For example, the other day a Mnspeak.com commenter had this to say:
who needs the TC sidewalks blog now that we have google street view?
»» Submitted by »»» Kal at 8:31 AM on February 13
At first I laughed defensively. But then I thought, good question!
Like everyone else, I am blown away by Google's StreetView. It's amazin'! It's awesome! You can find every house you ever lived in, and see what what the world looked like on some random day during the summer of '06. It's like a giant 3-D photograph, like someone stopped time, like a little snowglobe real life world on the internets. (I've noticed that you can even see, from time to time, that cars following the Google camera car stay in the photo, tailgating, or stuck in traffic. In that case, the StreetView is a voyeuristic flipbook . . . if only you could zoom in far enough to see the increasing bewilderment on the faces of the other drivers as they notice the GoogleCar.)
So Google StreetView is good. But that doesn't mean, as some have suggested, that StreetView has rendered obsolete all sidewalk blogs, and Twin City Sidewalks in particular.
On the contrary, now more than ever, we need sidewalk blogs.
For example, take a look at the Google StreetView of major Twin Cities' landmark, Chino Latino:
[The glittering facade of an empty, mid-day Chino Latino, basking in the warm summer sunshine.]
I ask you: Does this capture the unquenchable thirst that is Chino Latino? Does this image do justice to the very palpable energy flowing from the place? Is this any replacement for that special feeling you get when, walking past the open windows of Chino Latino you turn and stare dumbly, torn between envy and disdain for the amount of sheer bachannalian oblivion that flows from underneath its unmarked facade, flooding out onto the street and forming an almost gelatinous social substance that explodes out onto Hennepin Avenue and leaves you trapped like a marshmallow in jello salad?
No, it does not.
Alas, Google StreetView is an auto-centric view of the world. It shows you the view from the driver's seat, it allows you to roll down the window of life and peer through the stoplights, traffic cones, the sides of parked cars. The sidewalk is different. And frankly, the world looks much better from the sidewalk.
It just occurred to me that it would be nice if Google StreetView contained some notion of time . . . I am imagining a virtual tourist who, looking at StreetView, believes that Minnesota is a land of eternal summer.
On the contrary: Is there any way to capture online the bleakest qualities of winter? The squeaky sound of snow underfoot on the coldest day? The thunk of a dead car battery? The way that sludgecrust freezes? The feel of numb cheek or frozen nostril?
That said, if they come out with a product called Google SidewalkView, then my work here is done. I'll call it quits.
[The icy slushy mucky salty crusty dirty dead grey black bleak brittle grubground.]