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Posts Tagged ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

“Can we all just get along?”…

 

Barcelona

Is your subway car packed like sardines? Does your city feel like a shopping mall? Is your community, well, not all it could be? Richard Sennett [see here] has some answers.

Sennett is a designer-scholar, eminent in both the built-design world and academia. Currently the Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, he’s advised the United Nations on urban issues for decades and worked as planner in New York, Washington, D.C., Delhi, and Beijing. Sennett’s writing often revolves around the interplay of work, strangers, and cooperation, but he always returns to cities: how to plan them, adapt them, and live in them. Doing that well—as either a planner or a resident—means celebrating complexity and accepting diversity: “Experience in a city, as in the bedroom or on the battlefield, is rarely seamless, it is much more often full of contradictions and jagged edges,” he writes in his new book, Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City.

The book offers microhistories of Barcelona and Paris, exegeses of Heidegger and Arendt, and tours of Medellín and Songdo. But through it all, Sennett is asking a pretty simple and pressing question: How do we live together now? How does cosmopolitanism survive in an age of both populism and urbanization—and what can we do in our streets, parks, and cities to help?…

A fascinating interview with Sennett: “Can cosmopolitanism survive in an age of populism and urbanization?

* Rodney King

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As we celebrate complexity and diversity, we might send thoroughly-researched birthday greetings to Edward Gibbon; he was born on this date in 1737.  A historian, writer and Member of Parliament, he is best remembered for his monumental (and instructively cautionary) The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788 and known for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its open criticism of organized religion.

Portrait of Edward Gibbon by Sir Joshua Reynolds

source

 

Lest one think it’s anything new…

click on image above, or here

As we remind ourselves of Mark Twain’s observation that, while history never repeats itself, it rhymes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1764 that then-twenty-seven-year-old Edward Gibbon, on a Grand Tour of Europe, was inspired by a group of chanting clerics to begin work on The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

It was at Rome, on the [fifteenth] of October[,] 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare[-]footed fryars were singing [V]espers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the [C]ity first started to my mind.
– Gibbon, Memoirs

Gibbons “Capitoline vision” (as historians now call it) expanded from Rome to the entire empire, and resulted in a magnum opus that was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788.

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Gibbon (source)

When the vinyl met the road…

From the ever-interesting folks at OOK (Observing Obscure Kulture), a tribute to the must-have auto accessory of the 50s and early 60s:

Hey, vinyl fanatics, have you ever wished you could listen to your records while cruising in your car? From the mid-50’s to the early 60’s, Chrysler made this dream a reality with two generations of in-car phonographs. The original Highway Hi-Fi hit the streets in Autumn of 1955, for model year 1956 — a factory option in the full Chrysler Corporation line of vehicles: Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, DeSoto and Imperial.

More at “Highway Hi-Fi.”

As we crank up the volume, we might devote ourselves to productive thought, following the example of Edward Gibbon, who wrote:

It was at Rome, on the 15th of October 1764, as I sat musing amid the ruins of the capitol, while the bare-footed friars were singing vespers in the temple of Jupiter (today, the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli), that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind … But my original plan was circumscribed to the decay of the City, rather than of the Empire.

Gibbon completed The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (timely reading even– perhaps especially– today) on June 27, 1787.

Gibbon, by Sir Joshua Reynolds

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