Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joseph's Tomb

In the Palestinian city of Nablus, there is Joseph's Tomb, which is believed to be his final resting place in Judaism. So many Israelis come into the West Bank to pray and pay their respects and the Palestinians allow this, though the IDF patrol the area as well. Isabel Kershner explains the Israelis' pull to claim Palestinian soil as their own:

Here, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is boiled down to its very essence of competing territorial, national and religious claims. The renewed focus on what the Jewish devotees call the pull or power of Joseph appears to reflect a wider trend: a move by the settler movement at large away from tired security arguments and a return to its fundamental raison d’être — the religious conviction that this land is the Jews’ historical birthright and is not up for grabs.

Which I thought was a good way of looking at it, though, to me, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. She also talks about the overlapping personalities in Islam and Judaism: Joseph was also considered a Muslim prophet, so Muslims felt they have a right to the tomb as well. Though, since the Israelis took control of the tomb, the Palestinians have been disregarding the tomb and desecrating it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Head of the Charles Regatta

From Sunday, October 19th.

Dan Barry's Explorers' Club

Sean called my attention to Dan Barry's latest This Lands column in the New York Times, where he talks about the Explorers' Club and their adventure to the unused Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee. I like it because it reminds me of my trip to Tennessee and reminds me of our Expeditioners' Club.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Yorkier

The nationally branded version of "the late sixties" may have been mainly about flowers and sunshine, but the New York edition was edgy, even grisly, always embedded with the imagination of disaster—that is, New Yorkier. Elsewhere the new romantics were escapists, dreaming of Arcadia; here, the model was more Weimar Republic, a dystopian Utopia.

—Kurt Anderson, "Boom-Bust-Boom Town," from New York magazine's 40th Anniversary Issue, Oct. 6, 2008

And because the cover of that issue and New York's first cover remind me of two of my favorite New York pictures that I've used a lot, I'm adding them here again:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Remains of Renwick Ruins

[Published in the Brooklyn Rail, October 2008]

Driving on the 59th Street Bridge, you pass over Roosevelt Island, that strip of land between Manhattan and Queens. The northern tip of the island is home to a lighthouse and a small park and its middle section is a concentration of high-rises.

By contrast, a tall fence decorated with “No Trespassing” sign forbids access to the southern portion of the island. On the other side of the fence, there are trees, a paved road, and a second fence surrounding Renwick Ruins, the crumbling façade of a former Smallpox Hospital.

After years of being teased by the ominous ruins, my friends and I decided to go for it: we planned a trip to explore the Smallpox Hospital.

Previously known as Blackwell’s and Welfare Island, Roosevelt Island was home to correctional facilities, hospitals and asylums. Built in 1856, the Smallpox Hospital served a number of functions before being closed a century later when the City Hospital complex of which it was a part moved to Queens. A number of institutions on the island closed or moved away leaving the Smallpox Hospital to deteriorate. It was designated a historical site by the Landmark Preservation Commission in the 1960s.

Taking the tram from Manhattan onto Roosevelt, my friends and I wondered how we would get into the hospital. We knew about the fence, but we didn’t know if it would be easy to get around it or if there was regular surveillance of the area.

We tried our best to act like we weren’t up to no good as we walked along the path that encircles the island. We picked flowers from the blossoming trees and pointed at the seagulls posing offshore atop jutting pier pilings.

We reached the fence—the gate was wide open and there was no one looking so we just strolled right in. A bit further on, we reached Renwick Ruins, named for the hospital’s designer, James Renwick, Jr.

There were spotlights pointed towards the Ruins and another set of signs on the inner fence warning against trespassing and the possibility of collapsing walls. We ignored the signs and jumped the fence. We had made it!

Only the outer walls of the Smallpox Hospital remain. The collapsed interior was visible through hollow window openings. We walked into the center, climbing over piles of bricks and tiptoeing across what we hoped were sturdy pipes.

Midtown and Queens softly glowed in the misty air as we explored the graffiti-covered walls and walked across floors littered with crushed beer cans.

We left the hospital and hopped another fence to look at the now-defunct 53rd Street emergency subway station. The city wants to reopen the station for the E and V lines.

Unlike the planned community and manicured paths to its north, Renwick Ruins stands as a stark reminder of Roosevelt Island’s storied past.

About the Author
Nadia Chaudhury is a former Layout Editor for the Rail and, outside of traveling, writing, and taking pictures, is a rowing and waterfront enthusiast. Currently, she goes to school in Boston, but will forever be a New Yorker. Check out her blog at

More pictures can be found here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Exploring Bennett College

[Published in the Brooklyn Rail, September 2008]

The Bennett School for Girls in Millbrook, New York, also known as Bennett College, was abandoned in 1978 after filing for bankruptcy. Its ruins now stand desolate, which for us means it is time to go exploring. We pretend to walk towards Carroll Hall, once part of the college, but now converted into luxury apartments with central air, a pool, and a tennis court. Double-checking to make sure no one sees, we make a dash through the thick green surrounding the building and duck under cobwebs as we enter the dusty school.

Founded in Irvington, New York by Miss May F. Bennett in 1890, the college moved to Millbrook in 1907. It was a private all-girls school and offered Bachelor’s degrees to its students. The rising popularity of coeducational facilities and a failed attempt to merge with the nearby Briarcliff College led to Bennett College filing for bankruptcy in 1977. The school was officially closed a year later.

Everywhere in the now empty, peeling halls of Bennett reveal hints of its previous life: solitary hangers in open closets, springs from old box springs, shredded mattresses, and faded wallpaper in the dorms. A tag on a wall declares, “Don’t go in there.” The floor is strewn with crushed beer cans, cigarette butts, and even toilets. As we pass the rooms with wide, open windows, we are careful not to catch the attention of the neighboring condo residents. We make our way to the basement, crawling through a tiny opening. We use candles to light our way through the boiler room. As we climb higher, we have to watch our steps to avoid falling through collapsing floors. In some areas, we edge along the wall to avoid the soggy centers of the floor.

Now, Bennett is for sale. The school’s 29 acres are being pitched as another educational facility, a conference location, or a health-related complex.

After wandering up and down every floor and through every room, we leave covered in dust and scraps. We rush back to the street, acting as if we just played a set on the Carroll Hall tennis courts.

About the Author

Nadia Chaudhury is Layout Editor for the Rail and, outside of traveling, writing, and taking pictures, is a rowing and waterfront enthusiast. Check out her blog at

More pictures can be found here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Anthony Weiner, Ice Truck Killer?

(top) New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. (above) Christian Camargo as Rudy from Dexter.

Doesn't Anthony Weiner look a lot like Rudy from Dexter?

& Then Again...

These don't make me feel very optimistic...

Twenty More Days

This makes me a bit more optimistic.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Planning Your Subway Strategy

Illustrated by Christoph Niemann for the New York Times.

I like today's Abstract City blog entry from the New York Times because I do the same exact thing with subways: Once I get to know a stop and subway line, I know where I have to stand on the platform, where the platform's the least crowded, which train door to exit out of for the best staircase. I know that if I have to go to the boathouse and I'm coming in from Queens, I have to stand in the front of the E/F when I get off at West Fourth Street. If I'm going to Josh's, I stay in the second car of the G train coming from Queens (I haven't perfected that one yet, though). If I'm going home from Manhattan, I stand in the fifth car and exit out of the second door. It's just a great way to really know the city.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Glassy Charles

Early in the morning, the Charles Rivers is completely glassy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rain Rowing

This is what rowing in the rain on the Hudson River during early morning looks like. Imagine how it feels. That's the Bronx across the river, just so you know.

My Career

Gawker writes about the current state and future of journalism, and it's true, and sad, but I'll still keep on keeping on.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tina Fey's True Identity

So apparently French newspaper Le Soleil thought that Tina Fey was actually Sarah Palin during her SNL sketches and used those images to illustrate how "hesitant, troubled and clumsy" she was. The newspaper issued an apology a day later. I wonder what Fey and Amy Poehler think of this.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

East River Power

I like this idea of using rivers as power sources, because it makes perfect sense. The currents of the East River are very, very strong, reaching up to maybe 2.5 knots at low tide. I don' t have my handy tide chart, otherwise I'd know exactly what it is. While rowing during low tide, if you're rowing with the current, you barely have to row at all--the water just moves you along. Rowing against the tide, though, is a struggle.

I Love You, Helvetica

In my Magazine Design class, we watched Helvetica, a documentary on said-font, and typography in the world today. In it, Massimo Vignelli, a typographer and designer who was behind the 1970s original New York City subway map and the American Airlines logo, said the following:

"You can say, 'I love you,' in Helvetica. And you can say it with Helvetica Extra Light if you want to be really fancy. Or you could say it with the Extra Bold if it's really intensive and passionate, you know, and it might work."

which made me smile a lot.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Menu on the Wall

Image from the BBC.

The Israeli-made West Bank wall passes right through Charlie Butto's restaurant, Bahamas, in the West Bank, which makes for a horrible sight, as written by the BBC. Butto, making the most of the circumstance, decided to use the wall as an attraction: He placed his menu on the wall, allowing customers to order off the wall.