Going Dutch

Last Thursday night, I was watching the LA feed of the Dodgers-Phillies game in Los Angeles. As is the case with all Dodgers home games, Vin Scully was calling the game. In the sixth inning, the Philadelphia pitcher Severino Gonzales was struggling with his control and walked Andre Eithier. After the walk, the Phillies catcher jumps out of his crouch and jogs to the pitching mound to calm his pitcher. Vin Scully colorfully narrated the mound visit, saying, “and Cameron Rupp goes out there like a Dutch uncle to talk to him.”

What on earth is a dutch uncle?

Many, many years ago, the renown film scholar Thomas Elsaesser, who is an Englishman with a post at the University of Amsterdam, visited NYU. At a large dinner held in his honor, he told me that the English have at least one-hundred expressions that are derogatory to the Dutch. He offered this pearl of wisdom after I jokingly asked Elsaesser whether we were each “going dutch” as we were presented the check, although I believe NYU ultimately paid for the dinner.

The many derogatory expressions makes sense considering England and the Netherlands are neighboring countries, separated by the North Sea, who fought a series of wars in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries over trade routes and imperialism. It’s no secret that the people in one nation generally take a degrading view towards their neighbors. Consider the American expression Canadian tuxedo and the countless things people in the southwest say about Mexicans.

To the English, a dutch uncle is someone who advises by admonishment. It is, as the Wikipedia entry succinctly puts it, the opposite of someone who is “avuncular or uncle-like.”

This, of course, begs the question of the other English-language expressions that demean the Dutch. Sjoerd Mullender, a programmer at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica in Amsterdam has compiled a list of English-language expressions featuring the Dutch. As he points out, most of these phrases are “unfavourable” to the Dutch.

Some of these I already knew, such as…

  • dutch angle: In cinematography, framing at an unconventional, titled angle. I figured it was shorthand for a “weird” angle.
  • dutch courage: Newly found courage after a few drinks.
  • going dutch: Making everyone pay for their own meal. It is related to the term “dutch treat,” which Mullender notes is “not a treat at all.”
  • dutch oven: Something used for cooking. But I was most familiar with the definition Mullender describes as “a prank where one farts under a blanket while holding a victim there.”

But, of course, there are many others that are truly eyebrow-raising, such as…

  • dutch act: suicide
  • dutch generosity: stinginess
  • dutch headache: a hangover
  • dutch widow: a prostitute
  • dutch concert: A great noise and uproar, like that made by a party of drunken Dutchmen, some singing, others quarreling, speechifying, etc.

Read the whole list on Mullender’s website and try not to think about the even worse expressions the English have for the Irish. And vice-versa.

Soft Spot Turns 10, and I Printed the T-Shirts

On July 15, a day after Bastille Day, the Soft Spot at 128 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is hosting its tenth anniversary party. I went three years ago to their seventh anniversary, where they played up the 7 theme by turning the joint into a fake casino.

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For this year’s festivities, I was commissioned to print five dozen t-shirts based on this design.

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Printing these particular shirts involved every aspect of what I have come to appreciate as an easy job.

  1. The shirts were mostly-cotton, heather grey shirts from American Apparel. It is much easier to print on light-colored shirts compared to dark ones because I can avoid…
    • using water-based opaque ink that dries in the screen and can extend production time
    • using discharge ink, which smells like rotting fish and is probably a little toxic
      It is also easier to print on all-cotton or 90% cotton because they ink adheres better to the fabric.
  2. The design involved only one color. It saved me from having to burn two screens, and I didn’t have to resort to any two-color trickery with my one-color printing station.

  3. It was easy to custom mix the ink. My ink supplier doesn’t make burgundy so I resorted to mixing a little bit of brown ink into vicon red which more or less made burgundy ink.

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  4. I printed the entire run inside my studio space. Because of the noxious fumes involved with discharge printing, I often have to print on the front porch. As nice as that might sound, it presents some logistical challenges: it requires sunlight, which is hard to exploit with my work schedule, and it leaves me exposed to blood-thirsty mosquitoes. Here, I could print indoors with artificial light and some light air conditioning.

Once I had the ink mixed, I was able to load each shirt on to my printing station and churn out one shirt after another.

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As is common in the summer, the shirts air dry very quickly. By morning, they were completely dry, ready for heat treating, packaging, and delivery.

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Speaking of delivery, aside from sourcing the t-shirts from American Apparel in Los Angeles, everything used to make these shirts was sourced within Brooklyn and Manhattan. It seems fitting that I will be taking these shirts to the bar on foot.

Soft Spot 10th Anniversary

  • July 15, 2015
  • 128 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn

Experimental Films at Japan Cuts 2015

The Japan Society is hosting its annual festival of new Japanese films. Japan Cuts starts this Thursday, July 9, and runs through Sunday, July 19. Much like the New York Film Festival, this festival devotes a program commemorates experimental filmmaking.

Mono No Aware x [+] (Plus) celebrates the work of two filmmaking organizations: New York’s Mono No Aware and Tokyo’s [+]. The program of films screens on Sunday, July 12, beginning at 8:45 PM, at the Japan Society.

Almost all of the films in the program will be screened in New York for the first time, and many of them will be screening publicly for the first time anywhere.

Here’s the complete list of films:

Title Filmmaker Year, Time, Format Synopsis Premiere
Mono No Aware Direct Filmmaking/Animation Workshop Films Various 2015. Approx. 8 min. 16mm. Various 16mm works from the participants of Mono No Aware’s Direct Filmmaking/Animation Workshop held at Japan Society on June 21. World Premiere
RELAY Steve Cossman 2014. 11 min. Super 8mm to HDV A moving-image document of the visual environment created by artist Ei Wada that emphasizes his grassroots approach to instrument making and reflects his concepts about performance as art. New York Premiere
Koropokkuru Akiko Maruyama 2015. 5 min. 16mm. A moving portrayal of an ineffable force that can be humanlike or embody itself within displayed objects. Inspired by concepts from the Koropokkuru folktale within Japanese Ainu culture and The Invisible Man. World Premiere
Louis Armstrong Obon Joel Schlemowitz 2015. 14 min. Super 8mm and HD to HDV. A portrait of Japanese jazz musicians Yoshio and Keiko Toyama as seen through their annual summer pilgrimage to the grave of Louis Armstrong in Flushing, Queens. World Premiere
EMBLEM Rei Hayama 2012. 16 min. 16mm to HDCAM. Video footage for the research of Japanese endangered species of raptors is turned into a decorative fiction film through the conversion process between video and film. New York Premiere
Stella Nova Ted Wiggin 2015. 4 min. 16mm. Red blue green, circle square triangle, dog star man. The life and death of a star. World Premiere
Emaki/Light Takashi Makino & Takashi Ishida 2011. 16 min. 35mm & 16mm to HDCAM. Drawing on film by Takashi Ishida; edit and telecine by Takashi Makino; music by Takashi Ishida & Takashi Makino. US Premiere
sound of a million insects, light of a thousand stars Tomonari Nishikawa 2014. 2 min. 35mm. 100 ft of 35mm negative film was buried under fallen leaves about 15 miles away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station from the sunset of June 24, 2014 to sunrise the following day.
DUB HOUSE Experience in Material No.52 Kei Shichiri & Ryoji Suzuki 2012. 16 min. 35mm. Strict but exquisite evocation links two artistic disciplines and two visions of light and darkness. Architecture and film meet in the cinema. North American Premiere

Japan Cuts 2015: Mono No Aware x [+]

  • July 12, 2015
  • Japan Society, 333 E. 47th St, Manhattan
  • $10.00 – $13.00
  • Buy Tickets

Seasonal Creep and Back-to-School Shopping Season

Remember how upset I was when breweries started offering pumpkin beers in August last year?

Well, starting today, Monday, July 6, Amazon is launching its back-to-school sale.


Although public schools here in New York City just started their summer recess ten days ago, you might as well stock up now before the Christmas shopping season starts after Labor Day.

But seriously, buy stuff through the banner because I get a commission.

Bikes and Trains, Independence Day 2015 Edition

My favorite convergence of two nineteenth century technologies is that of bicycles and trains because they work well together. In fact, they complement each other much more than the two quintessential twentieth-century transportation technologies: airplanes and automobiles. Don’t believe me? Think about how onerous it is to pick up or drop off someone at the airport, let alone park a car there.

One of the great things about bicycling in the New York City area is that there are trains that can assist with planning your long bike rides. Having a train enables you to do a long ride that isn’t a loop. Thanks to the tireless work of bicycling advocates throughout the region, it is possible to ride for a whole day and catch a train—and an attendant nap—to whisk you back home.

Although we still have a long way to go compared to the west coast, where you can reserve a space and roll your bike onto many Amtrak trains, the New York City–area does have some excellent infrastructure to carry a bike on a train.

Except, perhaps, for holiday weekends…such as this coming Independence Day weekend.

The patchwork of separate railroads have implemented an array of restrictions:

These restrictions put a damper what seemed like a nice idea: an Independence Day bike ride to Philadelphia, our nation’s former capital city. Instead, it looks like I’ll be riding with some friends north through Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties this Friday. The ride will end in Beacon, but we plan to take a very scenic and hilly route by way of Amenia for a day-long double metric century.

And, yes, we’ll be taking a late Metro North train back to NYC.

Heat Wave Envy

Apparently, there’s a heatwave afflicting Western Europe, bringing the hottest July day ever in Britain. I’m a little jealous.

With daytime temperatures in New York hovering in the low eighties all week, it hardly feels like summer, despite Independence Day weekend starting in two days.

As a fellow academic put it, I almost feel like I should be assembling my course packets for the fall.

Four Weeks with the Apple Watch

My first Apple Watch Sport, in all its Space Black glory.

My first Apple Watch Sport, in all its Space Black glory.

After kvetching about its purpose, my need for one, and its place in the personal computing ecosystem, I recognized that having an Apple Watch could serve a very important purpose: it would free me from retrieving my iPhone in specific situations, such as when riding a bicycle. Like other commenters, I saw its primary function as the computer-you-have-on-you so you can stay off your computer.

The smartphone exploded because, like its built-in camera, it was always with you, and because it was always there, you used even more than a computer and in ways you never used a personal computer. The watch isn’t there yet, and who knows if it will ever approach that level of utility. But in the last four weeks, I’ve really appreciated some of the things Apple Watch does that a smartphone, such as my iPhone, does not do.

The following are not revolutionary differences, but instead are minor tweaks to my own personal computing.

The Unappreciated Architecture of the New York’s World’s Fairs at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum

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Last year marked the fiftieth and seventy-fifth anniversaries, respectively, of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. I wrote about these two fairs with regards to the 1939 introduction of television by RCA and the 1964 New York State Pavilion, designed by celebrated modern architect Phillip Johnson.

Starting today, June 29, the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College is hosting a photographic exhibit on the “ignored” and “ridiculed” architecture of the World’s Fairs. The exhibition, Persuasive Images: Architecture of the 1939–40 & 1964–65 New York World’s Fairs, will run until July 27, and there’s an opening reception on July 9, two weeks after the exhibit opens.

Persuasive Images: Architecture of the 1939–40 & 1964–65 New York World’s Fairs

  • June 29 – July 27, 2015
  • Museum open Monday–Saturdays,
  • Godwin-Ternbach Museum, 65-30 Kissena Blvd, 405 Klapper Hall, Queens, NY 11367
  • Free

No More United at Kennedy Airport

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Sixty-eight years ago yesterday, on June 17, 1947, Pan Am launched the first round-the-world flight, Flight 001, between San Francisco, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Delhi, Beirut, Istanbul, Frankfurt, London, and finally New York. Flight 002 originated in New York and would transit through those same cities on an eastbound course. Over time, the particular routing and destinations would change, but it remained a route until Pan Am ceased operations in the early 1990s. The last airline to fly this route was United Airlines, in the late 1990s, and the last segment of this route to survive is United flying between JFK and LAX.

Yesterday, I learned that United Airlines will be ceasing flights on my most frequently travelled route— between JFK and LAX— and moving those flights to its “New York” hub in Newark, New Jersey.

We have made the decision to move our p.s. service from New York JFK to Newark Liberty International Airport. Effective October 25, all of our p.s. flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco will operate out of our hub at Newark, and we’ll discontinue our service out of JFK.

This ends United’s presence at JFK airport and moves these venerable transcontinental flights to New Jersey. This is personally inconvenient for me because I live on the same landmass as JFK airport: crossing two rivers to get to Newark can take hours. But it is also a bit sad because of nostalgia. My first flight to New York, in 1998, was on United’s LAX to JFK route. Unlike the other United flights I had taken—especially the short-haul flights between California cities— this was a much different experience.

  • United flew the JFK to LAX route on a dedicated fleet of wide-body Boeing 767 jets.
  • The flights to and from LAX and SFO at JFK arrived and departed from a dedicated area at Terminal 6, while the flights to other destinations, such as London, Chicago, Hong Kong, etc. departed from Terminal 7.
  • There were three classes of service: basic Economy class, what United called Connoisseur class (equivalent to today’s business class), and an even more luxurious First class.
  • The flight numbers were low, like a prestigious Manhattan address. My first outbound to JFK was on UA 10 and my return was on UA 1.

Over the years, the flights changed. They were downgauged to single-aisle 757 aircraft in 2004, which made for a more fuel-efficient operation, and inaugurated the dedicated Premium Service (p.s.) fleet. Some time after 9/11, United moved its California-bound flights to Terminal 7 at JFK, which consolidated all of its flights to that terminal.

Then the merger happened, and there were more changes. United eliminated its First and consolidated its premium seats into a single BusinessFirst cabin. Then the flight numbers changed.

Flight numbers might seem meaningless to most passengers, but if an airline assigns a particular flight a low number, it suggests its importance to the carrier. The early evening flight to LAX was UA 25, the early morning flight to SFO was UA 3, and the redeye from LAX was UA 18 for many years. And my first flight from JFK to LAX was a segment of a round-the-world flight that United inherited from Pan Am. Flight 1 passed through New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Bangkok, New Delhi, London, and finally back to JFK, and Flight 2 did the same in reverse. But in recent years, JFK-LAX/SFO flights were assigned three-digit numbers. The only references to their distinct character was that some recent JFK-SFO flights were numbered 415—the area code of San Francisco—and some eastbound LAX-JFK flights were numbered 212—the area code for Manhattan. As an affront to my Angeleno pride, there was no flight 213.

But starting in late October, there will be no more flights to JFK. Flying to New York from Los Angeles or San Francisco will require a connection in Chicago, Denver, Houston or Washington to arrive at LaGuardia airport. Or it will require, what LaGuardia airport’s namesake hated more than anything: landing in New Jersey.

Chilled Coffee Wars

We’re about a week away from solstice, but in New York City, it’s finally hot and muggy enough to stop craving hot coffee in favor of something chilled. I’ve written in the past that I much prefer making cold brew to brewing hot coffee over ice cubes. About a week ago, I noticed that two very prominent third-wave coffee roasters have chosen sides in this debate.

Counter Culture Coffee, out of Durham, North Carolina, favors pouring hot coffee over iced cubes to make their iced coffee. They insist that the immediate cooling process “locks in flavors and aromatics that other iced coffee processes allow to escape.” You can see their method in this video.

I’ve used this method several times, but as I’ve noted in the past, I generally only do this when I am pressed for time.

Portland, Oregon’s Stumptown, on the other hand, is a big proponent of cold brewing and discourages their customers from pouring coffee over ice cubes. In a recent blog post, they advise against brewing drip coffee over ice. They warn that “it will taste watery and bitter, and you’ll lose clarity and sweetness.” Instead, they recommend cold brewing: “making true cold brew takes time – about 16 hours, in fact – but it’s well worth the effort.” Their support of this method is likely due to their offering cold brew in bottles and nitrogen-propelled cans. If you can’t wait, they, of course, offer ready-to-drink bottles and cans.

However, they’re not entirely against the diluting hot coffee over ice. One method they recommend is using an Aeropress.

Brew Guide Aeropress Hero

That makes sense because it allows for longer brewing time, and the pressure used to brew with an Aeropress seems to extract more flavor than pour over alone.

At any rate, the fact that two first-rate, third-wave coffee roasters suggest competing methods for brewing iced coffee seems to confirm something I learned from touring bourbon distilleries over the past eight years.

There are countless ways to enjoy your coffee, and it’s your call on how to enjoy it. Even if you’re adding booze.