The Dangers of Recovering Your Stolen Bike from Somebody Who Is Much Larger Than You Are

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, college student Michael Rosen tells us more about what it’s like to have your bike stolen and then have to confront someone stronger than you later on in order to get it back.

Not fun: getting your bike stolen. Also not very fun: seeing your stolen bike w/ a group of homeless people and asking for it back

— Michael Rosen (@michaelrosen3) July 19, 2014

Michael, so what happened here?

Really, this whole ordeal is Richard Linklater’s fault. That sounds like a non sequitur, but I promise it’s not. For the Daily Cal (UC Berkeley’s student newspaper), I was assigned to review Linklater’s most recent movie, Boyhood, and as a kind of perk/thank you for writing the review, the arts editor allowed me to interview Linklater as part of a press junket-y thing. It’s important to understand that Richard Linklater is not just any movie director to me: Me and my buddies watched Dazed and Confused every weekend for at least a year. Waking Life and the Before series are movies near to my heart. And I really loved Boyhood. So I was pretty stoked to meet this guy whose movies I’ve worshipped since puberty.

I was also a bit nervous. I’ve interviewed dozens and dozens of people, but without fail I clench up into a throbbing ball of anxiety before each and every one. The prospect of interviewing Richard fucking Linklater upped my built-in pre-interview anxiety a couple standard deviations. So as I rolled up to the restaurant adjacent to the Berkeley Public Library, I evidently forgot to lock my bike to the bike rack. Which I never do! I am religious about locking my bike, especially since I just bought it a few months ago.

You can probably guess what happened next.

The Legend of Poison Jim, the Mustard King

In the Museum of Chinese in America, two blocks north of Canal Street in New York City, a small, illuminated tile informs visitors that “sometime before 1865,” a Chinese American squirrel trapper known as “Poison Jim” found the mustard plant “growing weedlike in the Salinas Valley.” By selling the seeds, he “unintentionally turn[ed] mustard into a commercial crop” in the United States. A textbook published in 2010 repeats the story, with Poison Jim making and selling mustard until it “became a major California product.”

“Poison Jim Chinaman” was first documented by the little-known writer Owen Clarke Treleaven, who published a six-page story about him in a 1919 issue of the Overland Monthly, a magazine serving middle-class readers a diet of human interest pieces and folksy caricatures of the American West long after its wildest years were behind it. Writers glibly peddled stereotypes about the multiethnic fabric of frontier societies; the issue in which Treleaven’s story appeared also included an article on “Queer Korean Superstitions” and a poem called “Loleeta—An Indian Lyric.”

According to an old stagecoach driver, Leagan, whose yarn makes up most of the narrative, Poison Jim earned his nickname for having “more luck than anyone else ’round here mixin’ poisoned grain to kill off ground squirrels.” But when wild mustard overtook the valley one spring, threatening wheat production, Jim knew what to do: He rounded up a hundred Chinese laborers who swiftly set about clearing the fields, drying the plants, and storing away the threshed seed. When the mustard crop in South Africa failed later that year, a French condiment manufacturer, having gotten wind of a large harvest of mustard seed, showed up in San Francisco to buy Jim’s stock for thirty-three thousand dollars. With his earnings, Jim purchased a small ranch but lived modestly. Several years later, a drought blighted two consecutive grain crops, intensifying already strained conditions in the local “Indian village.” When a dispute erupted there over a stolen sheep, the owner who went looking for it opened fire, killing a man and a young mother. “Then,” Leagan recalls, “we saw what ‘Poison Jim’ was made of.” He stoically gathered up the murdered woman’s baby, then returned four days later to distribute fifteen thousand dollars worth of provisions to the sick and hungry throughout the entire valley.

Rejects of the Golden Age of Advertising

Six Essential Hobby Lobby Products (And Where To Buy Them Now)

Hobby Lobby doesn’t want its health plans to provide contraception to its employees, and the Supreme Court says that’s fine. So where is a conscientious shopper supposed to go now? Some recommendations.

Doll face with closeable eyes Try DollsPart Supply!

The Legend of the Legend of Bunko Kelly, the Kidnapping King of Portland

In the late eighteen hundreds, the port cities of the American West were dangerous nests of sailors, prostitutes, and gangsters—none more so than Portland, Oregon. The most infamous relic of those bad old days are not the wooly beards of its male population, but the Portland Underground, the city’s network of so-called “shanghai tunnels,” which tourists today are often told were used to spirit unsuspecting men, perhaps lured by a half-naked prostitute to an establishment where they were drugged and kidnapped, toward their final destination: pressed into service on a ship.

These kidnappers were known as crimps, and the “king of the crimps,” according to folk legend, was a man named Joseph Kelly. By his count, some two thousand souls owe their time at sea to him. Kelly spent his early life on the sea as well: In his memoir, he wrote of once being shipwrecked on the island of Madagascar. Rescued from the shipwreck by the natives, Kelly was fed soup. Afterward, he looked into the clay jug that stored the rest of the stew and discovered the right hand of one of his shipmates. When a typhoon struck, he and some other sailors followed the lead of a man described as an old pirate, and escaped from their rescuers; they were promptly picked up by pirates. Fortunately, Kelly and his band managed to lock the pirates in the ship’s belly before heading ashore in India.

In 1879, Kelly got off a ship in Portland. In those days, since sailors weren’t allowed to leave their ships until they reached their final port, many sailors disappeared when they arrived—fleeing for jobs in the local logging industry, for instance. About three-fifths of all sailors who arrived in Astoria or Portland ditched their ships. These desertions were a problem, since captains needed able-bodied men to set sail again. This gave rise to the crimps: If a ship needed to find more men, the captain sent for a crimp, who supplied bodies for up to fifty dollars a head. Kelly took up the trade and became so good at it that Stewart Holbrook, a “rough writer” who specialized in selling local Portland history to the reading public of the East Coast literary establishment, and Kelly’s somewhat besotted biographer, described him as “an artist, for the magnificent imagination he applied to his occupation was nothing short of creative.”

Sympathy for the Comcast Rep from Hell

Above is eight solid minutes of empathic pain. It is a recording of a calm, polite caller, Ryan Block, attempting to cancel his Comcast service. The representative, by the time the recording starts, already sounds angry: He demands, again and again and again, to know why Block is leaving Comcast for a smaller provider, to know what it is that he—that Comcast—can’t supply that this other company, this obviously objectively inferior company, this loser company, can. Just tell him what he did wrong, he says. Just explain to him. Just make him understand this stupid mistake.

The rep sounds, when he demands to be convinced of something that is both his company’s fault and none of his company’s business, like an abusive partner; that is how I interpreted this call, anyway, the first time I heard it. Judging by Twitter, where people are sharing similar experiences, many others did too. (One of the last times I dealt with a cable company, Time Warner, it was to try to reinstate an account and associated email address that had been removed for days because a young rep insisted there was “no other way” to transfer the decades-old account from my deceased father to his spouse, my mother; a few weeks later, moving apartments in New York, I realized that here, as at my family home, as at my last apartment, I had no other option but Time Warner, who I then called and have been paying ever since. That’s why people hate monopolies.)

But overnight my sympathies shifted: If you understand this call as a desperate interaction between two people, rather than a business transaction between a customer and a company, the pain is mutual.

The Potato Salad Kickstarter is the Science Fiction Villain We Deserve

As of writing, a Kickstarter campaign for “just making potato salad” has raised $37,115. Every few seconds that number climbs higher, and each uptick is greeted with cheers. It’s a self-perpetuating humor machine, and it is horribly efficient. There is no joke, at least not anymore; whatever joke there was has become an adaptive, joke-like arrangement of circumstances. It is a perfect device, compatible with all known theories of humor and therefore with none of them.

Dov Hates Dust: When the CEO Comes to Town

I used to work at American Apparel, the one in Williamsburg. Internally, it’s called NY5. Every so often a mid-morning, brunch-faring couple would ask how business was going.

Business was bad. So bad that I’m almost wondering why American Apparel continues to exist. According to the Los Angeles Times, it’s lost nearly $270 million over the last four years; in the process, it’s accumulated more than $200 million in debt.

But I’d shrug, and mention one of our two-for-one sales. We always had two-for-one sales. Eventually they became three-for-two sales, but it’s less sing-songy; as you can imagine, it didn’t catch on.

When I started working in Williamsburg in 2011, the condo rush was peaking as the rich swooped in to buy rooms at developments like The Edge—a glass-and-steel tower with a “plunge pool,” chef’s kitchens, and a nineties-and-neon-pink-tinged marketing campaign—just a few blocks away. The East River ferry service had recently launched, too. Nobody I worked with took the ferry—or lived nearby, for that matter. The only ferry regulars I knew were French exchange students living off their short-term visas and pleasant exchange rates.

Dov Charney and American Apparel tried to find financial salvation here, but the type of customers they needed, the young and sort-of broke who used to shop at American Apparel, had already left the neighborhood. Yet, during the two years I worked there, talk about expansion was always in the air. In 2012, NY5’s fitting rooms were torn out to make room for more clothing racks. The store used to look like a boutique, but no matter; maybe putting more leggings out would juice revenues. Then, in 2013, NY5 became a flagship store. That just meant that we started renting out the back part of the building to expand the store, hoping to attract more customers. I was told that rent had increased to $40,000 a month. It’s around this time that, from what I’d heard, Dov Charney started haunting the stores.

How to Work for the Enemy and Feel Just Fine

I felt like everyone around me had attended a seminar on success that I’d slept through and I’d never be able to catch up.

This Week in Lines

12:03 PM Wednesday, July 9th — Halal Cart, 69th and Madison

Length: 11 people Weather: 81 degrees and partly cloudy Crowd: Construction workers Mood: Distracted Wait Time: Approximately seven minutes Lingering Question: How many Halal carts can one neighborhood sustain?

The Uber Bomb Detonates in New York

Have you been in a New York cab recently? Sometimes prompted but more often not, drivers will want to talk to you about Uber. If you’re in a yellow cab or a livery car, you will hear about Uber the virus, Uber the interloper, Uber the merciless invader; if you’re in an Uber cab, or an Uber-adjacent green taxi, you’ll hear about Uber the inevitable, Uber the strange, Uber the great (for now). It’s been a boom time for untethered drivers—a magical stretch during which they could take advantage of high fares, high demand, and low barriers to entry all at once. It was acknowledged, rarely explicitly, that the arrangement felt strange and temporary—the product of an imbalance, not a new status quo.

This has been imagined in the press as a battle between unregulated drivers and their super-regulated counterparts. But that’s not it at all! This was, and is, and will be until Uber’s billion dollars either runs out or multiplies itself, Uber against the world. Look what they did today: We just dropped uberX fares by 20%, making it cheaper than a New York City taxi. From Brooklyn to the Bronx, and everywhere in between, uberX is now the most affordable ride in the city.

Haha, first of all, “the most affordable ride in the city” that is in a car, driven by another human, for your individual transportation, maybe. Uber’s style is too consistent for its announcement post to be called tonedeaf; it’s a company that wears its fuck-you, get-mine philosophy on its sleeve. Its price examples have riders going from Williamsburg to the East Village, from Grand Central to the Financial District, from Nolita—Nolita!—to Lincoln Center. From your LOFT to FASHION WEEK, from the TRADING DESK to THE TRAIN TO YOUR LARGE DISTANT HOME, from your STEEL RESIDENTIAL ARCOLOGY to your TASTING MENU, Uber will save you two dollars.

Ask Polly: How Can I Stop Being a Shut In Once and for All?

Dear Polly,

I don’t really know what my real problem is. I can name an array of problems that I have, but I don’t know if they are symptomatic, causal, imaginary or just plain over-analyzing. I don’t have childhood traumas from which I can say everything started. I only know that these issues manifested themselves when I started university. I’ve kept diaries on and off for long periods of time and am seeing a therapist regularly for the last 1.5 years. Self-help books gather dust because I don’t know if they actually address a problem I have. Or I lose motivation. Ultimately, I feel like I am in stasis. 

On the surface, I’ve spent the last eight years in two different universities and I’ve yet to graduate. If that were the only issue, I wouldn’t engage in a self-perpetuating cycle of self-pity, self-hate/destruction and apathy. I’m bad at relationships generally, and I don’t just mean romantically. It wasn’t as much of a problem when I lived a rather sheltered existence as an expat with my family. We had a wide circle of family friends, and my academic ability at the time gave me a confidence to secure good friendships, some of which have been able to last to this day. And all this despite due negligence on my part. It doesn’t help that I’m introverted, self-conscious and have insecurities.

I managed to maintain a bit of this at my first university—joined societies and what with being agreeable and trying to please people. I had friends, very good ones too. But, I have a habit of associating my self esteem with academic ability. When I started withdrawing academically, I became even more of a social recluse than I already was. It became difficult to confront people and my family. On the outside, I mustered up a happy exterior to the world. Otherwise, I fled from reality into an online world of internet friendships, TV shows and movies. This removal doubtless compounded my academic failures and frayed my already strained relationships with my peers. 

I know that it is best to be honest about my situation, but I never felt like I was in the position where I could afford to lose the friendships, superficial or not, that I had. I just didn’t have that luxury. It was in the anonymity of the web that I found I could better express myself, more as a listener than a speaker. Helping people made me feel better about myself. It relieved the guilt and shame that would gnaw inside me. And however moot some might think these online relationships are, among the few that flourished, I actually found love with a girl after years of contact. We actually met, but despite her being one of the most wonderful people I have met and being very much in love with me, I ruined it with my neglect. I hurt her a lot.