Planning academics need to wake the hell up about media and media literacy

Every.Single.Time. I submit a manuscript about media and planning to a planning journal, I get some communicative theory person who makes snide comments the entire way through that hint hard and heavy that the topic under discussion is trivial compared to their wonderful small-group deliberations.

On the Woodrow Wilson Bridge piece, I had some damn know-all who clearly was not an expert in ANY aspect of the work, derided the work at EVERY point, and then whiiiiiiiiiiined when I argued back. URRRRGGGGGGG. If you are going to write snotty comments, expect somebody to come back at you. Anything else is an abuse of the power of anonymity. One of their best shots was making a snot comment about how I pointed out that the WWB PR team had gotten the project featured on the Discovery Channel. People who understand media know that there is television, and there is everything else, and nothing gets the eyeballs that television does. Was it a significant moment in television? No. Was it really, really good for the careers of the PR and project staff? Yes, undoubtedly. These are arguments I shouldn’t have to have.

Planning departments in Stumpjumper City,USA may not have local planning offices worried with what the media say, but I doubt it. Even if that is true, the rest of us live in major media markets where the legitimacy of public agencies to undertake planning activities is highly mediated. Planning takes place on a stage in these markets, and I’m sick of having to defend my interest in the subject. It’s Baby Boom scholar preciousness to pound your fist on the table about its triviality because everybody else–literally everybody else–knows that media are changing politics and politics are changing media, and planning as a political act is right there in it.

With Lots of Love, Robert Nozick

I was in the Last Bookstore the other day with a group of friends, and I found in the philosophy section a first printing of Robert Nozick’s The Nature of Rationality. Certainly not his best, but it’s still a worthy book, and this particular book I shall prize because when you turn it over, you get the full force of Nozick’s 1970s hunkiness:

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Turtleneck. Yah.

And when you open the cover, you get to see this:

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Another delight, upon opening the pages, was the dedication to the memory of Gregory Vlastos.

The Nature of Rationality Robert Nozick 9780691020969 Amazon com Books

Cicero on his happy labors, and the differences in translation

Reading away on On Moral Ends this week, which is a good deal more charming than I thought it would be, and I came upon this happy statement, in response to the anticipated question: should serious men be spending their time on philosophy?

Well, Cicero has an answer:

Sive enim ad sapientiam perveniri potest, non paranda nobis solum ea sed fruenda etiam est; sive hoc difficile est, tamen nec modus est ullus investigandi veri nisi inveneris, et quaerendi defetigatio turpis est cum id quod quaeritur sit pulcherrimum.

Here’s Rackham:

If Wisdom be attainable, let us not only win but enjoy it; or if attainment be difficult, still there is no end to the search for truth, other than its discovery. It were base to flag in the pursuit, when the object pursued is so supremely lovely.

By contrast, Raphael Woolf:

And if its attainment is hard, there is none the less no end to the search for truth except discovery. To tire of the search is disgraceful given that is object is so beautiful.

I have to admit, I do like the “supremely lovely” phrasing from Rackham. I am always one for adverbs despite all the prohibitions that good writers don’t use them. How else do you really translate that in a way that captures Cicero’s “pulcherrimum?”

Latin is a pithy language; English is often not. Translators have a tough time with Cicero simply because his Latin is, by consensus, excellent, but also laden with clauses that without all the guideposts that cases in Latin provide, become English gobbledygook. I very much appreciate Woolf’s willingness to simply come back with another sentence, even if it is a bit out of order, on the hope of not leaving a single clause out. Here, he allows the reader the point about Chremes about wanting not merely to save labor but menial labor (long story), and then Woolf loops back to capture an idea that is hard to get into prior sentences:

But those who take offense at a pursuit, such as mine, which gives me nothing but joy, are simply prying.

You tell ’em, Cicero.

Despite its faults, I love Mozart in the Jungle for its cosmopolitanism at a time when anti-urban isolationism rules

People seem to feel a need to caveat their willingness to watch Mozart in the Jungle with phrases like ‘oh, it’s not a great show, but it’s entertaining’ and “it’s pseudo-intellectual, but it’s fun.” Ok, for one, pseudo-intellectual is one of my least favorite words. It’s a pretentious word that seeks to shame somebody for wanting to be an intellectual, and in the world we live in, very few people want to be an intellectual so why should we go around shaming somebody who tries but doesn’t quite there? Is it REALLY all that much better to be an authentic dumbass than it is to be somebody who looks smart, but perhaps isn’t quite there? And yes, I suppose you could use to call out poseurs, but as with all forms of purity, who the hell died and left you the arbiter of “real deals” versus poseurs? There are good arguments and weak ones, and even very smart people make weak arguments.

And in this instance, what do you actually expect from television shows? Particularly ones with half-hour episodes?

Mozart has its problems because of lots of things. The Eurocentrism of classical music is well-known even if we are trying to figure what to do with it, and the show itself, even if it does have a Latino lead (an excellent one, too often snidely referred to as a “manic pixie dream boy” by critics–again, what do you expect of television? Is all this exalting of television a means to justify never picking up a book or playing an instrument yourself? What? It’s television. It is the medium it is, both for good and ill.) The show is pretty international, though still not as international as classical music is itself today. The premier practitioners in the field are global talent.

They went daaaaangerously close, and potentially all the way into, the “let’s do classical music for prisoners and watch all the black guys get uplifted by our culture” theme–dangerously close–but though a weak, weak episode, it didn’t press the idea too badly, becoming mostly a half-hour exploration of the music of Faure. Faure. On television. But let’s get real here: some of the best classical singers, both in the history of opera and today, are black men–Eric Owens being one stellar baritone who is on this week at the Met with one of my favorite operas, Rusalka).

Wired told readers to watch the show *despite* the music, not because of it. Wired writers tend to kill themselves with their ever-so-cleverness. The show cares about the music, and the music is at times, remarkable. The first season revolved around an important Sibelius piece. Now if you don’t like Sibelius, to hell with you. But getting Faure on television? Um?

I love the damn show and its music. This season features Ana Maria Martinez singing for the (apparently) ageless Monica Bellucci as La Flamma, a clear attempt to do for Maria Callas what Callas could not do for herself–return to the stage after she lost faith in her voice. We are first introduced to La Flamma via Martinez’s sublime Ave Maria, which was also featured in the move John Q (Denzel Washington.) There’s Placido Domingo! In and amidst some of the stock stuff of operatic soprano like the Ave, there is a new composition that was *supposed* to be a joke. It’s an aria for Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita. It’s no joke. In the hands of composer Nico Muly and Martinez, the aria was both interesting and enjoyable. I was planning to hate it. Instead, I loved it.

This show takes the arts seriously at a time when DT and cronies seek to stamp out our already minimal funding for them.

The music is one thing. The other is simply the way the show has of being unashamedly cosmopolitan.

Gabriel Bernal character’s, Rodrigo, loosely based on Josh Dudamel, rides a bike. Thank you!

Unlike the isolationism that seems to be dominating America, Mozart goes to cities internationally and turns a loving eye to them. Instead of showing Mexico like it’s a desert hellhole full of narcos and goats, some of the series’ most beautiful cinematography covers Mexico City, a city that can well support beautiful imaging. New York is easy to shoot well, as is Venice. But Venice. La Flamma’s house. The wall textiles. “No Internet” La Flamma says to the series’ “dumb kid” character.

No Internet.

More than just the arts and the cities, the characters speak languages fluently. Rodrigo speaks Spanish one minute and then Italian the next, then English. The first season we see Saffron Burrows set foot on Cuba to go get epic drama queen Sir Thomas Bembridge (played brilliantly by Malcolm McDowell and featured crabbily here: welcome to earth, motherfckers“) where we see Burrows speaking Spanish. Well! It’s like knowing more than one language is a…good thing?
Yes, it’s about elites. But it is about something elite other than sports.

And Dermot Mulroney can *really* play the cello. Who knew? I didn’t. Well. He can play it well.

And Bernadette Peters can do no wrong. So there.

Did I mention Placido Domingo? He’s my boyfriend. (And Idris Elba. They just don’t know it.)

Being ignorant of history and government, and treating your political party like your local football team

My apologies. This is rambling and poorly proofed. I am stretched.

The ban on immigration from 7 predominantly Muslim countries imposed over the weekend brought out a fresh wave of protests. The entire thing was a shitshow, with our new ruler, Steve Bannon, seemingly over-riding the lawyers and deciding that the rule included those who hold green cards and those with dual citizenships.

I of course had to sit through listening to Team Trump natter on about how “they just don’t understand liberal hate towards Trump” and “why should people just stroll into the US and do whatever they want here?” In other words, more of the “Trump! Rah! Rah!” they have descended to because they can’t be bothered to think critically about anything he does. And nobody gets to say that “buh buh buh leeeebrals were just as uncritical of OBUMMER.” Whether it’s true or not, it’s stupid for people who live in a free country to sit in thrall of any leader and “because Johnny does it” stopped being a legit form of argumentation when you were eight.

So thereby the utter ignorance of people in the US about how the green card process works. We need “xtreme vetting.” Uh-huh. Of course, “government also does nothing” and “those bureaucrats just sit around all day doing nothing,” too.

Except that anybody who has ever gotten a green card, including people from countries we should probably just let in for efficiency’s sake, like Canada, can attest that it is a lengthy process that involves quite a bit of vetting, undertaken by bureaucrats in between the time they spend feasting and whoring and buying islands in Fiji with their salaries. If you go after refugees seeking asylum—or worse, green card holders and those who hold dual citizenship—you are going to catch people who have gone, for the most part, through official channels. They are simply low probability threats; you don’t just stroll into the US and get a green card. Smuggling networks, however, appear to be global, well-funded, technologically very adroit, and fully capable of moving the US’s enemies without a single document required. And thus Bannon and Co, because they have no clue how to actually stop terrorists from moving around, issued an order that led to the sorts of stories we had to read over the weekend–about two 80 year-old dears on the way back to Westwood*, about little boys locked up in detention all day (shame on you, Homeland) etc etc. Just ordinary people, who went through the long, irritating process we asked them to, hazed even more, in a symbolic gesture to show everybody that We Are Cracking Down(TM).

By including green card holders, Bannon’s ignorance made everything about this ban worse, uselessly.

Sure, other presidents during times of war have issued bans, but bans are not generally this far-reaching in terms of covering allies and green card holders. Supposedly conservative people are cheering this thing on, even though it denies entry to military interpreters and others who helped the US on the ground during Operation Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. To me, that’s like leaving an American soldier behind. That is unconscionable. Doing so based on the small probability that a green card holder is going to go on a crime/terrorism spree? When did Americans become such a group of sissies? That is craven beyond my understanding and unAmerican by every value I have ever respected in the Republican Party before it became Team Trump.

Beyond that, there are people who are suffering terribly, including Christian and Jewish refugees from Iran, right along with those scary, scary children from Syria. We are going to turn our backs on them because we are scared? It’s like America no longer means anything other than “My consumer comforts.” Eyuch.

And spare me the line that this is about “helping the people already here.” These are the same people dismantling programs that serve victims of domestic violence. Boy howdy, helpful.

Yes, Bannon had to back down from the green card, but a great deal of suffering and time was wasted over the weekend simply because he has NEVER bothered to figure out how green cards work and simply prefers to believe what he wants to about them. There is ZERO chance that he wasn’t told including green cards was a bad idea. He just didn’t care to listen.
He knows the uncritical fans won’t care, the ones that follow Trump like they do their local high school football team with buying the hats and the t-shirts and coming out all dolled up with their “I’m deplorable” and “I’m a Trump-ette” gear and their pom-poms–like my allusion to football can get any more apt with that.

And no, it’s not some big, grand, clever strategy. Those little chiding posts that say “while you all were distracted with immigration ban, they did another thing!” are pissing me off, too. It’s just Bannon & Co, going through their policy wish list like they are using the “1-click buying” from Amazon. The more disarray and fresh clicks they get, the happier they are. We already know it’s a kleptocracy. I don’t need scoldings that my worry about green card holders and refugees is preventing me from being outraged by their latest act of kleptocracy. It’s going to be constant from here on out because they don’t have the decency to police themselves, and their adoring fans don’t care.

On the other side, the left seems to be getting its act together. It’s hard. Plenty of people did not get the intersectionality memo. We have lots of grumpy, angry people annoyed at the “nice white ladies” who showed up for the women’s march but not for Black Lives Matter, or people singing “This Land is Your Land” or saying “We are a nation of immigrants” because it is ignorant of indigenous people and the US’s appalling treatment towards native peoples. Yes, absolutely, it’s wrong that everybody isn’t more woke, etc. But while we are sniping at each other trying to perfect everybody, the GOP just dismantled in a week just about every decent social welfare program we have and their eyes are set on the others. You go into battle with the army you have rather than the army you want; you try to train as you go. Nope, it’s not the responsibility of oppressed people to educate their oppressor. Nope, white people shouldn’t be coddled. We are now in RealPolitik, however, and in that world, people are either useful to you in the moment or they are not. All the signs with the questions about whether the “nice white ladies would do next” got an answer this weekend: plenty of nice white people showed up, including some Jewish lawyers, and honestly right in the moment when you are in airport trying to keep a refugee from getting sent back to a country where they face torture and death, I don’t care about whether those lawyers, or the people blocking Homeland, have the right woke bona fides . I care about whether they are there, have skills, and what general side they are on. We can go back to perfecting each other when we are not hemorrhaging.

No, I was not out this weekend. My knees are so bad that a wheelchair is next for long periods. I will perhaps do that. But as with Black Lives Matter, I gave money. It’s what I felt I could handle.

I do understand the frustration and the revulsion at the toxicity, I do. I am getting advice handed down from on high from senior scholars in my field that I “should talk to your media” (like I haven’t been doing that for last the five years of my life, and blogging about it and publishing about it) and “oooooooh get out and talk to people. Wonderful me just talked Teh People.” This is virtue signalling, and it’s well-intended if narcissistic in today’s social media world. It’s a thing right now to critique virtue signaling–after all, signaling does not actually solve problems we say we wish to be virtuous about–but I think the critiques are overblown. It’s not like in the pre-social media world everybody always leapt up to address every problem in the world in the world all the time rather than talking about it. All social groups require norming, and how else does one norm if not both by acting and discussing? The problem “talking about virtue” rather than “enacting virtue” gets worse when communities exist digitally. You don’t really know what anybody is doing; just what they report on what they are doing. So if you went by my Fboo wall, you would assume that I am more preoccupied by wallpaper and paint samples than the injustices of the world. Fboo is better at communicating about wallpaper samples, however, than most other things, and the only research I’ve shared recently has been the stuff about little free libraries. It’s visual, and there are no real privacy issues in play there, unlike the rest of what I am up to (working on sex offender registry restrictions, open carry advocates, and the NII.) It’s just irritating to have scholars I respect still talking down to me, after all the damn years I have put into the academy, like I’m some kid who needs direction. Grrrr.

*If there is one group you don’t have to worry much about in terms of radical anti-US sentiment, it’s the Persians in West LA. Really. The kids who grew up here may be a different story.

Iris Murdoch on reading Homer aloud to oneself on the underground

I’ve been reading Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch edited by Avril Horner and Anne Rowl. Murdoch’s letter show the same fierce intelligence as her novels, there are so many moments of delightful weirdness and unapologetic bookishness that I am enjoying the book very much, particularly for the “I’m clearly crazy as a bedbug” asides in the letters, written in language simply bouncing with energy and intelligence, such as:


(I am going to the zoo this afternoon, chiefly to see the zebras–I have an intense occult passion for zebras)

Who doesn’t have an intense occult passion for zebras, I ask you?

In the same letter as the zebra discussion comes this little gem, which in my tendency to copy people I admire may lead me to become decidedly unpopular on the Expo Line:

I haven’t written anything since Schools–or even read very much, except a little Proust and some poetry (my latest pastime is reading Homer aloud in the underground. There is such a racket that non one can hear you–and the hexameter goes very well with the rhythm of the train.)

Charming on multiple fronts: reading Homer, aloud, train.

My design for Trump’s Wall

Ok, before anybody yells at me: think about it this way: Trump made a lot of big promises about “bringing jobs back” to rural America. Well, in addition to hiring people to clap for him at press conferences, the wall is another way to make jobs. But a wall just between Mexico and the US is really short compared to mine, and members of noble, wonderful, real America in the heartland would have to travel really really far to get a job building the wall. Steelworkers upset that they are not getting jobs…well, my wall is MUCH longer, would require more steel, and is much closer to the folks who need jobs in middle America.

I’m just saying.

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