Wake Up and Smell the Money

by Vicki Mayer, author of Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans: The Lure of the Local Film Economy

Probably no one in media studies loves tax policy. Or economic multiplier equations. Or state budget battles. I know that was not my own hook into becoming a doctor of all things fun and entertaining. And yet these things matter more than ever.

For media fans, tax breaks and other incentives are the tinder for what ignites Hollywood media production, and what sets many corporations, developers, economic policy wonks, and speculators on fire. Dedicated public money for a multi-million-dollar film shoot means less risk for studios and Wall Street investors who raise the financing. Public coffers for media infrastructure flip property values and attract schemers to house and entertain the industry’s mobile workforces. In the most ‘successful’ sites outside of Southern California, Hollywood production stokes the hopes for permanent jobs and stable redevelopment; all the while fueling a shadow economy of tradable tax credits and venture capital bubbles.

For myself, though, the language of multipliers became material, more visceral, when I couldn’t park within a block of my own doorstep because there was film crew who had rented my street for a week. I had an infant and groceries. It was summer hot. Everyone and everything was melting while I passed the trailers and catering. Nothing pisses a new mom off like parking. At least, that moment made me think: Who can own the street? How and how much does it cost?

It didn’t take long digging around production spaces that I realized that ‘no parking’ is the burden of only those privileged enough to own space, or even a car for that matter, in a place media producers find desirable and city governments find bankable. This opaque economy of public money for private incentivizing meant borrowing the budgets dedicated to education, health, and social services. Film students, for example, unknowingly traded in increased fees and debts in exchange for the promise they might work their way up a narrow and precarious ladder to full-time work. Unemployed creative workers have found themselves caught between precious few well-paid gigs, explosive rental prices, and the tatters of a safety net for check-ups. After 15 years of seeding Hollywood South, Louisiana is still one of the poorest and most unequal states in the U.S.

So next time we praise the series made in Atlanta, or Austin, or Albuquerque, it might be time for media studies to pay attention to who really got paid for that production, and if they get their money’s worth.

Vicki Mayer is Professor of Communication at Tulane University. She is coeditor of the journal Television & New Media and author or editor of several books and journal articles about media production, creative industries, and cultural work.

A free ebook version of Vicki’s new book, Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans, is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program. Download a copy now.

You can also follow her on Academia.edu.


Behind-the-Scenes at UC Press: The Making of Rebecca Solnit’s Atlas Series

By Lia Tjandra, Art Director with Dore Brown, Principal Editor

A winning team: Lia Tjandra and Dore Brown

Each title in the atlas series had more moving pieces than any other book we’ve published. Multiple authors and contributors produced different parts that were worked on at different times. In our roles of project editor and art director, Dore Brown and I were the hub of the wheel, receiving and disbursing material from artists, cartographers, photographers, writers, copyeditors, proofreaders, museum partners, in-house staff, and, of course, the volume editors. It was a far cry from our usual linear workflow.

One of the first design decisions we made for the atlas trilogy was the trim size. I proposed that each map be shown on a spread and that the spread dimensions be square-ish, the way San Francisco is square-ish. In 2011, after the initial success of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, I briefly entertained the idea that the atlases for New Orleans and New York should have customized trim sizes that fit their respective map footprints. This was totally impractical, of course, and detrimental to the harmonious series look. But it was fun to imagine for a brief time!

Rebecca Solnit, who’s incredibly well connected to people in the artistic and intellectual community, brought in San Francisco artist Alison Pebworth to conceptualize and put on paper the logos for all three atlases. Each atlas has a unique visual identity, brainchild of Alison and Rebecca’s creative partnership. For the final logos, check out the finished books, but you may find these in-process sketches fascinating.

1 AP_infinite
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Infinite City
2 AP_infinite
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Infinite City
3 AP_Unfathomable
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Unfathomable City
4 AP_Unfathomable_
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Unfathomable City
5 AP_Nonstop
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Nonstop Metropolis

For each map, I started work with a base map from the cartographer. The very first map, Monarchs and Queens, had a skeletal, almost wire-frame appearance. We hadn’t developed a look or any map specifications yet, hence what you see here, from Ben Pease, is raw.

Raw map for Monarchs and Queens from Infinite City

Many months later, we had established the general look and feel of the maps, including the color palettes and type specs. Here’s the resulting Monarchs and Queens vector file.

Vector file for Monarchs and Queens map from Infinite City

After the map had been edited, I sent it to Mona Caron, a local mural artist. She tailored her illustration to the parameters of the map to create a vibrant piece of art that raised the map to a whole new level.

Final version of Monarchs and Queens map with illustration from Infinite City

The palette is one of the most important elements of each book. For Infinite City, the palette is muted and chalky. For Unfathomable City, we represented New Orleans with a watery and translucent look. For Nonstop Metropolis, we choose deeper and more intense colors to reflect New York’s energy and complexity.

It takes multiple rounds to get it right, and at least once during the production of each atlas we took all of the in-progress maps and spread them out on tables to see how they were gelling. The final decisions were always made by Rebecca and her coeditors.

Wildlife is one example of the creative process. Take a look at this early sketch and see how wildly the background colors and illustrations by Tino Rodríguez differ from the final version.

1 Wildlife_rough
Rough version of Wildlife map from Nonstop Metropolis, illustrations by Tino Rodríguez
2 Wildlife_Final
Final version of Wildlife map from Nonstop Metropolis, illustrations by Tino Rodríguez

From Nonstop metropolis: viewing a city’s crazy, diverse, complex history as an atlas in The Guardian:

“Tennessee Williams said: ‘America has only three cities, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. All the rest are just Cleveland,’” Solnit explains, before admitting there were other reasons she expanded this undertaking, which began as a commission from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to include the Big Apple and the Big Easy.

“They’re cultural capitals, three port cities on the three coasts of the US,” she says. “New York has been hovering in the wings for a long time. When this book comes out in October, I will be done making atlases for the foreseeable future.”

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Rebecca SnedekerJoshua Jelly-Schapiro, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know New York City, an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

To get a copy of Nonstop Metropolis, visit your local bookstore, or purchase online at IndieBoundAmazonBarnes & Noble, or UC Press (to save 30% on ucpress.edu, enter discount code16M4197 at checkout).

This post is part of a series on the atlas trilogy.

Around the (New York City) World in a Day

This week we’re taking another look at Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas with editor-at-large Garnette Cadogan‘s “City of Walkers” map and essay.

Check in next week for more Nonstop Metropolis sneak peeks.

We are incredibly lucky to have multiple essays by Garnette Cadogan in Nonstop Metropolis. His essay “Walking While Black,” in which he writes about his experiences walking the streets in his Jamaica, New Orleans, and New York City, appeared on Lithub earlier this summer, and continues to resonate widely, in light of the discussion plus realities around ongoing excessive use of force by police towards African American males. It was widely discussed across the internet and media, including PRI, CBC, and In These Times. A version of the essay, “Black and Blue,” appears in the recently released The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. Garnette’s essay in The Fire This Time has received a lot of media attention, including a rave review in the New York Times, as well as a feature in Vice and a panel discussion on The Diane Rehm Show.

His essay in Nonstop Metropolis builds on the theme of walking, as Garnette walks for twenty-four hours through all five boroughs of New York City. We’re pleased to be sharing the map, along with an except of the essay below.

City of Walkers
Click to enlarge

One spring afternoon in 2015 I decided to “visit the world in a day” by walking for twenty-four hours through all five boroughs. Though the idea had the whiff of gimmickry, I thought that it would be a good exercise to have the exhaustibility of the body meet the inexhaustibility of the city. I wanted my body to be aware of its limitations (in energy, that is; I’m regularly made aware of the lines of trespass drawn because of my complexion and have inculcated rules for “walking while black”). Moreover, I thought it’d be fun to walk in a circle around New York to see what it would throw at me—my route was both planned enough and arbitrary enough to make serendipity and vulnerability meet.

I began near the northwest tip of the Bronx, in Riverdale, walking past its kosher delis and Jewish schools; to neighboring Kingsbridge, with its Irish and Dominican population; over to Arthur Avenue, where the Bronx’s Little Italy overflows with Italian American families enjoying culinary delights; across to the Grand Concourse, a thoroughfare modeled on the Champs-Élysées, where the sound of bomba greets me along with its Puerto Rican residents; along to the energetic crossroads in the South Bronx known as the Hub, nicknamed the Times Square of the Bronx, with African and Latino shoppers pouring in and out of the commercial centers; down to Le Petit Sénégal, a stretch on 116th Street in West Harlem where West Africans beckon passerby into shops and restaurants with inviting colors and smells and laughter.

You can pre-order Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas today.

Garnette Cadogan is an essayist and journalist who focuses on history, culture, and the arts. He is editor-at-large for Non-Stop Metropolis: A New York City Atlasedited by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.

A look back at Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

As Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas inches closer to release, we’re taking time to revisit the widely-loved, bestselling first two atlases from Rebecca Solnit and many illustrious contributing essayists and artists. Last week we spent time with Infinite City: A San Francisco AtlasThis week we’re pleased to bring you Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas.

This week we turn our attention to the second “city atlas” from Rebecca Solnit, created with co-author Rebecca Snedeker: Unfathomable City. New Orleans is a city that captures and warps the imagination, is rich in contradictions and enigmas, and is inexhaustible and boundless. Unfathomable City celebrates all that we love, cherish, and mourn about New Orleans.

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Unfathomable City was as well received by the media as Infinite City was. Publishers Weekly called it a “vivid portrait of one of America’s most culturally rich city” in its starred review. New Orlean’s Times-Picayune said it was an “atlas-with-attitude,” as well as naming it one of the top 10 books of 2013 for New Orleans readers.

Click to enlarge

Rebecca Solnit’s co-author Rebecca Snedeker is a New Orleans native and Emmy Award winning documentary producer and filmmaker. She is also currently the Executive Director for the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University. How they came to collaborate, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune tells it:

The editors met, in classic New Orleans fashion, when friends introduced them at Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar. Solnit was here to research a book about community responses to disaster. Snedeker invited the distinguished visitor to stay at her house if work brought her back to town.

“For me, it was natural to extend that invitation,” Snedeker said. “Part of my campaign for living in New Orleans is to welcome outside people and their ideas. I think that’s part of living a healthy and inspired life while remaining dug in here. As a port city, our prosperity always came from importing and exporting — not just cargo, but also ideas.”

You can purchase Unfathomable City, as well as pre-order Nonstop Metropolis (coming Oct. ’16) on our website and wherever books are sold.

Rebecca Solnit is the author of many books, including Savage Dreams, Storming the Gates of Paradise, and Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, all from UC Press.

Rebecca Snedeker is an Emmy Award–winning independent filmmaker and native New Orleanian.



Freedom Struggles and the Rise of the Neoliberal State

In the last 40 years millions of jobs in the United states have been lost due to capital flight and deindustrialization. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed for all workers, but especially Black workers. Structural joblessness, poverty, and homelessness have become permanent features of the political economy. Meanwhile, prison populations have exploded. In Incarcerating the Crisis Jordan T. Camp traces the rise of the neoliberal carceral state through a series of historical moments in US history—the Watts insurrection in 1965, the Detroit rebellion in 1967, the Attica uprising in 1971, and the Los Angeles revolt in 1992, and events in post-Katrina New Orleans in 2005.

The carceral population grew from two hundred thousand people in the late 1960s to more than 2.4 million people in the 2000s. Currently, one in thirty-five, or 6.9 million adults in the United States, are in jail or prison, or on parole or probation. Increased spending on incarceration has occurred alongside the reduction of expenditures for public education, transportation, health care, and public-sector employment. Prison expansion has coincided with a shift in the racial composition of prisoners from majority white to almost 70 percent people of color. The unemployed, underemployed, and never-employed Black and Latino poor have been incarcerated at disproportionate rates. With the highest rate of incarceration on the planet, the United States currently incarcerates Black people at higher rates than South Africa did before the end of apartheid. All of these numbers bespeak a collision of race, class, and carceral state power without historical precedent, but certainly not without historical explanation.

Jordan T. Camp is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.


UC Press Books in the News

We’re kicking off a recurring series of posts today which highlight UC Press books of note that have been featured recently in the media. Since we continually strive to publish works that will be relevant for the long term, note that many of the titles highlighted below are from the recent past. Additionally, we’ll be highlighting forthcoming releases (and in this installment: a very exciting, early preview of Rebecca Solnit‘s newest book, coming fall 2016).

Lead Wars

Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of Children co-author Gerald Markowitz was interviewed on Boston NPR affiliate station WBUR’s “On Point with Tom Ashbrook“, discussing how “Our National Lead Problem is Bigger Than Flint.”

Why Busing Failed

Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation (coming April 2016) author Matt Delmont wrote an article/opinion piece for Salon.com on the anniversary of what is considered the largest civil rights protest in US history (NYC, 1964), during which 460,000 students took part in a one-day school boycott to call for improved schools and educational equality, and to protest school segregation.

Scholar Denied

The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology by Aldon Morris was reviewed in last month’s Berkeley Journal of Sociology by Boston University Professor Julian Go. Go states that “Du Bois is often noted to be the first “black” sociologist, but Morris’ point here is that Du Bois more rightfully deserves to be among the first empirical sociologists, period.”

Infinite City

A mention in the New York Times of the highly anticipated third volume in Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Atlas’ series, Nonstop Metropolis: A New York Atlas (the previous bestselling volumes being Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas and Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas), appeared on February 3rd. Nonstop Metropolis ties into the Queens Museum‘s biannual International exhibition which “will take New York City as its subject, and Ms. Solnit will organize a series of unorthodox works and public programs with the artists Mariam Ghani and Duke Riley.


New UC Press Podcast: The Rebeccas Talk Unfathomable City

Unfathomable CityIn the latest episode of the UC Press Podcast, Unfathomable City authors Rebecca Snedeker and Rebecca Solnit share how they became interested in making a book of maps about New Orleans, and what their respective “insider” and “outsider” statuses bring to the project. Like the bestselling Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, this book is a brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, one that provides a vivid, complex look at the multi-faceted nature of New Orleans, a city replete with contradictions.

In the podcast, the authors discuss the literal and metaphorical implications of the city’s status as a port, what they love about their favorite maps, and why walking down a street in New Orleans feels so different from walking down a street in the Bay Area.

Listen to the podcast now 

Rebecca Solnit on Landscapes of the Self in Harper’s

Rebecca Solnit. © Sallie Dean Shatz

Head over to Harper’s Magazine to read a six-question interview with Rebecca Solnit, in which she talks about her two new books, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (UC Press) and The Faraway Nearby (Viking), and her continuing project to define the self in terms of physical, natural, political, or communal spaces.

Solnit is particularly interested in showing the grander scope of personal narratives—the way people are “interfused with the natural world, biologically and psychically.” She makes the point, too, that often “our metaphors and analogies are drawn from spaces, the natural world, the animal world, and our own bodies, and all these things can also represent each other. […] We need the natural and sensual world not only for ecological, biological, and maybe spiritual reasons, but for intellectual and imaginative ones.”

Unfathomable City, co-authored with filmmaker and native New Orleanian Rebecca Snedeker, uses essays and 22 full-color two-page-spread maps to make these imaginative connections and plumb the depths of New Orleans. The maps’ precision and specificity shift our notions of the Mississippi, the Caribbean, Mardi Gras, jazz, soils and trees, generational roots, and many other subjects, and expand our ideas of how any city is imagined and experienced.

Be sure to check out the map, “Oil and Water: Extracting Petroleum, Exterminating Nature” at Harper’s, which will be included in the finished book.

Infinite City, an atlas that examines the many layers of meaning in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the previous book in the series.

New Orleans Suite Authors Talk Post-Katrina Music with UC Santa Cruz

New Orleans Suite cover imageUC Santa Cruz recently interviewed Eric Porter, Professor of History and American Studies, and Lewis Watts, professor of Art, about their new book, New Orleans Suite: Music and Culture in Transition. Using both visual evidence and the written word, Watts and Porter pay homage to the city, its region, and its residents, by mapping recent and often contradictory social and cultural transformations, and seeking to counter inadequate and often pejorative accounts of the people and place that give New Orleans its soul.

Porter describes the ambitions of the work, noting that “New Orleans Suite is not merely a book about Katrina … Through Lewis’s photographs and my written sections, we consider how the storm was both a transformative force and a vehicle that enabled longstanding processes to come into view.”

Read the full interview and see photographs from the book at UC Santa Cruz Newscenter.