New York

The Brooklyn Plague

This is a fascinating story of how the bubonic plague nearly hit New York’s harbours at the height of the second world war. Almost as fascinating as the original “Wyoming incident” is the run around the writer went through to find out about it.

This is the story — kept secret at the time, still largely unreported today — of how the most infamous disease in history broke into New York City in the midst of World War II. This is the story of the ominously-named “Wyoming matter,” and how it took me months to track down evidence it ever happened.

Source: The Secret Story Of How Bubonic Plague Nearly Broke Out In New York City

Air Manhattan

A bunch of remote controlled plane enthusiasts calling themselves Team Black Sheep shot some great aerial footage of New York. These are the sorts of views we mere mortals would have to steal a helicopter in GTA IV to see. Whatever it is that’s blocking the bottom right of the camera’s view is a bit distracting, but otherwise this is awesome footage.

Can I have one of these to fly around the Lakes when I’m at home some time? Wasdale comes to mind first, but there are a load of other neat valleys I could take it through.

via Jalopnik and Brooklyn Heights Blog

The Beach Pneumatic Subway System

From the Steam Geek archives-

The Beach Pneumatic Subway System was an early rapid transit plan for New York. For various reasons it failed and only a few hidden mementoes and original documentation remain to remember it by.

Joseph Brennan, the sort of steam geek I want to be when I grow up, has researched the history of the Beach Pneumatic and produced a book about it.

via BoingBoing

Give a poor robot a hand

Kacie Kinzer wanted to test human/robot interaction, so she invented the Tweenbots, little smiling robots capable of only trundling along in one direction. To get to their destination, advertised on a flag, they would need human help. Surprisingly, in several months of testing in New York all the robots completed their missions through the kindness of strangers.

It would be interesting to run this experiment in other cities and see if they are any less friendly than the Big Apple.

via BoingBoing

USS Intrepid returns to Manhattan a year and a bit too late

The floating museum that is the World War 2 aircraft carrier USS Intrepid has returned to its berth in the Hudson river off Manhattan. After Harry told me about it I really wanted to go and check it out when I was over there last year, so Skippy and I headed off in search of it and were disappointed to find it wasn’t there. We did get a few interesting pictures and drink some nice beers though, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Thoughts from Paris

It would have been nice to have someone to share Paris with, but I love the freedom to just head off in a direction because it looks interesting and chase down whims. My feet didn’t appreciate it, but the blisters will go down.

Every time I visit another city or country- and I’ve visited more in the last year than the previous decade- I seek out hidden corners and interesting museums. And then I vow that I should do the same when I get back to Manchester. I’m making the vow again, let’s see if I can keep to it.

Comparing Manchester to three capitals- London, Paris and Budapest- and New York is to risk diminishing it. It doesn’t have the scale, and it certainly doesn’t have the grand boulevards, of Paris, Budapest and NYC. As the first industrial city it is one of the most important places of the last two centuries, but it’s a sort of geek history, lacking the populist narratives of bombardment, occupation, liberation and unrest. Nonetheless, it punches above its weight, and it’s home. Certainly, if someone were to fund it, I’d move to Paris or Manhattan. But that’s not going to happen so I’m staying put and seeing if a few of the better foreign ideas make it to the dirty old town.

The first thing we need to do, which may come about because of the congestion charge, is sort out public transport. Even London is doing a better job of it than we are. Budapest probably did it best- one ticket for bus, tram, RER and Metro. Oxford Road may be the busiest bus route in Europe, but only because there are so many different companies competing for business on it. Stagecoach charges twice as much as Finglands for the same service with vehicles that are only slightly better. Meanwhile, radial routes suffer. It’s not impossible to get from Withington to Chorlton, but it’s not exactly easy either. Let’s re-regulate the buses and/or subsidise the secondary routes.

Budapest and Paris were both more bike friendly than Manchester. The proliferation of Velib bike stands in Paris meant that even people British non-cyclists might label as “normal” could be seen pottering around on two wheels. Next time I visit I’m packing jeans and a backpack and braving the mad French drivers. In Manchester we’re tolerated at best. One only has to read the comments on any Manchester Evening News story about bikes to gauge the low opinion too many drivers have of us I’m sure some of the commenters have chosen to pick on cyclists because it’s no longer acceptable to be openly racist. Few of the suggestions arising from these discussions would be much practical use. The only way to make cyclists safer, for themselves and others, is to get more of them onto the streets.

I’ll do my part, promoting cycling wherever possible and just getting out there as much as possible. I’ll also see what I can find out about the cycling part of the council’s pre congestion charge plans and report on them over at Two Wheels Good.

The Leading New York General Contractor Goes Green

I’m not sure what the UK equivalent of a general contractor is, some sort of one stop building renovations. My Home say they’re they’re the leading general contractor in New York and have announced in a press release that they intend to promote green options for their projects.

There are some deniers whose argumnents have moved on to moaning about the cost of going green. They just can’t see, or refuse to acknowledge, the flip side of their argument- that the economy is going to get a boost from all the companies being paid to work on green projects.

Technorati tag:

New York, Neu York, Apocalypses and more thoughts on alternate histories

The folks at new sci-fi blog io9 must have been tuned in to my thoughts yesterday, because they posted about possible alternate New Yorks, apocalypse movies and alternate alternate universes.

And I just realised that I live in the world’s first industrial city. The hell with thinking about New York, London and other cites. There have to be some great parallel worlds to be spun off from local history, particularly if I wanted to do something steam-punky.

If you can make it there

Bryony Gordon wonders why film makers like to destroy New York. It was I Am Legend before Christmas and Cloverfield coming soon. Previously there’s been Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, Die Hard With A Vengeance, to mention just the first three that come to mind.

New York gets nuked so often because it’s familiar, and it’s cool to see places you recognise getting trashed. Of course, the reason New York’s so familiar is because it features in so many films, and it features in so many films because it’s so familiar. (Of course, this all had to start somewhere and it would be interesting to find out how the Myth of New York got started.) So if you’re planning a blockbuster movie then you might as well start thinking of which Manhattan landmarks you can work into the script.

Which is the conclusion I came to earlier today whilst crossing an idea I had a while ago with I Am Legend (I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve seen The Omega Man, so I have a rough idea).

When I first heard about Famagusta, a ghost town on Cyprus, there was a mention of all the safety deposit boxes being left in banks in the town. What if one of those boxes contained a few million in diamonds, or some other treasure or MacGuffin and an intrepid gang sneaked in under the eyes of the UN to carry out a very special bank job? This morphed into The Berlin Job, which was going to be a late forties raid on an alternate universe nuked Berlin to raid Nazi art stashes. The true purpose of the story being to reveal the lengths the Soviets and Americans would go to to hide the the truth about the end of the war- that Hitler had been assassinated hours before so Germany could surrender to the Americans, but the city had still been nuked to stop the Soviet advance and warn them to back off.

Yesterday’s variation featured a city hit by a terrorist release of a deadly toxin or virus. The city is cordoned off, with bridges destroyed, tunnels flooded and a big wall erected. Cue, a few years later, our intrepid thieves. However, once they get in, and find out that the way out is a lot less simple than they thought, they discover the secret the Government’s not been telling them. The people the virus didn’t kill went quite, quite mad.

It might be simpler to create a Raccoon City for this little apocalypse, but who can resist the temptation of an abandoned Times Square with some poor soul’s last sane message scrawled across one of the billboards?

You cheap lousy faggot

Yes, this is the uncensored version.

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I’ve got a feeling
This year’s for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They’ve got cars big as bars
They’ve got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It’s no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you

Fairytale of New York – The Pogues


Laundro-net, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

Hudson reminded me of Northern Exposure. I kept expecting to see a moose sauntering down the street. It’s a city with a strong arts community, and the only place in our travels where I was happy to arder tea (and Earl Grey at that). We stayed at a greta B&B run by a pair of ex-punks (one of whom was also a former drag queen) and ate at the Red Dot restaurant.

Hudson photo album.

Museum of Sex (Do I need to say NSFW?)

Furry head, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

Skippy and I visited the Museum of Sex whilst in Manhattan. It was only three or four blocks away from our hotel and we found some money off vouchers. (Who am I kidding. Once I’d found it, I had to visit.)

I was surprised by the openness to photography in this and other museums and galleries I visited (but most especially in this one). There also seemed to be lots of dark, unwatched corners in the Sex and the Moving Image display that could become sticky with the wrong visitors.

The third room had an interesting array of displays, including many that could inform the Perfect Sex Toy project. I have the Sex Machines book to use as reference as well. There were also some really cool robot sex dioramas by an artist called Michael Sullivan. Wired has a gallery of his work.

The Museum celebrated its fifth birthday recently (there’s also video of the event at Fleshbot).

Museum of Sex photo set

Manhattan photoset

Carlton Arms, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

A selection of my photos from Manhattan are (and Staten Island) are up on Flickr now.

Manhattan photo set

Papaya King

On Wednesday I managed to accidentally have lunch in a New York landmark. I’d read about the predominantly New York phenomenon of hot dog and fruit juice stands somewhere online, so when I spotted Papaya King across the street I decided to give it a go.

The original store was opened by a Greek deli owner to serve exotic fruit juices. Being in a predominantly German neighbourhood there was a demand for frankfurters to go with the drinks. Oddly enough, the combination worked and became quite popular. (Courtesy of wikipedia)

Obviously I didn’t know any of this when I went in, but read about it in an article pinned to the window. I had the Chilli Double, two chilli dogs and a juice drink. The chilli wasn’t so strong, but the hotdogs were better than the one I had under Grand Central, and the papaya juice was thick and sweet.

Later, I found myself giving directions to an employee of Tavern on the Green for another Central Park landmark. But that’s another story.