paintings · Poetry · Technology

Another Take on Conversation

About the same time as I was writing my last post on the importance of conversation, Herb was working on a post of the same subject for his blog. We didn’t plan it that way. That sort of thing happens when you’ve been married a long time. Here, from his blog, paintingsandpoems.home.blog:

SOLITUDE IS NO SOLUTION

Herb Knapp

THE MIND
Birds, bees, termites, ants, and molds
taken singly are brainless things,
but when they come together with their kind,
they act as if directed by a mind.
We, however, lose our minds in crowds,
grow drunkenly ambitious, start to build
stairways to the stars, or try to kill
our neighbors, pillage stores, set fire to cars.
Solitude is no solution though.
A mountain man’s a crowd of one,
who follows his uncontradicted will, 
as mindless as an ant without a hill.
Our minds are fragile, easily destroyed
by noise or silence, griefs or celebrations.
For minds to flourish, they must be employed
regularly in rambling conversations.

Below iis a conversation between men called “The Long Story” by William Sidney Mount.

And here is a painting of a conversation between two women called “Conversation” by the twentieth century painter Milton Avery.

Thomas Traherne: “The world is best enjoyed and most immediately while we converse blessed and wisely with men.”

Jonathan Edwards: “The being of society, as such, is conversation.”

Michael Oakeshott: “Learning to be human is learning to participate in the conversation of mankind.” 

Technology

Three Smart Phones and the Sounds of Silence

Cell_phones_image

First published on May 17, 2016. Here it is again–slightly edited.

Last Tuesday morning a couple walked into the restaurant where Herb and I were having coffee. They sat down at a nearby table; the waitress took their order, the man pulled out his cell phone and began texting—maybe emailing. For the next five minutes, she sat silent as stone, staring into the middle distance.

After a few more minutes, a second phone in his pocket rang. He took it out, spoke briefly to the caller and then returned to the  business of the first phone.

Finally, she took her phone from her bag and started scrolling. I kept my eye on them, fascinated by a real-life example of what I have been reading about in a compelling and disturbing book, Reclaiming Conversation: the Importance of Talk in the Digital Age by Sherry Turkel.

After twenty minutes, we finished our coffee and left. Not a word had been exchanged between them. I don’t know how two people who are so uninterested in each other could maintain a relationship much less a marriage for long. As someone who has remained happily married ( for a long, looong time—65 years and counting), I am here to tell you this is not the way you do it.

Technology

Where Have All the Horses Gone?

The building on 89th Street, New York City, that once housed the Claremont Stables

When we lived in Manhattan we were just two blocks from the Claremont Stables.  In 2007 the stables closed its doors—to horses, that is. Today the yellow brick building with its large rounded entrances houses a private school.

At the time it closed, the Claremont was the oldest continuing operating stable in New York City. It was built in 1892 as a livery stable where wealthy folks could board their horse and store their carriage between outings. Other not-so-wealthy folks could rent a horse and carriage by the hour. In 1928, because of its proximity to the bridle path in Central Park and the fact that the introduction of the automobile had meant the reduction in the need for horses, the Claremont Stables became the Claremont Riding Academy where you could rent a horse for a ride in Central Park for $55 an hour or board your own horse if you happened to own one. Continue reading “Where Have All the Horses Gone?”

Technology

Big Retail and Malls Are In Trouble—and It’s My Fault!

If I shopped at a mall, this is the mall I’d shop at.

Forbes Magazine reports that so far this year there have been more big retail store closings (5,944) than there were for all of 2018 (5,864).

As online shopping becomes more popular, brick and mortar stores suffer declining sales. And the giants of the retail industry are feeling the pinch. Payless has closed all 2100 of their stores. Sears has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is closing numbers of stores as they try to recover. Payless and Henri Bendel have gone out of business completely and other familiar names like Victoria’s Secret, J. C. Penney, Gap, and Abercrombie and Fitch are downsizing in the face of poor bottom lines.

When a mall loses its anchor store, it often finds it difficult to replace it, and so some of the mid size malls have simply closed and been torn down.

And if we are to believe Jeff Bezos, soon malls will be history.

Now I don’t particularly like malls, but it somehow doesn’t seem right that Jeff Bezos should control all of retailing!

I’m feeling guilty about all this because I buy everything online, mostly from Amazon. Truth be told, I am an Amazon junkie!

I mean how can you not love Amazon? You want (need) something? Just search, click, and lo! It appears on your doorstep, sometimes the next day. And shipping is free if you are a prime member, which I most certainly am. 

I really shouldn’t be aiding and abetting the further growth of this behemoth, should I?

Still, I didn’t like it that that know-nothing loud mouthed congressperson prevented Amazon from locating in New York.

You see my problem. When a person’s beliefs contradict their behavior they are said to be sufferiing from cognitive dissonance. Apparently I’ve got it bad.

Psychologists tell us that in such cases, one thinks up excuses to ease the discomfort.

I don’t drive, so I can’t get to the mall. Even if I took the bus, I couldn’t carry the large packages home from the bus stop and Uber costs too much. Besides, I am a child of the Great Depression and can’t be expected to pay a high price, if a cheaper price is available. (And Amazon almost always has cheaper prices.)

There now, I feel much better.

Architecture · Culture · Technology

The Great Green Dinosaur Followed Us to Fleetwood

Giant cement pouring machine.

The moment we decided that we wanted to leave Manhattan came in a cab ride to the dentist, whose office is in midtown. I made the mistake of scheduling the appointment on Columbus Day. Any New Yorker can tell you what is wrong with that idea. The annual Columbus Day parade makes its way up Fifth Avenue, which means that traffic, which is always slow, comes to a virtual standstill in midtown as normal Fifth Avenue traffic is diverted to nearby streets. 

So there we were sitting in a cab on Park Avenue in the middle of the day as pedestrians passed us by. I tried to divert my attention from the running meter by gazing out the window. And up—up—up—in the air so far up I had to scrunch down in my seat to see it— there was the great green dinosaur on top of a building then under construction.  Okay, maybe this one wasn’t green, but it certainly looked ridiculous perched that high in the sky.

And then it occurred to us we didn’t want to live where the buildings are now no longer scraping the sky but piercing it. A boom in what are called “supertall towers” is underway in New York. In my opinion, these buildings are inhuman. They’re not awe inspiring; they’re frightening. And as Paul Goldberger, architecture critic, observes, they are changing the character of Manhattan as we have known it. Midtown, he notes, is no longer for New Yorkers. It is instead a place for tourists and globe-trotting billionaires.

A supertall building in New York is nothing new, of course. The Empire State Building is 1250 feet high; the Freedom Tower 1776 feet.  (The Twin Towers were slightly over 1300 feet.) 

432 Park Avenue (1396 feet, 95 stories) possibly the ugliest building in New York City. The architect says it was inspired by a trash can.

What is different about the new supertalls is that they are super skinny residential buildings built with global billionaire investors in mind, and they are popping up all over, particularly in midtown, where their height gives them spectacular views of Central Park.  In 2016, a Saudi retail magnate bought a penthouse at 432 Park (1396 feet high, 95 stories) for 87.7 million. Some sources say 95 million, but I guess it doesn’t much matter when money is literally no object. Not all of the apartments in this building are that expensive, of course. You can pick up an apartment on a lower floor for 15 to 20 million.

And Now Outside My Window

There’s the dinosaur, this one most certainly green, pouring concrete for a new apartment building. It will be a modest 16 stories tall, still too tall for the disgruntled citizens of Fleetwood, where the many apartment buildings here seldom rise above eight stories.

I guess we’ll not be having Saudi billionaire neighbors any time soon.