Archive for the ‘good reads’ Category
Making policy public for NYC street vendors
Even in the digital age, the printed pamphlet is still a charged communication tool. Last year, for example, GOOD magazine partnered with Starbucks in a series of newsprint fold-out infographics. Each “GOOD sheet” focused on demystifying a different issue — Immigration, Gas Prices, The Economy — and were distributed at Starbucks in the final weeks of the 2008 election. NYT called it “a double macchiato with a side of debate.”
How about your next falafel pita with a side of public policy? That’s what you’re in for with Vendor Power! — a how-to business guide for NYC street vendors. This is a new project from Making Policy Public, part of The Center of Urban Pedagogy (despite its academic name, this organization’s mission is simply to “make educational projects about places and how they change”).
Vendor Power! decodes the rules and regulations for New York’s 10,000 street vendors so they can understand their rights, avoid fines, and earn an honest living. Did you know you can get a $1000 ticket for parking more than 18 inches from the curb? It doubles as a poster on the rich landscape and history of vending in the City.
– Making Policy Public
This is a great resource to explain rules and regulations about the local street vending business, which can be a very closed system and difficult to get into if you don’t have the right connections. (Unless you’re operating illegally, also addressed in the pamphlet.) A friend of mine wanted to set up a barbecue food cart near Pratt, but couldn’t get through the red tape of obtaining a license.
Also, the graphics-rich communication seems appropriate for an industry where foreign workers speak English as a language after Bengali, Spanish, or Arabic. (See the 2005 film Man Push Cart, about a Pakistani rock star who, after a fall from fame, works a street cart in New York City.)
My favorite carts:
any of the fresh fruit carts, any of the chicken and rice and mayo carts, the churros lady on the L line, and Hallo Berlin
Find your favorite cart:
2009 Vendy Awards
I’m reading Ben Franklin’s biography in fits and starts. It’s slowly dawning on me how much of American culture this man predicated over 200 years ago. I always thought Founding Father types were distant, unrelatable, irrelevant to the multicultural modern American life as I knew it.
I love being proven wrong though — opens the mind to new possibilities — and this book is doing it.
The Almanack: precursor to the general-interest mag
Ben was a liberal borrower. I’m positive he would have joined his local chapter of “Creative Commons” had it existed back in the day or, more likely, he would have started the group himself.
Under the pen names “Poor Richard” or “Richard Saunders”, Ben published Poor Richard’s Almanack in the 1730’s. It was like a general-interest magazine, containing a miscellany of information every early colonialist would need: “lunations, eclipses, planets motions and aspects, weather, sun and moon’s rising and setting”… and, it’s strong suit, jokes, witticisms and clever aphorisms.
Think of it as an early-day Reader’s Digest or Saturday Evening Post, modern-day incarnations of this folksy Americana vernacular. (For you history buffs, Ben Franklin’s 1728 Pennsylvania Gazette paper became known as The Saturday Evening Post by 1821.)
Proverbs 2.0: borrow, recycle, repeat
What survives from Poor Richard today are the proverbs — the moral sayings that have become cliche: “Haste makes waste” or “Gold helps them that help themselves.”
In Ben’s biography, Walter Isaacson notes:
Most of Poor Richard’s saying were not, in fact, totally original, as Franklin freely admitted. “They contained the wisdom of many ages and nations,” he said in his autobiography, and he noted in the final edition “that not a tenth part of the wisdom was my own.” Even a near version of his “early to bed and early to rise” maxim had appeared in a collection of English proverbs a centurly earlier.”
Ben was a complete and unabashed remixer!…. of proverbs.
“Franklin’s talent,” Isaacson notes, “was inventing a few new maxims and polishing up a lot of older ones to make them pithier.”
Remix session: Old English proverbs edition
[The glass armonica was one of several musical instruments Franklin invented — and recreated in this modern-day scene by two jolly folks from The Black Horse Inn in Flourtown, PA.]
Old English version:
- “Fresh fish and new-come guests smell, but they are three days old.”
- “Three may keep a secret if two of them are away.”
- “A muffled cat is no good mouser.”
Philly dub-style remix, feat. Benjamin “B. Frank” Franklin:
- “Fish and visitors stink in three days.”
- “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”
- “The cat in gloves catches no mice.”
21st century remixes?
The other day, a friend mentioned that self-help books are actually behind many success stories. Cheesy as they are, self-help books can provide the [motivation, epiphany, inspiration, what have you] that help people accomplish…. whatever it is they bought the self-help book to accomplish.
I admit, I’m a periodic self-help junkie too, often in my battle against dirt and time. (Recent titles: Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Organizing from the Right Side of the Brain, The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play).
Right now, I’m obsessing over alternative forms of work, and how we can escape the 9-to-5 grind as independent workers. I’ve got a healthy reading list this year, as people keep churning out books about how technology and globalization can let us work anytime from anywhere. Some titles are published traditionally and available easily at Amazon and other big bookstores (The 4-Hour Work Week, My So-Called Freelance Life).
Other titles I’ve heard about word-of-mouth, and are published by people I’ve met through networks. I’m Outta Here! is a book about the futures of work. It’s marketed and distributed by Lulu, a printing operation that lets you self-publish your own books, ebooks, music, and other materials on-demand.
Like fortune cookies and horoscopes, I take self-help books with a grain of salt. Keep what works for you and is relevant to your life — trash all the rest.
What are your self-help guilty pleasures?
FYI: Shelfari is an interesting web 2.0 way to track your reading consumption and keep up with others’ reading lists. My bookshelf’s here. It will look more impressive once we tackle this semester’s reading…
Like others in our class, I hadn’t heard of Yochai Benkler before he showed up on our reading list.
The Benkler is faculty co-director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. I’ve seen a lot of interesting projects come from Berkman; it’s definitely an org to watch if you’re into cyberlaw for cyberspace.
The Wealth of Networks, his book we’re reading excerpts from, was released under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sharealike license. If you want the whole book, you’re free to download from a variety of filetypes here.
Or, more immediate and accessible, here’s Benkler’s 2005 TED talk on collaborative, open-source economics (17 minutes):
Vodpod videos no longer available.