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April 8th, 2007
07:08 pm
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Notes from the underground
Got hit with a one-two punch today as I opened my my friends list, and the combination has left my reality a bit wobbly. In a good way. In the best way -- where reality and fiction are competing to tell the strangest tale, where you're fighting for balance in the middle as Story gets yanked back and forth, and nobody's quite sure where your footing is going to end up.

First up is the odd story of the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel, via luna_torquill; a Depression-era project to tunnel in a straight line between the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City*. Originally used to deliver mail, it was reappropriated by capitalists when airplane delivery made its original purpose obsolete.

On the heels of that, tangaroa linked to a Washington Post article where world-famous violinist Joshua Bell took his Stradivarius down to a D.C. subway station and played as a street performer for the better part of an hour.

There are so many (so to speak) "money quotes" in the latter story** that I don't know what to excerpt. It digs in for some brilliant points about the role of context in great art, and what made the audience react as they did. Plus bonus points for name-dropping koyaanisqatsi. But this is one of the lines that twisted the knife the most painfully:
There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

How much we forget as society programs us into adulthood!

* Not really, of course. This is alternate history in the same vein as my Dangerous Waters article, just grounded enough to make the wholly implausible parts maybe worth a second look.

** In a sad, wistful sort of way, this seems to me to be the sort of story frameacloud tags with "pronoia news network". I really wanted to work that into the main text somewhere, but couldn't make it fit; so consider this plug a piece of marginalia.

Current Location: ~calorg
Current Mood: satisfiedunsettled
Current Music: Internet radio from the '70s
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(9 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:April 9th, 2007 03:31 am (UTC)
The Alameda-Weehawken tunnel makes me incredibly happy.

I need to have a mission burrito tomorrow!
[User Picture]
Date:April 9th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC)
Because I am SUCH A NERD, I read that burrito tunnel story but my suspension of disbelief failed when I read that the terminus was in the side of a hill in Alameda, because these are probably the biggest hills in Alameda.

But there's a picture in that story of an Alameda Tunnel, so I went sleuthing, and found:

I am so excited to know there's one in Placer County. :D
[User Picture]
Date:April 9th, 2007 03:43 am (UTC)
Wow ... the tunnel you mention is about 25 miles from me as the crow flies. If I can get some directions for finding the thing, and if it's on (or near) public land, I may have to try to hike out there sometime.
[User Picture]
Date:April 9th, 2007 03:46 am (UTC)
There's a topo map for it:

That might help.
[User Picture]
Date:April 9th, 2007 04:23 am (UTC)
What type of internet radio content do they have archived from the 70's? Or did you just hit a pocket of data that's been stuck in a closed loop for thirty years?
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Date:April 9th, 2007 04:31 am (UTC)
I have no idea who Joshua Bell is, nor do I follow classical violin. That being said ..



It's a shame how acculturated people are. Even those who did appreciate the music were so bashful in approaching.
[User Picture]
Date:April 9th, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
Wow. That's beautiful.
Date:April 9th, 2007 04:24 pm (UTC)
There is a great response to the Joshua Bell article by a NYC subway musician in her blog: www.SawLady.com/blog
She interprets the situation differently from the Washington Post reporters... I thought you might find it interesting.
[User Picture]
Date:April 9th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
Good links, there.

Re. to the first: have you ever read about the rail system and the growth of meatpacking in Chicago? The sort of accidental outgrowth of a technology theme reminded me of that.

Re. to the second: I was rather touched by the stories of the two people working nearby as well – the guy in the croissant shop and the shoeshiner. And, unrelatedly, someone commenting on the_gneech's repost pointed out that morning is a worse time for busking than afternoon, given that people don't want to be late for work.
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