Archive for February, 2008

Fri 15 Feb 2008 8:32 am   //   Posted in: New York is different, Transit

Conversations only New Yorkers understand

The scene: Aboard a downtown R train, between Union Square and 8th. I am leaning against the wall at the front of the car.

Passenger 1: This train goes to South Ferry, right?

Passenger 2: Yes.

[ Passenger 1 approaches the door at the front of the car and tries to open it, as if to walk from one car to another. It’s locked! The passenger rattles the door, getting increasingly frantic. ]

Me: That door isn’t going to open.

Passenger 1: I need to be in the front!

Me: Relax. This is an R. All the doors open at Whitehall.

Passenger 1: Oh, right! Thank you! [ Sits. ]

Thu 14 Feb 2008 11:39 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, Videos

All apologies, all the time

Who’s sorry now?

1. David Schuster of MSNBC, after wondering if Chelsea Clinton was being “pimped out.”

2. Chris Matthews of MSNBC, after saying Hillary Clinton got where she is because her husband messed around.

3. NBC anchor Meredith Vieira, after Jane Fonda used a profanity during a live interview.

4. Mark Halperin of Time, after using a profanity during a live interview on satellite radio.

It’s fun to work in broadcasting!

Wed 13 Feb 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: It's a trap!, Right now

Attention Kmart TV shoppers

Right now, I think our entire economy is driven by sales of HD television sets.

I was in Kmart yesterday buying batteries and I overheard a conversation that started when a customer asked about flat-screen TVs. What’s the difference between the two kinds of TVs?, the customer shouted to the clerk at the register.

The clerk shouted back that one had a sharper picture.

Before the customer could ponder the difference, a grey-haired customer with a gravely voice waiting at the register added his opinion.

“You need a special cable to get the good picture!” the guy said. “It’s another $50. They’ll try to sell it to you as soon as you’re about to walk out with the TV box!”

The clerk added, yes, you do need the cable — but now they’ve started selling a short version of that cable for $25. Guilty!

Every place that sells consumer electronics should have a crotchety know-it-all walking the floor to warn his fellow customers customers about this sort of thing. (“Extended warranty? What are you, some kind of sap?!”)

Related: The DTV transition is one year away: Feb. 17, 2009. This will cause mayhem and unrest like nothing seen since the 1960s! See

Tue 12 Feb 2008 7:40 am   //   Posted in: Labeling, Transit

Next time you’re in Chicago

Somebody who went to school in Chicago told me recently about a game students there play using the CTA map. It’s simple: Which El station would you name your child after? Discuss. (Link to the map is here.)

This game could translate well in London, Paris and probably a few other major cities, but not New York where too many of the stations are named after numbered streets or obvious locations (“Union Square”).

Mon 11 Feb 2008 7:42 am   //   Posted in: Weather

Cool as ice

Days like today are the reason there’s a thermometer at the top of this Web site. As I’m writing this, it’s 11!

Sun 10 Feb 2008 11:01 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Over!

R.I.P. Capt. Bridger

Roy “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” Scheider has died.

Those of us too young to get why Jaws was a big deal remember Scheider as the captain of the SeaQuest. He’s the man I’d want in charge of my massive, teardrop-shaped, torpedo-armed, research submarine.

Sun 10 Feb 2008 8:13 am   //   Posted in: In the news

I hear the jury’s still out on math

“I know the pundits and I know what they say — that the math doesn’t work out. Folks, I didn’t major in math, I majored in miracles, and I still believe in those too.”

Mike Huckabee, yesterday, insisting he’ll keep running for president.

Sun 10 Feb 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Holga, Photos



Manhattan from Queens, December 2007

Sat 9 Feb 2008 10:03 am   //   Posted in: Food & drink, No right to be good

You have no right to be good!

What’s the difference between a guilty pleasure and something that has no right to be good?

A guilty pleasure is something you can’t enjoy without also feeling bad about. It could be something you like but that’s unhealthy, or that fills you with shame. Think meat loaf. Or Meat Loaf.

But something with no right to be good starts out no ambitions to be great, but achieves greatness by accident. Since it is genuinely good, it is no cause for guilt. It’s when low art crosses into high art, or when a corporate production machine somehow blunders into something sublime. Like Rufus Wainwright recording “Hallelujah” for the movie Shrek.

Campbell’s condensed tomato soup is a great example. Somebody once told me that the paper-mill-like odor in Tacoma, Washington, (the “aroma of Tacoma”) was actually the smell of the Campbell’s tomato soup factory. I don’t think that’s true, but it seems believable enough. Campbell’s tomato soup is a marvel of food science, a recipe for gelatinous red slime that probably hasn’t changed since the 1950s. But it is the absolute apex of tomato soup, and no one has ever improved upon it. Served with a grilled cheese sandwich on a winter day, it’s the prefect lunch. Why is this stuff so wonderful? It has no right to be good!

Fri 8 Feb 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Photos



Union Street, Gowanus, Brooklyn, 2007