Archive: May 2008

New York’s message: have a rich life

Paul Graham’s article about cities focuses on Cambridge, Silicon Valley and New York. Each city, according to Graham, sends a message:

Cambridge says “you should be smarter” – it is the city of intellect, the city of ideas.

Silicon Valley says “you should be more powerful” – it is the city of startups.

New York says “you should make more money” – it is the city of wealth/finance.

I’ve had the good fortune of living in all three places and I disagree with Paul about his take on New York (I also have a quibble about Silicon Valley, but we’ll get to that).

Cambridge definitely has the intellectual vibe. You feel it everywhere you go. But Cambridge is tiny. TINY. Once I graduated, I moved out of Cambridge and it was a completely different story. Davis Square is where Tufts is. It should be diverse, but every evening as I walked home from the T1, old white men sitting on their porches would stare at me as if I were from Mars. I’d walk by thinking “Come on, people! It is 1997!!! What’s so unusual about a brown chick?!” Then there’s Boston. Can you say homogeneous?? Even if it had every smart person in the world, I hope I don’t have to live there again.

Silicon Valley is wonderful. I spent seven incredible years there. And it is definitely about startups. But it is not just about power. It is also about money – where more money puts you higher on the status totem pole. A lot of discussions in Silicon Valley2 are about who made how much by selling to which company at the right time. And even if the crass component of “how much” someone made is not front and center, it is hovering in the wings. The infinitely more elegant “he’s done”3 is a commonly heard phrase.

And now we come to New York. I’ll be honest – when I moved here from Silicon Valley, I was quite miserable4. I missed California – the attitude, the people, the work, the weather, the calm, the space… everything. But as I spent more time in NYC, the more I started to enjoy it.

Yes, New York has its share of finance “neanderthals in suits”, but you really don’t have to see any of them if you don’t want to. In NYC, I can go days or weeks without having a conversation about technology if I so choose. And I’ve gone 5 years without having a single conversation about finance. In Silicon Valley, even the accountants and lawyers work for tech companies! In NYC, I meet people who have never heard of Twitter, Skype, TechCrunch or Valleywag. These people are dancers, artists, museum curators, actors, yoga instructors, photographers, architects… and that’s just in my building!! And none of these people are focused on making more money – they are focused on making an impact on their field – on being the best dancer/artist/curator/actor/yoga instructor/photographer/architect that they can be. I don’t know where Paul lived, but I have never felt like finance people are crawling all over NYC. Not once.

Professionally, my life in NYC has been about film and technology. There are some great startups in this city and every day, I see more being formed. And NYC is the indie film capital of the country with one of the best film schools in the world.

Personally, I’ve been privileged to go to the finest museums in the world – The Met, MoMA, Whitney and Guggenheim, attend stunning opera and ballet, watch free concerts in the park, eat at some of the best restaurants in the world, visit art galleries that are discovering wonderful new talent, listen to leading classical artists from India and the rest of the world perform here, attend lectures by Nobel Laureates, and take some wonderful classes in writing and film.

New York really has almost everything you can ask for. And because of its variety, it allows you to tailor your experience of it. You could see New York as just the artistic capital of the world, or just the culinary capital of the world, or just the indie film capital of the world. Or, as Paul did, the finance capital of the world.

And to me that says that New York is an incredibly diverse, incredibly interesting city. To someone who is open to the wealth5 of diversity that New York has to offer, to someone who is willing to sample the different facets, the city’s message is loud and clear – you should have a rich life!

  1. the Tube, Boston’s subway system 

  2. This article and this one both capture the wealth focus of Silicon Valley 

  3. Implying they are set for life and need never work another day 

  4. In fact, back then, R would never have believed I could write a post like this 🙂  

  5. Pun intended 

Opera – in a theater near you

Watching an opera at The Met is an incredible experience. But not everyone lives in New York. This past year was the second season where people could watch the operas, live, in theaters.

The Met’s transmissions of eight live performances to movie theaters reached 908,000 people, more than the total number who attended performances at the house this season (about 850,000). The transmissions do not yet earn a profit, but they do pay for themselves, Mr. Gelb said, through ticket sales and rebroadcasts on public television.

The 2007-08 season showed in theaters in the US and in many countries around the world.

This is a wonderful way for The Met to increase participation. Opera can be viewed as stuffy, old-school and inaccessible. Showing it in movie theaters at a reasonable ticket price ($22 in the US), allows people to check it out without too much of a commitment. It also allows opera lovers around the world to access the performances.

The next step is to stream the performances online. The movie theater screenings in the US (including three theaters in NYC and one in Long Island) did not reduce the attendance at The Met at all –

Against that background and the national economic downturn, the Met has some encouraging box-office figures. The company sold 88 percent of the house this season, an 11.3 percent increase from two years ago. Out of a total of 219 performances, 127 (58 percent) sold out, up from 10 percent in 2005-6, Joseph Volpe’s final season as general manager, and 40 percent last season, Mr. Gelb’s first.

Those who are able to attend a live performance at Lincoln Center (time, location, money), will certainly continue to do that. There is no way a movie theater or a computer screen can replace that experience. The Met could charge a fee for viewing the performances online if streaming for free is too hard to swallow. That initiative could bring The Met a whole new group of followers who are much more likely to buy tickets if they are in New York during the season.

I certainly hope that Mr. Gelb is willing to be that bold.

Quotes from this NY Times article

The first female president

This article in the NY Times makes a bunch of interesting points –

That woman will come from the South, or west of the Mississippi. She will be a Democrat who has won in a red state, or a Republican who has emerged from the private sector to run for governor. She will have executive experience, and have served in a job like attorney general, where she will have proven herself to be “a fighter” (a caring one, of course).

She will be young enough to qualify as postfeminist (in the way Senator Barack Obama has come off as postracial), unencumbered by the battles of the past. She will be married with children, but not young children. She will be emphasizing her experience, and wearing, yes, pantsuits.

Oh, and she may not exist.

Makes sense. And if not a Democrat, a liberal Republican.

“No woman with Obama’s resume could run,” said Dee Dee Myers, the first woman to be White House press secretary, under Bill Clinton, and the author of Why Women Should Rule the World. “No woman could have gotten out of the gate”.

Women are still held to a double-standard, and they tend to buy into it themselves.

Anyone disagree with the above? I don’t.

But for many women, whether or not they support Mrs. Clinton, the long primary campaign has left them with a question: why would any woman run?

Many feel dispirited by what they see as bias against Mrs. Clinton in the media — the “Fatal Attraction” comparisons and locker-room chortling on television panels.

“Who would dare to run?” said Karen O’Connor, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University. “The media is set up against you, and if you have the money problem to begin with, why would anyone put their families through this, why would anyone put themselves through this?”

For this reason, she said, she doesn’t expect a serious contender anytime soon. “I think it’s going to be generations.*”

What I really want is a strong Dem ticket that can beat McCain and at this point, Obama is going to head it. But let’s not dismiss the incredible media bias that has prevailed – it is easy to say that it is because it is Hillary and not just any woman. I don’t think that is entirely true. And that is depressing.

*The emphasis is mine.

What is up with eBay employees?

Every time I post on Craigslist for a part-time position for Web work (coding, design, etc.) I get a ton of replies from CURRENT eBay employees who all say they can work up to 20 hours a week on moonlighting freelance. One person we hired for a facebook application was absolutely horrendous – but I still am amazed at how he often came to our office in the middle of the work-day (long lunch???) to do milestone meetings. Is life at eBay that slow & boring that you have to look for outside work? Or do they not pay enough? Inquiring minds want to know…. » What is up with eBay employees?

Wow. That’s just… amazing. Shocking. Mind-boggling.

When I worked at eBay , none of us had time to breathe. It was go-go-go all the time. I didn’t have time to go to the doctor or dentist till it became an emergency…I know someone who worked from a hospital room while recovering. I know someone who slept on a conference room floor to ensure something rolled out. I know someone who checked email right after getting married.

While that might be one extreme, I wonder what’s changed over there. Once apathy sets in, reversing it is going to be really, really hard.

Great Urban Race

Then came a crucial moment: the second scavenger-hunt clue was to either 1) get a $500 bill from Monopoly, or 2) get a picture of ten people within arms-reach of an ad for Grand Theft Auto IV. Chris knew of a toy store about a half-block off our path; I rushed in and was able to buy a pack of Monopoly money. (The GTA IV ads were all over the place, but we judged that getting 10 people to pose simultaneously would prove hard – the $500 bill ended up taking about 3 minutes and costing $4.32.)

This “The Game” stuff sounds like fun. Kind of like King’s Quest (a Role Playing Adventure computer game), but in real life. I wonder why I had no inkling this stuff existed when I was in the Bay Area… Probably because I am not geeky enough 🙂

Read Erik’s full report

The Positive Energy of Erik Stuart

Erik Stuart – wonderful friend and former colleague, logic personified, and master (or to be more exact, doctor) of all things economics – is blogging!

Erik is one of those rare guys with whom you can have an incredible discussion on any topic. He’s articulate, thoughtful and extremely insightful. He has the added advantage of being able to take complicated concepts (whether in economics or physics and the like) and explain them in really simple terms. I truly loved working with him and am very excited that he’s started blogging.

You *must* read his blog.

And I just love, love, love his blog’s name.

Welcome, Erik! Oh, and I am still waiting to hear more about The Game.