TC Towers

Not to be confused with Fawlty Towers, because it just isn’t that funny. Though it could be with a little work, if you share my rather twisted outlook. . .

OK, here I am living in little Traverse City, where lately a couple of developers have been moving ahead with plans to build a couple of skyscrapers in the relatively neglected West Side of Front Street. One will actually break into three digits: One hundred feet tall!

Which, of course, isn’t all that big. But the very idea of a hundred foot tall building stirs up the crotchety local types (of all ages) and makes them talk about moving to the UP to get away from encroaching Babylon.

So it’s a pretty sensitive subject for those who’ve always imagined Traverse City to be a 50s television small town.

surprisingly enough, the plans have had pretty smooth sailing through the city commission and the planning process. Partly because, apparently, some powerful parties really want to get this done.

Michael Uzelac, one of the developers of the 100-foot project, hit a snag when the developer of a somewhat smaller project nearby, proposed a cheaper alternative to the parking deck he’s trying to get the city to finance as part of his project. The new proposal looks as if it can provide the same spaces for half the cost.

Why? Because Uzelac is planning on building some of his stuff ON TOP of the proposed city deck, and the deck therefore has to be built to a much higher standard to bear the load.

So why should the city be subsidizing that portion (the upper stories) of that project? Taxpayers, apparently don’t deserve answers for that question. In fact they don’t even deserve to know there’s an alternative, because city officials and one of our state representatives did everything they could to hush up the whole prospect of an alternative.

And now, Uzelac, who had such smooth sailing through the planning process before because his plans were well-designed to ease local concerns (no, the building won’t be big & ugly; no, there will be setbacks; no, we’ll be providing a LOT of public parking) is going back to the planners to revise all these concessions out of his plan now that he thinks he’s got an in.

Well, maybe he does: he and his associates have bought . . . um given more than $30,000 to our state senator, and he seems only too willing to use his influence to interfere in city decision making processes to make sure his sugar daddies . . . umm buddies get their way.

Which really begs the question: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

Cronyism? Influence peddling?

I think it’s about time someone just put the accusations out there: Jason Allen is for sale, and the entire city planning process is corrupt as the day is long, designed to railroad the projects of “friendlies” (i.e. political cronies, campaign contributors) through the process while the public isn’t looking.

Anyone care to refute? The facts so far seem to fit perfectly with what I know so far, so that’s how it looks. Is this what I am to think, or is there some other way to look at it?

So long as officials around here treat the public as if they are irrational idiots who have to be tricked and hoodwinked into allowing what’s best for them . . . well as long as they keep us in the dark, we’re free to think the worst.

And by the way, has anyone ever explained how the county contractor of this project got the contract in the first place? Cronyism? Kickbacks?

Turns out the thing collapsed, wasn’t built to the appropriate code, and was lacking in essential structural elements called for in the design.

The man who investigated the debacle just happens to be the man who saw to it that they got the contract in the first place. Conflict of interest? Keeping the investigation just this side of the actual award of the contract?

You decide, but don’t think you’ll be doing it in a well-informed manner, fellow mushrooms.




Seed magazine–which you probably have never heard of, but should have a look at now that I’ve let you in on it–has launched a whole slew of science blogs.

Seed looks to be an outgrowth of the whole “Third Culture” movement (which you can check out at The Edge).

So far, the magazine has tried a bit too hard to be hip, and has been a bit too chummy and cogratulatory with the scientists the Edge folk have always been happy with (Stephen Pinker, for instance), and a bit too self-congratulatory it taking up its enlightened social position.

But the blogs may lead to something a bit more open, and quite a bit better, more later.

Literary Theory in Crisis. yawn

Either literary theory is dead, or it’s invincible. It all depends on who’s talking. When Jacques Derrida died last year, The New York Times declared the end of the era of “big ideas.” In April 2003, the Times had run an article about a University of Chicago symposium on the state of theory headlined “The Latest Theory Is Theory Doesn’t Matter.” More recently, a November 17 essay in the online magazine Slate mourned “The Death of Literary Theory.”

Others say that theory has never been more perniciously alive. These critics persist in arguing that it is no longer possible to study literature for its own sake.

Just this summer, Columbia University Press published Theory’s Empire: An Anthology of Dissent. The volume collects 30 years’ worth of contrarian arguments with theory — make that Theory with a capital T — and takes as its premise the notion that “the rhetoric of Theory has been successful in gaining the moral and political high ground, and those who question it do so at their peril.”

A long article in the current Chronicle of Higher Education (the college and university trade mag) on “What Happened” to literary theory. As someone who actually studied this stuff fairly seriously back in my college days, I have to wonder, “Who the hell cares?”

I mean, we might just as well spend our time worrying about the crisis in pigeon fancying for all it means even to me–someone who has actually read (God help me) Derrida and De Man and Baudrillard and Barthes. Someone who knows the name Shoshana Felman and has some idea what she’s about. Someone who is not particularly scandalized by anything these folk have to say. Even I am utterly indifferent to literary theory and its possibly being in a crisis.

Of course, I no longer have any direct involvement in the field, but any field that has no importance to anyone not directly involved should seriously think about pigeon fancying and why the government doesn’t give comparable funding to that hobby.

The only thing one is inspired to wonder reading this Chronicle piece is “Why are we paying people to research this stuff?”

Well, no that’s wrong, one might also wonder “Why are we requiring students to study this stuff?”

It’s hard for me not to look on people who still tool away at this stuff as nothing more than thieves of education funding that would be far better spent on primary school kids. But maybe that’s just me.