All posts filed under: people and writings

2015

In 2015 I  became a mother. This is Orion Augustus.  He’s been out in the world with me for 14 weeks now.  I am filled with awe, impatience, and nostalgia at every moment.  He already moves his hands with purpose, laughs when I kiss his belly, and opens his eyes wide in front of books. The past year seems now like it was all devoted to bringing him into the world, but so much else happened. I finished reading and writing my doctorate qualifying exams: on landscape studies, and on craft and work. I was on the teaching team that developed a new Harvard course on Boston’s history and culture.  I lectured on my own work on Haymarket, psychogeography, and oral history (read it here: I live in three different Bostons).  I also oversaw a group of undergraduate research projects, some of the most fulfilling work I have done as a graduate student. I began a series of interviews with artists about their relationship to place and work.  The first two, with potter Judy Motzkin …

Adventures in neighborhood podcasting

This week I’ve been participating in MIT CoLab’s Storytelling for Planners course. I must admit that it’s felt since the first moment like it was where I’ve always belonged.  As you know, I’m committed to helping planners, neighbors, kids and grownups learn and get excited about the world in their own backyards, whether it’s history, personal relationships, architecture, or…local wildlife.  So when I started thinking about what the perfect story would be to embody that sense of noticing, of wonder, of finding mystery in the everyday, I naturally thought about my neighborhood turkeys. I’ve written before about these charismatic urbanfauna and how they can be understood by planners as an example of how surprising interventions can facilitate building social capital.  But here, I was thinking about them differently, as local “characters of interest,” subjects of community mythmaking. That’s all I’ll say.  Except: this is my first podcast.  And, I hope, it’s a preview of coming attractions.  Since so much of this blog is about walking, and pretty much all I do as I’m walking around …

Love that Dirty Old Boston

A new Facebook page has been blowing up my Newsfeed lately…Dirty Old Boston.  This community page, which features pictures and images of “Boston before the gentrification of the 1980s,” started just weeks ago on September 22 and has almost 4,000 likes and 8,000 comments.  Last week was its most popular week, with photos of the 1970s stripper Princess Cheyenne (who became a bit of a recurring theme for a moment there), the original Boston Garden, a hit list from WRKO, lots of arson and other historic urban fires…you get the idea.  Many of the images aren’t “dirty,” so much as they are retro: women in vintage swim suits, old nightclubs in Cambridge, dudes in bellbottoms, etc.  These images draw a sense of the city’s bohemian roots. Its rise in interest on Facebook has been rapid, and has been primarily among folks between 35 and 44.  Which means, probably not people who remember a lot of the things in the photos, except as kids and teens. Posted 10/18/12: “There was an arson ring that was burning …

Experiments in pop-up democracy

You’re probably wondering what I’m up to these days, since it’s certainly not writing on this blog.  Well, a lot actually!  I’m working on a lot of projects for school that build on the topics I write about here, like historic preservation and economic development, informal food economies, public art happenings, and, of course, politics.  Speaking of which, I have started working on a project on experiments in “pop-up democracy,” which takes the artist interventions I admire and imagines how they could be transformed to serve a more direct political purpose such as encouraging voter turnout and educated community input into planning decisions.   You can see my proposal for a pop-up democracy framework on Participedia (which is awesome and you should check out). Next step: making something pop up!  

memorializing.

have you ever wondered why it seems like memorial day is just like veteran’s day?  every year we commemorate our fallen soldiers and reflect on what it means to be a nation at (what seems like) constant war.  but aren’t the two different? when i read this gorgeous op-ed in the Globe i realized what’s wrong: veteran’s day is our time to honor soldiers, but memorial day is — or ought to be — a time to think about war. more specifically, it was originally created as a day to remember and continue to heal the rift caused by the Civil War, a rift that continues to play itself out throughout our national politics.  i think it’s safe to say we’re more interested in barbecues and politically safe memorial services than any sober, profound interrogation of what it means to have entered into deadly and devastating conflict with ourselves and other peoples.  and certainly the fact that we have had such conflict within our own landscape is not something that goes well with hot dogs. …

of memory and myth-making.

Frank Rich’s as-always-spot-on Sunday article this week is about the power of revisionist history to challenge accepted narratives and remake the most basic concepts of history, identity, and responsibility in our country.  I hope to talk more about the changes to the history curriculum proposed in Texas and other conservative states which, terrifying as they are, are a powerful testament to the importance of history in our educational system.  But for now suffice it to say that attempts to change or even destroy memory must be challenged and resisted with equally powerful campaigns to restore the collective memories we share, however unpleasant.

sweeping the ashes under the rug.

There is an incredible article in the February 1 issue of The New Yorker, “Embers” by George Packer.  In the article, Packer travels to Dresden, Germany to explore how the city has addressed the memory of its participation in World War II, its devastating bombing by the Allies, an its legacy as an East German emblem of victimization by the West.  This language of memory is implicit in seemingly inocuous decisions: restoring a church spire to its former glory, the presence and absence of small commemorations of Jewish residents throughout the town streets.  Packer describes a city that is so committed to forgetting the immediate trauma of its role and devastation in World War II, it has single mindedly pursued the restoration of the city to its pre-War appearance.  By embracing its Baroque beauty, its cultural heritage, Dresden has shed not only the stigma of its place as a center of Nazi power but also the painful memory of the complete destruction of the city. Into this environment comes architect Daniel Liebeskind’s design for a …