Saturday, May 16, 2009
Hey! Look at the pretty colors... At TripTropNYC, you enter your street address and the site grades the average time of travel according to a rainbow spectrum. That gives you a decent average, I suppose, with all trains and buses running normally (and these days, none of the MTA is running anything close to normal).
Then TripTropNYC also lets you compare time of travel between two addresses, by subway. Again, sort of useful, I guess. Most New Yorkers who have used the subway system regularly would be able to guesstimate times fairly accurately anyway. But the colors are pretty! As the site's creator amusingly puts it: "It's also a nice way to tell your friend to stop inviting you to the purple part of the Bronx."
I was further entertained to find that the creator, Jonathan Soma, also created a Singles Map some time ago. This issue — presumed ratios of males to females in various parts of the U.S. — has arisen as a matter for discussion between myself an a straight, single female friend, who chooses not to return to New York because she says there could be (hyperbole alert) as many as 86,000 single women per 3.4 single men in New York City, and given that 2.7 of the 3.4 are gay, then she will remain single for at least 234 years. So, behold the (admittedly heteronormative) interactive Singles Map!
That wisdom apparently doesn't extend to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who held a hearing on the future of newspapers -- and how the federal government can help...
Mr. Kerry is especially worried about the Boston Globe, which admires him greatly and was recently threatened with closure in a showdown between unions and its owner the New York Times Co.'
"In Iraq," Wolfowitz said,
He said, "In Iraq,
Memories of the Hussein dictatorship
May provide 'a unifying force.'
They may lead people to say,
"Wait a minute, remember what it was like when we
Fell to quarrelling with each other,
With each other
Or when we let the army get too strong,
Or when we let decisions be made by force,
Friday, May 15, 2009
Senator Jim Webb (Dem., Virginia), roots in Northern Ireland, has led an interesting life (Marine Corps, Vietnam, injuries, then a long career as a writer and journalist, before winning election to the U.S. Senate by a tiny majority of votes). Much of what he decries as wrong with America in the first few pages of "A Time To Fight" are issues which the Obama campaign brought to national attention (growing opposition to the Iraq war, health care costs, the environment, politicians exploiting petty obsessions with gay marriage/abortion). But he seems to be as sincere and genuine an egotist as ever girded himself for service in the arena of the United States Senate.
And yes, he is a fighter: he boxed from the age of twelve, and I can attest to memories of various Webb families in and around my home town of Dungannistan, Northern Ireland, many of them wild, fightin' men and equally wild women; hilarious tales are told.
More telling a tale about Webb, is this gem: November 28th, 2006, a reception is held at the White House to welcome newly elected members of Congress. According to a Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia, aides warned President Bush to be "extra sensitive about talking to Webb about his son, since Webb's Marine Corps son had had a recent brush with death in Iraq."
The President approached Webb and asked him, "How's your boy?" Webb, who campaigned as a veteran utterly opposed to the Iraq War, replied: "I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President."
Bush responded: "That's not what I asked you. How's your boy?"
Webb responded: "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President."
The Hill newspaper cited an anonymous source who claimed that Webb was so angered by the exchange that he confessed he was tempted to "slug" the president. Oh, I would have given an arm and a leg to see that. But they patched things up! And so there is a photo of Webb and his son with the Amoralist-in-Chief, W., from 2007.
So now portions of Broadway, one of New York City's busiest streets (arguably its most famous, though perhaps Wall Street is known better, certainly hated more) will be closed to traffic in a radical new attempt to fix some of the traffic flow. There are additional benefits as well — see graphic above.
The traffic-free sections are at Times Square (the area created by Broadway cutting across Seventh Avenue) and Herald Square (Broadway cuts across Sixth Avenue).
Poetry and success are as rare companions as poetry and statistics, and in that book which I seem to keep raving about, Stepping Stones, Heaney tells a funny story from his early years as a poet, when he met the legendary Monaghan poet, Patrick Kavanagh, a difficult man to say the least. For him, recognition of his poetic gift was slow in coming, and it's very probable he never made much money from it.
And this was obviously a sore point with Mrs. Kavanagh. After an evening drinking with the Kavanaghs and others, Heaney offered the moody, taciturn Bard and wife a ride home in his VW Beetle. Mrs. Kavanagh and Pat were clambering into the back seat when Heaney heard her say, "see, Pat, you can be a poet and have a car."
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I still think of Jack regularly, as I am walking Manhattan's streets. If there are ghosts, then his is still here, hanging out in some mythic bar with a notebook and a glass of Chardonnay. He was a wise and humorous man, and a loyal friend. After the Sept. 11th attacks, when it seemed that terrifying, mind-bending forces had been unleashed, Jack was a source of calm reflection to many people, including strangers in bars who would hear him offering his reasoned, rational perspective, and start to listen, ask questions.
I caught a glimpse of Jack at the end of his life, working alongside him for four years before he died. Strange then, to discover in a recently published book, a memory of Jack just as his life was starting. The book, Stepping Stones: interviews with Seamus Heaney, is by Irish critic Dennis O'Driscoll. Heaney was briefly a schoolteacher in Belfast and remembers teaching Jack when he must have been maybe 14 or 15. Heaney, once called 'the poet of poets,' is asked by O'Driscoll in the book if he felt he had succeeded in broadening the perspectives of his students. The Nobel laureate says:
One pupil, by the way, did triumph – the late Jack Holland, the novelist and writer on Northern Irish affairs, who eventually ended up in New York. Jack was in class 4B and his essays suggested he would make a path for himself. He had an appetite for language – and a sardonic sense of humor. If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.
Thank you, Seamus.
Jack Holland certainly triumphed over his horrible childhood in god-awful, religious war-poisoned Belfast. Knowing this, I often looked at him and wondered if perhaps having led such a diverse life, he sometimes wondered if it was all real. Heaney wrote the following words of himself, but I think they also fit Jack:
And there I was, incredible to myself,
among people far too eager to believe me
and my story, even if it happened to be true.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
They say 17-year-old Chris Slabaugh of Conewango was charged with underage possession of alcohol after he was stopped by Cattaraugus County deputies late Monday night in the town of Leon, 40 miles south of Buffalo.
Detective Nathan Root says the teen admitted drinking beer, but passed a field sobriety test.
Patrols were stepped up after an Amish elder's property was vandalized when he confronted youths about their drinking and listening to radios.
This gives me an opportunity to tell my well-known Amish joke:
Q: What goes clip clop clip clop clip clop clip clop clip clop clip clop clip clop bang! bang! clip clop clip clop clip clop clip clop ?
A: An Amish drive-by shooting.
"Now Sasha and Malia aren't here tonight because they're grounded. You can't just take Air Force One on a joy ride to Manhattan. I don't care whose kids you are."
The Courant, despite its age, has in recent years won awards for its iconoclastic front page design, as you can see from these examples, above... and below...
For Obama's election victory, the Courant switched the front page to landscape view. For the President's first budget, designers spilled a graph of tax increases across the front page.
The Great Figure
Among the rain
I saw the figure 5
on a red
to gong clangs
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city
-- William Carlos Williams, with painting by Charles Demuth, inspired by the poem.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Carol Ann Duffy (above) is the new British poet laureate and the first woman to be appointed to the position.
The job of official state poet burdens the office holder with writing poetry on tap. This has been known to cause the poetic Muse to flee. The previous incumbent, Andrew Motion, said the job has been "very, very damaging to my work."
I hope Duffy avoids a similar fate. Here's one of her poems, "Valentine," which I have always liked:
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or kissogram.
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.
-- Carol Ann Duffy
Monday, May 11, 2009
Here in New York City, the current 'Great Depression II' which I have decided ought to be called 'short-term crisis in banking' has been used by the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (subways and buses, bridges and tunnels) to increase fares and cry bitter tears of how they have no money for nuthin'.