The empty billboards of Greece

Greece is the poster-child for economic collapse, so it should be no surprise that the country is full of empty billboards. On a recent trip we saw highways lined with them, post-apocalyptic and graying. Without a message, these are the most useless of structures, but they are ubiquitous in our built environment. These ghosts of capitalism force you to think about the fascinating relationship between advertising and consumerism, which is both symbiotic and parasitic. Advertising masks itself as a sharing of information. It asks the question: how helpful is it to society if an innovative product, perhaps even a life-saving one, remains unknown? Shouldn't we get the message out? Don't we have a duty to let the people know that ours is better than theirs?

But the billboard gives the lie to all of that. These enormous constructions are a blight on the landscape. Worse than an imposition, they are a criminal theft of visual real estate, jutting up into what would otherwise be a pristine azure sky, a beautiful Grecian view of blue. We are so numb to them and their messages that it takes rows and rows of completely empty ones to remind us how noxious they are.

Much more of my bloviating on the scourge of billboards and their usefulness as an indicator of economic decline is HERE.


You dropped a bomb on me.

My father, who grew up in rural Arkansas, where the amusements were limited, has a favorite saying he pulls out and dusts off whenever offered an allegedly thrilling social opportunity, or in response to expressions of boredom by his many children or grandchildren: "Wanna go down to the warehouse and watch the Sears truck unload?"

He is staying with us for the weekend, and today we pulled ourselves out of the Sunday morning bed with enthusiasm, for the great Governor's Island Building explosion of 2013 was scheduled for 7:36 AM sharp. Living only steps from the tip of Red Hook's Valentino pier, with a full frontal view of the building in question just across the waters of the Buttermilk Channel, we made our way down to harbor's edge with only minutes to spare. Somewhere, this event must have been advertised on the "social media," for there was a small but expectant crowd. Soon, dull booms issued from the island, and with well-engineered self-control, the building collapsed in a wave.