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The hype about an incoming wave of tech IPOs has underscored SF's tensions (newyorker.com)
54 points by mindgam3 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments



Good snapshot!

SF, in the post IPO-3.0 glow is sure a short place. It's in transition.

The big battles to IPO and get paid for all that delayed gratification, are over.

These unicorns are made real in all their off-white reality, trailing glitter scintillae as they trot in fresh mud. Of course, not all the IPOs are mainfest, but all can see them coming.

It's like waiting outside the classroom for your friends after your last final of the year, in that early evening light of May, but before they are out of theirs'. The party is coming, but you are very tired from cramming, and your friends are still crunching away. So you sit, watch others plop out of the test, have a cigarette to pass time, enjoy the sun-warm concrete seep into your feet and thighs, and take a nip out of the flask.

That's the feeling I get out of SF now, out of this article. The exhausted biding of time.


Most of the problems described in the article are the direct result of the city's refusal to allow adequate housing construction to keep up with demand.


Right! And she laments old obsolete buildings being torn down to make way for apartment projects.


"The store displayed high-end kitchen and grill tools, sets of cheese knives, truffle-flavored potato chips, wine, small-batch chocolate, Wagyu beef jerky, buckets of flowers, and a variety of small, high-design jars containing the sorts of transactional condiments and ephemera that often circulate as hostess gifts: preserved lemon paste; pork lard; red-pepper jam; hand-poured candles. Chunks of pink Himalayan salt were packaged with miniature graters near a Scandinavian-looking guacamole press."

San Francisco has become a parody of civilization. This paragraph reads like a description of an Earth-themed tourist stop. A collection of shallow signifiers of what it's like to be a human, that you can take home and show your friends and family to prove you visited.


These are from a brand of "human & open luxury". In Silicon Valley, you're not supposed to be driving around a Ferrari or going on cruises like a rich boomer. Instead, you're supposed to have friends on every continent, cooking ingredients (not kitschy souvenirs) from your world-wide travels, a marathon-ready body, and an everything-is-okay smile, deriving from your material self-contentedness and awareness of your luck. It's about becoming a vessel for temporal and social experiences, not someone leashed to a big TV. It's about signifying that you're open to the "best" of what every culture has to offer without sharing any of the pain or trying to make it better, aside from minor improvements to buttons or trying your hand at a hair-brained get-rich-quick scheme couched under a messiah complex. The idea is that these experiences and contact with other cultures are "human", but they're also a shallow way to both show off material status.


I'd wager a simpler explanation: People in SF especially are increasingly purchasing every-day items online.

This means retail shops need to capitalize on discovery and unique items. Especially items that are unique enough that people can't just snap a pic and order/price-compare it online.


Bingo. This is it.

OP's hatred of San Francisco blinded him to the simple truth.


Not really. Normal people have basically no interest Himalayan salt.


Himalayan salt is sold in Costco. It's not just an SF thing.


Right. I just think it's hilarious that the facade of "authenticity" is the new kitsch.


You never been to NYC have you. There are plenty of ridiculous stores here as well. Once a place is big enough and has enough people with cash that don't know how to spend it, all kind of weird stores spring up, happy to get some of that money.

LA is the same. Let's please not bash SF and tech un-deservely.

Heck, I'd say places like Miami, Vegas or LA are much worse in this department. (i.e. the ridiculous concept stores).


It's not that the store is weird, it's that the common thread through all the items it carries is "things that evoke human-ness". It's for people who are far removed from being regular people but who want to experience what they imagine that feels like. We have similar stores here in Austin, but they haven't (yet) taken over completely.


Honestly, no idea how you're grading something as having more human-ness than something else.


I've spent a lot of time in all three cities you mention and live in one of them. San Francisco is not the same, it's visibly pathologically worse.


Or it’s really a gift shop. Stuff that you wouldn’t buy for yourself but is kind of nice / high end looking and uncommon enough that your giftee probably doesn’t have it already.

Stores like these are great for buying small gifts for people impossible to shop for (they already have everything!) and if nothing else the items are usually optimised to be a talking point.


Does anyone know the store she was referring to? At first I thought it might be Foodhall in 16th and Valencia but it doesn’t quite match the description.


At least they're somewhat unique, better than the strip malls of uncultured rubbish that another commenter mentioned.


I find it hilarious that you think these stores are a parody but not the strip malls and payday loan shops everywhere else.


I think the title is a little misleading, I was expecting an article demonstrating that there is little correlation between top salaries or stock payouts and happiness; seems more just a nostalgia rant for the way SF used to be.


OK, we've replaced the title with the top photo caption (shortened to fit the 80 char limit). Those are an underappreciated source of more specific titles, though in this case it still doesn't really cover the whole article.


> At the beginning of the current tech boom, it seemed that “old” San Francisco—activists, artists, immigrants—might continue to set the terms of the city, as it grudgingly acclimated to, and resisted, the influx of entrepreneurs and tech workers.

It's funny that someone who embraces the immigrant culture of San Francisco, is so anti-immigration when other people also want to immigrate to San Francisco in search of higher wages and a better life.


The rich and well educated have more options, so it makes sense to be on the side of immigrants who don’t.


You seem to be implying that immigrants aren't rich or well educated, the evidence doesn't bare that out. Middle Eastern immigrants are on average more educated that Americans, Asian immigrants make a much higher median wage than average Americans.

Source from quartz showing that foreign born citizens earn higher wages: [link](https://qz.com/781527/immigrants-are-getting-more-out-of-ame...)


Nostalgia is a powerful driving force. I'm convinced Nostalgia, more than fear or hope is what got Trump elected, and why he'll win again. People seem to be desperate to always want to return to 'how things were'. It's fascinating.


And sometimes things were actually better. Of course it is surprising that people want to go back to something like coal. But it isn't surprising that people want to go back to a time when their communities had a purpose and a future.


Yeah it had nothing to do with his opponent being a corrupt insider who ran an awful campaign.


Tribalism seems to pop up in all different populations. Fear of changing demographics, fear of others coming into your city/country, fear of change. Definitely a lot of parallels between the logic of this article and the logic that got Trump elected.


As the owner of a CNC machine shop in Madison, IL, I can tell you it has nothing to do with such wishy washy nostalgia. The steel mills have reopened and are running at capacity. Hard work for an honest dollar is dignity that transcends skin color. The renaissance of modern American manufacturing is beautiful. Trump will win because he promised dignity and delivered.


And a plea not to build and "change the city's character"


Ooh she spoke with a 15 year resident, at the pie shop, the twee pie shop that took over the flower shop that had been there for 50 years. I got mine, now everyone else leave.

And in passing she name checks Philz as part of her listing all that is gone is replaced by start up millions spiel. I’m not a fan of Phil personally, but thats between me and him. Whats interesting is the story of Philz. He had a corner store on a corner with 2 other corner stores. His wasn’t doing any business. Phil, I assume he’s an immigrant, rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He experimented with coffee and figured out the whole pour over deal. He got a good mention in the SF Weekly back when weekly papers were still vibrant. Word spread. I went to Philz to see what the fuss was. He had one pour over station. The store still had metro racks with canned goods and a cooler with soda pop. Phil made my first drink at Philz. The interesting part is how Phil turned a dying corner store into a growing business with backing. In the passing example of Philz by the author, she shows how shallow and superficial her article really is. She knows nothing really about Philz. She only knows he’s backed by millions. Philz is a classic american success story. And so are many of the tech businesses.


This felt like a dispassionate ramble on San Francisco's roots in 60s counterculture while also ironically offering no help to the problem of big money flowing into the Valley (and in a way, being part of the problem she identifies from the technocrats). I found it difficult to get through.


Agreed. I read about half way through and the op still hadn't made his/her point. Too much set up for too small a conclusion.


It's The New Yorker. They believe in "It's not the destination, it's the journey" as a writing style.


A fair amount of my friends are on a way to become IPO-millionaires this year. All of them live in SF, obviously. I'm curious to see how this flood of new-made riches will affect the city and its socio-economic and political issues.


IT doesn't buy happiness in Seattle either. Prevents abject sadness at best.


For what does it profit a city to gain tech tax revenue, yet forfeit its own society?


I've never understood the line: money doesn't buy happiness.

Yes, money sitting in my bank account doesn't make me happy.

However, my Porsche makes me quite happy. The townhouse I lived in brought me peace on the weekends. Buying plane tickets to wherever on a whim makes me happy. Buying nice clothes and wearing them makes me happy. Spending money to further my knowledge just because makes me happy.


Adding on to this, I am 100% certain I would be happier if I had enough money to retire right now and maintain my current lifestyle. I might even choose to keep working, but that piece of mind would definitely make me happier in general.


It's a qualia thing [1]. You have a certain understanding of happiness and that happiness can be bought with money. Try the steel man [1] approach and try to figure out which idea of happiness cannot be bought with money.

The statement also doesn't say that money makes people sad. Your form of happiness, would you still be happy if you don't have money?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia

[2] https://lifehacker.com/utilize-the-steel-man-tactic-to-argue...


You don't understand it because the mental model as presented by the statement is too simple.

Money can make LOTS of people VERY happy, up to a certain point. Supposedly after 80k$, after you've been relieved of basic stresses like rent and finding food, more money will make you less happy per increment.

If you are an unhappy person with a minimum of 80k$, then the bottleneck to your happiness is not money.

Merely more money doesn't make ALL people happy ALL the time.


The cutoff is definitely much higher than $80k in the Bay Area. You would basically be homeless at that level of household income.


I make 80k in Austin - a city that's still relatively high in terms of living costs, compared to the rest of the country.

On that I can afford to live in a very comfortable apartment without roommates, eat out at decent (non-fast-food) restaurants for basically every meal if I want to, have an active social life and hobbies, and still put about 10% into savings each month. I can easily say that making more money would not have an impact on my happiness.

The Bay Area is so non-representative of the U.S. that it's not even funny.


well said


It depends on your own definition of happiness and your moral compass. It's pretty easy to confound shallow joys with lasting happiness.

Are you genuinely happy when you have a nice car and nice clothes, or are you merely matching the expectations of happiness of our current society? These things are the very definition of status symbol, and ultimately they are out of you control.

Imho happiness based on material things is very limited once you have the basics. When your parents are one step from death, when you get a kid, when your good health will slowly leave you &c. Your Porsche and your nice cloths will be way down on your list of happiness sources.

Basing internal happiness on external things seems like a recipe for disaster. First there is no limit on how much shit money can buy, second material things have no power against the true life hardships. You might temporarily delay some of them but that's a far cry from "happiness".


I don’t buy the status symbol thing. You buy a car like that for what you can do with it when no one else is around. When there are people to see you driving it, it’s going to waste. (Except at a track day, but you’re really unlikely to have the flashiest car at a track day, even with a Porsche).

Skiing requires skis. Hiking requires boots. Photography requires a camera. Driving requires a car. Sure you can do all of those activities much more cheaply, and spending will not automatically improve your skills or enjoyment, but when you are really into something there is a certain very real pleasure in using excellent gear. It’s not social status, in fact it often costs social status and stresses relationships to nerd out about your hobby that way.


Money is not sufficient on its own to buy happiness if you have more deep-seated issues in your life. At least that‘s what I‘ve always taken the quote to mean.


I think the line is intended to mean that hoarding money at the expense of the rest of your life isn't a good way to live.

Work life balance and all that.


Prospect Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prospect_theory

People measure happiness through gains and losses, not total accumulation. Having more disposable income means a higher probability of gains.


A certain level of money is necessary but not sufficient.


Just reading my Porsche makes me happy makes me happy.




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