Thursday, April 27, 2006

Kazakhstan ho!

Did any of you business travelers pick up the copy of USA Today that was slipped under your hotel room door this morning? I admit it: the only way you'll get me to even eye the thing is by placing it between my sometimes-comfy bed, where I read the real news online as soon as I wake up, and the toilet, where last night's dinner always wants to be. Hotel rooms are all designed so that a newspaper slipped under the door ends up inches from the bowl. And when I do actually pick up a copy of "the USA," as I've heard many a hick call it, I only read the article about the airline industry. The only challenge is finding whether it's on the front page of the news or business section.

No sooner than I had found that today's aviation article was indeed in the business section, a strange insert slipped out of the paper and hit the tile floor. Was it a Circuit City flyer? An ad for an even bigger car? Nope, an 8-page, full-color advertorial called "Our World." And all of the articles were about Kazakhstan!

There's TENGIZCHEVROIL, the oil company, and KazTransGaz, the gas company, both working "for the benefit of Kazakhstan." Kuat, the state construction company, is busy building state of the art, "western standard hotels" for oil hungry execs. And the state railroad, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, is beginning to contemplate running "European gauge" tracks for the first time so containerized goods can travel by rail from China to Europe. All this information was accompanied by portraits of the dour-faced Eurasian Muslim men who run everything.

I never learned so much about Kazakhstan in a single five minutes before! And on a Comfort Inn shitter in Maine! Who could be responsible?

It's the marketing firm United World. They make these things for all sorts of countries--check out what they did for Botswana!--and then stick them exclusively in USA Today.

It seems a strange strategy, but obviously one a lot of developing nations are willing to pursue. Maybe the next time I'm in a hotel AND have diarrhea AND someone slips "the USA" under my door, I can learn something new about Cameroon or Kyrgyzstan.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Saturdays in the North Shore Ecotone

Every major metropolis has at least one border area where big boxes are replacing everything else, and all the residences are still packed with undereducated Italians and Irish who are being quickly, unstoppably, and fearfully replaced by Hispanics. All you have to do is very briefly exist between the Ciy and the Suburbs to know this is the truth: in the great nether-region where cultures meet and hate each other, racism, ignorance, "the high cost of low price," and lowbrow cultural homogeneity rule every day.

I grew up in one of these areas in New York City--where the White People flee the Tan People and the big chains take advantage of mythical declining property values to purchase the nearby municipal swamp and plunk the standard combination TargetOldNavyBabiesRUsStaplesCostcoRegionalSportingGoodsStoreStarbucksChainSteakhouse down next to the only highway around, or whatever passes for one.

Since I grew up in such an area--an urban-suburban ecotone--it's utterly stultifying to see how, for one thing, the exact same same combination of ingredients are available anywhere else beyond the northeast Bronx, southern Brooklyn, or eastern Queens, and for another thing, how these same ingredients create the exact same neighborhood in and around multiple American cities. Honestly, beyond New York, I've only really experienced it on the fringes of Urban Boston (not the same thing as the "Greater Boston" everyone refers to; that's the term suburbanites use to attach themselves to the mythically "vibrant" urban core here).

A few weeks ago, in need of still more clothing, Abbey and I ventured through the Boston North Shore Urban Ecotone, the no-man's-land between the glitz of the Leonard A. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge and vast suburbia.

Once you've crossed the Mystic River Marshes in Somerville, Medford, and Everett, all hell breaks loose. Half of Medford is comprised of parking lots built around giant supermarkets. There's the infamous, indoor Ghetto Glen Mall. Everett offers the aforementioned CostcoTargetOldNavyChainSteakhouseEtcEtc combo, not even a mile away. Traffic permanently clogs the woefully inadequate, two-lane Route 16, one of many major highways around Boston where every interchange involves 5 signals and at least as many acres of connecting roads. They were apparently designed in an era that placed a much lower value on plant life.

But the worst atrocity of all is the Square One Mall in Saugus. Located in a dumpy suburb along historic Route 1, this complex seems to attract the most doomed forms of humanity as well as or better than the average subway car (in the ecotone, there are no subways, only asphalt).

There's the ever-chirping Nextel Crowd, shouting at their phones and staring off into space.

There are the too-tan housemoms who use the word IGNERANT as an insult, just like my own housemom. I heard one doing it repeatedly in Sears, telling her husband very audibly, "YA KNOW WHAT HER PRABLEM IS? SHE'S FUCKIN IGNERANT! IGNERANT, ALLADEM!"

There still are goth kids! Always fattening at the food court.

While at the food court (ice cream!), I got in line behind a 400-pound electonics store employee. A Suburban Italian Princess in what looked like a fancy pajama set walked up to the girl behind the counter and said hello.

Girl behind the counter: Omygod, you're so tan! Where did you go, prom?

Suburban Italian Princess in What Looks Like Expensive Pajams: Yeah, it was so lame.

And they walk back and forth, as they did in "Dawn of the Dead" thirty years ago, carrying bags back and forth back and forth back and forth. No one makes eye contact with one another. Everyone bops and shops to the canned beat. The blacks and whites hate each other, but you can't see or hear it.

They have to behave in the big boxes because the big boxes are where all the stuff is. And it's just a little sad that the big boxes are the only places where the people are remotely happy--where they have to go to give their money away.

Back outside, it's wall-to-wall traffic jams, white flight, lack of any cultural options for humans over age 5, declining tax bases, slumification. A stone's throw from the resources of the city, but light years away in terms of intellectual and financial capital. Unless, of course, you own the mall.

This borderland is a shitty place to grow up, and a wonderful place to break out of. I'm only sorry I have to go back in to buy pants.

Hi from Bangor.

I have a bunch of longer posts in various draft stages that I left at home. I also have a lot of pictures to post here. I'll put some "content" up this weekend.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Remember Osama?

He's still at it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lawyers vs. Freedom [Tower]

Can you believe that thanks to endless litigation and insurance worries, there is still no plan for the World Trade Center site?

In other breaking news, Natalee Holloway continues to be dead.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

IDIOTIC CAMPUS CONVERSATION, Southern New Hampshire University



CAR (A wrecked, late model Ford): THIS IS A REAL CAR,
FROM A REAL
DRUNK DRIVING
ACCIDENT. THE
DRIVER WAS

INTOXICATED AND
LOST CONTROL. NO
ONE WAS WEARING
SEATBELTS.

TWO PEOPLE DIED
IN THIS CAR.

YOUNG FEMALE PASSERBY: That's why *I* own a Volkswagen.

(Others in her group giggle.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Happy Patriots Day!

Massachusetts is closed, yet the world toils on. Does the world need Massachusetts?

Blogs are "essential to a good career"

According to our Friend the Globe, as long as you are exceedingly normal, set on impressing people, and only have one or two interests, your blog can help you Brand Yourself and Climb the Ladder.

I guess my rants about pork last night are now damning my career, justified as those rants may be.

Happy Patriots Day, if you live in one of the 2.5 states (MA, ME, and some of WI) that celebrate it.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

While on the subject of pork...

Something about Tufts (graduated, 2003) always made me feel uncomfortable about eating pork. 25% of the school was Jewish, and 90% of the 25% wouldn't touch pigmeat*. Then there were the vegetarians and the anorexics.

I mean no cultural disrespect, but as the NYC ghetto youth would say, fuck on that! Pork is dirt-cheap and delicious. It provides China with much of its energy needs. Delicious with applesauce, chili peppers, pineapples, both molasses- and vinegar-based barbecue sauces.

Eat pork!

*secret blues reference

Buffalo Pork!!

I ask again why no one has tried to make this deep fried delicacy? Too good to be true? Or would something go wrong?

--------------------------------------

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I propose a new section for the Sunday Times:

Slumming. They're so into Bushwick and the Bronx and St. George. This is not limited to New York; see this article on the U Street Comeback in DC. Wherever real estate prices can be heated up by infusing teeny yuppies into hostile territory, the Times is there!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

ACADEMIA:

the largest pyramid scheme ever invented

Get rich quick!

Sue the city (any city) over your dead kid, or your relative or neighbor's dead kid. Remember, money is justified compensation for loss of human life.

In line with that postulation, I also find it interesting that the family of the one noncitizen to die in the Boston scaffolding collapse that killed 3 workers last week is the first family to sue the construction company. You can be sure the city will be sued next. How fast humans learn!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why do many bloggers refer to themselves as we?

Even Mac Daniel of the Globe is doing it, so it must be approved by the paper's editorial people. What does it accomplish? It doesn't make you anonymous. It doesn't make you less responsible for what you write. And it really doesn't make sense when a blog only has one contributor. Can someone explain this?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Much of Boston's North Shore looks like this.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Slow news day?

For at least eight hours, CNN.com has featured as its headline a Homeland Security official's arrest in Maryland for IMing a cop in Florida who pretended to be a 14-year-old girl. He didn't attempt to meet or kidnap the fake kid, but they say he used bad words and sent it porn.

This is the most important occurrance in America today.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Two highly entertaining Boston blogs.

The BPD now runs its own live blotter, and

The Globe just turned Mac Daniel's beloved transportation column into a blog.

Enjoy.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

As much as I think Henry Miller was a tremendous prick,

I admit that I am heavily influenced by his use of the exclamation point.

Not-so-secretly I wonder if this makes me a tremendous prick, too.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Davis Square: Came and Went

Two years ago, I moved back to Somerville and said that all Davis Square was missing was a Subway restaurant. We got one. But now, much of the charm I came to love about Davis as a Tufts student has vanished, not to the "gentrification" that people have been mumbling incoherently about for the past two decades, but to instant, violent overyuppification. Things are starting to go a little overboard, and though some still suggest Davis might be an "up and coming" area, I think that Davis's time, for me, has come and gone.

Gone are the days of diving in the Goodwill bins on Elm Street (they're never outside the store anymore), searching for long lost musical loves at Disc Diggers (out of business; CD Spins lives on), and parking (this one's for the large-car-driving suburban visitors). Yes, many of the anchors of the Square are still going strong--Anna's (now they they've added the taco al pastor, the first new menu item in over a decade), Mike's (the only pizza and pasta joint on Earth where they charge extra for sauce), and Johnny D's (the revered music hall founded by an ex-Somerville cop). Don't forget about Redbones and Someday and Diesel!

But at all the new restaurants, the dinner entrees cost $25. There was that one where you were supposed to construct a meal from 2-3 "tapas" plates at $12 each (out of business!). And if you're one of the big spenders who drive in from the neighboring suburbs to experience "the city" without braving the T, it now costs a quarter for every 15 minutes at a meter--that rate is in line with Downtown Boston and, yes, Manhattan.

With yuppification comes homogenization. If I had a dollar for every asshole I saw wearing an Ithaca is Gorges shirt....can you believe that those shirts come in more than one color now? I mean, in 2006, who is stupid enough to spend the money....

And what's with all the beautiful, brand new, oversized yuppie dogs? They're huge and shiny and gorgeous--the SUVs of canine companionship--but you never see a yuppie with a dog over two years old, do you?

Not to mention that everyone who passed on the puppy and had an actual kid is wheeling said kid around in the same three-bicycle-wheeled stroller as everybody else. Oh, to grow up in a Somerville condo eating Whole Foods imported from Medford!

I admit that it might have been my own college student bias that led me to think that Davis was and would remain a vibrant, urban backwater peopled by artists, students, and weirdos. It seems today that there are less students than ever before, anywhere. Grad students remain confined to Diesel and Someday; Tufts kids make a mad dash from their shuttle bus stop to the underground platform of the Red Line. Meanwhile, Starbucks, where I have never spent a dime, is packed to the gills every evening with young professionals slaving over their laptops.

Don't get me totally wrong; I can't wait to try the $30 grouper at the new and improved Out of the Blue, nor can I wait any longer to cook up the asparagus and lemon ravioli I just got at Dave's Fresh Pasta. It's just that the the next generation of young'uns in Davis, i.e. Tufts kids, are going to need a lot more money to have any fun. A lot more than I ever had as a student.

Oh, wait. Everyone else at Tufts and in Davis is rich!