What’s a Mook?

Charlie waits for Johnny at the bar, Mean Streets
The Guardian is promoting a new partnership with postal video rental outfit Movietrak. I tried it out and got Martin Scorcese’s Mean Streets, a movie I haven’t watched in a decade, the next day. The DVD is beautifully packaged in a bag that doubles as a post-paid return envelope. The whole concept is very well thought out. Isn’t it remarkable that, in a home like ours, with broadband, dozens of movie channels on digital TV (including a ‘near video on demand’ service) and a perfectly good video shop half a mile away, services like Movietrak’s can still find a niche?

Ten years ago I’d have told you that Mean Streets was my favourite movie. These days I wouldn’t. The film is much too ragged. But those ten years have obviously added something else to my perspective. The courage and energy needed to push through a first feature like this one, to marshal those resources (De Niro, Keitel, New York City…) and to keep the whole thing moving at such a pace are unarguable and breathtaking. If I get a chance to create something half as good, half as authentic, just once in my life, I’ll die happy.

Hyper-real panorama

Hans Nyberg’s latest ‘QTVR of the day‘ is a suitably hyper-real spherical encounter with a public hearing of the 9-11 Commission in NYC, assembled by Jook Leung. These images are very unsettling. There’s something about this totally immersive (and totally mute) imagery that can make even a snapshot of bureaucrats at work strange and enthralling.

(don’t even try to load this page in Mozilla on OS X – your machine will lock!)

Wi-Fi in the park

Steve Johnson’s excellent weblog links to a great story in the NY Times about the free Wi-Fi network in Bryant Park. I remember the park as a gorgeous place to have Sunday brunch and read the papers, but that was before 802.11b. Bryant Park (right behind the NY Public Library if I remember rightly) was once so dangerous and run down it was literally boarded up. Wi-Fi didn’t save the park but it does now enrich the its complex ecology and will probably make its regeneration more robust.

The downtown music scene after 9/11

I sometimes listen to Radio 3’s Mixing It. Freaky stuff from every corner of music and only occasionally a bit po-faced. This week I stumbled across a web page about their visit to NYC in August 2002. They recorded a one-off programme with members of the downtown music scene, many of whom lived and worked within a few blocks of the WTC – Sonic Youth in Murray Street, Laurie Anderson in Greenwich Street, for instance. The programme is excellent – you can listen to it in Real Audio. Some of the artists interviewed have obviously had their worlds turned upside down by the event. Others do that amazing thing that only artists and egomaniacs can do – coming through a world-changing trauma, worldview, prejudices and ego intact – “yeah. It was a nightmare. And now I’m mostly working with tabla and tape loops…”

Digital divide – approx. 3000 miles wide

One look at this map (From the Public Internet Project via Werblog) showing Manhattan’s wi-fi nodes should be enough to prove that the biggest digital divide of all is the one that runs roughly North-South down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What would a similar map of London, Paris or Berlin look like? Sparse, I’ll bet. The distribution of nodes within Manhattan also speaks volumes of the divide at ground level, though.

If I’ve got this right, the big, empty zone at top right is dominated by social housing likely to be light on Wi-Fi. The graphic recalls Booth’s extraordinary 1889 map of London, visualising Victorian urban poverty for the first time in startling, block-by-block detail. (got this wrong yesterday and credited the maps to Mayhew who wrote about the London poor. Luckily nobody visits this weblog so I think I got away with it).