Front row, from left: Stevens Brosnihan, Amanda Cook, KT Toomey; back row: Adam Kuhlmann, Jeremy McKeen, James Dowd, Len Pallazola, and Brooke Welty
Tag Archives: James Dowd
GloucesterCast With The Clam Creator James Dowd and Host Joey Ciaramitaro Taped 5/17/14
James Dowd And KT From Big Mike’s Bikes Have Started The Clam and Y’all Really Ought To Check It Out-
James Dowd Breaks Down Our "unoffical" just-for-fun completely non-scientific poll (Surprise Our Margin Of Error Was Better Than Gallup)
You guys aren’t going to believe this-
But your average margin of error for your “unofficial” just-for-fun completely non-scientific poll was 2.48.
That’s better than Rassmussen
That’s better than Gallup
The only four errors of the poll were, and I predicted two of these:
-undershooting Romero: anybody knows that the Godmother is Queen. A huge portion of her people don’t take online polls.
-overshooting Lundberg- He still did well, but your sample favoured him higher than reality.
-Kimberly was a fluke, possibly due to her association with GMG. Known online but not IRL perhaps
-Favazza fizzled. The surprise of the night. Don’t know what happened there.
BUT OTHERWISE THIS THING WAS SO FUCKING SPOT ON
And the two big errors were easy to spot.
Here is the spreadsheet where I take the raw GMG numbers and compare them on the left to the outcome. On the right, for fun, I took the GMG numbers and then try and “correct” them- I did this the day before the election to see how accurate I could be, if I could improve on the raw. It turns out, if you were betting- GMG came in at a 2.48 margin of error, and my “corrected” numbers at 3.78 in the candidate-based questions. You would have been better off going with the GMG raw even thought it had some obvious errors like the Romero whiff and over-reporting/under-reporting support for some school committee candidates. GMG also loved it some Lundberg more than the rest of Glocuester, but it didn’t matter in the outcome.
My hypotheses as to why this is revolves around the fact that GMG probably accurately reflects the opinions of a large class of “likely voters” and is therefore more likely to push through the noise with it’s large sample size. It’s limits might be that it underepresents SoRo (south of the Rotary) to the favor of Eglo, Magnolia, Wheeler’s and outsiders. But still- 2.48? Amazingly close predictor.
Jim Dowd submits-
I want to talk about an ugly word in the English language that’s come back into common usage. It’s a word that ends in “er” and is thrown around as a blanket descriptor to disparage a specific population of people. Usually it’s spat out of a passing car window or muttered under the breath as it becomes noticeable this group has taken over a favorite café or bar.
You hear it out for a beer with your once-cool uncle, the guy who dropped out of college in the seventies to follow The Grateful Dead. You assume he’s a tolerant dude, but as it turns out, oh no. He leans over to you and snarls through his Sam Adams, “Can you believe all the fukin’ hipsters in this place?”
Yes, I’m taking on the pejorative overuse of the word “hipster” which many of us knew before it got popular. For years it was a way to explain places like Brooklyn, Seattle, even our own Davis Square in Somerville. It described cities with large numbers of young people; places with organic art and music scenes and certain cultural touchstones like independent theatres, small coffee shops and used book and record stores. Those are the things that make a place “hipsterish” or as I call it “worth bothering to live in.”
But increasingly of late I hear more and more people hating on the actual members of this rather large and ill-defined sub-group, the hipsters themselves. They bash the hipsters’ choice of jeans (skinny) hipster’s facial hair (moustaches or beards) and the hipsters’ preferred form of transportation (fixed-gear bikes or “fixies”). It’s kind of relentless and a little bit lame considering many of us participated in the fashion apocalypses of the 70s and 80s. Hypocrisy aside, I’m not suggesting we avoid clowning hipsters because of some dumbass PC thing. The reason we can’t bash hipsters is, as the hipsters say, “Because Gloucester”.
Seriously gang, we are in no position to down hipsters seeing as Gloucester very simply is the most hipster town that’s ever existed on the face of the Earth. We make Portland Oregon look like frigging Wenham. Gloucester is so hipster we should have a giant fedora lowered onto the City Hall tower. So hipster that someone here driving a K-car wearing a silkscreened wolf sweatshirt with giant 80’s glasses ISN’T TRYING TO BE HISPTER. Let’s examine further, shall we?
Dive bars? Check. Thriving arts community? Check. Music scene that’s more than just a bunch of old dudes with ponytails playing three chord cover songs in lame bars? Check. Vintage vinyl outlet, bike shop, Thai food, sushi, indie bookstore, organic grocery, farmers’ market, coffee shops and other key elements of hiprfrastructure ? All check. Unapologetically gritty? Big fat checkity-check-check.
But most importantly the things that hipsters celebrate, the retro-style cultural items of the 70s and 80s never actually went away in Gloucester. Moustaches, for instance. We still got ‘em, unironically huge ones proudly sported by awesome Italian guys. Beat-up old cars and trucks from that era are still “in vogue” here; if “vogue” were translated to mean “I am keeping this POS running one more year, but only as an on-island.” Beyond appearances, for 400 years we’ve been a kind of “anything goes” culture. Everyone has permission to be a little nuts and oddballs of all stripes suffer no consequences. Far from it, being a whack job can be a badge of honor in “America’s Oddest Seaport”
Scroll up and down. A solid chunk of the stuff that gets celebrated on GMG is crazy-totes hipster. Photography, art, food, film, poetry and literature all = hipster. And I shouldn’t even need to point out that adults playing dodgeball in the winter is only slightly less hipster than donning a vest and joining Mumford and Sons as a back-up banjoist. You couldn’t invent a more hipster place if you tried, from historical art colony to ethnic identity to the fact that our key export is fishsticks, unarguably the most ironic food item ever produced.
“But what about the annoying skinny pants and the fixed-gear bikes?” In response to that complaint all I can ask is: Yell at clouds much? Because being vexed at other people’s fashion choices in no way makes you seem like the kind of person who would shout gibberish at the sky while shaking a cane, really.
The next criticism leveled at hipsters stems from the hallmark hipster “sarcastic and ironic attitude”. Look, every conference I go to for work is chock full of top strategists and analysts from business, science and the military. On the first slide of the presentations they give, we attendees are always informed that none of the old rules apply in the 21st century. They tell us that we simply don’t know what the new rules are yet. I won’t go off on a rail here, but young people already know this. They can tell that we, the responsible people who are supposedly running things, in fact have no fucking clue how to solve our problems when we even admit we have them. Irony and sarcasm then would therefore be what are called “emergent” properties.
I would further argue that the distinctly ironic bent to the hipster worldview is an entirely logical response to knowing they are being fed consistently incorrect and skewed information from the culture-at-large. Take a cold, hard look at the outdated assumptions we ask people to accept about everything from government to religion, from finances to the supposed benefits of consumer culture. Then look at the outcomes we’re experiencing. Sort of makes you want to drink cheap beer and listen to Death Cab, right?
But sarcastic or not, Gloucester fans and especially GMG readers should pray for a never-ending supply of Yo La Tengo-listening, four-barrel-espresso drinking tat-sleeved hipsters of the first order. If you love this town and what it represents you should get your ass down to Coolidge Corner and lay a trail of PBR tall boys and packs of American Sprit back here like a secret hobo trail. You know why? Because hipsters actually buy art. They spend seven bucks on coffee. The frequent both microbreweries and dive bars. They’re foodies but at the same time eat from taco trucks. Hipsters rent bikes, go to poetry readings and don’t get all pissy about a bunch of rotting fishing gear piled up on the waterfront. They instead post Instagrams of this gear with the caption “Spending a day at the seaside”.
For every groovy restaurant that cannot survive on locals alone the answer is some flavor of visiting hipster. Locals can only buy so many objects d’art, can support only so many coffeehouses and will attend only a set number of photo exhibitions. If we want to move toward a creative economy we have no choice but importing cultural consumers. Look at what hipsters have done for the emerging scenes in Salem and Beverly. Both are getting hipper, you can see previously broken down neighborhoods sporting new cafes and shops because instead of going to malls hipsters seek authentic local culture. We can argue about the cod population off the coast, but a land-based resource Gloucester still maintains in huge stocks is persons of authentic indigenous “color”, just read the police notes. We need to start capitalizing on it.
“Isn’t this gentrification?” No. It’s not gentrification. Gentrification is townhouses, Starbucks, lame chain restaurants like “Not Your Average Joe’s” (correction: It is) and dudes in khakis that list the primary attribute they look for in a city as “abundant parking.” Hipsters don’t mind the rough edges and Gloucester has plenty. If you harbor an unreasonable hate for bikes, art-school-dropout-glasses and anachronistic hairstyles, tolerating them will be a small price to pay for visitors who’ll come downtown and spend eighty bucks on coffee, pie and locally made/vintage consumer goods. That money stays in town.
In closing, I’ll relate a discussion I had with my Irish cousin Chris about the then thriving city of Dublin. I was complimenting him about what an amazing job they had done keeping a heavy Victorian feel while so many other European cities were modernist dullscapes of concrete and glass, completely lacking in character of any kind (I used to go to Frankfurt a lot). He looked at me like I was some kind of moron and said, “Well it wasn’t some kind of preservationist council at work, James. We were fekin’ poor.”
Gloucester is not poor, nor rich nor is it anything easily definable. But like Dublin one way or another we held onto our undeniably authentic selves while so many other places became emblanded. Therefore we should heartily embrace those who put the most value on us as we are today, not as how we would be if we…(insert pet project).
So though it’s not a mainstream thing to do, as a start I’m asking you that the next time someone with tattoos from out of town is taking pictures with an instamatic camera of the same kind you threw out of your mother’s attic twenty years ago, don’t sneer and pretend you’re some kind of “normal” person who isn’t “weird”. Instead go up and say, “Thank you”. You probably have more in common with them than you realize.
Because, to somebody, you my friend are a fukin’ hipster.
Here is my latest screed on cycling in Gloucester. I had the Big Mikes folks build me “The Ultimate Gloucester Bike.”
Hope all is well!
James Dowd writes-
“Make it look shitty.”
For those of you who have been following my Fifty Shades of Grey-esque relationship with Gloucester cycling, above is the first instruction I gave to the crew over at Big Mike’s Bikes when I tasked them with building me a custom bike from scratch.
“I want even the most hard-up thief to pass it over in favor of fishing pre-scratched lotto tickets out of the trash. I want the bike to give the impression that the owner dug it out of a pile of dredging spoils from a particularly nasty canal.”
“Can it have surface rust?” Mike asked. I think this was just an attempt to gauge my seriousness in this somewhat odd request.
“Can it? CAN it have surface rust? Michael my good man, if it does not have surface rust we’re going to have to ship it to Hollywood in order to have the professional prop distressers who worked on the Statue of Liberty for The Planet of the Apes have a solid go at it, savvy?”
They savvied. Oh, and how did they both savvy. The whole point of the surface rust was a key component in my secret plan to create the Perfect Gloucester Bike™. A bike that would have the following characteristics:
1. It must not present an attractive theft target to the station-zombies who have already sullied two of my nicer-looking locked bikes left there during my work hours up the line.
2. It has to be durable enough to manage the series of shell-craters and trench networks that pass for roads in our beloved burgh. Prospect Street, part of my commute, currently feels like riding from Lens to Ypres somewhere around 1915.
3. At the same time it would have to be fast enough to outrun the enraged pitbulls and their cleaver-wielding owners, maneuverable enough to evade the erratic traffic during prime self-medication hours and must be an overall a good enough ride to make it all worth it.
“No problem,” said Mike and KT. “Really?” I asked. “Really,” they said. “Really really?” I asked…they both stared at me. Conclusion: the Big Mike’s Bikes crew are very sweet, but are not to be trifled with when bikes are the topic.
And ooh, dawg, were they right. The work of sheer brilliance you see depicted above and dubbed “Professor Farnsworth” is the ultimate stealth bike. It’s a vintage Raleigh Mountain Tour, an 80’s-era hybrid tour/mountain bike back from the day when manufactures weren’t quite so sure that Mountain biking was exactly going to catch on. It’s not surprising, the 80’s were a turbulent time; no one knew what the future was going to hold. The Bell System broke up (people under 40, look it up), Apple launched its Macintosh operating system in order to carve out a small niche for itself against technology titans Wang and Digital and the film Amadeus swept the nation and our hearts, kindling America’s burning passion for classical music and opera that persists to this day.
[Check out this sweet ad for the bike back from 1984. No helmet? Check. Mork Vest? Check. Cargo panniers full of hair teasing products? Double check.]
But the real magic in this bike is not the vintage frame. The magic is the work done in the secret underground laboratory miles below Big Mike’s World Headquarters on Maplewood (next to MacDonald’s). This is where the rubber really meets the hunks of crumbling sidewalk.
This crappy looking bike defies its outward appearance and sports all upgraded components: shifters, bearings, wheels, tires, fenders, reflectors, integral lighting and gear racks making it a sweet and practical ride for commuting and errands, the bulk of my in-town bicycling. But all put together in a way that doesn’t give off the “this bike cost more than a two year community college degree” vibe that one so frequently gets from some of the bikes you see rolling around the wealthier towns of the North Shore.
This solidly-built customized bike, work included, cost me substantially less than even a bottom-line new one offered at a place like Target . Indulge me for a sec while I tell you what you get when you buy a new “bike” at a discount retailer.
First, think about the quality of the other products you get from those places and how you use them. You get a $25 coffee maker from Target, the handle breaks off, makes a mess of your counter and you clean it up and get a new one. No biggie, you don’t expect much more and Hell, for 25 bucks you could buy a new one every six months. Whatevs. Or you get a beanbag chair for the kids and after a couple of weeks (and having been used in an especially active game called “Invasion of the Giant Space Marshmallow”) it starts leaking those little white Styrofoam balls, you vacuum them up and throw it out. Wasteful? Yes. But not much more of a hassle than that.
Now lets think about the failure event that occurs on a cheap bike. It won’t fail sitting in your garage, oh no. It will fail when you’re trying to pull a Millennium-Falcon-in-the-asteroids maneuver that is the essence of Gloucester cycling. That won’t be a mess that will just clean up with a dust-buster and a sponge…unless you head-on one of those diesel freezer-haulers cranking around the wrong side of the blind corner on East Main. Ironically, in that case those are the exact tools the Fire Department guys will use to get the bulk of your remains into a consolidated container.
The point is we’re at a weird phase in the economy. “New” things at the lower and increasingly middle price points are frequently much, much crappier than older products that have been expertly rehabbed. This is just a fact of how things are made and sold now.
The good news with bikes is that there are a ton of great ones still around just waiting for someone to apply a little TLC and get them back on the road. Unlike mine, most of them don’t look like they spent the past few years locked to the mainmast of the Hesperus. And doing all this, in the end, leaves you with a much better bike for less money. Win, win.
As for me, I also need it to look shitty seeing as the Big Mike’s crew flat-out refused to build and install the first proposal I brought to them: a remote self-destruct mechanism for my nice mountain bike, centered around stuffing enough Czech-made Semtex plastic explosives down into the frame to disintegrate the thief down to purely elemental particles. So, failing that, (“explosives permits” they said. Bah!), this is a pretty solid plan B.
Most of what I think I do as a father is spend huge amounts of time reminding my kids about obvious things like that they can’t go outside in the rain wearing just socks on their feet. If someone said to me at that moment: "You kid and her class are capable of pulling off a pitch-perfect rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream" I’d laugh out loud.
"You mean the kid outside in the rain with the socks on?"
But this is why we have schools and great teachers, to remind us occasionally that there are deep, deep wells of talent in those kids. Beyond what we can imagine.
This clip is from East Gloucester Elementary fifth grade play, last night.
Tonight is sold out, but there may still be tix for the Sat matinee at 2.
Hey Joe, enclosed are some stills from the dress rehearsal of A
Midsummer Night’s Dream at the East Gloucester School.
A couple of fun things to note:
1. As you can tell from the photos, all the costumes and set are
recycled and re-purposed. We used leftovers from home remodeling
projects, bits from other productions, an old fishing net for the
backdrop and the costumes are 100% attic and back-of-closet (Made
AWESOME by the extreme talents of Kelly Montagnino!) In fact, my
daughter Rebecca, the girl in the middle wearing white, is sporting a
rig made from components that includes a dress my wife used to wear
when we were in college. Somehow, it doesn’t seem that long ago.
2. As you probably can’t tell from the photos, a solid number of
adults went irretrievably insane putting this thing together. We had
every imaginable challenge, practically no budget, not a lot of time
and a school built during a period where postwar scarcity meant
exactly zero frills. I swear that the Globe Theater in London where
Shakespeare performed his plays in 1600 was more technically advanced
than EGS (though we have notably fewer plague rats). Remember that
scene in "Shakespeare in Love" when everything goes wrong but the
director says that it will all work out, even though he doesn’t know
how. "It’s a mystery," he says. It’s totally like that. In the end it
turned out way past our wildest expectations. Teamwork, time and crazy
amounts of talent were brought to bear. Incredible. The costumes and
set are almost as cool as the kids.
3. But OMG, the kids. They, on other hand, have been nothing but pure
amazing. The language, the emotion, the physical comedy. They just
picked it up and ran with it. Kids who you thought were quiet
wallflowers are up there belting out 400 year-old lines, calling
people "knaves" and just generally bashing this thing out with pure
style and grace. The play deals humorously with relationships- a
father wants his daughter to marry the guy he favors, but she wants to
be with a "bad boy", there is magic and tricks and every kind of
hilarious mix-up and our Gloucester public school kids just go totally
all-out with it. One kid said to me, "We get it. We totally get it. I
don’t know if our parents will, but we do." Oh those kids with their
hip-hop and their Shakespeare.
Anyway, shows Thursday and Friday at 7pm and the Saturday Matinee at
2. for tix email firstname.lastname@example.org