A Conversation for Urbanisation

Rampant Generica

Post 1

Steve K.

My complaint is that North American cities have become largely indistinguishable. I (living in Houston) have visited Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Tampa, Montreal, Edmonton, Denver, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver, Newport, Baltimore, Savannah, New Orleans, San Antonio, San Diego ... and if you turned me around twice in any of them, I could not tell you which one I was in. McDonald's, Starbucks, Exxon stations, the NY Times ... its all the same. Yes, San Francisco has the Golden Gate and New Orleans has Bourbon Street, but the overall city is ... just the same as the others.

London (UK) was a pleasant change for my ten day trip, but even there were some familiar "institutions".

I moved to Houston in 1967 and it had some wonderful places - San Jacinto Inn Restaurant, the Astrodome, Gilley's Bar, Westbury Square Shopping Village - all gone except the Astrodome which looks tiny next to the new Reliant Stadium, a typical NFL stadium for the wealthy corporate box buyers.

Sigh.


Rampant Generica

Post 2

purplejenny

I know what you mean Steve, I find that cities in Britain are becoming more and more similar - featuring your Maccy D's, KFCs and the usuual high street outlets for your usual type consumer goods. Gets a bit boring when you can only tell that you are somewhere by the road names. Maid Marion way in Nottingham leads to a UCI cinema thats almost exactly the same as the one on the East Lancishire Road to Liverpool and the same as the UCIs everythere else.

Still, there always remains an undercurrent of alternatives, and for every thirty odd Pizza Huts there is the odd fantastic family owned restaurant...

'Cities are where fortunes are made' Says the article - but I've been in London for ages and am still f'ing skint. smiley - sadface

Oh well, whatever, nevermind smiley - smiley At least the lights actually are bright in the big city, even if the streets aint paved with gold.


Rampant Generica

Post 3

Steve K.

I think London has a long way to go to reach the level of generica I see in the US. Even places like Honolulu are described by folks living there as "LA on a rock". smiley - erm

I've got a big poster on the wall from London, it's titled "Underground Above Ground - Piccadilly Line". A great deep perspective drawing with Hammersmith in the foreground/bottom, and "Bruce Castle" on the horizon/top. In between are dozens of places like Kensington Palace, Harrods, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park Corner, Covent Garden, Big Ben, etc., etc. A similar view of Houston would show mostly freeways. smiley - blue


Rampant Generica

Post 4

purplejenny

Yes, it is a very interesting city archtecturally, there are 2000 years of history in dem streets. My high street, the A10 is an old Roman Road that runs (in a very straight line) from where the city walls used to stand at Liverpool to Cambridge.


Rampant Generica

Post 5

Steve K.

Yes, straight Roman roads were a topic in another discussion somewhere here. The later streets of London were not at all straight, but more like a maze - "they just growed that way" the Londoner stated.

I grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which became a state only in 1907. So the streets were all laid out by planners in a perfect grid pattern. Boring, but functional and efficient. I now live in Houston, Texas, which has a much more varied history - and as a result, more twisted streets. When I first moved here to start college, if I was somewhere off campus, I always had to go back to the school to go somewhere else. Even if it was just a few blocks away, I couldn't figure out how to get there on the twisting roads.

Same in London a few years ago, suffering from jet lag in addition - but then we discovered the Tube, and all was well. smiley - cool


Rampant Generica

Post 6

purplejenny

aah the tube... Sticky and icky at this time of year. Have you read about the tube map? Thats a good tale.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/classic/A673517


Rampant Generica

Post 7

Steve K.

A good entry, thanks. I've read many of the H2G2 entries related to the Tube, quite a fascinating topic. I even bought a book while in London, "Mr. Beck's Underground Map" I think is the title. A great story about achieving clarity in information presentation, rather than mere accuracy. I've seen the same map approach in the San Francisco underground (BART - subway to Americans), but these two cities are as far from generica as you can get, I think.


Rampant Generica

Post 8

purplejenny

I wonder if it will be possible to reverse the trend to homogeneity and rampant generica, or if we are stuck with a Starbucks on every corner where we can go in our Gap clothes and Nike trainers after getting fat on the Maccy Ds smiley - devilsmiley - burgersmiley - yikes ???


Rampant Generica

Post 9

Steve K.

For the overall society, I doubt it, corporate advertising has become a science. The hippies tried something like that decades ago, but succeeded only in finding a bunch of lifestyles that don't work. On an individual basis, maybe ...


Rampant Generica

Post 10

purplejenny

hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

But its inherently instable, as companies like Gap and Nike need 'growth' to continue, and private enterprise relies on 'wealth creation'...

Yet there are limited natural resources, and only so many street corners for all the McDonalds. Do you reckon in 100 years the high streets will be similar?

In 500 years?


Rampant Generica

Post 11

Steve K.

Agreed. The need for ever-expanding profits has led to the current debacles like Enron, where executives cook the books to ensure their bonuses. Anything to avoid a bad quarter.

Predicting the future is tough. I try to be staisfied knowing I've never bought a Nike product, and haven't been in a MacDonald's in years.


Rampant Generica

Post 12

purplejenny

Did you read No Logo? there is a great bit from a talk she holds at a school where after the presentation kids ask if Adidas is OK since Nike are bad. Thats not really what I'k call options.


Rampant Generica

Post 13

Steve K.

No, I haven't read it, but it sounds like my kind of common sense. My last purchase of running shoes was a $9 generic at Kmart. Similarly I don't buy Coke or Pepsi, where the advertising adds about 100% to the price and nothing to the value of the product. (A great movie with a similar outlook on society is "Falling Down" with Michael Douglas. His character's commentary on the fast food burger, compared to the picture on the overhead menu, is classic.) I do thank them, however, for paying for my free network TV.

Here in the US we sometimes get European commercials, which are in many cases pretty entertaining. I vaguely recall that in France, all the commercials run (used to run) during an hour in the evening, with a large audience. I think I've seen some of these, very funny. When they have to compete rather than sneak up on viewers, the quality goes up, maybe. In the US, only the Super Bowl commercials are worth watching.


Rampant Generica

Post 14

purplejenny

http://www.theonion.com/archive/archive_nib02.html Pepsi Super Bowl Ad Raises Worldwide Pepsi-Awareness .00000000001 Percent


Rampant Generica

Post 15

Steve K.

smiley - biggrin

Rmeinds me of a science fiction story from years ago. Polls of voters have become so exact that elections are held by choosing only ONE voter who represnts the entire population. Then he or she simply picks one of the candidates. I don't remember the punch line, but it could have been, "I think we oughtta try four years WITHOUT a president." smiley - cool


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