Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Takes a Year Off

What happened this year? It's as if Halloween decided to spend the season leading up to its own day in the pumpkin patch. Merchandise was lackluster. Residential displays were minimal. Fall foliage was...non-existent.

Pushing forward anyway, I created my own decorations. Two rolls of postal paper, one-half dozen paper towel tubes and several tablespoons of wheat paste and water later I wound up with this guy:

Over the years, I've developed a partiality for skeletons when it comes to Halloween decorating. In previous years, I have employed the skeletal figure as a base for themed overlays such as pirates or ancient Egypt. My only explanation for this is, it's the one creepy element associated with the holiday that we carry around with us all year long.

Tonight, as a slow trickle of trick-or-treaters make their way up and down my block, the bony, little paper mache skeleton man stands sentry, hoping that next year's Halloween will regain some of its past luster.

If not, I'm taking Halloween back to it's roots by carving a few potatoes. [CORRECTION: turnips (traditional to Irish roots of the holiday according to wikipedia:]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Asleep at the Grid: Map Errors

Last spring, someone demonstrated for me that if you typed "New York, NY to London England" into Google Maps' directions search, it would return driving directions to somewhere along New York City's furthest eastern waterfront and then instruct you to "swim." Recently I tested this again and apparently Google has corrected this, with search results now revealing that they "...could not calculate driving results for..." that particular combination. Whether accidental or intentional, map errors can be fun (or frustrating, depending on your situation) to discover.

Since purchasing my bicycle last year, I've twice called 311 - New York City's non-emergency information number - and requested a free NYC Cycling Map for both 2006 and 2007. While looking at the map to see what unexplored bike route I can tackle next, my eyes wandered to areas I was already intimately familiar with. Among those areas is Manhattan's Little Italy. It seems that the cartographer or graphic designer of the map moved Mott Street two blocks west of it's present (and only) location. Compare and contrast:

The crossed-out Mott Street is actually Baxter Street. If anything, the understandable error would have been with the confusing morph from Baxter Street to Centre Market Place (four out of the five streets between Hogan Place and Broome Street are named Baxter with the block between Grand Street and Broome abbruptly becoming Centre Market Place).

I can only hope that some poor tourist doesn't discover one of these maps and use them for walking tours - Lower Manhattan's named streets are confusing enough for most city residents.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

I know – we still have Halloween to contend with, but this gets me just as excited. Macy’s has redesigned its Thanksgiving Day Parade website for 2007 and it went online today: The site features some of last year’s elements – namely the 80th parade line-up and some of the character balloon art – but also features a new layout and the television air times and channels. I’m sure it’s still a work in progress and will be further updated as we get closer to the parade and as they reveal more about this year’s "holiday ambassador" balloon (read more about that character below).

* * *

A few months back I signed up for a google alert for “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” I have it set for “as it happens,” which may have been a mistake. At least four times daily I receive google alert messages in my mailbox. It has a weird break-down in terms of usable information and looks roughly like this:

Forty-five percent of the alerts link to blogs where the author uses the term in conjunction with the phrase “like a balloon in…,” often referring to how much someone ate recently or how much weight someone has gained. [I want to say useless; however, it indicates the cultural impact the parade has on this country.]

Thirty-five percent of the alerts link to the same blog posting about the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s 1997 parade appearance on the Jell-O “falloon”. [Absolutely useless information and sad-but-true: I ‘went to the video-tape’ (DVD actually) and they were in the 1997 parade.]

Ten percent of the time the alerts link to blogs whose authors either have participated previously or will be participating in this or next year’s parade carrying an instrument.
[Occasionally interesting/amusing accounts of people who are experiencing November weather in New York and/or the city itself for the first time.]

The remaining ten percent linked to useful articles, websites or press releases about entertainers, bands and characters scheduled to make appearances in this year’s parade. [So far I’ve learned that Wynonna will be performing something from her new Christmas album this year, Shrek will make an appearance in balloon-form (McDonald’s May ad campaign should have been a dead giveaway – it featured several Shrek the Third supporting cast members freeing and floating away on a giant Shrek inflatable tethered to a restaurant roof] - and as Macy’s holiday ambassador - and it costs on average about $500,000 to transport a marching band across the country.]