What is the World’s Greatest City?

ny

Dubious question, and one that is contentious to say the least. In the past entire Thucydidean wars were declared over economic competition, trade, hegemony, religion, and culture for that title; today they are argued over endlessly  in annual criteria-based league tables, internet fora and in everything from Trip Advisor to The New Statesman. So why all the fuss? The title breeds geopolitical influence, soft power, tourist bucks and social media tags. Cities are that great coral reef of experience, impervious yet every growing and changing. They stand testament to our lives and livelihoods, our myriad cultures and collective consciousness– with the idea of a single pre-eminent city imbedding itself as a bedrock to contemporary society. A city is, if you like, a crystallisation of culture; the greatest city is the greatest place in humanity.

bjjjwww.johnlake.co.nz

Urban agglomerations are that great marker of history – touchstones of experience where entire eras become marked by their reign, from ancient Rome to Victorian London, Angkor to Edo – with surprising ‘entries’ that stand testament to time (if not in physicality), such as former world’s largest   – the boat city of Ayutthaya, Thailand to the present day hamlet of Gurganj, Turkmenistan, a glorious Silk Route nexus before it succumbed to history’s single bloodiest massacre.

ayuth

gurg

There are many criteria, or handfuls of monikers that can lay claim to the single greatest hit. Richest city? That would be Tokyo, followed by NYC, LA and Seoul by total city economy, to er, Oslo or Zurich per capita.  Most influential city? well that could be anyone’s guess – NYC, London, Seoul get bandied about a lot with the youthful limelight, whilst Beijing, Brussels and Washington DC have the largest bureaucratic sectors. And LA might have something to say about global entertainment.

estoniaeurovision-addict.blogspot.com

Most beautiful city? Once again, the arguments range on everyone’s tastes as collectively supportive for Rome or as individualised to Brasilia. Sydney, Sana’a, Venice, Havana, Fez… the list would be endless. Many would agree the most beautiful megacity would be the complex elegance of Paris, but that would discount the myriad voices calling up the canyonscapes of NYC, the natural wonders of Rio, the futurism of Shanghai or the glorious, pluralist mix that is Istanbul/ London /Beijing. Moreover, how many actually visited, and how many base their opinions from received sources?

paree.jpgblogs.ft.com

ital

yem

Well the proof is in those voting with their feet some say – the most visited city, a rotation between Hong Kong, London, Paris, Singapore and Bangkok for international visitors, might be good indicators. But even with this seemingly narrowly defined criteria – based on numbers of overnighting foreign visitors – doubt still creeps through. Paris only counts its centre in the league (take that EuroDisney!), while Hong Kong is heavily skewed by the large amount of travelers coming in from over-the-border China, essentially the same country.

-And what about those domestic travelers? Are their views not as valid? Places like Kyoto and Orlando see in over 50 million visitors each year, double the top spot of the international-only league, while Shanghai, the freak, welcomed a whopping 70 million during 2010’s Expo year.

rioowww.telegraph.co.uk

Ratings? Well Kyoto, Charleston, Florence, Siem Reap, and Rome are all up there (Leisure and Travel Awards), as are London, Marrakesh, Istanbul, Paris, and Hanoi (Trip Advisor). Sun kissed, party mad Beirut makes sporadic appearances near the top depending on its security situation, whilst several places are as much loathed as glorified (ahem, Dubai, Macau, Seoul we’re looking at you). It’s pretty obvious there are too many cooks – whether they be trumpeting the Michelin stars of Tokyo or the street food of Tbilisi.

Beirut Residents Continue to Flock to Southern Neighborhoods

Beirut, http://www.worldpressphoto.org/collection/photo/2007/daily-life/spencer-platt

Plus there’s Quality of Life. The Nordic, Canadian, Oceanian cities doing swimmingly, but the perennial winners being a rostrum between Vienna, Munich, Auckland and Vancouver according to Mercer (39 scoring factors including political, economic, environmental, personal safety, health, education, transportation and other public services) with nods toward Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Toronto for the larger cities, and a whole 37 places before the first megacity over 10 million (Paris) shows her pretty head.

vienna

Vienna, travelaway.me

Meanwhile, Monocle magazine puts a megacity right up there, climbing from 5th to 1st was Tokyo (due to its ‘defining paradox of heart-stopping size and concurrent feeling of peace and quiet’), but recently usurped by Copenhagen, with Vienna, Melbourne, Munich and Berlin (a rise of 11 places since ‘after dark’ living was taken into account) worthy of mention. It’s 22 metrics include several that look at housing and the cost of living, from the price of a three-bed pad to the cost of a glass of wine and decent lunch, plus access to the outdoors, with notable upsets when seasonal changes and ambience were taken into account in 2010 (Copenhagen, maelstrom of wintry existentialism, still managed to buck the trend).

copenCopenhagen, exithamster.wordpress.com

But then there are those places with the x factor, the je ne sais quoi regardless of manicured lawns and the price of middle class, middle aged lattes. We must bear in mind cities function in the mind as well as body, that they are a cumulative, inclusive experience. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not just how pretty or rich or even popular you are.

Some pics to finish off with:

indJodhpur, www.theatlantic.com

issTel Aviv, www.allphotobangkok.com

lonnn.jpgLondon dalstonsuperstore.com

hanoiHanoi www.gettingstamped.com

ind

05 People Second Place Photo and caption by Yasmin Mund / National Geographic Travel

Jaipur, India

 

Continued next post…. The World’s Most Diverse City

 

 

 

Advertisements

EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG IN OUR LIVES

So what is it about our daily existence that brings us down? Yes, you, face down in the porridge, only 8 in the morning but already thinking of slitting your wrists to emo grunge, except that you don’t have time to end it all as you have to Go To Werk. Then putting your make up on after, like you forgot to take the face mask off -and why not? Why can’t we go around the daily commute looking like the Joker on a pub crawl? Why can’t we just lie down and go to sleep when we want, where we want? Does it actually cause harm? No.

christmas-couple

www.ukmodels.co.uk 

But because we’re meant to be good looking (tick). Nice (tick). Educated (tick). Clever (tick). Rich (tick). Successful (tick). Respected (tick). Popular (tick). Loved (tick). Stylish (tick). Funny (tick). Well traveled (tick).Happy (tick). And the life and soul of dinner parties (tick). People are meant to dance at your funeral because it’s like, a celebration of your life. Innit. And you don’t want people to be sad at your passing. They want to remember you for all your glorious thingings.

– No, actually fuck dinner parties. You’re now the life and soul of transvestite all-nighters on boats. N shit. On fire.  And fuck nice. You got Edge, baby.

We’ve heard it all before: falling down the stairs is an uphill battle. Life is an untrammeled disaster, just remember to sing while you’re in the lifeboats. If life gives you lemons make a fucking lemon grenade for your window twitching, wife swapping neighbour. All this points to the social construct, The Man, the social media representations we send out like invites. The irritating, exasperatingly heedful force of expectation. Yada yada yada; we’ve got all that to juggle with. Cow, listen, rebel, don’t rebel. Fuck it. Don’t fuck it.

Then throw along family too. That endless source of amusement, camaraderie, and Christmas arguments. People we once touched. They have a whole set of expectation alongside, nuanced with finer colours and strands, cloying in ever more subtle ways to resurface at opportune times when you’re least armed. Memories, worries, yearnings, realisations and occasionally shared dreams that forge our daily identity, whether we’re in the middle of chatting up the hottie from Accounts or drumming one’s head on the bus window as you slumber the petit mort of the overworked and oversexed. We’re meant to love them. We’re meant to honour them. We’re meant to forgive them. And they’re meant to reciprocate – but even if they don’t we should be gliding about like a motherfucking sunbeam of forgiveness and charity anyway. Oh how they tease!

 

 

a1

www.wholeandwell.com

But bear in mind  the lesson from China. Once one of the most suicidally prone societies, sharing Goth music right up there with South Korea and Japan, but who embarked on a 400 million strong sojourn to the coast with its seagulls and Nike factories and skyscraping businesses away from the village. Tens of millions of families divided and sacrificed, who sent back money, cried over lost childhoods, lost parents, exacerbated by the two child rule, and making stark photo ops as they flooded the transport networks every New Year to tearfully reunite in their homesteads. Yet this wrenching of a generation away from their family units resulted in a phenomenon – a rapidly falling suicide rate. Is this a giant, nationwide flood of crocodile tears? Well no, those are indeed heartfelt longings, with the concept of family the cornerstone of the world’s oldest surviving civilisation. And there’s a whole generation of angst-ridden kids missing their parents that’s baiting society these days into questioning its sacrificial soul. But it appears the pressure is undeniably lessened, that love is also all too often cloaked with expectation.

 

Apple-BigBrother-1984

http://www.thecorsaironline.com

 

And why this East Asian triumvirate (the former China, Japan and South Korea) that so often tops the leagues in people topping themselves? Yes life is hard, there’s a lot of pressure to succeed, and they don’t take a lot of holidays – but then neither do any of the Developing World, who often don’t have the luxury of choice in the matter, and work multiple times more. Mexicans work harder than anyone else FFS. Well East Asia, thanks to mister Buddha and mister Confucius, operates on a ‘shame society’ (it’s not that bad, we in the West -thanks to Mr Jesus / Abrahamic religion- operate on a ‘guilt society’). The difference between a guilt society is that ultimately one can, if one so chooses, forgive ourselves, or at least work toward that. On a shame based society  you have to work the wider community in order to attain that forgiveness – and it’s much harder to convince an entire town to do something than one person (yourself) to play along. I mean seriously, good luck with that next time you suck at becoming a film star –  here you listen to self loathing music and do more lines on your tea break to get over it,  while over there you do the same but apologising the whole time to your family, friends, dealer and maybe customers for your lisp and gammy hand coz hey, Joaquin Phoenix managed to pull it off. Just sayin.

Harajuku Kids (26)makehairstyles2013.blogspot.com

 

Hence why people kill themselves more over imagined failures, or being a ‘burden’ on their family and loved ones, especially those who are mentally ill to start off with. How dark. Suicide is improving now in Japan, despite Hollywood and Youtubers’ attempts to cash in on the Suicide Forest or all things creepy and long haired that come out of mirrors. Things best forgotten that stand by the bed at night and wait. And wait. Yet are best ignored. As in China, people are starting to find themselves better by turning over, and paying less attention to social or familial diktaat.

 

a2

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/article2908273.ece

 

They say we’re not lone animals like tigers. We’re not herding animals like cows. But we’re not single family unit animals either. If you look at the kingdom of monkeys, apes and primates, they tend to function in groups of families – lets say, 15-25 individuals. Think a hamlet where everyone knows each other, a large extended family where a child being brought up can run to her aunties and uncles as surrogate parents when Mum’s menopausal and Dad’s on the shots, or where you can let the little shit go wild with his cousins as you have your chocolate and fag and an episode on Netflicks.

So I’m not saying families are bad. But absence makes the heart grow fond, especially if you’re one of those rare, rare souls whose family didn’t step out of an Ikea catalogue. And the lack of domineering parents, judgmentally distant aunties and uncles and frankly trashy in-laws does lend a certain grace to freedom and finding oneself. Like a bell that chimes for itself alone. Get that out of the way- or at least at facebook arms distance-  and you only have to deal with The Man.

 

im1

http://www.fandango.com/movie-news/why-apes-are-scary-again-748118

But what a Man that is. Squatting there like a vastly overweight, pinstriped Hedge Fund Manager displaying his Type A balls to everyone his Eames chair can swivel too. There is something fundamentally wrong with society. Go look back at the chimps. On one side of the vast, sweeping Congo, second only to the Amazon as a giant riverine system, and uncrossable to those without a pirogue, live the Chimpanzees. They may seem cute, but they also mirror man’s failings and intrigues. Despite being affectionate, tender and individual, complete with personality types and functions, they also eat meat, hunt, declare war on each other, form cliques, remember grudges, bully, cannibalise, rape and murder.

This is a patriarchal society ruled by the old men – and don’t forget for all that cuteness Bubbles was 5-8x stronger than your average human (hence why Jacko tried multiple times to leave him behind at McDonalds Kids Parties). One little gangly ape named Suzette in Bronx zoo even wrenched 1,260 lbs in a rage, another pulled  800lbs one handed. – That’s a lot of damage one can inflict – so we shouldn’t judge them too harshly. Chimps are pretty much a race of Superman, who like eating grubs and throwing their shit. Angrily when coerced. It could knock you out with the force if it’s especially lumpy. So compared to humans Chimps are actually a glowing example of self control and not having wiped each other out a long time back, whenever Sandra stole the termite twig and you got a bit cross and tore her arm off.

chimp

 

But look on the other side of the river and another species operates – the Bonobos. Vegetarian, peace-loving and non-murderous, non cantakerous. Why don’t we hear more about these svelte little creatures? Why are the chimps the one to have garnered all the Goodall fame over the years? Well, the Bonobos spend every waking hour humping each other and playing with themselves for wont of anything better to do. Point your National Geographic lens on this side and you’ll likely see practices that would make a German orgy blush on Gimpstrasse. Kids on their back getting bored with the same ride. Group sex. Group wanking sessions. Male on male, female on female. Male on Female on Male on Male. Kid on Kid. Incest. Food. Sticks. The proliferate and inventive usage of tools so endemic to our Family. There haven’t been any reported cases of necrophilia (leave that to the penguins, who are likely to hump anything that trips or bends down to tie its little penguin laces), though I wouldn’t put it past the little hairy blighters.  The difference: these folks are matriarchal. I know I’d miss bacon and all that, but I know which side of the river I’d be batt(y)ing for.

bono

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/craziest-sex-lives-animal-kingdom

There are only a handful of matriarchal societies left in the world, one or two in Africa and one or two in Asia, and it’s interesting to note they also operate in polygamous love. Lets go back to China, great denizen of the mystical, toy-making East. The Musuo hold regular village dances in the ancestral halls of their forested hill villages. In the West we call this Tindr. Lets say you’re a fit young man resplendent in your tribal colours and totemic tassles, with a dab hand at skipping to the beat and jumping higher than the average red blooded jungle hunk. The girl you dance with – if she likes you – will tickle your palm with her finger as you hold hands. This is secret sign language for : “hey hot-stuff I need you bad. Come to my place at night after mum’s gone to bed and I’ll open my window for you to creep inside and we can then make sweet loving. Bring root vegetables and Whatsapp.”

Congratulations, you have just become a ‘walking husband’. In the West we call this a fistpumping motherfucking RE-SULT. So okay, so far so monogamous. But the thing is the lady in question can have as many walking husbands as she pleases. And if one reads between the lines, you can be the walking husband of as many esteemed ladies of the Fragrant Nocturnal Emission Chambers as you can get. If you have a child with one of these women, you are not considered the father, merely the sperm donor, or if it makes you feel better, sweetie, the ‘birth-father’. The woman will be that child’s mother, her brother will be that child’s father. Luckily for the Musuo, Chinese minorities are exempt from the one/two child rule, so a brother is almost always present in a family. If they’re not fuck it, the kid’ll live.

a22

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2014/04/pictures-kingdom-women-2014430152323376208.html

 

So there you have it. Give the reins to a woman (no, really) and sex becomes no longer something to possess for either gender, and decorate with to one’s social status. There are less rules and stricture, less possessiveness. I know here in the West we all went through the Sexual Revolution in the Twentieth Century, but it’s still  a revolution based on a linear frame as always.

We went from God> Arranged Marriage > Children > Love of God > Whips and Bondage  in the Middle Ages

to Arranged Marriage > Romance > Children > Love of God LOVE >  after the Enlightenment

to Handkerchief Dropping > semi-arranged Marriage > Romance > Children > LOVE in the Nineteenth Century

to Romance > Sex  > Love > Marriage > Children Wifeswap Parties in the 1960s Sexual Revolution.

Today we’re morphing towards that slight tweaking thanks to hook up apps, and already rampant in the gay community:

Sex  > Wifeswap Parties Open Relationships > Romance > Love > Marriage .

The way the matriarchal societies work is take any of those concepts you like, just get rid of the: >.

 

If only it could mow the lawn too…

1918

http://www.planetorganic.com

But let’s harken back to reality. The Musuo are currently inundated with sex tourists from China and beyond due to their increasingly publicised reputation for polygamy – and well, seeming ready availability of sexually open females – a dearth in polite, yet barely masked patriarchal societies the world over. They however, do not share that vision of being part of a shining El Dorado to the creepy, fidgetty old men  who can’t make eye contact or the gung-ho, braying backpackers who turn up with prophylactic arrays on their mountains. And it would be obtuse to portray matriarchal societies as any less war mongering or hierarchical ( for example the Musuo operated a slave society until the Chinese outlawed it, and the language is still skewed to have female words meaning greater and male words as lesser). -But it’s interesting to see how a society plays out a different version of reality, modernity and the daily commute with women at the helm. Go south of the Tassili n’Adjer into Libya and Algeria, and see the Arab men who cover their faces (meekly nibbling at their food behind the cloth) while the women are unsheathed, and who hold the gold by inheriting matrilineally.

a21

http://www.forumbiodiversity.com/showthread.php/2906-Tuaregs-(West-amp-Saharan-Africa)

 

Anyway, I digress. I don’t think I’ve actually solved what’s wrong with our lives, just went on on one about sex and monkeys. But I think germs and war and interminably having to Werk come in there somewhere. Anyhoo, kill your family. Kill the president and put a woman there, any woman; Sandra from HR will do. Avoid chimpanzees.

Put off your death, switch the emo music off and put on your tie. Bitch.

 

DISCLAIMER

Ignore what I said about people dancing on my grave. I want everyone unhappy. A national day of mourning; maybe a parade. I want people throwing themselves on my coffin, cloaked in black gowns while the crowd streams in tears, like in Mafia movies.

 

Thank you. I have spoken.

 

 

beach

http://decider.com/2014/08/26/my-first-time-watching-beaches/