Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A man, a horse and a duck walk onto a bus...

Today's New York Times reports a veritable explosion in the species of service animals roaming the streets and public transportation. While dogs have long helped blind people navigate through their every day lives, therapy dogs and cats have become more prevalent in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. Certain breeds of monkey have also helped stroke patients with their daily tasks. Now, apparently, just about any animal on Noah's Ark is making a difference.

The Times story opens with a few paragraphs about a blind woman who is aided by a miniature horse. Apparently they're a great alternative to the average guide dog. They live about 30 years, a time span in which the person in need might expect to retire five or six service dogs. And yes, horses can be house trained. However, they're not quite as convenient for public transportation. Unlike a guide dog who can curl up at his/her person's feet, the guide miniature horse has to stand at the bulkhead -- or in first class.

Other people -- many with mental illnesses or severe emotional issues -- have found that a particular cat, bird or even ferret can provide therapeutic calming guidance.

Now, I'm a huge fan of animals and know first hand what a wonderful impact they can have on one's life. Nonetheless, the story got me thinking of that old joke, "a horse walks into a bar..." What if a horse, a cat and a parrot went into a bar with their people?

Punch line, anyone?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Separated at birth?

Disgraced (and disgraceful) Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Shameless (and shameful) burger pusher, Big Boy.

Maybe it's got something to do with that clearly uh, sculpted hair on the gov, but the comparison was almost instantaneous as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Asbury Park, December 27, 2008

From the boardwalk...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Missing what's not there

Several weeks ago I took a final trip to Shea Stadium to see a game before the ol' toilet is torn down and the Mets move to Citi Field. Shea, of course, is adjacent to Flushing Meadow Park, the site of two World's Fairs, first in 1939 and then in 1964-65.

Introduced to the world in “The Great Gatsby” as “the valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens…. ” the wastelands of Queens were transformed into a wonderland of the future.

The centerpiece of the park, of course, is the Unisphere, a massive stainless steel globe standing in a fountain pool. The iconic structure has been featured in everything from TV commercials to fashion ads to movies -- while you might not know where it is, you've surely seen it at some point in your life. For a while I'd considered getting out there to take some photos, and now I realized it might be a cool road trip: get a few shots of the globe, maybe get some snaps of Shea as they take it down, and check out the ruins of the World's Fair.

Perhaps due to my experience in at Man and His World in Montreal, I thought I'd find a bunch of abandoned or little-used buildings once I got out to the site in Queens. Stuff I found on the web supported the thought that the New York State pavilion observatory towers, at least, were still there, rotting in situ. At the very least, I wanted to find the giant road map of the state that had once welcomed visitors there.

When I got to the park I found it was huge -- not surprising -- and well-used on a beautiful fall day. It was Sunday and the soccer teams were out in force, the diversity of their ethnicities creating a veritable World Cup competition.

I parked next to the Queens Museum of Art, the former New York City building and ice rink, which once served as the first site of the United Nations assembly in New York. The structure looked suitably neglected on the outside but still functions as a museum, housing an accurate scale model of New York City.

That day, the Unisphere fountain was dry, serving as a rink for skateboarders. I later found out that the fountain now only operates during the US Open, held in September at the US Tennis Center nearby. All the better for my photo plans -- I was able to get a bunch of very arty shots, including a few from directly under Antarctica. Pretty cool.

While some other structures still stand, the vast majority were removed after the close of the Fair and are in use elsewhere. Standing in the park, looking at the mature trees lining broad walkways and fountain pools, it's hard to believe that a veritable city once stood there, with millions strolling the grounds and trams gliding above. There are bas relief murals showing scenes of both World's Fairs, but for the most part, the park doesn't show much of its previous use. Of all of the ruins I've visited, musing over what once was and isn't anymore, it's the most departed of all.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Friending: a verb

Last winter I finally took the plunge and joined Facebook, ostensibly for the professional networking opportunities, but also to see if I could link back up with friends and former acquaintances from the past.

It's been an interesting experience on several levels. First, I've come to realize how much I tend to categorize people into different segments of my life. I take the word 'friend' to heart and though it's a loose term taken lightly (and even as a verb) on Facebook, I've thought twice about some of the friend requests I've gotten, and even some that I've sent out. People I barely know -- some of whom I don't necessarily like -- have sent friend requests to me, and I've been hesitant to send out invitations to other people, thinking that I may be presuming too much of the acquaintanceship. After all, one's Facebook friends can see all of the activity you put on your page. If you tend to compartmentalize your life the way I do, it's a bit scary to open yourself up to that much observation.

Likewise, you're apt to find out some interesting things about people you don't know that well. I recently took an improv class in New York, and while I knew a lot of the people in the group were younger than I, I didn't find out just how young until we all started friending each other after our graduation show. The woman who'd basically labeled herself as the class Methuselah is more than 10 years younger than I am. And most of the other people were born sometime during my college years. I have no clue if they realized how old I am, but it made me wonder, and it freaked me out a little.

But yeah, it has made me realize how much I do hold back. There have been times in my life when I have been extraordinarily open with people, but then other times I've been told I'm hard to get to know, that I put up a wall. The internet can serve as a cathartic environment, kind of like talking to a stranger on an airplane or a bar, and the anonymity is a hugely freeing factor for me, personally. But the big question, really, is what is the risk? Yeah, from a professional standpoint, you don't want to be known for some freaky hobby or association, but what are the chances? And really, what's the harm in people knowing who you really are? Maybe I need to take this a little less seriously and enjoy it for what it is.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Penn Station, NY