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posted by Mike on May 11th, 2007

WoMag interviews Corey Dolgon
Corey DolgonAllen Fletcher interviews Worcester State sociology prof Corey Dolgon on the socio-economic vibe of the city. If you like this, you might want to listen to an interview I did with him last year.

I had a little bit over-romanticized some of this post- industrialism in that it really wasn’t a post World War II de-industrialization, as much as it was like other New England towns, a kind of post World War I de-industrialization, and that Worcester has been struggling with these issues for a much longer time.

Plenty interviews OKC Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop
A nice article about Bob (who sometimes contributes to Pie and Coffee). Food co-op people take note:

Waldrop is the founder of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative (OFC), a monthly buying club that connects Oklahoma customers with Oklahoma farmers. The first month it existed, the cooperative generated $3,500 from 60 members. Fewer than four years later the April 2007 order stood at nearly $36,500. That’s a lot of local food and a lot of money in farmers’ pockets, and OFC board members expect that number to nearly double by the end of the year.


WoMag and Wal-Mart
Worcester Magazine editorializes about the planned Worcester Wal-Mart. Let me start with some nit picking:

Low prices and all-in-one-place convenience inevitably trump nostalgic notions of close-grained urban vitality, and big-box stores inevitably contribute to the decline of traditional, early to mid-20th century Main Street retail areas; they simply do.

My own notions of close-grained urban vitality have nothing to do with nostalgia—I grew up nowhere near an urban area. I love what I’ve found in the actual urban America of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

[Big box stores] are also as much a manifestation of the modern world as the Internet and the cell phone. Trying to stem the tide of Sam Walton’s revolutionary distribution pattern is like—well, it’s like trying to stem the tide.

Massively-networked computers and ubiquitous communications are not going away. But Wal-Mart’s lousy business practices—which are what people object to, not its distribution technology—are a creature of a particular economic, political, demographic, and regulatory reality, one that will be different in 5 years, and one that we can influence today. I was lucky enough to grow up in Oklahoma, and I’ve been going to Wal-Mart for over thirty years. I remember quite well when Wal-Mart bragged loudly about its American-made products, and how it was committed to helping American manufacturers stay afloat. The average customer then would have been surprised if you’d predicted that Wal-Mart would soon become, in effect, the American distribution wing of the Chinese government. I think that similar “unimaginable” changes in the nature of retailing are coming whether communities want them to happen or not. As the beneficiaries and victims of those changes, we may as well try to shape them.

. . . the notion of saving our city’s soul by pushing a peripheral Wal-Mart across the town line strikes us as a trifle quixotic.

This is an interesting point. Did small retail in Parkersburg WV (pop 30,000) do any better because the first Wal-Mart in the region opened across the border in Vienna? Not that I can tell. Has South Bend IN (pop 100,000) held onto more small stores because most of the big boxes have opened along a distopian stretch of highway across the border in Mishewawka? No, and inner South Bend is pretty bereft of stores for an area its size. On the other hand, these examples are not urban; people are going to drive to the store no matter how close it is. So I dunno. I wish more discussions about the economic direction of Worcester dwelled on these sorts of issues, or at least raised them. Thanks to WoMag for keeping this discussion going.

A journalism item
Yochai Benkler, from The Wealth of Networks:

A combination of high literacy and high government tolerance, but also of postal subsidies, led the new United States to have a number and diversity of newspapers unequalled anywhere else, with a higher weekly circulation by 1840 in the 17-million-strong United States than all of Europe with its population then of 233 million.

I knew that there used to be huge journalistic diversity in this country; I hadn’t realized it was exceptional by the standards of other nations.

Dave Winer: What would I teach a journalist? #
An essay with a follow-up.

First, I’d forget about Drupal, and customized sites, and HTML, CSS and PHP.

I’m working on the curriculum for my next blogging/web video class, and there will be a little HTML in it, so I’d like to pick a nit. In my standard “HTML for Activists” class, I aim at teaching the students one main thing: the idea of a markup language. Time and time again, I see their faces light up as they “get” what is going on behind the scenes of the web. So I’d introduce Internet-era journalists to HTML, just as in past years I’d have the students spend some time watching a newspaper being laid out. It’s probably good to have some sense of the technological/typographical possibilities and limitations.

(I would put this question to Adam, who is an avid blogger using several platforms: do you think knowing a little HTML helps you? Or are HTML skills irrelevant?)

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