How obscure is Rhode Island?

Here is Ann Althouse on Rhode Island:

I had to make a new tag for Rhode Island. I think it’s the very last state I’ve blogged about — I’d thought I already had a tag for every state — and it’s a story of it not getting respect. Oh, Rhode Island. You can use that previous sentence as your slogan if you want.

Or remember the old saying “Nothing but for Providence”?

It’s not even an island.  How is this for a relevant update?:

The idea was simple enough — to create a logo and slogan that cast the long-struggling state of Rhode Island in a fresh, more optimistic light to help attract tourists and businesses. A world-renowned designer was hired. Market research was conducted. A $5 million marketing campaign was set. What could go wrong?

Everything, it turns out.

The slogan that emerged — “Rhode Island: Cooler and Warmer” — left people confused and spawned lampoons along the lines of “Dumb and Dumber.” A video accompanying the marketing campaign, meant to show all the fun things to do in the state, included a scene shot not in Rhode Island but in Iceland. The website featured restaurants in Massachusetts.

By the way, they hired a New Yorker to do the campaign.

And yet, as a native northeaster who spent three years of his early life in Fall River (southern Massachusetts), I cannot bring myself to name Rhode Island the nation’s most obscure state.  It just doesn’t seem far away enough.  Brown University is world famous, and most people who go from New York to Boston come in contact with the state in some way.  It can count Gilbert Stuart and Cormac McCarthy and H.P. Lovecraft, and the film Dumb and Dumber starts off there, so probably it is no worse (better?) than the nation’s second most obscure state.


Plus Newport is known for sailing, gaudy estates of the long dead wealthy, and the tennis hall of fame.

Don't forget the Jazz festival. For baby boomer music fans especially this was a big deal.

Next week's clickbait will be What's the least useful pasta shape?

It is Fusilli, right?

Farfalle without a doubt.

Maybe not. Apparently "kids love them" love them
How useful are kids?

Pappardelle. Either eat fettuccine or lasagna noodles. No need for something in between. Every time a dish comes with them they are cold and absolutely incapable of holding onto any sauce or flavor.

It also has Newport, one of the more notable towns of its size, thanks to the mansions, its eponymous jazz festival, and high level tournaments/competitions in golf, tennis, and yachting. Most towns with a population of 24K have only a tiny fraction of Newport's fame and name recognition.

And no cigarette brand.

The Naval War in Newport.

None of the 13 original states can possibly be the most obscure, at least not while all the 50 States are the United States. Also, any good collection of American paintings has unforgettably inspired seascapes from the Newport area. And no state that is on the coast can be, as anyone who has studied discrete mathematics will tell you, more obscure than the most obscure interior state. The most obscure state is not Indiana, which is the only state named after all the people who lived here for thousands of years from the Ice Age or so on. It is not North Dakota, one of the few states named after a world-famous Indian tribe. With apologies to those who really really love post-peak musical theater or ridiculously over-signalling Baby Boomer Presidents, the only candidates are Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Oklahoma bombing. The state is on the international map, and will be for at least another generation or two.

My first experience with Rhode Island was in the late 1990s and it struck me--even then--that it must be the place with the highest percentage widows who can't afford to pay their property taxes, at least those east of I95.

It was there that I also learned how liberals can use zoning and subdivision regulations to create upper income communities.

Please people. Mafia housewives of Goombah meet old Salty Sailors meet Not Really Quite Mass Tech. It's a shitty State. Qhahogs. Blecch. Blecch!

Is there a tech industry in RI? I mean, other than 39 baseballs or whatever Schilling was up to.

My favorite fact about Rhode Island:

The population of the Providence, Rhode Island Metro Area is larger than the population of Rhode Island.

My favorite fact about Rhode Island: there are at least 480 Brazilian towns bigger than Rhode Island.

But Arlington Country is smaller than Rhode Island's county, in fact, it's the smallest in the USA: "Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is coterminous with the U.S. Census Bureau-census-designated place of Arlington, which is the second-largest principal city of the Washington metropolitan area... Arlington is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, and due to state law regarding population density, has no other incorporated towns within its borders."

Well, yes, because all but one RI municipality is in the MSA, as is a sizable chunk of Massachusetts.

The contiguous dense settlement within the state is about 650,000, or about 2/3 of the population of the state. What spills over the border around Attleboro, Mass is > 50,000. The urban core of Fall River / Swansea (~110,000), Mass hangs like a pendant off it, connected but distinct. You can see on a density map that Woonsocket remains distinct from greater Providence, though connected by a filament. You do have countryside and discrete small towns, the core of Jamestown and Newport being the largest.

But isn't Providence counted as part of Rhode Island? What are you saying?

Family Guy. Not as funny as The Simpsons but set in Rhode Island.

"A video accompanying the marketing campaign, meant to show all the fun things to do in the state, included a scene shot not in Rhode Island but in Iceland. The website featured restaurants in Massachusetts."
What was their option, shooting in Rhode Island?
Well, as a former Brazilian Economy Minister told a TV interviewer during a commercial break (regarding his Ministry's information policy in a year of presidential elections): "I have no scruples. We publish the good news and hide the bad ones." Or words to this effect. Unfortunately they were still filming and there was a piece of bad news he couldn't hide. The story, however, has a happy ending: he lost his job, proving he was right all along about the threat posed by bad news. My point is, some things are better left far from the eyes (and the ears). There are things man is not meant to know-- and how awful Rhode Island really is is one of them.

It's big with little kids for being little.

Indeed. This automatically knocks it off the list. My four year old knows a fact about Rhode Island.

OK then, it's Maine or Missouri.

1) RI Musicians: Scott Hamilton [retro tenor player] is from Providence. So is Wendy Carlos.

2) Beware marketing campaigns for tourism: Plenty of jeers & spitballs from the bleachers for this one.

and many more that passed through RISD like the Talking Heads

the Providence music scene has always been very good for its size.

RISD is also quite famous and one of the best design schools out there. The state should have made a competition for RISD students to come up with a new slogan / image.

RISD: birthed 3 out of the four musicians in Talking Heads

About 2,200 students, so, not that important. One of the troubled youths I crossed paths with as an adolescent was admitted to RISD and graduated therefrom. Not quite sure how she earns a living, but she remains a working artist. Digital images of her output are to be found on the net. It's all crap, I'm afraid.

Brown is not really world famous. Obviously outside the US it is well known in academic circles, but that is about it. It is not on a par with Harvard, Stanford or MIT. Europeans and Asians often have difficulty with the concept that the US has some 30 or 40 schools that are reasonably considered elite, rather than 2 or 3. RISD of course is not famous at all, not even in the US, among the general population.

Well, it is on a par with Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. But one might consider that the Ivy League is not exactly all that well known outside of the U.S.

Brown is the only one of those that I've never heard of before. The rest I've heard of many many times.

Possibly proving the point that the Ivy League is not that well known outside of the U.S.

Even as someone inclined to defend them, I would have to admit that Brown and Dartmouth were the last two I ever really knew anything about. Neither ever really crossed my mind when I was applying to undergrad institutions many years ago, even though I very much had that middle America view that academic prestige = Ivy League.

Do you ever come across a sentence that begins "researchers at brown university have discovered..." In, say, a newspaper article. I feel like I do all the time if you sub Cornell and Columbia and Dartmouth come up fairly frequently, but brown mostly comes up when listing the ivies

It was grotesquely PC a decade before that came to be the mode, as well as being a hotbed for fashionable silliness. Around about 1982, a student there named Jason Salzmann organized a campus referendum petitioning the administration to stock On the Beach type suicide kits in case of a nuclear war, and it passed. A school in Texas (Texas A & M) replied with a similar referendum petitioning the administration to stock guns in the event of a Soviet invasion.

As private universities go, it's on the small side (~9,000 students). I think it does have a medical school. It had quite restrictive admissions standards a generation ago, but was always at least a notch below the other Ivy League schools and less serious.

"It just doesn’t seem far away enough." Far away was all of the South a couple of generations ago. Even Atlanta could be reached by car only on a two-lane highway. In my childhood, the train was still the preferred means of transportation for long trips, the automobile more of an adventure. And adventure it was, two-lane highways, with long stretches through pine groves between small towns with their "motor courts" (and bright red signs notifying the "Tourists" of "Vacancy" or "No Vacancy") and diners with names like The Wander Inn, when the "facilities" for a pit stop meant a dirt road and a tree, and cars not equipped with seat belts and the likely carnage seen on the way a horrifying spectacle and forewarning of the fate that awaits every automobile and its occupants, the far away destination and its inhabitants seeming more like something foreign than simply the "city". But if the nearest "city" was far away, our neighbors were much closer, as homes and offices and businesses without air conditioning and scant electronic entertainment meant spending much of our time outside with neighbors and friends and family. Things have changed since my childhood. Today, what's far away is close by but what's close by is far away.

The most obscure's got to be Nebraska or Wyoming.

I'm ashamed of the libertarians here: no one has mentioned Roger Williams, surely one of your great ancestral thinkers.

Given RI's history in undermining the Articles of Confederation (refused to go along with strengthening it) and delay in approving the Constitution it should be libertarians' most celebrated state.

I'm no libertarian, but as someone with a interest in history l, it never occurred to me that Rhode Island is obscure.

What about Montana? Nobody even lists it on lists of obscure states. Now that's obscure.

Exactly. Montana is so obscure everybody forgets about it when making up a list of obscure states. It's surrounded by obscure states and obscure Canadian provinces. If Nowhereland had a capital, it'd be in Montana, but it doesn't. Being completely landlocked puts Montana on the coastline of obscurity. When David Letterman decided to retire as far away from New York and Los Angeles as he could get, he chose Montana.

Montana is sparsely populated but not obscure given its place in the imagination and all the rich folk that like to drop money here.

That's right. Big Sky Country. A River Runs Through It. Glacier National Park.

North Dakota (eastern Montana without the charm) wins.

Also, it's really big.

Battle of little bighorn
Done naming everything I know about Montana

Rhode Island's hold-out status is appealing; waiting until a year after Washington took office and the 1st Congress was convened before ratifying the Constitution. If "Rogue's Island" never had joined the union of states, it would have been in a unique position as an entity on the American coast between New York and Boston that was not part of the United States.

Little old Rhode Island is famous for you.

Ah, someone remembered the song. It's an awful song, but the Nancy Lamott version is very sweet.

This one is interesting to me as someone who is about to move there for a couple years. I have to say that I think some of you are being overly pessimistic, in a way that reminds me of kneejerk negative reactions to New Jersey. Many similarly sized Rust Belt cities would give anything for the kind of success Providence has had in revitalizing itself in recent decades.

Providence maybe beats Portland ME for best food city in the Northeast.

Don't forget about Lightning Bolt and Load Records

Montana and Wyoming are more obscure for sure. HP Lovecraft is popular worldwide, Japan has manga and animes that heavily reference Lovecraft's work, lots of influential writers and directors worldwide were influenced by him (Michel Houellebecq and Guillermo Del Toro are both fans.) His influence in horror and sci-fi is pervasive and increasing, not waning.

I'm surprised you say everyone going from New York to Boston knows about RI.

I do not travel from New York to Boston on 95.

Rather I go through Hartford and avoid all the problems on 95. I suppose it is better since they eliminated all those toll booths, but I have not tried it.

I suspect most people use the route I do. Even google maps routes you through Hartford.

Wait..there is no more jai alai in Rhode Island? How did that happen? Only place I ever saw it.

I'm Australian, and even I'm aware of Rhode Island (and it would fall in the top 20 states I know of).

Firstly because it is weirdly named (It's not actually an Island, right?), and it's crazy small or something (the American's seem willing to call any two bit geographical area a state, so it seems... our states are the size of continents in some cases), and I'm pretty sure that Family Guy is set in Rhode Island. I don't think you can call any state obscure if a well known TV show runs on the area. Nobody's making TV shows about Idaho.

I am from Providence RI. Famous for the corrupt politician Vincent "Buddy" Cianci.
Roger Williams.
First place in the world to make religious freedom law
First Baptist Church in the USA
First Jewish Synagogue (Touro Synagogue) in the USA
Smallest state

Only the somewhat insular are not aware of the large number of authors, movie stars, and wealthy individuals who live in Montana.

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