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December 1, 2009

Story of the Decade
Posted by Patrick at 02:09 PM * 90 comments

Really, it’s the perfect miniature of our corrupt time: the ultra-rich, aided by the cops, unilaterally privatizing what was once public. And calling it “counterterrorism.”

Comments on Story of the Decade:
#1 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 02:19 PM:

As the old saw goes: "Why am I not surprised"

#2 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 02:25 PM:

Perhaps the non-rich, non-well-connected citizens can watch the parade from the freedom cage down the street?

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 02:27 PM:

Apparently, judging from the article, great wealth is a disability and the police and doormen need to protect the area so that people possessing this disability can watch the parade without being trampled by the great unwashed able-bodied.

#4 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 02:32 PM:

On Thanksgiving Day, I was driving to Boulder Creek, needing to pee, and passed a public park with facilities. I was pleased until I saw there was a sign that said "park for Palo Alto residents and their guests only," and a guy with a ranger hat enforcing it.

This was well out of town, up Page Mill almost all the way to Skyline drive.

#5 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 02:35 PM:

It seems that the failure to understand the distinction between public and private works both ways. First we have to listen to people blathering on their cellphones in public, now this.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 02:49 PM:

That is SUCH bullshit. Someone needs to be prosecuted for this.

#7 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 02:51 PM:

Xopher (# 6) That is SUCH bullshit. Someone needs to be prosecuted for this.

Them that have the gold.....

#8 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 02:58 PM:

Sometimes I think it may be necessary to help along the forces of sympathetic magic. Counter terrorism my ass. If I can throw a molotov cocktail across it, the cordon isn't wide enough.

#9 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 03:33 PM:

Tim Walters @ #4, Doesn't Page Mill Road have the highest concentration of venture capitalists on the planet?

Could there be any correlation?

#10 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 03:43 PM:

Old William Kunstler would have been on this like expensive shoes on a cheap hood. (Isn't that the street that used to be on the north side of the old Engulf + Devour building?)

Apparently, there needs to be a lawsuit. And maybe some good old-fashioned action. And maybe not picking up the garbage at those buildings, particularly if left on that street.

Grrrrrrrrr.

#11 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 04:41 PM:

Linkmeister @ 9: That's Sand Hill Road, and on the other side of 280, toward (but not in) downtown, and right next to the Stanford campus. This location was so far up the ridge I was surprised to find out that it was within city limits. Still, yes, PA is rich, and apparently shamelessly snooty, and I think that the residents-only policy may apply to all their city parks.

#12 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 04:50 PM:

Tim @ #11, Ah, my memory failed me. Maybe it was the money market fund I once used that was on Page Mill.

#13 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 04:57 PM:

Believe me, it took a while before I could remember which was which--they're only one exit apart.

#14 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 04:57 PM:

Soylent Platinum! Now with more billionaires!!

Yum.

#15 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 04:58 PM:

Tim Walters — as someone who grew up in Palo Alto but now lives in Oakland, my immediate reaction was "disgusted but not surprised". Since reading this, I've been having idle daydreams about inviting a bunch of my oh-so-scary urban friends to go visit my dad (a PA resident) and hang out in the park being urban. Not doing anything wrong or threatening, just being obviously enough not from around here to cause the nervous suburban sorts to clutch their pearls.

By the way, EVERYBODY is welcome in Oakland parks. Harrumph.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 05:04 PM:

It's been that way at that PA park for at least 25 years.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 05:15 PM:

What about counter terrorism? The food is more likely to go bad on the table.

#18 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 05:20 PM:

Serge @ 17: That will only lead to counter intelligence.

#19 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 05:24 PM:

The counter intelligence will discover the food went bad because it was contaminated with a counter culture. This will lead to all counters (and cultures) being banned.

Cadbury.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 05:29 PM:

A counter culture contaminated by the spy who came in from the cold room?

#21 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 05:41 PM:

Cadbury, #19: Wouldn't that be counter-productive?

#22 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 05:59 PM:

Lee, Cadbury, I suspect that action would be contra-indicated.

("I love the smell of jargon in the morning.")

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:00 PM:

Lee, Cadbury, I suspect that action would be contra-indicated.

*points* Him! There! He's a Contra!

#24 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:06 PM:

Pointing North is counter productive. We have always been at war with Iran.

Cadbury.

#25 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:09 PM:

Rats![1] I meant counter_intuitive_ drat it.

Cadbury.
[1] Squeak?

#26 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:14 PM:

Tim Walters @4, various others: I can attest to that park having been Palo Alto residents only for closer to 40 years -- I rode a bicycle up there back when I was living at my parents' house in 1970 or so. And the land was gerrymandered out to there to cover it. On the other hand, the park appears to be maintained only by city funds, is quite large and spacious, and is not near places folks are very likely to go. This is very different from what Patrick is pointing to.

On the question of people with disabilities, and having a viewing area -- it's a great idea, but if the people at the gates are not telling people that's what it is (and the story says they were saying it was only for residents even though the cops said "disability" when one got high enough up the chain), it's not functioning as that. And a great many special needs (the more politically correct term) are not visible. I'd actually think that T's cataplexy could be a very serious need for a protected area so she wouldn't get trampled if observing a team of trained comedians with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth erudite verbal haze. But then that might not attract the same crowds of people as big bags of hot air or Fox news commentators.

#27 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:28 PM:

You know what really bothers me about it? The bs everyone kept feeding him, all evidence to the contrary. "Counterterrorism," "handicapped," yadda yadda.

They really do think the rest of us are that stupid.

#28 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:30 PM:

big bags of hot air or Fox news commentators

Redundant.

#29 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:47 PM:

PJ Evans #16:

Make that 28 years to my certain knowledge. It's a nice little park, but I don't remember it as having bathroom facilities--they must be somewhat newer. I rather suspect that PA put in limited entrance back during the 70s tax crunch, although there may have also been an issue of fire liability. It certainly kept the trails from disintegrating the way they did in, say, Wunderlich County Park off 84, although I will be the first to say that horses played a major part there.

I speak as a Palo Alto resident from 1981-1988, renting not owning. On two entry-level engineers' salaries, we never felt snooty or snobbish, just delighted that there was this nice peaceful uncrowded park we could use.

I always loved the sign at Foothills, right next to the lake, inveighing against "nondescript boats". I never could figure out what that meant.

#30 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:50 PM:

Oops, I somehow missed the first paragraph of Tom's #26. You clearly have a longer experience than I!

#31 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 06:56 PM:

I wasn't a PA resident, but the woman I was seeing at the time was (which is how I know what year was involved!). They didn't seem to worry too much about bicyclists.

#32 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 07:00 PM:

(And while some parts of Palo Alto are quite affluent, other parts are pretty low-income and dangerous. Entry didn't depend on what part you were from.)

#33 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 07:10 PM:

The only people named in the article were people who weren't on the street, denying access. The guys on the street (several police officers, two suited guys, a doorman) were not named. No names, no badge numbers, no precincts. They get anonymity. There's no downside to obeying rotten orders, since the only ones who will call them to account are the ones who gave them those orders. No one else will, no one else knows who they are.

The answers they gave, when asked about closing a public street, were ludicrous, but they were answers, and answers stop questions all too easily. The answers given by the named people, the ones who weren't there, were by comparison almost plausible. So there's a smokescreen being set up, one that protects the higher-ups. They can now say they were misinterpreted, can't get good help, whaddaya do, and so forth. But the thing is done, and done the way they wanted it.

I think we need more spotlights on the ones actually doing the dirty work, rather than trying to skip over them to get immediately to the bosses. It's not as effective to shine the light toward the bosses if you don't first destroy their cover.

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 07:20 PM:

Cadbury Moose #25: I believe that sort of thing needs to be countermanded.

#35 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 07:27 PM:

And, once more cheating by looking it up, the park was founded as a residents-only purchase in 1958. Here's the wiki article on it including the attempts to rescind the residents-only status.

http://www.paloaltowiki.org/index.php/Foothills_Park

#36 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 07:36 PM:

Hey His Excellency Mayor Bloomberg overturned by fiat twice voted in voter referendums on term limits.

This is why he has to remain mayor, so these anti-terrorists actions can be taken whenever so chosen, by fiat.

Love, c.

#37 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 07:41 PM:

We're really seeing the consequences of the last decades of looting and de-regulation which has resulted in the greatest transfer of wealth from the very many into the concentrated hands of a very few.

It's in our faces all right.

Love, C.

#38 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 08:42 PM:

LRE* my friends, LRE.

*Late Roman Empire.

#39 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 09:29 PM:

joann @ 29:

nice little park

1400 acres is a pretty big park where I come from.

we never felt snooty or snobbish, just delighted that there was this nice peaceful uncrowded park we could use.

I'm sure those folks on West 61st were thinking "I don't want to deal with crowds" rather than "OMG riffraff." But it's the effect that counts, not the feelings.

Tom Whitmore, various: This is very different from what Patrick is pointing to.

The only difference I can see is that anyone who pays for it is allowed to use it. I don't consider that much of a defense; it violates the fundamental premise of reciprocity that makes public resources work. If PA residents take an oath not to go to Golden Gate Park when they come up to my town, I'll give them credit for consistency, but that's it.

The fact that it's been that way since 1958 makes it worse and more suspicious, not better. Racial segregation was alive and well here at that time; Millbrae was a sundown town once. I'm not saying that's why they did it, because I don't know, but I do wonder.

The ecological defense offered in your link makes no sense; it would be just as easy, and more to the point, to restrict it to a certain number of people per day rather than by town of origin.

And while some parts of Palo Alto are quite affluent, other parts are pretty low-income and dangerous

I believe they've outsourced most of that to East Palo Alto (an adjacent but separate polity):

PA violent crime rate: 1.5/1000/year
EPA violent crime rate: 9.7/1000/year

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 10:51 PM:

Constance @ 36... these anti-terrorists actions can be taken whenever so chosen, by fiat

The Fiat is too good for that rabble.
Put them in a Pinto instead.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 11:01 PM:

"He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that? Why - here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You - you said - what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community."

#42 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 12:48 AM:

I see a fundamental difference, Tim W @39, in that the space is kept for residents all the time, not just when it's convenient. And if the desire was racial at the start, why wouldn't the whiter towns offered a chance to buy in have done so? Reciprocity of public goods only goes so far, as various water-rights wars have shown.

I don't know the history about when East Palo Alto became a separate municipality -- do you? Got a link I can check? I don't recall them being differentiated back in the early 60s (my parents moved to Los Altos Hills in 1959, and I grew up there -- I'm working from those memories).

I hear that you don't think it's different. I do.

#43 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 01:04 AM:

Tim Walters @39:The only difference I can see is that anyone who pays for it is allowed to use it. I don't consider that much of a defense; it violates the fundamental premise of reciprocity that makes public resources work. If PA residents take an oath not to go to Golden Gate Park when they come up to my town, I'll give them credit for consistency, but that's it.

Even if you accept that, there are two major, fundamental differences. NY is lying and probably accepting bribes1.

PA says the park is only for residents and enforces that it's only for residents.

NY says nothing beforehand, then just blocks the street off and tells anyone not on a list made by the wealthy owners of adjacent properties to screw off. When called on that claim, they say it was actually for the disabled, and pretend that what they are doing is okay. Furthermore, I'm betting that money changed hands between the rich people adjacent to the street and someone in the government, and in the case of the park I don't think any money (aside from standard taxation) changed hands.

The two are very different.

[1] Even if the money was paid to the city in an open manner, not just taken under the table, it's a bribe, they're just bribing the entire government instead of a single person.

#44 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 01:11 AM:

Serge @41: Sure, but George Bailey lived upstate.

#45 ::: Kevin M ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 02:32 AM:

I grew up in Palo Alto way back when the south end of it still had unpaved roads verging on fruit orchards. The story I heard was that the good folk of that forward-thinking university town thought that purchasing, annexing, and outfitting open space for the local citizenry's enjoyment was a fine idea. They asked around to all the neighboring towns, saying would you like to pitch in on a regional park? And they all said "Huh? Why would we want to do that?" So PA said, "Ok fine, be that way," and they wrote the ending to the story of the Little Red Hen into their municipal code.

Now almost all the people whose tax dollars went to buy that land and put up the restrooms and picnic tables and stock the pond with fish (not counting ongoing maintenance costs), have probably passed away or moved away, but the sign out front still says "Palo Alto Residents Only". But it was only later that the Stanford and Palo Alto milieux germinated Silicon Valley and all its "snooty" millionaires, so it's not really fair to blame that policy on the rich vs. poor thing; blame it on the progressive conservationist college students, professors, and other sandal-wearing residents who came before the rich guys.

It's an interesting question whether a public entity like a town has (or ought to have) a right to exclude non-residents from some of the facilities it operates. I don't know what the right answer to that should be, but I'm pretty sure changing the current policy wouldn't stand a chance against Palo Alto voters, and never would have after that first offer was declined.

(Disclosure: I used to enjoy that park a lot, but currently cannot because I'm not a PA resident.)

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 06:23 AM:

Matthew Daly @ 44... True, but the quote's sentiment, while geographically way off, remains spot on, I think.

#47 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 07:07 AM:

I guess we'd better give the public authorities more power and money toot sweet, so that they can adequately defend the little guy's rights against the evil plutocrats! Oh, wait a minute. Damn...

There is a short and ugly word for 'unilateral privatization', and it's what a guy is liable to be charged with when he decides to unilaterally privatize himself a slice of the Town Hall petty cash float - even if its custodian gets a couple of beers out of the bargain.

I should love to see a prosecution brought home in this case too, but I ain't holding my breath for it.

#48 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 08:06 AM:

Is it legal for residents in NYC to have a street blocked off like that?

It seems like the kind of thing no one might have thought it was necessary to make a law about.

#49 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 08:24 AM:

Is it legal for residents in NYC to have a street blocked off like that?

It seems like the kind of thing no one might have thought it was necessary to make a law about.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 09:54 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 48... I don't know if it's legal, but it sure is damned UnAmerican.

#51 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 10:18 AM:

Tom Whitmore @ 42: I see a fundamental difference, Tim W @39, in that the space is kept for residents all the time, not just when it's convenient.

That's one way to put it, I guess. I would say that institutionalizing it makes it worse, not better.

And if the desire was racial at the start, why wouldn't the whiter towns offered a chance to buy in have done so?

Could be anything from lack of money to lack of interest. I wouldn't regard this as evidence either way. That said, Kevin M.'s explanation is just as plausible as a racist one.

I don't know the history about when East Palo Alto became a separate municipality -- do you? Got a link I can check?

Incorporated in 1983 from previously unincorporated land, i.e., never part of PA.

Micah @ 43: Even if you accept that, there are two major, fundamental differences. NY is lying and probably accepting bribes.

That's a fair point.

Kevin M. @ 48: But it was only later that the Stanford and Palo Alto milieux germinated Silicon Valley and all its "snooty" millionaires, so it's not really fair to blame that policy on the rich vs. poor thing; blame it on the progressive conservationist college students, professors, and other sandal-wearing residents who came before the rich guys.

Even if your origin story is correct, the policy has been reaffirmed as recently as 2005, with a rationale that is transparent bullshit. I think it's perfectly fair to hold the current inhabitants of PA responsible.

#52 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 10:24 AM:

It is just possible that this situation with the blocked street was actually a cock-up rather than intentionally exclusionary.

It may be that the street was supposed to be be blocked for legitimate public good reasons (set aside for mobility impaired people or something) and the order to police to set up barricades was de-coupled from the reasoning so that the cops on site were clueless (and depressingly uncaring) about why they were told off to set up a block.

When streets are blocked off for any reason (roadwork, filming, festival), residents must still be granted access. The people who lived there could be expected to provide ID listing their address, but residents of the hotel would have to be vouched for by a hotel representative. Which would explain why the doorman was there, with lists of names. The doorman wouldn't care why the street was blocked in the first place; his only concern is to see that the hotel's guests weren't trapped on one or the other side of the barricade.

If that was the intention, there should have been signage there to explain the block, and it should have been there some days before. There should also have been notices in the newspapers about which streets would be blocked and why.

So either this street was meant to be blocked for non-evil reasons and the communication was messed up, OR it was mistakenly included with a list of streets to be blocked off, OR there was some sort of evil collusion between the city and the hotel to ensure only hotel guests were allowed on that street.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 10:30 AM:

Tim Walters @ 51... transparent bullshit

What's it refraction index?

#54 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 12:46 PM:

New York streets and sidewalks get blocked off for private use all the time, starting with movie and television and commercial advertising shoots. These are real pitas for those of us who live on those streets, particularly people like me whose neighborhood is in constant use for television series in particular. But cops aren't on the scene -- but your vehicle will be towed if parked there when the crews arrive, and it will be towed to you know not where and finding it is your own job.

Streets are always being blocked off for parades -- for example the latest Canyone of Heroes parade for the NY Yankees. This is also where the astronaut honorary parades took place, for instance.

In my own neighborhood again, the annual Village parade begins right where I live. Tens of thousands of participants and watchers crowd out those of us who live there, but nothing is done about that. Except, oddly this year, the block closest to the parade route was closed to viewers and residents alike -- which meant that particular subway stop was closed down too. The streets have been always closed to vehicular traffic, but now the street and the sidewalk were closed to pedestrians too. Surely all the restaurants there were furious -- unless, which this story makes me think, they had a reservation list -- one of them has an outdoor dining patio right there on 6th Ave from where the parade steps off.

Public space in NYC is becoming more and more encroached upon by commercial use, such as restaurants. Much space designed to be public, in return for tax breaks and so on for new buildings, is kept private for the use of the building itself. People from all over take over our sidewalks all day long for days at a time to sell their stuff -- making around this time of year, for instance 2 - 3 thousand a day -- but they don't pay any taxes. They jack into the electrical poles to light their merchandise and cool themselves with portable fans in summer and heaters in winter, etc.

Delivery bicyclists race down the sidewalks putting people like me in very real and constant danger of being run down.

Etc.

Everyone believes their movie is the only movie in town, and they are the stars and the rest of us just subsidiary images there is no need to even look at.

While talking all the time on the cell phone at the top of their voices, pushing their double wide baby stroller, pulling their roaming dog and getting very angry if you ask them to move so you can continue your own path.

Love, C.

#55 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 12:53 PM:

It's surprising Haber was able to get that piece published.

We don't hear about these actions and conditions much, since most of the media is now owned by the privatizers.

One wonders whether the baseless explanation of anti-terrorism was used because of how often and for how long streets and sidewalks, entire neighborhoods, get shut down here because the President or some other very high potentate is in NYC?

Love, C.

#56 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 02:02 PM:

Tom Whitmore (#26)

Curse you, Sir!

Now I'm going to have one hen, two ducks, 3 squawking geese, 4 limerick oysters, 5 corpulent porpoises ... running through my head all day (and night) long!

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 02:19 PM:

Craig, #56: The version I learned was 4 corpulent porpoises, 5 thousand Macedonian warriors in full battle array, 6 pairs of Don Alfonso's favorite tweezers...

#58 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 02:28 PM:

Craig R, Lee: The version I learned was:
one hen
two ducks
three squawking geese
four limerick oysters
five corpulent porpoises
six pairs of Don Alverso's tweezers
Seven thousand Macedonian soldiers in full battle array
Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of holy Egypt
Nine sympathetic, apathetic diabetic old men on roller skates
Ten lyrical spherical diabolical denizens of the dreary deep, all assembled at the corner of the quim of the quivvy of the quay (No, I have no idea about those first two qu- words, nor if I have spelled them properly; I'm going by pronunciation.)

#59 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 03:20 PM:

Carrie S., I believe 'quim' is a word for what are delicately called "lady parts."

'Quivvy' I could find only as a placename, and 'quay' is a wharf or bank. My guess is that 'quivvy' is being used as a word for a woman of easy virtue, possibly with the intention of slandering the inhabitants of Quivvy.

#60 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 03:35 PM:

I believe 'quim' is a word for what are delicately called "lady parts."

I have heard it used that way, but it seems out of context here: "the corner of the lady-parts of the (town of) Quivvy of the wharf"?

Doesn't work.

#61 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 03:38 PM:

The official Jerry Lewis site has the last as "Ten lyrical, spherical diabolical denizens of the deep who hall stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery, all at the same time."

#62 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 03:48 PM:

Craig R @56 -- at least half the trap worked! Now if I sent another group off snickering to The Space Child's Mother Goose's parody of "The House that Jack Built", my work here will have been done. (Snickers evilly, curling mustachio)

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 04:19 PM:

Carrie, I'm saying I think by 'quivvy of the quay' they mean "dockside whore." "Spherical denizens of the dreary deep" could be barnacles.

Or maybe it's just nonsense.

#64 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 05:17 PM:

The one I remember is:

One hen,
Two ducks,
Three squawking geese,
Four limerick oysters,
Five corpulent porpoises,
Six pair of Don Alverso's tweezers,
Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array,
Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt,
Nine apathetic sympathetic diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity for procrastination and sloth
Ten lyrical spherical diabolical denizens of the deep who danced all around the corner of the queue of the quee of the quay all at the very same time

A version of this is said to have come from vaudville, and/or claimed to have been a "cold-reading test" for a radio station announcer's job

#65 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 05:21 PM:

(and being able to recite that without needing to take an extra breath once got me a free beer in an eatery in Kill Devil Hills, NC)

#66 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 06:12 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz, #48, in most of the places I've lived, there are procedures to get streets blocked off for private use. Around here, it's mostly for 4th of July parties or Halloween parties and such, but there are certainly other reasons.

#67 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 08:46 PM:

66
My unfavorite occasion was a church getting one of the few through-streets in the area blocked for both Saturday and Sunday for a carnival. All four lanes of it. With a detour that was posted at the last possible location for people to turn off.
At least the local parades put up banners two or three weeks in advance, so you know to avoid the area on the one day the street[s] are closed.

#68 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 09:58 PM:

@62:

And, in the context of Parades:

"If you want to see the fascinating witches who put the scintillating stitches in the britches of the boys who carry the boxes of the powder for the faces of the wives of King Caracticus..."

#69 ::: Matthew Austern ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2009, 12:06 AM:

I looked up the history of East Palo Alto, because I was curious. As I suspected, it was never a part of Palo Alto. They're in different counties; I've heard of cities that got split up, often for less than noble reasons, but I've never heard of moving part of a city to another county.

The answer is there's been a town there for a long time, and it's had various names, but it didn't officially become a city until 1983. Before then it was an unincorporated part of San Mateo County.

#70 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2009, 12:14 AM:

#68 ::: Don Fitch

I learned it as:
The fascinating witches putting scintillating stitches in the britches of the boys who put the powder on the noses of the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caractacus, are just pass-ing by

#71 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2009, 02:16 AM:

Cambridge blocks off Memorial Drive from west of Harvard to nearly where Microcenter is or maybe even further east, on Sundays in summer. And it is a STATE road, not a Cambridge street.... ticks me off, for a state road to be a private city street mall, especially since Cambrige had semi-parallel Massachusetts Avenue NARROWED. Cambridge also had Memorial Drive by MIT NARROWED and the parking -removed-, something which benefits almost nobody--it's along MIT, and a few hundred if that Cambridge residents who are unaffiliated with MIT in one or two apartment buildings on the stretch of a mile and a half or so.... state money, to benefit the People's Republic's academic hatred. Most of the population of Cambridge is located not within walking or bicycling distance except for people who like to do ten mile bike ride and walks on a daily basis.... It mostly looks like SPITE at both MIT and anyone in the Commonwealth living outside of Cambridge, taking state taxpayer money and cutting accessibility for everyone other than a few hundred Cambridge residents who made the REST of the popultion for them to be specially privileged...

#72 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2009, 06:16 PM:

My city blocks off a main state route for parades and fairs and such, but it's already one way (street originally made immediately after the Civil War and became too narrow to go both directions without taking down historic buildings some time ago), the other way stays open, and a parallel street is open. There's plenty of signs for a long time ahead. I noticed all this today when I drove on it, and I'll have to plan not to drive on it Saturday because that's the Christmas Parade.

Oh, and blocking it off for the events brings in a lot of tourists and their money, so it would have to be really difficult to drive on those days before I got upset.

#73 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2009, 04:57 PM:

Our neighborhood has only one road leading into it which is very convenient for the cops when they want to set up a traffic stop to check for violations and such. It's not so nice when the local Christmas parade takes place. We had to argue for several years that they were violating our freedom to come and go by using all five lanes even though the parade used only two before reaching the intersection of our road entrance. What the police and city were doing put our lives in jeopardy because it delayed any emergency responses from reaching us and held us in our homes against our will. Since last year, they've finally realized that one lane has to be kept open for those in our neighborhood and a few others with a single entrance (exit) can still come and go when they want.

I can understand how the people being blocked off feel. They have rights just as we do. I hope someone sues the city and those responsible for blocking off that public road because it's not just the right thing to do but it's also a matter of public safety that the public road be available to the public.

#74 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2009, 08:26 PM:

Yesterday's WashPost reminded me that this weekend is Merry Old Town. Santa arrived by commuter rail earlier and there was free admission, music, and tree-lighting. Tomorrow is the parade (in rain & snow), and on Sunday, the shops have an open house with free carriage rides, entertainment, and pictures with Santa.

Dave Kuzminski, #73, we once had our Public Works director ask us to let them put a second way in and out of our two developments off a cul de sac, and we strongly talked him out of it. The real reason the councilman wanted it was so people could take a shortcut around a long intersection through our cul de sac. Like that would be safe. We do actually have a second way out -- the dirt road the city uses to manage the branch behind us. It's easy to get cars on it and it goes out a completely different way (not across the branch, of course).

#75 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2009, 09:07 PM:

I see that someone has beaten me to it, sort of (## 66 and 67). I was going to say that in most towns and cities, people can apply to the municipal government for a permit to close a section of a street for a block party, to which an admission is sometimes charged.

#76 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2009, 12:01 AM:

We have an interstate on one side, a swamp and forest on a second side, and a railroad on the third side. Another exit would require breaking through one of those especially since the swamp actually curves around to part of the front and part of the back where the interstate passes by. So a second road is generally far into the future if it's at all possible. Personally, I like the location as it is if only because we've managed to avoid a lot of crime even through we're not aggressively patroled by the police and we have a nice ecology to enjoy and we're a low to middle class neighborhood.

#77 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2009, 08:22 PM:

Funny, I'd never heard "One hen two ducks" until a rehearsal a few weeks ago, and here it pops up again!

I suppose now I have to quote one of the other things we use as a warm-up:

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!
To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!
A dull, dark dock, a life-long lock,
A short, sharp shock, a big black block!
To sit in solemn silence in a pestilential prison,
And awaiting the sensation
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

#78 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2009, 10:48 PM:

There we go; I had wondered where Kim Stanley Robinson got the phrase "a short, sharp shock" from.

#79 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2009, 11:50 PM:

As you know Bob, that's the end of one of the patter songs from The Mikado.

#80 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2009, 12:37 AM:

Stan might have gotten it indirectly, though, through Pink Floyd (the use there is probably a reference to G&S, but Stan's story is closer in style to the Floyd).

#81 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2009, 01:55 AM:

I recall asking him about it once at a signing at Other Change of Hobbit, and he definitely referenced Dark Side of the Moon. I don't think he was aware of the Gilbert and Sullivan origin. (Conversely, from the way the man on Dark Side was saying it, it seems pretty obvious to me that he was quoting.)

#82 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2009, 12:49 PM:

I should probably mention that at the first rehearsal where we did this, half of the newcomers picked it up right away...because it's a G&S company. :D

#83 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2009, 04:51 AM:

Hm. I learned it as:

One hen
Two ducks
Three squawking geese
Four limerick oysters
Five corpulent porpoises
Six pairs of Don LeFargo's tweezers
Seven thousand Macedonians dressed in full battle array
Eight brass monkeys from the ancient secret crypts of Egypt
Nine peripatetic sympathetic diabetic old men on roller skates, with a marked propensity for procrastination and sloth
and
Ten lyrical spherical diabolical denizens of the deep, hanging around the corner of the quay in a covey, quivering all at the same time.

I learned it as a youngster at Izaak Walton League Conservation Camp, which we of course called by a slightly altered name. (I owe that place a lot: it was there that I first heard of Fresnel lenses, first heard somebody quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail, first ate watercress fresh from the stream, and first fell in like with a very sweet proto-fannish type who wrote me letters signed with Elvish glyphs of his own adaptation from Tolkien. Andy, wherever you are, thank you.)

Back to the topic at hand, though: if it's wait until next year, does that mean some of us with disabilities should cheerfully inquire when we should show up to watch the parade there?

#84 ::: Jesse James ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2009, 12:25 AM:

I see no problem with this. When you pay that kind of money for a place to stay, you should be able to get first dibs on the street for watching a parade.

Actually, why do people even care about a parade? It seems a little retarded to get all worked up over a bunch of helium balloons.

#85 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2009, 01:39 AM:

Jesse James @84:
Operating on the assumption that you're not a driveby trolling with needless contrarianism:

The sidewalks are a public amenity. If private entities can refuse people the right to be on them on parade days, can they also refuse people the right to be on them on ordinary days? And can they use public employees (police officers) to enforce their privilege (in the literal sense of private law)?

The idea that the rich can co-opt public resources does not lead a place that looks like what we want America to look like.

And if you're dead to the joys of parades, do you really have to grinch up and sneer at people who aren't? Please name some of your pleasures so we can mock you for them.

#86 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2009, 06:20 AM:

#68, #70 (Don Fitch, Carol Kimball)

The final line of the version I learned was:

"Now if you want to take some pictures of the fascinating witches who put the scintilating stitches in the britches of the boys who put the powder on the noses of the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caratacus, you're too late! Because they've just passed by."

#87 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 12:39 PM:

#85: In making that assumption, you're a better person than I am, Abi.

#88 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 05:36 PM:

Abi is a better person than most of us.

#89 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 05:39 PM:

I've been telling Abi that for some time myself.

#90 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 05:41 PM:

Especially since Jesse James WAS a driveby troll.

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