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Place matters
June 2, 2008 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Another Paul Graham essay, Cities and Ambition. This one's one of his better ones though. His claim: each city sends its inhabitants a distinct message about how they should live their lives. New York City sends the message that you should be richer. Cambridge sends the message that you should be smarter. Berkeley sends the message that you should live better. Consequently, the city you live in has a profound effect on what you strive for, what you value, and how you channel your ambitions. Place matters; choose wisely.

I think his claim is without a doubt true, but to what extent? How much does place matter, and for whom? Everyone? Or just people in certain fields?

His point about writers and artists in Paris at the early part of the 20th century strikes me as astute, and also a bit scary: if you're not in the right city at the right time, you could miss your chance at greatness. There's an interesting chicken and egg problem here -- did Paris make the artists or did the artists make Paris?

And what sort of message does your town or city send you?
posted by decoherence (87 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Baton Rouge sens the message that you should move to Houston.
posted by The Giant Squid at 6:55 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sends.
posted by The Giant Squid at 6:56 AM on June 2, 2008


Philly sends the message that we're insecure and live in the shadow of NYC.
posted by fixedgear at 7:00 AM on June 2, 2008


My town sends the message that pedestrians aren't welcome. But a lot of towns send that one.
posted by DU at 7:05 AM on June 2, 2008


Fort Myers sends the message you should be a conservative republican born again christian disdainful of education and absolutely certain of creationism.
posted by notreally at 7:05 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Austin sends the message that you shoulda been here five years ago, back before it got totally and irrevocably lame. As far as I can tell it's been sending that message for the past forty years.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:06 AM on June 2, 2008 [8 favorites]


This town contantly whispers something like "stay, it's way better here than anywhere else". Is that true ?
posted by nicolin at 7:11 AM on June 2, 2008


When you walk through Palo Alto in the evening, you see nothing but the blue glow of TVs. In Cambridge you see shelves full of promising-looking books.

Obviously, if you're talking about what messages cities send to their citizens, you're going to have to rely on anecdotes, but this statement seems to be overflowing with confirmation bias. If you look in most people's homes, you'll see both books and TVs, which the author chooses to notice says more about him than it does about them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:12 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


nebulawindphone: When I lived there, I picked up on a whole lot of that. That, and the prevailing sentiment that Plano is to blame for all of Austin's ills.
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:13 AM on June 2, 2008


Glasgow's message: Nothing in moderation.
posted by nímwunnan at 7:13 AM on June 2, 2008


Oh my god, is Paul Graham saying that different places have different cultures!?

What a stunning insight! Paul Graham is truly a marvel of our time.
posted by delmoi at 7:13 AM on June 2, 2008


Paul Graham sends the message that Paul Graham's choices highlight his extraordinary intellectual prowess.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:13 AM on June 2, 2008 [14 favorites]


My initial reaction was to wonder whether this was across all cities. It's certainly believable that New York City, LA, Paris, etc., could send distinct aspirational messages, but these cities are all magnets for ambitious types, and crucibles of sorts. They're anomalies. Does Grand Rapids, Phoenix, or even Chicago send any real, overarching message about how to live? It's tough to think of more than perhaps a dozen American cities that would have this characteristic. I haven't lived many places, so I could be wrong. But Paul Graham does have a bit of a habit of extrapolating his own particular condition to the population at large, with questionable conclusions.
posted by decoherence at 7:14 AM on June 2, 2008


Workplaces also send a message. Mine has a big technical library, whiteboards in every office, open access to the Internet (with the bizarre exception of Java applets) and plenty of lectures on various topics. Message: Learning is cool.
posted by DU at 7:16 AM on June 2, 2008


Prague sends the message that you need another beer.
posted by StandardObfuscatingProcedure at 7:20 AM on June 2, 2008


Chicago doesn't send messages. We deliver them. You got a problem with dat?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:20 AM on June 2, 2008


There is no coherent whole for any city. In San Francisco, outer Sunset is a million miles away from the financial district, and both are equally different from the Mission. The message NY 'sends' him tells us a lot more about him than it does about NY and makes me suspect he spends most of his time hanging around people culturally and ethnically similar to him (nothing wrong with that, just makes his observations limited).

His example of Florence and Milan was particularly silly. The message that renaissance Florence sent to its inhabitants was "it's much easier to find a paying job making art" here, reason #1 was the Medici family.
posted by bluejayk at 7:20 AM on June 2, 2008


City ____ sends the message that it used to be a diverse, authentic, down-to-earth kinda place to live, with lots of cheap ____ food and a thriving ____ scene, before the yuppies moved in and gentrified it and all the really hip people picked up and moved to ____.
posted by googly at 7:26 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


The message Chicago sends is, "You should be a lawyer."
posted by adamdschneider at 7:27 AM on June 2, 2008


Yeah, if you're looking at the cultures of cities but ignoring class, ethnicity and religion, you're missing a lot. Same goes for ignoring subcultures — was DC punk all about how you should be more of a beltway insider? Was Lou Reed secretly telling us we should make more money?

Then again, I do recognize the feeling that a city itself is telling you something. It is easier to wish you were rich in New York.

I think the last mistake he makes is in assuming that cities only send nice, positive messages. All snark aside, Pittsburgh's was "Don't think you're so fancy — we're all regular people here." I found that refreshing when I lived there, but I doubt it's the sort of spur to greatness that Graham's into.

(The non-snarky version of Austin, I think, would be like Graham's for SF and Berkeley: "You should live better," with widespread disagreement over what "better" means.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:27 AM on June 2, 2008


somerville, ma, sends the message that i should move my car
posted by rmd1023 at 7:29 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Paul Graham is that guy at the bar who is utterly convinced that he is the smartest and most rational person around, and has no qualms about sharing his infinite wisdom with you at great length. After a couple of beers, you realize that he just likes the sound of his own voice and quickly stop paying attention. Two hours go by; as you get up to leave, you notice that he is still bloviating to himself somewhere in the corner. Later, you eat some pizza.
posted by nasreddin at 7:36 AM on June 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


Legend tells that Cambridge is the birthplace of both Douglas Adams and Pink Floyd. I imagine Doctor Who teaching at the university there. I hope to one day unlock this Victorian-era puzzle box that will open a secret portal allowing me to visit that magical city. But I'm not holding my breath.

And the message New York sends is not "you should be richer," it's "you aren't rich enough." It sends that message to everyone universally, no matter how rich they are.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:38 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


It sounds like an argument restating the idea of a modern genius loci , and w/o a citation to Christian Norberg-Schulz.
posted by mfoight at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2008


Prague sends the message that you need another beer.

I'm moving to Prague.
posted by ornate insect at 7:42 AM on June 2, 2008


Oh look! It's a somewhat bastardized version of Richard Florida's work.
posted by thisjax at 7:43 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, exactly. Paul Graham sends the message that he could do research like Richard Florida, but doesn't.
posted by GuyZero at 7:50 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Location does make it easier to succeed, but only in certain specific industries, and often because the city had some advantage. For example, Chicago became so large because it was the ideal location to unload stuff from ships sent up the Great Lakes onto trains headed to points inland. With so much rail in Chicago, it made sense for it to also become the financial center of the region.

Detroit worked so well for automobiles because it was on the Great Lakes and close to sources of the raw materials required to make autos.

Cultural advances seem like they should be less focused on location, especially as the internet breaks down distance in disseminating music and other art.
posted by drezdn at 7:52 AM on June 2, 2008


rmd1023: I'm a little bitter at all the 7am calls this winter for snow emergencies, but I can't stay angry at him because every time he tells me his name is Tom Champion.
posted by (parenthetic me) at 7:55 AM on June 2, 2008


The concept has strong parallels with Aristotle's idea of virtue and the role of the city. In ancient Greece, the City created the Man in its image, the goal being the instillation of the "best" virtues - and every city had a different idea of this.

It seems as though Graham is saying nothing (or at least, not much) more than "Different cities have different cultures." All cultures hold certain things to be virtuous (wealth in NYC, for example).
posted by Picklegnome at 8:01 AM on June 2, 2008


Pastabagel: Cambridge sends the message that it's an American city, too, dammit.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:01 AM on June 2, 2008


Phoenix sends the message that your an idiot for living in the middle of the desert, and that not even a unique culture can grow in a place this @#$@!% hot. I HATE YOU TOWN!
posted by Bageena at 8:09 AM on June 2, 2008


Brisbane sends the message that you should crawl into a cool dark tunnel, then have another beer.

Seriously. We have a brewery like a ten minute walk from the city centre.
posted by Jilder at 8:14 AM on June 2, 2008


Pseudo-intellectual anthropomorphism.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 8:21 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a really bad article about the way the author's preconceptions filter his perception of certain cities.
Too bad, I was hoping for some substance.
posted by signal at 8:25 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


googly, I didn't know you lived in Asheville too!
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:29 AM on June 2, 2008


Bethel sends the message "I am not a city" and "your neighbors are going to murder you in your sleep if you don't mow your lawn soon"

I'm okay with missing my chance at greatness because I'd rather live here than Brooklyn and I was in Seattle in the nineties (hi googly!) and they can never take that away from me.
posted by jessamyn at 8:35 AM on June 2, 2008


If we still lived in Cambridge (the real Cambridge!), we would invite you to come stay with us, Pastabagel.

Dr Who does teach at the university. Actually, there may be a couple of regenerations there at any given time.
posted by jb at 8:36 AM on June 2, 2008


Salt Lake's message is "Iron your shirt, cut your hair, get married in the temple, and for the love of Pete take some Prozac!"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:39 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]




googly, I didn't know you lived in Asheville too!


I'm not googly, but

I grew up in Asheville, went a way for a few years and came back for a few years after everyone told me Asheville newly awesome. Remarkably, I found it just as frustrating and self-important as an adult as I did when I was a teenager, but in completely different ways.

Asheville sends the message that it's okay to panhandle so long as you have a trust fund.
posted by thivaia at 8:46 AM on June 2, 2008


should read: Ashevlle was newly awesome.
posted by thivaia at 8:47 AM on June 2, 2008


Tucson sends out the unmistakable message that you should be cooler. It can't seem to emphasize this enough.
posted by MrVisible at 8:49 AM on June 2, 2008


Never lived in Asheville, mygothlaundry, but I have: lived in DC at the tail end of the harDCore era; lived in Philly at the very beginning of its urban renaissance; lived in Seattle during the grunge era (hi Jessamyn!); lived in Boston when all of its sports teams sucked; lived in SF after the dot-com bust; and now in Montreal, just as its becoming difficult to find a cheap place to live in the Plateau. And everywhere I've lived, people have complained about how much better everything was in the good old days. Hell, I've caught myself saying the same thing on occasion as well. Grumble grumble gentrification grumble get off my grumble lawn gurmble.
posted by googly at 8:50 AM on June 2, 2008


Baltimore - nothing like DC, hipper but blue collar hip. Any A Lists are secrets. Look after your Own.
Seek Slack. Slack is power.
posted by celerystick at 8:52 AM on June 2, 2008


If there was a universal message of NYC that I saw it was cosmopolitanism/elitism/hipness much more than anything to do with money. There's tons of starving artists/actors/musicians/creative types/freelancers/temp workers who are really not all about the money at all, and there's tons of Wall Street douchebags who are all about the money, but those above are much more commonalities.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:59 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Paul, get real.

Born and raised in Cambridge, I moved across the river to Boston about five years ago, in part because of the very people who somehow think they've [intellectually] arrived by living there have turned it into the drap, insipid and uninspiring locale they were trying to avoid. The other reason was because my favorite pub was closing, but that's another issue. I'd like to thank every one of you carpetbaggers for killing it. You've done a hellavuh job.

By the way, as a social center, Cambridge (Harvard and Central Sqs.) was really only relevant in the immediate post-sixties and faced gradual decline thereafter as people heard about how cool it was and just needed to live there, even if it meant evicting the creative class.

If Graham were relevant, outside of his circle, he wouldn't be tossing nickels at starving grad stoonts and trapezing the country making fun of Dale Chihuly.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:13 AM on June 2, 2008


My hometown sends the message that red states don't exist, that Thinkgeek clothing is business casual, that pot stank is a perfectly acceptable cologne and that this is the center of the friggin' universe.

In other words, San Francisco is Never never land for the high school geek table.
posted by Gucky at 9:19 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


My hometown sends the message that if you aren't pushing a baby carriage around then you're taking up space and should move.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:40 AM on June 2, 2008


From the article:

As of this writing, Cambridge seems to be the intellectual capital of the world. I realize that seems a preposterous claim. What makes it true is that it's more preposterous to claim about anywhere else.

Translated into plain English: "There is no intellectual capital of the world."
posted by ferdydurke at 9:48 AM on June 2, 2008


Seattle sends the message that you should lower your impact on the environment and be politically active.

At least that's the message that it has sent to me, and I've certainly seen my behavior change in response.

But I have no doubt that there are plenty of other valid ways to interpret Seattle's message (we have, oh my, a great number of hipsters), and I think distilling a city to a single point of emphasis is pretty silly.
posted by gurple at 9:51 AM on June 2, 2008


Asheville sounds a lot like Ashland.
posted by everichon at 9:59 AM on June 2, 2008


New York City sends the message that you should be richer.

When I moved to New York in 1994, my rent was $390 a month.

Now I pay $940 a month.

That's not a subliminal message, transmitted through the municipal ether, that's an ECONOMIC REALITY we're talking here. Of COURSE you should be richer. It's frickin' EXPENSIVE to live here.

Duh!
posted by jason's_planet at 10:01 AM on June 2, 2008


Portland, Or sends the message you should pay an ungodly amount of money for an overpriced ramshackle shell of a house before some kid from new york or LA buys it just to flip it. Oh, that kid has a trustfund and is in a band.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:05 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Santa Fe - Relax, nobody is paying attention. or Manana, guey.
posted by MNDZ at 10:11 AM on June 2, 2008


Ashland says, "Send us your nekkid activists".

Predictably, Naked Woman is frequently seen at the Co-op. Wearing police tape over her breasts. True!
posted by everichon at 10:11 AM on June 2, 2008


Portland sends the message that you should stop eating the poor animals.

Or possibly that seeing nekkid ladies pole dancing should be your primary hobby.

Or maybe that everyone should travel self-propelled on two wheels.

Or, perhaps this exercise is retarded.
posted by Caduceus at 10:16 AM on June 2, 2008


(That was OR, I was talking about. I need to use preview more.)
posted by Caduceus at 10:18 AM on June 2, 2008


Milwaukee sends the message that you should put your trash on the curb if you'd like it to be picked up.
posted by drezdn at 10:24 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I live in Milwaukee and this place keeps telling me I don't drink enough beer...
posted by Darth Meatloaf at 10:27 AM on June 2, 2008


St. Louis: You should be like everyone else or leave.

Seattle: You should make more money. Also, you should care less about money.

Palo Alto: I dunno yet. But the whole TV-glow vs. Books-on-shelves thing kinda bothers me. If you walk past my house you'll see the glow of the computer monitor, which sometimes is a TV and sometimes a Visual Studio machine and sometimes both. You won't see any books on shelves because my apartment is too small and too expensive to contain bookshelves. All my books are in storage two cities over. I have a lot of books.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:29 AM on June 2, 2008


Predictably, Naked Woman is frequently seen at the Co-op.

From there, after six days and seven nights, you arrive at Zobeide, the white city, well exposed to the moon, with streets wound about themselves as in a skein. They tell this tale of its foundation: men of various nations had an identical dream. They saw a woman running at night through an unknown city; she was seen from behind, with long hair, and she was naked. They dreamed of pursuing her. As they twisted and turned, each of them lost her. After the dream, they set out in search of that city; they never found it, but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream. In laying out the streets, each followed the course of his pursuit; at the spot where they had lost the fugitive's trail, they arranged spaces and walls differently from the dream, so she would be unable to escape again.

This was the city of Zobeide, where they settled, waiting for that scene to be repeated one night. None of them, asleep or awake, ever saw the woman again. The city's streets were streets where they went to work every day, with no link any more to the dreamed chase. Which, for that matter, had long been forgotten.

New men arrived from other lands, having had a dream like theirs, and in the city of Zobeide, they recognized something from the streets of the dream, and they changed the positions of arcades and stairways to resemble more closely the path of the pursued woman and so, at the spot where she had vanished, there would remain no avenue of escape.

The first to arrive could not understand what drew these people to Zobeide, this ugly city, this trap.

Invisible Cities, "Cities & Desire 5," Italo Calvino
posted by xod at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


My "Seattle" should really be "Seattle's Eastside Suburbs." Gurple's "Seattle" is "Seattle City and Freemont."
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2008


Recast without the quasi-spiritual pathetic fallacy:

Cities that are dominated by one particular kind of endeavour, and successful in that endeavour, have an atmosphere that rewards success in that endeavour.

That's blindingly obvious. This essay is tripe. read some Jane Jacobs if you want real insight into the inner life of cities. Or Lewis Mumford. Anyone but this fool.
posted by WPW at 10:36 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually "fool" is a strong word and I'm sure Paul Graham is very smart at what he does, but he should leave urbanism to the lads and lasses who have actual insight into cities.

Xod: That particular passage of Invisible Cities is the one that has stuck longest in my memory as well.
posted by WPW at 10:38 AM on June 2, 2008


Seattle: You should make more money. Also, you should care less about money.

Nicely put.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:49 AM on June 2, 2008


Invisible Cities sends me the message that Italo Calvino was smarter than I am.
posted by everichon at 11:16 AM on June 2, 2008


Another message that Milwaukee sends is that we're all drunks and serial killers. But that's not true.

Or so I've been told.
posted by quin at 1:30 PM on June 2, 2008


Cities are not people. But, like people, cities have their own personalities: in some cases one city has many different personalities -- there are a dozen Londons, a crowd of different New Yorks.

A city is a collection of lives and buildings, and it has identity and personality. Cities exist in location, and in time.

There are good cities -- the ones that welcome you, that seem to care about you, that seem pleased you're in them. There are indifferent cities -- the ones that honestly don't care if you're there or not; cities with their own agendas, the ones that ignore people. There are cities gone bad, and there are places in otherwise healthy cities as rotten and maggoty as windfall apples. There are even cities that seem lost -- some, lacking a centre, feel like they would be happier being elsewhere, somewhere smaller, somewhere easier to understand.

Some cities spread, like cancers or B-movie slime monsters, devouring all in their way, absorbing towns and villages, swallowing boroughs and hamlets, transmuting into boundless conurbations. Other cities shrink -- once prosperous areas empty and fail: buildings empty, windows are boarded up, people leave, and sometimes they cannot even tell you why.

Occasionally I idle time away by wondering what cities would be like, were they people. Manhattan is, in my head, fast-talking, untrusting, well-dressed but unshaven. London is huge and confused. Paris is elegant and attractive, older than she looks. San Francisco is crazy, but harmless, and very friendly.

It's a foolish game: cities aren't people.

Cities exist in location, and they exist in time. Cities accumulate their personalities as time goes by. Manhattan remembers when it was unfashionable farmland. Athens remembers the days when there were those who considered themselves Athenians. There are cities that remember being villages. Other cities -- currently bland, devoid of personality -- are prepared to wait until they have history. Few cities are proud: they know that it's all too often a happy accident, a mere geographical fluke that they exist at all -- a wide harbour, a mountain pass, the confluence of two rivers.

At present, cities stay where they are.

For now cities sleep.

But there are rumblings. Things change. And what if, tomorrow, cities woke, and went walking? If Tokyo engulfed your town? If Vienna came striding over the hill toward you? If the city you inhabit today just upped and left, and you woke tomorrow wrapped in a thin blanket on an empty plain, where Detroit once stood, or Sydney, or Moscow?

Don't ever take a city for granted.

After all, it is bigger than you are; it is older; and it has learned how to wait...


--Neil Gaiman
posted by Rhaomi at 1:32 PM on June 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


All kinds of cities send me messages, whether I am in them or not; And they can be hard to live up to! Xanadu whispers "Have a good time. Or Else." The Emerald City says I should be Victorian and magical (I am neither) but also that I should love Princess Ozma (I do.) Mos Eisley says both "Shoot first" and "Don't shoot first." So far I've compromised by shooting first, but only my foot.
posted by jfuller at 1:33 PM on June 2, 2008


Now that I'm reminded of SimCity 2000, can anyone vouch for the quality of 4000? I wasn't that impressed with 3000...
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:42 PM on June 2, 2008


Lots of you are being pretty uncharitable in your assessment of the essay. It's probably my fault for not framing the essay well. The interesting point is less that different cities encourage different sorts of behaviors (well, duh), but that different cities channel people's ambitions very differently. For a certain segment of ambitious young people whose ambitions may be somewhat diffuse and lacking in real content -- the people who know they want to make a mark on the world, but aren't sure how -- this can play itself out rather dramatically. Whether you move to LA, NYC, or San Francisco can have a big impact on what you do with your life. And not just in the trivial sense that different things will happen to you different places, but also in the sense that a different place will actually make you want to do different things with your life.

The striking contrast between a place like Phoenix and a place like Washington, DC is illustrative in this regard. Phoenix lacks history, lacks an establishment, and lacks the ossified hierarchies of prestige and class that are present in most East Coast cities. Everything's new, and everything feels up for grabs. You get the sense, rightly or wrongly, that you could quite possibly make your mark by starting a small business, something as simple as a restaurant or a car wash, and that your background, family, and degree wouldn't count for squat. This sense is reinforced when you look around and see that many of the biggest and most important people in town are just local yokels who were hard-working and canny. No blue-bloods or Ivy League grads in those seemingly penetrable ranks.

In Washington, the situation couldn't be more different. It's almost inconceivable that anyone without substantial wealth could start a successful restaurant or business on their own, for any number of reasons. Young people's ambitions, instead, are channeled down the most conventional, pre-established, and credential-dependent pathways, like law school, investment banking, and government.

Obviously there are real differences in the sort of opportunities available in the two cities, which do justify different approaches. But those real differences don't come close to fully accounting for the subjective, perceived differences between the places, which wind up having a major influence on the life choices people make. This is all anecdotal of course, but I was hoping to hear other people's reflections on the phenomenon.
posted by decoherence at 1:42 PM on June 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


I have heard that people who are interested in being somehow involved in the filmmaking industry often move to or near the "Hollywood" portion of the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.
posted by Kwine at 2:20 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The message that LA sends is ¿Que pedo?
posted by klangklangston at 2:35 PM on June 2, 2008


Decoherence, your great comment is wiser than the original link. I'll give you my reaction.

I work at the law school at Berkeley. Most of the students are conventionally ambitious. All are whip smart. Within 300 yards of my office is the stadium, dorms for international students, and the oak grove where the tree people live. All of these people are "ambitious," if one means that they are intensely following their goals. But the paths open to each group are very different. "Berkeley" is not a terribly useful way of explaining any of these lives. Nor, I suspect, is "Los Angeles," "New York," or "San Francisco" for most of the people living there.

I think that the international students, law students, football players and tree people would all fit in your category of "a certain segment of ambitious young people whose ambitions may be somewhat diffuse and lacking in real content -- the people who know they want to make a mark on the world, but aren't sure how."

It's like all the New Yorker cartoons of "Californians" from a couple years past. The artists would draw the men with mini ponytails, because we all know that that's what "Californians" are like.
posted by ferdydurke at 3:35 PM on June 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


ferdydurke, thanks for that, as someone who grew up in California. People have no problem telling me what me or my childhood state are like, in detail, but sweepingly and categorically.
posted by vsync at 5:03 PM on June 2, 2008


Eugene, Oregon encourages you to act out against whatever issues you may have with wherever you came from, including Eugene, Oregon. But it also has policemen to keep you from getting too carried away.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:24 PM on June 2, 2008


(I don't think it's a coincidence that I learned of Metafilter in Eugene, Oregon.)
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:26 PM on June 2, 2008


Graham just bit off more than he could chew. Cities are so complex, our experiences of them so idiosyncratic and personal, any earnest armchair analysis is doomed from the start.

I've moved to San Francisco twice now. Each time the city and I collided in different ways - so much so that I might as well have moved to different cities. There was a (complicated) relationship between what I was looking for, jobs I found, subcultures and neighborhoods I sought out, individuals I met, etc...

Given the city's personal/geographic/cultural/economic infinitude, flights of poetic fancy really do get us closer to a real feeling of the thing (Calvino and Gaiman above, so lovely). Of course intensive research doesn't hurt either (wish Graham had done some).
posted by marlys at 8:45 PM on June 2, 2008


The message I get from Chicago: MEAT IS DELICIOUS.
posted by sparkletone at 11:02 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seoul's message: I HATE YOU, PUNY HUMAN.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:07 PM on June 2, 2008


Seattle's message is actually "I will rain on your parade, even if it is in July."
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 2:07 AM on June 3, 2008


Las Vegas: You should have more fun.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:45 AM on June 3, 2008


And New York's message really is that you should have status, not money.
posted by Maias at 5:29 PM on June 3, 2008


Vancouver's message is that you should have bought five years ago and now you need to pretend you love shoeboxes because they're close to the gelato shops and coffee shops.
posted by acoutu at 9:05 PM on June 3, 2008


Just wait 18 months, acoutu.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:30 PM on June 3, 2008


(parenthetic me): yeah. TOM CHAMPION is totally the best name for a civil servant turned superhero ever.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:12 PM on June 5, 2008


One can only hope, Stavros. One can only hope.
posted by acoutu at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2008


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