Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Overheard [by Me] in New York

You've probably heard of this site, wherein New Yorkers can submit some of the entertaining stuff they hear on the streets. I guess it's largely due to using the public transportation that you overhear so many stranger's conversations, but you can probably also posit the shear number of crazy, conceited, or just plain creative people living here for some of the best material.

Here are three snippets I've overheard myself since moving here just a couple of months ago:

Black Girl 1: Where are we?
Black Girl 2: We're in Soho, ho!
- Coming out of the subway at Broadway and Houston.

It's just not fair. Everyone else is becoming less attractive, but I'm staying the same.
- One gay guy to another, as I trailed behind them on 1st street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

I'd love to come around for a visit, Mum, but I'm in Manhattan right now.
- Loud guy on a cell phone in Target in Queens.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

The video for British band Kasabian's new single "Empire" makes quite an extraordinary anti-war statement, touching especially on the impact of violence upon youth, beauty and art. I'm looking forward to checking out their new album. Their debut was noteworthy, despite the nasty anti-piracy software included in many copies.

The latin phrase above - "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" - closes out the video. It's from Horace's Odes and means "It is sweet and appropriate to die for the fatherland." According to Wikipedia, Bertolt Brecht referred to the phrase as "Zweckpropraganda," a great word by which he meant cheap propaganda for a specific cause. Lot of that floating around these days, innit?

In his poem "Dulce et Decourm Est," English poet Wilfred Owen refers to the phrase as "the old Lie."

A whole lot of youth, beauty, art, intellect and progress has been banished from the earth as a result of that old lie.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I Was Framed!

DNA 11 will swab you for DNA, then turn the sample into a work of art. They explain the process here.

Rite of Passage?

So my brand new (one-month old), rather nice Cannondale Bad Boy got lifted yesterday from right under my nose. I went into a furniture store near Union Square after locking up my bike with an admittedly flimsy chain, spent 3-5 minutes looking around, grabbed a business card from the counter for fear of leaving my bike unattended too long (seriously), went outside and - gone. The guy must've come in right behind me and/or been really quick.

Now, I felt like a bit of a dope calling the NYC cops about a stolen bike and wondered if I might get laughed off the line. The lady on the phone took my info and told me the police would come around to finish things up with me. An hour later, I left the scene of the crime. The police hadn't come yet, so I guess I'm on the lam. Before I left though, I did watch David Cross cruise slowly by me on his bike, accompanied by a blonde on foot. So that was free. I stifled the urge to call out, "Yo David, don't leave that thing unattended, man."

So it's back to pedestrian/straphanger for me, until I get to the point where I feel comfortable dropping a few quid on a bike again. Does this make me a New Yorker yet? Or do you hafta get mugged? Maybe it just cements my newbie status.

I Googled "'new york' bike stolen" and you get, like, loads of hits. 1.4 million actually, though I'm sure they're not all on topic. One of the first hits is this video guide to bicycle theft by a guy who was sick of getting his stolen and wanted to show how easy it was to do in broad daylight. Co-incidentally, his video starts with him stealing his own bike in Union Square--about a block from where mine was stolen. This guy also goes into great detail about how to avoid getting your bike stolen. On the one hand, I'm sure it would've helped if I'd bought one of these right away (was on my list of things to do - doh!); on the other, the only answer may be to not get off your bike. Unless this guy's right. I hope not.

And, hey, guess which city rates number one on this 2002 list of top ten cities for bike theft? What's the bet it's still number one?

OK, so I'm moving on now. Letting go. Really. . . . Oh, if I'd only come out of that store a couple minutes earlier!

Sunday, August 13, 2006


In lieu of a properly composed, thoughtful entry, here are a few things I've been meaning to blog for weeks.

A. Stuart Elliott directs us to this great viral campaign for Folger's, which smartly parodies territory Folger's has been lazily mining for years. Check out the hilarious wake-up calls and auto-email responses, too.

B. A co-worker pointed out this "interface-free" touch-screen, which might remind you of the one Tommy Cruise manipulates in Minority Report. Check out the video and screenshots, too. Watch the whole video to see how extraordinarily advanced and interactive this thing is. Makes your current screen look so 20th century. (Cool music in the video by Peter Kruder, too.)

C. Details obsessives and those interested in typography may be fascinated with Andrew Hearst's detailed explanation of the kerning in the digital timer on TV's 24. Short version: the designers cheat to save space by artifically kerning the digits closer than they would typically appear in a digital display. Read the whole thing and you'll get it. I love that he noticed this and finally concludes: "The onscreen time sequences are dictated partly by the typographic limitations of the clock font." An interesting version of the tail wagging the dog. (Reading more about Andrew, I find we're neighbors. Howdy neighbor.)

D. The universe as Groundhog Day. That's kind of the possibility presented in this Guardian article. Can't be too cutting edge a theory as I was turning similar stuff over in my head back in grad school and I ain't no physics professor. The idea's either terribly horrible or terribly beautiful, depending on your mood or point of view. You might also consider it a basis for a sort of empirically-based form of reincarnation. If you're into that kinda thing.

E. Ray Troll has cool new(ish) Embrace Your Inner Fish t-shirts.

That will be all.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Down With %&$# Censorship

From Amnesty International, this cool idea: as a form of protest, publish censored material on your site, via AI's database.