Looking at a Window and Thinking It’s a Mirror

Benjamen Walker believes that the origin of the current version of New York City can be traced to two specific events: the closing of RENT after tweleve years on Broadway, and the near-simultaneous arrival of Air BnB. The most recent edit of this podcast corresponds further to Air BnB’s victory over Prop F in San Francisco.

No doubt people who currently arrive from D.C. or Ohio or Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, or any other American locale are happy to see IKEA and Whole Foods, the Apple store and Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, and whatever else might be just-like-the-one-back-home-but-better-because-it’s-here. But for many of us whose time of arrival is other and past, it seems things are getting too much like everywhere outside the City.

We all have some idea of when New York was better. For myself, it’s not just when rent was lower and life was compelled by frequently drunken and seemingly telepathic psychic alliances with friends rather than any sense of responsibility or commitment. It’s when I moved here to find myself among people who moved here for similar reasons in search of dissimilar things, making and seeking dissimilar sounds and images together.

In any case, 43:58-57:25 is my favorite portion but I think the entire show has merit.

The Impulse Society


Paul Roberts, The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification, 2014.

Mr. Roberts’ book covers a nearly-overwhelming range of causes and effects of consumer-rule across the spectrum of economic development, investment, and production in our society.

An example of the kind of thought it bears: rather than contribute to the restoration and improvement of our increasingly unsafe and unstable roadways for all who might use them, we instead use whatever means we have to buy a car that will keep us individually safe against the threat of our crumbling infrastructure, with no explicit regard for the others with whom we nevertheless share the roads. In which light, self-satisfaction and short-sightedness characterize our economic behavior both up and down the line, and it doesn’t bode well.