16 December 2002

1780 Madison Avenue Substation

Before the internet and world wide web became ubiquitous and transformed into a giant commercial abyss serving soliciation and mindless time killing aids, I thought of the net as being a power of liberation. A tool of mass communication that enabled every online denizen to showcase wonderous creativity, share cerebral thoughts, and tap into one giant master mind that would power all the globe into a golden age unseen in any past nation's history. It's not the first time I've been tagged a idyllic dreamer, detached from the vulgar reality of common life form behavoir. And alas, a quick glance at that Lycos 50 most entered search queries shows the online realm inundated with hunts for such weighty topics as 'Tatoos', 'Britney Spears', 'Pamela Anderson' and the file sharing program du jour to enable limitless copying of music and video. I guess I put too much hope in humanity.

But every now and then, I stumble across a story that encapsulates my early vision of the potential power of this new medium. Here is the latest such example: Brian Taylor and his brother, who live in a crack-infested Baltimore neighborhood, are using the world wide web to improve their lot. They've turned their old carriage house into a police substation at no cost to the taxpayers and set up a weblog at to share their fears, frustrations and victories.

A project history is chronicled, along with photos of the substation and miscreants lurking nearby and log entries like this one:

He told Vaughn his is not the worst slum in town. Maybe not, but it is bad in every conceivable way. He has violated a consent decree ... yet again. His tenants live in squalor. By night, his building is the McDonalds of crack. He visits his building to collect rent and pretend to work on it during business days when I would think he'd be at his desk or working at his job as a sanitation department supervisor with the city. He owes nearly $11,000 in back taxes and fines to the city. Who does he know?

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