Archive for the ‘Over!’ Category

Tue 1 Feb 2011 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Over!

Let’s go somewhere else

History Eraser Button, you’ve had a good run. But today I’m officially moving my blog to a new place:

Breaking Copy is a better blog than this one. It’s more focused–covering subjects related to writing–and under the hood, it’s much more advanced.

The History Eraser Button archive will remain online indefinitely. Thank you for being a reader!

Go read Breaking Copy, and follow BreakingCopy on Twitter, join Breaking Copy on Facebook and add the RSS feed.

Tue 12 Oct 2010 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, New York is different, Over!

On leaving Brooklyn (retracted)

A retraction, October 22, 2014: Four years ago I wrote this grouchy blog post about Brooklyn, and got a lot of attention for it. In hindsight, it was mostly just whining. In particular, I’m sorry I fed into the negativity aimed at young people and parents in Park Slope. In about 2 weeks we move back to Brooklyn, because it’s a nice place to live. I’ve left this post published, but I’ve set it in strikethrough type to signify that I don’t stand by it any more.

* * * *

Two Saturday mornings ago, I was shopping at the C-Town on 9th Street in Park Slope. In the snack aisle I walked past a guy intently studying two bags of potato chips. He looked a lot like me, only with a shaggy beard and an untucked flannel work shirt, a popular look here. Next to him, an elderly lady asked for help reaching a box of garbage bags on a high shelf. “Just a second,” said the bearded guy, lost in his potato chip labels. “When you have a chance,” the woman said patiently.

I did the obvious thing. Since the other guy wouldn’t, I got the box for the woman. But I also had a very visceral reaction. I wanted to turn to the bearded potato chip scholar, get up in his face, and hiss, “Dude! What the fuck is wrong with you?!

Fortunately, I didn’t act on that impulse. But the next time I might. And that’s why it’s time to leave Brooklyn.


Tue 6 Oct 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Over!, Technology

Death of the telephone

In 2000, I spent a semester as an intern for Accuweather. My job was to call radio stations and read them weather reports in my best radio voice. I often spoke through a clear connection called an ISDN line, which took the form of a black box with a few knobs and buttons, connected to a microphone and headset. A conversation with a radio producer across the country sounded as if we were in the same room.

It was so cool that I knew it was only a matter of time before everyone would talk to each other on high-quality digital lines. Calls would become more personal and intimate—Think of the whispers, the breaths, the inflection of a dry joke. You could play music for friends and family, or share the ambient sound of the birds chirping on your porch. I knew once people had tried it, they would never settle for a regular phone again.

As we now know, I was totally wrong! We’ve grown to hate our phones so much that we’ve reverted back to typing. It’s the revenge of the telegraph.


Thu 6 Aug 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Movies, Over!

I will probably never buy another DVD

Last year, I spent $20 for a cable that connects my computer to my TV. It has more than paid for itself. A few months later, I’m streaming most of my home entertainment over the Internet. This week I watched “The Hunt for Red October” from Netflix. The experience delivered just as much Cold War nautical awesomeness as it would have on a DVD. And I can play it again any time I want.

Which makes me wonder, why own DVDs at all? My modest, tightly-edited DVD collection takes up one shelf of a narrow bookcase. Like my long-obsolete CD collection, seeing it sometimes fills me with buyer’s remorse. Eight discs of “Arrested Development” sit there mocking me, now that every single episode is available free online. “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Casablanca,” and “Vertigo” are there too—and also available streaming from Netflix.


Wed 18 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: It's a trap!, No right to be good, Over!

Best and worst chain stores in Manhattan

Best: Recently I went to Bed Bath & Beyond on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea. Apparently, the staff there is trained to personally say hi to each customer. Every employee I walked past – whether stocking the shelves or moving carts around – looked up, made eye contact, said “Hi,” and then went back to work. It wasn’t creepy, it wasn’t annoying, it was just friendly. There are other signs this is a well-managed store. It’s enormous and very busy, yet somehow always clean and orderly. I shop there because it has a whole section of inexpensive pharmacy products, including the best price around on razor blades (which are free to grab off the shelf, not locked in a glass case like at CVS, et al). It even has a section of reasonably priced organic groceries. This store has no right to be good, and is anyway. It overturns the conventional wisdom that big box stores fail in Manhattan.

Worst: Years ago, during my first-ever visit to New York City, my friends and I walked to Macy’s Herald Square, rode about 11 flights of escalators, and rode them back down. “The World’s Largest Store” functions adequately as a tourist attraction, but as a place to buy stuff, it’s a debacle. Its floorplan is chaotic, its pricing is erratic, and its salespeople are surly. Macy’s is constantly mailing me 25%-off coupons that seem like good deals, but have fine print so complicated you need the help of an accountant to understand all the exclusions. Twice now I’ve walked out of the store in mid-purchase because a coupon wouldn’t scan, and a sales-clerk blamed it on my failure to be functionally literate. (Am I the first person to think “Menswear” means “men’s clothes”?) And no, I don’t want to save ten percent with a Macy’s card! Macy’s? Over! Happily, in this city I have lots of other options.

Wed 18 Feb 2009 10:24 pm   //   Posted in: Media, Over!

Delonas kills the editorial cartoon

The problem with Sean Delonas’s New York Post cartoon isn’t that it’s racist. It probably isn’t. The problem is that it’s idiotic. “That stimulus bill is so bad a monkey could have written it! Gawrsh!”

Who’s the audience for this bad stand-up schlock? Children? Doesn’t the mess we’re in demand smart, funny, cutting humor? Aren’t we, as Americans, better than this?

We have evolved a lot since the days of Thomas Nast and Boss Tweed. Even our best editorial cartoonists, like Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall, are fading quickly from the landscape as alt weeklies whither. Taking their place are a whole new generation of multimedia humorists. Now we’ve got The Onion, SNL, Comedy Central, and everybody who’s ever cut a snicker-worthy political video for YouTube. While Delonas was finishing his cartoon, a thousand bloggers and a million Twitter users were spewing out witty commentary on the stimulus bill. The stuff you read on Wonkette is better than any op-ed cartoon.

An editor at the Post should have caught the unintended, racist double-meaning of this cartoon and rejected it. But speaking to a bigger issue, why are newspapers still printing totally lame editorial cartoons? The editorial cartoon is dead. Thanks for reminding us, Delonas.

Tue 18 Nov 2008 8:50 am   //   Posted in: New York is different, Over!, Transit

MTA: R.I.P. W, Z?

This is how you get a headline: Let it slip that you’re planning to eliminate two entire subway lines!

The Daily News has a story today speculating that the MTA’s upcoming budget proposal will slash jobs and kill the W and Z trains.

As a reminder to those of you who don’t live in New York, subway lines here are not like subway lines in other cities. Most NYC Subway lines share track with other lines, and most stations are served by multiple trains. So when you eliminate a line, there’s always another train to pick up the slack. How would this work if the W and the Z go to the great rail yard in the sky? Time to play Fantasy Subway:

Let’s start with the Z train, since that’s easiest. It’s an express J. They could have called it the J Diamond. A lot of New Yorkers have never even seen a Z train. Kill it. Over!

The W is more complicated. It’s a daytime local on the Broadway line in Manhattan and then runs local up to Astoria in Queens. It stops running after 9 p.m. weekdays and doesn’t run at all on weekends, when the N runs local in Manhattan to haul tourists from Times Square to Ground Zero alleviate crowding. Eliminating the W without making other adjustments will mean the R will be the only local train on the Broadway line on weekdays. I have a hunch the MTA would just put the weekend schedule in effect all week for the Broadway line: No W, R local, N local, Q express. That makes a lot of sense, but they would have to run more Q trains, especially to pick up passengers riding over the Manhattan bridge to and from Brooklyn, and enough N trains for the rush hour riders in Astoria. An alternative would be to ramp up R service on the Broadway local line during rush hours, and stop the weird rush hour M service on the 4th Avenue line in Brooklyn (which has to share track with the R).*

Most likely scenario: Public outcry will pop this trial balloon. The state will cough up a few more bucks, the MTA will raise fairs fares, and the cuts will hit other things that still hurt the quality of the subway experience but that don’t sound so drastic.

* UPDATE: WCBS-TV reports that the MTA is considering cutting the M line in half, which I’m guessing means stop the 4th Avenue rush hour service. Same treatment may be in store for the hapless G train.

Sun 15 Jun 2008 4:26 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Over!, Travel

Air travel is so over!

Greetings from Charlotte. Wait, Charlotte? What’s he doing in North Carolina? I’m suffering in airline hell, that’s what!

I left Charlottesville, Virginia, this morning. I was supposed to board a 10:20 United flight to Dulles. But that plane was already behind schedule, leaving me no time to make my connection. The airline courteously booked me on an on-time U.S. Airways flight to Charlotte, where I could get a connecting flight to Newark. Fine.

Actually, not fine. In Charlotte, my plane left on time and taxied out. It sat on the tarmac for two and a half hours. Then it taxied back. Now I’m part of a planeload of passengers waiting in the terminal while the airline negotiates with air traffic control for permission to land its plane in Newark. The latest word is that we’re supposed to take off at 5:30 – four hours late. The official explanation for the delay? “Weather.” Except it’s an absolutely beautiful day all up and down the Atlantic seaboard, and the departure boards show most of the other flights are on time.

If I’d left my hotel this morning and kept driving to Brooklyn, instead of to the airport, I’d be there by now. Now I am further away from home than when I started.

Also of interest: At no point today has anyone asked to see my identification.

Update: The plane landed in Newark more than four hours late. The pilot explained that landings were slow-going into Newark due to “puffy clouds.” My suitcase followed about 20 minutes later, arriving on a different plane.

Tue 8 Apr 2008 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Over!, Technology

Twitter: Life’s too short

I may be wrong about Twitter, but I’m pretty sure it’s over. We’ve given it long enough. We’ve been patient. It’s not poised to break out of the nerd community. It’s not the next big thing.

Why is Twitter doomed to be a niche player? It takes too much work to sort through all the noise. Twitter represents the purest form of Web 2.0’s biggest problem: A crowd of people unsure what they want to hear matched with a crowd of people with nothing interesting to say. As a communications tool, it offers very little that the average person can’t get from a blog or Facebook or MySpace.

When Twitter was new, I started an account for lurking purposes. Work-wise, it has been of no help to my reporting. The sources I care most about – the ones who are well-informed about my beat, which is professional photography – are not on Twitter. They don’t know about Twitter. They are too busy. If you explained Twitter to them (“You post just a sentence or two at a time, even a text from your cell phone, telling people what you’re doing all day long”) they would think you were a loser. And they’d be right.

Apart from work, I don’t have any urge to share a minute-by-minute account of my life. When I have something that deserves a mention, I put it here on this blog (via text message if appropriate).

Even though I have never posted anything to my Twitter account, nor told anyone about it until now, 18 people have signed up to follow me. I don’t know who most of them are. I think a few of them are spammers. If you’re one of them, let the record note that I actually do a lot of things. I’m just not one to Twitter about it.

Counterpoint: Charles Cooper: For some reason, Twitter hasn’t yet taken the journalist community by storm.

Update: I had this post cued up in advance and failed to notice my friend Bret was blogging about the same thing. He’s in the Twitter camp. Like I said, I could be wrong about this one.

Fri 29 Feb 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Over!

On smoking in the media

Amy Winehouse did it for Harry Benson in the New Yorker. Josh Brolin did it for the January cover of GQ. Ryan Reynolds did it in “Definitely, Maybe.”

I’m talking about smoking, in all its glowing sexiness. This hazy cloud shows no sign of dissipating from popular entertainment.

I have a simple relationship with smoking. I don’t smoke because I have a low opinion of cancer. The few times I have smoked cigarettes, I enjoyed them. But I realized that I’m the sort of person who looks kind of dippy holding a cigarette. (The point of your 20s, I think, is to identify the behaviors that make you look or feel ridiculous, and gradually expunge them from your life.)

Moreover, tobacco companies have such a long and well-known history of evildoing that no one with any scruples would work for one today. Therefore, all tobacco company employees are unscrupulous.

Which brings us to celebrity smokers. A voluntary ban on tobacco advertising in magazines took effect last year (Oh, you didn’t know that?). You can’t air cigarette ads on TV or put them on billboards or even name a NASCAR race after them. Tobacco ads are over! – cultural waste to be recycled and mocked by Richard Prince and “Mad Men.”

Backed into a corner, tobacco companies are known to resort to desperate measures. Secret product placements in magazines and films and TV shows – ones that everyone, if asked, can *cough cough* plausibly deny – seem so rational that it’s hard to believe they aren’t happening.