Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa - REAL Teenage Strife!

With the book market being flooded with novels about angsty, twinkly vampires and kids struggling with getting picked on, it's refreshing (though heartbreaking) to find a book like The Girl Who Played Go that makes modern day emo kids look like whiny babies that just need a nap!

Chinese author Shan Sa (real name Yan Ni)
Sa has spent much of her life in France, writing her novels in  French.
Adriana Hunter has done the English translations for a number of Sa's novels.

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa is actually the combination of two stories being told simultaneously (the chapters alternate between the two telling their stories in first person) of a male Japanese soldier and a female Chinese student and "go" player in 1930s Manchuria. Their stories take place just before the start of World War 2 when Japanese forces invaded the Chinese territory of Manchuria. Neither reveal their names til the very end of the story, which I found to be an interesting little quirk in the novel. The back and forth story switches between chapters wasn't as hard to follow as I've found in other novels, and Sa's writing is so poetic I found myself not really minding keeping up with the two individually.

Japanese invasion of Manchuria 1

Japanese Invasion of Manchuria 2 
At the beginning of the story, the anonymous girl leads a pretty ordinary teenage life - she goes to school, finds her parents annoying and controlling, tells secrets to friends, crushes on boys, reads the 18th century Japanese poet Issa, and plays go (a game similar to chess or checkers) in the park. In playing go, she has her greatest outlet. She is unique in that she is the only female in her community that is part of the local professional go players group. She finds peace in the concentration required for the strategy-based game. It gives her a place where she doesn't have to think about war, her sister's unhappy marriage, her bland parents or what will come of her own life with the Japanese invasion. But as often happens in reality, you never know who life is going to throw your way when your world gets turned upside down. With the Japanese invasion comes Chinese rebellion and into go girl's life walk two boys,  Jing and Min, who are leaders in the rebellion. Of course girls are drawn to rebels so go girl develops "a thing" for Min while putting Jing in "the friend zone", which he gets pretty peeved about.

The game of Go

Go patterns can vary

My favorite quote in this novel :

"You see," she (Huong, best friend of go player) says, "a real man is different, not like the boys with mustaches who lurk outside our school. He can guess what you're thinking, anticipate what will make you happy. When you're with a man, you're no longer a girl but a goddess, a sage, an ancient soul who has lived in every era, a wonder that he contemplates with all the intense curiousity of a newborn baby." 

To which go girl's internal thought is:

"Even though Huong has become my best friend, I never quite understand what she is saying. Her convoluted soul is divided between light and darkness, she is both blatant and discreet, and her life is full of mysteries despite everything she confesses to me."

How many of us have known someone like that, right?!

While go girl is working out her conflicted teenage girl hormones, slightly older Japanese soldier boy is telling his story of being a survivor of the 1923 Kanto earthquake (one of the worst earthquakes in history) in which he lost a number of family and friends. 
Villages demolished by Kanto earthquake

Emperor Hirohito viewing the damage from the Kanto earthquake

He grows up to become a soldier, following the common soldier life of marching, practicing marksmanship and visiting "houses of ill repute". He does have a brief love interest with an apprentice geisha -- the geisha's mother approaches him to offer her daughter's mizuage to him. Mizuage is the "deflowering" process each virgin geisha apprentice or meiko must go through before they are deemed a full-fledged geisha or geiko. To be offered a mizuage is considered a great honor for men and traditionally a rich man would pay a hefty fee to be assured his right to the girl but soldier boy is offered it because the meiko's mother wanted to assure her daughter a relatively painless, gentle mizuage.

Speaking of geishas, there are ways (in the form of outfit) to tell the apprentices from the full-fledged geishas, which they discuss in this book. One way is to look at the sleeves of the kimono. Meikos (those still in training) wear wide sleeves and often more ornate collars, while geikos wear more narrow sleeves and more subtle print kimonos.



When not visiting geishas, soldier boy takes his business to local prostitutes. Contrary to popular belief, geisha is not synonymous with prostitute, though sex can be part of an evening with a paying gentleman. It's actually more of an opportunity to share company with a woman heavily educated in arts such as literature, music, painting, tea ceremonies - skills not taught to the common woman. Because of this education, geishas have a higher price than run of the mill prostitutes, thus not commonly affordable on basic soldier pay, but boys can save up I guess! The prostitutes of the 1930s typically wore fashions of the period instead of the traditional kimono. 

As go girl works through her dramatic relationship with Min, soldier boy draws closer to her when he is asked to do a little espionage work, dressing as a Chinese man and playing go games with her in the park, in the hopes of garnering information to take to his superiors. This part confused me because I'm not sure what big secrets he thought he was going to find out from a random teenage girl that would help out the Japanese government ... and he later points this out himself. Through their games though, they develop a bond that is confusing but undeniable to both of them, and so the story develops into a tense, almost love story between people on opposing sides of the war. Amidst all the drama tearing their countries apart with newsmakers such as Chiang Kai-Shek and Emperor Pu Yi, they try to figure out what it is they feel, what draws them together, and how they can possibly make it work... with one HELL of a surprise ending... it's a resolution of sorts, but daaaammnnn lol.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

Chiang Kai-Shek and wife May Soon Ling

Emperor Pu Yi and Empress Wan Rong

When soldier boy and his comrades aren't trying to work through their big boy hormones, there's a lot of talk about seppuku (also called harakiri) in the event that Japanese success in Manchuria doesn't come to full fruition. I am always amazed in the "all or nothing" attitude - there's so many areas of grey in life but some people still insist on the "if you're not 1st you're last" motto. Freakin' Ricky Bobbys of the world! :-P.

While Sa's writing skill is stunning, the story itself is not an easy one to read, but one I think needs to be read.  It feels sometimes as if in times of war we forget about the young kids that have to survive it. This gives an interesting perspective on such a situation and takes "coming of age story" to a whole new level! 

While I don't want to reveal the characters' names, as that is one of the powerful elements to the story's ending, I will give you a hint to the girl's name:

Have fun guessing! :-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Mermaids Singing - Prime Example of "Do As I Say, Not As I Do"

The Mermaids Singing by Lisa Carey is a book that my mother recommended to me. Though my mother and I typically have different reading interests, I'm always willing to give new / different things a try : - ) To start things off, I just wanted to share the beautiful poem at the start of this book:

Girl Reading by Charles Edward Perugini

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep
  And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
  And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,         5
  And loved your beauty with love false or true;
  But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
  Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled  10
  And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars

~William Butler Yeats

Is that not some amazing imagery?? Love that.  Now about the book. Not a bad read overall, pretty definitive chick-lit though, which is not typically my genre. I don't generally go for that whole "a group of ladies take a trip to the beach, bitch about their husbands and unruly, disrespectful children and 'find' themselves in the process" kind of book. Good thing this is not that - not totally anyway.  The Mermaids Singing  by Lisa Carey is the story of three generations of women and how the choices and mistakes of one woman can have the trickle effect on the rest of her family. 

Lisa Carey
It amazed me that no one seemed to learn anything from the experiences of those around them! In fact, each woman screws up her life in her own special way:

1) Irish-Catholic, unmarried Cliona (the 1st generation) as a young woman has one wild, frisky night and gets knocked up, essentially (in her mind anyway) destroying her chances to attend nursing school ( I believe this part of the story takes place in late 40s/early 50s).

2) Her daughter, Grace, grows up to really feel ... I'm not sure if it's hate or resentment she feels toward her mother.. but she's just all over unpleasant toward her mother and in spite starts fooling around with the son of her mother's boss and SURPRISE gets knocked up herself

3)Grainne (pronounced Gran-nya) - MINI-SPOILER ALERT:  ***baby #2 for Grace, the pregnancy from the boss's son ends in miscarriage*** - grows up to be a sad, quiet fifteen year old who has to watch her mother battle breast cancer (Grace's battle with cancer is what the book opens with) and is unfortunately left to figure out her teenage years and budding sexuality without the benefit of a mother OR a father to help explain it to her. She, thankfully, doesn't get knocked up but through grief does work her way into a bad case of anorexia. 

Grainne is named after the Irish pirate-queen Granuaile, more commonly known in the U.S. by the name Grace O'Malley. Grainne is a truncated version of the name (click on name to read history of this bold woman!).

A stained glass work of Grace O'Malley

Grace O'Malley's tower on Achill Island, Ireland

Grainne in the beginning of the book is living in Boston, MA with her mother and has no memory of her father.  After losing her mother (again, described in opening chapters), Grainne is sent to live with Grandma Cliona in Ireland, who breaks it to her that Grainne's long-lost father lives on the same Inis Muruch (Island of the Mermaids) as Cliona. Grainne is told that she herself lived with her mother and father on the island until the age of three when her mother ran off with her to the U.S. Grainne replies, "I didn't even know my mother was Irish." REALLY?? As the reader, you're told that Grace was born and raised on this remote island in Ireland, generations of Irish family around her, so I'm guessing she had a nice, native accent going. She then marries a local boy, also heavily accented I'm assuming, and her own daughter was there until the age of 3... what happened to the accent? Did she just drop it for the rest of her life?? That seems like a good deal of unneccessary covering up.  Oh yeah, and the name Grainne?? Girl never wondered why her mother had such a pull toward a name nearly impossible to mispronounce everywhere except Ireland? This seemed like a flub in the plot to me, but then this was Carey's first published novel released in 1999.

Grace pretty much hunts down Seamus, nearly forcing herself on him. Lucky for her, he's a few years older than her and a real man in that he doesn't feel the need to rush or force anything even if he's feeling an attraction just as much as her. Imagine if he was the type to take an offer and run with it, take it too far to the point of being dangerously aggressive?? Sometimes, people just don't think!

When he feels the timing is more appropriate, Seamus succumbs and ... drumroll.... and gets Grace pregnant..  which she seems surprised by! Girl, he's IRISH, c'mon!! Grace reluctantly, VERY reluctantly, agrees to get married but after a few years of domesticity has an intense  moment of "I have wings and I need to fly" so she leaves for the U.S. assuming the man she married (who she was madly in love with btw) would follow. Over the years, I've noticed that guys typically don't like to chase - seems to be a pride thing - or at least a "enough with the head games!" thing lol. Grace's husband Seamus (LOVE that name!) was of this variety and left her in Boston which for some reason she got all ticked off about and decided to start telling her daughter dad left them.. .world's best mom material there... 

Sirens / Mermaids and the mythology and mystery around them play a large part in the story. In fact, Seamus, early in his marriage to Grace, often acts as if she is a mermaid and jokes about her slipping back to sea one day, but inwardly always knows it's only a matter of time before she leaves.

Once Grace's daughter, Grainne moves to Inis Muruch, she is also immersed in this environment full of a mix of fables, mysticism, and a healthy dose of hardcore Irish-Catholicism. Grainne begins to see herself as a form of Granuaile, the pirate queen, or the sirens that are said to take down the fishing boats (or more specifically, the men who work the boats).  

The Siren by John William Waterhouse

The Siren by Howard Pyle

The Fisherman And The Siren by Lord Leighton

According to legend, those naughty sirens are said to call to sailors and fishermen with haunting music and then drag them down to their undersea lair where the men are drowned in the process of being seduced!

"OOOhhhoooo here she comes... she's a maneata... WATCH OUT BOY, she'll chew ya up! "
   * lyrics courtesy of Hall & Oates :- ) *

Where are they hanging out that has chlorine in the ocean??

But ya know, while I was reading this, I couldn't help but be reminded of the movie Secret of Roan Inish, which is also based on the mysteries and legends of the mermaids - or more specifically, seal-ladies known as selkies (similar myths surrounding them). MUST SEE movie btw - gorgeous!!

In general, the book is a nice, easy read with enough mythology to keep the story interesting and the plot moving along. I wouldn't be surprised if this one gets turned into a movie sometime in the future, particularly since I read that several of Carey's stories have already been optioned for movie rights (though no mention if this was one of them). The moody, misty quality of this story would make a great rainy day read!

Siren by Jade Bengco

View more of Jade's work here!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ben Franklin: Colonial America's Mr. Fix-it!

FAIR WARNING: I'm covering a TON of info on this particular post, but its all pretty interesting stuff if you're a history junkie!! 

"Hooked on Phonix" worked for him! Without Ben Franklin, I wonder where Larry The Cable Guy would be today - Ben seemed to live his life by "Get 'Er Done!!". Reading all his accomplishments in Ben Franklin: The Autobiography (which he wrote at the age of 79), I couldn't help but picture a guy wandering around just looking for stuff to fix! Even if the matter wasn't in his area of expertise, he would still say "But I have an idea though.." and then it was like a Guiness commercial - "Brilliant!"

Though not college-educated, Franklin's enthusiasm for books and knowledge led him to receive not one but two honorary Master of Arts degrees - one from Yale and the other from Cambridge. Franklin's success in life seemed to stem primarily from his self-education through relentless reading and his lifelong dedication to letter writing and concise communication skills. Franklin was big on "get it in writing" partnerships - he always wrote up contracts explicitly outlining what was expected of each person involved.  He also started a Junto (sort of a cross between a book club, a think tank and a men's social club) - a select group of men would exchange books (books then were pretty expensive so this was a good alternative for the bookworms), discuss philosophical ideas, random thoughts, or bounce ideas off each other for societal improvements. Franklin even went to the trouble to learn French, Spanish, Italian and Latin just so he could have a wider choice of reading material! This desire for education and self-improvement was in large part due to his father, who also greatly valued education, though a working-class man himself.

"From my infancy, I was passionately fond of reading, and all the money that came into my hands
 was laid out in the purchasing of books."
~Ben Franklin {hey honey, sound like anyone you know? ; -) }

Franklin's family hailed primarily from England (Northampton and London specifically) and later Boston, MA. His father married twice and had 17 children between the two marriages, 7 with the first wife, 10 with the second! A tallow maker, Ben's father, Josiah Franklin, emigrated to America with his first wife, then later married Ben's mother, Abiah, after his first wife's death. Ben was born in 1706, the youngest boy of all the children and the third youngest altogether. In this book, Ben noted that he was the youngest son of the youngest son dating back 5 generations! Josiah believed all his sons should pursue education and a trade, and believed Ben would be most suitable for the church (wanting at least one son to be a man of the cloth). Ben described this as his father "tithing" him to the church  :-P. Though brought up in a religious home, Ben as an adult came to accept several different religious doctrines, not necessarily living by one in particular. This is how he explained it (something I compeletely related to myself):

"I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; but though some of the dogmas of that persuasion, such as the eternal decrees of God, election, reprobation, etc., appeared to me very unintelligible, others doubtful, and I early absented myself from the public assemblies of the sect, Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of a Deity - that he made the world and governed it by his providence - that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good of man - that our souls are immortal - and that all crimes will be punished and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteemed the essentials of every religion; and being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, though with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mixed with other articles, which without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, served principally to  divide us and make us unfriendly to one another. This respect to all, with an opinion that the worst had some good effects, induced me to avoid all discourse that might tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion; and as our  province increased in people, and new places of worship were continually wanted and generally erected by voluntary contribution, my mite for such purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused. Though I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of its propriety and of its utility when rightly conducted... "

Well said, Ben! Ben was also an avid practioner of altruism - perhaps one of the first to instigate the "Pay It Forward" philosophy For example, when his friend Benjamin Webb was in dire straits and in need of money, Franklin gave Webb the needed money, saying "I'm not giving this to you, it's a loan, one you can pay back to me by helping out someone in a similar problem when your own prospects improve".

The church turned out not to be his calling though, so he was moved into an apprenticeship with his older brother, James, a printer. James created the 2nd oldest newspaper in America, The New England Courant (the Boston News Letter being #1)

 Once out of his parents' house, as a young man Ben did the usual "try everything once" routine that you still see in newly liberated adults today - for example, briefly claiming a vegetarian lifestyle (something he gave up after going fishing one day and catching a fish that had another fish inside of it - he declared "Well if you eat each other, I don't see why we cannot eat you."). Ben took what he learned under his brother's tutelage and set up shop as an independent printer in London, working in well-known printing districts of the day such as Bartholomew's Close and Paternoster Row. In 1732, he started writing Poor Richard's Almanac under the pseudonym "Richard Saunders", a publication that ran for 25 years. Its intent was primarily to educate working middle-class or poor who did not have access to books (either due to funds or unavailable resources). The Almanac provided entertaining and even humorous education through stories, interesting news pieces, proverbs, excerpts from books, philosophical essays or moral-based fables. Just the printing of this publication netted Franklin an estimated 10,000 pounds a year - using a historical currency converter, it's estimated this would be about 1.4 million dollars in US dollars today!

St, Bartholomew's Close, Smithfield, London by John Wykeham Archer

St. Paul's Cathedral with Paternoster Row in foreground.
This was taken during WW2, the night Paternoster Row was destroyed in a bombing
How eerie is this photo!!

With his newly self made status, Ben married Deborah Read Franklin, a woman he first met at age 15 (the first time she saw him, he was walking past her front door stuffing his face with bread rolls - apparently it made quite the impression!). Deborah and Ben went on to have a son, Francis Folger, who unfortunately died of smallpox in 1736 at the age of four, after Ben refused to have his children inoculated. That same year, Ben took a job as a clerk with the PA General Assembly, where he printed laws, vote sheets and even money.  In 1737, while working as the General Assembly clerk, Ben also became the PA Postmaster (he saw the job as an economical way to send off his newspapers and business related correspondence - clever!). He was later made Postmaster General (in 1753, when his boss died) - jointly with William Hunter. The same year he became Postmaster General, the Royal Society of London awarded Ben with the Sir Godfrey Copley Medal for his work/studies with electricity.

The "electricity" clip from one of my favorite childhood cartoons,
the Disney classic Ben and Me
(about a mouse who claimed to be behind all of Ben Franklin's big inventions - a really cute movie!)

In 1743, they had their daughter Sarah, (Ben called her Sally) who as a grown woman became Ben's caretaker in his last years. Deborah and Ben also raised William, Ben's illegitimate son (mother unknown). Once grown, William tried to run off and become a privateer but Ben blocked that almost-adventure, so William ended up becoming his father's stand-in/associate on many of Ben's business matters. William took over as clerk with the General Assembly when his father was promoted to full-fledged voting member.

Franklin's Arrival In Philadelphia by N.C. Wyeth
(depicting the first time Deborah Read sees him)

Sarah (Sally) Franklin

Deborah Read Franklin in later years

William Franklin

In 1744, a war broke out between France, Great Britain and Spain. Franklin figured with America being a nation still under British rule, it was only a matter of time before the fighting came over our way, so  he helped put together militia, drafting a bill for "voluntary militia" for defense of the country, even serving as a soldier himself. Franklin was put in command of troops with his son, by then an experienced army officer, serving as his aide-de-camp. Franklin bravely put his troops up at Gnadenhutten, a formerly abandoned post (you can read why below:

Monument at Gnadenhutten

Because of the war, Ben also proposed that all the colonies be put under one government, mainly to make it easier to defend everyone (strength in numbers). Committees were formed, with one representative from each colony, to come up with a general plan for government. Ben's plan ended up being the one agreed upon (no surprise) - the plan being that general government actions would be carried out by a "president-general appointed and supported by the Crown" (England) with colony representatives to be chosen to make up a general council to serve under the president-general. Similar to the setup we have today, right? Well, it's not the one that originally got accepted. Franklin presented the plan to the General Assembly but they turned it down. Instead they chose to have individual government colonies that would have periodic meetings, put troops together, build forts, that sort of thing ... with the idea that England would front us the money. The Assembly decided that we would pay back England by taxing the crap out of America citizens! Understandably, Ben was pretty bummed! He pointed out that his plan would neither have required citizens to be taxed nor need us to rely so heavily on England's support. Maybe things aren't so different now, huh? Still got guys in office making blatant errors :-P

 (*SidenoteSadly, this war put a big rift between Ben and his son - Ben was all for American Independence, while his son remained a fierce loyalist to the Crown. In later years, the rift was never entirely repaired. In a strange twist, even after our country's independence was won, William went on to travel the country with other Loyalist soldiers  and supporters while Ben eventually went to England, never returning to America.)

Ben also played a part in the French-Indian War: He believed in helping with the war effort so much that he coerced people into donating horses, wagons, and needed supplies by printing in his newspaper that donations were appreciated but anyone found not contributing to the war effort may be deemed a traitor to the Crown!! Pretty ballsy but it got the job done!

Franklin also anticipated the now infamous defeat of General Edward Braddock. Franklin said Braddock was "a good general but for his ego". Braddock intended to attack Fort Duquesne, but somehow his secretary's papers outlining Braddock's plans fell into enemy hands. Word got to the Indians in the area. Just 9 miles shy of the fort, in the area that is present-day Pittsburgh, less than 400 Native Americans ambushed Braddock and his men. Braddock was killed, along with 714 out of 1100 men. Out of 86 officers, 63 were killed or seriously wounded.  All of this happened before war was even officially declared on American soil!

General Braddock

Wounding of General Braddock by Robert Griffing


So what all did Ben accomplish? Here are just a few of the bright ideas we can thank him for:
  • Bifocals
  • Development of the first public library system in America
  • Developed clinics for the poor
  • Suggested building of lighthouses in America after being on an English ship that nearly crashed on rocks - only thing that saved ship was lighthouse beacon right at crucial moment
  • The Armonica (ever see someone "play" drinking glass rims? This was Franklin's invention to recreate that sound...didn't catch on as he hoped though, but there are still aficionados and armonica musicians to this day.)

  • Contributed to the development of a non-denominational meeting house/church where preachers of any faith could give sermons and people could be exposed to any and all faiths. As Franklin put it, "If the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammadism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service."
  • Established print houses in Carolina (North and South were not defined in his day) which he then basically franchised, providing more jobs and comfort to numerous families.
  • 1742: developed the fuel-efficient Franklin stove (he called it the Pennsylvania Fireplace) as well as what might be the longest pamphlet title EVER: 
    • "An Account Of The New Invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces, Wherein Their Construction And Manner Of Operation Are Particularly Explained, Their Advantages Above Every Other Method Of Warming Rooms Demonstrated, And All Objections That Have Been Raised Against The Use Of Them Answered and Obviated, Etc" (that "etc." is actually part of the title - how the hell did that all fit on a pamphlet cover??
      • Sidenote: Franklin declined offer from then PA Governor Thomas to have stove patented, stating "that as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously."  meaning that he didn't invent things for the money. Unfortunately, other people ended up claiming the patent and getting rich off his design. There was even an ironworker in London who took Franklin's design, tweaked it a bit and, in Franklin's opinion, completely ruined the efficiency of the stove, but the ironworker still made a fortune off of it. Franklin never contested any one else's claims for patents on his design not only because he wasn't in it for the money, but also because he loathed conflict. 
Philadelphia Fireplace
  • Wrote fire prevention pamphlets, developed disaster preparedness kits, and established the Union Fire Company of Pennsylvania, where he also served as a firefighter. Firefighters who skipped monthly meetings were required to pay a fine, those fines went toward purchasing new trucks and equipment. At the time of writing his memoirs, Franklin stated that the Fire Co. had already been in existence for about 50 years at that point and since its creation, had only lost 1-2 houses (total) to fire. There are fire companies now that can't claim that kind of record - and these guys were running around on horse drawn carts with leather water buckets!
Ben Franklin the firefighter

City of Philadelphia improvements;

  • Franklin proposed tax regulations/adjustments based on income - making taxes proportional to a person's property value. If people did not want to participate in community watch groups, they were required to pay a fine to the local constable. The constable was then suppose to hire someone to patrol the property of the person that paid the fine but there were a number of incidents where constables were either keeping the money for themselves, not hiring anyone and letting property go unprotected, or they were hiring drunks they found for next to nothing and pocketing the rest of the money. 
  • Franklin printed a paper on the benefits of city cleanliness and beautification, convinced city to pave one street as a sort of "trial run". He was even able to convince residents to chip in for wages for a street sweeper. The proposal was such a success that Franklin wrote a bill for the paving and lighting of all of Philly. He presented it to the PA General Assembly and the bill was passed in 1757, just after Franklin left for a trip to Europe. His proposal made 18th century Philly cleaner and safer!
  • Street lights: Franklin proposed that instead of the popular globe style European street lamps, that flat paned glass lamps be installed instead. He pointed out that the candles inside the flat paned glass would burn cleaner, smoke up the glass less, and it was easier to replace one pane of glass instead of a whole globe (if they were broken or cracked somehow).
The popular European globe style street lamp

Franklin proposed they be replaced with these flat pane glass lamps
(a  proposal that was accepted  and instituted)

It seems as if Franklin was able to accomplish most anything just by writing a good letter or talking sensibly, a skill that feels as if it has sorely gone by the wayside nowadays. But Franklin makes a good point:

Well, if you've made it to the end of this post, kudos! And thank you! In closing, here's a happy bit of food for thought from today's guest of honor:

"Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day. "