Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Brick City is Full of Murals (Newark, NJ




I spent a day recently in Newark, NJ, and was surprised--and pleased--to see murals wherever I went. Not only were the images and the stories they told captivating, it was wonderful to see that they hadn't been defaced with graffiti. To me, this speaks to the respect people have for public art. When politicians oppose money for the arts, they should consider the power of public murals to bring beauty and instill community pride. And while pols may think that funding art is a lower priority than, say, funding police departments, they should consider that the lack of graffiti reflects the public's appreciation of the form. Or they can look at research, which has shown "the great power of public art to influence how we move, think and feel in city environments."

Monday, August 7, 2017

The New York Skyline Keeps Changing (Midtown Manhattan)




I had a chance to visit the roof of my office building and was reminded that nearby the construction of skyscrapers in Hudson Yards continues apace. Buildings--especially large ones--always seem so permanent, and yet the massive project, which is taking place over 28 acres in Manhattan, reminds me that buildings come and go. If people are so good at creating cities that reach the sky, why can't we solve world hunger, end poverty, bring everlasting peace? Is it really a defect in human nature or is it just misdirected resources--i.e., if the $20 billion being invested in the Hudson Yards were spent on public health we might be able to, say, end malaria. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

There are Surprises on Every Corner Thanks to Montreal's Embrace of Street Art (Montreal, Quebec)


Montreal is full of street art, and much of it is sanctioned by the city and celebrated each year with a festival. Here's just a tiny sample of what I saw as I wandered around the past week. (Ufunk has more photos of murals from this year's festival and even some images of the artists at work).






The mural on the left took on a very different feel as I walked down the street and saw what was behind the tree.

(This one is signed by Jason Wasserman)

Friday, July 7, 2017

I'm Seeing More and More Platform Controllers, but Can They Alone Solve New York's Subway Crisis? (Times Square Subway Station)



I'm seeing more and more folks in the New York City subways wearing vests that say "Platform Controller." The people who wear them carry flashlights they use to signal to the conductors when they can close the doors and sometimes they shout instructions to stand aside to let people off and not block the doors when people are trying to get on. They definitely provide a sense of order to what often feels like chaos, especially during rush hour, but lately they seem to be the only strategy the MTA is applying to address the growing delays that are snarling travel. On one level, it's reassuring to be reminded that humans can step in when technology fails. But obviously a system that moves 6 million people a day needs more than a few people in smart vests to solve its problems. Cuomo recently declared a state of emergency in the subways, pledging $1 billion for improvements, but with subway delays jumping to more than 70,000 each month, from about 28,000 per month in 2012, the improvements can't come fast enough.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Did the Motion Picture Begin Where Macy's Now Stands--or Not?


I walked passed this plaque the other day. In fact, I've probably walked passed it many times over the years, but this time I noticed it.  Naturally, I thought "Wow! Really?" To think that the motion picture--one of the most influential forms of art and propaganda, that touches literally billions of people, that not only entertains but educates, that not only spreads truth but also lies, that has generated billions of dollars and driven people to suicide--in other words, something that does just about everything--started right here, right at this spot, at a place that once bore the charming and now ancient-sounding name of Koster and Bial's Music Hall?

And then I Googled it. I'm not saying Googling is the be-all and end-all when it comes to fact checking; after all, the internet if full of fake news. And yet I found what I read here on a site called untapped cities under the headline "Lost and Incorrect Historical Plaques in NYC" persuasive:

"It may have been Edison’s first, but not where the motion picture began. The showing in 1896 was just the first showing of Edison Kinetoscope films on screen to a paying audience, not the first screening of a projection film which happened in Paris 1895, by the Lumiere Brothers. In fact, Edison only allowed this 1896 screening to happen after there were “wide-spread projections of the Kinestoscope films by unauthorized showmen,” reports Raymond Fielding in A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television."

So apparently even plaques, which seem inherently honest in their fixity and stolid plainness can be as slippery as a Sean Spicer press conference.