Thursday, June 25, 2015
Jane Jacobs / Systems of Survival
A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations
of Commerce and Politics chapter one
"My personal favourite is Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics. Although written in the dialogue format, which some readers find irksome, this is a demanding, profound book that raises for me so many important questions about the values that underpin the different functions necessary to contemporary life." From: Mary Rowe on cities, nature, and chaotic systems — Mary Rowe Dir, Urban Resilience and Livability, Municipal Art Society NYC
... the old oracle said,
"All things have two handles:
beware of the wrong one."
—RALPH WALDO EMERSON
I was sure Systems of Survival would be a difficult read. In fact it’s in the form of an engaging dialogue, the form she also used for her 2000 book The Nature of Economies.
Retired publisher Armbruster invites 5 friends and colleagues to discuss something troubling him: that “the web of trust [and honesty] upon which so much depends, is in a deplorable state.” He opens with an anecdote about taking a consulting fee he’d been paid in Hanover Germany to a local bank for transfer to his home bank in New York City. He realized later he’d turned over to a stranger a sum of money in return for a piece of paper written in a language he couldn’t understand and that he no concern that the funds wouldn’t be in his home account when he needed them. From this observation of unquestioned trust he also notes widespread and well known examples of “chicanery and avarice” and examples of every day folks “conspiring with dishonesty when it seems to benefit them.”
When he returned to NYC he researches examples of “embezzlement… fraud… collusion… kickbacks… cheating... bill padding… insider trading and stock manpulation… patent infringement… lies and coverups… With the exception of some of the embezzlers… these were all crimes committed by business owners or managers, bent on victimizing other enterprises, or else their own workers, their own customers, their own suppliers, or the public at large.”
Armbruster “dangles the bait” and they all agree with more and less enthusiasm to continue the discussion in four weeks time when academic, animal behaviour researcher Kate will present the first report to the group, a report to “identify our systems or systems of moral behaviour concerned with work. [For instance] What sort of rules safeguard the security of moving money around? We know honest accounting is one, but we also know it’s fragile…. Just some thinking about the commonplace norms we purport to depend on."
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Thursday, June 11, 2015
HT @humantransitIn today's episode of "Go Home Traffic Engineer, You're Drunk" College Rd/St Johns Rd. #engineering pic.twitter.com/6WigUVphk0— Lennart Nout (@lennartnout) June 12, 2015
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
In the mail this morning... pic.twitter.com/RflkqcaPej— TheSidewalkBallet (@1sidewalkballet) June 10, 2015
@1sidewalkballet Sorry for the confusion this post caused. By way of explanation: these are books. Like in your old uncle’s den.— TheSidewalkBallet (@1sidewalkballet) June 11, 2015
And they came in the mail but not that mail, they were delivered by a postie. That’s not an avatar or a meme or a metaphor.— TheSidewalkBallet (@1sidewalkballet) June 11, 2015
A real postie, knocked on my door with a pleasant greeting and said I have a package for you. These books are what was in the package. OK?— TheSidewalkBallet (@1sidewalkballet) June 11, 2015
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
#Twitter essay: From highway to
Director of Urban Design, City of Toronto
Monday, June 8, 2015
The boundaries of the neighbourhood faded in the course of that summer. One morning my father took me with him. Since I was enrolling in high school, he wanted me to know what public transportation I would have to take and what route when I went in October to the new school.
It was a beautiful, very clear, windy day. I felt loved, coddled, to my affection for him was added a crescendo of admiration. He knew the enormous expanse of the city intimately, he knew where to get the metro or a tram or a bus. Outside he behaved with a sociability a relaxed courtesy, that at home he almost never had.
He was friendly toward everyone, on the metro and the buses, in the offices, and he always managed to let his interlocutor know that he worked for the city and that, if he liked, he could speed up practical matters, open doors.
We spent the whole day together, the only one in our lives. I don’t remember any others. He dedicated himself to me, as if he wanted to communicate to me in a few hours everything useful he had learned in the course of his existence. He showed me Piazza Garibaldi and the station that was being built: according to him it was so modern that the Japanese were coming from Japan to study it—in particular the columns—and build an identical one in their country. But he confessed that he liked the old station better, he was more attached to it. Ah well, Naples, he said had always been like that: it’s cut down, it’s broken up, and then it’s rebuilt, and the money flows and creates work.
He took me along Corso Garibaldi, to the building that would be my school. He dealt in the office with extreme good humour, he had the gift of congeniality, a gift that in the neighbourhood and at home he kept hidden. He boasted of my extraordinary report card to a janitor whose wedding witness, he discovered on the spot, he knew well. I heard him repeating often: everything in order? Or: everything that can be done is being done. He showed me Piazza Carlo III, the Albergo dei Poveri, the botanical garden, Via Foria, the museum. He took me on Via Constantinopoli, to Port’Alba, to Piazza Dante, to Via Toledo. I was overwhelmed by the names, the noise of the traffic, the voices, the colours, the festive atmosphere, the effort of keeping everything in mind so I could talk about it later with Lila, the ease with which he chatted with the pizza maker from whom he bought me a pizza melting with ricotta, the fruit seller from whom he bought me a yellow peach. Was it possible that only our neighbourhood was filled with conflicts and violence, while the rest of the city was radiant, benevolent?
He took me to see the place where he worked, in Plaza Municipio. There, too, he said, everything had changed, the trees had been cut down, everything was broken up: now see all the space, the only old thing left is the Maschio Angioino, but it’s beautiful, little one, there are two real males in Naples, your father and that fellow there. We went to the city hall, he greeted that person and that, everyone knew him. With some he was friendly, and introduced me, repeating yet again that in school I had gotten nine in Italian and nine in Latin; with others he was almost mute, only, indeed, yes, you command and I obey.