Skip to main content

Bienville's Dilemma


 Bienville's Dilemma sounds like a very good book on New Orleans.

"The idea of a dilemma," Campanella said, "has helped me come to terms with our challenges here, mostly in issues of land loss and natural hazard risks, if you think of them as dilemmas first and problems second. First and foremost, there are the choices we have to make based on value judgments, and once the difficult choice is made you have a problem that can be solved by good science and engineering. But your first choice may render an unforeseen consequence. I find all this intellectually stimulating as well as morally challenging." 

Campanella is such a riveting writer that he can make anything fascinating -- the composition of soil; the battle for control of water; patterns of settlement in the city; the history of Creolism, which he calls "our home-grown ethnicity"; the ways in which we have "scored and scoured" the land, with canals and levees, structures that were originally designed for our safety but have become sources of hazard; the way we have made groceries since the very beginning; the pride of being a New Orleans native; the developments of wards and faubourgs.

Comments

  1. I took a class in historical geography and remember reading other work by this writer. This one might be very good. Geography really is destiny in many ways.

    I had sort of given up on watching the news straight through like I did during the election, so try to catch Rachel Maddow from time to time on the web. Her piece on the engineering of New Orleans that I posted earlier is very good. Plus, she gets to go to a fish restaurant to check out how the oil spill has affected the catch. In great New Orleans tradition, she's served a "milk" morning cocktail. What a city!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds like a good one for us to take a look at. My high school world history teacher had a thing about geography; we spent a lot of time contemplating rivers, mountain passes, feverish marshes. Prepped me for the joys of reading Fernand Braudel many years later. Now I think I could get some good out of Bienville's book.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Post!

How about this one -- I'm really looking forward to reading it:

http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Never-Died-American/dp/1596916966/

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Welcome to this month's reading group selection.  David Von Drehle mentions The Melting Pot, a play by Israel Zangwill, that premiered on Broadway in 1908.  At that time theater was accessible to a broad section of the public, not the exclusive domain it has become over the decades.  Zangwill carried a hopeful message that America was a place where old hatreds and prejudices were pointless, and that in this new country immigrants would find a more open society.  I suppose the reference was more an ironic one for Von Drehle, as he notes the racial and ethnic hatreds were on display everywhere, and at best Zangwill's play helped persons forget for a moment how deep these divides ran.  Nevertheless, "the melting pot" made its way into the American lexicon, even if New York could best be describing as a boiling cauldron in the early twentieth century.

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America takes a broad view of events that led up the notorious fire, noting the growing s…

News with legs

It is nice having a range of cable news programs again.  For the last few years the only one we got from our analog cable subscriber was CNN, but with the new digital cable subscriber we get BBC, Euronews, and other premium channels if we so choose.  You realize how badly CNN has slipped behind other news networks, seeming to have adopted the Fox model of generating faux arguments with their round table discussions.  Kate Bolduan has emerged as their answer to Megyn Kelly, replete with plexiglass tables so you can see her legs better.  Chris Cuomo has become their "Hannity," stirring up unnecessary arguments mostly to hear himself talk, albeit to the left of the political spectrum.  Wolf Blitzer lords over the station like Baba O'Reilly, although he tries hard to keep his political views right down the middle.

I suppose the success of Kate Bolduan can be measured by SNL now lampooning At This Hour, and also the fan base she now has thanks to her sexy legs.  She also anc…