Lost Theory: Season Six Revealed . . . Jacob’s Tapestry

June 18, 2009 at 12:19 am (Uncategorized)

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Future of music …

June 3, 2009 at 11:36 pm (music) (, , , , , , , , )

It kind of has a Daft Punk meets Kanye West sound . . . 

 

Cool sample . . . 

At first this song slightly annoyed me, but then that crazy jazz chords at the end made me like this song.

 

These will be the songs of the summer ’09.

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Lost Theory: The Smoke Monster

May 17, 2009 at 6:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

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Hope, Security, and Freedom

February 18, 2009 at 4:54 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

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It’s been about a month since the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, and already we have added another trillion dollars to our national debt. 

A product of Keynesian thought, the exorbitant spending initiative is the largest since FDR’s New Deal.  Oddly lacking from the stimulus discourse is any discussion of its goals.  With all of the many Republican criticisms, the one which would actually force Obama and the Democrats to actually say what their intentions are is curiously absent.  In his recent press conference, the question wasn’t even asked — let alone the diversionary rhetoric intended to obscure such axiomatic questions.  

Only a few months since the bank “bailout,”  the stimulus package  has been billed as an “investment.”  The irony shouldn’t be lost.  Whereas the “bailout” or TARP actually was an investment in the nation’s financial sector, the stimulus invests in very little.  Contrarily, it presumes that there is nothing to really invest in the US economy.  Rather than attempt to broaden the US economy, it attempts to diminish it and make the government a sort of protector of it.  In its diminished state, the government will assume an indispensable role for individuals and businesses.  The security of dependence rather than the freedom of entrepreneurism has become through the stimulus the dominant political and economic philosophy. 

This is all very odd.  A nation built upon the premise of self-reliance is embracing statism.  What is truly disturbing is a lack of context or perspective with the stimulus.  It would be understandable that the government would  intervene to “soften” the economic downturn.  But rather than see the current recession as a part of  a natural boom-and-bust economy, it supposes that there are fundamental defects to the free-market and that the only safe model is the one which ultimately relies on the state.  Now are we to believe that America’s prosperity comes from the government’s propensity to print money?  When the history is written and whatever successes and fulfillments are noted, it seems doubtful the government’s injection of nearly one trillion dollars into the economy will be one of them.  And yet this is how the stimulus is being sold — a major success, a fulfillment to the drones of “change” and “hope.”  This is what Obama (both the man and the myth) represent? — simply the diminished self-containment of the economy.    

We will never know if the stimulus succeeds or fails — its stated intentions mentioned with a cough and a few inaudible syllables.  Obama most likely does have the best of intentions.  He probably does hope that this will “solve” our economic problems.  But at the same time it would be safe to speculate that he sees this also as — ala Rahm Emanuel — an opportunity.  Liberal ideas now have a chance to flourish.  Expect the new administration to cast social programs through the prism of economic recovery — education, health care, social security.  And in the same way Democrats objected to the Bush administration’s reliance on a national crises to justify policies, Republicans will probably follow suit.  However, the GOP would be wise to recognize the nature of our times.  They should be self-confidant in the country’s history of self-reliance — this will always be the case despite economic downturns.  They should see that the US has faced economic problems before and the American people are usually capable in discerning proper economic policy in keeping with our democratic values.  What they must watch out for and where the call of true leadership must be met are the demands of freedom.  Only a few days ago a large area in Pakistan known for its ski resorts called Swat was just offered up by the Pakistani government.  The beheadings, torture, and intimidation was too much for the beleaguered government to handle.  They gave up; Obama must not.  The true global crisis didn’t start last September, it started eight years ago — we can’t forget it.  Republicans can’t forget it.  The stimulus can’t become a rallying call for unrestrained opposition to the government, but rather the inconsequential action of a President defined by his promotion of freedom abroad. 

And ironically enough its the Republicans who can make it happen.

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Obama and his hope

June 3, 2008 at 12:05 am (Election, Uncategorized) (, , )

St. Paul called faith “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  It’s a definition Barack Obama and his supporters should reflect on.  Because it would seem that the louder and more insistent the shouts for “change” and “hope” are, the more hollow it sounds.  What exactly is being hoped for, and what must be done to accomplish it?  These are questions which “hope” always avoids answering.  That’s the nature of hope — it avoids.  It cowers away from what challenges it, and just curls up in a ball and wishes its problems away.   It prefers insulation to action. 

 By the ferver of the Obama campaign, this sort of tepid and shallow brand of optimism would be the last  thing to accuse Barack Obama.  But what should we make of Obama’s “hope”?  He calls for a victory in the war in Afghanistan, but an end to the war in Iraq?  What an unusual distinction–victory in war, and an end in war.  It would seem to be a new military strategy, to “end” a war.  How would it differ from winning a war, or loosing?  Perhaps ending the war in Iraq would return the nation to its pre-war dictatorship.  Or maybe it would involve stabilizing Iraq through the help of the good-willed intentions of Iran or Syria; throw in a gentlemen’s agreement with Al-qaeda — I don’t bomb you, you don’t bomb me — and there ya go, we’ve successfully ( or more aptly, satisfactorily) ended the war.  Anyone, though, with a rudimentary understanding of geo-politics would tell you that any sort of policy which would “end” the war like this would more likely postpone it.  

Is Obama and his followers really so naive to think that the problems we are facing in Iraq — ethnic factionalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and terrorism — will just go away with hope.  Do they honestly believe this? Or more likely, do they just not recognize the importance in confonting them?  If this is how we should deal with our security concerns, why not end the war in Afghanistan in similar fashion?  Let’s do away with all that messiness of actually fighting the war and just end it — truly brillant.  This is apparently Obama’s idea of hope in confronting American’s problems, to just ambigously end them.  How should Iraqis take Obama’s brand of hope, or the Iranian youth, or the Israelis? How should Africans take Obama’s message — that the last eight years of a presidency which tried to solve the continent’s problems were wasted, that all along we should have “ended” them? 

It’s clear that Obama’s idea of hope is really nothing more than the celebration of fatalism; it’s the comforting acceptance that things can’t change.  There is something very pleasing in the idea that the stuggle of the last five years has been based on sensationalist and fictional threats and visions.  We wish to believe that at the stuggle’s core is the irrational and reversible policies of a delusional president rather than a genuine and irreversible chasm in the international order, requiring direct and unyeilding intervention from United States and all democratic countries.  Obama’s hope is anything but.  It’s a warm tranquilizer, which calms our national anxiety — if only briefly.  It’s our self-righteous indignation against our democratic calling and responsibility.  It’s the last vestage of collective doubt and yearning for the past, which has its echos throughout history — for a dependent and subjugated colonial status, a sectarian and enslaved union, an imperialist and facist order, an authoritative monolith of communism, and now the ever-disappearing line between the developed democratic nations and the petty, despotic ones — a line which so protected the West and maintained our sense of security after centuries of turbulence.  Obama’s hope may be the hope we want, but is this the hope we need?  Perhaps, what we need now is not hope at all, but faith.  It may seem bitter, but we better get used to the taste, for without even tempting to take a bite we may find it shoved down our throat.    

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The Stars Above

July 19, 2007 at 7:40 pm (Einstein, paris hilton, physics, theory of relativity, Uncategorized, universe)

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To those of you who have found this blog through a search engine, allow me to get the following names out of the way: Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Emma Watson. If you are looking for these people, I apologize for bringing you here under false pretenses but let me assure you that this won’t be a waste of time. The thing is that I happen to think that what I’ve been writing about on my blog is a lot more important and interesting than a lot of the other crap out there which people are obsessed with. So, allow me to expose you to something new.

 

We all too often shelter ourselves with familiar ideas and experiences at the expense of learning about something different. The so-called information superhighway has gradually become, through our compartmentalized tastes, the information cul-de-sac. So, in the hopes of clarifying something extraordinary powerful, misunderstood, and greatly lacking public discussion, I present the topic at hand: E = mc².

 

I decided to write about this topic last week, after I read the book The Tao of Physics. In it the author presents the tenants of Eastern religion through the context of relativistic and quantum physics. The premise sounded pretty interesting to me, but I felt a little disappointed after reading it. With such a revolutionary topic, I expected more. The book did though revive a dormant interest in physics.

 

Ever since Stephen Hawking taught me about the Big Bang and black holes in A Brief History of Time, I have been curious about modern physics. The book outlined the current (as of 25 years ago) state of modern physics, the basic goal of which being the Theory of Everything — the two contradictory theories of relativity and quantum physics neatly wrapped up with a bow. Following this book, I discovered the author Brian Greene. In The Elegant Universe, Greene updates the status of modern physics and advocates String theory as being a potential candidate for the universal theory. This book really enthralled me. In it, Greene gives a thorough explanation of the theory of relativity, quantum physics, and string theory. As to quantum physics and string theory, I know enough to realize that I know very little. But Greene’s description of the theory of relativity truly opened my eyes to a world which seemed so bizarre and foreign, but yet shockingly so real and immediate. This world, as Greene explained, comes from that genius of the 20th century: Albert Einstein.

 

Besides the poofy hair, Albert Einstein’s most recognized attribution is E = mc². We all know it. It’s a common expression denoting genius and scientific achievement. Some of us may even know what it stands for. But how many know what it means, why it’s so important — not many. And given it’s importance describing the world we live in, this is pretty sad.

 

E = mc² stands for energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. The equation comes from Einstein’s theory of relativity, considered the greatest advance in science ever. It thoroughly smashed all previous conceptions of the universe which Isaac Newton had so gracefully assembled.

 

Newton believed what most of us still believe in: a static universe — a universe in which space and time are separate, immovable entities, which are only the hosts of matter and energy not participants. A universe with definitive locations and moments. A universe which is ultimately fictional. Yes, that’s right the world that we are so used to really doesn’t exist. Instead, we live in relativistic universe, where one objects’ location and time can only be determined relative to another’s. A universe where space and time are actually two aspects of the same entity space-time, which can be warped and torn. A universe where something that occurs on one planet may feel like only a couple seconds but for another planet may feel like thousands of years. Welcome to the real universe.

 

I can remember learning about relativistic physics from a high school English teacher. I really don’t think he quite understood it, but the story he told was pretty interesting. The story was about a reporter who asked Einstein to explain the theory of relativity. Einstein replied with a question, ‘How long would it feel like if for a whole hour you had to put your hand on a red-hot stove.’ The reporter replied, ‘A long time.’ Einstein then asked, ‘How long would it feel like if you were talking with a beautiful woman for an hour.’ The reported answered, ‘It would feel like a couple seconds.’ Einstein said, ‘There you are. That’s the theory of relativity.’ It’s a cute story, but I really doubt the reporter understood the theory of relativity by it. However, the basic idea is there: the experience of time is relative, measures of which are ultimately subjective to the object and have no objective reality of themselves. But what does this mean and why is it so mind-blowing? — Here’s an example.

 

Relativity comes from one object in relation to another or more importantly one’s speed of motion relative to another’s. Let’s say a rock leaving Earth, is flying through space at an extremely high speed . Let’s say on the rock there are two little bugs who are having a fight about who should win American Idol. Now, their conversation seems to last only 5 minutes, at which point they decide to go back to Earth and just find out who’s going to be voted off. To there surprise though, Earth is inhabited by futuristic robots. They ask one of these robots who won American Idol. The robot replies that American Idol has been off the air for 2 million years, but he surprisingly knows the answer: Sanjaya — the bugs then die in shock (joke). This isn’t just science fantasy, this is reality. How you ask?

 

Well, the faster an object approaches the speed of light the faster it experiences time. Those 5 minutes of arguing about American Idol were from the relative perspective of Earth, millions of years. Thus the potentially accurate premise to Planet of the Apes. Well, why does one’s motion affect time?

 

It’s quite simple and yet so profound. Remember there is no separate space and time, only space-time. Every object within the space-time continuum is actually going the speed of light, only some of it’s motion is displaced as its speed of motion and the rest is experienced as time. Thus if an object approaches the speed of light it is actually taking most of it’s light-speed motion and displacing it as motion in space, while only a fraction is displaced as time and thus it experiences the long eons of stationary objects as quick moments. This means that for us Earthlings, our speed of light motion is so fractionally displaced as motion in space (because we aren’t moving all that fast) that we experience our motion mostly as motion through time. But for light, ALL of it’s speed of light motion is displaced as motion through space and experiences NO time, thus light from the beginning of the universe 12 billion years ago has not experienced one second of time and exists through an eternal moment!!!!!

 

Now, this is where it gets crazy. The rule is that an object can never go the speed of light. Why? Well, to go the speed of light an object requires more and more energy. This in turn makes the object heavier and thus requires even more energy to approach the speed of light. So, what happens with all this energy as it approaches the speed of light? It becomes converted into mass. Yes that’s right, the closer an object approaches the speed of light the more it’s energy is converted into mass. Thus the equation E = mc², energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. This is mind-blowing. To think that inherent in the universe, light has such a fundamental role. It is the eternal constant which both determines the experience of time and also the conversion of energy to matter. How phenomenal!

 

Alright, that’s about as far as I want to take this. My goal here was not to give a complete overview of the theory of relativity, which has many more facets and other fascinating details. My goal was simple: to promote a level of curiosity about our universe and it’s amazing inner-workings. To think that we live during such an important time of discovery is unbelievable. But we’ll never get a sense of these achievements until we take a break from adoring the stars of earth and take a peek at the stares above.

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Ode to Tony

July 5, 2007 at 1:16 pm (George W. Bush, Iraq, Tony Blair)

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I remember watching a press conference between George W. Bush and Tony Blair a couple months into Bush’s first term. It was the first meeting between the two heads of state and the media made it a test for the incoming president. Questions and speculation were abound with people wondering if Bush could live up to Clinton’s relationship with the U.K and Tony Blair. It was early 2001 and concerns over policy matters were minor. As the press conference proceeded with it’s usual diplomatic schmoozing, a reporter asked Bush if he had discovered any similarities between the two leaders. To the best of my recollection Bush answered something like ‘Ya, we both have the same toothpaste: Colgate.’ The only person who seemed not to feel the embarrassment of such a response was the one who uttered it. A quick look at Blair revealed a real unease about the whole thing. ‘Get me out of here, bring back Clinton,’ he must have thought. The whole exchange was really awkward and led many to question the incoming president’s ability to forge a serious relationship with that darling of the U.S. press, Tony Blair.

 

Flash to last week.

 

The reviled poodle with his tail between his legs gets the not-so-polite kick to the curb out onto Downing St. After 10 years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair stepped down, leaving Her Majesty’s government in the hands of Gordon Brown. There was little celebration, appreciation, or attention to matter. It was an altogether sober affair. With a stiff upper lip, Britain moved on to the next guy.

 

 

There are many reasons why people don’t like Blair. Conservatives in Britain always distrusted his New Labour movement, just as the right in the U.S. distrusted Clinton’s push to the center. He also was accused of a lot of doublespeak and rhetorical fluff ,without any real substance behind it. But by far the main reason is the obvious: Iraq. Put aside all the improvements to the U.K’s economy, healthcare, and school system. Put aside the monumental shift to the center in British politics. Put aside the success in the Northern Ireland peace process. Iraq nullifies it all. The decision to join the US led Coalition of the Willing and invade Iraq will forever remain Tony Blair’s defining legacy. But as the debate unfolds with this controversial decision, one thing is sure: any initial apprehensions coming from that first press conference were thoroughly wrong, the Colgate leaders did indeed forge a serious relationship.

 

It’ll be many years before the decision to invade Iraq can be fully understood — the underlying reasons, the precipitating events. Some will say it was a neo-conservative conspiracy, it was Halliburton, it was for the oil. Others will contend that the cowboy was trying to do what pops couldn‘t. Some will say it was for Israel. But what all these theories seem to lack is an understanding of where and how the decision was made, and by whom. Corporations don’t go to war. Nations don’t go to war. Individuals go to war, and individuals make the decision to do so. And any serious student of history must recognize where the decision comes from — the views and beliefs behind it, the vision and goals of it, the context. And to the extent that the decision in question is deduced to a single person and a multitude of surreptitious reasons, the Iraq war will continue to be misunderstood and cynicism will continue to pervade the course of events to come. For all likelihood the decision did not come through committee nor solitude, but partnership. In all likelihood the decision to invade was one made by individuals who recognized the necessity of intervention, who accepted that the status quo was no longer tenable, who understood the monumental changes to come.

 

At the core of this decision was an inherent understanding of the conditions which have given rise to random slaughter of innocents (which have been generically labeled terrorism), an understanding that these same conditions also necessitated the militarization of economy and society , and an understanding that the nexus of the two would mean global devastation and deprivation. And so the decision was made to remove these conditions, and by doing so remove any of the last superficial cultural, political, and religious barriers which divide the world into perpetually conflicting clans. It was a fateful decision and most seem all to ready to dismiss it. But the reality is that it happened and we can’t go back. And to those who say the genie was let out of the bottle, I ask you to consider how long the genie was going to stay in there anyways, and what a policy would look like which attempted to keep it in there. The fact is that Bush and Blair recognized how revolutionary their decision was, for Iraq and beyond. And yet they knew that to shy away from it would put the onus on a future generation which might not have the advantages of the current. And so as all great leaders find their purpose in committing their nations to making a fateful step to a better future, George W. Bush and Tony Blair took solace in the fact the decision was self-evident. They turned to each other and saw someone else who believed too.

 

Today we are witnessing (and participating in) the shrinking away of the task which these men have set out. We have turned away from the idealism which we felt following that horrific day in September. We are turning to those who promise an easy way out. And as it becomes clear that this impulse for an “exit strategy” will not work, we will recall the talk of democracy and freedom, of pluralism and liberation, and we will laugh and then scoff. We will see all the problems of the world coming from such idealism and beliefs, and we will view those who uttered them with pure contempt. Until one day we will see what they saw. We will feel what they felt. We will turn to each other and see someone else who believes and we will fight. But as of last week we have just begun to live in the shadow of one of these men. We have a long way to go before we can truly appreciate what he did and truly be inspired by his leadership. Tony, you will be missed. Thank you and farewell.

 

Tony Blair — poodle my ass.


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Taking Justin Seriously

June 26, 2007 at 1:55 am (Art, Justin Timberlake, music, Pop)

17912.jpg                                   Last summer, I came across an article about the then-to-be released album “Futuresex/Lovesounds.” In it, Justin Timberlake discusses how, in making the album, he wanted to really push the boundaries of pop music and bring something new. And since being released, Justin Timberlake’s “Futuresex/Lovesounds” has been at the top of the charts with almost continuous airplay on the radio: the former front man for the boy band Nsync has created a classic.

We all can remember (or try to forget) the time of sex scandals and tepid political discourse, the time of complacency and indifference, that decade of non-events: the nineties — the brief period of Pax Americana following the Cold War. Those were the days, when people simply didn’t care, and what seemed to have any value or importance lied in the past. This inglorious end of the 20th century when any sort of cultural energy had seemed to have reached its peak in the fields of Woodstock, NY in the summer of 1969, and ever since had gradually dissipated, when the post-post modernist this and thats decided that everything had been said and done and quietly receded into the background. This was the time of America’s greatest musical contribution: the boy band — yes, that toxic mix of corporate marketing, desire for empty spectacle, and unoriginal musical composition divorced from the least bit of passion or interest. It was like music had scrapped the barrel but didn’t realize it because we either were too busy making money off it, or too busy making fun of it. But really what would the music have been otherwise? For years pop had been just the artificial creations of a greedy industry (since when can art have anything to do with an industry). Any remaining elements of that genuine age of good music had finally degenerated into an orgy of extravagant concerts, bizarre videos, and worthless, forgettable so-called music. And it is with great gratitude and appreciation that we were allowed to say to this time: “Bye, Bye, Bye.”Admittedly, this age isn’t completely gone and to a large extent continuous to exist. But it does so with an interesting trend pushing against it: The desire for the genuine. And although this trend produced the reality show, which too became a victim of the “producer,” this emerging push for what is real is gradually changing the cultural landscape and beginning to pay off. Enter Justin Timberlake.

My first impression of the solo work of Timberlake was disappointment. His “Justified” album seemed like the arrogant attempt by a talent-less boybander trying to prove himself. It wasn’t until I took a second look and saw the importance of it. In “Like I Love You“, it is the simple one chord vamp on an acoustic guitar which provides for the entire song’s structure. At first this seemed over-simplistic and boring. It seemed even laughable — I can just imagine poor old Justin struggling to write one song without his precious music producers guiding the way, and the only thing he could come up with was a dumb one chord guitar riff. But then as it got stuck in my head and reluctance in liking it gave way, it struck me. This guy is breaking all the rules. He did something daring. He actually wrote his own song. He abandoned the sacred temple of electronica for an acoustic guitar and people liked it. It was like something within that sewer of the superficial crept up, something real, and gave us something to really enjoy. And it was this experience which made the release of “Futuresex/Lovesounds” worth anticipating.

I knew just by hearing his excitement in that article that it was going to be good. Here’s this guy who has, to his exclusive credit, made a name for himself and really sees a value in what he’s doing. You can just see in him someone who really values the music which came before him, someone who strives to contribute to the American pantheon of great music. And so right when it came out, I got it. And I listened over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it and by the time I finally overcame my obsession with it, everyone else started to get into it and now I can’t escape it, so I decided to throw my two cents in.

There’s a couple of reasons why I love this album so much. First, it’s simplicity. You can just hear the organic growth of one simple theme or baseline into a full-fledged song. It’s such a throwback to the Soul movement of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s funky and has some great drum beats. But it’s also novel. The combination of beat boxing, the nuanced use of the synthesizer, and the creativity of its lyrical and musical song writing all make for a great experience. And then there’s Timberlake’s voice, a white kid getting away singing falsetto is rare, but he really does it and does it well. What I think makes it such a great album though is that it breaks pop music’s cardinal rule: Thou shalt not deviate from the singing in deference to the music. Those musical interludes are truly original and exciting, especially the song “Lovestoned.” What a daring move to extend the ending of this already awesome song with a meandering musical digression resolving into a completely different theme! It is like he gave absolutely no consideration to what any music executive or radio DJ thought. It is the clear act of a true artist: the defiant expression against the existing stereotype. And although I doubt he provided the arrangement, the string arrangements have Justin’s simple and genuine touch written all over it. The album as a whole is simply remarkable, without one dud on it.

But just as masterpieces of the Jazz movement can’t be solely attributed to one single person, neither can “Futuresex/Lovestoned”. The other genius here is music producer Timberland. Another titan in search for the genuine music of the 21st century, Timberland continues to bring fresh and vibrant ideas to the old concepts of pop. From Missy Elliot to Nelly Furtado, Timberland is redefining the role of the music producer and it’s no different on this album. His contribution can’t be overstated. What a contribution these two have made since “Justified.” It’s really encouraging to see the stale mold of pop music being broken and letting artistic collaboration do its thing. It really does remind me of the various collaborations and combinations of the Jazz age, that burst of creative energy which comes only when music is allowed to go where it wants to.

Well as you can probably tell I have a man-crush on Justin Timberlake. I really don’t want to overstate it. I don’t think he’s the next Mozart or anything, but I think he represents a potentially positive trend in pop music and the culture at large. Not only Justin, but others are breaking that stale mold of the artificial. There really seems to be a need to hear something real, something genuine even if it’s not earth-shattering. Is there any wonder why the top songs these days come from American Idol? — People want something real. It was like the start of this new century provided a sort of shock which made us wake up and look around and say “Maybe everything hasn’t been done. Maybe there’s more.’ And although he’s only a small contribution to this growing trend, Justin Timberlake represents something real and something which genuinely is striving for the artistic. I’m not sure if he’s gotten there yet, but I’m looking forward to hearing what he does along the way, and to see who joins him.

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The Charlie Ticket

June 22, 2007 at 5:16 am (Boston, charlie ticket, mbta, subway, Uncategorized)

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In 1887, amid much pomp and circumstance, “America’s first subway” opened, running under Tremont St. Boston — and ever since it’s been on a downward track.

Growing up on Cape Cod, riding the subway in the city was always a special treat. The subterranean labyrinth of dark tunnels never ceased to stimulate the imagination, the echoing sounds ringing from the depths and rising to the bustling city.

But as the unique experience became a common routine, the subway lost its mystique.

The mad dash to find a seat, the awkward looks and curious smells, the sweltering cauldron of contagious germs — all led to the gradual disillusionment of riding the “T.”

But all the while, as the treat became a necessity, the mundane ride on the subway had one redeemable factor: one dollar per token, one token per ride.

The simplicity of such a system was of little thought, though in retrospect quite taken for granted. But as the demands for revenue from a bloated bureaucracy and the novelty of new technology coalesced, the days of the token came to an end and the Charlie ticket was introduced.

Since graduating from college, trips into the city have been few and far between. Once again, jumping on the subway was a special occasion rather than a daily occurrence. The city had returned to be the oasis of spontaneity which it once had been, the place of continual discovery.

And so it was last week, when a random trip to the city became the occasion for a discovery of different sort: the Charlie ticket.

I decided on going into Cambridge to a place called the Garment District. So, I hopped on the “T” at an old stop I used to use, Wollaston stop in Quincy. It was there where I discovered that the familiar turnstiles had been replaced by electronic plastic doors and the token dispenser by the Charlie ticket machine.

‘Ah, Touch-screen! How convenient.’

‘Let’s see — All right, easy enough. Five, Ten, or Twenty dollars? Well, I’ll just be needing three or four trips, so five dollars. Put my five dollar bill in. No to receipt. Out comes my ticket. Easy enough, and I’m off.’

I got off at Downtown Crossing for a bite to eat. Then I got back on and headed to Kendall Square at Cambridge. It was at this point that the frustration of dealing with the city began to resurface.

‘Now, where is this Garment District? I know it’s near here somewhere. I think it’s down this street. Or maybe it’s that street. And about 20 minutes and two bad directions later, I managed to find it — closed.’

And then it started to rain.

And then the aggravation.

And then the fateful encounter with the Charlie ticket system.

I headed into the Kendall T stop. Down the flight of stairs. Took out my card. Put it into the slot. And — Buzz! Try it again — Buzz!

‘What? Why isn’t this working?’

I try again and again. Each buzz attracting a new face.

‘Why is this not accepting my ticket? I put 5 dollars in it. I know that the fare’s gone up a little, but something’s must be wrong, I should at least get three or four fares.’

And hearing the train approach, I accept the situation and rush over to the ticket machine and go through the whole process again.

‘Oh, this means I have to buy another five dollar ticket for just one ride. Ugh!’

‘Crap, I only have a twenty. Well, I’ll just get a five dollar ticket out of it.’

And then, Cling clang cling! , as fifteen Sacagawea dollar coins dispense below.

The train approaches. I swiftly grab those metal pieces of the continuous, never-ending failed experiment known as the dollar coin.

And as I briskly run by the MIT billboards which show the progress of technology on our lives, the irony is not lost on me — the day’s experience with the current advance in technology had been a sour one.

And on the ride home, I ponder this experience and the many questions I have:

How can a fare go from one dollar to two?

If I get two fares with a five dollar ticket, where’s that extra dollar go?

Why can’t I buy one fare at a time?

Who came up with this?

Do they realize people like me are getting screwed?

Someone needs to explain . . .

And so with a determination which arises only after experiencing that rare moment of public embarrassment and institutional thievery, I seek the answers I deserve. I want to know who this Charlie is and what’s he done with that extra dollar of mine. It’s time to write the man.

Coming later, the response from the MBTA regarding the aforementioned concerns with the Charlie system. Next stop: Commuter justice.

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Attention Radiohead:

June 20, 2007 at 12:12 pm (music, radiohead, thom yorke, upcoming albums)

radiohead1.jpg

Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser” was a nice appetizer, but we’re looking for the main course.  I’m hungry, and my patience is wearing thin . . .

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