Friday, 28 August 2015

"Paper Chinatowns"

From imdb and imdb:

Adapted from the bestselling novel by author John Green, the coming-of-age story centres on JJ 'Jake' Gittes, a sixteen-year old private detective who specializes in matrimonial cases.

He is hired by his enigmatic neighbor Margo, who suspects her husband Hollis of having an affair. After Margo takes him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, JJ does what he does best and photographs Hollis with a young girl

Margo suddenly disappears - leaving behind cryptic clues for JJ to decipher. When her husband is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit. The search leads JJ and his quick-witted friends on an exhilarating adventure that is equal parts hilarious and moving.

Ultimately, to track down Margo, Quentin must find a deeper understanding of true friendship - involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city's water supply - and true love.

*DBC Reed says that this one has a Georgist sub-plot: "Chinatown = struggle to divert water to supply new development. Good film too. There is an academic paper that demonstrates that Americans nowadays accept the film's version of the Owen's River takeover as the bare unvarnished truth."


DBC Reed said...

The academic paper is on the Net. Called "Urban Mystery as Urban history", it is by John Walton of Univ of Calif.In the midst of advancing his questionable thesis that the film sensationalised the facts ,(aren't the facts of diverting rivers and farmers bombing aqueducts sensational to begin with?),Walton gives a useful summary of events.
Harry Pollard, the veteran Georgist college instructor, a fellow enthusiast for the film, told me on Landcafe he thought the film was originally entitled "Water and Power", a politically more resonant title. Turns out he was right : the working title on the screenplay by Robert Town was "Water and Power" (which is also a word-play on the LA department involved in the shenanigans : LA Water and Power).
Just goes to show how much land values are artificially created and engineered on a grand scale.The power is in the land, political and economic power that is!

Anonymous said...

'a sixteen-year old private detective who specializes in matrimonial cases'
Sounds mental. Is it an arthouse film?

DBC Reed said...

Another instance where socio-realist-ish art is weirdly revelatory in geo-political terms is Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood "a book I truly despise BTW. Right at the beginning he describes how the area of Kansas round Holcomb, the scene of the Clutter murders, is intensively farmed though it has very "shallow precipitation":not enough rain.It turns out after a bit of research that the whole American High Plains relies on irrigation by the Olgallala aquifer deep underground. Capote himself mentions that the locals rely on tapping natural gas.In other words the land is only able to sustain the present pattern of settlement through engineering intervention as per Los Angeles.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, what it boils down to is that large parts of the world are highly man-made, and farming only works because of massive engineering works and chemicals/fertilizers and selective breeding, tractors and automation, polytunnels etc etc.

PC, it's a mash-up!

DBC Reed said...

@MW Sure. I was having a go at Henry George's idea that land values in the US go up simply as a result of increased population.If massive engineering works have to be done because the land isn't naturally supportive then this slightly shifts the argument for LVT onto the need to pay for them (and maintain them).

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, it's a chicken and egg thing.

City populations can only grow because of all the extra infrastructure and services which are not really required out in the countryside - refuse collection, public transport esp. underground trains and trams, sewers and mains water, electricity and gas supplies etc.

All rural people need is roads and mains electricity, really, they can draw their own water, chop their own firewood, have their own septic tanks and diesel tanks, bury or burn or rot their own rubbish. They don't need massive underground sewers and train tracks.

And rural populations can decline in equal and opposite measure because of all the extra engineering and manufacturing required to enable farming = more crops produced by fewer workers to feed all the townies.

Without any of this, large towns would be uninhabitable and farm output would be much lower and/or labour intensive.

So you've got to look at the whole picture. The 'massive engineering works' i.e. irrigation for farmers costs a tiny fraction of the massive engineering works required to enable towns to grow. And all of this pushes up total productive capacity and hence land values, of course.