Archive for April, 2008

Fri 18 Apr 2008 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Holga, Photos

Foggy night in Park Slope

Jeep Park Slope Brooklyn night exposure Holga

Brooklyn, April 11, 2008.

More photos below.


Thu 17 Apr 2008 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Bicycles, Transit

MetroCards going green — bikes still greener

Everybody knows MetroCards are blue and yellow. (This hasn’t changed since the 1990s, when MetroCards were introduced with a slightly different, blue color scheme.) But hey – for a short time they will be green!

As for me, I’ve begun my annual spring tradition of riding my bike to work as much as possible, to avoid buying a monthly MetroCard (now $81). Public transit is very green, but bikes are greener. So there!

See a picture of the green MetroCard on Gothamist.

(Tip: Thanks Renée!)

Wed 16 Apr 2008 9:56 pm   //   Posted in: Misc

Iraqi photographer released from prison

My long-running coverage of imprisoned photojournalist Bilal Hussein continued today when Bilal was set free. I’ve written about 15 Bilal stories since 2006. Here are some highlights:

Today: After Two Years In U.S. Custody, Photographer Bilal Hussein Goes Free

Today: Lawyer: Only Two Witnesses Testified Against Bilal Hussein

Nov. 28, 2007: The Man From Fallujah

Nov. 27, 2007: Bilal Hussein Will Face Overloaded And Rushed Court System

Nov. 26, 2007: Interrorgators Told Bilal Hussein His Photos Were A Threat, Report Says

Sept. 18, 2006: AP: U.S. Has Held Iraqi Photojournalist For Five Months

Wed 16 Apr 2008 8:40 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Media

Growing bitter about citizen journalism

It’s the political story of the week. Barack Obama (a candidate I like) said some condescending words about poorer voters at a meeting of wealthy donors. Obama’s closed-press comments became public when a blogger/Obama donor named Mayhill Fowler reported them on OffTheBus, a citizen journalism project run in connection with The Huffington Post.

I argue that Fowler’s story should never have run, but not for the reasons you think.

Before I continue, here’s a link to the story: Obama: No Surprise That Hard-Pressed Pennsylvanians Turn Bitter.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait here….

Back? Did you like it?

You didn’t finish it, did you? Didn’t think so.

Not until about the 28th sentence does Fowler get to the only part of her article that makes any sense: “Obama made a problematic judgment call in trying to explain working class culture to a much wealthier audience.” Yes! That’s your lead! Sell it! Get people fired up! Don’t waste your readers’ time!

But a waste it was. Fowler wins points for taking advantage of the sweet access she had, and for getting Obama on tape. This is where citizen journalism comes very close to greatness. Unfortunately, Fowler and her editors turned an exciting scoop into a 1,400-word slog, followed by a three-minute audio recording, followed by a 480-word transcript, followed by thousands of reader comments.

Fowler’s story shouldn’t have run because it was super boring. A good editor would have killed that rambling blog post and just posted the audio and the transcript, along with perhaps 100 words of fair explanation (“Listen carefully to Obama’s comments about poor voters…”). Let the pundits and commenters take it from there. You can’t lose.

Jay Rosen, the NYU professor behind the OffTheBus project (and a nice guy who once bought me a beer after a citizen journalism meetup), has an interesting take on Fowler’s story here. Rosen explains that Fowler only felt comfortable publishing Obama’s remarks if she could “contextualize” them, and editors couldn’t force her to rewrite it since they weren’t paying her anything.

But the main point of Rosen’s story is to ask why his citizen journalism network didn’t get credited when Meet The Press picked up their scoop. It’s fair to ask that, but he’d have a stronger case if the story in question was actually good. The important words were Obama’s, not Fowler’s. Does she really deserve credit for pressing the record button?

Tue 15 Apr 2008 1:00 pm   //   Posted in: Right now

Irony, apathy are officially back

Exhibit A: The geniuses who write copy for

Tue 15 Apr 2008 8:09 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Food & drink, Hard times

Food costs make it hard to get a slice of the pie

Yesterday I stopped by Whole Foods to buy cereal and something for dinner and walked out $57.93 lighter. Part of this is my fault (I always get suckered into buying expensive stuff at Whole Foods like coffee beans and organic produce). But food costs are seriously high. This is absolutely not cool. As noted in this space previously, bagel prices lept up quite suddenly here in Brooklyn.

This week an AP story on food prices (“Food Costs Rising Fastest in 17 Years“) quotes none other than Steve Tarpin, the legendary Key lime pie maker of Red Hook. I have had Steve’s pies and they are outstanding. Now they cost $25!

Mon 14 Apr 2008 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Technology

Kill the mail!

A goal for 2008: phase out mail.

Why go mail-free? It’s a waste of of paper and energy. My mail delivery in Brooklyn has never been reliable, and most correspondence is better done online these days. We still need the mail to deliver packages, but we don’t need it to transmit information.

What I’ve eliminated:

  • Bank statements and bills. I get almost all of them electronically now. The few stragglers I hope to switch over soon.
  • Magazines. When I can read them online, I’m letting my subscriptions expire (with a couple of guilty exceptions, like National Geographic).
  • Frequent flier miles statements.
  • My church‘s monthly newsletter – now offered as an e-newsletter.

What’s left:

  • Postcards and personal letters. I love handwritten, personal notes (though these are getting fewer and fewer) and I don’t wish to eliminate them.
  • Tax forms. I bet within a year or two, we’ll be able to get these electronically.
  • Stock/mutual fund annual reports. There’s a tremendous cost incentive to deliver these electronically, so I expect they will go away soon.
  • The occasional freelance check or rebate check. Again, I bet everything will go EFT within a year or two.
  • Netflix. Clearly going all-online at some point.
  • Legit bulk mail. Now we get to the hard stuff. Catalogs from places where I actually shop, newsletters from my local elected officials, election announcements, those sleazy credit card checks that Bank of America sends me every month, and announcements from the postal service itself.
  • Junk mail. Impossible to eliminate. I’m talking to you, Citibank. And anybody offering to insure the car I don’t own: Wasting your time.

Sun 13 Apr 2008 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Media

Read the Wall Street Journal Online for free

Just click here.

That’s a Google News search for all Wall Street Journal Online stories, sorted newest first. Click on a headline, read for free.

To read these stories on, you have to pay $79 a year. But for some reason (branding? influence? vanity?) the Journal makes them available in full if you link in through a Google News search. Further explanation on Salon’s Machinist blog.

Sat 12 Apr 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Transit

Stand clear of the closing doors please

New York R-160 subway car

A few days ago, the subway began rolling the new R-160 cars on the M line. These cars have already been phased in on a couple of other lines. Everyone agrees they’re the best of the fleet and have lots of improvements over the old cars. Significantly, they have digital recordings of all the announcements.

Now we can finally settle — once and for all — the proper way to pronounce DeKalb Avenue!

Is the De like the De in Delicious or the De in DeLorean? Is the a in Kalb like the u in Cull or like the o in Cow?

For both questions, the first is right, per the announcement. Say it: “DEE-culb.”

Now we wait for the MTA to introduce the new cars on the G or A or C line, so we can learn how to say “Schermerhorn.”

Fri 11 Apr 2008 8:16 pm   //   Posted in: Videos

A short video I made for work

Related story.