Friday, November 30, 2007

Needing California



[This was the beginning of an assignment. I didn't like the rest of it, so you just get the intro:]

He tried to walk straight. It was his goal: walk straight along that line that ran between the road and the rest of the world. Walk straight until white, white headlights that started off as a faint twinkle slowly turned into an explosion of rays that blinded him. He stumbled, then steadied himself. He needed the ride. He stuck his arm out, trying to flag down the car. He needed to get out of Chicago, out of Illinois. He needed California.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Air


[This was an assignment I had for my Advanced Journalism class. We just read John D'Agata's "Martha Graham, Audio Description Of" where instead of scribbling out a regular dance review, he divides his essay into compartments and focuses on different perspectives and backgrounds, like Graham's background and choice of costumes. From that, we had to write our own piece inspired by this style. This essay was the starting point of my final for the class, "On Travel."]

IN AIR

Sound:
Eyes closed. Not humming, but whirring. Engines. Pushing plane through air. No one is talking—it is midnight, New York time—everyone is trying to sleep. Snore. Occasional snore.

Constant whirring.

On thought process:
Because I am confined to this one seat for twenty minutes/four hours/eight hours (pick and choose depending on trip/destination), I need to do something. Magazines and books, while interesting, cannot capture my attention. Preset words are too still for me. I fidget, with papers, pens, chapstick, water bottles...my mind fidgets too. I think about: being on the plane, homework, my hair is too frizzy I should do something about it, I wonder if he likes me, my God look at that mountain, I am going to eat gelato and pasta in Italy I hope it's delicious, I hope I get there soon.

Down below:
I don't hear much about looking through airplane windows, except for musings on clouds. (This is because clouds are up there and we're usually down here so clouds are majestical and when we fly, we are up there with those wondrous, permeable clouds and we somehow become majestical as well.)

Bird's eye view: boxy patches of nondescript land that are various shades of green and brown, winding swirly highways and thinner roads and it is impossible to see any cars, mountaints that look so tiny but you know once you step down there, they are huger than anything you could ever imagine.

I take many pictures.

Don't get me wrong—I love clouds. I love their shape and how they look when the sun hits them at just the right angle and the sky is that perfect shade of sunset-orange and their shadows darken green, green ground.

But this isn't about that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Where Manholes Begin

Reading and seeing J. Adam Huggins' (& apparently Heather Timmon's) story and photographs about the Indian origins of New York City manholes (which always remind me of my brother's obsession with sewers when he was younger, because of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all) was fascinating enough. Then, I caught Gothamist's blurb about the story and J. Adam Huggins became one of my journalism heroes. He saw something that interested him and he went out and investigated it. The New York Times even wrote an editorial about it.

And now Con Edison is taking another look at its safety standards. That's journalism for ya.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bits: Diving into the Gowanus, FDR on Roosevelt Isle, Cyclones in Bangladesh, Hearing from Sharif, Importance of Palestine & Citizen Journalism

1.

"Divers Who Jump in to Take the Mystery Out of City Waterways" by Jennifer Millers, from the New York Times

Ludger K. Balan has the right idea:

"[Balan] wanted to demystify urban waters like the Gowanus to change them from environments that are ignored and shunned to those that are protected and perhaps even loved."

And here's a nice recap by Gawker.

2.

"Plan Revived for FDR Memorial in NYC" by Richard Pyle, from AP

Pyle offers a nice history of Roosevelt Island, a.k.a. Welfare Island, home to fabulous hospitals and asylums. Now, there is two hospitals—the functioning Coler-Goldwater Speciality Hospital and the abandoned Smallpox Hospital which I hope to explore sometime soon.

This article also runs through the proposed FDR memorial for the southern tip of the island, where it is currently home to said Smallpox Hospital and assorted wildlife. This, I think, is a huge mistake. Instead, as paying homage to FDR, they should keep the area the way it is and just open up access. Or, I'll just go anyway. Just don't cement it over, please.

3.

"After Cyclone, Bangladesh Faces Political Storm" by Somini Sengupta (one of my new favorite journalists) from the New York Times

Amidst the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, Bangladesh still has to deal with its political crisis and state of emergency.

4.

"Back in Pakistan, Sharif Condemns Musharraf" by Jane Perlez, from the New York Times

I thought it was weird how, when Musharraf declared martial law, the media focused solely on Benazir Bhutto's reactions and responses rather than hearing what Nawaz Sharif thought. Now that Sharif's back in Pakistan, he's getting attention.

5.

"News Analysis: Seeking a Mideast Path, Bush Offers a Nudge" by Steven Lee Myers, from the New York Times

"Mr. Bush, for now, seems to have accepted the argument that the Palestinian cause is at the root of Islamic mistrust of the United States—or at least that resolving the Middle East conflict could halt the march of Hamas, the radical Islamic group."

Thaaaaaank you.

6.

"Storming the News Gatekeepers" by Jose Antonio Vargas, from the Washington Post

A look at the differences between journalism and citizen journalism.

Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, describes citizen journalism as:

"There really is no simple definition for what a citizen journalist is, just lots and lots of examples...It ranges from people who do journalism all the time to people who do what you might call a random act of journalism to people who don't consider themselves journalists but are in fact practicing journalism...for a lot of them, the underlying motivation is frustration with the traditional media."

[emphasis added by me]

Oh Puerto Rico


The beach at Isla Verde. Photo by Catherine Iftode.

Reading this article made me miss Old San Juan and made me wish I appreciated it more. Granted, the trip was extremely last-minute (decided and booked on Thursday night, flew out of JFK Friday night, came home Sunday night), so we couldn't really plan it that well. It was also very well-deserved, after a grueling and trying junior year semester and both Catherine and I had a lot of fun just losing ourselves in those Caribbean nights (nothing too wild though).

I miss that me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Through the Vias di Roma


Walking through the Colosseum.

March, 2007

Narrow, cobblestoned streets where cars, scooters and people alike make way for each other. Vias e vicolos. Gelato. The seven hills of Rome. Palm trees standing next to fig trees. Hail falling through the ceiling of the Pantheon. Piazzas. The Tiber. Old, weathered, beautiful buildings. Detailed churches and statues. Restored architecture. Throwing a Euro into the Trevi Fountain.


The ceiling of the Pantheon.


The Tiber River through the railing of its many bridges.


Via Della Conciliazion and Via San Pio X, the streets that lead up to Piazza San Pietro, with Rome's logo (featuring Remus and Romulus being nursed by the wolf) in the background.


A Roman street.


Basilica S. Maria degli Angeli e del Martiri, which used to be a bathhouse until Michaelando redesigned it into a church.


View from Palatine Hill.


Bridge into Isola Tiberina on the Tiber River.


From atop the Spanish Steps.


Trevi Fountain.


The streets of Rome during some evening hail.


San Pietro.



And there are more pictures here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Creative Definition of Yourself

So for Northwestern I have to write something creative about myself and it reminded me of my college application essay for Eugene Lang, where they asked you to write a creative definition of yourself. This was my response(slightly edited, of course):

Right now, I'm approximately seventeen and six months old. 6,385 days have shaped and added to the layers of my life. Every single of those days.

They say before you die, you see your entire life flash before your eyes. Can 6.385 and even more days be summed up in that last nanosecond before you're gone? I think that it's more like flashes of the clearest memories, the ones that stick in your mind and you don't know why—

Like coloring dinosaurs orange in my coloring book the day my sister was born.

Like getting lost on the first day of high school on way back home (it seemed fitting).

Like meeting people who are so different but share similar traits.

My friends and I were liked by experiences and interests. Always, there were things to talk about within the group of unlikely friends.

Now, you're reading this and you know random bits of my life, but you're thinking, "wait, but, who are you?"

This isn't an autobiography. This isn't an exact definition of 'Nadia Chaudhury.' This is just me simply writing about myself.

Who am I?

I'm a contradiction to my astrological sign. The fiery red Aries doesn't even come close to describing me. I'm not effervescent, stubborn or utterly confident. I'm more like the watery blue Pisces—imaginative, selfless and compassionate.

I want to make an impact on the world: a silent one through words, a revolution of words that move people in ways they're not quite sure of.

I get frustrated easily, I do nice things for people because I feel like it, I walk around with a book constantly, I shut myself off when I'm upset, I hop up and down when I'm excited, I like compliments but I don't take them easily, I write and I forget about everything else and I look to the future with expectation and fear.

I like freedom with just a pinch of guidelines, just so I know what I'm doing.

I'm used to writing words with a poetic form, where words are written in s t y l e s that directly affect the way you see them(&feelthem).

I could also adjust and write with more structured forms, using 'one' instead of 'you' and refraining from using 'I.' I could write introductions and conclusions with body paragraphs to elaborate the clearly stated thesis.

I can adapt.

I can learn.

That's what life is for—experiencing and learning from different situations that you go through and how you respond to them. Already, I've learned that ignoring things will not make them better. I've learned that you shouldn't try to live up to others' perceptions of you, but instead, live up to your own.

There's so much more in life for me to learn from. What's better than writing about the things you know, the things you've been through, the things you've seen? Then the readers, my readers, could get a taste of Nadia through my words, because of scattered ideas and dialgoues, of people and situations that came directly from my life.

Every moment has its own effect. Learning how to read led to reading a book a day because I couldn't get enough. Creating my own form of script when I didn't really know how to write while underneath the dining room table led to writing nonstop on the train.

All of this, all 500+ words, it's just the beginning of the answer of who I am.

[And after rereading/retyping this, I've realized how much and how little I've changed at the same time.]

Friday, November 23, 2007

muffled

in         white         spaces
we-full-feel

        under
        cotton
        sheets
light pinpoints where bones curve faces
where hands go on bodies
my hair rests on your's
so comfortable and methodic
we can predict each other's moves

what we feel is
not empty, not lost
but something
something
less         tangible
than         lust
more         immediate
than         indifference

is stretched along the days.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Words of a Song

Most people were born with music--their parents listen to albums over and over again and thereby instilling the same songs in their children. So they grew up knowing who the Beatles and Billie Holiday were, from their parents and older siblings. For me, this wasn't the case. My parents moved here from Saudi Arabia in 1984. They had their own music: Bengali and Indian folk and pop songs, most featuring the strums and plunks of the harmonium.

That was the my background music of my childhood, but it was never the focus of it. Every Sunday, our "home" days, as we called them, my parents relaxed in their room, listening to their music. My brother, sister and I stayed in the living room, watching TV shows.

So the point is, I had no grounding in American music. I was familiar with television because my father made sure I had that special American privilege, but music? They knew nothing at all.

Eventually, I caught on, catching music videos on TV, listening to the radio and then to my major source of music: friends' recommendations and the wonderful world of the Internet.

While listening to my iPod recently at work, I thought about why certain songs caught my attention. There are specific subjects and words that captivate me, and when I can find them in a song, it makes the song just that much better.

- maps

Wilco's "You Are My Face"

I have no idea how this happened
All of my maps have been overthrown

Wilco's "A Magazine Called Sunset"

Let's take a map across your pillow
And breathe the sky in through your window
I'll stay in the riddle and watch your books cave in

- the water/rivers/boats/oceans/anything else water-related

Decemberists' "The Island, Come and See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel the Drowning"

There's a harbor lost within the reeds
A jetty caught in the overhanging trees
Among the bones of cormorants
No boot-mark here nor fingerprints
The rivers roll down to a soundless sea

Wilco's "On and On and On"

Please don't cry, we're designed to die
You can't deny even the gentlest tide

(I love the way Tweedy sings "gentlest")

- traveling

Modest Mouse's "The World At Large"

The days get shorter and the nights get cold
I like the autumn but this place is getting old
I pack up my belongings and I head for the coast
It might not be a lot but I feel like I'm making the most
The day's get longer and the nights smell green
I guess it's not surprising but it's spring and I should leave

- stars

Oasis' "The Importance of Being Idle"

I don't mind
As long as there's a bed beneath the stars that shine

Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row'

Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide

- some sort of act of defiance

Decemberists' "And Here I Dreamt I was an Architect"

And we are vagabonds
We travel without seatbelts on
We live this close to death

- about other places

Arcade Fire's "Cold Wind"

If you're going to San Francisco
Lay some flowers on the gravestone

Spoon's "Chicago at Night"

But then she'd never been to Chicago at night before the fall
And it don't stop, not at all

Sufjan Steven's "Chicago"

Drove to Chicago
All things know, all things know
We sold out clothes to the state
I don't mind, I don't mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

- about the city and New York in particular

Wilco's "Jesus, Etc."

Voices whine
Skyscrapers are scraping together

- dreams

Wilco's "Dreamer in my Dreams"

There's a dreamer in my dreams
Swinging from the beams
With a light shining off the lake

These examples, it must be noted, reflect my current listening habits, therefore certain artists appear more than once, like Wilco. I have to say, though, it's impressive that I still listen to Wilco because I usually tire of an artist after three months. Thank you, Chicago boy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bits: Marrying Your Loyal Best Friend and The Cost of an Island,

1.

"Man 'marries' dog to beat curse" from the BBC

So, what this article's about is that this Hindi Indian man, P Selvakumar, thought he was cursed because he killed two dogs because of health problems. In order to remove the curse, he believed there was only one cure: marry a dog (female, of course). The wedding took place in a Hindi temple and was celebrated by the people of the Sivaganga district. The article notes that the bridge wore an orange sari and a flower garland.

And this article demonstrates the perfect way to end an article with a quote (said by a relative of Selvakumar):

"On the advice of an astrologer and others, he decided to marry a bitch to get cured. Then we arranged Selvakumar's marriage with a bitch."

2.

"City Claims Final Private Island in East River" by Timothy Williams, from the New York Times

In a city made up of islands, the New York City government buys South Brother Island, located near the mouth of the Long Island Sound and near Rikers Island.

The island, home to untouched wildlife, was last sold for $10 in 1975. The city, thankfully, won't develop as they have a tendency to do, and will keep the island as a nature santuary.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Road Movie



Among articles about the new and old Western from last week's New York Times magazine, I read Walter Salles (director of Diarios de motorcicleta and Central Station) take on road movies, "Notes for a Theory of the Road Movie" (accompanied by beautiful photos of wide-open spaces in Australia. Salles looks at what defines a road movie, taking past and current movies into consideration and the state of road movies in today's world.

While I haven't seen many of the movies (i.e. Detour, The Searchers), I understand the concepts behind the road move.

First and foremost, the protagonist

"suffer[s] from a need to redefine [himself]...[being] uncomfortable in [his] shoes."
"Because road movies need to trace the internal transformation of their characters, the films are not about what can be seen or verbalized but about what can be felt--about the invisible that complements the visible.
"

The road movie embodies the search for (new) identity and meaning. Or, to put it in Salles' words:

"...the road movie is limited only by one obligation: to accompany the transformations undergone by its main characters as they confront a new reality."

And this search is a necessary search, there is no other option other than going out there, on the road, overseas, on foot, and finding whatever it is that everyone is looking for. Because of this, the movies are "driven by a sense of immediacy."

Other traits of road movies:
  • improvisation
  • unpredictablity/working with what you have (Salles recounted how he'd work with scenes he happened upon while filming Diarios de motorcicleta)
Despite the feeling that there is nothing left in the world to explore, Salles is still confident in the power of road movies:

"Road movies...are about experiencing, above all. They are about the journey. They are about what can be learned from the other, from those who are different. In a world that increasingly challenges these ideals, the importance of road movies as a form of resistance can't be dismissed."

"[R]oad movies are necessary as ever to tell us who we are, where we come from and where we're heading."

On another note, Salles is also working on the adaption of On the Road, of which the cast has yet to be chosen. I am iffy about this, since it's one of my favorite books, and it can very easily turn out messy. Looking at his track record, I'm hopeful, but there's always that fear.

And to end on a better note, as Kerouac wrote in On the Road (they released his original manuscript and I want to read it, and check out the new exhibit at my very first volunteer location at the New York Public Library):

"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It's the too huge world vaulting us, and it's goodbye. But we lean toward to the next crazy adventure beneath the skies."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Touching the River


My beautiful boat at entirely accessible and regular rowing destination Maxwell House Beach in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The view from Roosevelt Island is gorgeous—midtown Manhattan just across the way, the 59th Street Bridge, the tram and the rushing East River. This is New York City at its finest. Sitting on the steps before this panaroma is awe-striking, the juxtaposition of the urban with the natural. But there is more to this scene than just pretty pictures. Dividing the city and the river are railings, lots and lots of railings. There is a sense of detachment. You can look, but you can't touch and all I want to do is feel the water beneath my feet.

There are no railings up in Selkirk, Poughkeepsie and Ossining. I could walk over to the Hudson, sit on some rocks and feel the waves lap on my legs. The coolness of the water touching my skin was soothing.

Where are these places in New York City? Thinking about it, there are barely any. Rob has a website (not sure if he updates it now) all about New York City beaches. There are a few, such as Valentino Pier in Red Hook and Hallets Cove in Long Island City, but it feels like there should be more.

There are pushes for more access, though.

According to New York Construction (which I stumbled upon by way of goingcoastal), the city, working with other agencies, is building an extension of Harlem River Park, from 139th to 142 Street. Wonderfully enough, this is one of the few, if only, parks in New York City that allow for actual water contact:

"...offer[s] visitors...water access-points that will allow people to dip their feet in the water and load canoes and kayaks."

Rowing in the Harlem River is completely different from rowing in the Hudson and East Rivers. Up there, you're less susceptible to currents and, at least for me, it's an area I don't know too well, so the views are gorgeous.

And then you have plans like for the East River Esplanade where there is no interaction with the water; the same goes for most of the proposed plans for my beloved Pier 40.

We don't need more retail space—New York is already filled with that. We don't need another Seaport. Forget all the barriers. What we need is a return to simplier, natural things, like accessible shores.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bits: The Global Candidate, Separate Muslim Territories and No Touching!

1.

"Obama in Orbit" by Roger Cohen, from the New York Times

I still don't know who I'd vote for (Democract for sure though), but this is very, very compelling.

2.


In order to appease the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (with the great abbreviation MILF), the Philippines is negiotating and creating a Muslim territory.

3.

"Where Students Can't Hug" by Steven Gray, from Time

Really? No contact? At all?

Peter Godwin: From Zimbabwe to Greenwich Village, Via the Front Lines


Photo by Monica Uszerowicz

[This is an article I wrote for Inprint back in the day.]

December, 2006

From crossing the Silverstream River in former Rhodesia, strapped to his nanny’s back, to fighting on the losing side in Zimbabwe’s civil war, Eugene Lang journalism professor Peter Godwin has come a long way to New York City.

Godwin, 48, with pale blue eyes behind rimless glasses and dark hair flecked with gray, offers his student’s guidance with his intense, worldly experiences as a freelance journalist across the globe.

Godwin got his start in journalism in a different way than most others in his field. The son of British expatriates, he was born in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and spent his first 19 years there. Thanks in part to the country’s political instability, he left to study at Cambridge University in England. He soon found himself back in Africa for his post-graduate thesis research. But before leaving Britain, he contacted several publications and asked if he could submit articles about the journey.

“I didn’t know anything about journalism particularly, but it just struck me as it might be a fun thing to do,” Godwin recalled, sitting a classroom in the 12th Street building. “My friends all mocked me because I was doing it with sort of a blotchy ballpoint pen on school notepaper.”

He mailed his handwritten articles to publications to The Sunday Times, not knowing whether they would be published. After the trip, when he reached his parents’ house in Zimbabwe, he found out that The Times actually ran his pieces as a series which then led to a freelance job as a foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times. Over the next ten years, the job took him all over Africa and Eastern Europe.

Among the many stories he broke was the Matabeleland massacres in Zimbabwe in 1983, where the government-sponsored militia tortured or killed everyone they felt were rebels while also killed many innocent white farmers.

“If we could highlight it and actually blow the whistle on this thing, then there would be a good chance we could give them some pause and that it would stop,” he said. To report the story, he visited violence-plagued rural villages that were off-limits to the press. At one point, he dressed as a priest and accompanied three nuns to witness what was happening. That’s when he discovered a mine where soldiers dropped off corpses daily. He smelled “the unmistakable stink of rotting human,” he wrote in Mukiwa—A White Boy in Africa, his award-winning memoir.

By then, Godwin was a wanted man by the government, and soldiers were on the look-out. He managed to drive away from the site. Later, he picked up an unassuming hitchhiking solider. The sergeant at the next roadblock told the soldier they were looking for a journalist dressed as a priest, and because the soldier said Godwin was his good friend, he managed to escape.


“I was younger and it was one of those things where afterwards, in the cold light of day, you kind of think ‘What was I thinking?’” he recalled. “Yeah, I got out okay and it was then a whole different species of problems. Once I had written the piece, it got very, very hot for me, and there was a serious death threat to my life and I had to get out of Zimbabwe.”

Later in his career, Godwin didn’t stick to the written word—he produced documentary films for the BBC, covering a wide-range of topics, like Pakistani politics, Filipino pirates and the Thai sex industry. He won several awards for his work.

Now, he is focused on teaching. “If you’re writing books, you become very misanthropic and completely de-socialized,” he said. “Teaching is a very good antidote to that.”

“There’s no substitute for real curiosity and I think a lot of good journalism starts from that basis,” he said, about journalistic ambitions. “And that includes approaching subjects that you don’t know anything about.”

Students in Godwin’s course, Foreign Correspondence: Windows on the World, typically research a specific area of the world, like China or Indonesia, to find the beginnings of a story. One student arrived at an opium field in Afghanistan while another went on a heavy metal festival circuit in Sweden.

After teaching at Princeton and Sarah Lawrence, Godwin found that, “Lang students, to me, seem to be more cosmopolitan. They’re slightly edgier and don’t feel like the world owes them anything. I like the fact that it’s not a campus university. The kids go out the front door here and they’re in New York City.”

Currently, Godwin is working on a screenplay of Mukiwa, to be filmed next year in South Africa. His next memoir, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, is centered on the “disintegration of [my] family set against the collapse of the country,” of Zimbabwe.

After being exiled, Godwin was, to his great relief, allowed back in. This suited him: he can’t seem to escape the country and the continent.

“I miss Africa tremendously. It’s not just a nostalgic thing. If I’m not there after a while, I start to ache for it,” he said.


After spending one more semester at Eugene Lang, Godwin now teaches at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. You can read a more current interview done by my friend and former-Godwin-student John.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Islamic Cars

Apparently, Malaysia, Iran and Turkey are joining up and creating Islamic cars, through the major Malaysian car company Proton. What makes it Islamic, you might ask? Well, there will be a compass that will point out where Mecca is (during prayer, you face Mecca) and have special compartments for the Quran and headscarves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bits: MTA Fare Hike, Kayaking to New Zealand, Night-time Appalachian Trail and old-school NY Mag.

1.

"Don't Rush to a Fare Hike," Editorial by the New York Times

All this talk about yet again another fare hike makes me think back on the holiday discount program where discounted rides were given over the holiday weekends and extended 30-Metrocards by ten days from Thanksgiving to New Year's. If the MTA was so hard-pressed for money, why in the world did they do that?

2.

"Kayakers begin Tasman Sea attempt" by Phil Mercer, from the BBC

So these guys, Justin Jones and James Castrission, are kayaking (in a custom-built kayak) from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. They're setting off now and hope to reach New Zealand by Christmas.

The article makes no mentions of where they plan to stop, though they expect to paddle for 14 hours a day.

Jones said,

"First and foremost [the trip] is for the pure adventure of it all. I mean, everybody, inside anyone has got a little bit of adventure in them and we've just got to go out and follow that. It would be a crime not to."

He might be my new boyfriend now. Oh, adventures...

3.

"What's Lurking in the Dark?" by David A. Fahrenthold, from the Washington Post

Over the summer, Hannah and I stayed up late, enjoying ourselves and talking about things we wanted to do.

"Let's go hiking!" Hannah said. "Let's walk the Appalachian Trail!"

After looking at pictures on her laptop, we sent Rob an email about it. We never did it, though, due to scheduling. But this article reminds me about it.

So they set up cameras along the trail in Virginia to check out night-time critters (which I now know includes deer, thank you, Josh). The Appalachian is home to those deer, bears, bobcats and a flying squirrel.

Volunteer Trish Bartholomew said of bears backing into the cameras:

"I don't know of anything else that's that black and furry."

4.

"Mailer-Breslin Seriously?" [May 5, 1969] from New York Magazine

Check out the old-school layout (in pdf form).

Living Life Once

"We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come."
—Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Bits: Japan's Sexy Blue Fin, Too Hot to be a Journalist, Balkan Icons and Columbia & Israel/Palestine

1.

"Japan's Sacred Bluefin, Loved Too Much" by Blaine Harden, from the Washington Post

Read this article if only for lines like:

"'Tuna cannot look like skinny Japanese women.'"

"'I look for beauty and balanced plumpness," Ida said. "I am looking for a Catherine Zeta-Jones type of tuna.'"

Now I'm in the mood for sushi.

2.

"Hollywood Plugs Its Take of a Leak" by William Booth, from the Washington Post

So Hollywood once again dips into current events for ideas and turns the entire Judith Miller-Valerie Plame-Scotter Libby story into a movie. And what does the Washington Post point out, besides the major differences between the plot line (you know, in order to keep the narrative interesting for the viewers)?

"And while the real Judith Miller may be remembered as a stylish, slightly scary reporter of 59, headed off to jail in a quilted black jacket and tortoise-frame sunglasses, in the movie she is a sizzling Kate Beckinsale, 34, dressed in a, shall we say, form-fitting skirt."


"'People could say Kate is too good-looking to be a reporter,' admits Rod Lurie, the writer and director of the independently financed film."

What do I say to that?

3.

"Balkan nations put cultural stars on a pedestal" by Dan Bilefsky, from the International Herald Tribune

You know, you just have to celebrate those ever-great cultural icons, like Rocky and Tarzan with enormous statues.

Bojan Marceta, an advocate for the project, explained the reasoning behind the celebrity choices:

"Nobody from the wars of the 1990s or from the former Yugoslavia deserves a monument, because all of our leaders did was to prevent us from progressing. My generation can't find role models, so we have to look elsewhere. Hollywood can provide an answer."

Taking another view, Buka Sandor said:

"I don't like Rocky—it has nothing to do with this town, and the money could have been spent on something we need, like a new school. We are just showing off."

4.

"Bollinger's Backbone" Editorial by the New York Sun

Does this mean that a faculty that, among other viewpoints, is pro-Palestine/Islamic condemns a university to mediocrity? Oh yeah, and leftist equals anti-Israel apparently. I hate the NY Sun.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Design & The New York Times Magazine

[Disclaimer: I don't know many technical typography terms, so if I mess it up, sorry.]

I've always respected the New York Times—they usually have great coverage (they could do a better job with their Metro section, and don't get me started on the Style section...) and their design is normally great. Sure, they make mistakes (I get a sick pleasure looking for unintended whitespace and mistakes in paragraph forms), but they know what they're doing with their front pages, like on August 28th:



Look at the positioning of the main photo and the matching colors of both the Gonzales and the Greek fires pictures. Though I think they could've done better with white space in terms of the Greek fires article and the placement of the pear, it still looks amazing.

Then, there's the New York Times magazine. Magazine design differs greatly from newspaper design. With newspaper design, you have to take several stories and their interplay into consideration. Which story is the dominant story? Which is the related story? So many things go into designing news pages: grouping similar stories, making the photos play off each other, color schemes, making sure jumps aren't unnecessary, etc. Transitioning from my work on Inprint to the Brooklyn Rail, though, was simpler, because the Rail is more of a news magazine. Stories are laid out as feature stories, with their own pages and spaces. There is more use of white space and photos. I can make spreads, which I try my best to do, though I do show special preference for all things water-related, like that article on Jamaica Bay, my own article and the article on the boatyard in Staten Island...

There is more freedom with magazines and news magazines.

Usually, the NYT Magazine is simple with their design elements, especially within their feature stories. Their pull-out quotes and intro paragraphs tend to be just their regular font enlarged and bold in a different color.

But lately, they've tried to mix things up a little, but not in a good way.

Take Arthur Lubow's "Conductor of the People," in the October 28th issue, about conductor Gustavo Dudamel. The photos are great, but look at the title page for the article:



Why the need for superscript? It doesn't add anything special. And why even choose those letters? It is so pointless. It just makes it harder to read. The same applies to the pull quote. There isn't anything clever about using superscript and subscript, especially within a large chunk of text. The font choice itself is nice, it reminds me of the New York Magazine font, especially with its italics. Maybe if they stuck to just the title, it could've worked, but they went too far.

They didn't try anything too extravagant in last week's issue, besides oil-covered drop-caps in an article about Venezuelan oil, which was a bit too clip art for me.

Then comes this week's issue, their film issue. Normally, the NYT Magazine covers are simple—an amazing photo (like the cover of the October 21st issue's photograph of water sources depleting in the West for the article "The Future is Drying Up") and simple text that isn't obtrusive at all.



With this cover, we are smacked in the faces with the theme of the issue: the old West, written in, of course, a western-styled font, with heavy feet Right from the cover, we know what the theme of the issue is: the old West, with heavy, heavy base and mean lines and pencil-line thin serifs and body-lines [I made up that term..]. It's kind of hard to read, so as a headline font, it's alright. The image and the grayscaled images (was it necessary to leave the "(Again!)" in yellow?) make up for it.

Then you reach the inside of the film specials and this font takes over everything. Everything. The title pages for the articles, the intro paragraphs and the drop-caps. And it's impossible to read. Just look:



Your eyes strain, trying to make sense of the black lines. I will give this to them: as a drop-cap, the font works well. One letter doesn't make a difference.

I wonder what they thought when they designed this issue. One of the first things I think about after I design a page is readability. Sometimes, I'm too tired and stressed to care if it's that readable, but I do try my best, especially with covers. I hope the NYT Magazine design team got this out of their system and will stick to more readable, while being creative, design.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Birth Rights: India's Intercaste Marriages

[This was my first assignment for Peter Godwin's International Journalism class at Lang.]

October, 2006

Imagine marrying someone whose shadow, according to tradition, couldn't touch your skin, all because of the fear of contamination. Imagine a Brahmin marrying a dalit, the highest-ranking member of society marrying an untouchable, someone whose status requires them to perform unseemly duties such as cleaning up excrement. A betrothed upper-caste member to a lower-caste member would bring nothing but shame and scandal to both families.

This seems like a dated practice, but the current Indian caste system maintains just that.

Now, in an effort to break down that system, the Indian government plans to increase financial incentives to Rs 50,000 ($1,000) in order to promote intercaste marriages. The proposal is pushed by Social Justice Meria Kumar, a dalit herself, and is backed by the political party United Progressive Alliance. Earlier this month, Kumar called for a plan that sets aside more seats in engineering and medical colleges for lower-caste members.

The origins of the caste system have been widely disputed, but the first reliable account was written by British anthropologist Herbert Risely, The Tribes and Castes of Bengal, in 1892. During British rule, the caste system was used as a ranking of who was superior to whom. The main four groups are the Brahman (usually priests), kshatriya (landowners), waishya (merchants) and shudra (agriculturalists). The fifth group, the paryjanya, were never mentioned because they were the untouchables; they weren't considered part of the population. The lower-caste made up 24.4% of India's population in 2001. It is impossible to determine what caste someone belongs to based on looks; it is only determined by last name. Many people change their last names in order to disguise their caste, but this is difficult in rural areas because everyone knows each other. Adhering to caste distinctions is common, but it doesn't mean that different caste members don't interact. In fact, they exist together—live in the same villages and cities, work in the same areas, attend the same universities and walk down the same streets.

However, it is the move towards India's version of affirmative action that shook the caste system—lower-caste members are given advantages that back in the 1900s, they wouldn't have. Officially, the caste system was eliminated in 1950 by the Indian Constitution. In order to promote mobility in society, the government created the reservation system. Seats are set aisde in colleges and government offices just for lower-caste members. In universities in New Delhi, the percentage of lower-caste members rose from 22.5% to 49.5% according to a caste census and the Washington Times.

Being a dalit himself, Kumar's father, Jagjivan Ram benefited from the reservation system. He was a powerful figure in Indian parliament for over forty years and served as Deputy Prime Minister for three years in 1977. The late former President KR Narayanan was the first dalit elected to such a high position in 1997.

However, both of Kumar's proposals face resistance from upper-caste members in the State Governments.

As more lower-caste members take university and government seats, the number of spots for upper-caste members is dwindling. Because of this, many upper-caste members are reduced to accepting lower-caste positions, such as driving rickshaws and various sanitation jobs. In efforts to thwart the system and obtain higher jobs, it is possible to purchase false lower-caste birth certificates, as the Indian Express exposed.

University students against the reservation system formed "Youth for Equality," asserting that the system promoted discrimination. During one protest on May 13, 2006 in Mumbai, medical student protesters were beaten by the police. In response, the students went on strike and were joined by other students and doctors throughout India.

Despite the push for reforms, lower-caste members still face discrimination. When Balit Singh's daughter, a dalit, was raped by three upper-caste members in Jhabbar, a village in Mansa in 2000, Sing refused to let it slide. After spending two years in court, the three men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Sign became politically involved with Leftist groups soon afterwards, fighting for dalits' rights. When he suspended another upper-caste leader, Sign was attacked on January 5, 2006 by several men with axes and rods. Singh then developed gangrene and had both his arms and left leg amputated. Singh's story depicts just one of the many injustices done to lower-caste members.

Upper- and lower-caste members already find it difficult to work and live together, how could they marry? India is mired in the past, where religion dictates law and tradition reigns within families. Arranged marriages are still prevalent and most who immigrate to Western cultures, like England or America plan to uphold that tradition. This even extends to online Indian dating sites such as imilap.com and eknazar.com, where you can search for potential spouses within specific castes.

Looking outside your caste, however, can be dangerous, whether it is for love or friendship. This was seen in 2001 in the village of Alinagar in Uttar Pradash. Vishal and Sonu, 15 and 16 years old, were friends and outwardly nothing more than that. The only problem with their friendship was their castes—Vishal was a Brahmin and Sonu a dalit. A village saw the pair talking and told their parents.

Alinagar was strict with customs and Vishal and Sonu weren't allowed to be near each other, let alone talk to one another. The children's punishment for this unthinkable act? Death. Sonu's parents first strangled and hung her with the help of neighbors behind their home. Because Vishal's parents didn't want to commit the act themselves, they allowed Sonu's parents to do so. Then, the villagers dragged their bodies away and cremated their bodies in a cow manure bonfire.

When intercaste marriages, or love marriages as some call it, happen, the couples face disapproval and opposition. On August 23, 2006, Uma Aggarwal's family took her husband, Santosh Kumar, a lower-caste member, to court with the accusation of kidnap. The family wanted Aggarwal to leave her marriage. Kumar was granted bail but the case still remained in court. Kidnapping allegations are common, especially from upper-caste families. The Indian Supreme Court urged police to deny those who file kidnapping charges in the case of intercaste marriages.

"Intercaste marriages are necessary for the progress of the country," the Supreme Court stated.
Earlier that year, the Supreme Court also ruled that an upper-caste woman couldn't receive reservation benefits from simply marrying a lower-caste member.

What it comes down to is shame. The reason Vishal and Sonu were murdered by their own families was because of the social disgrace they brought onto their families. With such deep-seeded traditions, Indians will continue to have a hard time letting go of its habits, but if the government continues to create and uphold incentives and laws, there might be a way.

"This is not the only way to end the caste discrimination but one has to start somewhere," Kumar said, referring to the marriage financial incentive. Her hope is that casts will fade away with time.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Welcome to New Yo—oh, Newark?

1.

My dad first came to the U.S. when he was 24 years old in 1975. My grandfather always wanted his son to study in U.S., just as long as he came back to Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia. Though my dad was accepted to Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science for their Master's program, the family couldn't afford it. Instead, he was to attend New York's PCI College. Because of the enormous amount of corruption in Bangladesh and his friend worked for the visa office, my dad was able to obtain a student visa to New York City.

Anticipation built up inside every time my father and the other two Bengali passengers he managed to find on the flight (of which there is an entirely other story to be told later) heard "New York City."

Once they landed, however, they couldn't find the New York City they envisioned. Where were the skyscrapers? Where were the bustling crowds? Where were the hot dog vendors? Everything was low and dull. Disappointed, they left for their hotels as previously arranged by car. The next day, they were given a tour of the Big Apple and they knew they truly in New York City.

What my dad came to realize now was that they landed at JFK, which is located in Queens, and looks nothing like Manhattan.

2.

The last time my sister went to Bangladesh was in 2001 with my father. They left on a summer evening. Used to JFK since it was only fifteen minutes away from our home and the tickets said they were departing from New York, my dad told the taxi driver to head there. Once there, however, they realized they were in the wrong airport.

My dad realized the tickets didn't say "New York," but instead "Newark," that lovely, international airport of New Jersey. Luckily, they didn't miss their flight.

Friday, November 9, 2007

imperfect balance



New York City winter is a muted black & mellow
orange
            & the sky becomes orange
            & the snow becomes orange
            & my skin
                orange
            under three-starless skies

            open

***

he said the city of lost dreams was kinda cute & kinda hopeful and i said it was too desperate too overwhelming but he didn’t care, he was too open & relaxed to give a damn.

we became too much for each other
in New York.

***

i sit alone in a basement
room heated in the depths of November.
outside it was warm like sun
in May & i am
sweltering in this
            heat

***

summer edges into spring
driving beads of sweat down
bare backs & grimy heels
            (the city soot that dirties
            snow is always embedded in the
            cracks of my rough black
            heels; only thin rubber separates
            me from pavement; never ever sit on
            sidewalks—trekked with shit &
            abandoned dreams)

***

you
            jet started my desire for escape for
                anything / everything beyond
these
                tightly drawn borders in this
                cluster of city     lights &
                city     lives

give me
a new kind of new
            i need in my twenties

            away

***

glacial caps are melting for longer springs
the north pole is drowning
            so i can be
                flirty

***

a window is the weakest mirror
you see the world outside &
slight hints of yourself
            faint & distorted
                my skin looks different
                & i
                become part of what’s out there

***

New York is a city of islands & bigger
islands (but the Bronx is connected to mainland
America) what if we
drifted         away
            somewhere towards the
                equator?

***

seat 24a:
i cram against smeared plastic paned port
window looking down the dirty white
wing that somehow lifts me up into
the air along waves of
heat that strike
New York &
i’m
off

Bits: The Gay Bomb

"'Gay Bomb' scoops Ig Noble award," from the BBC

The concept behind the Ig Nobel awards is that they are given to breakthroughs in research and the such that are, as the article quotes, "first make people laugh, and then make them think."

One particular award stood out, to me as well as to the BCC, hence the headline:

For Peace: The U.S. Air Force Wright Laboratory for instigating research and development on a chemical weapon that would provoke widespread homosexual behavior among enemy troops.

Earlier in the article, the BBC noted,

Unfortunately, said the organizers, nobody from the U.S. military who carried out the research on chemicals that could prompt homosexual dalliances amongst rival troops (a research project called Harassing, Annoying and "Bad Guy" Identifying Chemicals) attended the ceremony because the study's authors could not be tracked down.

This is what Rob had to say to that: "They were in a bar in Provincetown, recovering from their 'wounds.'"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bits: Sarkozy on Palestine, Media in Burma and Indians Pretend to Fly

1.

"Sarkozy Reaches Out to America, and to Its Jews" by Nicholas Wapshott, from the New York Sun

During his recent U.S. visit, French President Sarkozy was awarded the Light Unto the Nations Award by the American Jewish Committee. While calling for the existence of a Jewish state and assuring Americans that the French aren't anti-Semitic, he had this to say:

"...Mr. Sarkozy said France is ready to defend the existence of Israel, but the existence of a Palestinian Arab "nation state" is essential to end the Jewish state's differences with the Palestinians."

"The issue of Israel's security is very close to my heart," Mr. Sarkozy said. "I do not always agree with Israel's government, but their security is non-negotiable. But I also wish a viable Palestinian state. Rather than two states, you should have two nations. That may seem a semantic difference."

Thank you, Sarkozy.

2.

"Myanmar's junta prevails in the age of information" by Richard Bernstein, from the International Herald Tribune

By comparing established media responses to the recent/current protests in Burma and the protests in Vietnam in the early 1960s, Bernstein hardly mentions citizen journalism like the images Ko Htike posted earlier or from other first-person accounts from those who flee the country. This is what he has to say about it:

"There has been, as far as we know, no self-immolation [referring to AP photographer Malcolm Browne's Pulitzer winning photo of a monk immersed in flames while meditating] in Myanmar during the recent round of protests there, but what if there had been? Maybe there would have been photos of it, as there were of some other events, notably the killing by the army of the Japanese photographer Kenji Nagai, which was flashed around the world on the Internet."

"Moreover, after a few days, during which amateur photographers were able to put images of the Buddhist protest on the Web, the junta simply turned off the internet. And since then there have been no more photos, and very little news.

"In other words, Myanmar's dictators quickly learned the lessons of the hazards of openness, and it's a lesson whose importance is demonstrated over and over again."

3.

"India's flight of the imagination" by Simon Robinson, from Time

Touching, but sad.

Arabian Nights at the Museum



On Monday, I took my sister to the Museum of Natural History for her biology assignment. After taking notes in several exhibits, we decided to take a stroll through the Stout Hall of Asian Peoples. Wandering through displays and learning about India, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan and so on, we paused in front of miniature models of different moments from those countries. One showed ships from the Dutch East India Company docking in an Indian seaport, another showed a typical day in ancient Ur. Then, there was one depicting Iran, as seen below:



Looking at this, my sister noticed something hovering above the scene in the upper-right corner of the display. This is what she saw:



Yep, that's right, people, it's a man on a flying carpet, because, you know, it's the Middle East and all, and of course people flew around on flying carpets. There was no note of this in the description, so, it's a joke...right?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bits: Staten Island's Marshlands, Turkey & Kurdistan, Takes on Pakistan's Martial Law, Gay Muslims and the SF Mayoral Race

1.

"Protecting a Wild Patch of City Marshland" by Andy Newman, from the New York Times

"This is a window into what Staten Island used to be," he said. "And here it still is."

Just from reading this article, I have the strongest urge to go and see what's there. I have that and the Rossville Boatyard to check out.

2.

"The Turks Are Coming! Oh, They're Already Here" by Andrew Lee Butters, from Time

He was describing the Turkish camps along the Turkish-Iraqi/Kurd border and this line was just too good (and I'm a sucker for anything with rivers):

"One camp that's home to some 300 fighters in a ravine carved by the cold blue waters of the lower Khabour river looked like a beautiful place for an invading army to die."

3.

"Musharraf's Martial Plan" by Benzair Bhutto, from the New York Times

I disagree with Bhutto's lede ("Nov. 3, 2007...as the blackest day in Pakistani history;") I think I can think of several other moments that are worthy of that distinction. Otherwise, I agree with everything else she says and especially like how she called the U.S. out in the end. Let's see, though, what she does on Friday. She already tried to negotiate with Musharraf before and it went nowhere. I hope she knows not to make the same mistake again.

4.

"Mushy: Handsome in Uniform" by Maureen Dowd, from the New York Times

Normally, I don't like Dowd's style. Sure, what she has to say is true, but she tries too hard to be clever. Today, though, she made some great points:

"America's influence is not unlimited. And unfortunately for the oppressed, Mushy's open defiance is helping to further undermine America's influence. But we will use what influence we have left to pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains and that human beings aspire to live at the mercy of bullies."

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will ignore your oppression and excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will not stand with you."

"In the long run, there is justice without freedom, and there can be human rights once the human rights activists have been thrown in the pokey." [That reminds me of the situation in Burma.]

5.

"Pakistan's General Anarchy" by Mohammed Hanif, from the New York Times

A former member of the Pakistani Air Force Academy wrote about the power of and the rise of Islam within the Pakistani military:

"Only last month, Pakistan's Navy, in an audacious move, set up a barbecue business on the banks of the Indus River about 400 miles away from the Arabian Sea it's supposed to protect.

"It's a happy marriage between God and greed.

"For now, the general's weekend gamble seems to have paid off. From Washington and the European Union, he heard regrets but no condemnation with teeth—exactly what he counted on.

"General Musharraf has always tried to cultivate an impression in the West that he is the only one holding the country together, that after him, we can only expect anarchy. But in a country where arts teachers and lawyers are behind bars and suicide bombers are allowed to go free, we definitely need to redefine anarchy."

6.

"Gay Muslims Find Freedom, of a Sort, in the U.S." by Neil MacFarquhar, from the New York Times

Something I've never thought about until recently.

7.

"San Francisco Mayor's Race Offers Drama, but No Suspense" by Karl Vick, from the Washington Post

I sent this article to Sean with the subject: 'this is partly why i love san francisco,' and it's true. Gavin Newsom, the incumbent cheating hearthrob of a mayor, isn't the star of the race--he has to compete with a nudist, homeless taxi driver named Grasshopper, sex club owner, a previously jailed blogger (Josh Wolf, who refused to show video footage of protests), and more.

The idea, according to Quintin Mecke, another mayoral candidate, is:

"After seven years of Republican rule, we want to be as far left as possible, because we have tilted so far to the right that moderation is not going to get us anywhere near balance."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bangladesh By River & My Life

By way of a Google alert I had for Bangladesh, I found this announcement on BBC. Journalists from the BBC will travel on the MV Aboshor around Bangladesh by its many rivers in order to observe how climate affects the banks and in turn, the people. Bangladesh relies on its rivers, but at the same time, the drastic weather changes wreck complete havoc on the country, as seen during the past summer.

Reading through the various journalists' articles (on a sort-of difficult website to navigate) and a comment Rob made earlier, I've come to realize what kind of career path I ideally want to tread on—traveling around and writing about the things I'm interested in, like boating along Bengali rivers, press rights in Burma or waterfront access in New York. This is something I need to get started on soon.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Camping at Denning's Point


Beautiful sunset-colored views from Denning's Point.

Since I've been camping with experienced campers and I've been wanting to get away, I decided to take charge and organize my own trip. After getting three other people—Josh, Sarah and Tyler—to come along and picking our location and game plan—Denning's Point by way of the MetroNorth and walking—and we were off.

Originally, I had planned to catch the 8:51 a.m. train out of Grand Central Saturday morning, but after Josh reminded me about the party we were attending the night before, I changed my mind. Sarah, Josh and I met at the clock at Grand Central at noon, with plans to catch the 12:51 p.m. train out to Beacon. Tyler, who was running late, just made the train. The trip was off to a perfect start.


The way to Denning's Point.

Arriving at Cold Spring at 2:15, we exited the station and looked for the best way onto the tracks without attracting too much attention to ourselves. Reaching the end of the parking lot, we slipped through the end of the fence and walked through brush until we reached the open space of the MetroNorth railroad tracks. We followed the main tracks and then continued onto what seemed to be an abandoned line that headed to our right.


Making our way to the Hudson.

All I had to direct me was the map Rob drew for me, pointing out how to get to Denning's Point via railroad tracks and where our proposed campsites and a creek lined with abandoned factories. Somehow, we made it to Denning's Point, with a sign about no winter camping greeting us. Making a left, we found ourselves off the trail and along the coast. Though the views were gorgeous, we had to duck through low branches with huge bags and step gingerly on slippery rocks. After walking this way for a while, we finally reached our camp site. Granted, it was the second of the two Rob pointed out to us, but this site was better because it avoided the wind.


The view from our campsite.

Looking across, we could see the flat factories of Newburgh against the foliage of the rising mountains behind it. In the foreground, the Hudson lapped at the sand beach beneath our feet. Rocks provided the perfect sitting place. We were surrounded by plenty of firewood. There was a little nook that led up the trail that became home to our tents, despite the ground being uneven, we made do somehow. Setting up our tents took a while, because the purple "party tent" was huge, had no stakes and weren't sure where all the sticks went through, but it was done. After unpacking and repacking the backpack, we were off to explore.


The factory.

First stop: abandoned warehouse near the beginning of the trail. To get inside, we made our way through an opening in the fence and through thorns, taking it like the brave souls we were. Inside, the factory's first floor was basically empty—with the exception of tagged walls, plants and a hanging rope in the middle which Tyler made use of by swinging around and climbing up. After exploring the rooms filled with debris, our attentions wandered to the staircase outside. The entrance to the staircase was locked, but we decided to climb into the staircase by way of broken windows. Alas, we couldn't get into the second floor because of another locked door.


Pile of logs.

Outside of the factory, there were many, many piles: bricks, logs, bigger logs, rusted metal, random machinery and packs of fertilizer. Heading east after looking through the piles, we found ourselves on the MetroNorth tracks again. Going south, we eventually found our way to what I assume was Fishkill Creek. Rob said there were more abandoned factories along its shores, but we weren't up to it. Instead, we sat atop a jutting block of metal and looked at the marsh and foliage under the sunset-soaked skies.


Sunset over Denning's Point.

Since it was getting dark, we headed back to our campsite and started our fire. After a shaky start, the fire burned bright and strong. Josh started cooking our dinner: cheeseburgers, and Tyler provided our beverages: beer, and we had water from before. Talking, eating and smoking, we kept the fire going until around 10 p.m. where we doused the fire with the Hudson and off to bed we went.



Now, I'm not normally a paranoid person, but the combination of being out there alone without anyone else, all the noises of nature and a little indulgence earlier makes me extremely suspicious. Among the rustling of the leaves and lapping of the water, I swear I heard something brush by. My first thought was, of course, a crazy man with a knife, maybe that man with the poodle we kept passing by the day before. Josh heard the same noise and I made him go check, with the headlamp and knife, but he couldn't find anything. On the beach the next morning, we found animal prints. Later on, Sarah saw a deer wandering up the trail.


Animal prints. See, I'm not crazy!


Pouring out the apple-coffee.

We celebrated the morning with a breakfast of slice apples on bagels and apple coffee (Tyler's invention). Packing up, we headed out to our next adventure: (possibly) Breakneck Ridge and the Cold Spring MetroNorth station.


Hudson thinkin', with Bannerman in the background.

Thus began our railroad hike. We passed by Fishkill Creek again, found a dead goose, wondered at Bannersman Island a.k.a. Poppell Island (the next site of an upcoming adventure?), explored a pipe, tried stuffing the huge sleeping bag in an abandoned suitcase with no luck, threw and kicked rocks into the Hudson and became accustomed to the hissing sound of the rails before the trains passed by.


Breakneck Ridge stop.

Finally, we reached an overhead bridge where a man told us we were at Breakneck Ridge. We sat by the makeshift platform (the stop is used primarily for hikers such as ourselves) and decided what to do next. Being too tired from our trek so far, we decided to continue onto Cold Spring.

That hike seemed to take forever. We seemed to pass by more people—hikers from Breakneck I guessed—and soon the 9D joined the railroad tracks. Because we assumed the parking lot up ahead was the Cold Spring station, we left the tracks and our feet felt the kiss of smooth pavement. To our dismay, however, it wasn't the station, but the Stony Point State Park instead. We still had awhile to go, but at least we were near Cold Spring.



Walking through Cold Spring, I could understand its appeal—small town village with cute stores and streets—but I couldn't understand why we passed by so many tourists. After walking towards the Hudson and walking through an underground passageway, we finally, finally reached the Cold Spring station, just missing a train, but it didn't matter.

Getting on the crowded train, Josh, Tyler and I made ourselves comfortable on the floor while Sarah sat in the seat across from us. We took naps and anticipated our next meal: McDonalds, which we ate as soon as we got out of Grand Central. Our stomachs filled with well-earned Angus burgers and French fries, we departed home.



Thanks to Rob for: helping me pick out the location, showing off his cartography by drawing me my extremely trusty map, lending me his backpack, stove, fuel and pots, opening Pier 40 for me at the last minute and just general helping me out. Thanks to Josh for helping me buy everything, figure out the food situation, cook and help me carry stuff. And thanks to Adam and Sam for lending us tents, sleeping bags, headlight and knives.

Check out our route here.


The trusty map Rob drew me.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Queens Night Sky

Despite the chilly weather, there is something about autumn/winter skies that differs from summer skies. Without a cloud in sight, the past two nights presented dark, clear skies and my favorite: the plentiful array of stars that New York City can offer (though it's meager compared to the stars in Ossining and Jim Thorpe). These I couldn't even count with my two hands. Searching above, I found Orion's Belt and I remembered looking for it every time I took the 4 train home from Bronx Science after yearbook at night. Soon enough, the Little Dipper will greet me before I enter my apartment building.

[In other news, after a lingerie party (ooh la la) tomorrow night, I'm going on a camping trip with some friends and while I'm excited about it, I'm a bit worried because I'm in charge—I've figured out where we're going (Denning's Point near Cold Spring, New York), made out the lists of supplies, I'm borrowing a stove and fuel from Rob and buying water and food and all that good stuff. It's been a while since I've planned something (my newspaper craziness doesn't count) and it does feel good. We'll see how it goes...]