Renaissance Florence, Enlightenment Edinburgh, Mozart‘s Vienna: why have certain places at certain times created such monumental leaps in thought and innovation? This is the question at the heart of travel writer Eric Weiner‘s latest book, The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places, From Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley.
“This is a book about process, about how creative genius happens and what are the circumstances,” Weiner explains. “I believe in the power of place and the power of culture to shape our lives in unexpected ways.”
Traveling the globe, Weiner looked at the locations and cultures that fostered history’s greatest minds. Through his research he pieced together a list of ingredients he believes played a vital role in creating these “genius clusters,” including money, diversity, competition, and disorder.
“A little bit of chaos is good,” says Weiner. “The pot has to be stirred. If you are fully invested in the status quo—either as a person or a place—you are unlikely to create genius because you are too comfortable.”
So can a government build a city that will generate the geniuses of tomorrow? Weiner thinks not. “I wish I could sit here and tell you that there was a formula and if you applied that formula you could create the next Silicon Valley,” he says. “There is no formula.”
About 8:30 minutes.
Camera by Austin Bragg and Joshua Swain. Hosted and edited by Meredith Bragg.
“Once you get a taste for shutting people up, it’s hard to stop. Why bother winning the debate when it’s easier to close it down?”
The delightfully dyspeptic Mark Steyn writes: These days, pretty much every story is really the same story:
- In Galway, at the National University of Ireland, a speaker who attempts to argue against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) programme against Israel is shouted down with cries of ‘Fucking Zionist, fucking pricks… Get the fuck off our campus.’
- In California, Mozilla’s chief executive is forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of the pre-revisionist definition of marriage.
- At Westminster, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declares that the BBC should seek ‘special clearance’ before it interviews climate sceptics, such as fringe wacko extremists like former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.
- In Massachusetts, Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree to a black feminist atheist human rights campaigner from Somalia.
- In London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey sign an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three and a quarter centuries.
- And in Canberra the government is planning to repeal Section 18C — whoa, don’t worry, not all of it, just three or four adjectives; or maybe only two, or whatever it’s down to by now, after what Gay Alcorn in the Age described as the ongoing debate about ‘where to strike the balance between free speech in a democracy and protection against racial abuse in a multicultural society’.
I heard a lot of that kind of talk during my battles with the Canadian ‘human rights’ commissions a few years ago: of course, we all believe in free speech, but it’s a question of how you ‘strike the balance’, where you ‘draw the line’… which all sounds terribly reasonable and Canadian, and apparently Australian, too. But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all. So screw that.
George Will writes: Many “Downton Abbey” watchers are nostalgia gluttons who grieved when Lord Grantham lost his fortune in Canadian railroad shares. There are, however, a discerning few whose admirable American sensibilities caused them to rejoice at Grantham’s loss: “Now perhaps this amiable but dilettantish toff will get off his duff and get a job.”
“It is fitting that PBS offers “Downton Abbey” to its disproportionately progressive audience. This series is a languid appreciation of a class structure supposedly tempered by the paternalism of the privileged. And if progressivism prevails, the United States will be Downton Abbey: Upstairs, the administrators of the regulatory state will, with a feudal sense of noblesse oblige, assume responsibility for the lower orders downstairs, gently protecting them…”
This drama’s verisimilitude extends to emphasizing that his lordship had a fortune to squander only because he married an American heiress. By battening on what they disdained, this republic’s commercial culture, many British aristocrats could live beyond their inherited means — actual work being, of course, unthinkable.
The deserved decline of Downton’s finances demonstrates why estate taxes are unnecessary: Even when Balzac’s axiom is accurate (“At the bottom of every great fortune without apparent source, there’s always some crime”) and fortunes are ill-gotten, subsequent generations often soon fritter them away. Call this Darwinian redistribution.
“Sesame Street” has taken on several adult series over the years, including “Sons of Anarchy,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Mad Men,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Downton Abbey.” The PBS show even tweeted out a poster for “Homelamb” as well.