Author Archive

Don’t Call it a Comeback: Why Vinyl Still Matters

December 13th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

Did you hear that vinyl was dead?

If so, you may have heard wrong.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, in 2008, more vinyl albums were purchased than any other previous year in the history of Nielsen. That’s 1.88 million records. An impressive number. What’s more impressive? In 2009, that number increased by 33 percent.

What’s interesting is that the market for other forms of analog devices, such as compact cassette tapes and 8-tracks, is non-existant, or relegated to “cult” status: experimental indie rock group Animal Collective is offering a free cassette of unreleased songs with every pre-order of a new shoe each member has designed for the Keep shoe company.

But the above numbers indicate that the vinyl market is hardly niche, or a blip on the radar. So why vinyl, and why now? With record companies struggling to keep up with the digital boom in the last decade the vinyl surge seems curious. How can an old form of technology thrive during a time when even MP3 players can become obsolete after a year or so of use?

“Vinyl sounds better than CD,” says Greg Winter, 29. “A well cared-for, clean vinyl on a good sound system will kick a CD’s ass any day.”

Winter is the impetus behind HPRS, formerly known as the Highland Park Record Sale, an underground record sale in Iselin, NJ. He began collecting vinyl about 15 years ago, but entered into the world of vinyl sales about eight years ago. He says the reason digital hasn’t buried analog is simply because the quality of sound is just not as impressive. To some, the compression process destroys the quality of the music.

Beyond that, though, Winter believes that vinyl appeals to a certain subset of music fan who cares about not only the music quality, but the music experience.

“There’s a magical quality about vinyl,” Winter says. “The feel of it, the warmth of it. Dropping a diamond tipped needle into a groove that plays music– you don’t have that engagement with a CD.”

More cynically, the question very well may not be “why is vinyl back,” but rather, “what reason does anyone have to continue to buy CDs?” In an age when music is so easy to consume digitally, the younger generations never became too attached to CDs, and older fans who never accepted them see no reason to buy them now. That vinyl has something to offer– a musical experience over a piece of plastic ephemera– seems to be the cause of its longevity. And with new hardware and software that lets you rip your vinyl to your hard drive, you can have your cake and eat it too: you can buy vinyl as a collector, and still have each song at your fingertips.

Below, see and hear more from Greg– including some of his stops along the way– and perhaps learn a little more about what it is that makes vinyl so special these days.

The 2010 Gotham Girls Roller Derby Five Borough Furies Awards

December 6th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

A Larceny Pattern in Brooklyn

November 29th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

Police are looking for a group of men in connection with a string of crimes against wireless phone stores in Brooklyn over the last three months. One robbery resulted in the injury of a store employee. Altogether, 8 locations were hit for a total of 52 stolen phones and one stolen laptop, police say.

Click below for a map of locations hit, and a description of the crimes.

Flushing, NY

November 22nd, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

After the jump, a tour of Flushing, NY.

Commerce on the Streets of Manhattan

November 13th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

Street vending is an integral part of the New York City landscape. According to the Urban Justice Center, the city houses more than 10,000 street vendors, ranging from food, to art, to clothes and music. I took to the streets of Manhattan to capture a small segment of the street vending community.

The 2010 Midterm Elections

November 8th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

With the Republican Party gaining a majority in the House of Representatives and adding additional seats in the Senate, the 2010 midterm elections have changed the face of government.

Pundits from both sides of the political spectrum, liberal and conservative, speculated as to what the outcome of the elections would be. At times, the media narrative focused on the Tea Party, and Republican “outsider” candidates who would move into Washington and change the “status quo.” Other times the media chose to focus on Sarah Palin’s influence on the elections, having backed successful candidates in the Republican primaries, and gone on to campaign for other Republican candidates during the midterm.

Overall, the buzz word was “wave”; as in, a wave of Republicans taking seats from the Democrats.

I asked people what they thought of the midterm elections.

(A note on sample size: conservatives were not as well represented in my polling as I would have liked, so I thought it best to separate the data by liberals and conservatives. However, polling will continue, and I’d love a larger sample size, so if you haven’t taken the survey, or know someone who would be interested, click here to visit the poll!)


Please Don’t Be That Guy

October 4th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

On Sunday, I spent my time at a local bar as the New York Jets handily beat the Buffalo Bills, 38-14. While I sipped my drink uninterestedly (I’m a Giants fan) and my friend Geoff fumed at the inept Buffalo offense (he’s a Bills fan) I took a look around the bar.

What did I see? The proverbial “that guy.” You’ve seen “that guy.” He’s the guy you see at the concert wearing the headlining band’s t-shirt, or the guy who says “I like all kinds of music except country,” or the guy who says “I’m a Libertarian.”

In the opinionated melting pot atmosphere of New York City, being “that guy” at a sports bar can be even more risky. So how can you avoid being “that guy” at the sports bar? Below the cut: five sports bar stereotypes to avoid.

MTA Beefs

September 27th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

Part of being a New Yorker is dealing with the ultimate pest — poor MTA service. So what are your MTA beefs? Bianca Siedman-Shvarts, Edouard de Mareschal and Paul Pedersen recount some nightmares.


The MTA’s Perfect Storm, and Where Our Fare Money Is Going

September 26th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

A list of all impacted subway lines, courtesy of the Daily News website (click to enlarge.)

Another weekend, another round of construction for the MTA.

Anyone who’s even remotely  familiar with the New York City subway system knows it has its flaws. Besides the occasional “track fire” and “train traffic” causing a delay on any given trip, the weekends for some have become synonymous with shoddy service. Express trains running local, local trains running express, shuttle buses, and service suspensions have just become a way of life. But if Saturday and Sunday service disruption is an expected nuisance, call the weekend of September 25th “the perfect storm”: a grand total of 18 subway lines were scheduled for maintenance. Why cram all that work into one weekend? I contacted the MTA about it and got back only a canned statement, saying “due to the 24 hour nature of the system, weekends and nights are the only time we can perform this vital and necessary work and minimize the impact on our riders.”

Soon, commuters may be having even more trouble with the MTA, as fare-hike hearings have just begun taking place. Initial proposals had the cost of a 30-day unlimited Metrocard rising once again, from $89 to $99 with a 90-trip limit. A truly unlimited card would cost $104. Newer proposals include raising the price of an unlimited card to $130.

I’m sure most people understand that upkeep is an important part of any transit organization, and it’s also a costly process. But this also comes on the heels of the V and W line elimination, as well as the cutting of over 30 bus lines throughout the city, and that was all due to a $750 million shortfall. We’re paying more for less. So it begs the question: where is all of our fare money going?

According to a the MTA’s latest budget proposal, wage and benefit costs are two-thirds of the organization’s operating expenses. On top of that, the state comptroller’s office is probing into overtime payroll abuses at the MTA, and according to the MTA’s website, they’ve got some doozies. Take, for example, the LIRR engineers who get a whole extra day’s salary “for switching between electric and diesel equipment without working one extra minute.” Or how about the 15 sick days roughly a quarter of MTA employees take that require someone else to fill in and collect overtime? And that says nothing of pensions: the way a city-funded pension works is that you get a certain percentage of whatever salary you made in your most profitable year. So, if I make $50,000 a year, and work enough overtime to earn $75,000, that’s what the barometer is for my pension.

The way the MTA frames it on their website is that they’re cracking down on some sort of injustice, but these employees aren’t doing anything wrong per se. City jobs are generally blue collar jobs, and the “offenders” are just men and women looking for a little extra money to bring home, which they are completely within their rights to do. These are established MTA laws. So where is our money going? Toward fixing the MTA’s mistakes.

UPDATE: An Phung has more on the MTA’s latest inconvenience, while Tuan Nguyen makes the case for the MTA’s fare hikes.

A Freak Celebration

September 20th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

At the The 25th Annual Coney Island Tattoo and Motorcycle Show, ink, engines and outlandish performances come together for a celebration of alternative culture.