City public school system.
Why Your Car Isn’t Electric, Maggie Koerth-Baker, The New Yorker:
“In 1900, 34 percent of cars in New York, Boston and Chicago were power by electric motors. Nearly half had steam engines.” Today, less than 1% of cars on our roads are fully electric. As we tighten up our oil-dependent belts, think about this questions from Koerth-Baker. “What happened? Why do we end up embracing one technology while another, better one struggles or fails?” The history of an industry and the history of oil-dependency are intertwined largely by business practices.. finding the cheapest form of energy to power the engine. Now that gas is becoming a more and more expensive and limited resource, do we need to go back to hand-cranking our cars? City buses? The Metro? Time to apply some elbow grease.
Letter from Detroit, Ingrid Norton, Los Angelos Review of Books:
A letter to Detroit from Detroiters. A letter of late night stabbings, police beatings, Devil’s Night and the sheer resiliency of people at the middle of it all. From the author, “you’ve doubtless read stories about Detroit’s burgeoning art scene: the legions of young and generally white hipsters and artists renting cheap studios and lofts in former factories and downtown buildings.” While there are signs of growth and change in Detroit, the damage is below the surface level and flows through the veins of diner waitresses, EMT workers and open mic performers. A narrative for which I can’t quite find the right adjective. It kind of just is.
Factory Girls: Cultural Technology and the Making of K-Pop, John Seabrook, The New Yorker:
K-pop (Korean pop) is coming to town. Groups like f(x), 2NE1, Girls’ Generation and PSY- the originator of “Gangnam Style”- have a huge following in South Korea, where the performers are called idols. ”K-pop is an East-West mash-up. The performers are mostly Korean, and their mesmerizing synchronized dance moves, accompanied by a complex telegraphy of winks and hand gestures, have an Asian flavor, but the music sounds Western: hip-hop verses, Euro-pop choruses, rapping, and dubstep breaks.” There is a certain formula to most k-pop acts, yet they’re completely irresistable. Could it be that the pop machine has perfected itself so far as to woo the too cool, indy or alt rock listeners? According to this article, yes. You are never too cool for k-pop’s confections.
Rethinking Sleep, David K. Randall, The New York Times Sunday Review:
Do you get a full 8-10 hours of sleep per night? I bet not. Do you get up in the middle of the night, wide awake? Well, this- contrary to what the medical industry wants you to think- just might be okay. It actually just might be a much more natural form of rest for our bodies.
It seemed that, given a chance to be free of modern life, the body would naturally settle into a split sleep schedule. Subjects grew to like experiencing nighttime in a new way. Once they broke their conception of what form sleep should come in, they looked forward to the time in the middle of the night as a chance for deep thinking of all kinds, whether in the form of self-reflection, getting a jump on the next day or amorous activity. Most of us, however, do not treat middle-of-the-night awakenings as a sign of a normal, functioning brain. Doctors who peddle sleep aid products and call for more sleep may unintentionally reinforce the idea that there is something wrong or off-kilter about interrupted sleep cycles. Sleep anxiety is a common result: we know we should be getting a good night’s rest but imagine we are doing something wrong if we awaken in the middle of the night. Related worries turn many of us into insomniacs and incite many to reach for sleeping pills or sleep aids, which reinforces a cycle that the Harvard psychologist Daniel M. Wegner has called “the ironic processes of mental control.”
Throw away the sleeping pills, and don’t get frustrated when you wake up and struggle to fall asleep. Your body just might be trying to tell you something.
The Disappeared, Salman Rushdie, The New Yorker: “How does it feel,” she asked him, “to know that you have just been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini?” It was a sunny Tuesday in London, but the question shut out the light. This is what he said, without really knowing what he was saying: “It doesn’t feel good.” This is what he thought: I’m a dead man. He wondered how many days he had left, and guessed that the answer was probably a single-digit number. He hung up the telephone and ran down the stairs from his workroom, at the top of the narrow Islington row house where he lived. The living-room windows had wooden shutters and, absurdly, he closed and barred them. Then he locked the front door…
The Forms of Things Unknown, Maria Popova, BrainPickings: It is difficult to conceive a humanism that is not a literary and retrospective humanism, litterae humaniores, and by definition culture implies calm, withdrawal from distractions, leisure, contemplation. A work of art is something we can contemplate, and we contemplate it not to escape from ourselves, nor to escape from the world in the contemplation … of an autonomous or independent world, but to be reconciled with ourselves and with the absurdity of existence. The greatest works of art, as I have already said, have always been images or myths of reconciliation.
Philip Gourevitch: Memory is a disease, Cecile Alduy, Salon.com: The whole nature of an oral tradition is that it’s fungible and that it’s adaptable. And I think that informs some of the ways that politics now work there, the way that Rwandans today tell their stories about themselves. When Rwandans today speak of the post-colonial past, they’re also referring back to a time that in their minds is before the world messed them up, which is probably falsely idealized. It’s an identity story as much as an accurate history. It becomes history because people who are now making history refer to it as a guide. The way history is evoked and invoked becomes part of current history.
S. Garrity Guenther
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