Friday, December 26, 2008

Lewis Mumford

When my mom was busy completing her M.A. in Urban Studies about 23 years ago, a great deal of the coursework involved readings by Lewis Mumford. Mumford was an academic, and although the topics he wrote about were really cool, she explained that some the writing itself was dry. She used to say that if she had trouble sleeping, she'd just "read some Mumford." But she also brought the most interesting bits to discuss at the dinner table, and his name stayed in my head. Researching him today, I see he was actually kind of a genius.

While I was cleaning out my front room today, I came across a book that I thought I had lost, named Death on Wheels. This is a book of well-chosen, scary, often gory short stories about vehicles, traveling, and road rage in general. I sat down for a read and opened the book, and there was a quote by Mumford -- "Either the motor car will drive us all out of our cities, or the cities will have to drive out the motor car." A very mysterious sentence... and I want to read more of what he has to say!

Yes, I'm a closet road-lover. I love the idea of planning roads as much as the idea of doing the construction work. I'm going to borrow one of Mumford's books from my mom and read it, and then borrow Robert A. Caro's biography of Robert Moses. I especially look forward to learning about Mumford's organic model of technology, biotechnics. I can't wait to do more learning!

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