Everything they say is true. Hosting the Olympics in DC would be expensive, and a huge hassle, and probably wouldn’t result in much lasting benefit to the city, specifically.
But all the hate still breaks my heart. It’s the civic equivalent of when a school board cuts art & music programs and redirects their funding to standardized mathematics testing. On paper it’s the right decision, but it’s wrong if you want your students to grow up with anything to dream about using math to create.
Art, music, and Olympics are all luxuries, it’s true. But they’re luxuries that are good for the soul. They’re luxuries that make our civilization more than the sum of its parts. They’re things worth doing if we value love.
I love the Olympics, and notably, so do many of the haters, who are happy to watch them on TV when they’re hosted in someone else’s backyard. Don’t we have a term for that?
Things people say that mean “I’m from the suburbs”
Nice and clean and empty. Photo from pasa47 on flickr.
Every once in a while someone tells me they like a particular city because it’s “very clean.” When that happens, what I really hear that person saying is “I judge cities by suburban standards.”
Cities are inherently messy places, and the best ones, with the most vitality, are often the messiest. If a city is too clean then it’s just an office park.
Of course, vitality means messy in the sense of being busy, which is different than messy in the sense of being dirty. But how bad do litter and grime have to become before they overwhelm one’s enjoyment of a place? Worse than in most cities, I think. Litter stinks, but a newspaper on the floor doesn’t make me want to leave the Smithsonian.
So when someone talks a lot about the cleanliness of a city, it leads me to assume they don’t spend much time in cities. That’s OK, of course. Not everyone can, nor should, nor needs to. But this is a blog about cities, and how people perceive them matters.
And being the Judgy McJudgerson urban elitist I am, that’s not the only common phrase that elicits the same reaction. Here are some more:
“Where do you park?”
“Traffic must be awful.”
“Do you know about froyo?”
“Traffic circles are so annoying!”
“It’s a big city with a small town character.”
“I can’t believe there’s no Walmart there.”
Got any others?
PS: In defense of those who think their strip mall’s froyo shop is unique, I suspect suburbanites think my views on lawn care are dubious at best.
One of the great advantages of living in a city is that you frequently stumble upon fun and interesting things. On Sunday evening my wife and I were taking a walk, which brought us randomly to Freedom Plaza. Someone there had set up music and speakers, and couples were dancing. It was just lovely. I snapped this picture with my cellphone:
Today BeyondDC steps outside its usual urbanist role to help raise awareness of a big problem: Congress is considering breaking the internet with a set of radical new laws that would give private corporations nearly unlimited power to accuse anyone of copyright infringement, and to then effectively shut down that person’s website. The effect of such far-reaching and broad regulations would be catastrophic to the free exchange of ideas on the internet as it exists today.
Several of the internet’s largest sites are participating in a “blackout” today, shutting down their main content in protest of a law that could shut them down for real if passed. BeyondDC may not be Wikipedia or Reddit, but everyone needs to know about these proposed bills. We cannot let them pass without a fight.
Here is more information if you are interested. Below are some screencaps of major webpages taking part in today’s blackout.
Yesterday, Osama bin Laden was killed. Last night, crowds gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House. If ever there were an example of the virtues of civic space in cities, this was it. Pictures below.
This is a map of the Washington region by population ethnicity as of the 2000 census. Each dot represents 25 people. Red dots are Caucasians, blue dots are Blacks, yellow/orange dots are Hispanics, and green dots are Asians. The map is part of a series created by flickr user Eric Fischer showing the 40 largest cities.
White it’s important to note that this data is 10 years out of date and undoubtedly seriously obsolete, it is nonetheless interesting. The familiar east-west white-black divide is obvious (although not nearly as stark as the divide in Detroit), but isn’t it interesting to spot the pockets of overall diversity, and to see how clearly Metro stations in Northwest and Montgomery County stand out.
What patterns do you see? What do you think will be different about this map when census 2010 data comes out?
It’s Friday, I don’t particularly have anything to say that hasn’t been said before (oil spill bad, fare hikes better than death spiral, yay streetcars), and having just been out of town, other cities are fresh in my mind. So what they heck, here is my completely subjective list of best American cities. Everybody loves meaningless lists right? Right.
My top five, in order:
New York. On the scale of urbanism it just blows everything else in the country away. Really, there’s no other option for #1.
San Francisco. The second densest city and the most beautiful landscape. It’s just too bad they don’t have a better subway.
Washington. Yes yes, we are a self-loathing city and it’s not supposed to be acceptable to think Washington is so great, but have you seen the rest of the country? We have the best transit outside New York, awesome neighborhoods, great architecture… I’m not afraid to admit that I love DC.
Boston. So similar to DC, and better in some ways (we don’t have anything like the North End), but also so much uglier. Boston is a paradise for brutalism.
Chicago. The first time I visited Chicago I was expecting another Manhattan, and the Loop didn’t measure up. Cool skyscrapers, but that New York activity level just wasn’t there. I was disappointed. Regardless, Chicago is still one big hunk of awesome, and if I didn’t have a particular love for the more European layouts of Boston and DC, I might be tempted to rank Chicago 3rd.
Honorable mentions: Philadelphia (a clear #6 IMO), Seattle and Portland (I haven’t yet visited but hear good things), Pittsburgh (too bad it isn’t larger). Plus the litany of good smaller cities like Madison and Savannah, but they really belong in a different topic.