The bench comes back to the backyard, for awhile

One of the chapters in my book is a description of a year-long ethnography I do of a bench located in my front garden. I’ve had the bench out there for four years, through vandalism, neighbor complaints, etc…but today it went back into the backyard because some of our guests decided to start behaving like pretty bad neighbors. I don’t know what the writing is; I do know I am sick of picking up the garbage they leave.

I don’t know what the next step is. Go back to being a simple inner ring suburb homeowner, with a front garden that is for looking but not dwelling?

I am sad.





Going up for full professor, sharing my statement and experience, in the hope it helps

I shared over Twitter last week that I got the news I was promoted to full professor. I took my time getting there; my department chair, Marlon Boarnet, told me about two years ago that I should go up, but I was nervous about my citation count and not having the book done, and putting together these cases IS SO MUCH WORK that a) I didn’t want to go to the trouble of dealing with it, nor did I want to put my colleagues through all the hassle of the case if it wasn’t going to fly. (I have good colleagues for this kind of thing; they would have told me the case wasn’t ready to go if they weren’t ready to bring it forward, as it IS a lot of work for them, too; and b) I didn’t want to risk getting turned down as even if it doesn’t mean job loss, I’m sensitive enough that a reject from the central administration would have prompted me to spend large amounts of time sulking in my bed and watching Gilmore Girls reruns and eating Ben and Jerry’s, the 21st century version of Achilles pouting in his tent. So I put it off.

Last February, Marlon, David Sloane, and Mike Nichols press-ganged me into it; David knew the the book was taking a long time, and he decided it wasn’t worth waiting for and I had done enough research, service, and teaching without that to merit the promotion. I put together the case, unwillingly. However, since Marlon and Mike (my dean of faculty) gave me such a short deadline for putting the case together, and the work coincided with putting together the special issue for JAPA, I didn’t really have time to overwork it or worry about it as much as I normally would have. I just did the best I could and sent it.

For the first time in a very long time, I trusted other people. Marlon is a very, very conscientious and diligent administrator. He wouldn’t slop together the case, and David Sloane, who is running Promotion and Tenure this year, is also unbelievably conscientious in doing service (which is why he ends up doing all the things.) Both are really good leaders.

I thought it was going to be an iffy case, so I didn’t think I’d hear until next spring, unless my dean, Jack Knott, choose not to take the case forward. Jack is also somebody I trust on these things; he won’t send over a case he doesn’t believe in.

So when Jack called on Wednesday I thought, well, that’s it. Either the Price School is in LA Times with some scandal of some sort, and it involves something I can help with…or he’s decided to tell me that this year the case is a no-go. I figured it was probably the latter as I read the LAT front to back every day, and I hadn’t seen anything.

But–nope. He was calling to say that the central administration sent word along that they, too, had approved the case. Everything is very hush-hush here; we don’t see the letters, we don’t see the departmental votes, we don’t see any committee reports. I didn’t ask any questions because I didn’t want people to feel like they were violating rules.

Thus I didn’t even know it had left the school for approval at the university level. So it was a big surprise and, honestly, a great honor. The other people who hold the rank of full professor here are among the finest scholars in urbanism: Tridib Banerjee, Dowell Myers, Gen Giuliano. Cray that I am among them.

This sort of thing must be fun for Jack, too, and David. David was the program chair and Jack was the dean who hired both Elizabeth Currid-Halkett and me as young assistant professors and then got to see us both promoted to full.

Anyway, my takeaway lesson was: believe your colleagues when they tell you it’s time, and don’t be a giant chicken.

Here is a copy of my Personal Statement to read through to help with yours. I know I sound like Braggy McBraggerson, but these personal statements are the not the time for modesty, false or real. Men don’t usually have that much trouble with these statements. Women often do. Suck it up and brag. If you need me to give you a pep talk to get yourself to brag, I will happily administer one. People may snicker about how much you’ve bragged–though most of us know the game enough to know self-promotion is part of it–but living well, i.e., getting the professional cookies you deserve, is the best revenge.

Putting the Black in Black Friday list of black-owned stores compilation

I can’t stand crowds, but I love local businesses. Last year, my student Matthew Miller (ABD, going to be job seeking soon) introduced me to Black-Owned Businesses Black Friday last year. And white people need to shop at black-owned stores, period. If we want people to do well, we have to support their endeavors. There’s no excuse because there’s lots of great prodo out there.

Towards that end, I really want support Black-owned businesses on Black Friday, but I have no intention of leaving my lair to put up with crowds. Bless y’all who go, but I just can’t handle it.

In that spirit, I have rounded up some places to visit in person, if you are an extrovert and like go to out, and some BoB online, if you, like me, plan to hide Friday.

Black Book’s List of Black-Owned Businesses in Los Angeles

Black Moms Blog’s list of all things (so many cute things)

Black to Business’ List

Fashion Bomb Daily’s list

Afrobella’s 350+ MegaList of Black-Owned Businesses (So many of the jewelry artists have beeeeeyooootiful things that would make great gifts. And if you are not already reading and gifting Tanarive Due’s books, we can’t be friends.)

Black Girl Long Hair’s 80+ List (children-owned businesses! Cookies! Popcorn! My favorite things!)

Props to Esty because they will show you All Teh Things Black creators sell on the platform. Anybody if Esty terms are good for creators? I hope so. If anybody wants to get me this or anything from SoulandSubstance, please do not hold yourself back.

I have working more on my sketching and drawing skills, and there are great Black YouTube artists who teach very, very well. And I think they get money from views and subscriptions through ads. So I will post them:

Evan Burses’ Cartoon Block

Love, Teacup, Kisses (Tatyana Vogtdigital illustrator, who signs under AVO adorbz in every way, and very gifted).

Alphonso Dunn is a fantastic art tutor, and IF MY HUSBAND IS READING THIS I WANT THIS BOOK PLEASE.

I feel like I am letting the side down a bit on YouTube, as these folks seem to be fairly well taken care of in terms of followers, so if you have some more for me to link to, please send them on.

Women writing LA Project–Eve Babitz

I am almost finished with my tour though St. Augustine, and thus I have picked up another reading project: women writing about Los Angeles. In selecting my reading course, I have come to a conclusion: just like white people could take a break from writing about Los Angeles for awhile, people from New York who wish to write about Los Angeles can take a break from writing about LA forever as far as I am concerned.

Eve Babitz is where I’ve started, and I’m having so much trouble writing on my own stuff because all I want to do is cuddle under my blankies and read and read and read.

Why? Here’s why:

People with sound educations and good backgrounds get very pissed off in LA. “This is not a city,” they’ve always complained. “How dare you people call this place a city!”

They’re right. Los Angeles isn’t a city. It’s a gigantic, sprawling, ongoing studio. Everything is off the record. People don’t have time to apologize for its not being a city when their civilized friends suspect them of losing track of the point.

This is a pretty white woman’s take on the place, pretty girl from an important family no less, but she never pretends her take is anything else, and she is awfully, awfully observant.

The Battle of the Nessuns

I’m too tired to think about anything city-related.

I have been trying to get my husband to diversify his opera listening, and he remains stubbornly loyal to Pavarotti, especially in all matters Turandot. But there are some very fine Nessuns out there, so I thought I’d assemble and share some.

Love the chorus here;

Placido Domingo (who, along with Idris Elba, is my boyfriend) sang a very fine Calaf in his day:

Richard Tucker


Gi-Cheon (very, very nice)

There is an important emotional transition in this aria for the character, Calaf. He is in love with a violent, powerful woman, and because of his love for her, he has prompted her to cause terrible suffering among her own people. The chorus speaks to the terrible cost his game-playing takes upon innocent people

(Il nome suo nessun saprà,
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!)

No one will know his name, and so we all will die!

He is aware of that suffering, and to no small degree blames himself. The turning point comes towards the end, where Calaf convinces himself that it’s going to be worth it. He is going to prevail over her coldness, and hence the big finish:

All’alba vincerò!
Vincerò! Vincerò!

At dawn, I shall win! (And repeat: I shall win! I shall win!)

He’s convincing himself, and others, that it’s all going to end, and it’s going to be right in the end.

Pretty singing isn’t enough for Calaf. There are PUH-LENTY of pretty songs in Puccini. What ultimately distinguishes great Puccini singers for is their ability to sell over-the-top emotional content in a believable manner, with empathy for a character (see Callas’and Hunag’s Cio-Cio San for soprano exemplars ).

Which is one reason why Pavarotti’s Nessun is really so damn great in the end. (And Gi-Cheon, Domingo, Correlli)…

and Paul Potts, too:

Ok, fine, here’s the Pavarotti to leave you with the chills:

Which do you like best?

Campus Republicans and “testing freedom of speech”

The entitlement of this stuff befuddles me. Charles Murray is totally and completely discredited. It is not fake news. I do not know a single, legit political scientist who thinks his work has any merit whatsoever. And yet he’s this darling of the right, which is weird because there are actual conservatives in political science, especially international relations, you could invite and actually learn something.

The “we’re testing free speech on campus” thing is a bit rich. You don’t need to test free speech. He’s walking around, not in jail, no matter what he writes. That’s the actual test of free speech, not whether he’s entitled to a big venue or tons of university resources.

Is anybody doing work on the potential spatial effects of a Universal Basic Income?

I’m still pretty sick with anxiety about all the harassment stuff going on USC, but I have decided that I can’t think about it anymore. I’ve spent years trying to wake people up about it, I was tuned out, and now that it’s all out there in the world, if anybody needs my input, they know where I am. I’m still dealing with lots of triggering–I think lots of women are, as it’s been an endless loop of predation after another. Our young people deserve better. As far as I can tell, I failed to be a good, supportive mentor to one person coming up (another, I think, just didn’t like me, and there’s only so much I can do about that), but I feel a lot of guilt that I failed this person–and God knows, I never undermined her actively. I just should have been nicer, less sensitive, etc. What makes a person get up in the morning thinking they are entitled to another’ body…toxic, indeed.

So I decided I would spend some time thinking about universal basic income and the potential spatial effects. I’ve decided that I am not too worried about the potential inflationary effects–if somebody wants to convince me otherwise, I’m all ears–and I assume that we wouldn’t do it in some half-ass way (but we, being the United States, probably would), so that it would be in general welfare-enhancing for impoverished people. What’s got me kind of excited is the possibility that people might live where they want–no moving to the city because you really have nothing to do in your home town–and the possibility for a little more money flowing into rural areas. Some small-town downtown resurgence?

The labor economist in me suggests the following, which because it’s from economics, will sound horrible and dehumanizing: some labor isn’t really ever going to be productive enough in the urban context to be able to compete for urban land space. Sure Hayek’s point still holds: if you let people build contingent, small temporary spaces, they will be able to catch onto the wave of urban productivity and locate where they are most productive. But there are probably some diminishing returns to that, even if a place could up-zone to the point where urban land markets and housing prices hit a relatively stable equilibrium. (LA/most US cities if not all are long ways from that, so don’t go getting all up in my grill thinking this is an anti-upzone argument. It’s not.)

Saying more kindly, there are probably people who would prefer not to live in cities in small spaces for terrible jobs, and giving them an alternative would work much like a minimum wage, only better, by making locations actually competitive (if you want waiters in your restaurant you pay them what it takes to live there), and dealing with the potential unemployment effects that sometimes accompany minimum wage rules.


I sent a helicopter: On not shaming people of faith, thoughts and prayers

I am not a person of faith, and there are times when, amidst the aggressive religiosity of American life, including things I think are systematic problems with religion and politics*, that I have some empathy for the New Atheists. But honestly, if there is a group of dudes more obnoxious than smartest boy urbanists, it’s the smartest boy atheists.

Anyway, the whole “thoughts and prayers” thing strikes me as yes, a legitimate critique. It’s generally very nice to pray for somebody, and if a person genuinely believes that God intervenes, then thanks for doing that, and the rest of us really don’t have any business being nasty and trying to shame people for practicing their faith. You can’t conclude that they haven’t supported the right policies or donated money just because they are praying, too, just like you can’t conclude “liberals never help their individual neighbors” because one liberal neighbor didn’t help you that one time. (I do, my husband is honestly the most helpful man you will ever meet, embarrassingly so).

HOWEVER, you can ridicule Paul Ryan for his thoughts and prayers all you want because you know for sure he’s not going to pull his head out of the NRA trough.

This situation always reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

So there is a terrible, terrible flood, and a religious man refuses to evacuate, saying that God will take care of him.

The flood waters rise, and soon he can’t evacuate because his car is flooded. The sheriff comes in a boat, and says “Hop in.” The man responds, “No, no, God will take care of it.”

The waters continue to rise, flooding the first floor. The man has to take refuge on the second floor. Soon, the National Guard is at the second floor window, urging him to jump in their boat. He responds, “No, God will provide. God will take care of me.”

Water, continuing to rise, eventually drive him up to the roof, where a rescue helicopter comes by. Its crack rescue team tosses a rope down to him. He refuses, again, reasserting his faith that God will provide.

Finally, the man drowns, and since he is generally a good man, he goes to heaven, where he meets God. He said “God!! I prayed to you! I had total faith that you would save me! Why did you let me drown?”

God, who in my mind sounds like Rodney Dangerfield in this joke, says, “Dude! Come on! I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

If there is a God, she’s got a sense of humor.

*There are systematic problems with everything, so whatevs.