HarSMedia

tape busters and coordinates

august 23, 2005.

After a faculty meeting in Bobigny on a tuesday afternoon in june, a colleague proposed to take me home in his car. We entered Paris via the long avenue Jean Jaurès that separates the communities of Aubervilliers (which is on the west and odd numbered side of the avenue) and Pantin (on the east and even numbered side).

catcher one
catcher two

This particular avenue Jean Jaurès (there are many, many of them in France) has lots of traffic, going into and coming out of the capital. Parts of it are four track, and some of the tracks allow for split-level (tunnel) crossing with some of the equally busy cross roads. It is one of those roads that jam up every day during rush hours, and in order to keep drivers in line, the in and out going tracks have been separated by metal bars, gates and/or long lines of blocks of concrete. Looking out of the car's windows, at some point, shortly before arriving at the Porte de la Villete, I noticed a long strand of cassette tape in the dirt'n'dust lining a row of precisely such concrete blocks. As we were advancing, and it also otherwise was neither the time nor place to halt the car, jump out and grab that tape, I made a mental note of the spot, and promised myself to come back looking for it later ...

And so I did, the next day, on june 15th.

I took the metro to Fort d'Aubervilliers and walked from there along the avenue Jean Jaurès in the direction of the spot where I had seen the strand of tape. As it had been laying on the Aubervilliers side of the avenue, I went to the other side, using the pedestrian crossing on the corner of the avenue Jean Jaurès and the avenue de la division Leclerc. There, on the middle of the crossing, more or less buried in a pile of dust and sand, I saw my first bit of tape of the day. Pulling and digging it out with my fingers, in fact it turned there were bits from two different cassettes there (which was obvious because of the different colors of the coating).

That was at about 12h10 ...

When I got back to the metro stop, some one and a half hour later, I indeed had managed to pick up the tape I spotted the other day. And on the way I collected, all along this avenue Jean Jaurès the amazing number of no less than seventeen other clods and bits and strands and knots of thrown away cassette tape ...

busted


Yes, at times it did seem I had entered some sort of a found tapes heaven here. And especially on the part of the avenue stretching from the parisian cemetery of Pantin/Bobigny to the Port de la Villette I kept spotting them everywhere ... You may picture me there, short of dancing in the street and humming "It's raining tapes, hallelujah! ...", meanwhile stuffing all of them dirty clods and knots into plastic bags, jotting down their whereabouts on the back of old metro tickets and other bits of paper ... :-) I had to start picking up bags for storage and bits of paper for notes as well, for clearly I had not been prepared for this ...

Had someone, knowing that I would come along, been dropping tapes there that night, for me to find them and pick them up? No, obviously, and I'm afraid the reason I was able to find that many along precisely this road actually is far more prosa´c. But not less interesting really. Most of the tapes I found undoubtedly had been there for quite some time already. They were wrapped around the metal bars of the gates separating the tracks of this busy 'traffic artery', caught in weeds along the rows of concrete blocks in the middle of the road, and so on. Add to this the relative poverty and demography of the communities on both sides of the avenue Jean Jaurès, and the fact that the road actually separates the two, which for all practical things makes it into something of a no man's land ... The metal bars, concrete blocks and weeds there act as veritable tape traps, catchers, tape busters ... And once caught and stuck, it will take a lot of time and bad weather to make them disappear again. Unless, of course, someone takes the trouble to manually remove them. Which might - at certain intervals of time - be done by one or other of the municipial cleaning services. But at a spot like this, that actually seems a big no-no ... No one bothers, really ...

So. Here's a bet ... Want to find tapes? Go to a much frequented road leading in and out (one of the poorer parts) of a big city, preferably a road with tracks that are (partly) separated by metal and other constructs. There'll be many a tape clod waiting for you ...

It's a pretty safe bet, really, and meanwhile I had ample chance to verify this 'hypothesis'. At another somewhat similar spot in/out Paris (avenue Charles de Gaulle, Neuilly sur Seine - june 24th / july 7th), and also in Maastricht, the Netherlands (Cabergerweg, july 24th) ... Whence, at the end of this summer, I do find myself with an enormous pile of picked up tapes to be added to my found tapes exhibition ...

The eightteen finds along the avenue Jean Jaurès constitute the latest, 31st, addition to the 'show'. (Due to the volume of finds, the corresponding 'montage' is on the long side: almost 18 minutes. It is included as this soundblog entry's 'podcast' ...)

As of this '31st exhibit', as part of a find's documentation, I will be indicating the geo-coordinates of the spot where I found a tape. And, thanks to Google's fantastic new 'Google Maps' service, for each find you may open up a zoomable satellite picture of the spot. For instance, this is where I picked up the last of june 15th's avenue Jean Jaurès finds ... To zoom in on the find, click the '+' button ... [Great as it may be, one should be aware that this Google service is 'bèta'. It doesn't work on all platforms (check your browser's compatibility), and not all of our world has been properly mapped ... yet ... Paris looks great though ...
hattipThanks to Jeroen Wilhelmus, who drew my attention to the Plazes web application, which was where I discovered the Google Maps API. To be honest, I actually started by sort of 'hacking' Plazes' use of it, before eventually applying for my own 'API key'. The little pop-ups remain sort of a 'Plazes hack' though. Cheers, guys :-) ]

[ added sept. 02, 2005: I went again to Aubervilliers/Pantin on july 11th, and walked a second time along the avenue Jean Jaurès, as I wanted to take some pictures. Again, there seemed to be tapes everywhere. Maybe some that I missed the first time around, but most surely must have been new arrivals ... I got back on the metro that day with eleven more Aubervilliers/Pantin finds, among which find #200: a recording of a Jewish religious gathering, including live recorded music and wise words on the Torah -- "Si l'infini est infini le regret ne peut pas finir ..." -- (Find #100, by the way, was a tape with recitations from the Koran. Now of course that's purely accidental. No less remarkable, though ...) ]

[ next related SB-entry: tête-de-tettine/tête-de-cassette :: earlier related SB-entry: Conquering America ... ]

[ I - temporarily - removed the comment sections from the Archived pages, because of excessive spamming ...]



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