Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Alzheimer's, One More Time

It was strange, starting that earlier post on caring for parents with Alzheimer's before Thanksgiving. Not long after I posted the aborted version, I heard a show on NPR on the disease that first scared the hell out of me, then gave me much-needed hope.

There's no good online text that says everything I heard on the radio show, so I'll have to reconstitute it from memory. First, the bad news: Alzheimer's is on the rise. There are two main factors driving this: 1) the aging, monolithic baby-boomer generation and 2) increases in longevity. Since more people are getting older (and a lot older) than ever before, many more people are showing signs of Alzheimer's or other senility/dementia. One expert on the show said that we could soon face the prospect of society being divided into two groups: the people with Alzheimer's, and the people who take care of them.

Second, the good news: scientists at Thomas Jefferson University (right here in Philadelphia, employer of my s.o., the lovely and talented Sylvia) might be on the right track to slow, prevent, and/or cure the disease in 5 to 10 years.

It's not so easy. Basically what they've been able to do is study the 10% of people with Alzheimer's whom they believe contracted the disease genetically. What happens in Alzheimer's -- they think -- is that amyloids, made from proteins that are normally found throughout the body, become folded on themselves ("like a bobby pin," Dr. Gandy said) in such a way as to become extrmely gooey, forming plaques which, in turn, are poisonous to brain cells. Researchers are trying to find ways to help the body break down amyloids, through aggressive drug treatment, vaccination, etc. Gandy's team at Jefferson, using this theory of causation and treatment, has been able to induce effects similar to Alzheimer's in a mouse, and then cure the mouse with the appropriate medication to remove the plaques. And just yesterday a Korean team announced that they'd isolated the protein that causes amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's: ERK1/2. If they're right, this could be a big step towards a cure. Gandy says that we might be able to get to the point where we treat Alzheimer's the way we treat high cholesterol.

So what's the problem? Well, there are several. First of all, Alzheimer's might not be caused by amyloids at all, but by some other cause. That's a biggie.

Also, researchers are assuming that genetic and nongenetic Alzheimer's are similar in their mechanical if not ultimate causes and effects. It's possible that genetic and nongenetic Alzheimer's might have slightly different proximal causes (say, a different kind of protein) or respond differently to the same kind of treatment.

Another issue is that because Alzheimer's progresses so slowly, any clinical trials of a new medication would need to run for around a year or so to see if they're having a significant effect in retarding the disease's progress. It's these lengthy trial runs that primarily account for the 5-10 year projection offered by the Jefferson team.

Finally, people aren't mice. The effect of Alzheimer's can be delicate, subtle, and subjective. It's especially unclear how and whether treatment might help the short- and long-term recovery of cognitive abilities, memories, etc. In the worst-case scenario, Alzheimer's medication might be able to clear away the plaques, but the poisoning of the brain cells, once begun, continues unabated.

All in all, it's signs for cautious optimism. I only hope that progress doesn't come too late -- for millions of people, it already has, and for millions more, it certainly will.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Beginnings of Aborted Posts

Sometimes when you write, you're finished from the start. Here's two I've started this week. The first is a reaction to a Times article on middle-aged career women quitting their jobs to take care of their indigent parents. The second is a review of the new Harry Potter movie.

In today's New York Times, there's an article titled "Forget the Career, My Parents Need Me At Home." The first two paragraphs tell the story:

WASHINGTON, Mich. - Until last February, Mary Ellen Geist was the archetypal career woman, a radio news anchor with a six-figure salary and a suitcase always packed for the next adventure, whether a third-world coup, a weekend of wine tasting or a job in a bigger market.

But now, Ms. Geist, 49, has a life that would be unrecognizable to colleagues and friends in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. She has returned to her family home near Detroit to care for her parents, one lost to dementia and the other to sorrow.
The problem is that the first two paragraphs really do tell the story. The rest of the article is devoted to typical east-coast bashing of the midwest -- how this woman can't get white balsamic vinegar anymore, but still drives her Mercedes, etc. Who cares that this lady lives in one of Detroit's poshest suburbs -- it was even in Money Magazine as a "contender" for one of the best places to live in the country. Not New York or San Francisco, ergo the sticks. What sacrifice.

Here's my Harry Potter review:

Just let me indulge myself. I saw the new Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, on Friday. I like the Harry Potter movies, and I've seen all four so far at the theatre. I haven't read and have no immediate plans to read any of the books, so I just get to enjoy a new chapter every year or so, without any need (or ability) to compare films to books favorably or unfavorably. I especially enjoyed the first movie (cute and fun with a refreshing and thoroughly British odd charm) and the third (a real film, with a real story and young characters who come off the screen), but all of the movies have been good.

Jesus, I bored myself just cutting and pasting that over here. Too many parentheses, too much hedging and digression, and just too much crap about nothing anyone might care about. To write well you have to approach language as a fencer, or better yet, a prizefighter. The beauty of language is really evidence of a kind of skill, in the form of speed, force, and rhythm. If your ideas aren't able to take the shape of any of those, who cares what they are? You're never going to get them out.

In this case my big idea was that the movie was okay, but what especially struck me -- apart from the speed, force, and rhythm of Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort -- was how James and Oliver Phelps, the actors who played Ron Weasley's older brothers Fred and George, have turned from gangly teens into really quite beautiful young men. Especially James. Rrarrr.

I was also smitten by Cho Chang, Harry's super-cute would-be girly-friend. Particularly her Scottish accent. Cho is played by Katie Leung, who apparently was born as late as 1987. So I don't know which of the two is less appropriate.

My original title for this review was "Harry Potter: T&A Edition."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Right Crumb, Without the Bird

From the NYTimes: Ruth M. Siems, Inventor of Stuffing, Dies at 74. Well, strictly speaking, Ms. Siems didn't invent stuffing -- she co-invented Stove Top brand stuffing. Which, apparently, has only been available for about thirty years.

This is a weird article. It's hard to tell whether it's an obituary or a seasonal puff piece. Siems died on Nov. 13, so presumably the Times has had more than a week to sit on this. The author, Margalit Fox, put the time to good use, interviewing various food historians and pegging Stove Top's peculiar essence and appeal:

Stove Top's premise is threefold. First, it offers speed.

Second, it divorces the stuffing from the bird, sparing cooks the nasty business of having to root around in the clammy interior of an animal.

Third, it frees stuffing from the yoke of Thanksgiving; it can be cooked and eaten on a moment's notice any day of the year.

I can imagine people wanting to be freed from "the yoke of Thanksgiving," but who knew that this applied to stuffing too? Nevertheless, Stove Top wanted some things about its stuffing to be tied down: Siems' design for the bread crumb (called "Instant Stuffing Mix") is covered under United States Patent No. 3,870,803. "The nature of the cell structure and overall texture of the dried bread crumb employed in this invention is of great importance if a stuffing which will hydrate in a matter of minutes to the proper texture and mouthfeel is to be prepared."

In related news, my new noise-rock band Mouthfeel will be touring the southwest in the spring.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Mixed Bag If Ever There Was One

Hey! I wrote a year ago about how Camden passed up Detroit as the country's most dangerous city -- at least according to the slightly dubious but apparently authoritative Morgan Quitno. Which is kinda spooky, since I used to live right across 8 Mile Rd Detroit and now live right across the Delaware River from Camden.

Well, I live farther from Camden now, but Camden is still No. 1. Get this, though: The Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn belt is now considered the most dangerous metropolitan area in the country. So whatever Detroit's problems are, it doesn't look like they have much to do with me. And apparently, Philly's safe enough to balance out Livonia, for whatever that's worth.

Probably not as much as chargin' folks $50 to buy recycled FBI data. "Morgan Quitno." Assholes.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Repeat Steps 2-4, Alternating Feet

God bless the BBC: a random Google search turned up this guide to walking silently. Other guides in the h2g2 series ("an unconventional guide to life, the universe, and everything") are more wikipedia-ish, just informational entries. But genuine guides that teach you using expert advice how to do something difficult but pretty quotidian? I could really ride that horse.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I Heart NY/MI

My big sister Kelly has been visiting the east coast this week, spending time with her little bro here in Philly and scouring for apartments and jobs in NYC. I'm starting to put together a New York-themed mix CD on the order of the Michigan-->California disc I made for LPS and RoSlo a few years back. Here are some of the songs I'm working with at the moment:

John Lennon - New York City [Demo]
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
Paul Simon - Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
A Tribe Called Quest - Check the Rhyme
Curtis Mayfield - Superfly
Bob Dylan - Talking World War III Blues
The Decemberists - Song for Myla Goldberg
The Good Life - Album of the Year (April)
The Modern Lovers - Pablo Picasso
Talking Heads - The Big Country
The Strokes - Hard to Explain
Miles Davis - Blue in Green
Rufus Wainwright - Poses
Interpol - NYC
Tom Waits - Downtown Train
John Coltrane - Naima
The Velvet Underground - Sweet Jane
The Pogues/The Dubliners - The Irish Rover

but I'd love to hear suggestions/alternatives from the music/New York savvy readership.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Post For No One Else

The McSweeney's web page is now publishing some poetry, but only sestinas, an elaborate 39-line form (originally and most successfully used in French) featuring six stanzas of six lines each, one stanza of three. The doozy is that six ending words are repeated and recycled in a fixed permutation from stanza to stanza.

The best sestinas, in my opinion, play with (and to a certain extent, outright evade) the strict restrictions of the form, which both helps the poem be a real poem (and not just a boring or nonsensical repetition of a few words or images) and serves as a kind of self-commentary, both on the sestina as form and on the poem as process. There's one pretty good one just posted on the McSweeney's site that does just this: "One Long Sentence and a Few Short Ones, or 39 Lines by Frank Gehry: Guggenheim, Bilbao," by James Harms. Harms pulls off a nice trick here, both by breaking the sestina into nine stanzas of four lines plus one of three (while keeping the six-word permutation scheme) and by treating one of the words as a variable, cycling seven different Spanish cities into the same slot.

But though I grant this much license, I was surprisingly pissed off when I read "Pound-Eliot Sestina" by Alfred Corn. (If McSweeney's is sincere about its anti-pseudonym policy, I don't know where these douchebags get their last names.) The first stanza of Corn's poem goes like this:

T.S. Eliot never wrote a sestina.
I guess he was afraid of copying Pound;
Or else doubted his metrical finesse. If
We rate poets according to form, he blew.
With Old Possum, it's like free verse all the way.
Yet, except for "Sestina: Altaforte"
And it goes on like this, with "sestina," "Pound," "If," "blew," "way," and "Altaforte" recurring according to form. The poem never gets much better, either in its prosody or its content, but I found myself waiting for a clever joke at the end that inexplicably never came.

The problem is that Eliot did write a sestina -- or at least, he used the sestina form -- in one of his very best poems, Four Quartets. It's the first half of part two of "The Dry Salvages":

Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing,
The silent withering of autumn flowers
Dropping their petals and remaining motionless;
Where is there and end to the drifting wreckage,
The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable
Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?

There is no end, but addition: the trailing
Consequence of further days and hours,
While emotion takes to itself the emotionless
Years of living among the breakage
Of what was believed in as the most reliable—
And therefore the fittest for renunciation.

There is the final addition, the failing
Pride or resentment at failing powers,
The unattached devotion which might pass for devotionless,
In a drifting boat with a slow leakage,
The silent listening to the undeniable
Clamour of the bell of the last annunciation.

Where is the end of them, the fishermen sailing
Into the wind's tail, where the fog cowers?
We cannot think of a time that is oceanless
Or of an ocean not littered with wastage
Or of a future that is not liable
Like the past, to have no destination.

We have to think of them as forever bailing,
Setting and hauling, while the North East lowers
Over shallow banks unchanging and erosionless
Or drawing their money, drying sails at dockage;
Not as making a trip that will be unpayable
For a haul that will not bear examination.

There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing,
No end to the withering of withered flowers,
To the movement of pain that is painless and motionless,
To the drift of the sea and the drifting wreckage,
The bone's prayer to Death its God. Only the hardly, barely prayable
Prayer of the one Annunciation.
Some caveats: 1) there's no three-line mini-stanza; 2) the words don't permute from stanza to stanza, and 3) Eliot opts to use rhyme rather than repetition (except for the sixth stanza -- the ending words there are identical to those in the first stanza, which makes them a kind of negative image of one another), but this is unquestionably a sestina. In a class on Eliot back at Chicago, I called it "a half-hearted sestina," but was eventually convinced that once Eliot opted for rhyme rather than repetition -- a seemingly slight but crucial variation -- the other changes followed accordingly. (I wish I had some manuscript evidence to back this up.)

It's not exactly Eliot's best work, but it (and all of Four Quartets, where he engages in these kind of games with literary form over and over again) prove that he was certainly up to Pound's (and Yeats's, and Swinburne's) challenge with formal meter, and that even if Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats blows, it has nothing to do with Eliot's poetry at the height of his powers.


Recalling an Ambassador

I remember when "recalling an ambassador" was just idiosyncratic slang for ending an ill-considered romance, but it turns out Mexico and Venezuela are doing just that. Recalling their ambassadors, I mean.

BBC News's handy sidebar of related (and genuinely relevant) stories, "Venezuela Under Chavez," paints him, as the Brits might say, as a bit of a nutter. He's ejecting US missionaries from the inland tribal regions, accelerating controversial "land reforms" where "idle" ranches and firms can be seized by the government, revoking immunity for U.S. drug agents in his country, and preparing civilian militias/"loyal reserve" to defend his government against a U.S. backed invasion or coup. Admittedly, there's no "Mexico Under Fox" sidebar for us to go tit-for-unstable-tat, but I'm willing to bet that Chavez might be the one who's stepped over the line on this one.

If only we could buy our gasoline from Canada. I mean, do oil wealth and paranoid, totalitarian insanity just go hand-in-hand, or is it only a historical accident?

(A: If anything, paranoid totalitarian insanity far outstrips oil wealth, so by the sheer weight of odds, the world's oil fields were bound to end up in the hands of kooks.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Film and the Archive

When I first saw this article (via Arts & Letters Daily), "Scenes of a Revolution," on the new DVD culture, I thought it was going to be mostly wry observations boiling down to "Isn't it funny that we all have lots of DVDs now?"

But it's actually more thoughtful than that: Norman Lebrecht, its author, meditates on how classic films -- which we used to be able to see (again) in art-house or popular revivals, or chopped or squeezed to bits on regular TV and Cable, if at all -- has become curiously, if "urgently present (perhaps the perfect present)." "The eternally elusive turns up in plastic boxes," Lebrecht writes.

And it's true: I probably could never have become a serious student of film if it weren't for DVD: primarily for its loving resurrection of the history of classic international cinema, but also how, as Lebrecht says, DVD "
both presents film and describes it, content and context together, a bilateralism in tune with post-modern philosophies." Sometimes DVD extras wind up being spectacular (but slightly empty) bells-and-whistles, sometimes more packaged bullshit, sometimes Commentary Tracks of the Damned; but at their very best, they give a glimpse into the making, the meaning, and the relevance of film that can be genuinely revelatory.

"Film," Lebrecht argues,

has become fact on DVD. It has left the cinema and joined us for drinks, an emancipatory moment for the last of the great western art forms. Books and music have always furnished our rooms, but to have film as a point of home reference, like Oxford English Dictionary and the complete works of Shakespeare, signals a revolution in cultural reception and, inevitably, creation.
Lebrecht speculates (in a refreshingly sensible, non-utopian, non-alarmist way) on how DVD technology (and experience) might affect our experience in other media, e.g. television (TV needs to pick it up) and books (that technology's beaten off tougher challenges before). It does seem to be of a piece with the digital turn towards autonomous media: how we want what we want, when we want it, instantly and easily available at our fingertips.

I'm also struck by how this lines up with some of the things on which I've been working with Ezra Pound. Pound, kook that he was, had some really remarkable ideas about archives for texts, and alternate technologies for books, in the teens, twenties, and thirties. (See "How to Read," and especially the ABC of Reading.) The problem of the archive -- how to make sense of all of this information, and its new configurations -- seems to be with us for at least the next century, as it has been with us all along for nearly 100 years already.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What You Want When You Want It (For A Price)

This is kinda cool... USA Today (via Yahoo) reports that CBS and NBC have agreed to sell prime-time shows to Comcast and DirecTV customers on-demand for 99 cents a pop. (InformationWeek notes that it's actually NBC who has a deal with DirecTV and CBS who has a deal with Comcast, not both on both.)

"Dramas will be available only until the next new episode airs, but viewers with digital video recorders (DVR) can save copies." Which, if they aren't DRM-ed to death, means that viewers (at least those semi-sophisticates who can get their DVRs and computers to talk to each other) can probably watch those episodes on their iPods.

I think Apple's deal with ABC is actually more revolutionary than the networks' deal with cable: it bypasses the ordinary television channels entirely, doesn't require a subscription -- it's a pure, one-show for one-price point-of-sale transaction. But maybe what's emerging here is a kind of intermedia synergy where entertainment, not information or commerce, is leading the way. And to be sure, since entertainment has always been at the intersection of commerce, the other two would be stupid not to follow.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The World Wide Web, Our Precious Teenager

The Financial Times has a good article by James Boyle, a Duke law professor and member of the Creative Commons board, on the birth and development of the World Wide Web, which turns 15 this month. As might be expected, he attributes most of the web's success -- or, perhaps more to the point, its singular characteristics -- to its openness, especially the use of open protocols and decentralized networks from the outset.

Boyle imagines a thoughtful counterfactual:

Why might we not create the web today? The web became hugely popular too quickly to control. The lawyers and policymakers and copyright holders were not there at the time of its conception. What would they have said, had they been? What would a web designed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation or the Disney Corporation have looked like? It would have looked more like pay-television, or Minitel, the French computer network. Beforehand, the logic of control always makes sense. “Allow anyone to connect to the network? Anyone to decide what content to put up? That is a recipe for piracy and pornography.”

And of course it is. But it is also much, much more.

Cities, Again

I was disappointed with Chicago when I went there last December: it was freezing cold, Hyde Park was practically empty with U of C out of session, and I was only there for about 9 hours before heading to Michigan (which was even colder). But this time, I remembered why I loved Chicago again: riding the L from O'Hare through Mexican neighborhoods and Wicker Park to downtown, then north past Wrigley Field to Lakeview, where I was staying at a friend's apartment. He'd sent me the key in the mail beforehand and was out of town, so for a couple of days it was like I had my own place. I called a couple of friends who were living there this year, and to my own surprise, I still knew the city better than they did. We went to a great, low-key bar just a block away from my friend's apartment, I drank Fuller's ESB and was generally having the time of my life.

The next day I went downtown, and I didn't even mind so much that 1) I was alone for my birthday, and 2) the conference predictably kinda sucked -- it didn't even seem to matter that much. The weather was beautiful in Chicago -- I was sweating nearly to death carrying my bag, a big bag of books ("Hey! University press discounts!") and still wearing my wool jacket, which I needed to store my camera, phone and iPod. But the downtown was full and happening, and I got to eat Chicago-style pizza at Giordano's and go to a few of the places I really liked. I cut out on the conference early after giving my paper and met up with another friend later that night for dinner. Then my brothers picked me up to take me back to Michigan.

Lansing was more hectic than I thought it would be: my brother Sean was coaching his football team in the state playoffs that Friday night, so my mom came into town and we went to the game. Originally I thought we might just spend the weekend in Lansing, but my dad had hurt his hip, so we planned a trip to Detroit, which turned into a big extravaganza at my aunt's house with the whole extended family. I must have only spent an hour, at most, at my parents' house the entire trip: I don't think I even sat down. I barely got in time visit with Gavin and Danielle and play with their daughter, and to talk with my friend Kelly Hoover at my parents' place.

My aunt's was even more chaotic than usual: when we got there, my cousin Julie was putting out a fire she'd accidentally started by starting the gas grill without opening it: the grill tools were all inside, and quickly caught fire (and caught the grill on fire too). So it was boiled hot dogs and Chicken Shack chicken. My cousin Mike had a baby just a couple of months ago: Chase looks just like Mike, but with a slightly more froggy, amorphous face. I got to see my grandma, and talk with my Uncle Chris (who had just turned forty two days before my birthday -- my mom turned fifty-four the day before).

At some point, we all started talking about Detroit. Both sides of my family have lived in Detroit (and later, its suburbs) for a few generations, and very few of us have gone very far. My sister and cousin live in Ann Arbor, and my brother in Lansing. When my uncle moved back from Cleveland, I was the only one within first-cousin status or better who lived more than an hour away from the city. So my family's fate has been tied to Detroit's for some time: my great-grandparents moved their families there in the thirties and forties in search of jobs, my parents' generation grew up in the city through the golden-age fifties, turbulent sixties, and free-fall decline in the seventies, eventually all moving in to the Oakland and Macomb county suburbs. After a few moments of hope and opportunity in the nineties, Detroit is pretty much headed into the toilet again, and all of us were interested in why this had happened and what if anything could be done to turn it around.

My dad in particular, who's worked for local government in Detroit for almost thirty-five years, has especially upset: he can see the city falling apart first-hand, as the roads decay, the people turn to drugs and prostitution (this in particular I think bothers my dad) and the city embarks on one half-assed scheme after another to try to turn things around, while a few well-connected people get richer and richer.

My uncle John talked about how he and my aunt had tried to buy a house in Detroit in the seventies, but discovered that the banks had red-lined practically the entire city: they foresaw long-term decline, and weren't willing to extend mortgages on properties they thought were likely to go down in value. And lo and behold, they were right, although it's hard to argue that the banks didn't help things long. (This is part of the story of white flight that hardly ever gets told; it also explains why my parents wound up living in my grandparents' house before our family moved to the suburbs.)

We talked about Cleveland, where my uncle lived until recently, and how they were able to seemingly turn things around until reality caught up and the bottom dropped out. (Who's really going to the Rock-n'-Roll Hall of Fame more than once?) And we talked about Philadelphia, which has some of the same problems as Detroit (deteriorating infrastructure, political corruption, lots of poverty and racial conflict) but has been undergoing a strong boom thanks to a handful of things Detroit doesn't have (and is unlikely to get): a great location in the mid-Atlantic where we can scoop up people priced out of NYC, lots of colleges, major players in the pharmaceutical and telecommunications industries, and built-in tourism in the Liberty Bell and Independence Mall. The last one I think may in the last instance be decisive: industries can move, and you can always have a convention or party somewhere else, but historical, profitable, one-of-a-kind landmarks aren't going anywhere. And as much as I love Joe Louis's fist, Detroit is sans any of that.

What's the model? my uncle John asked. How do you get people to come back? My uncle Chris offered up Seattle, which sounded great until we all conceded that we'd never actually been there. I put forward Chicago as the great city of realists: it's not especially concerned with perfection, or stamping out corruption, partly because its aldermen and public services fight for neighborhoods and execute beautifully. You have to fix the schools, someone said. My brother said that it's impossible to "fix" an entire school district the size of Detroit's: it's like fixing every school in the entire western part of the state! He thinks (and I agree) that if Detroit broke up its district into smaller pieces, it might be able to turn a handful of schools around at a time, which is a more realistic approach to change.

I offered up the argument that you don't actually want lots of families in your city -- they hog tax resources and don't spend money. What you want -- self-consciously parroting the "cool cities" argument -- are childless, income-having taxpayers, whether young or old, gay or straight. The problem of course, is that this strategy is a recipe for population decline: you can support an expensive, exclusive, and relatively low-population city like San Francisco or Boston with a makeup like this, but not a city of a million-plus people like Philadelphia or the old Detroit. You need major industries: and particularly in Detroit (if anywhere in the US at all) those kinds of industries just aren't coming back.

This dovetails nicely into two new news/magazine articles on cities: the Times's "Saying Goodbye California Sun, Hello Midwest," which is about how priced-out Californians are beginning to leave for less fabulous (but larger and cheaper digs), and "Uncool Cities," a new shot in the gut from Joel Kotkin.

I've written on Kotkin's position before, and I still think he makes everything too much of an either-or: either you invest in infrastructure or you invest in culture, either you attract singles or you attract families, etc. I'll say it again: everyone rides the subway. You can't attract the creative class into high-crime areas with dilapidated roads and nonexistent public transit or services either. Even the bohemians will eventually pack up and leave: I can't remember meeting an artist who had a loft in Camden. The creative class vs. traditional cities argument is really about jobs and marketing: it seems ridiculous to pretend that our older cities don't have an image problem, or to act as though if we were to just fix everything that's broken, things might be the way they were.

In my own thinking, I don't see most of Kotkin's points as being incompatible with that of Richard Florida and co., and insofar as Kotkin shows how some cities have hoodwinked themselves by thinking that they can put in a casino, sports-stadium, or arts theatre and wish the rest of their problems away, he performs a great service. But I can't shake the suspicion that his arguments are really a stalking-horse for plain old conservatism: a prescription to cut taxes, cut through your union contracts, cut down on crime, and cut out the whole nonstarter "tolerance" thing. Then close your eyes and wish the rest of your problems away.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Haircut Before Flying


And After...

I'm going to be out of town until next Sunday, first at the MSA in Chicago, then visiting family and friends in Michigan. No Schrift until I get back, but you'd best believe that when it returns, it will be as clean and sharp as my new locks. A bientôt.