20 March 2007

When the First Sentence Is Blatantly False, It's Hard to Credit the Rest of the Article

An influential American magazine has named London the global capital of the 21st century.

First off, New York magazine, influential?!?

Hardly, the articles referenced (but not linked) in the article I quote above cover a whole host of issues, and are the usual mix of vapid NYC-centric aging hipster drivel you'd expect from a glossy like New York Magazine.

The problem with all these articles is that they are looking from the top down. They examine the changing views within the financial and cultural 'elites'. But that's to be expected, publishing is a very top-down industry, and as they are presented in the media London and NYC are both very top-down cities. The little people just don't matter.

London is in deep trouble so long as they refuse to address the radical elements within their multi-culti stew. The 2012 Olympics, rather than a crowning glory for an international city on the rise, may be the moment that the facade is torn away and all the rot is exposed.

If you must find a "World Capital" for the 21st century, then look no farther than right here. Los Angeles is the future, in all its confusing sprawl, its uneasy and somewhat balkanized neighborhoods, its chasm between high and low, and its embrace of both. The fluidity with which you can move (even with the traffic jams) both in physical and conceptual spaces in Los Angeles is unmatched in NYC or London (or Paris, or Cairo, or Chicago, or Tokyo, or Shanghai, or any other pretender to the throne). We are unburdened by history in Los Angeles, and that's an important trait this century. Here we blur all the lines between ethnicity, culture, art, commerce, high, low, loud, quiet, nature and artifice.

I don't get the sense of other places being as organic or as artificial as Los Angeles. The sense of LA being something and being nothing at the exact same time isn't something you get from other cities, and this sense is a very 21st century phenomenon. LA was a placeless place before the idea of placelessness even started forming. The local Indians called this "valley of the smokes" and we are as ethereal and ill defined as that would suggest.

The next 100 years or so will be about placelessness physically combined with a sense of place virtually. The real "world capital" of the 21st century is on the internet, anyway. To talk about an old construct as quaint as a 'city' is so 19th century.

So NYC can envy London, while they both ignore Los Angeles, but in the end none of these places will be as relevant as the communities people build beyond the notion of physical space.

And really, if place doesn't matter, given the choice, wouldn't you rather the place that you spend your time physically be where you have 300 days of sunshine, the offspring of aspiring stars and starlets (people are prettier here, get used to it), and all the best cooks Mexico has to offer?


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Nothing against starlets, sunshine, or Mexican cooking, but I just want to point out that NYNY is supremely getaroundable through both physical and conceptual space if one takes the non-top-down, speedy, fascinating, and quite safe subway.

XWL said...

Actually, I didn't say Mexican cooking, I said Mexican cooks, there's a difference. Not all cuisine is Mexican in L.A., but nearly every restaurant has a Mexican cook or two on their staff.

As far as the subway, I guess I have the native born Angelino's distrust of public transport (though I've used it more than most), and NYC still carries the weight of too much history to be called a 21st century global capital in my opinion (and London even more so).

The top-down comment was aimed strictly at the publishing industry, which really is entirely too incestuous and insular for its own good.

But thanks for commenting, you always say interesting things in interesting ways (I lurk at your blog from time to time, but rarely comment)

Barney said...

buddy I have the greatest repsect for Americans after us Brits you are the only civilised nation on the planet, BUT what you guys seem slow to realise is that while you've been singing God Bless America with the tears in your eyes the world around you has gone GLOBAL. To be the world's greatest city in 2007 its all about location - look at nay map of the world which city is right in the middle New York, L.A., Toyko ?? No London. New York is too geographically isolated - drive 500 miles and where are you - the Atlantic Ocean or worse Virginia - and L.A. well sure you've got the sunshine but where the hell are you ??

Your argument about 'history' is nonsense - London is the most modern, progressive city in the world - most of our most famous landmarks are less than 20 years old - The Gerkin, London Eye, Canary Wharf - New Yorks skyline is almost a century old.