New York State Pavilion

The New York State Pavilion Gets Its Day in the Sun

I was not born until a decade after the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair ended, so I’ve only ever been able to experience it through home movies, photographs, and postcards. Having never attended a World’s Fair in the United States — the last of which was held in 1984 — it’s always been a little difficult to understand the spell that those events cast over millions of Americans in the 20th century.

New York State Pavilion World's Fair PostcardThe most visible remnants of that once-glittering spectacle in Queens are the Unisphere, which sits a stone’s throw from Citi Field, and the New York State Pavilion. The Pavilion, actually comprised of three distinct elements — the Tent of Tomorrow, a trio of concrete observation towers, and the Theaterama — has been abandoned since the 1970s, its metal portions rusting and its paint fading. (Theaterama has since found new life as the home of the Queens Theatre.)

Derided by many as the object of Baby Boomer nostalgia at best and a vulgar eyesore at worst, there would seem to be little reason why someone my age should even care whether it gets torn down or not.

And yet, when I read last month that the Pavilion was going to be opened to the public for just a few hours, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, I didn’t even hesitate to schedule a day off for my own personal pilgrimage.

(For a full set of photos, check out my New York State Pavilion Flickr album from the day.)

New York State Pavilion World's Fair

Approaching the Pavilion.

The announced opening time for the Pavilion was 11am, and the plan was to stand in line for a bit, get a ticket, then mosey into the Tent of Tomorrow and snap some photos. I had a ticket to a 3pm presentation at the Queens Theatre by World’s Fair expert Bill Cotter, and I wondered how I was going to kill the few hours I had left after visiting the Pavilion.

I had no idea how many people would show up for the day’s events. It was of major interest to me and it was a beautiful spring day, but it was also in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. I figured on a crowd of maybe 500 tops.

And then I saw the line.

Even arriving at the park 15 minutes before the opening, there were already more than 1,000 people in front of me. I know I wasn’t the only person to joke that the line snaked all the way into Brooklyn, but it sure seemed like it. Woe to those who showed up late.

Fortunately, owing to the special nature of our gathering and the nice weather, all around seemed to stay in good spirits.

Still, by the time I got within throwing distance of the observation towers I had already been on line for more than two hours. Fortunately, this rather leisurely pace afforded me ample opportunity to study the structures and lament their decay.

New York State Pavilion World's Fair, 2014

The partially repainted Pavilion, with the observation towers in the background.

As I rounded the Tent of Tomorrow toward the entrance gate I had the chance to appreciate the fruits of the very hard work put in by the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, a small volunteer group that has been refreshing the lower portion of the Tent of Tomorrow for several years.

Finally, as the clock closed in on 1:30, I received my ticket! But all this meant was that I had a spot in the queue. I was told that I could expect my number to be called by around 3pm.

It was at this point that I began to understand just how popular the re-opening really was, and how much the hard-working volunteers had underestimated the Pavilion’s enduring appeal (this is no criticism, however). I heard through the grapevine that in the end more than 2,500 people had shown up for a glimpse of the Pavilion, and the event organizers had no choice but to start turning some of them away.

So with another 90 minutes or so to kill, I decided to grab some lunch. But, probably owing again to the greater than expected turnout, the only places to grab food that I could spot were a Belgian waffle truck, a hot dog cart, and an ice cream truck. It wasn’t until a little while later that I found out about the snacks and drinks for sale inside the Queens Theatre. D’oh!

A few dirty water dogs later, I felt refreshed and ready to stroll down the path to see the iconic Unisphere. Even though the water fountain basin was dry and the surrounding trees and flowers weren’t all in full bloom, I couldn’t help but be impressed the site of the 12-story steel globe up close.

The Unisphere

The Unisphere

Finally, more than four hours after I arrived, my group’s ticket numbers were announced. So I strolled through the north gate, grabbed a hardhat, and soaked in the history of this once magnificent building.

Of course, to the casual observer the Pavilion probably looks less like a piece of cultural history and more like a rusted old hulk with no discernible reason to exist. Aside from the refurbished paint, little of note remains from the Fair days other than some preserved pieces of the 9,000-square-foot terrazzo Texaco floor map of New York State.

As for myself, however, all my mind could do was keep filling in the pieces of what once was — the brilliantly colored glass ceiling tiles covering the Tent of Tomorrow, the Sky Streak elevators in the observation towers, and the floor map in its full glory for starters. I began to feel a bit sad over what has been lost, but hopeful at the same time that so many people still cared about it.

New York State Pavilion World's Fair, 2014

After I was satisfied that I had taken enough pictures, I headed down to Bill Cotter’s presentation (albeit almost an hour late). It seems I missed roughly half of his talk, but what I did see was fascinating. The Pavilion has a great ambassador in Bill, among others.

When I emerged from the theater and prepared to journey home, the sky had clouded over and a light rain had begun to fall. I can’t help but feel there was some symbolism in that. The New York State Pavilion had its day in the sun, but the gray clouds returned once again cast a pall over it.

My hope, and I know that it’s the hope of thousands of other World’s Fair enthusiasts and history buffs, is that one day the Pavilion will be allowed to shine for good.

More photos…

View-Master reel packet envelope

A How-To Guide for Scanning View-Master Reels

Recently a visitor to my View-Master gallery wrote in and asked how I scan my reels and get them ready for publication. So as a public service I’ll go through the steps I take to get an image from a reel to you. Note that I don’t profess to be an expert in this area, and by no means do I claim to have the best technique. I also tend to make things much more complicated than necessary, so keep that in mind.

So here is my humble guide to scanning View-Master reels and getting them cleaned up.

The Hardware

For my reel scanning I use an Epson Perfection 1660 Photo Scanner. It’s a rather old model — at least a decade — but does the job. If memory serves it came with plastic photo scan adapters, but they have long since been lost.

Epson Perfection 1660 Photo Scanner

See that opaque strip in the middle of the lid’s underside? That’s the reflective section that enables scanning of the View-Master reel images. I’m sure there are dozens of models that have the same thing and that don’t cost a lot of money.

The Software

I use Photoshop for scanning and post-processing, just because that’s what I’ve used for years and that’s what I’m comfortable with. But as with the scanner itself, there are a ton of choices out there. For this how-to I’m using screenshots of Photoshop CS4.

Let’s go through a scan using one of my New York City reels, a project that’s still in progress as of this posting.

The Steps

1. Place the reel on the scanner bed, so that some of the pictures are lined up under the opaque filmstrip adapter. Unless you have a larger adapter you won’t be able to fit all of them. It shouldn’t matter if the reel is facing up or down, but I always have mine print side down out of habit.

2. In Photoshop initiate a scan/import process. Here’s what it looks like in CS4 (selecting the installed Epson software):

A How-To Guide for Scanning View-Master Reels

3. From the Epson scanner interface, I use the following settings:

  • Document source: TPU: Pos. Film
  • Image Type: Color Photo
  • Destination: Screen/Web
  • Resolution: 1200 dpi

A How-To Guide for Scanning View-Master Reels

Remember that View-Master images are not film negatives, but transparent film prints. As for the resolution, I find that 1200 dpi allows me to get a large enough image to be useful. Anything more and the file size becomes a bit unwieldy. But if you want to blow up an image you’ll want to go higher.

Note in this preview window that I only got three distinct pictures (remember that a View-Master picture is made up of two separate pieces of film). So to capture all seven on a reel you’ll need to repeat this process.

4. Now into post-processing! Align and crop the scanned images to your liking. I’m not going to tell you how to use your image processing software, but I will note that you may want to apply some curve leveling to account for your scanner. Also watch out for proper alignment. It’s easy to work on a slide only to discover it’s backwards — this can happen in slides without lettering in the picture — so remember to compare to the original reel as seen through a viewer.

Here are two scans from a New York slide (Coney Island beach). The first has no processing applied, and the second had adjustments made in the levels and shadow/highlights. I also added a sharpening filter. Remember that this is half-century old picture less than an inch wide, so don’t expect to be wowed.

View-Master reel scan example


View-Master reel scan example


And that’s pretty much it!

Steve Jobs

A polite request for Steve Jobs bashers to STFU

Steve JobsI can’t pretend to be personally moved by Steve Jobs’ death. I can acknowledge the impact he had on modern technology and our society, and still not be all that upset that he’s no longer with us. But here’s the thing — last night, while the internet poured out its sympathy and grief over Steve Jobs, I decided that instead of being a phony I just wouldn’t say anything at all. I really wish some of you Steve Jobs/Apple bashers would do the same.

I read a lot of negative commentary yesterday regarding Jobs, and it seems to break down into a few major gripes. Allow me to address them here.

You say: Why should I care about Steve Jobs? I don’t even own an iPod.

I say: Good job on demonstrating your short-sightedness. The fact that you don’t own an iPod or any other Apple products, believe it or not, does not mean that you haven’t been affected by Jobs anyway. Take five minutes and actually read up on the impact he and the company he founded have had on the world before you make yourself look even more stupid.

You say: But what about those Chinese factory workers who committed suicide? Sweatshops, maaaaaan!

I say: Ah yes, another internet human rights champion. Right on cue, here they come to school us all on the fact that — gasp! — working conditions in China aren’t all that great. Thanks for the lesson numbnuts, you’ve really opened my eyes. So tell me, what have you done to right this horrible wrong? Because I missed the news reports about all the protests you led or all the work you’ve done to raise awareness of this injustice.

Please. Other than capitalizing on Jobs’ death as a chance to draw some attention to yourself, you haven’t done shit to help those poor Chinese workers you now claim to care so much about.

You say: Sure I do! I boycott Apple products! Nyaaah!

I say: Stop. You boycott Apple products because you hate their commercials and don’t want people to think of you as an Apple fanboy or as a slave to trends, not because you’re trying to teach Apple a lesson on corporate responsibility. I get that you hate Apple’s douchey marketing campaigns. I hate them too. But don’t pretend like your desperate need to cultivate an image as some kind of iconoclast is anything more than a different flavor of pretentiousness than slavish devotion.

The bottom line: Look, I’m not telling you what to think. If you really don’t care about Steve Jobs or Apple, fine. But maybe, just maybe, you should consider not acting like a jackass for a few days by trying to impress everyone over what a radical free thinker you are. I’m sorry if reading paeans to Jobs’ life and legacy makes you feel insignificant, but you’re not going to change that situation or anyone’s mind about him simply by flinging your mental boogers all over the internet.

Even though nobody asked, here are my thoughts on bin Laden

So Osama bin Laden is dead at last. Maybe. Probably. It’s been fewer than 12 hours since I saw the news, but here are my thoughts and impressions so far:

1 — I feel not one ounce of joy that he is dead, as this hardly means the so-called War on Terror is over. You better believe there will be another bin Laden popping up any time now. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were already plans in place for more attacks to take place in the event that bin Laden was killed or captured.

2 — This is not the same thing as getting rid of Hitler at the end of World War II, despite many people making that clumsy comparison. This killing is a symbolic victory, nothing more. Its military or strategic value is negligible.

3 — We lost hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives and spent billions of dollars to kill one man, not to mention all who died on September 11, 2001. Tell me again how we showed him what’s what?

4 — It seems kind of hypocritical to blast people if the Middle East for dancing in the streets when American soldiers die, but do the same thing to celebrate bin Laden’s death.

5 — I really hate to sound like one of those conspiracy nutjobs, but burying bin Laden at sea? Really dumb idea. We couldn’t wait to trot out pictures of Saddam Hussein’s sons after they were killed, and yet we’re all hush hush about finally getting the top target on our Most Wanted list? Really fucking dumb.

If President Obama thought he had to deal with a lot of chirping over his birth certificate, he ain’t seen nothing yet. I’m not suggesting we use his corpse as a bobsled at the next Winter Olympics, but even I will have a had time accepting so-called DNA proof and a few grainy photos. Which we haven’t even seen yet, by the way.

The reason people display the body of their loved one at a memorial service is to help bring a sense of closure. That’s exactly what is needed here. Just so fucking dumb.

6 — That said, don’t try to convince me that we disposed of the body so quickly because we wanted to observe Muslim customs. bin Laden spent decades pissing all over the Koran, but now all of a sudden he deserves a dignified, religious burial?

7 — Regardless of what he says publicly, how pissed must George W. Bush be right now?

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License plate countdown redux

Residents of the Empire State are not shy about voicing their opinion when it comes to their state government, and the recent imbroglio concerning a potential new license plate is no exception.  At issue was last week’s announcement that all New Yorkers would be forced to pony up $25 to pay for a newly designed license plate, starting in April 2010.  The new plates were projected to bring an additional $260 million into the state’s cash-strapped coffers.

But the people have spoken, and now it appears that Governor David A. Paterson is ready to rescind the plan, as long as the state legislature can find another way to make up for the revenue.  What Gov. Patterson didn’t want to admit, but what I know to be the truth, is that he could ill afford the PR black eye of having his state knocked out of the #3 spot in my 2007 countdown of the most attractive U.S. license plates.

So putting aside any political considerations, how about the new design?

proposed New York license plate

I’d have to see an actual physical plate to make a final determination, but I’m mixed on this.  I do like the somewhat retro color scheme, which hearkens back to the one used in the ’70s and early ’80s.  But other than the colors, the design isn’t nearly as creative or striking as the current one.

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OK God, lemme have it! (‘it’ being a natural gas pipeline)

I try to keep things light around here, and therefore relatively free of politics.  But this is simply too rich to pass up.  It’s a video of vice presidential candidate and current Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, delivering a speech to the Wasilla Assembly of God (her one-time church).

According to the video uploader, the speech was delivered about three months ago, so it’s not a long-lost nugget from Palin’s past like the video of her as a young sportscaster or the pictures of her as an aspiring beauty queen.  And that means it’s fair game.

I’m not going to get into the strictly spiritual aspects of this clip, as I try to maintain a healthy level of respect for the religious beliefs of others.  But a few things stood out as rather disturbing – see if you can guess what they are!

In case you missed them, I’ll give you a few hints.

  1. She wants you to praying to God for a natural gas pipeline. Excuse me?  “Um, hey, God?  If you’re not too busy, could you also fill my bank account and erase every episode of According to Jim from existence?  Thanks!”
  2. The Iraq War is part of God’s plan. I understand that Gov. Palin probably has a deep emotional investment in the Iraq War, especially given that her son is deployed there.  But to call the clusterfuck that’s unfolded there over the last several years part of God’s plan is offensive on many levels.

Oh boy, it’s going to be an interesting next few months.

IZOD Center

The first 5,000 popped collars win a free home tanning kit!

IZOD Center

I can’t believe I missed this little announcement that Continental Airlines Arena (formerly Brendan Byrne Arena) is now going to be called the IZOD Center, but it is now abundantly clear that New Jersey isn’t even trying to stop making itself the butt of jokes.  And to think, according to the article we just missed being home to the Southpole Dome or Rocawear Arena!  I suppose it could be worse — we could see the Jets and Giants playing next door in Zubaz Stadium.

Anyway, see you next year at IROC-a-Thon ’08!

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Welcome back!

Hit the road Jack

Welcome back!I can’t believe I missed this while I was away, but apparently last week it was announced that WCBS-FM, the long-running New York oldies station, will be returning to the airwaves this week. This is great news not only for oldies fans (of which I am one), but also for listeners who felt shafted by WCBS’s unceremonious departure in June 2005. The details of the switch from oldies to Jack FM are chronicled here, but here’s the short version – After 33 years as an oldies station (and with still healthy ratings), WCBS was yanked off the air with no notice and replaced by the Jack FM format. Local institutions like Cousin Brucie Morrow were dumped after decades of service, and loyal listeners were left in the lurch.

The change was a slap in the face to fans of the station, and epitomized one of the main failings of modern corporate thought – years of loyalty meant nothing, for once it was determined that their longtime employees and listeners were not the right breed, they were cut off like a wart. This short-sighted approach automatically doomed Jack FM, regardless of how good the format might have been.

Speaking of which – why would I want to listen to a commercial radio station’s attempt at replicating an iPod playlist when I have my own damn iPod? This is the part of the prepackaged radio station format (like Jack FM) that I could never fathom. The oldies format may be predictable, but it’s comforting like an old pair of jeans. And it usually ensures that there will be a consistently high quality of music.

I’m not too keen on the resurrected station’s plans to focus mainly on post-1964 music, as I think there’s a lot of great stuff from before then that will be missed. But on the whole, this is still a most welcome development. So welcome back WCBS, you were missed!

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