The Madison update (and the Britney update)

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A lot of people ask me how living in Madison is going. For those of you who don’t know, I moved from New York City to Madison, WI about six months ago. I can’t believe it’s already been six months, because I still feel like I’m in culture shock.

It is shocking, for example, that five blocks from where I live, people go ice fishing. Or that the town seems to revolve around schedules for the University of Wisconsin athletic teams. But the most shocking thing is the lack of advertising.

In New York City, the bombardment of advertising is so extreme that it all adds up to a reliable source of information about what’s going on in the world. Everything has an ad on it. The streets are literally lined with advertising. And there are newsstands every block, so the world’s headlines, too, are impossible to miss.

In Madison, we pass one or two billboards a day, if we drive across town. When this blog was mentioned in Business Week last month, I spent an hour driving around Madison trying to find a copy of the magazine. That’s when I started thinking about how isolated I am from the advertising world.

But it really hit home tonight when my brother sent a link to me about the mess in Iraq.

I wrote back: “The most interesting thing in here is the reference to Britney’s head. What’s up with her head?”

He wrote back: “She shaved it. Do you live in a cave? Did you know Anna Nicole Smith died? There was commercial-free round-the-clock coverage on the major TV networks.”

In fact, I didn’t know about the incessant coverage. We don’t have a TV. I have never had a TV, although I have a lot of respect for the content on TV. That’s why I don’t have one — because I know I’d watch it all the time. I’d watch it all the time because it is actually useful for finding out what a large segment of the world is doing.

As a kid, I went to other kids’ houses to see what I was missing. As an adult, I have always lived in big cities where you end up knowing what’s on TV even if you don’t have one. Probably in a large part because of the ubiquitous advertising. And when I found myself falling behind in those big cities, I could easily pick up a magazine.

Now that I’m in Madison, I need to take drastic measures. I am not buying a TV, but I am doing the next best thing: A subscription to People magazine. I know a lot about this magazine because it is laying on every available table top in New York City even though no one wants to admit to actually paying for it.

Knowing what’s going on in popular culture is important. It’s the world we live in. To be oblivious to popular culture is to snub one’s nose at the majority of society. And how can you claim to have good social skills if you are not interested in the majority of the people in this world? Good social skills means being interested in what makes other people tick.

Think about this in terms of work. It is clear that in order to get along with your co-workers you need to know how to understand what they want and how to give it to them. And in a large study of workplace preferences, Terry Bacon, reports in his book, What People Want, that good management means good social skills. “Most people leave a job because of their boss,” says Bacon. What makes a good boss? Someone who is concerned about what other people care about.

So either you need to know why Britney’s head is interesting this week, or you need to start caring more about popular culture. Being socially competent isn’t about just the brainiacs, or just the culture snobs. Social competence is being able to relate to anyone, and that means caring about a wide range of people.

I had a teacher in college who spent a semester convincing the class that reading the Iliad is important because all other college freshman are reading the Iliad and it is part of the common experience of college life — something to talk about. People magazine reflects the common experience of adult life. You can say that People isn’t that good, but you know what? Neither is the Iliad unless you like wars.

31 replies
  1. melanie gao
    melanie gao says:

    I live in China and Brittany and Anna Nicole weren’t on TV here but I knew about them! :) My secret is the 2nd-to-last page of Time’s weekly Magazine and AOL’s “News” articles. You really have to put quotation marks around what AOL calls “news” because they had huge coverage of Anna Nicole’s untimely passing along with 25 full-color pictures of her, yet a trivial story about the war in Iraq is a bulleted footnote for AOL. But anyway, if you want a quick fix about popular culture, I suggest Time and AOL’s “news”.

    But hopefully your People subscription will kick in in time for you to see all the Oscar fashions. (That was Sunday night in the US… :) )

    BTW I’m trying to get used to the new Look & Feel of your blog. It’s nice! Just so different…

    * * * * * *

    Melanie, thanks for helping to make this blog a top-notch quick-fix pop-culture study group for careerists :)

    I’m on my way to AOL “news” right now!


  2. Frank
    Frank says:

    Instead of labeling people who don’t have any inclination to follow popular culture as snobs or worse, socially handicapped, they should be admired.

    But in this day and age there’s little chance of that happening.

    To suggest that paying attention to news of the latest star to go into rehab is the key to successful social connections is not only misguided, but just perpetuates the contention that this is the kind of thing we should value in society.

    Media fed pop culture is insipid, devoid of any lasting merit and like, tototally lame dude.

    Maybe this kind of knowledge is important in your circles…please don’t assume its what’s being discussed in everyone elses.

  3. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    Hey, everyone, Frank works for Access Hollywood but only because he can’t get another job. Hey buddy, loosen your collar. Or start wearing boxers. Most popular culture is always insipid. And, my guess is that you don’t like any modern culture, period.

    I’ve read that women should read the sports pages so they can establish a better rapport with the guys in the office. I’ve never recommended it but it doesn’t sound like a bad idear.

    Penelope, I don’t believe you. Unless they’re using Netnanny, no one online (except for Frank) can avoid popular culture.

  4. Frank
    Frank says:

    Uh, I guess if I worked for Access Hollywood I’d be agreeing with her. Here’s a hint: next time someone hits you (again) with the dumb stick, try to get out of the way.

    Ask your mom to re-read my post and maybe she’ll explain it to you that people can choose not talk to about this garbage.

    I’ve got a job where I never once am expected to talk about who was caught with a double macchiatto while out shopping, thanks for asking though.

    So “Recruiting Animal” why don’t you get back to YOUR job of eeny-meenie-miney, er, I mean trying to convince everybody that what you do is important.

  5. Cara
    Cara says:

    “I've read that women should read the sports pages so they can establish a better rapport with the guys in the office.”

    As a woman working in a mostly male field, I think this is a good idea, if only to build something in common with the people I work with so we have a bridge toward business-talk. Early in my career, I ran into many awkward moments where I’ve been ignored because I have no interest in football, golf, hunting or cars. However, I like basketball, so I’ve used that to good effect in my career. However, now that I’m in a position to steer business to others, I’ve haven’t found any men who are willing to talk about fashion and cosmetics with me yet to help their own careers! Ah well, give it time. :)

    As far as pop culture is concerned, being aware of it is a good bridge-builder for other conversations. I love opera, symphonies, and VH1, so I don’t discriminate! The more stuff you’re interested in, without judgment, the more options you have for connecting with other people (again, without judgment).

    * * * * *

    Cara, Thanks for a nice comment about bridge-building. The part about not having judgment is important. I want to add that I have learned as much about the deep issues of life from popular culture as I have from reading Plato.

    Also, Cara, thanks for reminging me about the post about how women need to learn how to talk about sports. I wish I had remembered to link to that in the post. Here it is now, though:


  6. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    Yikes. There are better ways to connect with your co-workers than subjecting yourselves to sports-and-celebrity garbage you’re not actually interested in. Being interested in people means finding out what they care about (doesn’t matter whether you have those things in common or not), and sharing what you care about…and let’s face it, nobody really cares about Brittney’s haircut.

    That inauthentic approach might help you climb a ladder somewhere, but if the cost is that you have to waste mental energy and time on absorbing celebrity “news” (or sports “news”) and having to spend time with people who care about these things….it could never be worth it. Better advice would be to seek out people to work with who want to talk about their real-life interests, stories and aspirations — and I bet you’ll find that you’re doing more meaningful work as a result.

    Penelope, I love hearing about the contrasts between your old life in NYC and Madison. The lack of advertising and chain stores is seriously one of the reasons I live where I do. I adore not being subjected to it (and of course the web means that it’s all available if I dp want it for information). I’d like to hear more about your culture shock — what about the kids, the finances, your husband’s transition, your relative isolation from your network, etc, etc? You’re living a fascinating experiment, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified to articulate the results.
    : )

  7. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    I once heard it said: “Great minds talk about ideas, mediocre minds talk about things, small minds talk about people.” In the same vein that today’s college degree is now the new high school diploma, could it be that taking about people/things, for some, has supplanted the rich conversation around ideas? Hmmm

  8. Josh Tolle
    Josh Tolle says:

    I have to agree with Jeremy’s comment stating that there are better ways to connect. I actually have a bit of the lack-of-interest-in-pop-culture problem. I haven’t been too into sports in probably 15 years (which would be my mid-adolescence); I can follow most popular games (i.e., I know the rules and understand the strategies), but I don’t keep up on who the top quarterbacks are, nor who’s hot in baseball, now even what basketball players are coming up and/or doing well. I also don’t keep up on Anna Nicole, nor do I care what Brittney is doing with her hair (if it weren’t for my girlfriend, I probably wouldn’t know any more than Anna Nicole is dead and people are fighting over who fathered her child, and Brittney shaved her head and checked herself into rehab). The fact that this is considered news (CNN was covering the Anna Nicole thing as though it were a war in the middle east) is baffling to me.

    This presents a bit of a problem when trying to have ice-breaking conversations, but it hasn’t hindered me in any way as far as connecting with people. Connecting with people doesn’t necessarily mean being able to talk about pop culture, and figuring out what makes people tick is far from knowing that they are obsessed with Brittney’s scandal and being able to relate to them about it. You can just as easily break the ice with talk about the weather followed by a few questions about them. People are amazingly willing — if not downright chomping at the bit — to talk about themselves if you show genuine interest, and remembering the minutiae about them is how you connect with them. Probing deeper into their interests and/or being able to expand on conversation about one of their hobbies is how connections are made. There is a fascinating section in the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell that covers the nuances of social connections, and I highly recommend it for the articulation of something that seemed obvious to me if only because it was right in front of my nose on a daily basis.

    Of course, that’s just my opinion. I’ve been known to be wrong…quite a bit.

  9. Mike Berry
    Mike Berry says:

    Aiiiee! It’s “Britney,” not “Brittney.”

    And then there’s the comment that “The Iliad” is not that good, “unless you like wars.” Sorry, but “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” are two cornerstones of Western narrative history, referenced in everything from Shakespeare to James Joyce to “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and Justice League of America comics.

    The important point is that we shouldn’t try to make a virtue out of ignorance. We all are interested in various subjects, but we shouldn’t dismiss what doesn’t immediately attract us.

    I like my Homer the Blind Greek Poet, but I like my Homer J. Simpson, too. Life’s more interesting that way.

    * * * * *

    Drat. So sad that I misspelled her name. And in the headline no less. I fixed it. Thanks, Mike.

    I can’t help thinking, though, that if I had been reading more about her to begin with, I would have been used to seeing the name in print and would have known how to spell it :)


  10. Cara
    Cara says:

    “The important point is that we shouldn't try to make a virtue out of ignorance. We all are interested in various subjects, but we shouldn't dismiss what doesn't immediately attract us.”

    Amen!! Gimme both my Style Network and my NPR. :)

  11. Steven Grant
    Steven Grant says:

    In order to understand other people it helps to have a broad range of experiences. It is very helpful to understand people when you are tasked with managing them. This might even include knowing things about popular culture – for example it would help to know if the work schedule “seems to revolve around schedules for the University of Wisconsin athletic teams”.

    Some people I work with care about sports and are hooked on television shows like “Heroes”. I have friends who are passionate about dog shows. If I want to be able to relate to these people better it helps if I expose myself to these things, even a little. This is not being “fake” – I am not pretending to like what they like. The truth is I *do* like my co-workers and I am curious about people. I *want* to understand the people I work with and this is one way to help myself to see the world as they do.

    This is not about social engineering or posing. This is about understanding that people are different and that it is fun to learn about them. People who truly enjoy and celebrate the company of others will get along better with people – and they will tend to have more rewarding careers.

  12. Phil
    Phil says:

    I read a lot about business and careers in order to extract what I can and apply it to my work in the non-profit/social change world. I definitely have gained some good information from your site, but I must admit this post threw me for a loop.

    Read People magazine to gain social skills to advance your career? The Iliad is only “good if you like wars?” Here’s to the person who proudly claimed both Homer and Homer Simpson. Social skills require you to be yourself and listen to others–the content is largely irrelevant.

    * * * * *

    Hi, Phil. I love that last line that you wrote. It is really true.

    I get the sense that people feel I am not being myself by reading People magazine. I actually do not know any woman in my demographic who would not be her true self by thumbing through People magazine at the checkout counter.

    One reason I like People magazine, really: Most of us hide our lives from the world. We don’t tell anyone about our marital problems. We don’t tell people when we have huge financial problems. We don’t show the world when we cave to pressure. We hide our quirks and downfalls as well as we can.

    Celebrities have a much harder time hiding all that stuff, though. So People magazine is acutally a lot about what happens to all of us, but it focuses on the part of society that can’t hide.

    More social skills advice: Read People magazine to gain a deeper understanding of regular people.


  13. Meaghan
    Meaghan says:

    Everyone has some silly habit or interest. Some of us eat junk food, some watch sports with painted faces, some of us read celebrity gossip and other people spend time doing something else. I think the major message is that to relate to people you need to pay attention to THEM without feeling superior or moralistic. I don’t watch TV but I can happily listen to co-workers talk about American Idol. It doesn’t compromise my integrity to listen to what other people care about, and it does make it easy to relate in an office filled with young women who love and

  14. John
    John says:

    Perhaps you were forced to read a poor translation of The Illiad in college.

    I have just now finished the Robert Fagels translation for the second time in three years and I cannot imagine you would not enjoy it. The Illiad has everything (and yes, you can skip the lengthy battle scenes if you find them tedious)– including micro-managing Gods, fatally bruised egos, poor career choices, acts of great piety and courage, passive-aggressive subordinates (Achilles sulking in his tent), and so on.

    But best of all, and of some relevance to your blog, it tells a great story, as does its twin, The Odyssey. I suspect I am older than most of the readers of your blog, but I can tell you that I have learned much from reading great stories about how to put together my own story –who I am, where I have been, what I have done, what I have not done, and so forth. I am using that story now as yet another of my employers has been acquired and I am setting out on my third job search in four years. I’m afraid, my story is not as exciting as that of Hector and Achilles, but it helps give my job search a sort of narrative weight and consistency that it might otherwise lack. That is a good thing when you are my age.

    Start with the new Fagels translation of the The Aeneid and work back. Virgil tells a different story, but it is a great read, nonetheless, and will illuminate The Illiad and help give all those gory battle scenes a bit more context.

  15. Mary
    Mary says:

    Hey Penelope:

    As far as getting Business Week in Madison–you could have easily gone to the University Book store at the end of State Street. Or Borders. Or either of the Barnes and Nobles. Madison really isn’t cow town. You just have to tear yourself away from your blog and explore it more.

    I also believe People is readily available for scanning at any Stop ‘n’ Go. No need to actually buy the thing.

  16. MyNameIsMatt
    MyNameIsMatt says:

    This doesn’t happen often, but I have to disagree with you Penelope. In principle, having good social skills in of course good, and having some common base for conversation with others is part of that. However, I almost take offense to the thought that there’s some kind of requirement that I have a clue, if not care a little, about what’s happening with Britney Spears or similar culture. I don’t believe people’s interests are so vastly different that we must rely on arguably the most undesirable parts of pop culture to find common ground, but that we can instead talk about meaningful points of life without referencing the OC’s final episode or likewise (thank you “The Soup” for providing such pop culture knowledge to me in a humorous and digestible manner).

    Being able to relate to people definitely matters, but I’d amend that with “the right people,” and “in a meaningful way.” Neither of those places a requirement for maintaining an current day-to-day, or even week-to-week, understanding of pop culture. So much of our culture is derived specifically from in the counter-culture and people who were specifically walk their own path without a care or understanding of pop culture that I’d argue the opposite, that people should steer away from pop culture for making a connection and finding meaning.

    I’m not saying that your new endeavor to read People magazine and stay a little more in the know is bad, or that it might benefit women to understand sports is bad. Nor am I trying to say that pop culture is inherently bad. In certain circles, what you’re doing may work, but I wouldn’t immediately turn that into a blanket statement about career and social norms.

    Finally, I’d argue that any pressure for the prevalence of pop culture is less a mindfulness of finding common social ground as it is a lack of caring to go beneath the surface and find real meaning with those around you. Pop culture pressures us to be alike, and such can be seen through the pressure to know or care about pop culture when our real value comes from our differences. The pervasiveness of advertising and pop culture is disingenuous and almost oppressive to those views and beliefs outside of it. If people are offended that I don’t take the time to understand their pop culture references, then is it fair that I’m offended when they don’t take interest in something I actually care about?

    (Man my post quickly went sour, but I do appreciate the original article, and enjoy the opportunity to discuss my alternate view).

    * * * * * * *

    Hi, Matt. No problem with the sour tone. I’m really happy to read a comment like this. This seems like a good time remind everyone that I’m always really grateful for people who take the time to disagree so thoughtfully with what I am saying. The high quality of arguments against me always makes me happy – makes me appreciate the community that comments here.

    Thanks, Matt.


  17. Chris Yeh
    Chris Yeh says:

    I don’t know whether it’s intentional or not, but your run of post topics has been brilliant. The only thing you could do to crank up things up further would be to say something good about Republicans.

    I think that it’s critical to be authentic in your interests. If you’re not that interested in the doings of the Britney/Paris/Lindsay troika, reading about them and feigning interest isn’t going to be effective (though your life will be enhanced by the appearance of the term “firecrotch” in it). There’s nothing more embarassing than when parents try to learn about the latest fashions to seem cool to their children.

    But I do think that if you tell someone that even though nip slips are not your cup of tea, that you’ve read up because you want to better understand their world (and not in a patronizing way), the fact that you’ve made the honest effort will probably win you points.

    Or at least more than ending every sentence with fo’shizzle or something similarly gauche.

  18. Working Girl
    Working Girl says:

    You don’t have to bother to “study” mass culture to have good social skills. When someone says, “Have you heard about Britney’s hair?” all you have to say is, “No, what about it?” They will be overjoyed to be the one to tell you. Your only role is to look surprised/amused/scornful/your choice.

    No muss, no fuss.

    A good way to succeed at many social interactions is to “interview” people. Ask questions. Be interested. People love to talk. Let them!

    I’m sure the reason you haven’t gotten out and explored Madison more is that it’s just been too darned cold.

  19. Becca
    Becca says:

    As a “woman in your demographic” I have a few comments–

    1) Thank you, Mary! Business Week is definitely available at the places you mentioned and I’ll add another to the list– Walgreens, which are strategically placed throughout Madison in very convenient spots. Once you know Madison better, then you can complain about it’s shortcomings. A lack of advertising is not one of them.

    2) I do not look at People in the grocery lines.

    3) I just found this blog and really enjoy it. Not sure I agree with all of it, but enjoying it nonetheless– thanks!

  20. Lea
    Lea says:

    We can’t escape the fact that pop culture is part of the news these days, just as much as all the topics you’ll find on NPR or Fox News or The New York Times. Personally, I’m not interested in the politics espoused on Fox News, but I know that in order to be a well-informed job candidate/employee, I need to know a little bit about “the world.” You can argue that knowing about “the world” should not include knowing that Britney Spears shaved her head to avoid having her hair tested for drugs in a child custody suit, but the truth is, news like this is part of daily life for Americans.

    I spent more than a decade as a journalist, and I had to get over my snobbery/preference for certain topics or news sources and immerse myself in EVERYTHING in order to be effective at my job. Now that I have left journalism and am job-hunting in different fields, I’ve found that it helps to continually expose myself to the news and people who make up our culture. I’m working temporarily in a CPA firm, and while I know nothing about numbers, I have enough knowledge of the world to connect with my coworkers on other topics. Not to mention the clients who wait next to my desk for their appointments!

    Bottom line: A well-rounded worker stays informed about all aspects of the world around her.

  21. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    Hmmm…didn’t post the first two times. Hope this isn’t a double/triple post.

    “More social skills advice: Read People magazine to gain a deeper understanding of regular people.”

    I only hope that this is at least a little bit tongue-in-cheek, or that this is another quirky cultural divide like using race as a criteria in choosing your destination (foreign concept to me in Canada), or that you’re sorta playing devil’s advocate to drive traffic to a celeb-named post.

    Perhaps the reason most people’s priorities are so messed up is because they actually believe that the lives represented in People are real, desireable and attainable on some level. If only they could work a little harder, and make a little more money, maybe they could look (and live) a bit more like the beautiful “people” in People. And then they could also purchase more of the products the celebs are shilling in the ads of the same magazine!

    Garbage in, garbage out. If your mental space is loaded up with People, it will be reflected in who you are becoming, who you want to be attractive to (presumeably others who share that interest) and how you project yourself. Also, every minute spent immersing yourself in the vapid details of Brad and Angelina is a minute you can’t spend on making your own life more meaningful. That might seem pretentious, but look at the stats on watching TV (link is killing my comment, unfortunately) — that extra 28 hours a week could come in handy if you have some meaningful projects in mind (relationships, work, creativity, learning, fun, whatever).

    That reminds me of something I forgot to put in my first comment — if you really want to connect with people, spend your time on real experiences in your community. Get out there and do stuff. Those are the things that people actually care about and want to talk about — their weekend ski trip at the local hill, the great find they made at the farmer’s market down the street, the gallery opening that blew their mind, a hot new restaurant downtown, their masters swim class at the pool…real engagement in real lives.

  22. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    So… besides the lack of advertising (which the locals prefer to keep as is) and the lack of newsstands (which as Madison is one of the most connected cities in the US hasn’t been an issue) how is Madison working out for you? I was expecting to hear if you were feeling at home or what you’ve discovered to be great or lousy about our area. As a local it would also be interesting to hear your opinions on how some of your advice applies here in this “island in the sea of reality” that we call Madison.

  23. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Everybody loves to talk about themselves and loves imparting info – that’s the best way to connect, I find. I get my pop culture by the Web – in quirk-spurt doses, at my control – and for free.

    If you want to read People, read People…but don’t try to justify it by saying you’re keeping in touch with the common folk.

    If you think People is junk, then you’re free to think that without trying to give yourself intellectual credentials for hating it.

    Far, far, far more people have cable than read People, so if you want to connect with “average” people, you’re better off with cable. Services like On Demand take care of the “we don’t want TV to take over our lives” problem.

    If you want to connect with the pop culture of people under 35, a print subscription is not the way to do it, BTW. MySpace and LiveJournal are better bets. A quick look at these every couple months is worth the couple minutes it takes to register and log in.

  24. laurence haughton
    laurence haughton says:

    I agree with Vanessa (“If you want to read People, read People – but don't try to justify it by saying you're keeping in touch with the common folk. If you think People is junk, then you're free to think that without trying to give yourself intellectual credentials for hating it.”)

    My wife reads People for fun and work (she’s a VP in the fashion biz) so I just ask her for a heads up. BTW did you know that Elliot Yasmin (American Idol 3rd place) had $50,000 worth of free dental work so he could sing and look even better? Neither did I.

    * * * * * *

    Laurence – Info like the dental work. I really like that. Now I know that dental work is going mainstream. This, of course, makes me look at my own teeth more closely. But really, all good reading makes us see ourselves differently :)


  25. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I have to say that I’m amazed that you missed the news about Britney. I don’t have a TV either and I am not hugely interested in the women (though I feel sorry for her now) but I read newspapers both in print and online and there has been pretty much blanket coverage even outside the US.

    But that’s beside the point; if you missed it so what? I don’t think knowledge of sport or celebrity gossip is fundamental to having good social skills. The fundamental thing is an interest in the person you are talking to and tact and sensitivity. There are bound to be other small talk topics that you have in common if celebrity gossip or TV is not one of them. I also agree with Working Girl – you don’t need to keep up with celebrity goss, just listen politely when others tell you.

    If you enjoy reading People go for it but I don’t think it’s true that you need to read it to connect with the ‘common people’. In fact, I think good literature is actually more useful. Reading Tolstoy or Steinbeck or Joyce might not give you something in common with regular folk but it will help you connect with people since it will expand your understanding of the human experience.

  26. John Schroeder - Waunakee RE/MAX Preferred Realtor
    John Schroeder - Waunakee RE/MAX Preferred Realtor says:


    I hope that Madison is treating you well. There are many things to do in Madison that don’t involve watching tv. As you mentioned sports is fairly big in Madison with all of the university teams, the Madison Mallards, as well as our beloved Packers and Brewers.
    But there are many other things to do in Madison including going to the Farmer’s Market, Art Fair on the Square, or Taste of Madison, all downtown during the Summer. How about catching a movie at the new Sundance 608 or spending a night at the Overture Center seeing a wonderful play. Don’t forget that Madison’s roads don’t go straight east to west because of a couple reasons. They’re called Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Great spots for fishing (ice fishing too!!!), or boating, or even watching the 4th of July fireworks from the water.
    Madison has many things to offer it’s residents. Even if it doesn’t have all of that advertising.

  27. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    Penelope, I hope you’re settling into Madison.

    I wasn’t a NYC’er, but I did move here four years ago from the East Coast, and I like Madison, a LOT. But there are some things that take getting used to!

    Madison is mostly wonderful, and the people in it are mostly wonderful. It certainly isn’t “cow town”. People here are well-read and well-dressed. (Although there’s that whole guys-wearing-white-tube-socks-with-khakis-and-black-dress-shoes thing. Please, stop.)

    I’ve discovered a few things: (1) Madisonians walk pretty slowly, especially when on State Street or at Farmer’s Market. (2) They’re kinda frugal. And by “frugal”, I mean, “cheap”. The current firestorm is the fact that Sundance 608 is charging extra fees at their theater. (You’d have thought they were asking people for spare kidneys by the hue and cry of some folks.) And (3), when you leave the city of Madison, it really is a bit scary out there – lots of advertising, chain stores and Wal-martopias.

    As for pop culture, it’s like having a sweet tooth – sometimes you want something that’s sweet and tasty with no nutritional value. But a steady diet of it would get you out of shape…

  28. Mary
    Mary says:

    I just discovered your website and I think that your advice is some of the best I’ve read on developing one’s social skills. You give a new take on it and I like the specificity of your suggestions. First of all, I like how you wrote in another article that many people who are not like just don’t care, and that just caring is a step toward moving forward-it gives hope! In this article, I like the suggestion to keep up on current events and the explanation of why.
    Both of these articles have made me feel optimistic and I am grateful for this resource you provide!! :) Thanks!

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