There is something priggish about this passage: "striptease…sex, liquor..ephemeralities, signs". This all sounds comfortingly human. Again, I warm rather to Lamb: "The endless succession of shops, where Fancy (miscalled folly) is supplied with perpetual new gauds and toys, excite in me no puritanical aversion. I gladly behold every appetite supplied with its proper food…."
(I prefer the Tokyo pornographer Nobuyoshi Araki who says: "Without obscenity our cities are dreary places and life is bleak.").
Mumford's description is just one of millions that denounce the city, though most denunciations are routine, lazy, unthought-through. The city is perennially seen as "a problem", inherently problematical, necessarily in need of improvement.
But I simply cannot go along with these automatic assumptions of badness. I look around and I see the problems, of course. Gross inequality, bad drains, poor housing, poverty wretchedness, crime, massive pollution, traffic jams. OK the city is full of problems. But we are talking about the human race here; concentrate millions of them together and expect to see human iniquity writ large. But don't blame the city for this.
These things are always seen in comparison to some halcyon past: The Magnificent Ambersons (in the film of that name) are first seen in a cute little town with Tom Sawyer-type palings and dinky horse-drawn streetcars. Thirty years into the film we walk, with the hero, through an increasingly alien city, filmed now at alarming expressionist angles, to this commentary: our protagonist walks through
"what seemed to be the strange streets of a strange city. The town was growing, changing. it was heaving up in the middle incredibly; it was spreading incredibly and as it heaved it befouled itself and darkened its sky."