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Paddy's Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred
Thomas Gallagher
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When in French: Love in a Second Language
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Beyond the Job Description: How Managers and Employees Can Navigate the True Demands of the Job
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Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing
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Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl, Harold S. Kushner
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Bicycle Diaries

Bicycle Diaries - David Byrne I read this book at about the same time as I read Steve Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From. I came to Byrne's book via a cycling link, but I found it a lot more about creativity than cycling. Cycling is really only incidental to the book. (Which is okay with me, I'm not really a cyclist). "Through this window [cycling in cities] I catch glimpses of the mind of my fellow man as expressed in the cities he lives in. Cities, it occurred to me, are physical manifestations of our deepest beliefs and our often unconscious thoughts, not so much as individuals, but as the social animals we are. A cognitive scientist need only look at what we have made -- the hives we have created -- to know what we think and what we believe to be important, as well as how we structure those thoughts and beliefs. It's all there in plain view, right out in the open. . .Our values and hopes are sometimes awfully embarrassingly easy to read. They're right out there -- in the storefronts, museums, shops and office buildings and in how these structures interrelate, or sometimes don't. They say, in their unique visual language, "This is what we think matters, this is how we live and how we play." Riding a bike through all this is like navigating the collective neural pathways of some vast global mind. ...Yes, in most of these cities I was usually just passing through. And one might say that what I could see would therefore by definition be shallow, limited, and particular. That's true, and many of the things I've written about cities might be viewed as a kind of self-examination, with the city functioning as a mirror. But I also believe that a visitor staying briefly can read the details, the specifics made visible, and then the city's hidden agendas emerge almost by themselves. Economics is revealed in shop fronts and history in door frames. Oddly, as the microscope moves in for a closer look, the perspective widens at the same time."I found this an interesting look at musical genres and how they travel, or don't. He's in Buenos Aires. "We did a lot of salsa, cumbia, and sambas. I did do "Psycho Killer," but with 2 berimbaus -- a Brazilian one-stringed "rhythm" instrument that is usually associated with the martial art/dance capoeira. I was a little shocked when I played that concert. I thought for sure the various grooves and flavors of Latin music would all be familiar here, even if the current generation didn't play them, but they weren't. I was under the mistaken impression that those infectious Latin rhythms I hear all over New York City would be familiar all over South America. Boy was I wrong. Although there are a few -- a very few -- Latin American artists whose appeal extends across the whole continent (and often to Europe as well) most of the regional styles have, well, regional audiences. There's a salsa, cumbia, bachata, and reggaeton audience that encompasses the Caribbean basin along with immigrants from there who have settled in NY, but except for a couple of artists, that music, which was for decades a strong part of NY's musical landscape, didn't penetrate south of the equator. So it turned out in a small way that Mr. Psycho Killer was bringing salsa and samba to Bueno Aires!"On the subject of gentrification and its effect on creativity, still in Bueno Aires but speaking of NY: "With young creative types now spread out over NJ, the Bronx, Williamsburg, Red Hook, and elsewhere, it's harder for any kind of scene or movement to gain traction. There needs to be sufficient density for it to develop. Creativity gets a boost when people rub shoulders, when they collide in bars and cafes and have a tentative sense of community. NY, or least Manhattan, will, on its current course, end up like HK or Singapore -- a vast gleaming business and shopping center. Creativity -- the indefinable quality that China, for example, probably covets -- will be extinguished in NY if random and frequent social contact is eliminated."On coping with travel (while in London):"I've learned after many years not to fill my travel days exclusively with work, but to give myself some free time, some breathing space, so I can manage to retain my sanity despite the feeling of dislocation that comes with travel. Random wandering clears the head of the worries and the concerns that may be lurking, and sometimes it's even inspiring. I lean toward contemporary art shows as that's an area I'm involved in, but medical museums, industrial museums, and the National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, NE were all equally exciting and served as destinations -- though often what I passed along the way was even more interesting." San Francisco. The occasion: Byrne giving a talk on the history of Power Point. "I'm terrified. Man of the guys that originally turned PowerPoint into a software program are present. . . . Luckily, I'm not talking about the details of the programming but about the ubiquity of the software and how because of what it does and how it does it, it limits what can be presented -- and therefore, what can be discussed. All media do this to some extent -- they do certain things and leave other things out altogether. This is not news, but by bringing this up, reminding everyone, I hope to dispel the myth of neutrality that surrounds many software programs. I also propose that a slide talk, the context in which this software is used, is a form or contemporary theater -- a kind of ritual theater that has developed in boardrooms and academia rather than on the Broadway stage. . . .The talk goes fine. I can relax, they're laughing. ...In working on these pieces, and others, I have become aware that there is a pyramid of control and influence that exists between text, image and sound. I note that we give text a preferential position: a label under an image "defines" that image, even if it contradicts what we can see. ..."New York: "There is a magazine in the rack at the entrance to my local Pakistani lunch counter called InvAsian: a journal for the culturally ambivalent. What is it about certain cities and places that fosters specific attitudes? Am I imagining that this is the case? To what extent does the infrastructure of cities shape the lives, work, and sensibilities of their inhabitants? Quite significantly, I suspect. All this talk about bike lines, ugly buildings, and density of population isn't just about those things, it's about what kinds of people those places turn us into. I don't think I'm imagining that people elsewhere inevitably lose a lot of that elsewhere and eventually end up creating L.A.-type work and being L.A.-type people. Do creative, social, and civic attitudes change depending on where we live? Yes, I think so. How does this happen? Do they seep surreptitiously through peer pressure and casual conversations? Is it the water, the light, the weather? Is there a Detroit sensibility? Memphis? New Orleans? (No doubt.) Austin? (Certainly.) Nashville? London? Berlin? (I would say there's a Berlin sense of humor for sure.) Dusseldorf? Vienna? (Yes.) Paris? Osaka? Melbourne? Bahia? (Absolutely.)...Maybe every city has a unique sensibility but we don't have names for what they are or haven't identified them all. We can't pinpoint exactly what makes each city's people unique yet. How long does one have to be a resident before one starts to behave and think like a local? And where does this psychological city start? Is there a spot on the map where attitudes change? And is the inverse true? Is there a place where New Yorkers suddenly become Long Islanders? Will there be freeway signs with a picture of Billy Joel that alert motorists "attention, entering NY state of mind"?... Is that a legacy of the layers of historical happenstance that make up a particular city? Is that where it comes from? Is it a constantly morphing and slowly evolving worldview? Do the repercussions of local politics and the local laws foster how we view each other? Does it come from the socioeconomic-ethnic mix; are there proportions in the urban stew critical, like in a recipe? ...Maybe this is all a bit of myth, a willful desire to give each place its own unique aura. But doesn't any collective belief eventually become a kind of truth? If enough people act as if something is true, isn't it indeed "true", not objectively, but in the sense that it will determine how they will behave? The myth of unique urban character and unique sensibilities exists because we want it to exist."