Streetsblog Interview: Browne Molyneaux

12_25_08_browne_tap.jpgBrowne Poses with Her New TAP Card

When I first stumbled on the Bus Bench it was during their “Dead Escalator Series” where Randall “Bus Tard” Fleming basically took pictures of all the escalators around Metro sites that didn’t work.  The Bus Bench became a regular read for me because it provided an alternative viewpoint of the Livable Streets movement because, to be frank, so much of the blogosphere that write about transportation issues tend to be white males.

Browne Molyneaux has become a recognized voice for change around the Los Angeles transportation community.  Not wanting the Bus Bench to get pinholed, she recruited new occasional writers Simon Ganz, Art Gonzo, and Sirinya Tritipeskul…And it’s paid off.  The Bus Bench now appears on the “unofficial” transportation headlines blog, is a member of Streetsblog.net, and is recognized as a clear voice for change around LA.

Streetsblog caught up with Browne to do an e-mail interview to discuss her Murder Your Car Art Project, the Bus Bench and whatever else came to mind.

Streetsblog: Ok, so the title doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination for what your theme is…but what will the final project actually look like?

Browne: The Project hopefully will be me destroying someone’s car on stage, but to me the project is bigger than just that. To me my anti-car stance and I say anti and not pro alternative transportation, because I want it to be known that I’m firmly anti-consumer driven lifestyle. I know in some parts of the city a car is truly a necessity, but in Hollywood, Santa Monica and donwntown if you are child free you don’t need one. I want to challenge that person to get rid of the biggest chain of consumerism in LA: The car. There is no way that public transit is going to get better until that person decides they don’t need to spend their disposable income on a car. I would also be willing to destroy people’s brand name clothing, shoes and credit cards if that’s something people would be up for. Bring the literal item of anything that is making you a consumer junkie and I will  happily destroy it for you and send you a wave file or mov. file of you freeing yourself from whatever your consumer addiction is.

It’s going to be a party. A celebration of anti-consumerism. The car will simply be a symbol. I may have to create a symbolic car if I can’t get any volunteers. I put a listing on craigslist. We will see how it goes. It’s all about the process.

(editor’s note, anyone looking to donate a car for the show can get instructions here.)

Streetsblog: What happened to your last car?  Is there any cool story to your car-free conversion?  Did you beat it to death on stage with a sledge hammer?

Browne: There are no cool stories (that are true)  about the end of my driving days unfortunately most of the car free advocates in Los Angeles are not as creative as me, so there wasn’t anyone innovative enough to come up with the idea of blowing up people’s cars (well getting people to volunteer to have their car blown up) to end the car culture, which is really strange this being the movie making capital of the world. I know I’ve seen lots of movies with scenes of cars being destroyed. I would have liked to have my car blown up. That would have been fun, but what I did instead was sell it for way more than it was worth and took six months off from working to write a book of poetry. A violent book of poetry.

Streetsblog: Going back a second to the art, are there any other details from the The Loft Gallery’s Post-Post Apocalypse show in January that you can share that we might find interesting?

Browne: The show is ongoing. It is a group collaboration.Marshall Astor and Edith Abeyta are the curators. Edith is an amazing conceptual artist who did my Street Wear outfit that I wear to beg for "change" at local art walks. The Post-Post Apocalypse show is a group show where each artists takes their definition of the "perfect" destroyed world and interprets that through their various artistic talents.

Here’s a link to one of the performances in still picture format.
http://www.marshallastor.com/2008/12/08/post-post-apocalypse-ruins-photo-recap/

Streetsblog:  Changing gears for a second, let’s talk about The Bus Bench.  The site has changed a lot since I first saw it, what are your plans for the site in 2009?  Are you going to continue to recruit more writers or change anything else?

Browne: We plan a mini redesign for The Bus Bench. I want it to have a more magazine feel. I also would like to broaden The Bus Bench’s scope. Transportation will always be a major focus, but I also want to bring gender equality, racial justice and working class issues more into the fold. The basis of The Bus Bench is in social ecology. I’m not a big proponent of compartmentalizing lifestyle issues. I think economics, class, race, gender and sustainability issues are all interconnected. I’m also trying to get enough discipline to have a semi-weekly podcast as well as a video commentary on the issues o12_25_08_browne_shame_3.jpgf the day.

As far as recruiting other writers, well I would like to be able to pay people (if you do four posting per month at the Bus Bench I pay an honorarium.) We at The Bus Bench are also very into original stories. We don’t do too much cutting and pasting or plugging of events, so if I could get a grant to at least pay people something I would like to have some more people come on. To me the blogsophere is becoming this party of people who don’t need to get a paycheck and that’s bad when we have this form of media where only "rich kids" or people who have the kinds of jobs where they have computer access can play. There is also this thing that the internet has where it’s viewed as this odd thing if you expect money. Why is it odd to expect compensation for what you do? 

In the US unless you are a person of leisure or a college student you need money in order to eat and things. If I can pay a bartender 20 dollars plus tip for a cocktail, I can give you a little something for contributing to my vehicle.

Though for now since my budget is all out of my money making job I can’t have a staff nearly as big as I want.

I am not too into advertising (not that it would be an effective way to raise revenue not with our model.) The problem with this new media is that once you start getting advertising and swag how can you help but not be a little bias. I want The Bus Bench to stay as sincere as possible.

I want The Bus Bench to be viewed as an editorial media.

Streetsblog: It’s magic wand time.  If you could change one thing about Los Angeles with just a flick of the wrist, what would it be?

Browne: If I could wave a wand and change one thing about Los Angeles I would make it more accessible. And that would include education, mobility, housing, employment and free-time. I thin12_25_08_browne_snoble_2.pngk LA the way it is now it’s not accessible. There was a time when you could move out here from the middle of nowhere and do something with no connections and a dream or at least that’s what people said and that time seems to be gone. It seems like to me LA is becoming one of those big city type places, where you need to know people and you need to come from money to get somewhere. And to me that’s not LA.

In LA we had good public transit through the Red Cars.

In LA we had public space.

In LA kids rode their bikes.

In LA our first newspaper "The Star," was bilingual.

In LA we were part of a state where the governor Pio Pico was a biracial person of Latino and African descent.

In LA on the Eastside in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights we had Chinese-Americans, Jewish-Americans, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans living right next door to each other and being buried together in the Evergreen Cemetery.

In LA we had affordable higher education.

In LA we had jobs.

In LA you could come from Des Moines, Iowa or Mobile, Alabama or Guadalajara, Mexico or Tainan, Taiwan and you could come here with a dream and you could make that dream come true. A dream that included your own business or a union job and a little house and some saving so that you could go on little vacations and maybe send one or two of your kids to college.

We need to bring accessibility back to LA.

Photo: LA Observed
Images: The Bus Bench

  • Thanks Newton. This has been a great series.

    Browne Molyneux
    http://www.TheBusBench.com

  • There is quite a bit about the way Los Angeles has evolved and devolved with respect to mass transit and public transportation. (A good start for research is the film, This was Pacific Electric.)

    Browne has a good handle, especially in that she comes from a higher-educated (she has a Master’s degree), typical car-centric and upper-middle class demographic. Yet she has managed rather well, especially in that she has continued to further her education after having rid herself of a fine motor vehicle (back in 2006) and has since used Metro buses and trains—often at night on her way back from class.

    If anything, Metro should hire her to do what its executives do not do, that Metro could get a feel for what public transit in Los Angeles is like for people who avoid the buses owing to the fear of riding the Shame Train.

  • That bit about blogging is so very true.

    Unless you’ve go disposable time and income, computer(s), digital cameras, audio equipment, and the expertise to put it all together, you’re pretty much ass out in the cold with respect to blogging.

    The upside is that access to a mass market (i.e. the entire world online) is a lot easier and cheaper than it has ever been before in the history of the world.

    I spent months preparing to write a Wikipedia entry on “Bicycle Transportation planning in Los Angeles”, before I had a kid and a small business. Now I can’t dedicate any time to putting what I know and would like to share online.

  • “The upside is that access to a mass market (i.e. the entire world online) is a lot easier and cheaper than it has ever been before in the history of the world.” Ubrayj

    As a person who has done independently publishing (literary publishing, poetry, flash fiction etc…)the internet is awesome in getting info out and easier and cheaper. I still love paper though. Also I was talking to some people in parts of South LA and they told me they couldn’t get high speed. That they pay for it, but can’t get it at the highest levels, which means they can not get videos (you tube, daily motion) and graphic heavy sites take forever to load and that was shocking to me. That in LA there are portions of the city you can’t reach. The people who I want very badly to reach.

    And though I do like the ease of the internet, it’s the perspective that I have an issue with. Even though I feel I’m very progressive and the internet is filled with very progressive people (and conservative.) We’re all sort of the same person. Yes maybe I’m a black woman, but I’m a black woman with a particular background. I can’t write on everything from every perspective without it being slightly tainted by my class and educational background. And of course it’s always been like that in regards to who gets to be the purveyors of culture, but with the ease of the internet it seemed like you would have gotten a wider variety of voices, but as the internet is growing and matures it seems to be the same type of people who are allowed to have the loudest voice or any voice at all.

    I’m a blogger. I’m a writer. I’m not trying to get into politics. I’m not a part of any organization. I’m not an expert. I am not in PR. I blog about (in an editorial manner) social justice and environmental issues. That is what I do. And people seem to go out of their way to not describe me in that way and I think it has to do with this idea that only certain people’s voices matter, even in the blogosphere.

    Browne

  • Yeah, you’re right about that. As the racist redneck joke goes, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a soldier.”

    If you’re not part of the group that has dominated ever other group, then your voice certainly counts for a lot less, it would seem.

  • ramonchu

    interesting conversation going here, wanted to add my two cents before throwing something else out…

    the thing i love about the internet is that paradoxically, although it opens up the entire world and all the people/things/ideas in it, it also elevates the micro-communal (here I am posting on a website about my neighborhood, about my lifestyle, with people very similar to myself and in close proximity); the idea seems to be “global-local”, and I prefer the emphasis on local.

    Consequently, I wanted to say something about the homogeneous blogosphere, but that’s really another topic for another day. Quickly, see the “edupunk” buzzword/movement and perhaps, please, oh god, please, Obama’s claim to bring broadband to all communities.

    Ok, so what I really wanted to put out there (as per her own request), was a suggestion for Browne’s car-kill project, her protest-piece against car culture.

    Though I’m arguably the most rabid opponent of car culture, I remember the documentary “Who Killed Vincent Chin.” The film is about a racist killing in Detroit in the 80’s and peppered throughout the movie are scenes of out-of-work autoplant workers (relevant, as the man who “physically” murdered Vincent was just that) destroying newly imported, and out-selling-Detroit, Toyotas with sledgehammers.

    Violence is violent, and though my anarchist teachings tell me “the urge to destroy is the urge to create”, I can’t help but think destruction able to take many, anti-violent forms.

    This is a long way of saying, if she should find anyone willing to give her a car, I think Browne should donate it, or sell it at Carmax and put the money towards a good cause. This is because one of the most violent parts about consumer/car culture is the wasteful, throw-away pathology it feeds on and perpetuates, and so mimicking this would be, in Browne’s case, counter productive.

    Hoping to start a more pertinent and constructive, for Browne, dialogue (it is all about the process, RIGHT!?) so please respond…

  • Spokker

    I take the bus and the train because I want to. However, I don’t feel good about vilifying drivers or destroying cars to make some kind of point (if there is one). I agree with the poster above. Donate the car to a charitable cause instead.

    To me, advocating mass transit is all about choice, and if people want to drive, that’s their choice. With a viable alternative, many people will choose not to drive, and many people will.

    I enjoy driving when the mood is right, when the purpose is right. I will not get rid of my ’98 Honda Civic anytime soon, and that’s my choice. I will continue to take the bus and the train for various reasons, and sometimes for no reason.

  • Spokker as far as me vilifying car owners, please. I’m the least vilifying of car owners here. This is an performance art piece that someone who drives can VOLUNTEER to help me do. I am not about forcing people to do anything. I’m about creating a conversation about the goal of a carFREEfuture.

    It is one freakin car. It’s not cars. If the idea of the car is that precious to you that me destroying one person who volunteers their car causes you some kind of alarm, I think you should sue GM and Ford for brainwashing you.

    Show me anywhere online on my blog where I have ever said anything bad about people simply because they drive cars? I have always been about pointing out the truth in regards to Metro, corporation and capitalism.

    Now on to my response to Ramonchu.

    “Violence is violent, and though my anarchist teachings tell me “the urge to destroy is the urge to create”, I can’t help but think destruction able to take many, anti-violent forms. ” ramonchu

    I see your point, but if I’m creating something by destroying something that’s not being wasteful or violent. I’m creating a conversation. And a conversation is something. Conversations are very valuable.

    Yes I used a violent term, but sometimes strong language is needed in having a real conversation. Too many times we tiptoe around an issue and for what? To me politicized (not pc, but politicized to not be offensive) language in the long-term is more literally violent than the truth.

    I use the term murder, because it is intentional (and goes with the post-post apocalypse theme, this is a group show, got to stick with the theme) and it is a short way of saying, “Hey I don’t like you.” And I don’t like the car. I don’t want to have a conversation with the car or for the car to act nicer, I just don’t want the car around.

    I want to create a dialogue on car culture. That’s what I am trying to create. Maybe you don’t agree with my way and you expressing that may make me think about more solutions, because I admit I throw an excellent party, but I do a bad job at cleaning up afterwards. Maybe I will inspire you to come up with your own way. (Maybe you can work on an actual concrete way to clean up the party after I’m done…)

    These are all good things.

    The turning the car into a benevolent tool has been marketed enough. The car doesn’t love you. Car companies don’t care about you.

    I want to steer the conversation more to, cars are hurting the planet, sprawl that is created because of the idea that we all should have cars is bad and what can we do to stop this. What can we do to make sustainble living more inclusive and accessible?

    There are plenty of people having the alt fuel and better gas mileage conversation and they have way more money (because the car industry will fund them) than the people who just don’t see the car as a tool for anything good at all.

    I don’t like the direction that the alt transportation movement is going. I don’t like this electric car, diesel car, borrow a car kind of mentality. To me that’s like being a vegetarian who eats chicken.

    Now LA is not at the point where everyone can not use a car (I am not talking to a the person who lives in the suburbs with little babies and a job that takes them two hours to get there and I think that’s vastly different that the vast majority of the people in this movement who go after that person as an easy target) but we’re at a place where people who have professional jobs in the arts, media, education who live near downtown, Hollywood, parts of Pasadena and Santa Monica don’t need to use a car. And I’m challenging that childless, local foody, claims to be green, pointing their finger and saying what other people should do to stop using their car (and borrowing their friend’s car.)

    If you are a democrat and you talk about green this and green that I’m challenging you to get rid of your car or stop beating us over the head with your green washing bs.

    I’ve been in a car a total of at the most seven times this year and that’s including cabs. My goal next year is to never step foot in a private vehicle.

    I have a job where I travel. I travel from downtown to as far as Covina, Palos Verdes and Tujunga, if I can get around in this city without a car the person I described can get by in LA without a car.

    Now as far as my murder your car project, well if I get a car (damn the gas prices for going down) I’m not going to blow it up. I’ll just take it apart and possibly give the parts to an indy junkyard or possibly LA Trade Tech, I know they have an auto mechanic training program, but as far as me giving a car or selling a car to a place that encourages car ownership and that’s all, well I can’t do that.

    I am pretty adamant about not allowing people (corporations) who do bad things the opportunity to use me in Green Washing activities.

    If someone is going to give me their car to murder, it’s probably going to be a car that if I gave it to someone or anyone gave it to anyone would cause that person more problems.

    So the short answer to you question am I going to destroy the car and just throw it in the trash, no, but I will cut up your credit cards, fashion magazines, designer status shoes and clothes (i don’t believe in providing needy people with status items.) Don’t worry, I will use that for future art projects so it won’t go in the trash.

    Keep in mind my politics is encouraging conversations through my art and writing. I’m not very skilled in doing anything beyond that, which is why BusTard’s suggestion that Metro hire me for anything is pretty much an impossibility. Unless they wanted me to create some kind of anti-car marketing campaign that would probably be tainted with some kind of vile kid unfriendly images.

    Browne

  • Great interview with the force that is Browne, I especially liked that last inspiring bit about what LA was and could be. I concur with some of those assessments of the LA blog world, it’s a cozy little scene mostly filled with a very specific demographic, which makes it kinda boring and not even close to being representative of the actual city. I hope that will change soon.

  • Browne, give me relief from my reliance on restuarants. Can you murder one for me? There’s a good pamphlet I picked up titled Abolish Restuarants which will be available for free at your performance for those who want to read an anti-capatilaist analysis of the restuarant industry.

    As far as performance art goes dismantling a car or smashing it up with a sledgehammer is hardly anything to get upset about. Chris Burden nailed himself to a Volkswagen, there’s Ron Athey, and then there was those crazy Viennese Actionists.

  • “Browne, give me relief from my reliance on restuarants. Can you murder one for me? There’s a good pamphlet I picked up titled Abolish Restuarants which will be available for free at your performance for those who want to read an anti-capatilaist analysis of the restuarant industry.” Edith

    We have the same addiction. Bring a meal from the place that is causing you grief and I will smash it on the floor. To keep if from being wasteful I will leave the door open so the rats and roaches can partake in a meal after my performance. Or anyone who is willing to put on rat ears and a rat tail can lick it off the floor.

    Browne

  • Oh in case you fun people are interested a Post-Post Apocalypse Event is going on tomorrow.

    “Red Section, will start this Sunday, December 28, @ 6PM. Since we keep The Loft locked up during events, if you’re interested in attending, be there between 5:45 & 6 PM, when we’ll have the loading dock door open. If you arrive late, no worries, just call the number posted on the door and someone will come down and let you in. Access to the loading dock is on 4th Street, you can’t miss it, and there’s plenty of parking. If you only want to come to the second show, we’ll have the door downstairs open again at 7:45 – 8 PM, also, or you can just call up and we’ll open the door for you.

    The films are free, and we’ll have snacks, a little booze and hot tea. It wasn’t actually that chilly in the Loft, but if the weather is cold, bring a jacket or a warm buddy.”

    http://xrl.us/beasjo

    http://www.the-loft.net/

    Browne

  • “Or anyone who is willing to put on rat ears and a rat tail can lick it off the floor.”

    I’ll supply the ears and tail or maybe I can find a couple of dead rats to attach to the licker like a hat.

  • ramonchu

    Browne,

    awesome idea.

    the problem with the blog is you can’t have a REAL conversation, cause in the real world I would have said “Carmax/donation” and you would have said “still supports car culture (though maybe not the donation, cause maybe it goes for the blind or something and they can’t drive and only benefit from taking cars off the road; though it’s debatable)” and then I would have said, “we’ll then scrap it” and you would have said “that’s what I was thinking!” and it would have been great.

    yo so I’ve been 100% down with this idea the whole time (on my last bike I had this awesome hand made “Kill your Car/Build a Bike” sticker) and I get the premise behind it. Just thought it could be cradle-to-cradled, you know, complete. But you’re on it. Keep stickin it to em, Browne.

  • Fallopia Simms

    Interesting interview to say the least. I def agree w/ the thrust of browne’s message. But until we raise the level of “poverty” according to what Steve Hymon thinks to be a sign of poverty and what Damien proclaims is the sentiment of 99% of Angelenos believes to be a sign of poverty (and that would be riding a bus) then folks we’re just talking to entertain ourselves. Until we change parking minimums, zoning for more density and less parking and tolling our roads then even a truly poor person driving a beat up Subaru will continue to believe that they are not poor just because they own and operate a car. Force Steve Hymon onto a bus or train through measured anti single car driving policies and you’d see the hypocrite that he is come out in full force. Suddenly the bar of poverty would be raised and euphamized into “status quo” or into “the the” not “the other”. Too many people are getting off way too easy in this county through the happy motorist ideology therefore miscategorizing what it means to be poor and far too many “advocates” in this town support and sympathize with them.

  • johnny

    I’d donate my car if I had one.

  • Hell to the yeah Fallopia. I agree with you.

    There are massive entitlement programs and public subsidy for car driving that are overlooked routinely in the press and in the halls of power.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Traveling in the Rain…L.A. Stories

|
When I was in New York last December to meet with the NYC Streetsblog crew, they were working on a post about how the NYCDOT deals with snow and bike lanes.  I chuckled to myself, at least that’s one thing we don’t have to deal with in Los Angeles. But, every now and then, it […]

LA Eastside on Buses as Part of the Community

|
Browne Molyneux, one of the talented writers at the Bus Bench, has a new article up at LA Eastside, which highlights the role buses can take in the neighborhood as a part of the community. Molyneux, no fan of Metro, compares her experience on the Montebello #40 with those of her experiences on Metro. The […]

Today’s Headlines

|
Carnage: Driver Jumps Curb Kills Crossing Guard In Monterey Park (ABC, LAT) Elsewhere, Driver To Be Tried For Collision That Killed 4 People (KPCC) Santa Monica Next’s Jason Islas Interview On Santa Monica’s No-Growth Pains (KCRW) Flying Pigeon Looks At L.A. Election Numbers And Urges All To Bike The Vote Profiling the LOSSAN Rail Corridor […]