ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Sorry about Boston —

I live outside of Boston, but generally everything within the confines of the 95/128 ring road/interstate is considered “Boston” by the outside world. So let’s just say I live in Boston.

I actually have lived in the city proper, and a bunch of other towns with silly names that sound vaguely English and sometimes not, like Cambridge, Belmont, Waltham, Medford. I first started living here when I was 17, having been given a limit of about 150 miles to move away to college by my parents and shooting for the upper limit. I moved here for my freshman year at school and I never moved back, so here I’ve been since. That’s about 19 years, which is almost 20 years, which basically makes me a resident, and not some errant drunk tot belching out his undergraduate studies and considering himself a part of the elder gods of Beantown.

So let me say, for myself, speaking for whatever portion of the population I belong to: I’m really fucking sorry about this whole Lite Brite Bomb thing. Really sorry. Please accept my apology, my personal apology for this tornado of dumbassery and overreaction and move on.

Boston has some very, very stupid things about it. It’s terrified of 24 hour activity, so there are only 3 (three, I am saying) 24 hour eating establishments within the city and surrounding area. It is rife with corruption and misappropriation, and it’s almost impossible to negotiate its streets, even on foot, unless you’re a hardened veteran of hedge mazes.

And I fully admit that this place is totally capable of some very stupid “controversies” indeed, although I can’t remember the last time it got millions of dollars out of a company and the head of its president besides. In fact, as a measure of goodwill, I will remind you of one: the Super Soaker Scandal.

Back in the summer of 1992, a report went by that some kids in Boston were putting bleach or urine inside Super Soakers and squirting victims with them (Note to young readers; Do not do this). Additionally, there was a tragic case where a 15-year-old died when some waxbrian pulled out a real handgun during a supersoaker fight and shot him. There’s various ways a city can deal with these sorts of tragedies, from tracking down perpetrators to calling for programs to redirect youth violence in positive directions. Boston, of course, immediately sought to ban Super Soakers. Some stores voluntarily pulled Super Soakers off the shelves in a show of support for this misdirected hatred of big plastic squirt guns. (I, for what it’s worth, immediately bought 4.) It got as far as legislative bills being proposed before, you know, summer ended and nobody gave a shit anymore. We moved on.

So Boston has a history of this. It happens. I’m sorry.

BoingBoing has been particularly fanning the flames of insulting the city and slowly moving towards shifting those insults to people who live there, and as someone who has benefited to the tune of thousands of dollars from BoingBoing’s attention, I still have to say, it’s getting way overboard.

This is part of the problem with Boingboing’s structure, which often serves people well (consistent updates, strong characters of main contributors, mix of technical and organic subjects), but sometimes does not (almost no fact-checking apparatus, promotion of 3-5 year old stories as brand new, over-the-top black-and-white reaction to somewhat subtle and nuanced conflicts). In the case of Boston, we get to one of the core issues I have: bullying. Having posted well over a dozen entries about all possible aspects of this event, they’ve now moved into simply using “Boston” as an adjective for “Backwater”. “Wearing [light-up bras] in Boston could get you arrested.” and the like. Mean spirited and not appreciated, and when the next stupid thing in the world happens, the focus will shift there.

Please stop doing that.

My city has flaws, my city has problems, and as was just shown by this unintentional multi-city fire drill, it can go completely over-the-top bugfuck over what’s obviously a stupid misunderstanding. I’m sorry that everyone had to see this; it’s like having a drunken relative get into the paper. It’s just a shame it got all this attention.

I promise to stay my hand a little bit when it’s someone else’s turn. And, again, I’m sorry.

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  1. Nick says:

    I don’t really have much to contribute, as I’m not terribly emotionally invested in the whole thing. Heck, my only ‘experience’ with LiteBrite-gate was walking past a bunch of ATF officers standing around in front of the Planned Parenthood* on Comm Ave, not knowing why they had been there until the following morning.

    I have also noticed BB’s laser-sharp yet constantly redirecting focus. About a year ago, I nearly (nearly!) convinced myself to stop reading after they had posted “subway map remixes” day after day for about a week(?). Then they suddenly switched subjects and never looked back. However, considering that this is the largest complaint I can think up, they can’t be doing too bad for themselves.

    And really, with all this terror scare crap nowadays, its good to have some humor (intentional or not) come out of it from time to time. Especially when that humor ironically comes as a direct result of the local and national media’s fear mongering of the whole event.

    *Unknown if they were there due to it being a possible target or just a convenient place to stop.

  2. Dave says:

    As a reformed boston resident myself, i’m not really surprised by what happened either. Do you recall about a year ago, after a homeless man was stabbed, Menino called for a ban on knives in the city? not big knives, not stabbing people with knives, a ban on all knives.

    And do you know about the trailer that serves greek food 24 hours near brigham and women’s hospital? it gets shut down for health violations once in a while, but last i knew it was still there.

  3. Dan says:

    In the early years of the 20th century it was sort of common for people to mention, when trying to sell a book with controversial or racy content, that it was “Banned in Boston”.

  4. Nick says:

    Yeah, I remember my mom telling me about movies being “BANNED IN BOSTON!!”, typically horror flicks.

    Don’t remember hearing about the knife one (despite reading Globe 6 days of the week, we get them for free in my dorm), but there was something about a ban on tshirts which said “Stop Snitching” (telling police when witnessing a crime), which looked as though it was getting pretty far along at the time: (Globe story from 2005)

  5. Meh... says:

    Boston officials did something incredibly stupid. So now Boston and those who reside in Boston will get made fun of for quite a while. Thems the breaks dude, sorry if you feel so personally offended by it.

  6. JackG says:

    Dude, Boston has a west coast equivalent. It’s called San Francisco. Although I daresay I’ve never really heard how cool it is to live in Boston… San Francisco still has its ups and downs as far as that is concerned.

    But never ask people to go easy on your city, especially during times when it might not deserve it. I once asked the same thing of people trashing SF when they left in droves in 2001/2002 (a.k.a. the dot bomb) after raping and pillaging the city for several years. What I got was to be singled out by Nick Denton as being pathetic. After hitting him up about his comment, he claimed he was referring to “Pathos” in the classic greek sense of the word, somehow trying to contrive some literary sense into his obvious bashing glee. Whatever.

    Point is, don’t apologize. Tell ’em things like the lite-brite incident just gives your city character. Who cares if its nutty. Embrace it. Besides, you could always defend Boston by bashing San Francisco. Might work. Better yet, bash LA. That always works in San Francisco!

    By the way, I remember when CompuServe cost $6.50/hr for 300baud access via my C64. I win.


    Jack Greenwood
    Online since 1982