Monday, February 28, 2005

The Gates and Other Observations

The one or two of you who read my blog might notice that I've combined my two blogs. My "lifestyle" blog hadn't been updated in awhile, not for lack of interest but time, so in the future, if I notice any more cars that resemble the Geo Metro, I will post about it here. (Has anyone else noticed that a lot of cars now have chrome roof racks?)

I finally visited The Gates in Central Park yesterday, as the installation was taken down today.
The Gates in Central Park, 2/27/05
I decided to take a close-up shot of the fabric, as I hadn't been able to tell what it was like from pictures in the paper. The fabric looked kind of like the mesh jersey material that a lot of sportswear is made out of. The fabric also hung in pleats from the Gates, which I hadn't realized until I saw them in person. Overall, I enjoyed my visit. I didn't think the individual gates were beautiful (those 90-degree angles in the Gates really bothered me, as well as the metal blocks that held the gates down). But, as a lot of people have commented already, the installation did make you look at the park differently. I'd like to think a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise go to the park were drawn by the Gates to actually stroll around.

I also went to Orange Park's show Saturday night (so I could add some "color" to my profile on the band). The experience reminded me of why I never go to shows anymore, namely, when people deliberately confine themselves to a small space, they really turn into a pack of idiots. One guy gave my friend's boyfriend the evil eye for the duration of the show. I had people deliberately bumping into me, and the woman in front of me repeatedly flicked her hair into my eyes when she was trying to pull it up into a ponytail. I also don't know why people insist on shoving their way to the front of a crowd, as if they will be able to enter another dimension and two people will be able to occupy one spot simultaneously. The music was great, but I don't plan on going to any more shows for awhile.

On a lighter note, I've seen some cool things lately:
-Several couples dancing some latin dance in unison on the top floor of a building.
-People practicing Tae Kwon Do moves in unison on a higher floor of a building, as seen from the street.
-A guy sitting with a bust of Abraham Lincoln -- which he'd carved himself! -- on his lap while he was waiting for the subway. He said the finished bust would become part of some memorial.

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Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Good Book and Good Music

I'm currently reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I heard an interview with the author on NPR and, intrigued, I decided to borrow the book from the library. I'm really enjoying it and getting through it quickly, unlike with Crime and Punishment, which I had to put down after a few weeks of slow going. One day on the train, this man got on the train, sat down across from me, and cracked open his copy of The Shadow of the Wind. I was tempted to ask him if he'd heard the same interview I did, but I didn't think he'd appreciate being interrupted.

Had a fun interview with some of the guys from the band Orange Park this past week. I've been following the band for a few years now and decided to profile them for one of my classes. After awhile, it felt less like an interview than just my hanging out with the band, shooting the shit. It reminded me of something I've been told in my classes, which is that as a reporter, you're not there to become friends with your subjects. You're there to be a reporter, and your obligation is always to your readers. I'm sure there are exceptions to that rule. But I also remembered something Republican "political strategist and media consultant" Russ Schriefer had said in a talk at my school, which is that as reporters, you shouldn't just talk to people you're comfortable with. Otherwise, you miss the stories of all the other people out there.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

The Somerville Gates

I find the Somerville Gates rather endearing. I'm glad that there are people out there who can be so earnest about humor. (The original site no longer has photos of the installation, but you can still Google the site and look at the cache.)

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Saw Hotel Rwanda this past weekend, a powerful disturbing movie.

It seems of relevance then that Nicholas D. Kristof would come out with an op-ed today in the New York Times discussing the genocide in Sudan.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Unusual Arrangements

Noticed some articles on unusual people in Sunday's New York Times:
  • One article profiled a man who is walking across America for the second time. I've thought about walking across America before, but I haven't even driven across most of it. Maybe one day, after I've accumulated enough disposable income, I can take the time off to do something like that.
  • Another article was about a woman who sold her house and now lives on a cruise ship. Wonder what kind of tax breaks she gets. I doubt I'll ever be able to afford such an arrangement. After reading David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," though, I'm not sure I'd want to spend even a week on a cruise much less live on one year round.

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  • Friday, February 11, 2005

    The News this Week and More New York

    Some big news this week that I neglected to write about earlier:
  • Israelis and Palestinians declared a ceasefire.
  • North Korea declared that it has nuclear weapons.

    Today my editing teacher gave us a quiz on the location of all the countries in Africa. I don't remember ever studying Africa's geography, so preparing for this quiz made me realize how little I know about the continent. I've heard references to many of these countries in the news--Somalia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, among others--but never knew where they were located. Then there were the countries I knew absolutely nothing about--Gambia, Mauritania, etc.--though I was familiar with their names. Then there were the countries I never even knew existed, like Cabinda and Western Sahara. In this country at least, I think there is a tendency to lump all the countries in Africa into one entity, like, oh, that person's from Africa though it'd sound vague if you said, oh, that person's from Europe. After studying for this quiz, I think I have more of an appreciation for the cultural and ethnic differences that must exist between all these different African countries.

    I don't know why E.B. White wasn't introduced to me earlier. I don't recall ever having to read any of his essays; I'd always thought he was just a children's book writer. Jeff let me borrow the Essays of E.B. White, and so far I've read "Death of a Pig," "Coon Tree," "A Report in January," "The Geese," and "Here Is New York." I love his writing style and voice. He's got this way of wryly pointing things out and he makes these connections I'd never thought of before. I can particularly appreciate "Here Is New York," as I live in the city. I really like his use of this one extended metaphor (I think, it's been awhile since I've studied English):

    When I went down to lunch a few minutes ago I noticed that the man sitting next to me (about eighteen inches away along the wall) was Fred Stone. The eighteen inches were both the connection and the separation that New York provides for its inhabitants. ... The governor came to town. I heard the siren scream, but that was all there was to that--an eighteen-inch margin again. A man was killed by a falling cornice. I was not a party to the tragedy, and again the inches counted heavily. ... The quality in New York that insulates its inhabitants from life may simply weaken them as individuals. Perhaps it is healthier to live in a community where, when a cornice falls, you feel the blow; where, when the governor passes, you see at any rate his hat.

    I've often wondered myself whether or not it'd be better elsewhere.

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  • Thursday, February 10, 2005

    "Here Is New York"

    This is what I observed yesterday while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge (for the first time!): "City of bridges, islands and islands, boats anchored beyond Governors Island. Promise of journey to other lands."

    This is what E.B. White wrote in "Here Is New York":

    I am told this is the greatest seaport in the world, with 650 miles of waterfront, and ships calling here from many exotic lands, but the only boat I've happened to notice since my arrival was a small sloop tacking out of the East River night before last on the ebb tide when I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I heard the Queen Mary blow one midnight, though, and the sound carried the whole history of departure and longing and loss.

    Overheard on the subway one night, said by a teenage boy: "If I live to be 50, I'm going to kill myself."

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    Monday, February 07, 2005

    Not So Secure

    Andy Bowers makes a very good point here on a loophole in airport security.

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    The Best Place in the World

    According to Sperling's Best Places, the best place for me to live is Boston, followed by San Francisco; the Washington, D.C., area (where I grew up); Long Island; or New York City. Chicago, where I used to live and loved, comes in number 9, after Minneapolis-St. Paul (have considered), Pittsburgh (disliked the one time I visited), and Baltimore (seems to be an up-and-coming city). A number of other tempting places appear in my list, including Seattle, Denver, and Philadelphia.

    The notion of a best place is an interesting one. I still remember something a friend told me once. She and her family used to live in a valley in Virginia; however, they had nothing in common with their neighbors. Now that they live outside of Chicago, they appreciate all the friends they've been able to make, though their current home isn't as beautiful as their former place.

    Interesting too because I'd always thought I'd end up in Boston someday. I had the chance to attend graduate school in Boston but decided that, after being in Chicago for so long, Boston might feel too "provincial." Now that I'm in New York City though, I'm aware of how expensive it is to live here. I know New York has some diehard fans, but frankly, I don't know if it's all worth it. I don't think the quality of life is very good in this city even if it has many wonderful things.

    Sometimes I wonder if that old saying is true, that home is where the heart is. That the best place to be is where one's heart is, regardless of what a place can offer.

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    Sunday, February 06, 2005

    The Reporting Life

    I reported on the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden last Friday for a local paper, the Queens Ledger. It was my first time reporting on an event where I was actually an accredited reporter (ah, the swagger a media pass puts into one's walk). The press room is deserving of a satirical article, one which I won't attempt. But I will describe it.

    The John Condon Press Room is located on the sixth floor of Madison Square Garden. I walked in and immediately got the impression that I'd stepped into an airport lounge. There was a long oak bar on the back wall of the lounge, square tables and chairs arranged around the floor, TVs hung in the corners of the room, and dark wall-to-wall carpeting. The back room was where the magic happened: it was illuminated by fluorescent lights and the walls were lined with cubicles, each with an outlet, a Internet connection, and a plaque with the name of a different newspaper. When I walked in, half an hour before the games started, several people were already there. Everyone had a laptop and the photographers had spread out some of their equipment on the long tables.

    A buffet dinner was served, though one had to pay $5, which would go to charity. So no, the media weren't wined and dined by the event promoters.

    Trying to figure out where to sit inside Madison Square Garden once the games began was a whole other matter. There were several press boxes, but the ones closest to the floor were reserved for the big papers. Everyone else could sit in the North or South Press Box, which were quite a distance from the floor. My editor wanted me to write a story involving human drama, not just times and records, so I was really stumped about what to report. For one, I'd never reported on sports before. I have no clue about terminology and the races were so quick that I barely had time to note down what was happening. Coincidentally, I ran into a friend from school when I took a random empty seat. He was a seat away, there to watch the games, and he explained to me what was going on. Eventually though, I circled the arena, going up and down the tiers and looking for people in track outfits, in order to find the human drama for my story.

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    Friday, February 04, 2005

    Some Bad Designs

    1) When the credit card/debit card swipe machine at a grocery store is just to the cashier's left, instead of diagonal to the cashier (about a foot past the conveyor belt scanner). People in line tend to shuffle up and move you along as the cashier scans your purchases. By the time you're ready to pay, the person in line behind you is practically on top of you--not a good thing if you're paying by debit.

    2) A credit card/debit card swipe machine that's installed too high. I saw one that was maybe five and a half to six feet off the ground. That might not be a problem if you're tall, but if you're below six feet, you might not feel comfortable punching in your PIN in full view of everyone behind you.

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    Thursday, February 03, 2005

    Six More Weeks of Winter

    Punxsutawney Phil (of the movie Groundhog Day fame) predicted six more weeks of winter. Read his proclamation here.