Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Randomly Quotable

Corine Mauch on Manufacturing in Cities

Corine Mauch, mayor of Zurich, Switzerland, had this to say in Monocle Issue 25 when asked, “Do we need to bring back craft and manufacturing to our cities?”

Cities are expensive locations, and so firms must be innovative instead of producing at the lowest costs. Besides the service sector, research and development as well as custom-built products are examples of industries that could remain within city borders. Nevertheless, diversity is important for a city and this includes craft and manufacturing. There must be affordable space for niche producers and experiments

I am a big believer that we need to strive to maintain manufacturing capabilities in our cities and that craft and specialty manufacturing is the way to go. See my post, “The New Industrial City” for more on this.

Emmylou Harris on Nashville

There is an interview with Emmlyou Harris in issue nine of Lula magazine. She had an interesting take on living in Nashville that think is very relevant to many cities of similar size. This is in response to the question, “How would you describe Nashville to someone that’s never been there before?”

You know I really love it. I don’t know if it’s a place you immediately love though. Nashville’s a little funky, the downtown area is in a period of transition, it’s got a lot of touristy stuff with the country music thing, a lot of really junky tourist shops, but then there’s Vanderbilt University, there’s Centennial Park which is really quite beautiful….but for me I think you really have to live there. When you live in a place for a long time and you know how to get from one place to another, and you have really great friends that you can actually bike to their house and you have funky little neighborhoods, you kind of fall in love with it. It’s not like you get a crush on somebody, it’s like an old friend that you gradually realize that this is the person you want to spend your life with.

When you visit New York City, its coolness smacks you in the face immediately. Dittos for lots of other cities. But for smaller cities, like Nashville and the places I often talk about in the Midwest, it’s not like that. It’s like the buildings you see in Mexican towns. The outside is rather blank and sparse, but open the doors and find a beautiful, lush courtyard. The beauty is on the inside. Instead of surface flash, there are more discreet charms only accessible to those in the know.

For any Nashvillians out there, it is worth picking up this Lula. The guest editor is Karen Elson, who I believe lives in Nashville now. It is sprinkled with Nashville references and connections, rather tastefully and well integrated into a publication where London, New York, and Los Angeles are more commonly heard. But it is done without excessive boosterism or self-consciousness. Definitely worth checking out.

Pitchfork on Indianapolis

IU grad student Eric Harvey, writing an album review at Pitchfork, had this to say about Indianapolis:

It aired back in 2007, but I still vividly remember the end of VH1’s documentary “NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell”, when the talking heads were mulling over what had become of the formerly dangerous and tawdry Times Square, placed in contrast to that historically accursed year. “They turned it into Indianapolis,” Jimmy Breslin succinctly said. And more or less, here you go: Aside from David Letterman and the Colts, Indy gets a bad rap, when it gets a rap at all….My uncle used to jokingly tell out-of-towners he was from “India-no-place,” as a way of acknowledging the sort of cultural invisibility that guys like Breslin attribute to Indy.

I’m not surprised Harvey remembered that quote from two years ago. Hoosiers are a modest, self-effacing people by nature, but quick to take offense at and remember slights. Clearly, the national reputation of Indianapolis – apart from the Colts and Letterman – is either non-existent or negative. That’s a fact. But while I think it is always good to get your message out in a positive way, you can’t let people in the likes of New York or Chicago get under your skin. Those cities define their own coolness in part by how un-cool they like to think of everyone else. So it is impossible to ever measure up. Rather than plan that sucker’s game, a better course is to put that famous ornery, contrarian Hoosier nature to work and chart a path to your own success. You won’t please everybody, but if you’ve got a message that appeals to some, you’ll find your own niche and your own place.

Thanks to longtime reader Ablerock for sending me this link.

Richard Rodriguez on the City and the Newspaper

Writing in the November 2009 issue of Harper’s, in a lengthy piece on the death of the newspaper as told though the lens of the San Francisco Chronicle, Richard Rodriguez (not the one who is CTA President) had this to say:

We no longer imagine the newspaper as a city or the city as a newspaper. Whatever I may say in the rant that follows, I do not believe the decline of newspapers has been the result solely of computer technology or the Internet. The forces working against newspapers are probably as varied and foregone as the Model-T Ford and the birth-control pill. We like to say that the invention of the internal-combustion engine changed us, changed the way we live. In truth, we built the Model-T Ford because we had changed; we wanted to remake the world to accommodate our restlessness. We might now say: Newspapers will be lost because technology will force us to acquire information in new ways. In that case, who will tell us what it means to live as citizens of Seattle or Denver or Ann Arbor? The truth is we no longer want to live in Seattle or Denver or Ann Arbor. Our inclination has led us to invent a digital cosmopolitanism that begins and ends with “I”. Careening down Geary Boulevard on the 38 bus, I can talk to my dear Auntie in Delhi or I can view snapshots of my cousin’s wedding in Recife or I can listen to girl punk from Glasgow. The cost of my cyber-urban experience is disconnectedness from body, from presence, from city.
Something funny I have noticed, perhaps you have noticed it, too. You know what futurists and online-ists and cut-out-the-middle-man-ists and Davos-ists and deconstructionists of every stripe want for themselves? They want exactly what they tell you you no longer need, you pathetic, overweight, disembodied Kindle reader. They want white linen tablecloths on trestle tables in the middle of vineyards on soft blowy afternoons. (You can click your bottle of wine online. Cheaper.) They want to go shopping on Saturday afternoons on the Avenue Victor Hugo; they want the pages of their New York Times all kind of greasy from croissant crumbs and butter at a cafe table in Aspen; they want to see their names in hardcopy in the “New Establishment” issue of Vanity Fair; they want a nineteenth-century bookshop; they want to see the plays in London; they want to float down the Nile in a felucca; they want five-star bricks and mortar and DO NOT DISTURB signs and views of the park. And in order to reserve these things for themselves they will plug up your eyes and your ears and your mouth, and if they can figure a way to pump episodes of The Simpsons through the darkening corridors of your brain as you expire (ADD TO SHOPPING CART), they will do it.
We are a nation dismantling the structures of intellectual property and all critical apparatus. We are without professional book reviewers and art critics and essays about what it might mean that our local newspaper has died. We are a nation of Amazon reader responses. (Moby Dick is “not a really good piece of fiction” – Feb. 14, 2009 by Donald J. Bingle, Saint Charles, Ill. – two stars out of five). We are without obituaries…

This article is not online unless you are a subscriber. If you are one, click here to read. If not, it is worth grabbing the hard copy to get it at the news stand. It is the least we can do.

Topics: Civic Branding, Urban Culture
Cities: Indianapolis, Nashville

8 Responses to “Randomly Quotable”

  1. KofC says:

    The party sounds great, but how on earth was it scheduled the exact same time as Chicagoist’s get-together/canned food drive? (They’re at Sheffield’s, so I guess it’s possible to get to both.)
    I’m still part of the “new media” even if I’ve done a terrible job blogging about cities this year. (Flickr just seemed so much easier for my work, but Blogger is easier than when I used it before–I’ll be back.)

  2. I didn’t schedule the date, but at this time of year it isn’t possible to get a free date, alas. Also, as you can see, the biggest readership sites (locally at least) are not all in. The great thing about Chicago is that it can support multiple things of this nature. Thanks for writing in.

  3. Lynn Stevens says:

    The second half of Emmylou’s description of Nashville sounds like a conversation I had with someone last weekend about Logan Square!

  4. AmericanDirt says:

    Your defense of Nashville after the Emmylou Harris quote reminds me of the defense/defence of the English countryside in the novel “The Remains of the Day”. Good stuff.

    Indy’s image is only negative if you use Pitchfork as a baseline. The only people who think Pitchfork is the purveyor of all things hip these days are Pitchfork writers themselves. They’re just so 2003. They continue to praise bands that are, you know, totally mainstream, like the Fiery Furnaces and Animal Collective. And they’re the only ones who continue to bemoan the sanitization and chain-restaurant-saturation of Times Square. Real hipsters shrugged their shoulders long ago as they scoped their next colony. And the coolest new bands are stuff that Pitchfork has never heard of.

  5. Pete from Baltimore says:

    MR Renn
    That was a very true and interesting qoute from the mayor of Zurich.I am curious as to whether any european or American cities have had any success in atracting small scale industrial crasftmenship.

    For the record , i do think that your article “The New Industrial City” was your best.I made copies of it and gave it to a 4 of my friends.Two were liberals and the other two were conservatives.But they all agreed with your article’s main points.

  6. Thanks, Pete. I appreciate the kind words.

  7. Wad says:

    Pete from Baltimore, those cities in Europe have had success in attracting industrial craftsmen and artisans.

    Look to the cities’ ethnic enclaves to see them.

  8. John says:

    Funny that the first Rich Rodriguez you think of is the head of CTA, the first one I think of is the football coach at M*ch*g@n, and the one referenced is neither.

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