Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   Generation Whippersnapper
Saturday, March 3 2007

setting: Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA

The weather continued to be spectacular, with Gretchen able to walk the dogs in nearby Sligo Creek Park wearing nothing but her pajamas and boots.

At around 3pm, Gretchen and I caught the Metro and rode it to the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, where we met Chris, the male half of the couple I usually refer to as "the Photogenic Vegan Buddhists from Woodstock." These days Chris is living by himself in Bethesda and working for the Humane Society of America, trying to build profitable animal-friendly companies (or whatever the appropriate verb is when a company is made to respond positively to capitalist forces). Every now and then he gets together with his equally-photogenic wife (still living in Woodstock), but for the most part he's been lonely in DC.
We walked around the exhibits until Gretchen grew weary of my evident museum-induced weariness, which she attributed to caffeine withdrawal. (I haven't regularly been drinking coffee, though I have backslid to the point where I drink many cups of Red Rose black tea every day.) We ended up in the museum café, where Chris and I enjoyed overpriced cups of black coffee while Gretchen and Chris had a conversation about starting vegan businesses that I found excruciatingly dull. I find the absolutism of veganism vaguely repugnant because it reminds me of the Christian notion of sin: that if you obey certain rules then you are free to do as you wish outside those rules. The world just isn't that simple. Everything we do has an impact on someone or something else, and the sinlessness that comes from refusing all food containing animal projects is a shallow achievement. I'm doubtful, for example, that it can compensate for the cumulative destructive impact on the biosphere that results from indulging a fondness for overseas travel.

Christ, Gretchen, and I took the Metro to the edge of the hip DC neighborhood of Adams Morgan and walked from there over to Gilley's apartment, which turned out to be a condo. It's a tiny little studio apartment equipped with a closet-sized kitchen and a slightly larger sleeping nook. Gilley isn't much in the habit of entertaining, but she had the basics covered: barely-audible music issuing from her iBook and glasses of either Scotch or Irish whiskey. Gilley works for some organization that is trying to save migratory salmon in the Pacific Northwest, so it turned out that she knew some of the people Chris knew through the humane society, which meant there was plenty for them to talk about, though little of it meant anything to me.
After we all had a good buzz going, we walked down to 18th Street in Adams Morgan and somehow got a table at Meskerem, Gretchen's favorite Ethiopian Resautant. We ordered a huge vegan injera-and-glops-based dish for four and managed to eat nearly all of it. It was noticeably better than the food we'd had yesterday at Langano in Silver Spring. The best evidence of this was that we continued to eat long after the platter had come to resemble a garbage pail. We also had Ethiopian beers, which were good but not spectacular.
Out on the 18th Street the Saturday Georgetown crowd was starting to roll in. They had their baseball hats on backwards and were ready - woo hoo! - to par-tay. Already someone had produced a piece of circular sidewalk art using an emulsion of masticated food, beer, and stomach acids.

We walked down to Dupont Circle and somehow ended up in a sex toys shop, where Gretchen got Gilley something for her and her boyfriend to try next the time they're together (which isn't often; he lives in Portland, Oregon). We also spent a little time in a bookstore that was jammed with young adults. Who knew such old information technology was so popular with Generation Whippersnapper?
Gilley tried to take us to a place called Cloud, a bar featuring actual beds for those craving a truely decadent Romanesque experience. But when we got there we found the place had recently lost its liquor license, perhaps because one of Adams Morgan's many examples of jailbait had been found in one of its beds.
Instead we ended up at the Townhouse Tavern, a genuine dive bar. When we arrived the place was nearly empty, but fifteen minutes later it was packed. The jukebox was some newfangled MP3-based device that blithely skipped back and forth across the entire width and breadth of pop music. I'm no fan of reggæ music, but (as Gilley pointed out) it's one of the few genres of music compatible with conversation over a wide range of amplitudes. You just have to know to speak on the off-beat.
Gilley saw us off at the Metro station at Dupont Circle. Chris, Gretchen, and I were all headed to destinations on the Red Line. But, though they are neighbors on the map, Bethesda and Silver Spring are at opposite ends of its U-shaped course. So Chris waited for his train on the opposite side of the tracks while Gretchen did goofy things like call his cellphone (which wasn't getting any reception) and tried to get him to shout across the tracks and leave a message in his own voice mail.
The first thing that strikes someone familiar with the New York subway system is how inexplicably clean and quiet the DC metro is. Why are there no black blobs of bubblegum on the platforms? Why isn't there a single coffee cup among the tracks?
The there's the strange advertising inside the Metro trains' cars. On our way back to Silver Spring, the advertising had all been purchased by Boeing, and it was all advertising a particular military cargo jet, the C-27J Spartan. It wasn't saying anything particular about the plane, just showing some pictures and saying that it existed. But who buys military cargo planes? Obviously, the answer here is the U.S. Government, either decisionmakers at the Pentagon or in the Congress. But congressmen and military brass wouldn't be caught dead in something so plebian as the DC Metro. These ads were apparently there to put bugs in the brains of lowly staffers for military brass and congressfolk. Such staffers bring coffee to meetings and take dictation for their important bosses. Presumably, whenever these bosses are at a loss for specifics, the staffers can pipe up with a recommendation, such as, "How about the C-27J Spartan? I've heard that's a good transport aircraft."
Another advertisement that took me by surprise and creeped me out a little was a series of blinking lights on the walls of the tunnel outside the Metro car's windows. These had been programmed to change in time with the passing of the train to make a simple flip-book style animated cartoon of a human figure climbing a ladder and perhaps opening a door. At the end we were told that the advertiser had been Microsoft, though I'm not sure what I was supposed to take away from the experience. It escapes me why Microsoft even bothers advertising, given that people never really have much choice when it comes to using their products.

One of several video installations in the American Art Museum. A video camera captured the image of the viewer and displayed it on the tiny television in DC's location on the map. Meanwhile, several larger television showed scenes from The Wizard of Oz in Kansas' place on the map.

An installation called "Waiting to Die."

A hyperrealistic sculpture by Ron Mueck. This woman came complete with a light case of acne and assorted blemishes on her legs, which did not, however, look to have any shaving stubble on them.

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