30.11.11

Sidewalk Game #5: Grudge Walking

Walk along the pavement of any reasonably busy thoroughfare. Pick a pedestrian ("Target Walker") you don't like the look of. It is best if they appear to be in a hurry and irritable.

Position yourself so as to be walking ahead of them at the same speed. Now, subtly decelerate, thus obstructing their path.

The Target Walker will attempt to overtake you. At the precise point they are walking in parallel with you, re-accelerate to their speed, such that you are now walking in step with them.

The Target Walker will then decelerate -- do likewise.

AT NO POINT RECOGNIZE or ADDRESS the Target Walker.

Repeat as required, accelerating or decelerating to impair the Target Walker's overtaking.

Continue unitl the Target Walker eventually loses their temper and challenges you. Simply turn to face them and say "What?!?"

(Indeed, what have you done wrong?)

[From Manzine, Issue 4.]

Sidewalk of the Week: East 7th Street and East North Street

[The entrance to the world of Swede Hollow.]
In the long and tangled history of our Twin Cities, there aren't many places that capture the imagination like the words "swede hollow."

Swede Hollow is an ancient lost civilization, almost erased from memory. It's a gateway to a whole lost world of the earliest Twin Cities, a world filled with towering factory smokestacks, tumbledown handbuilt homes, a million languages, and turret topped mansions perched high atop hills. It's a world that we'll never find again, a world lost to us (though not as lost as those that came before).

Today, Swede Hollow is a forest valley whose past lives in the brewery ruins and stories and photos. The actual hollow is a valley falling down like a crack in the sidewalk, a little storybook in the middle of St Paul's East Side bluffs, an area filled with old homes and disheveled shops, ancient indian mounds, and crooked romantic trees.

This part of the city has two things that are particularly rare in these parts: history and hills. And they come together beautifully at the corner of 7th and North streets, where you'll find an old brick building that triangulates into an iron turret.

The street itself rises straight out of the sandstone buildings downtown to face the wide river valley with all its bridges and bluffs. As you walk down East 7th, you may squint and imagine you're looking West for the first time across the prairie, or that you're traveling the country with only a harmonica for company, or that you're a tree or a bird or a stream.


[Rounding the turret, you find secret stairs to take you to the second story.]

[The street is filled with feetmade paths, overlooking the city in the distance.]
The corner of the café has huge windows that flood with sunlight from the South and West, so that even in the wintertime, sitting in the café feels like being a greenhouse flower. In the summer there's a patio made from old bricks that has all the careful accident of a Japanese garden. Streets and alleys venture off in almost every direction to undermine expectations. The area seems to grow like an organism or a garden, and you get one wrong move and you'd be lost forever over here on the East Side.

Picking your way through Swede Hollow you feel like Hansel or Gretel on an adventure, pathfinding through a forest filled with ghosts and memories. The sidewalks of East 7th Street will expand your horizons. Leave a trail behind you.

[A fountainside table.]
[Underfoot patio bricks.]


[An old tree overlooking bricks and benches.]

29.11.11

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #46

Charles Foster Kane meets his second wife...


... in Orson Welles' (1941) Citizen Kane.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #45

The union boys take the strike to Wall Street...


... in Barbara Kopple's (1974) Harlan County U.S.A.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #44

Oh Shit! It's the Baseball Furies!



... in Walter Hill's (1974) The Warriors

28.11.11

Reading the Highland Villager #50

[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.] 


Total # of articles about sidewalks: 8
Total # of articles about sidewalks written by Jane McClure: 7 


Headline: Best laid plans may not matter at Ford; Redevelopment of former plan may hinge on extent of pollution and willingness of new owner to clean it up
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Long headline pretty much self-explanatory. Report on a meeting earlier this month about redevelopment plans for the old Ford factory. There is an environmental study underway to figure out how much it'll cost to clean up the [huge] factory site. Possible pollution includes: oil, nickel, asbestos, mercury, lead, and hydraulic fluids. One of the problems is that the developer will have to pay for the cleanup. Article includes awesome old photo of the plant that pre-dates the peopling of Highland Park.


Headline: Light-rail crews on track to finish this year's work by Nov. 30
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the deadline for completion of Western section of the Universtiy Avenue construction. [NOTE: Mission accomplished. See today's paper.] Dry weather has made it possible for the contractor to meet the deadline.

Headline: Study of bus route changes starts rolling for Central Corridor
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Metro Transit and [something called] The Central Corridor Management Committee are studying changes for frequency for buses that will connect to the LRT. For example, a new bus route on Lexington, and other North-South lines may be changed and made more frequent. Summit Hill residents don't like the idea of buses on Lexington. Article includes mention of "plans ... to develop kiosks." [Nothing beats a kiosk! -Ed.]

Headline: Emily Program allowed to move into Bush Home site
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old children's home in a very nice St Paul neighborhood will be allowed to be bought by a program that treats eating disorders, despite the fact that many people will park their car near the building. Article includes discussion of "step down" transition programs buildings, and concerns about parking. Sample quote: "Residents are adamant about getting parked vehicles off of the streets."

Headline: Summit Hill Assn. turns down request for historic survey
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: A recent neighborhood group voted down the idea of applying for [MN legacy] money to survey historic buildings in the Summit Hill area. [For some reason this was controversial, but the article doesn't really make it clear why. -Ed.]

Headline: Op-Ed: UST is tackling 'serious' off-campus problem
Reporter: Doug Hennes (VP of University Relations for UST)

Short short version: Op-ed defending St Thomas' attempts to control "noise" "party" and "vandalism" by its students. Article lists good deeds of Tommies, including the posting of "civility posters", the shoveling of sidewalks for the elderly, and the [theoretical] baking of cookies for neighbors. [For some reason, no mention of helping grandparents to cross the street. -Ed.]

Headline: Council gazes into STAR and finds $3.7 million in old, unspent funds [This might be the worst headline pun of the issue! -Ed.]
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on how the city council found some Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) money which can only be used for "brick and mortar" projects. The money mostly comes from development projects which were allocated city funding, but then fell through. The money may be used for affordable housing. 

Headline: Survey suggests historic district in Uppertown
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city's Heritage Preservation Commission looked at a recent historical property study and figured out that the Uppertown area [near the terminus of the High Bridge] may have to be preserved because it has a lot of old "pre-Civil War" homes.

               

25.11.11

The Unconscious Automobile Fixation of Rebecca Black's Friday


(Yeah, Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ark)

Oo-ooh-ooh, hoo yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah

Yeah-ah-ah

Yeah-ah-ah

Yeah-ah-ah
Yeah-ah-ah
Yeah, yeah, yeah

If Black’s Friday is a modern teen bildunsgroman, here we witness the birth of Rebecca Black. She emerges from a realm beyond the semantic rationality of homes, kitchens, and schools. Her vague affirmative mumbling traces a field of primitive desire with roots deep within unconscious teenage slumber. From this fragile state, we are given a brief window into Black’s insatiable urge for adulthood.
7am, waking up in the morning

Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs

Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal

Seein’ everything, the time is goin’

Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’

Gotta get down to the bus stop

Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends (My friends)


This is the turning point of the tale. We are confronted by Black’s rigid clockwork life, filled past accounting with things she's "gotta have." It's a life of inflexible demand and ruinous routine, all culminating in Black's transit dependency.

Yet here is where chance takes hold of Black’s future. Her humdrum world is transformed by a passing convertible filled with friends. For the first time, the possibility of an automotive lifestyle dangles itself before Black like a carrot. Filled with desire, she is powerless to resist. The convertible conversion begins.

[At the bus stop, fate plays its cruel hand. The automobile meets Rebecca, introduces itself in the Siren-like form of unbelted tooth-braced white preteen laughter. Stop your ears, Rebecca! Stop your ears!]

Kickin’ in the front seat

Sittin’ in the back seat

Gotta make my mind up

Which seat can I take?


The automobile grips Black’s mind like a bird of prey, squeezing her unformed thoughts along its upholstered lines. Black’s worlds of possibility, choice, and agency, contract to the point where the only decision… indeed, the overwhelming decision... is which seat to take. Should she take the front seat? Should she sit in the back? The sublimation of Black’s unconscious strikes like a bolt of lightning.

[Fixated by empty choices, Black is consumed. It doesn't matter which seat you take, Rebecca. You will be trapped either way!]
It’s Friday, Friday

Gotta get down on Friday

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend

Friday, Friday

Gettin’ down on Friday

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend



Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Fun, fun, fun, fun

Lookin’ forward to the weekend

Enter the Greek chorus. The repeating verse of the song provides the banal backdrop against which Black's seduction by  the automobile is thrown into stark relief. Who does not look forward to the weekend? Who does not enjoy “fun?” With this mantra, Black shows that she is no different from any of us. We are all “lookin’ forward to the weekend.” We all are vulnerable. We are all Rebecca.



7:45, we’re drivin’ on the highway

Cruisin’ so fast, I want time to fly

Fun, fun, think about fun

You know what it is

I got this, you got this

My friend is by my right

I got this, you got this

Now you know it


Every love story has a peak, where the lovers fall to their fates at terminal velocity, enchanted by possibility, blinded by the new. Here the automobilic whirlwind whips Black around like an S & M prodigy. She speeds out of control. The death drive is literalized in the automobile. Her obsession with seating arrangements returns with a vengeance to push the limits of rationalization, as her song lyrics descend into a meaninglessly repetitive affirmation. Black loses herself in the comforts of leather. She drowns in petroleum acceleration.

[The automobile bypasses the traditional circuits of education. Memory and examination fade next to the soothing touch of painted steel. The automobile awaits us all.]

Kickin’ in the front seat

Sittin’ in the back seat

Gotta make my mind up

Which seat can I take?





It’s Friday, Friday

Gotta get down on Friday

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend

Friday, Friday


Gettin’ down on Friday

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend



Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Fun, fun, fun, fun

Lookin’ forward to the weekend


The refrain returns. The system of desiring-production captures yet more of Black’s susceptible body, the release of the weekend amplifying itself like the honking of horns echoing in a tunnel.

[Here, Black's capture by the car takes hold of the imagination, as Black and her companions are vaulted into a nighttime urban fantasy. Their eyes gloss over, they assume control of the vehicle. They can no longer think. They can only drive.]


Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday

Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)

We-we-we so excited

We so excited

We gonna have a ball today



Tomorrow is Saturday

And Sunday comes after...wards

I don’t want this weekend to end

The bridge, a meaningless mindless mush of the ancient Babylonian seven-day cycle, reveals the deep roots of Black’s automobile obsession. The spatial desire for speed and movement is mirrored in the temporal cycle of work and play, of tension and release.

Yet the asinine repetitions of the days of the week do not reflect a state of stupidity or ditzy quality. Far from it!

Rather, the calendrical rhyme reveals how Black’s car-fueled coming-of-age tale stands in for a release from the constraints of bourgeois education. If given more time, Black would start chanting the alphabet backwards, untying her shoes, or making figures out of pipe cleaners as the automobilic enchantment unearths the layers of subjectification, the strata of conformity and confinement of the Liberal state education apparatus against which the automobile, here standing in for a culture of consumer capitalism, pits itself.

As Black’s body becomes captured and confined by the car, her mind disappears. All that remains is the most trivial autonomic response to the rising and falling of the sun. All that remains are the days of the week.



[The moon calls to Black, eclipsing the world of daylight. This world creates its own time, the time of 'Black's Friday.' Bookended by her affirming floozies, Black rises vampric from the back seat of the convertible. Speed becomes sensation.]


R-B, Rebecca Black

So chillin’ in the front seat (In the front seat)

In the back seat (In the back seat)

I’m drivin’, cruisin’ (Yeah, yeah)

Fast lanes, switchin’ lanes

Wit’ a car up on my side (Woo!)
(C’mon) 
Passin’ by is a school bus in front of me

Makes tick tock, tick tock, wanna scream

Check my time, it’s Friday, it’s a weekend

We gonna have fun, c’mon, c’mon, y’all


Here we reach the most interesting moment of Black’s tale. Rebecca Black, or “R.B.” becomes is figured by rhythm and blues. The rapper, also driving a car, and similarly unable to discuss anything other than its simple freedoms, reveals to us Black’s future, the post-Friday Black, the black Black. As she conjoins herself deeper and deeper within the steel cage, as she aligns herself with the system of automobility, Black moves from the back seat to the front seat to the steering wheel. Her decisions accelerate and complexify, moving beyond simple seat choice to a stream of consciousness that reacts to her environment of motion, to choices about lanes, about speed, about the turn signal.

This evolution culminates with the symbolic “passin’ by … a school bus,” the very bus on which Black would have been trapped had not fate intervened. The bus is greeted with the leitmotiv of Chronos, the “tick tock tick tock” of governmental capture from which Black, now black, has escaped. Black has grown up. “Check my time,” s/he says. S/he is free, and beckons us to join her in an eternal “weekend.”

[The mysterious figure of the rapper appears, his glittering watch betokening a time of alterity. Caution, Rebecca! Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear!]


It’s Friday, Friday

Gotta get down on Friday

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend

Friday, Friday

Gettin’ down on Friday

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend


Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Fun, fun, fun, fun

Lookin’ forward to the weekend



It’s Friday, Friday

Gotta get down on Friday

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend

Friday, Friday

Gettin’ down on Friday

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend


Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Fun, fun, fun, fun

Lookin’ forward to the weekend

As the story draws to a conclusion, we realize that Rebecca Black will never return. She is lost to us. From the perspective of Black the cereal-eating child, it is a tragedy. From the perspective of Black the partying automobile subject, it is a genesis.

Black life, from this point, will be a meaningless ritualistic journey of Zoolander-esque frivolity, a future filled with blowing hair and freeway congestion. Black’s empty soul fills with gasoline. She is lost. She is free. She is one with the automobile. She is America. She is us.


[Black is subsumed by ritualized loops of animal desire. Willow branches reach out spectral tendrils to entwine her within their grasp. The red light is the tail light of the automobilic vision.  Black fades into a sunset, fades to black, disappears into a lifetime of capture. Farewell, Rebecca! Farewell!]

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #43

Junior and Moseley hop on and off the sidewalks of Miami, dodging traffic and shooting the walls...



... in George Armitage's (1990) wacky Miami Blues.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #42

Sam Spade responds less than sympathetically to Miles' death...



... in John Huston's (1941) Maltese Falcon.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #41

The sidewalks of a Mexican border down are saturated with life, death, and Charlton Heston playing a Mexican...



... in the famous opening shot of Orson Welles' (1958) Touch of Evil.

22.11.11

Signs of the Times #43


OPEN
[Sidewalk. Ran-Ham, St Paul.]

 Closing at 12pm
Saturday Oct 1?
for a Family Wedding.
Thanks.

[Location Forgotten.]


Uncle Moe's
Now
Hiring

[Door. Dinkytown, Minneapolis.]


Pumpkins --->

[Pole. St Anthony Park, St Paul.]


SKIN

[Asphalt. Selby Avenue, St Paul.]


STOP
[Octagonal piece of wood. West Bank, Minneapolis.]



FREE
Futon needs
lengthwise 2x4
support pretty
easy to replace

[Futon piece. Lex-Ham, St Paul.]

Stop for Pedestrians
SEE ME!

It's the Law

[Pole (obviously invisible to drivers). Snelby, St Paul.]


OUT
of
BUSINESS

[Door. University Avenue, St Paul.]


DO NOT BLOCK
EXIT

[And]

DO NOT BLOCK
ENTRANCE

[Ramp doors. University Avenue, St Paul.]

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #39

It's raining Stay-Puft Gozer on the sidewalks of Central Park West...



... in Ivan Reitman's (1984) Ghostbusters.

21.11.11

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #38

Kaspar Hauser is told to wait in the Nuremberg town square...



... in Werner Herzog's (1974) The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

10 Great Things about Sidewalks in the Wintertime

One of the more depressing things about our car-culture society is that it forces us to view wintertime with apprehensive dread. When snow falls, driving sucks. Ice and snow might double or triple your daily commute. Thus winter, for most people, is a slow torture, stuck in traffic,  wait for a car to warm up.  Winter is like being trapped on a remote island, eternally scraping ice off your windshield like an Eskimo Sisyphus.

Well, winter doesn't have to be that way. If you're walking and taking the bus as your main mode of transportation, winter can be delightful. There's nothing as wonderful as walking through a snowy evening along a well-shoveled sidewalk after the first snow. So, try and forget about your commute for a second, and stop and enjoy...

#1: Transparency

Because leaves have fallen are off all those pesky trees, you can see new things in the wintertime. You can see from the tops of hills. You can spot the birds in the bush. You can see the river from the top of the bluff, or the downtown skyline from your back door.

#2: You can see which of your Neighbors are Assholes (or Missing)
 
All of a sudden, you can see which of your neighbors don't shovel their sidewalks. Nothing says "asshole" like 9 houses with nicely shoveled paths, and 1 house with a 3-layer cake of ice.

Plus, you can find out which homes are foreclosed, for sale or vacant. Or if you're a mensch, you can shovel the walk for the old lady next door who never leaves her house any more.

#3: Snow Makes Things Look Pretty

Snow is what makes Bob Ross' trees so happy. Snow makes nice visual highlights on trees, railings, and eaves like so many little frosting hats.

#4: Sidewalk Snow Canyons

Once you get enough snow, you begin to develop snow canyons on each side of the sidewalk. As these banks mount ever higher, your street starts to feel snug. You begin to feel like one of the marbles in the Sesame Street 1-2-3-4-5 video. Alternately, you can pretend you're hauling a stagecoach full of gold through a bandit-laden Wild West canyon. Embrace the excitement!

#5: Footsteps

Snow on the street means that every passerby leaves little footsteps behind them. There are little cat prints, There are people shoes, dog paws, or the marks of unidentifiable critters. All of a sudden, your neighborhood doesn't seem so lonely.


#6: Shuffling Your Feet

Ice, if it's predictable, can be fun. You can slide your feet along and pretend you're skiing or skating. You can glide and shuffle and pick up some momentum and slide into the nearest fence. Wheeee!

#7: The Underfoot Crunch  

I love when you walk on snow and you get that slight crunch underfoot, that tiny squeak of snow compacting ever so slightly when your weight comes down.

#8 Glittery Reflection

Snow sparkles and shines in the sunshine. Frankly, this is amazing!

#9: Long Wintertime Shadows

Because the sun is low in the Southern sky, wintertime shadows are long indeed. They stretch out over the white topography like great grey fingers, reaching across yards and fields and streets, searching for something mysterious.

10: It's Oh So Quiet

And I think my favorite thing of all about sidewalks in the wintertime is how the city becomes so very quiet.

We tend not to notice all the constant city sounds all around us all the time. The sounds of cars and airplanes and exhaust fans are so ubitquitious, we almost never hear them any more, the whirrs and hums of engines fading into an invisible background.

Snow changes all this. For the first time in months, the soft blanket deadens the sound waves, and a blanket of silent peace falls on the city. The sounds of car tires is replaced by the gentle wisp of your own breathing, and the whole world seems to get a lot smaller. 

So, embrace the winter. Watch your step, be sure to shovel, and enjoy the snowy sidewalks.

[Even Mary Tyler Moore loves sidewalks in the wintertime.]

18.11.11

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Golden

Over the years the town changed a great deal from those early days. It had grown much larger, and was now a place of immense loneliness and institutionalized trepidation. People came to the town from all over the world to suffer; the place had become an international capital of anxiety, of waiting and fretting and fear that was mulled over and expressed in myriad languages. All of this suffering, anxiety, waiting, fretting, and fear was related to the mysteries of the human body and its frequently malign secrets.

[Brad Zellar, Hill Pilgrims.]


[Two men praying with a bible on a Minneapolis sidewalk.]


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