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New York Life

How My Apartment Could Have Burned Down

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NYC Apartment Bad Wiring, originally uploaded by baratunde.

Strange smell and a failing air conditioner led to this discovery.

What are the best options for an NYC apartment-dweller? Notify super? Write management? Are there independent things I can do to protect myself and my property? Any super high quality powerstrips with built-in electrical fire prevention I can install? I really don't want to be killed by bad wiring. I at least want to visit Cuba first.

Car Explosion Outside My NYC Apartment Last Night

This is real. About 1am I heard an explosion and more loud popping sounds for the next 20 minutes or so. Finally going outside, I saw several cars ablaze. The fire department came and put it out after much work. The morning after was shocking. This looks like some Iraq ish right here. Check the video on YouTube and my Flickr photo album.

Inwood Car Explosion - 6

Inwood Car Explosion - 23

The most disturbing part was that last night, I saw only one other neighbor go outside to investigate. A car exploded and took out several others, and no one could be bothered??? Is this normal? BTW, our CSI skills suggest that someone ditched a stolen car and blew it up to cover the evidence.

Big Comedy Weekend in NYC

I'm proud to announce my participation in... = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = The Black Comedy Experiment February 28 - March 1 The Tank NYC 279 Church St b/w Frankin & White I suggest you get tickets for the entire weekend. (just $25 for access to 16 shows!) and get them in advance. There are over 30 comedians involved in this thing. It's a big deal with big talent. I'm involved in two shows The White House hosted by Elon James White Friday Feb 29 @ 11pm Join host Elon James White (DC Comedy Festival, Brooklyn Comedy Company) along side his White House Cabinet --  Baratunde Thurston (Editor@The Onion), Hassan Madry (Opie and Anthony), Susan Prekel (Live at Gotham, Oxygen Network) and others -- discussing some of the biggest issues in the worlds of Politics, Entertainment and overall Bullshit. Featuring some comedic shorts and a Special Guest Performance by Wil Sylvince (Def Comedy Jam 2008), The White House is sure to be a crazy time. Hail to the Chief. and Laughing Liberally - Black Comedy Edition hosted by Baratunde Thurston, with Leighann Lord, Elon James White, Charles Star, and Robert George. Saturday March 1 @ 8:30pm Let me put it this way. I do several shows a week in NYC, and I rarely go out of my way to ask people to come. THESE SHOWS ARE WORTH COMING TO. If you've said to yourself, "I really need to see Baratunde on stage," now is the time. If you have friends in NYC, tell them about this weekend. Do it!

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New York Life - Day 2 - Mythology

Day 2 in New York City. I spent most of the day at my friend's apartment jacked into the wi-fi signal, blogging, reading, flickring and whining loudly about Facebook. But all of these things could happen in Anytown, USA (so long as Anytown had decent Internet access. Hmm, that requirement greatly reduces the chances of "these things" happening in all but a few choice locations. Let me rephrase. All these things could happen in Anytown, <name any one of 34 countries ahead of USA in broadband deployment>). It's when I engaged with the city that things got more interesting and noteworthy or at least blogworthy. Act 1 I called Time Warner Cable. Hide the children. Break out your rosary. This tale gets ugly. I had decided to change my cable installation from their digital set top box to my Tivo. Rather than have another box and another remote and another always-on electronic device sucking life out of our woefully-strained power grid, I thought I'd order Cablecards instead. I had been told by a Time Warner rep on Monday that all I needed to do was call and make the switch. I called and got through to a rep who insisted that this change would make me ineligible for the package discount. I would have to buy everything separately and thus pay a lot more. I quoted him the price I was quoted earlier in the week. He did not care. From years of life with Microsoft Windows I've learned that when an experience is not going your way, you simply reboot. I Control-Alt-Deleted this particular customer rep. I hung up and called back. After fighting through the automated voice recognition prompts, a human jumped on the line and told me that she could not help with billing, service or installation questions, but she was happy to answer any other questions. What else would I be calling the cable company for? Their take on the damage done by American food aid? "If you can't help me, why did you answer the phone?" I asked her. "I'm sorry sir, but we have a high volume of calls. Can you please call back in 15 to 20 minutes?" "Why didn't you just leave me on hold?" "Our systems can't keep you on hold that long." Riiiiight. Control-Alt-Delete. I tried again but could not get through. Lunch time! On my way to lunch, I could not believe it, but I ran into a Time Warner retail customer service center. I went inside, got a ticket and was seen within three minutes. I half expected the rep to tell me to my face that I should come back in 15 to 20 minutes, but she did not. She didn't quite solve my issue either, at least not to my satisfaction. You see, the FCC mandated that cable operators support this technology called "CableCard" which allows you to get digital channels without a set top box. Previously, if you used a Tivo and wanted premium channels, you needed your Tivo and a set top box and a crapload of cables and luck to get all this stuff working together. The downside of CableCard is you get no on-demand or pay-per-view. For the luxury of this reduced programming choice, you also get the privilege of paying more money. This is what the rep explained to me. I could not win with Time Warner, and there are no other cable providers for my address. Love the free market. Act 2 After lunch, I was off to Staples to get a business card scanner. I've been holding out on this little gadget for years, but going to five conferences a year, I tend to collect massive amounts of business cards. I end up spending as much time typing the info into my computer as I spend at the conferences, and enough is enough. Entering the Staples, I found myself ambushed by a Greeter. What is this, Wal-Mart now? How big is a Staples? How much time do Manhattanites have that they can afford to exchange niceties with a person who stands between them and their purchases? So I asked Mr. Greeter where I could find a business card scanner. He referred me to the cashier, someone I would have asked first, had their not been a Greeter in my way. She told me to head back to the business center. In short order, I realized that she had no idea what I was asking for. She had sent me to the photocopiers. I walked around the shop and found what I was looking for. It was a display model mounted on a large piece of plastic. There were no boxes with product nearby, so I yanked the entire rig out and showed it to a cashier. "I need one of these." "You need to tell the woman in the gray shirt over there," she directed me. I did, and Greyshirt said she would get it for me in a moment. She got me the package and directed me back to the cashier. Once I reached the counter, the cashier left her station inexplicably. I waited. I waited more. A line queued up behind me. The cashier had disappeared. I looked to my right and found the Greeter. "Can you sell this to me?" I asked him. "No, I need to stay over here." I longed to Control-Alt-Delete him. Strike two for Mr. Greeter. Here I am in the so-called commercial capital of the world where you can order a mayonnaise and broiled iguana pizza and have it delivered by a midget on a unicycle at 3am, and I am begging to be relieved of my money in exchange for a product. I looked back to the checkout counter and could not believe what lay there. One of those big red buttons that said, "EASY." Act 3 The rest of the day was party time. Dinner with a wealthy banker friend who showed up in a cab but without his wallet. Good thing comedy and blogging pay well enough for me to cover him no problem. Kyria abrahams roast benari poulten Then a surprise birthday roast for fellow comic Benari Poulten at The Tank in Tribeca. There was a good number of NYC comics there and some Boston transplants (Benari is from Boston). Kyria Abarahams even roasted Benari. I hadn't seen her on stage in years. DJ Hazard, Pat O'Shea, Ophira Eisenberg, John O'Donnel, Charles Star and Baron Vaughn all ripped into Benari, egged on by Roastmaster Dan Newbower. Eric Andre made my night by roasting me in the crossfire. "And I see we have Baratunde here. Alright Amistad, you're not in Africa anymore. You can change your name now." It was his biggest laugh. Thanks for the free branding bruh!

New York Life - Day 1 - Homeless, but on TV!

Last September, I decided that, after 12 years (including college), it was time to move to New York City. I wanted to jump into the comedic and publishing big leagues, and part of me feels that you're not really living unless you spend every day under threat of a dirty bomb explosion. I'll be blogging regularly about my life as an NYC resident starting... now. Day 1. I woke up in Somerville, Mass. with a parting gift from the city which perfectly matched the occasion of my departure for Manhattan: a $50 parking ticket for parking on the wrong side of the street. You got me, Somerville. That's a good one! Now say goodbye to my excise taxes. Although I have movers scheduled for a Monday delivery, my plan for this day was to drive down with a car full of essential or fragile items, sign the lease, do a shoot for a new Comedy Central show some friends are making and chill. Packed in my rarely-used 1991 Isuzu Trooper (I know it's an Earth-destroying menace, but it was a family gift, gets less than 5,000 miles of use per year and is good at hauling crap including other cars) was my Tivo, television, toilet paper and other valuables. I stopped at Carberry's for an egg croissant and hit the road. Ten minutes before arriving at my NYC apartment, I got the following text from my agent: "bad news. they haven't finished the floors. I'm outside. going to call the landlord." Indeed the floors were not finished. No appliances either. And I had a car full of valuable crap I could not leave on the street. I put my car in a garage, made some calls to friends for emergency housing and skipped down to the Lower East Side to play a small part in my friend's show (Dean Obeidallah & Negin Farsad) on Comedy Central called The Watchlist. That changed my whole mood. I played "Hip Hop Guy" and had one short but very funny line. I was even directed by Jim Biederman (Kids in the Hall, Whitest Kids U Know, and others) baratunde iced out I spent most of the afternoon at Cake Shop, a record store/coffee shop/high bandwidth, free wifi joint on the Lower East Side, then had dinner up in the new hood in Inwood. La Nueva Espana. Good food, slooooooow service. Whoever says everything is snappy in NYC is a filthy liar. I checked on my car and told the garage to hold it for a few days, dug out some underwear and headed for my friend's place. There you have it. Day 1. Slightly homeless, but I'm gonna be on TV. I think I'm gonna like this place.