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To the recent ASU political econ/journo grad on the Middle Bowl Gondola who gave me an unasked-for Masculine Fist Bump upon hearing of the completion of my dissertation

(“Fist bump” is what they’re calling it, right?)

 

Anyway: Thanks, bro.

Monument Valley

Kieran picked up on the redesign of the New York Times website and points to some thoughts of the always interesting John Gruber. I like that the old lines that separate boxes or categories are fainter and less distracting—the page seems more whole without them. But it’s crowded, yes.

What attracted me first was the photo leading to this story on visiting Monument Valley, which was prominent on the front page of the site last night. A few nice photos and tips for seeing the valley, one of those iconic Western landscapes that I still haven’t made it to see yet. It’s on my list, along with the now record-low Lake Powell, where the Cathedral in the Desert has been uncovered for the first time since the reservoir filled.

There’s one odd bit to the story, and that’s this line: “One night, I stayed in the secular setting of Kanab, Utah, where I drank Polygamy Porter — a fine beer — over dinner with a man who told me he used to have three wives.” While I quite agree that Polygamy Porter is a fine beer (as are all the beers from Wasatch Brewing), what does the author have in mind when he writes the secular setting of Kanab? Could he mean this Kanab?

The picturesque community of Kanab threw itself into the national spotlight early in 2006 when the city council unanimously passed a non-binding resolution that endorses what it calls a “natural family,” defines marriage between a man and woman as “ordained of God,” and sees homes as “open to a full quiver of children.” Critics say the resolution is anti-gay and critical of single people and even married couples who choose to not have children, while proponents say the purpose of the resolution is to affirm marriage and family and show that Kanab is a good, wholesome place to live. Early reports indicate that some potential visitors to the tourist community planned to stay away to protest the resolution, but it is also expected that others may specifically choose Kanab as a vacation destination because they approve of the sentiments expressed in the resolution.

Kanab is just a stone’s throw from what the author calls the “scary polygamous compound of Colorado City on the Arizona-Utah border,” and while it has come to accept its role in the tourist trade of Southern Utah—after noisily and vehemently protesting the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument—that doesn’t exactly make it secular, fine regional microbrewing or not.

It's a cheap shot, but it's priceless

My parents graciously agreed to dog-sit while we went to Seattle. The fact that they reside in Utah meant that our itinerary took us by car to their house before we could go by plane to Seattle, which was fine by us: We got to spend a few days in Northern Utah, got in a couple of really good ski days (a spring lightening storm put an end to one; when you feel your hair raise up on your head, hear a buzzing, and then lightening flashes all around, you’re in the cloud and are too close to the weather), and wore ourselves out showshoeing. On our last snowshoe excursion, a grumpy character growled at us as we passed him at the trailhead. One of the trailhead’s resident dogs, who had followed us on our entire trek, expressed disapproval for the man’s attitude by, ah, pimping his ride just a bit. Being where we were, this might be one of the few Hummers that gets real use—but they’re so ostentatious and unnecessary, even in the snow, that I was quite happy to capture the moment.

 

Torture can stay

Pat Bagley’s editorial cartoon in today’s Salt Lake Tribune is pretty spot on, capturing the incoherence of protesting Brokeback Mountain in the name of family values while giving a pass to a film like Hostel.

 

Bagley cartoon

 

(For out-of-towners, the rotund polo-shirted guy is Larry Miller, owner of the theater that cancelled the film, and also owner of the Utah Jazz and Salt Lake-area car dealerships.)

Going to ground

Been away for a little while, from the blog, at least. It’s a busy season, and I’m off getting work done. Unrelated to work, however, I recently took a quick road trip back to northern Utah to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday. We had planned a weekend in southern Utah, poking around some canyons somewhere—Escalante, maybe Vermillion Cliffs or Grand Staircase—but various forces conspired against us, so we ended up staying in our little corner of the Wasatch for the weekend.

Before heading for home I helped put some trees in the ground, ahead of the oncoming wintery weather. My mom snapped a few photos of me at the controls of the tractor. Kubota: How I roll.

 

 

My mom was literally from the wrong side of the tracks. Her father, Tom, worked for the railroad in San Jose, Calf., and he was adamant that his children would go to college. After the took these photos she told me what Grandpa Tom used to say to them: “You’ll graduate from college and that’s that,” he told them. “You may end up a ditchdigger, but by god you’ll know what kind of dirt to dig!”

Two days in the valley

The Salt Lake Valley, that is. I’m visiting my parents for a couple of days, a trip entirely orchestrated so that I could go to the dentist.

It’s nice up here, but the valley sure has changed. Utah, it seems, hasn’t really grown up but out, as evidenced by the new subdivisions between Salt Lake and Ogden. Just when I thought they were out of room, somebody managed to fit a few more neighborhoods in between the Great Salt Lake and the mountains. This isn’t neccessarily a bad thing in a fundamental way—people need places to live—but city planners here have never really been any good at, well, city planning. Ogden, where I grew up, has had trouble developing any sense of urban community. While its downtown has been partly revitalized—back when Ogden was Hub City, a key stop for the railroad, it had a booming downtown—it remains too far from where most people live, and with new freeways in and out of town, it’s no longer a pass-through point for local traffic or out of town travelers. (For example, the new highway to Snowbasin, the ski resort right over the hill, entirely skips Ogden. Way to go, planners!) To compound matters, rather than do practical things like improve bus routes and foster small business (the floundering mall was torn down years ago and is now an empty lot), the mayor is on a multi-year crusade to build an aerial tram to downtown, a plan that has been shot down every year since before I was in high school as constituting one form or another of fiscal insanity or physical implausibility. But Utah government—at all levels—has never been particularly captive to either of those constraints, so when the current mayor came to office he promptly restarted the project, and after a string of failed partnerships with numerous development projects, downtown is still a large hole in the earth and the mayor still dreams of a tram.

I don’t mean to be entirely critical: Downtown has several clubs and restaraunts that are very worth visiting (Rooster’s brewery, in particular, regularly wins awards for its food and, seriously, its excellent beer). But downtown isn’t a place one goes to hang out. This may change; there is some optimism that condo lofts above the shops will invigorate foot traffic and build a more lived-in downtown, but so far those lofts have been hard to sell.

Why all this talk about downtown? Partly because every time I come up here I get into another back-in-the-day state of mind. It’s not always a nice experience to see the place you grew up through adult eyes. Ogden’s experience also seems really instructive, especially when compared to places like Flagstaff and Salt Lake City, both of which have neighborhoods that successfully combine living and commercial space (which isn’t to say that both cities don’t have their particular problems). I have the sense that many of the same things that contribute to successful, livable downtowns also contribute to viable local economies—and by extension, the possibility for local currencies. It’s certainly not a one-to-one, but the kind of downtown that fosters walking, browsing, and meeting seems like the sort of place that might also foster other kinds of community development. The question that goes beyond grassroots things like local currency, of course, is the interaction between high-level development agencies and local culture. There’s probably an argument to be made that all the grassroots moving and shaking in the world won’t amount to much if the dirty downtown brick facades aren’t cleaned up and the pedestrian crosswalks re-painted. Likewise, building a tram doesn’t mean that people will come to it.


About, the short version

I’m a sociologist-errant. This site is powered by Textpattern, Pair Networks and the sociological imagination. For more about me and this site, see the long version.

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