Three and Out

Word is starting to come out that Rich Rodriguez will be named the next coach at Arizona. I couldn’t be happier for the guy. I hope (and believe he can) make Arizona a dominant football school.

I bought John U. Bacon’s Three and Out on October 25th when it came out and it made me about as depressed as I was last winter. Rodriguez came into Michigan with strikes against him, dealt with a petty former regime, a hostile press, and an inept group of clowns in the Athletic Department. Certainly he made some mistakes, like bringing in Greg Robinson, but in the end I think it was the culture around Michigan and a few key individuals within it who bear the brunt of the blame. In the end, I think it was better for Rodriguez to go, because there was something fundamentally wrong with Michigan that would not let him succeed. The guy deserves to lead a football team that offers him their full backing. I don’t know that the rifts are really healed, but Hoke (of whom I was highly skeptical upon his hiring) has papered over them pretty well.

Book Club

I just came across a new biography of Arthur Miller, Christopher Bigsby’s Arthur Miller, A Literary Biography. I’ve written a bit about Miller here on this blog as the playwright did his undergrad at Michigan in the 30s and started his writing career there. He won two Hopwood awards for student writing, the first for a play, No Villain, about a college kid who comes back from college in the 30s to his family’s garment business in New York and is sympathetic to the workers’ revolts arising in the streets. The second, Honors at Dawn, is about the influence of business interests at a university — a donor industrialist arranges for the dismissal of a radical professor and through the administration hires a student to spy on radical groups. Honors at Dawn is the better of the two, I think, because it has a more intricate set of stories that are interwoven fairly cleverly. No Villain is a bit simpler and basically hammers home a single point about economic and political change. I came across these because, in researching my masters thesis on student housing, I was looking at the memoirs of U-M alumni and my wife suggested maybe there might be something in Miller’s two plays. She was right.

In Bigsby’s book he gives No Villain a LOT more play than Honors at Dawn, which is too bad. It was subsequently revised and performed under a different name, They Also Rise. Neither of the original plays were ever published. But at least through this bio they’re getting a bit more exposure.


Republican Fred Upton beat Democrat Don Cooney 58.8% to 38.6% in the MI-6 House race two weeks ago. In a year of major Democratic triumph, I find this inscrutable (and infuriating) for a district I consider moderate (PVI R+2 as of 2004), including cities like Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor. Upton won by a similar margin (61 to 38) 2 years ago.


Kalamazoo County went 59 to 39 for Obama, but Upton won the county 53.6% to 43.8%. How to explain this? Kalamazoo and MI-6 hate Bush but love Upton? The most obvious explanation, but facile, I think. Upton has been able to lay a “moderate” line, including a whole lot of campaign-inspired gibberish about opposing Bush and reaching across the aisle formerly featured on his Wikipedia page. His grandfather was one of the founders of the Whirlpool Corporation and he, among many other Uptons, is quite wealthy and is connected to the Chicago, St. Joseph, and Kalamazoo business class, as well as the DC lobbyist class, according to FEC reports.

Now, for his opposition: lackluster, to say the least. In 2002, he was against state pol Christine Gregoire Gary Giguere and dispatched her 69 to 29. 2004, St. Joseph art dealer Scott Elliott 68 to 32; 2006, pastor, banker, and playwright Kim Clark 61 to 38. This year, WMU social work professor Don Cooney, who served on the city commission for several years, raised only $58,000 (as of Sept 30) to Upton’s $1.2 million.

Sacrificial lamb much? But you can see as well as I can that Upton’s margin is getting smaller. Kalamazoo is becoming bluer, and with the ongoing immigration to Southwest Michigan, it wouldn’t surprise me if much of the rest of the district were doing the same.

But I can’t tell because the data availability is pretty crappy. For some reason Kalamazoo County doesn’t host its own election results and the city’s precinct map is a crappy pdf. Don’t get me started on the other counties. I’m working on it — this just might become a cause.

UPDATE: Covert Township was the only place in Van Buren County where Cooney beat Upton.

Cooney held his own in Berrien County, but gave up a LOT of potential in Benton Harbor, where turnout was only about 36%, and even all the registered voters were probably only half the eligible population.

The only place Cooney won in Cass County (which went for Obama) was the city of Dowagiac.



The first weekend in October may be my absolute favorite time of year. It’s the time that Golden Delicious apples are ripe for u–pick.

My wife and I took a brief apple picking detour in my light speed trip back to Ann Arbor Friday to meet with a dissertation committee member and miss lunch with a friend (damned time zones).

I’ve been apple picking every fall since about the age of five…except last year, when we didn’t have a car, much money, much time, and no proximity to Michigan apples. In the Ann Arbor area, my first fall at Michigan I went to Wiard’s. I would recommend it for families and maybe teens who were interested in an interesting evening of agri-tainment, but not for people who just want apples. It’s more of a theme park with apples (they charge you to park!) and, while the apples were good, I don’t care about corn field mazes or tractor rides.

Since then I have been going to Wasem’s, which is the bare bones operation I like. It’s on the small side — they’ve got a few acres of 8 or 10 varieties, along with pumpkins and a few other types of produce. There’s a gravel parking lot and an unattractive pole barn building where they sell cider and make and sell donuts, along with jam (and maybe honey) — just about every marker of a u-pick orchard from your childhood. Don’t know what I’m going to do next fall when I will probably be done with my dissertation. 11 months to figure it out.

Podcast #2

It’s long-awaited and it’s available. Drawn from one of the chapters of my MUP thesis and presented at last fall’s conference on planning history. All audio, like the last one. I’m thinking about adding visuals and making it a .mov or something similar. It looks like I’ll be teaching a class on history and media, so I’ll be practicing up.

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It’s That Time Again

Preservation Flyer, originally uploaded by urbanoasis.

Time to register for spring classes. I’m teaching a course on historic preservation again (day and time TBD) at Michigan during the May-June semester. Tell your friends.

“Historic preservation has played a significant role in the recent reurbanization of American cities. Now, amid concerns about climate change and energy shocks, preservationists are lauding the energy efficiency of rehabilitating old buildings and reinvigorating compact development patterns. This course will critically examine the history, theory, and practice of the preservation movement while students learn the tools and skills of the field through client-based term projects.”

Tobacco, Eugenics, and the University of Michigan

I wrote in my MUP thesis about the controversy sparked by C.C. Little when he proposed construction of a large women’s dormitory on the campus of the University of Michigan. I didn’t follow much of his later career other than noting that he moved to Maine and conducted cancer and genetics research there.

Yesterday I stumbled across another of those fascinating tidbits that seem to open to a larger idea about higher education. You’ll recall one of these revelations about Arthur Miller, Charles Walgreen, and the Universities of Michigan and Chicago.

This time, from the New York Review of Books (Mar 6, 2008):

In the 1920s, Clarence Little led a successful campaign to make the public more aware of cancer. He mobilized women into a field army to educate more women about the widespread existence of cancer. Because of his energetic efforts to persuade a largely unaware population to seek early diagnosis and treatment, Little was appointed the first director of the NCI in 1940. But he soon became part of a clandestine operation spreading doubt about the environmental causes of malignant disease. He was a founder of the Tobacco Industry Research Council, a group that aimed to deflect concerns about smoking as a cause of cancer by proposing alternative causes (air pollution), by criticizing animal research (unreliable), and by sowing public and political seeds of uncertainty (tobacco as a cancer-causing agent was merely a theory). Davis describes how Little spent the final decades of his life miserably “masterminding ways to magnify uncertainties about tobacco products.”

Could this be the same guy? I thought. Sure enough. Why is there a building named after him at Michigan, again?

UPDATE: Of course, there’s precedent.

“Our college and several other buildings and centers at UM and other universities are named after Al Taubman,” Kelbaugh said. “When he had his run-in with the law, none of the institutions removed his name. My feeling, which I think was shared by others, was that it would be wrong to punish Mr. Taubman for his good deeds, even though society chose to punish him for his alleged bad deeds.”

Alleged? I think he was pretty well convicted of and sentenced for those deeds.

Global Suburbs

Global Suburbs Poster, originally uploaded by urbanoasis.

Want to know what I’ve been working on in my free time the last year? Look here.

Come to the Global Suburbs conference March 7-8, 2008 on the U-M campus. Or email your friends about this. Or tumblog this post.

Portland, Maine

Later this week I’ll be heading to the land of Goodspeed and Douglas, as the biennial Planning History conference will be held in Portland, Maine. I’m giving a paper largely based on a chapter of my thesis (with some new research) on Saturday and I thought I’d remove all suspense by posting a draft of the paper here, as is my habit. I’ll put up a podcast along with the images that I use eventually.

If you have any suggestions on things to do or see in Portland, send them along.