Sunday, June 8, 2008

Word on the Street: The New York Times On Noise Canceling Headphones And The Rise Of The City

The New York Times Magazine had an article today ("The Silence Generation: Technology adapts to eliminate the clatter of city life one person at a time"by Rob Walker) on how those of us perturbed by the constant din of city life can use noise-canceling headphones to drown out the madness. Apparently, the one to get is Bose's $350 QuietComfort 3 model, which folds flat so you can stick it in your purse.

Walker opens the piece by saying "One thing that makes city life inspiring is also one thing that makes it oppressive: other people." I would definitely agree, as my experience yesterday can attest, and I am intrigued by the idea of getting a pair of overpriced headphones, esp when I think about how ear-piercing the subways have gotten lately traveling those under-oiled tracks.

Still, maybe I'd only use it on occasion b/c after all, if you block out all the noise, you'll be blocking out one whole sense and with it, the sense of being alive. It'd be like watching a movie without the soundtrack. Could get boring.

The article appears in the magazine's Architecture issue, which provides some interesting stats on NYC and the global urbanization trend:
  • NYC is the fourth largest metro area in the world,with 18.7 million people, after Tokyo and Mexico City and Mumbai
  • NY is the city with the most subway stations - 468
  • NYC was the second richest city in 2005 (by GDP); Tokyo being first, LA second, Chicago & Paris tied for fourth
  • NYC is ranked 114 in the list of cities with the highest population density, with 5,309 people per sq. mile; surprisingly, LA is no. 90, with 7068 people per square mile. I guess I figured with all the skyscrapers in Manhattan, NY would be more densely populated...but I guess the four other boroughs offset the density of the island
  • 50% of the world's population will live in cities by the end of 2008; 75% in 2050
So I guess maybe it's a good thing I've lived in cities all my life, and now the Big Bad Daddy of the US. At least I'll be prepared for the future. By 2050, when the entire world looks like something out of Bladerunner, maybe I'll have grown used to and perhaps even fond of the traffic, the crowds, the noise, the communal living, lack of green and the dirt.

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