Friday, March 22, 2013

So close

I'm looking forward to Easter Break. Because Fordham is a Catholic University, we get Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Monday off as a matter of course. It's a pretty sweet perk. Mind you, I won't be doing a lot of relaxing, as the thesis is still there, waiting my final touches.

Yes, STILL. It's kind of hilarious how little time I've had for this beast. What can I do when Urban Political Processes, the class I'm currently taking, demands weekly reading and a reflection paper, as well as a final paper? When something that needs to be done has no firm deadline, of course I'm going to lean more toward the thing that needs to be attended to every Tuesday.

So even though I've marked up every single page of the thesis with corrections, ruminations and final improvements, I haven't actually made the changes in the electronic version. A day off on Holy Thursday should be just the thing I need to finish this fucker.

Ironically, this shortage of time has probably forced me to delay a decision I've been torn between: Whether to publish online or just in print. When I started thinking about what to do with the thesis when it was finished, I figured it was a given I'd put together a web site. It's a given, right? No one buys books anymore, and given the plethora of art I've collected related to the case studies, the web is surely the best place to share everything. Then there's the custom-made Google map with all the locations of graffiti murals that I've found over the years of researching; surely that should be part of the thesis, right? Oh, and what of the audio files of all the interviews I conducted? And hyper links to the artists, the documents I quote, the stories I cite....

You can see why I've done very little on this end. As I said, the time factor has been the major reason why I haven't harassed anyone at Fordham to help me make this happen. Full time writing job, another class, a toddler, blah blah get the picture.

So the plan for this semester is to aim low, make the final edits in the print edition, and have it ready for the dean in May. And then? Well, I have three more classes left in the masters program after this, so in theory, I could still put together a web site during that time. I think I will still try, for all the reasons I mentioned before. But two things still give me pause:

A. This is original content, which we all know has value even in this "Work for exposure in lieu of cash" travesty of a journalism environment. I won't lie, I think my thesis is a pretty kickass piece of writing, and while I don't expect to take home any awards or end up on Orpah's book club, I do think it's worth something. So if I put it all out there on a website for all to see for free, will I be selling myself short? Or will I be able to attract more attention to my project from the kinds of folks who might be willing to slap a cover on it and sent it to whatever books stores are still left in 2014? Consider this a tactical question more than anything.

B. The Map. It's there. It's super easy to share. I can point you to 29 different locations of graffiti murals around NYC, Jersey City and Trenton, some of which are defunct, but many of which are still active. But should I? This is a more philosophical question, and it's sort of related to the fact that there are tour guides in NYC who will, for a price, take you to around to graffiti and street art sites. In a sense, I could give away a do it yourself tour guide, albiet one without any context, since in many cases, I don't know who the writers of a lot of murals are.

The thing is, being in the presence of the murals was only half the fun for me. Sure, it's fun to go back to my flickr galleries from time to time and look at the art that I found on walls around town, but really, nothing can replace the actual moment of discovery that accompanied that photo. Many times, the murals I wrote about and detailed on the map were not spontaneous, "turn the corner, holy shit look at that thing" kind of discoveries, but sometimes they were. And even when they weren't, there was a certain thrill in ferreting out of information online that then lead me to the locations.

You know what they say about the journey being as important as the destination? I can't help but wonder if by pointing out the exact location of murals, I end up taking away half the fun for y'all. I mean, wouldn't it be more awesome for you to just be walking down the street one day and see this?


So its publish online or hold out for a book/magazine article, and map vs. no map. Thoughts?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Tides of March

"Thank god we still have a system that rewards accomplishment, and that we can live in places where we want to live, without having apartments and the scum of the city pushed on us."

How's that for an opening? Apologies for the extended absence; been devoting most of my energies to the fam, the work, and the Urban Political Processes class, which is where I read the above quote.

It's from a story called "The End of the Exurban Dream," which ran in New York Magazine back on December 13, 1976. It was quoted in a paper about the suburbs I was tasked with reading, and what I love about it is it was spoken by a fine young asshat from Westport, Connecticut, which is just a skip and a hop from Norwalk, where I was living at the time (I was 2 1/2, for what it's worth).  Living in Brooklyn, it's some what bracing to read the things that were said about the city back in the day. Now we all LOVE the city, right?

Anyway, this is neither here nor there concerning graffiti, except that a key distinction between suburban environments and urban environments is randomness that comes from the city. Now, it's not fair to say ALL suburbs are bland and predictable, when I was growing up in Rowayton, I found plenty in that first generation suburb (there are three generations, if you must know, including what are called exurbs—those are are bet noire of urbanists) to be a fascinating place, full of history, a sense of place and a feeling of community.  Why, to this day, I still look back fondly at days at summer camp, picking blueberries by the train tracks, riding my bicycle to.......

Sorry, I almost got on a Nostaligia Train coming in on the express track. Where were we again?

Right, graffiti. So I spotted this back in January:

I walk by this building just about every day of the week, as it's next door to my office, which is across the street from Carnegie Hall. It looks like this from across the street:

I know, it's not an ideal match up, but basically the window above is behind the FedEx truck. Oh, trick question: Can you spot the arrow inside the FedEx logo?

Anyway, something looked familiar. Something I'd seen on other buildings nearby:

There was the one on the door of a building across the street that's slated for demolition (The Morton Williams moved down the street, but we're supposed to get a Nordstrom in the building that will replace it. Woo!)

And another on the side of the building that used to house Jekyll & Hyde Restaurant that's currently being gutted. God, that place was horrible, so glad it's gone. Amiright?

Then there were the twins over on Broadway, just south of Columbus Circle

And Jesus, are those miniatures that have spawned on a signal box on 57th Street?

In case you haven't figured it out, this is EKG. This one, which seems to have drawn the ire of a critic, is actually in downtown Brooklyn, near Metrotech. It is decidedly not near Midtown.

But then again, neither is this, which I saw in December in Greenpoint. The two other tags here are pretty meh as far as I'm concerned, but you know what?
I kind of like EKG, who is here again in Greenpoint, along with a random assortment of tags and two jellyfish. Mmmmmm, jellyfish.....

From a strictly stylistic point of view, his/her thing is nothing to get worked up about; it's just a couple of straight lines, probably done with an orange marker. And as you can see, there's no strict uniform to the lines; it's obviously done very quickly. But like the jellyfish, it stands out among the tags as a pictograph, and its uniform color and yes, straight lines, make it show up better. Not too much, mind you, as the one on the front of Lee's Art Shop is still there, nearly a month later.

And it seems to be everywhere, like the a constant pulse of the city. Which is alive, thank god. If I ever see an EKG that's a flat line, I may need to leave that neighborhood ASAP. Maybe I'll move to an exurb. ;-)