Quick Roundup 358

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Houston, Content in its Superiority

Over at the Houston Strategies blog (HT: Brian Phillips), Tory Gattis comments on, "Cities and Ambition", an essay by Paul Graham that asks whether, a city "has its own subtle message it's sending you about what's important and how you should direct your ambition". (Incidentally, I just noticed that Graham also wrote "Why Nerds Are Unpopular", which I pointed to last week.) This is not quite the same thing as asking whether a city, as part of its culture, has a distinctive sense of life, but it does raise the issue.

Gattis cites a few of Graham's examples (e.g., "New York: 'You should make more money.'", and "Boston/Cambridge: 'You should be smarter.'") before making a short list of his own of the major cities of Texas, which Graham, who strikes me as an otherwise very perceptive thinker, strangely omits. Gattis's stabs at Dallas and Houston, which rival each other for the title of "Most Important City in Texas", are as follows:

  • Dallas: a tough one, but I think some combination of wealth, style, and social class. (see a discussion on Dallas here - hat tip to John)
  • Houston: so what about our little town of hard working engineers and entrepreneurs? The city of Canion, Cooley, DeBakey, and a gaggle of energy and real estate mavericks? Well, I think we can rule out style, hipness, physical attractiveness, fame, political power, intelligence, social class, and quality of life. Wealth, maybe a bit, but I think the primary one is economic power - "You should be bigger player in business." (even the business of medicine) We don't seem to care too much whether you're an entrepreneur, developer, or top executive - just so long as you're a big shot. And if you're not a big shot, the message is to become one by whatever path necessary - whether on your own or through a large organization.
While his focus is on what these cities seem to regard as important, I think it is fair to say that his overall impression somewhat resembles mine. (Read on.) The comparison also reminds me of a parallel I noticed when honeymooning in Australia, when my wife and I visited its two rival cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney is like the Dallas of Australia: Glitzier and a little too obsessed with getting attention for my tastes. Melbourne is more like Houston: More down-to-earth and content in its superiority to the point of not being excessively concerned that the easily-distracted might sometimes miss it.

May Houston remain contentedly superior, but never complaisant! A big part of its secret has been that it is freer than most cities, including its government not dictating to land owners what to do with their property. That freedom is being threatened once again, and we'll need to fight back....

Hmmm! Awhile back, I saw a bumper sticker saying something like, "Keep Austin Weird". Perhaps as the zoning fight heats up, supporters of freedom in land use could similarly display our sentiments: "Keep Houston Free". I like that.

New Links

With all the moving preps, travel, and job-hunting, I have been slower than usual about things like this, but I did get around to adding three new blogs to the side bar this morning. Briefly, they are:
  • The Aesthetic Capitalist, who recently posted two zingers from Aristotle, the second of which is destined to bring a smile to my face frequently during this election any time I think about Obamamania: "Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope."
  • Decks Awash, a blog by fellow submariner (and proprietor of The Sub Report) Eric Ryle, who wonders what a small submarine is doing on the mighty Mississippi.
  • The Morality War, where Rob recently considered why some people continually "fixate on every random, minor, more or less inconsequential injustice that occurs in the world" (as a recent NoodleFood commenter put it): "Since they cannot consistently apply altruism to their own lives - due to the fact that it is impossible to practice in reality - they grasp at anything which alleviates the sense of guilt which results." Interesting point!
Good stuff!

A Heartwarming Tale

Reader Hannes Hacker emailed me awhile back with a link to the following amusing news story:
An 85-year-old great-grandmother from Lake Lynn, Fayette County kept an alleged burglar at bay using a .22-caliber pistol.


"I had the gun on him before he turned around and said, 'you've had it,' " Smith told Channel 11-News.
His title, my sentiments exactly!

Eduoard's Toll

I might as well get in a laugh about Edouard now before possibly having to run from another tropical system that shares with me a variant of my pen name and might want to share my home turf as well.... (Although I see with this latest update that the track has, for now, shifted towards new Orleans. This one's probably going to be a bad one! I'm watching it like a hawk.)

This picture made the email rounds here in Houston recently, reaching my in-box with the title, "First Photos of Wind Damage by [Edouard]"

-- CAV


ac said...


I am glad I was able to provide you with something that will bring repeated smiles to your face over the coming months.

I consider that a small payment from me to you for all the smiles you have provided me over the past year.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, you're welcome, and keep up the good work!

Rob said...

YAY! I'm on somebody's blogroll! YAY!

Gus Van Horn said...

Heh! Brings back memories!