Imagine art work on the pavement’s asphalt! That’s what the Asphalt Art Initiative is doing, it is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies and is giving 19 European cities grants to create eye catching murals at crosswalks and near sidewalks. The idea is also to slow down traffic and accommodate pedestrians’ safety. Recent such initiatives have shown that when combined with other things called calming traffic devices, like bollards and modified curbs, that something like art on the pavement can enhance pedestrian safety. Speed at a crash prone crossroads in Kansas City was reduced by 45%. In Baltimore, the colored curbs initiated by the project, 41% of cars at a crossroads were encouraged to give pedestrians the right of way. Cities in Kosovo, Italy and Belgium which all have better pedestrian spaces will receive one of the grants and in Istanbul and Varna, Bulgaria, murals will be painted at crosswalks and crossroads.
Janette Sadik-Kahn a commissioner with the New York City Department of Transportation and the current principal for transportation at Bloomberg Associates says that “Projects like this not only connect people, but make streets safer, and we encourage cities everywhere to paint their own transportation masterpieces.” I’m for that. I hope you are too.
Aging for anyone who is experiencing it does have its downside. There’s an altered appearance which can be distressing and there’s a loss of energy which can be limiting. Cognition can be impaired too. But there’s an upside, a handling of emotions that makes life much easier. Susan Turk Charles, a psychologist at the university of California, Irvine has been focusing on how older people regulate their emotions and what she found is that when it comes to emotions it’s the reverse of what happens physically, older people have greater ability to handle and regulate their emotions. It’s due to experience, and it’s also perhaps the fact that being closer to the end of their lives, older people tend to have a perspective which eliminates smaller issues. They know how to pick their battles, and as a result can eliminate certain amount of stress. Of course it may not be universal, because many of the people studied had a certain level of financial well being, but not surprisingly it does apply to people with certain level of cognitive impairment. Apparently the impairment does not necessarily interfere with a certain level of happiness. The hope is that by better understanding what makes older people better adjusted becomes something that can be applied to those who are younger. The research as far as I can gather is still in a new field, but it does make a too often overlooked point that aging has positive aspects, that the experience we gather as we live, does matter and if we allow it we can benefit from what we learned or lived through.
There’s been a lot written about friendship recently, mainly because of a study showing how poor children having friends who are wealthier than they are makes a huge difference in their future. They are exposed to ideas, to ways of life, to contacts, to opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They are therefore more likely to pursue an education and be more successful. It makes so much sense and in retrospect we have all experienced, witnessed or observed, what the researchers discovered. Still it was both surprising and reassuring. Perhaps it’s related to a developing trend which is just as surprising and which didn’t receive as much coverage, it is one finding that friendships are fundamentally more important to our overall wellbeing, that what we call relationships, those that are more romantic and lead to a more traditional form of intimacy. When I was in my 20’s we used to say relationships come and go but friendships remain. It was a thought trying to console ourselves after a breakup with someone we thought would be our significant other. It turns out that more and more people are not only discovering but using the notion that friendships are more important than other relationships. Whether people are in a committed relationship or not, their friends nurture them and give them something unique. That is because friendships give us something no other relationship can give us including inner strength and a sense of fulfillment. This is becoming increasingly evident as blogs, organizations, and websites emphasize the enduring benefits of friendship–Including it seems longevity.
Queer Britain is a new museum in London, as its name lets us know it is a museum about LGBT+. We have museums dedicated to many issues and causes, but this is a first in the UK. Since 1985 the Schwules Museum in Berlin has existed and both it and Queer Britain predate the US where the first American LGBT+ Museum will open in New York in 2026. The 50 years it took for Queer Britain to become a reality, since a march in 1972, underline the accomplishment of being able to highlight a community which has been marginalized, and one which is still not recognized in at least 70 countries. One exhibit in Queer Britain for example is the door of the writer’s Oscar Wilde’s cell, a reminder of his having gone to prison for what was called gross indecency, a sentence that destroyed his reputation and maybe his health. He died 2 years after being freed at the age of 46, and for many he has become a symbol of the injustice the LGBT+ community has been subjected to. But this is also a time when in countries like the US rights such as marriage equality which were fought for for generations may well be in jeopardy. And our current discussions reflect questions these museums must address. Are they to speak to the general public, or address their own communities? It’s a line which each addresses in its own way. Queer Britain as it traces the arc of the LGBT+ history is aimed at the larger community, but then neither does it want to forget the issues affecting LBGT+ people in the present. In Berlin the focus is almost the inverse.
As they work through those issues, the fact remains that those museums exist, and regardless of what the public discourse ends up being, it’s hard to imagine the momentum will cease.