links for 2009-01-28

mount prospect park

  • A new bill has been introduced to congress that would require camera phones to create a click or other audible noise when the phones are used to take pictures. The bill is called the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act, and would prohibit a camera phone from being equipped with a means of disabling or silencing the tone. The bill would fall under the domain of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and be treated as a safety requirement. The noise would have to be audible to anyone in a "reasonable distance" of the camera phone.
  • here is an early test of a voice-based drawing toy I made today (you need an active or built-in mic) :: low volume curves counterclockwise, medium volume is straight, high volume curves clockwise :: pretty tough to control :: below are some screen grabs of faces i tried to draw-hum (click to enlarge).

    Send me what you come up with, or better yet send me a video of you "drawing" and the final result!…(PS - the file is 1000×1000 pixels, and blank when you start - drawing begins from the center - so you may have to scroll if you have a tiny screen - also, click to reset)

  • According to NYPD statistics, overall subway crime dropped by 3% in 2008, with murders down to two from four in 2007. There were an average 6.3 major felonies a day last year, compared with 7.4 in 2006 (there was an average of 17 in 1997). But robberies are on the rise: 823 occurred last year, up from 796 in '07. And there were three rapes reported last year, as opposed to just one in '07. Still, the NYPD's John Hall tells the Post crime is "so low that it's getting more and more difficult to keep it there," and attributes the stats to a crackdown on people walking between moving cars, which criminals do when trolling for victims.
  • Everyone has something to hide.

    That’s the theme for the third season of Big Love on HBO. And it’s also the idea behind new interactive murals created to promote the show by BBDO-NY. These murals, launching in New York and Los Angeles the week of January 5th, feature snapshots of people walking through a city street. Headphone jacks are built into each person’s head, so that passersby can use their headphones (or those provided by street teams) to plug in and hear each person in the mural’s inner and most personal secrets. These secrets range from the innocuous (i.e., a woman who’s in love with her boss) to the dramatic (i.e., a woman who is hiding her drinking problem from her husband or a man who is planning to leave his pregnant wife for someone else).

    In addition, when people plug into the headphone jack near the logo, they can hear a trailer made up from some of the most dramatic clips of the upcoming season, in which secrets abound amongst all the main characters.

  • Ever see a black kid on the subway listening to music? He's in his early 20s. Minding his business, sitting by himself, just listening to his tunes, slightly moving his head up and down. Don't you just assume he's listening to rap? What is that about? Does that make you racist? I think so. Why don't you assume it's Bob Dylan or Pearl Jam? Why? Because you're racist. And I can prove it. Imagine that same scenario, but picture an Asian kid instead. In your head, he's not listening to the soundtrack to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is he? Of course not. And you know why? Because you're a racist.

    I'm just kidding. I'm sure you're not racist and quite a delight.

  • I think you're really considered a New Yorker when you start hating the MTA and become irritated by everything about it. I tried, at first, not to make comparisons to how great the Washington Metro system is. (By the way, have you seen the new user-friendly WMATA site?)

    The train delays, random subway line work that requires five transfers just to get to the Upper East Side, the grunge, dirtiness and flooding…these things don't bother me all that much when compared to the 2nd Avenue Subway Construction:

    Photo credit: MTA
    Hey, it's awesome! that they're extending the Q line and will alleviate overcrowding on the subway. What's not awesome is that they do construction overnight. In a unison fit of complaint, my roommates and I discovered an oh-so-useful portion of the MTA site soley focused on 2nd Avenue Construction:

  • Straphangers better hold on to more than bars in the subway.

    Crooks are grabbing snazzy cellphones right out of the hands of unsuspecting riders, NYPD Transit Bureau Chief John Hall said yesterday.

    Criminals are targeting commuters who become engrossed on their phones while standing near subway doors.

    "The door opens up, the snatch or grab is made, then they're right out the door, on to the platform, then gone," Hall said.

    The problem is so bad on the Lexington Avenue line that police use bullhorns to make public-safety announcements, reminding riders to keep an eye on all electronic devices.

    Hall specifically named the T-Mobile Sidekick as a favorite target for thieves.

    Cellphones were the prime target in 37 percent of the 823 robberies committed in the system last year. That's a total of 305 cellphone snatches.

  • Think your morning subway commute is unpredictable? Try staging a full theatrical production on those same trains - complete with props, set dressing and a cast and crew of 35 people.

    Yet that's just what "IRT: A Tragedy in Three Stations" will attempt this weekend.

  • BROOKLYN — Wednesday is the bus and subway riders’ and their supporters’ chance to be heard about the “doomsday scenario” for mass transit. From 6 to 9 p.m. the N.Y. Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hold its Brooklyn Public Hearing on proposed services changes.
  • Yesterday's MTA fare and toll hike hearing brought out around 80 angry Staten Islanders who spoke passionately about the need to save their transit service and keep their commuting costs low. Along with them, a host of local elected officials also joined the fray last night at the College of Staten Island.
  • This handy book was prepared with the official cooperation of Tokyo Metro and the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation to help readers confidently navigate the convenient but complicated Tokyo subway system. Included are color-coded diagrams of all thirteen Tokyo subway lines; information on ticketing, tourist fares, and commuter passes; a landmark finder; an exit finder; and full-color maps that include national railway, Yokohama, and airport connections. Also included are useful words and phrases, a guide to signs, and where to go for help. Concise and thoroughly up to date, this is the one book readers will want for getting around.
  • The transformations experienced by numerous societies have repercussions on musical traditions and heritage at various levels of their creative and interpretive process. Broadening of conceptual fields, new areas of research (tourism, musical scene), disintegration of boundaries, new media landscapes, folk revival: all these phenomena require researchers to reconsider their investigative methods and tools. The discipline of ethnomusicology, no less than the societies it encounters and studies, and, like other disciplines, finds itself at a crossroads. The increased speed at which all of these changes occur led to the idea of reassessing present-day research activities through an international conference.

Photos of PotUS 43


links for 2009-01-26

bat cat

  • Published: May 5, 1981
    Subway noise has declined significantly after five years of a subway noise reduction program financed principally by the Federal Government, according to the Natural Resourcess Defense Council, a public interest organization.

    ''Taking into account competing demands on its time and resources, the Transit Authority has made progress in addressing the subway noise problem,'' said Steve Jurow, who wrote a report on the matter with James Murphy.

    The report notes, however, that the city's subway system is still twice as noisy as systems of the same age in Berlin, Paris and London.

  • Marco Medkour is someone who listens very closely to his home city, Cologne. He collects the sounds of the city. Medkour, who studied biology, has already marked his sound map on the Internet with 30 locations: Brüsseler Platz in summer, a ride in a paternoster lift at an adult education centre, a scrap yard, various bus and tram stops, all places that build up the kind of auditory tension to be heard in the recording Die singenden Schranken von Holweide (“The Singing Level Crossing Gates of Holweide”): the gates close with a melodic groan, a train rumbles towards the listener, it hisses and stops, again the gates groan, the train sets off, the rattling becomes quieter, shoes patter on the paving stones in the street.
  • Mark Johnson, the Grammy-award winning producer/engineer and co-founder of Playing for Change, embarked on the mission after hearing two monks playing in a New York subway and watching about 200 normally harried commuters stop and listen.

    Over the last decade, Johnson’s mission evolved into promoting international peace through global musical cooperation.

    “For the past four years, a small crew has traveled the world with recording equipment and cameras in search of inspiration and human connections,” Johnson explains. “The result is a movement connecting the world through music … Music has the power to break down the walls between cultures, to raise the level of human understanding.”

  • …because it imposes silence on noises and before all else the most unbearable of these noises are words. Music is the silence of words, like poetry is the silence of prose, it makes the gravity of logos more bearable and prevents men to identify with the act of speaking. The conductor waits till the audience ceases to speak, because the silence of men is like a sacrament music needs to raise its voice.”

    This quote is by Vladimir Jankélévitch, taken from the German version of “Somewhere in the Unfinished” (translation of the quote by myself, sorry for the poor English).

  • The Underground is ancient. The oldest in the world. All others are (often improved in different ways) more modern copies. I would bet it is the most complicated too. There is something.. Magnificent about it for all its faults.

    One thing the Underground used to do is make the odd announcement over the pa systems.

    You always listened up to these because they mostly told you something useful, important. Like the line you hoped to switch to at the next station was suspended, or there was a fire alert or something. You knew it would be important and therefore worth listening to.

    Not now though, and it is my personal suspicion that this has led to the rise of the iPod. Sounds like something from a bad “B” movie. THE RISE OF THE IPOD!!! Doesn't it? Yes, mea culpa, I have one now, sobs, breaks down confessing… “I have joined the pod people!”

  • Punks wear their tattered threads and studded leather jackets with honor, priding themselves on their innovative and cheap methods of self-expression and rebellion. B-boys and b-girls announce themselves to anyone within earshot with baggy gear and boomboxes. But it is rare, if not impossible, to find an individual who will proclaim themself a proud hipster. It’s an odd dance of self-identity – adamantly denying your existence while wearing clearly defined symbols that proclaims it.
  • On my way downtown on the subway the other day, I overheard one middle-aged woman remark to another "Well, aren't we lucky. We live in the cultural capital of the world". I hadn't really been listening to the context of the conversation, as you find when you live in a city of this many million people, you often have to tune out what's going on around you in order to be kind to your ears. In the midst of my day-dreaming though, I caught this snatch of the conversation on the air as I deboarded the 6 train and went on my way.
  • In its infinite bureaucratic wisdom, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority has decided to eliminate race-day train service to Belmont Park. The service, provided by the Long Island Railroad, has for many years permitted racing fans from Manhattan and Brooklyn to use mass transit and arrive right at the entrance to the Belmont grandstand. In fact, my own initial exposure to racing was via this very train; as a high school student, I'd make the trip from Manhattan and hope the mutuel clerks would ignore the fact that I was only 16 (and looked 14) and let me get my $2 bets down.

    It was on the train that I got my first lessons in handicapping, from grizzled veterans of the track who were only too happy to show off their expertise. And the 45-minute trip provided time to explore the mysteries of past performances. It's pretty hard to focus on the Racing Form while you're driving to the track.

links for 2009-01-25

labouring women

  • If we take free listening to be the true end of free speech, then freedom itself takes on a different aspect. The freedom to listen we have in our collectivity, not in our individuality. It is a common freedom, not an individual one. For the Greeks, each of us belongs to two realms of life, the private home and the public square, and we each must distinguish what is private from what is common. And for the Greeks, Hannah Arendt reminds us, “a life spent in the privacy of ‘one’s own’ (idion), outside the world of the common, is ‘idiotic’ by definition….” Intelligence, on the other hand, belongs to common spaces, and is available only to those who can master the difficult art of plural listening.
  • SURELY the essential element of a cautionary tale is recognition. Surprised recognition, even, enough to administer a shock. We are warned, by seeing our present selves in a distorting mirror, of what we may be turning into if current trends are allowed to continue. That was the effect of ''Nineteen Eighty-Four,'' with its scary dating, not 40 years ahead, maybe also of ''Brave New World'' and, to some extent, of ''A Clockwork Orange.''

    It is an effect, for me, almost strikingly missing from Margaret Atwood's very readable book ''The Handmaid's Tale,'' offered by the publisher as a ''forecast'' of what we may have in store for us in the quite near future.

  • Congratulations ot Brian Brockmeyer, Stefan Karpinski, Andrew Weir, Jason Laksa, Bill Amarosa and Michael Boyle (left to right) for shattering the 17 year old subway riding record and hitting all 468 stations in 24 hours, 54 minutes, and 3 seconds.
  • Matt Ferrisi and Chris Solarz have apparently succeeded in their quest to break the record for riding the subway through each of the 468 stations in the subway system. Solarz just emailed us to let us know they finished their journey in a blazing 22 hours and 52 minutes—blazing past the previous record of 24 hours, 54 minutes and 3 seconds. Before that, the record by held by Kevin "Captain America" Foster who clocked in at 26 hours and 21 minutes in 1989

links for 2009-01-24

the diamond necklace

  • They were doing the things that make up the fabric of New York: tourists riding the subway after visiting a museum, workers returning home after a long shift, a grocery store owner working behind the register, and two young women enjoying a night on the town.

    But at some point during a span of roughly 13 hours in June 2006, all of them came across the city’s darker side, becoming victims of violent crime.

    During a stretch that started on the afternoon of June 13 and lasted into the early hours of the next day, four of them were wounded when a drifter from Boston went on a random stabbing spree, prosecutors said.

  • Shanna: "Shanna's Subway Mix"
    Commuting on the subway can suck the life out of you sometimes so I handle it by popping in my headphones and ignoring the crowd around me. To calm myself on the packed subway, my playlist is…

links for 2009-01-23

Vandal Squad on This American Life

links for 2009-01-21

bat cat

  • No person on or in any facility or conveyance shall:
    litter, dump garbage, liquids or other matter, create a nuisance, hazard or unsanitary condition (including, but not limited to, spitting, or urinating, except in facilities provided). Trash and other waste materials contained in waste receptacles shall not be removed, except by persons duly authorized by the Authority;
    smoke or carry an open flame or lighted match, cigar, cigarette, pipe or torch;
    sleep or doze where such activity may be hazardous to such person or to others or may interfere with the operation of the Authority’s transit system or the comfort of its passengers;
    engage in any form of gambling, except as specifically authorized as, for example, at OTB parlors;
    create any sound through the use of any sound production device, except as specifically authorized by 1050.6(c) of these rules. Use of radios and other devices listened to solely by headphones or earphones and inaudible to others is permitted;
  • A 68-year-old woman who fell onto subway tracks in Washington on Tuesday narrowly escaped an oncoming train by squeezing into a small space underneath a platform, authorities said.

    As a train was fast approaching, the woman was trying to get a lift onto the platform, but there wasn't enough time. So Houston police officer Eliot Swainson, who was in town to help out with the record crowds during the inauguration, told the woman to squeeze into the space under the Metrorail platform.

  • Sitting, crocheting, listening to Sherlock Holmes stories:

    Greg got me The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for Christmas. I could ride around forever.

  • Just got back from an overnight trip to DC, where I was forced to wage the war of Amtrak's Quiet Car in both directions. Did you know that ten percent of Americans have a severe personality disorder that makes them want to be assholes? Did you know that anti-social people have enough mass and velocity to form their own society now, and it's called Amtrak? The conductor carefully announces the existence and sanctity of the Quiet Car three times during our ride, and there are signs every three feet with a finger over lips sign and the words FUCKING QUIET CAR SO SHUT THE FUCK UP (sic) on them, so why are you sitting there talking audibly across the aisle to the other douchebag in sales, who by the way is UNCTUATING on the seat, he's so slimy? Why? I swear to God, these two sebaceous cretins had been politely advised before the train even left DC that if they wanted to talk they'd be happier in another car, and yet they stayed in the Quiet Car, talking.
  • Of course, not everyone agrees that Quiet Cars are a good idea. And fewer and fewer of us appear to agree that a quiet meal at a quiet restaurant is a good thing, either. The demise of quiet is directly connected to the demise of privacy — the antiquated notion that we're entitled to keep certain information about ourselves to ourselves — and the result is a fascinating study in pathological conflict. We spend hundreds of dollars on computer software to protect our identities, then use the computers to splash those identities all over the Internet on Myface/Spacebook. We get up in arms when the government wants to know where we are and what we're doing, then update Twitter and our AIM status messages a dozen times a day to let everyone else know the same thing. We build houses with tiny entrances in front but massive decks out back so that the neighbors won't get into our business at home, then conduct our business publicly via bluetooth everywhere else.
  • The online Washington Post has an article posted at 7 am, "Early Risers Try to Get a Jumpstart on Celebration," about rush hour crowds starting early… The article states:

    Lines built behind farecard machines as people fumbled for money and first time riders tried to figure out the system. …

    But at the Vienna Metro by 5:20 a.m., the line into the station parking lot was an estimated two miles long, and people said it had taken them up to an hour to get in. Metro sent out an alert at 5:30 a.m. that the parking lots at the Branch Ave., New Carrollton and Greenbelt stations were full, and about an hour later said that the Largo, Franconia and Van Dorn lots were also out of space. The line to get through the gates at New Carrollton was reported to be 40 minutes long.

  • Last night I had one of those rare “New York Moments” that intersected with the spiritual plane.

    I had boarded my customary E Train at West Fourth Street and proceeding uptown to 42nd Street and the Port Authority Bus Terminal for my ride home to New Jersey. The train was packed, as usual, and most of my fellow passengers who were seated were either immersed in their newspapers or books or were dosing, and those who were standing were holding on for dear life in that packed train.

    At the next stop, 14th Street, an African American gentleman got on. He stood about 6?4, built like a linebacker, and was nattily dressed in a modish suit, the kind that one might expect to see worn to church on Sunday. Even before the doors closed he began to harangue the passengers like a Bible-belt preacher in a mellifluous and stentorian voice.

    The passengers, typical New Yorkers, seemded unruffled by this distraction on their commute home., and I admit, I too wanted to tune him out.

  • Ever wonder why so many people think it would be great to be an American? All I had to do was get on the Washington Metro this morning in Silver Spring, Md., and any lingering doubts just disappeared. It was about 6:15 a.m., and I got on at one of the first stops on the Red Line. It was already rush-hour packed. People were bundled up, smiling, bumping into each other, and joking. It was a like a big adventure that everyone was sharing.


goodbye bush

Praise song for the day by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.