Bit of cultural insight today while watching the morning news. The trains were on strike again, this time a very cheeky whole day and a half. Chilly newscasters stood outside the main train stations in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin, reporting that there was no one around to catch the trains that weren't there. But German train strikes aren't like French strikes, where you just might as well sit and have another cigarette and coffee 'cause you're certainly not going anywhere anytime soon. German strikes are considerate. They include free coffee. And oddly enough, some running trains. Our local newscaster, after breathlessly reporting that Munich was experiencing traffic delays of up to one hour (has anyone been to L.A.?) said that the S-Bahn in Berlin was running some trains at 20 minute intervals.

Twenty minute intervals? In San Francisco, MUNI, easily one of the worst public transportation systems ever, would consider this stellar service. Drivers would be awarded medals and certainly given a raise, another two months in holiday pay plus a few extra get-out-of-jail-free cards for running over passengers at will. There were evenings where we'd wait on the corner of Geary and Fillmore for an hour and a half before we'd even see a bus -- and when they'd finally arrive, there'd be three. In a row. The first one packed to the gills, as only he would stop; the other two would play drag racer behind the first one and never stop. Some evenings we'd just walk the three miles home. Because it was faster.

Ah, memories. Give me a German train strike any day.


retail ultraviolence

Oi. A retail outlet called Clockwork Orange, based in Ireland, was ransacked by mad shoppers in an overnight sale. The deal: one could purchase items like £300 leather belts for 5 quid, or some nonsense. People tore mannequins apart to get to the duds. Because really, "it's not just about fashion, it's about the life you lead, what you do and how you do it. It's about style," or so goes the shop's motto.

You can't but love such consumerist trash philosophy. Yet it certainly seems to be working. Lead on, lemmings! Burgess writes in his intro to Clockwork Orange (reprint 1986): "...by definition, a human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange -- meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with color and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State."