Archive for October, 2009

Tue 27 Oct 2009 11:35 pm   //   Posted in: Media

Carr vs. Wolff

Of all the journalists in this city who cover media, David Carr, who writes for the business section of the Times, could be the best. His research is solid, he’s a brilliant writer, and he’s a master at taking brand new information and distilling it to its essence. (Example: His April 13, 2007 column about Don Imus.)

Michael Wolff, who writes a media column for Vanity Fair, could be my least favorite. He takes facts that are common knowledge and spins them into tedious stories that reach b.s. conclusions. (Example: His May 2008 effort to explain the finances of The New York Times Company.) He also runs a news aggregation site called Newser.

Being familiar with these two journalists’ work, it was fun to see them face off tonight at a debate at New York University. A friend offered me a last-minute invitation to the event, which was part of a series called Intelligence Squared. (If you’re into this kind of thing, a recording of the event will eventually be online, and it will be broadcast by NPR and Bloomberg TV.)

The motion proposed at the debate was “Good Riddance to the Mainstream Media.”


Sun 25 Oct 2009 7:56 pm   //   Posted in: Bicycles, Brooklyn, Photos, Travel

Abandoned hangars at Floyd Bennett Field

This afternoon I took one of my favorite bike rides—following the Belt Parkway out to Floyd Bennett Field, the decommissioned airport in Brooklyn. There’s a lot of stuff out there in a state of beautiful decay. Three pictures:



Mon 19 Oct 2009 11:36 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Typography

More rogue subway signs

After my post earlier today about non-standard subway signs, my friend Jess left me a comment on Facebook: “There are some temp signs at the Columbus Circle stop that are in Chicago font rather than Helvetica. They drive me nuts every time I see them.”

As it happens, I had to catch the subway at Columbus Circle tonight. The first sign I noticed was another one of those weird black-on-white signs, presumably indicating a semi-permanent change due to station construction.


Mon 19 Oct 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Typography

Subway sign mystery solved?

Imagine putting a dollar into vending machine, hitting the button for Coca-Cola, and seeing the machine dispense a green can. You’d know something was wrong. That’s how I felt when I saw the new signage at the DeKalb Avenue subway stop in Brooklyn.


I know, I’m odd about these things. But subway signs are white on black, not black on white! Why is the MTA futzing with its iconic signage?

I have a theory. I noticed a similar switch-a-roo last year in the Chambers Street station. Those oddball signs at Chambers are gone now. I think they were installed during a temporary change to the station layout, when a stairway was closed for repair work.

Likewise, these signs at DeKalb signal that the trains are temporarily skipping some stations, which are closed for repair work that will last a while. Maybe when there’s a change that’s permanent enough to require a new metal sign, but not so permanent it’s going to last forever, the MTA installs white signs instead of black ones. It’s a signal to the passenger to take special notice of this sign.

I might be wrong. On the F line, the new signs indicating the multi-year—but temporary—extension of the G train don’t look like this. They’re the standard white-on-black metal signs.

Thu 15 Oct 2009 11:46 pm   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Internet pollution

This afternoon, I considered writing a blog post about Jaycee Dugard, the 29-year-old kidnapping survivor who’s on the cover of People this week. Pursuing a photography angle, I Googled some phrases related to Jaycee Dugard images.

Do not do this! Unscrupulous web site operators, exploiting the popular interest in Dugard, have seeded Google with stinking heaps of rotten stuff connected to this poor woman’s name. I clicked on a link that looked like a profile of Dugard, but the site launched a cascading series of virus warnings and then tried to transfer an executable file to my computer. (I clicked no and got out of there.) Google Images brought me to a horrific white supremacist message board that happened to have a picture of Dugard on it. And of course, I found all sorts of “news” sites that were just re-posted snips of text from other sites, wallpapered with blinking and irrelevant ads, tapping the gushing sewer pipe of Internet advertising.

I eventually decided not to write the post, for a variety of reasons. But this is a good occasion for another one of my occasional strolls around the Internet media landscape. It looks polluted. We’re having a quality crisis.


Mon 12 Oct 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: The suburbs

A breach of parking lot etiquette

Last month some friends and I rented a car and drove upstate to the outlet mall.

They have a parking lot up there that’s bigger than many small towns. We arrived early and found a parking spot close to the stores. A few times during the day, I carried our shopping bags back to the car, put them in the trunk, and went back to shopping. Every time, cars would slowly tail me as I walked through the lot, anticipating that I would leave and free up a choice parking space.

I didn’t feel much empathy for these drivers. There was abundant parking elsewhere in the lot. And for people who actually need close parking spaces, there are designated ADA spots. Being followed was creepy. I’m used to the city, where interactions between pedestrians and drivers are inadvisable, since they sometimes turn south. At the mall, I avoided eye contact with the drivers and tried to act invisible.

That was a poor strategy. On one trip to the car, as soon as a driver realized I wasn’t leaving, he lost his shit and beeped the horn. A nearby pedestrian scolded me: “You should have told him you weren’t leaving!” I threw my hands in the air. “I’ve been doing this all day!” I said, exasperated. “He doesn’t know that!” the other pedestrian shot back.

Clearly, I was a stranger to these parts. In the outlet mall parking lot, people live by a code, and I had broken it.

Sun 11 Oct 2009 8:21 pm   //   Posted in: New York is different

Autumn in New York

A short list of things I enjoyed this weekend:

  • Watching the Yankees win on TV at the 12th Street Ale House.
  • A Saturday afternoon snack at Little Buddy Biscuit Company.
  • A good run on the treadmill.
  • A nighttime bike ride to Red Hook to watch some old-time music at Jalopy.
  • A gin and tonic with good friends at Great Lakes.
  • The sound of the church congregation singing “Be Thou My Vision.”
  • Driving the youth group kids and friends upstate to pick crisp apples on a crisp day.
  • Sleeping in two days in a row.

Wed 7 Oct 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

The fast and the furious

Yesterday I read an AP story that contained a familiar idea:

“The Associated Press is considering whether to sell news stories to some online customers exclusively for a certain period, perhaps half an hour, the head of the news organization said Tuesday.”

Hey, didn’t I suggest a time-locked pay wall for newspaper sites a few months ago? Yes, I did:

“I propose charging a premium subscription fee for readers who want the news before anyone else. It works like this. All the stories on your newspaper web site that are more than one hour old are free. A subscription fee (say, $50 a year?) grants readers access to the newest stories.”

I won’t repeat my whole post, but if you’re curious you can read it here.

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.


Sun 4 Oct 2009 8:29 pm   //   Posted in: Bicycles

Photos from Bike MS NYC 2009

Here’s the starting line on the West side of Manhattan at 7:15 Sunday morning. Stretch!