Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, June 30, 2021

It went over well last summer in Manhattan, so they’re doing it again this year: NYC is shutting down swaths of city streets for running, skating, and biking.

In its debut last August, the program attracted about 50,000 bicyclists and pedestrians on each of its three days to a path from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 72nd Street. This year’s events, announced on Monday by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, will take place on Aug. 8, 15 and 22, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

But this time, the outer boroughs get to join in the fun:

Citing a positive response to the program — an idea inspired by a recreational experiment in Bogotá, Colombia, that began in the 1970s — the city has expanded it to smaller stretches of the other boroughs on weekends throughout the summer. The program will reach 13 neighborhoods, although none of the additional street closings will match the size of the main Manhattan route.

The closings will be staggered. For example, five blocks of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, will be closed to cars and trucks the next two Saturdays, while a stretch of Van Duzer Street in Staten Island will be closed on Aug. 1, 8, 15 and 22.

Full schedule is on the City’s Summer Streets website. Looks like I’ve got a ready excuse for breaking out my rollerblades again (without lugging them all the way to Central Park).

For quickie reference, here’s the Google Map for the Manhattan route. The other boroughs can map out their own trails:

View Larger Map

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/30/2009 10:39:46 PM
Category: New Yorkin'
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If you haven’t seen the first marketing salvos for Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming flick Brüno, you will soon enough. The above photo of a taxicab rooftop-signage placement has been a common-enough sight in New York for at least the past month.

What I like about it, and indeed, about much of the movie’s ad placements so far, is the presence of those two little dots above the “u”. That would be the umlaut, an accent-like diacritical marking that comes in for some heavy derision in North America:

You think you’re so damn cool, huh? Just hanging out, chillin’, above all those vowels. You’re all, “Ooh, look at me, I’m a chic umlaut. I make girls’ names look modish, like Zoë and Chloë… God, you’re such a poseur, umlaut. You’re nothing but two measly dots. You’re a Eurotrash colon lying down. Nobody thinks you’re cool.

This is precisely the effect that Baron Cohen is going for. Because it makes only the rarest of appearance in English (I believe “naïve” is the only word that uses it, and it routinely goes without the double-dotting), its appearance is an instantly-recognizable signifier of foreignness — and snooty European (if not Scandinavian) foreignness, to boot. So not only does Brüno employ it in the very title of the film, but also plants that umlaut freely among the promotional language, like a comedic badge. Thus does the theatrical release date in July become “Jüly”, and so on.

This joke wouldn’t work if umlaut usage wasn’t already pretty trod upon on this side of the Atlantic. Despite being actually useful in Germanic grammar (basically, the mark is a space-saving substitute for a following-letter “e”, so “Brüno” can also be spelled “Brueno”), its most common manifestation here has been as purely stylistic embellishment for pretentious rock band names.

So really, Brüno’s wanton use of the umlaut is only reinforcing the established tradition of diacritical mis-marking in American pop culture. It’s a visual cue that we all pick up on, and laugh with. Which is the whole point of this type of comedy. It just so happens that, as a result, no vowel is safe.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/30/2009 11:29:23 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Creative, Movies, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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