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Why Does Hollywood Hate the Suburbs?
December 29, 2008 11:01 AM   Subscribe

In defense of suburbs: "Revolutionary Road," based on Richard Yates's 1961 novel of the same name, is the latest entry in a long stream of art that portrays the American suburbs as the physical correlative to spiritual and mental death.
posted by kliuless (172 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The author of the WSJ article ought to stop spewing stereotypes and read some Jane Jacobs.
posted by exogenous at 11:05 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Having just been back to my suburban hometown for the holidays, I have to say that I can imagine little, other than an acutal gun to my head, which would induce me to move back to the suburbs.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:06 AM on December 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


I just finished reading Revolutionary Road last night. I don't think that Yates reserves his opprobrium for the suburbs. Every place ends up uniformly grim -- the suburbs, the imagined utopian, Europe, and New York City. The book is really about spiritually dead people, not spiritually dead places.
posted by footnote at 11:06 AM on December 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


I am old enough to have personally met Yates when visited a mutual friend at Rutgers. I have lived in a number of suburbs and a number of cities...each has its pros and its minuses. Might I simply say that if you read the books that are anti-suburb you will discover that none of the writers lived in the burbs when they wrote their books. ps: I had also lived in the suburb where this new film of the novel was shot--Trumbull, Connecticut.
posted by Postroad at 11:12 AM on December 29, 2008


One could make a reasonable case that many different ills facing the USA today—from global warming to a breakdown in a shared sense of community—can be chalked up to suburbanization.

Leave it to the WSJ to defend it.

Actually, the article doesn't so much defend the suburbs as suggest that their critics are effete urban intellectuals, whose criticism is therefore irrelevant.
posted by adamrice at 11:12 AM on December 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


OH HI IS THIS THE PLACE WHERE IT'S OK TO INSULT PEOPLE WHO HAVE DIFFERENT PRIORITIES AND LIVE IN A DIFFERENT PLACE THAN I DO
posted by DU at 11:15 AM on December 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


effete urban intellectuals:
Having just been back to my suburban hometown for the holidays, I have to say that I can imagine little, other than an acutal gun to my head, which would induce me to move back to the suburbs.
Just sayin'.
posted by !Jim at 11:18 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


DU: Are you referring to the author of the article, or the artists to which he refers? Or both?
posted by leotrotsky at 11:19 AM on December 29, 2008


From the WSJ article: over 50 years of antisuburban sentiment in American culture.

Have I been too busy being raised in and watching my entire extended family live in suburbs to notice this antipathy?
posted by 7segment at 11:21 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


A little googling tells me that the author of the article was born in the Bronx and lives in NYC with his wife and son.
posted by hermitosis at 11:21 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, let me put it this way... I lived for twenty years in tiny Manhattan apartments in all kinds of neighborhoods, in good times and bad. Today, I live in a good sized house, with huge windows, wonderful views, on an acre and a half lot with lawn, garden and mulchpile, shaded by magnificent specimen trees, way out in suburban sprawlsville -- and I'll tell you, it's spectacular. I keep company with brilliant, accomplished men and women, live a five-minute drive from work, and have access to all the culture and conversation I could ever want. In Manhattan, I lived a life of deprivation, without seasons, without sunsets, and without money from having to pay (first) crushing rents, and (later) an enormous co-op price. Now, I live like a king, surrounded by nature, only a short drive from every kind of store you could want, with wonderful places to walk and jog, and bicycle, not to mention lakes and rivers and parks just minutes away. And let me tell you, what I paid for my house, and my current cost of living, is nothing compared to what I was throwing away in Manhattan. Friends, this is how human beings were meant to live. Right this minute, I'm looking out my huge window, at a vista of pine and oak trees, and a broad, beautiful lawn, where a family of deer were standing only half an hour ago. The sun is shining. I'm getting ready to stroll down my long driveway to the mailbox and see what Amazon has for me today, and I feel sorry for all you poor suckers in living in downtowns across American. Here, in suburbia, my soul has expanded and I wake with joy. (Okay, there is one shortcoming. My landscapers are taking advantage of the nice day to finish blowing the leaves out of the back yard. It's a bit noisy at the moment.)
posted by Faze at 11:22 AM on December 29, 2008 [38 favorites]


The issue isn't the suburbs - it's that everyone in the suburbs seems to hate all other people. That's my conclusions having moved from central Toronto to a quintessential US suburb. It's a beautiful place for misanthropes.
posted by GuyZero at 11:26 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


For righteous LOLSUBURB fury, you could do worse than James Howard Kunstler - particularly his "Eyesore of the Month".
posted by Joe Beese at 11:30 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Faze has just proven what I thought up until now to be an impossible thesis: that if you have enough money, you can afford to live very, very well.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:32 AM on December 29, 2008 [32 favorites]


There are suburbs and there are suburbs; just as there is Suburbia and there is Suburbia.

From the trailer I saw, Revolutionary Road wasn't so much about the suburbs themselves as it was about the 1950's version of conformist suburbia that drove almost everyone who took part in it nuts. But, from my understanding, nearly every social group of the 1950's was just as conformist in its own way, so the 1950's suburbia is hardly alone in that.

This ain't to say that I personally would see myself living in the suburbs unless there were a hugely persuasive reason. But that's more a function of who I am than of the suburbs themselves. fortunately, though, I have that choice -- in the 1950's I wouldn't have had it.

Anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:34 AM on December 29, 2008




I just finished reading Revolutionary Road last night. I don't think that Yates reserves his opprobrium for the suburbs. Every place ends up uniformly grim -- the suburbs, the imagined utopian, Europe, and New York City. The book is really about spiritually dead people, not spiritually dead places.


Posted again for getting the fucking point. Frank is such a defensive little creep and April aint' much better, blaming everyone else for her problems. Isn't half the theme that their plan to move to France is completely impossible because their marriage is a viper's nest of repression, disapointment, and they can't be happy anywhere?
posted by The Whelk at 11:34 AM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Today, I live in a good sized house, with huge windows, wonderful views, on an acre and a half lot with lawn, garden and mulchpile, shaded by magnificent specimen trees

You know, you can have that in the urban core of a good-sized city, too. (Well, except for the acre and a half of lawn. But who the fuck needs an acre and a half of bermuda grass? What're you, grazing sheep?) But with the added advantage of a working public transit system and the convenience of being a short WALK from every kind of store you can imagine.
posted by dersins at 11:34 AM on December 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


Posted again for getting the fucking point. Frank is such a defensive little creep and April aint' much better, blaming everyone else for her problems. Isn't half the theme that their plan to move to France is completely impossible because their marriage is a viper's nest of repression, disapointment, and they can't be happy anywhere?

Exactly, thanks.
The crazy brother was (semi-ham-handedly, in the movie anyway) really the only sane person chiming in on it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2008


I'm not even sure it makes sense to talk about "the suburbs" as if all American suburbs were exactly the same. Some suburbs and architecturally boring and environmentally unsustainable, and some suburbs are lovely and easy to get around on foot or by public transit. I've been to suburbs that made me want to run screaming for Manhattan as quickly as possible, and I've been to suburbs that seemed like really nice places to live. Of course, most of the latter suburbs are very expensive, but I'm not sure that has to be the case. It might be possible to build more suburbs on the plan of Maplewood, NJ or Oak Park, IL: places that have sidewalks and decent local retail and good public transit to the city.

I do get pretty bored of knee-jerk anti-suburban bias. It's not original, and it's not especially enlightening. I thought American Beauty was pretty insufferable for that reason.
posted by craichead at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2008 [14 favorites]


There's no love lost between me and the burbs, but American Beauty was a silly cartoon of suburbia made by people that I would bet real money haven't actually, ya know, lived in a suburb ever.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


...who the fuck needs an acre and a half of bermuda grass?

Somebody with kids or pets? "Go to the park" is not an option if the reason I'm sending them outside is so I can get some work done in the house.

Someone who wants to garden without paying enormous community gardening fees or have to take the subway to get a fresh tomato?

Somebody who just prefers to have a little space between their family and the neighbors?
posted by DU at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I thought American Beauty was pretty insufferable for that reason.

I thought American Beauty was insufferable for being a ham-fisted cartoon of Revolutionary Road.
posted by The Whelk at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2008


Faze, where exactly do you live now? My guess is Cleveland from your tags, or are you still in the NYC area?
posted by leotrotsky at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2008


jinx.
posted by The Whelk at 11:42 AM on December 29, 2008


Somebody who just prefers to have a little space between their family and the neighbors?

QED.
posted by dersins at 11:42 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


You now owe me two Cokes, sir. ;)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:42 AM on December 29, 2008


does anyone actually like the suburbs?
posted by noriyori at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2008


QED.

Yes, if you define living cheek by jowl with strangers as a virtue, then NOT doing so will be evil.
posted by DU at 11:45 AM on December 29, 2008


I can do without Siegel's knee-jerk denigration of "literary intellectuals and Paris Review interns" (and BTW, I see that his wikipedia entry lists him as a "cultural critic" - how much more of a literary intellectual can you get than that?). What good analysis there is in that essay is said much better in Nation of Rebels.
posted by googly at 11:47 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


For righteous LOLSUBURB fury, you could do worse than James Howard Kunstler - particularly his "Eyesore of the Month".

From his August Eyesore, a fairly discreet tattoo parlor:
The activity taking place here...is a symptom of the growing barbarism in American life. Tattooing has traditionally been a marginal activity among civilized people, the calling card of cannibals, sailors, and whores. The appropriate place for it is on the margins, in the back alleys, the skid rows. The mainstreaming of tattoos (on main street) is a harbinger of social dysfunction.
This seems less LOLSUBURB than H8TEVERYTHING.
posted by Iridic at 11:47 AM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


I love how the options in this thread seem to be "downtown Manhattan" or "soulless suburb." Fact is, if you had a job in Erie, Pennsylvania, or Canton, Ohio, I'm sure you'd be looking at getting a house in a suburb and you'd be damn happy to live there.
posted by billysumday at 11:48 AM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is going to sound really off the wall, crazy, absurd, but here goes: if you like the suburbs, then live there if you want; if you prefer the city, then live there if you want. And then mind your own fucking business and worry about your own life rather than that of people that have made different choice than you have made.
posted by Postroad at 11:49 AM on December 29, 2008 [16 favorites]


cheek by jowl with strangers

QED II: Electric Boogaloo
posted by dersins at 11:51 AM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's been a while since I read the book, and I'm not planning to watch the movie, which is by all accounts a dismal failure as an adaptation, but what a facile misreading this WSJ hack has inexplicably chosen to embarrass himself by sharing. As The Whelk points out, the characters are far more culpable for their unhappiness than the suburbs; anybody who finishes the book and thinks that anything would have been better if Frank and April had made it to Paris has missed the point. (In fact, their "effete urban intellectual" contempt for suburbia and its (other) inhabitants is pretty clearly intended to be taken as evidence of the flawed nature that makes their unhappiness inevitable.) This guy seems to think that Yates intended them as some sort of noble martyrs.
posted by enn at 11:53 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


enn, you should at least Netflix the movie at some point if for no other reason than to see Winslet's performance. She's never been better IMHO.

DiCaprio isnt bad, but his physicality really limits his range as an actor, which is a shame as there's not much he can do about it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:56 AM on December 29, 2008


Suburbs are more urban than they are rural. Amenities like indoor plumbing, running water, and paved streets reached urban areas and the suburbs long before they were introduced to rural areas. I don't see many suburbanites expressing a desire to "get back to the land," although some of them wish they were rednecks. In the context of postwar American history, however, the main factor distinguishing the urban from the suburban is suburbia's lack of diversity, both racially and otherwise. As soon as suburbs become more tolerant of diversity, they become much less stultifying as places to live, and a lot of the postwar critiques of suburban life don't seem to apply as much.
posted by jonp72 at 11:57 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Suburbs aren't for me. I don't like them. But really I don't want to say that there's something wrong with them. People live there because they like too. It's favorite color not right or wrong. The thing that I do have a problem with is government policy favoring suburban interests from having a tax code that subsidizes home ownership, mandating parking minimums in urban areas etc. I think suburban interests get overrepresented. But I'm not going to elevate a boxers or briefs situation to a moral question.
posted by I Foody at 11:59 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


(In fact, their "effete urban intellectual" contempt for suburbia and its (other) inhabitants is pretty clearly intended to be taken as evidence of the flawed nature that makes their unhappiness inevitable.)

Yah, aren't Frank and Alice snippy "bohemians" at the start of their relationship, mocking the squares while among them, and this petty little sniping infects everything they do?

Side Rant: God, oh god, how I hate these tired contrarian-anti-contrarian essays all over the place . Never trust anyone who's job is to have an opinion every day.

"By the way, I'm aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it, so don't bother pointing that out. "
posted by The Whelk at 12:00 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


(And if you doubt Yates's ability to find despair, loneliness, failure, and inevitable doom anywhere, The Easter Parade doesn't exactly make New York City out to be a barrel of laughs either.)
posted by enn at 12:00 PM on December 29, 2008


The issue isn't the suburbs - it's that everyone in the suburbs seems to hate all other people. That's my conclusions having moved from central Toronto to a quintessential US suburb. It's a beautiful place for misanthropes.

Sounds like a fitting place for most mefites
posted by vorpal bunny at 12:01 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


As soon as suburbs become more tolerant of diversity, they become much less stultifying as places to live, and a lot of the postwar critiques of suburban life don't seem to apply as much.

According to last week's Mercury, Sunnyvale has something like 44% of its population born outside of the US. Sunnyvale remains pretty stultifying. Though I'm trying to figure out how to enjoy it.
posted by GuyZero at 12:03 PM on December 29, 2008


I suppose if you like megachurches and soccer games and don't mind that your children's experience of culture will be limited to internet porn and getting drunk in parking lots, the suburbs has its appeal.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:03 PM on December 29, 2008 [16 favorites]


Really? These two and not Christopher Hitchens for the Atlantic: Suburbs of our Discontent ?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:03 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Henry David Thoreau were alive today, he'd live in the suburbs and love it. (Even in his day, Walden Pond was far from isolated.) The suburbs are Emersonian, Melvilian ("Pierre" was his farewell to urban fantasies), Alcottian -- they are the new Concord, where America's soul realizes itself in beautiful libraries, attractive churches, modernistic temples and synagogues, and the interior of automobiles, as we zip from one place to another, listening to music more pleasingly and intimately than in any urban concert hall. I'm not rich, by any means. I've lived in working class suburbs where I've had to catch my breath from the sheer openness and beauty of the sky overhead, the walkability, the closeness of lightning storms, the dusty smell of our little garage, the solitude, if you want it, the general happiness of everyone you meet, and the absence of noisy neighbors above and below. In the city, you are held hostage by your neighbors. If the person overhead likes to listen to rap music at 3 in the morning, you have no recourse but to suffer it. I not only enjoy silence in the middle of the night, I can walk out into the middle of the lawn in the moonlight, and hold very still, and listen to the stars overhead. Even in a working class suburb, where the houses are an arms breadth away, you're still (conceptually) a million miles away from that city-dwellers pile of human lives stacked one atop the other, each in his little slot, each funneled out to work in the morning. A very wise person once pointed out to me on night as we drove north out of Manhattan and through the Bronx: "Look at all those lighted windows in all those apartments. Thousands of them, hundreds of thousands of them. What do you think they're doing in there? I'll tell you what they're doing. They're watching television. That's what people do in New York City. Living in a nice apartment in New York just means having a better place to watch television." Today, of course, in addition to television, they're using the internet. Out here in the suburbs, however, I am playing the piano and singing at the top of my voice, and disturbing no one... Maybe I'll get in my car and drive around and listen to music, or stop in at Trader Joes (no lines out here, you just run in and out), or go work out in my little home gym in the garage. This is life, free and unconstricted. Living in Manhattan was like living in prison.
posted by Faze at 12:08 PM on December 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


I suppose if you like megachurches and soccer games and don't mind that your children's experience of culture will be limited to internet porn and getting drunk in parking lots, the suburbs has its appeal.

Right, because suburbs are all the same! I think that's been pretty well established by now.
posted by billysumday at 12:10 PM on December 29, 2008


I think we can all agree that suburban homeowners' associations are soul-sucking pits of mediocrity, despair and sometimes evil. I think we can also agree that American Beauty sucked in many, many ways.

Finally, I think we can also agree that suburban kids can't dance, but they mostly give good head, so in the end it's a wash.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:19 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I suppose they have picayune difference, if you're interested in varieties of creature comfort goals. As for me, they only numb my soul and make it hard for me to see.

Besides, the charcole burning everywhere hurts my eyes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:21 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


man, I had a much longer comment all written out here, but you know what? fuck it.

this article is supremely stupid.

Most of the people leaving the cities for the suburbs in the 1950s were tradespeople, modest businessmen, teachers and the like. They were, in other words, members of the middle-class, the impassioned rejection of which has been the chief rite de passage of the modern American artist and intellectual. With the growth of suburban towns, the liberal American intellectual now had a concrete geography to house his acute sense of outrage.

oh man! the liberal american intellectual hates the working man! Take THAT, Steinbeck!

You know, I should have known what I was in for when I saw it was the Wall Street Journal, now owned by Rupert Murdoch.
posted by shmegegge at 12:24 PM on December 29, 2008


I find generally the people who have a fierce disdain for the idea of the suburbs tend to be the same types who make a big deal about how much they hate religion because their parents made them go to church as a kid. They tend to be small-town converts who saw their parents as 'sad' or 'miserable' because they didn't want to be on TV or because they had simple pursuits. The people who make the biggest noise about the city are usually these same types, talking about how it's "where the action is", or "where the people are", etc. Often it'll be some vague starry-eyed musing about how everyone knows you have to move to NYC or LA to "make it", (without ever really clarifying what that means to them).

The mindset seems to be rooted less in a contempt for suburbia and more reflective of a deeper insecurity: such people cannot fathom being content with sitting in a house in the "middle of nowhere" and watching the game on tv, maybe going down to the store on weekends, that sort of thing. They can't fathom an existence where being seen and part of the action isn't the central focus of one's being, and the very idea seems terrifying to them.

Best I can figure anyhow, I live in VA a bit outside of DC, that's most of what I run into around here.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:28 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Now, I live like a king, surrounded by nature

You have been misinformed as to how kings live. I just had whitefish salad on a toasted bagel and excellent deli coffee delivered in five minutes to my spacious quiet apartment on Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village — the lease to which I got from my parents, like any petit royale.

(Don't worry about me though, I spend the hot half of each year living in a shack in the woods in the nicest little beach town on Cape Cod, one-clicking books and power tools and KY Liquid from Amazon Prime just like hoi suburban polloi.)

I feel sorry for all you poor suckers living in downtowns

Those grapes you couldn't afford? Turns out they're totally sweet.
posted by Now I'm Prune Tracy! at 12:30 PM on December 29, 2008 [16 favorites]


the only kind of suburbs i like are the kind that were built 100 years ago. i live in a neighborhood that was a "streetcar suburb" of the city i live in (but is inside the city limits). so it's not far flung, the houses are generally unique, people have yards, and we're still on the edge of town. and the edge of town means just that: town ends just a few blocks away. there's a cemetery and then there's nothing but woods and fields and wetland with a few houses here and there.

i grew up in the Chicago suburbs. i never felt like i could breathe at all until i fled, which happened as soon as i had the means. it's true that many of the people who live there are primarily motivated by a need to escape other people (especially black people). it wasn't until recently that i realized that my entire family has always lived in the very whitest places they could afford. pathetic.

a yard made up of perfectly coifed lawn that needs to be manicured by paid help is not really a yard. it's a fashion statement. and when i visit my parents, i notice that no one actually spends any time in them at all anymore, now that they pay other people to make them look like all their neighbors' landscaping. stultifying insanity. i agree with Kunstler's Geography of Nowhere.
posted by RedEmma at 12:34 PM on December 29, 2008


"Look at all those lighted windows in all those apartments. Thousands of them, hundreds of thousands of them. What do you think they're doing in there? I'll tell you what they're doing. They're watching television. That's what people do in New York City. Living in a nice apartment in New York just means having a better place to watch television."

Ah, I didn't know that; I'm rarely in NYC. See, in Philadelphia, we're playing video games with our friends while finishing off bottles of cheap wine, because nobody has to drive to get home. That or our windows aren't lit because we're out at music venues we easily walked to. Gosh, I wonder if people in other cities do other things? Cultural differences are interesting!
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:37 PM on December 29, 2008


I find generally the people who have a fierce disdain for the idea of the suburbs tend to be the same types who make a big deal about how much they hate religion because their parents made them go to church as a kid.

I hate the suburbs because it's a fucking bore, man.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:38 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, suburbs are awful. I hope we can all agree that getting rid of them and having everyone live downtown would be better. All we need to do is build apartment buildings 200 stories tall, increase public transit by a factor of 10, and dedicate the first 5 stories of every building to mom&pop shops.
posted by aapep at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2008


I have been agitating for arcologies for years.

By "agititating," of course I mean I have been occasionally fantasizing about them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:42 PM on December 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


There is no accounting for taste.
posted by everichon at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2008


Faze sure likes driving.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also: vi > emacs, am I not correct?
posted by everichon at 12:44 PM on December 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


Hating soul-killing Suburbia is so 1961. Hating unsustainable Exurbia, a.k.a. Edge Cities, is the wave of the future.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Living in Manhattan was like living in prison.

The Faze doth protest too much, methinks.
posted by overhauser at 12:46 PM on December 29, 2008


I hate the suburbs because it's a fucking bore, man.

*bongos*
posted by jonmc at 12:46 PM on December 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


Turn your eyes inside and dig the vacuum. Tomorrow is a king sized drag.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2008


cities suck. suburbs suck. give me wilderness every time.
posted by Postroad at 12:49 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Turn your eyes inside and dig the vacuum. Tomorrow is a king sized drag.

*dances in black leotard*
posted by jonmc at 12:51 PM on December 29, 2008


Yes, suburbs are awful. I hope we can all agree that getting rid of them and having everyone live downtown would be better. All we need to do is build apartment buildings 200 stories tall, increase public transit by a factor of 10, and dedicate the first 5 stories of every building to mom&pop shops.

I can't tell if you're being facetious, but I think that would rock. Also, everyone over 30 has to go to Carousel.

Shit, I'm 43. Renewal! Renewal!
posted by nicwolff at 12:53 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


There is no accounting for taste.

Agreed. Speaking of which, the suburbs I grew up in had the blandest, least-adventuresome restaurants possible!

(Also, no independent video stores, record stores, comic shops, art stores, or liquor stores with any decent off-the-beaten-path selections. Sigh)
posted by naju at 12:53 PM on December 29, 2008


*dances in black leotard*

*snaps fingers in applause*
posted by nicwolff at 12:53 PM on December 29, 2008


I've just been ignoring that the crystal in my hand went black.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:54 PM on December 29, 2008


Say what you will about the suburbs, but having seen the preview for this movie 4 times yesterday on the big screen, I can attest that Nina Simone's Wild Is The Wind is totally wonderful.
posted by skwt at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


If the person overhead likes to listen to rap music at 3 in the morning, you have no recourse but to suffer it.

Out here in the suburbs, however, I am playing the piano and singing at the top of my voice, and disturbing no one...


So what, you were too polite to complain, or to make your own noise?
No disrespect but I think maybe it was your choice to live like a prisoner.
posted by mannequito at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The two major sins of the burbs appear to be that they are rather conformist (or at least not conformity-challenging) and that they are boring. I don't disagree with the first point but I wonder if the oft-unspoken second isn't the more heartfelt of the two. The thing is, when I occasionally hear someone come out and call the suburbs "boring", I can't help but think of the girl I knew who spoke of one down and out strip downtown as having more "soul". That boarded up storefronts and not-infrequent streetfights were part of her romantic notions made me realize that she was not part of mine. But then this is my first burb. I've always lived (in various) downtown(s). Maybe the honeymoon will wear off.

This townhouse development is also arranged like some kind of hippie commune rather than neat rows of sensibly painted houses matched by obsessively tended lawns, which is what I feared when I first moved out here. (Also, it's hard to miss downtown when yours sucks as hard as this one does. Visiting does me just fine.)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2008


Living in Manhattan was like living in prison.

Your escape notwithstanding, Faze, I think you're confusing it with the movie.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Henry David Thoreau were alive today, he'd live in the suburbs and love it.

yeah, i heard he was a big fan of WalMart.

(Even in his day, Walden Pond was far from isolated.) The suburbs are Emersonian, Melvilian ("Pierre" was his farewell to urban fantasies), Alcottian -- they are the new Concord, where America's soul realizes itself in beautiful libraries,

well, i don't know where you live, but mine, which still ain't half bad, looks like shit compared to the New York Public Library.

attractive churches,

built back when the community was rural.

modernistic temples and synagogues,

ooh! modernistic! just what Thoreau always wrote about!

and the interior of automobiles, as we zip from one place to another, listening to music more pleasingly and intimately than in any urban concert hall.

you know, I hear this from people who attend The Metropolitan Opera all the time: "man, this is okay, but it's not as good as being in my car."
posted by shmegegge at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


For righteous LOLSUBURB fury, you could do worse than James Howard Kunstler - particularly his "Eyesore of the Month".
My fellow townspeople often confuse the architecture and urban design with the activity taking place in it. It's an important distinction. The building itself, shown here, is a sturdy but unspectacular business building on the main street (Broadway) of Saratoga Springs, NY. Think of it as a "background building." It's not trying to be special or monumental, but it does what we want it to do: it makes provision for retail near the street and it allows other activities upstairs (offices, apartments). It accomplishes all this complexity gracefully. The activity taking place here, however, is a symptom of the growing barbarism in American life. Tattooing has traditionally been a marginal activity among civilized people, the calling card of cannibals, sailors, and whores. The appropriate place for it is on the margins, in the back alleys, the skid rows. The mainstreaming of tattoos (on main street) is a harbinger of social dysfunction.
This is satire, surely.

Or, what Iridic said.
posted by odinsdream at 1:03 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also - dude does not understand what target="_blank" is for.
posted by odinsdream at 1:04 PM on December 29, 2008


If the person overhead likes to listen to rap music at 3 in the morning, you have no recourse but to suffer it.

Bullshit. You had at least three options:

1.) Work with the neighbor about the problem.

2.) Call the police.

3.) Complain to the landlord.

Any one of those three, or a combination thereof, would probably have gotten you the results you wanted.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:07 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hated of the suburbs may be a theme in art, but it's far from a theme in the lives of everyday Americans. Most Americans live in suburbs. So I call non-trend.

Anyway, my hatred for the suburbs is strictly personal. I hated growing up a suburb, and would never do that to my children. As soon as I was old enough, I started taking the bus into the city, where I felt far more comfortable, despite the fact that I lived in one of the most dangerous cities in the country. However, my parents lived in the suburbs and I was too young to move out, so unfortunately I still had to spend most of my time there.

Looking back on all the trouble that my friends and I got into, I can trace nearly all of it to boredom. Had I grown up in an urban environment near artists and cultural happenings, I don't think I would have been nearly as self-destructive. Also, I would have gotten into far less trouble if I didn't have to drive. My god, I can't believe we make kids drive in this country. Giving a teen a car is like giving a handgun to a monkey. And even worse, the teen has to work some shitty taco bell job to support the car, when they really should be out reading books or getting laid.

To me, the suburbs are a place of conformity. The suburbs are a place for conservative people. The suburbs have no sympathy. The suburbs are isolating. The suburbs are a place where you need a car to do anything. The suburbs have streets with no sidewalks. The suburbs will not last. The suburbs are unsustainable. The suburbs devour oil and defecate CO2. Things will get worse in the suburbs. Trapped people will feel more trapped. Cars and mortgages will enslave their lives. And nobody will hear them scream.

I think I'm going to see this movie when it comes out.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:07 PM on December 29, 2008 [18 favorites]


I live in the city. I've had some loud neighbors. They are violating their lease when they make too much noise, they get warned, and, if they don't stop, they get kicked out.

When I lived in the suburbs, we had a crazy neighbor. She would call and make antisemitic accusations on the phone -- she was paranoid schizophrenic, and her mental illness demonized Jews. She was one of many problem neighbors we had. We could call the cops on them, but, honestly, cops aren't that interested in little neighborhood squabbled. We could sue, but then we go to war with a neighbor and engender bad feelings that could last for years. I suppose there is a case that could be made that the suburbs somehow force you to learn to deal with these annoyance. In practicality, I have not found this to be true. People simply battle their neighbors, have bad feelings, and hunker down in their homes, feeling beseiged by the people around them.

Me, I get the troublemakers kicked out. Good luck kicking out someone who owns the house next to you and shares a driveway.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:14 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey that's cool that you like living in the suburbs, but this idea that people who live in the suburbs don't watch TV is almost as nutty as the idea that you can listen to the stars.

And while YOU may live a 5 minute drive from your workplace, the idea that that is typical of most surburbanites is the nuttiest of 'em all.
posted by the bricabrac man at 1:15 PM on December 29, 2008 [12 favorites]


if you like the suburbs, then live there if you want; if you prefer the city, then live there if you want. And then mind your own fucking business and worry about your own life rather than that of people that have made different choice than you have made.

If this were as far as it went, I could placidly agree. Thing is, though, that the real crux of what's wrong with suburbia - fundamentally, possibly (if you subscribe to the Kunstler "Long Emergency" argument) irredeemably - is hinted at in that ignored second link. To wit:

The exurbs were built on a subsidy of cheap gasoline and easy credit. And the exurban pioneer is someone who refused to make the political and social compromises–public transportation, the competing claims of neighbors through taxes, and so on.

Not the most elegant way to say it, but the point is that living in much of suburbia is far from neutral in its impact on its regional environment. It's not a live-and-let-live arrangement; it is rather inherently parasitic. In most urban centres (including my own here in western Canada), the high property taxes and other revenue-generating engines of the inner city have been directly subsidizing suburban/exurban sprawl for several decades.

In addition to the credit and cheap-gas bugbears cited in the linked article, there are countless invisible subsidies paid from my pocket to that of my fellow residents in the outer-belt suburbs. Not only do my higher property taxes help pay for their brand-new overpasses and outsized curvilinear boulevards linking their big-box power centres (which I don't use), but because the vast majority of them work downtown (or in any case far away from their homes), they are disproportionately heavy users of the roads and other public services in my and other downtown neighbourhoods.

Here's a quick Google's worth of links on the subject of suburban subsidization; the linked blog posting is right to point out the staggering gall it takes the David Brookses of the world to ask for yet another round of heavy subsidy to retrofit outer-ring burbs with sustainable infrastructure after their big unsustainable easy-credit baccanal, and Faze is doing a heckuva job of channeling Brooks' exurban triumphalism here in thread for those who need a bit more schooling in the smug tone of the self-satisfied exurbanite.

I mean, this?

If Henry David Thoreau were alive today, he'd live in the suburbs and love it.

Magnificent. Brooks always seemed so over the top in his exurban ecstasy as to be parody-proof, but even he'd probably snort at that one (before stealing it for his next book, On Walden Patio: How Three-Car Garages Are the Perfection of Jeffersonian Democracy).
posted by gompa at 1:33 PM on December 29, 2008 [28 favorites]


I like the suburbs just fine. They keep the sort of people who enjoy living there away from me.

They seem to have started moving back in around here, though, and putting fucking sprinklers out on their few square feet of lawn, making it impossible to walk down the sidewalk in the summer without getting wet. Maybe I should take up mugging to keep the rent down. My profanity-laden tirades directed at suburban commuting drivers who have never heard of a surface street, think pedestrians are something like pederasts or maybe podiatrists, and on the evidence appear to believe that the painting of crosswalks is some sort of quaint local folkway, perhaps directed at ancient astronauts, do not seem to have done the trick.
posted by enn at 1:35 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


And, you know, I was tempted to make a whole "I live like a king" speech, expounding on the virtues of East Village life, but then I realized it would amount to a bunch of ostentatious bragging and decided against it.

Anyway, if you love the suburbs so much, great, you can keep 'em. But it's about time we started taxing the shit out of gasoline. Make it $6 a gallon. Hell, make it $10. The suburbanites need to feel the pinch. Their "Emersonian" lifestyle (and I'm trying desperately to make myself believe that Faze isn't just playing us here) causes untold social problems, from wars in the middle east to urban blight and global warming here at home.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:37 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


*dances in black leotard*
posted by jonmc at 3:51 PM on December 29 [+] [!]


That was you?!
posted by Manhasset at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2008


Suburbs promote privacy while cities permit anonymity; I think both values are inimical to a certain conception of community. In the suburbs, this has been traded for bread; in the city, for circuses.

See you under the big top...

*dances in black leotard*
posted by jonmc at 3:51 PM on December 29 [+] [!]


Apparently jonmc is already there...
posted by Urban Hermit at 1:42 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


The suburbs are a place where you need a car to do anything.

They really aren't. However, I would forgive an alien for taking a look and concluding that suburbanites have no feet, because my mate and I seem to be the only two out actually walking around in it. Actually, I came back to register exactly that particular complaint. Also, I am blissfully unaware of any lawn-based inclinations my neighbours might secretly harbour now that herbicides have been outlawed and the "weeds" and the fungi roam free. All in all a good time to be out here.

I did hope for a few more coffee and bookshops, though.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:43 PM on December 29, 2008


What I do and what I like and what I choose is so much better than what you like, what you choose, what you do but especially if it differs from my choices. You are wrong and I am right.I have always lived in _____ and I will never change, ever....you mistake in being in ______instead of in my ______. got it?
posted by Postroad at 1:50 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The suburbs are a place where you need a car to do anything.

They really aren't.


Depends on the suburb, in the end. I grew up in one that was very walkable - too bad there was nowhere to walk to. It took over half an hour to make my way over very pleasant sidewalks to anything worth getting to, including my friends' houses. Admittedly, the time - and the reason I didn't take to biking more readily - was also that getting anywhere also meant traversing several very steep hills. As the crow flies, it would have been maybe a 20 minute walk to get to where most of my friends lived, where there was... let's see, a decent coffee shop, a grocery store, a library, and a deli. Beyond that, yeesh, at least another 2 miles to get to anything worthwhile.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:50 PM on December 29, 2008


there's something in faze's comments that keeps irking me, and I've finally figured out what it is: he's not talking about suburban life. he's talking about upper and upper-middle class life. where suburbs across the country are filled with people of all pay scales, Faze is specifically talking about the life of the rich:

Today, I live in a good sized house, with huge windows, wonderful views, on an acre and a half lot with lawn, garden and mulchpile, shaded by magnificent specimen trees, way out in suburban sprawlsville -- and I'll tell you, it's spectacular.

I imagine it would be. every single one of those things is something that goes into a tremendously valuable house, and with good reason increases the cost to buy it. my apartment in a nice suburb has none of those things. for some reason our experiences are very different.

Now, I live like a king, surrounded by nature, only a short drive from every kind of store you could want, with wonderful places to walk and jog, and bicycle, not to mention lakes and rivers and parks just minutes away.

these, again, are all things that contribute substantially to the price of a considerably valuable house. And again, is not true of all suburbs. Ask the people of the suburbs of Detroit how great it is to be surrounded by nature and every kind of store they could want.

And let me tell you, what I paid for my house, and my current cost of living, is nothing compared to what I was throwing away in Manhattan.

ha.

Friends, this is how human beings were meant to live.

I recall Rockefeller saying the same thing once. for real, the smugness of privilege is thick, here.
posted by shmegegge at 1:51 PM on December 29, 2008 [13 favorites]


I've got nothing against people who live in suburbs, really, but I still think that suburbs are ruining (have ruined?) America. Can't speak to anywhere else.
posted by lunit at 1:52 PM on December 29, 2008


So I like living in actual cities for a few different reasons. The biggest, I guess, is that I've never bothered to learn how to drive. I admit that I would probably like the parts of America outside of the urban archipelago more if I could read them in the original. The other, though, is that I enjoy being around crowds of people. This is for abstract reasons and for one concrete one. The abstract ones are clustered around the idea that if there are a lot of people around, at least a few of them are likely to be into the same weird stuff as I am. I'm not making an argument based on my own personal quote precious uniqueness end quote; I think anyone who thinks that the things they're interested in aren't weird and aren't only shared by a relatively small fraction of the population is likely fooling themselves. The concrete one is that I just like being in crowds. Walking around in built-up areas in the middle of a crowd of other people walking is nearly my favorite thing.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2008


I moved from the suburbs to the city and never looked back. I always craved a more diverse, well, everything, than the suburbs could provide. One issue I has with the suburbs was the way developers had broken up the physical space. There was no public space, no sidewalks, no transit other than private passenger car. The houses were somehow too close together, but too far apart. Everything felt isolated from everything else.

The city was open, walkable, hell, explorable. One corner had a Korean restaurant and the next corner had Soul Food. I learned the names of my neighbors, the postman, the cops and the homeless guys who congregate on the far side of the park.

It's not better, in some senses, as there is more crime, more ugliness, but it's different and evolving everyday. To me it's a matter of taste - I like loud and worn over silent and new.

The article did hit one interesting point, though, the suburbs are moving to the city. There's a vast area of town that used to be a warehouse district. Now it's all condos and chain restaurants. I have a friend who works for the city noise-control center, which is a local clearinghouse for noise complaints. Evidently most calls come from the newly condo'd areas - people complaining about the trains, the garbage trucks, police sirens. We meet up and laugh about it, how people move to the city without understanding what a city really is.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I like the suburbs just fine. They keep the sort of people who enjoy living there away from me.

And they keep the price of housing down in the city. My city is literally half the size in population that it was forty years ago mostly due to all the white folk moving out to the 'burbs. Because of that, I could afford a cheap 19th century townhouse that's only a fifteen minute walk to downtown. I'm not really sure why anyone would want to pay $400K to live a 45 minute drive away from work when you can pick up a $150K house right in the city but I'm glad that they do, cause it leaves a very nice affordable city for me.
posted by octothorpe at 1:56 PM on December 29, 2008


The suburbs are a place where you need a car to do anything.

They really aren't.


You sure about that? I suppose in the truly literal sense, they aren't, because there are SOME things you can do without a car out here, but I don't have a car and find it a daily frustration, since many of the things I need to accomplish on a regular basis are farther than walking distance from my house. I'm singularly lucky to be on a bus line to the train into the city that I need in order to work. I can't do my taxes unless I take time out of my work day to go to some place in the city, the nearest supermarket is over a mile away, which I have walked, but I can't exactly stock up on everything I need and then carry it a mile myself back home. With a car, I wouldn't need to figure out what I can carry and what can wait till later. I am consistently reliant on my girlfriend's car, taxis and the bus to accomplish things and when I do walk out to do something, I settle for what's near rather than simply going where I'm most likely to find what I need. As a small fer instance, I find that the trek to the laundromat, despite having one of those wheeled carriers, is long and frustrating enough that I put it off until I absolutely have no underwear left.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm inclined to think that you have and use a car far more often than you may realize. When I lived in the city, I could carry far more grocery bags the far shorter distance to my apartment, and literally everything I could ever need was available to me via public transport, without exception. There is no comparison between the two.
posted by shmegegge at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2008


I grew up in a suburb not far from Manhattan, and couldn't stand to live in either subrubia or any huge city, I don't think. I'm all about college towns, these days. The one I live in is technically a city, but it's an itty bitty one compared to Manhattan. I can walk everywhere, there's a Cuban restaurant open till 2 a.m. two blocks from my home, and there are gorgeous old houses and trees. Can't beat that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Apart from everything else, I wonder why Lee Siegel thinks that Richard Yates is somehow a one-note demonizer of the suburbs and that John Cheever is not. If anything, "The Swimmer" is more of a indictment of imagined suburban hell than "Revolutionary Road."
posted by blucevalo at 2:07 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I imagine it would be. every single one of those things is something that goes into a tremendously valuable house, and with good reason increases the cost to buy it. my apartment in a nice suburb has none of those things. for some reason our experiences are very different.

I completely see where you're going, shmegegge, but I can say the same thing of a worthwhile house in the urban core. We came out here initially because we wanted a yard for our dog and ended up finding space for ourselves. That's on a pretty tight budget (renting) that would see us in the kind of tiny downtown apartment that -- well -- we've always been in till now. I can totally imagine the kind of living space that would lure me back downtown (or ideally, to the downtown of a more vibrant city), but that's going to remain in my imagination because I can't possibly afford a place like that. In the meantime, I can have my 2 floor + basement + yard townhouse unit surrounded by green, twenty minutes from the core by a bus that runs every five minutes (when not on transit strike) for most of the day and every ten to fifteen for a good part of the night; or a tiny box downtown where the pup mostly walks on concrete (till we reach the little enclosed area laughingly called a park) and no reason at all to bus out to the edge of town and experience the reverse.

That's from 4 years downtown in this city, mind, to 1 spent in the burbs, and I'm sure different cities and different suburbs tell a different tale. The money thing does work both ways, though.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm inclined to think that you have and use a car far more often than you may realize.

I don't own a car -- which rather puts me out of luck during this transit strike (the only time I've looked back fondly at being walking distance to work the way I was here two years ago). I bike, walk, jog, and bus. For this week only, I rent a car, because otherwise I can't get to work and there are too few working this week to carpool. I grocery shop on foot. So no, the only way I'm using a car "more than I realize" is if I not only sleep-drive but sleep-buy also, and have a vehicle parked somewhere around here that my waking mind has forgotten.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:10 PM on December 29, 2008


Suburbs are pretty different depending on where you live, too. Near Atlanta, the suburbs I grew up in, was more like what the generic picture is --- miles of houses with nice-sized yards, the nearest store of any kind required a car to get to, etc. I didn't hate it, but I did wish I was closer to the city. No public transportation at all, of course (a 20+ minute drive would take you to the furthest outpost of MARTA, the Atlanta subway system).

Suburbs here in the SF Bay area tend to be much more citylike. Mountain View, for example, has an excellent downtown area. Public transportation is available -- buses, Caltrain, BART in the upper peninsula, etc. It's like city-lite. Sunnyvale was mentioned above -- while it lacks the culinary delights of Mountain View, it still has buses, Caltrain, and a much more mixed building plan that puts you closer to stores than an East Coast or Midwest suburb ever would. Currently I live about 10 minutes from SF, there's a bus stop a few blocks from me that would take me to BART, and my basic shopping needs are within 5 minutes. I still mostly drive, but that's a personal preference, I could take public transport if I wanted. It's much quieter, more spacious and a little cheaper than living in the city would be, while having the city close enough to make it an easy trip.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:19 PM on December 29, 2008


I completely see where you're going, shmegegge, but I can say the same thing of a worthwhile house in the urban core.

absolutely. I should clarify, I suppose, that I'm not coming out in defense of one or the other at all. I think the article linked to is insane and idiotic, but not because it's supposedly pro-suburbia. further, I think faze's comments are insultingly smug, but again not because they're pro-suburbia. I live in a really nice suburb, and it's still less expensive than any place I could find in the city. I'm certainly not trying to say that the money thing only goes one way. what i'm principally responding to in faze's comment is that he's not describing an area, he's describing an income bracket, which will be "the way people were meant to live" regardless of where you're doing it.

the only way I'm using a car "more than I realize" is if I not only sleep-drive but sleep-buy also, and have a vehicle parked somewhere around here that my waking mind has forgotten.

well, there you go. I took a guess. I suppose your town is just far more walk-friendly than mine is.
posted by shmegegge at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2008


As a very wise man once said, God Bless Chocolate City and it's Vanilla Suburbs.
posted by jonmc at 2:24 PM on December 29, 2008


> "Look at all those lighted windows in all those apartments. Thousands of them, hundreds of thousands of them. What do you think they're doing in there? I'll tell you what they're doing. They're watching television."

Right on, brother! The last time I went out to the 'burbs I was absolutely flabbergasted by the number of big-screen televisions I saw in garbage cans on the curb. After all, why would anyone bother watching tv in the suburbs when they could watch deer in their backyard and listen to the opera in their car?

> For righteous LOLSUBURB fury, you could do worse than James Howard Kunstler - particularly his "Eyesore of the Month".

That's for sure. Every now and again I make the mistake of reading through that guy's site and break out into a cold sweat; while I agree with many of his starting points, his credibility is damaged somewhat by the fact that he hates North America and most of the people in it. He can't fucking wait for the Secular Apocalypse.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:38 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Suburbs here in the SF Bay area tend to be much more citylike. Mountain View, for example, has an excellent downtown area. Public transportation is available -- buses, Caltrain, BART in the upper peninsula, etc. It's like city-lite. Sunnyvale was mentioned above -- while it lacks the culinary delights of Mountain View, it still has buses, Caltrain, and a much more mixed building plan that puts you closer to stores than an East Coast or Midwest suburb ever would.

No offense, but WTF? Have you ever been to a real city? Mountain View's downtown is dumpy but oddly popular. It's a testament to how awful the rest of the Valley is that people go there to hang out. Mountain View is what happens when smart people try to make the best of bad urban planning. Palo Alto is nice due to the fact it was an actual town a lot farther back when they laid cities out in neat mixed-use grids but mostly remains nice due to the fact that it's full of rich people which can make even the worst suburb seem palatable.

And I wish I could afford to live there. *sigh*
posted by GuyZero at 2:45 PM on December 29, 2008


Wow. I live in a city, I love it, and I'm totally turned off by the smug, sanctimonious comments being made by some of the city-dwellers here. Just as every city isn't the same, every suburb isn't the same; people have different motivations for living in different places -- it's not always just because they're "boring."
posted by proj at 2:50 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


> Friends, this is how human beings were meant to live.

That sounds nice. I'd like to live like that, too, but for some reason I can't. I wonder what the reason could be?
posted by you just lost the game at 2:51 PM on December 29, 2008


As a very wise man once said, God Bless Chocolate City and it's Vanilla Suburbs.

How funny. I'm listening to that song right now, prepping for the New Year's P-Funk show in SF.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:02 PM on December 29, 2008


Hey as a suburb dweller, take away my smug sanctimoniousness and I'll have nothing left!
posted by GuyZero at 3:03 PM on December 29, 2008


I think we can all agree that suburban homeowners' associations are soul-sucking pits of mediocrity, despair and sometimes evil.

And condo boards are the Model UN.

What bullshit.
posted by docpops at 3:04 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I find it endlessly ironic that a man who cannot see much good on the Internet (and who has been rightfully pilloried for it) has been commissioned to condemn those who allegedly have a similar view about suburbia.

Having seen the film, I fully agree that Sam Mendes lacks an understanding of American life in the 1950s. And it is that cartoonish view that sinks the movie But what Lee Siegel completely fails to comprehend about Revolutionary Road the novel is that Yates was depicting the interior lives of the Wheelers. As such, the description of the suburbs reflect the Wheelers's view of the world. This is a basic concept called subjective third-person narrative mode, something I'm sure that 95% of MeFites are aware of. That Siegel could not ken this, while likewise writing, "Yates's rage against the suburbs had all the subtlety of adolescent rage against authority," suggests that he is ill-suited to be a cultural commentator, and that he should be writing copy for a brochure handed out at a grocery store rather than the Wall Street Journal.
posted by ed at 3:05 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Eh, likewise, shmegegge -- if people are looking for someone to come out in defence of burbs in general, that's not me. I was pleasantly surprised by this one but I am familiar with the other kind. And we may end up getting a car at some point (some regrets not having done so now, but oh well). That's mostly to explore the regions around the city, though, which we're so close to but can't fully make use of. It's not like we'd even think about driving to work.

It is a good area to walk, which is why I can't understand more people don't do it. Maybe the stereotypical drive-everywhere mindset is here regardless; I don't know. I certainly don't blame anyone for grocery shopping with their car. That's an evening I'd like to turn into an hour.

I thought Faze was being sarcastic, but I've been a bit tone-deaf of late so who knows.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2008


Metafilter: Too meek, too asphalt-challenged to inherit the earth.
posted by elmono at 3:16 PM on December 29, 2008


Suburbia
Suburbia
where the suburbs met utopia
where the suburbs met utopia

Lost in the high street, where the dogs run
roaming suburban boys
Mother's got her hairdo to be done
She says they're too old for toys
Stood by the bus stop with a felt pen
in this suburban hell
and in the distance a police car
to break the suburban spell

Let's take a ride
and run with the dogs tonight
in suburbia
You can't hide
Run with the dogs tonight
in suburbia

Break the window by the town hall
Listen! A siren screams
there in the distance like a roll call
of all the suburban dreams

Let's take a ride
and run with the dogs tonight
in suburbia
You can't hide
run with the dogs tonight
in suburbia

I only wanted something else to do but hang around
I only wanted something else to do but hang around

It's on the front page of the papers
This is their hour of need
Where's a policeman when you need one
to blame the colour TV?

Let's take a ride
and run with the dogs tonight
in suburbia
You can't hide
run with the dogs tonight
in suburbia

Suburbia
where the suburbs met utopia
What kind of dream was this
so easy to destroy?
And who are we to blame
for the sins of the past?
These slums of the future?
suburbia
where the suburbs met utopia
suburbia
where the suburbs met utopia
posted by ericb at 3:16 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


this whole inane diatribe is further proof to me that modern civilization needs to collectively strip off our clothing and trek back into the forests and caves to eat insects and sniff each others crotches.
posted by onkelchrispy at 3:26 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


...we had a crazy neighbor...We could call the cops on them, but, honestly, cops aren't that interested in little neighborhood squabbled.

Ah, the plot line of the new film, Lakeview Terrace, starring Samuel L. Jackson. [trailer].
posted by ericb at 3:32 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a suburb. I now rent a house in a sort-of suburb, that is to say it was a definite suburb back in the sixties and seventies with new families, pets, and parks, but they've all moved away and now its occupied by students with old furniture, grow-ops, immigrants, etc. The suburb I grew up in is probably a lot like what the suburb I live in now used to be like back in the day, a lot of white people, pets, lawnmowers, and commutting fathers who come home from work and straight to the television. I think a lot of what defines these burbs is who lives there, not necessarily the place itself, as most yards now are unmowed, rarely a television blares through a window, and instead of smelling barbequed hotdogs in the air you smell Punjabi spice or fresh hashish smoke. That's not to say the place has become 'cool' or 'cultured', on the contrary, due to the distance alone of how the place was designed, even now it still seems alienating. Some of the older folks on here are talking about how the burbs are good and well, how they want 'a little space' from their neighbours and such, but these people are either old or rich or both, and are fortunate enough to be able to afford manmade lakes, golf courses, and paved bicycle paths for themselves and their families. It's a completely fine desire, but you're only speaking for yourselves, and perhaps your children, if they had the choice, would have rather grown up somewhere different.

As a kid, I couldn't give a damn about the playground down the street or dog parks or tax-funded green spaces. All that stuff was peripheral to my imagination, it was a stage, but not necessary for my world, and if anything somewhat of a bore. I probably took it for granted. For me, it was exciting to get on the city bus and go downtown, to gape at the buildings in the sky, and see people and cultures much different then the whitewashed community waiting for me, or not, back home. If I wanted a taste of nature, it wasn't a forest left alone between two subdivisions to increase property value, but it was smack in the middle of the rockies on a camping trip where I could pretend I was some cave bear in the wilderness. Suburbs seem to want the best of both worlds, and in trying to achieve the solitary home, you lose the sense of community, but by nature of it situated within a populated community, you lose the sense of solitariness, aside from being alone stuck in traffic in your fuel-efficient S.U.V.

That being said, any child with an imagination, which is every child, can create a world apart from where they grow up. And as deprived as the suburbs may be, there was always room for adventure somewhere. But when puberty hit and boredom seemed to enter the equation of life, and you found yourself bumming around outside of Wal-Marts and McDonalds, aimlessly skateboarding around and getting pestered by police with nothing better to do, that's when I could have used some culture. I don't blame it completely on the burbs themselves, maybe it had to do with the family, disinterested by Church, pushing a shopping cart around in some massive grocery store with brand names lining every aisle and inane commercial jingles playing over and over in your head.
posted by ageispolis at 3:38 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Funny, this made me think about where I've lived all my life, and what I valued. At first I felt like I was living in a suburb, and that's somewhat true for where I live now, but really, I live in a small town that's been surrounded by suburbia. Luckily there are large mountains directly to the west, and mesas to the east that keep this town separate. Growing up I lived in a college town that was small when I was young, and moved up to medium sized. My first jobs were in a rural area, so I lived in small towns there as well. The things I valued about the small towns are similar to what many urbanites are saying they value in this thread. Granted living in a college town in California, there was a lot more cultural stuff going on, and living in the Napa Valley had the food, and some culture, but San Francisco was only 45 minutes away. I've chosen where I live now because I hate commuting, and I can walk to work. If my job was in downtown Denver, I'd live in the city. For awhile I was engaged to someone who lives in uptown Toronto, definitely very urban. I liked walking to all the shops, or taking the subway downtown. I could honestly say I could see myself living there. Even the rumble of the subway coming through the apartment as I lay in bed at night was comforting. I can't say there was a lot of community in that apartment. Yeah, the people that ran the shops knew the locals, and that was nice, but I didn't see a ton of community between the people that lived there. In the small towns I've lived in the people that ran the shops knew me too. For now, however, I love living where I do for the fact that I can walk to work, have a nice big garden, and I'm close to all kinds of wilderness. The culture I lack I can find for the most part a short drive or bus ride away, though this really isn't the cultural capital of the world. From my own life experiences I can see why people make the choices they do for where they live. Afroblanca and Faze are flip sides of the same asshole denominated coin.
posted by Eekacat at 3:44 PM on December 29, 2008


Now, I live like a king, surrounded by nature

I like how people whose very lifestyles destroy and befoul the "nature" that they claim to love so accurately, yet unintentionally, describe the expereince to aristocratic selfishness - King-liness.
posted by tkchrist at 3:53 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Until the winter term begins next week, I am confined to this (well, a few miles away, but pretty much identical to the picture). It sucks. I'd rather be back in my smelly dorm.
posted by shoebox at 4:00 PM on December 29, 2008


shoebox, you have my condolences. I have yet to meet a young person living in Markham who was not doing his/her best to get the fuck out of there.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:12 PM on December 29, 2008


you know, I hear this from people who attend The Metropolitan Opera all the time: "man, this is okay, but it's not as good as being in my car."

Isn't that a caption from a New Yorker cartoon?
posted by krinklyfig at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2008


I suppose in the truly literal sense, they aren't, because there are SOME things you can do without a car out here, but I don't have a car and find it a daily frustration, since many of the things I need to accomplish on a regular basis are farther than walking distance from my house.
I think that would be true of a lot of city neighborhoods, too, though. As someone pointed out above, you can't equate "city" with those neighborhoods in New York, Chicago and San Francisco to which hip young people move after college. Lots of American cities are pretty difficult to live in if you don't have a car.

I don't know. I don't entirely understand the city vs. suburb wars, and I say that as someone who has lived all but three years of her life in big cities. It seems to me that the suburbs often becomes shorthand for some other stuff, and that often doesn't have a lot to do with reality. Suggesting that suburbs lack diversity is kind of retro, for instance. It might have been true in the '50s, but it's not true now, in large part because post-1965 immigrants have settled in suburbs, not in cities. If you don't want to live in a non-diverse area, don't live in a non-diverse area, but that's not a reason to write off the suburbs.
posted by craichead at 4:50 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I hated living in the suburbs as a kid. Genuinely hated it, and moved to the city just as soon as the opportunity presented itself. I resented to no end that my parents had trapped me in this community where everyone looked like they did, and liked all of the same things that they did, and spoke the same language that they did, and shopped at all the same shops that they did. I knew that there was a great big world of incredible variety out there, and it drove me nuts knowing that I wouldn't be able to get to it until I was 18. I moved to the city, and I don't ever plan to move back.

So now I'm living in the city, and I love it, but I'm finally understanding why my parents did what they did. My parents gave up the city, not because they hated it, but because they loved their kids. I've been living in my current neighborhood for six months. During that time I've seen more absolutely crazy soul-crushing shit than I did in the entire eighteen years that I lived with my parents.

Walking home with my girlfriend one night I saw a local homeless man being placed on a stretcher. Turns out that someone had decided to set him on fire. He died of his burns at the hospital. About a month after that, the LAPD shot an unarmed man across the street from where the burning took place. Men in their thirties hang out in front of the local grocery store, and make lewd comments in an attempt to pick up women, although their definition of "women" includes girls who I'd estimate are roughly age 13. No one does anything about it. The people living downstairs from me smoke enough weed that you can smell it anywhere in our apartment complex, and they occasionally forget that there are people who might not appreciate them blasting crunk at 3 in the morning during the workweek. I don't particularly mind the smell of pot, and they've always been extremely nice about turning down their music when I've pointed out to them what time it is, but I wouldn't want to raise a child around them. I've seen a couple of incidents when a group of guys suddenly decide to gang-beat someone on the street in broad daylight. It always seems like they've got a pre-existing beef, but I don't speak the language well enough to ask what it is, and I wouldn't be inclined to strike up a conversation with them even if I did.

So, yeah, I love living in the city and I never, ever want to go back to the suburbs. Just don't try to tell me that the suburbs don't have a damn good reason for existing.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:57 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you don't want to live in a non-diverse area, don't live in a non-diverse area, but that's not a reason to write off the suburbs.

No, but they're still boring to me. I grew up in Albuquerque, NM, in the suburbs (NE heights and UNM heights), in the old area of town and way west of town in a far-flung condo complex. I prefer the old area of town, although if I were to move back, it would probably be to the North Valley or in Corrales, both of which are rural farm country, which is the sort of place I live now. Albuquerque has a lot of small businesses in its abundant strip malls, but they're still strip malls, and there is a sterile sameness to a lot of the NE heights. Not as friendly as it used to be, either. Near UNM is OK, great in some areas with a lot of old trees and unique houses, but getting overpriced and a bit too precious in the better areas. I don't like the hustle of the city enough to live in it at this point in my life, but the suburbs are suffocating to me now, and living around growing things is better. If things got really bad, we have a lot of fertile land, a centuries-old natural irrigation system, and a lot of people who know how to make it work in a small scale, which to me is a better safe-haven than a stockpile of gold and weapons. There is a supposed safety and security to the suburbs you don't get out here, but there's an interdependent system reliant on a lot of cheap energy to make suburbs work, and that cheap source of energy may not be so cheap pretty soon.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:05 PM on December 29, 2008


The issue isn't the suburbs - it's that everyone in the suburbs seems to hate all other people. That's my conclusions having moved from central Toronto to a quintessential US suburb. It's a beautiful place for misanthropes.

Horseshit. You took one experience, in one place, and generalized it to every suburb in the United States? Maybe it wasn't your neighbors who needed a mental adjustment.
posted by mattholomew at 5:11 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like how people whose very lifestyles destroy and befoul the "nature" that they claim to love...

Kind of like the developments where the streets are named after the cute animals that used to live there.
posted by exogenous at 5:12 PM on December 29, 2008


...any child with an imagination...And as deprived as the suburbs may be, there was always room for adventure somewhere.

Ah, the plot line of the new film, Bridge to Terabithia, starring Zooey Deschanel? [trailer].

um, i'm not sure why i did that :P

BUT rather than a referendum on suburbs good/bad (obviously bad ;) i guess i was more kinda wondering about depictions of suburbs of which i think siegel sorta has a point (tho perhaps initially, uh, misplaced) re: representations for bastions of conformity -- like american beauty and other works mentioned by him or, say, other winslet 'vehicles' such as little children or even heavenly creatures (speaking of childhood fantasies) -- as a blank slate (tabula rasa!) on which to construct or provide relief for domestic family dramas (or comedies for that matter, viz. national lampoon's vacation or, more recently, e.g. superbad and juno), cf. ozu! is it just that most people live in major metropolitan regions?
posted by kliuless at 5:16 PM on December 29, 2008


How about the idea that not all cities are equally good, and not all suburbs are equally bad? There are maybe only a half-dozen cities in America I'd take over the suburbs. But you can find the same quiet, openness, and greater access to nature that Faze appreciates in virtually any suburb in America. Not every city is Manhattan or San Francisco (few are, in fact), just like not every suburb is some soulless outpost of despair, with the parents drinking themselves senseless and the kids cooking up meth in the garage.
posted by decoherence at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2008


i want to be stereotyped. i want to be classified.
posted by radiosilents at 5:32 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


And no doubt the depiction of the suburbs as brainless utopias on the television sitcoms of the time -- shows like "Leave it to Beaver," "Bewitched," "Father Knows Best," "The Dick van Dyke Show" -- also incited intellectual revulsion, as much against the sinister new mass medium of TV as against the suburbs themselves.

i also take his point that popular (mass) culture goes hand-in-hand with TV and the suburbs...

re: Renewal!

condos in shopping malls :P
posted by kliuless at 5:45 PM on December 29, 2008


i guess i was more kinda wondering about depictions of suburbs of which i think siegel sorta has a point (tho perhaps initially, uh, misplaced) re: representations for bastions of conformity -- like american beauty and other works mentioned by him or, say, other winslet 'vehicles' such as little children or even heavenly creatures (speaking of childhood fantasies) -- as a blank slate (tabula rasa!) on which to construct or provide relief for domestic family dramas (or comedies for that matter, viz. national lampoon's vacation or, more recently, e.g. superbad and juno), cf. ozu! is it just that most people live in major metropolitan regions?

In family entertainment, suburbs represent a safe utopia. It's design by planning, so it lends itself to interpretations of that planning. Of course the anti-establishment POV will necessarily include the idea that the suburbs are anything but utopia. Just as the industrialist POV idealized cities and wealth, the naturalist rebelled. But Hollywood loves idealized stories, underdog stories, too, so they'll either go one way or the other. Suburbia provides an idealized setting for family entertainment as well as the backdrop for existential drama. It used to be city bumpkin in the country or country bumpkin in the city, depending on the market. I think they were showing Hee Haw around the same time they were showing Green Acres, as well as Beverly Hillbillies. Now it's safe stories which only happen in suburbia, or people living fake lives inside the perfect facade, Stepford Wives themes. The ugly side of suburbia, the meth labs and degrading neighborhoods in some areas, aren't usually explored except in TV shows like COPS or after school specials. Not many stories about the crumbling middle class.

People wanted the idealized small town street and community with a big town next to it. The message doesn't really matter, as long as someone will identify enough with the sentiment to part with their money. There is no message in most cases. But suburbia so much a part of American culture, its economy and relationship with the outside world that it has to be hashed and rehashed by creative people, for entertainment and for interpretation. It's like the American Dream through city planning. Some creative interpretations are better than others. I mean, existentialism and teenage angst aren't examples of breaking new ground, and just because someone feels suffocated in the suburbs doesn't make them a great artist, or capable of providing an interesting interpretation of that sentiment. American Beauty is kind of a cliche. Knowing that doesn't make the suburbs more appealing to me, though.

What I want to know, is how a group of people working menial jobs make enough to live in posh NYC apartments? Wait, I'm getting the strangest feeling I've done this before ...
posted by krinklyfig at 5:52 PM on December 29, 2008


Mountain View's downtown is dumpy but oddly popular.

And has been (both dumpy and popular) at least for the last 20 years (which was the last time I could afford to live there).
posted by blucevalo at 5:53 PM on December 29, 2008


just like not every suburb is some soulless outpost of despair, with the parents drinking themselves senseless and the kids cooking up meth in the garage.

That's true, but, funny enough, that hits home more than you realize, and I'm a suburban kid from the truly suburban age of the '70s and '80s. The stereotype does have precedent in reality, even if it can't be applied in all cases. Like the Rolling Stones' song, "Mother's Little Helper," not every housewife was popping Valium in the mid-'60s, but it wasn't a complete fiction, either.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:03 PM on December 29, 2008


I'm so mad I missed this today (busy day) I would love to go wholesale in my utter hatred of the movie, the book, and agree with the idea of defending suburbs (still need to read the article).
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:05 PM on December 29, 2008


Just as a counterpoint, I loved the suburbs as a kid. I was a city kid, and certainly had no intention of ever moving to the suburbs, but I did love to visit them. They were so, you know. Clean. And all tree-y. And the people were all so nice! It was like walking into a sitcom. Or, I dunno, a John Hughes movie. My own neighborhood was a little more like "Homicide: Life on the Street" or something, if it had been less exciting and also set in Cleveland.

I live in suburbia now, or something like it (is it exurbia?). I moved here for work, and it does get kinda dull on occasion, but it's clean and tree-y and I live within walking distance of every chain store you can think of, a movie theater, and some bars that are laughably lame-assed but I don't drink anyway, really, so it's not an issue. I've seen lots of wildlife. And ten times more racial diversity, frankly, than I ever saw in Cleveland (and certainly its suburbs). I know there are plenty of suburbs that really are soul-crushing hells on earth, but this isn't one of them...at least not for me. If I were a kid living here, I might be very restless.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:06 PM on December 29, 2008


My only problem with suburbs is the sameness. And they are the same, everywhere. An example: My aunt lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago, I live in the suburbs of Tokyo. There's an Outback Steakhouse 10 minutes by car from her house. There's an Outback 15 minutes by bicycle from me. Same with the multiplex theater. She's got Sam's Club 10 minutes away. I've got Costco.

The only real differences between where I live, and where my aunt lives, are pretty much cultural, and the idea that the public transit system in Japan works. Here, I don't need a car, as long as I plan on going in certain directions. The houses and apartments are smaller. Seriously, though, so much is exactly the same. I'm not saying that I would want to live in Tokyo (the tinyness of living conditions there compared to American cities is a bit much for me), but every once in a while, I do wonder how it is that I live in such a fantastic country, but that I ended up in the burbs, rather than in, say, Nara, or Nagano.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:11 PM on December 29, 2008


> I hate the suburbs because it's a fucking bore, man.
> posted by Astro Zombie at 3:38 PM on December 29 [+] [!]

External Stimulation! For when your own bleak internal resources are just not enough.

Got me a caption. Soon'uz Ah find me the right jpeg to go wif it, got me a Demotivator.
posted by jfuller at 6:16 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's been a while since I read the book, and I'm not planning to watch the movie, which is by all accounts a dismal failure as an adaptation, but what a facile misreading this WSJ hack has inexplicably chosen to embarrass himself by sharing. As The Whelk points out, the characters are far more culpable for their unhappiness than the suburbs; anybody who finishes the book and thinks that anything would have been better if Frank and April had made it to Paris has missed the point. (In fact, their "effete urban intellectual" contempt for suburbia and its (other) inhabitants is pretty clearly intended to be taken as evidence of the flawed nature that makes their unhappiness inevitable.) This guy seems to think that Yates intended them as some sort of noble martyrs.
posted by enn at 11:53 AM on December 29 [1 favorite +] [!]


Yates intended them to be noble martyrs.

Which is why he sucks.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:19 PM on December 29, 2008


oh hey and speaking of american beauty and little children, just came across Tragic Movie Masturbation Scenes; so apparently along with TV and the suburbs comes furtive masturbation! (as clichéd tropes go, speaking of hand-jobs ;)
posted by kliuless at 6:20 PM on December 29, 2008


The following is something I wrote somewhere else:

This is one of those Oscar time movies that comes out and you’ll think about seeing because, well, you like movies and it is supposed to be good. It totally fits into all that hoopla of end-of-the-year releases and hey, more often than not, many of those films are reasonably good. They feature the most talented directors and actors. Their premises are often a bit more interesting than the rest of the year and it’s a nice change of pace. For this one specifically, chances are you came around on Leo after The Departed or The Aviator. You like Sam Mendes and know he makes beautiful movies. We can all agree Kate Winslet is awesome. So you might decide to take up REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.

Don’t.

Why? There’s a litany of reasons not to see this movie and I’m going to be a little ambitious and try to illustrate as many as I can. I feel like I have to spread the word about this, because I’m already seeing so many passive takes on the film (one early AICN review described this film as “a ride” I don’t think I could come up with a worse description). The goal is really to breakdown this movie to its essence. When there, you will hopefully see this film is nothing but an utter piece of steaming dog shit.

No, it has nothing to do with Mendes, Winslet, or Dicaprio. For all intents and purposes, they’re all fine and are certainly trying their damndest. I think all the problems with RR can be traced back to what is on the page. The script screams in pain (and by extension maybe the novel. I never read it, and every fault described could entirely be in that book, but I can only blame the screenwriter… which is what I will do).

I’ll spare you any plot synopsis. The first thing to know about REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (RR) is that it’s really just a riff on two other things. First, it’s “Madmen: the Movie!” Only everything that makes Madmen wonderful is utterly missing from this film. It’s about all the same subjects, has the same kind of characters, and is situated in the exact same location, but exhibits absolutely none of the tact, ambiguity, or subtlety of that series; Starting exactly with the issue of subtext. What supposedly makes RR so “interesting” is that it’s about the underbelly and dark secrets of suburbia and marriage (apparently the book might have created the genre), which would truly be a stark wake-up-call to the brainless, subdued nature of the 50s and early 60s conformity. How does RR establish this theme? It tells us so… Really… the characters sit there and lecture each other for the entire running time about how stupid suburban living is and just how much they hate living in the suburbs with those people. They tell us that they hate the fact that they are acting like other people too. They hate that they’re having problems in their marriage and tell each other. The characters tell you this constantly and discuss it in the same broad, generic concepts as I do here… It’s agonizing. So screenwriting rule #1 “show don’t tell” is broken so violently and garishly that it’s fucking impossible for you to absorb ANY of the possible organic acting or direction that may be on display.

Never is the “tell don’t show” dynamic more on display than with shoehorned son-of-their-landlord character. See he’s a crazy person who’s had to go to insane asylum for various social problems. He’s had electro-shock therapy and for socialization’s sake, he attends a few dinners at Kate and Leo’s house. Yet within mere moments, he’s completely perceptive to everything happening in that house and is more than willing to bring every character’s pain and neurosis right to the surface. He’s the classic Jester figure of Shakespearean literature: The fool on the hill who can get away with saying anything, especially the truth. The actor who plays him (I can’t remember from anything else) is really quite good in the role too. Mendes plays the whole ordeal for laughs and it is successful on that level, but in the larger scheme of things it is such a screeching, lobotomizing narrative device that simply hammers every big damn thematic over your head as if it hasn’t been hammered enough. In some ways it’s the deathblow of the picture. I liken it to a putting a roofie in your delicious ice cream sundae. The scene plays, it’s funny. But within the context of the entire film, the intent and lasting effect of the scene is shockingly negative. The very inclusion of which is completely false to any kind of lofty or realistic aspirations in the film. It’s almost as if at times, Mendes is trying to stretch it and harkens back to the black comedy of American Beauty. But it’s impossible. We’re in “tell don’t show” land and there’s no having it both ways. It’s a damn mess.

Like I touched on before, what makes Madmen so wonderful is that all of these very real problems are bubbling under the surface. That was what so interesting about the setting and the time, really. We weren’t that much different from now, but social etiquette, propriety, and the mere cadence of the times kept things from coming to the forefront. RR likes to point this out to us by literally saying it when characters yell at each other (and by extension, us) like they’re (we’re) idiots. Madmen, and by extension, art, doesn’t really do that. That’s what essays do. It’s all the more obvious in that unlike Madmen, RR only uses its 50s/60s setting when advantageous. You’ll see a well timed “swell” to get a laugh, and yet the whole world of the characters is a fantasy reality where people can become props for the theoretical, or utilize the 70’s “me generation” mediation with a strictly 90s outward-ness. The modernization of the film’s tone is was unquestionably jarring.

Interrupting logical sequence of criticism, I have a bit of a related tangent. In most pop-psychology terms the reason we even had the 1950s suburban mentality in the first place is that ordinary men who went off to WW2 and Korea returned home and simply wanted the basic fruits of life: a home, a family, a future. It was the thrill of a dignified, basic life as an alternative to the horrors of war. Heck, let’s just call it an inherent understanding of simple things in life. Yet to Frank Wheeler (Leo’s character, if I haven’t mentioned before, not like it matters) displays none of that. I was shocked when we learned he was a veteran. More so, being at war and rushing the front line was apparently the only exhilarating moment of his life; the one where he “really lived.” Double heck, apparently wartime Paris is the only place he wants to ever go again. That may not seem an unusual sentiment today in the age of “generation kill” and modern marine culture, but it’s pretty much a stark contrast to every single thing I’ve heard from the ordinary WW2 and Korea veterans I’ve known personally, or seen/read in other depictions. Normally, we’re subject to the notions of integrity and brotherhood among people just trying making it out alive and serve their country. For Frank… it was a different experience.

Apparently the novel’s author Robert Yates was a Veteran of WW2. Maybe in the book he had a lot more bits of insight into the war than the brief moment in the film. Maybe Yates was someone who was simply wired differently, and had a completely different reaction to both warfare and the ensuing peace in the suburban sprawl. And that would be great… if that’s the real subject of exploration. But instead of Frank being a fish out of water, he acts as if his truth is the universal truth; everyone else is damn sucker. The institutions of suburbia and marriage seem to be the blame for crushing the individual spirit. It should be said, I’ve never been to war. Who the hell am I to say what a soldier should of felt? Or what he should be writing about? It’s actually a pretty shitty thing to do… but I can only say what felt disingenuous to me… and it did.

Maybe it just gets back to my problem with Frank and April (Winslet’s character’s name, not that it matters) not being real people and just vehicles for broad sentiment; mouthpieces of author. Sure, their fights are often dead on. Then again how hard is it to have an ear for the same fights every couple has? Does that make them genuine? It feels like a trap to me. It’s the same exact thing that bothered me about Tell Me You Love Me. Is there really something poignant about the minutiae of basic relationship dynamics? To me, they’re simply a given. What’s often far more interesting are the details of the things that keep us together (in various different forms) and often that’s how we progress.

RR seems to have so many other specific writing problems too. One that sticks out is this weird as hell part where Frank seems to actually care about taking a promotion as a testament to his father, when we already to through lengths to establish that he doesn’t give a shit about his dad. It almost reeks of (gulp) plot convenience… in a personal drama. Awesome! (That’s not even mentioning the seeming absurdity of how the promotion even comes to be). Frank and April’s children aren’t even relevant for most of the film and when there, the film has much more validity and dynamic ideas. Most of the time, it feels like they’re just shuffled out of the way for convenience. Maybe the most egregious thing to my interest in the characters is how the opening of the film begins with their meeting and immediately flashes forward to their later marriage. We find ourselves witnessing a massive fight after her failed local theater performance and it’s vicious… then roll title! I fully expected us to go back in time and witness their fall from grace at this point… but nope, we continue in the present. The real problem is that the viciousness of that first fight is not too far off from the severity of the fights at the end of the film. In other words, they start and end the movie in the same goddamn place. FACEPALM. Nothing feels like more of a waste of time in a personal drama than doing that. It’s the only fucking reason we’re there. And if there’s an art aesthetic or modernist comment in doing that, I sure as hell couldn’t find it in RR.

Then there’s the matter of the other film that RR riffs on (yes we’re finally at #2): Little Children. Maybe it’s the Winslet connection, but everything that was detailed and interesting about the underbelly of suburbia in that magnificent film is broad and boring in RR. That’s mostly because it’s all about the specifics of the story in Little Children, and RR is so freakin’ eager to attach the specifics of their story to the generalness of everybody’s situation, it misses its own opportunity to be a goddamn example. The whole affair feels like the projection of a screenwriter/author who feels like they failed in life and sets fire to the institutions that trapped them in their intellectual purgatory. Sometimes it even feels like someone is trying to justify a lifestyle choice apart to their parents, or apart from the norm and they eviscerate the things they identify as obstacles. It’s almost strange really.

Maybe I’m being such a prick about this because the matter of happiness in suburbia is never really something I found all that troubling. More often then not, it’s basic displacement for whatever is bothering them, and overt intellectuals often have trouble walking out of their own mind. RR walks this fine little line by almost keying into that and establishing that Frank and April are actually idiots for not realizing it has nothing to do with where they live and how they work, but it never quite gets there. It’s just too happy digging into suburban dynamics. It’s insanely frustrating to me (especially because that was American Beauty’s biggest success). When it finally gets to the end [spoiler] and we get a little line about Frank in the wake of tragedy spending every moment with his kids, our final revelation is nothing more than a mere aside; fuck, the entire point of two hour wank-a-thon is muddled when we’re treated to a nice little misogynistic final note.

After I saw RR and wrote most of this I simply had to read up a bit on Richard Yates. I mentioned he was a veteran. He also basically worked in the exact same job as Frank did before he wrote the novel and went onto better things. His quotes about his creative work often exhibit the same pontificating persona of Frank and April. He says he sees them as “revolutionary” figures for wanting out of the suburban trap. His words are a scathing indictment of a culture. A culture in which, he sometimes feels like the victim, rather than the perpetrator (a key difference from Weiner’s Madmen). He was twice divorced and seems to be blaming the institutions (suburbia, marriage) instead of his own personal failures (such an unfair statement of me to make). His free thinking attitude and ability seem to show nothing of overcoming/transcending it, but only raging against it. But once again, I have not read the book so I speak a dreadful combination of passion and being out of turn. I can’t help it, I’m fascinated by all these complexes.

Yates wrote the book in 1962 apparently, and this would mean his thoughtful world of Frank and April was well ahead of its time. That is worth noting and explains his influence on future authors (A admirable journalist is quick to point this out, and alludes to a lot more Madmen-esque qualities in Yates writing, which would be a contrast from what I saw in the film). And yes, maybe I’m totally wrong in my statements of the film’s sincerity, but if Yates is merely a progenitor of Updike, consider me pissed. I can’t stand Updike. I find him misogynistic and invariably lame (but most of that can be covered in David Foster Wallace’s fantastic essay of destruction on Updike. Try and find it! I can’t online). Updike, like RR, so often fails to see the fact that the solutions to these “problems” in life are often right there in front of you if you could get over yourself and your penis (specific to Updike. That dude likes writing about his dick). But they can’t get over it. This also might help explain my love of Madmen. The aforementioned journalist mentions Wiener’s lack of appropriation to Yates and Updike for their influence, but that’s because I think Madmen works as a giant “fuck you,” or at very least a revision, to the mentalities of Updike and Yates.

Okay. I’m done now. A lot of this feels like nitpicking over semantics. I know and I apologize. I’m not normally like this. I think I like 95% of the movies I see I’m excited about and tend to like in some way. Face it, there’s usually nothing good that can come from not liking a movie because what it has to say. Double face it, certainly nothing can be gained from taking a shot at REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and the varying intellects and talents of the people involved. They’re very smart and very good at what they do. They have big aspirations. It’s not like I’m eviscerating Bratz or Little Man and there’s an entertaining reason for all this. I just felt like this script was a special kind of awful that doesn’t get much attention.

Who knows? The script might even get an academy award nomination.

Worse for me to admit, in the end it is an okay film to like. There are scenes of funniness. There’s some neat little things at play in the acting. I can’t imagine anyone could have done better with this awful script. And this is all just some guy’s opinion.

But I really don’t think there has ever been a film that has driven me as nuts as this one.

It's from a bloggy:


http://stuffilikeandstuffidontlike.wordpress.com/2008/12/18/dont-like-revolutionary-road/

posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:25 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


also note. I have since read the book out of sheer fascination. Didn't like it.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:26 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


also note. I have since read the book out of sheer fascination. Didn't like it.

It's a hard book to like, being, as it is, relentlessly grim and sad and desperate. I love it because of that, but I can see why it's an acquired taste.

Also, the fact that Frank and April are ex-so-called-bohemians and completely snotty and superior and petty is just the frosting on the cake.
posted by The Whelk at 6:37 PM on December 29, 2008


Yates intended them to be noble martyrs.

I didn't get that at all I thought it was clear that the Wheelers are awful, awful people. Granted, they are surrounded by other terrible people, they're terrible in different and new ways.
posted by The Whelk at 6:39 PM on December 29, 2008


The author's writing sure impressed any number of folks:

* Yates was portrayed in an episode of Seinfeld as "Alton Benes", Elaine's taciturn and hard-driving father who has George and Jerry scared of him. Yates' daughter, Monica, once dated Larry David, the show's executive producer.
* In the movie Lonesome Jim the protagonist cites Yates as one of his favorite authors and adds that when he died all his books were out of print.
* In Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, Lee (Barbara Hershey) thanks Elliott (Michael Caine) for lending her The Easter Parade, which she says was great.

Vintage edition, 2000

* Richard Yates was godfather to the veteran character actor John Lacy.
* Singer Tanita Tikaram's 1992 album title, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, was borrowed from Yates' 1962 collection of short stories.
* In Million Dollar Baby Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is seen reading a book by Yates.
* Tao Lin's second novel, Richard Yates, is named after Yates.
posted by Postroad at 6:53 PM on December 29, 2008


Mountain View is what happens when smart people try to make the best of bad urban planning. Palo Alto is nice due to the fact it was an actual town a lot farther back when they laid cities out in neat mixed-use grids but mostly remains nice due to the fact that it's full of rich people which can make even the worst suburb seem palatable.

I'm not sure if I understand your point- Mountain View grew up organically around a stagecoach stop, and then shifted to the Castro street downtown with the arrival of trains and the station. I'm not sure why you think that's less town-like than Palo Alto, which was a hayfield until it was founded by Leland Stanford to house his University after his original choice, a real, existing town called Mayfield, refused his attempt to make them close all saloons and stop selling alcohol. Mountain view was incorporated over a decade before Palo Alto.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:12 PM on December 29, 2008


...relentlessly grim and sad and desperate...Frank and April are ex-so-called-bohemians and completely snotty and superior and petty is just the frosting on the cake.

Ah, the plot line of the newish film, Mean Girls, starring Lindsay Lohan. [trailer].

sorry! can't help myself :P

btw, i ref'd it above [cf. "childhood fantasies"] but i'm currently reading mary gaitskill's two girls, fat and thin, after being impressed by veronica; if you're a fan of (well written) "relentlessly grim and sad and desperate" -- i kinda think of it as the middle school version of blood meridian so far -- then check it out ;)

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 7:29 PM on December 29, 2008


Something that seems to be missing in the "suburbs are like X" and "cities are like Y" comments here is that there is a significant life-cycle movement to both. Someone might experience their childhood in a suburb, move to a college town for university, move to a dense city in their early 20s, move back to the suburbs in their 30s when they have children, and late in life move back to the city for the cultural amenities, healthcare, and other services.

That's not a cycle that captures everyone, by any means. But it is a really important part of how one needs to interpret all these "soulless suburbs/exciting cities" and "dangerous cities/safe suburbs" kinds of comparisons. An upwardly mobile, single, and childless 22 year old is going to look at urban living rather differently than a late-30's couple with three kids, for example.

(And before everyone starts up with the "but I have a kid and I live in the city," think about all the cities grappling with having to close schools because people with kids are moving out. The headline of this article, "Vibrant Cities Find One Thing Missing: Children," captures the phenomenon neatly. You may be choosing to raise your kids in the city; most of your peers are not.)
posted by Forktine at 9:17 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Lacking Subtlety, your mention of suburbia as a direct consequence of WWII and Korea reminded me why I also hate The Hours.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:34 PM on December 29, 2008


So, yeah, I love living in the city and I never, ever want to go back to the suburbs. Just don't try to tell me that the suburbs don't have a damn good reason for existing.

But are the suburbs really safer?

True, homicide is the second leading cause of death among teens.

But what's the leading cause?

Car accidents.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:09 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the person overhead likes to listen to rap music at 3 in the morning, you have no recourse but to suffer it.

Not if you ARE the person overhead...
posted by kid ichorous at 11:09 PM on December 29, 2008


If Thoreau were alive today, he'd live simply. He'd be appalled by every family having multiple cars and living miles from where they work or study every day. Dependence on daily commuting would horrify him.

The major problem of suburban living is car dependency, which causes unnecessary pollution (from car manufacture to car disposal), nasty land use (roads, driveways, garages, parking), and soul-sucking traffic congestion. If you live in the city and drive a car every day, you may be as guilty of these things as any suburbanite.

Raise the cost of using private cars (and not just through gas taxes) and require that all new housing developments be accompanied by bus or train access paid for (through taxes or fees) by all residents of the developments. If you have already paid for the bus that stops near your house, and if driving a car is going to cost you enough to feel it, you won't drive without good reason.
posted by pracowity at 2:51 AM on December 30, 2008


Siegel is brave, brilliant, and wittier than Mefi will ever be. Take that, you bunch of immature, abusive sheep.
posted by Mocata at 5:36 AM on December 30, 2008


In all my years of living in many different locales. In the US, abroad, in the city, in small rural towns, in the suburbs, I have never with my own eyes seen any place close to what Faze describes above in Suburban USA. Lovely big windowed views of your acre and a half wooded, yet somehow bucholic grassy lot with frolicking deer AND only 5 short minutes from hallowed cultural halls of learning, music, food, and shoping AND working class.

I've seen places that have one or maybe two of those features, but not all three. Big lots and working class, sure in rural areas far from anything you could describe as cultural (agri-cultural maybe). Big lots and close to culture, sure welcom to McClean, VA, the nearest working class neighborhod, well, we don't really care where those people live. Working class and close to culture, sure welcome to inner suburbs, the streetcar suburbs, the ones being rediscovered by the new urbanists, some of them, like mine, even have small lots for the houses to sit on.

So, while I'm not saying Faze's world doesn't exist, though I do think it sounds a bit embellished, it is the exception rather than the norm for suburban America. There are places, towns independent of cities where such worlds exist, this is not suburbia and would therefore be moot in such a conversation. Perhaps Faze lives in such a town?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:08 AM on December 30, 2008


Pollomacho, that sounds pretty much like the Audubon community here in Amherst. About the only difference is that that section of Amherst doesn't, AFAIK, have much in the way of working class people, though the housing costs are probably well under what working-class areas of metro DC would be (ie, 125--175 for 3 or 4 bedroom detached houses).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:17 AM on December 30, 2008


Amherst is a town in its own right and not a suburb of a city though, no?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:32 AM on December 30, 2008


If Thoreau were alive today, he'd be a non-violent Unabomber. He didn't fit in to society in his day and he'd be just as weird, reclusive, and dependent on his family now as he was then. His lifestyle would be the same (living in a self-built cabin, probably on family land or back in the state forest) up until the county code enforcement officer and the local police got too many phone calls about the bearded weirdo talking to kids on their way to school. Oh, and his sisters would probably be career women, so wouldn't have time to do his laundry or bring him dinner, either.

Like most people who just can't fit into society, Thoreau would have either ended up living in the city because of its intricate network of social services, or with a family member -- as has been noted, most suburbs (especially those that are separate municipalities) outsource much of their human services to cities, and engage in a lot of "greyhound therapy" for local weirdos. Thoreau wouldn't have been a suburbanite not because of any moral opposition, but because we have largely defined "suburb" as the absence of people like him.

(I'm exaggerating a bit here for effect, of course -- Thoreau was, I think, higher-functioning than was Kaczynski, but he was never going to be a guy happy to go to toe the line and engage fully in the social rituals that make up most of our lives.)
posted by Forktine at 7:50 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the suburbs are so great why does all the Chinese food suck and cost twice as much as it does in the city? Argh, Hunan is meant to be spicy dammit! And not cost me $15 fucking dollars.
posted by geoff. at 7:50 AM on December 30, 2008


On further reflection, my bet is that Thoreau would be one of those guys you see in towns like Eugene and Madison, sitting in a cafe and underlining paragraphs in Heidegger 30 years after they dropped out of their graduate program. College towns have a lot of tolerance for the more benign varieties of weirdness, and there is a lot of cheap rental housing, good social services, and usually a fair number of jobs (like shelving books at the university library) that require a lot of education but don't require much in the way of people skills.
posted by Forktine at 8:56 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some things the burbs are made of: grow-ops, amateur pornographers, dog fight rings (at least in Burnaby), fences (both kinds), amateur tattoo artists (stay away), garage bands, street hockey, and more BDSM than you can shake a stick riding crop at.

Of course, outside, the sun is shining and the lawn is green...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:18 AM on December 30, 2008


In all my years of living in many different locales. In the US, abroad, in the city, in small rural towns, in the suburbs, I have never with my own eyes seen any place close to what Faze describes above in Suburban USA. Lovely big windowed views of your acre and a half wooded, yet somehow bucholic grassy lot with frolicking deer AND only 5 short minutes from hallowed cultural halls of learning, music, food, and shoping AND working class.

It sounds like New Jersey. The frolicking deer are sort of a hazard when they're frolicking around the Parkway, but I've definitely sat in backyards like the ones he's described, and been a stone's throw away from big box stores and urban areas. And everywhere in New Jersey is a suburb.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:21 AM on December 30, 2008


On reflection, I'm not sure why I included street hockey in there.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:23 AM on December 30, 2008


This argument seems like it comes from a different era, before the suburbs became primarily housing for Hispanic cleaning ladies and other silly proles too unhip to score a green condo by a metro.

TNR
theAtlantic
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:07 AM on December 30, 2008


What is a suburb? When? Where? They have not always been 'all the same'. When I was young, many suburbs were in transition from old farm towns into modern suburbs. My suburb was such a place. But it had a quality of home-ness that derived from being where my mother grew up, and where my grandparents lived. At the summer fair, we still had horse-pulling contests, and some of my numerous relatives participated.

But meanwhile, the transition was happening. New people, new money. Lots of new money. I was, almost totally, oblivious. Oh, I noticed when new housing developments popped up in places that used to be woods. But the city at the center of things was small enough itself, that suburb faced farmland on once side, city on the other. Yet this process wasn't impersonal, from my view. My mother was on first-names basis with most of the big developers. Sometimes, I knew their kids.

When I was 16, I hitched all over. When I was 33, I made the mistake of revisiting one fondly remembered small town (it wasn't quite a suburb itself) in a very different part of the States. I was unable to recognize anything there. It was, indeed, like 'everywhere else'. I actually cried.

So when you speak of suburbs, you have to remember they started and grew and then morphed into what they are today. Many were their own small towns, in the beginning. Once, they flourished with their own sets of unique, locally owned shops. But the same blight of corporate sameness brought that down that hit everywhere else. It wasn't a function of being a suburb. It was the times.

Yes, it's true, "white flight" (which, IMO, could just as well be called "white fright") fuelled the boom of the burbs. How much was fright, how much was a simple matter of moving up to the newer, shinier, and believed-to-be better? Of course, in some places, the 'move up' really meant better housing for the dollar.
posted by Goofyy at 10:10 AM on December 30, 2008


The major problem of suburban living is car dependency.

That's not the problem of suburban living -- that's the problem of living in a country that lacks any commitment to decent public transport.

I live in the suburbs. By which I mean I live about ten miles outside the centre of a major city, in a house built around a hundred years ago. The local train station is a five minute walk from my house. The local supermarket is a three minute walk away. The local library and the cinema are both fifteen minute walks away. One of the major hazards hereabouts is the prospect of being run over by old ladies on bicycles, off on their way to the shops or the library.

I was born in the city, grew up in the city and lived there until I had kids, at which point, I moved to a place where I could rely on them getting a decent education. They've left school now, but the city centre is still only 15 minutes away on the train, so I'm not feeling any desire to uproot and move back.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:38 AM on December 30, 2008


Amherst is a town in its own right and not a suburb of a city though, no?

Amherst is mostly a suburb of Buffalo, though it's large enough (115K compared to 275--300K) that the relationship isn't as cut-and-dried as it might be elsewhere.

Parts of Amherst near the Buffalo line are old first-ring suburbs -- really just a (mostly segregated) extension of Buffalo with a different local government and, maybe, marginally larger lot sizes. A bit or two of Amherst are the swallowed-up remains of what used to be towns in their own right -- Williamsville village, at least. But most of Amherst, and the Audubon community in particular, is plain old suburbia.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:46 AM on December 30, 2008


On the upside, the Suburbs sure do produce a lot of Net Neutrality supporters!

If I can't download movies for free, how can I afford my car?
posted by radgardener at 10:53 AM on December 30, 2008


Sorry, ROU_X, I read Amherst as Amerst, MA, should not have assumed.

I'm curious about what makes it work whereas everything else I've seen fails, does Amherst have its own "sense of place" distinct from Buffalo? Did it have one before Buffalo sprawl swallowed up the former towns?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:03 AM on December 30, 2008


sorry back, I meant to say Amherst NY but forgot the NY.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that Amherst works. It's a local government in western NY, ergo it is full to brimming with upgefuckt.

The deal is that a few things conspired to bring Faze's description to life. First, SUNY-Buffalo is located way the fuck out, still near the edge of the built-up area 30+ years after it was built. This puts a major employer within a 5 minute commute for people living in what are otherwise outer-ring suburbs with deers and marmots and foxes and so on. Second, a lot of the infrastructure around here was built with the expectation that the Buffalo MSA would grow instead of, oops, dropping by 15%. So a 5 minute commute also goes farther out from UB than one might expect -- I live spitting distance from the City of Buffalo in a 1940s suburb and my commute to UB is maybe 8 minutes (unless it's snowing).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:25 PM on December 30, 2008


...at least in Burnaby...

Wow! Douglas Coupland's jPod was really an underground documentary!
posted by GuyZero at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2008


If Thoreau were alive today, he'd be saying "Help! Help! Let me out of this coffin!"
posted by Snyder at 1:32 PM on December 30, 2008 [11 favorites]


If Thoreau were alive today, he'd be crazy old.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:46 PM on December 30, 2008


If Thoreau were alive today, he'd be saying "Help! Help! Let me out of this coffin!"

Hey, what was all that about quiet desperation?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:20 PM on December 30, 2008


During that time I've seen more absolutely crazy soul-crushing shit than I did in the entire eighteen years that I lived with my parents.

Jesus man, what part of LA are you in? I've lived all around LA for over 10 years now - way out in exurbia for college, downtown and on the westside - and I've not seen half that shit. And I didn't exactly live in -nice- parts of downtown.
posted by flaterik at 5:50 PM on December 30, 2008


Jesus fuck.

All these posts generated due to a hack author spewing out more contrarian-than-thou rhetoric in the only place his discredited ass can receive airing. Lee Siegel is the unholy offspring of David Brooks's smugness and William Kristol's ability to be consistently wrong with little penalty. Yes, I secretly want that gig where I can be always wrong, yet get a healthy paycheck. Where do I sign up for that?

For more background on Lee Siegel, you can start with a detailed takedown of the "sprezzatura" incident. Follow it up with an interview with New York magazine where he shows no remorse. Finally, if that weren't enough, here's his take in the Guardian, in which he discusses elements of 'blogofascism.'

Lee's the guy that comes to mind when applying the all-purpose, "Christ, what an asshole" caption to the New Yorker's cartoons. Why anyone--including me!--feels like wasting time on his ruminations can only be explained away by pre-New Year's boredom at work or home.
posted by stannate at 7:22 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow! Douglas Coupland's jPod was really an underground documentary!

Huh. I read jPod and I totally don't remember that he inserted that. He does have a habit of using news, though, and while I was living in Vancouver there were no less than 3 dog fighting rings busted in Burnaby.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:39 PM on December 31, 2008


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