Archive for November, 2008

Fri 28 Nov 2008 6:33 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Labeling

Best use of the word “Hobbesian” in a news story

“A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York died after he was trampled by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a Hobbesian frenzy.” — “Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death,” The New York Times.


“Whensoever a man transferreth his right, or renounceth it, it is either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself, or for some other good he hopeth for thereby. For it is a voluntary act: and of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself.” — Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.

Tue 25 Nov 2008 10:01 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn

Coney Island in winter

Astroland dismantled?

Hope for Astroland?

Next up: A flea market?

Or a monorail?

Tue 25 Nov 2008 8:25 am   //   Posted in: Media

Two storylines about the state of journalism

Story 1: Journalism is dying because journalists now must compete with bloggers and other user-generated online media. Citizen journalism is gaining in influence as volunteer enthusiasts realize they can cover the news as well as or better than the dinosaur media. The democratization of media means professional journalists can no longer cling to power as the gatekeepers of information. The only way professional journalists will survive is to immerse themselves in new technologies – TypePad, Flip video, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Story 2: Journalism is dying because, for all known memory, it has been bankrolled by traditional advertising, and traditional advertising is in a slump. Companies are cutting ad budgets because of the recession. Moreover, advertisers are finding better ROI in lower-cost, higher-impact marketing of all sorts, from product placements in TV shows to sponsorship of events. Online advertising is still a low-impact, paper-thin segment that commands far lower rates than traditional broadcast and print. The only way professional journalists will survive is to apply their skills to specialty publications that cater to specific, advertiser-friendly audiences, or seek other sources of funding such as grants, donations and corporate underwriting.

One of these stories is true. The other is 95% hype. Do you know which is which?

Sat 22 Nov 2008 9:00 am   //   Posted in: TV commericals

Ninja Cats!

A marvelous commercial for Toyota Australia:

Creative by Publicis Mojo, Sydney, Australia. (Sharper video and full credits here.)

Fri 21 Nov 2008 7:15 am   //   Posted in: Holga, Transit

This is the last stop on this train

Following up on my post from Tuesday, here are the proposed subway cuts announced in an MTA press release yesterday:

  • Route modifications – shorten G, operate N via Manhattan Bridge late nights, eliminate W and extend Q to Astoria, operate M to Broad rush hours, eliminate Z, add J local service.
  • Increased headways and loading guidelines during non-rush hours – headways increase from 8 to 10 minutes on ADEFGJMNQR on Saturdays and the ADEFGNQR on Sundays; headways increase from 20 to 30 minutes from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

MTA also wants to cut some low-ridership/redundant bus service, eliminate jobs (management, station booth managers) and cut back on (ugh) cleaning. The MTA’s budget presentation says they are trying to make budget and still: “Fulfill fundamental mission of getting people where they need to go.”

Okay, let’s talk about the cuts. As I wrote earlier, we’ll be fine without the W and Z. I hadn’t considered the possibility that they would run the Q all the way out to Astoria once they kill the W, but that’s a good solution. Confirmed that they want to stop running the M all the way to south Brooklyn during rush hours, which is a bummer. The R train is going to get crowded. And the G… [long silence]… That poor train…

Most serious is increasing the overnight space between trains from 20 to 30 minutes. Psychologically, there’s a huge difference between waiting 19 minutes for a train and waiting 29 minutes. We’ll have to start carrying timetables for the subway!

About once a month I end up taking the subway during those hazy hours between 2 and 5 a.m. (heading home after parties, or heading out to an airport or Penn Station early in the morning). During the pre-dawn hours, most of the people riding the train here in Brooklyn are working-class immigrants on their way to work. Anybody who works that hard deserves a break. A functional, round-the-clock public transit system is one of the few breaks they get in this hard city. If we’re pinching pennies, let’s find another service to cut.

(Thanks to Jeremy for the tip.)

Wed 19 Nov 2008 11:46 pm   //   Posted in: Mobile update

Test message

This is a camera phone picture of my cat transmitted directly to the blog.

Wed 19 Nov 2008 11:17 pm   //   Posted in: Technology

I’m ignoring your calls on my nifty new phone!

Check out my new Pantech Breeze: Thin, smooth, sturdy and smartly designed. No goofy lights or music buttons or other tomfoolery. Did I mention this phone is marketed toward the elderly? I frankly don’t care if it’s for old timers, because it is one of the best-designed cell phones I’ve seen. It just looks and feels like a high-quality product, and AT&T offers it at a good price for a quad-band GSM phone with a decent camera. (I switched to AT&T from T-Mobile because my company offers me a corporate discount on AT&T service.) AT&T customer service was polite and efficient in setting up my account. Too soon to know if I love this phone a lot or just a little bit, but I already know it’s a hundred times better than my old Motorola lemon. I like this simple design much better than the tricked-out phones that get all the hype these days. The old folks are all right.

Just two complaints:


Wed 19 Nov 2008 9:41 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review

Quantum of Something

Last night we saw the new 007 flick “Quantum of Solace.” My favorite part was the part about the quantum of solace. [Pause for laughter.]

James Bond feels like he’s in a kind of transitional phase, but the movie is still a safe choice: You’re paying for 007, you’re getting 007. Two films ago, the ever-wise custodians of the Bond brand brought in actor Daniel Craig to bring the series up to contemporary standards. So far, this has meant copying the look of the Jason Bourne movies (which have come dangerously close to out-Bonding Bond). The new Bond involves less sex, gadgets, drinking and sleaze – and more noise, quick-cut fight scenes, backstabbing and pain. Judy Dench is the ideal M, and Craig is the best Bond ever. The problem is the villains. The bad guy in this film is the head of a utility company who’s evil scheme involves— [spoiler alert!] (more…)

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.

Mon 17 Nov 2008 7:43 am   //   Posted in: Labeling, Media

Five newspapers with stupid names

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)

The Leaf Chronicle (Clarksville, Tennessee)

The Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio)

The Log Cabin Democrat (Conway, Arkansas)

The Truth (Elkhart, Indiana)