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  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:48 am on May 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brooklyn Bridge station, , , , , , , Old City Hall Station, time travel,   

    Old City Hall Station in NYC 

    If you board a number 6 train at Brooklyn Bridge station on the downtown platform, look out the window, shielding your eyes from the fluorescent glare as the train, screeching like a banshee, returns to the uptown platform, you can catch a glimpse of the fabled Old City Hall station.

    old city hall station

    For years conductors used to sweep the train cars ejecting people trying to take a look, but these days you are allowed to ride the City Hall loop, and if you buy a Transit Museum membership and be lucky enough to score a ticket, you can tour the station in person.

    old city hall station

    You can gawk at the vaulted ceilings,

    old city hall station

    see the remnants of tar from WWII blackout on the skylights.

    old city hall station

    Take in the atmosphere. It’s eery.

    old city hall station

    The brass chandeliers no longer have beautiful carbon filament lamps (which can be purchased for about $20 a pop), but are almost as dim.

    old city hall station

    The passing trains produce a deafening noise navigating the roundest piece of track in NYC.

    old city hall station

    There are more skylights and more tar (they used to be completely covered in it because of wartime considerations.

    old city hall station

    The lobby does not have the original ticket booth, but there are no turnstiles ether. Your metrocard is no good here.

    old city hall station

    Things are a little shabby, but the abandoned station is pretty well preserved and restored. It’s truly a pity they don’t use carbon filament bulbs.

    old city hall station

    The combination of modern trains and the ancient station is unsettling.

    old city hall station

    It’s freaking magical.

    old city hall station

    Yep, the protagonist of the novel “From Time To Time” could use for time travel.
    old city hall station

    And then they bring out a special wooden bridge, and it’s back to modern times.

    old city hall station

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:17 pm on September 12, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Altavista, , Dakota Building, dissatisfied illustrator, , Frederick Law Olmsted, , Invasion of The Body Snatchers, , , , , , , Si Morley, , time travel, time travel story, tiny little startup   

    Again With Time 

    Setting Wright’s book aside, I went on to read Jack Finney’s “Time And Again” which was up  next. I’ve read it in Russian translation many years ago, but understood very little of what makes it so very special a book. My mom seemed to appreciate it better back then, because it remains the only science fiction book that she ever liked. This time, in English and after a quarter of my lifetime spent in New York, the book truly resonated.

    “Time And Again” is a time travel story, with a novel and decidedly low tech approach.  The idea is that the past really exists, but we do not slip back into it because our minds are tethered to the present by a web of knowledge that is increasingly time specific: computer is a machine, not a person; Microsoft is a giant corporation,not a tiny little startup; Altavista is forgotten, Google is the best search engine; webpages are out, blogs are in; I just opened Semagic to write this post, I just typed this sentence.  We are constantly reminded of when we are: our computers hum, there are airplanes flying overhead, if we look out of the window there are cars parked outside.  We call them cars, not automobiles most of the time.

    To travel back you need to find a places that exists both in the present and in the past unchanged, potential portals. If have certain talents, go to such a place, dress in the style of the past, eat what people used to eat then, become saturated with the lingering atmosphere of the past. And then, trough self hypnosis, make yourself temporarily forget about modern things – and back you go, into the past.

    In the book, a government secret project taps a talented, but loosely and dissatisfied illustrator Si Morley who successfully uses an empty apartment in the Dakota Building near Central Park to travel back to the Eighties. The Eighteen Eighties.

    Just like Jack Finney is better known for “Invasion of The Body Snatchers“, the Dakota is better known as the building where John Lennon lived and inf front of which he was killed. It’s a monster of a building with 14 ft ceilings, very thick walls  and giant apartments. From the top floors all you can see is Central Park, a place that is kept true to Frederick Law Olmsted’s master plan as much as possible. In short – a time portal.

    What I especially love about the book is the fact that it is very well illustrated with photographs and drawings which are presented by the protagonist in line with the narration. Why in this age of computer augmented publishing  so few other books show photographs next to the text that describes them is beyond me.

    Here’s Si Morley’s photo of the Dakota side to side with my version:

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:56 am on March 19, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Automatons, , , , , Knowledge Worker, , , Telepresence, The Machine Stops, time travel,   

    Knowledge Worker’s Dream 

    I recently remembered the most amazing story that I’ve read 5 or 6 years ago, and my wife found the book that contains it yesterday. The book is called “Fairy Tales For Computers“. , and the story is “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster.

    The story was written in 1909 and since it’s in public domain now, so the full text of it is online.

    It’s a story of a future in which people live in small apartments underground, all cared for by an almost Matrix-style machine, communicating almost exclusively through telepresence.

    “‘Who is it?’ she called. Her voice was irritable, for she had been interrupted often since the music began. She knew several thousand people, in certain directions human intercourse had advanced enormously.”

    “Vashanti’s next move was to turn off the isolation switch, and all the accumulations of the last three minutes burst upon her. The room was filled with the noise of bells, and speaking-tubes. What was the new food like? Could she recommend it? Has she had any ideas lately? Might one tell her one’s own ideas? Would she make an engagement to visit the public nurseries at an early date? – say this day month.
    To most of these questions she replied with irritation – a growing quality in that accelerated age. She said that the new food was horrible. That she could not visit the public nurseries through press of engagements. That she had no ideas of her own but had just been told one-that four stars and three in the middle were like a man: she doubted there was much in it. Then she switched off her correspondents, for it was time to deliver her lecture on Australian music. “

    Living constantly communicating with hundreds or even thousands of correspondents, looking for and generating “ideas”, being served by and cared for by automatons – isn’t that a knowledge worker’s dream? Are you scared yet? Don’t “accumulations of the last three minutes” strike you familiar? Your inbox, your livejournal “friends” feed?

    Too bad that “A Logic Named Joe” is not out of copyright. These two stories together are an irrefutable proof of time travel. But none of you will read it, so nobody will believe me anyway.

     
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