Dan Rubin: Hooting the Concept. Howling the Execution.

Daniel Rubin’s column on the Inquirer’s Arts & Entertainment page today is a great concept, but it doesn’t go far enough. In the column, Rubin shares the suggestions of a University of Pennsylvania architectural historian named George Thomas. The city, Rubin writes, has been trying to bring conventioneers here by touting the same old Philadelphia clichés: we have the liberty bell, and the declaration of independence was signed here, et cetera.

But Rubin suggests looking at some of the other revolutions that Thomas says began in Philadelphia. His column then moves quickly through seven historical moments, from the Quakers’ religious tolerance hundreds of years ago to the invention of the first computer, at Penn, in 1946. He spends a couple sentences on each of the people and events, and then the column is done. Rubin hints at the richness of Philadelphia’s history, and encourages exploration of its lesser-known monuments, but doesn’t take the next step to actually explore them himself. I HOOT the concept but HOWL the execution:

The question Philadelphia ought to ask itself isn’t how do we fill hotel beds or convention rooms? It’s “how do we recapture our creative mojo,” historian Thomas said, “be a place that is about the future?”

Though the writing seems rushed and the grammar is bad, Rubin is right. We should be interested in our creative legacy and our creative vitality, and less concerned with bringing tourists to the city. Everyone knows the Liberty Bell is here; we don’t need to keep talking about it. There’s plenty more to talk about. I just wish Rubin had done a better job of starting the conversation.

– Jared Brey

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