Archive for August, 2010

One of the nicest things in New York during the heat is the Summer Streets initiative where for three consecutive Saturdays some major roads are closed to cars and get used by runners, walkers and cyclists.

One great addition this year was the conversion of three unused dumpsters into pools on Park Avenue.  Never thought I would see people swimming near Grand Central but it actually happened:

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Some of my favourite things this week – have a good weekend.

– Daniel Akst wonders why Americans have become more lonely despite spending more time on social networks (and why I will never join Facebook) :

“Science-fiction writers make the best seers. In the late 1950s far-sighted Isaac Asimov imagined a sunny planet called Solaria, on which a scant 20,000 humans dwelt on far-flung estates and visited one another only virtually, by materializing as “trimensional images”—avatars, in other words. ‘They live completely apart,” a helpful robot explained to a visiting earthling, “and never see one another except under the most extraordinary circumstances.’ “

– Harvard Business School gives six keys to being excellent at anything. My favourite and the reason I changed career, “pursue what you love”;

– a reminder that even if you do become excellent, success does not come from what you own, but from who you become;

– I might be prepared to make an exception when it comes to owning books – some photos of the world’s most beautiful libraries;

– last week was the 90th anniversary  of women’s suffrage in the US. It is incredible when you read the arguments that people had for not giving women the vote;

– close to home, The National Portrait Gallery in London  has a  new photography exhibition:  An Englishman in New York.

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The Storm King Art Center is an unusual museum. Its collection is not constrained by the walls of the museum building. The floor of its main  exhibition area is grass and fields. Walls are formed by trees and hills. The roof is sky.”

H Peter Stern, lecture given at the Chautauqua Institution, July 1, 2003

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Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman delivered a wonderful speech for the 8th annual Nelson Mandela lectureWhose memory ? Whose justice ? A meditation on how and when and if to reconcile :

“This is how we managed to become human, by creating the conditions for a social network where the suffering of others is intolerable, where we need to pity and comfort the afflicted. It is certainly not the only thing that defines us as humans: we are also characterized by cruelty and selfishness, indifference and avarice, but each of us can decide what defines our primordial humanity, and I choose the pre-eminence of empathy with others as our most important trait, the base for our evolution, what lay the groundwork for our search for language – language is what makes us who we are – whose very core is the articulation and belief that someone else will accompany us through life, compassion is at the origin of our species-quest for the imagination with which we can smuggle ourselves into and under alien skin.”

– empathy is definitely missing  from those who want to change the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the US. As a Brit  I found this discussion on the amendment’s history by Harvard professor Randall Kennedy fascinating:

“The citizenship provision in Section 1 was introduced because of the Dred Scott decision. In Dred Scott, the Supreme Court ruled that people of African descent were not eligible for citizenship, whether they were free or not.

And so in 1866, the Congress passed a statute providing citizenship by birth. And then in 1868, the Congress decided to put a constitutional footing beneath that legislation.”

I love living in New York because of its diversity and tolerance and it’s a real shame that some people are trying to force the US to give up these strengths.

Slate points out that tolerance is also valued in the the First Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  The article contains a great quote from Thomas Jefferson:

“It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.”

Have a great weekend.

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NPR’s Radiolab had a program on words and commissioned this magical video from Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante which manages to capture their power, despite not using many.

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If you want just one piece to help put life in perspective, the article by Christopher Hitchens is it. Have a good weekend.

– Hitchens manages to remain sarcastic and funny while writing about his cancer diagnosis:

“Of course my book hit the best-seller list on the day that I received the grimmest of news bulletins, and for that matter the last flight I took as a healthy-feeling person (to a fine, big audience at the Chicago Book Fair) was the one that made me a million-miler on United Airlines, with a lifetime of free upgrades to look forward to. But irony is my business and I just can’t see any ironies here: would it be less poignant to get cancer on the day that my memoirs were remaindered as a box-office turkey, or that I was bounced from a coach-class flight and left on the tarmac? To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?”

– photographer Cheryl Koralik writes 100 words on her work and pictures of love. She includes a wonderful quote from Martin Luther King, Jr :

“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”

– on a similiar theme Reuters has a slideshow of couples on the New York subway;

– love is surprisingly not included on the 10 things science says will make you happy ;

– working too hard is definitely not one of them. PickTheBrain has four ways of working smart which I should try to stick to more often;

– one Californian couple find the route to happiness is living with just 100 personal items.

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The Lincoln Center is not normally a place I associate with a dance party but last Sunday the place went wild at an outdoor concert commemorating the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I don’t think there was a single person who stayed sitting down instead of getting up on their feet to dance.

A friend and I joined the Soul Rebels Brass Band for an unforgettable second line from the Caribbean Cultural Center to the Lincoln Center and all the way around it’s fountain. For those of you who are unfamiliar with a second line (as I was) you basically get to dance through the streets, or in New York’s case – the sidewalks:

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