Union Square in the early 17th century? According to The Mannahatta Project, an interactive map that lets users search block-by-block for the ecological and wildlife history of Manhattan, it was home to the meadow vole and the white-footed mouse, rather than the Greenmarket browsers of today. (Via Boing Boing)
Most people in this city can at least somewhat relate to the neuroses and New York fondness that comprises Woody Allen, Icon. But one NYU film student is attempting to rival Allen himself with a remake of his memorable 1979 love letter to the city, Manhattan. Borrowing generously from the original, NYU film student Ricky D’Ambrose has created a hipster’s wet dream (or so Buzzfeed seems to think) by offering the ultimate contemporary ode to… Brooklyn. The trailer, embedded below, is appropriately pretentious, with necessary references to n+1, Edward Said YouTube interviews and Sarah Lawrence. Basically this film looks like Tao Lin rewrote the Manhattan script so that the characters could philosophize on the State Of Their Lives via Gchat. Check the trailer out below.
Jason Logan walked New York City from tip to tip, chronicling the smells of his journey in a fantastic New York Times Op-Art piece. It looked great in print yesterday. Online, it’s better—and interactive. Click on TriBeCa and you’ll find out that while he was there Logan smelled, among other things, deep-fried something, faux-leather fanny pack and a warm bacon-y wind.
There’s great detail throughout. For instance, roll over the map and your cursor turns into a nose.
Part two of an interview with Ben Katchor. Please click here to read the first part. This interview originally appeared in Destroy All Comics #5 (1996).
Santoro: What about non-urban settings? Some of the strips from late '95 that are running now in early '96 take place outside the city.
Katchor: I'm curious about smaller towns. I've spent some time upstate [New York].
The city is a strange magnet for everyone outside of it and that's what I usually talk about.
Santoro: I don't necessarily see your work in just an urban setting.
Katchor: I've done strips that take place on the periphery of the city. But, I've always lived in a city and that's usually what I tend to use in my strips.
Santoro: Did you grow up in New York?
Katchor: Yeah, in Brooklyn. So, it's more or less what I know. I've done strips set in other locales, but they would always have something to do with what I know.
Santoro: I get that from your strip. It's one of the only "real" depictions of New York. The New York that you depict is one, I think, that actually exists...and I think there's a sense of modern tragedy that comes through...
Santoro: Silence! Ha!
Katchor: Well, yeah. Always I like to have both comedy and tragedy in my strips. And the sort of thin line dividing them should always be apparent.
Santoro: Does it bother you that some people like the humorous angle too much?
Katchor: No. They're both there.
Santoro: I only ask this because your books are in the Humor section in bookstores.
Katchor: Well, that's where they put the comics. But no, there's clearly a humorous angle to it. It's just fairly dark humor.
Santoro: I'd like to ask you a little bit about your process, if you wouldn't mind. Sometimes I get the idea when I read a strip of yours that ... it's so effortless and so casual that it might be done "first take."
Katchor: I write them first. Well, I guess there are early ones that were written pretty effortlessly ... and I draw directly in ink so...
Santoro: I thought that.
Katchor: They shouldn't look too labored. They should look as quickly done as possible.
Santoro: That's what I mean... They're so conversational.
Katchor: Well, I spend a lot of time with the writing... Since I draw directly, you're only seeing the last layer of ink. You're not seeing what I whited out. The final layer that you see only took a few minutes to draw. When the strip started running larger in the [Village] Voice, the strip became a little more dense. And that's the only difference, I think. The drawing became more... I just began to put more things in, I don't know. I don't know where the strip is going but ... it's still going.
Santoro: I must say I'm enjoying the way the strips — the way it's going, it's getting ... kind of growing exponentially.
Santoro: Sometimes Mr. Knipl will drop out of the strip. Or he'll be such a casual observer. One of the recent ones I remember was The Kapish Restaurant.
Katchor: Yeah, that's also a radio show, The Double-Talk Artist.
Santoro: Do you find yourself writing for the radio show ... meaning, you're drawing a strip and thinking...
Katchor: Thinking that it'll be used for—
Santoro: —the radio?
Katchor: No, I just try and get a decent strip out and some of them work on the radio. "Work" meaning they are possible to translate. Others are not. No ... if I thought too much about it ... I'd go mad.
Katchor: I just think of getting the strip done.
Santoro: Right. Do you have any thoughts about doing a long story?
Katchor: Well, there's a long story at the end of Cheap Novelties.
Santoro: Sure, I know, but a long story not necessarily of Mr. Knipl?
Katchor: Oh, other than? I don't know if that's best for me.
Santoro: Really? Because when I read that Picture Story-
Katchor: The long story?
Santoro: Yah, it was like 23 or 25 pages and—
Katchor: I don't know if people have the patience to read those stories. I think they can barely read eight panels...
Santoro: Oh, you're crazy.
Katchor: I don't want to... I mean, I'm aware of making this accessible.
Santoro: Would you consider doing it if someone approached you and said—
Katchor: I can do it anytime. I mean, I'm working on a another story, the length of the one in Cheap Novelties, for the next collection.
Santoro: Of Knipl strips?
Katchor: Yeah, the long story is a Knipl story. But... I don't know if that is the power of the form. People sort of take them in bite-sized pieces, and when you get longer strips I think it's overwhelming.
Santoro: No, I totally know what you're saying—
Katchor: For readers.
Santoro: Sure, sure.
Katchor: It's like making a five-hour movie. You can do it and it can be a successful movie but no one will want to sit through it. So, it builds in other ways. A weekly strip builds over time. It doesn't build as a... (pauses)
Santoro: I feel like in some sense the strip is one long narrative.
Katchor: Yeah, that thing I did, The Jew of New York, is 52 pages long. But each of them could be read as a weekly story. And you could almost read them independently of each other in a strange way. So it's definitely something to consider. What the reader can endure, and what the form is... I mean, it's a pretty dense form. It's not like a hundred page novel. A hundred-page novel is not like a hundred-page comic strip. There's a certain power... You can set up a lot in a few panels. Not just the page count, but in content as well.
Santoro: So how do you feel about Cheap Novelties as—
Katchor: Well, it's a collection. You can read it a page at a time and put it down. People who read comics, who are obsessed with the actual form, can plow through a hundred page comic novel. But I don't know if that's the ideal form for comics. I just know what people read, and what people can assimilate and respond to... (pause) So I'm pretty conscious of that. Whether there is a place for these to appear and how people can take them in.
Santoro: Right. I think a lot of people doing comics these days are wondering just that.
Katchor: There are other ways to lure people into your strip world. These weekly strips seem fairly painless to people. If a strip of that density went on for two pages — they'd be lost. I think that's all part of the medium. How much your audience can take in. Most people are not obsessed with comics.
Katchor: There's a small audience of people who are. Other people want it as ... it's a very peripheral thing in their lives. If they see one that they like, that's enough for them. I mean I tried to publish a comic magazine, and I realized that it's probably not the way to get people to read comics. It's better implanted in other kinds of magazines. People will read it because it's in another context they like. Y'know, people who are interested in the World Wide Web will come across my strip in Virtual City magazine and read it, but never look at Cheap Novelties in a bookstore.
Santoro: How do you feel about strips on the Internet?
Katchor: It seems like a good idea. You don't have to warehouse all that paper.
Santoro: (laughs) Personally, it bothers me.
Katchor: What? That it's not on paper?
Katchor: Yeah, I can't believe that an audience would accept such an intangible medium. But then movies and TV are all just—
Santoro: Dots on a screen.
Katchor: Just pixels, dots and bits of light, so y'know, I could see ... I mean, I knew alot of these weeklies who used to depend on the low price of newsprint are now in trouble because the price of newsprint has quadrupled or something. They've all tried to figure it out, I'm sure. How to set up some part of their paper on an online service. Y'know, these things [computers] are in everyone's home. It'll probably be a viable medium.Santoro: I look forward to the day you can print out a-
Katchor: A good hard copy? Yeah, the thing is... on a very good monitor, a good scan of my strip looks better than it does in any newspaper. It looks like this perfect transparency of the artwork, a perfect slide of the artwork.
Santoro: Well, that sounds good, I just—
Katchor: It's all relative. It's all dependent on the end user's monitor. It's all there.
99% of [the Internet] is like everything else in the culture ... garbage. But it's just a medium, some good things will be on it, that's all. Spending hours looking around on this thing ... you sort of hit on these little nooks and crannies of people who have things that are of interest, but that's a tiny portion of it. But that's how you find things in the real world. On TV or in the movies, you have to find it. Most of it is just advertising.
Santoro: I think that's what my fear is, that like TV, it'll just become an advertising medium.
Katchor: Well, like TV, it'll have sponsors. But, y'know, someone sponsors these newspapers I'm in. A lot of the advertisers are indirectly paying my salary. So it's all advertising driven anyway.
Santoro: Well, it's part of the culture, like you said.
Katchor: On the web, at the moment, you don't have to deal with these distributors of print. Which is not a very pleasant experience. The idea that it's a direct conduit from one person's scanner to another person's monitor is not a bad idea. I mean the paper thing is gone. There could always be a paper version of it, a collection, a book you want to hold in your hand. It's definitely a different experience. So, I mean, it works as a medium of distribution of information. It does work. The thing is, who's gonna pay for it, who's gonna be on it.
Santoro: Everyone's a star.
Katchor: Yeah, that's strange. Those personal home web pages ... but we grew up with fanzines. Comic fanzines were not much different. Although there was always more to them. These web pages are pretty thin in terms of content.
Katchor: I just don't think people want to be publishers and most people don't want to do this. People will get sick of it, and some people will go into web publishing and hopefully do something good. Y'know, these things have been around. Fanzines have been around. Hopefully it'll all shake down to something usable.
Santoro: It would definitely help distribution.
Katchor: It's no solution. It's still much too slow. It's in its technological infancy. The key to it is what we can use.
Santoro: I have one last question. For some reason, I think you might have been influenced by Steve Ditko's work.
Katchor: Oh yeah, he was ... probably as a kid, my favorite.
Santoro: It's something I couldn't describe—
Katchor: Well, how to build a figure. How to conceptualize figures, a great sense of place in each panel. A unique style...
Santoro: Okay, well, is there anything you'd like to add or address?
Katchor: No. It's all in the strips.
Santoro: Well, thank you. I hope this wasn't—
Katchor: Very painless, no...
This item provided by Comics Comics
For the Birds: Consider taking in some bird life -- and I'm not talking pigeons and starlings, I'm talking something a lot more exotic. There are colonies of Quaker parrots here and there in the metro area, and they seem to be especially numerous in the greener portions of central Brooklyn. Just how they got here isn't certain--one much-repeated story involves a shipment of Argentine parrots escaping from the crates at JFK airport at some point in the late '60s. Whatever their
origins, it seems the parrots are here to stay: their shrieking, leaf-green bodies are easy to spot as they fly from tree to tree, building large, rather untidy nests. Brooklyn Parrots runs regular "safaris" to various parrot hot spots. The next one, held on Saturday, September 12, includes a visit to Brooklyn College and Green-wood Cemetery. The tours are usually held the first Saturday of each month, but check the Brooklyn Parrots blog for exact dates, and if you have a chance, bring along a little millet or finch food for the birds--all that flying around and looking cute consumes many calories.
Go for a Float: Walking around town, it's very easy to forget that New York is on a group of islands. To get yourself reoriented, take to the water. The Downtown Boathouse is a voluntary group set up to "provide access to the Hudson River for everyone." The voluntary organization is most famous for its quickie 20-minute kayak paddles, for which no experience is required, but the Boathouse also organizes three-hour tours for more experienced paddlers -- these take you either across the river to Hobocken, New Jersey, or north to a dock at 125th Street.
Walk it Out: Finally, if you want to get a feel for parts of the city that aren't covered in guidebooks, check out Take a Walk New York, a city-sponsored series of treks through areas that are far from tourist haunts--trips in the past have visited forts that predate the American Revolution, out-of-control Christmas-light displays, and Victorian neighborhoods in Yonkers, just north of the city limits. Their last trip, held on August 8, covered ground very exotic to most New Yorkers: Bayonne and Union City, both part of New Jersey's so-called Gold Coast. Check here for upcoming schedules.
Photos: Parrot photo, Steve Baldwin, Brooklyn Parrots; Kayak photo, Charlie O'Donnell, The Downtown Boathouse
This interview appeared in Destroy All Comics #5 in 1996.
Santoro: I'd like to talk a little about those Picture Story magazines you put out...
Katchor: There were only two issues...
Santoro: I've noticed in alot of your strips sometimes the setting is almost the main character. The story in Picture Story #2, The Printer's Disease is a good example. You have about 4 or 5 main characters but really the main character, the printer, is just an observer in some ways.
Katchor: Yeah, I try to set up these believable little environments in a strip like that. I sort of remember: there was a printer's storefront and across the street is...
Santoro: The restaurant...
Katchor: Right. The restaurant, and I think on the other corner is this candy factory...
Santoro: Where the printer's girlfriend works...
Katchor: It's a pretty tight little stage set where this can all take place. Because one of the things you can do with drawing is you can show these spatial relationships. And if you get too diffuse and things flying all over the place, you're really not taking advantage of that power.
Santoro: How do you feel about the different media you employ? Right now, you've got a weekly strip in many national newspapers, and you've begun doing short radio segments for NPR based on your Julius Knipl strips.
Katchor: Well, there are things you can do in comics, I suppose, that you can't do in these other forms, and vice versa. So hopefully you should be doing what you're supposed to be doing in each medium. There are things that you don't...I guess you could draw certain kinds of textures and certain ephemeral light effects, but in a way then you are sort of approaching the power of photography. The picture that would result would be very...well, at least not the kind of picture I would want to make by drawing. Drawing is a more, y'know, shorthand reference to hw things look. There are certain limitations, but I guess they're more imposed by my taste. You could draw anything...I suppose. But it wouldn't...
Santoro: Well then, how do you feel about that shorthand when you're dealing with sound?
Katchor: You have to actually decide what things sound like...literally, in a concrete way. All sorts of things, all sorts of choices to make. There are things you don't even think about. You sort of think you know what these things sound like...but they're all really your voice, the narrator's voice. It's not that specific.
Santoro: I guess the character Julius Knipl functions in a similar fashion...like the printer in The Printer's Disease...as an observer, a narrator. Another story I wanted to ask you about...one that I'd never sen until recently is Union Square Demonstration.
Katchor: Yeah, that's an old strip done for a British magazine called Escape.
Santoro: It's wonderful. It's only about 6 or 8 pages, and once again the setting plays an integral part of the story.
Katchor: Yeah, that's an unusual strip in that it's set in a place that actually exists. There used to be alot of blood banks just south of Union Square. It's all gone now, but for some reason, i don't know why, Broadway and 4th Avenue had this cluster of blood banks. I don't know why there, but that's where they were. Sort of off the street you could walk in and sell your blood.
Santoro: And the story was about a man whose basement was situated on a curve of an otherwise straight subway line. The man spends his time selling blood, selling his possessions and spending all day in the park. You write: "The idea that all this public activity revolved around his private life was a grandiose and sad one." That's beautiful.
Katchor: Yeah...well, I remember that one.
Santoro: When I read one of your stories that's six to ten pages in length...I feel you have a little more room to create that believable setting you were talking about. I get the same feeling with the strips, but...the sense of place, the believable setting that comes across in the longer stories...
Katchor: Well, hopefully with all the weekly strips it does that by accumulation. I think if you show someone one strip, they might not get it. And some people only understand it when they see it in book form. They read eighty of them in one sitting.
Katchor: And some people never get it.
Santoro: Y'know, that story The Printer's Disease, for me, it was the first story of yours that I had ever read. I had seen your strips here and there, but that story really knocked me on my ass. I felt as if I was given a key of some sort to look at your work in a different way. Then I approached the strips and they really began to sing.
Katchor: Yeah, I don't know. All I know is that 90% of the people who contact me are not comic readers. They say, "I don't know anything about comics, but I like your strip." So, I don't know what it is...I mean as a child, I was a comics reader. So I don't know what that is, why that is. I don't know if it doesn't appeal to people who read comics, I just know it's a demographic fact.
Santoro: I wanted to ask you about that. With the different media you employ, the potentiality of tens of thousands of people picking up the weekly paper on the day it comes out across the country, or the radio show, for example...that's such a diverse audience compared to the handful of people who'll pull Cheap Novelties off the shelf...whether it's a big chain bookstore or a small comic book shop...
Katchor: I know more people, if you do a weekly comic strip, look at your work than they'll look at drawings of Picasso just because it's there every week. A week can go by and you don't go to a museum or look at an art book, they sit on the shelf unopened. But a weekly comic strip becomes part of your life. You see it every week and if you want to read it...it's the kind of exposure that I think very few other drawing mediums get.
Santoro: I must admit, I clip your strip every week, but I like to include the ads and announcements that surround it.
Katchor: I have that dilemma. I used to save my printed strips, but I would save the whole paper because I thought this would be of no interest to me to look back at just the clipped strip. I wanted to see the context it was in that year, that month, in some city. And then it became completely out of hand.
Santoro: (laughs) I can imagine.
Katchor: At this point I no longer save them...
Katchor: I can't. I have this enormous pile of newspapers. There are like 400 strips so far...
Santoro: When the strips are freshly printed, the tones are really dark...then they yellow and age, and the tones become a little more subdued and the strip takes on a different feel when I'm looking at them as yellow and brittle pieces of paper. I have one from '93, The In Eradicator.
Katchor: There's a radio version of that strip.
Santoro: That would make sense. It would translate well...
Katchor: Yeah, it's hard to know which ones would work.
Santoro: Well, one of the strips that sums up your work, for me anyhow, is #35 in Cheap Novelties which begins: "A phone booth's location exerts a subtle influence on the person using it." That's sheer poetry! Your writing stands on it's own so well...I have to ask you if you've written any prose or poetry...
Katchor: Well, not too much. I write in a way that works with pictures. I don't know if it would stand up without the pictures. I think you're seeing it alongside this world that's evoked by the pictures.
Santoro: It's not that it could stand alone, but that the wording is such that I don't see it anywhere else in comics. Chris Ware told me that he wishes he could match the density of your wording...
Katchor: Well, I only have to write a few sentences. Since I only have to write that much every week, I can put alot of time into it. The radio has pretty much reduced it to words and sound effects, but I think the words then take on more weight than in a comic strip, because you're only hearing this narrator's voice.
Katchor: I think they work, but they -the producers- went with the more humorous part of the strip, which is...you know, definitely there. It holds together. And I have to write alot more dialogue because there are always things going on in the background that have to be filled out. In a comic strip you can have someone saying a fragment of a sentence. But when you actually have to put this in the mix, you have to include what comes before it and what comes after it. maybe that one moment will be focused, put into auditory focus, but yu have to write up to it and write out of it. i write ten times as much dialogue. You don't always hear it, and alot of it doesn't end up being used, but I remember really filling out long stretches of dialogue.
[Above the panels it reads: By what subtle form of inculcation / do the words and melody of a popular song / enter the subconscious mind of a busy man.
Within the panels it reads: In the darkest night, where there is no light / put 'er there my friend, put 'er there old stranger / little hand from nowhere, little hand of time.]
Santoro: Are you still working on those right now?
Katchor: They are just about to end the ones that have been taped. There's another batch in the works.
Santoro: How many are there?
Katchor: So far there are fourteen episodes.
Santoro: Really? The ad said it would run for fifty-two weeks? Do they play the same ones over again?
Katchor: They run once a month so it's hard to catch.
Santoro: The one time I was able to find it, my radio died as soon as it began!
Katchor: (laughs) Once in awhile they play them on this show, The Best of NPR. But, it's a short segment, so it's easily missed.
Santoro: Do you think there will ever be a collection of those?
Katchor: Oh yeah, I think they would definitely have to be heard over again. They go by so fast to really get them. There just aren't enough yet...another half hour of material is needed before there can be a collection.
Santoro: I wanted to ask you some miscellaneous things. Is it true you did a Yiddish strip?
Katchor: No. I once did a strip for The Forward for a year called The Jew of New York.
Santoro: Oh really?
Katchor: But in English...it's not a Yiddish strip. It's a fifty-two week story. I'm in the English edition of The Forward. There is still a Yiddish edition.
Santoro: Those strips wouldn't see the light of day, would they?
Katchor: Well, maybe. It was a historical epic set in the 1830's, in New York City. Pretty elaborate. [The Jew of New York was collected and published in 1998]
Santoro: Did you do alot of research?
Katchor: More for atmosphere than historical facts. I looked at alot of period imagery. Paintings, posters, and newspapers.
Santoro: I know this might sound strange, but your strips remind me of Vladimir Nabokov.
Katchor: He's one of my favorite writers...definitely a great influence.
Santoro: It's the images that are evoked...
Katchor: ...as much as it is the "city" of imagery, that kind of imagery...some of his stories do take place in cities like Berlin. His writing has a wonderfully rich texture, with images, sounds and words in perfect poetic tune.
Santoro: The word "lyrical" comes to mind.
Katchor: There's a point in one of his novels, and I forget which one it is...where a man plans his own murder. What novel is that? But the narrator is describing someone who...he's discovered someone sleeping on the grass and he realizes that this man is an exact double, a physical double of himself. And the narrator says that there are these moments in prose when you wish you could have a picture that would explain the situation better. I think, well, I know he drew mainly just for scientific illustration, but he could draw, and maybe if things had worked out differently he would have left some kind of picture things behind. But he didn't. I know he did an elaborate screenplay for the Lolita film. I don't know how much of it was used. I think it was all re-written.
[end of part one]
This item provided by Comics Comics
The handsome host tipped us off that something was a little awry with this urban exploration video. But even if it's part of an ad campaign pimping boots, it's still pretty cool. The short doc "takes viewers on a virtual tour of empty structures that have been part of the NYC cityscape for decades," and they even climb up the Red Hook Grain Terminal.
Get your graffiti boots on guys, we're going to the Freedom Tunnel!
SFW version of Zach Hyman's photograph The no-pants subway ride people really need to step up their game; photographer Zach Hyman is making them look downright demure, by riding the subway with a young woman who takes it all off, for free. (Not including the $2.25 cost of a subway ride.) Commuters don't even have to get bottle service or stuff a dollar in her G-string, because she's not even wearing one. In June Hyman took some shots on the L train as 19-year-old actress Jocelyn Saldana stripped down to her birthday suit; the 30-second gimmick landed Hyman a nice feature in the Post today, which happens to coincide with his show opening at a West Village gallery. According to the article, most straphangers were "blasé. But one woman started screaming and an elderly man next to her got the shakes." Hyman's series of nudes in public only feature women because, as he explains, "photographing females in public is easier than males. People see a naked woman and they smile. They see a penis and they freak out." Honey, ain't that the truth. We've provided a closer SFWish look at the "striphanger" below...
The full monty is on the gallery's website.
Photo from BeyondDC.
I have been mentally preparing a blog entry on the "Mayor's Summer Youth Conservation Corps" effort and half-a**** planning and the setting of objectives vs. thorough and thoughtful planning efforts but in the meantime, Beyond DC has an entry with (as always) great photos about New York City's "Summer Streets" program, in "New York Summer Streets."
Meanwhile, DC's half-a**** comparable effort called "Feet in the Street" is really in a park, almost 7 miles from Downtown and farther away from the more populated parts of the city, active streets and the core of the city, comes up at the end of the month, on August 29th.