Whiners, in this case whiners about Airspace

We could call this strange geography created by technology “AirSpace.” It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live / work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless, a value that Silicon Valley prizes and cultural influencers like Schwarzmann take advantage of. Changing places can be as painless as reloading a website. You might not even realize you’re not where you started…

The profusion of generic cafes and Eames chairs and reclaimed wood tables might be a superficial meme of millennial interior decorating that will fade with time. But the anesthetized aesthetic of International Airbnb Style is the symptom of a deeper condition, I think.

Why is AirSpace happening? One answer is that the internet and its progeny — Foursquare, Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb — is to us today what television was in the last century…

That is all from Kyle Chayka at The Verge.  I found this article interesting, well-written, and making a valid point.  Still, is it not mostly your fault if you are stuck in “Airspace,” as it is called?  Northern Virginia has some of the wealthiest counties in the United States, yet most of the terrain still is not Airspace or anything close to it.  Nor is most of San Francisco this way, or most of Manhattan, much less the other boroughs.  (And might you not prefer Airspace for the NYC subway?)  Seoul is a city which has its share of Airspace, but again is hardly dominated by it — the dense, low-slung neighborhoods of small restaurants are fascinating and mostly retro.

I think of Airspace as a 2-3% of our living space condition, yet a 2-3% that you can immerse yourself in if you are so inclined.

Which I am not.

Via edmundogs.


Airspace homogenuity is a 1st World gripe. Here's some of my 3rd World concerns: do we have any more Philippine spitting cobras in our backyard? (We've killed two in the last year, one of them at 10:00 am in the outdoor kitchen, slithering up to somebody; it can shoot their venom up to 10 feet, kills many within 30 minutes, too short to make it to the hospital); are we going to run out of water in this rain forest climate that has no dams, though we just dug a second pressurized well?; does burning plastic (there's no trash pickup here) cause cancer though we've taken precautions to build a big pit and stay upwind? (diesel fuel helps but it's so rainy here it's hard to burn anything); did the diseased bat that almost landed on my head carry Ebola or rabies (I have anti-rabies shots, but not Ebola)?; will the volcano erupt again and bury us with pyroclastic flow, like it almost did earlier this year (the magma the size of a football stadium that rolled down the mountainside was spectacular, I saw it when it happened); will our new concrete house get damaged by an earthquake (I think not, we used good concrete not the crumbly stuff they use here to save money), or a typhoon (we have a steel roof; the Philippines gets something like a dozen typhoons a year, and we're in 'typhoon alley'); will we have another power cut just when I'm typing this? (the PH regional power plant is geothermal, which sounds good but in fact is prone to breakdowns, a brownout for a few hours every week is common, and more common during rain, a coal-fired plant is actually more reliable and btw electricity costs are about 2-3x more than in the USA, and people here are poor). Why are fruits and vegetables so expensive here ($1 for an ordinary apple; 80 cents for a small fist sized greenish tomato or huge, dirt filled--it's comical--carrot) and why won't my next-of-kin eat them? (sad people here eat nothing but sugar, white rice, pork, chicken, and the bony talapia fish, all fried of course since nobody even sells ovens and the one oven I bought, imported, had a gas leak and is inoperative, serves me right for trying to buck custom and buying things knowing everything here is sold from First World county rejected equipment, I kid you not).

Those are Third World concerns, and it's even worse in Africa. And this guy is complaining about what again? When people wish ill on the USA, it's because of stuff like what this guy is concerned over.

Sounds wretched.

Apparently this is how the 1% likes to live...

Hahaha. Indeed!


Ray, you have expressed that your reason for living in the Philippines is that it's cheap. The way you describe the place, the Philippines should pay you to live there. If you add what they don't pay you to live there to the cost of living there, it's not so cheap.

Yes rayward, but I can get laid here! lol.

Out of curiousity Ray, where in the provinces do you live?

'yet most of the terrain still is not Airspace or anything close to it'

Well, most of it certainly does not fit this particular set of definitions. Yet many of the distinctive parts of Northern Virginia have been replaced over the last generation - there is no longer anything resembling a downtown Fairfax City, with a feed store, bowling alley, and the Alibi French restaurant (where the lawyers involved with cases at the courthouse across 123 would eat) basically in a block. Then there was the Arlington neighborhood one Metro stop before today's renamed GMU ASSoL, which boasted an interesting variety of old and new businesses.

The list goes on, of course, though what happened to NoVa isn't Airspace. It is suburban blandness based on government spending, and those living in neighborhoods like Somerset, Olde Creek, or Twinbrooke often believe that such an existence represents the best of all possible worlds.

Ah well, here is the key:

Every time Schwarzmann alights in a foreign city he checks the app, which lists food, nightlife, and entertainment recommendations with the help of a social network-augmented algorithm. Then he heads toward the nearest suggested cafe. But over the past few years, something strange has happened. "Every coffee place looks the same," Schwarzmann says. The new cafe resembles all the other coffee shops Foursquare suggests, whether in Odessa, Beijing, Los Angeles, or Seoul: the same raw wood tables, exposed brick, and hanging Edison bulbs.

It is just a collective reality, reinforced by its members. Separate and invisible to .. say the Bass Pro crowd.

I'm over REI coop for the same reason. It is too little about best (esp value) gear and too obviously a destination environment.

Similacra sequence.

I used to love Whole Foods. Variety of natural, local, and artisinal foods. An obvious emphasis on organics and natural. Now its all uniform produce and all the local and artisinal foods pushed out by house brand 365 private label that comes from who-knows-where and whose ingredient lists increasingly resemble conventional.

Bland predictable inoffensive uniformity. The human vibrancy and staff’s sense that they are part of something special is long gone.

Its a flesh eating virus that consumes authentic individual human endeavors. I blame Ray Croc

So the cycle goes

Ray Kroc

For decades Pasadena CA tried to turn its Old Town district into a retail shopping and restaurant destination. But it stayed an oddball mixture of dive bars, artisanal cafes, porn shops, niche stores, and pawn shops.

Then in the mid-1990s its popularity took off and it hasn't looked back. And "new" retailers moved in: Banana Republic, Cheesecake Factory, Victoria's Secret, etc. Rents rose and most of the old businesses closed or moved.

On the one hand, it's another example of the mall-ification of the country, similar to the Whole Foods and NoVa examples. OTOH, that's pretty much the way markets have worked since forever. (I look at ancient Etruscan art and say to myself "they either traded with the Greeks or traded with others who did".)

There were still plenty of interesting places to go in Old Town Pasadena (and the porn shop and the pawn shop somehow survived the homogenization and rent hikes). I rarely go to Whole Foods but they seem to still have some of those non-ubiquitous items that you mentioned. If not, then there may be alternatives e.g. Portland has an expanding chain that's a local version of Whole Foods, New Seasons, and there are even smaller chains that have arisen doing similar things but in smaller-sized stores, Market of Choice and Green Zebra Grocery.

But when I moved to Porltand one of the best things about it is that it has plenty of ... Trader Joes. Hurrah for national chains ... at least the ones that I like.

My point is I think about the same as yours. Commercialization leads to blandification. Although pockets remain and/or relocate.

And eventually, the cycle renews as new independent operations fill the void.

Huh. Early adopters like Rochelle Short participate in making a thing which metastasizes into something less rare or special or whatever and the hordes move in and the pioneers move on. That's everything. I see no reason to fear a 'nightmare' which is a word the author uses in the last paragraph.

This piece lacked flow and coherence because it had to shoe horn in a bunch of random shit 'right-thinking' people mutter when they fondle their worry beads. The guy likes minimalism and. . . feels guilty over it.

I am grateful to MR for introducing me to Girard's idea of mimetic desire. "I don't know what I want, but if I think I can't get it, I will build an action potential that will at some point cascade on whatever stimulus is at the right place at the right time, and the release I will mistake for a soulful engagement with real life, because I don't know any better."

Contrast the author with Ms. Short, "I did a thing when it interested me and stopped when it didn't." Which echoes the Zen Buddhist line, "When you are hungry, eat. When you are thirsty, drink."

Nice piece, authornails it all with "faux artisanal" and "neutered Scandinavianism." When it comes to interior design you are basically either a Starbucks person or a Dunkin Donuts person, and the trappings of decor signal where you belong or don't.

What if I actually like reclaimed wood, industrial lighting and fast internet? I frequently find myself browing AirBnB listings while vacation planning and thinking to myself, "Man, I wish the interior of my house looked like that."

If so, then enjoy the apotheosis of your culture! It won't last. We're well past Peak Reclaimed Wood.

Eh. My house is much more boring. That's why AirBnB is so great. I want to live here (mostly because of the interior):


Of course, while we worry about the affluent few trapped in an Airspace, many more spend their week in cookie cutter suburban shopping centers.

Target, Best Buy, PetSmart, Dicks Sporting Goods, Bed Bath and Beyond

.. maybe Airspace isn't so bad.

Reminds me a this essay on Olive Garden and 'non places' https://www.eater.com/2017/10/3/16395312/olive-garden-review

When I see people complain of homogeneity, there is an underlying assumption that everyone travels to enough places to notice. If you don't live in Portland but in a smaller town, having a Whole Foods would be great. You don't notice that there are lots of Whole Foods and no ethnic supermarkets any more...because there are not any Whole Foods at all (nor any ethnic supermarkets).

I remember reading some town planner (I think) writing that every town wants a store that is exactly like Pottery Barn...but isn't Pottery Barn. Every town seems to want a Whole Foods that isn't Whole Foods.

I used to live 2 blocks from San Francisco's famed Rainbow Grocery, close to a Whole Foods that isn't Whole Foods. I shopped there once. Too expensive for what they sold, plus they didn't sell meat or fish so I had to shop somewhere else too. I walked the extra block to the Whole Foods that was Whole Foods.

There is a Whole Foods in London these days, and Taco Bell. But I don't think anyone would say that it is the same as Portland.

I link it all back to TC's theme of complacency. There was a very legitimate need in the 50s and 60s (I am in my 60s) for the standardization of restaurants and hotels, etc. The Mom and Pop shop in some small town on Route 66 was as likely to give you food poisoning as some charming experience. The family-owned motel in Kansas was happy to screw you since they knew they'd never see you again. So a nice reliable Mickey D's or Holiday Inn was a godsend. Fast forward to today and this driver of standardization has pretty much evaporated. The local coffee shop will be as good as the Sbux. But people who travel, presumably for new experiences (otherwise, why travel?) just keep gravitating back to Panera and Urban Outfitters. I don't get it, in today's America. Are we all just complacent, here defined by me (probably incorrectly) as just very happy with what we know, and not really interested in anything new? I am beginning to think it is true, that people don't want CHOICE so much as they want CONFIDENCE that their choices are safe.

Over 50 words and no mention of 18YO Filipinas? THIS IS NOT RAY LOPEZ!

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