Census Tract 143

The news about New York City's disappointing 2010 Census numbers — disappointing at least to the politicians who want more to look after — overlooks New York County Census Tract 143, which, according to The Times' handy interactive 2010 Census Map, posted some of the higher gains in the entire city — a full 38.9 percent change from 2000.

Of course the 25 people in the census tract don't represent a huge block of residents in the larger scheme of things, but numbers are numbers, and that large deep blue swath on the interactive map should make boosters breathe a little easier.

The only question to me will be What 25 people actually live in Central Park? Are there homeless encampments in the park or something? I didn't think that existed anymore. Are they counting the penguins in the zoo? Is Donald Trump squatting in the back room of one of the ice rinks?

At the very least, someone should track down these residents — what a wonderful place to live! I'm sure a lot of people would want to hear more about it.

The Census Tract 143 data from 2000 is interesting — of the 18 people living in the park, 12 were men and six were women. One person was between the ages of 10 and 14. There was one family and — unaccountably — three houses.

Then there are the 14 people who live in Brooklyn's Census Tract 407 — otherwise known as the Brooklyn portion of Evergreen Cemetery. Hrm.

Posted: March 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Back Of Napkin | Tags: ,

The Hangover Clinic

So on Friday night we went to a rum tasting hosted by some friends. The thing about tasting events — er, parties — that feature spirits is that you have to be very careful not to get too — what's the technical term? — trashed.

One of the hosts was an actual physician. It's not often that you get to pick the mind of an actual physician, so when she said that she would have to work the following night, and being that we were all attending a rum tasting, and being that tasting events (read: parties) that feature spirits are perhaps inevitably going to involve hangovers, I asked her whether there was anything, you know, medical that one could do about hangovers.

Sure, she revealed — for one, you could hook yourself up to an intravenous infusion of a saline solution. This would be similar to the folk remedy of drinking Gatorade, she explained, but much more efficient, since it would skip your stomach altogether and go straight into your bloodstream. (I think I'm getting the details right, but now that I don't have a brain to pick, I'm working from memory, and a hazy one at that.) An IV, and perhaps an anti-nausea pill, and you'd be good to go, she said.

So the obvious follow-up question, in my mind at least, was Why aren't there hangover clinics? And If there aren't already hangover clinics, what's preventing us from opening one?

It would work like this: You wake up hungover, force yourself out of bed, walk down the street, enter the clinic, get a short exam, pay your [fill in cost of what the market for such a service might bear]-dollar fee, get hooked up to an IV and one hour later you're fixed! Brilliant! Right?

There could be flat screen televisions showing lame movies or sporting events. There could be "healthy," "restorative" juices served. There could be comfortable sofas and a soft color scheme. Cucumbers on your eyes . . . come in your sweatpants, it doesn't matter!

We could team with bars, who would provide little wooden nickels at the end of the night to really inebriated individuals — knowing you'd get the service paid in advance might provide a big boost for the business. For the bar, it's a value-added type of thing.

I know, maybe a clinic isn't your speed — maybe it sounds too much like it might be a place where you drink doses of methadone out of little paper cups. Fine — I get it — you're "fancy". Then what about a private service that comes to your home and performs the same function? Or we could limit the operations to corporate accounts and do it in the privacy of a hotel suite or even a conference room. We could get started in Las Vegas or New Orleans and focus on conventions.

Think about it — bachelor and bachelorette parties — if you're getting married the following day, you'd give a lot for this type of service. Michael even suggested a name: "Hang Over." Get it?

I just don't see the downside.

Our doctor friend thought that the cost for the materials would be minimal — she guessed that the bags of solution and the tubing required would cost about $15.

As for "next steps," well, that would involve getting an actual hangover and testing the method. For myself, the prospect of willingly getting a hangover is a little nauseating, but I'm open to grand experiments — though I have to say that I am a little squeamish about needles.

Yes, we can dream.

Posted: January 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Back Of Napkin | Tags: , , ,

And Then On Thursday Everything Folded In On Itself . . .

Every couple of weeks we get together with a small group of people for "wine night" in which Jen pick out a selection of wines and I make dinner. Jen calls it the "Humpday Tipples" because we hold it on Wednesday and because we tipple. Part of it is an excuse to try new wines but it also serves a purpose for Jen in that it helps her with her wine studies, which is one of the extracurricular activities she's undertaken as of late. Of course, the other part of it is that we get to get loaded.

So anyways, one of the side benefits of the Humpday Tipple is that while we tipple, we develop brilliant new schemes. Sadly, most of these brilliant new schemes are lost to the ethyl but every once in a while a brilliant new scheme survives into the hazy next day. Which brings us to the latest brilliant new scheme: The Professional Devil's Advocate.

Some of us in the group work in the general field of consulting of one sort or another. Or at least that's sort of what it seems like, since sometimes I don't totally understand what the field of consulting is all about. Anyway, last night somehow we got onto the topic of consultants, or consulting, or whatever it is that the term "consulting" refers to, since like I just said, sometimes I don't totally understand what the field of consulting is about. And anyway, it occurs to us — probably all of us at one time, which is generally the mark of brilliance, or at least drunkenness — that there should totally, totally be Professional Devil's Advocates, because wouldn't be cool for there to be a whole battery of "anti-consultants" whose sole purpose is to pick apart what the original consultants come up with because consultants sometimes seem to be in the habit of telling a client what that organization wants to hear? (I don't get why some act like this is a bad thing.)

It takes only a couple of minutes for everyone to agree that we should go into business as Professional Devil's Advocates. We will start a firm and beat the bushes for clients. We will recruit experts in the field — every field! — to function as team leaders in the business. We will make a living telling clients how their new plans will suck, or that the other consultants have produced a pack of lies designed to circularly confirm what the client has wanted the consultants to tell them. It would have been an awesome idea in 2002! (In fact, someone seems to have suggested this back in 2002.) Slate could have profiled us. We would call ourselves the No Men (as opposed to Yes Men — get it?).

Because really, who doesn't want to sit back and say why things are wrong, or why they will remain wrong, or why nothing someone tries to do will ever be right? You could call it purposelessly contrarian, needlessly reflexive or even anti-American, but deep down you know that it would feel good to do this and actually get paid for it and that really is the American dream.

At some point after everyone agrees that this would indeed be a brilliant new scheme it occurs to me that someone should perhaps play the role of Devil's Advocate for the Devil's Advocate idea and attempt to tease out scheme's deficiencies. I ask whether this already exists in the role of "auditor" and am quickly shouted down that auditors are probably too scientific for what we are proposing and that an auditor's role is just to count shit. OK, fair enough, I'm still game then.

Then it happened — my head felt squishy this morning while I was making the bed and it suddenly occurred to me that Mission of Burma guitarist Roger Miller had a side project in the late 1980s/early 1990s called "No Man." Is it possible that the name was derived from "Yes Man"? The British band No-Man seems to have taken its name from the phrase "No man is an island" (adding parenthetically "Except for the Isle of Man").

I will now insert a link and embedded video of this W.B. Mason ad that played over and over during the 2010 baseball season (back when we had MLB Extra Innings):

Some take exception to W.B. Mason commercials. See here and here, for example. I always found the lady's tone so grating — first she sneers "the dullest reality show I've ever seen" like she's so above watching dull reality shows and then she follows that with that elliptical "or maybe not . . ." phrase that ends the commercial. For a time I felt that there was something especially pernicious about the combination of the disinterested sneer/voyeuristic thrill that the actor expresses in a span of only eight seconds. Like so many mid-week, mid-season baseball games, the commercial — or rather this eight-second clip — made me fatigued, sad and pensive about the way we consume media. No seriously, I swear to God — this W.B. Mason commercial made me sad — over and over and over again during this past baseball season. There's a reason she's reading a big paperback while a newspaper sits splayed out on the comforter in front of her and she's watching television at the same time — all at 3 in the morning, mind you. It hurts my head thinking about how much media this lady consumes, and how schizophrenic she is about both sneering at it and being absolutely compelled to watch it.

You could argue that I am reacting so strongly to this eight-second clip because I recognize this impulse in myself, which would be a fair observation. If true, then it makes me sadder — it's bad enough to see yourself in a W.B. Mason ad and that much worse to have to admit that you should probably take it to heart. Who But W.B.? Who indeed. Who indeed.

But you know what the worst part of that commercial is? The "To be continued . . ." at the end. I hate "To be continued" and the ellipses at the end of "To be continued." And yet . . . and yet I not only still continue to use ellipses — and not the Word auto-corrected dotdotdot but the luxurious dot dot dot — the kind of ellipses that breaks word wraps and makes editors cringe. Those are like heroin to me.

To be continued . . .

Posted: December 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Back Of Napkin, Half-Baked Theory, Shiftless When Idle | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,