Gothamist, 2002 – 2017

This is the latest in the continuing series of me saying goodbye to things I love.

Gothamist has been shut down. (DNAInfo, too.) You can read the statement or the NYT coverage. I’ve had a day to digest and I am still having trouble identifying a singular emotion. So instead, some free-form reflection:

There was no website more crucial to assimilating as a newcomer into NYC than Gothamist. It helped me feel like I understood the city in a way other news rarely did. (I actually tried reading the Times on the subway some mornings right after I moved here. The paper version. That didn’t help.)

Gothamist had a soul, an energy, and its own real voice. That was the amalgamation of a lot of really talented, really funny writers who connected in a shared love (and sometimes hate) of NYC. I was lucky to read their work, and luckier still to get to work with some of them.

Gothamist was a success story of “the blogging era”: a site that gradually grew from hobby to blog to major thing to outlet to longform news site. It lasted fifteen years, an eternity in Internet time.

Gothamist was how, either directly or indirectly, I made my longest lasting friends in NYC. Countless people I identify as friends have a traceable lineage through Gothamist. Many I met at social functions the site held. Two of my closest friendships are directly through my work with the site.

Gothamist was how I became a soccer journalist and why so many people care what I have to say about the sport, even two years after giving up. Without that platform, without that freedom, you wouldn’t have heard my voice. But the loss of the outlet that I wrote for feels less significant than the loss of the thing I relied on to navigate this crazy city.

Gothamist changed my life, was a part of my identity, and I ache now that it’s gone.

Every meeting between friends must end with a parting, and so, my friends, today we take our leave. This is life. None of us profits from ignoring or hiding from the facts, so why should we bother? Life is what it is, a gift that is given to us for a time – like a library book – that must eventually be returned. How should we treat this book? If we are able to remember that it is not ours to begin with – one that we’re entrusted with, to care for, to study and learn from – perhaps it would change the way we treat it while it’s in our possession. How do you treat a precious gift from a dear friend? This is a good question to ask, and today is a good time to ask it.

– Margaret Lanternman

A Long Weekend In London

Foursquare Lists, For Your Enjoyment

My love for the location-focused social network Foursquare (and it’s sibling check-in game, Swarm) is no secret. I’ve found it adept for finding new spots locally and when I travel. The community rating numbers tend to be very on the nose and trustworthy. And it’s also perfect for maintaining lists of places, as I just made heavy use of while in London to tick off places I had been recommended.

With that in mind: the two questions I get the most are “Where should I eat?” and “Where should I drink?”. Typically, my answers immediately start drilling into specifics (neighborhood? price? formality? noise level? occasion?). But I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’d rather just give people a broad list to start with – there’s too many good places to just keep them in my head.

So here are my core lists, “A Restaurant For Everywhere” and “A Cocktail Bar For Everywhere“. They’re not bound to one city (the cocktail list used to be NYC focused), so if you’re traveling places I’ve been, it should come in handy. Both lists run the gamut from quick and casual to super upscale. Take a look and I’m sure you’ll find something to love. (Lists are in no particular order.)

If you’d rather get location specific (and not just food/drink), three lists of loved spots in the cities I can be found most often: New York City, Jersey City, and Portland.

Remembering The Good Of 2016

The prevailing sentiment among my social circle as we end a year of celebrity death, dismay, and non-stop electoral insanity is “fuck 2016”. With each day bringing some new blunt emotional trauma, I get and fully understand it.

On personal reflection, though: it’s not been a bad year. It’s been a surprisingly decent year. And I’ve been terrible at keeping track of the year that was here, as opposed to other social mediums. I’m reasonably worried about losing track of the year and just writing it off as “that year Trump won and every celebrity died”.

So, with that in mind, some personal highlights from the year that was.

Continue reading Remembering The Good Of 2016

Loyal To My Sorrowful Country

Eight years ago, immediately following the first election of Barack Obama, I wrote a blog piece entitled The Great Release. While I had memories of writing it, I hadn’t re-read it in the years since.

The short version of the post: it had been around eight years since I had started this blog; writing was my catharsis, and I wrote to ensure I couldn’t forget the emotions I felt on that night.

Those exact emotions, I had forgotten. Sure, there were symbolic actions (“as the tears came to my eye”) and (now) foolish declarations that the country had “spoken resoundingly” and rejected fear mongering. But the description of those eight years under Bush felt like a repressed memory:

I can not ever forget what the last eight years have done to this country. It has divided us, such that my own relatives feel that calling me a “commie pinko” is acceptable discourse. It has destroyed our good standing around the world. It has warped our values: intelligence and eloquence had become something that we no longer wanted in our leaders.

So. Here we are again. Back where we started, as though the last eight years not only hadn’t happened but had somehow caused us to backslide. Our international good standing is shattered, buffered slightly by the UK beating us to the punch some months ago. Our values have warped farther, where playing to hateful views is not only viable enough to win you the nomination, but the presidency as well. And the “commie pinko” comment from one of my in-laws was not merely said but screamed at my wife last night.

Unlike eight years ago, my emotional spectrum over the last twenty four hours doesn’t feel worth jotting down in detail. Dread, regret, sadness, indignation, exhaustion – they all eventually gave way to knowing the sun would come up and the world around me would try to find a way to continue. (As I grow older, my emotional range in narrowing; less jittery highs and lows, more smooth curves.)

The emotion I do want to focus on is the recurring theme as I check in on my friends: heartbreak and resolve.

There’s the heartbreak of my LGBTQ friends who now will wait in fear for the inevitable rolling back of their rights.

There’s the heartbreak of my married friends who have to find a way to explain this to their kids.

There’s the heartbreak of my female friends who are terrified that birth control will be outlawed.

There’s the heartbreak of my immigrant friends who have had their impressions of what this country represented fractured.

There’s the heartbreak of friends who have to face antagonistic family over the holidays, who now feel empowered to spew hate about minorities, immigrants, and imagined threats.

The heartbreak was pretty uniform, but a collective resolve is showing through soon after. Whether that’s resolve to protest, resolve to work to understand the other side, or resolve to dedicate themselves to a cause, it’s starting to show up in my conversations as much as that initial heartbreak. There’s not talk about “second amendment solutions”, little serious talk about running away to Canada – everyone’s just ready to put in the work. Society can’t change on its own.

As for me: while I need to figure out a path to make a difference on my area of biggest concern (trying to reverse decades of slow-building voter suppression efforts), the thing I’m going to focus on for now is supporting the people I care for. Despite 2016 having plenty of low points, I refuse to lose sight of the incredible group of people I get to call my circle of friends.

So to the older version of myself, who will eventually pull this post up in a future election cycles: remember that you don’t win every time. Remember that what feels like progress can disappear in the blink of an eye. Remember to put in the work. And remember to be there to help with the heartbreak, because that is when you may be needed the most.


When I wrote that piece eight years ago, I chose a fairly deep cut from the LCD Soundsystem discography for the post title. The lyrics may not have worked as well as the title did, but it stuck enough to make it through.

This year’s post comes from a 2003 Ted Leo song. The lyrics work better here, but they’re slightly at conflict with the title of the song:

No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

And I’ve walked from coast to coast
And I’ve seen, yes I’ve seen…
No one’s business but my own
Where I’ve been, where I’ve been…

And no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

In the days when we were young
We were free, we were free…
Now that Georgie’s reign’s begun
We won’t be, we can’t be…

And no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

Though I’ve lived my bygone years
In this land, in this land…
I’ll uproot it without tears
And I’ll change it if I can!

And, no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

Hunter Rawlings, on Liberal Education

“As you have no doubt noticed, many people in the U.S. have lost faith in liberal education. From governors to legislators, from pundits to parents, Americans increasingly view higher education as purely instrumental—as a ticket to a job, nothing less, nothing more. This vocational view sees college as a commodity: you purchase education the way you buy a car, and the return on investment is measured in strictly financial terms:

How much do graduates make?

How much do individual majors make?

What percentage of new graduates get jobs?

Why major in subjects that do not lead directly to high-paying jobs?

The Arts College does not see itself as a vocational school. Neither do our other colleges, which depend significantly upon the Arts College for many of their fundamental courses.

[…]

What is liberal education? I take “liberal” in its original Latin sense as an education for free people; that is, people who do not live in a dictatorship, but have an active role to play in the life of their society. Liberal education liberates students to think for themselves as individuals, to develop their creative capacities, and to contribute to public life, not just earn money as a cog in a machine.

[…]

A university’s curriculum says a lot about what that university purports to be. The Stanford faculty recently published a well-conceived report on the Stanford curriculum. Princeton is about to release its report on the same topic. In its turn, I would like to see Cornell give strong and clear answers to the following questions:

For tomorrow’s world, what should a well-educated person know?

What should she be able to do with her mind?

To contribute to her society?

These are tough questions. They are particularly pertinent now, given the state of this country, when our national discourse has descended to the language of the gutter. It is the responsibility of universities to do what they can to raise the level of discourse. Here are a few thoughts:

First, we need citizens who can read closely and critically; otherwise they will be easy prey for political and Internet nonsense.

Second, we need citizens who can reason intelligently and ethically; otherwise, we will continue to suffer from shallow arguments and dishonest leadership.

Third, we need citizens who can speak and write clearly and persuasively; otherwise, they will be incapable of convincing others of their views.

Fourth, we need citizens who can do independent research; otherwise, they will depend upon someone else to tell them what the facts are.

Fifth, we need citizens who can analyze quantitative arguments common to math and the sciences; otherwise, they will be unable to assess issues of critical importance.

Finally, we need individuals who have intellectual curiosity and a lifelong desire to keep learning; without those assets, they will not escape the vapid consumerism and celebrity culture that is all around us.

Those are general goals, as I see it, of a liberal education.”

Cornell University President Hunter Rawlings, “State of the University”, October 28th 2016. Comments have been condensed and reformatted.

An Arbitrary And Not Comprehensive Ranking Of My RSD16 Purchases, ~48 Hours Later

Saturday was Record Store Day 2016, which saw local vinyl shops filled with limited new releases. I went a little nuts, and this is a fairly quick take on what I bought. Thanks to Turntable Lab for making the process painless, and to Dan Budiac for keeping me company in line.

lush-origami

#1 – Lush / Origami

Beautifully packaged, beautifully mastered, and the download codes contain a ton of demos and unreleased tracks. Glad I splurged on this.

whitestripes-peel

#2 – The White Stripes / The Complete John Peel Sessions

Didn’t even know this was getting released. Missed how raw TWS could sound.

RfaD

#3 – Clint Mansell feat. Kronos Quartet / Requiem For A Dream

One of the greatest all time soundtracks, with new material and gorgeous packaging.

tgt-tls

#4 – The Go! Team / Thunder, Lightning, Strike

Has been on my favorite albums list for a while. This would be higher if it wasn’t for the nitpicky issue of this being the other version of T,L,S. (There’s this weird thing where there’s two very similar versions of the same album with some differences in the vocals and samples, and I’m used to the other one.)

The Diary

#5 – J Dilla / The Diary

Didn’t realize this was going to be a vocal album. Digging what I’ve heard so far but I need more time with it.

Cassanova 70

#6 – Air / Casanova 70

Not normally crazy for splatter designs, but it looks nice in person and it’s a reissue of a classic Air track.

Chvrches

#7 – CHVRCHES / Every Open Eye (The Remixes)

Haven’t spent much time with this, but liked what I heard. Annoyed the download code doesn’t work (yet), and doesn’t have a fully design sleeve.

JK+DP

#8 – Junior Kimbrough + Daft Punk / I Gotta Try You Girl (Daft Punk Edit)

Not what I would’ve expected out of a Daft Punk remix/edit, but a solid 15 minute reworking of a soul classic. Nice etching on the B side.

if

#9 – If Music Presents You Need This: Eastern European Sounds (1970-1986)

Some interesting exotic tracks, but Alojz Bouda’s “Random (Naslepo)” was one of those songs you drop the needle on and immediately rip it back off the vinyl.

planetrock

#10 – Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force / Planet Rock (Remixes)

A little underwhelmed with what I heard of the remixes. But one of those classic songs that felt mandatory.

disney

#11 – VA / Disney’s Favorite Songs

Was hoping this would be more than just a by-the-book compilation of well known Disney songs. Dig the cover art, though.

hellokitty

#12 – Hello Kitty / Hello World

It’s telling that no one submitted this into Discogs for a solid 24 hours out of embarrassment. Luckily, I have no shame. Mostly just bought this for Katie’s Sanrio collection – the songs are pretty awful.

Desktop No More

About two months ago, my iMac died. Five years ago, this would have been a huge inconvenience. In 2016, it became a mild irritation (mostly because I was making good progress on Jonathan Blow’s wonderful The Witness) and an opening to reconsider my personal technology stack.

Since my dad first lugged home an SE/30 in 1990, I’ve always been a desktop-Mac-as-my-primary kind of guy. That poor abused SE/30 gave way to a pokey Performa, and a very early G3/233 accompanied me to college. I scrapped and saved for a G4 Cube mid-way my junior year, but by graduation I was tired of having an external monitor. Thus began a solid 14 years of an iMac on my desk. Every major model (outside of the “gumdrop”) worked into my cycle, including the bizarre but quirky “white half sphere” with the articulating arm display.

Helping to reinforce this was the side effect of Apple’s Intel transition: through Boot Camp, I could now run Windows, and therefore could run Steam. A new avenue of gaming opened up, and my replacement iMacs were almost always BTO options to max out the graphics card and RAM. It wasn’t top tier gaming performance, and it certainly was a premium above building a separate gaming PC, but I always appreciated having a single computer.

But back to January: the iMac went kaput (likely a hard drive failure, undoubtedly related to my inability to heed a recall warning), and I instinctively went to the Apple Store to start pricing out a new model. And then thoughts started swirling in my head:

  1. Over the average week, I was using my iPad Air considerably more than my desktop.
  2. The things I was using the desktop for was mostly Windows gaming.
  3. The Retina iMac had increased the cost of the line generally, particular at the higher end
  4. The higher end would be needed, as the only place you can max out the graphics card is the very upper end of the line
  5. Even after my educational staff discount, I was still looking at about $3,000 for a like-for-like replacement.
  6. While I do have a work laptop available for business functions, I’d need something to not lose my oversized Steam library and want something for day-to-day computing.
  7. I refuse to use Windows as my primary OS. Just out of principle.

After some soul searching and some research, I’ve settled on a new approach: an iPad Pro 12″ for the non-gaming, and an Alienware Alpha for the gaming. (I was holding out until last week’s Apple Event to see if the lineup changes might’ve changed my plans, but they did not.) Combined, I saved about $1,300 versus the traditional iMac plan, and spares me a separate iPad upgrade later in the year.

Given how Apple is now trying to sell the iPad Pro as a viable laptop replacement, I’ll be interested to see how this turns out. Check back in a few months for the oh-so-thrilling results.

Cutting The Cord: Thoughts On Playstation Vue

I still have faint memories from around age six of the day we first got cable. Mostly because I refused to go outside, watching every game show I could that afternoon on USA network, to the point where I got my television privileges removed for a week.

For about thirty years, I’ve had fairly consistent access to cable TV, even though I tend to not binge watch much of anything, and the onslaught of technological advancements over the last decade (everything from iTunes selling TV shows to streaming solutions like Netflix) have made it easier and easier to just not utilize it.

Three months ago, triggered by the sweet combination of “needing to get rid of the phone line we never use” and “Comcast jerking us around about previous item”, we decided to cut the cable, and try and make due with just streaming solutions. Front and center in this plan was Playstation Vue, Sony’s internet television service. (We already had heavily used Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime accounts.)

Three months later, I have no regrets, and only minor quibbles.

Continue reading Cutting The Cord: Thoughts On Playstation Vue

Struggling with the dark and responding to the light.