Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ukcivilityproject's Blog

This blog reflects the urban flaneur tradition: Ukcivilityproject's Blog
Although the title indicates a blog on civil society, it is in essence a blog about civility in the city. Are urban places civil or have we lost civility in urban life?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Perfect Holiday Gift for the Urban Flaneur

Paris Photos by Peter O'Toole, Artist Book Press, Ltd.; First edition (January 5, 2009) ISBN-10: 0615239528 ISBN-13: 978-0615239521

You can go to or other booksellers to order this book. This is not an advertsement. Just a suggestion.

I just happened upon this book while doing some research. This is the perfect gift for your friend or associate who is an urban flaneur. For some interesting reading about Paris and a literary interpretation go to the article by Joshua Parker that was published in Urbana:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ministry of Silly Walks (Monty Python)

When I thought about whimsey in the city, this Monty Python sketch popped into my head. At one point, it evokes "belly laughs", but underlying it is a satirical statement on the nature of government at all levels, including city government. Local government can often be observed by the flanuer as being comical.

No Pants Day In New York City 2009

As an urban flanuer, one may observe spontaneous actions. "No pants day in the NYC Subway" is purely for fun, but it livens up the city in a whimsical manner. Should not cities be places of the unexpected, the unusual and the rediculous? The city can become the backdrop for open air spontaneous theater. Why can't theater be brought into places of work, play and commerce. There used to be a production company that would put on performances in the London Underground. I searched on the Internet, but found no reference fot this. It might be defunct. But, it was an excellent example of theater in a public place that contained an element of spontenaity.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

London 1903

This clip speaks for itself. I liked one of the comments below the clip on YouTube:

It's very sad to think that all the people in the film have been dead for a long time, but the buildings remain the same. I have walked these streets hundreds of times during my years in the UK, and I am another shadow that perhaps has been filmed in the rush hour on a typical working day in London town, so in the far away future someone will ponder on the anonimous pedestrians rushing about their business, long, long, long dead

Exit Through The Gift Shop" - Official Trailer [HD]

At trailer for a full length documentary about street art and Banksky. It is presently being show at various cities around the U.S. See the following iink for screeings in your area:

A Collection of Street Art by Banksky (Robert Banks)

Who is Banksky?

'Banksy Urban Art in London and Brighton (UK)

This ia a short documentary by Tom Pickard about the street artist 'Banksy'. It was shot around London and Brighton in 2007. The comments by those in this film are interesting from those stating that he is to provocative to those indicating that Westminsiter would not approve his painings. The latter statement is is actually a compliment to 'Banksy'.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Urban Art 7

This is a memorial to Oscar Wilde entitled 'A Conversation to Oscar Wilde" shaped like a coffin. It is near Trafalgar Square in London. I happened upon this unique bit of urban art while wandering around this area. For more details on this scupture go to:

Urban Art 6

This is a fountain in a park in central London. This picture was not taken by me, but one of my friends. I like the submerged aspect of this fountain. Notice that people are sitting around enjoying the sound and the motion of the fountain. Urban art can create an ambiance. You can be certain that the design of the fountain and the surrounding pavement was not by accident as it was planned to be aesthetic. I particulalry like that this fountain is approachable. One of the joys of being an urban flaneur is discovering such places as this.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Urban Art 5

This is a statue of Dorival Caymmi (April 30, 1914 – August 16, 2008) on the promenade in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil "who was considered to be one of the most important songwriters in Brazilian popular music."
(Biography of Dorival Caymmi, Wikapedia, .) A statue can remind the people of a city of its heritage.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Urban Art 4

Here is a fountain in the center of Erdine, Turkey. I like this because it is a piece of urban art that people can be a part. Also, it does not distract from the overall atmosphere of the surroundings, but enhances it. Overall, it is just fun. Why can't  urban art be fun.

Urban Art 3

A sand castle on the promenade in front of Ipanema's beach in Rio de Janeiro. This is as a temporary urban piece. It definitely qualifies; even kitch can be considered urban art. The detail on this sand castle is amazing. Yet, its lifetime is short lived. However, much of art last only a brief time, but can be as sublime as those that are more permanent.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Urban Art 2

Another image from my trip to London last summer. This is a statue of Oliver Cromwell in front of Parliment. Urban art gives the city memory of things that happened in its past. Cromwell is thought of as a hero by some and a villian by others. Should he be in front of parliment? I guess it is too late. because there he stands.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Urban Art 1

Here is an obvious example of urban art found in one of the parks along the Thames in London. This is an Henry Moore sculpture. What does urban art bring to the city?
As stated earlier, urban art should bring to the citizen a sense of wonder, controversy, whimsy or beauty. This piece of art fulfills these criteria. While some may not like abstract sculpture, one can not help but notice this piece. Isn't this what art should do? Should not urban art distract a person from their utilitarian journey for a while and cause them to think? In my case as a tourist to London, the scupture enhanced my walk because of it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Urban Art

An urban area is often thought of as innately functional consisting of dwelling places, shops, services governmental structures and industries and related activities. This yields a very sterile definition of urban areas, but unfortunately many cities are no more than this. A city should be a place where its citizens experience whimsy, irony, wonder, controversy, enlightenment and beauty. Urban outdoor art is a means to bring some of these elements into a city. Many modern cities are devoid of such urban art, because of the dull and utilitarian nature that many view the city--particularly local decision-makers. However, the citizens only have themselves to blame if they elect those who are deficient in their ability to be creative or imaginative. (If they have "creativity defincient disorder", then their abiity to confront other more mundane issues will probably be less than stellar.) In the next few posts, I would like to post some examples of urban art. I would also encourage the readers of this blog to also send me their photos of urban art with a brief explanation about the location and significance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sterility of urban freeway versus vibracy of pedestian street

The above is a video of a freeway in New York City. It is goes on for seven minutes, which is too long.
Compare this with a pedestrial street scene with people stopping, talking, looking and enjoying the area. This freeway embodies the sterility and mechanical nature of movement in most cities around the globe. Capitalistic societies have reduced the commute from insulated domitory suburbs to isolated work places by private insulated vehicles on montonous freeways. When stated in this manner, the image is grim. Is this also the future of our urban environments?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"Precious"- a reflection on the anonymity of the city

The city is a composite of many different individuals. When we are on the streets, hundreds of people pass by. Most of which we will never see again. However, each one of us is carrying with us a complicated background which we will only share with a few. Last night, I saw the film “Precious” with some friends. The movie is wonderful constructed and dark. The film has an urban starkness, set in the poorer areas of New York City. When we walk down the street are we walking by those that have the same history as the main character of this movie? The probability is likely that at one point we have done so. The following is a clip of the movie.

Friday, January 15, 2010

London Underground: Functional Art

To me being in the Underground or "the Tube" in London is a sensual experience. It is amazing that this is one of series of YouTube videos simply documenting trains coming into various stations. Apparently, I am not the only one that values the enjoyment of riding the Tube. Two announcemnts of note in this video are the announcemnt before the train arrives warning about unattended packages and the one reminding passengers to "Mind the Gap". The warning announcement about unaccompanied packages reminds us that although the city can be a place of seridipitious enjoyable experience bu, it can also be one where there are harmful events (terrorism, robbery etc.) and fear of such occurances. On the other hand, the "Mind the Gap" being repeated numerous times recalled "number 9" beomg repeated in the song 'Revolution 9" on the Beatles' "White Album". When surfing for a video related to "Revolution 9" I located this interesting video:

It is series of mainly urban scenes with the song as a backround. We experince the city in chaotic visual, auditory and olifactory "clips".

Monday, January 11, 2010

Walking in Memphis covered by Cher

This ix one of my favorite songs. This video is very effective in conveying the ability of how cities can embody individual dreams--taking on a magical quality. Being shot in black and white also conveys the grittiness of urban life where people come for dreams that are sometimes realised for some, but also dashed for some. The past inhabits cities and imbues them with qualities beyond just mere "brick and mortar". Elvis still lives in Memphis (at least metaphorically.) Beale Street (now revitalized) harks back to a different era, which long ago past. (On a side note...when I was a teenager in the 70s, I begged my parents to go by Beale Street in route to visit my grandmother. Nothing was there, it was dilapidated. But, it was Beale Street. I remember my parents asking why I wanted to go this run-down place. Now, it full of music bars, restaurants, stores etc.) Go to the following web site for more information:

Another good song about Memphis is "Graceland" by Paul Simon. Paul Simon draws his audience into his stories. This is not about Memphis, per se, but is about pilgrimage. Is Memphis the American equivalent to Jerusalem, Lourdes, Santiago de Compostela, Canterbury, and Istanbul (important for both Christians and Muslims as the Seat of the Patric arch of the Orthodox faith and tomb of one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, Ayyub al-Ansari who was killed leading an army in an unsuccessfully attempt to capture Constantinople )? Of note in this song is the fusion of folk with African music. Go to .

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Copenhagen Experience: A Practical Solution for Taking Back Our Streets

Bicyle transportation and pedestrian areas can be created in a pragmatic manner. By smalls steps, bicycles have been accomodated and streets that were previously dominated by the automoile turned into pedestrian only. The most innovative strategy in this video in the creation of a pedestrian priority street, which still allow automobie traffic and parking. Could the Copenhagen experience be transferred to the U.S. or will it be discounted as one of those "European things". American exceptionalism has long preveented innovative ideas from formenting.

The Street

In the modernist utilitarian view of urban environments, streets are for transporting people efficiently.
While, there is no doubt that urban environments should have efficient modes of transport, in the process of achieving this goal we have eliminated the other factors that made streets more than just a pathway to get from one place to another. Most humans detest being trapped in a traffic jam. However, few wonder how we arrived at this point and every fewer contemplate the means to eliminate this blight on urban places. The solution which is posed, even though there is lip service to creating a more balanced transportation system, is new roads, increased lanes, more fuel efficient, more power and smarter vehicles with such things as GPS. These are over all tactics to keep Urban society addicted to the automobile. It is an addiction that vehicle manufactures, petroleum companies, lawyers, car sales companies, vehicle repair firms, insurance firms, the construction industry, the housing industry and others nurture. It is a sticky web which society can not free itself. The spider of unstainability is devouring its drugged victim. Is there a way to extract urban society? Yes, but it will not be a technological fix such as a miracle battery for automobiles or hydrogen cars. It will not be invading or controlling countries to gain access to their resources. A new mindset is developing, but being put on the sidelines by decision-makers. The “voice in the wilderness” can be heard in non-profits promoting “green “ alternatives, protesters at international conferences, and citizens in local council meetings reminding politicians about the importance of quality urban life. However, the pressure to keep the status quo by mult-nationals is extremely powerful, but preventing society from wrenching itself from the automobile with all its detrimental factors.

Streets in many parts of the world and some in the U.S., can be exciting places—full of social interaction. They are the antithesis of what modern utilitarian urban planners wound desire. They are places with narrow streets, misty congested and not efficient for carrying vehicles. The real conflict is not the congestion of people, but the intrusion of vehicles. There is a certain wonder of wandering around in the narrow streets of European and Latin America cities: hearing the sounds of people walking, smelling food being cooked in houses and restaurants, going by a cafe and seeing people talking, meeting friends by accident, and making acquaintance with those that have different experiences that enlighten you. This is what we have lost via the world wide addition to the automobile. Can we get it back?

This photo is of a street in Rio de Janeiro. You can notice the activity of pedestrians However, what is obvious is the congestion of automobiles. This essentially ruins the purpose of this street which shooed be only for pedestrians In the area there are many streets that could serve for automobile access to this area. There is no need for vehicular presence in this area.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Reminders of the Past

The photograph above is the ruined synagogue in Erdine, Turkey. During the Ottoman Empire, there were significant amount of Jews, Bulgarians, Greeks and other minorities in Erdine. Now, they are gone from the population of the city. This ruined synagogue represents a past that has not existed for over 50 years in Erdine and also tells of toleration while other countries were persecuting Jews.. Every time I viewed this structure, my heart ached. Time was slowly eating away at it and it appeared that no plans for the reconstruction of this wonderful structure forthcoming. When this magnificant structure is in rubble, it is almost certain that it will be replaced with a nondescript apartment building, which have replaced many of the other historic structures in Erdine.

When cities forget their past, they are left with the pre-fab, temporary city of the modern/post-modern era which is dreary and without character. What will archaeologists say about the architecture and civic spirit of the modern era? In the Greek and Roman cities, wealthy individuals and emperors would build libraries, temples, stadiums, baths and other public buildings that would remain to be works of art, even in ruins. How can we bring back this level of civic spirit to our cities?

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Place of Refuge

This picture is of the dock area in Ayvalik, Turkey at sunset. The cafes and restaurants surrounding the dock area of Ayvalik provide a refuge from the narrow crowded streets. This scene is also typical of seaside Greek towns. Whereas, Ayvalik once had a large Greek population, the resemblance is more than coincidental. Here, you can relax, contemplate, dream, meditate, discuss, and laugh with friends.
Every settlement regardless of what size, needs public places where people can escape from the hectic and chaotic nature of modern life. In this location, the peacefulness of the water, the movement of boats, the shadows, and the view of distance islands combine to create serenity if a person allows it. Cities are being designed today without these places. It is not in the plan of a consumer and post-industrial city to do so as there is no profit in creating peaceful places and refuges for citizens. Urban residents have become apathetic because of the mantra from the world media which is highly manipulated by multi-national corporations. In our updated Brave New Word, there is no need for the governments to feed people “soma” when multiple shamans can create create visions to “drug” entire cultures creating simultaneously the perfect consumer and economic slave—ignorant that they have lost the rhythm of life that once pulsed in all cities. The post-industrial city has replaced the vibrancy of urban life with mindless commuting, the drudgery of work and the creation of drab dormitories. Meanwhile, the wealthy escape from this nightmare to tranquil places--their gated communities, their beach or mountain cottages or in one of the few places where city life still exists.