If you have time to worry about this crap, you ain’t got enough to do

Ok, I hope–I really hope–this bit from Hillary Kelly in the New Republic is satire because if it is not, it really signals a new, Slate-esque future of trivial crap to come from The New Republic. The piece is not very long, but it’s an utter waste of time, so it’s hard for me to suggest you read it, but its tone is so  pretentious, you really should read it, just so that if you ever catch yourself writing something like this, let alone put it out on a high-profile platform like TNR, you stop and don’t do it. If you have written an essay and “I” appears in it as often as it does here, particularly in claims about what you value, you think is awesome (yourself), your this, your that, just don’t.

For urbanists, I suppose stuff like this is good news: it means that urbanity is, at least in this writer’s mind, superior to those bad, bad, low-class burbs, and that people are sufficiently unreflective about this superiority that they think writing in this manner is somehow, socially obvious.

For all the rest of us: Jesus Christ, would you get a real problem? I often say I am from Iowa. Why? Because there is a chance–albeit not a good one–that people may know where the state is because they sure as hell are not going to know where the town is, even though (gasp!) it’s a LIE! Because no, I am not from the entire state of Iowa. Her husband’s ‘little’ town of 2100 people is roughly 4x the population of the town I come from. I say “Iowa” because it’s a faster and easier, and nobody really gives a rat’s fanny. In dealing with snots like this writer, saying “Iowa”  gets us to the conclusion where she can decide I am from “flyover country” and thus, not worth knowing more quickly. Isn’t efficiency worth having?

The politics of place are real, but 1) nobody is entitled to the information about where you are from to begin with and 2) don’t mistake conversational shorthand for “aspiring” to be urban. Yuck all around.

Goodbye to Sir Peter Hall

So back in 1997, I asked my planning theory instructor for book recommendations on planning history. I had taken his class on planning history and theory, and he is an exceptional theorist, so the class was heavy on theory. He suggested Leonie Sandercock’s Towards Cosmopolis and Peter Hall’s Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the 21st Century. My dear instructor hinted strongly that Sandercock’s work was great and Hall’s was not. I felt, and still feel, differently. Both were wonderful, and his suggesting them together was brilliant. It made for a marvelous few weeks’ reading. Sandercock’s work centered on the social and political uses of history, of showing how dominant narratives about history reinforce oppression. Cities of Tomorrow, however, was a book I wish had written, and while every urban historian I have ever met says they “have problems with the book”, I’ve never lost my affection for the long days reading that long book. Of course historians have a problem with it: I’ve never encountered a historian yet who has ever really accepted “a history of ideas” as set in stone.

Peter Hall died this week. Here is his obituary in the Gaurdian. It’s been nearly 20 years since I read Cities of Tomorrow.

H/T to Gerardo Gambirazzio for the Gaurdian link.