Monday, August 19, 2019

Noted In Passing on 8/19/19

What is a cosmopolite? A cosmopolitan person? Someone who looks outward perhaps (i.e. the cosmos...) in every sense of the word?

A word to play with, especially for those of us who tend to associate the adjective with an urban mentality. A city person is bound to look outward and around them just by virtue of being surrounded by other human beings on a regular basis. As in shoulder to shoulder in the public arena.

Anyone curious about how far to carry such matters should look to a new book by philosopher/professor Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago) titled "The Cosmopolitan Tradition: A Noble But Flawed Ideal" who plays well with the question "Is There Such a Thing as the Ethics of Cosmopolitanism?" (Harvard University Press). Count on some historic references and inferences. An excerpt can be found in today's BookMarks web, as noted in Lit Hub Daily today....

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Notes From Afar: An Editorial



           From the Economist magazine, August 3/19: This curiously named 'Charlemagne' column datelined Europe that plugs the rise of the electric scooter fad as perhaps less folly than welcome phenomenon. The anonymous writer reflects on how the trend might herald the eventual demise of the car in urban milieus - hence, an end to traffic jams,  pollution, all manner of inconveniences now menacing those of us who relish inner city living.
           Well, nice if you can get it as the saying goes.  Obviously, many cities have risen to the challenge by construction of bike lanes, increased parking and operating charges, encouragement of commuter routes and services. The writer sees a 'gradual retreat of the car from the European city,' indeed, across the entire continent. How far such moves extend on the American continent has yet to be tested, because local governments are what determine  the urban profile and so consistency is rare.
New York is doing an exceptional job up against formidable challenges. A full page in the Friday Aug. 9 New York Times print edition is headlined "Cars No Longer Welcome on Busiest Stretch of Manhattan's 14th Street."  The inspiration apparently came from our northern neighbor Canada's Toronto, which tackled its busiest thoroughfare with restrictions - i.e. blocking cars on a 1.6 mile street. Streetcars could then speed up and do the job they were intended for.  The average speed of buses on New York's 14th Street has been 4.5 mph, 'among the slowest of any American city,' according to The Times.
       There is only so much one can do to choose Metro service in the greater Washington, D.C. area when the three area jurisdictions in charge seem always to be feuding over who owes how much and why to make the system operate. Let your representative - whoever answers to the name - know how you feel about such matters. Put feeling into your message. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Update: The City in Summer

Some advantages to note:
Metro - Washington's subway - is less crowded. Tourists often are the crowd, especially Europeans whose August traditionally is their travel time. Locals can feel superior when they see strangers puzzling over iPhones, looking for directions that are not always clear. One very buttoned up man with briefcase took time from his stride to counsel such a group alighting recently at Pentagon City mall and looking stranded on the platform. He stopped voluntarily when he saw their dilemma and asked to help.
The huge glass Mall hub above them hummed with activity - an obvious place to hide from hot air and sun.
Festivals are everywhere, and free entertainment of a high and low sort flourishes. Author readings continue nonstop at bookstores are  since most authors these days must rely on personal appearances to spread the word. They offer the best antidote to warmed over TV shows, often still in repeat mode until September. Among the best of these lately was Ocean Vuong, a slender young man, sitting in conversation with poet Jenny Chang at Solid State on H St. NE. It was the last of these on his current schedule another standing room only audience drawn to his novel and its remarkable title: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous.  He was 'gorgeous' in manner and mind.
 First, by praising the audience before he had even said a word about his book, pointing out their attendance as solid value to the community, of which the store is a vital part. That produced a round of clapping from his admirers who, not surprisingly,  included a great variety of so-called minority faces. They rushed to hug him at the end, grateful to be acknowledged and impressed by his theme: survivorship may mean hardship but is at the same time "an incredibly creative act." Immigrants such as himself  - the son of an illiterate Vietnamese mother - often grow up in harrowing circumstances and still learn to fashion themselves in original ways. For him, language was the tool; his early  public school teachers  showing him how to use it.