Wandering Eye: Babe Ruth's last visit to Baltimore, the infrastructure funding problem, and more

Here's Christy Culpepper, who tweets as @munilass, reminding you and us that America's infrastructure does not have a financing problem. It's a funding problem. Or more accurately (and maybe obviously in light of Gov. Hogan's decision to kill the Red Line in Baltimore), it's a political will problem. First Culpepper walks through the recent history of American infrastructure projects, plotting their costs as a percentage of GDP. What we see is this: Since the late 1960s, the percentage of national treasure spent on building and maintaining roads, bridges, dams, power stations, and the like has fallen, from 3.5 percent in the 1960s to 2.5 percent in the 1980s and ever since. "The municipal bond market is now smaller than it was in 2009 because state and local governments have been borrowing less money for projects than in previous years," she writes. Next she notes that, with infrastructure, the part of government that makes the decision is key. In the Northeast it's often the state—in the South and Southwest, it's usually the county or city: "This is a feature of infrastructure investment (and related taxation) that is often overlooked and makes some generalizations unfair. The populations that bear the weight of paying for infrastructure vary depending on which sources have been pledged to retire debt (or to fund projects outright) and how political power is divvied up at the state and local levels." What you get is fear and short-term thinking taking the lead. People who can imagine no decent future for a place will not risk investment there, even when—as now—a minuscule interest rate makes the risk negligible. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Yesterday, a pretentious and clueless article popped up over at the Fader titled "Why Today's Underground Club Music Sounds Cybernetic" by Adam Harper. It's about club music, but not club music as most dance-music heads around the world know it—you know, club music or Bmore club, a black, breakbeat-derived kind of frenetic dance music that has its origins in this city and quickly developed equally strong scenes in Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey, and is now an influence on bleeding-edge electronic dance the world over. No, the kind of club music Harper's talking about is mostly white underground dance music primarily existing on the internet that contains elements of "house, techno and grime." Harper goes on, "there's something dynamically 21st century about their lithe, brushed-steel syncopations, cold crystal timbres, and angry angularity." To be clear: A lot of this music is really cool stuff (Harper even shouts of quasi-Baltimore-based label Classical Trax which City Paper has highlighted here and there). The problem is Harper's article never mentions actual club music, which is a major influence on all of the music he's citing here. So, he mentions a big-deal label like Night Slugs, who officially released KW Griff's 'Bring In Da Katz', without mentioning Bmore club, or he references someone named DJ New Jersey Drone, but not Jersey club's scrappy decades-old scene itself. And then Harper defines this music as "club music." Do you realize how ridiculous this is? In a way, it's not a surprise—the hipster underground is constantly appropriating and whitewashing black genres (see also Atlanta trap-rap becoming EDM "trap," or even Detroit techno turning into techno)—but this Fader article is particularly egregious, especially because the piece would be much more interesting (and um, accurate) if it acknowledged the way these internet oddballs and health goths are picking Bmore/Philly/Jersey club for parts. (Brandon Soderberg) 

 

The Sun's Retro Baltimore blog has a cool post on Babe Ruth's last visit to his hometown, shortly before he died of throat cancer. In town for a charity baseball game that brought the city's Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish communities together, the Great Bambino landed at an airport where the Dundalk Marine Terminal now sits and got a police escort through East Baltimore. "Two police motorcycles, their sirens blaring, led the motorcade. Crowds quickly recognized the familiar figure in the lead car. 'Hey, it's the Babe,' shouted children on the street, The Sun reported. 'Hiya Babe,' yelled shirt-sleeved men on corners." Ruth, who had a room at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, said the city looked "all new to him." Unfortunately, the game was postponed and Ruth was not able to extend his brief visit to attend the new date. "'Come out as a personal favor to me,' he said, promising, 'I will be with you in spirit.'" His flight back to New York left shortly after 9 p.m. A little more than a month later, he passed away. (Brandon Weigel)

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