Monthly Archives: July 2008

Eagle vs. metropolis

London isn't really a postcard city. The water is sewage-flecked, the parks are the size of beach towels and the vistas are expensive. I sometimes think of my time in London as The Year Without Sunsets, since the curvy street-canyons block the horizon for 360 degrees in most neighborhoods. London's the kind of city where you set your camera on 'ladybug' and try to piece the Lichtenstein together from whatever dots you can document.

I only took about 5 pictures during this most recent trip, and most of them seem pretty farty outside the context in which they were taken. This one deserves an explanation, though:

In case it's not immediately clear, that is a fucking raptor. In the center of a city of 12 million people. Two words spring instantly to mind: The fuck?!

So me and my friend were walking up the steps from the Institute for Contemporary Art and saw the above dude (left) with one of those leather bird-gloves walking around aimlessly. Just as I was about to comment on the developments in London handwear since I left, this steely brown F-16 landed on the glove and started scanning around. We, jaded urbanites both, stopped and began the 'ummmmmm' sound that signifies Trying to Figure It Out.

We watched the pair, polo shirt and feather-vest, walk around this little square. The bird took off every few minutes, flew around, then came back when Doolittle whistled or whatever. I eventually reached my threshold for unexplained weirdness.

Me, approaching the dude: OK, I have to ask. You're walking around with a baby-lifting prairie creature on your arm in the middle of London. What's going on?
Birdman: Oh, her? This is Lucy.
Me: OK, hi Lucy. I'm … still in wonderance as to why you have a giant zoo animal here.
Birdman: This is London's new plan for getting rid of pigeons. She hunts them.
Me: … Seriously?! You're out here hunting pigeons? This is, like, your job?
Birdman: Well, Lucy's job.
Me: Rad. Does she actually kill pigeons out here? Like, above Nelson's column there's a birdfight and at the next bus stop there's a raptor pulling out entrails, or what?
Birdman: She does get the occasional pigeon, if it's weak or wounded. If it's a fit pigeon, though, it usually gets away.
Me: Fit pigeon?!

Tremendous. I feel like the idea of using birds of prey to rid London of pigeons had to have come directly from the mayor, or at least the cabinet level. Anyone else would have been laughed out of the conference room. Next time I go to London I'm keeping my eyes out for rat-hunting cheetahs in the Tube.

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The greatest explanation

Speaking of old people, I was wandering around Stansted this weekend and passed a few of the large, slightly Fountainhead internet kiosks that grow out of airport carpets from Hoboken to Hong Kong. Staring at one of them, I had a mini-piphany. This is what old people think the internet is.

I feel like in the minds of people who missed out on the progression through word processing, joysticks, DOS, the mouse, Wolfenstein 3D, Windows and YouTube, the internet is, like, a thing that you buy, like a refrigerator or a garage-door opener or a giant wood-paneled TV. I have no idea if this is remotely true, but it just seems to me that the kind of person who has been dismissing the personal computer for the last 15 years (Gore Vidal comes instantly to mind) would have trouble making the leap to a new paradigm of what this magical qwertical machine does.

So when politicians talk about the internet, imagine them imagining the internet as a winged kiosk in your  living room. Right next to the UFO (that's the laserdisc) the tall closet made of glass (the Playstation) and the urinal (the Wii).

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John McCain thinks that gay couples and ‘two-parent families’ are opposites

I'm trying not to point out all the shit that McCain is getting wrong these days, since it's like parsing the monologue of the piss-dripper sitting next to you on the bus, but this is pretty Sauron:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you’re against gay adoption.

MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent.

Does he think that gays travel in packs or something? That when we talk about gay adoption, we're talking about some sort of Jungle Book situation, with dozens of gays raising a litter of Maddoxes under a rope swing? Do gays not count as two parents? I'm as confused as … well, as a 72-year-old man trying to understand the world as it exists since youngsters started rocking their hips on the teletube.

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People in my hometown are a bunch of fucking babies

Critical Mass is a group of a few dozen bikers who cycle together down main streets, deliberately blocking traffic to raise awareness of the difficulty of cycling in Seattle. Like everything else on the crackpot end of the ideological teeter-totter, this achieves precisely nothing. Like that arcade game where you mallet as many peeking groundhogs as possible, whatever awareness the cyclists hope to raise is instantly tamped by the honks, revved engines and 'get out of the road, asshole!' being volleyed at the swarm.

So with the regularity of a menstrual cramp, the road-blocking ride took place last Friday. Take it away, local Seattle TV station:

A demonstration turned violent Friday night after a group of cyclists taking part in the Critical Mass demonstration got into an argument with a driver on Seattle's Capitol Hill. It wasn't clear what sparked the confrontation at 15th and Aloha, but witnesses say they saw about a dozen cyclists surround a white Subaru, blocking in the driver. Apparently, the driver felt intimidated and tried to back up to get away, but he backed into at least two cyclists.

  24 hours later, cyclists and eyewitnesses chimed in


While there is no denying that the cyclists circled the car and trashed it, this was all an attempt to stop the car and driver from possibly hurting anyone else, as the scene they describe in their newscast takes place about 200 ft from the scene where the motorist accelerated from 0 to 40 THROUGH a standing line of cyclists at Aloha and 14th, luckily only injuring two of them as his car was pointed at a group of six. I was standing about 20 feet from the scene and saw the entire altercation.

[…]

Near the end of a particularly hilly ride, on Aloha E near 14th, a driver got pissed that we were blocking both lanes of the road and, after yelling "Get the fuck outta my way, we've got reservations!" proceeded to gun it into a crowd of maybe 11 cyclists! He then backed up and—with a young man on his now broken windshield—drove through the cyclists, some of whom had fallen on the road, again. He tried at this point to flee the scene in his car.

Wait, so the driver is an asshole. May he burn in a hellfire made entirely of molten Ford Explorers.

The uninjured riders absolutely mobbed the vehicle, breaking his back window with a U-lock and stopping the car about half a block later by slashing the front tires. The driver was then pulled from the vehicle by the angry group of riders (a few, maybe 5 or 6?) and assaulted.

A reporter tracked down the victim-slash-assailant:

"As soon as I tried to turn around, they completely corralled me in and were shouting things," Mark says. Although he says cyclists were initially "playfully taunting" him, Mark says the longer he waited, the more aggressive they got. "They wouldn’t let me move even after the rest of the bikes went by, he says, adding that he started to panic when cyclists began tugging on his side mirrors and he heard someone say "let’s tip the car."

Mark says he felt intimidated and was concerned for his safety, so he began to rev his engine. "[I] was going to…try to be macho and scare some people," he says. "I didn’t realize my car was in first [gear]."

Mark says he got out of his car and was immediately struck in the back of a head by a cyclist wielding a U-lock. Mark then told the angry crowd he was "sorry" and "didn't know anyone was hurt," before walking up to where the injured cyclists were. This, Mark says, is when cyclists "completely destroyed [his] car," breaking his windows and slashing his tires.

This behavior is absurdly typical of Seattle. Both sides acting completely fucking retarded, then changing the facts afterwards to make themselves look better. It wouldn't surprise me if a group of self-righteous bikers, wielding U-locks, impotence and clip-shoes, ganged up on a driver and wouldn't let him leave until he snapped. It also wouldn't surprise me if a Seattle driver — imagine an SUV-owning Vermonter, then add eco-guilt and white shame — responded to a quantum inconvenience with an anger supernova, and decided a few broken bike-legs were worth making it to his Denny's reservation on time.

Picking sides in these things is like rooting for Israel or Palestine — they'll let you down every time. I did like this part of the driver's roman a clef, though

I’m gay, the person with me was a lesbian and we were attacked by eco-terrorists. It’s the most Seattle thing that could have happened.

Which is exactly why everyone involved should be banished to South Dakota, milking industro-cows on the most inorganic farm possible, driving a tractor from the trailer to the Wal-Mart and eating bacon-wrapped Snickers and instant coffee for breakfast every day until Jeb Bush is elected president.

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Friends don’t let friends get into reggae

My friend back home in Seattle has started setting up a volleyball net in public parks and spending afternoons playing with whoever shows up. I think this is distilled genius, and it appears to have fermented nicely:

Friend [on IM]: I hooked up, dude.
Been having sex with a singer/actress from Wisconsin.
Most random and awesome shit in the history of my lameness. Even blind squirrels can find an occasional acorn.
Me: Bout time, sonnn!
How did this happen
Friend: I have been asking myself the same thing.
My only comment is:
VOLLEYBALL NET
And Jah did the rest.

 

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Oh the Hispanity

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Deft American bilingualism: Madrid music festival edition

The lead singer of the American band The Breeders between songs:

We're going to play a Beatles cover. We think this song is really one of the classics … What's the Mexican word for 'classic'?

  1. You're not in Mexico right now.
  2. Mexico is not the same as Spain. You flew nine hours to get here, not three.
  3. You're lucky no one understood what you said. Because they only speak Mexican.
  4. In general, it is more embarrassing to attempt cultural literacy and fail (see: 1 through 3) than to just accept that you don't know very much about the culture you're experiencing and take it from there. None of the Swedish or German or British or French bands tried to speak Spanish. They just played music, spoke the esperanto-English that Europeans deploy when they run into each other, and tacked some graciases onto the end.
  5. The word is classico. I know this is difficult to know, since it does not appear in any Taco Bell menu items, but you could have asked a roadie or something.

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Twitters from the last 48 hours

  • Mike always stands up on public transport
  • Mike loves showering in other people's houses, and using their products
  • Mike finished 'Disgrace' by JM Coetzee on the plane and can't stop thinking about it
  • Every time Mike hears 'chorizo' he wants to shout 'fo shizzo!'
  • Mike feels justified taking two showers a day in Madrid, since he only takes about one a week in Copenhagen.
  • Nonetheless, after three days of unsuccessfully seeking shade-asylum, Mike smells incredible
  • Mike loves learning the public transport systems of other cities. Turnstyles! Hanging commuter-straps! 'Proxima estación', colon! Geographic information on European capitals may be the only knowledge Mike possesses that cannot be classified as trivia.
  • Mike accidentally ordered anchovies
  • Mike got winked at by a Madridian homosexual. Internal panic, eyes snapping to ground indicate Mike has lived in Denmark too long.
  • Mike has spoken Danish to at least three Spanish people
  • Spain is the only European country Mike has been to where the alcohol is not measured into bubbling centiliter standardizers before being poured. Mike thinks this should be the subject of an EU Directive.

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Madridiot

That's right, the 14-day waiting period between music festivals is over. I'm off to Madrid to see the following nonsense:

2manydjs — Blondie — Breeders — Cornelius — CSS — Etienne de Crécy — Foals Grinderman — Ian Brown — Interpol — Kings Of Leon — Kooks — Mogwai — Primal Scream — Raveonettes — Sex Pistols — Shout Out Louds — Sons & Daughters — Tiga — Verve — We Are Scientists

Then I'm northing to the worn-out, inflatable lovedoll that is London for some extracurricular traipsery. My goals for the next 10 days are cartoonishly humble. See some friends, listen to some music. If I can't pull that off, I might as well move to Belgium.

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Enough already: Customer service tyranny

Here's an anecdote by my new favorite blogger about a War of Attrition that ensued after he ordered an espresso poured over ice:

And the guy at the counter looked me in the eye with a straight face and said “I’m sorry, we can’t serve iced espresso here. It’s against our policy.”

The whole world turned brown and chunky for a second. Flecks of corn floated past my pupils, and it took me a second to blink it all away.

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll have a triple espresso and a cup of ice, please.”

He rolled his eyes and rang it up, took my money, gave me change. I stood there and waited. Then the barista called me over to the bar. I reached for it, and he leaned over and locked his eyes with mine, saying “Hey man. What you’re about to do … that’s really, really Not Okay.”

I could hear the capital letters in his voice, could see the gravity of the situation in his eyes.

He continued: “This is our store policy, to preserve the integrity of the coffee. It’s about the quality of the drink, and diluting the espresso is really not cool with us. So I mean, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, and I can’t stop you, but”

I interrupted. “You’re goddamned right you can’t stop me,” I said. “I happen to have a personal policy that prohibits me from indulging stupid bullshit like this — and another personal policy of doing what I want with the products I pay for.” Then I looked him right in his big wide eyes and poured the espresso onto the ice.

I seriously love this. Maybe I'm getting older, but I find immense satisfaction in the tiny, quotidian revolutions that we save for interactions like this. This reminds me of my old friend Tim, who used to demand to rip his own ticket whenever we went to the movies together.

Usher: [holds out hand]

Tim: Oh, if you don't mind, I'd actually like to rip my own ticket.

Usher: No, I'm sorry, I rip the ticket.

Tim: I'd really just like to do it myself. I'll give you the stub.

Usher: No, we rip all tickets, sir.

Tim: Why can't I just rip it? I'm right in front of you, I'm not going to pull some trick or anything.

Usher: Sir. Sir. We rip the tickets.

Tim: [not breaking eye contact, rips ticket, hands stub to usher]

Usher: No, I'm sorry I can't let you into the movie.

Tim: I just ripped my ticket and handed you the stub. Precisely nothing has just occured here. This is a routine transaction.

Usher: I'm sorry, you can't be allowed into the theater.

 

I started getting to movies half an hour early so Tim could do his routine. It always ended with the usher's head dipping down to his shoulder-walkie and beckoning either the manager or security. Tim stopped after we got bounced while trying to see 'Desperado'. Come to your senses indeed.

There's something human about reverting to the default 'No!' when confronted with behavior that is outside of the norm. I can't help but think that the reason I can't get married really just comes down to a million of those movie ushers, voting or legislating or evangelizing or word-of-mouthing their 'this is how its done' paradigm. Every once in awhile me and Tim would get an usher who just went 'whatever' and straightened his fez. The only thing I learned from The Regularly Scheduled Uprising of Tim, ultimately, was that a little apathy goes a long way.  

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