Urban Love Affair

I love a good urban environment. I’ve been trying to think about what makes my favourite cities appealing to me and I’m still stuck.  Tokyo makes the grade but Sydney does not. Hong Kong is a definite yes but Kuala Lumpur is a definite no. Bangkok and New York are so-so.
Bangkok.  No.
Density is one of the big drawcards.  I’m a fairly low-stimulus kind of person, so going to a big city that is thronging with people and noise is a pleasant kind of overload for me.  I have to go somewhere quiet after a while though.
Hong Kong apartment towers
Basically a Transformer. Hong Kong
Verticality is mesmerising to me.  One of the things that I love about Hong Kong is that it’s built into the side of a series of mountains, so that one has to think about the space in three dimensions.  Giant bridges join buildings at the fifth or sixth storeys. The third dimension is intoxicating. Compare that to flat, grid-like Melbourne.

A friend suggested that maybe it’s all the straight lines, that somehow they appeal to my brain, but I don’t think that’s it.  If anything a really dense city has so many straight lines that they blur and mesh into a messy whole that resembles a natural environment.
Brutalist nightmare. New York.
Jane Jacobs, the renowned American-Canadian writer on urban studies has stated that vibrant cities need four things: Multi-function districts, small blocks with dense intersections, a diversity of age and form, and sufficient density of people and buildings.  By these criteria the post-war Soviet reconstructions of Eastern Europe are among the worst examples of urban planning ever seen. Canberra isn’t too crash hot either.
I think that Tokyo might be my favourite, and it fits all of the Jacobs criteria. It’s dense, vertical, and busy. But added to that everything has a strangely human feel about it. The streets twist and turn in unpredictable ways and dwellings are mixed in with small shops and small shrines or parks. Few things are deliberately monumental. It feels like a place that people could actually live.


Mansplaining” is usually understood as the phenomenon of men earnestly holding forth to women about a topic which they are already aware of, possibly even expert in.  It’s patronising, infantilising, and generally off-putting. It also fails to take into account the fact that the woman in question may be extremely well informed on the topic, but far too polite to interrupt the man and challenge him, which he would probably take with singularly bad grace anyway.  Mansplaining is, by all reasonable standards, not a very nice thing.


That said, it occurred to me the other night that it’s just sort of the way that men communicate, even with other men.  I was having a chat with a male friend and I noticed that we tended to hold forth on a topic, then wait, and the other person would then agree or seek further information.  It was a little like a Socratic dialogue but with far fewer straw men.


That pattern of conversation is pretty common actually.  It seems to me that this monologue-response-monologue pattern is standard for many of my interactions with men.  I can’t explain why this is, but for me I often don’t feel that I understand something unless I’ve spoken about it, so having the clear air to be able to monologue for a few minutes about my pet topic actually helps me understand myself better. I don’t intend any offence by doing it, but it can be difficult for me to fully understand what I think without talking (or writing) about it


So while mansplaining may be taken as patronising by many women, which it clearly is, it is also the default conversation style for many men, even amongst themselves.