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Posts Tagged ‘New York City

“The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound”*…

 

Langdon Clay spent two years in the 1970s roaming the streets of the Big Apple at night, photographing parked and abandoned cars.  See more of the results at “Eerie portraits of cars in 1970s New York.”

* Marshall McLuhan

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As we slip behind the wheel, we might recall that it was on this date in 1921 that Thomas Midgley Jr., then a young engineer at General Motors, discovered that, when added to gasoline, a compound called tetraethyl lead (TEL) eliminated the unpleasant noises (known as “knock” or “pinging”) that internal-combustion engines made when they ran.  Midgley could scarcely have imagined the consequences of his discovery: for more than five decades, oil companies saturated the gasoline they sold with lead– a deadly poison.

(Resonantly, 13 years later Midgley led the team that developed chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]– specifically, Freon– for use in refrigeration [and ultimately, air conditioning and aerosols].  Like the lead additive, CFCs were celebrated in their time…  but later banned for their contributions to climate change.)

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Written by LW

December 9, 2016 at 1:01 am

“To face the sunlight again, that’s clearly trouble. I like the city better when the neon lights are going”*…

 

Like scenes from a modern noir film, Frank Bohbot’s images of New York City conjure up allure and heartbreak. The Paris-born photographer spent 18 months capturing nighttime scenes across Manhattan and Brooklyn, and has compiled them into a project dubbed Light On.

Bohbot’s work is first and foremost a study in signage, and features many instantly-recognizable storefronts including Katz’s Deli and the Sunshine Cinema, but pay attention to each frame’s shadows and open space. Light On isn’t just focused with dazzling neon—it’s also a study of snowstorms, puddles, fire escapes, and, occasionally, people. It’s as if you gave William Eggleston an unlimited Metrocard and forced him to stay up all night.

There are jazz clubs, delis, porn shops, theaters, and a wide variety of bars featured in his photographs, each captured after the sun has gone down and only moody, unnatural light remains…

More at “Photos Bring NYC’s Neon Nights To Life,” and at Bohbot’s website.

* Charles Bukowski, Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame

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As we refuse to go gentle into that good night, we might recall that it was on this date in 1891 that Carnegie Hall was officially opened.  First know simply as “Music Hall,” it was formally named for it’s funder, Andrew Carnegie, in 1893.

Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

A: Practice, practice practice…

Carnegie Hall in 1895

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Carnegie Hall today

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Written by LW

May 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected”*…

Just one of the scores of maps available at the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab’s Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States.

And as a (more global) bonus: Edward Quin’s 1830 Historical Atlas in a Series of Maps of the World as Known at Different Periods, with an Historical Narrative, featuring 21 plates that visually depicted what Quin called “the world as known at different periods.”  Dramatic clouds cover the “unknown,” rolling back slowly as time moves on.

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Click the image above or here for an enlarged and animated version of the  GIF that runs through the plates in sequence, from 2348 B.C., “The Deluge” (Quin, not unusually for his time period, was a Biblical literalist) through A.D. 1828, “End of the General Peace.”

* Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

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As we travel through time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1861 that New York City Mayor Fernando Wood, a “Copperhead” (sympathizer of the incipient Confederate cause), suggested to the New York City Council that New York secede and declare itself a free city, to continue its profitable cotton trade with the Confederacy.  Wood’s Democratic machine was concerned to maintain the revenues (which depended on Southern cotton) that maintained the patronage that provided its electoral margins.

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Written by LW

January 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

The City That Never Shuts Up…

 

For those with delicate ears, New York City in the 1930s was a 24-hour nightmare. The city rumbled, squeaked, mewed, and tooted thanks to the aural diarrhea of ice deliverers, cattle-car operators, jazz players, river dredgers, steam whistle-happy boat captains, cats, dogs, chickens, and construction workers shooting rivets into everything in sight.

The cacophony that thundered through New York in the Jazz Age has now received proper cartographic attention from Emily Thompson, a historian at Princeton who studies acoustic innovation and the historical “emergence of excessive noise,” according to her MacArthur “genius grant” bio. Back in 2002, Thompson penned a book about noise and architecture called The Soundscape of Modernity, which triggered a flood of people bugging her to work up a companion piece that you could actually, you know, hear. More than a decade later the result is here for all to savor: The Roaring ‘Twenties, an interactive map of roughly 600 peevish, outraged, and frequently hilarious noise complaints from 1926 to 1932.

Thompson delved into musty records boxes from the city’s municipal archives to create this fantastic minefield of misery and broken sleep. As to her motivation, she explains:

By offering a website dedicated to the sounds of New York City circa 1930, The Roaring ‘Twenties is following the lead of countless other individuals and organizations who have turned the web into a vast sonic archive, delivering a previously unimaginable wealth of historic sound recordings to anyone with a connection and a desire to listen in. With The Roaring ‘Twenties, I hope we not only add to that archive, but also set an example by doing so in an explicitly historically-minded way. The aim here is not just to present sonic content, but to evoke the original contexts of those sounds, to help us better understand that context as well as the sounds themselves. The goal is to recover the meaning of sound, to undertake a historicized mode of listening that tunes our modern ears to the pitch of the past. Simply clicking a “play” button will not do.

Head on over to the site and you’ll be confronted with this pigeon’s-eye view of the city. Each target represents one noise complaint, often accompanied by old news-reel footage offering the sights and sounds of those responsible for the rowdy decibels: grinning jackhammer operators, clacking elevated trains, boys racing homemade scooters, whanging blacksmiths, a particularly loud-mouthed preacher from the Salvation Army:

More of the story– and wonderful sample cases– at “Exploring the Hilarious Noise Complaints of 1930s New York.”

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As we cover our ears, we might recall that this is a resonant anniversary in the Big Apple’s sonic history:  on this date in 1904  New York City Mayor George McClellan took the controls on the inaugural run of the city’s innovative new rapid transit system: the subway.  London had the world’s first underground (opened in 1863); Boston, America’s first (1897).  But New York’s subway quickly became the largest in the U.S… and a significant contributor to the din that accompanies life in The City That Never Sleeps.

McClellan (center) at the controls

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Written by LW

October 27, 2013 at 1:01 am

Location, Location, Location…

From Alien Loves Predator, the New York Movie Map…  Can readers spot all (91) of them?

Click here for a hi-res version, with the films numbered 1-91.

As we we slip off into Big Apple dreams, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Willie Mays, in his first game as a NY Met, hit the homer that beat his alma mater, the (San Francisco) Giants, 5-4.

On this same date in 1888, baseball enthusiast and (then New York) Giants fan, DeWolf Hopper first performed Ernest Thayer’s then-unknown poem “Casey at the Bat” at a game between the Giants and the Chicago Cubs.  “The audience literally went wild,”  the New York World reported the next day.  “Men got up on their seats and cheered… it was one of the wildest scenes ever seen…”  By coincidence, August 14th, 1888 was Ernest Thayer’s 25th birthday.  Hopper’s gift to Thayer kept on giving: Hopper was the prime agent of the poem’s growing fame:  he went on to recite it publicly over 10,000 times– in theaters, over the radio and on record (click here to hear), and ultimately in an early film.

Hopper, mid-recitation (source)

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