La Migracion Es Beautiful

My wife and I were walking down 116th Street this past Saturday on our way towards Target and ALDI. Between 3rd and 2nd Avenues we noticed a group of people painting a mural on a wall, so we crossed to take a better look.

33948743105_1a325f488b_z

The mural primarily addresses U.S. immigration policy and seems to be an expression of the idea that “we are all immigrants.” One of the installations under the “Galerie De Guerrilla Gallery” section of the mural is a mirror with the word “Immigrant” in English under it. Another section of the mural shows a set of butterfly wings with the caption “La Migracion Es Beautiful” (Immigration is Beautiful). The point seems to be to remind English speakers that they are also immigrants while reminding immigrants that they are beautiful parts of a local immigrant society.

La Immigracion Es Beautiful//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Maybe the mural isn’t about how we’re all immigrants, though. The butterfly wings contain pictures of a wide range of people, but almost exclusively depict Hispanics and African Americans, interspersed with what appears to be a few South Asian Muslims and Native Americans. One of the larger panels shows a Native American woman lying down by a river with teepees in the background next to a quote from an Ogala Lakota Native American. A section of the mural shows the face of an African American woman wearing an Indian feather in her hair.

It seems odd to include Native Americans and African Americans in a mural about how we are all immigrants. The Native Americans were the first people on the land. You can’t immigrate into a place that doesn’t have people in it before you arrive. And, unlike Ben Carson, I would hardly consider the enslavement and forced migration of Africans to be an act of immigration.

Maybe my first impression was wrong. Maybe the message isn’t about inclusivity but is rather about a unified confrontation between minority groups and those viewed as Caucasian. If that’s the case, the mural is eye-catching but is a missed opportunity for emphasizing shared belonging in the national community. Or maybe I’m just over-thinking the artists’ use of the word “immigrant.” Maybe the message of the mural is just protesting in general all of the morally reprehensible things that Trump (and the Republican party) has said and done without explicitly naming him. That would explain the quote by the Lakota Native American about the destruction of the environment. That, along with the slogan “El agua es vida” (Water is life) would be a reference to Standing Rock and DAPL. The inclusion of African Americans would be a reference perhaps to Trump calling for the death penalty for the wrongly accused Central Park Five. The inclusion of Hispanics and Muslims would be a reference to Trump’s constant vitriolic rhetoric and jingoism about Mexicans and Executive Orders that target Muslims.

Either way, immigration is a beautiful thing. Beyond the economic necessity of continued immigration, the diversity that immigrants bring to American life is what makes this country an amazing place to live, at least in major cities and on the coasts. I believe that intellectual and spiritual progress (and lofty goals like world peace) are dependent on having our comfort zones challenged. Encountering and understanding people from other parts of the world forces us to reevaluate and adjust our ideas and beliefs, both about others and about ourselves. I think that only happens when you’re forced to personally confront difference, in person. A book can only explain so much and never requires you to actually self-examine and defend your point of view. I also don’t see anything intrinsically worthwhile in resisting change or trying to hold onto an idealized vision of America that never existed in the first place.

Museum Challenge: The New York Transit Museum – Fun and Interesting

No pole dancing allowed

Of all the museums I’ve visited in New York City, the New York Transit Museum was the most fun, even though it’s also (so far) the smallest. The museum is designed in a way that allows for interaction with many of the exhibits. There was a whole class of children on a field trip playing with the turnstiles when I first got there. I think the museum staff was aiming for making the place a popular field-trip destination. Besides all of the interactive exhibits, there is also a cafeteria/classroom area.Just because it was set up for kids doesn’t mean it can’t be fun for adults too, though.

Students on a field trip trying out old subway turnstiles.
Students on a field trip trying out old subway turnstiles.

Just because it was set up for kids doesn’t mean it can’t be fun for adults too, though. On the first floor or first basement level, depending on how you look at it, there are old buses or portions of buses that you can walk into and sit in. The driver’s seats are accessible and you can have a friend take your photo through the windshield. The newer buses are definitely designed better. The driver’s seat and the angle of the pedals were much more comfortable than an older model I tried out, which required me to keep my leg elevated all the time to press the pedals. I have no idea how people actually drove those older buses all day. Their right legs must have been twice the size of their left legs.

The bottom floor of the basement is where all of the old train cars are. They had everything from A trains, supposedly mid-90s to 2010 (some of which I still see on the A line, not sure why it’s in the museum), to trains from the early 1900s. A lot of the train cars looked similar inside. Even some of the same advertisements spanned decades. It was interesting to see how the seat configurations changed over time. I also thought it was interesting to see ceiling or rotating fans in some of the older train cars. Once a year, New York City runs some of these older trains on the 7 line (I think).

Vintage train advertisement.
Vintage train advertisement.

What really interested me, though, were the old advertisements. I’d like to go back and just spend a few hours studying them. You can tell a lot about people during a certain time period based on the products they were buying and how the appeals made by advertisers were framed. It’s also just neat to see the artwork styles.

Signage meant to regulate passenger behavior.
Signage meant to regulate passenger behavior.

 

More signage meant to regular passenger behavior.
More signage meant to regular passenger behavior.

Another awesome exhibit in the museum is of signs meant to regulate the behavior of passengers. The signs are from multiple transit systems around the world. Some of them are hilarious; all of them are necessary. Or at least, the ones for the New York transit system are necessary. I remember being shocked by how clean the trains and buses in Singapore were when I first moved there. The trains were so clean that sometimes people would sit on the floor, something that is totally out of the question in New York City trains. The buses in New York City are usually just as filthy as the trains. People litter everywhere here; they spit everywhere here. It’s a shame. The city would be so much nicer if people would take care of it, but they don’t. They just complain about how dirty the city is while contributing to the problem.

Anyhow, the New York Transit Museum is pretty awesome and I’ll definitely be going back at least one more time in the future. Take a look through the photo gallery below for more images of exhibits in the museum:

 

The New York Transit Museum//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The Snowpocalypse that Wasn’t (New York City, 2017)

Snow accumulation on Tuesday night, March 14 2017

Listening to the news last weekend and last Monday, it sounded like disaster was imminent. Schools were shut down, public transit was suspended, and people were encouraged to remain at home if at all possible to avoid the life-threatening storm that was going to hit Monday night and continue through Tuesday.

Like most of the news commentators mentioned, the storm didn’t quite turn out as expected. I think I was listening to NPR when I heard an announcer mention the actual snow totals in New York City. He then made the comment, “Do you know what we call that in Chicago? Tuesday.” I laughed, remembering how I’d gone out on Tuesday to grab a few odds and ends for making tacos. There was a good bit of snow and the sidewalks were slippery, but it wasn’t that serious.

Snow accumulation on 176th Street in the Bronx, New York City.
Snow accumulation on 176th Street in the Bronx, New York City.

The Bronx received more snow than anywhere else in the city at 8″ of accumulation. Watching from my living room window, I could see that the wind was pretty bad at times, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I kept thinking about the blizzard in January of 2015 as a point of reference. The oddest thing about the day was how quiet it was. There was very little traffic, there weren’t many pedestrians, and the few trains that passed our station went by slowly and quietly, with no announcements. My apartment overlooks a train line. After living here for a year, I don’t really notice the sound of the trains, but I noticed when the sound stopped.

January 2015 Blizzard in Washington Heights:

January 2015 Winter Storm Jonas - New York City Blizzard//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsWednesday was probably worse than Tuesday. The snow had partially melted because of sleet and rain and had frozen overnight on the sidewalks. The corners, where the pedestrian crossings are, were huge puddles of slush. Hopefully, this will be the last snow we see this year. I’m ready for spring.

Sunday Afternoon in Central Park – Pictures

It’s really hot today. We were going to do something fun, like go over the Brooklyn bridge, but with it being over 90, with the heat advisory and the air quality advisory, we decided to just stay at home. I dragged our portable air conditioner out of the back of the closet and set it up, to take the edge off the heat. Now we’re watching a True Detective Marathon to catch up to the second season. It seems pretty good, so far.

19085556263_e5681e0060_o

Last Sunday, the weather wasn’t that bad, so after we visited FAO Schwarz for the last time, we sat in Central Park for a while, by that little pond (called “The Pond”) in the southeast corner by the Central Park Zoo, and had a mini-picnic. It was nice. There were a lot of people out there hanging out, relaxing. Smooth breeze, a lot of chatter, the sun shining on the water as it set. It was nice, sitting there, doing nothing for a while. I read for a bit. I picked up this book called Ready Player One, about a future where the world is suffering an energy crisis and most people retreat to an online 3D virtual simulation called the OASIS. I’m liking it so far.

19085563253_68c8c035c3_o
The Pond, looking south towards 59th Street.
A girl laying on the huge rock overlooking the Victoria Gardens Amusement Park.
A girl laying on the huge rock overlooking the Victoria Gardens Amusement Park.
Southern Central Park
Southern Central Park
The Sheep Meadow
The Sheep Meadow
Just a cool lightpost.
Just a cool light post.

After we’d sat for a while and it was starting to get dark, we packed up to leave. We walked across to the west side and exited by 70th street afterwards to catch the train. It was a really great way to spend a late afternoon and evening.

A neat looking building on the west side of Central Park, around 67th Street or so.
A neat looking building on the west side of Central Park, around 67th Street or so.

A New Addiction: Ingress

A screenshot of the Ingress Scanner on iOS
A screenshot of the Ingress Scanner on iOS
A screenshot of the Ingress Scanner on iOS after an hour of testing things out.

I recently came across the blog post of a friend in Rome who has been playing Ingress consistently for about a year and recently reached level 16. I remembered trying to play Ingress when it was first released but I didn’t have a phone that was capable of it, and my tablet at the time was wifi only, so I gave up. After reading my friend’s blog post, I checked to see if Ingress had been released on iOS and found that it had, last year. So, I got it right away.

The app is kind of buggy. Using the Comm often causes the app to lock up entirely, which is bizarre, since that doesn’t happen with a 3rd party app that accesses the web-based version of the Intel  map and Comm. Maybe Google wants people to get interested in Ingress and then go buy an Android phone that it will work better on? I don’t know, but I’ll just wait and hope the bugs are ironed out.

Anyway, figuring things out was a little difficult, but that’s mostly my own fault. There are training modules that you can use to get a sense of what you’re supposed to do be doing, but I just threw myself into it. I was lucky enough to find a few neutral portals in my area that I could take over, surprisingly on my own street. When my name started popping up on the map, players from both factions welcomed me to the game and the neighborhood and started sending me tips on how to improve my level and gameplay. I quickly found out about portal keys, fields and Mind Units.

My mission? Turn the neighborhood blue by capturing and maintaining portals (the things that look like sun flares on the scanner image above) and fight off the green team, which is working for aliens who want to destroy human society as we know it, which may not be a completely bad thing, given people’s propensity for violence and stupidity, but what about art and culture? What about self-determination and the preservation of a uniquely human history? What about beer? So, yeah, I’m working for the Resistance.

Beautiful Old Building on 86th Street

IMG_1043.JPG

Scattered throughout Manhattan (and presumably other boroughs that I don’t go to often) there are older buildings mixed in with new construction. I love these older buildings. They have more character than some of the monstrosities that people are building today, like the hideous Preschool of the Arts @ Cooper Square building, for example:

IMG_0042.PNG

Who came up with this? What were they thinking?

I’m reminded of a city ordinance in Jerusalem that requires all new buildings to be faced in Jerusalem stone to maintain the character and traditional look of the city. Some might say that stifles creativity and artistic expression, but I’d rather see a traditional, beautiful Jerusalem than one filled with buildings that look like the one above.

Places have a certain look and feel to them that should be preserved. But, that’s just my opinion. I love history in general so it’s not really surprising to me that I would prefer historic buildings. I’m not sure how an ordinance like Jerusalem’s could be implemented here though. How does one build a skyscraper that looks like a 19th century townhouse?

Chiese Food Restaurant Sign

"Chiese Food" sign on a Chinese food restaurant.
“Chiese Food” sign on a Chinese food restaurant.

When I lived in Singapore, I used to joke about the misspelled English words I saw everywhere, or the jumbles of random phrases used as shirt slogans. Having English on the shirt made it foreign and cool, I suppose. After working on learning two foreign languages (Arabic and Hebrew), I’m not nearly so critical of spelling mistakes by non-native speakers. Remembering vocabulary is a pain.

However, I can’t help but find it amusing that a person would misspell their own nationality on a manufactured neon sign placed in the window of a restaurant that sells said nationality’s food (or the Americanized version of it anyway).

How do you open a Chinese food restaurant and put up a sign for Chiese Food? Was it really poor business management, or a clever attempt to draw attention? Or did the guy purposefully misspell it because he knew that what he’s selling isn’t truly Chinese food? American Chinese food is nothing like what I ate in Singapore, which in most ways is far superior.

This particular establishment is on Amsterdam Avenue between 169th and 170th.

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone is having a great New Year’s Eve!

My wife and I are staying home. We had a nice meal, we’re watching the live stream Chromecasted to our television and we’re going to enjoy a nice bottle of wine. Most importantly, we’re staying warm. It is extremely cold outside, and I can’t imagine standing in Times Square for hours waiting on a ball to drop in this weather. People usually start showing up to claim spots around noon.

Speaking of the live stream, so much of the show is in Spanish it’s almost not worth watching. I was also disappointed when the old guy that was on stage with his daughter turned the event into a political platform by demanding the legalization of the status of illegal immigrants in the United States.  The United States is the land of freedom and opportunity, but that doesn’t mean you can just sneak across the border, show up at a government office and demand a portion of the American Dream. You have to get it legally. Every country has laws. This one does too. Immigrate legally. If a person can’t respect the most basic law of a country, then why should they be rewarded? I feel like the only reason some politicians are pushing for legalization of illegals is so they can increase the number of taxpayers and further fatten the government’s already over-bloated coffers.

Anyway, the way things are going, I might as well just learn Spanish. This will be a majority Spanish-speaking country before the end of my life. Most jobs in New York City already require a person to be fluent in Spanish. I imagine the same applies for most cities in southern California and the southwest, though that makes more sense since that area is closer to Mexico.

It’s sort of ironic, really. My great-grandmother immigrated to this country (legally) and only spoke only Spanish. My family acculturated and I speak only English. Now I’m going to have to learn Spanish to keep my economic options open.

Anyhow, there is less than an hour to go until midnight. Time to stop ranting about politics and start enjoying the evening.

Happy New Year!