The Middle of Everywhere (Ep. 136)
You know how there are people who get talked about a lot and then there are people who actually do a lot?
It strikes me that the same could be said of cities. And I’d put Chicago near the top of any list of cities that have done a lot. From an East Coast view, or West, it can appear that Chicago is the middle of nowhere. In this week’s podcast, we make the argument that Chicago is, in fact, the middle of everywhere. (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
The episode features Thomas Dyja, the author of several books, most recently The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream. He talks about 10 things that Chicago gave the world, some of them surprising and some just forgotten. Dyja isn’t arguing that Chicago is still in its heyday — it is almost certainly not — but he make a persuasive case that it is underappreciated on many dimensions, and that the world would be a very different place if Chicago hadn’t been so busy being Chicago.
Some of the people you’ll encounter in Dyja’s narrated tour: Nelson Algren, Simone de Beauvoir, Milton Friedman, Hugh Hefner, Ray Kroc, Richard Nickel, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Emmett Till, Muddy Waters, and Oprah Winfrey.
You’ll also hear Steve Levitt talking about what makes the University of Chicago economics department unlike any other such department, and why Levitt’s academic career — all that vice! — would have been so boring if he’d wound up at someplace like Princeton instead.
Special thanks to mixmaster David Herman and choreographer Suzie Lechtenberg for digging up archival audio that makes this episode truly sing.