Had A Very Shiny Nose

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This in-pub recording demonstrates the sort of genius that can result from a large quantity of beer mixed with a seemingly impossible blend of musical instruments.

Ladies and gentlemen, my home town.

Overheard On The Subway

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Guy in blue MTA boilersuit and reflective jacket standing on the platform, to the conductor of the N train just pulled in at 59th and Lex: Hey Frank!

*unheard response from the conductor along the lines of 'Hey, person! Whatcha doing here?'*

MTA Guy: I'm on the ice again.

*unheard conductor response*

MTA Guy: Oh, I had a collision on a 270 last week. Nothing serious, nobody died, wan't my fault.

*unheard conductor response*

MTA Guy: Yeah, I know. It sucks.

Downtown Protest

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Surveillance On Both Sides

Sean Bell shot.

Video Shows Near Miss In NYPD Barrage

'Day Of Outrage' planned.

Police Shooting Rally Held On Wall Street

My crappy YouTube video of the barricades...and please excuse the ten-seconds-too-long end that makes it look like I'm running away from something - I just didn't hit 'Stop' in time.

Autotagged

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Jack was tagged. It was a shock, but I think she recovered. She refrained from tagging anyone else, because she's nice like that. So I tagged myself. I don't have much time (they're closing in, you know) so here's the viral thing-to-do-wossname ("meme" chuh):

1. Take the nearest book and go to page 123.
2. Go to the fifth sentence of the page.
3. Copy down the next three sentences and tag three people.

The book is 'Building Control Systems' published by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers of London, England, in association with the Department of the Environment,Transport and the Regions. It's casually known as 'CIBSE Guide H'. The book doesn't have anything so pedestrian as conventionally numbered pages, but after a little work with a calculator I can humbly proffer the following from Page 5-58:


"An additional factor to be considered is the interaction between the lighting and HVAC systems. In some buildings constructed on the principles known as integrated environmental design (IED), heat recovered from lights played an inportant part in the thermal control of the building; a refurbishment in such a building which produced a lower and fluctuating heat gain from the lighting system could create problems with the HVAC control system.
(new paragraph)
The selection of lamp type for a lighting installation will depend on many factors, such as efficiency, colour rendering, physical dimensions and appearance."


I will also refrain from tagging anyone. As with dealing with everything viral, you should now go and wash your hands. ..unless you actively desire this sort of thing in your life, in which case you must shove both your hands into your mouth and lick them. And do the thingy above.

The Twits

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I've made up for being one of the first few hundred onto the flickr bandwagon by totally missing the boat on Twitter, and taking my rightful place as Someone Who Doesn't Really Know What's Going On.

This is what happens when you don't read blogs as much you used to. But hey! Twitter's a nice little antidote to that. It's an aggregator of passing moments and thoughts you probably wouldn't blog unless you have a blog about your lunch choices. You can add to your Twitter via email, SMS, IM and see your friends' updates mixed in for slow conversations or standalone wossnames...very nice.

Sign up and have a play. I only did yesterday, found that a huge chunk of the UK bloggers I read/used to read when I was a more involved blogger/ know were already on it...but now I'm hungry for more people's stuff to read...

Now...what to have for lunch?

Can't Beat A Bit O'Bully

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The soundtrack to the Rockstar Games, er, game Bully (Canis Canem Edit in the EU) is available for free download, and even without registration or anything, from emusic.com.

Nothing wrong with that price now, eh?

The music is an odd cross between the theme to Harry Potter and Mark Mothersbaugh's instrumental stuff on the The Life Aquatic soundtrack.

And Spend Less Money On Shoes

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Well here we are, facing the unlikely-sounding 2007.
Year two thousand and seven. It's just a number- but as a year, what will it be like?

A year is a good chunk of time. Pleasantly circuitous in a seasonal sort of way, plenty of opportunity to get stuff done, but short enough that if you just fancied a bit of a breather or weren't really paying attention you don't have to feel bad about not having ticked off much of the to-do list. Also the adding of another incremental digit to the communal running total of orbits of the sun is a good chance to give yourself a pat on the back for avoiding crime, corruption, hard drugs and any extra soap operas. Also for generally being yourself for another year.
Nicely done, you.

So while my better half is polling for her second 'Not So Faithful - Songs For The Festive Heathen' compilation in honour of the communal northern hemisphere winter solstice/religious festival, I'd like to turn your attention to the New Year.

Let's put together a compilation of hopeful, bouncy, cheery but not annoyingly plastic or chirpy tunes to herald the start of another lap of the sun on this spinning top of ours.
We want hope, party, rock, dance, grinny, sunny, cool, wintry, whatever. It just has to fit, you know?

First up I'd like to suggest, rather predictably, Jamie Cullum's 'Next Year Baby', which is what I might call the mix, even if we end up with 80 minutes' worth of tunes that are better than it.
The two discs go out together - Not So Faithful and this one, so if you're very, very good...and one way to be that good is to be a special type of bad...one might be heading your way.

Any suggestions?

Berlin

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One of the things I love about New York is its stories.

You know how when you're friends with someone for a long time and you can tell the tale of any number of times when you did x or ended up at y with an inflatable shark and half a barbershop choir? Or when you're meeting new people together and even though it's your friend's story you can feel the conversation heading towards the perfect lead-in for the Oxygen Sickness Jokes or Accidental Barn Demolishing Story and you know...just KNOW when they'll mention it?
It's the same with the city, in a way, and I've never known a place like that before. There's a huge pool of anecdotes and stories about New York - how it started, grew, changed...and how its people arrived, grew, thrived and changed with it. No one knows them all (except possibly Jason), but with the big ones, or the few you do know...you can feel conversations about the city swinging around, to and between them. The Dutch...building elevated subways out into farmland...the design of Central Park...airships atop the Empire State Building...how places got their names...

Berlin was a blank canvas when I landed last Friday lunchtime, but by the time I left on Monday morning I felt like I'd had a huge swathe of these sorts of stories dumped in my head. And it's a great feeling.

So the only thing I really knew about Berlin was that after the Second World War it was divided by The Wall...but I knew nothing geographical. I had always absent-mindedly thought that Berlin was roughly in the middle of Germany and that West and East Berlin sat on either side of the border dividing the nation. I didn't know that West Berlin was entirely embedded in East Germany. That people dug tunnels, hid in cars, made fake uniforms, engineered ziplines and slings, created ladders that could be disassembled and hidden in sports bags... all to cross the wall and the dead zone. One staggering crossing (not made in Berlin) was made by two families in a home-made hot air balloon, the largest ever made in Europe at that time, sewn together in attics and fired by four upturned gaz bottles. The Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie museum is excellent - harrowing and frightening, but excellent.

Berlin's Philharmonic Hall was built in the sixties in the then West Berlin in what had become wasteland. I saw a shocking photograph with an architect's sketch pencilled in, and the hall stood in isolation; a church and ahalf-ruined building its only neighbours, three empty blocks away. None of my external photos do it justice - see here for an idea... The hall was designed with no primary concern for the external appearance of the building - the musical environment and acoustics drove everything, with structural elements and the 'hull' under the seating pushing a nautical appearance. Portholes and angular bulkheads make up the surrounding interior, which is lit through coloured glass walls and light wells. In the hall itself everything slopes, with nearly-symmetrical hanging terraces of seating arranged around a central stage.

This crazy corkscrew staircase sits out the back of the German Historical Museum, as an extension to the baroque style 'Zeughaus' which was originally an arsenal...then a museum to showcase how great the Prussian Army was...then a museum to showcase how great the Nazis were. It was almost totally destroyed by bombing in the closing months of the war, and spent 1948 to 1965 being painfully and cheaply rebuilt by the GDR, but this didn't stop it being used from 1952 until the reunification in 1990 as a museum to showcase how great Marxist-Leninists were. When I say cheaply rebuilt I mean that most of the money went into recreating the effect of the old Baroque architecture, which is extremely decorative and grandiose. This meant that there wasn't a lot of money for the actual structure of the building, so while everything appears to be cut from solid marble, the building is made from clad steel columns, and the floor is structured so that if a heavy exhibit like a stone sculpture needs to be shown on the second floor, it has to be placed on a structural beam because the floor won't take it otherwise. The extension to the museum is starkly modernist in comparison, but feels...beautiful. The concrete was cast in wood, and the smooth white finish retains the grain. Plus I love this staircase.

Starry Starry Nacht

Walking around the city reinforced the impression of a city building to recover from growing in two different directions for thirty years. There's been a breathtaking amount of development since reunification, and the leash constraining that development has been sometimes stringent and draconian, and in other instances startlingly liberal. The six-storey 'look' of Berlin that was enforced to prevent rampant modernisation and high-rise development somehow doesn't apply around Potsdamer Platz...or when building for the Federal Government. With most of Germany's financial institutions firmly ensconsed in Frankfurt, there didn't seem to be the money to drive the development of a 'downtown' financial district, and instead at Potsdamer Platz and in a couple of other locations offices were built in the hope of stimulating it, a move which has left these buildings empty or with very low occupancy.
Away from great areas of development, the city feels strangely and yet comfortably homogenous; a whole. Bars and restaurants of every stripe abound, art galleries are simply everywhere, the traffic is sparse and unintrusive. Parks and squares punctuate a drive through the centre; tree lined Parisian boulevards, tiny alleys, statue-lined bridges and Christmas markets, like the one where I spotted the stall selling these stars.
Maybe that homogeneity and wholeness has a lot to do with the Berlin that existed before The Wall - its deep history rather than its development during the Cold War. But it can only have been helped by the actions of the divided city's transport planners during those years. Both Berlins suffered epic damage in World War 2, and the task of relaying-out and planning a city that was born in the age of the horse but must grow in the age of the automobile is a tough one. But when the East built a road, the West built a road to match it - to the point, even at the height of the Cold War, of laying tarmac up to the base of The Wall, so that when it came down the two could be joined. So the new Berlin flows.
And I like it.

Smart Charlie

Berlinerphotos

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There!
And I took out all the blurry pants ones, too.
Click the picture for the link to the set.

Morning all.

Got back from Germany yesterday afternoon after a nine hour flight, and all is well, apart from the fact that I feel like I stayed up til about seven am and then got up at seven oh five, when in fact I went to bed a little after ten.
The trip was wonderful and I'll be putting up some photos later today, so keep an eye on my flickrstuffage.
One downbeat aspect of the trip was that after an hour's delay for takeoff and an hour into the seven hour flight TO Berlin, the plane turned around and headed back to Newark because they hadn't fully completed the paperwork to enter Oceanic Airspace. Well, that's what they told us, anyway. There was another hour's flying to the airport and another hour on the ground before we started the whole 7 hours...AND the movie Poseidon over again.
Honestly.

Apparently there might be some issue with le commentage - if you haven't got javascript enabled, things won't work. I'll put a decent note on the comments box at some point, just after I learn HTML, CSS, German, Russian and finish these two novels I'm working on called War and Peace and A Suitable Boy.

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