Williamsport Web Developer Finally Has Broadband

I have finally replaced my Verizon DSL service with Xfinity Performance Internet. I should have done this a long time ago. My download speed has gone from 0.73 megabytes per second to 18.2 megabytes per second and my upload speed has gone from 0.13 megabytes per second to 5.90 megabytes per second. This will make it easier to provide good service to my clients since I will be able to download back ups of web sites faster. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) provides Internet over telephone lines. It is adequate for web browsing but not good enough to keep Windows 10 up-to-date. You cannot stream video or download any files in the gigabyte range over DSL. I was wasting a lot of time waiting for things to download.

I can now upload my photos to Flickr. And I was finally able to install Windows Updates on my HP laptop which is running Windows 10.

I have been doing a lot of experimenting with Internet of Things. One of my favorite IoT devices is the ESP8266 NodeMCU I connected to a OLED screen to keep an eye on the price of Dogecoin and the value of my amount. On Verizon DSL I discovered that this device would not get a signal if any other device was using my WiFi. But with Xfinity WiFi I can use my IoT devices while having a laptop connected to the Internet.

Posted in Internet, Technology, Web | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How To Create A Non-Fungible Token On Rarible

I am now interested in non-fungible tokens as a way to market my digital art. I have been creating digital art using Processing, the computer programming language for creating art. The type of art you can create is mostly geometric art or generative art. Some abstract art can be recreated if it is essentially geometric in design. The problem with digital art is that you cannot sell it to art collectors because there is no physical manifestation of the art work. All you can offer is an image file and an image file is not unique. You can copy an image file endlessly. I have thought about creating hardware to display my digital art like an Arduino with a TFT LCD screen or a Raspberry Pi with an e-Ink display. This would serve as a particular physical manifestation of the art work. Unfortunately LCD screens and e-Ink displays are not canvas sized. A lot of the displays for Arduino and Raspberry Pi are tiny.

Non-fungible tokens solve this problem by associating digital art with a token on a blockchain. These digital tokens are unique and can signal ownership of an asset. Although an image file of digital art can be reproduced by anyone, the token ensures that only one person actually owns the digital art as an asset.

Virtual art work has several advantages over physical art work. You don’t have to worry about storing the art work so that it will not be damaged. You don’t have to insure the art work. I once bought an expensive numbered print which was damaged in a flood. I had to throw it out. This will never happen with a NFT. Digital art work can be loaned to a museum without paying for shipping or insurance. The museum simply needs a digital display on which to display the image file you send them. The NFT ensures that they are displaying the “original” even though they are just displaying a copy of an image file. There are now art museums in virtual worlds which display virtual art and the art work is certified as the real deal by the NFT.

Non-fungible tokens allow anyone to become an art collector even if they don’t have the storage space or the insurance to collect fine art. I have bought some interesting art work on eBay which might even be worth something. But often I don’t know what artist created the piece or the provenance of the piece. I don’t even know if I own original art or just a print. A NFT solves this problem because the entire history of the art work is on the blockchain. You will know who created the NFT and how often the token has changed hands. This means any art work associated with a NFT has a well documented provenance. Some smart contracts for NFTs even create a royalty so any subsequent exchange of the asset pays a royalty back to the creator or artist. So let’s say you are a starving artist and you sell a digital painting for $5.00 as a NFT. Decades later you are a famous artist and your NFT is sold to an art museum for 10 million dollars. You would receive a percentage of that sale!

To create a NFT you must mint a token. I found this process to be more complicated and expensive than I was expecting. I minted a token on Rarible, a marketplace for NFTs. To create a NFT on Rarible you must first connect a wallet. You will need a web3 wallet like Metamask or Fortmatic. So the first hurdle is signing up for one of these wallets. I used Fortmatic because I found their API which I tried out a bit. Your wallet will need some Ethereum. You cannot buy Ethereum with a credit card so that is another hurdle. I can purchase Ethereum on Coinbase which is connected to my bank account. After purchasing the Ethereum on Coinbase you need to send it to your Fortmatic wallet. Any sending of crypto on Coinbase requires entering a code which is sent via SMS to your smartphone. So another hurdle is that you need a smartphone with a service plan that includes text messages.

Fortmatic Connect

Fortmatic Connect

After you manage to get some Ethereum into your Fortmatic wallet you  head on over to Rarible and press the connect wallet button. Then you go through the process of connecting via Formatic which requires your email address, your password, and finally a 6 digit code emailed to your email address. This is what I found so complicated! Several times I had to wait for codes to be delivered. I did not have enough Ethereum in my Fortmatic wallet so I had to do this twice. Even after all this there were many steps to follow on Rarible including; approve performing transactions with my wallet, uploading the image file, minting the token, and signing the sell order using my wallet. The fee to mint the token was 0.032628 ETH or around $48.00. This expense is known as the Ethereum gas fee and you must pay it to conduct a transaction or execute a contract on the Ethereum blockchain platform.

Rarible Follow Steps - Upload Files

My first NFT is an image file of blocks on an isometric grid. The height of the blocks is determined by Perlin Noise. This is a technically sophisticated piece of digital art. The blocks suggest a blockchain. Although the script creates random isometric blocks in hills and valleys, I choose a single instance of its random variations. This image file is now stored on the IPFS (InterPlanetary File System), a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol designed for sharing image files in a distributed way. This ensures that the image file can always be found. It does not just live on a web server which might disappear some day. You can view my NFT on Rarible at https://app.rarible.com/token/0x60f80121c31a0d46b5279700f9df786054aa5ee5:202348:0xa920d82179d47afaa1f5ab322368a606e1a4af35 where you can place a bid. If I accept your bid you become the new owner of the NFT and are on your way as an art collector building a collection of virtual fine art. Notice that 10% of sales go to the creator. That means that I get 10% of all subsequent sales of this asset. So it might be in my best interest to accept a low bid just to get the ball rolling. A NFT with a history of changing hands might be seen as a good investment. As long as the value of the piece continues to go up my 10% royalty will ensure that I make far more money than the initial low bid I accept.

Rarible - Grayscale Isometric Grid Blocks

Rarible – Grayscale Isometric Grid Blocks

In addition to appearing on Rarible my NFT also appears on the OpenSea marketplace where it can be found at https://opensea.io/assets/0x60f80121c31a0d46b5279700f9df786054aa5ee5/202348. I must say that the search tools on these NFT markets are terrible since you cannot find my art work using its name “Grayscale Isometric Grid Blocks”. This is pretty annoying because discoverability is very important for artists. A starving artist wants to be discovered and an art collector wants to discover particularly striking art works. It will require additional research to find the starving artists that are trying to sell their work as a NFT. Many NFTs are crappy pieces of artwork that were created as get-rich-quick schemes. They are overpriced and not worth the investment. However you might be able to find genuine pieces of fine art that can be acquired at a bargain. A struggling artist has an incentive to accept a low bid for his NFT because it gets the ball rolling and the art collector is taking a risk with NFTs.

OpenSea Listing

OpenSea Listing

In conclusion creating a NFT cost me around $50 and I spent hours going through the process. I don’t think many starving artists are going to see this as their salvation. But I found it worthwhile since I learned a lot about digital assets on the blockchain. Buying these sort of assets with crypto-currency intrigues me because I think fine art is a better asset for long term investment than the crypto-currency itself. I am also pleased that I have placed my digital art on a legitimate art market. I think that makes me a real artist!

Posted in crypto-currency, General, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Artificial Intelligence

I have been studying Artificial Intelligence since 2017. That is four years. And I have learned nothing. Well, that is not quite true. I have gotten pretty familiar with the terminology. However, after fours years of intense effort I still don’t know how to do anything with machine learning. I can install the libraries and run the demos or the code in tutorials, but when it comes time to do something with original data I don’t have a clue.

Unfortunately, most tutorials and articles on machine learning are poorly written. They don’t explain the math or the theory. Often they don’t provide more than one example. The example given is usually a toy problem using a classic data set. For example, I have eleven examples in my notes using the Iris Flower data set. To be fair, my study methods are part of the problem. I randomly search for tutorials and copy and paste the code to run the demo.

Fortunately, I have begun to make some real progress by concentrating on a single algorithm or method. I have mastered Linear Regression because it is widely used in statistics. Tutorials on statistics explain linear regression in far greater detail. I can now perform a linear regression in Excel, C#, Python, R Studio, and even Processing (JavaScript). I have also mastered Multiple Regression since that is just Linear Regression using more independent variables. I am poised to master simple Neural Networks since I have successfully used a Python implementation from scratch with multiple data sets.

So far I have read the following books on Artificial Intelligence:

  1. Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era James Barrat
  2. Thinking Machines: The Quest for Artificial Intelligence and Where It’s Taking Us Next Luke Dormehl
  3. Machine Learning Ethem Alpaydin
  4. Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality Robert M. Geraci
  5. Artificial Intelligence: The Quest for the Ultimate Thinking Machine Richard Urwin
  6. Natural Language Processing with Python: Analyzing Text with the Natural Language Toolkit Steven Bird, Ewan Klein, Edward Loper
  7. Text Analytics With Python Dipanjan Sarkar
  8. Bayesian Statistics the Fun Way Will Kurt
  9. AIQ: How Artificial Intelligence Works and How We Can Harness Its Power for a Better World Nick Polson, James Scott
  10. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies Nick Bostrom
  11. Introducing Artificial Intelligence: A Graphic Guide Henry Brighton, Howard Selina
  12. Statistical Inference via Data Science: A ModernDive into R and the Tidyverse Albert Y. Kim, Chester Ismay
  13. The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World Pedro Domingos
  14. The Quest for Artificial Intelligence Nils J. Nilsson

Currently I am reading Statistics In Plain English by Timothy C. Urdan because you really need to understand statistics to grasp machine learning. I am also reading Practical Machine Learning in R by Fred Nwanganga and Mike Chapple which should prove easy to understand since it does not include much math or theory.

I am doing some free online courses at Kaggle.

Ordinarily I would give up on machine learning because it is just too difficult to learn and it does not appear to have any practical uses for me. But I am fascinated by the topic of artificial intelligence so I keep plugging away. I will say that I have vastly improved my knowledge of math, statistics, graph theory, linear algebra, calculus, combinatorics, and various other computer science topics. I am now more familiar with mathematical notation. I use MathJax to include math equations in my notes which I keep in HTML.

I have not bought much hardware to support my study of artificial intelligence. I have a Jetson Nano and a Neural Compute Stick 2. Eventually I might buy a NVIDIA GPU.

Posted in Artificial Intelligence, General, Programming, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turtle Graphics Spiral In C#

As another example of what you can do with graphics in C#, I decided to recreate a famous Turtle Graphics spiral design. I can’t find an official name for this classic design. I decided to call it Spiral of Circles. It has a nautilus shape but you won’t find any sample code by doing a search on “Turtle Graphics nautilus”. There is a version of this design using squares. I did have the code for creating this design using Python or Processing. It took a little experimentation to reproduce it in C#. Part of the solution was to realize that radians needed to be converted to degrees which is why I included the conversion functions in the code. This design requires a rotate and a translate transformation within a loop. I’m not sure you really need to use a GraphicsPath object because I tried that before I solved the other problems.


using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Data;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Drawing.Drawing2D;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using System.Windows.Forms;

namespace SpiralOfCircles
{
    public partial class Form1 : Form
    {

        System.Drawing.Graphics graphicsObj;

        public Form1()
        {
            InitializeComponent();
        }

        private void Form1_Paint(object sender, PaintEventArgs e)
        {
            graphicsObj = this.CreateGraphics();

            // Set the SmoothingMode property to smooth the lines.
            graphicsObj.SmoothingMode = System.Drawing.Drawing2D.SmoothingMode.AntiAlias;

            // This centers what is drawn. Adjusted by 50 pixels.
            graphicsObj.TranslateTransform((graphicsObj.VisibleClipBounds.Width / 2) + 50, (graphicsObj.VisibleClipBounds.Height / 2) - 50, MatrixOrder.Append);
            // This scales everything up
            graphicsObj.ScaleTransform(2, 2);

            // Create pen.
            Pen blackPen = new Pen(Color.Black, 1);

            for (int i = 0; i < 50; i++)
            {
                graphicsObj.RotateTransform((float)degrees((-Math.PI / 18)));

                // Create a GraphicsPath object
                GraphicsPath path = new GraphicsPath();

                // Draw a circle
                path.AddEllipse(0, 0, -i * 3, -i * 3);

                // Create a Matrix object  
                Matrix X = new Matrix();
                X.Translate(i, 0);

                // Apply transformation  
                path.Transform(X);
                graphicsObj.DrawPath(blackPen, path);
            }
        }

        /// <summary>
        /// Function to convert degrees to radians
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="degrees">degree value</param>
        /// <returns>equivalent radian value</returns>
        public static double radians(double degrees)
        {
            double radians = (Math.PI / 180) * degrees;
            return (radians);
        }

        /// <summary>
        /// Function to convert radians to degree 
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="radians">radian value</param>
        /// <returns>equivalent degree value</returns>
        public static double degrees(double radians)
        {
            double degrees = (180 / Math.PI) * radians;
            return (degrees);
        }
    }
}
Spiral Of Circles

Spiral Of Circles

Posted in Graphics, Programming | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Converting A Processing Sketch To C#

I have invested a lot of time and effort into learning Processing. I mostly use the JavaScript version of Processing since I can then include working demos in my technology notes which are in the form of HTML files compiled into a Microsoft Document Help Collection. I like Processing because it allows me to be creative using my existing programming skills. It has encouraged me to learn more about computer graphics.

Recently I created a Processing sketch to draw direction arrows around a circle. One of my favorite Processing tricks is to divide a circle into equal parts, like pie slices, by finding points around the circle. The purpose of this sketch was to draw direction arrows rotated in the proper direction to point towards these points around the circle. I needed this to illustrate some sketches for directed graphs, a type of graph in Graph Theory. But orienting objects around a circle is a generally useful trick.

My Processing sketch for drawing arrows around a circle can be found at: https://www.openprocessing.org/sketch/1031385

The challenge in recreating this sketch in C# is to find an alternative to the matrix stack as implemented in Processing. Processing provides the handy functions pushMatrix() and popMatrix() as explained at https://processing.org/reference/pushMatrix_.html. C# supports creating a matrix and methods to invert, rotate, scale, and transform matrices. You can then apply the transformation to the graphics object. But there isn’t a matrix stack so it is hard to figure out how to restore the prior coordinate system. After a lot of trial and error I figured out a way to make this work. The trick is to reset the matrix and then apply the transformation back to the graphics object at just the right point in the code.

As I said, this required a lot of trial and error and might not work for a different Processing sketch. You will have to experiment with when to draw things and when to apply transformations. But I was able to recreate my Processing sketch using the C# code shown below. The arrow heads are not perfectly aligned because the DrawPolygon method in C# is not an exact replacement for the beginShape method in Processing.


using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Data;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Drawing.Drawing2D;
using System.Globalization;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using System.Windows.Forms;

namespace ArrowsAroundCircle
{
    public partial class Form1 : Form
    {
        // A global variable
        System.Drawing.Graphics graphicsObj;

        public Form1()
        {
            InitializeComponent();
        }

        private void Form1_Paint(object sender, PaintEventArgs e)
        {
            graphicsObj = this.CreateGraphics();

            // Set the SmoothingMode property to smooth the lines.
            graphicsObj.SmoothingMode = System.Drawing.Drawing2D.SmoothingMode.AntiAlias;

            // Create a grid
            int gridSize = 10;

            for (int x = gridSize; x <= Form1.ActiveForm.Width; x += gridSize)
            {
                for (int y = gridSize; y <= Form1.ActiveForm.Height; y += gridSize)
                {

                    // Draw a grid
                    Pen objPen = new Pen(System.Drawing.Color.LightGray, 1);
                    graphicsObj.DrawLine(objPen, x, 0, x, Form1.ActiveForm.Height);
                    graphicsObj.DrawLine(objPen, x - gridSize, y, Form1.ActiveForm.Width, y);
                }
            }

            // This centers what is drawn
            graphicsObj.TranslateTransform(graphicsObj.VisibleClipBounds.Width / 2, graphicsObj.VisibleClipBounds.Height / 2, MatrixOrder.Append);

            // Create pen.
            Pen blackPen = new Pen(Color.Black, 2);

            // Radius is the diameter divided by two
            int radius = 600 / 2;

            // Draw a set number of points around the radius of the circle to divide the circle into equal parts 
            int NumberOfPoints = 16;
            for (int i = 0; i < NumberOfPoints; i++)
            {
                double angle = i * ((Math.PI * 2) / NumberOfPoints);
                graphicsObj.DrawLine(blackPen, 0, 0, Convert.ToInt32(radius * Math.Cos(angle)), Convert.ToInt32(radius * Math.Sin(angle)));                
            }

            // Draw a circle
            // Equivalent to ellipse(0, 0, 600, 600);
            Rectangle myRectangle = new Rectangle(-300, -300, 600, 600);
            graphicsObj.DrawEllipse(blackPen, myRectangle);

            // Draw the arrows around the circle last
            for (int i = 0; i < NumberOfPoints; i++)
            {
                double angle = i * ((Math.PI * 2) / NumberOfPoints);
                float degrees = 360 / NumberOfPoints;
                ArrowHead(Convert.ToInt32(radius * Math.Cos(angle)), Convert.ToInt32(radius * Math.Sin(angle)), (float)(i * degrees) + 90);       
            }
        }

        /// <summary>
        /// Draw an arrow head at a set position, rotated at a set angle
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="x">The x position.</param>
        /// <param name="y">The y position.</param>
        /// <param name="t">The angle of rotation.</param>
        private void ArrowHead(float x, float y, float t)
        {
            float r = 4.0F;
            float theta = t;

            // Create a Matrix object  
            Matrix X = new Matrix();

            x = x + graphicsObj.VisibleClipBounds.Width / 2;
            y = y + graphicsObj.VisibleClipBounds.Height / 2;
            X.Translate(x, y);
            X.Rotate(theta);

            // Apply transformation  
            graphicsObj.Transform = X;

            PointF point1 = new PointF(0, -r*2);   
            PointF point2 = new PointF(-r, r*2);   
            PointF point3 = new PointF(r, r*2);
            PointF[] arrowPoints = { point1, point2, point3 };

            // Create pen.
            Pen blackPen = new Pen(Color.Black, 2);

            // Create a brush
            SolidBrush solidBrush = new SolidBrush(Color.Black);
            graphicsObj.DrawPolygon(blackPen, arrowPoints);
            graphicsObj.FillPolygon(solidBrush, arrowPoints);

            // Reset the matrix
            X.Reset();

            // Apply transformation  
            graphicsObj.Transform = X;
        }

        /// <summary>
        /// Function to convert degrees to radians
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="degrees">degree value</param>
        /// <returns>equivalent radian value</returns>
        public static double radians(double degrees)
        {
            double radians = (Math.PI / 180) * degrees;
            return (radians);
        }
    }
}

This will draw the following figure to the window:Arrows Around A Circle

Arrows Around A Circle

Posted in Graphics, Programming | Leave a comment

Computer Science Research

I have not written a blog post in a long time but that does not mean I have not been working on my computer science skills. Actually I have significantly advanced my programming skills. I just have not taken the time to blog about it. While I used to focus exclusively on web development and databases, I have now ventured into pure computer science with a heavier focus on math. For example, I have studied Boolean Algebra, Graph Theory, Linear Algebra (matrix math), Combinatorics with Permutations, and Statistics. Much of that was inspired by my interest in machine learning and artificial intelligence which requires you to be familiar with a lot of advanced math.

Currently I am reading three books to further my programming skills. The Nature of Code by Daniel Shiffman is a great book about how to simulate aspects of nature through code. It covers such topics as vectors, forces, oscillation, particle systems, physics libraries, autonomous agents, cellular automata, fractals, genetic algorithms, and neural networks. This book is a virtual master class in computer science! What I like about this book is that everything is implemented in Processing with a visual representation. I have invested heavily in learning Processing because I am interested in expressing my creative side through creative coding. Many of my art experiments can be found at Open Processing. Currently I am excited by isometric grids so I will be exploring ways to create art that resembles retro video game designs, although I don’t intend to create full games.

Another book I am reading is Statistical Inference via Data Science: A ModernDive into R and the Tidyverse by Chester Ismay and Albert Y. Kim. I found this book online and I have been reading the online version at ModernDive for free, adding all of its material to my notes. This is a book on statistics and data science for the R programming language and R Studio. I am studying statistics because it is a huge component of machine learning and artificial intelligence. But statistics in general is a useful skill for a programmer to learn. It gets me more into data science. This book has a lot of math formulas. I have learned how to add math formulas to my notes using the MathJax JavaScript library which can handle the various types of notation. In addition to this book, I also read Bayesian Statistics The Fun Way by Will Kurt which also gave examples for R Studio.

The final book I am reading is Mathematics for the Digital Age and Programming in Python by Maria Litvin and Gary Litvin. This is more of a high school text book on math which uses Python to implement math theory. It is a little heavy on the math theory and the math is not very advanced. I am just extracting what useful knowledge I can from this book. I would recommend Doing Math with Python by Amit Saha over this book. I am now quite an expert on Python with extensive notes on this programming language. Python is the most popular programming language for machine learning and artificial intelligence so I have studied it extensively.

Posted in Programming, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WWDBooks E-Commerce Site Shutting Down

I will be shutting down my demonstration Drupal E-Commerce web site, wwdbooks.com. This site was not getting any traffic. It has become an unnecessary expense. I will do my Search Engine Optimization research using my playwriting web site at http://robertsrobbins.com/.  I have backed up the web site and its MySQL database.

There does not seem to be much demand for custom E-Commerce web sites. I think most people sell merchandise on Amazon, eBay, or they use hosted E-Commerce web sites.

Posted in Drupal, General, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

DeepSpeech on the Jetson Nano

DeepSpeech is an open source speech recognition engine developed by Mozilla. It uses machine learning to convert speech to text. Since it relies on TensorFlow and Nvidia’s CUDA it is a natural choice for the Jetson Nano which was designed with a GPU to support this technology. Unfortunately, getting this running is not easy so I thought I would write a helpful bog post with some tips.

First, the hard part of compiling DeepSpeech for the Jetson Nano has already been done for you. Go to https://github.com/domcross/DeepSpeech-for-Jetson-Nano/releases/tag/v0.6.0 and download the deepspeech-0.6.0-cp36-cp36m-linux_aarch64.whl and libdeepspeech.so files from the GitHub repository. That should be all the instruction you need. Unfortunately it is not that easy.

Second, install the Python wheel from the file. You cannot install DeepSpeech without this downloaded file you provide:

sudo pip install deepspeech-0.6.0-cp36-cp36m-linux_aarch64.whl

If you are not familiar with Linux, you may be wondering where to copy the libdeepspeech.so file. Run the following command to determine where to copy the libdeepspeech.so file:

cat /etc/ld.so.conf.d/*

This indicates that /usr/local/lib would be a good location so copy the file there:

sudo cp libdeepspeech.so /usr/local/lib

But just copying that file is not enough. You need to run another command so Linux knows about this new shared library:

sudo ldconfig

Finally run the following command to see if DeepSpeech is working:

rsrobbins@nvidia-ai:~$ deepspeech --version
TensorFlow:
DeepSpeech:
rsrobbins@nvidia-ai:~$

You are supposed to get version numbers for TensorFlow and DeepSpeech but both are blank. At least you are not getting any errors. Next you need to download the pre-trained English models from https://github.com/mozilla/DeepSpeech and extract them. The deepspeech-0.6.1-models.tar.gz file is 1.14 GB so you might want to download this using a computer with a decent Internet connection and copy the file to your Jetson Nano.

You can now transcribe an audio file:

rsrobbins@nvidia-ai:~$ cd deepspeech
rsrobbins@nvidia-ai:~/deepspeech$ deepspeech --model deepspeech-0.6.1-models/output_graph.pbmm --lm deepspeech-0.6.1-models/lm.binary --trie deepspeech-0.6.1-models/trie --audio audio/2830-3980-0043.wav
Loading model from file deepspeech-0.6.1-models/output_graph.pbmm
TensorFlow:
DeepSpeech:
2020-02-29 14:46:19.470759: I tensorflow/stream_executor/platform/default/dso_loader.cc:42] Successfully opened dynamic library libcuda.so.1
2020-02-29 14:46:19.479426: I tensorflow/stream_executor/cuda/cuda_gpu_executor.cc:972] ARM64 does not support NUMA - returning NUMA node zero
2020-02-29 14:46:19.479575: I tensorflow/core/common_runtime/gpu/gpu_device.cc:1640] Found device 0 with properties:
name: NVIDIA Tegra X1 major: 5 minor: 3 memoryClockRate(GHz): 0.9216
pciBusID: 0000:00:00.0
2020-02-29 14:46:19.479619: I tensorflow/stream_executor/platform/default/dlopen_checker_stub.cc:25] GPU libraries are statically linked, skip dlopen check.
2020-02-29 14:46:19.479744: I tensorflow/stream_executor/cuda/cuda_gpu_executor.cc:972] ARM64 does not support NUMA - returning NUMA node zero
2020-02-29 14:46:19.479900: I tensorflow/stream_executor/cuda/cuda_gpu_executor.cc:972] ARM64 does not support NUMA - returning NUMA node zero
2020-02-29 14:46:19.479978: I tensorflow/core/common_runtime/gpu/gpu_device.cc:1763] Adding visible gpu devices: 0
2020-02-29 14:46:20.310523: I tensorflow/core/common_runtime/gpu/gpu_device.cc:1181] Device interconnect StreamExecutor with strength 1 edge matrix:
2020-02-29 14:46:20.310602: I tensorflow/core/common_runtime/gpu/gpu_device.cc:1187]      0
2020-02-29 14:46:20.310635: I tensorflow/core/common_runtime/gpu/gpu_device.cc:1200] 0:   N
2020-02-29 14:46:20.310884: I tensorflow/stream_executor/cuda/cuda_gpu_executor.cc:972] ARM64 does not support NUMA - returning NUMA node zero
2020-02-29 14:46:20.311108: I tensorflow/stream_executor/cuda/cuda_gpu_executor.cc:972] ARM64 does not support NUMA - returning NUMA node zero
2020-02-29 14:46:20.311283: I tensorflow/stream_executor/cuda/cuda_gpu_executor.cc:972] ARM64 does not support NUMA - returning NUMA node zero
2020-02-29 14:46:20.311425: I tensorflow/core/common_runtime/gpu/gpu_device.cc:1326] Created TensorFlow device (/job:localhost/replica:0/task:0/device:GPU:0 with 704 MB memory) -> physical GPU (device: 0, name: NVIDIA Tegra X1, pci bus id: 0000:00:00.0, compute capability: 5.3)
Loaded model in 1.53s.
Loading language model from files deepspeech-0.6.1-models/lm.binary deepspeech-0.6.1-models/trie
Loaded language model in 0.0271s.
Running inference.
experience proof less
Inference took 7.315s for 1.975s audio file.
rsrobbins@nvidia-ai:~/deepspeech$

You might be wondering where the heck is the text from the speech in the audio file? This program does not have a very intuitive user interface. The transcribed text is actually in the output directly after “Running inference” and reads “experience proof less”. The demo WAV file has only three spoken words. The actual speech in the audio file is “experience proves this”.

Although the demo audio files from Mozilla work well enough, you may need to install Sound eXchange to support conversion of audio files. DeepSpeech expects this to be installed. Naturally there is no mention of this requirement in the documentation. Run this command to install SoX:

sudo apt-get install sox

My additional tip is to run DeepSpeech using sudo if you get an error and run it again if the GPU runs out of memory.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Playwriting Web Site

I have finally created a web site that will be devoted to my playwriting efforts at: http://robertsrobbins.com/

This web site will serve that purpose better than my Williamsport Web Developer web site. I plan to use this new blog for my play reviews, theater book reviews, and general thoughts on writing and the theater. However I will still use this blog for my trip reports. This blog should really be devoted to technology, not travel, but I have already built too much history here.

I plan to be more aggressive with the search engine optimization of my new web site since its purpose is to help people discover my plays and my talent. I’m actually not that keen to promote my Williamsport Web Developer web site because I don’t need new clients.

My new web site is running WordPress and uses the Write theme. I don’t really need that many static pages and it will primarily be a personal blog.

Posted in Theater, Writing | Leave a comment

The Year 2038 Problem

I have not written a technical blog post in a long time. Yesterday I learned about the Year 2038 Problem and I wrote some code to demonstrate the problem.  The Year 2038 Problem involves Unix time which is the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 stored as a signed 32-bit integer. The problem is that a signed 32-bit integer has a maximum value of 2147483647 and that value will be exceeded on January 19, 2038. So in just 18 years software that is trying to use Unix time will get an unexpected value.

The easiest way to see this problem is to write a MySQL query which attempts to get the Unix timestamp for a date after January 19, 2038. The following query will return the value 0 which is clearly incorrect and unexpected:

SELECT UNIX_TIMESTAMP('2038-01-20 00:00:00') AS Epoch;

On a 32 bit operating system like Windows XP you can see the problem by compiling a small C program which attempts to get seconds since the epoch for a date after January 19, 2038.

#include <stdio.h>
#include <time.h>

int main(void) {
    struct tm t;
    time_t t_of_day;

    t.tm_year = 2038 - 1900;  // Year - 1900
    t.tm_mon = 0;           // Month, where 0 = January, 7 = August
    t.tm_mday = 20;          // Day of the month
    t.tm_hour = 0;
    t.tm_min = 0;
    t.tm_sec = 0;
    t.tm_isdst = 1;        // Is DST on? 1 = yes, 0 = no, -1 = unknown
    t_of_day = mktime(&t);

    printf("Seconds since the Epoch: %ld\n", (long) t_of_day);
}

This code will give you the unexpected value of -1. On a 64 bit operating system like Windows 10 you will get a reasonable value of 2147572800 since it is not using a signed 32-bit integer. This problem will mostly affect older computers running 32-bit operating systems, embedded systems running Linux, and MySQL. While you might think you have plenty of time before this becomes a problem, it is only necessary for software to attempt to get a date 20 years from now in the form of Unix time to encounter this problem.

Posted in MySQL, Programming, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Macbeth in New York City

Yesterday I made yet another bus trip to New York City to see a professional production of Macbeth. This was my first day trip after spending a full week in New York City for vacation last month.

We arrived in New York City around 10:00 a.m. The bus dropped us off on West 42nd Street which was a little unusual. I was able to immediately go to the 42nd Street – Times Square station and took a N train downtown to Union Square. I spent most of the day in the area south of Union Square, down into the East Village. Since the matinee show I came to see did not begin until 2:00 p.m. I did a little shopping and photographed some establishments I had overlooked on previous trips.

First I went to the Strand Bookstore and used their restroom on the second floor behind the children’s section. Then I went back downstairs to the first floor and searched their drama shelves for plays on my shopping list. I did not find anything on my list. The closest book was Saved by Edward Bond so I bought that. Next I went to the Science Fiction section where I had better luck. I found Into the Looking Glass by John Ringo and The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron. I had to climb a ladder to reach the Into the Looking Glass book. The total came to $32.00 even.

Strand Bookstore

Strand Bookstore

After that I walked several blocks to photograph the following establishments; Classic Stage Company, Vintage New York Lifestyle, Village East Cinema, Obscura Antiques & Oddities, and Webster Hall. The Vintage New York Lifestyle or VNYL is a night club featuring 1970s decor. Based on photos I’ve seen on their Facebook page, it looks like a popular spot for the glitterati. Classic Stage Company appears to be a coffee shop but there is also an Off-Broadway theater in the back. I dropped my camera while attempting to take a photo of the entrance but fortunately my camera has a steel case. It was fine even after dropping to the pavement and bouncing a few times.

Vintage New York Lifestyle

Vintage New York Lifestyle

I did some further shopping at Forbidden Planet which is not far from the Strand Bookstore. Although Forbidden Planet mostly sells comic books and graphic novels, they do carry science fiction books and I was able to find The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick, another title on my shopping list. I think I had placed this book on my shopping list because it was an early and influential book on virtual reality. We are practically living in an era of virtual reality given how glued people are to their smartphones. Some people never take their eyes off their smartphones and are totally oblivious of the world around them.

Obscura Antiques & Oddities did not open until 12:00 p.m. Noon. There was an UPS truck  parked in front of the store the entire time I was in the neighborhood so I never did get an unobstructed photo of the exterior. This store stocks obscure oddities which really appeals to me. For some reason, I love anything that is odd and obscure, the hidden gems of culture. This partially explains my interest in the occult but it is more accurate to say I’m drawn to the odd and the obscure than to the supernatural itself. Anyway, Obscura Antiques & Oddities had been forced to move to this new location and I found the store to be really small and cramped. They had a choice selection of obscure oddities but the selection was meager and everything was expensive. Most of the good stuff was in glass cases and everything was professionally arranged to suggest Ye Olde Curiosity Cabinet.

Obscura Antiques and Oddities

Obscura Antiques and Oddities

I had a lot of time to kill from Noon to 2:00 p.m. so I walked far south on Avenue A although it felt more like I was going west. I took photos of the buildings on street corners that were in good light just to document some of the architecture. I came across a few unfamiliar establishments like the Hairy Lemon that I photographed with the intention of researching them later to add to my notes. Eventually I wandered into more familiar territory and located the KGB Bar, La Mama Experimental Theater, and New York Theatre Workshop to take better photos of these establishments.

At 1:20 p.m. I returned to the Classic Stage Company on West 13th Street and picked up my will call ticket. I had to wait around the outside of the coffee shop until around 1:40 p.m. when they opened the theater doors allowing me to take my seat. They did not hand out theater programs. I loved the look of the Classic Stage Company’s theater space. It is much larger than you would suspect judging from the coffee shop out front. The theater space was a bit cavernous with exposed brick walls and a large thrust stage. There was a sort of balcony or interior loggia above the rear of the stage which was part of the performance space. I could see the stairs the actors would climb to reach it although the stairs were only visible from my side of the thrust stage. A technical booth was located above the performance space entrance. This performance space gave the impression of being backstage in some decrepit theater witnessing the rehearsal of a performance, rather than the performance itself. Part of that impression was created by the bare stage and little use of props or costumes.

Classic Stage Company

Classic Stage Company

The show itself was suitably eerie and appropriate to the season, Halloween. The big question for any production of Macbeth is how to portray the three witches. For this production they chose to have the entire company say the lines in unison, except for Macbeth and Banquo of course. This gave the three witches an aspect of a chorus or an occult coven. Macbeth was played by actor Corey Stoll and Lady Macbeth was played by Nadia Bowers, his wife in real life. Corey Stoll is a great actor. Although he is not a movie star, he does appear in some classy movies like The Seagull (2018 film) starring Saoirse Ronan. Corey Stoll is a very personable actor, a likeable man, and a bit charming. Unfortunately these qualities are not ideal for playing a great tragic figure like Macbeth. I thought his performance was a tad insouciant at times which caused some unintentional laughs. I don’t know if they intended to make Macbeth a charming rogue or if the actor simply could not avoid letting his true personality show through, but sometimes it clashed with the grim nature of the drama. The audience took any opportunity to relieve the tension with laughter so any line delivered too casually got a big laugh. It is interesting to observe this because it shows that tragedy is tricky to pull off. You really need to maintain a grim tone throughout with nobody dropping the heightened pitch of tortuous emotions. It only takes one line delivered with not quite the right degree of emotion to kill the mood.

Don’t get me wrong, this was the most professional production of Shakespeare I’ve ever seen. I’ve read the plays and seen some great movies, but I’ve never seen a top notch production of Shakespeare done with serious-minded, professional actors. The director of this play made some interesting choices, but I’ve seen enough film versions of Macbeth to not mind a slightly unconventional approach. I really liked the supernatural aspect of the play and this performance.

When the play was over, around 3:50 p.m, I immediately waked to Union Square and took a 5 train uptown to 42nd Street – Grand Central. This was a bit of a mistake since I meant to go to the Times Square Theater District. However, I easily corrected this error by taking the S train, the 42nd Street Shuttle over to Times Square. I had a reservation at Havana Central Times Square but that was for 6:00 p.m. I decided to do some more shopping to fill the time. First I went to BookOff on West 45th Street. There I found two CDs on my shopping list; The Lion and the Cobra by Sinéad O’Connor and The Best of Morrisey. The day before my trip, I had revised my shopping list to include more rock albums that I might actually find at a record store. Next I went to Theatre Circle on West 44th Street to search for plays on my shopping list. This store now carries a lot of play scripts in the room at the back. I discovered that the play scripts were arranged in alphabetical order by title, not by author. I didn’t see any plays I was tempted to buy except for Balm in Gilead by Lanford Wilson. However, it was a little pricey for an acting edition so I decided against it.

I arrived at Havana Central Times Square a little early since I really needed to use the restroom. The restaurant was packed but I think they had a little table waiting for my reservation and I was shown to it right away. I went off to find the restroom straight away since they did not take my order right away. I ordered the Classic Cuban Sandwich with sweet potato fries. This sandwich was pretty huge so I was only able to eat one half. The sandwich was cut in half. I also ordered a batidos, Cuban milk shake, with milk and coconut. The waiter joked that this was a virgin piña colada! For dessert I had a Churro Ice Cream Bowl. Altogether with tip this meal cost me $37.50 which is cheaper than many Theater District restaurants. Havana Central Times Square was one of the restaurants I had considered eating at during my vacation the previous month since it is on 46th Street.

Havana Central Times Square

Havana Central Times Square

After dinner I just wandered around Times Square a bit before heading down to West 42nd Street to wait for the bus home. The bus did show up quite early, around 7:15 p.m. so I was able to wait on the bus. There was one passenger in a wheelchair who had to use the lift. This required me to leave my seat. In the end, one passenger did not show up and did not have a cell phone so they had to leave somebody behind.

This proved to be another inspiring trip even though it came too soon after my week long vacation in New York City. Classic Stage Company will go on my list of preferred theaters like Irish Repertory Theatre, since too many theaters have become obsessed with social justice representation to do work of exceptional artistic merit. However, I’m not sure if I want to continue to explore American cities. I think it is time I got my passport renewed so I can return to visiting more exotic cities in Europe.

Posted in General, New York City, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Vacation – Day Eight

Saturday, September 28, 2019 was the final day of my historic New York City vacation. However, there was a slight problem. An invoice from the hotel was slipped under my door which indicated that I needed to check out that day. My bus ride home would not leave until tomorrow morning. I had to go down to the lobby and straighten that out. Fortunately I was able to extend my stay for an additional day. I didn’t even need to change rooms.

After I had taken care of that problem, I went to Pret a Manger for breakfast. I had a cup of coffee, a parfait berry yogurt, an egg and cheese baguette, and a small bottle of orange juice. I gave a dollar to a homeless man in the restaurant and he bothered me for an additional 10 minutes. After eating breakfast I made another ATM withdrawal at 7:34 a.m. for $80.00.

The hotel mix up and being bothered by the homeless man made me dread having a bad day, but fortunately nothing else happened to ruin my day. My goal for this day was to visit the Hudson Yards development site which now has a shopping mall, a theater, and a tourist attraction. Although I had a ticket to see a show at The Shed, the theater at the Hudson Yards, I intended to see if I could see a matinee of a Broadway show instead.

High Line Park

High Line Park

I walked to the Times Square station and took the 7 train to the 34th Street–Hudson Yards Station which was only one stop away.  The 34th Street–Hudson Yards Station is a brand new subway station which looks quite different from other NYC subway stations. I took a lot of photos of the turnstiles, the escalator, and the platform. I took some photos of the Vessel which is a cool attraction that I planned to do later in the day. I found the stairs to the High Line and saw the spur which had a Brick House Statue by artist Simone Leigh. I followed the High Line all the way to its end at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Along the High Line Park I saw lots of condos with interesting architecture like the 520 West 28th Street condos by Zaha Hadid Architects, the 512W22 Office Building, and the Lantern House by Heatherwick Studio.

I located the Twitter headquarters on West 17th Street but it was covered by a sidewalk shed. So I went to the 18th Street Station entrance for the 1 train and took it uptown to the 50th Street Station. At 10:00 a.m. I went to the the TKTS Booth and bought a ticket for the matinee performance of Beetlejuice, the musical. Seat H 114 for $109.20. This turned out to be a pretty good seat. This was the very first time I bought a ticket at the TKTS Booth. It turns out that you can only buy tickets for the day of the performance.

The Vessel

The Vessel

After getting that taken care of I retraced my steps to return to the Hudson Yards neighborhood. I added value to my MetroCard in the amount of $20.00 because my 7 day pass had expired. I presented my printed ticket for the Vessel and climbed the stairs to the topmost level. I took photos of the interior, the skyscrapers, people around a hotel pool that was visible from the Vessel, and the trains in the train yard. I thought it was a pretty cool experience and not too tiring even with all those stairs.

Fuku

Fuku

I went into the Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards and ate lunch at Fuku at 11:53 a.m. I had the Finger Sando Meal with Waffle Fries and a large strawberry slushie which was difficult to drink through a straw. I checked out a few stores but most of the clothing stores were too high end for my budget. The b8ta store sold electronics and gadgets which did tempt me a little.

Not long after eating lunch I took the 7 train uptown to Times Square station and walked as fast as I could up to 50th Street to the Winter Garden Theatre. I stood in line with my ticket until about 1:25 p.m. I bought a souvenir cup of wine for like $27.00 which was outrageous. They even made a joke about the expensive wine during the show. The white wine made me a little bit tipsy and I did not bother to get a refill during intermission.

I was supposed to see Arca Epilogue: Boundary at The Shed at 2:00 p.m. but I ditched that because it struck me as being intended for a youth audience. It was also going to go on for five hours and they insisted on locking up your smartphones in a case. I also don’t think there would have been any seats so I would have been standing for five hours. I only paid $15.00 for a ticket to that so I think I made the right decision to do something else instead.

Beetlejuice at the Winter Garden

Beetlejuice at the Winter Garden

Beetlejuice, the Musical was a fun show. It was like being in a goth fun house. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that this show would be ideal for me when I was planning my trip. I have not seen the movie in ages so it was very nostalgic for me. The show featured special effects like fog and lightning and it used giant puppets. Beetlejuice was almost good enough to inspire an infatuation in me.

After the show I returned to my hotel and then immediately went out to Duane Reade to buy a bottle of Starbucks Frapacino Vanilla for $3.79 because I was very thirsty. In fact, I only bought the wine at the show because I was so thirsty.

After that I took a long walk along West 50th Street to the Rockefeller Center. I took photos of; Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Atlas sculpture, Villard Houses, St Bartholomew’s Church, the MetLife Building, the Seagram Building, the Grolier Club, French Institute : Alliance Française, the Plaza Hotel, the Sherman Memorial, and the Apple Cube. It had been a long time since I had walked that far east in MidTown Manhattan.

I stopped in at a Central Park South Pret a Manger and ordered a Honey Banana Bowl and a can of Blood Orange Soda at 6:40 p.m because I was thirsty. By 7:00 p.m. I was back in my hotel room. I would have gone back out to experience Times Square at night but I’ve seen it so often that I didn’t feel the need to eek out anything more from my trip.

With this vacation, I think I have finally had my fill of New York City. I have another day trip scheduled for October 26 but after that I shall focus on a new city. For my next major trip I’m thinking of returning to Europe, Amsterdam or maybe Dublin, but first I have to get my passport renewed.

Posted in General, New York City, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Vacation – Day Seven

By Friday, September 27, 2019, I had gone through everything on my itinerary so I had to plan a day from scratch. I decided to visit some more minor museums on the Upper East Side, but further north on Fifth Avenue. For breakfast I repeated my routine and ate at Pret a Manger where I had a cup of coffee, a parfait berry yogurt, a mozzarella and tomato croissant, and a small bottle of orange juice. I also went to Duane Reade again and withdrew another $80.00 at 8:33 a.m.

I walked to the 42nd Street Station where I took the S line shuttle to Grand Central. I transferred to the 6 line and went uptown to 103rd Street Station. This subway station is in Spanish Harlem. I walked west and had enter a tunnel through the Metro-North viaduct to reach 5th Avenue. The museums did not open until 10:00 a.m. and I got there at 9:22 a.m. so I had time to explore the northern end of Central Park. I saw the lovely Conservatory Garden with its Burnett Fountain and Untermyer Fountain. I walked around the Harlem Meer and saw the Huddlestone Arch. That part of Central Park was like being in the woods. It even had a waterfall, a creek, and a pond. New Yorkers might appreciate that bit of nature but it was nothing unusual to me.

I paid $20.o0 admission to the Museum of the City of New York at 10:23 a.m. I saw exhibits on activists, the labor movement, American Indians, and special exhibits entitled: the Voice of the Village, Pride Photographs of Stonewall and Beyond, Cycling in the City, New York at its Core, Timescapes film, and the Stettheimer Dollhouse. Overall the exhibits were heavily weighted towards the Left and would probably infuriate a conservative. I liked the Timescapes film and wasted about a half hour watching the entire thing.

Museum of the City of New York

Museum of the City of New York

Next I went to El Museo del Barrio right next door. Admission to this museum was only $9.00. The front of the building was covered with scaffolding which made it difficult to determine if I had the right place. This museum was devoted to Latino art. There are few Latinos in Central Pennsylvania so I don’t have any prejudices against them. Most of the time I won’t even register that somebody is Latino. I wonder if that is even a legitimate race since many people in South America are of European descent. I’m a bit interested in  South American culture. Buenos Aires, Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital city, has caught my fancy because it is said to be the Paris of South America, heavily influenced by European culture. I have not really looked into the matter, but I think the Left perpetuates stereotypes about immigrants and conceals the cosmopolitan nature of South American culture. I’m sure Buenos Aires is a modern city with software companies and an extensive theater community that we know nothing about. The largest exhibit at El Museo del Barrio seemed to be just an extensive series of panels with photographs about the history of the museum, but there was some art work as well. Most of the art work was political in nature.

El Museo del Barrio

El Museo del Barrio

After seeing just those two museums on the Upper East Side I went back to my hotel and had lunch at Pret a Manger. I was probably going there too often and wasting the opportunity to try new restaurants, but I was tired of paying too much for a meal. I had a Ham & Cheese Baguette, a Sunshine Bowl (which I did not like), and can of coke.

Museum of Sex Punk Lust

Museum of Sex Punk Lust

I walked to the Museum of Modern Art but it was closed until October. I had to make do with photographing a few pieces of public art in the area. So instead of seeing modern art I went to the Museum of Sex. This proved to be a good move because one of their special exhibits was on punk rock; Punk Lust: Raw Provocation 1971-1985. This was the second museum exhibit on punk rock I’ve seen in New York City and much of the material I saw was familiar to me from my own collection of punk rock memorabilia. It is sad when your youth becomes fodder for the history museums. But I wasn’t expecting this so I was glad I happened to visit the museum. Another exhibit was showing graphic vintage stag films which was a bit awkward to watch. I’ve joked that the Museum of Sex should add some interactive exhibits and was amused to find that they’ve actually done that! I saw a vibrating bull ride for the ladies and a glory hole game which probably used dildos. Needless to say I didn’t want to play! I also saw a 7 minute film on erotic carnivals which ended with a walk-in kaleidoscope that was pretty psychedelic. I left the Museum of Sex around 4:00 p.m. and returned to my hotel. When I got to Times Square I noticed that they had unveiled a new temporary bronze statue, Rumors of War by artist Kehinde Wiley.

KGB Bar

KGB Bar

That evening I had planned to attend a literary event being held at an East Village bar I’ve been meaning to visit, KGB Bar. However, there was a mix up and I went to the wrong floor. Instead of the NYU Emerging Writers reading I saw a variety show “Roommates” in the Red Room. I probably should have gone back down to the other bar for the reading but there were no seats available there so I decided to see the variety show instead. There was a two drink minimum so I had a can of IPA (Indian Pale Ale) and a glass of chardonnay. The variety show featured some singing and comedy acts on the subject of apartment roommates. One of the comedians mentioned the old goth band Coil which caught my attention. I thought this was pretty interesting example of New York City nightlife even though it wasn’t what I set out to see. It was probably more interesting than the literary reading. I was slightly inebriated when I left the bar but I did take the time to take some great night shots of the East Village. Previously I had taken some photos in the evening which turned out well.

 

Posted in General, New York City, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Vacation – Day Six

On the sixth day of my vacation I gave a day to Brooklyn. I probably should have spent more time in Brooklyn since I’ve done Manhattan to death, but I did not have enough time to do extensive research. I had breakfast at Pret a Manger again and got my usual; a cup of coffee, a parfait berry yogurt, a mozzarella and tomato croissant, and a small bottle of orange juice. I went to Duane Reade to use their ATM and withdrew another $80.00 at 7:56 a.m because I had run out of my stash of cash.

I took  the 7 train at Times Square to Court Square Station in Queens and then transferred to the G train. I got off at the Bergen Street Station to explore the Boerum Hill neighborhood although there really isn’t much to see there. I located and photographed the Invisible Dog Art Center even though it was not open. I also located and photographed a Mosaic House which showed up on Google Maps. But I have no idea what the story is behind it. I initially went down the wrong street but I quickly found the right street. I then walked to the Books Are Magic book store in Cobble Hill. I bought the book Anna Ziegler’s Plays One at 10:16 a.m. This book was published by Oberon Books, a UK company, so I thought Anna Ziegler was a British playwright but she is actually an American playwright born in Brooklyn. That may explain why Books Are Magic had this book on their drama shelf. Now that I was in the Cobble Hill neighborhood I photographed the Cobble Hill Cinemas.

Invisible Dog Art Center

Invisible Dog Art Center

I then walked north on Court Street to reach Atlantic Avenue. I walked many blocks east to reach the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district. I did not see Roulette Intermedium but I did locate Fire Lotus Temple which was covered in scaffolding. The Fire Lotus Temple is a Zen temple. I’ve read a few books on Zen Buddhism and have a lot of respect for that religion, but they have nothing to tell us about the visionary aspect of spirituality and mysticism which is better exemplified in shamanism.

Center for Fiction

Center for Fiction

The only place I visited in the BAM cultural district was the Center for Fiction, an organization devoted to fiction writers which had recently moved into a new building. I bought the book In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri because I liked the cover which pictures a young woman reading in a library. This is a book about a writer’s struggles to learn Italian and I may have heard about this book when I was studying Italian for my trip to Rome and Venice. I was cheated out of $2.00 in change when I bought this book so I guess the Center for Fiction is totally intent on taking money off of writers.

BAM

BAM

I photographed some of the art institutions in the neighborhood; the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the BAM Tower, the Mark Morris Dance Center, and the Polonsky Shakespeare Center. The only thing new I stumbled across was the MUSE Academy, a private school for early childhood instruction in the creative and performing arts. I found that as I was circling around the Brooklyn Academy of Music to photograph the Apple store at the rear of the BAM Tower, also known as 300 Ashland. Brooklyn now has a lot of residential skyscrapers and is beginning to look like Manhattan.

At the  Barclays Center I took a Q train to 42nd Street Bryant Park. This train did not make the expected stops so I will have to look into that. As usual some subway performers took the opportunity to pester riders as the train was making its long way from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I think they take advantage of the extended time between stops. I dropped off my books at the hotel and had lunch at Pret a Manger. This time I sat outside and for once they gave me a tray. I had a Ham and Swiss baguette, a can of coke and blood orange, and my usual parfait.

I photographed the New Dramatists and Actor’s Studio then walked far west on West 46th Street to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. At 1:48 p.. I bought a ticket with my credit card which came to $33.00. I’ve seen the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum on a previous trip but that was before they got a space shuttle. I took an elevator to the flight deck and photographed lots of planes. Then I went into the hanger where they keep the space shuttle Enterprise. They insisted on taking my photo as they do at some of the more tacky attractions but I didn’t want to buy any photos of myself. I did take many photos of the space shuttle but it was huge and filled the hanger so you could not get it all into a shot. I think they should have kept it on the flight deck so you could take a photo from a distance. There were a few exhibits on the space shuttle and a physics demonstration designed for kids. After that I went to the control tower, explored the hanger deck with its many exhibits, and saw the crew sleeping quarters. I went back outside to the flight deck and took photos of the Concorde all the way towards the back. At this point it began to look like rain and I did not have my umbrella. But I did take time to tour the USS Growler, a submarine docked beside the USS Intrepid. First I saw many interactive exhibits which I don’t remember from my previous trip. I didn’t waste much time on those but hurried down the missile bay to crawl through the ship. Several people were in front of me but I managed to take photos of almost every room. I remember thinking the sleeping quarters were almost as small as my hotel room. After leaving the submarine I did rush back to my hotel to beat the rain.

USS Intrepid

USS Intrepid

I had dinner at Chik-fil-A because we don’t have that restaurant chain in my area. I ordered a Chick-fil-A’s original chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and a coke. I had to ask for some sauce and they kept me waiting for a good long while before asking me what I wanted. I had my orange umbrella with me because it was starting to rain. I spilled some sauce on my white dress shirt and tried to remove it in my hotel room.

The Sound Inside

The Sound Inside

That evening I saw the play “The Sound Inside” by Adam Rapp at Studio 54. This was the second straight play I saw on my trip. This was also the second time I’ve seen a play at Studio 54. We did not form a line outside because you could wait in the lobby. We formed two lines in the lobby under some chandeliers. I had a front row seat for this show. At one point Mary-Loise Parker sat on the stage right in front of me. If she had come any closer it would have been to climb into my lap.

The stage was mostly keep completely dark and black with sets appearing out of the abyss. I liked the tree that appeared like a spectral apparition in the background. Stage sets moved forward or receded magically and the stage lighting picked out the actors in the darkness. The play was about fiction writers or novelists, and mentioned Dostoevsky often. It sort of had a surprise ending because I was guessing that the student was just a character the lonely professor had written into being. I was completely wrong about that. The student was real the whole time. Instead the play was about suicide and the character who actually committed suicide was not the one you expected. I kind of like my idea of the student being just in the head of the professor, but that is a bit too predictable.

I loved this play because it was very serious and it concerned writers. The lonely professor of creative writing getting involved with a student is a bit of a cliché but I think Adam Rapp might have some actual experience in this area. I hope I never have to teach writing or literature. I just don’t think that is appropriate for a visionary writer. I kind of anticipated this possibility in my play Charcoal Sketches but I considered how the muse would sabotage an inspired artist who gets too comfortable and lazy.

Posted in General, New York City, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Vacation – Day Five

Having explored the Upper East Side the previous day, my goal on the fifth day of my vacation was to explore the Upper West Side. I had rarely ventured into the Upper West Side on previous trips so there were a few things for me to see, mostly around the Columbia University area. I had breakfast at Pret a Manger since that became my routine. I had a cup of coffee, a parfait, a mozzarella and tomato croissant, and a small bottle of orange juice. At 7:37 a.m I went to the nearest Duane Reade and bought 6 inch scissors, a gel heal cup, and foot blister Band-Aids since by that time I had a few blisters. In the end I only suffered from two blisters due to my tight shoes, one my one little toe and one on the back of my heel of the other foot.

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

I walked to the 50th Street Station and took the 1 train uptown to the 110st Street Station on the Cathedral Parkway. I photographed the subway exists since this was a station I’ve never used before. I walked to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and photographed the Peace Fountain. I couldn’t really enter any other areas of the garden. I discovered the cathedral does not open until 9:00 a.m. even though they put out the Enter Here sign. Not being able to visit the cathedral, I walked up Amsterdam Avenue to Columbia University. I took photos of the Low Memorial Library, the Alma Mater Statue, the Butler Library, and the Miller Theatre but I didn’t actually attempt to enter any building or explore the campus. Once again, I got the impression that foreign dignitaries were being entertained at the college so it may not have been wise to poke about. From there I quickly found the entrance to Barnard College. I saw a curious wooden duck sculpture in the crosswalk leading to the college but I didn’t even cross the street. I circled around to the block to take photos of St. Paul’s Chapel. There were actually a lot of grand buildings in the neighborhood which I could not identify. Visiting Columbia University was kind of extra meaningful since I mentioned the college in my last play. In fact, it occurred to me that this play might do better than I expect since it would be great for high schools to do this play as part of their career counseling. My play could prove to a sweet little money maker!

Alma Mater Statue

Alma Mater Statue

I walked  back down Amsterdam Avenue to the cathedral and found the Book Culture book store which was open. I bought the book What Blest Genius? by Andrew McConnell Scott for $29.34 at 9:22 a.m. This book is about the jubilee that helped to establish William Shakespeare as a literary god. I had heard about this book, and although it was not on my shopping list, it seemed the best book I was likely to find on the drama shelf. I then located and photographed the Nicholas Roerich Museum but it did not open until 12:00 p.m. noon. So I walked back to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine where I was finally let in. It only cost $5.00 admission since the cathedral was being renovated and there was not much to see inside. Both times I attempted to walk straight in since most churches will not charge you to enter. The chapel was kind of spooky since it was covered in scaffolding and looked like the backstage of a theater.

I walked back to Columbia University but this time I only saw an additional fountain to photograph. I proceeded to the General Grant National Memorial. I watched a  film in the visitor’s center before crossing the street to enter the tomb. There was not much to see except for two sarcophagi and a few bronze busts of Civil War generals. I then walked south along Riverside Park to 107th Street near the Nicholas Roerich Museum. The museum did not open until 12:00 p.m. noon so I sat on a park bench reading my book, What Blest Genius?

Nicholas Roerich Museum

Nicholas Roerich Museum

The Nicholas Roerich Museum had two floors of paintings and exhibits and mostly photos along a hallway on the ground floor. I left a $3.00 tip. Nicholas Roerich was a Russian-born artist whose work focused on nature scenes from the Himalayas. H.P. Lovecraft mentions his paintings in his Antarctic horror story At the Mountains of Madness and that is enough to make Roerich part of the mythos. I would not go out of your way to visit the Nicholas Roerich Museum but it is pretty cool if you are in the area. On Saturdays they are only open from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. so it would have been difficult to fit this place into one of my day trips.

After seeing the Nicholas Roerich Museum I was done with the Upper West Side so I took the 1 train back downtown to the 50th Street Station. I walked up to 52nd street to photograph some theaters and then up to West 54th Street to photograph Studio 54 again. Then I saw Stephen Colbert filming alongside the Ed Sullivan Theatre. He appeared to be taking a baseball bat to a car windshield with a maybe a guest on his show?? I saw a crowd around them trying to take photos and I managed to take a few myself. That was pretty much the only celebrity I have seen on the street. I went back to my hotel to drop off my book.

At 1:49 p.m. I ate lunch at Pret  a Manger. I bought a Prets Classic Grilled Cheese which they had to heat up, a Parfait Berry Yogurt, and Blood Orange Soda. I used the ATM at the  Duane Reade on 771 8th Avenue at 2:10 p.m. and withdrew another $80.00.

New York Public Library Reading Room

New York Public Library Reading Room

Since my trip to the Upper West Side did not take all day I was able to proceed to do some things on another day’s itinerary again. I walked to Bryant Park and visited the New York Public Library. I made a mental note to add its hours to my notes since that information was missing. At the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building I saw watercolors by travel writer William P. Rayner. He trekked across Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and North Africa. I found the Picture Collection room and pulled out a folder to browse through drawings. Most of the drawings appeared to be from pages torn out of magazines. This was kind of interesting but completely random. I wandered through the building and found a few reading rooms but there was not much to see. I also found the library gift shop. Most public libraries do not have a gift shop and I was tempted to buy something but I was already over my quota on books. However, it could be good place to buy commemorative books on my future trips to NYC.

Morgan Library and Museum

Morgan Library and Museum

After leaving the library I quickly walked to the Morgan Library & Museum to sneak in a visit before they closed. Both the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library & Museum were on my itinerary for another day so I was getting ahead of schedule. The admission to the Morgan Library & Museum had increased to $22.00. They seemed to be setting up for visiting dignitaries.  I saw metal detectors being set up and when I left there was a lot of security gathered around the entrance which made me nervous. I saw the Morgan office and library and took some great photos. I even saw a page from a William Blake illustrated book, America: A Prophecy. There were a few interesting exhibits on opera; Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet and Verdi: Creating Otello and Falstaff—Highlights from the Ricordi Archive. I saw both a First Folio and Second Folio of Shakespeare’s plays bound in leather as part of the Verdi exhibit and that really made my visit worthwhile because I’ve recently read a book about the textual differences in the Shakespeare folios. The museum guard asked me if I understood the writing and then realized that the books were in English. I’m not sure what that was all about. At the gift shop I bought Verdi’s Shakespeare: Men of the Theater by Garry Wills. I am not familiar with any operas based on Shakespeare’s plays so I was curious to know more. Part of the reason to travel and visit museums is to be exposed to new art but to be honest I rarely follow up on what I’ve seen.

I went to the Hourglass Tavern at 6:00 p.m. This was a very cramped restaurant but I was given a table by myself down stairs. I had a prix-fixe dinner of pork chops with mashed potatoes. The meal began with a bowl of chicken soup and ended with tiramisu. I drank several glasses of water because I was thirsty. After this pre-theater meal I saw Linda Vista at the Helen Hayes Theater. This was one of the two straight plays I saw on this trip. Linda Vista was written by the playwright Tracy Letts so I expected it to be a great play. I did not have my ticket delivered to me so I had to go to the box office to get my will call ticket. A line did not form outside the theater because we were allowed to wait in the lobby, but it took me awhile to figure that out.

Linda Vista

Linda Vista

My seat was below the level of the stage so I was looking up at the performers. The play began with Ian Barford carrying in boxes to move into his new apartment. The stage set revolved to reveal a living room with a kitchen area, a bedroom, a camera repair store, a karoke bar, and a restaurant. There was nudity and simulated sex in this show, twice! This seems to be a new trend on Broadway. I don’t really mind it, but I think the audience should be forewarned about simulated sex scenes.  There was some mention of the nudity but the simulated sex was a surprise and I think it is meant to be kept a surprise.

Somebody began grunting really loud during the first act. The management had to threaten to throw this person out. It caused a bit of a stir. Ian Barford managed to work a snide remark about the grunts into one of his lines. Everybody laughed at that. They were watching Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon on a flat screen TV at one point in the show. This really lent a surprising degree of realism but I have to wonder if they got permission to show that clip. I liked Linda Vista because it was about a guy my age but it did make him out to seem a little pathetic. I don’t like my protagonists to seem like real losers but I often leave them without a job since I end the play with them getting fired. I don’t think Linda Vista has been published yet but I intend to buy a copy of the script.

Posted in General, New York City, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Vacation – Day Four

On the fourth day of my vacation in New York City, September 24, 2019, I began my practice of having breakfast at the Pret a Manger near my hotel. I liked eating there because it was affordable and convenient. You don’t have to wait for your sandwich to be made. You just grab whatever you want and then pay for it, cafeteria style. I got a cup of coffee, a yogurt, and a small bottle of orange juice. They just give you a cup for the coffee and you pour it yourself at the coffee station.

My goal for this day was to visit some minor museums on the Upper East Side. I walked to the 42nd Street Station and took the shuttle to Grand Central. Then I took the 6 train uptown to 96th Street Station. I didn’t have any photos of this station’s exits so I took a few photos myself. It is surprising how poorly documented some aspects of New York City are but I’m taking care of that. I followed my detailed trip directions to prevent getting lost on the Upper East Side. From the 96th Street Station I walked west along East 96th Street between Food Universe and Pure and Natural which took me past a church, St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church. I turned left onto Madison Avenue between Jerome Florists and Starbucks. I walked past the red brick Madison Avenue Armory and saw its stone plaque with the squadron’s cry “Boutez en avant!”, “Press forward!”. I found the Corner Bookstore on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 93rd Street but it was closed. It would not open until 10:00 a.m. and I was there at 8:06 a.m. I did not return after visiting the museums because I had other book stores to visit and did not want to buy more books than I could fit in my luggage.

I followed my directions perfectly but arrived at Cooper-Hewitt by 8:10 a.m. so I went to Central Park to wait.  I saw a few memorial plaques there. I eventually got tired of waiting around and strolled down 5th Avenue to photograph the Guggenheim Museum, Neue Galerie, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I found the Group of Bears sculpture and took photos of that. I searched for Cleopatra’s Needle and eventually found it but I really need better directions to locate it. You would think you could see the obelisk rising above the trees but the trees are actually taller. Cleopatra’s Needle is between the King Jagiello Monument and the Alexander Hamilton Monument. I took some great photos of Belvedere Castle which is also in this section of Central Park. That killed enough time for me to return to the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum shortly before it opened. The entrance is on East 91st Street and I found a group of people waiting for it to open. A guard unlocked the front door.

Cooper-Hewitt

Cooper-Hewitt

The Cooper-Hewitt had a strange innovation. They gave you an electronic pen which you used to tag the exhibits you found interesting. One end of the pen could be used on light tables to interact with a digital display. These were like giant tablets laid flat. Your ticket has a code for retrieving your visit. This eliminates the need to take a lot of photos to record what you saw. For example, I can determine that I saw the following at the museum during my visit; the Curiosity Cloud, a cloud of large light bulbs each containing an insect which fluttered within the bulb as you approached, a soft robotic grip glove, Visualizing the Cosmic Web which used a computer graphics technique for visualizing connections that I know how to create in JavaScript, a video of self-organizing robot pucks, a photograph of a jeweled mask, and a drawing for a design for a musaphonic clock. Not everything I tagged has been digitized yet. I remember I also saw a demonstration of facial recognition technology and how unreliable it can be. Overall I found the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum an odd mix of exhibits which did not seem related to design. I’m not sure if I saw any of their permanent collection since everything appeared to be a special exhibit. This museum would definitely not be on my list for a first trip to New York City but if you’ve seen everything else in the city it is definitely worth some time.

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Next I went to the Guggenheim Museum just because it was nearby. I have been to the Guggenheim Museum a couple of times before but it is a major museum for modern art. I also have the bad habit of failing to return to museums to see their special exhibits, assuming that once I’ve seen their permanent collection there is no reason to go back there. The Guggenheim Museum had the following special exhibits; Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection, Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now, the Hugo Boss Prize 2018: Simone Leigh, Loophole of Retreat, and Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story. This exhibit examines Jean-Michel Basquiat’s exploration of black identity and his protest against police brutality after the death of artist Michael Stewart. There was a limit on the number of people allowed in the Jean-Michel Basquiat gallery so I had to wait in line. I was in the Guggenheim Museum until Noon. I walked up the spiral to the top floor and took photos of the skylight and looking down at the floor below. I even checked out the gift shop but I did not buy anything.

Asia Society

Asia Society

After seeing modern art at the Guggenheim Museum I walked to the 86th Street Station and took a downtown 6 train to the 68th Street – Hunter College Station. I found the Shakespeare & Co. book store where I bought a copy of Lear: The Great Image of Authority by Harold Bloom. They had a small selection of drama books so this seemed to be the most appropriate choice. Then I wandered several blocks all around Hunter College trying to find their Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse. Eventually I figured out that it was boarded up for renovations so I had seen it but not recognized it. I then made my way to Asia Society, another minor museum which I had never bothered to visit on my time crunched day trips. There was not much to see at Asia Society and they appeared to be hosting foreign dignitaries for something going on at the United Nations. But I saw the exhibit Xiaoze Xie: Objects of Evidence. This exhibit was about banned books in Chinese so I was unfamiliar with them but it was interesting to see foreign books. The other exhibit was on Lakshmi, a Hindu goddess. I saw some interesting artwork representing the goddess including collages by the Brazilian artist, Roberto Custodio.

C.G. Jung Institute of New York

C.G. Jung Institute of New York

That completed my itinerary for exploring the Upper East Side so I returned to my hotel around 2:00 p.m. This left me with several hours to kill so I proceeded to do things on the next day’s itinerary. I felt like doing more shopping so I walked to the C.G. Jung Institute of New York. I wanted to take a photo of this establishment because I’ve read a lot of Jungian psychology. Unfortunately, modern psychology has all but abandoned the concept of the psyche or the unconscious mind and no longer considers it a factor worth considering. Jung is dismissed as an antiquated mystic. However many creative people are still into Jungian psychology because anyone who has confronted the depths of their being is obliged to take the psyche seriously. The C.G. Jung Institute of New York isn’t really open to the public but they do have a book store where you can buy books on Jungian psychology. I bought Jung in the 21st Century Volume One: Evolution and Archetype by John Ryan Haule and Jung in the 21st Century Volume Two: Synchronicity and Science by John Ryan Haule. These books were on my shopping list because they are an attempt to relate Jungian psychology to contemporary thinking. I paid almost a hundred dollars for these two books and they added a lot of weight to my luggage. Still they could very well prove to be the most significant find of my trip.

I walked past the New York Public Library but found its lion statues where covered in scaffolding boxes. When I got back to my hotel I tried the hotel cafe. I noticed they had an ATM but it probably would have charged me for withdrawals. I bought a can of coke and an ice cream popsicle which was charged to my room. I decided not to use the hotel cafe since it did not accept cash.

Bond 45

Bond 45

I had dinner at Bond 45. This turned out to be the most expensive meal of the entire trip. I ordered a Crab Cobb salad expecting it to be mostly seafood but it was an actual salad so I only picked out the crab, the cheese, the olives, and the eggs. I also had a glass of Prosecco, a coffee and tiramisu.

Eugene O'Neill Theatre

Eugene O’Neill Theatre

That evening was my first theater show on this trip. I was eager to spend an evening at the theater even though I made this trip to do other things in the evenings to experience a variety of night life. I saw the musical The Book of Mormon at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. This was the very first Broadway musical I’ve seen since I prefer straight plays. I choose this show because I wanted to see inside the Eugene O’Neill Theatre and they could be doing this show for years and years. The Book of Mormon was a comical show. It was a bit juvenile and not very witty. I didn’t think any of the songs were memorable. Still it was extravagant and featured a good amount of dancing and inspirational songs. The show made fun of a major religion but was unable to completely dismiss the utility of religion for dealing with life’s challenges. It is a bit surprising that the subject matter was not more controversial since it made fun of Aids in Africa, but I suppose it is seen as being critical of well-intentioned missionary work that does not accomplish anything.

Posted in General, New York City, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Vacation – Day Three

The third day of my vacation in New York City began with breakfast at Applebees on West 42nd Street. We don’t have an Applebees in Williamsport but there is one in Lewisburg. I like West 42nd Street even though it is tacky. I ordered a breakfast sandwich with sausage which came on toast. I also had coffee and potatoes although I barely ate any potatoes. I rarely eat breakfast so I wasn’t looking for a foodie experience. My hotel room appeared to be cleaned early in the morning from around 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. so I made a mental note to be out of my room by then. After breakfast I climbed the TKTS ticket booth steps because I don’t remember if I’ve ever done that before.

My goal for this day was to visit the Lower East Side to take a tour at the Tenement Museum and buy a Raspberry Pi 4 at Tinkersphere. I also had a list of establishments to photograph that I had missed on previous trips to the Lower East Side. I took an F train downtown from Bryant Park to the Lower East Side’s 2nd Avenue Station and arrived around 9:24 a.m. I located the Marc Straus Gallery with some difficulty but it was closed. I had a second breakfast at Dudley’s but I only had a cup of coffee and a bowl of granola and yogurt with blueberries and strawberries. The bowl was larger than I expected!

Dudley's

Dudley’s

After that I walked far east on Grand Street to photograph the Abrons Arts Center. Along the way I passed massive apartment complexes like the Seward Park Housing, Seward Park Extension II, and off in the distance a residential skyscraper, One Manhattan Square. I also came across the Harry De Jur Playhouse next to the Abrons Arts Center and saw the Doughnut Plant. This neighborhood seemed a little gritty so I retraced my steps back to the center of the Lower East Side.

I located and photographed the entrance to Slipper Room which is next to Pizza Beach and hard to spot since it is just a door. I had completely failed to locate this establishment on a previous trip to the Lower East Side. I did find one art gallery open, Benjamin’s Art Gallery on Orchard Street. When I went inside I was greeted by a sales person who seemed more eager to chat up a customer than is usual for an art gallery. She showed me the work of Jeon Nak, a Korean artist who does lenticular lens paintings. This is a technique that makes images that appear to change or move as the image is viewed from different angles.

I found a new CVS store at 194 Orchard Street where I used a Santander ATM to withdraw another $80.00 from my checking account.

Tinkersphere did not open until noon so I walked far west on Delancey Street and found the Bowery Ballroom, a music venue I wanted to photograph because Mother Feather has played there. I walked up the Bowery street and saw the Germania Bank Building which is kind of famous for being in many punk rock photos. I went inside and found it was now home to Supreme, a skateboard clothing boutique. Next I thought I would find the MoMA Design store but I went west on Prince Street instead of Spring Street. Prince Street is directly opposite the New Museum. So I wound up walking past McNally Jackson Books and eventually reached the Prince Street Station at which time I knew something was up. From there I walked north on Broadway back to East Houston Street to eventually find Allen Street. Before going to Tinkersphere I went into Stop 1 Gourmet Deli and bought a small bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino because I was dying of thirst. At Tinkersphere I bought a Due R3 Arduino and a Raspberry Pi 4 (1 GB model). I haven’t really done anything with the Arduino or the Raspberry Pi but I plan to get into that over the winter.

After making that purchase I thought about heading back uptown to leave it at my hotel and get the print out for the Tenement Museum tour which I forgot. I even entered the subway, but as I waited for a train to show up, I began to worry that I would be cutting it too close so I left the subway. I found another deli store to buy something to drink because I was dying of thirst again. The weather was very hot for September and every day of my trip was hot.

97 Orchard Street

97 Orchard Street

At the Tenement Museum I was scheduled to go on the Shop Life tour at 1:35 p.m. I got there about an hour early so I went to the checkout counter to get my ticket. Then I went downstairs to use the restroom and got a drink from a water fountain. I could not use their storage lockers because I did not have a quarter. I watched a 15 minute film and looked through the books in the gift shop. They were selling that New York Non-Stop A Photographic Album in the museum store! That book has a few of my photos in it. The Shop Life Tour did not leave at 1:35 p.m. because there was only two of us and two other people did not show up on time. I had to wait until 2:15 p.m. for another tour which had a different guide. For the Shop Life Tour we walked to 97 Orchard Street and entered a basement store which was once used as a German saloon. We were led to the cramped meeting room and kitchen behind the saloon. There was also a bedroom. From there we entered a room that was left in ruins and finally into a room with sophisticated flat screen tables. You could place an object on the table and read details about the merchants.

After the tour was over I looked for the I Need More punk clothing store but it was closed even though it should have been open. I didn’t feel like spending any more time in the Lower East Side so I took an F train uptown to the 47th-50th Streets – Rockefeller Center Station which brought me closer to my hotel than Bryant Park.

Daniela Trattoria

Daniela Trattoria

I had dinner at Daniela Trattoria on 8th Avenue. I had a reservation there for 5:00 p.m. I ordered the Chicken Scarpariello with lemon, white wine, sausage, vinegar peppers. There was only one sausage. I had tiramisu for dessert. The total was $58.36 with tip so that was a pretty expensive place to eat. Afterwards I walked down West 42 Street to photograph theaters. I saw Theater Row which had been renovated and I notice Stage 42 which is a theater I’ve overlooked until now.

Iridium Harlem Blues Band

Iridium Harlem Blues Band

That evening I finally got to visit a Jazz club in New York City, something I could not do on a day trip. I chose to go to the Iridum Jazz Club because I’ve seen that place on just about every one of my trips to NYC. It is between Ellen’s Stardust Diner and the Winter Garden Theatre. The band I saw was the Harlem Blues Project. I would have preferred some Jazz but there were none scheduled that would have fit my schedule. Although I had a TicketWeb ticket they didn’t actually take it. I was given a white card instead. The stage was actually down a flight of stairs. I was seated pretty close the stage and in the center.  There was a two drink minimum so I ordered a Prosecco and a Mai Tai. The drinks came to $38.65. I paid $40.00 in cash and actually got $2.00 change back. The Harlem Blues Project was made up of four elderly black men. Three of them had guitars and one played drums. They appeared to be pretty laid back and friendly. Some of them worked for New York City in education. I’m not very familiar with Blues so I did not recognize any of the songs but they were quite soulful.

Posted in General, New York City, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Vacation – Day Two

The second day of my vacation in New York City began with breakfast at Bond 45, an expensive restaurant just down the street from my hotel. This was a Sunday, September 22, 2019. I had a gooey cheese omelet and coffee which came to $28.00 plus tip. Needless to say I only ate breakfast there once! My goal for this day was to visit the Financial District to see the Museum of the American Indian, a minor museum which I’ve never seen before. I walked to the vast 42nd Street Times Square station and took the S train shuttle to Grand Central where I transferred to a 4 train to head downtown to the Bowling Green station. This requires walking for blocks underground clear across the 42nd Street Times Square and then clear across the Grand Central station so I’m not sure it really saves you from as much walking as going directly to the 51st Street Station.

I exited the Bowling Green Station from the headhouse in Battery Park and proceeded to photograph monuments in Battery Park like the East Coast Memorial and the Netherland Monument. I also found a few monuments I was not looking for like the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Giovanni da Verrazzano Sculpture, and the Immigrants Sculpture by Luis Sanguino. I found the Castle Clinton National Monument and walked inside to see where you buy tickets for the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I saw the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Portal Building which is used as the fictitious headquarters of the Men in Black.

American Merchant Mariners Memorial

American Merchant Mariners Memorial

At 10:00 a.m. I was ready to see the Museum of the American Indian, also known as the George Gustav Heye Center, which opens at 10:00 a.m. Technically this is just an branch of the Museum of the American Indian which is based in Washington DC. This museum is housed in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, a Beaux Arts-style building. I had to go through a metal detector to enter the building since it is also home to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. I had trouble finding the rotunda because it is located on the second floor. The rotunda features murals by Reginald Marsh which I photographed. Around the rotunda where black and white photographs by Ara Güler. Ara Güler was an Armenian-Turkish photojournalist. So why were his photos on display at the Museum of the American Indian? It appears there was an Intercultural Conversation on Ara Güler, an expert panel discussing the work, life, and legacy of the world-renowned Turkish photographer, held on September 24th at the Museum of the American Indian. The panel coincided with the opening of a new exhibit at the Alexander Hamilton Custom House, running from September 23rd through October 4th.

Museum of the American Indian

Museum of the American Indian

The American Indian exhibits were behind the rotunda. I saw lots of pottery, baskets, and buckskin clothing. The only thing that really interested me was a display case devoted to the Peyote Way. I used the restroom and then went to the gift shop where I bought a medium sized dream catcher, a Shaman’s Way CD,  and a book The Wind Is My Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman by Bear Heart with Molly Larkin. I did not intend to buy anything at this museum store but I could not resist anything related to shamanism.

After leaving the museum I quickly found the Charging Bull statue which was surrounded by a crowd of tourists as usual. However, I did manage to take one decent photo during a break in the crowd. Next I located the 3-Legged Dog performance space but it was missing all its signage so I’m sure if it still exists. I took the 1 train Uptown to 50th Street Station and returned to my hotel to drop off my purchases.

Charging Bull

Charging Bull

There was a Broadway Flea Market going on down a few streets so I found the Dramatists Guild table and bought a copy of Out Of The Water by Brooke Berman for $1.00. The flea market was very crowded or I would have spent more time looking for rare theater merchandise.

I made a special trip to a New Age book store, Quest Bookshop, which is associated with the Theosophical Society. The book store is located near the Lipstick Building and I’m rarely that far east in MidTown Manhattan which is why I’ve never visited this book store before. Unfortunately they had a poor selection of books on shamanism so after much deliberation I had to settle for the book Natural Prayers by Chet Raymo, which appears to be a book on nature mysticism. There was nothing else to see or do in that neighborhood so I returned to my hotel and had lunch at Carve: Unique Sandwiches. I had a mini sandwich Tuna Salad with Dill, with tomatoes, lettuce and mayo. And I drank a coke which I ate at the counter. After dropping off my book at the hotel I took an R train downtown to the 28th Street Station and photographed the Little Church Around the Corner. This church has some associations with the theater and actors. I located the Museum of Sex afterwards and found Madison Square Park where I managed to take another R train Uptown to the 50th Street Station. I went to a Duane Reade where I bought a bottle of Starbucks coffee and a small bottle of lotion. For dinner I went to Pret A Manger where I ate a Basil Chicken sandwich with Avocado, an apple parfait, and a can of coke.

Carolines on Broadway

Carolines on Broadway

That evening was the first night life activity I had scheduled. I saw a comedy show at Carolines on Broadway, Natalie Friedman: First Impressions. I had never heard of this comedian before. Apparently she is famous for doing impressions of celebrities like Kim Kardashian. But I have gone without cable television for so long that I barely know who Kim Kardashian is. I only had a print out so an hour before the show I went downstairs and was given a piece of paper which serves as the real ticket. However, I did not want to wait for an hour at the bar so I walked around Times Square for awhile. When I returned to the comedy club they seated everyone numbered 1 through 20 first. I had number 22 so I had to wait a bit longer. The first group may have been let in early for a meet and greet with Natalie Friedman before the show. I did see her come in.

There were three comedians before the main act; Tyler Fischer, Jim Mendrinos, and Meme Simpson. Frankly I thought they were all better than Natalie Friedman. There was a two drink minimum so I ordered two cocktails; a Mai Tai and something with blackberries. These drinks must have contained very little liquor since they had no noticeable effect on me. After the show we were given lottery tickets so I thought there was going to be a raffle but these were just meant to show that we had met the two drink minimum. You had to present this raffle ticket as you were leaving.

Posted in General, New York City, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New York City Vacation – Day One

I finally decided to spend an entire week in New York City for my vacation. The main purpose of this trip was to check out the night life, since all of my day trips end at 8:00 p.m. I have been prevented from doing anything in the evenings. I also thought it was about time to give New York City an entire week like the other cities I have visited. I actually spent eight days in New York City because I did not return home until Sunday morning. This did not give me a day to recover, but I didn’t really need that.

I booked a round trip to New York City with Fullington Trailways because Susquehanna Trailways no longer handles regular service to New York City. Their routes have been taken over by Fullington Trailways. I still parked at the Church Street Transportation Center and got on the bus there. I was carrying my Skyway carry-on bag with my laptop in the bottom and my favorite Protege luggage. I considered taking my largest piece of luggage so I could bring a lot of books home, but I didn’t want to drag a huge bag along the streets of New York City. The plan was to walk from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to my hotel and thereby avoid having to get a taxi. The bus ride to New York City took five hours with one transfer to another bus in Lehighton.

Paramount Hotel

Paramount Hotel

I arrived in New York City around Noon and used the restroom at the Port Authority Bus Terminal because I was not sure if my hotel room would be ready. I hauled my luggage four blocks north to West 46 Street. I was staying at the Paramount Hotel on West 46 Street, right in the heart of the Theater District. I had considered staying at Yotel but their rates were not competitive. Fortunately my room was ready. My room number was 1839 so it was on the 18th floor of the 19 floors. I got two room keys which were like credit cards. You could only operate the elevator with a room key and you only had access to certain floors. Getting the card reader to give you the green light proved to be a little tricky at times. My room turned out to be pretty small and cramped but I hardly spent any time there since I treated each day as a precious day trip and kept busy walking around the city.

Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A

I was hungry after that long bus trip so I went to a Chick-fil-A on 6th Avenue for lunch. This fast food restaurant chain is not in my area so this was a new experience for me. I ordered a chicken sandwich and a coke. There were almost no tables so I had to stand at a counter to eat. After that I took lots of photos of establishments on West 46th Street because this was to be my base of operations. I also took photos of the theaters with advertising for the plays and musicals I was going to see. On West 46th Street I took photos of Brasserie Athénée, the Richard Rodgers Theatre which was showing the musical Hamilton, the Church of Scientology of New York, and Havana Central Times Square. I also took a lot of photos of establishments on West 42nd Street because I had discovered that I’ve never taken good photos of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! or Madame Tussauds New York. Although I’ve never been interested in the more tacky tourist attractions, I did buy a ticket for Ripley’s Believe It or Not online. This museum is like the last remnant of the dime museums, freak shows with bizarre attractions like flea circuses. In fact, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! also calls itself an odditorium since it features oddities. I didn’t see any actual freaks, just mannequins representing freaks of yesterday. All in all, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! wasn’t as bad as I expected, even though it was tacky. I saw some shrunken heads and a headless chicken.

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

I made sure to photograph the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, the Hayes Theater, Studio 54, and Carolines on Broadway because I was going to see shows there. I stopped in at One Schubert Alley and bought a lyrics book for The Book of Mormon since I was going to see that musical. Eventually I walked all the way uptown to West 57th Street and located the Art Students League of New York and Alwyn Court but they were covered in sidewalk sheds. I bought a 7 day Metrocard at the 57th Street Station for the F and M trains. It was difficult to tell which stairs to take because the signage did not indicate uptown or downtown, only the final station. I think I took an F train down to Bryant Park since I have a lot of photos of the park.

At some point I wandered east on West 50th Street to reach 6th Avenue and took photos of Radio City Music Hall and Fox News Corporation.

Brasserie Athénée

Brasserie Athénée

At 6:00 p.m. I had dinner at Brasserie Athénée which was near my hotel. I had the French Cut Chicken Breast wild mushrooms lemon jus and Trio Sherbert for desert. After dinner I wandered around Times Square a bit to see it at night. I didn’t have any plans that evening because I expected it to take longer to get settled in at the hotel.

 

Posted in New York City, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New York City in August 2019

Yesterday I made another inspiring trip to New York City. The main goal on this trip was to see a Broadway play. This was not my original intention but now I receive flyers and postcards in the mail for major Broadway shows and one showed up that I could not resist.

Unfortunately I forgot to pack my headphones so I spent the bus ride to New York City reading a novel on my Kindle. I’ve been reading The Brownstone by Ken Eulo, a horror novel. The only interesting aspect of this novel is that the protagonist is a theater director and the brownstone is in New York City. I still have an hour’s of reading time left to finish this novel. I like how the Kindle gives you that kind of information. Instead of stopping at McDonald’s for a breakfast break, the bus stopped at a Dunkin Donuts in New Jersey. There was a bit of a mix up with my order since I was not given a receipt.

The Susquehanna Trailways bus arrived in New York City at 10:00 p.m. and had to drop us off at the Times Square Church since 8th Avenue was closed for a street festival. This put me close to the sunken plaza for the 50th Street Station for the 1 line which I intended to take downtown to the 18th Street Station. I decided to head directly downtown rather than wander around Times Square to photograph some establishments. This put me in the vicinity of the Rubin Museum of Art before it opened at 11:00 a.m. So I walked to the Poster House museum on West 23rd Street to take a photo of the entrance to this new museum. Along the way I photographed a few interesting buildings along 6th Avenue. There was a Housing Works Thrift Shop across the street from the Rubin Museum of Art so I went in there to browse through the small selection of used books and DVDs before going to the museum.

I visited the Rubin Museum of Art promptly at 11:00 a.m. when it opened and explored all six floors in only a half hour. I saw relics from an ancient stupa on floor 2. On floor 4 I saw the shrine room. On floor five I saw prayer wheels. The sixth floor was the least interesting since it featured contemporary art on acts of resistance. Frankly, I’m getting disgusted with the obligatory virtue signaling of progressives. I don’t mind it when it seems genuinely organic but nobody even attempts to hide the fact that they are pandering to some precious marginalized community, even when it does not apply in any obvious way to their mission. This museum dedicated to Himalayan and Tibetan art could obviously be expected to address issues related to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, but the art on the sixth floor was mostly irrelevant.

The Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art

My next destination was the Poster House, which I had previously located. The Poster House is a new museum in New York City for poster art. There is no telling how long this museum is going to last since most people aren’t too keen on seeing posters. But posters are a legitimate form of advertising art and there is a long history of innovative design in posters. The museum isn’t really big enough to do the subject justice but I saw a major exhibit on Bauhaus posters and the Art Nouveau posters of Alphonse Mucha. Alphonse Mucha artwork is extraordinary and seeing a large collection of his posters made this museum worth my while. I especially liked his theatrical posters of Sarah Bernhardt. I’m thinking of getting a print of his poster of Sarah Bernhardt for Hamlet. This would make a nice addition to my wall of theater promotional photos which I’m designing for the sake of inspiration. I didn’t spend much time at the Poster House because I wanted to get uptown in time to see my Broadway play.

Poster House

Poster House

The 23rd Street Station for the F line is near the Poster House so I took that train uptown to the 42nd Street – Bryant Park station. I immediately headed for the HBO Shop thinking I’d buy season 4 of Silicon Valley before the play started but I found this store closed for asbestos removal. I was carrying the Rubin Visitor Guide around in my hand so I wanted a shopping bag to put it in. Since the HBO Shop was unexpectedly closed, I went to BookOff on West 45th Street instead. I didn’t find much in their shelf of plays but eventually I settled for a Dramatists Play Service script for Gizmo Love by John Kolvenbach. I also found a Skyscraper (Dwayne Johnson) Blu-Ray for only $7.00. Some of their prices were ridiculous, like $45.00 for a DVD of Adaptation, which was on my shopping list. The sales clerk was extremely rude to me although I don’t know what set him off.

Now that I had a shopping bag for my stuff I proceeded to locate the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and took a few photos of its advertising for the play Betrayal by Harold Pinter. There didn’t appear to be a line forming for the show yet so I went off to photograph a few establishments in the theater district. The only one I had time to locate was St. Lukes Theatre, an Off Broadway venue that has escaped my notice. When I returned to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre there was a huge line down the street which must have formed in the few minutes I was away. I was kind of pissed being so far down the line but eventually somebody came to ask us to form a second line which placed me closer to the doors.

The highlight of my trip was seeing the play Betrayal by Harold Pinter on Broadway. I have to admit that the big draw for seeing this show was Tom Hiddleston. Tom Hiddleston plays Loki in the Marvel Thor and Avengers movies. In fact, I joked that this play was about Loki betraying Thor once again. But I’m actually familiar with Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal. This play is familiar to all aspiring playwrights since it is frequently cited for its unusual handling of time. The events of the play go backwards in time, making the play a little hard to follow, but it is done brilliantly. Most modern playwrights have studied this play. While that alone may have made it worth seeing, I’ll admit that I just wanted to see Tom Hiddleston live on stage. Tom Hiddleston is a respected Shakespearean actor so I’m not entirely to blame for being too much of a pop culture nerd.

Betrayal

Betrayal

The play was 90 minutes without intermission and we were warned that we would not be allowed back to our seats if we got up to use the restrooms. I was seated close to the stage, but far to the left. I was able to hear the dialogue perfectly well although it was a little low. There was no stage set except for some chairs and a back wall. However, the stage did rotate so the characters would be turned around like dolls on display. They frequently cast shadows on the back wall that were so perfectly rendered by the lighting that it must have been deliberate. I kept my eyes on Tom Hiddleston who is quite tall and lanky. He looked very distinguished looking, like a male model. While the other two actors were doing a scene he was lurking in the background looking aggrieved. The other actors did the same when they were not part of the scene. This kept the presence of the character on the stage as they were being betrayed by their spouse or friend. Without a stage set I think the drama was a little abstract. This was a great play which I would probably see if our community theater or college theater did it, but I only paid $169 to see it on Broadway because it featured a major movie star like Tom Hiddleston. Charlie Cox is also a movie star but I’m less familiar with his work.

After the play I had about an hour to kill before my dinner reservation. I used the time to photograph a few obscure establishments that my relentless research had turned up. First I located Hell’s Kitchen on 9th Avenue. Although this appears to be only a restaurant, on the fourth floor of the building is NuBox Theatre and John DeSotelle Studio. I have submitted a 10 minute play to NuBox Theatre but it probably won’t be selected. Next I located a rare art gallery in Hell’s Kitchen, Jadite Galleries, but they were closed and shuttered with a security gate. Finally I photographed Theater at St. Clement’s, a church which offers a performing venue for the Red Bull Theater, a classical theater company that I’m interested in. I still had time to go to Best Buy on 5th Avenue where I bought a pair of cheap Neon brand headphones for $20.00. I needed headphones since I had forgotten to bring my good headphones on the trip. Before leaving the store I was forced to show a security guard my sales receipt, which was annoying because I was in a hurry to make my dinner reservation.

The Algonquin

The Algonquin

Fortunately I had plenty of time to make it to the restaurant. I chose the Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel for its literary associations. This is where Dorothy Parker and other witty writers would meet for lunch. Other members of her “vicious circle” were playwrights like George S. Kaufman and Robert E. Sherwood and theater critics like Alexander Woollcott. I was not seated at the round table, but I sat nearby with it in view. I don’t think they like to seat anybody at the round table. I ordered the Grilled French Cut Chicken Breast which comes on a bed of spring peas, fava beans, artichoke roasted sunchokes and maitake mushrooms with a whole grain mustard jus. It took a long time for that to come, in fact, it took an entire hour for me to complete dinner. Before my entree arrived I drank a glass of ice water and ate a single bread bun which they eventually gave me. I asked to use the restroom which was downstairs. There was a steep winding set of stairs to get to it. On the way back to my table I took a photo of the painting A Vicious Circle by Natalie Ascencios. The chicken breast was excellent and not too much to eat so I also had some ice cream for desert and a cup of coffee. My entire bill came to $52.26 and I left a tip of $5.00 for a total of $57.26. The service was excellent and the food was great so I think it was worth it.

Times Square Betrayal

Times Square Betrayal

After leaving the Algonquin Hotel I walked to the Kinokuniya Bookstore on 6th Avenue to do a little more shopping. I did not find any Japanese movies on DVD to buy since they seem to only carry manga now. But I did buy a book, The Changeling by Victor LaValle. I had added the novelist Victor LaValle to my notes as a New York City writer the day before my trip. I was hoping to find one of his earlier novels but I settled on this one. My final goal was to take a better photograph of the bar, Characters, on 54th Street for my notes. I walked though Times Square on my way there and stopped for several minutes waiting for a digital screen to cycle back to advertising for the Betrayal Broadway play. I also came across the HOPE sculpture on the way. After taking several photos of the Characters bar I walked back to the Times Square Church to wait for the bus that would take me home. On the ride home I watched the movie The Black Hole on my smartphone using my 128GB USB OTG Flash Drive. My new headphones were not as good as the headphones I forgot but they worked well enough. We stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center at Delaware Water Gap on the way home for a rest stop. I bought a bottle of coke from a vending machine but it caused me terrible indigestion when I drank it all.

In conclusion, this was another successful trip to New York City which was as inspiring as previous trips. A few minor things went wrong but nothing serious. Unfortunately, the inspiration I get from these trips does not last long and does not appear to be enough to counter the discouragement I get from my play rejections. Still I will soon be writing a significant play and I’ve come across a few more promising opportunities. I’m considering spending a solid week in New York City this month as my next vacation, but the only things left for me to do are some nightlife stuff.

Posted in General, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment