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Preview: Joel's humanistic blog

Joel's humanistic blog

Updated: 2018-03-05T21:16:40.822-05:00


Hidden Treasure: The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre


The first of an upcoming series of Joel’s overlooked personal favorite places, events and other things that should be better known.

What is it?

A palatial movie theater.

Where is it hidden?

In Jersey City, New Jersey.

Why is it a treasure?

The screen is huuuge.  Like, very huge.  That-aquatic-dinosaur-in-Jurassic World-that-dwarfs-a-whale huge.  While some IMAX and similar screens may be larger, the sheer feeling of an entire building devoted to one humongous screen is like nowhere else.

Popcorn and drinks are a dollar each. With tickets usually going for $8 (less for double or triple features!), there’s no better value for a dropped Hamilton.

The building is unique and historic.
It dates back to 1929!  Built just before the stock market crash, the last pre-Great Derpession moment when lavish building for a mass audience was economically feasible, it maintains much of its original style.  Much of the facade still needs fixing up from decades of disrepair, but the core functions of a theater are fully operational, and the twist on the original grandeur makes it perfect for an Addams family reunion (which actually was a theme this past Halloween!)

How did I find it?

I knew about it for a while (I’d sometimes seen flyers for its upcoming screenings at NYC theaters such as Film Forum), but it was the closing of Manhattan’s Ziegfeld theater in early 2016 that spurred me to check it out.

Why is it hidden?
It’s a little out of the way of the NYC-focused revival theater circuit, and not as hip as the Alamo Drafthouse theaters in Yonkers and Brooklyn.  As a non-commercial theater, it doesn’t do current releases or have big marketing campaigns.  (Then again, the Ziegfeld was neglected when it was run like a typical big-chain commercial theater in its later years.)

And unfortunately, it lacks a working air conditioning system, so it has to take a summer break during peak moviegoing season.

What is the path to the treasure? Well, literally a PATH, since it’s across the street from the Journal Square PATH station.  “JSQ” is part of a subway line (though not part of the “NYC subway” system, another reason it’s quasi-“hidden”) that bridges New Jersey and Manhattan and connects to various transit systems.

There is one last movie screening tonight before the summer break — The Red Shoes at 7PM — and the building will be open for the JCArts Annual Year-End Gallery Show.

Is this thing still on?


It's been a while.

This blog was never updated on a daily basis even in its early heyday, but it trailed off in a major way.  Some of this is due to Twitter and then Facebook, and my attempted clean break to Wordpress was unsuccessful in starting new momentum where the old had stopped.

But I've been craving a return to the old-school blogosphere from the maelstrom of gossip and trivia and venting that is social media.  That's where everyone seems to be nowadays, but some of my fellow bloggers who started around the time I did, like Tom Knapp, have kept at personal blogging with a regular if relatively small readership, so it can be done.

And I was sick through most of May, so any attempt at doing a whole month of writing would have to wait.

So in a new month, here I am.  Are you?



My challenge to myself this month: how much can I write, including but not limited to this blog, in the shortest month of the year?

happy 100th, centenarian mathematician Richard K. Guy!


Some mathematicians die young, like Galois, Abel, or Zhitomirskiy. Others are active well into their 90s, like Bertrand Russell, Martin Gardner or Richard K. Guy, the last of which turns 100 today.  I recently remembered an article a couple years back about him walking over 800 steps to the top of a tower every year, and looking it up shows that he did it this year:

From the The Strong Law of Small Numbers to the glider in the game of life, Guy's discoveries (and compilation of the undiscovered, in Unsolved Problems in Number Theory) will be leading to new mathematics in 2116.  Happy birthday, Richard K. Guy!

newspaper roundup


On April 1, my op-ed "The race is on: Uber versus the real sharing economy" ran in the newspaper Jamaica Observer.  And no, that's not an April Fools joke.

In fact, the piece was written all the way back in February, a month in which it appeared in print in both The Des Moines Register (not online, except behind the paywalls of the paper's subscriber archive and the ProQuest academic database) and La Tribuna Hispana (in that paper's own Spanish translation!).  The same month, two of my letters to the editor also appeared in newsprint: "Tests and time" in Queens Chronicle and "Jews Onscreen" in The Jewish Week.

The September-October Country


It's the 13th of October. Boo!

Worst Blu-ray cover ever: National Lampoon's Vacation.


There are plenty of terrible Blu-ray covers out there, but none of them can quite match the one for National Lampoon's Vacation.
The theatrical poster had a badass illustration by Boris Vallejo in the style of his own sword-and-sorcery book covers:
Then, the DVD cover used what I would have bet my life was the crappiest possible Chevy Chase photo on it:
Luckily I didn't make that bet, because the Blu-ray cover achieved the Herculean feat of using an even crappier Chevy Chase photo.  Feast your eyes on this:

back to (modern) school blogging


It's been a while.

In the past two years, I've been away from this humble BlogSpot(TM) blog, experimenting with a move towards a WordPress(TM) platform.  But I just couldn't get the hang of it.  I had used WordPress for more disciplined writing on other sites (but that just made personal blogging feel more like a chore than self-expression), but I could never figure out how to set up the plugins that gave it all the bells and whistles on my own.  And worst of all, my readership was not just the intermittent trickle it is here (hello, all 4 followers I've retained over the years!) but nonexistent.  For better or worse, my claim to Internet fame remains on this blog.

I began to need a change from my change of pace.  Something without the customizable fussiness of WordPress, something more like the "type in a box and press Publish" simplicity of the interface that got me posting online in the first place.

Something that plenty of the bloggers I enjoy reading still use for personal musings and community to this day.

So here I am... again.

To kick things off, I'm trying again at modern school week!  Last year's attempt in WordPress exile fizzled, but with the upcoming 43rd annual reunion of the Friends of the Modern School coming up this Saturday, I want to see if I can post something Modern School-related every day this week!  (No I haven't attended all 43... more like the last 10, give or take.)  My blog post about the 2006 reunion is the most comprehensive overview I've written of this unique educational experiment so far, but that should change... this week!

Update: aaaand the very first promise I make when returning to blogging, I fail to keep.  That's why I try to avoid making promises about personal blogging...

National Lampoon's European Socialist Vacation


When C4SS Media made this video, they obviously forgot to include this background image:

A candle in the cold and the dark: 17 years without Carl Sagan


Sorry to not have a more substantial post, but I thought I'd check in with the blogosphere on the 17th anniversary of Carl Sagan's passing.  It's been a long seven years since the 10th anniversary blogathon (yet Sagan would have only just turned 79!), and the Internet is a very different place, but I am thinking about how to revive something like the blogathon on an ongoing basis.

go see Suspiria at the Museum of the Moving Image


Must-see film screening of the YEAR: Dario Argento's horror classic Suspiria at the Museum of the Moving Image tomorrow.

Yes, it gets shown all the time at revival theaters.  But there is no movie that more demands to be experienced in the very best possible visual and sound quality, deservedly celebrated for both its gorgeous cinematography and stunning soundtrack.  I've even been to a screening where the theater had the truly unenviable dilemma of putting the film either on a screen with sound-system problems, or one with better sound but markedly worse visual quality.  And this is almost the Platonic ideal of a presentation: in the Museum's gigantic main theater with the most impeccable revival screening environment in New York, in not only a 35mm print in an era when that is becoming increasingly rare, but an "imported 35mm print of uncut UK version"!

the opening sentence of an upcoming book review


"In 1975, two leftists, one of whom had been a top GOP insider, anarcho-capitalist, and a founder of the American libertarian movement, collaborated on a book published by a leading Washington, D.C. left-wing think tank and the Unitarian Universalist Association advocating decentralization of political and economic power from the federal, state and city levels to local neighborhoods — hopefully facilitated by the passage of a Republican senator's bill to divert 75% of income tax revenue to them."

Santa Claus Conquers the Gray Lady


Little-known fact: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians received a positive review in The New York Times praising Pia Zadora's "appealing" performance. No, really.

Lost in Non-Non-Translation


At one point, this was how the Chrome browser's built-in automatic translation handled the header of

Selected Works of Voltairine de Cleyre on Project Gutenberg


A day I have been awaiting for almost a decade has arrived: the classic, yet extremely rare collection of anarchist and freethought essays and poetry Selected Works of Voltairine de Cleyre has been posted as a Project Gutenberg eBook. It was in the summer of 2004 that I both read Selected Works and started proofreading for Project Gutenberg; the book immediately struck me as the perfect fit for Project Gutenberg's mission of making freely available accessible editions of public domain books, particularly as Selected Works had always been overlooked by print publishers of such public domain material.  (Incidentally, the other classic turn-of-the-20th-century anarchist volume I read that summer, Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread, made it to Project Gutenberg in 2007).  And how fitting that the eBook be posted on the Fourth of July weekend, since de Cleyre's American-as-apple-pie anarchism is the perfect bookend to the Declaration of Independence being deliberately chosen as the very first Project Gutenberg eBook by a self-described "Ayn Rand freak" who was "doing Project Gutenberg for the most selfish of reasons - because I want a world that has Project Gutenberg in it".  (Amusingly, the eBook of The Conquest of Bread retains the notice "PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA".)  I have much, much more to blog about this crucial book, but for now, enjoy a painstakingly formatted edition of a lost classic, available in a variety of both browser- and eReader-friendly eBook formats and proofread by some of the most obsessive typo-finders on the Internet!



As mentioned by dorkbot's founder, NYC meeting organizer and sexy geek douglas irving repetto earlier today, he has just replaced the static dorkbot logo on the dorkbot home page with my animated GIF version assembling the several alternate-color-schemed logos douglas had previously created. Though I've contributed in various small ways to dorkbot over the years, this is a true honor! And I think it's the perfect encapsulation of the dorkbot spirit that an animated GIF, whose frames are images created by douglas with an old-school analog pen plotter, joins a BLINK tag on a webpage that's remained in plain-vanilla HTML all these years while waiting for the world to catch up with it.

Writing the Libertarian New York Times Sunday Dialogue


Here's the perfect opportunity for aspiring libertarian op-ed writers to follow Murray Rothbard's lead in getting into the opinion section of The New York Times: send in a response to the newspaper's weekly "Invitation to a Dialogue" feature.  I've floated the general idea of having libertarians coordinate on responding with letters to the editor before, but this feature is particularly suitable for unconventional contributors due to being specifically aimed at soliciting contrasting responses from across the political spectrum to each week's piece (which makes it even more of a letdown when a promising topic gets a weak response).  And while the usual contributions make it clear that New York Times regular columnists have no monopoly on banal authoritarianism, this week's opening letter Invitation to a Dialogue: Skipping 12th Grade is a surprisingly Paul Goodman-esque "practical proposal" "to break the rigidity of four years of high school".

Garbage in, garbage out


From this morning's David Brooks column:
Likewise, many teachers have an intuitive sense that different students have different learning styles: some are verbal and some are visual; some are linear, some are holistic. Teachers imagine they will improve outcomes if they tailor their presentations to each student. But there’s no evidence to support this either.

History Lesson


  • Les Misérables: everything Americans know about French revolutions.
  • The Big Lebowski: everything Americans know about the New Left.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: everything Americans know about anarcho-syndicalism.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian: everything Americans know about leftist sectarianism.

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation screening this Saturday in NYC


At 92YTribeca. It's been a while since the ultimate fan project has been shown in the NYC area, so this is a rare opportunity for Indiana Jones buffs!


Bill Murray casting irony


FDR was closer than the Koch brothers to being a real-life Duke brother.

I'm on Tumblr


As part of a fresh start for the new year, I decided to finally try out Tumblr (as a supplement to, not a replacement for, "regular" blogging on this blog and elsewhere). My currently-very-work-in-progress Tumblr is here.

New Girl & dorkbot-nyc: a comparison


New Girl: This week is the second week of its second season.

dorkbot: This week is the second meeting of its 0x0cth season.

New Girl: Adorkable.

dorkbot: Adorkable.

New Girl: Has a theme song written by Jess.

dorkbot: Has many theme songs written by dorkbots.

New Girl:
Rocks a lot of polka dots.

dorkbot: Rocks a lot of pen plots.

New Girl:
Stars the pinup of williamsburg.

dorkbot: Created by a top 10 sexy geek.

New Girl:
Has inspired many animated GIFs.

dorkbot: Has a BLINK tag on the front page.

Modern School Reunion 2012


This Saturday, the Friends of the Modern School is having its 40th annual reunion at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey to commemorate a unique anarchist educational experiment and utopian community.  This event may be of interest to those in the New Jersey/New York State area interested in alternative education, anarchist history, utopian intentional communities, and/or freethought.

I've written more on the general background of the Modern School here and all of the coverage of the Modern School on this blog is here.