Friday, February 22, 2019

Pourquoi Doit-elle Dormir sur le Trottoir, et moi pas?

Il ya quelques jours, j’ai rencontré un personnage qui m’a bouleversé. Je rentrai chez moi du supermarché, roulant lentement dans mon quartier. Quoique nous habitons dans une banlieue assez chic, depuis quelques années il y de plus en plus de clochards, même près de chez nous. C’est un signe directe de l’accroissement rapide de l’injustice, l’inégalité et la pauvreté partout en Amérique.

Or, quand je tourne a droite a un croisement, j’aperçois une femme sur le trottoir, avec son petit chariot de supermarché, avec quelques sacs et valises là-dedans, et aussi un tas d’habits entassés pêle-mêle. J’estime que son âge n’est pas très loin du mien, au tour de soixante-dix ans. Elle est bien habillée, ses cheveux blancs sont bien peignés, et elle a l’air bien propre, donc je me demande si elle est une clocharde et une mendiante ou pas. Ce qui me frappe le plus c’est la grande beauté de son visage. Elle est entrain de ranger ses affaires, soulevant péniblement ses valises pour mieux les remettre. Read more...

Did the Ancient Greeks Invent Beauty?


I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston the other day. It is rated as the second best Fine Arts Museum in the country, so it is a mystery why I don’t go more often.

Amongst their many galleries, they have an incredible Ancient World collection of 85,000 works of art. There are rooms full of Greek and Roman statues, pottery, coins and jewelry and one feels somewhat overwhelmed. As Greek and Roman statues usually are, they are large, white and the ones that are full bodied are mostly of muscular, extremely well-built men. This period in history and art was totally devoted to the human form. And how do you portray the human form best? Naked of course.

It is an orgy of male beauty, not female beauty. Women are conspicuously absent in these rooms. It is ALL about men. Men eating, fighting, disk throwing, killing lions, making love (to other men)… The concept of beauty was the domain of men, not women. Greeks and Romans adored the human body, but it was the male body that they went bonkers over.

Another hallmark of these ideal nude statues, is the small size of their penises. It is as if the sculptor got so tired after chiseling these powerful bodies, that he didn’t bother spending time on their private parts. But in fact, small penises were considered classy in those days. A sign of moderation and self-control, virtues that formed the Romans’ view of ideal masculinity. Isn’t that refreshing? Aristophanes summed up the ideal traits of his male peers as “a gleaming chest, bright skin, broad shoulders, tiny tongue, strong buttocks, and a little prick.” Heroes, gods and nude athletes had small penises. Erect, large penises were reserved for Satyrs and various other non-ideal men, men of the lower class. Read more...

Friday, February 15, 2019

Should We Break Up Facebook, Google and Amazon?


Tim Wu, author of ‘The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age” calls our time the ‘new Gilded Age’ and warns that when you allow the private sector to acquire excessive power, the power of the people and their representative government is being undermined.

In his new book, Tim Wu - also known for his strong advocacy for Net Neutrality - makes a compelling argument for the necessity of breaking up the Tech Giants. He sees no difference between Big Tech and the industrial giants of the Gilded Age. Monopolists like the Rockefellers (oil), the Carnegies (steel) and J.P. Morgans (railroad), saw themselves as pioneers in a progressive movement. They believed in social Darwinism, the survival of the fittest and were quite comfortable with the notion that smaller companies deserved to die. The US did lead the world in industry and innovation but laissez-faire government policies created a huge gap between the wealthy and the workers, not unlike today.

We have fallen prey to the charms of tech giants like Facebook and Google, who play down the allure of profit-making while talking a lot about how much value and “connection” they bring to the public. They portray themselves as striving to build a better future, but are in fact, the Robber Barons of today.

Busting up big businesses into smaller parts was once an American tradition, proof that we value competition in our economic system. In the trust-busting days of Teddy Roosevelt, antitrust laws functioned as a check on private power, a safeguard against a widening income gap and of corporations subverting electoral politics. Read more...

Thursday, February 14, 2019

What Happened, America?

There was a time (roughly when I emigrated to this great country) when America was THE optimistic, future-oriented, self-confident, can-do society par excellence. After World War Two, when the world needed to be saved and rebuilt, no problem. America did it, with the Marshall Plan. When Africa and other Third World countries needed to be lifted out of sickness and poverty, no problem, America’s Peace Corps came to the rescue. When the country needed an interstate superhighway system, no problem, the Eisenhower administration gave the order and 45 years later the country had 50 thousand miles of turnpikes, built at a cost of half a trillion dollars. Landing men on the moon? No problem. President Kennedy decided that it was worth doing and ten years later it was done. And now?

California’s new governor Gavin Newsom recently gave his State of the State address. By and large, Newsom is doing and saying the right things. To wit:

● In defiance of Donald Trump, he has pledged to make California and many of its cities sanctuaries to all immigrants.

● He has removed several hundred National Guard members from the U.S.-Mexico border.

● He plans to downsize the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta twin-tunnels project from 2 tunnels to just one. This immense project aims to make it easier to move water from Northern California to Southern California. Governor Brown, Newsom’s predecessor, insisted on 2 tunnels. I welcome Newsom’s proposal to downsize.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The World's 150 Mega-Cities

It was recently announced in the news that the world’s population is now over 50% urban. To be sure, we may have already reached this milestone a few years ago, depending on how urbanism is measured. Be that as it may, I now want to play with this idea a bit. I used to teach urban sociology, which I find a fascinating  subject. Also, I have lived in or visited several dozen of these mega-cities, and I love large cities.

I consulted a number of  sources to examine  the  current  ranking of the world’s 150 largest metropolises. (World’s Largest CitiesThe 150 Largest Cities of the World of MSAs).

Much has changed since I was young.  When I disembarked from the boat  in America as a Hungarian refugee  in Hoboken, New jersey, staring  in awe at the magic New York skyline, that city was the world’s largest, as was its harbor. In subsequent decades, its harbor was overtaken first by Rotterdam, and then by Shanghai. As to population, New York is now the 10th largest city in the world.