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A Talking Head Dreams of a Perfect City
September 13, 2009 9:41 AM   Subscribe

David Byrne's Perfect City Osaka's robot-run parking lots mixed with the Minneapolis lakefront; a musician's fantasy metropolis

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posted by kliuless (18 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks! This is timely, for me: David Byrne is coming to Seattle's Town Hall to talk about bicycles and cities at the end of the month.
posted by gurple at 9:48 AM on September 13, 2009


If a city doesn't have sufficient density, as in L.A., then strange things happen.

I find LA as in a strange flux, at the moment you believe it'll open up to a dense urban core it opens back up, and when you think it'll turn into bucolic suburbs, it builds back up.
posted by geoff. at 9:55 AM on September 13, 2009


If a city doesn't have sufficient density, as in L.A., then strange things happen. It's human nature for us to look at one another— we're social animals after all. But when the urban situation causes the distance between us to increase and our interactions to be less frequent we have to use novel means to attract attention: big hair, skimpy clothes and plastic surgery. We become walking billboards.

Interesting idea. Is the sprawl of L.A. really responsbile for skimpy clothes? Or perhaps the weather is more likely?
posted by grouse at 10:02 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is much more interesting and insightful than the last time I followed David Byrne's advice about cities and ending up living close to a dry ice factory and reading too much Schopenhauer.
posted by MoreForMad at 10:49 AM on September 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't know, grouse, but I do know that (having grown up in a denser, colder city, and now living in LA) the sight of a woman in late-fall clothes is much more appealing to me than another woman (even a more attractive one) in a bikini. Always nice to have room for imagination.
posted by davejay at 10:49 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obligatory.
posted by The Deej at 10:58 AM on September 13, 2009


My building has every convenience
It's gonna make life easy for me
It's gonna be easy to get things done
I will relax alone with my loved ones

posted by LSK at 12:03 PM on September 13, 2009


Man, I totally thought that said "robot-nun". I was just in Osaka, and I was really pissed off that I missed them.
posted by ErWenn at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


David Byrne is my hero. He's also right about San Francisco being more like a village than a city because everyone knows you. But I think people here in SF are more tolerant and forgiving than just about anywhere -- so you can keep making mistakes without requiring the anonymity of a large city.

Minneapolis is great, but it always feels a little too clean and uniform to me -- Seattle too. San Francisco is just right: great weather, great music, great food, great views, easy to be car-less. (Although Muni has started to really suck again.)
posted by phliar at 12:54 PM on September 13, 2009


This article came at a great time for me. I'll be finishing college soon and am going to have to find myself a city, find myself a city to live in.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 1:12 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Interesting article. Thanks.
posted by vronsky at 3:01 PM on September 13, 2009


I love reading things that David Byrne writes because I always read them in his Talking Heads-era speaking/singing voice. This line works really well:

available parking doesn't matter to me. Parking lots and structures are dead real estate—they bring no life into a city
posted by nosila at 4:09 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If that's what rocks your boat then try Houston, though to me that city, oil money made physically manifest, is my worst nightmare.

Ah, the fine hipster tradition of Hate Equity: Letting us know exactly where you stand and what kind of person you are by telling us what you hate.

If a city doesn't have sufficient density, as in L.A., then strange things happen. It's human nature for us to look at one another— we're social animals after all. But when the urban situation causes the distance between us to increase and our interactions to be less frequent we have to use novel means to attract attention: big hair, skimpy clothes and plastic surgery. We become walking billboards.

This is the classic New Yorker's lament about Los Angeles, and I mean no offense to Mr. Byrne, but it's an enormous crock of shit. LA is a friendly city where people tend to get along despite their differences. Just because we're spread out doesn't mean we don't have arts communities and farmers' markets. (What's more, no stranger passing me by on the street ever told me to "go the fuck back to Boston" for wearing a Red Sox shirt, as has happened in NYC.) This image of LA as a festival of silicone fakery can be pretty easily debunked by spending two minutes here.

For as worldly as David Byrne seems to be, I find it pretty surprising that his entire picture of the second largest city in the US seems to come from episodes of Nip/Tuck.
posted by hifiparasol at 5:14 PM on September 13, 2009


I respect him for taking a folding bicycle on his travels; I'm not sure I'd have the courage to bike in most of the places he mentioned. Of course, Byrne got used to biking in Manhattan (before the Hudson River renovation), so maybe he's not as sensitive as I am to the possibility of getting run over by a bus. But last year Byrne fell off his bicycle and broke a couple ribs.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:11 PM on September 13, 2009


I recently learned that David Byrne was (and maybe still is?) dating Cindy Sherman. That's the best thing ever. As a conceptual artist/musician couple, they beat even Bjork and Matthew Barney.
posted by painquale at 6:54 PM on September 13, 2009


When it comes to LA, I suspect some folks describe it as it was ~20 years ago. There's lag between change, and the reputation catching up to those changes. But it's only a guess.

Saying that you need striking forms of dress to be noticed due to some nature of the city, when speaking of LA, flies in the face of the rather loud and bold fashions of NYC. But, I can't go far in a comparison of those places, because I am way too biased in favor of NYC.
posted by Goofyy at 11:16 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"they beat even Bjork and Matthew Barney."


Someone certainly ought to.
posted by stenseng at 9:41 AM on September 14, 2009


Hey, @hifiparasol! Have you LIVED in Houston?

I have. And as a cyclist, too.

Byrne nails it. :)
posted by aldus_manutius at 10:45 AM on September 14, 2009


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