It is amazing the economic, political and cultural insights one can garner from riding one's bike through the heart of some of the world's megacities. David Byrne, social activist, artist, adventurer, and thinker, is no exception to this rule. One of his major investigative projects this past decade has been to travel around and through cities in search of whatever form of artistic expression - modern, traditional,indigenous, local - that meets the eye and says something significant about the people in that vicinity. First, Byrne makes a strong environmental and social case for commuting around the city on a bike. One reduces the carbon imprint while getting to see a lot more of little out-of-the-way places within the city confines. Second, Byrne addresses the issue of whether large cities are made for bicycle traffic. His verdict on this is mixed at best. The fast-paced cities like Manila, Berlin, and London with all their rich life forms and creative functions have not evolved with bicycles in mind. For one who wants to venture into the heart of urban existence, be prepared to navigate narrow, crowded, poorly-maintained streets. His answer to this impediment is a combination of ingenious technology in the form of the folding bike, a big dose of patience, and a keen nose for the unusual. I recommend this book because it takes an unique approach to understanding the complexity of community in space and over time. Music, visual art, poetry, costume, and food have a delightful and random way of springing up in the strangest of places when people come together in sprawling cities. It is unfortunate, however, that such expressions are ghettoized by invisible barriers that prevent people from learning from each other.
on April 7, 2010
This book originates from a blog and consists of collected jottings, many on the urban environment, others on music, yet others of a sociological or philosophical nature.
Rather impressionistic, they provide refreshing views on various cities across the world: Detroit, Berlin, Istanbul, San Francisco, Sydney, London, Manila, New York, etc.
The writing style is rough and unpolished but in full harmony with the contents. The book is illustrated with the author's own black and white photographs.
Though by no means earth-shattering, this work will be of interest to anyone concerned with cities and urban development in general.