Category Archives: queens

2011 US Open

I hope you don’t mind a bit of a photo post flashback to August. I actually just realized that I hadn’t switched the calendar in my apartment that I see everyday since August, so in a way this is timely, at least to my mental time. Anyway, while my parents were visiting we went up to Flushing Meadows in Queens to see the 2011 US Open. Enjoy some photo highlights below! I ended up liking my photos of people serving the most, when they were caught in a full body movement upward. Even though I’m not an obsessive tennis watcher, it was really fun to move around from stadium to stadium and get caught up in the matches. I recommend everyone who lives in New York go at least once.

1964 World’s Fair Relics

After our adventuring at the Maker Faire, where we saw the New York Hall of Science that was built for the 1964 World’s Fair, we walked over to the Unisphere, another relic of the fair. I’d seen many pictures of it, but it was much taller than I expected, around 12 stories. The fountains were off and some kids were wandering around the basin. When the fountains are on, they are meant to give the huge globe the appearance of floating in space, and during the fair special lights gave the illusion of the sun reflecting on its surface. The loops around it represented satellites circling the planet.

The 1964 World’s Fair was all about the space age, from the field of rockets to a “fusion machine,” that didn’t really work, but made a loud sound. (Thanks to a knowledgeable uncle who attended the fair for the fact!) The Unisphere was the icon of it all, a futuristic representation of the Earth built on the foundation of the Perisphere that was central to the 1939 World’s Fair.

The Observatory Towers are also still standing, although not in very good shape. They haven’t been open since the fair ended in 1965, although they’ve made a few pop culture appearances, most notably as space saucers in Men in Black. I mention this because I found out there are recreations of them at the Men in Black ride at Universal Studios, which are glistening in comparison to the originals. The Tent of Tomorrow is the arena-like structure to their left, which has also seen more glorious days. Although all of this complex is closed to the public, you can read a great account of an urban explorer climbing to the top at Undercity.org. (The guy who runs that site did the talk on exploring the catacombs I attended at the Flux Factory a while ago.)

Inside the Queens Museum of Art, we saw the stunning New York Panorama. As it was the end of the “day” in the small-scale city, the sun was setting and shadows were creeping across the miniature landscape. It was built for the fair by the prolific and controversial Robert Moses, and has every building built before 1992 in the five boroughs (buildings were added after the fair). I even spotted my little building in Greenwood Heights, easy to find with the expansive Green-Wood Cemetery in miniature nearby.

Here is a good view showing sections of all the boroughs but Staten Island. Visitors are able to walk around the perimeter, looking over at the tiny bridges, parks, and neighborhoods created in painstaking detail. Even the World’s Fair grounds are there, as is Coney Island, Washington Square Park,  and Roosevelt Island.

The Queens Museum of Art also had an interesting collection of World’s Fair memorabilia, even in its shop. I would love to have gone to one of these optimistic World’s Fairs with technological wonders. Just watch this video of the Futurama ride to see some unfulfilled space age plans. Where is my moon colony? Well, maybe some dreams are meant to be unrealized. Still, it’s a little bit sad to look at that Unisphere in its dry lagoon, the observation towers crumbling behind it, and think that 45 years have passed leaving deterioration and faded ideas. And yet, it is a lovely park, where people were strolling and kids were riding skateboards. Maybe the legacy of a park as a vibrant centerpiece of the borough and an icon of the city is as good as international space travel.

Maker Faire New York

This past Sunday I went to the 2010 Maker Faire New York up at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. The Hall of Science happens to be in one of the few remaining 1964 World’s Fair structures, but there will be more World’s Fair exploring in a following post. I have to thank my friend (and co-graphic novelist) Ashley for sending the Maker Faire tickets, especially so that I could see what I hope is my future mode of transportation: the riding lawnmower being consumed in the tentacles of a squid. When I am a wildly successful author of cephalopod fiction, you’ll see me cruising around rural Oklahoma in this.

As you might guess from its name, the Maker Faire is all about celebrating people who make things, whether it’s crafts, robots, or the flame-shooting, bicycle-powered contraption by the Madagascar Institute shown above. (The Madagascar Institute definitely got the most attention, and with plenty of noise and fire, I can’t really complain about that. Plus, they are based in Brooklyn. A lot of these photos I’m posting are of their creations.)

I was hoping for a little more of a science fair-vibe, and thought there were perhaps a few two many people just selling things or businesses promoting themselves. A notable exception was this dark room inside the Science Hall  that had wonderful light art and other luminous experiments. There was the Petit Mal light installation that I’d previously seen at Figment on Governors Island, as well as the interesting light nests shown above. One of the coolest things was a tube system that involved air pressure to move colored fluid. While the setup for the fair was small, there was a projection of a whole dress the artist had made with the tubes. Really awesome.

The New York Hall of Science itself is an extraordinary building. This picture does not do it justice. The main hall has all this blue glass up to the ceiling, and the sunlight shines through to create the effect of being in a futuristic cathedral.

There were two rockets outside of the museum: a Titan II and an Atlas rocket. Both were part of the space park at the 1964 World’s Fair. You can see the reproductions of the space capsules at the top.

Another World’s Fair relic on the grounds of the Maker Faire was this rocket ship statue (surrounded by Madagascar Institute contraptions). If you want to see more of all the awesome Space Age things at the World’s Fair, you should click here.

At one point, the entrance of the New York Hall of Science was crowded with costumed aliens, which were actually kind of terrifying, although the kids loved them. There was a talking dog wearing a suit would have been enough for me to want to leave the fair when I was young (I still don’t want him near me, his head was too small and his shoulders were slanted). It was kind of out of control.

Back outside, I saw that the Electric Chaircut guy who was at the 2009 Under the Bridge Festival. He was set up with his electric scissors connected to the amplifier on his back. The haircuts are free, provided you don’t mind being taped to the chair and then having your hair collected in a plastic bag for his collection. Parents were encouraging their kids to do it so they wouldn’t have to pay for haircuts…that could be traumatizing.

Every once in a while, it would suddenly sound like an airplane was taking off, but it was the Madagascar Institute again, this time with the Jet Ponies. They were in fact powered by jet engines and flew around in a circle. (Correction: powered by valveless pulse jets! Thanks to a commenter for having more knowledge than me. Must be a better factchecker.) Yes, there were flames as well.

If I could give a suggestion for the next Maker Faire organizers, it would be to have coffee, somewhere, please. What kind of event devoted to people who are likely insomniacs doesn’t have large quantities of coffee? This is a really minor complaint, I guess. However, it was awesome that the Red Hook and Brooklyn Flea food vendors were there. And this robot that appeared to be drawn in blood wanted me to buy beer.

From the Maker Faire, we walked over to the Unisphere and the Queens Art Museum, which I’ll cover in the next post. So look forward to more World’s Fair nostalgia! I have a bit of an obsession with World’s Fairs. Why can’t I ever just like something and not become totally obsessed?