Monday, November 22, 2004

Detroit: The New and Improved #2 (and the New #1)

Morgan Quinto has released its list of the 25 most dangerous (and safest) American cities. Normally, I would be inclined to ask critical questions of such a list, probing its methodology and asking (for starters) "who the hell is Morgan Quinto?" But instead I'm struck by something that seems nearly karmic in its implications: Detroit, my hometown and the reigning most-dangerous champ has lost its throne to Camden, NJ, a city a good swim across the Delaware away from my Philly home (and where I momentarily but seriously considered moving this year).

Is it possible that my very presence somehow invites criminality? Less than three years of Tim in Philly has somehow deepened Camden's cesspool status, whereas Detroit, while not exactly recovered from 20-plus years of Tim (with the prerequisite racial tension, industrial decay, and Eddie Murphy movies), seems at least to be enjoying a respite from the Robocop-style chaos that once reigned in its streets. I have a deleterious effect on even relatively safe cities. When I lived in Oakland County, the lower burbs were spawning Eileen Wuornos, Jack Kevorkian, and Eminem. Now "Home of the Sloans" Troy, MI is the eleventh safest stateside city.

The alternative -- that I'm somehow drawn, either organically or electromagnetically, to civilization on its last legs, bears consideration. But I hope Philadelphia, currently in the midst of urban renewal, doesn't take notice and throw this Jonah overboard.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Rethink, Remake, Remodel

It's been more than two weeks since my last schrift, but it isn't like I haven't been busy -- I handed out candy to South Philly's kids and teens last Sunday, voted at the local AME church on Tuesday, turned 25 (with relatively little hoopla) on Wednesday, saw houses on Thursday, made an offer on one on Friday (rejected like the longshot it was), moved to make an offer on a second (smaller but cheaper and in a better neighborhood) on Saturday, and bought furniture today. In between, I saw my doctor (no problems, I just need to lose some weight), presented a conference paper in Texas ("De Sica's Fragile Object World: Reading Bicycle Thief, Umberto D, and Two Women as Films About Things") and prepped an abstract for another ("Refashioned Modernities: New Materialism and Primal History in Renaissance and Modernist Studies"), and co-planned a lecture by a hot Princeton prof who specializes in media studies (Mark Hansen). Oh, and brooded about the fate of our nation.

Immediately after the election, I thought I had the answers as to why things went the way they went, the course American politics was taking, and how alternatives could be charted. I should have written them down, here -- for a goof, at least. (Hey, in August I predicted Bush would win, and except for the bit about turnout, I was mostly right.)

Two weeks later, things don't seem as clear. I don't think it's true that Bush was re-elected strictly because of domestic issues: fear of terrorism and Bush's lingering post-9/11/2001 aura (as Paul Krugman put it) were probably nearly as important. To put it another way -- none of the explanations work as total, pat judgements, but they all make sense as semi-autonomous tipping points: added up, they were just enough to get Bush over 50% of the voting electorate, which is all he needed.

I'll have more Schrift when I have the answers. Which may be sooner than you think.