Signs of the Times

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It’s snowing again in New York this morning, as another Nor’easter hits the city …

It’s the sixth winter storm of the season.

Now, I know the scenario depicted in The Day After Tomorrow (2010) was an exaggeration:

The question is: by how much?

Take a look at the New York Times article from which this picture comes: “Cold Jumps Arctic ‘Fence,’ Stoking Winter’s Fury.

Anyone who’s ever had the good fortune to dance the night away to Ruby’s jukebox after a day at the beach will be saddened to learn — if they haven’t already heard — that Thor Equities has given the beloved boardwalk dive just two weeks to vacate. This isn’t the first time Ruby’s has had Thor’s gun to her head: a couple winters ago ugly Spaces for Lease signs went up on the storefront, though the bar was eventually able to buy some time.

The Coney Island blog Amusing the Zillion alerts readers to a November 6 rally to save Ruby’s and the other establishments facing eviction. There’s also a link there to an electronic petition to Bloomberg. As Jeremiah put it yesterday: “What’s to come? Upscale restaurants and middle-brow chains, the Xeroxed world we’re all subjected to, inured to, numbed to–and powerless to stop. Between Thor’s demolitions and Zamperla’s evictions, Coney Island is going to look like a massive car-wreck victim after multiple plastic surgeries. We won’t recognize her.” Among new businesses rumored to be circling like vultures: Shake Shack. Blech. Can anyone say Fauxny Island?

Ruby’s photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr and Amusing the Zillion.



smileyNew Yorkers are unhappy, it seems. In an article from today’s New York Times entitled “New York Ranks Last in Happiness Rating,” Clyde Haberman reports on an article published last week Science magazine by two economists, Andrew J. Oswald (University of Warwick, UK) and Stephen Wu (Hamilton College). Why are economists publishing in Science? Accoding to the article’s abstract, Oswald and Wu’s study “has some potential to help to unify disciplines” because it brings together subjective and “nonsubjective” data.

Oswald and Wu’s article is called “Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-Being: Evidence from the U.S.A.,” and it brings together data collected in two separate studies. One was Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005-2008 in which a random sample of 1.3 million United States citizens in which life-satisfaction in each U.S. state was measured. This data was merged with data published in 2003 by UCLA researcher Stuart Gabriel that considered various indicators from for each state, such as precipitation; temperature; wind speed; sunshine; coastal land; inland water; public land; National Parks; hazardous waste sites; environmental ‘greenness’; commuting time; violent crime; air quality; student-teacher ratio; local taxes; local spending on education and highways; cost of living.

New York apparently came in 51st. No that’s not like the 11 on Spinal Tap‘s amps: the District of Columbia was included in the study. Here are the bottom ten:

41     Pennsylvania
42     Rhode Island
43     Massachusetts
44     Ohio
45     Illinois
46     California
47     Indiana
48     Michigan
49     New Jersey
50     Connecticut
51     New York

Haberman chooses to see a silver lining in this results, citing what he calls the “Harry Lime” principle:

We’re from the Harry Lime school. If you’ve seen the film classic “The Third Man” [1949], you will remember that character’s admonition: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.

“In Switzerland they had brotherly love. They had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

On the other hand, there are reasons to think that there’s something, well, dated about the data, because the number one state turns out to be … Louisiana! (You can see the full ranked list in this article from the University of Warwick website.)


Boy, you know times are tough when the most fearsome bounty hunter in the galaxy is busking in Union Square!

[Union Square, New York City, 29 May 2009]



Taken at 21st and 2nd Avenue at about 8:30 a.m., January 5.

I’ve been encountering these ambivalent traffic signals rather too often lately in the Union Square / Gramercy Park area. Should we see in it an allegory of the times? A sign of the decay of our infrastructure? A message from a higher power?



Taken today on the southwest corner of 14th Street and Second Avenue. In case you can’t make it out, the sticker on the garbage can reads: “In case of bankruptcy: please help yourself.”

The can across the street was not similarly festooned.


Taken this morning on the south side of 23rd Street in Manhattan, just east of Broadway.

This Juicy Couture ad campaign has seemed tasteless from the start (that, I suppose, is part of the point), but in the wake of the global financial meltdown, it’s become egregiously so.

Be sure to check out mannahattamamma‘s wicked take on the Juicy Couture phenomenon.

If you’re wondering about the ad underneath Juicy’s offering, you can find the answer here.

Today we inaugurate a new feature called . . .



This picture was taken yesterday with an iPhone near the northeast corner of 8th Street and University Place. If you go to, you can download the poster of Palin and learn how to “wheatpaste” it for public consumption in your neighborhood.

The name of the bank that was “coming soon” has changed since the boards were first put up. It used to be North Fork. Gobble, gobble. I wonder if it’ll actually arrive, given the current situation.