Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Gyotaku (gyo=fish and taku=printing or rubbing), the Japanese art of fish printing, dates back to the 18th century. Fisherman would record their catches by brushing them with ink and then pressing them onto paper.

The creator of the video above used Japanese sumi ink, which is non-toxic and easy to find. In the next video, a different artist makes a large print of a mahi-mahi.

Finally, here's a video a tourist in Okinawa took. A woman in a bait shop apparently does prints of fresh catches.


Working Families Party's MTA Service Alerts

The Working Families Party in New York City created some posters in the style of the MTA's subway service alerts in protest against the drastic cuts in public transportation. The posters were actually designed to be displayed as paid ads in NYC busses and subways, but the MTA rejected them because, according to the New York Daily News, they "imply obscene language" and look too much like real service alerts. The MTA's budget is $800 million short.

Fake MTA posters like this have become sort of a graphic design game in New York over the past few years, with posters like this one below popping up occasionally.

[photo via: flickr.]

That poster was apparently created by the people behind the spoof website, which looks almost identical to the real website, except for press releases like this one, announcing a "partnership" with the homeless:
"The plan is quite brilliantly simple" states William Rorschach, the new President of the New MTA Online Beta Testing Operations. "We are providing the homeless the warmth and shelter of our subway stations to run around and do homeless things provided that they are implanted with our latest surveillance equipment and networked to our communication systems. This will turn almost every single homeless person into a walking, breathing, living surveillance camera where we can track commuters and potentially fight crime. Think of it as almost every hairy, cart pushing, popcorn shrimp and ass smelling hobo in our system converted into a new age Scruff McGruff."
Another fake press release announces a 50 cent surcharge for obese passengers.

Below: Another fake sign, creator unknown, via: flickr.

Quote of the Day: Archbishop Dolan

"The Church needs criticism; we want it; we welcome it; we do a good bit of it ourselves; we do not expect any special treatment…so bring it on."
That's Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, in his blog, talking about all the molestation hubub. "All we ask is that it be fair and accurate," he continues. "The reporting on Pope Benedict XVI has not been so."

Archbishop Dolan's best defense seems to be that this is old news (the Milwaukee priest abused kids from the 50s through the 70s), and that the New York Times seems to have a vendetta against the Pope.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Quote of the Day: Armond White

"Over recent years, film journalism has—perhaps unconsciously—been considered a part of the film industry and expected to be a partner in Hollywood’s commercial system. Look at the increased prevalence of on-television reviewing dedicated to dispensing consumer advice, and of magazine and newspaper features linked only to current releases, or to the Oscar campaign, as if Hollywood’s business was everybody’s business. Critics are no longer respected as individual thinkers, only as adjuncts to advertising. We are not. And we should not be. Criticism needs to be reassessed with this clear understanding: We judge movies because we know movies, and our knowledge is based on learning and experience."
That's an excerpt from film critic Armond White's excellent defense of his trade. Film criticism, he argues, has become advertising for new movies.

His essay, which could as easily apply to art criticism or literary criticism, includes some gems from other film critics, like Pauline Kael, who wrote in 1974:
"Criticism is all that stands between the public and advertising."
And Molly Haskell, who said more recently:
"The Internet is democracy’s revenge on democracy."
This all reminds me of a story art critic Jerry Saltz once told in a review. He'd been chewed out by a gallery owner who couldn't understand why he wasn't more supportive of the art market. Bad reviews, her logic went, were bad for business. But, Saltz fired back, they are good for art, and for the public.

As White writes in his essay, "Commerce, based on fashion and seeming novelty, always prioritizes the idea of newness as a way of favoring the next product and flattering the innocence of eager consumers who, reliably, lack the proverbial skepticism." What good is anything when the biggest recommendation one can make about it is that it is new to the market?


The Forgotten Tunnel Under Atlantic Avenue


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Quote of the Day: David Mamet

David Mamet, the potty-mouthed playwright who turned from liberal to raging, bitter conservative, wrote an indignant memo to the writers of his (now canceled) CBS special forces drama "The Unit" back in 2005 explaining how he wanted the show done. Here's an excerpt:





The whole thing, which was posted this week by a film blog, is in caps.

Bush to Black People: Where's the Hand Sanitizer?

Watch President Bush shake hands with a Haitian, then wipe his hand off on President Clinton's shirt.

And as Gothamist points out, Bush seems to be at best a germophobe and at worst afraid of touching black people. Here, via ABC News blogs, is an excerpt from President Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. Obama is writing about how he, as a new senator, met Bush in the White House in 2005:
“Obama!” he said, shaking my hand. “Come here and meet Laura. Laura, you remember Obama. We saw him on TV during election night. Beautiful family. And that wife of yours – that’s one impressive lady.”

“We both got better than we deserve, Mr. President,” I said, shaking the First Lady’s hand and hoping that I’d wiped any crumbs off my face.

The president turned to an aide nearby, who squirted a big dollop of hand sanitizer in the president’s hand.

“Want some?” the president asked. “Good stuff. Keeps you from getting colds.” Not wanting to seem unhygienic, I took a squirt.

“Come over here for a second,” he said, leading me off to one side of the room.

“You know,” he said quietly, “I hope you don’t mind me giving you a piece of advice.”

“Not at all, Mr. President.” He nodded. “You’ve got a bright future,” he said. “Very bright. But I’ve been in this town a while and, let me tell you, it can be tough. When you get a lot of attention like you’ve been getting, people start gunnin’ for ya. And it won’t necessarily just be coming from my side, you understand. From yours, too. Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip. Know what I mean? So watch yourself.”

Labels: ,

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Gowanus Canal

Although this odd signage has been up on the Ninth Street bridge over the toxic Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, the multi-colored waterway was only made a Superfund site this month. It actually doesn't smell as bad as it looks.But the most exciting part about the canal is this, as summarized in a 2009 article in New York Magazine:
"Cholera, typhoid, typhus, gonorrhea: They’ve all been found in the water. A team of biology professors at New York City College of Technology have also studied a curious white goo oozing along the bottom, which turned out to be a mix of bacteria, protozoans, and various contaminants. The microbes appear to have evolved resistance to the filth, and the scientists have been trying to figure out whether their disease-fighting mechanisms could be adapted for medical use."
The canal was dug in the 1860s, and the pollution came from the oil refineries, tanneries, and other chemical plants that used it and its shores. The Superfund clean-up should take between 10 and 12 years and cost as much as $500 million. The Bloomberg administration opposed the Super Fund designation; it has an alternative plan that it said was faster (but not by much) and cheaper -- and all to attract developers who are eager for clean (or at least saleable) waterfront property.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Quote of the Day: Ravi Somaiya

"By softballing and coddling interviewees, all of television news has helped politicians get away with appalling lies, distortions and… being Sarah Palin.

"Put simply: almost without exception, American political interviewers fawn and simper over their subjects, refuse to ask a question more than once and never call bullshit on blatant bullshit. If anchors, interviewers and White House correspondents did their job — to hold elected officials accountable, by their lapels if necessary — politicians of all stripes could not get away with distorting and outright lying, as they do now.

"Rove-ian veneers would simply be scraped away by the eight words 'that is not true, please answer my question'. Repeated enough on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC they'd mean no birthers. No myths about healthcare or rumors of death panels. No paranoid lies about creeping socialism. No George W. Bush. No Sarah Palin."
That's Gawker's Ravi Somaiya, writing in response to an anti-Fox News screed in the Washington Post by Howell Raines.

Somaiya is right. Watch footage of Tony Blair getting grilled by the British press, and standing up to it without whining. Our journalists just aren't like that. We think backcountry preachers are a good match for bioligists in evolution debates.

But it doesn't just cut one way. All politics -- liberal and conservative -- would benefit from a stronger press, a press that didn't adopt partisan catch phrases or let hysterics and hyperbole stand.

In the Post column titled "Why don't honest journalists take on Roger Ailes and Fox News?", Raines limited his argument at first to Fox News and the issue of healthcare reform. But he too goes further:
"Why has our profession, through its general silence -- or only spasmodic protest -- helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt?"
Economics is the typical answer to that, writes Raines. The problem, and I think most liberals suspect this and many on Fox News (including Ailes, O'Reilly and Beck) will use it as a defense, is that Fox News is not news; it's entertainment. It's about ratings, and it's a rollicking success.

MSNBC, CNN and everything else still have their feet in the evaporating pond of journalism, while dabbling in what Fox has perfected. Thus, they cannot win. They let Fox create the rules for the game. Get back to real journalism and its aims of truth, public service and open information and, as both Raines and Somaiya argue, Fox will lose some of its magical power of influence.

So what's stopping everyone? It's simple: Fox has created a climate in which arguing with its people and the people it promotes amounts to bias. Act as if you're the standard and everyone else is the deviant and you can accuse anyone of what you are doing, which is biased reporting.

But there may be hope yet. Here's the powerful London PR exec Matthew Freud, who is also Rupert Murdoch's son-in-law (and the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud), quoted in the New York Times in January:
"I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to."


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quote of the Day: Bill Withers

“You gonna tell me the history of the blues? I am the goddam blues. Look at me. Shit. I’m from West Virginia, I’m the first man in my family not to work in the coal mines, my mother scrubbed floors on her knees for a living, and you’re going to tell me about the goddam blues because you read some book written by John Hammond? Kiss my ass.”
That's singer/songwriter Bill Withers, from a 2005 interview referenced this week by New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones.


Corey Haim

In honor of the train wreck that was teen actor Corey Haim (1971-2010), here is the trailer for Dream a Little Dream (1989) -- surely the weirdest movie Haim and his frequent co-star Corey Feldman did together. It had a great cast, including Jason Robards, Piper Laurie and Harry Dean Stanton. It was made during Feldman's bizarro Michael Jackson phase (the two were friends, and Feldman dressed up like Jackson again for his funeral).

It's easier to talk about Feldman, even after Haim's untimely death (he was 38; cause of death unknown as of this writing) because Feldman was the more successful actor (Gremlins, The Goonies, Stand By Me), at least as a child actor. Both Coreys slipped into drug abuse after the peak of their fame in the late 80s.

"The Two Coreys," a reality show that followed Feldman and Haim as they tried to get back into acting, aired from 2007 to 2008, at which point Feldman expressed concern about having Haim around his family.


Monday, March 08, 2010

I found this Indian toothpaste at the Jackson Heights, Queens location of Patel Brothers, a nationwide Indian grocery chain. It's a red toothpaste that's flavored with cloves instead of mint. It's also "packed with the power of 13 active Ayurvedic ingredients."

One ingredient advertised on the box, and I'm not sure if it counts as an Ayurvedic one, is toothache tree. Interestingly enough, toothache tree, or Southern prickly ash, as it's commonly known, is native to the U.S. Its leaves' numbing qualities make it good for mouth pain.

Between that and the silica, which is an abrasive decidedly more potent than baking soda, I'm thinking this is a toothpaste for people who have some dental issues.

Also of note: there's no flouride. The absence of flouride seems quite common in non-American toothpastes, lending a little weight to the claims of conspiracy theorists who say flouridated water and toothpaste are a result of American industry trying to come up with a way to make money off of a hazardous waste.

At any rate, brushing with Dabur Red is a strange sensation (not as creepy as the Japanese salt toothpaste I tried a couple years ago) that leaves your mouth tingling and surprisingly fresh-feeling -- given the clove flavor. It also feels scoured, which makes me worry that I'm removing precious layers of enamel.

The best effect of the red toothpaste is the ghastly, horror movie-quality red foam it creates in one's mouth. I highly recommend Dabur Red, but only for special occasions.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Quote of the Day: Richard Nephew

“Isn’t that the way things go in the American system? It is something new for us to actively get involved in the American political process, but we are trying to learn what works in America, and I guess making political contributions is something that works.”
That's Seneca Nation foreign relations committee co-chairman Richard Nephew, speaking to the New York Times about how his western New York Indian tribe managed to block a bill that would have ended their mail-order cigarette business.

It's a clear case of how the American political system works: a bill making the shipment of cigarettes through the mail illegal had the support of just about everyone, including big tobacco companies who didn't like the tax-free competition from the Seneca Nation. It passed in the House last spring, 397 to 11. But once the Seneca Nation started spending lobbying money, mysterious opposition began to surface. And it's not from Republicans. From the Times:
But at the last minute, two or three Democratic senators told party leaders privately that they might block the bill, according to senior Senate Democratic aides. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
It is also interesting to note that the bill would not effect mail-order cigars. It's easy to see Washington cigar aficionados pulling some strings here, but let's face it: cigars, no matter how cheap, don't pose nearly the same risk for teenagers that cigarettes do.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Who Would Dare Ban Babies From Brooklyn Bars?

Babies in bars? This could only be an issue in Park Slope, Brooklyn. And it doesn't stop with small children scrambling around shrieking in drinking establishments; there are stroller traffic jams and mothers who want to breast feed here, too. Union Hall, a large Park Slope bar with indoor bocce lanes and a basement music venue once had a "no strollers" policy, one that may have been put in place after some rumored Fire Department tickets for strollers blocking exits. That policy is no longer in place.

How did this battle start? Young parents began bringing kids to bars more often when New York banned smoking indoors. My generation, the one for which 30 is the new 20, finds itself listening to the same music as its children, and wearing the same skinny jeans. It doesn't know it's grown up. Or rather, it refuses to grow up.

[UPDATE 3/4/10: When I wrote this yesterday, I couldn't recall actually seeing babies in Park Slope bars. Sure, I get run off sidewalks by giant strollers being pushed three abreast by mommies of means. But I hadn't had the bar experience. Until I stopped for a drink on Seventh Avenue after work last night. Damn it if there wasn't a young hipster couple with an infant, coming in for some booze.]

Here are some quotes about kids in bars, mostly via Gothamist, by locals:
  • "I will get up on the subway for kids. I will be tolerant of them kicking the back of my seat while seeing a G-rated movie. But let me have my bars."

    --Julieanne Smolinski, 26-year-old Brooklyn resident (, Mar. 2, 2010)

  • "We're a neighborhood gathering place, not a hard-drinking bar, and we're not jerks about it. But the overwhelming clientele that spends quite a lot of money here can't deal with babies."

    --Greg Curley, co-owner of the Park Slope bar Double Windsor, which recently made a 'no-kids-after-5 p.m. rule.' (, Mar. 2, 2010)

  • "I'm not going to keep her out past 7 p.m. When the bar starts filling up, that's when we head home. It's responsible parenting and responsible adult behavior. I'm not knocking back double vodkas while my daughter is stumbling around."

    --Matt Gross, freelance writer and Park Slope resident (, Mar. 2, 2010)

  • "My stance hasn't changed since I had my daughter. We've taken her to a bar or two, and she's proving herself to be a very pleasant diner, too—but we take her at times where it's totally square and appropriate. I've never eaten dinner at 5:30 before, but now I do if I REALLY want to go and we don't have a plan. I know a ton of other bar and restaurant owners and I can see them cringe when people bring their kids in at inappropriate times. It ruins the vibe they've worked very hard to create. Bars aren't Romper Rooms, they are dangerous places with pottymouth drunks. Some seem more friendly than others, but they aren't. You can tell if a place is friendly to kids or not and you shouldn't take it personally if they are not. Just go somewhere else."

    --Jack "Skippy" McFadden, owner of the Gowanus, Brooklyn bar The Bell House (Gothamist, Feb. 17, 2010)

  • "No matter what breeders might think, bars are not family-friendly. If I am out drinking and sobbing about a bad breakup, I don’t want my cries to compete with those of an infant sitting next to me. If I go to the bathroom to correct my wayward mascara at the end of a long weekend night, I don’t want to watch a baby being wiped down on the soggy sink counter.

    "Nor do I want to be scolded by parents like the ones at the Gate, a favorite bar, where friends have witnessed a few mothers with toddlers actually wagging their fingers when young people cursed too loudly or got a little sloppy, while conveniently overlooking the fact that alcohol, blaring punk rock and drunken partiers are not pediatrician-approved."

    --Risa Chubinsky, Park Slope resident (New York Times City Room Blog, Jan. 15, 2010)

  • "God, they're like ants on Fire Island! Even the wait staff and manager at the restaurant were chagrinned this past weekend when the needy, greedy narcissists arrived back from their summering to ruin what was evolving into a peaceful haven for grown-ups who have enough of a life to leave their kids at home when they want a dinner at what is clearly an adults-only kind of place.

    "Provini deliberately doesn't have high chairs, I was secretly told by a waitress, and there certainly isn't any room for strollers, but the exquisite wine list alone should keep kids out, don't you think? Not in Park Slope, where pathetic parents don't want to live with the choices they've made, so they crash everyone else's party. CRASH?! Yep. Everyone turned around to see the glass breaking on the floor at the table with the toddlers."

    --Peter Loffredo, psycholigist, blogger, Park Slope resident (Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, Sept. 15, 2009)

  • "It was strictly liability. A lot of parents are great and mindful. But some are not that attentive to their kids when they’re in here. This is a bar with an open stairwell and a bocce court. This is a business and we don’t have the staff to police it."

    --Jim Carden, owner of Union Hall (Gothamist, Feb. 1, 2008)

  • "Psychologically, you feel like, 'Oh, my life hasn’t changed that much,' although of course it completely has."

    --Christen Clifford, a writer/actress who, according to the New York Times "proudly recalled breast-feeding her son, Felix, at the bar before ordering a martini." (New York Times, Feb. 10, 2008)


Norman Foster

There's a new movie about Norman Foster, architect of New York City's Hearst Building, the dome on top of the Riechstag in Berlin and the dazzlingly long and high Millau Viaduct bridge in France.

The documentary, called "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?", is produced by the Europe-based consultancy Art Commissioners. The group usually makes short films and curates art shows. This is its first full-length movie. Fast Company says it's "soundtracked like a tearjerker," and has the production values and "heavy-handed narrative" of Avatar. Here's a trailer:

“How Much Does your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?” Trailer from on Vimeo.

The only architect who makes a grander use of his engineering skills is Santiago Calatrava, the man who should have been awarded the commission to design Minneapolis's 35W bridge.


Site Meter