Monday, December 10, 2007

Mafia, Inc.

I have some new responsibilities at Newsweek, and part of them entail developing web-only content to help build the site. My biggest foray to date just went online. It's a photo gallery about how organized crime both benefits from and is challenged by globalization - just like traditional businesses. It's tied to a story by Christian Caryl in this week's magazine, on the yakuza's "corporate restructuring."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Santacon 2007

No one heeded my advice to come to Santacon this year, and even before the event was over, I was receiving regretful emails: "Just passed a horde of Santas...Looks like so much fun! So sad I didn't come." Well in this case I do not hate to say "I told you so," in fact I relish the opportunity. Although the altruist in me does hope your Saturday afternoon at The Container Store was an equally unique event.

Anyway, once again it was just Alisa and me, but we had a blast anyway. We met up with the group at Spring and Greenwich. At the bodega, a line of Santas snaked through the store, all waiting to buy beer or breakfast bagels. Later, a Santa confided to me that he had stolen a six-pack at that store. I chided him, "That's not in the Christmas spirit." He replied, "But it is in the spirit of Santarchy." And so it was.

We made our way east across Spring street to the E train.

We passed a Christmas tree lot, and Alisa and I gave candy canes to the little ones, who were very confused and possibly frightened by the sheer number of Santas, most of which already had a good buzz on. Their parents were good sports.

The train was, of course, crowded with Santas.

We got off at Times Square. Last year, Times Square was my favorite part. Five hundred Santas walking through the Tourist Mecca of the Western World is an awe-inducing spectacle. We stopped traffic, gave away candy, impressed Midwesterners with our sheer joie de vivre.

This time around, Alisa and I had gotten ahead of the main group, so it didn't have the same impact. But there were still choice moments like this one:

We paused at a bar called Connolly's. I believe it was chosen by the event's organizers merely because it was four stories and could host hundreds of drunken rabble-rousers. And a rabble we did rouse. Here's a shot of the street from my third-floor vantage point:

This is as good a point as anyway to show off some of the day's curiosities. Here's Alisa with a couple Alfs/Elves.

The guy pictured below was a Spanking Santa, who was giving random people wallops on the bottom.

But definitely the costume (contraption?) that received the most gawking was this bizarre cross between Santa's sleigh and an S&M film set gone horribly wrong:

Anyway, after Connolly's we walked across Midtown to Grand Central Terminal, which was by far the best stop of the trip. When Alisa and I first arrived, there was already a horde waiting for us:

But by the time we left, the place was simply Santa-ridden.

The many tourists that flock to Grand Central loved it. After all, we are a Seussian childhood fantasy come to life. Alisa and I had our pictures taken with a couple lovely women from South Carolina. They were very nice, even when I mistakenly placed Charlotte in their state and Alisa mistook them for Australians.

Afterwards, back on the subway...

...where we ran into Meredith, Josh's friend from Washington, DC. Which is doubly weird, because a) I hardly run into friends from New York on the street and b) I was wearing a Santa costume. But Meredith, too, loved our joie de vivre, and even tolerated the random Santa who was unabashedly hitting on her. (In the subway! In a Santa costume!)

We got off at Astor Place and made a ruckus. This taxi driver took note.

After getting some dumplings at The Dumpling Man on St. Mark's Place, which is my new favorite cheap food spot, we congregated in Tompkins Square Park. We noticed a parked Red Bull promo car nearby. Alisa and I were some of the first on the scene.

But then other Santas noticed the car and started piling in...

...until it was something of a free-for-all. Thinking this was great publicity, and very much in the nature of the Red Bull image, I said to one of the Red Bull girls, "You ought to get a promotion for this." "Or fired," she replied.

Last picture: Alisa with an unidentified Jewish character.

Afterwards, I played some drunken Buck Hunt at a nearby bar (I did horribly, except for the bonus round), and then got irrationally mad at Alisa for wanting to go home at four. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Ms. Pac-Man High Score

I beat Brad. Finally. But handily.