Friday, August 1st, 2014
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This Week in Lines

Koons
Jeff Koons Retrospective, The Whitney — July 25th, 4:06PM

Location: 75th St. and 5th Ave.
Length: 68 people
Weather: 81 and partly cloudy
Crowd: Diverse enough to make any Koons collector (and their wallet) swell with pride.
Mood: A despondent tourist whined to her friends. A native clutching an "I *insert giant ballon rabbit* Koons" tote smirked as she took her place at the back of the line.
Wait Time: 30-45 minutes
Lingering Question: How many visitors does it take to raise the value of a Jeff Koons work by one percent? READ MORE

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New York City, July 31, 2014

weather review sky 073114★★★★ Destabilized, opening the gates for the fall from paradise. Dark gray filled the sky to the west, while the sun fought through clouds in the east. Humidity was up; the air conditioning on again. People were engrossed in their devices. A few raindrops fell along the way to the office. Then the sun rallied: light traced the old painted scrollwork on the fire escapes and the new shiny ridges on the air-conditioner cages. It shone through the primaries of a pigeon banking over Grand Street. A damp wind rippled the stained rainbow umbrellas of the fruit vendors. The afternoon air had a thick and stuffy note, compared to the distilled perfection that had come before. Heavy yellow-gray clouds moved along the zenith, with deep blue in the gaps between them. They threatened to mean something but didn't, or at least they meant nothing so simple and intelligible as a punctuating rain. 

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What a Pack of Cigarettes Costs, State By State

favlooorrEvery year, we check the prices of cigarettes in all fifty legally recognized states of this fair Union. (Previously: 2013; 2012; 2011.) Predictably, the results are mostly—but not entirely!—grim: for the first time in the short history of this survey, not a single store in any state state offered us a pack of cigarettes for less than five dollars. So do smoke them, if you happen to have them, since nothing is ever going to get better.

This year, reigning affordable tobacco merchant Kentucky was resoundingly knocked out of the top spot; four states now offer cheaper cigarettes. If obtaining the cheapest possible cigarettes from nearby convenience stores is the overriding factor in the choice of your domicile's location, you can set your Google Maps coordinates for Virginia or Missouri. While New York and Illinois both offer some relief, they manage to retain their position as the states where cigarettes are most likely to cause you to bounce your rent check. Also of note: Oklahoma cigarettes cost 21 percent more this year than last, and Minnesota's are up by 36 percent.

As for where these numbers come from: we called convenience stores and gas stations in the most highly populated areas of each state (obvious disclaimer: prices aren't the same in every store in every area), and asked politely for the cost of a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes. The current price is in bold; last summer's price is in parentheses. As always, YMMV. READ MORE

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The Cost of Getting a Green Card

greencardWe've been hearing much news of a migration crisis lately, as wave after wave of undocumented immigrants, especially children, come across the United States' southern border. Of course, immigration, both legal and illegal, is not new, and whatever the mode and motivation for entry, when people want or need to stay here permanently, it comes down to getting a green card. It will not surprise you to learn that this can be a difficult and costly process.

A green card, which may or may not actually be green, is a Permanent Resident Card. To have one is to be able to remain in the United States indefinitely and, most importantly, to be able to work here. Permanent Resident status is also the first step toward full citizenship, which is more advantageous than mere residency because it allows you to vote and run for office (but not President!), and protects you against deportation in the event that you are convicted of a felony. (It is a big, crucial first step. After you get to be a resident, citizenship is comparatively easy.)

It is probably too plain to mention that the reasons why people find themselves wanting or needing green cards are numerous and varied. We are all most likely aware of the so-called dreamers, people whose parents brought them here when they were quite young and who have grown up in the United States, speaking English and generally leading the lives of ordinary Americans, but without the benefit of legal status. There are also plenty of immigrants who came of their own volition and have simply built lives here that they don't want to abandon: jobs, houses, relationships, children, studies. Further along, I'll talk with J., who came here for college and graduate school and found herself wanting to keep studying and to stay with her American boyfriend. Her path was complicated but relatively smooth and low cost. That is not always the case.

The expenses associated with getting a green card come in three general categories: official fees paid to the government, professional fees (lawyers, passport photos, etc.), and black market costs (fake documents, fake marriages, scams of all sorts). I talked to some immigration lawyers and some immigrants I know to get a sense of what these costs can look like.

First, the official costs. A green card application costs a total of $1,490. (If I were in charge, it would be $1,492, because government bureaucracy needs a little whimsical irony.) That is definitely not nothing, but Danielle Briand and Yazmin Rodriguez, immigration lawyers in Bridgeport, Connecticut, who were good enough to give me some orientation in this realm, told me that the immigration service is pretty good about giving people waivers for financial hardship. Of course, there are many many permutations and combinations of fees you might have to pay (here is a daunting pdf of all of them). With the cost of possible appeals, ancillary forms and fees that different circumstances might require, and medical examination and mailing costs, it would be easy to drop $2,000 just on government fees. READ MORE

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Never Ever Ever (Ever) Get Lost Again With Hertz NeverLost

Brought to you by Hertz

If you're like the average car renter, chances are you usually skip paying for the GPS option and instead rely on your handy smartphone. However, this new video from Hertz illustrates why a smartphone might just not cut it. Whether it's spotty service reception, the extreme battery drain, or those unexpected data charges that we’ve all encountered, you'll want to think twice about substituting on your next car rental. .

At Hertz, they’ve created NeverLost, an incredible service that's unlike any GPS or app out there. Why? Because you can plan your entire trip online and get a four-digit code to plug into the device. And if you’re feeling lazy, you can simply call their live concierge team directly for a customized preloaded USB with all of your trip destinations programmed in and shipped to you to at no cost.

With Hertz NeverLost, you’ll drive a whole lot safer and a whole lot smarter! Learn more about NeverLost at Hertz.com

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A Guide to Visiting Iceland on July 16th, 2014

7489984244_fbca206082_zYour day in Iceland begins on a bus, the Flybus, which shuttles along Iceland’s edge from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik. In ten years, you might be able to do this trip on a train that will carry a thousand passengers every hour. Iceland has never had a public train before, so it's possible that the first public train in Iceland will cater almost exclusively to tourists, whose numbers are projected to almost double by 2023.

Until then, it’s the Flybus, which traces a boundary between Atlantic Ocean and an inexplicable, bulbous network of volcanic rock. Observe as you travel that the treeless terrain, at once both traversable and inhospitable, makes it perfect for video game realms where characters can only move, jump, and shoot. Travel fact: Ridley Scott’s upcoming movie version of Halo just filmed in Iceland a few weeks ago.

Reykjavik is a driving city—a small Los Angeles, you will be told, with growing traffic problems. The traffic gets worse as the city gets bigger, in large part because of tourism—because of all the hotels they’re building. But still, we’re talking a really small LA, since its population is just a bit over a hundred and two thousand people. After stopping by a hideous cement church, a hot dog stand, and the shopping district, you will finish your city tour in forty-five minutes.

Now it’s time to see some of Iceland’s famous wilderness. Rent a car with a friend to go watch a performance of Cage’s 4:33 in an ancient ravine. Pile in with another guy and two girls you just met. One of them is best friends with that girl from your high school, which is the sort of improbability that you can still fathom, like the fact that all the water in Iceland smells vaguely of sulfur. Travel fact: that girl from high school had blond hair and responded to something you’d say with a scoff and a smirk and that either meant she disapproved or didn’t understand—you never figured out which. You spoke little to her and she to you. And now you and her best friend are careening across a well-marketed arctic landmass, united by that foreign visitor spirit, that desire for exotic curiosities and safe adventures. READ MORE

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"SCARED residents are snapping up stab proof vests and protective clothing to shield themselves from attacks during the street light switch-off, an Essex defence company boss claims."

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The Big Blue Bottle Machine

There are at least two things to say with regards to Alexis Madrigal's long ode to the processes that have produced both coffee's shiniest monolith, Blue Bottle, and its newish adorable milk cartons filled with coffee, chicory, milk and sugar.

While it's only a tiny moment in the piece, Madrigal hits on precisely what has propelled Blue Bottle beyond its specialty coffee peers in the public imagination (and investors' hearts): READ MORE

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A Poem by Sara Sutter

The Changing Snow Chicken

A type of grouse. A game bird whose 
name originates from imitation
 
of all the grumbling he does—“his 
song is more like a croak”—thus few souls go
 
within earshot. The Changing Snow 
Chicken lives in the Arctic and changes
 
“from brown in summer to a nice
winter plumage in winter.” “Naturally,” 
 
he explains, “this helps me blend in-
to my environment, which I refuse
 
to leave although it’s the harshest
tundra on the planet.” This, he tells you
 
while wagging his comb—his sole
ornament, big as a half-closed fist—

READ MORE

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Anger Problems and The Trivia Superteam

Let's just talk.A couple of days ago I started trying out this thing, vaguely related to my yoga practice, wherein I am basically supposed to “speak softly or medium-soft” for 40 consecutive days. There are a lot of ways to interpret this directive, which I like to think was translated from Gurmukhi and originally said something like, “Try not to spend all your time just going off on shit.”

The night before the challenge was to start I went to dinner with my boyfriend at his friend Mark’s house. I get along fine with Mark, but Mark had a friend there, and right away, I could tell Mark’s friend probably didn’t know many women who have big mouths and if he did he probably hoped they would use them for eating fro-yo or maybe blowing him.

We were listening to Mark’s iPod, and Jimi Hendrix came on and Mark said how much he loved him, and I said something like, “There is nothing more boring to me than listening to a dude just play a guitar.” I felt like the key words here were “to me.” Also, Jimi Hendrix has plenty of fans. He doesn’t need me. But apparently what I said was quite shocking because my Mark’s friend started going off about how mean I was, and I ended up apologizing for saying I didn’t like a musician that everyone already likes, and then had to say all of that additional drivel, like of course I respect him. (Duh.) Then, later, Mark’s friend was like, “What music do you like?”—a question I actually stooped low enough as to answer, as if I needed to prove that I was not, in general, a hater of music.

I spent the rest of the night silently swearing to myself that I would never again be the only woman anywhere, ever, and also, thinking about how great everything was going to be after 40 days of mastering speaking softly. I would be so able to control speaking that I would be particularly adept at controlling it around those who didn’t want me to speak, more or less, and could just secretly have all my (mean) opinions and keep them to myself and never be forced to engage with anyone like Mark’s friend ever again.

In the car on the way home, I took up precious last moments of not having to speak medium-soft to explain to my boyfriend why it was so offensive to me that Mark’s friend had said I was mean, to my face. I talked for an hour straight about how I heard men say things I didn’t like all the time, and I'd learned to just sit there politely, whereas if I ever said anything that a man didn’t like, I had to hear about it. My whole life, I told my boyfriend, I’ve wondered: am I an asshole, or are people just really sexist? 

READ MORE

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If I had to choose one subway train to not ride, I’d not ride the 2 train. After researching more than twenty subway lines and testing six measures of performance, the Straphangers Campaign found that that the 2 was the one train that its panel could agree on was the worst. It's not perfectly awful—although it scored below average on "regularity of service," "delays caused by mechanical breakdowns," and "seat availability during rush hour." It fortunately tied for best in the system on subway car announcements. However, it is pretty bad, and of all the trains, it is the one that I would not ride.

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New York City, July 30, 2014

★★★★★ Traffic sounds and cool air carried through the still-open windows. The sky was cloudless at first, with a thin white tinge to the blue, the sun benevolent and warm. Bicycles were everywhere, going the wrong way in the bike lanes. A group of men walked together wearing different-colored but otherwise similar trim shorts. Drumming rose from Verdi Square. A few midday clouds puffed up in the west. Nearly every seat on the plaza was taken for lunch; a row of day campers in blue t-shirts perched on the low wall just by the fountain. By afternoon, the bricks were strewn with water-balloon scraps and the whole space rattled with scooters. The clouds had advanced throughout the sky, and had enough gray mixed in their billows to generate little stretches of moodiness on the walk down Broadway. There was a chilled bottle of white wine by the corner of the playground, behind the stack of pizza boxes and the streamer-wrapped benches, a loosely bounded party. The birthday guests bounced sturdy jumbo balloons on rubber-band tethers and warred with Silly String till the pavement was a '90s graphic backdrop. Other children wandered by in their underpants, drenched by the fountain. The two-year-old batted his balloon up in air the over and over again, following it all the way across the paved yard on the westbound breeze. He could see no reason to stop playing, long after he'd had his fill of cupcake frosting. By the time he finally allowed himself to be rolled home on his scooter, the apartment was awash in coral-colored light.

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The Social Media Graveyard of Cancelled Comedies

social-mediaDozens and dozens of new shows premiere each new TV season (and mid-season, and off-season) but only a handful live to see season two. These days, a new show has to use every tool in its arsenal to attract viewers as quickly as possible: splashy advertising, big name guest stars, over-the-top promos, and of course, a blockbuster web presence, one that gathers fans on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr who will then faithfully promote the show with homemade image macros and clever hashtags born from love. But while a show might leave our airwaves, a Facebook fan page is forever. What becomes of the social media accounts of canceled shows? 

Sad things, it turns out.

Animal Practice

If you remember NBC’s Animal Practice, it has to be for Crystal, the monkey. Why do I remember that monkey’s name when I never watched the show? Star power, presumably. 

Animal Practice was canceled after just nine episodes, coinciding with its Halloween episode. Trying to give the people what they want, @AnimalPractice really doubled down on the pet costume theme in the show's last days, with tweets like, “We’re loving these pet costumes! Are you dressing up your pet next week? #AnimalPractice” and “What’s your favorite pet outfit so far?! #AnimalPractice” and, later, “See all of the amazing #AnimalPractice pet outfits one more time in our gallery: http://bit.ly/RlDSLo,” which is a great, currently blank look back at nothing. Despite following the time-tested formula of animals + costumes = internet, it was too late for Animal Practice

Over on the Animal Practice Tumblr, our valiant social media manager asks, “So did we put the “Ha in hospital” on last night’s #AnimalPractice?!” despite the fact that there is no “ha” in hospital, just a “ho,” as well as a “pit.” 

Surprisingly, considering their robust Twitter and Tumblr presences, Animal Practice lacks an official Facebook page. Instead, it has this automatically generated page, “based on what Facebook users are interested in,” which means that the show somehow had enough fans on Facebook that a robot was forced to build this page. Related groups include “Boycott NBC’s Animal Practice,” a group that has no members (despite being a winning team!) and a features a message that reads, “This is just done to show NBC how bad of a job they did airing the Olympics including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.” Showed them. 

READ MORE

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Alternate Names for the Neighborhood Unfortunately Referred to As "Quooklyn" by the New York Times, Ranked

1. Woodbush

2. Ridgewood

3. Bushwood

4. "Well my mailing address is Queens but I feel like I live in Brooklyn." READ MORE

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Geocaches for the True Adventurer

ExtremeGeocachesPromo Image

Brought to you by Pacifico

In case you're not familiar with the increasingly popular outdoor activity known as "geocaching," prepare to have your mind blown. In geocaching, participants use GPS and other navigational devices to hide and seek "treasure chests" called geocaches anywhere in the world. This modern day Indiana Jones activity allows a person to sign a logbook within the cache as proof that they actually made the journey, and also to trade "treasures" inside the chest.

Check out below some of the most adventurous geocaches for the bravest of the brave. When done, head over to discoverpacifico.com to explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations thanks to GPS coordinates found under every Pacifico beer bottle cap.

International Space Station

scene composition: litho, frame 22

We would argue that this is the most remote location of all geocaches in existence. In 2008, a private 'space tourist' named Richard Garriott left a geocache in locker #218 of the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS). With the ISS constantly floating about 250 miles above the earth, this cache is essentially moving at nearly 17,000 miles per hour as it circles the earth, which is fast enough to complete an orbit every 90 minutes!

READ MORE

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Is Your City Poor Enough to Star in the Next Hit Video Game?

"The city of Camden, New Jersey had the highest crime rate in the US in 2012. A 24/7 surveillance program is now in effect," teases Ubisoft, the enormous French game publisher, announcing a new expansion of its popular Watch Dogs sneak-hack-and-kill game. The original, which was pitched as one of the most ambitious games of all time, was set in and around a fictionalized Chicago populated by an automatically generated cast of lightly stereotyped city-dwellers. Earlier this year, a player found himself under attack by a hoodied young virtual character named "Kavon Fortin," which company representatives claimed was an unfortunate coincidence. Within a few months another Ubisoft game, Far Cry 4, was advertised with a human colonial tableau, which the company might have been able to explain away if not for the franchise's extremely recent history (as well as an adjacent controversy surrounding its flagship series). READ MORE

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Death of a Denim Wizard

4193885819_cc17f4a87d_z

A couple of years ago, I went to get my jeans mended at a store in my neighborhood called Kill Devil Hill. It mostly sold New-Old Brooklyn tchotchkes—nice soaps, pharmaceutical brown bottles, fancy combs—but in the back of the shop was a tiny denim repair business. When I mentioned being embarrassed about the crater-sized holes in the crotch, the person behind the counter told me that, actually, crotches on jeans fail all the time; most jeans, if they fail, fail in the crotch. Since the repairs are cheap—twenty dollars or so—there’s a small army of people walking around with mended, reinforced, double-strength, nearly indestructible crotches.

So last week, when a friend told me that he was planning to buy some replacement jeans with a strong, healthy crotch, I informed him that he should just get his old jeans mended; he not only didn’t know about denim menders, but had no idea that crotch holes were the most widespread epidemic of our time. His confusion was so profound that I wondered if the person at the store had told me a polite lie—was the crotch hole epidemic really just me? So I went back to investigate.

There was a prominent sign in the store window:

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

WE ARE NO LONGER OFFERING SERVICES IN DENIM REPAIR

The woman who used to work there was gone. In her place was a soft-spoken teenager named Wyatt. He lives a few blocks away from the store. After a summer class at FIT, he discovered that he liked sewing, and walked into Kill Devil Hill to ask if he could intern for them. Now fifteen, he works a couple of days a week. He told me that the reason the store had phased out denim repair was because it wasn’t very lucrative; they made more money selling aprons.

When did the store start to phase out denim repair?

It took us two months to get rid of it. People were coming in and we were like, “Fine. One more pair, one more pair.”

What kind of jeans would people bring in to get repaired?

They’d tend to be high quality jeans. The pricing range was two hundred dollars and up. That’s the culture of denim repair: You don’t spend repair money on sixty-dollar jeans. I guess you might on jeans you’ve spent a lot of time with. The crotch blew out, the knees blew out—do you know a lot about raw denim?

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On Pheasants and Polyamory

pleasantsI found the pheasants accidentally. I’d gone looking for the avenue of shoes on Brush Street, a new art installation in Detroit, and got a bit lost. When I stopped to orient myself, I saw a single pheasant through a thicket of tall grass in a vacant lot next to a sagging two-story. The house had an old Ford F150 parked in front. I saw an empty kiddie pool, a plastic circle in turquoise with green fish printed on the bottom. I heard soft crowing, and walked stealthily towards the sound

As I approached, I saw more pheasants through the tall grass. I wanted to make out details, but the brush blocked my view, and I saw only the shapes of bird bodies. I tried to take their picture. I snapped off a few shots, but all I got were brown blurs against the bright blue sky.

Months later, when I finally went to see pheasants specifically, it snowed six inches. I walked around near the corner of Gilbo and Leander as my boyfriend tried to get his Ford Focus out of middle of the road. His tires spun against the hard-packed snow, and I walked toward the tree line, because I heard a noise that sounded a bit like pheasant crowing. Male pheasants crow. They have long tails and iridescent feathers and, it seems, harems too. Pheasants practice polyamory. Males have two or three mates. John throws the car into reverse. The tires can't get purchase. I walk farther from the car, snapping pictures of marks in the snow I will later swear are bird tracks.

People love thinking of pheasants as mascots of urban decay, or the new apocalypse, or Detroit-as-frontier. They think of the city as desolate urban prairie, uninhabited, free of people. This idea has legs: I see it play out in books about Detroit's decline. But in practice, wherever I go in Detroit, I see signs of human habitation. I see houses and people. Even at Gilbo and Leader, despite the emptiness by the street sign, I'm not far from inhabited homes. I see a red two-story with a wide front porch, power lines and fire hydrants. John throws his car into reverse. It moves slightly backwards. I walk away from the car, following the street towards the red house.

In a field covered in tall grass, I see a chair upended, legs pointed skyward. Snow covers the seat. I hear a noise, like birds, or like wind in bare trees. I decide "pheasants" and walk towards the sound. I see more tracks, but can't find birds. I want to see them to prove to myself that I didn't imagine them this summer. I know hunters have flushed hundreds of pheasants in Detroit and I wonder where I might borrow a hunting dog.

I’d like to eat a pheasant, but the only restaurant in town that serves them is pricey, and John is broke. During my last trip up to see him, I cried in the hotel because he told me he couldn't afford a Christmas gift for me. He makes ten times my income, but has debts.

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FKA Twigs, "Pendulum"

The aesthetic incongruity of each new FKA Twigs song is starting to wear off, and all the styles are starting to settle together; if you were trying to make some kind of point, you could probably get away with saying she makes industrial music.

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Moon Stupidly Shaped

Rather than do literally anything else, scientists have spent forty-five years trying to decipher the true shape of the fucking moon, which is apparently "like a lemon with an equatorial bulge," according to the author of the absolutely pointless study. The Times writes:

Efforts to pinpoint the moon’s exact shape have long been stymied by the presence of large craters on its surface that formed after the crust solidified. There have also been inconsistencies between its measurements and what we know about its past.

For example, the moon barely spins, yet it appears to have the sort of equatorial bulge caused by rotation. And why would a giant ball of cooled liquid be anything but spherical?

Intriguing questions! If they weren't about the stupid moon.

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