Friday, June 11, 2010

smart bus

(From yesterday) I have been entranced in my time by a couple of offhand references to fixed-rail road transport which traversed countryside; there’s a mention in E L Doctorow’s Ragtime that back in the whenever time he was talking about, you could just get off one trollycar and onto another and get right across the USA; I’m sure it’s not true but it’s cool. Then I just recently read Keith Waterhouse’s excellent City Lights, and he mentions trams that run all the way out into the country between two major cities (Leeds and Manchester or something) and all you had to do was traverse a little bit of countryside inbetween. I am way so into that idea. I also love the comic strip Toonerville Folks, which was beautifully stylized and so bizarre the idea of a little tramway that traveled through the countryside (though surely it’s about a commuter suburb? God, I have no idea). The driver of the Toonerville Trolley was like some kind of Casey Jones figure.

The Smart Bus, which I am taking this afternoon from Springvale-Home is a bit like that in a way. Being Smart it doesn’t think about A to B but about A to A.1, or A.5 to B-3. You could probably count on the fingers of one hand the people in Melbourne who have taken a Smart Bus the length of a route, and those that do probably expect (and for all I know get) a medal at the end. I’m traveling the bulk of it for experience and for educative purposes (mine and others’).

What I am not getting an education in is pop music. What is it with all this friggin’ Dire Straits on the radio? Hated them then, hate them still, well, I loved ‘Sultans of Swing’ when that came out, but the big news is, that was about 32 years ago, and I’m ready to forget it now. I could do without hearing ‘China Girl’ ever again too thanks if that’s OK. Coolly though I heard ‘Pasadena’ on the radio in a Doveton op shop this morning – still sounds great. I suppose it was John (Paul) Young’s version not Ted Mulry’s but for all I know it’s the same backing track. If I remember rightly the story is Simon Napier-Bell made the backing track out of a tape loop – such a cool mother.

I am presently in Doncaster. It’s a funny day, sunny and rainy, and cold, and hot. Just going past Manningham Council Chambers, which looks a bit like something out of Blade Runner. I have my crap spread all around me and I’m assessing some secret things I probably can’t blog about. Suffice it to say I’m getting out a lot of resentment I didn’t even know I had, and this is reminding me how important it is to be nice to everyone all the time, lest one day someone without your knowledge gets a chance to assess a grant application or something similar of yours.

My new thing is gauging locales by the names and amounts of wireless users in areas I pass through. Doncaster has TGIF Doncaster (which is ostensibly free to all users but isn’t coming across) as well as default-ap, ChrisGel, Sabre10 and ALISTVIDEO. (Going towards Manningham road another one came up: ‘australia’). About ten all up. I was explaining to a student yesterday (thinking out loud) how weird it is looking at your laptop when going through different suburbs – some have only a couple of wireless users (and they have names like ‘wireless’) and some have about 20. Near our house is a wireless user called Pugad Baboy.

As we move along Williamsons Road towards Montmorency/ Greensborough we find both David Cuthbertson’s Network, but also davidcuthbertson’s Guest Network. Lucky guests! Also something called Telstra8442. Then suddenly as we come to the Main Road roundabout we find only 3, inc. one called ‘groovenet’ and one called – imagination strikes again – ‘wireless’. Then there are about 15, including the splendidly titled ‘OurNetwork’. Hats off to those Nillumbik literal users. Then we come to Eltham station and the number of users explodes, to 23+ (I counted 23 and then the list got bigger).


danny said...

I usually only look at wireless names to see if any of them might be open ("default" is a good sign), but if you ever switch departments it sounds like you have a good cultural studies article out of this.

On another note, agreed on the problems with public transport music. I think there should be some kind of time constraint, e.g. must be a top-10 hit in the last 15 years. That gives plenty of flexibility to build a playlist but also consigns Dire Straits and their ilk to the dustbin.

Anonymous said...

I heard a similar claim on an urban design podcast recently. The claim was that, early in the 20th century, one could travel from Boston to Wisconsin via intracity train lines with a small gap somewhere in New York state.


Anonymous said...

How was the trip - was thinking of going on the bus - just for the ride!