Monthly Archives: July, 2012

The New York You Didn’t Know: Wave Hill

Well, maybe you do know about Wave Hill, a “public garden and cultural center” in the Riverdale  section of the Bronx.  But, I’ve lived in NYC for nearly seven years, and consider myself pretty well informed, and until a week ago I have never heard of this gorgeous oasis.

 

Here’s the low-down: Wave Hill is what I’d classify as a mini version of the Brooklyn or New York Botanical Gardens, there are 28-acres of gardens and woodland trails. The main draw is the quietude and the view–the gardens overlook the Hudson River and Palisades and there are many big chairs and benches tucked away under trees, making it the perfect place to escape the city and think deep thoughts.

 

Which is exactly what I did–I bought the rail and admission combo ticket and took a short 20-minute Metro North ride to Riverdale, where a free shuttle was waiting to take me the short distance to Wave Hill. I walked the gardens and trails, stopping to read my book of short stories, or write a few pages of my novel in progress (with a pen in a notebook of all things!) or just stare off into the distance. There is also a small art gallery which featured works inspired by the gardens (my favorite was oil paintings with random looped video projections of footage from the gardens).

 

I love the expansiveness and amazing gardens and special exhibits and events that the big gardens and parks in the city offer, but Wave Hill was a refreshing and secluded find–it was something that felt like a hidden secret–which is hard to come by in a city so populated that most things worth doing are nearly unbearably crowded.

 

Also, get this:

“Theodore Roosevelt’s family rented the Wave Hill house during the summers of 1870 and ‘71, when the future president was a youth of 12 and 13. Teddy’s time here significantly deepened his love of nature and love of the outdoors that would later prompt him to secure the preservation of millions of acres of American parkland. ”

AND…

“Mark Twain leased the estate from 1901-1903, setting up a treehouse parlor in the branches of a chestnut tree on the lawn. Of winter at Wave Hill he wrote, I believe we have the noblest roaring blasts here I have ever known on land; they sing their hoarse song through the big tree-tops with a splendid energy that thrills me and stirs me and uplifts me and makes me want to live always. ”

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A Very Punny Update

Well dear readers, I asked for it: more findings from pun safaris. And I submit for your approval two more findings from here in New York City:

1) (submitted by my lovely and talented friend Jennifer Johnson) An underwear store called “Brief Encounters” Love it!!

2) Spotted yesterday in Union Square’s Green Market–I love a good wine pun!

Keep ’em coming!!

Interesting info graphic on the most read books. I’m actually surprised that the Bible is still number 1 by such a large lead. So sad the craptastic Twilight ranks, but at least 50 shades isn’t there (yet…) Also not the classics I thought would be there, aren’t there other books that are more commonly assigned in schools? I’ve only read 3 of these, special prize if you can guess which 3.

THE LITERARY MAN

Thx, HuffPost Books.

 

 

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Muppets are about Love–Everyone’s Love!

Here’s the gist of the story; Chick-fil-A is a crazy extremist Christian fast food chain that prints bible verses on their packaging. The Jim Henson company must not have known about that because they partnered with them to offer five customizable puppet toys  in children’s meals.

Then, last week  president, Chick-fil-A Dan Cathy, told the Baptist Press  that the company was “guilty as charged” when it came to not supporting marriage equality and standing by “biblical family values” (you know in that version of the bible that is super judgmental and hateful, not the one that talks about loving people).

When CEO Lisa Henson,  got wind of that mess, she ended the partnership right then and there and pledged to give the money they had made on the deal to GLAAD. Here’s the quote:

“The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors,” the Jim Henson Company wrote on its Facebook page on Friday. “Lisa Henson, our CEO, is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to GLAAD.”

Chick-Fil-A, couldn’t be reached for comment, they are probably busy looking for a bible verse for their fry wrappers that says puppets are evil.

All of this lead to the internet to make this awesome image. Muppets are all about love! Everyone’s love!

 

It’s Raining in NYC, or Why This is the Biggest Photo on the Internet Right Now (Update)

OK, maybe not the WHOLE internet– I don’t know if they are sharing this as much in Mumbai as they are in the media-frenzied, twit-pic happy bubble of NYC.

But, as a large, but pretty average summer thunderstorm broke late this afternoon over New York, everyone on Facebook, Twitter, et al. started re-posting and talking about the same photo: an Instagram (of course) image of the storm as taken from a plane taking off from LGA (taken by a football player of some sort I guess).

compare it to this photo from the weather channel, that people seem to like and share quite a bit, but not nearly as much:

From a technical standpoint it’s no contest–the second photo is leaps and bounds better than the first. But EVERYONE, from pro photographers to news sites, to regular people, are posting and marveling over it (I re-posted it as soon as I saw it on Facebook too). Here’s my theory as to why:

1) People love to  try to “out weather” each other. Anytime you talk to someone who lives in a different city/state/country as you, you most likely talk about the weather at some point and when you do you probably try to “out weather” each other. “It’s been so humid here, in the 90s.” “Yeah, it’s been like 105 here” –out weathered! “They say it’s going to snow all next week.” “Yeah, we’ve had a lot of weird hail here.”–out weathered! The storm in NYC wasn’t anything that crazy–it was a thunderstorm, but you didn’t even have to write the 140 characters about how it was really hot and now there is thunder and lightning, you just link to a photo like this and you’ve out weathered all your friends.

2) It’s a different perspective. Like how photos of the earth from space are old hat now, but took everyone’s breath away the first time we saw them. The Weather Channel photo is beautiful, but we’ve seen images like it before. There’s novelity in seeing it raining from above–it’s a perspective on something so commonplace that it gives us a sense of wonder in a world where we feel like we’ve “seen it all.”

Update: I also wrote about this photo over on PopPhoto.com, check that out here.

Results of the Pun Safari: Part 1

About two months ago I wrote about my appreciation for a good pun. In what is sure to become an ongoing series, I promised to go on my own Pun Safari  and report back. Here are just some of my findings.

As seen at a Fabric Store near Union Square NYC
Just because I don’t eat meat, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good hot dog pun

Fish’s Eddy NYC: I don’t think a ceramic hand is the best gift, but I do like the pun!

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium Gift Shop in California

Has Beans Coffee Shop: This is my favorite on this list because it’s only a few blocks from my apartment and I visit it regularly. Also it once inspired a long conversation on other punny coffee shop names.

I have a few more in mind (like the doggy style pet grooming salon), so there is another post in the works. If you have any good Pun Safari findings please share!!

Forget The Song of the Summer–This is the Song of My Life!

This is just the best. THE BEST.

Cuppy Cake with frosting–it no phase me. But you got cookie–so share it maybe?

I love this almost as much as I love cookies themselves!

Curmudgeon Thinks Girls Should Just Shut Up About the Use of Photoshop in Seventeen Magazine

I wrote this post on PopPhoto.com, that I thought I share for it’s pure insanity:

In May I wrote about 14-year-old Julia Bluhm’s petition asking Seventeen magazine to produce one spread per month without the aid of Photoshop. She gathered a lot of attention and over 84,000 signatures. But Editor in Chief Ann Shoket, gave only a boilerplate response with lukewarm promise to be “more transparent” about their use of Photoshop.

For the thousands of young girls sick of being bombarded with stick-thin, oversexed images of women, Seventeen’s hedging “promise” comes as a disappointment. But to Jim Warren, former Chicago Tribune managing editor and MSNBC political analyst, Seventeen should have just told these young feminists to just deal with it.

In his editorial for the Daily Beast, he points to retouching done on pictures of Abe Lincoln and Mary Todd from the 1860s—using these are “proof” that photos are and always have been essentially lies and that rather than try to change that, we should just teach our children to never trust a photograph.

Seems kind of ridiculous, especially considering that the retouching he points out in Lincoln’s photo mostly involved the height of his collar. The heavy hand used to whittle waists and completely remove clothing in many images in women’s magazines would equate to removing Abe’s beard and replacing it with a handle bar mustache.

Warren suggest that the public didn’t care back in the good old days because the changes were only being made to the rich and famous—as if everyday folks now populate the pages of magazines. The biggest change in the photo of Mary Todd seems to be color restoration, her figure remains intact.

Here are the retouched images of Mary Todd he uses as “proof”:

And here is an image of a model in a Ralph Lauren ad (and again in an Elle magazine photo where she looks more like a person who not in danger of snapping in half)

     

Warren is hopelessly out of touch—I’m sure Bluhm and her 84,000 supporters would be thrilled if “fly-away hair and exposed bra straps” were the only thing being removed from the photos.

(check out Jezebel’s Photoshop of Horrors tag for more craziness)

Update on the Productivity Experiment

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Productivity: The 3pm Mystery and The Case For Mornings. Much to my surprise the post got picked as one of Word Press’ “Freshly Pressed” posts and as a result thousands of people read the post and hundreds commented on it. It was all very exciting, and I’m so greatful for all the comments and kind words. Because the topic of productivity seems to be one that people are most interested in, I figured I should follow up on some of the suggestions I made in that post.

Time Tracker Spreadsheet
The first suggestion on the list was to track every half hour of your day on a spreadsheet to see where you spend most of your time and how you can change it. I made my own “Productivity time tracker” sheet and dutifully tracked every half hour of my day, every day for the past three weeks. (Yes that’s as tedious as it sounds).

 

Here’s what I learned from it:

1) I don’t do as much work as I thought. I’m sure this is true of everyone–you are sitting at your computer from 9:30am to 6pm with a half hour for lunch for example, but of those 9 hours, maybe 5 are full on work. No matter how productive I tried to force myself to be there was always 1/2 hour gaps of “miscellaneous stuff” (checking email, paying bills, reading blogs, etc). I don’t think that stuff can be avoided completely but this was a good way to become more aware of it.

2) It made me feel the need to do more. Especially after reading about how morning people get more done, I felt the need to get up earlier, especially since I’d be recording it on the spreadsheet. It worked with mixed results–sometimes I’d feel like that extra hour made be get more done and other times I’d still find myself at lunch time feeling like I hadn’t done much. Housework especially made me feel this way.

3)It’s all about how you frame things. Do I consider riding my bike to a friend’s house or walking to the doctor’s office “commuting time” or “exercise”? Is writing a blog post “freelance work” or “personal writing”? Simply looking at your time in a different way made me feel like I was doing more.

4) It took a lot of time to track how I was spending my time. As I mentioned, it was tedious to track how I spent every 1/2 hour of each day. It was interesting to see, and learn from for a few weeks, but I don’t think this method is useful in the long term–you would end up spending hours of your life tracking how you spend hours of your life, rather than just living it.

To Do Lists

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a master list maker–and at any given moment I have at least 4 different types of lists going. As far as To Do lists go, I tried making a schedule for myself (like Mondays from 10am-1pm: Apply for jobs, 2pm-4pm: work on freelance pitches, etc) and I’ve tried to do lists by day (do all of these things on Monday and all of this things on Tuesday). Both of those didn’t work  too well. Mostly because you can’t always know what’s going to happen in a day– you have your schedule to write a blog post every Wednesday afternoon, but you find something interesting you want to write about on Thursday. You are plan to work on freelance pitches but have a dentist appointment. Then when you don’t accomplish what you planned for that day you feel like you’ve failed.

I found the To Do list that worked best for me was a week goals: these are the 20 things I need to do this week–some I put days by–like contact this person by this date, etc. And others I could tick off part of as the week went on (Apply for 10 jobs). By the end of the week I had almost always crossed off all of the items, so I never felt like I got off track.

The Kitchen Timer and Internet Black Hole

I still think my kitchen timer method of putting myself in “writing prison” (i.e. you have to write for this time, no matter what–you can’t get out), works the best for shorter (1 hour) bursts of productivity. I found the working without internet to be really difficult however–not because of the urge to check facebook or gmail, but because it’s nearly impossible to write without looking something up every once in awhile. I couldn’t work on an article about the best beaches in New York State without being able to look up info on the state parks, I couldn’t write a fiction story that takes place in Chicago without looking up the names of streets, I couldn’t transcribe an interview without clarifying the name of the camera the person mentioned. I even use Google for spell check when MS Word fails to know what I’m trying to say and use online dictionaries and thesauruses.

In Conclusion

I think from all of this I’ve learned more about myself and the way that I work. I can see some ways I need to make changes, and I think I’ll keep my eyes and ears peeled for more methods of making the most of my time. There are many things (like creative writing and art projects) that I’d like to make more time for. I’ve also learned that some amount of “miscellaneous stuff”  and “time wasting” is just going to happen no matter what and there’s no use beating yourself up over it

Another great quote from one of my favorite writers of all time

THE LITERARY MAN

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