March 29, 2004
Boo Boos in Paradise
Well, thanks to my enforced silence this morning, pretty much everyone else has beaten me to the punch on this excellent deconstruction of David Brooks. I guess I don't have a whole lot more to add to what's already been said (see here, here, and here for a sample), but I will say that I've never quite understood the appeal of arguing by sweeping generalization. Maybe it's just me, but my first reaction whenever I hear someone state a "fact" about a group of people that includes me is almost always "no, that's not what it's like for me". As such, I have a hard time relating to any of the people that Brooks writes about. Of course, since he appears to have made most of it up, perhaps the fault is his and not mine. Anyway, check it out.
UPDATE: Okay, I just said I don't like generalizations, but this is too funny to resist. From CrispyShot's comment here about the difference between Minnesota friendliness and Texas friendliness:
The folks here are very helpful and friendly, but in a more reserved, Germanic, respect-your-personal-space kinda way, at least compared to Texas. Minnesotans say, "Hi, nice to meet you, how do you like it here?" Texans will take you for their best friend immediately: "Hon, how'd you get that scar?"
Naturally, Minnesota was a Blue State in 2000, while Texas is redder than a peck of unpickled peppers. Someone get me Brooksie on the line, I'll bet he can get a whole column out of this.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 29, 2004 to Other punditry
Gah. I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania. I love the assertion that "In Blue America Thai restaurants are everywhere." I never saw one until I moved to California when I was 24. The best Mexican food in town was Chi-Chi's. And I use the term "best" in a manner that means "better than Taco Bell."
"In Blue America we have NPR, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and socially conscious investing." I'd be willing to bet you can't get an NPR station in on the radio where I grew up and that most of the people you'd ask had never heard of Doris Kearns Goodwin. If they did, it might be because they remember seeing her on Ken Burns' "Baseball." Because PBS was high-falutin' entertainment where I grew up.
Whenever the subject of food comes up in relation to where I grew up, I throw out the joke that there are only three spices kept in kitchens there, ketchup, salt, and pepper. And it's pretty much true. Dad sometimes used some crushed red pepper on food, but that was the extent of my knowledge of spices for far too long.
Not to defend BoBo here, but I should note that his example of "Red America" in one of the articles that Sasha Issenburg dissects is Franklin County, in Pennsylvania. That was where it was "impossible" to spend $20 on a meal, even though the Red Lobster that people kept recommending to him as the pinnacle of local cuisine had a $28 item on the menu (lobster, as it happened).
FWIW, I don't recall ever seeing a Thai restaurant until I came to Houston. And I grew up in New York City. I just don't think they were all that prevalent there back then, at least not in the parts of town I was familiar with.
Incidentally, I had some fun ripping Issenberg for Bobo-esque failure-to-research.
I especially loved the parts about "deep-red" McAllen and the insinuation that Galveston is part of "red America."