Archive for May, 2008

Sat 10 May 2008 9:46 am   //   Posted in: Right now

Mobile phone update

Happy National Train Day from Penn Station Baltimore.


Fri 9 May 2008 2:44 pm   //   Posted in: Media

PDN magazine is hiring a features editor

“Photo District News, the award-winning publication for professional photographers, is seeking a creating and enterprising individual to serve as Features Editor. The Features Editor is responsible for researching, assigning and editing feature stories and departments, both for online and the monthly print magazine. Reporting to the editor-in-chief, the Features Editor works with the creative director, photo editor and fellow editors to produce content that engages and serves the photo community.”

Full job posting here.

(This is the magazine where I work.) The job is in Manhattan.

Spread the word if you can think of anybody who might be interested.

Fri 9 May 2008 9:57 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Technology

Web question of the day

Technologies that are teetering on the brink of failure: E-mail. Craigslist. Amazon reviews. eBay. MySpace. All once held the promise of usefulness, but have been seriously hampered by spam, scams, lies, junk and noise. Wherever people are allowed to type whatever they please, corruption follows.

Two technologies seem to be immune. One, SMS text messages. Two, Facebook.

What do Facebook and the cell phone companies know that nobody else has figured out?

Thu 8 May 2008 10:49 am   //   Posted in: Media

News is free for NBC

The Times reports that NBC is planning to start a 24-hour local news channel in New York. It will air on cable and, I’m guessing, on one of WNBC’s new digital channels. The news content will also be repurposed for other platforms, like those annoying video screens in the back of taxis.

Round-the-clock local news seems like a staff-intensive idea that would be certain to lose money, but New York 1 has made it work for years. How? Around town NY1 has a reputation for being a supercool place to work, where employees get paid chicken scratch. Your compensation is that superior feeling you get each time tell people what you do. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m jealous of everyone who works there.

With NY1 owning the market on journalistic hipness, how is the super-square WNBC going to compete? The article tells us:

“Providing round-the-clock live news will not require NBC to hire more employees for the new channel; it plans to rely instead on expanding the duties of its present staff members…”

This is a signal that NBC considers local news so easy to gather and of so little value that it shouldn’t cost anything to provide more of it.

I wonder how much they spend on helicopter fuel compared to salaries for journalists.

Wed 7 May 2008 8:20 am   //   Posted in: Art, New York is different

Soon this will be a waterfall

East River Waterfall New York Art Installation by Olafur Eliasson

I’m anxious for them to throw the switch on the New York City Waterfalls art installation. Artist Olafur Eliasson has designed four towers that will pump water up and let it cascade back down into the East River. The water will begin falling in late June.

The photo above shows one the waterfall towers on a pier, seen looking north from the Manhattan Bridge bike path (photographed in April). The other towers are located under the Brooklyn Bridge (Brooklyn side), below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and Governors Island.

Tue 6 May 2008 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Typography

Logo in Iron Man movie is oddly familiar

On Sunday I went and saw this summer’s first mandatory movie, Iron Man. It’s pretty good. The protagonist is the CEO of a defense contractor called Stark Industries. Here’s what his company’s logo looks like:

Seem familiar? It did to me. That’s because it combines elements of the Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman logos.

(Stark logo via Screen Rant, Lockheed and Northrop logos from those companies’ Web sites. And nautrally, I’m not the first person on the Internet to notice this.)

Okay defense contractor people, who among you is building an Iron Man?

Mon 5 May 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Music, Technology, TV commericals

iPod commercials and the 30-30 rule

Some people think 2:42 is the perfect length for a song. On further consideration, I’m thinking 30 seconds.

Gradually, maybe over ten years, TV commercials have emerged as the best way to debut new music. Not radio (Over!), not MTV, not AOL, not MySpace. It’s great if you can get your song into an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s even better if you can get your song into something like a car commercial. Years ago, music fans would turn against bands that they thought were corporate sell-outs. Now I think audiences are so wise to the entertainment marketing machine that nobody is shocked to learn that some musicians are in it for the money.

For a few impossibly lucky bands, success comes in the form of an Apple commercial (like the two videos above). It’s a safe bet that Apple doesn’t have to pay these bands a dime to license their music. The labels probably lobby Apple pretty hard to get songs into these ads.

Apple advertising songs are their own genre. The tunes are happy, upbeat. They are from bands that sound familiar but that you’ve never heard of. They have a uniform volume level, so they sound good through a set of uninsulated iPod headphones in a train or on a treadmill. And most of all, they sound absolutely tight the first time you hear them in a 30 second commercial (which, coincidentally, is the length of a song preview on iTunes). But these songs aren’t destined to become classics or outshine the product they are advertising. The novelty wears out and they get tiresome just in time to make room for the next song — and the next Apple product.

Let’s coin a 30-30 rule for iPod commercial songs: They sound great in 30 second clips, and they wear out after 30 plays.

Today, I can’t get enough Yael Naïm’s “New Soul” and The Ting Ting’s “Shut Up and Let Me Go.” Ask me in six months if I can even remember the names of these artists.

Sun 4 May 2008 2:38 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, Technology

Why I quit buying the Sunday paper

Sunday newspapersItem: Circulation of the Sunday New York Times dropped 9.2 percent over the last year.

Blame people like me. I used to have a Sunday routine of buying and reading the Times. Now I hardly ever buy it. Here’s why.

First, it has nothing to do with the quality of the newspaper. The Times is my local paper, and it’s arguably the best in the country. I can easily spend three hours reading the massive Sunday edition and not feel like my time was wasted.

But there’s another sort of waste that worries me. I think a lot about the environmental impact of what I buy, and print newspapers are fundamentally not green. Rushing the news out as a physical product – consuming wood pulp and ink and energy – makes less sense than ever. Do we need a fleet of delivery trucks criss-crossing our city every morning to keep us well-informed?

Until a few years ago, we did. But not anymore, thank you Internet. Every day on, there’s a handy index of all the stories in the print edition, which approximates the experience of browsing sections a newspaper. I set up my old laptop computer on my kitchen table, the same spot where I used to read the newspaper. If can read the same material for free, without carrying out a whole mess of paper downstairs with my recycling on Tuesday night, why wouldn’t I?

This system isn’t perfect. The best section of the Sunday paper is The New York Times Magazine, and that experience doesn’t translate as well online. Magazine photos look better on glossy paper than on my computer screen. And doing the crossword online is for losers.

If the Times Magazine were sold as a separate product for $4 – and were available all week, like other weekly magazines – I would probably keep buying it. Yes, that’s right: The guilt I feel about needlessly throwing away a forest of newsprint is enough to keep me from buying the only part of the Sunday paper I still want.

Each time a story comes out about newspaper circulation dropping, reader reaction is predictable: It’s the fault of those sorry journalists. (Typical Huffington Post comment: “I’m surprised anyone reads the NYT after Judith Miller.”) Publishers seem to be getting the message. As newspapers (including the Times) scramble to cut costs, they’re downsizing their editorial staffs.

It’s a shame, since the newsroom is the one element of the newspaper model that’s worth saving. I think people still want to read the news, perhaps more than ever before, so I’m an optimist about my own career choice. Somehow, journalism will survive. It’s printing and circulation that are doomed.

Sat 3 May 2008 4:11 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Food & drink

A complete sucker for Brooklyn eats

I’m pretty cynical about branding, but for some reason I’ll buy any food product that says “Brooklyn” on it.

Unfortunately, most of our native products aren’t especially healthy. Off the top of my head… Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup. Brooklyn beer (as well as Coney Island Lager and anything brewed by Six Point). Gorilla Coffee. Manhattan Special soda (made in Brooklyn). Jacques Torres chocolates. Uncle Louie G’s Ice Cream (to which I’ll add 5 Boroughs Ice Cream, even though its from Astoria).

It gets ridiculous. Some stores near me have started selling Brooklyn chewing gum. A local wine shop called Red, White & Bubbly sells wine under the label of “Brooklyn Wine Company,” complete with a Brooklyn Bridge logo on the bottle. The wine inside comes from California.

We’d eat healthier if Brooklyn were famous for tomatoes or apples or fresh fish… rather than beer and pizza and cheesecake and chocolate.

Fri 2 May 2008 10:18 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Movies, Transit

Remaking of “Pelham 123” spreads to Brooklyn

The Taking of Pelham 123 Dumbo Brooklyn

Last week I wrote about how film crews were shooting the remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123” along Park Avenue above Grand Central.

Yesterday I spotted signs in Dumbo (around the intersection of Jay and Front streets) noting a “Pelham 123” shoot taking place on Tuesday. What the heck are they doing in Brooklyn?

I also hear they were shooting scenes around 41st and 42nd streets on the East Side in Manhattan. More: The AM New York Urbanite blog has details about shooting on the 7 platform at Grand Central (they got permits for that?!) and Second Ave. Sagas has pics of Denzel Washington at the Park Ave shoot.