Remember how I was so disappointed about This American Life’s decline? Well, here’s a little slice of broadcasting that’s picking up the slack. Did you know that our country would be unrecognizable had it not been for Chicago?
According to Freakanomics host Stephen Dubner, the United States, with its skyscrapers, fast food, and rock and roll sensibility, has this Midwestern burg to thank for, well, just about everything.
In the latest episode of Freakonomics, “The Middle of Everywhere” we hear from the author of The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream.
Thomas Dyja theorizes that sometime between the hyper-activism of the ’60s and the internet and technology boom, we collectively lost our taste as a nation for ‘regular,’ a trait Chicago was built on.
Between World War II and the late ’50s, people began looking for something other than New York’s frenetic pace or LA’s glitz and glamour. They moved there to work, think, and create. You know, regular stuff. And somewhere along the line, regular became less appealing.
The episode ran around 30 minutes or so, and revealed what a formative city Chicago really was.
There were of course the architectural design progenitors: Frank Lloyd Wright had already designed the most emulated neighborhood in America earlier in the century in the suburb of Oak Park. But who knew Wright’s reputation would draw Nazi refugees fleeing Germany after the Bauhaus was closed in 1933.
Chicago was to become the birthplace of the American glass and steel, ultra-modern skyscraper we’ve seen replicated in every major city in the country. That’s right, you can thank Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for that shiny Wells Fargo building jutting into your city’s skyline.
Mahalia Jackson, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters laid the groundwork for rock and roll in the city’s south side. So there was that.
Then there was Ray Kroc, the man behind the McDonald’s franchising model. He got his start there. So in some way, our collective cholesterol levels have their roots in the Second City.
Speaking of Second City, one can’t talk about comedy or Chicago without mentioning SCTV. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are alums of this famous improvisational comedy enterprise. Also an important footnote in this bloggers opinion.
Verdict: Made me want to visit Chicago. It also made me wish this show aired more regularly.