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An American in Rome

July 27, 2015

Kristin Jones came by the Brooklyn Rail to discuss her collaborative project TEVERETERNO for the revival of Rome’s Tiber River with Ann McCoy. The artist has been working to adopt an 1,800-foot long stretch of the river, and turn it into a site for contemporary art, a first for Rome. Past participants have included an array of national and international artists including Kiki Smith and Jenny Holzer, and composers such as Walter Branchi and David Monacchi. Upcoming is a project entitled Triumphs and Laments, by William Kentridge—a procession of more than 80 large-scale figures.

(Photo by Toshihiro Gamo under a Creative Commons license.) 

What I Learned About Life From a Howling Dog

July 27, 2015

When I have writing or very focused work to do, I work from a studio behind my house.  Generally it is quiet and I have the added benefit of being able to take breaks and sit in my backyard.  


In the Netherlands, older people bike at exactly the same rate as the rest of the population-- about 25 percent of all trips. (Photo by Amsterdamize under a Creative Commons license.)

Older Americans Rediscover Bikes

July 27, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

“Cycling is the new golf,” declare the New York Times, CNN Money and The Economist, describing how road rides are replacing tee times as a favorite pastime for business networking.

Universities and hospitals support local initiatives in Detroit's Midtown neighborhoods, such as the Summer in the City program held at Wayne State University.  (Photo by Summer in the City under a Creative Commons license.) 

Anchors a Way to Revive Struggling Cities

July 27, 2015

In urban development circles, strategies that leverage the staying power and scale of anchor institutions -- universities, hospitals and other place-based powerhouses -- are on the rise.

"Headlands" 2015.

Capturing the Wild

July 27, 2015

Can we truly know wilderness?  The word itself defies constraint, and contains multiple meanings. “An uncultivated and uninhabited region,” “an empty or pathless area,” and “a confusing multitude” are but a few definitions of wilderness, all of which indicate humans’ complex and changeable relationship to nature.

(Photo by Martin Schulz under a Creative Commons license

Commons is Heart of Pope’s Economic Teachings

July 24, 2015

The subtitle of Pope Francis’ stunning new encyclical, “‘Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” belies the preference of some that a pontiff not venture into economic matters—Jeb Bush, for instance.

Image courtesy of Milwaukee Water Commons 

The Water That Made Milwaukee Famous

July 24, 2015

Here's a new video showcasing the work of the Milwaukee Water Commons to make Milwaukee a Water City that works for everyone, including future generations and the natural world.  On Sunday August 9, they are holding a community beachfront celebration, We Are Water

Here's an update about their Water City 3.0 meeting held in June from their website:

Pope Francis speaking at the European Parliament last year. (Photo by the European Parliament under a Creative Commons license.) 

Pope Francis's Green Message Provokes Strong Reactions

July 21, 2015

One expects a debate about Pope Francis’ new encyclical to form around the details of climate science, or the efficacy of carbon credits, or the theological merits of ecology. But a stranger, subtler difference of opinion has emerged, one that I suspect has more political consequence than it lets on: the interpretation of mood.

(Photo by Bruce Fingerhood under a Creative Commons license.) 

A Moveable Commons

July 20, 2015

She said something about Josh, who was asleep on my shoulder. Such a sweet boy. Those eyes. I thanked her, asked if she had kids. A daughter, she said, eighteen. Was it hard, her daughter leaving home? Yes. When she looked at her did she still see the three year old the daughter used to be? Yes again.

(Photo by Chris Yakimov under a Creative Commons license.) 

Noam Chomsky on the Commons

July 20, 2015

In June, we commemorated the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta—commemorating, but not celebrating; rather, mourning the blows it has suffered.

The first authoritative scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone in 1759. It was no easy task. As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats”—a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.

(Photo by Lee Morley under a Creative Commons license.)

Strengthening the Culture of Caring

July 20, 2015

Many schools have a place they refer to as “the commons.”  For some students, this is a great place to hang out with friends.  For others, however, the commons is an uncomfortable and unfriendly place.  It’s where their isolation and not-fitting-in become most noticeable.  The commons may also be the place where they are most likely to get bullied.

(Photo by Desbyrne under a Creative Commons license.)

The Rest of the Story About Greece

July 20, 2015 | By David Morris

In its policies toward Greece, the "Troika" — a new shorthand for the combined will of the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund — has actively and enthusiastically embraced Maggie Thatcher’s social and political philosophy, memorably captured in her chilling assertion, “There is no such thing as society.”  That philosophy has found its fullest and most concrete exposition in a 2014 “competition assessment” of Greece made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation

(Photo by Matt Karp under a Creative Commons license.)

National Walking Summit Make Strides Toward Healthier Future For All

June 24, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper


Walking is moving fast these days.

We may think of it as a slow activity, but travel by foot is quickly being recognized as an effective prescription for health, a convenient means of transportation, a great opportunity to meet people, a smart strategy for saving money, an inspiring way to experience the commons and a lot of fun.

(By Donkey Hotey under a Creative Commons license)  

Trade Deals Overturn Democracy

June 22, 2015 | By David Morris

On May 8th at Nike’s headquarters, President Obama denounced opponents of the hotly contested Trans-Pacific Partnership as ill informed. “(C)ritics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation….They’re making this stuff up.  This is just not true.  No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

Trade Deals Overturn Democracy

June 22, 2015 | By David Morris

On May 8th at Nike’s headquarters, President Obama denounced opponents of the hotly contested Trans-Pacific Partnership as ill informed. “(C)ritics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation….They’re making this stuff up.  This is just not true.  No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

Self-portrait by the author's 15-year-old son.

Coming of Age in the Time of the Hoodie

June 15, 2015

Earlier this year I decided to read Joe Brainard’s cult classic, I Remember. The book had long intrigued me for I had heard that it was widely taught in creative writing courses and was a favorite of many authors, including several well-known authors whose work I admire. I was immediately drawn to Brainard’s style, each line starting with the words “I remember.” As I read it, I found myself jotting down remembrances of my own, complementing Brainard’s memories of America with my memories of Nigeria.

(Photo by Backbone Campaign under a Creative Commons license) 

Are Trade Agreements More Important Than Government By the People?

June 15, 2015 | By David Morris

For much of our history, trade agreements were considered treaties.  According to the Constitution they had to be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.  The House does not participate in ratification of treaties (Article II, Section 2).

By the late 19th century Congress realized it was far too cumbersome to require a Congressional vote to change individual tariffs, so they delegated to the President the authority to use tariffs as a flexible tool in the exercise of foreign policy. 

(By Woodley Wonderworks under a Creative Commons license)

The Ultimate Communications App

June 11, 2015

I’ve just invented a new communication app.  It can be used by almost everyone; It works anywhere and anytime, night or day;  It doesn’t need batteries, doesn’t need to be plugged in,  doesn’t even need the internet;  Once people start using it, it is so easy that it is almost impossible to stop using it;  it becomes indispensable, and you are hooked, you cannot be without it;  It can be tailored to suit any occasion;  Its use facilitates an expanding network of people; It’s use opens up incredible possibilities for creativity and cooperation.  

I Paint the Line Because Your Mine

June 2, 2015

Recently, I engaged in an act of reluctant civil disobedience.

Here’s why: a Texas-based energy corporation, Spectra, is about to break ground on a high-pressure gas pipeline in my neighborhood. We’ve done everything we can do stop it – and we have no further recourse.

All of our elected officials – city, state, and federal –have tried to stop this project. The City of Boston and our heroic Congressman Stephen Lynch have “intervener status” –and have tried to delay this project for further review.

Novelist and libertarian guru Ayn Rand considered altruism a form of "self-destruction." (Photo illustration by Playing Futures under a Creative Commons license.)  

Ayn Rand vs. Adam Smith

May 28, 2015 | By David Morris