New and Old #69
Friday roundup and commentary
I came across this via McElroy’s heavily illustrated Twitter thread, but here’s the actual piece (also heavily illustrated).
In the wilderness of British Columbia, a two hour drive from any town with cell reception, sits a ghost town.
Not only a ghost town, but a ghost town that was built for $50 million in 1981, only to be shut down a year later.
Not only that, but a ghost town that was built for families, from the community centre to the curling rink, the grocery store to the pub.
Disaster? Crime scene? Social engineering failure? He leaves some suspense.
What happened was it was a failed company town, essentially. But instead of being abandoned, it was preserved, and a (different) company now owns and maintains it—and offers paid tours:
The caretakers allow a few dozen guests each year, through a former University of Northern B.C. program coordinator who organizes tours.
Which means, for a fee, you can drive two hours down a barely passable road. The caretakers will open the locked gates, and let you into a time capsule that you can sleep in overnight.
The longer Kitsault has survived, the stranger it seems, and the more interesting it becomes: a replica of a 1980s village in the middle of nowhere might have been a curiosity in 2002, but in 2022 it’s downright historic.
Man. I missed America’s last Howard Johnson’s restaurant. I might have to go north of the border now.
In a display of history and nostalgia, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles is memorializing a fading cuisine: the Jewish delicatessen….
This attic’s worth of artifacts sprawls through “‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli,” an exhibit chronicling the rise of that restaurant culture in America. It is by all indications the most sweeping survey of this culinary institution attempted by a major museum.
This detail is interesting: the exhibit “surveys the story of immigration as a force behind changing American tastes: The pushcarts, as the curators note, foreshadowed the food trucks now operated by a new generation of immigrants.”
Here the Jewish deli is framed as an American concept, originating in New York City, and replicating elsewhere as Jews moved throughout the country.
The idea of cuisines or restaurant concepts disappearing is interesting; I wrote about it here. As I’ve put it before, restaurants are not widgets, but contingent things.
I claim that we’ve failed to fully grasp that urbanization is a relentless, glacial social force that transforms entire societies and, in the process, generates cultural and political polarization by segregating populations along the lines of the traits that make individuals more or less responsive to the incentives that draw people to the city.
Interesting thesis. This is a paper, and the webpage linked is a summary. Check it out if that sounds interesting to you too!
With this new vision for Kodak, the company has gone from laying off personnel to cope with a shrinking film industry, to working overtime to fill nearly 100 vacancies. That is a remarkable turnaround.
What happened was it turns out the old machines used to produce camera film can, with minor retooling, produce film-like components for large batteries. It’s a really neat window into how large-scale manufacturing works.
A similar story a few years back involved the National Audio Company, which was attempting to start manufacturing cassette tape again. They acquired machines that had been in use for making credit card magnetic strips, but were for sale because credit cards mostly no longer use magnetic strips. The twist? Long ago, those same machines had been designed to make cassette tape, but they’d been retooled for credit card strips as the tape market shrank a couple of decades ago!
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