Archive for October 26th, 2003

Mission Impossible – Dowbrigade Remix

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The
Dowbrigade has discovered that although busses and subways in Boston
run much diminished schedules on Sundays, with meticulous planning and
split-second
timing it is possible to get from Malden to the tennis courts in under
an hour, even on that Godly day.

As I waited for the first bus on my route, the 108, which stops right
in front of our house, I popped into my cheapo CD player the disk I burned
last night just for that purpose.  Old reggae from the Heptones
got me to the Malden Center stop on the Orange Line, then the sweet acapella
of the Persuasions.

Finally, the train pulled into Downtown Crossing, the labyrinthine underground
complex which unites the Orange, Red and Green lines and, as a bonus,
features a direct entrance to Filene’s Basement. I needed to navigate
the narrow
Orange
Line platform, race down two flights of stairs, down an underground concourse,
up a short set of steps and across two sets of Green Line tracks and
dash down a final stairwell onto the Red Line outbound platform, within
2 minutes, in order to catch the 9:15 train to Cambridge, Central Square
being the closest subway stop to the Just Don’t Suck Tennis Club.

Just as the doors of my Orange Line train opened (I could barely hear
the annoyingly androgynous announcer intone "Change here for the Red
and Green Lines" with my headphones on) when the playlist I was listening
to sprung up with Moby’s techno re-mix of the theme from "Mission Impossible".  It
was perfect.

As I stepped off the train, I was instantly enveloped in a world of
choreographed precision in which every detail had stark definition and
significance. The soundtrack took over my Central Nervous System and
I began moving in smooth and stylized unpredictable jerks, like a boxer
bobbing and weaving to make a more elusive target. My eyes shot around
the station in time to the music, cutting reality into diffuse shots,
glimpses and quick cuts; a face watching out of the corner of \one eye,
a buff businessman holding too tightly to a slick atachee case, a suspicious
bulge under the My Little Pony blanket covering an innocent looking baby
stroller.

My feet moved to the beat of the tense techno strains of MI.
I deftly sidestepped two clueless tourists studying the system map like
Egyptologist trying to decipher previously unknown hieroglyphics inside
a pyramid, lept lightly over the opened guitar case of an overtly gay
bleached blond Rasta, and slipped adroitly between two concrete columns,
disappearing from the sight of anyone who happened to be on my tail.

As the music’s staccato pace quickened with tension I found my stairwell
and bolted up two steps at a stride, still in time to the music. Emerging
on the Green line complex my eyes chopped the scene into sharp, revealing
shots, cutaways revealing a professors umbrella, an odd bag of fruit,
a particularly repulsive hairdo, and plotting a path across the two
trolley tracks between where I was standing and the stairwell to the
Red Line.

Like a mad ballerina I dashed, juking and feinting, shooting
glances left and right, searching for danger, the opposition, the unexpected,
inevitable, ultimate sanction. The music was building to its dramatic
crescendo.  I was moving at a great pace now, my feet dancing over
the tracks like Arthur Murray possessed, moving surely and lightly like
the seasoned pro I was.

I was going to make it.  I had a full 30 seconds to get down the
stairs and into the Red Line train. 4 stops to Central.  I’d be
on the court in 15 minutes. As a finishing flourish to shake off any
surviving tails, I faked towards the stairway to the left, then darted
between a cement bench and a huge column toward the right stairway –
and smack into an 87-year-old Chinese grandmother retuning from the Chinatown
markets loaded down with boxes bags and baskets. We both went sprawling
on the cold grimy floor of the station.  Small white
feathers had escaped from one of her many packages and lay on both our
bodies, and the floor.  A few still hung in the air.

Thank God she wasn’t hurt or a lawyer!  I helped her to her feet,
apologizing profusely, and offering (stupidly) to replace her feathers.  She
addressed me at length in Chinese, and though understanding not a word
I felt chastised and chagrinned.

Needless to say, I missed the train, and finally got to the courts still
shaking from my close escape.  However, had I not had that fortuitous run-in
with the Nationalist Chinese agent, the highly-trained hit squad waiting
for me at the foot of the right stairway disguised as a troop of highly
decorated girl scouts might have done me in.

On Politics in the Blogosphere

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An interesting
post
last week from Dana Blankenhorn,
questioning the preponderance of political pontificating in the blogosphere.  He
points out that the majority of Blogstreet’s 100 Most Influential Blogs
are about – Politics. Dana makes a number of astute points (including
concurring
with the Dowbrigade
in hailing Thomas
Paine
as a Natural Born
Blogger). He also points out a number of similarities between blogging
and talk radio, mainly that they are both the voice of authentic individuals,
real live people with private lives they mention from time to time, and
who make no pretense of presenting an "objective" take on the issues
of the day.

Now, obviously a lot depends on which end of the blogosphere one inhabits.
True, most of the most-linked-to blogs that people like US read revolve
around
politics.
But what about the hundreds of thousands of hypothetical (or are they
apocalyptical) 13-year-old girls blogging crazes and crushes in their
6th grade homerooms? They may not have as many inleading links as Glen
Reynolds
, but they are part
of the phenomena, and behind them are many thousands of other blogs which
serve personal, family, business or academic purposes and which have
nothing at all to do with politics.

Now, I am interested in politics myself, and although I wouldn’t call
myself a Junkie in that department, I do blog about politics, especially
when it turns twisted and depraved and the tawdry threads of unraveling
conspiracy stick out between chinks in the armor of empire. But I am
interested in a LOT of things, many of which I truly believe are more
important and rewarding than what passes for contemporary politics.

If I were a Platonic idealist and could actually live in the Blogosphere
full time, if the virtual world we are creating had a physical, or visible
metaphysical, form, my Blog would look something like a cross between
Sherlock Holmes’ library and the Bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The
decor would be all overstuffed, high-backed armchairs of mahogany and
burgundy leather, polished brass fittings on the wood-paneled walls,
lined floor to ceiling with bookcases interspersed with ornate frames
containing a constantly rotating eclectic collection of my favorite images.
Tuxedoed robot waiters would offer all known varieties of refreshment
and recreational substances.

It would be a perfect little virtual Athenaeum, and its purpose would
be as a place where I could comfortably gather with my friends and fellow
travelers, with interesting minds I come across in my virtual travels,
and basically, shoot the shit.  Discuss the issues of the day.  Tell
stories, jokes and share secrets. Talk about our families and our problems
if we feel like it, our pride and our prejudices.  Sketch out
a work in progress, run ideas up a flagpole, get another opinion on something
you can’t trust your own on. This is the kind of conversation I find
the most satisfying and stimulating, as well as being the most fun
you can have with your clothes on, and even that is not a requirement.

Every time one of the gang in my Blogtheneum comes up with an
interesting story they heard, or an article they read, they can instantly
call it up on the wall-sized screen in front of our armchairs (this is
where the Enterprise’s underlying infrastructure comes into play).

We would talk about EVERYTHING.  Politic’s, sure, but also the
rest of the news, as well as music, work, people we know and don’t know,
things we feel about things we do,
travel, God, sickness and health, and what the fuck it all means. Most
of all I would want to laugh a lot, and make other people laugh, too.
Which is pretty much what I end up posting in my Blog.

Coming back to what
Dana wrote
, I think that that this kind of real human stuff is
really what people want to listen to.  They are sick of the increasingly
transparent sham of "objectivity" offered up by Major Media. The nature
of the human experience is innately subjective. Everything that can
be perceived or conceived can only be perceived or conceived in relation
to a perceiver. The standard media feed is inherently dishonest and
even dangerous in its pretense at objectivity, because science-worshiping
Americans believe that that somehow invests it with a patina of Superior
Truth. 

The Real Truth, quite frankly, is that I prefer to get (and discuss)
my news with real people – people like me, who have points of view, and
axes to grind, and insights and inputs and make no pretenses about being "unbiased".
And I imagine that most people feel the same.

I am willing to read and discuss
with people who disagree with me; in fact I enjoy it, even on fundamental
issues. But please, a steady diet of politics makes for a deadly dull
intellectual landscape.  Please let there be more to Blogs than
that. As Eugene McCarthy said, "Being in politics is like being a football
coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough
to think it’s important."

Bike Not Lightly Into Cambridge

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bike lightThe
People’s Republic of Cambridge has thoughtfully passed yet another law
to protect us from ourselves, who, as any true progessive knows, are
our own worst enemies. One of the first communities in the nation to
pass a total ban on all forms of tobacco smoking in any space open to
the public, indoors or out, and a providor of services ranging from a
safe haven for illegal immigrants to transgender bathrooms in public
buildings, Cambridge has now taken upon itself the protection
of bicyclists.

It’s not enough that cyclers are required to ride in special bike
lanes (failure to comply – $25 fine) and wear a helmet (failure to comply
– $50 fine), as of this week, all  bike riders within the city limits
of Cambridge are required to have a strong forward-pointing light when
riding after dusk! Failure to comply – $20 fine. So if you were apprehended
sans helmet on the sidewalk in Cambridge after dark riding your Huffy Bananna-seat
Stingray to
the store on the corner, you would be liable for a whopping total of
$95 in fines! Wow, its cheaper to drive a car and pay the parking tickets!

"The city of Cambridge and its bicycle committee this week will
begin a worthy program to remind cyclists to carry a bright front light
on
their bikes.

So far, this seems reasonable.  Reminders are good, especially
given the alarming number of absent minded-professors and other space
cases wandering the streets around here…

Starting tomorrow, bikers without the lights could be fined $20. If
you have a light and you’re stopped, you could receive a free
light to pass
on to your biking friends."

This is where they lose me entirely.  If you already HAVE a
light, then they give you another one? Wouldn’t it make more sense
to give the lights to the people who DON’T already have them? Well,
since
02138 is suppodedly the brainiest zip in the land, they must know what
they’re doing….

from the Boston Globe

The Call Every Parent Dreads – I’m Getting Married

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me and joeyLast
week I got one of those phone calls every parent dreads. Actually, there
are a number of phone calls that parents dread.  This one was somewhere
on the seriousness scale between "send money" and "send lawyers, guns
and money".

The specific sort of call involved was the "I’m getting married" variety.  The
specific child involved is my
22-year-old son
currently living high in
the Peruvian Andes trying to turn a gorgeous but off-the-beaten-track
property I bought back in my rambling days, before he was born, into
a hostel.

As the phone conversation went on, the story got weirder and weirder.
Said son, who has been working on this project for over a year, was coming
back to the states to get married – in Atlanta, where his mother lives,
over Christmas vacation, less than two months from now. Furthermore,
he was marrying a young Peruvian woman named Cuci (pronounced "kooky")
– who happens to be his first cousin!

As the plot unfolded, it became apparent that this was not a case of
forbidden love at first sight.  Rather, it was an ingenious plot
to simultaneously defraud the immigration authorities of both the United
States and the Republic of Peru. Joey, although he was actually born
in Peru, grew up here, graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High
School, and carries only an American passport. As a legal Gringo, he
has to leave Peru for 25 hours every three months, just to renew his
tourist visa. The trip to the nearest border (Ecuador) takes three
days, and while Joey reports it was kind of fun the first few times,
I guess the novelty is wearing thin.

So he figures marrying a full-bloodded Peruvian is the easiest way to
regularize his visa status down there. Meanwhile, Cuci has been visiting
her aunt in Atlanta, and is having visa problems as well. With a job
at the Atlanta Convention Center, suddenly going back to her studies
and dead-end position in a doctor’s office in Lima seems like a short-cut
to nowhere and a fate worse than death. Solution – marry an American.

Upon hearing the details, I broke out laughing, obviously not the reaction
young Joe was hoping for. "Why are you laughing? I’m serious."

"Just be prepared for your children to be mongoloid idiots. It’s not
so bad, take it from me."

"C’mon Dad, it’s not gonna be that kind of marriage.." Completely missing
the subtle putdown.

"This whole thing is your Mother’s idea, isn’t it?" As soon as the details
came out, I recognized my first wife’s paw prints all over it. Just the
sort of hair brained, borderline illegal scheme she was continually hatching.

"Sorta," he reluctantly admitted.

"Joey, she’s your first cousin! As far as I know that’s against the
law, at least around here." Although who knows what the law is in Georgia
I thought but didn’t say.

"That’s the beauty of it," Joey explained, as though to an idiot ignorant
of the art of the scam. Hrrumph – I was committing felonies before he
was
born, "They’ll never suspect, since we have different names and come
from so far apart.  Then if we need to dissolve the marriage we
can say we didn’t know we were cousins!"

At that moment I feared for his future, if he believed for one moment
a scheme like that had a prayer in hell.  His only excuse was that
the evil plot had been hatched by his dear mum.  Which was the other
reason I could laugh, and was not worried.  None of the plans or
schemes of my ex ever really come to much, certainly not one as complex
and dubious as this.  Nevertheless, the woman can do a great deal
of damage even with the best of intentions. And Joey is perfectly capable
of calling next week and telling me he is marrying an Incan princess.
Such is life.

Anyway, it is truly beautiful in the little town where Joey is, which
is why I bought the land, along a small mountain river, in the first
place. I understand he has started taking in guests although he continues
to construct more guest cabanas. Contact information available on
request. Let me will close with a snapshot of the view from a friends
bedroom balcony.