Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Our vacation is smiling, Our children is happy."

The above is the text of a T-shirt I once saw a young Asian kid wearing on the Q20B bus in Queens.

With the highly notable exception of Calgary, the past few days have been loaded with discovery, physical suffering, and saturated fat. Monday night we made Edmonton, a northern prairie city of around 600,000. It was beautiful and happening, with tons of downtown greenspace, river scenery, and plenty of industry. We stayed in a bizarre hotel, the Argyll Plaza, located on the top two floors of a strip mall right before the industrial part of town spills out into the suburbs.

Most of Monday we spent in the World's Largest Mall, the WEM (West Edmonton Mall). Dan swore that photographic opportunities would abound, that this would be the worst place in North America. It wasn't that bad. The crowds never surged, as it was a Monday afternoon, and the place was starting to show its age. We used our free mini golf, aquarium, and ice skating passes and paid $8 to ride the giant roller coaster:



One theoretical thing I like to talk about [that turns other people away] is the ongoing privatization of "public" space. WEM had a full Chinatown built in, which we thought was a crude joke with cheap dragons hanging from the ceiling, but it turned out to be an actual, indoor, commercial-leased Chinatown. T&T supermarket sold every [pan] Asian consumer product imaginable, and 90% of the shoppers were, in fact, Asian.

There were Asian hair salons and video stores. We didn't see any of their customers venture into the rest of the mall during the 6 hours we were there. It was just like any urban, Asian neighborhood, just that it was in a mall. Weird.

---
Believe it or not, people went out on Monday night, and we were among them. Mostly overdressed college upperclass females and large meatheads. One meathead called us queers and when I offered to suck his dick in front of a large crowd of women, his face become a contorted picture of sheer homophobic panic. In one open air bar, where Dan and I loudly discussed divisive politics, we heard the chick next to us say, "we should move away from these guys." They then planted themselves on two frat boys with hats turned backwards. After a few glasses of whiskey, pizza with honey and hot sauce, a "hawaiian" burger with "special sauce," and a "donair" (Canadian for gyro), we decided to walk the mile back to the hotel.

This turned out to be the best part of Edmonton! Walking along the exterior of the CP Rail yard, we passed through the factories of Cessco Fabrication. As the night switcher (train) whistled through crossings, delivering cars to a steam-shooting plywood plant nearby, men on either side of our desolate road used grinders and arc welders, shooting blue and orange sparks and clouds of white smoke into the night sky. In the open air and in huge hangars, fractioning towers for the petroleum industry and ethanol (or ammonia?) storage bulbs took shape. Up and out here, industrial and postindustrial have to exist simultaneously, and it's quite a show.

I forgot to take a picture of an Edmonton manhole cover. I am still angry about that.

Tuesday was the picture of profitable, rural desolation, as we cut south through agricultural Alberta en route to the Drumheller badlands and Calgary itself. Bright yellow-green fields of what we thought was wheat stretched across all horizons, waiting to fill the Vancouver-bound trains that eventually feed China. The bustling town of Bashaw (pop. 825) made for a nice quick stop and some thrift store shopping. A friendly hardware store employee warned us about the sprawl of Calgary...

For lunch, we stopped in the town of Stettler for KENT'S FRENCH SERVICE CHINESE BUFFET. There was a near riot in the kitchen over a botched delivery order, but when the steaks and chops came out of the kitchen, we were amazed. For about half the price of a similar meal on the east coast, we enjoyed fresh beef and pork that had been raised across the street.

--------------------
We are now in the GOLDEN RIM MOTEL in Golden, BC, two days later.

Coming up in the next post(s):
THE DRUMHELLER BADLANDS
CALGARY SUCK CITY
SULPHUR MOUNTAIN BATTEL!
BANFF JAPANASE CITY!

Coming up today:
GLACIER OF DEATH
KELOWNA RIOT CITY!

Where in the world is Boston, Massachusetts?

Not in Far Eastern Canada, as our Hooters bartender seemed to think (forgiveable?). Not "all the way from England?!" as our Tim Horton's servitor imagined.

But everyone knows where New York is.

DEATH ROCK ON THE TRANS-CANADA HWY!!!!



At the spiral tunnels, 6.28.

THERE ARE A LOT OF UKRANIANS IN CANADA.



West Edmonton Mall, 6.26.

BASHAW GRAIN ELEVATOR



Bashaw, AB.
Got some nice thrift store mugs for Abbey here.

RURAL CEMETERY BIKER DUDE, SOMEWHERE IN ALBERTA, 6.27

BATHERS IN THE WEST EDMONTON MALL, 6.26

SKATERS IN THE WEST EDMONTON MALL, 6.26

LEN BELLINGER STYLEE

Our Uncle Len, the only living man over 21 we know who actually devotes his life to what he loves, has been written up in the NY Times (bottom of page 2).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

HALLIBURTON: HOT ON THE SCENT OF ALBERTA'S OIL WEALTH.


Alberta is the Texas of Canada. Hinton, AB, 6.25.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Shitty XCan Post II

It's 11:10 am in Edmonton, which means it's been perfectly light out for about six hours. After our short, vertical hike to the top of Whistler's Peak yesterday, we needed all the sleep we could get. I lied awake thinking about how I love cities, I just fucking love cities, and I wanted to get up at dawn with the camera and photograph Edmonton waking up, but I slept until 10:30 or so (after waking up at 9 eastern, which I'm still doing).

The Rough Guide to Canada says to ignore Edmonton. But after an article I read in the shitty Globe and Mail about a year and half ago, I decided that I had to see it. A boom town on the northern prairie, fueled by oil, coal, and wheat wealth, home to the largest mall in the world and a huge university. Passing through on a Sunday night, it looked brand new and excellent. These young cities have the advantage of having been designed after we learned from lots of urban mistakes. Poor Queens.

But I don't want to skip ahead. It took a lot to get here in our rented Momivan. There are probably about 10,000 insects splattered in splotches of gray, yellow, and pink across the once immaculate white hood of the van. It's amazing how matter reinvents itself into millions of little annoyances in the summertime, specks that dissolve back into dust around October or so.

On Saturday, we took a break from smashing insects to stop in Kamloops, BC. The Rough Guide trashed it as "determinedly functional," so we expected to find an industrial railroad city and spend all the daylight shooting there, but we found an incerdibly vibrant, young river city. In the riverside park, almost a dozen sprinklers soaked dozens of kids, while a few hundred others bathed in the river or jet skied or water skied (pic below). On the shore, a fat kid biked by and his fatter mom followed on an electric scooter, proudly exerting no energy whatsoever.

I called to check in with my mom. She said, "I don't understand how you can be going to the Colorado Rockies if you're in Canada?"

We stayed in a little independent inn in Blue River (pic below), a town not serviced by cable or fast internet. Sunday we woke up whenever, had a mountainous breakfast of egg/sausage/green onion scramble, and drove to Jasper.

I tried two years ago in the Badlands of SD to conjure up what you [cityfolk] feel in the presence of magnanimous natural majesty. I haven't eaten anything in 12 hours and I don't have the energy. We took the tram up Whistler's Peak, met some "lodgies"* named Mary Ann and hiked to the top with 'em. At the top, where ice and snow slowly melted, someone had trudged through the last patch of snow in the outline of a giant snow cock-and-balls.

On the mountain, we encountered yet another World's Fattest People scenario. An obese mother, child, and son had stopped halfway up the exhausting hike. The son sobbed. The mother told him that he wanted to get healthy, he had told her so, and this was how. "Now you can live a short life, or a long healthy life," she said. "SHORT LIFE!" he sobbed. It was pretty funny. I think he made it to the top.

We gave the Mary Anns a ride into town, then got out of the mountains and into the Albertan oil flats, where Halliburton trucks lined the hotel parking lots, resting before another day of exploration and necessary earth-rape. Every restaurant and hotel in Hinton displayed a "CREWS WELCOME" sign, as did the Smitty's we stopped in. This was a Canadian Denny's-level chain that was run down, had no bacon bits, 8oz steak, steak sauce or ice cream in stock. One look at the people inside and you could tell you were in meth country. What looked like a 30-year-old, 10-year-old girl was clearing tables and shooting angry glances at everyone.

We made it into Edmonton around midnight, and it was bangin'. We figured the Rough Guide was wrong again--how could a prairie ghost town be so happenin' on a Sunday?--as it said we shouldn't drive this far north. We settled into our bizarre hotel, which turned out to be the second and third floor of a strip mall, paid $5 for the internet password, and slept until 10:30 or so.

Now, on to the world's biggest mall.
________________________________________
*kids who work for the summer in the rich resorts

GIANT WOODEN BEARS MURDERING EACH OTHER IN BLUE MOUNTAIN, BC

9/11 Industry Update: Meanwhile, Back in the States...

NY1 reports that "construction at the World Trade Center site isn't just slow. It's actually going backwards." The Freedom Tower cornerstone has been removed from the big hole and placed in storage on on Long Island.

The insurance companies are still squabbling with supergreedy Larry Silverstein, and the tower design is being redone again. Remember when our culture was known for getting shit done?

ALPHA MALE POWERBOATIN', THOMPSON RIVER, KAMLOOPS, BC

OFFICIAL MANHOLE COVER OF THE LOVELY CITY OF KAMLOOPS, BC, POP. 77,000

PHOTOS OF HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE BUSINESSES IN RICHMOND, BC, AN OUTLYING SUBURB OF VANCOUVER MUCH LIKE FAR EASTERN QUEENS [6/24/06]


FIRST SHITTY BLOG POST FROM XCAN ROADTRIP

From Saturday Morning...

I AM BACK IN VANCOUVER.

On 5 hours of sleep, six hours of work, and six hours of horrendous driving, I made it to NY just in time for CX889. Dan and I spent six hours packed into the belly of a 747, making it to YVR at 2am. Aside from the stress of the extremely tight schedule, just about everything went okay. On the customs line, an overaged Paris Hilton type in smooth white formfitting crackless lowriding asspants told me my passport was so pretty!!! Where did I get it?

We stayed out by the airport, in Richmond, using some of my hotel points. Everything here is totally clean--even by the airport--it is not a filthy, overrated shithole like San Francisco. Plants hang from the street lamps. even though we're in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing but hotels and ethnic restaurants, but the people working in them don't seem to be miserable wage slaves (are they?). People are out and walking. Our rental car should be ready at noon, and then we'll be cruising free the rest of the week (!!!) over the Rockies and back.....back for five wasted downtown days of trying to work on the crafts I love in my favorite city yet.

Friday, June 23, 2006

xcan begins around 2

just go to danmeade.blogspot.com.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

XCAN IS TOMORROW!

Now if only I can fit in a week's worth of work beforehand...

And I'm missing the annual free cruise of the polluted Chelsea River to do this. Mad.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Latest News from the 9/11 Industry

Paramount is suing some guy who they allege stole the screenplay for Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center." "United 93" has grossed $33.3 million. Meanwhile, back home in New York, they're debating whether to drastically reduce funding for the as-yet-unapproved memorial from one-bill-i-on-doll-ars to only half a billion.

The successor to the Holocaust Industry is named!

If you were raped by a MySpace pedophile,

don't worry, you can just have your mother sue MySpace. Because money can compensate for your lack of judgment, and Rupert Murdoch has plenty. By "lack of judgment," I don't mean to BLAME THE VICTIM, but maybe, if you're well under 18, you shouldn't be meeting much older men on the internet. Where was the mother in this instance before she retained a lawyer through which to profit from her child's sexual abuse?

And I'm not saying the victim necessarily posted herself in the classic "deer in headlights self-photographed from above so you can see my budding tits!!!" and "ohmygod im in a bathing suit!" angles, but maybe she did. At any rate, cash will fix all. Go get some.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Driving

Since the academic year is over, I don't drive the company car to work every day. I might use it once per week to go to the post office. Tonight, I had to meet a friend for dinner in the southern suburbs, and you can only really get there by car.

I got in, smelled the new car smell, and turned the key. Immediately the starter sprung to life and the speakers began to blare AM newsradio.

As I slammed the radio button off, I thought to myself, thank God I don't have to do this anymore.

I'm lucky, too. I've had a free car for a long time, and driving still sucked. Once you get past the problem of "having" a car, there are the unlicensed drivers, uninsured drivers, horrendous traffic, leaking Big Dig, awful signage, etc etc.

Let's consider the "having" problem for a moment. People act as if driving is every American's right, and that public transportation is a welfare-level waste of taxpayer money. Aside from the car, I can think of no object that removes wealth from a human and redistributes it to other, larger parties simply by being owned.
You have to pay to:
  • own or lease it
  • register it
  • insure it
  • fuel it
  • maintain it


It's an all-or-nothing proposition. Luckily for me, I've been choosing the nothing while still having a car. I think I'll be pretty comfortable with just nothing, though.

But as for every other rubber tired machine on the road, its driver chose the all. Who needs savings when there's driving to be done?
---------------

I am often asked: What about all those people living in the suburbs and in the middle of nowhere? Who cares? They live overpriveleged, inefficient lifestyles. Why do we take taxpayer money and use it to build commuter rail lines and interstates out to them? They should be coming to us in the first place--they sure do for employment. Stack them in vertical towers and marvel over the amount of energy conserved.

one by one

the big bottles of liquor are disappearing

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pat on the back...

...goes to BNSF Railway, for establishing a program through which "railfans" (people interested in reality and the machines that support it, and who engage in trackside spectating and photography) can register to help guard our transportation network. I wish Massport would do something similar for us nerdy plane- and ship-spotters. We get sick of being interrgogated and getting a complimentary background check every time we go outside. I'm five minutes away from becoming a card-carrying ACLU member.

Here's a link to the BNSF program: http://newdomino.bnsf.com/website/crs.nsf/request?open.

PC hatred

9:10 PC awakes.
9:11 As soon as internet connection is established, "Thank You For Being a HP Customer" spyware loads, offering me ways to optimize my printer experience. HP spyware immediately crashes machine.
9:12 Attempt to restart.
9:13 Attempt to restart.
9:14 Attempt to restart. Yes, I am doing something else by now.
9:18 Attempt to restart.
9:20 Turn computer off.
9:24 Computer has rebooted.
9:26 Software actually loads.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hey! The T is trying!

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/06/16/courtesy_call/

Let's hope the people in charge can keep the momentum. Communicating with the public in any way is better than no PR at all. I still can't believe that the MBTA doesn't advertise the buses and subways at all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

BY THE WAY

The post below is supposed to be sort of funny.

Imitation Is the Most Sincere Form of Theft

About a year ago, my friendly acquaintance from Tufts, Matt Kane, started a website. If I'm not mistaken, and I'm probably not, he advertised it in a comment on this very blog. I went to mattkane.us, and it looked just like my website! Exactly like it, in fact, with the same font and almost the same color scheme (but not the same table). I thought the coincidence a little strange, but I was happy that someone else would be posting photos for me to stare at. I pointed out the design identicalness right here and went on with my life. In January of this year, I posted a new homepage.

Then, just this week, another curious Matt Kane comment appeared on this very blog! It included the sentences, "I figured i'd let you know that I'll be stealing your dual blog/photo site main page" and "Imitation is the most sincere form of compliment, or some shit like that."

So I went on over to mattkane.us, and guess what I saw? My new fucking homepage! This time, it was a little more modified, though. But no one really uses colored tables anymore--just me, and Matt Kane.

I am no longer the web designer I thought I was for nine seconds in 1997, but I do design all my pages except for one: the blog template. Love and theft go hand-in-hand on the internet as in real life, but come on, Matt Kane, stop stealing my shit!

Should I not be morally outraged? You decide:

Exhibit A: rbellinger.com from late summer, 2004.


Exhibit B: mattkane.us from December 2005 (thanks, Yahoo! Cache, and sorry about the code error it caught).


Exhibit C: rbellinger.com from January 2006.


Exhibit D: mattkane.us from yesterday. I suspect the centerpiece image will be up as soon as Matt takes it from my photo section.


Matt Kane, you owe me a beer for each design.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A History of "Cheap" Plastic Devices Used to Produce the Images on this Website


2001: The Kodak DX3900 represents a way into digital photography! I'd had film cameras since age 5, but was only using disposables following the demise of my Sigma 35mm. For $300, plus the cost of a 48mb Compact Flash card, this pricy Christmas present allows me to take thousands of photos of the end of my college career and my descent into NY squalor as an "entry level publishing" employee. I start to have thoughts of getting a better, higher-resolution camera in spring of 2004. Then, when climbing up the pipe ladder to my loft space (which my roommate forced me to use after unknowingly tripping over his girlfriend while passing through his loft space), I drop it about 10 feet. It is destroyed.


April 2004: I replace the Kodak with the Sony DSC-P10 for another $300, plus $70 for a MemoryStick. I take it everywhere, including my first roadtrip, Seattle-Vancouver-NY. It also accompanies me on all my first year book traveler trips.

After a year of service, the same brown spots start appearing on any picture with the sky as background. There is dust in the lens assembly. Sony wants $180 to clean the camera. I give it to my brother.



June 2005: For just $225, the KonicaMinolta DiMAGE G600 is the best investment yet! Despite its proprietary battery, it accepts the MemoryStick, and its metal shell seems indestructible. It shoots at a sold 6 megapixels and produces awesome images of my Memphis-Missouri loop trip. At the end of December, 2005, while shooting on a filthy beach in New Haven with my brother, the camera stops turning on.

It never turns on again. When it breaks, it is two weeks outside its SHITTY 6-MONTH WARRANTY. I vow never to buy a KonicaMinolta product again, but they sell their camera division to Sony in March.

Late December 2005: The Konica breaks 36 hours before a trip to San Francisco, so there is no possibility of sending it in for service. My buddy Seth suggests I try the Micro Center in Cambridge, where I find, for $178, the 5.2mp HP M417. It takes AAs, but I have to get a Secure Digital card for it ($90 for 1GB in 12/05, now $45 in 6/06). This plastic P.O.S. has never let me down, and continues to be my primary camera. Images, especially those generated using the built-in telephoto ("optical") zoom can suffer from heavy noise, but I like this thing. It will go everywhere I fear to take my new SLR.

Right now I have 10,400 digital images on my hard drive, some of which are good. I still promise to put some on my website. I'm not sure if I'll break my camera addiction, though.

Forgot my anniversary.

Mid-May=9 years on the web. First, the site was on members.aol.com, then Xoom, then NBCi, then redsignal.net--and it's been here at rbellinger.com since spring 2003.

As long as I've been posting stuff, people have been reading it. Thanks!

Don't Use Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for anything.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

SUPERVACATION

When I took a new job that didn't come with much summer free time, I asked for an extra week of vacation. I got it. I then devised my most ambitious plan yet to waste money and gain weight. I'm psyched!

  • June 23-July 6. X-CAN I: Fly to Vancouver with accomplice Dan Meade. Rent car, explore AB and BC for a week. Hunt Ogopogo and roam the world's biggest mall. Then return to Vancouver, ditch car, rent bike for 5 days. Celebrate the 4th of July by sipping BC beer on a quiet Canadian weeknight--again. Fly back (to NY) July 6.
  • July 7-10: NCBBQ. I traded in my frequent flyer miles for a free trip to DC. From there, Rob Lott and I will head south to eat as many pigs and see as many blue ridges as we can. What tastes better: Eastern or Lexington style bbq?
  • I show up in Boston and do a long day's worth of work on 7/11, and then
  • July 12-16: The Canadian Maritimes with Abbey. I concocted a ridiculous drive that takes us through Bangor, St. John, Prince Edward Island, and much of Nova Scotia. There will be ferries, too.


WA$TE!

IDIOT BEAT UPDATE

It just passed by again. This one was a Portuguese (perhaps?) remix: not "BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi" but "BEUM, sha-beum-sha." Again, no lyrics or song structure.

Chelsea River today

You Can't Go Home Again

Five years after my boss at Queensborough CC told me I had to read the above mentioned Thomas Wolfe novel, I decided to heed her advice. I opened the book in the O'Malley park in Chelsea this afternoon, a few hundred paces from a whacko in a gray sweater who kept jumping up and down in place and shouting HEEE!! HEEEE!! HEEEE!!. I had just completed a hellacious bike ride and found a nice, shady area under a tree.

I got two chapters in. What a read I think this is going to be. In the 15 or so pages I read, I found myself wanting to quote every other paragraph (will he run out of steam?). And I never quote anything.

Monday, June 12, 2006

HOLY SHIT! D50!!!

I bought one of THESE this weekend...with a 300mm lens.

I have sort of an idea of how to work it, and I haven't even turned it on yet, but I think I'm going to be producing better images soon.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

NEVER GET COMFORTABLE

Things to do instead of assembling cheap furniture on your 36-hour weekend:
  • write a story
  • write a book
  • fix the soldering in your basses
  • take photos
  • edit them
  • post them on the web
  • which now requires zero effort thanks to flickr
  • read You Can't Go Home Again
  • call someone you haven't talked to in a year
  • write another story
  • write a song cycle
  • record a song cycle
  • print photos and cover the walls with them
  • invite people to play music with you

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Overkill: instant bomb detection on the Baltimore subway

Baltimore is installing ticket vending machines that test your fingers for explosive particles. If you hand-built a bomb right before leaving for work, the vending machine will use a particle sample from your finger to figure it out. It will then sell you a bogus farecard that doesn't work. When you can't get into the station, you're supposed to take your bomb over to the booth clerk. Meanwhile, the vending machine will be emailing the five pictures it just took of you to transit police driving and checking their hotmail accounts with new wireless PDAs. While you're cursing out the booth clerk, with your bomb under your arm, the cops are supposed to show up to arrest you.

Of course, no terrorist would ever figure this out because it's NOT LIKE IT'S BEING REPORTED ON THE INTERNET!!

Two closing questions:
Who would want to blow up Baltimore?
How much did this nonsense cost?

Geno's really does suck

A few years ago, the night before my first (and last) trip to Philadelphia, I was trying to find out where the best place to get a cheesesteak was. Magically, Dave Attell's "Insomniac" show that night was about Philly. He traveled to Cheesesteak Corner, where Pat's and Geno's point right at each other and customers brawl in the street.

Attell went to Pat's, which is supposed to be the true originator of the cheesesteak. On the TV, everyone in line at Pat's chanted "GENO'S SUCKS! GENOS SUCKS!" at the patrons across the way.

Well, Geno's really does suck. The owner, with his ninth grade education, has deemed English the official language of the U.S. and now forbids ordering in any other language. He also still sells Freedom Fries.

He's only trying to help people learn English, he says.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

WHY DO PEOPLE HYPHENATE ADVERBS AND PAST-PARTICIPLE ADJECTIVES LIKE, FOR EXAMPLE, "NEWLY-MINTED"?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Grumblings and road stories from a day spent sitting on the Acela from Boston to New York to Boston.

  • This morning, I decided to call a cab so that I'd make it on time for my 7:15 train--can't trust the MBTA. I told the cabbie to drive to South Station. He drove to the fucking airport instead. Once you take the wrong exit downtown, you're stuck in two miles of exitless tunnel. This was not satisfactory, so he had to eat the $4.50 cab toll back under Boston Harbor. I got to the station four minutes before the train left. At least I got to hear a story about the Somerville hopheads taking 24-hour cabs from hit to hit at 5:30am.
  • In Connecticut, every other commercial buidling over two stories tall is a garage. Or at least half of it is a garage. In no other state in the Union are the failures of the automobile age more apparent...except maybe California.
  • LOTS OF PEOPLE take the Acela trains. Even after they spent four months out of service due to brake problems a year ago, nearly every trip is sold out.
  • How could Elvis Costello ever have topped his first three or four albums? I won't listening to anything more recent than 1982. I don't want to be let down.
  • Some people claim to have 40-hour jobs. Are they telling the truth?
  • On my trip "home" this week, I did not see EMTs picking bone fragments out of the railbed at Canton Junction after a mysterious fatality that was not covered in any local media.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wish list, "home office," 3:22 pm.

  • For all music publicists to stop concocting those bullshit "bios" that don't tell us anything about anyone but why we should buy something.
  • New glasses.
  • To abolish the need for sleep.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Idiot Beat

There's a new disease on the streets of this city, and I'm going to have to risk sounding like a "racist" "neo-con" to describe it. Here goes.

Picture a large, big, super-gigundo SUV barrelling down I-93, down your home street, or through the Market Basket parking lot. This GIGANTIC, BASS HEAVY SOUND is emanating from it--straight through the tires--shaking the very earth you stand on. Your human eardrum cannot even discern individual sonic elements in the composition, just GIGANTIC BASS.

As the gaudy vehicle approaches--perhaps sporting custom visor, grille, and many tinted windows--you notice that the driver does not appear to fit with predetermined, "American" visual standards for wealth. Nor do any of its occupants. But now that the vehicle is within twenty feet of you, you can actually *hear* what its speakers are playing: the idiot beat!

BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi
BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi
BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi
BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi
BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi

No words. No instruments. No music.

BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi
BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi
BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi
BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi

The noise repeats and repeats and repeats again. Vocals never start and the beat never changes. The vehicle occupants do not nod their heads in time. They do not sing along. They don't look at each other. They don't look at you.

That's because you're supposed look at THEM. The idiot beat: the soundtrack to urban narcissism. The soundtrack to look at me and my pimpin ride, yo.

Where does it come from? Can you get the BOOM, chi-BOOM-chi CD at Radio Shack? Do all new SUVs come with a preinstalled Look-at-Me (tm) button? Does it come in Black and Hispanic versions? Why don't Asians drive SUVs? Why do whites still blast Metallica in theirs?

Is somebody making royalties off this shit!?

All I know is that listening to this shit will make you dumber than watching broadcast television will. If you hear the idiot beat approaching, cover your ears and hope that the ground is not shaking strongly enough for you to hear it through your toes.

XNC, too, is on.

In (DC) Friday, July 7.
Out (DC) Monday, July 10.

Vinegar! BBQ!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Somerville wins vindication in the Globe: "best-run city in Massachusetts"

Read the article here. Somerville is way ahead of the municipal joke that is Boston.

Redefining Special Needs

Last night, during my 25 minute, 2.5 mile drive to Trader Joe's, I got to listen to Galveston, TX Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas on the radio. She was describing the variety of hurricane evacuation plans the city had put in place this season. She took special care to mention that she and her councilors had devised a comprehensive plan for "special needs" residents.

I thought she was talking about the mentally handicapped, but no, she meant "our people who rely on public transportation."

It was then I realized that the level of cultural retardation in this country won't be reversed in my lifetime. It will certainly be mocked, relentlessly, but that will only make us giggle for a second. No one's going to learn why oil is bad, or why it's impossible for every human to own a large, rubber-tired machine, or that poor people are usually not poor by choice.

On a higher level, if a country's entire artistic output is rooted in irony and mockery--and therefore self-detachment from the overarching culture itself--what does that say about the country in the first place? Do we need another thousand Williamsburgs and another thousand assistant novels to realize that we really don't like it here?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

For the record:

I don't like Boston.

I love Somerville and Cambridge. Cleaner, better-run, more fun, far less crime--yet with higher population densities and worse public transportation.

Vinegar vs Vinegar-Ketchup

The distinction between Lexington and Eastern (NC) BBQ.

As if going to Alberta and British Columbia for two weeks weren't enough, I'm planning to spend the third weekend of my vacation driving around the mid-south eating pigs.

Someone has to subsidize the airline industry.