2012: A Year of Extremes

Excuse me while I blow the dust off this blog like an old N64 cartridge. Speaking of which, let me go on an IMMEDIATE tangent: My friend was over the other night and said his mom was planning on throwing out some of his old videogames (NES, Sega Saturn, N64 etc.), to which me and my roommate FREAKED OUT and told him to make sure she did no such thing. I regretted trading in my N64, original GameBoy, and assorted games for basically one and half original Xbox games almost immediately after I did so. Not only because I didn’t think I would ever want to play them again (What I would give to play Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye, Diddy Kong Racing, any of the San Francisco Rush games, or Perfect Dark right now…) but also because I could have gotten a thousand times more for them on eBay versus the pittance I got from GameStop when I originally sold them. We assured him that if he didn’t want to keep them, we would gladly take them off his hands, or if he did want to keep them he could probably make a good chunk of change selling all that old school gamer swag on eBay. So here’s a lesson for all you cash strapped kiddies out there: If you’re desperate for the new Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, Dance Dance Revolution, or whatever you’re all playing nowadays, sell a kidney but don’t sell your classic games to GameStop for a fraction of what they’re worth. Throw those gaming treasures on eBay > ??? > profit. You can thank me later.

It’s been a casual five months since my last blog post and clearly that “post every other week” thing didn’t work out so well. Like I hypothesized in August, the last thing I want to do after staring at two computer screens all day is come home and stare at my laptop screen for another hour or two. Pretty much all I want to do when I get home from work is drink, sleep, play videogames, or go to the gym. Oh and remember that blog post where I was super excited about getting Fallout 3 for $10? I just finished it and it’s DLC on Sunday…76 in-game hours later. Oh the problems of being a videogame completionist… Now onto Batman: Arkham Asylum, Fallout: New Vegas, Halo 4, & Black Ops II…eventually. Not a lot of time for videogames now that I’m (sort of) a grown up.

Anyway… Now that 2012 has come and gone, I figured I should sort of wrap up how ridiculous of a year it has been for me. I’ve gone from being more broke than I’ve ever been, to having more money than I’ve ever known in my life, to buried under a pile of student debt from which I may never recover; from being so depressed that I didn’t even want to leave my apartment, to being happier than I’ve ever been in my life; and from working as an Economic Development & GIS Consultant and attending graduate school for City & Regional Planning to working as a Social Media Manager and Consultant. I bought…well, financed…my (realistic) dream car, a 2004 Infiniti G35, moved into a new apartment with two of my pals, posted back up in the gym for the first time in a year and a half (EAT BIG TO GET BIG), started going to grown up bars, and thanks to Don Draper and Roger Sterling graduated from boxed wine, Captain Morgan, and Four Lokos, to scotch, bourbon, and martinis. 2012 was a year of self improvement and refinement, and all in all my life is considerably better than it was a year ago. But although I’m thankful, I’m certainly not complacent.

“The only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it.”
– Roger Sterling, Mad Men

Exactly six months ago today, when I started at my current position, I was thrilled at the opportunity to build my company’s social media presence from scratch. I developed our accounts, I collaborate with our graphic designer on our branding, manage our social advertising, campaigns and engagement strategy. Very few social media managers have full reign over their company’s accounts. But being a one man social media team at a company where few, if anyone else even knows what Twitter is can be pretty lonely, and the environment can be creatively stifling. Without saying too much about my company, let’s just say the industry is very slow to embrace new technology and media. I feel like I haven’t even begun to tap my potential as a Social Media/Community/Account Manager, and my New Year’s Resolution is to move into a role that will both challenge me and help me learn from the people around me. I know this term is played out, but hustle is the word of the year for 2013. I’ve also had the fortunate opportunity to gather a few social media consulting clients, and if I find out the agency route isn’t for me, a small business social media consulting venture might be another possible career path.

Oh and wow 2012 was an unreal year for movies. And since I love ranking things, let me rank the ones I saw:

1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. Skyfall
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4. Lincoln
5. The Dark Knight Rises
6. Silver Linings Playbook
7. Looper
8. Django Unchained
9. Argo
10. The Avengers
11. Taken 2
12. Cloud Atlas
13. The Grey
14. Total Recall

Any year where a Christopher Nolan Batman movie is released and it isn’t my favorite movie means it must have been an outrageous year for movies. Daniel Day-Lewis deserves to win Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom might have been Wes Anderson’s best offering yet, and after Silver Linings Playbook I now have a full blown celebrity crush on Jennifer Lawrence (ugh and Bradley Cooper).

I also think I went to more professional sporting events in one year than I’ve ever been to as well. In 2012 I attended a Yankees – Tigers game, Jets – Panthers pre-season game, the U.S. Open, and an Eagles – Panthers game. Hopefully I’ll have the means to attend even more in 2013, but only time will tell.

Hey…you know, this felt kind of good to blog again, but maybe that’s the scotch talking? Anyway, I’ll try to do at least a post a month going forward to keep you all on your toes. Oh, and Kevin Youkilis is dead to me.

The Coug abides.

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The Tragedy of Penn Station

Once again, my apologies for no post yesterday. Couldn’t find enough time to be effectively witty and I wouldn’t want my name associated with a shoddy product. The blog post today is going to keep with my eclectic topic selection and enter the realm of architecture and planning. As a former student and still current lover of all things city planning, you should expect some such posts from time to time. So I bet most of you are looking at this picture to the left and thinking, oh what is that an old tyme picture of Grand Central Station? Some fancypants railroad station in Luxembourg!? My friend, you are so very wrong. This 1962 photo is of the interior of old Pennsylvania Station, just a year before it was demolished in a frenzy of “out with the old, in with the new” urban renewal projects in New York City.

I, like the majority of you, knew nothing about the former Penn Station. It wasn’t until New York: A Documentary Film, a 14 hour PBS mini series directed by Ric Burns (brother of documentarian Ken Burns) and chronicling the history of the world’s greatest city, changed all that. This 1999 documentary, coupled with my love for maps and SimCity, was one of the driving forces behind my initial desitre to go into city planning. But thanks to this Ric Burns masterpiece and the chilling, tempered, masterful narration by David Ogden Stiers, I now know about the tragic destruction of Penn Station, the fiery personalities of progressivists like Al Smith and Fiorello LaGuardia, and Robert Moses’ dictator-esque rise to power through various NYC agencies. If you love New York City, you have to watch this documentary (also if you love baseball, you have to watch Ken Burns’ Baseball). Ric Burns also added another episode after September 11th.

Penn Station, 1911

Built in 1910, the original Pennsylvania Station occupied two city blocks between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and from 31st to 33rd Streets. In the style of grandiose European  rail stations, with high sky-lit ceilings and Greek columns, Penn Station was a gorgeous specimen, and faithfully served Midtown Manhattan with regional and local rail service for 53 years. Then…urban renewal happened. For awhile, “urban renewal” and “urban revitalization” were mistakenly used interchangeably, but after the full impact of urban renewal was made apparent, it often meant a death knell for historic landmarks and neighborhoods. 1960s urban renewal projects, especially in New York, were supposed to bring the city and it’s outdated infrastructure into the modern age. And while there were a number of very important infrastructure projects undertaken in the period between 1950-1980, it usually meant out with the old and in with the new, often with no respect for the history or architectural beauty of the buildings that were being replaced.

One such project almost saw the demise of Grand Central Station, but instead saw the construction of the 60-story Pan Am building (now the MetLife building) atop the architectural wonder. I honestly don’t know which would have been worse, since a skyscraper being built on top of Grand Central is already an insult to its history. But the 1950s were all about construction. In the years following WWII, you couldn’t put up skyscrapers fast enough. Real estate was being eaten up by the day, and to developers at the time, Grand Central was just taking up valuable space.

I guess that in the era of Robert Moses (read about him, he was a world class asshole, though he started out with good intentions) and urban renewal, this was a minor victory, since in the end the beautiful Grand Central Station was preserved. However, Penn Station’s fate was much different. Despite outcry from historians, architects, the public, and like-minded planners trying to preserve the landmark, the powers that be had made up their minds and went through with it’s demolition in 1963. Until I watched New York: A Documentary Film, I had no idea that there had been a previous Penn Station, and I feel as though it wouldn’t have been quite as big of a tragedy, if what replaced it wasn’t one of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever laid eyes on (New Brunswick Gateway Center included). Of course I’m talking about Madison Square Garden, home to the New York Rangers, Knicks, as well as copious concert and event spaces. My apologies to any Rangers or Knicks fans reading this, since I know all you know is MSG, and it must be quite beloved like an ugly duckling, but now that you know what was in it’s place, even you have to admit it’s an absolute tragedy.

The destruction of Penn Station, 1965

Take a long look at that photo. Taken in 1965 as the original Pennsylvania Station was razed to make room for a redesigned, underground station, sports arena and office complex, all designed in the beautiful International style of the 1960s….. Completely torn down, with it’s ornate decorations shipped out to rot in some scrapyard in the Meadowlands.  Home to the Rangers, Knicks, and St. Johns NCAA basketball since it’s completion in 1968, it’s design has led it to be known as one of the loudest arenas in both the NHL and NBA. It’s also been home to a cavalcade of other sports, events, and teams throughout its 44 year tenue (I still need to get my WNBA season tickets!). Below, is the atrocity that now sits atop the new Penn Station. This is what replaced the gorgeous New York landmark.

THIS is what replaced old Penn Station.

I don’t care how big of Rangers/Knicks/Liberty (ha.) fan you are. This is a travesty. Vincent Scully (not to be confused with Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers), one of the most vocal critics of the 1963 destruction of old Penn Station said of it’s incarnation: “One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.” So, like my rant about Batman Begins, this is sort of a public service announcement. My attempt to drop some knowledge about a topic that I think everyone needs to know about. I can only hope that when it comes time for a new Madison Square Garden, or a new Pennsylvania Station, that the designers pay homage to the beautiful landmark that came before it.