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Twin towns - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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January 5th, 2006


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01:54 am - Twin towns
One of my (British) workmates played American Football when he was a student, so we have idly been paying attention to the current spate of bowl games. There are no fans of West Virginia on my Friends list, are there? Good. *shakes fist*

The first of the BCS games was Notre Dame vs. Ohio State and I was explaining my split loyalties. Part of me would like to see Notre Dame do well simply because of a sense of support for anomalies within even the outmodedly tradition-driven and illogical BCS structure, but part of me was shouting for OSU because I've been to Columbus, OH three times, it's a big university and I think a couple of you were shouting for them at the time.

This involved trying to describe Columbus, OH. I pointed out that it was a very large city - thirteenth or fifteenth largest in the US by some measure - as well as a textbook example of urban sprawl, despite having very little reputation internationally. I compared it to Coventry in the UK. Rightly or wrongly, of course; I've possibly only once actually been to Coventry. US folks: what do you think of when I mention "Coventry"? I'm sure there a few shining stars as knowledgeable about the UK as some of us are about the US (in my case: not very, considering...) but I also suspect the levels of non-recognition are comparable.

Now obviously there's no good way for one city in one country to be a close cultural equivalent of another. The UK and the US are very different, with the significance their various cities within play being just as different. Besides, it's not as if many of us really have all that clear a measure of many of the big cities in our countries. Nevertheless, my Friends list is probably reasonably likely to be able to take as good a whack at it as any reasonably easily convenable group - and even if we don't do too great a job, it still might be fun. So let's give it a go.

London dominates the UK to an extent that no US city dominates the US, but the obvious pick is New York. Technically I mean Greater London and Greater New York respectively - our Croydon, your Connecticut - and, for the sake of argument, I'm really comparing metropolitan areas against metropolitan areas rather than zones delimited by city designations. In any case, the two cities are clearly the financial and business capitals of their countries, plus the major tourist and transport hubs. (Slightly arguable in NY's case these days.) It's a matter of name recognition as much as anything else.

The next question considers the UK's Birmingham. On strict population grounds, one might biject Brum with LA, but for me it resonates much closer with Chicago; I perceive the two to have industrial connotations as well as both being of great size and yet somehow slightly put upon by the rest of their countries as being megalopolises (megalopoles? No? All right, then) in recession.

So that leaves (Greater) Manchester to be the UK's Los Angeles, with Liverpool naturally enough following as San Francisco. Manchester is the great city of the North, as much as LA is the great city of the West - a liberal hub with wide emphasis paid by the media, sport and regional structure. I rather like the thought of the scouse culture being as much a beloved thorn in Britain's side as San Francisco's brand of hippyism, too. Blackpool is by far the biggest Las Vegas wannabe in Britain, so that's an easy pairing that follows as well.

Among the British conurbations, we next turn to Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. It would be lame to simply allocate them to cities in Canada - too dismissive of both Canada and Scotland. Perhaps it's not excessively fanciful to draw parallels and say "England is to Scotland as Yankee America is to The South"? I'm basing this comparison on the history between the two aspects of the united natures of the countries, plus the pride that some feel in strong regional identities and the economic challenges each faces.

Noting how far north the south stretches, perhaps Edinburgh matches up with Washington D.C. in stature and tradition and Glasgow could possibly, possibly be Philadelphia, at the risk of starting a "Is Maryland part of the South?" debate. Admittedly, if you asked most UK folk to name one of the United States that was in the South then they'd say Texas, which makes the two standout options Houston and Dallas, but I'd rather play on the oil connection and ascribe them to Aberdeen and Inverness. Performing a similar sort of stretch down the northern half of england, Newcastle (oh, all right, the Tyne and Wear conurbation) has a sort of hardy party city reputation to it that could be comparable to New Orleans, which tends to match up Leeds-Bradford with Atlanta, both conurbations on the up. Keeping going, we can go as far as Nottingham and Miami.

It would be too cheesy to match Meg's Athens with my Teesside along the way, but I actually think Athens makes for a better York, which these days is similarly primarily a student town with historical ties. Perhaps Middlesbrough-Stockton-Redcar can be Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News.

I quite like matching the midwest with the West Midlands. Wolverhampton can be Detroit, Stoke-on-Trent might possibly have a hint of Milwaukee about it especially if we rope in Burton and its brewers from across Staffordshire, Coventry is Columbus as discussed and we can reach over (and neatly out of the West Midlands, thank you) to Northampton (reaching down to Silverstone) for Indianapolis.

We haven't matched up Boston yet, and that's hard. Educationally and historically, I want to say Boston is Oxford and Cambridge. Perhaps Boston, MA could be Oxford and Cambridge, MA could be Cambridge? No, no, no. Instead, I like the conceit of matching New England with the south-west of England - Boston and Bristol, Plymouth and Plymouth and so forth.

This is great fun, but I'm sure you bright sparks can improve upon it. Thoughts most welcome!
Current Mood: creativetwin twons!
Current Music: BBC World two-and-a-half-minute Break Filler

(42 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:zarchasmpgmr
Date:January 5th, 2006 02:15 am (UTC)
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Coventry

I think of the cathedral destroyed during the war, and the rebuilding.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:January 5th, 2006 02:19 am (UTC)
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I was convinced that you would be one of the first to reply to this :-) You were one of the shining stars I had in mind!
From:cyanei
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC)
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I would have matched Edinburgh and Glasgow with Canadian cities, but I like your connection as well.
From:mr_babbage
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)
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>Liverpool naturally enough following as San Francisco

Huh? Shurely Brighton is a far better match.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:January 5th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC)
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Thought about it, and decided against. Certainly there is the gay scene, which is certainly important, but that's about as far as I could draw similarities. What am I missing, please?
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From:psychic_serpent
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC)
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Glasgow could possibly, possibly be Philadelphia, at the risk of starting a "Is Maryland part of the South?" debate.

Well, you'd probably only get into a debate like that with someone who thought Philadelphia was in Maryland, rather than Pennsylvania. :D Technically speaking, the straight-line border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, the infamous Mason-Dixon Line, was the border between the south and the north pre-Civil War, because most of the states north of it had outlawed slavery and most of the states south of it had not. It doesn't work well as a divider between Union and Confederate because of states like West Virginia, which was created in the midst of the Civil War and was, ironically, basically a section of Virginia seceding over the slavery/Union issue. The result of this is that there were regiments on BOTH sides that were from what is now WV.

To get back to Glasgow/Philadelphia, though, I think of Glasgow as a sort of artsy place, which Philadelphia definitely is, and in spite of this there's also a slight Scottish Kirk stodginess (perhaps due to the PCUSA having been headquartered here for years).
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From:kitsune13
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:59 am (UTC)
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No way is Columbus Coventry -- Coventry has history and culture. :) Columbus is a big town in the middle of a bunch of farms. It's got a huge student population -- OSU is one of the biggest unis in the US -- but it isn't dominated by the university in the way some cities are. It's the seat of the state government, but it's not really the cultural center of Ohio, which is Cleveland. Decent-sized population of 2nd- and 3rd-generation European immigrants, primarily German (i.e., German Village), with some Slavs scattered in. It has a reputation for being a little rednecky, and very white. It's rather bourgeois bland, and doesn't have as strong a working-class vibe, or energy, as say Akron or Cleveland. Lots of government wonks, insurance types, and middle-America attitudes. I'd say someplace like Taunton, but no one goes to Columbus on vacation or en route to vacation, so anyplace West Country is out.

I've got it! Columbus is Slough. Or Milton Keynes. :)
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From:kitsune13
Date:January 5th, 2006 04:00 am (UTC)
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P.S. York? Is totally Charleston, SC. :)
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From:1anonymous1
Date:January 5th, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)
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Hahaha, I'm a big WVU fan.*goes there*


;)
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:January 5th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
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Well done, he said, through gritted teeth.

Thank you for not gloating about it.
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From:ringbark
Date:January 5th, 2006 08:11 am (UTC)

Douglas Hofstadter, Liverpool

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Hofstadter wrote an interesting article many years ago (no citation at present, no promises either) in which he wrote of the problems of mapping cities and ideas from one country to another.

He also asked what mapping there was for "first lady". Thatcher was our PM at the time. But who is first lady? Dennis? The Queen? Maggie? Phil the Greek?

I'm puzzled as to why you map LPL with SFO. Perhaps it's the arty-farty thing, but I don't see the mapping there clearly. For a start, LPL (441,000) is larger than MAN (437,000). All credit to the Mancs for their fine propaganda getting everyone, including most Scousers, most Mancs and most of the rest of the country/world to believe the same, but it's not correct. The BBC and ITV have a much bigger presence in Manchester than Liverpool, and that's why the propaganda is so prevalent. For your city mapping, I suggest you pick a major port to pair with Liverpool. If you can find a port now in decline as a financial and commercial centre, then you have found the right place. I'd prefer an Atlantic port, as mapping Liverpool to the Pacific doesn't seem a good fit. (Arguments about "west coast" might be possible, but it doesn't feel right to me.)
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From:titanic_days
Date:January 5th, 2006 10:40 am (UTC)

Re: Douglas Hofstadter, Liverpool

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Baltimore could serve for Liverpool. Both had big dockland areas, both were in inexorable decline, and although Baltimore did it first (and better), they are both now gentrified/-ying.
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From:citizenpsmith
Date:January 5th, 2006 08:47 am (UTC)
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That still leaves Wales, and the US Southwest; I think they make a reasonably decent fit for each other (Cardiff being Santa Fe, say, and Swansea Phoenix), both being somewhat remote from the rest of the country while having their own distinctive local culture.
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From:undyingking
Date:January 5th, 2006 09:43 am (UTC)
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Even as a UKer I don't know all that much about Coventry, apart from being sent there, and that it has a sports centre shaped like a giant elephant (of which I can't find a good photo on the Web, what a shame!)
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From:the_maenad
Date:January 5th, 2006 09:50 am (UTC)
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I would make Liverpool LA and Manchester SF, but that's purely because Manchester has a pretty kicking gay scene and village whereas Liverpool, the last I checked, didn't much.
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From:bopeepsheep
Date:January 5th, 2006 10:00 am (UTC)
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So where does that leave Oxbridge? Collectively or separately? Boston would have been my first choice for Cambridge, and I'm not sure there's a direct parallel for Oxford but somewhere like Williamsburg or Durham NC might work. How Oxford might look if we had a lot more space and money, perhaps. ;-)
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From:sophie10
Date:January 5th, 2006 11:21 am (UTC)
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I like the Newcastle- New Orleans parallel.

I'm from a cool city.
From:shista
Date:January 5th, 2006 12:37 pm (UTC)
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Which company is it you work for?

My brother works in the same industry as you, and was an American Football player... still is actually.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:January 5th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
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From:lambertman
Date:January 5th, 2006 02:15 pm (UTC)
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Notre Dame isn't really the "outsider" that you may perceive it as, simply because they are known to bring the TV ratings and scores of alumni who are quite willing to travel anywhere to see their team play. This year, they received an extra boost in the rankings that they probably didn't deserve, because the BCS folk know they'll create big bucks.

However, I still cheer for them over Ohio State (my #2-from-the-bottom school!) any old day. They have the Regis connection, you know.

Next year's new 5th BCS game, involving the highest-ranked school from the non-BCS conferences, will probably bring the best such rooting interest. But, in all, it'll still be a meaningless game, as all of them but last night's were.

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