April 8th, 2007

tank warning label

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.