Someone in the name of Peter Shih wrote “10 Things I Hate About You – San Francisco Edition” on Aug. 14th, last Wednesday. I learned of its existence the next day on Twitter, where it was causing lots of anguish and harsh words. Shih tried to soften the tone of his article by adding a clause claiming it is satire, and also removed some of the most offending clauses, these all happened on Thursday.
I told ZM about this incident over the weekend. Today ZM sent me a Chinese news article talking about Peter Shih! and the Chinese news article also indicated that Shih has removed his essay and apologized! wow!
So i went back to reread the screen capture of Shih’s original article. To be honest, quite a few items he listed are very true, such as how bad SF’s public transit is, how monotonous SF is comparing to any real city. I remember commenting to friends after watching Billy Elliot on 2000, that it was so depressing to be born into a mining town and all you are expected to do is to be a miner. My friend Jennie at the time laughed at me, “and how different do you think the silicon valley is?”
What surprised me was Shih liked NYC, while complained about the various shabby elements in SF, such as transvestites, homeless, and unsafe areas. I asked ZM, who lived in NYC for nine years, isn’t NYC even more dirty and dangerous and has more weird people than SF? ZM said NYC is larger and more segregated(gentrified?). Just like Shih said, an uptown guy doesn’t have to mingle with the shabby elements if he chooses. But in San Francisco, such a compact city, everything is jumbled together. People like Shih couldn’t live in a bubble even when he has lots of money.
Shih is also correct about San Francisco’s nightlife (or the lack of).
This whole incident reminded me of the famous monologue delivered by Edward Norton in “25th Hour”. ZM and I watched that movie in a little theatre off Union Square in NYC. That satire monologue was even more extreme than Shih’s “hate -list”, it was about NYC. And while we were in that NYC theater, that monologue earned a standing ovation from the crowd. Everyone was clapping, laughing and cheering.
When i told ZM about 25th hour, his first reaction was real life is very different from the movies. I made him read the monologue and suggested, “could it be possible that New Yorkers are more secure than San Franciscans?” ZM contemplated a bit and reluctantly agreed, “maybe. Maybe because New Yorkers are a much more diverse group. While San Franciscan are mostly of the same type.”
I thought ZM had an excellent point. Basically we are back to monotonousness vs. metropolitan. San Francisco has a limited categories of residents, while New York City has many. Going down the list of Norton’s 25th Hour monologue, i could safely say none of the guys listed in Norton’s list are watching that movie in that theater, or very few. In other words, Norton’s list didn’t make a left-wing liberal a target, who is probably the target audience of that movie.
But Shih’s attempt at satire was met with a much limited audience as well as resources. He didn’t have much choice at who to pick on. And whatever he picked on happen to belong to the group of people who is reading his publication.
I happen to love both cities: San Francisco and New York City. I wish San Francisco will grow into a real city some day, with great public transportation, a functional public school system, and the diversity of New York City, while keeping our great weather, interesting architecture, and our nice parks. I wish San Franciscan will become more secure and tolerant of people with different opinions. Next time when someone deliver a Norton style monologue about San Francisco, we can have the confidence to call it a “love letter”, give it a standing ovation, instead of threatening to chase him out of town.