Pop Philosophy

BART considers late-night trains, DNA reopens, Napster smooches Metallica

You can't get there from hereWant further proof that the Bay Area was once ruled by slackers? (Not the lay-around-and-do-nothing type, but the work-in-a-coffee-shop-so-I-can-stay-out-late type.) Back in the early '90s BART ran trains till 2 a.m. You could go to a show or work at a bar and still make it home to the East Bay without having to practice your breast stroke. Unfortunately, BART didn't promote the new hours, and when ridership proved sporadic, the late trains went the way of the dodo.

But thanks to a couple of high-minded folks, Cinderella may be able to make it home from the ball after all. A month and a half ago, LateNiteBART founder Ethan Snider-Frey set up a Web site, www.latenitebart.org, to gauge support for an extension of BART hours or the addition of late-night buses. (BART runs from 5 a.m. to midnight during the week, from 6 a.m. on Saturdays, and from 8 a.m. on Sundays.) With little promotion, the site's petition netted more than 6,000 signatures.

On Thursday, July 12, Snider-Frey presented a proposal for enhanced public transportation hours -- drafted with the help of Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition (transcoalition.org) leader Rebecca Kaplan and BART Director Tom Radulovich -- to BART and AC Transit officials.

LateNiteBART assistant William Rahilly describes the meeting as a success -- albeit a tempered one. "BART is willing to look into this," he says. According to BART officials, the system needs four hours of downtime a night for maintenance, making weekday late hours unlikely. Weekend hours, however, could be extended. AC Transit officials also seemed willing to crunch the riders, er, numbers concerning later service. Unfortunately, the only late-night rider data they have is from 11 years ago, and since then a lot of people have been forced by rising rents to move across the bay. Another problem is that, according to Rahilly, BART gets only 60 percent of its funding from ticket sales; the rest comes from the government. So unless the new ridership is huge, BART may not think it's worth the effort.

Still, Rahilly remains confident. "It's going to happen, but not for a while," he says. In order to help BART and AC Transit see the need for the services, Snider-Frey has placed a survey section on his Web site. All rockers, tweakers, barmaids, hotel workers, and, yes, slackers should check it out.

Revenge is sweetThe Internet Revolution was a complex time. (What a delight it is to use the past tense.) While the boom brought plenty of Buffies and Biffs to town, it also showered shocking amounts of cash on wage-slave nerds who never thought they'd be able to afford those back issues of Spider-Man. Unfortunately, the eventual crush of SUVs and J. Crew party studs made it hard to wish those geeky peers well.

But now my heart is full of pride once more, as one of the early Internet nerds is giving back to the city. Jamie Zawinsky (www.jwz.org), the 20th employee at Netscape and a legendary figure in the programming field, bought the DNA Lounge in the summer of 1999 with the intention of making a few minor changes and reopening in three weeks. The city had other plans. After haggling with the police over the club's late-night permits for six months, Zawinsky discovered that he would have to cement over the entire back wall of the venue to cut down on noise. Realizing that once you pull out a hammer it's hard to stop at a few nails, Zawinsky decided to overhaul the whole place.

Last week (on Friday the 13th, no less), the club finally reopened, showing off its endearingly cyberpunk design, its expanded dance floor, and its nerdy roots (online computers let clubgoers "settle bar bets," and a constant Web stream offers long-distance ogling). Zawinsky says the DNA plans to showcase both DJs and live bands, but right now he's busy setting up regular monthly dance nights with well-known local producers such as Qoöl, Red Melon, Om, and Blasthaus. Asked how his new career differs from his old one, Zawinsky breaks into a beatific grin that speaks volumes about where he -- and our city -- has been. "There is almost absolutely nothing the same about the two," he says.

Gut-busting press release of the weekThis just in from Napster's "interim CEO," Hank Barry, following the settlement of a suit between the music downloading company and certain glowering metalheads. "Metallica has taken a courageous stand and a tough and principled approach to the protection of its name and creative output," Barry blathers in the release. "We respect what they've done and regret any harm which this dispute may have caused them. In a career that dates to 1981, Metallica has been in the forefront of creative, technological, and marketing initiatives in the music and video world." It's good to see these two adversaries agreeing on what rock 'n' roll is all about: sex, drugs, and marketing initiatives.

 
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