Category Archives: Commentary

Mendicants In New York City – 1910

Mendicants 1910

This photograph taken at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street by Lewis Hine in 1910 is simply labeled “Mendicants.”

It’s a word you don’t often hear today. Mendicant – a beggar; panhandler.

While you may think the main subject here is the blind man sitting by the pole of the el, that would not be the case The focus of the photograph is the little girl who is begging. She appears aged and streetwise beyond her years. But both of them are mendicants.

Hine’s photographs of children at work in major cities usually focuses on newspaper sellers, shoe shiners, telegraph boys, delivery boys and other street trades. In 1910 mendicant was considered a street trade.

Who are these two people? Father and daughter? Grandfather and granddaughter? Or just two people in need who have teamed up to ply their trade?

Where did they live?

Unfortunately Hine did not get the names, ages and addresses of this girl and blind man, as he did with many of his other subjects. Continue reading

The Myth of Congestion Pricing – A Plan To Tax and Punish Car Drivers

New York City and State Are Getting Ready To Implement Congestion Pricing – Which Doesn’t Solve The Underlying Issues And Imposes A Regressive Tax That Punishes All But The Very Wealthy

Second Avenue 3 pm – What’s causing the traffic? It’s not the cars.

What I’m about to say will not be popular because most readers do not own a car and live in Manhattan. But if you disagree, don’t bother to write back because you can’t convince me and I probably can’t convince you.

There is a war on cars and their drivers in New York City. And the city’s solution in this war is congestion pricing, which is not the answer.

A preface- I bicycle a minimum of 50 miles a week on city streets. I walk at least another five miles and take public transportation whenever possible. But I also own a car. Why car owners are despised and have scorn heaped upon them I’ve yet to understand. Maybe because so many drivers are dangerous and don’t actually know the proper way to drive. Seeing someone speeding up to a red light is just one of my pet peeves.

It doesn’t take a car driver to notice that in New York City, especially in Manhattan, traffic is moving slower than ever.

Over the last eight years traffic’s gotten progressively worse. At first glance you might say; well there are just too many cars and why should people be driving into Manhattan? Let those who drive in Manhattan pay for the privilege.

There are several things wrong with that logic. Let’s start with the most basic problem.

The city, not the vehicles have purposely made traffic worse.

If you think that this was an unintended consequence think again.

What is causing the actual horrific bumper to bumper traffic? Guess what, it is definitely not passenger automobiles. I long suspected this and now I had to go out and prove it. Continue reading

It’s True, A Group Wants To Entirely Rebuild The Original Penn Station

A Serious Proposal To Rebuild The Original Penn Station

New Main Waiting Room Penn Station Credit: Jeff Stikeman for Rebuild Penn Station.

The National Civic Art Society has developed a plan to entirely rebuild the original Penn Station.

The biggest and most obvious hurdle to accomplishing the Society’s plan would be demolishing the many buildings that currently stand on the site including Madison Square Garden and a 34 story office building. Then the next question arises: who would fund such an enterprise?

As crazy as all this sounds, the actual rebuilding plan sounds feasible. You would just need all the corrupt politicians and greedy real estate entities to cooperate. That will almost certainly not occur.

But that doesn’t stop one from hoping. The organizers have an executable plan and want to drum up support among the public. Here is the opening statement from their website rebuildpennstation.org

New York City’s original Penn Station was one of the finest buildings ever constructed. With its vast main hall and soaring concourse, it provided a triumphant gateway into the city. Its demolition in 1963 was one of the greatest architectural and civic crimes in American history.

That wrong is all the worse given the current station, which is cramped, dismal, and hard to navigate. As the historian Vincent Scully said about the original station, “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

We aim to reconstruct the original station to return it to its former glory. Click here to join our cause.

The video the Society produced explains more.

As the rebuild Penn Station group pointed out, New York’s greatest architectural loss occurred 54 years ago.

On October 28, 1963 the demolition of Penn Station began and three years later the majestic station was gone, its marble and debris trucked out in pieces to the New Jersey Meadowlands and used as landfill.

Trains still go in and out of Penn Station. But the Penn Station that replaced the original has nothing in common with the original but the name.

Main Post Office completed 1912 photo: Underhill

Directly across from the original Penn Station between 31st to 33rd Streets and Continue reading

AC/DC’s Malcolm Young Is Dead And So Is AC/DC

AC/DC Was Dead Long Before Founder Malcolm Young Died

Malcolm Young’s death does not end AC/DC.

The end unofficially came at the conclusion of the Black Ice tour in Bilbao Spain on June 28, 2010. That was the last show Malcolm Young performed with AC/DC.

In 2014 when Malcolm Young left the band because he was suffering from dementia, that more or less sealed the deal. Any song put out in the future by AC/DC would not be written by Malcolm Young.

Though there is a band called AC/DC and they are still recording and touring, the 2008 Black Ice album was the last that Malcolm Young had a hand in writing. Musically, that is what is important.

Guitar players are replaceable. Great songwriters are not.

As great as a rhythm guitar player he was, writing music is what Malcolm Young did best.

Not just writing amazing songs, but incredible memorable riffs and jaw dropping solos performed by his brother Angus. They are deceptively simple, yet undeniably catchy songs and riffs that changed rock n’ roll and influenced, and will continue to influence generations of musicians.

Proof? Listen to the magical 1977 AC/DC album Let There Be Rock.

As hard as it may be, ignore Bon Scott’s brilliant tongue in cheek lyrics and just listen to the main riff of every song.

How many rock albums have two memorable songs? Let There Be Rock has, “Go Down”, “Dog Eat Dog” ,”Let There Be Rock”, “Bad Boy Boogie”,  “Problem Child”, “Overdose”, “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”, and “Whole Lotta Rosie”. Eight catchy songs, heard once – remembered forever.

Lead guitarist Angus Young, the only remaining original band member, has continued AC/DC.

I feel sorry for Angus Young. Angus certainly keeps AC/DC going not for the money, but  because honestly what else is there for him to do? An entertainer, a performer has a need to perform.

However without retired bassist Cliff Williams, the unceremoniously dispatched lead singer Brian Johnson and drummer Phil Rudd and the late rhythm guitarist and main songwriter Malcolm Young, this is not AC/DC.

This is like calling Paul McCartney and his recent 2017 touring band The Beatles. It’s not and McCartney knows better.

The touring AC/DC is is basically a juggernaut of explosions, lights,and sound. Even with the great Angus Young heading them up, AC/DC are truthfully now no better than an AC/DC tribute band.

How many post-1982 songs were in AC/DC’s live set list in 2016 with Axl Rose on lead vocals? Continue reading

The Origins of Fake News – 1904 Article “Why People Disbelieve The Newspapers”

Fake News Has Been Around A Lot Longer Than You Think –  This 1904 Article Explains Methods That Have Changed Little In 100 Years

The internet has given the perceived notion that fake news is a relatively new phenomenon. Let’s say the term fake news is a misnomer,  fake news should more properly be called outright lies or nonsense.

Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Bok

Edward Bok had a good deal to say about “fake news” when he wrote an article that appeared in the magazine World’s Work in March 1904.

Bok’s article “Why People Disbelieve The Newspapers An Explanation Of The System; That Makes Accuracy And Truthfulness Difficult To Attain” still holds a great deal of relevance today.

Edward Bok was born in the Netherlands in 1863. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1870 when he was six years old. Bok had to quit school when he was in his early teens to help support his family.

In 1889 at age 26, Bok became the editor of the Ladies Home Journal.  Not only a talented editor but prolific writer, Bok stayed at the helm of the Journal for 30 years retiring in 1919.  He wrote,  “The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After.” Published by Charles Scribner’s and Sons, the book won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize in Biography or Autobiography. Bok died in 1930.

In 2017 the dissemination of information, good and bad can be spread in a few clicks of a mouse. Many newspapers despite dwindling readership and circulation still have vast influence on what we all read. Then there are the web sites that masquerade as news outlets pumping out story after story.

One of the main problems of evaluating news is considering the source. The internet has made that problem worse, especially for young people. Stanford Graduate School of Education concluded that, “young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.”

A 2016 study conducted by researchers at Stanford found “a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the Internet, the authors said. Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from.”

Countless articles have been written about the lack of fact checking in media.

There is also the real concern of media bias both liberal and conservative.

Finally it’s not just the young, there is the inability of adults to distinguish obvious comedy or satire from news. Even some of our obviously outlandish satirical stories have inexplicably been taken as fact (or even worse, fake news) by a handful of readers, even though the stories are outright ridiculous.  We list those stories under the category of comedy. See links at bottom of this story to see examples.

In 1904 Bok theorized that in the race for speed, that is to get the news out quickly, newspapers purposely neglected fact-checking and would embellish or simply make up stories. Bok also discovered that this directive often came from the top down and saturated news organizations. In the rush to get a scoop on competitors and gain circulation, truth would be sacrificed.

The bigger the headline, the more outrageous the story, the more likely it would be that potential readers would not pass up purchasing a newspaper. Journalistic morals ignored lead to fake news.

Does this sound familiar? Why do people click on internet stories now?  Do you fact check what you have read? How have things changed in 113 years?

Today the goal remains-  how many eyeballs will come to a web site. Sometimes there is another agenda, but almost always it is to gain ad revenue. People still doubt the reality of what they read.

Here reprinted in full is Edward Bok’s article showing important lessons can always be learned from the past.

Why People Disbelieve The Newspapers An Explanation Of The System; That Makes Accuracy And Truthfulness Difficult To Attain

By Edward Bok

TIME was, and it is not so long ago, when folks believed what they read in the newspapers. But now, if people do not absolutely disbelieve all that is published in all the papers, surely much of the modern newspaper writing is regarded with incredulity. “Wait until tomorrow and it will be denied” is a frequent comment; and one need not always wait until the following day; it is too often the case that the evening papers deny what the morning papers print. Continue reading

Was Game 5 “Greatest World Series Game Ever?” Who Knows? The Game Ended At 1:40 A.M When Most Of The East Coast Was Fast Asleep

Was Game 5 Of The 2017 World Series The Greatest World Series Game Ever Played?

How Many Were Still Watching When The Game Ended At 1:40 am EST?

WORLD SERIES game 5 2017 1:39 A.M EST

I started watching game five of the World Series with the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night.

It looked like it was going to be a great game. The Astros had overcome two deficits and at 11:30 pm the score was tied 7-7 and it was only the sixth inning.

But like most people on the east coast who had to get up for work in the morning, it was getting near time to turn in for the night.

Some  children might get a pass and be allowed to stay up til midnight, but not many, because there is school the next day. And the adults? As much as they want to watch, they know they have real life obligations that require not being exhausted the next morning.

Over 19 million people watched the game but viewership peaked between 11:45  – midnight EST. After that, a steady drop-off in viewers occurred as the game went on and on.

The winning run – game 5 2017 World Series

It did not surprise me that the game ended with a dramatic 13-12 Astros extra inning victory. What was surprising was that the game lasted until 1:40 in the morning. Total time of the game: five hours and seventeen minutes!

How many millions of people missed seeing this great game because of how long it lasted and its starting time? We’ll never know. All I know is that I did not see its conclusion, nor did any of my friends.

As I will continue to point out in story after story, Major League Baseball needs to get their priorities straightened out.

Is it more important to run nonsensical advertisements featuring children “you’re a bigger fan than me? Prove it.” to sell officially sanctioned MLB garbage? Or is it more important to have that target audience watching the games?

Why a Sunday World Series game was not played during the daytime is simply because FOX TV gets to dictate the start time and derive maximum advertising revenue. Money is more important than the future of the game. Continue reading

6 Ways Television Is Helping To Make Baseball Unwatchable

How Television Has Helped To Ruin Baseball

Watching the game from center field – the only way an entire generation of TV director’s have decided to televise baseball

Here are just a few of the ways television has helped to ruin watching baseball. None of the corrective suggestions will be heeded, but someone has to point it out.

1 – The camera angles

Guess what? About 80% of the time you’re not watching baseball. What you are seeing is four guys – a pitcher’s back, a catcher, a batter and an umpire.

What kind of a lead is the runner taking? Where are the outfielders shaded? Is the overused shift in effect? Where was that ball hit? Is it going to be a hit?

How would we know? The audience rarely sees any other part of the field except from the center field camera.

Unless you attend games in person and sit in center field with a high power telescope, this is not the way anyone views an entire baseball game. Nor should it be the way to televise one.

It would be nice to see the return of the overhead mezzanine high camera from behind the catcher so we can see the whole field.

So here are two angles from behind the plate – one high and wide the other not as high. Both of these camera angles are more conducive and infinitely superior to the view you see on most broadcasts.

2- The busy screen

I don’t know about most people but I want to watch a baseball game, not be diverted by ads and a constant scroll of information.

While not every channel is guilty of the news scroll on the bottom of the screen, your view is still cluttered with unnecessary information.

Watching the World Series there are no other scores or news to scroll on the screen so you won’t see the scroll there. Yet that doesn’t stop clutter.

Showing “Fox World Series Game 1” in the upper right hand portion of the screen for the ENTIRE game? Does the score, runners on base, balls and strikes, number of pitches, pitch speed and all other sorts of information need to be shown every second of the game?

Go watch a game from the 1980’s or earlier. How did people enjoy the first 40 years of baseball telecasts with just having the game and nothing else on the screen? Quite well.

Check out a random pre-1980 baseball broadcast on Youtube to see what I mean.

3 – The damn box superimposed around home plate

With the exception of a few local broadcast outlets, most networks televising baseball have adapted their own version of a strike zone box. And it’s getting to be de rigueur instead of a special feature.

This horrible innovation that began a few years ago is an artificial rectangular box on the TV screen surrounding home plate, that supposedly identifies the strike zone and differentiates strikes from balls. Unfortunately it is in the direct line of sight of the television viewer.

The worst part about it is you can’t ignore it. Continue reading

Marketing To Consumers So You Can Get Less Product For The Same Price

Look Closely And You’ll Notice Changes In Packaging

As late, great comedian Bill Hicks once pointed out, marketing is one the banes of human existence.

Marketers are people who find a way to monetize everything and convince you that you need things that you don’t. Or worse they assume many consumers have suffered a bout of amnesia, and will believe that paying more for less product is a good thing.

The rising cost of raw materials has driven companies and their marketers to slyly pass along their increased costs.

The understanding among packaging and marketing people is that consumers do not like price increases under any circumstances. Therefore if you reduce the amount of product you are getting and keep the price the same, consumers either won’t notice or mind.

Whether it’s coffee, cleaning fluids, potato chips, chocolate, canned vegetables or paper towels; packages have been shrinking.

Where else does six equal twelve, except in the Mr. Mxyzptlk math world of Bounty paper towels?

A few years ago Tropicana reduced the packaging of their juice from 96 oz. to 89 oz. and the 64oz. container to 59 oz.

I called the 800 customer service number and foolishly asked Tropicana why they had done this.

The customer service representative replied to me with a supposedly straight face, that customers wanted new ergonomic packaging and preferred less juice! Continue reading

Hugh Hefner Will Be Remembered – New York Times Hatchet Writers Will Be Forgotten

There Goes The New York Times Again

Attacking The Late Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner and playboy bunnies

Hugh Hefner is dead. Yet it took less than 48 hours for the New York Times to besmirch and defile the Playboy Magazine founder’s life.

In an article entitled “Let’s Talk About Hugh Hefner and His Political Legacy” the writers have come not to praise Hefner nor bury him but to throw dirt upon his memory.

Jennifer Schuessler along with New York Times culture writers Taffy Brodhesser-Akner, Amanda Hess and Wesley Morris wine and complain in their attempt to put a political spin on Hugh Hefner’s perceived faux pas and dismantle his social and cultural legacy.

The roundtable hatchet job on Mr. Hefner is the latest Times lunacy of spewing the paper’s vitriolic equalizing agenda into the record and rewriting history. The angry tone at this great man and his achievements are misplaced.

No one is saying Hugh Hefner was Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or even Walt Disney. But Hugh Hefner was one of the most important progenitors of societal and political change in the 20th century. Hefner’s questioning of social mores and values made the world a better place. Hefner stood up to politicians, holy rollers and those who condemned everything sexual. Hugh Hefner was a hedonist, but he was an intellectual hedonist. If you doubt that, read the series of editorials Hefner wrote in the early 1960s entitled The Playboy Philosophy.

Continue reading

The Night The Audio System Failed At Yankee Stadium

30  Minutes Of Baseball Bliss As The Audio System At Yankee Stadium Fails – September 14, 2017

9 14 17 Yankee Stadium audio difficulties signThey say if you go to a baseball game there’s always a chance you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

But it’s not only what I had never seen before, but what I didn’t hear. What happened Thursday, September 14, 2017 during a Yankees – Orioles game was unusual.

For the first time in my life, I attended a major league baseball game and the national anthem was not played before the start of the game. No, it wasn’t the second game of a real doubleheader (remember those?)

Not only was the national anthem not played, no sound was heard in the ballpark except the cheers of the crowd, calls of the vendors and crack of the bat. Continue reading