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Posts Tagged ‘subway’

shutterstock-567624058Photo: Shutterstock/Elizaveta Galitckaia

She looked me dead in the eye and said: ‘How do I know I’m real?’

It takes nerve to put yourself out there to answer people’s philosophical questions. After all, most potential questioners have only the fuzziest idea of what philosophy is or what questions would be relevant to a philospher’s expertise. Some people are bound to treat the philosopher as a Dear Abby advice columnist, a psychiatrist, or an astrologer.

Here is what Boston University philosopher Lee McIntyre experienced, according to his report at the Conversation.

“The life choices that had led me to be sitting in a booth underneath a banner that read ‘Ask a Philosopher’ – at the entrance to the New York City subway at 57th and 8th – were perhaps random but inevitable.

“I’d been a ‘public philosopher‘ for 15 years, so I readily agreed to join my colleague Ian Olasov when he asked for volunteers to join him at the ‘Ask a Philosopher’ booth. This was part of the latest public outreach effort by the American Philosophical Association, which was having its annual January meeting up the street. …

“I sat between Ian and a splendid woman who taught philosophy in the city, thinking that even if we spent the whole time talking to one another, it would be an hour well spent. Then someone stopped.

“At first glance, it was hard to tell if she was a penniless nomad or an emeritus professor, but then she took off her hat and psychedelic scarf and came over to the desk and announced, ‘I’ve got a question. I’m in my late 60s. I’ve just had life threatening surgery, but I got through it.’

“She showed us the jagged scar on her neck. ‘I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life,’ she said. ‘I’ve got a master’s degree. I’m happily retired and divorced. But I don’t want to waste any more time. Can you help?’

“Wow. One by one, we all asked her to elaborate on her situation and offered tidbits of advice, centering on the idea that only she could decide what gave her life meaning. I suggested that she might reach out to others who were also searching, then she settled in for a longer discussion with Ian.

“And then it happened: A crowd gathered. …

“One young woman, who turned out to be a sophomore in college, stepped away from the group with a serious concern. ‘Why can’t I be happier in my life? I’m only 20. I should be as happy as I’m ever going to be right now, but I’m not. Is this it?’

“It was my turn. ‘Research has shown that what makes us happy is achieving small goals one after the other,’ I said. … ‘You can’t just achieve happiness and stay there, you have to pursue it. … You’ve got to choose the things that make you happy one by one. That’s been shown from Aristotle all the way down to cutting-edge psychological research. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.’ …

“Again it was quiet. Some who passed by were pointing and smiling. A few took pictures. It must have looked odd to see three philosophers sitting in a row with ‘Ask a Philosopher’ over our heads, amidst the bagel carts and jewelry stalls. …

“And then I spotted her … an interlocutor who would be my toughest questioner of the day. She was about 6 years old and clutched her mother’s hand as she craned her neck to stare at us. Her mother stopped, but the girl hesitated.

” ‘It’s OK,’ I offered. ‘Do you have a philosophical question?’ The girl smiled at her mother, then let go of her hand to walk over to the booth. She looked me dead in the eye and said: ‘How do I know I’m real?’

“Suddenly I was back in graduate school. Should I talk about the French philosopher Rene Descartes, who famously used the assertion of skepticism itself as proof of our existence, with the phrase ‘I think, therefore I am’? …

“Then the answer came to me. I remembered that the most important part of philosophy was feeding our sense of wonder. ‘Close your eyes,’ I said. She did. ‘Well, did you disappear?’ She smiled and shook her head, then opened her eyes. ‘Congratulations, you’re real.’ ”

More here.

 

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Photo: Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
The new Istanbul subway machines add credit to your subway cards while crushing, shredding, and sorting your recyclables.

Creating a more sustainable world doesn’t have to be painful for the individual or expensive for government. In Turkey, a city government wanted people to recycle more, and so it got the idea of rewarding subway riders who help out. Ceylan Yeginsu has the story at the New York Times.

“Istanbul [has] rolled out an alternative currency for commuters who need to top up their subway cards but are short of cash: recyclables.

“The city is installing ‘reverse vending machines’ at metro stations that allow passengers to add credit to their subway cards simply by inserting a plastic bottle or aluminum can into the machine. Once a value has been assigned to the recyclables, the machine will crush, shred and sort the material. …

“This is how the vending machines [work]: A 0.33-liter plastic bottle, for example, roughly equivalent to 11 ounces, would add 2 Turkish cents to a subway card, while a 0.5-liter bottle would add 3 cents and a 1.5-liter bottle would add 6 cents. (A subway journey costs 2.60 Turkish lira, about 40 United States cents; 100 Turkish cents, or kurus, make up 1 Turkish lira.) …

“Istanbul’s mayor, Mevlut Uysal, said the machines would track the number of bottles recycled by each passenger and reward those recycling the largest number of containers with free or discounted events such as theater tickets.

“Turkey is Europe’s third-largest producer of household and commercial waste, after Germany and France, and it is the worst in the region at recycling, according to a 2017 report by the consultancy group Expert Market, which is based in Britain. …

“Elif Cengiz, a manager for the waste management project, called Zero Waste, said … that the municipality had made waste management a priority in recent years because of rising concern over the damage that waste is causing to the environment.

“The country’s recycling drive has started to produce results, saving 30 million trees in 15 months since last June, Mustafa Ozturk, the under secretary for the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, said, [adding] ‘The use of recycled material in production contributes to productivity and separate storage for paper waste also saves storage space and decreases waste collecting costs for local administrations.” More at the New York Times, here.

I’d love to see the perennially cash-strapped Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) try the reverse-vending idea instead of constantly raising fares.

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Yesterday was beautiful in New York, and my sister was feeling fine, having been off chemo and radiation a month. New treatments start today.

We took the subway from the Upper West Side down to Chelsea, which she says feels like a whole different city to her. We went to a very avant garde museum, walked around, met up with childhood friends, had tea at an indy bookstore, and admired several subway mosaics.

In the first photo below, a New York crowd is watching a cameraman who is making a movie of the woman in the second photo. Then there are several shots of a long city-life mural. I was especially struck by the man in the red tie, who seems to be riveted by a miracle that only he can see.

Next come New Year’s Eve revelers. The added sticker is a sign of how very eager New Yorkers are to vote right now, longing for a miracle.

Next come two unusual church signs. The first is in the graveyard of the Basilica of St. Patrick on Prince Street. I’m guessing they wanted the sheep for mowing the grass. The second is from a Greek Orthodox church on West End Avenue that has a service called the Falling Asleep of St. John the Theologian.

Finally, someone’s tortoise is running like a hare from paparazzi.

That’s New York for you.

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Photo: MTA Arts for Transit
Faith Ringgold’s mosaic “Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines (Downtown and Uptown),” 1996, is one of the pieces of subway art featured in a PBS documentary.

I’m always amazed by the beauty of the mosaics in the New York subway, even the ones that merely tell you what street you’re at. It makes me happy to see that the city values them, too, and periodically cleans up the oldest ones. They go back as early as 1901.

My sister alerted me to an excellent PBS documentary about recent additions to the art in the subway system. You can read about it at the website Mosaic Art Now.

“For a delightful immersion into the history and current activities of the enormous underground museum that is the New York subway system’s Arts For Transit program, treat yourself to WNET Channel Thirteen’s free one hour video called ‘Treasures of New York: Art Underground.’ …

“Mosaic artist Steven Miotto gets major face time. His decades-long collaboration with artists of all stripes is a fascinating story in itself. When selected by a commissioned artist as a collaborating partner, he gets into their minds and hearts, leading them through the complex process of translating their vision and their graphic designs into mosaic ‘paintings for eternity.’ …

Faith Ringgold, speaks eloquently and nostalgically about the series of paintings – now mosaics – that portray the heroes of her Harlem childhood. Writers and musicians fly across the cityscape in flattened but vivid characterizations. I had the opportunity to interview her when she was in Miami last year, and she spoke about the challenges of trying to ‘make it’ as an African-American artist dealing with political themes at a time when the galleries favored the abstract.  Click here (http://bitly.com/yxGJ3R) to listen to that interview with her.”

See some of the beautiful new mosaics and watch the video here.

If you are up for more on transit-system art, be sure to check out an excellent article by Sarah Hotchkiss at KQED about what’s going on with San Francisco’s Transbay system, here.

 

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The Sunnyside Social Club performs at the celebration for the completion of the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan

Photo: Elizabeth Shafiroff/Reuters
The Sunnyside Social Club had to pass a rigorous audition process to get into the subway busker program in New York.

One of the few things I miss about commuting to a job is the daily possibility of great music in the subway. I would never know what I was going to get. Some performers were bad. Some were so fantastic I felt like letting a couple trains go by so I could listen.

The MBTA doesn’t require much more than signing up and paying a fee to be a busker, but in New York City, it’s a different story. You have to pass a tough audition.

Claire Bryan writes at CityLab, “Each year, hundreds of musicians vie to see their name not in lights, but in pink, on a banner indicating they’ve earned official status to perform in New York City’s subway stations. …

“By a March deadline this year, MTA MUSIC received 309 applications with audio samples and selected 82 finalists to audition. On May 15, the 31st annual auditions opened in Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall, a passageway from the station to 42nd Street. On that morning, the hall, with its 48-foot ceilings and five chandeliers, was filled with a myriad of musical scales: Behind a black felt curtain, cellos, French horns, a Kurdish hammered dulcimer guitar, and vocalists, were warming up. One of the finalists, the all-female a cappella group Mezzo, took to the stage.

“The women of Mezzo launched into ‘Dreams’ by The Cranberries. They had just five minutes to prove to the judges that they deserved the right to serenade people in the subways.

“Since 1985, the MTA Arts and Design program, of which MTA MUSIC is a part, vets musicians to find the best subway-appropriate performance groups to enhance New Yorkers’ commutes. MTA MUSIC Senior Manager Lydia Bradshaw says the judges look for quality, musical variety, cultural diversity, representation of the culture and people of New York, and appropriateness for the transit environment. …

” ‘The thing about it in the subway is you have no stage, you have no backline, you have no stagehands, you must just create the space right here,’ said Sean Grisson, a Cajun cellist who has been in the program since 1987 and a judge since 2013. For Grisson, whether or not performers are chosen comes down to if the performance is something that ‘you would want to pause and make you reflect as you go about your busy New York existence.’

“Once admitted to the program, musicians must call in and book slots. … Performers receive a personalized banner with their name and the MTA MUSIC bright magenta logo. Musician’s names and contact information also gets added to MTA MUSIC’s website — a feature that can help groups land events.

“But anyone can play in the subway as long as they follow MTA’s Transit Rules of Conduct. … MTA employees and music performance groups believe that registered groups deserve their spot. ‘One of the benefits of being in the program is sort of having that permission to book and be at more visible spots,’ Grisson said.

“Which doesn’t mean that non-sanctioned performers can’t play — they just aren’t afforded the security and institutional support MTA MUSIC performers receive. …

“MTA Press Officer Amanda Kwan said that if an MTA MUSIC group calls in, signs up, shows up, and there’s a non-MTA MUSIC group there, the issue is often resolved between the musicians. …

“Grissom, the judge who has also been performing in the subways since 1983, said the competition to enter the program is challenging and he has come to appreciate the MTA MUSIC program much more.

“But he adds: ‘I’ve never had issues [with the authorities] believe it or not. I always feel that street performing or subway performing is kind of Darwinism at its best.’ Grissom said.”

More.

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Photo: beniculturali.gov.it
The newly discovered “commander’s house” was found while digging Rome’s Metro C subway line. It dates back to the 2nd century.

Nowadays, archaeologists get involved at construction sites early, especially if there’s a suspicion of buried culture deep down. It must be frustrating for builders to delay a project when something of historical significance is unearthed, but I like to think that some builders (or perhaps some low-level workers) find it exciting to be part of history. I like to imagine that once in a while an inspired worker goes back to school and becomes an archaeologist.

In Rome, a subway project first revealed unexpected treasure in 2016. Elena Goukassian has a report at Hyperallergic.

“In the summer of 2016, while digging the new Metro C subway line in Rome, workers came across a rare archeological find, a 2nd-century CE Roman barracks. [More recently] archeologists uncovered the remains of a ‘commander’s house’ (domus) connected to the barracks, ‘the first discovery of its kind in the Italian capital,’ according to the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA).

“Complete with marble floors, mosaics, and frescoes, the Hadrian-era house was found [roughly 39 feet] under the Amba Aradam station, close to the Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano. …

“Measuring 300 square meters (~3,200 square feet), the house contains 14 separate rooms, including a ‘bathhouse with underfloor heating.’

“The house will be dismantled piece by piece and temporarily moved, before returning to its original location and incorporated into the new metro station, which ‘will surely become the most beautiful metro station in the world,” [the head of Rome’s monuments authority, Francesco Prosperetti] told reporters.”

Great pictures at Hyperallergic, here.

Who wouldn’t love the mosaic owl discovered under a subway line in Italy?

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Laura Bliss at the Atlantic‘s City Lab has a story on young people you may have seen performing in a New York subway car. She reports that in the film We Live This, the teens’ hopes seem hemmed in by poverty.

“ ‘Showtime’ dancing is a hallmark of the New York City transit scene,” writes Bliss. “Hoping for donations, crews of young black and Latino men perform exuberant choreographies for subway passengers, twisting and leaping from pole to pole with artful ‘lite-feet‘ dancing in between—and never before shouting, ‘It’s showtime!’

“Who are these dancers scraping by on their earnings? A new, short cinéma vérité documentary, We Live This, shines a light on the world of one crew, whose four young members perform on the J train. They are talented, hardworking, committed, and full of dreams, the film shows. But for some, the obstacles are high, and the alternatives slim. …

“Forty, is homeless.

‘As I’m dancing on the train, I’m thinking about where am I sleeping at night,’ he says. ‘Who should I call? Who is going to pick up? What if they don’t answer?’

“Showtime is the best way he he knows to a better life, a way into a community, he says. …

“Of course, the subway is no simple launchpad to success. While some passengers love the dancing, many others avoid eye contact, and some even yell at crews to switch cars. …

“ ‘I hope people will watch this and look at these young men as human beings,’ the film’s director, James Burns, tells CityLab. ‘And see the last vestiges of a culture that may be dying out.’ ”

More.

WE LIVE THIS – OFFICIAL TRAILER from HAYDEN 5 on Vimeo.

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