Friday, January 9, 2009

On (or just off) The Bookshelf

As the clouds lower, days shorten, the freezing rain begins, and the Dayton Gloom arrives, some books I'm curling up with (or recently have):

Chicago Made

Factory Networks in the Industrial Metropolis
Robert Lewis

Just out, this is an economic history combined with economic geography, sort of a historical take on that cluster theory of economic development. This is probably going to inspire some looks at Dayton's industrial geography. Enticing publishers blurb:

Robert Lewis documents how manufacturers, attracted to greenfield sites on the city’s outskirts, began to build factory districts there with the help of an intricate network of railroad owners, real estate developers, financiers, and wholesalers. These immense networks of social ties, organizational memberships, and financial relationships were ultimately more consequential, Lewis demonstrates, than any individual achievement. Beyond simply giving Chicago businesses competitive advantages, they transformed the economic geography of the region.

Tracing these transformations across seventy-five years, Chicago Made establishes a broad new foundation for our understanding of urban industrial America.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Jeffery Weinstock

Light reading by another Jeffery, part of the new Cultographies monographs on cult film. Yer humble host was never a "regular Franky fan", having seen the movie just twice, at the start and at the end of the cult popularity. But Rocky Horror is becoming more interesting given its place in the history of pop culture. And, it's set in Ohio! This interpretation is more a cultural studies turn (though one wishes for more info on original UK musical:

This study tells the extraordinary story of the film from initial reception to eventual cult status. Uncovering the film’s non-conformist sexual politics and glam-rock attitude, this volume explores its emphasis on the theatrical body (tattooed, cross-gendered, flamboyant), and its defiant queering of cinema history.

American Apartheid

Segregation and the Making of the Underclass
Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton

A book that is about Dayton without once menti0ning Dayton. A treatment of the formation of the northern black ghettos, their persistence, and how hypersegregation helps perpetuate the underclass. In some ways this book is maybe too much generalization from specific northern citys, and has been somewhat elaborated on by later work that takes a closer look at black suburbanizaion. They key point, though, still seems valid:

The authors demonstrate that this systematic segregation of African Americans leads inexorably to the creation of underclass communities during periods of economic downturn. Under conditions of extreme segregation, any increase in the overall rate of black poverty yields a marked increase in the geographic concentration of indigence and the deterioration of social and economic conditions in black communities. As ghetto residents adapt to this increasingly harsh environment under a climate of racial isolation, they evolve attitudes, behaviors, and practices that further marginalize their neighborhoods and undermine their chances of success in mainstream American society.

Urban Nightmares

The Media, The Right, and the Moral Panic Over The City
Steve Macek

Another book that is extremely relevant to the Dayton situation. The title grabbed me as did the authors surname as I went to grade school with a Michael Macek. And the book is as engaging as its title. The first part is worth the read all by itself as it's an overview discussion of the urban policy debate, starting in the mid 1960s, pulling all the various things we've all heard about urban poverty and decline and the culture of poverty and so forth into a chronology. Great stuff!

But that just sets the stage. The second part of the book is a mix of media content analyses, showing how the mainstream national new media pushes a "scary city" agenda (we already know about local news, don't we?) and some great cultural studies interpretations of recent cinema, showing how the scary city theme works in film. Macek has a excellent little interpretiona of the Dennis Leary vehicle "Judgement Night" to illustrate the "Cinema of Suburban Paranoia" (there is also an extended discussion of Finchers "Seven").

A hard-hitting look at the role of right-wing ideologues and the mass media in demonizing urban America.

For the past twenty-five years, American culture has been marked by an almost palpable sense of anxiety about the nation's inner cities. Urban America has been consistently depicted as a site of moral decay and uncontrollable violence, held in stark contrast to the allegedly moral, orderly suburbs and exurbs.

In Urban Nightmares, Steve Macek documents the scope of these alarmist representations of the city, examines the ideologies that informed them, and exposes the interests they ultimately served. ...

...Urban Nightmares exposes a divisive legacy of media bias against the cities and their inhabitants and issues a wake-up call to readers to recognize that media images shape what we believe about others' (and our own) place in the real world-and the consequences of those beliefs can be devastating.

Macek is an activist as well as an academic, and has a pretty good home page, too (check out the link farm)


Anonymous said...

An interesting selection. I'm very interested in Urban Nightmares. I'm going to check that one out.

Jefferey said...

Urban Nightmares is at the WSU Dunbar Library, but you'd need a community borrowers card to check it out. I'm going to be returning it on Monday.

Anonymous said...

I already reserved it online through and it will be coming to my local library via Cleveland.

Woodrowfan said...

Rocky Horror used to show in an "adult" theater in Dayton. I went once with my girlfriend, a buddy and his girl. it was awkward for 4 kids (we ranged from 19-21)to go into an X-Rated theater to see "Rocky." I had a blast. My girlfriend and the others hated it, alas. I have forgotten which theater showed it, but I THINK it was not too far from UD.

Dave Stewart did a funny column on Rocky as well. I probably still have the clipping somewhere in my box of college "stuff."

Jefferey said...

When I saw Rocky Horror in Louisville, must have been in 1978 or so, it was at the Vogue, which was an older suburban theatre, sort of art deco style. I had no expectations of the movie so I was a bit shell-shocked by it all. I probably know the sound track better than the film as a guy on my dorm floor had the album or 8-track.

After finding out more about the UK glam pop culture scene I think I "get" the movie a bit more.