Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Real Men Dont Walk

In the 1990s, living without a car in Hillcrest, I frequently encountered the violent threats faced for "walking while gay." Shouts of "fuckin' faggot" from big wheeled pickups screeching down University came my way, snickers of hate from suburban roughnecks in the cab not unlike those shot from Mr T.'s Tank.

With help from Mars Inc. the "born again Christian" living in Sherman Oaks peddles good ol' boy nostalgia for the cartoon masculinity of A-Team/Rambo/Reagan:

a world destroyed by limp wristed pacifists like Unitarian Universalists and "The Church of Liberalism" as described by Ann Coulter.

The battle for big gun, fast car, blow-em-up, Death Race/ oil rig reality manliness verbally fought out daily by Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly conveys the suffering of former army privates now forced off food stamps inspiring shotgun revenge.

Every man wants to be a macho macho man
to have the kind of body, always in demand

Jogging in the mornings, go man go

works out in the health spa, muscles glow

You can best believe that, he's a macho man

ready to get down with, anyone he can

--"Macho Man," The Village People

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Book On NPR

Well not quite.
But a story last Saturday on Weekend Edition captured its essence.
If someone asks what my book is about, one answer would be it is a 240 page reply to this story.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blog going NoHo

After nearly two years the story is changing.

I've decided to shift from writing about the broad interconnective tissue of transportation to writing about a micro-muscle, an eyelash--the redevelopment of North Hollywood. My near-hood is becoming the center of controversy as a model of TOD, transit oriented development, and I will be investigating what it all means.
Please check out my new blog NoHo Slumming.

Some of the questions arising over this transformation include:

What are the various visions of a more urban neighborhood?

Who is included and excluded in these visions?

How are the changes in North Hollywood linked to globalization?

Will gentrification mean worsening conditions for the urban poor?

How will the goal of reducing sprawl conflict or coincide with the goal of providing quality affordable housing?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Soiling Green Vehicles

You tell everybody.
Listen to me. Hatcher.
You've gotta tell them!
Soylent Green is people!
We've gotta stop them somehow!

The growing list of cities, including Los Angeles, that provide free parking to low emission vehicles requires that I clarify my objections to these mechanical stimulants for enviro-wanna-bes.

Most important, these cars are NOT eco-friendly. Yes, Americans so wish we could buy our way out of earth's destruction, but consumption of any massively complex mobility toy requires large scale plundering of natural resources--different metals for engine and sound systems, petroleum for multi-plastics, who knows what for interior seat plushness--and accompanying planet spoliation. Furthermore, driving these pacifiers of greeny lust contributes to the So-Cal lifestyle of earth stretching asphalt profligacy no less than driving a Hummer H2.

Nearsightedness in councilmembers hardly surprises, but hearing lefty stalwarts at KPFK give voice to clean car hawkers brings the reflux of vodka sauce beyond control of Prilosec to the brain.

Personally, I would love to replace my fifteen year old red paint faded Prizm with a shiny blue bluetooth Ipod comptatible new Prius, but I just don't have 25,000 lying around.

And who does? Certainly not the guys keeping your auto pristine pretty at the local car wash: an investigation by the LA Times recently found these workers living in superexploitation land--many are paid only in tips for a "trial period" after which, if they were good, they might get minimum wage.

So how exactly does doling out free parking and HOV lane access to Whole Food shoppers of almond crusted goat cheese over baby mixed greens with tarragon infused champagne vinegar dressing benefit the working poor? It doesn't.

Dump the hybrid and get in the fight for a thousand strong fleet of articulated buses rushing past traffic on dedicated freeway lanes. You might not meet mid '90s sitcom stars, but you will meet the people that mow their lawns, clean their toilets, iron their blue jeans and yep wash their cars.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Springtime for Summary and Partial Manifesto

Well hello Canada!

My roll of recognition hit two last week. A producer at CBC's Definitely Not The Opera contacted me for an interview. The popular culture show's host asked me to explain the impact of traffic on people's personality. Why, for example, does weather seem to bring us together while traffic divides? Why do people have a sense of entitlement when they get behind the wheel? What leads to road rage? (You can listen to my interview here.)

Regular readers should know by now, but this provides an opportunity to recap, reset, reader's digest the past two years:

People love cars because they provide the feel of controlling a powerful machine amid a too complicated modern world.

Auto independence celebrated in action films, race car tv, and curvy empty road cruising ads masks the drivers profound dependence on others--from miners to highway engineers.

This fantasy of self-reliance extends equal blindness to the environmental devastation spreading far beyond smog and carbon emissions to the massive chemical spillage and metal extraction required for racing grave pits of personal mobility.

While feeding an illusion of unspoiling innocence, hybrids, electrics, biofuel Benzes all contribute to this high speed poisoning and ever further sprawl of eco-ruining asphalt-brick-steel ex-urban lives.

The micro-horrors of bus riding razor cut the personal party balloon, tiny leaks hissing the deflation of dreamy separation from quotidian vagabond grime. At least for a moment, one must confront the extreme inequality wrought by planetwide financial propping of U.S. super-consumerism.

This blog seeks to articulate the links between local/global pleasures/pains, with a politics of partiality not unlike Donna Haraway's:

"There is no unmediated photograph or passive camera obscura in scientific accounts of bodies and machines; there are only highly specific visual possibilities, each with a wonderfully detailed, active, partial way of organizing worlds. All these pictures of the world should not be allegories of infinite mobility and interchangeability, but of elaborate specificity and difference and the loving care people might take to learn how to see faithfully from another's point of view, even when the other is our own machine."
--Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sunday Driver, Yeah!

My blog has not yet cracked any of the top L.A. lists. My vain search for fame and an Amazon sales rank above 100,000 seems destined for dust. But has this dust been given the breath of life? This week Sue Doyle of the LA Daily News asked me to comment for a story she's writing on the decline of the Sunday drive, so here it is...

It is certainly true that home entertainment--tivo cable connected plasma system--has meant more reasons to stay in, and negotiating contemporary crowded highways brings connotations of stress rather than fun--why choose to drive on Sunday after weekdays filled with sometimes hourlong freeway fights?

But the decline of pleasure driving must also be placed in historical context.

The automobile's rise to dominance in the U.S. contains a central irony. In the early twentieth century the car was celebrated as bringing health to city dwellers by providing access to the country, but ultimately the auto's popularity destroyed the country through urban sprawl.

People who wish to escape the city for a scenic drive must drive farther and farther before finding scenic landscape for a peaceful roll. From San Clemente to Ventura, Redlands to Santa Clarita extends one large conurbation of strip malls, tract homes and office "parks" linked by very unpeaceful rubber screeching, metal flashing, smog packed asphalt.

The Sunday drive is dead, unless it's a drive to the mall, where, strangely enough, people like to walk--because a walk down Valencia's McBean Parkway or Thousand Oaks' Moorpark Road just lacks the same charm.

Park Oaks Shopping Center on Moorpark Road--Loopnet

Monday, February 25, 2008

Rocky Mountain Malling

Photo of Denver International Airport by mcwatt00

Cool-Whip topped Brown Betty, deserted dessert in a back road alter-Denny's Diner, DIA just sits there waiting for the breakfast rush. Moist melt in the mouth crust, lush brown cattle displaced bison range, waiting to bloom asphalt, stucco, ceramic tile, crawls with scifi monster-cockroach tractor-scrapers.

Along Boulder-Denver turnpike emerge gumdrops on rolling hills, Monet haystacks in winter afternoon orange. A sign declares Beautiful Wildgrass Homes from the 200,000s.

At Westminster Center, two teens, plaid drooping over Soundgarden-T, zipped Hollister hood sweat, truck longboards onto coach for university town sidewalk cruising.

Snow frosted pine cliffs of Flatiron jutt behind tourists strolling Pearl Street for crafty treasures of authentic Coloradocity: jagged to heal migrane black purpelized crystal chunks, handwoven finger puppets--could be coyote, could be mountain goat--dangly bead earrings, framed watercolor kitsch sunsetting over rocky-mountain-high.

Brick towering shopping cliffs of Flatiron Crossing lit by red neon to pastel blue chains of familiarity--PF Changs, Dillards, Crate & Barrell--backdrops obelisk marked Mainstreet at Flatirons, coming soon to mimic neotraditionalist mimicry of nineteenth century small town parochialism, in the view from fourth floor Broomfield Townplace Suite by Marriott.

The walk from Broomfield Park-n-Ride, Highway 36 at Highway 121/ Wadsworth Parkway at West 120th St/Old Wadsworth Blvd at Highway 128/Interlocken Loop-- traverses Interlocken Advanced Technology Environment "a 963-acre, full service advanced technology business park," with "nearby safe, affordable communities . . . Interlocken offers pacesetting companies the location and resources they need to compete in today’s globalized economy, including an advanced infrastructure, superior multi-modal transportation access . . . extensively landscaped parks, trails, child care facilities, athletic fields . . ."

Triple A four diamond crown of past-present-futurist techno-habitation, Omni Resort, with "390 deluxe accommodations and suites . . . elegantly appointed and full of modern amenities" supplies "a wealth of on-site pleasures." 27 hole golf course, "ranked third best resort course of Colorado," hosts John Bronco God of Denver Elway/ Sun Microsystems Celebrity Classic. "Or if you’d just like to escape into a sanctuary of relaxation in Mokara Spa, two outdoor pools and whirlpool . . . The Omni Interlocken Resort is sure to sweep you off your feet."

Cold swept air burns fingers gripping duffel trooping through miles of dormant sod embracing perches of hexagon maroon office retreats. Rushes of headlights cut through disorienting darkness. At last, around a bend, a speckled grey rabbit flips through brush at warmth of motel lobby door.

Oh, all the trees are calling after you
And all the venom snipers after you
Are all the mountains bolder after you?