Archive for the 'nyc' Category

The Colossus of New York

October 11, 2007

I love New York with a love that can be considered unhealthy, and Colson Whitehead’s (what an unfortunate last name) The Colossus of New York had received rave reviews. “Pitch-perfect,” one reviewer wrote.

Maybe I’m just not hip enough, but the book didn’t grab me. Maybe I’m too much of a journalist, but I wanted specifics. Names. Places. Instead the whole thing is a (beautifully-written) mess of generic statements.

Some good truisms in here:

“It’s right there in the city charter: we have the right to disappear. The city rushes to hide all trace. It’s the law.”


“This place is falling apart, after all. If you listen close you can hear it. Day by day you contribute to it. You think this place sucks the life from you but in fact it’s the opposite. This bosom.”

Yet what makes New York (or any place, really) interesting is the people. Get the name of the dog–or in fiction, make one up–but don’t leave the poor thing anonymous.


Ethnic and racial labels

April 24, 2007

Having just finished writing a major project about a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood in Brooklyn, I figured that now was the time to finally figure out the proper label for immigrants from Central and South America.*

 I remembered learning something about how “Hispanic” was a term created not so long ago, not a term preferred by the people to whom we assign this label. What I was not prepared for was these paragraphs in the Wikipedia article about the word:

The confusion that arises is from the similarity between the words Latino and Latin, and between the concept of Hispanic and Latino. Latino is a shortened version of the noun Latinoamericano (Latin American). In the Spanish language “Latín” (Latin) is the name of the language of the Romans. This means that “Latín” is not confined solely to Hispanics, Latin Americans, or Latinos, but has always included such European peoples as the Italians, French, Romanians, Portuguese, etc.

Thus, of a group consisting of a Brazilian, a Colombian, a Mexican, a Spaniard, and a Romanian; the Brazilian, Colombian, and Mexican would all be Latinos, but not the Spaniard or the Romanian, since neither Spain nor Romania is geographically situated in Latin America. Conversely, the Colombian, Mexican and Spaniard would all be Hispanics, but not the Romanian and the Brazilian; Brazilians speak Portuguese as Brazil has evolved from the former Portuguese colony in South America. Finally, all of the above nationalities would be Latin, including the Romanian. To further clarify, a Latino is a US citizen or resident of Latin American descent or birth…

The term is oftern rejected by some Hispanics, because they consider Hispanic to be too general as a label, while others consider it offensive, often preferring to use the term Latino, which is viewed as a self-chosen label…

The majority of Hispanic Americans do not identify as Hispanic or Latino, but instead with their national origin, e.g. Mexican-American.

 What I’m getting from this is twofold. One: “Latino” is the proper term, though in a perfect world I would identify each person in Sunset Park by their national origin (which I believe is predominantly Dominican, judging by the turnout on Dominican Independence Day last summer). Two: Labels are damn confusing.

Next I’m going to blog about my journalism teacher who insisted that a writer who capitalized the word “Black” had made a typo in her query letter “because in the AP style manual, it isn’t capitalized.” See you then.

*Not really; I’ve been worrying vaguely about the problem all semester. Also, I don’t even think that “immigrants from Central and South America” is completely correct.

Are Journalism Internships a Joke?

March 10, 2007

Learn to be a journalist
Photographer: davidfg. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Last week I came across The Editorialiste’s blog, and this post in particular: Journalism Internships Are A Joke (Financially). Period.

Mr. Nusca makes some good points, and yes, there are many who take this same viewpoint, but I believe there are some things the naysayers don’t address.

As I interpret it, Nusca sums up the problem like so:

-An internship is virtually necessary to get a job in this industry these days.

-Internships that look good on your resume (with big, well-known magazines or newspapers) pay little or nothing.

-Internships with smaller papers or magazines are not worth an intern’s time.

-Therefore, only J-students subsidized by their parents can afford to work three months for peanuts, therefore anyone doing “the right thing” is punished.

Point 1 is absolutely true. That’s just the way it is. Journalism really cannot be learned from anyone else; you learn by doing. Since no college newspaper or radio station mirrors a real newsroom, the only way to become qualified to work in a newsroom is to work in one.

“When did such a low-paying industry become so elite?” asks Nusca.

Maybe when the profession became so popular. A survey published in 2006 hailed the fact that out of all the 2005 graduates receiving bachelor’s degrees in journalism, 62% of them had found jobs by the end of the year. That means over a third were unemployed for over seven months. And this is good news? I bet nursing students don’t have to wait over half a year for a job offer.

Read the rest of this entry »

More on the Splasher

March 1, 2007

The Splasher is still at it. He/she made NYT’s B1 today, with one good picture and one photo that is completely irrelevant to the story. (Oh, wait. Behind the dude, there’s a Splashered painting. I have to say I’m not too impressed with whoever edited these photos today.)

Marc Schiller, who runs a Web site about street art called the Wooster Collective,, and who organized a large show of street artists in an unoccupied SoHo building in December, said that he was disturbed by the ease with which art could be destroyed by a anonymous figure.

I guess that’s what disturbs me about the whole thing, even though I still believe (as Chris Combs said more eloquently than I ever could) that the “hierarchy of mystique in street art deserves to be questioned.” Life and art are so fragile.

 (Also, as an aside, does it bother anyone else that this paragraph doesn’t mention that Wooster on Spring was organized with the cooperation of the new building’s owners? Not only does it leave the hint of insinuation that the project was, like other street art, “just as unlawful as the paint splashed onto it,” but it stiffs Caroline Cummings and the other owners who were willing to support the project, taking away the credit they deserve. I didn’t get to see Wooster on Spring, but I can imagine what kind of risk it must have been to give support to what the outside world probably sees as “a graffiti project.”)

Garbage Land

February 26, 2007

Anyone who lives on this earth should pick up a copy of Garbage Land, by Elizabeth Royte. I won’t say this book will change your life, but it may. After you finish reading, “out of sight, out of mind” will be a foreign phrase.

Royte, a resident of Park Slope, Brooklyn, a fairly well-off, educated, environmentally-conscious neighborhood, decided to trace where her trash went after it was picked up by the New York City Department of Sanitation. She rode in garbage trucks with “san men,” visited landfills and recycling plants all over the country, paddled illegally around Fresh Kills in a kayak, visited a water treatment plant and witnessed excrement being turned into fertilizer. She learned which materials recycle well (paper, metal) and which don’t (glass, plastic). And she wrote it all down in an engrossing, 300-page (though it feels like half that, so quick is the read) book.

This book delves into disgusting, depressing material. Read about leaky landfills dripping toxic chemicals into our groundwater, soda companies building plastics recycling plants in poor third-world countries (and then denying it!), and the paper and free gifts sent out as fundraisers by supposedly “green” organizations, and it’s likely you’ll want to hole up in a cave in the wilds of Canada and never come out. We really are running out of places to put all the stuff we consume.

I’m a fairly environmentally-conscious girl. I’m the weirdo who reuses plastic bags at the grocery store, and the person who will walk five minutes out of her way to find a recycling bin. Royte, even at the beginning of the book, with about 4 pounds of trash weekly for a three-person family, had me beat. (And the rest of the country; the EPA says that number is almost 20 times lower than the national average.) This number does not include material she sent to be recycled or the “putrescibles” she composted in front of her brownstone. (Despite the mice and the maggot-like worms, the neighbors reportedly loved it.)

Royte doesn’t provide utopian solutions to the trash problem. She readily admits that her compost was a failure, and that her geographical location was a big help in keeping her trash down:

If I didn’t live in a neighborhood where I could leave stuff on the sidewalk for others, didn’t have access to curbside recycling and a compost bin, and had to throw out a major piece of furniture, I’d be right up there with the rest of the nation.

Rather, she points out that it is both the consumer’s responsibility (consume less, recycle more) and the corporate world’s responsibility to solve this problem. She argues that litter clean-up days, which are often sponsored by some of the worst polluters and dumpers, aim to move the burden of trash off factories and corporations and onto the individual. A Coke bottle floating in a pristine river had to have gotten there by a consumer. But who made the bottle? Who made it out of plastic poisonous to recycle and impossible to reuse? (Not entirely true; in some parts of Europe, plastic bottles are returned to companies that sterilize and refill them. Try getting that to fly here.) In addition, even were all the Coke bottles drunk in America returned, reused, recycled, or otherwise diverted from a landfill, we’d still be in trouble, Royte says, because municipal waste makes up only 2% of the junk in this country. The other 98% is industrial waste–7.6 billion tons of it yearly.

So what can we do? Not, really, much. Buy less–much less–recycle more, and hope for the best.

And read this book.