Friday, October 30, 2009

Sufjan Stevens Interprets the BQE

Sufjan Steven's new album is inspired, and about, New York's BQE. Stevens spent nine months driving and riding the BQE to film a film to accompany his album The BQE. The project was commissionED by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

(Presumably the album will allow Stevens to check NY off the states list for his 50 States Project. Illinois and Michigan have been completed. But maybe not, since the album is considered a soundtrack to the film. The film, by the way, was shot on super 8 mm and standard 16 mm film!)

Here's a chunk of NPR's article covering the project:

"My job as an artist is to find beauty where there is ugliness," Stevens says. "And I think this project is all about the beautification of a dilapidated object of scorn."

Stevens spent nine months meditating on that object of scorn. The result, he says, is that traffic no longer bothers him.

"I think a lot of this piece is about transcending the mundane elements of everyday life and finding inner peace," he says.

When asked if his quiet corner of solitude happened to be stuck in traffic, Stevens replies with a laugh: "Exactly. It's where I belong."

Make sure you listen to his NPR interview after you read the NPR piece here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Seatbelt Safety Video

I saw this video earlier this year on How We Drive, and since its come up in conversation this week with two different people, I thought I would share it here. Before you watch, I want to share the warning accompanied by the video on YouTube:
ADVISORY - This video contains scenes of a graphic nature.
A disturbing new ad campaign has started to encourage people to wear their seat belts. The Government commercial shows graphic images of the fatal damage car crashes can cause to internal organs in a bid to persuade people to belt up. Thousands of people are caught in the North East without a seat belt on each year, and ministers hope the move will make the region's roads a safer place.
And here's the video:

I'm personally not opposed to seat belts. I know I've jerked on the brakes and the belt has prevented me from flying into the windshield, and I hadn't even rear-ended anybody. But that's just me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pedestrian Narrowily Escapes Death

I saw the above video on Buzzfeed yesterday, and [SPOILER] just as the man makes to the end of the street a bus barrels through the crosswalk and several cars begin their passage across the same intersection. And as that happened the air was sucked out of my lungs.

Buzzfeed's Peggy Wang wrote, "this guy pretty much wins at life," but I disagree. First, any success "at life," is generally an overstatement reserved for something rather mundane. For example, when the co-worker I used to carpool with would arrive with a cup of coffee for me, she won at life. She was the best co-worker ever. Etc.

This man doesn't win at life because he narrowly escaped with his life. (And conversely, if he had died, it would be devastatingly disrespectful to call him a "failure at life.") This is not FTW, this is shocking luck.

And with that, I hurl into a wastebasket and vow never to watch again.

Monday, October 19, 2009

SFist Interviews MUNI Fight Videographer

Have you seen the MUNI fight? I felt like posting it was somewhat gratuitous, considering how incredibly vile the whole fight is. (It's below if you want to see it--you can't talk about a video and not share it, you know?) The video has been the source of much controversy following its publication on SFist. The San Francisco blog interviewed Jonathan Perel, the passenger who videotaped the fisticuffs, and the Perel said he's been attacked on the bus before too. His story is less dramatic, but I thought it was harrowing nonetheless:
SF: Before we dive into the fistfight of note, you mentioned to us that you were attacked while riding the same bus route three weeks ago. What happened to you?

JP: I got on the bus around 9:45 at Stockton/Columbus and sat in one of the rear facing seats on one of the articulated buses. I did notice that the guy sitting in the seat in the isle across from me was a little sketchy looking, but I sat down, minded my own business and started checking my email. As I was wearing sunglasses that obscured my peripheral vision, I didn't see the punch coming in, and it landed squarely on my neck. Luckily, I caught the end of the punch as he punched my while sitting down across the isle from me.

There was NO warning. I jumped up stunned and yelled out "What the FUCK" several times at him. He stayed sitting and started saying something about "a genie in my phone" and that "it would bring alcohol out of my phone". I realized the guy was probably drugged or schizophrenic (or both) and decided that the best thing to do would be to talk to the bus driver.

I made my way across the bus (it was moderately full) and got to the bus driver as we got to a stop. I told her that I had just been attacked and that the guy was not "right in his head". The bus driver continued on her route. I had to repeat several times to her that I had just been attacked before she started taking me a little more seriously, and she picked up a phone of some sort and to call in "central". Apparently, nobody picked up and she kept driving past the final two stops in Chinatown, across the tunnel, past Sutter Stockton, and to my stop at Union Square. The guy got out there and walked away, west on Geary Street. I gave the bus driver the top of one of my checks (with my contact info) and walked to a block to work to lay down (I'm pretty sure I was in shock).

I just hope that a Baltimore driver would have a better response (considering how drivers take to inappropriate language, I have some confidence it would play out better than the situation above).

In regards to the infamous MUNI fight, Perel says the bus driver and another employee did nothing about the incident during his time on the bus. (He exited one stop after the video's end, which concludes at a stop itself.)

Here's the video. You can find a translation at Muni Diaries.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Darn pedestrians are gettin' in the way of my car

I'd usually give you the link and say "You have to be [expletive] kidding me," except I can't, because Tom Vanderbilt would never kid! Certainly not that someone would would write that more people are killed walking drunk than hit by drunk drivers. Drunk pedestrians! They'll get themselves killed by your car!

When one considers Tucker Max and the Super Freakonomics one can conclude anyone can have any shit published. At which point I ask, gosh darn, where is my book?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

As you may have noticed, I have a soft spot for Baltimore. I was planning to tell one of these stories before I visited Baltimore last month, but faced with a startlingly different approach to pedestrian activity, I feel compelled to tell both stories together.

Like most 9-to-5ers, I've started going to the gym directly after work. As such, I drive down the street, park, and hit the gym. Most of us are harried, stressed out, and visibly irritated as we approach the facility, and I admit that in this state, I've provided the bare minimum in pleasantry.

I was approaching the main entrance last week when a minivan, driven by a woman in her 40s tore through the lot before coming to an abrupt halt at the small crosswalk connecting the gym's entrance to the lot's premium crossing. The van stopped short to two older women carrying yoga mats. They looked up and hurried across the width of the van's bumper as the driver honked and yelled at the women. (I didn't get the exact words, but it was along, "GET OUT OF THE WAY.") The passenger, a young woman in her teens, gestured wildly and yelled too.

Everyone in the lot stared, and when the woman sped past we stared at each other for a few moments before the women asked us, the crowd, what they had done wrong, and why the woman was upset.

Another gym-goer said, well, obviously, we're in the way.

I'm slowly getting used to this way of thinking, by the way.

A roller derby player and I park, separately, on a city street near the 83 overpass and begin walking, separately, to Bourbon Street for the Baltimore City Paper Best of Baltimore Party. (I'm a sometimes research assistant.)

We wait for the lights and take to the crosswalk when it's our turn, crossing in front of a large, shiny SUV. It has one tire just over one of the crosswalk lines, and because it is so shiny (and large) I'm careful not to get too close. (I was raised to be careful about scratching cars. That episode of Mad Men where Don gets the new car? That's my childhood.) Just as the woman in front of me passes the bumper, the driver leans out of his car and says, "I'm so sorry ladies."

I told him it was no problem, I could walk around.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

NY Cops Saw Bikes

From Gothamist (be sure to check out the story there), we have this video of NYC cops sawing bikes on Bedford Avenue in Greenpoint:

Gothamist's Billy Parker writes:

While [Ben] Running said that the bikes looked like ones that were currently in use, an officer from the nearby 94th Precinct in Greenpoint told the Post that the bikes removed have been there for at least three months. Officer Cole Pletka said, “From a distance, they might have looked like they were rideable, but the bikes were on top of each and both wheels were bent."

I can't really tell, but I don't like that videographer Running was asked by the cops not to tape the scene because the video might end up on the Internet. Because we know how the last cop vs. bike incident on tape ended!

Still, the reasoning leaves me with a few hypothetical questions: What if a cyclist parks in the same spot every day? For example, I might lock up my bike in front of my job every day, or maybe I have a regular post-work hangout and lock up there. Or, in a real life scenario, I always locked my bike in the same spot in college, and I know a very beautiful cruiser on campus locked up in the same spot year-round. I only know it moved because I was on campus after midnight working one night and the cyclist had finally left for the day. (Clearly, the cyclist was also a summer classes double major like myself. Or a very dedicated professor if it's still there.)

The incident also reminds me of the letter I read in Chicago one year when a moron asked for mayor Daley to remove bikes without seats because, clearly, they were dilapidated! I almost fell off my stool at Starbucks over that one! (I was caught by a lovely man.)