Fun Friday: What to Do About the Republican Party and Other Disasters Edition

The media is still trying to process the results of the U.S. election. Most of the commentary considers what the Republican Party should do now that it’s lost the popular vote in five of the six post-Cold War presidential elections. David Frum, for instance, already has a book out about it.

I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Republicans are master rhetoricians and they’ll figure something out. They’ve already sold tax cuts for the rich to poor rural whites. All they have to do is figure out how to sell misogyny to women, homophobia to gays, and xenophobia to Hispanics. Then they’re all set, except for one more problem.

Occasionally David Brooks comes up with a good column, and today he uses sociological approach, usually deployed to show how liberals are getting something wrong, to tell Republicans immigration reform isn’t going to be enough to make Hispanics and Asian-Americans to come running to them. For these groups,

when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.

For these people, the Republican equation is irrelevant. When they hear Romney talk abstractly about Big Government vs. Small Government, they think: He doesn’t get me or people like me.

The fundamental Republican equation, more government=less opportunity, doesn’t make sense for people outside their core constituency of white Protestants. I’m a white Protestant–my family has been on these shores since the 1660s–and it’s never made sense to me, either.

Now that the presidential election is over and the New York City subways have been mostly dried out, it’s time to turn attention to less dramatic events.

Parallax Sounds is finally coming to Chicago in commercial release. I’ve written about this film before, more than once as a matter of fact. It’s a documentary about the post-rock scene in 1990s Chicago. Director Augusto Grande has a languid style heavy on tracking shots, which is unusual in an interview film. Grande’s long-duration shots make landscape into an expressive element. In Parallax Sounds the setting is the architecture of Chicago, especially downtown along the river. It’s an unusual combination, the confluence of music and architecture, and Grande pulls it off. Parallax Sounds plays at the Gene Siskal Film Center November 16th and 17th.

With New Jersey’s infrastructure washed out to sea and New Yorkers eyeing the surrounding waters more warily, more attention is being paid to the arcane art of city planning. The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association is staging an exhibit, exhibition, “Grand Reductions: Ten diagrams that changed urban planning.” Diagrams can be powerful precisely because they reduce the complexities of landscape into something that can be understood in a single sweep of the eye and, therefore, subject to large-scale change–much like a storm.  

Traditional urban planning regards the city as something embedded within a certain region, connected to its immediate physical surroundings. Greg Lindsay is the chief proponent of the view that cities are nodes in an abstract global network. The model for the contemporary city, which Lindsay calls an aerotropolis, is the airport. In the introduction to the BLDGBLOG interview with Lindsay, Geoff Manaugh explains,

The remarkable claims of John Kasarda’s and Greg Lindsay’s new book are made evident by its subtitle: the aerotropolis, or airport-city, is nothing less than “the way we’ll live next.” It is a new kind of human settlement, they suggest, one that “represents the logic of globalization made flesh in the form of cities.” Through a kind of spatial transubstantiation, the aerotropolis turns abstract economic flows—disembodied currents of raw capital—into the shining city form of tomorrow.

The world of the aerotropolis is a world of instant cities—urbanization-on-demand—where nations like China and Saudi Arabia can simply “roll out cities” one after the other. “Each will be built faster, better, and more cheaply than the ones that came before,” Aerotropolis suggests: whole cities created by the warehousing demands of international shipping firms. In fact, they are “cities that shipping and handling built,” Lindsay and Kasarda quip—urbanism in the age of Amazon Prime.

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