Friday, April 05, 2013

The Straight and Narrow on LA's Sharrows War - What?!?!

If you want to read the article this post is about: "The Straight and Narrow on LA's Sharrows War"

So I read the above article, and I couldn't help myself, but to write out the following rant.

Forgive me father, for I have sinned, I have ranted in a comment section...

Brief overview: Author Joseph Mallandar espouses that the city sharrow program is a "pacifier for newbie renters who just got into town and are spending their parents' pension", but also believes that the city should not continue to permit "more and more rentals and fewer and fewer single-family homes" and somehow that will address his complaint of the "increasingly higher rents".  Joseph also believes that the paint on the asphalt will "create more confusion" for motorists, in our billboard blighted urban swath.

Also, don't forget, the author of this article has written a book which is titled "Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013"  so I wonder what his feelings are about our city?

The inherent car positive intellectual bias reveals itself in paragraph 6.

"...[Ciclovia] blocked off streets paved for cars on certain days to bicycle traffic exclusively..."

The streets of any city were not "paved for cars".  Any city founded before 1900 paved its streets for trolleys and carts/wagons.  Streets were not made "for cars".  Streets were made to move people.  I recommend to learn how cyclists are the original group responsible for lobbying for paved roads in America!

Second, what does being a renter vs homeowner have to do with cycling?

"To me, there aren't many cyclists like Will and me, homeowners who still brave the streets.  To me, most of the cyclists are renters, and sharrows are a play to them, ... saying the City loves you, young renter person, even when it keeps permitting more and more rentals and fewer and fewer single-family homes. "

I have lived in LA for 5 years now (4 years in North Hollywood and 1 year (so far) in East Hollywood, and I'm not planning to go anywhere.  I'm working and spending my OWN cash, as are my friends.  Joseph implies in this article that If you weren't fortunate enough to be born 50+ years ago when one could actually afford real estate in Los Angeles without being a multi-millionaire, you are some being "played" to by the city government (because only HOMEOWNERS deserve representation and response from city government, right?)

Don't begrudge young renters for trying to survive in an economy that has left us moored on an island of student loan debt, rising rents, transportation costs, and shrinking job options.

I own a car, but if my job didn't require me to have it, you can bet I'd consider selling it.  It costs me an average of 700 dollars a month to own and operate a car in LA.  (Insurance: 200, Car Payment: 200, Gasoline: 150, Parking, Fines, Maintenance (avg): 150)

Let alone a 1-bedroom rental which costs me another 1320 a month, which I thankfully am able to split with my partner, each dropping 660.  Most American's don't pay that much of their income towards their mortgage payment.

Not to mention my 400 dollars a month I pay in student loans (which unlike in the past, cannot be discharged in bankruptcy!)   So please note that I'm already at about 1700 bucks a month in obligations and I haven't fed or clothed myself.

The city's new "Small lot ordinance" allows more single family condos to be built in LA, which is good, but I haven't seen one selling for less than about a million.  So hardly reachable by your average working person.  Building more individual homes would only drive rents higher, by limiting the number of rentals available.

To recap: Author Joseph Mallandar believes rent is to high, and the city should permit more single family homes (where?) and fewer apartments, because the rent is too high, and that if you are young and ride a bike you're probably living off your parent's pension.  And painting reminders to motorists to share the road will cause confusion and death.  Unlike doin nothing, which has been causing death for years now.

Sharrows do one thing really well--make drivers (myself included) AWARE that cyclists could appear and are on the road.  It doesn't mean that they will see us, or behave, but everytime I see a sharrow from behind the wheel, I think "huh, bikes could be on this street" and most motorists are not used to thinking that thought.  Just like how when the internet first came about, ads used to say "Type "w w w dot mcdonalds dot com" to visit our website" and now they just flash a facebook icon or a url--it is not nessecary to explain it, because we know all KNOW what to do.  But in LA, we still are in the training stage.

Every lane is a bike lane, so sharrows could be put on every street in the city and I think it would be fine and not cause "confusion" anymore than a dotted yellow line causes me confusion.


Anyway, what do you think?  Am I crazy to make this rant? :)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Students in AZ Punished by Holding Hands in Cafeteria... Wrong on so many levels.

So I read this article today:

Boys Made To Publicly Hold Hands As Punishment For Fighting

And it angered me, because it's wrong on so many levels.  So I posted it to my Facebook wall and a friend came back saying that:

"Some things are homophobic and some things are simply the way straight males are. Assuming the boys aren't gay then this was probably an effective "silly" punishment. Holding hands like that with another dude is awkward sauce in only the way straight males can understand, and it's unfair to label it as homophobia. This bothers me because it vilifies certain ideas, feelings, notions a straight male is supposed to feel. I think our society, in an effort to erase homophobia wants men to interact the same way women do. I think it's important to recognize where we're different too. Most women have no problem holding hands with other women. Most straight men would find this to be awkward in a lighthearted way and they may be perfectly cool being around gay men. It's not awkward simply because it's the same's awkward because it's not masculine. De-masculinity is an issue in our generation, so why are we trying to erase these feelings from our men? Being accepting of homosexuals and not fearing homosexuals is great and should be encouraged. As to students teasing "are you gay lolz?", it's honestly quite funny if directed towards straight guys. A friend signed my yearbook...."we all know you love the cock" I laugh at it every time. The insult is not that being gay makes you less than. The insult is that the hot shot straight masculine fist fighters in high school secretly wear pink underwear. It's a rare exercise in bringing guys like that back down to earth.....the level of the guys around them. Punishments like this are rare because our school's are so careful. How often do we get to use public embarrassment? Being gay is not what's being put to shame's tearing down their masculinity by accusing them of being the opposite of who they are in a humorous way to all who know them. I think the more we attack things like this we lose sight of what's really important, and the haters will just hate more if the innocent things are attacked. My 2 cents."

I understand what he's trying to say, but white straight privilege gives you odd blind spots into the lives of others.  So I replied, trying to help him see that maybe the punishment worked, and maybe the boys will laugh it off, but there are much more dire consequences:

"Everything you said rides on the assumption that masculinity is at least partially defined by lack of male physical intimacy. You say that the shame they felt comes from holding hands with another man because it diminished their masculinity.
But why?
Because we as a culture in the United States have decided it. However, in many cultures, men are much more comfortable being naked around each other, or holding hands or hugging or what have you, because that is not included in their definition of Masculinity. (In particular, male hand holding occurs frequently in countries in the Middle East, that are predominantly Muslim, and generally anti-gay, yet no one there fears for their masculinity.) No, this punishment is only a punishment because of cultural ideas about what it means to be a man and the subtext of weakness associated with that behavior.As a straight man, you can certainly laugh at the statement in your yearbook, but it isn't an identity that you are living--it's a joke. There are boys and girls at that very school, hiding in the closet, and trying to find the courage to be who they really are, but feel threatened because they see how their classmates treat these two boys for holding hands, even when everyone 'knew' they weren't really gay.
Imagine the fear an ACTUAL homosexual couple would have in that environment. One boy actually said in the video on the article that he skipped school the next day because the teasing was so bad. That's the REAL fear that young gay and lesbians have in these environments have. And it's not just kids teasing--it's sanctioned by the administrator of the school, whose duty is to provide for a safe, comfortable learning environment.
It's not a joke they get to laugh off.
In a few days or weeks, most of the kids will be back to arguing about which Jonas Brother is hotter or whatever kids talk about during lunch, but gay students will still remember how the teachers and administrators that are supposed to be there for them and educating them and providing for a safe learning environment encouraged students to taunt and tease classmates for exhibiting a stereotypically gay behavior. The principal picked holding hands because he KNEW it would result in maximum shame... but again, HOW DID HE KNOW THAT? Because it's a cultural understanding. Gay students now know how they will be treated if they ever express even the smallest display of their affections.I don't believe that the boys are personally homophobic for being ashamed to hold hands. That's not why this is wrong... It's wrong because they are ashamed to hold hands in the first place because they know as all school kids know, that gay people are fair game for taunting and bullying. Not a one of those students will get detention for picking on the boys, whereas if I started taunting a straight girl in lunch about how she was a slut and got a big group of kids around her and pointed and laughed and yelled and teased, you can bet we'd all be punished. It's a double standard the propagates the unwritten code of the school yard, that being gay is NOT OKAY.
The fact that a public school would allow kids to taunt and bully as a punishment is akin to teaching people murder is wrong while executing prisoners (death penalty) and fighting wars of aggression. It's counter productive and harmful to students who now know with certainty that their school is NOT a safe environment for them."

Do you think that makes sense?  I am close with this friend, and I don't want to be antagonistic--he's come around a lot from many open discussions we've had.  But it's really hard to fully grasp how behavior is learned by example when you don't get how anyone could see it as more than a joke.

I have a memory of riding in a van with a friend from church, and there was speculation about whether or not someone at another school was gay.  She said "He's Mormon, he can't be gay!" and it stung, because I was Mormon and gay, she just didn't know it.  But it sunk deep within me that she and other Mormons would never accept me as a gay man, even though it was never said explicitly.  Kids are like that.

Words do matter.  Why not make them stand in the middle of the cafeteria and apologize in front of everyone, maybe ending with a handshake?  That's pretty embarrassing to ALL teenagers, regardless of gender or orientation.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The NEW "HOT" (High-Occupancy Toll) Lanes on the 110 Freeway Cause Drivers to Bristle (But WHY?)

I've been arguing in the comments section of the article below, and it's exhausting.

12,297 Tickets Are Being Sent Out Because Of Those New Toll Lanes

I'm always amazed at how entitled drivers are about the new 110 "HOT" *(high-occupancy/toll) lanes. This is not double taxation. It's not a scam. It's not nickel-and-dime program. It's not going to "fail" like the red-light cameras. Why? Because the system allows road users to prioritize their lives with what they have more of—time, or money. Carpools are still free, you just have to spend a minute filling out the form on the website and "buy" the transponder for $40 dollars... which all goes onto the account for use as tolls. Therefore, the transponder is technically no charge.

Highways are NOT fully paid for by the gasoline tax, which is GROSSLY inadequate and has not been raised in 20+ years. Considering inflation, the tax accomplishes considerably LESS then it did back then, and should be at least doubled or tripled in order to actually generate enough revenue to put the Hig
hway Fund in the black... it's constantly being bailed out with taxes from the General Fund--which are taxes paid by all citizens, not just drivers... so who's really getting the free ride here? Motorists.

I'm happy that this is happening, because previously I was without choice when faced with a congested highway, but now, even as a single rider, I can choose to spend two different resources--money or time--depending on which one I have more or value less at that moment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Happens When You Take 3 Weeks to Write A Post

I think that when you write a blog, the "Title" box should be below the entry. I mean, many times I want to blog but I don't know what direction the entry is going to take--I'd rather sit down and let my fingers become one with the keyboard and just let my thoughts flow forth in all their random glory. And then see if there is anything meaningful in it. [EDIT: You can now see from the title why this opening paragraph makes sense to me]

Which many times there isn't, but people who care about me seem to still appreciate reading my words to feel comfort that I'm still indeed, alive, and not a false internet persona being perpetuated by disturbed trolls working under the guise that I'm important enough to convince the world that I'm still alive.

(I am still alive.)

What has been going on otherwise? Well, my boyfriend and I have had two very very different and very awesome weekends.

A few weekends ago we stayed in LA and did very domestic things--shopping, cleaning, cooking dinner together and just being a couple. It was very nice because we've been together for 15 months now and we still just enjoy each others company.

Then Easter weekend, while I was still at work, I started getting communiqué's from all sides--texts, IM's facebook pokes--about Wil having a great idea he wanted to share with me.


And somehow, I found myself released from work early, at about 3:30pm, to rush home (Wil had already spent much of the day tidying the apartment so we wouldn't leave a mess for our roommates) and pack for the 5 hour drive to Las Vegas.

It was so crazy to realize that we are both successful enough before 30 that we can just randomly decide to go to Vegas and have a weekend there. Wil got us an amazing room with the most fantastic view of the Bellagio fountains, and we spent our day relaxing in the room, eating McDonalds and Todd English in the same day.

Oh, and we went to the spa, used the dry sauna, the steam room, and the hot tub, and then Wil sprung for a couples massage... it was incredible.

We must have looked so cute because on the drive home, we passed a red convertible with four cute gay guys in it. They looked at us (it was clear we were gay and a couple by our HRC and No on Prop 8 Bumper sticker) and smiled, and kept looking. It was fun.

The humorous thing was that we lost sight of them outside of Vegas but when we got into LA, they had caught up to us and waved again. ;)

It took me weeks to write this entry. Perhaps I need to realize that blogging is something timely and topical and that I should try not to put off my updates so often.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ciclavia 2 and other thoughts

I haven't blogged in a long time, and perhaps it's because my standards got too high. Perhaps I felt like I had to write really well to make people want to read.

But in reality, I don't need to write well. The writing is merely an exercise for getting my jumbled thoughts straightened out it my head.

You see, I used to journal. Yes, it's dorky. Yes, Doug Funnie was the last character on TV I remember doing it. However, I journaled most of my life. Especially the hard times. That's what journals are for I think. Helping you cope through the hard times that inevitably rear their heads.

Yesterday I brought Wil out for CicLAvia 2, the second CicLAvia event in Los Angeles history. I attended the first one and I tell you there was a palpable peace and joy in the air that day. Wil, being from Holland, knows first hand how amazing bike transportation can be, and I was thrilled to show him a side of Los Angeles that sparkled--thousands of people riding together for fun, being courteous and peaceful.

When we got there, he was initially concerned about the festival-like atmosphere at Heliotrope and Melrose. We had to get off our bikes and walk through the crowd.

But his excitement rose when we started down Heliotrope--suddenly the sounds of busy LA faded and the air filled with whirring bicycle tires, laughing people, and thousands of smiles. It was amazing.

Being the second time this ever happened, I expected it to be bigger, but it was easily 3-4 times bigger. Articles I've read this morning claim "130,000" which means either the numbers for cicLAvia 1 were grossly over estimated, or the new estimate is about 170,000 short. If CicLAvia 1 had 100,000 people as claimed, then there were easily 300,000 this time. I personally brought 3 new people, and almost everyone I know brought 3 new people, so... you do the math. This paragraph is long enough.

We rode all the way to Hollenbeck park, enjoyed a Coca-Cola (with real sugar in a glass bottle!) and headed toward little Tokyo to enjoy Shabu-Shabu house.

We go to the Shabu Shabu House almost every weekend. The owner recognizes us and always is so friendly--he even gave me a delightful dose of manzai humor. It went like this:

Him: You bike here?
Me: (Observing that we usually have to wait 45 minutes to eat and but we were seated immediately) Yes! The event is going to get bigger so you will have more business!
Him: Oh No! (Complete with genuine concerned look)

Yeah, I thought it was pretty hilarious too.

Anyway, we ate quickly and got back on the route. But immediately there was more tension--there were more people being snide and talking about others around them. On girl even remarked that she felt on edge the whole time because it was so crowded.

As I dived west on 6th, I spotted a Bank of America, and I'd been meaning to get some cash. So I announced to Wil that I was going to stop. So I moved towards the middle and went to flip a u-turn.

That's when I cut off a cyclist going very fast. He was apparently passing me on the right and I turned in front of him. He hit my back tire and flew over the handlebars, landing in the street. I ran over and asked if he was alright, and profusely apologizing. He yelled at me that "Sorry isn't going to fix my shoulder".

I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. The cops made us exchange information, and he was generally a pretty good sport considering he had dislocated his shoulder. He joked that he was going to have to go to Prada to get a new suit (because his arm was now longer from being dislocated)

Anyway, my back tire rim was warped, so I was able to ride slowly to the next ride line station and hop on the train. I was silent and on the brink of tears most of the time. Wil knows me well enough to not try to talk about it, so we rode almost all the way home in silence. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed.

Spent most of the day after that feeling guilty, like a fool, for causing someone else in-advertant bodily harm. It took me a lot of time to relax and start forgiving myself. Even now I feel so embarrassed I don't want to ride anymore.

But then I remember the words that he actually said before he climbed into the ambulance: "Don't stop riding because of me". Because he wasn't mad at me and didn't hate me. He hated the pain he was in and that I'd been a bit careless, but he didn't want me to get afraid to get on my bike because of something like this.

So I am glad he said that. I pray that he will be understanding and will not sue me.

Anyway, CicLAvia is already to crowded on its current route. We've gotta have more room to fit all the people!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Analysis of "Tap to the Super Highway"

Tap to the Super Highway is a song written and performed for the 1997 Film "The Brave Little Toaster To The Rescue" in an attempt to explain the future of networks and computers as tools to enlighten and connect humanity. The upbeat soulful energy of the song is paired with anthropomorphic computers, modems, speakers and keyboards that dance and sing, lead by three Macintosh Powermac G3 computers. The well-endowed "girls" (computers with floppy and compact disks sticking out at key points) sing louder and higher with praises of a new system of communication, a language as close to Telepathy as may ever exist.
 They belt out promises of a utopian network of humans, where "no one ever has to feel alone". But through the lens of 2010, the true prophecies and promises of Tap to the Super Highway have become clear, a future world of physical isolation where human interaction and touch is all but eliminated, our natural desire for companionship sublimated and supplemented ad-naseum by unfeeling machines.

The song opens when the computers literally BREAK DOWN the door to the room, barging in uninvited, which is obviously a reference to the rapid appearance and adoption of the internet. Initially, the internet was mostly text based. IRC clients allowed users to chat and view text based sites, but this required a higher level of computer savvy to navigate than most people possessed.
Therefore, the early internet banished the "stupid monkey" users by virtue of it's complicated nature. As time progressed, the internet became "kinder" allowing the average user to make himself "a little smarter". The monkeys were let out of the cages when the internet became more a intuitive point-and-click interface. Now, the internet is a wash with people spouting their opinions on forums and comment sections who never would have had the intelligence to make their voice heard before. Now, they are suddenly placed on equal footing with their intellectual superiors. 
It degrades the quality of the internet because anyone can write an opinion (myself included) and it is just as easy to access and read as a collegiate dissertation on the same subject. Therefore, the internet has in some ways made it easier to find information, but harder to find facts and truth.

The song also tackles media sharing and social networking sites and their effect on our creative expression and personality.

The yellow electric blanket (Blankie) dances before suddenly being sucked into a printer, which then shoots out several color copies of Blankie in various states of dance. While perhaps just a cute thing to depict, from a 2010 perspective, the photocopies easily represent how our reality has been sucked up by our online identity. Social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace have boxes where you list your former interests--the things you did before you spent all your time on the internet, writing about them. They allow you to upload pictures of yourself doing the things you used to love doing--before you became sucked into the digital realm, your real existence replaced with facsimiles of reality, your avatars, accounts and logins.

Vacuum attempts his own self expression through dance. However, he turns and is horrified to find that he has been videotaped, and his silly dance has been replicated on a wall of screens behind him. He is ridiculed by everyone else for his expression. How many viral videos have originated organically from self-expression or utility, and shared (often without permission of the creator) on YouTube? A classic example of this phenomenon is Aleksey Vayner, who created a 6 minute video resume which he sent in with a job application. The video began making it's rounds through e-mail and in spite of being confidential material, someone uploaded it to Youtube. (You can watch the videohere, as it is no longer on youtube.). It has spawned parody and ridicule. Later Vayner appeared on MSNBC and stated that the video was never intended for public consumption. Yet in 2010, it seems everything must be shared.

On of the most startling lines of the song is when they sing "we lead the way through the great unknown. to a nation of our own. where you'll know what she knows and she'll know what he knows! and no-one ever has to feel alone!". The visuals depict a girl sitting back to back with a boy, both using computers, before pulling out to reveal many users, all tapping away on their keyboards, physically isolated from one another.
 How exciting that must have seemed at the time! But now that we have arrived at that point--that time "where no one ever has to feel alone", we are often left pining for the "good old days" where you were actually able to be alone! With cellphones, personal computers and wifi, we are never disconnected from our constant state of conversation with our social network, yet we rarely spend any physical time with most of them. Why bother meeting someone to discuss the days events when you can live tweet your every thought to the whole world. It's so much more effecient then arranging a physcial get together. Which means that when we do meet our friends, there is nothing to talk about. We are already acutely aware of our friends' every thought.

While it's obvious that this song was not made or animated to be a stark prediction of the future, it has become an artifact that represents our expectations of a new technology. Looking back, we see how their expectations came to fruition, in both good and bad ways. Sites like wikipedia have made knowledge easier than ever to find, which certainly benefits our society. Youtube has pushed the envelope of entertainment--allowing a home movie classic like "The Brave Little Toaster To The Rescue" to live on and have new life. We can't live without the internet, yet it isn't the dream we had either. We're settling comfortably into the digital age, and we are already able to look back and see how far we've come, and what promises were kept, and what ones were broken.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Immigration Commentary

It's very easy to get sucked into vitriolic debate regarding immigration. I can't afford my sanity, so here is all I'm going to say:

People don't hate illegal immigrants, they hate POOR PEOPLE (real or perceived).

As illegal immigrants from Latin and South America are typically poor (or perceived as poor), people want them gone. We've been taught that poverty breeds crime, vagrancy, homelessness and decay. Sadly, poverty and racism are very close cousins, as people and employers know when someone is illegal, they can't complain if they get less than minimum wage. They have no rights. And so they know they can get away with wage slavery.

Illegal immigration is bad for the immigrants and the American people, but so is AZ's new bill.

I hope and pray we can find a solution that slows/stop illegal immigration without infringing on the rights of our fellow Citizens civil rights.