May 29, 2008

Go to my new website to learn more about my new book, Slackonomics, to be published June 30, 2008.

Back in NYC

March 1, 2007

I’m back in New York City … alas, I’m super busy right now and am having a hard time posting regularly on the blog. So I’m going to take a break from Polis, and in the meantime, work on a redesign and announce a relaunch in the not too distant future.

I will continue to update the NYT Articles page. If you’re new to Polis, please read about the Book I’m writing (the main reason Polis is going on hiatus). If you would like to know more about me, click About at the top of the website. I have some new photo essays, click here to view them on flickr.

Global Warming: The Final Verdict

January 25, 2007

From an article on the Guardian‘s website:

Global warming is destined to have a far more destructive and earlier impact than previously estimated, the most authoritative report yet produced on climate change will warn next week.

A draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by The Observer, shows the frequency of devastating storms … will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.

The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries.

Read the entire article here, if you can stomach it.

To learn about the carbon tax idea, click here.

Cleveland’s Industrial Flats

January 3, 2007

Over the holidays, I spent several days shooting in an area of Cleveland known as the industrial flats. It’s a modern day ghost town.

Click here to see the edited photo essay on flickr.


Play the Approval Matrix

November 14, 2006

picture-3.pngOne of my favorite regular features of New York magazine is the Approval Matrix, and now the website has an interactive feature where you can make up your own Approval Matrix. This is how mine looked about mid-way through (click to enlarge).

iPod To Go

November 6, 2006


First there was the revival of the automat on St. Marks Pl., serving up delectables such as bite-size burgers and mac&cheese. Now I see there is an iPod vending machine in the Atlanta airport (and probably others). Just swipe your credit card, select your model, and shazam, fresh hot tunes to go.

While You Were Out…

November 3, 2006


On a work trip until Monday-ish. Check back soon.

A Chain, Some Crack and No Smoking Guns

October 16, 2006

scales.gifI recently sat on a jury trial, and this is my account of the experience.


Shortly after 8 pm on November 30, 2005, Terrance Daniels was walking to a deli on 2nd Avenue and 123th Street in Manhattan when he was accosted on the street corner by two black men. While one stood aside, the other told Mr. Daniels he was going to “run” his chain — translation: “steal your necklace” — a long, thick silver-colored piece with an outsized medallion in the shape of a Jesus head.

Mr. Daniels had just finished making payments on it to an East Harlem jewelry store, $500 in total — the first robbery, as we jurors later joked. Struggling with the robber who had grabbed his shirt and the chain, he indignantly refused to give it up – until a gun was brandished.

Whether 21 year-old Michael Johnson committed this robbery was just one of several charges that a Manhattan jury recently decided in a case that was, by any measure, just another sad tale of ordinary street crime, mixed up with drugs, to be resolved by a criminal justice system that is anything but an exact science and chock full of unfortunate clichés.

Stage right was the young prosecuting attorney a little too eager to test his mettle. Stage left was the bumbling middle-aged public defender who kept referring to “nickel bags and dime bags” circa 1979. Holding court was Judge A. Goldberg peering over the top of her reading glasses with a permanent “no fools suffered here” expression. For comic relief was the court reporter, a beautiful black woman with a tangle of braids swept up into clip on the top of her head, which bobbed up and down like a rooster pecking out the courtroom testimony.
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Plane Crash

October 12, 2006


As everyone surely knows by now, a small plane crashed into a luxury high-rise on the Upper East Side (I could make a karma joke here, but that might be in poor taste). It’s tragic and horrible, yada yada. So here’s the fun part. The Times flexes its multi-media muscle with this groovy interactive graphic. Check it out.

Welcome Back to Polis

September 5, 2006


I’ve been spending a WHOLE lot of time redesigning Polis when I should have been working and writing my book (!). But here is where Polis now lives (archives will continue to be accessible on Blogger). Click through pages to view photo essays, browse Times articles, etc. I’m going to keep my blog very active and continue to add features, so check back early and often. In the meantime, I’ve ported over my favorite (and less time-dependent) posts from Blogger, so the archives read like a Best of Polis. If you’re a new-ish reader, a cruise through the archives should be fast, fun and informative!


April 2, 2006

Ah, Tompkins Square Park on a beautiful spring Sunday…. who needs blooming daffodils and singing robins when you have witty social commentary? UPDATE: Curbed alerts me to MySpace – The Movie!, a satirical series of short videos about MySpace idiocy. Totally hilarious.


H.C. Bunner

January 24, 2006

bunner.jpgWe think of the last five years as a unique time in the New York real estate market, but in fact, it is a very old story.

The Story of New York House was first published in serial form in Scribner’s magazine in 1887. It is a lovely bit of historical fiction (although that term wasn’t yet coined), which begins in 1807 and takes place over several decades. The story, or allegory, is about the inexorable march of development followed by decline and finally transformation.

It was written by H.C. Bunner, a prolific urban journalist, fiction writer and editor who lived and worked in New York City almost his entire life but has been all but forgotten. He was the long-time editor of Puck magazine (which gave the Puck building at the corner of Houston and Lafayette its moniker). Puck was one of the earliest humor magazines and had a major influence not only on that genre, but on cartooning as well. It was one of the first magazines to use color illustrations that lampooned politicians and the bourgeoisie. Below is an illustration drawn by the magazine’s publisher, Joseph Keppler, whose name is more associated with the magazine’s than Bunner’s (to see more Puck prints and posters, click here). The fat cats (pictured below) are in color and are casting shadows of the poor and decrepit behind them.

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