Wherever men are assembled

Among the great things about college radio from back in the day – King Missile, Bong Water, a cast of many – ours played recordings of MLK sermons every Sunday morning. It was a great thing to catch, then remember and wait for, “Martin Luther King Speaks,” brought to you by the SCLC. It was Sunday, after all.

I can’t find where these are available, but they have to be. iTunes has a dozen or so formal speeches, many are familiar and all are great. Here’s one he delivered as the keynote speaker of “Religious Witness for Human Dignity, “a multi-faith event held at the Los Angeles Coliseum on May 31, 1964.

But the sermons are more everyday/week Dr. King, and you hear the anger and impatience, along the savant perceptions and legendary cadence. If you can find them, give them a listen. We could definitely use them now.

Image: Photograph by Carl De Keyzer / Magnum

Where the Sidewalk Ends

In this time of solemn reflection, and perhaps significantly more time to read than we might normally, one of the works I’ve turned to is a book I’ve long known about but never read. Thanks to Mrs. Green for remedying the latter, and to Ms. Jacobs for bringing the het-up light:

There is nothing economically or socially inevitable about either the decay of old cities or the fresh-minted decadence of the new unurban urbanization. On the contrary, no other aspect of our economy and society has been more purposefully manipulated for a full quarter of a century to achieve precisely what we are getting. Extraordinary governmental financial incentives have been required to achieve this degree of monotony, sterility, and vulgarity. Decades of preaching, writing and exhorting by experts have gone into convincing us and our legislators that mush like this must be good for us, as long as it comes bedded with grass.

Automobiles are often conveniently tagged as the villains responsible for the ills of cities and the disappointments and futilities of city planning. But the destructive effects of automobiles are much less a cause than a symptom of our incompetence at city building. Of course planners, including the highwaymen with fabulous sums of money and enormous power at their disposal, are at a loss to make cities and automobiles compatible with one another. They do not know what to do with automobile sin cities because they do not know how to plan for workable and viable cities anyhow – with or without automobiles.

That’s just from the introduction, but any two paragraphs pulled from the first 86 pages so far would be at least as insightful – originally published in 1958. Her majestic explanation of the importance of sidewalks to civilization is worth the fare alone.

Do yourself us all a favor and pick up those books you have kept around for a reason. Stay in, be well.

Image from the author’s kitchen table today.

Post title, with apologies to the late Mr. Silverstein.

Replacing Plastic

Cassava root, corn, soybean, and hemp could re-make sustainable packaging and are all in fact proving to be promising feed stocks for new containers.  Scientists are exploring, companies are investing, and new factories are cranking out product. And yet a major caveat remains, one what hints at the actual problem of the problem:

Containers made of NOT PLASTIC are more expensive, but they are better for the environment.

Seeing the environment on its own terms, do we do anything beneficial – do we help, do harm, are we ambivalent? It seems clear and simple that some among us might choose to help, to maybe even do the right thing.

Seeing our relative individual wealth on its own terms, it also seems rather obvious that we would only and ever choose to spend the least to get the most, consequences be damned. This is our actual problem.

The video at the link clearly lays out the plastics problem – especially the ‘tossed away minutes after use’ issue. But the selfish short-shortsightedness of this tendency requires a deliberate decision on our part, a habit of decision-making, really. Is it a difficult choice to use a more expensive, inferior product because it’s better for the earth? It’s a choice we don’t want to talk about – unless we’re complaining about the government. It’s also a choice we don’t want to make, definitely. But one we are making by not making all the same, which in turn makes everything else more difficult and more expensive, not to mention less fishy and more polluted.

So the worthwhile efforts of clever companies aside, there are far more options for replacing [your] plastic, and not all of them have to do with new plant-based bowls for your to-go salad.


I’ve been away all of this month, and there’s still a few days to go. Always do yourself the favor.


Back on the clean energy front – which is all across the world, just not within the borders of its remaining superpower®:

Also, bonus track: the proper pronunciation of TanZAHNia.


This really doesn’t have anything to do with green… wait. Yes it does. Aren’t we all tin horns when we start out making something?

At any rate, my new novel is now available via Kindle,


Opiates for the People

You may not have heard of this; I certainly had not. Via LGM, re-framing Afghanistan’s poppy problem as an opportunity for global health:

The Afghan poppy crop could be repurposed away from illicit drug production, and towards manufacturing licit opioid analgesics to address unmet needs for pain palliation, particularly for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer in the developing world—that is, illegal opium could be converted into legal pain medicine, solving two problems at once.

Are they saying that you could actually think about a problem differently and then do things differently to achieve a desired result? Instead of being a’scourge’, opium production in Afghanistan could be channeled into a legal, profitable trade that would reduce pain and suffering worldwide? Wha? Would this sort of change in thinking be open to other issues, or is this a one time offer? I think we should still take it.

Bonus question: What’s the drug war going to say about this? I’ll bet it will worry and won’t be happy.

Pompidou and Circumstance

So, I can see the Centre Pompidou from our bedroom window. It’s a huge glass rectangle surrounded by tubes and steel cables, designed by Renzo Piano back in the 70’s. From the plaza side [I’ll explain in a minute] it looks like a giant hamster cage/ant farm; the escalator is on the outside in a glass tube, going diagonally from the 1st floor to the sixth.

At its scale for the neighborhood, it’s a bit of a landmark anyway, and we’ve spent a lot of time just sitting in the plaza on the non-street side of the building, where you can do everything from have an old vietnamese guy serenade you with Smells like Teen Spirit on the guitar to have another of many, very zealous portraitists try to draw your picture [“You have a good nose,” they say and while I can’t prove it I think they say this to everybody] to nothing at all. People just sit out in front of this monstrosity (in a good way), have lunch, make out, smoke, talk, whatever. It’s pretty awesome, as tens of thousands of people live right around here, rents seem to still afford a huge variety of shops and restaurants despite or maybe because of the old underground mall next door (Les Halles), and the Pompidou serves as a kind of pass through destination for all and sundry. We actually came to it often during the last stay here, just to take a pause and sit outside.

Yesterday, we went inside the museum for the first time and, without being too dramatic, it changed a lot of what I thought about the building. First it’s a great building from the inside; the tube escalator is better than it is even curious from the outside. But most of all, it’s a great modern art museum, my new favorite [drawing from a, needless to say, shallow well].

We saw two exhibitions, neither of which I particularly liked, and one I especially did not. Lucien Freud L’Atelier; I already knew I didn’t like his painting, now confirmed. But there were some things about it that were good, just not the people in his pictures, who he seems to loathe. Other buildings, rooms, plants, even a dog appeared several times… all remarkably well done. Then the other exhibit, Dreamlands. The program says the goal of this exhibition “of more then 300 works is to show how the World’s Fairs, international exhibitions and amusement parks have inspired significant developments in urban design and urban life.” An ambitious mouthful and you can partially imagine the building of the Eiffel tower, Dali on Coney Island, lots about Vegas, some about EPCOT. But there was the Rem Koolhas book, Delirious New York, that I’d never heard of and they had some images from that. Then two Philip Guston paintings, one I had seen before. But thing was, interspersed with all of this on the sixth floor galleries were… staggering views of the city. All the while, you never feel lost in the labyrinth that some museums exhibition spaces can be.

So, this is already really long but, the only reason I was writing any of it was because of the permanent collection on the 4th and 5th floor. Debouffet, Leger, Bonnard, but also a lot of Picasso and Braque, one room of their back and forth images in particular that was great, each painting practically the same thing. Sculptures by Brancusi throughout, it was great to see this stuff after a day of work. And when I say stuff, I mean like this.