Momus (aka Nick Currie), the postmodern David Bowie of our times, spends a hell of a lot of time in Japan. In this excellent piece, he carefully, lovingly deconstructs minor elements of social interaction and outlook, most of which underly the cultural differences between Japan and the West.
According to Currie, Japan's collectivist, role-based society is in reality much flatter and egalitarian (although it appears very hierarchical to our eyes) than our fragmented, unequal one. The difference is in our expectations and how we approach our social roles. If you are a janitor here, it is a pretty low ranking job. You dream of doing something better. In Japan, you are The Janitor. You embrace the role and do it to the best of your ability. And society confers not just legitimacy, but superlegitimacy on that role. Currie calls it a positive upward spiral, compared to the vicious cycle of disappointment and anomie that usually occurs in the West when we find out we all can't be astronauts and superheroes.
and on the subject of iCal...
It would be supremely useful to be able to just subscribe to a Via Rail iCalendar and get dynamic updates...and even have travel information updated blogstyle via RSS to advise people of delays, for instance.
Right now they offer a downloadable PalmPilot application and a proprietary Windows app, and database updates for both, but nowadays that seems so slow, static and clunky.
They could really update their booking process as well. After you experience a Rich Internet Application like the Flash-based iHotelier reservation system, the idea of going through multiple screens of forms only to find out you can't travel on that day is maddening.
Another thought: do any airlines offer iCal timetables?
Fobo in SODO
The ever-astute Nick Currie (aka Momus) notes in today's post the rise of Faux-Bohemian, or fobo, districts as a byproduct of "progressively-minded city councillors and real-estate salespeople," and how we have a love-hate relationship with such soi-disant "hipness." Here, he's writing about Barcelona:
"I knew the Calle Doctor Dhu was the epicenter of charismatic hipness because I'd found a reference to it on a Japanese website, and the Japanese always seek exactly this 'creative yet safe' sort of neighbourhood. You'll find them in the contemporary art museum bookstore. And there they were, indeed, at MACBA and CCCB, the two major galleries the City of Barcelona has placed in the teeming, multi-ethnic Raval district, the twin turbines of a quite conscious urban regeneration effort.
How many times do we hear of some rising urban area that it's funky, young, happening and vibrant, that there are lots of little art galleries, skateboarders and chic bars there? How many times do we arrive, breathless and expectant, in said area to see guys with baggy-ass jeans and carefully messy haircuts with something going on at the back leading expensively cute dogs through the streets? Skateboarders, graphic designers, street artists? We hate it, and we love it. We want to be a part of it, and we want to be indifferent to it, way ahead of its codes and modes. We want to live there, and also say we've lived there longer than the montebanks and arrivistes who now despoil it. We want to monkey, in other words, with the binary real / fake. We want to say that this area, even when constructed, as in Raval, by an elightened city council, is real, or, if not now real, was once real, and, if not now real, then bad and getting worse.
My abject confession recalls an essay I wrote back when I first arrived in New York, Fobo. Fobo is faux bohemian. As the fauxhawk is to the mohawk, so Fobo is to the Bohemian. A threat, and a guilty secret. In the essay I said I was hoping to find 'an apartment in an area which was once funky but is now just expensive, which was once creative but is now plastic, which was once a place of production (studios) but is now a place of consumption (boutiques)'."
Which kind of makes me think of this whole Canal area, now touted as being superhip (when it's really mostly industrial mixed with condos and old-fashioned poverty). The real-estate agents call it the Canal District now, easier to say and fewer negative connotations than St-Henri, Little Burgundy, Pointe-St-Charles, Griffintown. Maybe we should invent our own name for it: SODO, for SOuth of DOwntown. Or SODOM, if you want to add Montreal to the end of it.
To be paired with GMRA (the Greater Montreal Real-Estate Area), naturally.
New Jersey Boucherville & Laval
Today I visited
New Jersey The South Shore.
Now, before y'all get yer britches in a twist, yes, there are truly lovely places on le rive-sud like Old Saint Lambert and that bit where Blork lives, which are entirely sane, livable, normal places for humans.
But today we went out way, way, way past the cozy mazy subdivisions of Longueuil, Brossard et al and went straight for the jugular: Boucherville.
Namely, the new hyperdevelopment outlet mall that features an Ikea the size of Dorval Airport, a Structube, a soon-to-open Winners, La Vie En Rose, etc. etc. -- all in all, a tawdry, tarty roadside attraction that must have been virgin forest, or at least married-with-children farmland, a mere decade ago.
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New Jersey Boucherville & Laval”