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. 

 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In a World of Fake News, is Graffiti More Reliable (Times Square, Manhtattan)

When I've traveled to Latin America, I've often seen political graffiti decrying the abuse of those in power or promoting the agenda of a particular party. But I rarely see political messages scrawled on American walls. This one, scrawled on a door near a subway exit/entrance was short and sweet--"Trump WW III?"--but it kind of says it all.



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Handmaid's Tale meets Alien in Times Square

Often on Saturday, a choir (I think they might be Amish) sings in the busy Times Square subway station. They set up in front of a panel of back-lit ads that changes from week to week. On a recent Saturday, the juxtaposition of puritanically-styled singers next to a promo for the latest Alien flick seemed to carry a hidden message. The end is near? Ain't life funny? What we define as 'alien' is only a matter of perspective?