Archives for May 2011

Bundle Up! Summer’s Coming!

“The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” Mark Twain said that a long time ago, and having lived there for six years, I can affirm there is quite a bit of truth in it– whatever the people who still live there tell you. (If any of my San Franciscan friends beg to differ, I would simply ask you to open up your closet or your dresser and count how many pairs of shorts you own. If you count two or less, our argument is over.) But I’m sorry to say that in the hundred-plus years since Mr. Clemens’ one-liner began its long march to cliché, San Francisco has lost its hegemony over cold summers.

That’s because air conditioning, once the greatest invention in the history of mankind, has become so ubiquitous and overused that, like car alarms, it’s now officially doing more harm than good. I am writing this in an office building in lower Manhattan. Right now it’s 76 degrees outside, a beautiful day. I know this because I just had to go outside for a bit and warm up.

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The Greatest, Saddest, Most Delightful, Awful Place In The World

How is it possible that one of my favorite places to go is also somewhere that I would walk over broken glass to avoid? What kind of place can be simultaneously horrifying and massively entertaining? What kind of place fills my heart with glee even as it reveals the ugliest parts of the human condition? Is there such a place?

Yes, there is. It’s the place where white-hot rage and soul-crushing frustration are allowed to run free like naked children on a commune. The place where death threats are exchanged like pleasantries, and received indifferently. The place where cars are taken after they’re towed for parking violations in Brooklyn. Schadenfreude has a name, my friends, and it is The Brooklyn Navy Yard.
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Pictures Or No Pictures, I Believe They Got Bin Laden

Leavening the nation’s collective relief (if not outright joy) at the news that noted terror enthusiast Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan last week was the controversy over whether the Obama Administration will publicly release photos of Bin Laden’s corpse.

Why, one might reasonably ask, would anyone want to see photos of someone reportedly shot in the face? Bin Laden was a singularly un-handsome fellow to begin with, and I can’t imagine a wound the size of an ashtray in his forehead has improved his appearance. But apparently, some people feel they’d like to see the pictures simply because they represent proof that what the president told us is true: that Osama Bin Laden was shot by American soldiers.

Personally, I don’t care if they release these photos or not. I don’t have any desire to see them, but if the government published them, it wouldn’t upset me. I might look at them, but I might not. I really don’t know and I truly don’t care.

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Parents Just Don’t Understand

Offer a few totally underinformed, random thoughts on the state of modern education? Sure, don’t mind if I do.

This topic has been occupying an ever-larger chunk of my thoughts lately, as my wife has been studying to become a teacher for the last two years, as my son inches ever closer to beginning proper school — he will be in pre-K in the fall, so we have less than a year to figure out where he’s going to begin his proper education. Public school seems a terrifying option in New York City — as I write this, the mayor is preparing to cut 4,200+ teachers’ jobs from the system, despite generally dismal test scores and graduation rates — but private school is not economically feasible.

What’s the matter with the public schools? Nationwide, success rates are going down by every metric. Everybody seems to want to blame the teachers and the teachers’ unions. The teachers’ unions, to be sure, need to be taken down a peg or two. For too long, they’ve strong-armed municipalities into paying teachers the exorbitant salaries that afford them such extravagances as 1-bedroom apartments and pre-owned cars with minimal rust damage, for doing little more than caring for and educating our children eight hours a day.

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