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Isolationist Tendencies and Urban Life

By zikzak in Culture
Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 07:19:50 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

The poll currently on the front page shows approximately 80% of kuro5hin readers choosing a self-imposed isolation as desired domicile. Granted, this is a none-too-serious poll and none of the other options were any more appealing, but 80%?

Below are some thoughts, facts and theories culled from a variety of sources about the environments we build, and run away from, and how they get to be the way they are. I am not telling anyone how to live, and there is no real thesis other than the obvious pro-urban one. I simply believe that these things are worth thinking about and I have attempted to show several directions in which one can go about doing so.

Throughout history, the treatment and arrangement of shelter have revealed more about a particular people than have any other products of the creative arts. Housing is an outward expression of the inner human nature; no society can be fully understood apart from the residences of its members.
Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier

A Brief History of Getting Away From it All

In much of the western world, and especially in the US, moving to a lower density environment has become so commonplace that it has become accepted as a manifestation of base human nature. What few people realize - or choose to ignore - is that not only is our current model of suburban growth a recent phenomenon, it was primarily brought about as a reaction against something that is itself no older than the development model it spawned. Prior to the Industrial Revolution there was no significant popular desire to leave the city permanently. The advancements in transportation technology from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s are certainly responsible for allowing people the ability to conveniently live more than a mile or two away from where they work, but it is important to remember that this same era of innovation was also responsible for creating the conditions that made doing so widely desirable. Dickens' London was a drastically different place from Shakespeare's.

The Industrial Revolution's second stage began to have strong negative effects on people's daily lives at the same time as it began to offer a solution to the problems it created. While the living conditions of millions dropped to absolute squalor, rail lines and streetcars offered an alternative to tenements and apartments. While factories generated enough smoke and other pollution to make cities downright unhealthy, they also generated enough wealth that the management could afford a lifestyle mimicking one previously only available to nobility.

In this environment, the writings of a few people advocating a more pastoral dwelling were understandably quite popular. Catharine Beecher wrote several influential works on the importance of a non-urban location for women to properly manage their domestic surroundings, while a rather snobbish landscape architect named Andrew Jackson Downing enjoyed great success with his books detailing the proper sort of civilized living arrangements he felt one should aspire to. His ideal was a villa "requiring the care of at least three or more servants", although he was kind enough to provide suggestions for people of lesser means as well. Combined with similar writings by everyone from Olmsted to Thoreau, by the late 19th century the prevailing wisdom in the US was that a detached home on a lot some distance from the city was the better way to live.

The stage had already been set when the first Model T rolled off the line in 1908. The general population had been seeing cities fall further and further into an unlivable state for over 50 years, and a broad consortium of industries consisting of automobile and tire manufacturers, oil companies, and the National Association of Home Builders started seeing huge profit potential and began joining forces in lobbying, marketing, and in the case of the case of streetcars, intentional destruction of an industry (read Crabgrass Frontier for a detailed look at how Detroit killed public transportation in the US). The Federal Aid Road Act was passed in 1916; the 1920s saw tremendous industry pressure to build more roads; and beginning in the 1930s the US Government began to pass banking laws (Federal Home Loan Bank Act, 1932; Emergency Relief and Construction Act, 1932; Home Owners Loan Corporation; 1933) aimed at encouraging individual home ownership, lobbied to do so of course by the above groups and by a banking industry desperate for income during the Great Depression.

[O]ur picture of how rural life is lived and the nature of the basic rural virtues is the creation of mass media based in and directed from cities.
J. John Palen, The Urban World

After W.W.II, the returning GI's demanded new homes for their families that they had fought so hard for, and both the depression and the war itself had brought new construction to a standstill. The veterans wanted families in clean suburbs, and a man named William Levitt saw a golden opportunity to capitalize on those dreams. The 1950s were Leave it to Beaver and drive-in diners. Mass culture was suburban culture, and it was being exported abroad as well. The cities had improved a good deal during the first half of the 20th century and still retained a certain cachet that the suburbs lacked, but the 1960s brought about a change that was very different from the Industrial Revolution, yet did even more damage.

Dogs and firehoses, bombs and lynchings, riots and assassinations. The cities are black, the blacks are pissed, and running to the hills never looked better to the terrified white people. During the previous 100 years people had been taught that you leave a place you are afraid of as long as you can afford to do so. The middle-class could afford it, and they left in droves. The blacks tended to be not so prosperous and they stayed behind, which suited the white folk just fine.

New subdivisions are sold by purveying the image of a home in quasi-rural surroundings, but conveniently located near the city. The fact that these semi-rural paradises rapidly become urban areas distinguished from the city proper mainly by their monotony only serves as a basis for promoting a subsequent round of flight to the new urban fringe.
Christopher Leo, Urban decay: barricading our cities, and our minds

The 1970s added another suburban ring to the cities as white flight reached its apex. Building codes and deed restrictions were enacted to separate residential from commercial from industrial. The city had mixed-use and the city was bad, but people still demanded their stores and convenient access to services. Things were built quickly and haphazardly. The city followed the people, but in a more dispersed form and with an overabundance of harvest gold carpeting. Cars became a necessity for each adult, and traffic worsened. Occasionally a black person would move in. It was time to move.

The 1980s were wealthy. Two thousand square feet was the absolute minimum for a family of 3. The lots got bigger, the stores got bigger, and the drives got longer. Traffic got worse and the city kept following the people. The US began exporting culture en masse, and the rest of the world got to watch Dallas and Miami Vice. At the end of the decade a recession hit and the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Banks crashed and many chrome & glass office parks sat empty.

When the economy reheated in the 1990s, many looked around them and did not like what they saw. Their homes were inadequate, traffic was terrible, and crime had appeared on their doorsteps. They were fat with IPO cash, and it was time to flee what they had created. A 2,500 square foot house on a 1-acre lot wasn't enough for a family of two with no kids. They needed 5-acre lots and 4,000 square feet. They needed to escape the city and finally live the bucolic dream. They needed needed Wal-Marts and Home Depots, Circuit Citys and Starbucks. They needed the city and it continued to follow them.

Other parts of the world watched the US carefully. They looked to the country for inspiration, awed by its wealth. They took notes and they implemented what they saw. American Style homes are big in China and Ghana. It is considered a sign of success by many to be able to get away from it all and live in a manufactured pastoral setting close to the city, "just like the Americans".

- - - - - - - - - -

What You Believe to be True is Probably Wrong

[W]hen telecommunications were introduced on a large scale in all advanced industries in the 1980s, we saw the central business districts of the leading cities and international business centers of the world - New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, and Sydney, among others - reach their highest densities ever.
Saskia Sassen, Cities in a World Economy

Several years ago Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder of the MIT Media Lab, published a piece in Wired titled Being Rural. This article is interesting for two reasons; first because it very accurately describes how many people, especially those in the computer-related industries, view urban -vs- rural life and what they believe the future holds in store; and second, because so many of the base assumptions in it are most likely completely wrong.

Negroponte wrote, "The digital world has no center and therefore no periphery." This seems to be a common view held by many people, that the Internet is truly placeless. However, any decent network administrator should see the fallacy in that statement almost instantly. Saskia Sassen has been closely studying economic globalization and its effects on cities for over a decade. Her findings lead to the unavoidable conclusion that not only are cities not going to disappear, a small number of the largest cities are actually consolidating their importance and influence over the rest of the world.

Sassen points out that multinational corporations and other key operators in a global economy require a centralized location in which they work, and that "even the most advanced information industries have a production process". Necessary support for these companies, from clerical to facilities maintenance to the people serving lunch are all required in close proximity. Telematics can only accomplish so much, and no matter what industry you work in you will always need some direct personal interaction with at least a few of your suppliers or customers. The higher you are in the management chain the more important this interaction will be, and the more likely you will be to have a large support staff, as well.

The ultimate irony in the placeless world is that some places organize the rest.
Manuel Castells, Interviewed in Wired

One aspect of this concentration of global economic power is that cities are becoming more attached to one another than they are to their surrounding geographic location. Tokyo is much more important to New York's economy than Scranton, PA is. A Mexico City exporter has much more in common with a London financier than a Cancun scuba instructor. Meanwhile, the Scranton movie theaters are showing films made in L.A. and the Cancun scuba instructor is using gear manufactured in Sydney. The more removed you are from what Sassen calls Global Cities, the less chance you have to make any real impact in the world.

Of greater concern is the income disparity and class division already plainly evident in every large city in the world. First, at least in the US, the central cities are already devoid of the middle class due to the out-migration detailed above. Yet even in places like Sao Paulo where the urban demographic closely matches the national one, the city's global importance acts to drive up real estate values to the point that people of moderate income are not able to find adequate housing. These effects could very well result in a Gibsonian dystopia where only the very wealthy live in urban centers - being served by the very poor clustered around the fringes in shanty towns - while they control the economy and culture of a dispersed middle class that has very little say in how things are run.

- - - - - - - - - -

It Happened in a City

...I want to argue that no one kind of city, nor any one size of city, has a monopoly on creativity or the good life; but that the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities, for all their evident disadvantages and obvious problems, have throughout history been the places that ignited the sacred flame of the human intelligence and the human imagination.
Sir Peter Hall, Cities in Civilization

The possibility of great differences in wealth suggested above at least offer the potential to spark a great movement in the arts. Sir Peter Hall, Professor of Planning at the Bartlett School of Architecture has published a remarkably comprehensive book who's central thesis is that throughout history the creative flame has always burned, albeit only for short periods of time, in cities almost exclusively. The author then sets about examining the social, political, geographic and economic conditions that led to these belle époques for commonalties.

Hall's book divides cities into four sub-groups, the first being "The City as Cultural Crucible", which encompasses Athens, Renaissance Florence, Shakespearean London, 19th Century Vienna, Paris from 1870-1910, and Weimar era Berlin, places all well known for their revolutionary contributions to art and culture. One thread connecting all these places (Athens excepted) is that at the times of their greatest cultural peaks they all contained huge disparities in wealth between the richest and poorest members of society. Other elements that, if not required, are at least highly beneficial to the creation of an artistic milieu range from the obvious - a society accustomed to arts patronage - to the surprising notion that class conflict was crucial in all instances. "Great art is not produced by insiders, even though the artists may be patronized by insiders".

The book goes on (and on) examining many other cities - from Glasgow to Detroit, Rome to Tokyo, New York to the SF Bay area - looking at every conceivable aspect that led to each gaining its unique moment of greatness. Government policy, entrepreneurial drive, simple necessity, or even blind luck, all play roles, yet one commonality that all posses is that only in an urban setting was there enough confluence of both disparate and supportive forces to spark Hall's creative flame. It stands to reason that a larger mass of people will produce a greater number of innovations, yet what stands out is how few exceptions there are to the rule that humankind most often reaches its pinnacle in an urban setting. The history of the world truly is the history of cities.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Where do you really want to live?
o Small to Medium City, Downtown 23%
o Streetcar-Style Suburb 7%
o Suburban Sprawl 5%
o Small Town 9%
o True Rural Area 13%
o Hyper-Urban Mega City 26%
o Nomadic Lifestyle 9%
o No, really, I want to live in Inoshiro's bathroom. Honest. 2%

Votes: 171
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o poll
o Crabgrass Frontier
o Catharine Beecher
o Andrew Jackson Downing
o his books
o National Association of Home Builders
o Crabgrass Frontier
o The Urban World
o William Levitt
o drive-in diners
o Urban decay: barricading our cities, and our minds
o Cities in a World Economy
o Nicholas Negroponte
o MIT Media Lab
o Being Rural
o Saskia Sassen
o Interviewed in Wired
o Cities in Civilization
o Sir Peter Hall
o Bartlett School of Architecture
o Also by zikzak

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Isolationist Tendencies and Urban Life | 78 comments (69 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
Not a bad job. (4.33 / 3) (#4)
by JazzManJim on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 04:58:04 PM EST

I've noticed that the "net culture" seems to promote more isolation than it does face-to-face social contact. I can't say that it's absolutely true, but it does seem to to me. In my case, I'm a carefully social person. I enjoy social events, and it's from them I derive energy and recharge my personal batteries. On the other hand, I'm not a social butterfly either. Too much tends to make me frazzled and unappealing, though some might argue that I'm that way all the time. :-)

I am, at heart, a small town boy. I do okay in cities, but oftentimes the hustle and bustle gets to me and I want peace and quiet and the chirp of crickets and the stars at night. I'd be quite content living outside a moderately-sized city, where I could have my peace, and get to the good stuff int he city. Though lately I've been looking toward the inner suburbs of Washington DC to live. It seems....well..nice there.

Nice job on this. I wouldn't mind seeing as a continuing feature.

+1, FP

"Hostility toward America is a religious duty, and we hope to be rewarded for it by God...I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America."
(Osama bin Laden - 10 Jan 1999)
The Frustrations of net.culture for Social People (none / 0) (#68)
by sventhatcher on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 07:42:10 PM EST

As an active denizen of net culture, I'm profoundly frustrated by the emphasis on isolation as opposed to face-to-face interaction. I'm an introvert and somewhat shy, but I love to socialize with people whom I know relatively well or at least share some sort of common interest with.

My sometimes co-worker, Kirby, and I have very little in common. He's planning on a career as a coach, and I despie almost all sports. However, we can still sit and talk about various movies and directors for insanely large amounts of time, because we share that facination. (I'm not sure where that thing fit into the grand design of my post, but enjoy it none the less!)

What frustrates me deeply about the net is that I tend to meet all kinds of facinating and interesting people that I will in all likelyhood never get a chance to meet and certainly will not interact with on a regular basis.

I don't fall under the category of no life loser or anything. I've got my fair share of friends that I hang out with on a regular basis, and I've become an active participant in my local theatre scene (which is admittedly not very large, but still). I'm just facinated by people and like to meet new and different sorts of them, but my shyness often makes this difficult to do IRL, which is why I like to meet people on-line despite the frustrations it tends to impose upon my soul. =)

--Sven (Now with bonus vanity weblog! (MLP Sold Seperately))
[ Parent ]
Well, (3.00 / 8) (#8)
by trhurler on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 05:13:33 PM EST

I do have to wonder why you consider art to be the measure of man, considering that its only real purpose is to make us happy, and most of the art that makes most people happy is not considered great by most art critics. I also have to wonder whether you're talking about the future or the past, and whether you're talking about conditions for finding great artists or conditions we're likely to live in whether we like it or not, and so on. This could easily have been two submissions; it is a huge amount of material. Still, it is interesting, in an "ok, but now what?" kind of way.

The thing nobody has yet realized, except of course for those too busy living their lives to write about how they could be different, is that the so-called "information age" isn't going to supplant anything. We're always going to need our industry, and while industry will change some, it still is industry. Similarly, people say the industrial age supplanted agriculture, but that's not really true; agriculture is bigger today than it ever was then - it just isn't the biggest thing there is. This flaw tends to color most analyses, and causes some truly silly assumptions. For instance, computer programmers, as a group, by and large can get away with living anywhere if they're willing to do what it takes, but project managers generally cannot. This kind of distinction is only possible if you realize that project manager is a distinctly industrial position, and programmer is not. Try and get that from these "great thinkers" who keep polluting bookshelves lately.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

ughhh (3.66 / 3) (#11)
by spacejack on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 05:45:57 PM EST

I do have to wonder why you consider art to be the measure of man, considering that its only real purpose is to make us happy, and most of the art that makes most people happy is not considered great by most art critics.

This is silly. Art is a reflection of man, of society.. and a damn good one at that. If your society has gone to shit, your art will reflect that. It is an indicator more than anything. And furthermore, we do not make art to make people "happy" -- the biggest blockbuster movie of all time, Titanic, was a tragedy. Making people happy is what theme parks are for.

[ Parent ]
But (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by trhurler on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 05:58:29 PM EST

People WERE happy when they saw Titanic. Sure, they cried, they felt for the characters, and so on, but they kept going back. They didn't do that because the movie made them miserable - they did it because the movie made them feel good. They walked away feeling better than they felt when they went in. Their motives and so on may have varied, but people who didn't enjoy seeing it didn't go back. I'm guessing most of them felt ennobled and/or enjoyed some kind of perceived empathic bond with the characters. Tragedies are popular because people like tragedies.

As for art as a reflection of society, it may generally be true, but to then say that the art IS the society is like saying that a recording IS the performance, and in fact, there have been occasions of great art in really shitty societies and vice versa, so the recording/performance idea really isn't quite accurate anyway; this reflection is only accurate some of the time.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
"Happy"? (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by spacejack on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 06:13:57 PM EST

People WERE happy when they saw Titanic.

Ehh.. "happy"? I think a lot of people were emotionally moved. People might like to be emotionally moved, but you don't go to see a tragedy when you're feeling depressed. Unless your misery needs company. But this all more complex than "making people happy".

As for art as a reflection of society, it may generally be true, but to then say that the art IS the society is like saying that a recording IS the performance, and in fact, there have been occasions of great art in really shitty societies and vice versa, so the recording/performance idea really isn't quite accurate anyway; this reflection is only accurate some of the time.

Yes but for this argument, it only has to be "generally true", not true for every single piece of art. I'd say that we live in pretty good times these days (at least here, I dunno about where you live), contrasted with the rest of human history. That doesn't stop some of my friends from making the odd piece of art which might lead you to believe we live in the dark ages. Overall however, and especially taking into account more popular works, you get a more accurate picture of our society. Art also helps us understand the past -- as much as any authentic documentation does.

[ Parent ]
Hmm (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by trhurler on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 06:28:35 PM EST

If by "happy" you mean "Hello Kitty meets Pikachu" then I suppose we're in agreement, and certainly tragedies are not movies for all moods, but then, no movie is. On the other hand, regardless of what you call it(you said "emotionally moved,") people get something they not only want, but actually enjoy out of tragedies. They are happier people afterward than they were before. The fact that there may be some indirect cause at work does not change that fact. There are different reasons that different art makes different people happy, but in the end, if it doesn't make us happier, we don't want it.

For a perfect study in this, look at the "Jesus in a jar of piss" that was so controversial a few years back. Obviously it offended Christians, who mostly wanted nothing to do with it. Many non-Christians found it humorous. However, what is really telling is the reaction of two groups. First, people who hate life, think everything is suffering, and that people are shitty. These people loved that work. Then, people who love life, love people, and are generally happy - these people generally couldn't find it in themselves to be too upset, but they certainly didn't like this art; they would not have paid for it, given a choice, and they would not have gone anywhere to see it.

In every case, people reacted to the art in a way reflective of whether it made them happier or not; if it made them happy, they supported it; if it made them less happy, they opposed it, and if they didn't care, then - shock of shocks - they didn't care. In general, political considerations and so on went right out the window as people took sides based almost entirely on the merit of the piece itself. Of course, a few people took a broader view than that, saying "this should be supported because artists must be free!" or "this must be prevented from ever happening again!" but really, aren't they just working for a world where art makes them happy too?

I'm not a hedonist when it comes to life, but I don't have to be a hedonist when life comes to art - art is an intrinsicly hedonistic proposition.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
No (5.00 / 3) (#21)
by spacejack on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 07:00:05 PM EST

There are different reasons that different art makes different people happy, but in the end, if it doesn't make us happier, we don't want it.

No! Some art exposes us to new ideas -- sometimes uncomfortable ones -- that we do not always shake immediately. Sometimes they affect us for the rest of our lives. Sometimes we are disturbed by what we see depicted on screen, unaware that people treat other people in such ways. I don't think it makes us "happier", it's more like biting the apple in the garden of eden -- we might gain knowledge, but with that knowledge comes the risk that we will actually be less happy. Lots of people do this willingly however. Why? I dunno. The optimist in me says it's because we want to better ourselves. Simply amusing ourselves -- making ourselves happy -- would not accomplish this. In fact, simply indulging oneself can often lead to long-term unhappiness.

For a perfect study in this, look at the "Jesus in a jar of piss" that was so controversial a few years back. Obviously it offended Christians, who mostly wanted nothing to do with it. Many non-Christians found it humorous. However, what is really telling is the reaction of two groups.

Right, it tells us about the two groups and how they used that work as a tool, not much about the work itself. In all likelihood, that piece will go down in history not for it's artistic merits, but as an indicator of a time when pro and anti-Christian sentiments were fighting each other in the media (yet interestingly, not violently as in past times).

[ Parent ]
Off topic - Catharsis (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by Aphexian on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 06:26:33 PM EST

The technical term is "catharsis", and is considered the reason why people have gone to see everything from Shakespearean tragedy to "Titanic" tragedy.

Catharsis (aside for being a medical term to describe crapping your pants) is the release of intense (usually sad or lonely) emotions. It is most effective when you are so enthralled by the characters that you identify with them and empathize with their emotions. (Granted, I'm just doing a definitional gloss-over here)

The "good" feeling you get is essentially "Thank god that wasn't me, because that would've sucked soooo bad."

To wax philisophically on topic for a second, usually the beautiful art that comes from "really shitty societies" (which seems like a misnomer to me, or you are using society in a very narrow sense) are painful representations of what the people are going through. We identify with that pain and say "Thank god that wasn't me, yadda yadda" The representations that aren't (and there are a few) are often simple, powerful dreams of what it would be like to get away.

In short, I agree with spacejack "Art is a reflection of man, of society.. and a damn good one at that."
And while you are correct that people left Titanic feeling (self-servingly) better, I'm not sure its exactly the same type of "happy" you were originally talking about.
[I]f there were NO religions, there would be actual, true peace... Bunny Vomit
[ Parent ]
Ah (4.00 / 3) (#20)
by trhurler on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 06:34:39 PM EST

I think catharsis can only partly explain this, though. When I see a tragedy, I never have any sense of being better off for not having experienced the events portrayed; indeed, I generally get into it deeply, but when I walk away, what I'm left with is more empathy and a sense that I'm not the only one who has suffered than anything else. Then again, unless you go to third world countries, there aren't a whole lot of people left alive, intact, and in reasonable health who have suffered more than I did at one time, so perhaps my reaction is not average; I don't know. I do know that my emotional reactions are both strikingly like other peoples' and yet different in ways that I can't really even quite explain; sometimes I feel almost nothing when you'd think "any decent person" would, and sometimes my emotions overpower me in situations most people find meaningless. Still, other peoples' reaction to tragedies doesn't seem that different from my own, from outward appearances.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Tragedy has been done to death (none / 0) (#27)
by irregexp on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 01:12:27 AM EST

Nothing which most people (ie, all of us) can say about tragedy hasn't already been said. For one particular look at it, see Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy (it's ok if you skip the last half).

/Irregular Expression/
[ Parent ]

I love the city (4.40 / 5) (#12)
by spacejack on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 05:56:52 PM EST

Bearing in mind that some cities are better to live in than others, I love this one. Toronto was blessed in the 60's with urban planning rules that have made this city what it is today. The idea was quite simple really: restrict construction in such a way that no one area may contain too many commercial structures without residential. i.e., you only need to go about one or two short blocks in any direction from any given "office tower" street and you'll find a tree-lined residential street. That and a fierce defence of many large, inner-city green spaces (including the largest urban park in North America) have made this place what it is today: the worlds "most livable city". (Though our current provincial government is causing the city some stress right now with their idiotic privatization policies, increased property taxes and pathetic rent controls, but we're definitely not going down without a fight.)

Anyways, I suppose I get the best of both worlds: I use k5 online, which is one of the best online communities, and I live in a city with a great sense of community. I just wish I could invite some k5'ers out for beers with my local crew on Fridays... my favourite local bar-owner always goes out of his way to get us the best table.

Toronto, and the reverse urban sprawl. (4.20 / 5) (#28)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 01:46:11 AM EST

I'm originally from northern ontario, in the desolate wasteland of boreal forest. Intellectual ability is severly stunted by lack of touch with the outside world and academic institutions. If anyone from that area has any hope of ever becoming something academically they have to leave in search of the more populated cities of southern ontario - and they never look back.

I spent the first 5 years of my life growing up in the bush - literally isolated from all other kids and people other than my parents. I learned from reading books and watching the mind-control box.

My parents then moved into the city, (rural community of 80k, on the border with US.) and since we were fairly poor (my father was a machinist and my mother was a housewife) we moved right into the fringe of lower middle class people that surrounded the run down lower class core of most northern ontario cities. I spent time running around with kids that ended up becoming heroin dealers and career criminals. No shit.

Somehow, certain teachers got through to me, and I took up academics rather fervently. Whether my isolated early childhood contributed to this (I know most of the other intellectual types at my highschool were originally from the rural areas) I do not know, but one thing was sure - I had to move to the denser urban cities in southern ontario - not only to find good education, but to enjoy the privlidges of living in such a massive entity. Libraries, Universities, Concerts, Culture... these were all things that did not exist for me (at least in any qualitative sense) until I moved south to live in Southern Ontario. I've had all of my jobs in large cities (with the exception of one, but that was a nuclear research facility for Atomic Energy Canada Ltd.). I love the urban core.

At the same time though, I often feel more like a cog in a machine than a living entity that is fundamentally connected with the natural environment. It's kind of scary. I have a dichotomy between being druidic and natural and an urban drone at the same time. Sometimes when I go back to the bush it makes me sad. I guess it makes me appreciate the good aspects of both urban and rural living though.

So anyway, there are many like me. My hometown has brain-drain worse than anything most canadians think of when it is related to flux to the US. There really is no one of academic calibre left in these places. Whether or not that is a good thing, I'm not certain....

Anyways, just my musings on Toronto and living in a "reverse urban sprawl".


We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Interesting... (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by tzanger on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 10:46:25 AM EST

I'm living in Southern Ontario right now (about 40 minutes from Kitchener/Waterloo) and I'm planning on moving my family to the Ottawa Valley.

While I'm not sure where you classify Northern Ontario (North Bay? Thunder Bay? On the coast of Georgian Bay?), I consider the Ottawa Valley "north" -- it's lots of forest, not many jobs outside the cities (Ottawa, Renfrew, Pembroke) and, in my opinion, home.

My great-grandfather's family was one of the first settlers in the area (Cobden) and my grandfather and father grew up there. My dad left for Kitchener for employment and I grew up in this area. There's lots of my family around here too (all the young'uns [my dad's generation]) seemed to move to this area about the same time.

Make no mistake: Southern Ontario has its fair share of heroin dealers and career criminals. While I never ran with them I did run with their brothers. There's no magic down south -- if you're keen on learning and your parents can teach you to stay out of the big trouble, you'll do fine anywhere. I'd tend to think that the area you grew up in (the LMC, near a LC housing core) than the proximity to being away from civilization.

It's more isolationist up north because there just isn't the population density. If you know your neighbours and keep a fairly active social life you shouldn't have much trouble in that area (unless you're into raves or ballroom dancing or something) -- and I feel that my kids will grow up better not being sardine'd with a 2500 other kids in public and high school.

As far as libraries and such -- A good set of encyclopedias (book form and CD/DVD), regular trips to a library with a Lending agreement with other libraries (almost every one now) and curiosity should keep boredom at bay... But maybe I'm being idealistic.

I dunno; you've obviously lived the route I'm planning for my children. I'd be interested in hearing more about where and what was wrong with where you lived.

[ Parent ]
Northern Ontario (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 11:49:04 AM EST

I'm originally from Sault Ste. Marie and it's surrounding district. While it is not really a bad place in terms of what people consider "urban" crime, a high unemployment rate, lack of things to do (unless you enjoy the outdoors) and just a general sense of "dimwittedness" lends to a high crime rate (mostly thefts and violent assaults - rarely with guns though).

As a small child (elementary school) it wasn't bad - not all of my friends were that bad, and definately the ones that I kept close to me weren't bad at all. In high school (there were 7 high schools in the city) I managed to go to one of the suburban schools out of my district - it was generally regarded as being the most affluent, however the one I was supposed to go to was absolutely miserable. I would have definately hated going there.

The Ottawa valley is a bit of an anomoly as far as Northern Ontario goes... Ottawa is a very nice city (probably my favorite place I've lived so far). From Sudbury to Thunder Bay though I think it's a different situation.

If you are going to move back up north with your family I'd strongly suggest encouraging reading, computer stuff, etc etc - even more so than normal. There just isn't enough social pressure or opportunities outside of the home to become an academic or a "skilled" worker even for that matter in many rural communities. I think it definately takes a much stronger family to thrive in these isolated areas because there is no outside influence - sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes it's a bad thing, but it sounds like you have the best interests for your family in mind and as such you're probably making a good move.


We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Planning means "keep out" (4.33 / 3) (#35)
by ubu on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 10:55:20 AM EST

Your urban planning is merely a way of forcing everyone to adjust to the kind of city you want. Personally, I hate tree-lined residential streets. They strike me as being simplistic, illusory havens of deteriorating minds and families.

But you like them, so when you force everybody to create them you're making a "livable city" for yourself. Which is great for you, not so great for

  • Those who need low-incoming housing
  • Those who want forests, not tree-lined streets
  • Those who prefer apartments
  • Those who need a lot of land
  • Those who want to live in a commercial center
  • Those who want to start a business but find that zoning has made barriers to entry too expensive
...and countless others who don't fit into your peculiar vision of what's "livable" and what's not.

Urban planning is nothing more than a way to say "keep out" to everybody who doesn't agree with your unique notions about how life, the universe, and everything are meant to be enjoyed.


As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Where to start... (3.00 / 4) (#14)
by DranoK on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 06:01:49 PM EST

You make broad assumptions and generalizations which may not apply to humanity as a whole. You must always be cautious when dealing with 'reality' as such a beast does not exist.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you surmised people live in cities due to easier survival. This trait of community for survival purposes is obviously prevalent in human culture (arranged marriages, families, religions, eventually towns and villiages) but also within the greater realm of animals (packs, schools, nests, hives, etc). Indeed, I would find it hard to argue that it would be easier to survive isolated than in a community.

However, you brought up the concept of art and suggested cities spawn great works of art to be created. No doubt many of the worlds finest artists (in my humble opinion) lived in cities, but I find this merely coincidental data. Indeed, the reason for this could be as simple as the myth of the 'starving artist'. I do find, however, that many of my favorite artists would have never prefered to live in a city if possible.

Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac (what a sexy trio!) lived in cities primarily due to poverty. All three however traveled across the nation, never appreciating being confined within a gigantic city. The same can be said of Walt Whitman as well.

Arthur Rimbaud was much the same way in the late 1800s. He spent most of his poetic career within the walls of a city, sure, but this was mainly due to his desire not to work and the dwindleing money his boyfriend (Verlaine) had to offer. In fact, after Verlaine shot him Rimbaud fulfilled a lifelong dream of his and traveled to Africa. Rimbaud viewed French city life as inferior to the African way of living.

I could go on with more examples, but I'm sure you get my point. Viewing the past can make many theories seem good, and I can't judge reality so maybe they are real. *shrug* But still I do not feel you can attempt to guess at the motiviations behind art. Art is.

I would agree that bad art spawns in cities as bad artists want their work to be viewed, thus a city is a good venue. More people = more eyes after all.

You cite interesting trends, but I do not believe you have any method available to prove that these trends are anything more than coincidence. Indeed, for every example you list specifically several more can be listed in a counterpoint.


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence

Point taken, but these are not my ideas (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by zikzak on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 06:24:53 PM EST

For the most part all I am doing is describing the theories of people who I respect and who have, through their work, convinced me that their ideas are worth seriously considering. Sassen, Hall and Jackson are widely respected in their fields by their peers, and you will be hard pressed to find many people offering compelling scholarly rebuttal.

Peter Hall's thoughts on artists was particularly well researched. I only offered a few short paragraphs of interpretation to something he spent 10 years and 300 pages examining (and that's just the "artistic milieu" portion. The entire book is over 1,000 pages)

[ Parent ]

Not flame at you nor meant as insultive (1.00 / 4) (#22)
by DranoK on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 07:40:01 PM EST

this entire comment will be directed then at Peter Hall.

What moronic bullshit! The simple notion that anyone would spend enough time to write ONE THOUSAND PAGES and probably a lot of time spent 'researching' the motivation behind the creation of art is so pathetic I have a hard time not reverting to subhuman grunts and groans.

How 'logical' and 'scientific' does your fucking world have to be that you would spend your time dedicating so much thought to such a stupid irrelevant pointless quest for Man's Great Motivations and the Nature of Human Kind. Jesus I wish I was in a worse mood today, or really stoned -- anything which would allow me to write better flame than this is turning out to be. After all, the very basis of this research is flawed -- you cannot decide what is and is not art, or who is or is not an artist. At best Hall's work demonstrates in 1000-page glory who and what Hall considers to be art.

If someone believed only wounded soldiers were art his conclusions would be far different. Reality is in the eye of the witness. Pathetic that someone would dedicate so much dead tree to such a pointless pursuit.



Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence

[ Parent ]
Well... (3.28 / 7) (#23)
by Electric Angst on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 09:16:17 PM EST

Okay, first of all, the beautiful little nihilist disclaimer was pretty lame. "Oh, well nothing's real, so this is really true." Had you studied any formal logic, then perhaps you would understand that it is Truth, not Reality, that is currently considered the fiction by the majority of the hardcore philosophical community.

Now, as far as your examples, I think a great counter-example would be the Beat's fanboy-style masturbation fits over minority culture. The way so many of them claimed that the negro man was truely free, and how much better life must be for him. This, of course, was different that the very real violence and discrimination with which those "free spirits" were burdened.

The Beats may have been fine artists, but they're certainly not sociologists.

There's another perfectly fitting explaination for why many artists visit the country and consider it so much better, they're undertaken with the exact same "grass is greener" attitude that so many college students and others feel when traveling to places that are foreign to them.

Either way, your point is rather periphrial. You still don't offer any counter to the claim that it is the cities from which so much of most civilization's art and culture has come.

"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
[ Parent ]
Oh EA you are so pathetic (1.33 / 3) (#39)
by DranoK on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 01:09:55 PM EST

I'm not one to have a huge superiority trip but damn you make me almost wish I did. Your comments are so inane and childish I can't help but laugh.

Okay, first of all, the beautiful little nihilist disclaimer was pretty lame. "Oh, well nothing's real, so this is really true." Had you studied any formal logic, then perhaps you would understand that it is Truth, not Reality, that is currently considered the fiction by the majority of the hardcore philosophical community.

Oooh, you are a mindless drone, aren't you now? The 'majority of the hardcore philisophical community' is the authority now? Should we just bow down and take what anyone says as gospel? Jesus fucking christ man, have you EVER had an independant thought? Or are you just a sheep who is unable to stray from the majority of the flock? You are so pathetic. And to think this was gonna be a boring day! I love you EA; you make me happy.

And then of course you go on to assume motivations again. Yeah, you have a theory and of course it's true in your own mind so you can just unitarily assign motivations to dead people. *snicker* Any more dense and I doubt you would ever float.

As far as what is 'Real' and what is 'True', I would put much more faith in a child prostitute's philosophy than anything from some kind of scholar. Oh yeah, remember what I told you before? That you can't learn philosophy from books and school? Fucking moron. Did you even understand this? No, you just parot what you read. *sigh* If you were even an ounce more pathetic I think I would cry instead of laugh.

See, your problem is you require agreement. You require authoritative sources. In your small little mind if Someone Great didn't say then it ain't true. And if someone does say something, especially if you agree with it, it's true, eh? Funny thing is, most theories fall apart years later.

Oh do keep up our correspondence EA! You brighten my day ever so much! You remind me of a friend I used to know. Now, I knew him in RL so I couldn't be as rude to him as I am to you, but he still gave me endless enjoyment. You see, ignorance is funny. Ignorance is hilarious.

And you have more of it than anyone I've seen recently.



Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence

[ Parent ]
You are boring me (3.33 / 3) (#46)
by zikzak on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 08:16:03 PM EST

You see, ignorance is funny. Ignorance is hilarious.

But lame attempts at flamebait are boring. Normally I would just ignore you, but so far you're the only one posting comments to this story that are delibarately argumentative aside from trhurler.

So I'll give you another shot. Can you come up with anything more substantive to support your arguments other than "I am smart and you are dumb"? By all means, please do flame and act contrarian, but see if you can find a slightly more intelligent way to do so. It's too easy to shoot you down this way, and that makes it not worth anyone's time to bother with you.

[ Parent ]

Nah (3.00 / 2) (#58)
by DranoK on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:29:53 PM EST

You have to understand something. I enjoy being a dick and flaming. Whether I succeed in pissing people off is irrelevant. The act is enough satisfaction for me.

So if you're bored/happy/ecstatic/horny/depressed/hurt/insulted/whatever, your emotions on the matter are simply irrelevant.


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence

[ Parent ]
DranoK, you make people think ... (none / 0) (#78)
by joegee on Sat Jul 21, 2001 at 02:12:44 AM EST

it can hurt, you know.

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
Misunderstood poll option, I think (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by pfaffben on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 09:17:45 PM EST

Currently there's no option at 80% for that poll, so I'll assume that the story here refers to the "underground lair" option. When I voted for that, I wasn't reading between the lines as "isolated by myself in an underground lair." I was thinking more of a Dr. Evil kind of underground lair. Hardly isolated, and I could hang out with Mike Myers.

I suspect (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by ZanThrax on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 02:23:25 AM EST

that he's combining the tree fort and underground homes since they're both "defensible" - that is to say - its easy to keep people the hell out.

Duckspeaking since 1984.

[ Parent ]
I love urbania, but... (3.00 / 3) (#25)
by General_Corto on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 11:30:37 PM EST

He're my situation:
I live in one of the largest metropolises in North America. Not only that, but I live in the 'downtown core' of that location, i.e. I'm about 3 minutes walk away from the financial district. I love it, and wouldn't want it any other way for now.

I'm working on a project that, hopefully, will 'make me.' It's not particularly stunning in its parts, but as a whole, it hasn't been done before, and I'm working on 'doing it right' from the beginning (i.e. not just being first, but being good too). Now, should everything pan out the way I'm seeing it, I'm not going to live in urbania any more. I already know which Carribean island I want, and dammit if I'm not going to buy it.

Of course, you'll find out more in Time magazine about a year from now :)

I'm spying on... you!
Some Australian perspective (4.00 / 9) (#26)
by driptray on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 12:22:23 AM EST

When discussing the middle-class flight from the inner-city you make no mention of any subsequent gentrification of the inner-city by those same middle-classes who have flown from the suburbs.

Perhaps the phenomenon is not so big in the US. In Australia, it is the outer suburbs with their large detached houses that contain the poor, while the wealthy live in small apartments and terrace houses in the inner-city. This description may be a small exaggeration, but any resident of Sydney or Melbourne will recognise its central truth.

Why are the middle-classes fleeing suburbia to head back to the crowded, dirty and (still) crime-ridden streets of the inner-city? If you ask them (and I'm one of them), they'll tell you its to be close to the action - close to work, restaurants, pubs, cafes, niteclubs and public transport. They don't desire rural-style isolation, just the opposite. They want the feel of the city - crowded streets and interesting people.

The basic history of this flight back to the inner-city is simple. Artists, bohemians and students were attracted by the cheap rents and central locations, and were not so likely to be repelled by the poverty, dirt and crime. A new wave of the middle-class were then attracted to areas that had filled with artists and bohemians, and the shops, restaurants and cafes that catered to them. Succeeding waves of the middle-class raised prices, forced out the original poor inhabitants, and eventually forced out the artists, bohemians and students that had attracted them to the area in the first place.

And thats where we're at now - the city with a wealthy inner core, an impoverished outer ring, and a bunch of artists, bohemians and students grumbling about how there's no good place for them to live anymore.

Your main piece argues that cities are the engine room of both economic and artistic production, and you presumably are having difficulty reconciling this with the American desire for rural-style isolationism. Well the US is obviously just a little behind Australia in this regard. Why? Is it due to the racial stratification represented by the inner-city/suburban divide? That is largely absent in Australia. Or maybe the mythology of the rugged lone-wolf individual is even stronger in the US than it is in Australia?

We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
rich !=urban (none / 0) (#32)
by The Queen on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 09:54:44 AM EST

I don't know about the rest of the cities in the US, but I live in a pretty large metropolitan area with 3 or 4 big cities seperated by water. I've lived in the downtown areas of a few of them and I can tell you that there aren't many upper crust fogeys hiding out in penthouses. There are homeless guys pissing behind the high-price furniture stores. There are a bunch of delapidated old houses full of welfare families and roaches. There are a few shops and galleries, most with bars on their windows. Oh sure the rich and the middle classes come to visit, and we have a few well-to-do folks who've lived here forever and wouldn't move if the East Coast Tsunami was coming, but on any given weeknight I can walk outside and hear sirens, watch the dork across the street beating his dog...the 7-11 a few blocks down was recently the scene of a murder.
I don't know where the super-rich are hiding out, but it ain't downtown!
(Disclaimer: the area where I live is largely military, and we may have a more disproportionately large middle class due to that.)

[ Parent ]
Sounds like SF.. (none / 0) (#43)
by dragondm on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 04:53:27 PM EST

Sounds like San Francisco...

[ Parent ]
Re: Some Australian perspective (none / 0) (#77)
by cam on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 10:14:01 PM EST

>Why? Is it due to the racial
>stratification represented by the
>inner-city/suburban divide?

I am a Sydneysider living and working in Virginia USA, I agree I havent seen anything like the Paddington/Glebe-Syndrome in the US. I think the main differance is roads. The US Highway system is high quality and excellent which allows for the suburbs to be furthur out. The Great Western Highway and even the very short M2 are goat tracks in comparison. I used to dread getting to Strathfield and then getting stuck in traffic on the Great Western Highway.

There is a joke that Virginians have for people who say they are from New Jersey, they ask, "Which exit do you live on?" Having lived in eastern New Jersey it isnt far from the truth. Most things are 20 minutes away because the Highways are never far away and criss-cross the state.

In Sydney you have the choice of living in Coogee, Paddington, Glebe, Zetland etc etc and getting to work in 10 - 30 minutes by Bus, or living in the Suburbs of Seven Hills, Windsor, Hornsby, etc and facing a a 1 to 2 hour commute by car or 1 hour by train. Sydney being Sydney and a clean, safe, warm, small enough that it isnt intimidating, exciting, with beaches and harbour .....

Cant think up any positives for Seven Hills, or the new developments there. I certainly wouldnt want to get stuck on Windsor Road or Old Windsor Road in rush hour ;)


[ Parent ]

Who says... (3.55 / 9) (#30)
by Anonymous 6522 on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 04:09:46 AM EST

...that you can't have an underground lair and be surrounded by hot chicks at the same time?

Underground lairs are simply cool. The fact that I want to live in one does not indicate that I also want to be a smelly hermit. It means that I want to be more like Batman, fighting crime in a purple suit using many bat-gadgets while maintaining an active social life with my millionare friends.

What? You're saying that Batman wasn't surrounded by hot chicks in the Batcave? You're right, he wasn't. He had that annoying "boy-wonder" Robin running around spewing his "Holy whatever, Batman!"s at everyone. Batman's mistake was turning the Batcave into an oversize day-care for mentally underdeveloped sidekicks. I am not going to make this mistake. In place of Robin I will have hot chicks, videogames, and beer.

My undergound lair is going to totally kick the Batcave's ass.

Urban Living... (3.75 / 4) (#31)
by nobbystyles on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 05:28:32 AM EST

Is great when you're young and unencumbered with kids as I am now. I live in London and the amount of bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants, museums, art galleries etc is outstanding and caters for every taste under the sun. There's a great buzz about the place as it is the capital of the UK, a big international financial centre, an important media centre and educational centre. There's a mixture of nationalities that you don't get anywhere else in Europe...

However if I had kids, I would not probably live here. The pollution is terrible, the transport infrastructure is breaking down, crime is ranpant, the price of a reasonable sized house is extortionate and the education system is patchy. I would commute into London for a well paid job but live in a smaller town outside. Smaller towns are more boring but offer a better quality of life and are more suitable for raising kids....

Urban living, schools, faux urban living (4.50 / 6) (#33)
by georgeha on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 10:12:44 AM EST

I live in the city, by choice. Since we're a single income family, the places we can afford to live are limited, but there are cheaper suburbs and exurbs we could have afforded, instead, we chose the city.

Why? Several reasons, cheaper houses, nicer houses, and the community feel. Will we stay in the city? That mostly depends on the schools.

Houses are cheaper in our north eastern US medium sized city than in the surrounding suburbs, varying from 50% cheaper in dicier parts of the city to 80% cheaper in our neighborhoods to at least as much as the suburbs in the trendier neighborhoods. So, by living in the city, my wife can stay home with our kid[s], I have a shorter (20 minutes) commute, and we have a house with a bedroom for everyone.

In the city, the houses you get are much nicer, if you are into oak or gumwood trim, fornt porches, Victorians, four squares and Arts & Crafts houses. The stock of houses fitting these categories are much rarer in the suburbs. I don't know why I'm such a sucker for those old houses, but I am. Still, it pains me to drill through 100 year old oak trim to run cable and cat5.

I like the community in the city. I can walk to our Y and library. There's a small market on the corner, restaurants and bars within walking distance, even an ice cream shop. It's not unusual to run into friends and aquaintances while walking around or garage saling in our neigborhood.

Will we stay in the city? Schooling will be the biggest determinant. We can't afford a private school, and want to send our daughter[s] to a decent school, though I do realize we have a far greater impact on their education than any school will. The elementary schools in the city are adequate, and with the educational reforms in 1996, charter schools are proliferating. We're even sending Allison to kindergarten at a charter school. Fortunately, we have neighbors who have children in middle and high school in the city, so we do have some guidance.

Schooling is probably the biggest reason for white flight, and one of the toughest to crack. Embedded poverty is one of the biggest factors on poor schools, and as long as it's affordable for people to leave the city, while poor people can't, it will stay bad. Hopefully more lower income housing will be available in the city, there are lawsuits wending their way through New York's court system trying to guarantee equal opportunities to all.

Finally, faux urban living. There's an faux village subdivision in the toniest suburb of Rochester, sidewalks, white picket fences, front porches. You would need to sell 3 of our houses to buy one of those. What's the point? Is it like living in a Disney village, where it looks like a village, but everyone is a two income professional family and there's little diversity?

What city do you live in? (none / 0) (#40)
by flimflam on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 02:49:37 PM EST

I live in Brooklyn, and I love it.

However, my mom bought a farm with almost 100 acres of land for less than half the price that we (my wife and I) spent on our house. And it's not a particularly extravigant house. Certainly I could have gotten something cheaper, but not much. And if we moved about 2 blocks closer to Prospect Park the price would have been more than double. (And brownstones within a block of the park go for around $2 million).

Also, our public schools are actually pretty good here, all things considered. (Certainly better than the schools I went to upstate). We've still got a few years before we have to worry about that, though -- our daughter is only 17 days old today!

I agree with the rest of you sentiment, though.

-- I am always optimistic, but frankly there is no hope. --Hosni Mubarek
[ Parent ]
Rochester (none / 0) (#42)
by georgeha on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 04:20:31 PM EST

and the city housing prices are around 70k.

Congrats on your daughter's birth!

[ Parent ]

Rochester? (none / 0) (#44)
by Wayfarer on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 05:30:21 PM EST

Now there's an interesting example. Travelling five blocks along a given street (let's say Alexander), one can pass through ghettoes, upscale single-family homes, and a bar district; block to block, Rochester is perhaps the most inconsistent city I've ever lived in.

I always found it intriguing that some of the best neighborhoods in the city (around Park Ave., where I lived for a year, for example) were within walking distance of the Inner Loop and downtown. Makes me wonder how the suburbanization (it's a word now) process in Rochester differed from that of the stereotypical major city described in the article...

I'll be travelling to Montreal this month. Perhaps I can get another data point. ^_^


"Is it all journey, or is there landfall?"
-Ellison & van Vogt, "The Human Operators"

[ Parent ]
Partial Answers (none / 0) (#45)
by zikzak on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 07:53:39 PM EST

I only lived in Rochester for about a year, and georgeha is a whole lot more qualified to answer that than I am, but I can point you to a very valuable link.

If I had to guess, I would say that the majority of the older central neighborhoods are arranged around the old rail/trolley/subway lines. Why some stayed desirable while others - like the one I lived in on Chili Ave just off West Main - turned into wonderful places to buy crack and get mugged can almost assuredly be traced to race relations during mid-century.

[ Parent ]

Rochester is small, (none / 0) (#52)
by georgeha on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 08:45:41 AM EST

smaller than Buffalo, far smaller than Toronto or New York. It's definitely not a major city, as described in the article. So, the good neighborhoods are within walking distance of the bad neighborhoods. I expect you would find this same pattern in similar sized northeastern cities, you could check Toledo, Syracuse, Scranton, Allentown, Springfield MA, Portland ME.

Montreal is bigger than Rochester, too, even Ottawa is.

[ Parent ]

Tree Fort (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by Paradocis on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 11:11:28 AM EST

I assume you're adding together the underground lair and tree fort options to get that 80%. Who says a tree fort is isolated?!? Haven't you ever read the Dragonlance Chronicles? I want to live in Solace, just wired with fiber. (-8

"El sueño de la razon produce monstruos." -Goya

Tree Fort Towns (none / 0) (#55)
by hattig on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 01:01:18 PM EST

I was gutted when Solace got burnt down. That inn was great. Smooth, polished ancient tables.

All communities should live in overly large genetically engineered trees, connected by suspended walkways. Ewok town.

Thing is, I have a soft point for ancient buildings and architecture. Anything over 300 years old is excellent, hence I enjoyed going to a college built in the 14th century (to the 18th) when I went to University.

I like stone and wood.

Personally I would love to get transported to another world (Earth like, without bears and other ferocious animals!) with a group of like minded individuals, and just get cracking building civilisation and beer. I have thought up several dozen different house plans built out of stone and wood, however I have also thought of building huge citadels and the like (my evil bent, I think), although planning a country encompassing wall is strange (down to the cross section etc).

[ Parent ]
Hard to imagine that I'm a yuppy (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by nutate on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 11:48:00 AM EST

I grew up in a rural area of New York state, near a small city, but in the suburban buffer between the cows and the downtown. Now I am living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. I don't know how I ended up a yuppy with yuppy friends, enjoying sushi and whatnot, but it happened, and I don't really mind. The article above hits on some good points of white flight from cities, but personally, I really enjoy the diversity of city life. Such diversity is probably higher in nyc than in other cities, but nevertheless, I highly recommend living in a city if just for the music.

It's really quite simple. (2.42 / 7) (#41)
by jd on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 03:39:43 PM EST

Anyone intelligent enough to handle technology is intelligent enough to see that the pathetic excuse of a civilization that many people live in is shallow and empty.

Let's face it. Your average person-in-the-street is unlikely to be pondering the meaning of the Napster deal, the consequences of proto-life on Mars, or the implications of Free Speech on encrypted e-mail.

Joe and Jane Average might own a computer. If so, they probably use AOL and Windows 98. No mess and (above all) no thought. Their pet cat probably even cleans it's own litterbox. Their conversations probably reach the dizzy heights of "instant or microwave?".

Let's take a step back, for a moment. In fact, take several steps, turn, and RUN!!! These people are quite happy in their cut-and-paste world, and they probably get along just fine with other cardboard-cutout people. But you expect me to believe that any serious geek would, or even COULD, hang around them for more than 5 clock-cycles, before throwing up?

The real reason nerds, geeks and the like are running to the hills, is because this monotonous mundanity (is that a word? oh well, it is now :) would drive anyone with an IQ in the triple digits out of their skulls.

The hills are alive with the sound of music? Well, maybe. But they're certainly alive with the sound of BEING, which is more than you'll get from fake flowers, sterile lawns, and a population made up of Bill & Bob, the Flowerpot Men.

You live in a cut-and-paste world (4.40 / 5) (#47)
by cameldrv on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 10:26:37 PM EST

The "civilization" you live in (that is, the one of computer nerds) is pathetic, shallow, and empty. You spend your time pondering the meaning of proto-life on mars, the napster deal, and encrypted email. Who the hell cares? Why is doing any of this any better than pondering brittney spears? Why don't you go *DO* something? You are interested in exactly the same things as the other hundred thousand slashdot users. Just because you are interested in nerdy things doesn't mean that you are better than anyone else.

Will the last person to leave k5 please turn out the lights?

[ Parent ]
Turn around the looking glass (none / 0) (#62)
by PhoenixSEC on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:40:46 PM EST

Not being interested in nerdy things doesn't mean that you are better either.

Perhaps I missed the point of your post, but isn't is something along the lines of 'different strokes for different folks' (that's not mine : ). It seems a bit counterproductive to lash out so much at a specific group in making that point.

I happen to be a nerd.. I ponder proto-life on Mars, the Napster deal, and on occasion encrypted email. I also happen to ponder Christina Aguilera (she's _much_ better than Brittney ; ) and exactly how much alcohol a dog can have before being over the limit.

Making a sweeping generalization is wrong from either side of the fence...


[ Parent ]
Elitism == BAD! (5.00 / 5) (#49)
by sventhatcher on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:57:22 AM EST

No! No! No! No!

I get a strange compulsion in the back of my head to commit violent acts on furniture whenever I see/hear someone using the old "most people are boring and stupid" arguement.

It makes me physically ill.

Joe and Jane Average may have Windows 98 and AOL, but it's faulty to assume that the reason they have them and prefer not to mess with things is that they're incapable of doing so. More often, the case is they don't want to bother to do so. More important things, to them, fill their time.

Is there anything wrong with this picture?

No. Not a thing.

There is no such thing as a cardboard person. Reality doesn't mass-produce 2-D, flat characters like a bad action movie.

Obviously there isn't time enough in the world to get to know the subtle details of every person you meet's personality, but it's not cool to lump anyone who doesn't fit in whatever neat little package you've designed for what makes someone a real honest-to-god individual into a pile of being another member of the bland masses.

There are bad people. People who are intentionally hurtful and disgusting. People who are disturbed mentally to the point of hurting those around them.

There are misguided people. People who follow trends, because they've never been exposed to any other sort of existence or because they have such low self-esteem they feel like they have to in order to be at all liked or accepted.

But there are NOT a horde of media-brainwashed opinionless drones inhabiting our world.

People have opinions. People do think. Some of them just hide it better than others.

--Sven (Now with bonus vanity weblog! (MLP Sold Seperately))
[ Parent ]
Intelligence (none / 0) (#56)
by hattig on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 01:07:15 PM EST

I might know a tonne about computers, programming, Unix, etc, but that doesn't make more intelligent than people who don't.

They might know law inside out, or cars inside out, etc. Different types of intelligence and knowledge.

I know f*ck all about cars. I know I want a solid safe car that can do around 50mpg (I live in the UK, ~$6.00 a gallon for fuel (~96 octane - 4 star, or unleaded, or diesel) and is comfortable to drive. Hence I buy a magazine which to a 'car geek' is the equivalent to 'Internet Basics' or whatever...

What is important is what they are like as a person, and the age gap.

[ Parent ]

What a load of crapola (none / 0) (#61)
by ChannelX on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:11:54 PM EST

You seem to forget that not everyone looks at a computer and gets all hot about it. Most people look at them as another tool to do a specific job and nothing more. There is nothing wrong with Win98 and AOL contrary to what your geek friends might say. Some people want nothing more than to be able to send email to family members and have a nice source of information easily available. AOL fits that bill quite well.

Also don't forget that just because you are pondering whatever you are pondering doesn't mean everyone else who isn't is stupid. All of my neighbors are working-class people and none of them are stupid. They might not know the ins and outs of the ksh shell on unix but they sure as hell aren't dumb automatons like you suggest. Pull your head out and realize that life is about a hell of a lot more than computers.

[ Parent ]

Land of confusion (none / 0) (#48)
by gero on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:31:33 AM EST

I would run to the hills, because in the city you can't do anything unless you have some money and if you have, it allows you to be just an expectator of the last big show or whatever. You are not required to think about anything; the big company will make your dreams possible with their ultimate super product you can find in the super huge mall and all the time you are thinking about this crap. Hey, and people is always so busy trying to get this products or working extra time in their companies to sell their products. So I think that most of the time you are isolated 'in the city' unless, like i said, you buy that thing. I rather walk!

I Couldn't Agree Less (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by sventhatcher on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 06:13:44 AM EST

The idea that there is nothing to do in a city unless you have money is the most absurd thing I've ever heard.

There are two points I wish to make.

1. In a bigger city, there's far far far more to get invovled with in the area of artistic endeavors. Why? There are more of them. I would bet large amounts of money that in every major city in this country there are small theatre companies that would love to have someone volunteer to help with set/costume/prop work, or just to help promote. I'd be almost equally willing to bet that in all major cities there are a number of artistic endeavors (theatre, recitals, poetry readings, concerts, art showings) that are completely free every day. The free ones will tend to be the more indepedent endeavors that are happy just to have an audience regardless of any income.

2. Bigger towns means higher population means better chance of finding people that share interests with you. As someone who lives in a small town and has a somewhat eccentric personality, I find it very difficult to meet people I get along with particularly well. How does this relate? Something to do is always to hang out with friends and talk and such. That's always free.

If all you see to do in a city is follow the corporate vision, then I suggest that you get up, go out and see for yourself the possibilities that are really out there. Get invovled! Even if it's only as a member of the audience.

--Sven (Now with bonus vanity weblog! (MLP Sold Seperately))
[ Parent ]
My city experience: great! (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by NullSpaceKid on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 01:41:23 PM EST

sventhatcher is correct. A few years ago, right when I was starting my web consulting business, I lived in my office (a 4 story walkup), didn't have a car, and didn't make very much money -- enough to pay rent and bills but with little left over. My entertainment activities consisted of long walks, browsing in bookstores, and just enjoying the ambiance of the city. Almost daily there were street musicians (of varying quality). I had friends nearby, all of whom were involved in the web. And I got in great shape walking up and down 4 flights of stairs several times a day. I had a tiny fridge and a microwave, and often would dine on a can of veggies sometimes augmented by a bag of french fries from next door or a 2 for $2 deal on whoppers from a nearby Burger King. It's maybe easy for me to romanticize it now (and, despite making less than I had been as a corporate programmer) I was better off than many people. After my friends all moved to the suburbs there was less reason to stay, but I did enjoy it a lot.

[ Parent ]
Suburbia (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by MrEd on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 08:21:31 AM EST

Whenever the topic of suburbs comes up, I turn to one of my favorite cartoonists for a shot of White Middle Class Suburban Man! Who better to poke fun at the mentality of modern life! Check out the rest of his archive if you, too, find this funny.

Watch out for the k5 superiority complex!

Melting Pot is part of the problem (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by cod on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 09:35:48 AM EST

Back in the olden days....(as my father would have said) people tended to live in communities of like minded people. The Italians in Boston were all in the Noth End - the Polish lived in the same part of Chicago, the Quakers all grouped together in Pennsylvania...etc etc etc.

That is not the way the world works today. A lot of factors have led to increased diversity in our neighborhoods and work envirnments and on the whole that is probably a good thing. However, it does mean that you have less control over who you associate with and I believe that part of the "flight" to the hills is a reaction to the fact that you have to often deal with people you would rather avoid.

I've lived in my house for almost 3 years and I couldn't tell you the last name of most of my neighbors. Although we all live very close (lots average less than 1/5 acre) there is absolutely no sense of community. The problem is not that we live in the city or the country, or that the neighborhood is upper class or lower class, the problem is that none of us really self-selected into the community in the first place. We bought the house because it was close to work, or in our price range, or in this real estate market - just because it was available. None of us bought because of "the community."

If your neighbors aren't going to be part of your community - what is the point of neighbors? You might as well move farther out and buy a few acres so at least you will have privacy. That is exactly what I would like do - unfortunately this is one of the highest COL areas in the US - and to get a couple of acres and a decent house, I'm going to have to go another 30 miles out. At least at the moment, that inconcience is still outweighing the hassles of living amongst people I would otherwise not choose to spend my time with.

Have yu actually tried forming a "community&q (none / 0) (#60)
by ChannelX on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:00:52 PM EST

I've lived in my house for almost 3 years and I couldn't tell you the last name of most of my neighbors. Although we all live very close (lots average less than 1/5 acre) there is absolutely no sense of community. The problem is not that we live in the city or the country, or that the neighborhood is upper class or lower class, the problem is that none of us really self-selected into the community in the first place. We bought the house because it was close to work, or in our price range, or in this real estate market - just because it was available. None of us bought because of "the community."
I really don't understand this. Has anyone actually tried to get to know one another? If not the excuse of buying the house because it was available is a cop-out. All of the reasons you listed are reasons why people buy houses today. I just moved into a new house and already know most of my neighbors and it feels like a community. That is a result of people actually getting out and talking to one another. There isnt anything that says you have to be best friends with these people but your post sounds like you (or anyone else there) haven't really tried either.

[ Parent ]
Children really, really help, dogs too (none / 0) (#63)
by georgeha on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:46:43 PM EST

We've met most of our neighbors through our daughter being friendly. We've also met people while walking our dog. Basically, anything that gets you outside away from the idiot box will help you meet people.

[ Parent ]
I guess I wasn't clear... (none / 0) (#64)
by cod on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:15:19 PM EST

I don't have trouble meeting people...Of course we've met all the neighbors - however they are people that we would rather not spend time with and their kids are people we don't want our kids hanging out with. Our dog can make his own choices - in people years he's way older than me :) My point was that "the community" used to be a primary decision point on where to live - now its an afterthought if it is though of at all. And no - I'm not including Joe and Muffy Yuppie that just have to get a house in whatever neighborhood the papers say is the best - that is ego, not community.

[ Parent ]
community as a reason (none / 0) (#67)
by ChannelX on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 06:31:52 PM EST

for choosing a house in the past usually was because either 1) the person need to live there because others there spoke their language (ie: immigrants coming to this country) or 2) they just didnt move out of the area because that was what they were used to.

I'm still curious how you know the neighbors well enough to know you'd rather not hang with them or let your kids hang with their kids if you don't know them well. I still think that "community" doesnt even mean having to hang out. To me it means people look out for one another, talk to one another, etc. YMMV.

[ Parent ]

RE:Community as reason (none / 0) (#70)
by cod on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 08:42:31 PM EST

When we first moved in we spent some time with them, and in one case - spent a lot of time with them. In some cases once we got through the public facade we realized we didn't have anything in common with them and in fact didn't really like them. In other cases - their kids are so poorly behaved and disrespectful of adult authority - their parents included - that I would venture to say any decent parent would try to limit contact with those kids and their own... and in some cases they are perfectly nice people that are good neighbors. Community as you defined it doesn't really exist here. Maybe I'm just anti-social :)

[ Parent ]
got it (none / 0) (#71)
by ChannelX on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:58:31 AM EST

OK. Now I'm clear on what you were saying. Just sounded like from your earlier posts that you were just saying they weren't the kind of people you'd want to hang with without really knowing them. Sounds like you're social enough to me. You aren't going to like everyone ;)

[ Parent ]
I've gotten away from it all. (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by Remus Shepherd on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 12:16:41 PM EST

I used to live and work in Washington DC, and the experience made me long for a quiet country setting. After some stress-related health problems, my doctor agreed. So I went to a small midwestern town, found a nice high tech job far away from anything, and built myself a house in the middle of a cornfield just one mile away from my workplace.

I now have a three acre backyard. The farmer next to me is planting soybeans this year. I can't see my next door neighbor -- he's half a mile away and over a hill. The cow pasture across the gravel road from me needs its fence repaired, as the calves keep getting through it. My dogs are happy; they have room to roam, and they can bark at the occassional cow wandering by.

So I'm much less stressed out, and my health is good. I have absolute privacy, a good job, and a clean lifestyle. All good things.

But there are a few drawbacks.

I can't get a decent net connection. The small local phone company laughs at me when I ask for DSL, and their lines don't permit me to dialup at anything better than 28.8 kb. Okay, I guess I can live with only a fraction of the internet.

My only cable TV option is satellite, which I'm wary of. So I have five television stations. Been watching PBS a lot. Okay, I can live with that.

Weather is a constant concern. In the winter there were blizzards that left me snowbound for a week; in the summer I keep one ear constantly listening for tornado reports on the radio. I need to buy a lot of equipment to survive here; a hefty snowblower, a bigger car with 4 wheel drive, maybe an emergency generator. It may be a couple years before I am adept enough to feel secure.

And then there's loneliness. I'm realizing that not only have I cut myself off from social contact, but I'm losing tolerance for social occasions. Crowds scare me now. I'm losing patience with common stupidity. I am not just withdrawing from society, but through disuse I feel that I am losing what social skills I used to have. The prospect of finding a girlfriend seems hopeless -- I don't go anywhere to meet girls, and I don't expect they'll start wandering onto my acreage anytime soon.

So I feel like I'm turning into a healthy and relaxed misanthropic hermit. <:)

It's all a matter of pros and cons. Weigh them carefully before you decide where you want to live. For health reasons alone I feel my choice to get away was a good one...but it's not a life that everyone would wish to lead.

Remus Shepherd <remus@panix.com>
Creator and holder of many Indefensible Positions.
wary of satellite? (none / 0) (#59)
by ChannelX on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:55:44 PM EST

Why would you be wary of something like Dish Network. Hell...if you want to spend the money you can get a fast 2-way sat net connection from Starband along with a Dish Network package for $99 a month. Its a first of hearing someone say they're wary of satellite.

[ Parent ]
Wary, not totally against it. (none / 0) (#65)
by Remus Shepherd on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:55:45 PM EST

The dish is only $99, yes, but that's with a two-year contract which I hear can be very difficult and pricey to get out of. And the connections do not work when snow is falling, basically meaning I can use it 9 months of the year?

A satellite net connection is still a possibility, but I wouldn't be able to play games over it -- latency on satellite net is worse than my dialup connection, even if the bandwidth is excellent.

In all, I'm still wary of getting a satellite dish for any purpose. I'm not totally against it, as it would help somewhat, but I'm just not convinced that they're worth the money in my situation.
Remus Shepherd <remus@panix.com>
Creator and holder of many Indefensible Positions.
[ Parent ]
falling snow (none / 0) (#66)
by ChannelX on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 06:27:15 PM EST

Unless you're getting blizzard conditions for 9 months I can't believe that just falling snow is gonna kill the signal. Not to mention I have yet to hear of anyone living in an area where snow falls constantly for 9 months ;) Post in alt.dbs.echostar and see what people say about snow. We had lots of heavy snow here in Chicago last December and I dont remember anyone at work who has sat tv complaining about not getting a picture.

[ Parent ]
symptoms of agoraphobia (none / 0) (#72)
by transcend on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:17:14 PM EST

I'm losing tolerance for social occasions. Crowds scare me now.

Sounds like syptoms from Clifford Simak "City". Watch out, you won't be able to exit from your home soon ;) As soon as we invent cheap and fast hover-cars and AI robots, agoraphobia will become epidemics, then we won't need those cars. Seems like it's time to move to Geneva, last outpost of human civilisation... Well, in the next thousand years, at least.

[ Parent ]

I can live with that. (none / 0) (#76)
by Remus Shepherd on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 09:58:58 PM EST

That's cool, as long as the dogs accept me as one of their own. ;)
Remus Shepherd <remus@panix.com>
Creator and holder of many Indefensible Positions.
[ Parent ]
Artistry (none / 0) (#69)
by sventhatcher on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 07:50:00 PM EST

Obviously there is a large percentage of geekish type people present in this particular forum, but I've never seen any rule saying that someone who is geekish can have an artistic side. So let's pitch this and see what people think.

It's virtually impossible to foster a serious career in the arts outside a city of relatively major size without resorting to the Internet, and then you're a single artist in a sea of tens of thousands all struggling hard to grab the attention of Joe Surfer.

In order for local artistic endeavors to have even moderate success, they have to at least mildly match up with the cultural paradigm of the area in which they are attempted. The more people in a given city, the broader the spectrum of cultural paradigms that can be found in large enough numbers to foster a market for a particular brand of art.

Thus, all of us struggling college students with artistic dreams stuck in small towns hate the world.

Or something.

--Sven (Now with bonus vanity weblog! (MLP Sold Seperately))
Whao. (none / 0) (#73)
by marge on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:54:06 PM EST

...everything I have suspected was wrong (not in the unatural sense, because the development of cities were quite natural, I'm refering to actually the way with which we interact as citizens in cities); Citied, researched, and put into a great article. Thanks.

I shared this article with a friend of mine who is in an architecture program, and we agreed that if students studying to be a part of urban development in any way, understanding the philosophy and origin of their job can't hurt. Especially since it is not a traditional job, it's one of those things that have come up as changes in our civilization developed.

This is especially true with the "internet" environment introduced. Endless potential, but how was it possible for people to actually believe that they could start a business by talking about what they could do? (Major generalization, I love working with the web, I just question my motivations very frequently.) The stock market and economics is also another example of truths that we have accepted but are not necessarily true. (In my mind, there are no investments in the stock market, there are only gambles.) There are of course micro and macro consequences, I can't say I can cover all of them. I just know that I shouldn't believe everything that is fed to me, but I have to admit that these ideas hit home. The overwhelming positivity that goes behind the development of city is enough to make me wonder whether there was something else that we might have missed.

Now at least I have an idea of who to read up on, I can decide whether those uneasy feeling in my stomach that everything is not quite right are real or just my wits.

---- Stress is life's way of telling you that someday, you'll die. :)
nice America-centrist view, now here comes Finland (none / 0) (#74)
by Quietti on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 04:30:24 PM EST

The phenomenon you describe is typically dot-comish: upper-middle class wannabes returning to downtown because they want a piece of the action.

Here, in Finland, we have seen this as well among the wannabe moguls of the mobile business, but then again many have had to hand over their cozy downtown flat once the dot-com market collapsed and they eventually had to relocate to the Helsinki suburbs, where the rent is more affordable. This mostly affected managers and sales staff.

By contrast, most companies do their development in smaller university towns accross the country, where the infrastructural costs and salaries are lower. Some companies even operate entirely from there, without even a small office in Helsinki. Not surprisingly, most of these companies are still standing and growing stronger: they capped their initial costs and carefully built their product, instead of going straight for the full-page add in the Helsingin Sanomat and excessively juicy perks that most Helsinki dot-com-and-go's live by.

In those university towns, broadband is already a reality in one's choice of cable-modem, DSL or (even cheaper) ISDN. Once those coders meet their lovely half around the second university year (Finland has very few of the American lonely geek types, people here have a spouse and kids, regardless of their field) and get married, they move within 20 kilometers outside town where, surprise, DSL or, at the very least, ISDN is available for cheap.

In a nutshell, the available technology and excellent public transportation in Finland make it possible for someone to be technically living in the middle of nowhere, but still have affordable broadband at home and work in the hi-tech. While many people initially complain thta life is oh-so-much-better in Helsinki, by the time they return from their master degree studies or one-month training, they are very happy to be back to somewhere they can skinny dip in a lake and party on within 20km from work.

Again, I emphasize and paraphrase your reference material: those returning to the city are wannabes. Capable people don't need to be anywhere in particular to be effective in their field. To paraphrase bassist Randy Coven about choosing Toronto instead of L.A.: Once your reputation is made, people will still call you, no matter where you live, and it's not much more difficult to take a plane to a gig in New York than to one in L.A.

The whole point of civilization is to reduce how much the average person has to think. - Stef Murky

The same here! Or not? ;-( (none / 0) (#75)
by Gutza on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 06:38:02 PM EST

I wrote this so you can share it with your friends rather than actually commenting on your comment. I live in Romania and work for a company in Austria over Internet. I know how easy it is to set up a very affordable broad-band connection is Wien so I know you're not talking nonsense about the connections to the net in Finland. Let me tell you what the situation is over here. I pay $14 per month for a dial-up connection I can't really use during during the day due to the phone company's big rates - we still have monopoly on fixed phone, so I have to pay $0.03 per minute on daytime which is high enough when you need several hours per day added to the fixed $14 per month. Now, for the worst leased-line usable option (33KBps) I'd have to pay ~ $200 per month! The other solutions' prices, such as 1Mbps cable are right out of sci-fi novels: unlimited 1Mbps can reach as high as 12,000 Euro per month!!! Ok, hope you had a good laugh - I assure you these are real figures (see http://www.ines.ro/en/servicii.html?sursa=leased )

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]
Isolationist Tendencies and Urban Life | 78 comments (69 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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