Brian Feeney

TWA Hotel at JFK

Last Saturday, during Labor Day weekend, Lisa and I booked a couple hours at the pool at the TWA Hotel. We took the A to the AirTran, which was fine, if not a bit laborious. Getting to JFK is always 50% more hassle than you’d expect. The travel to and from would have been much better with a car, but we don’t have a car and taxis are ~$100 each way. So, A train. It’s fine!

The Saarinen-designed space is incredible, an airline terminal that was in use for around 50 years. I felt so comfortable there, and in literal awe. It’s truly beautiful. Architected spaces could and should feel this way everywhere, but we’ve subordinated the beauty of public places to the profit motive. It’s a shame. Every wave of enjoyment I felt from the Saarinen terminal came with a secondary wave of sorrow. I wish we still prioritized the attractiveness of the places we share as communities. America would be better for it.

Another shame is why this beautiful terminal was abandoned: it was never designed for our post 9/11 TSA security needs. The building was built to accommodate flyers checking in and getting to their planes. There is no room for long, snaking lines and X-ray machines. So it goes.

I took a bunch of photos, but by no means captured it all. Photography isn’t the medium for appreciating the building, anyway. You have to visit to get it. Highly recommended! Plus, the pool is nice.

September 10, 2023


AI, Art, and Actuality

Derek Thompson responds to the momentary popularity of an AI generated song featuring "Drake" and "The Weeknd":

Some observers look things in a dystopian direction. It didn't take much to imagine a near future where fake songs and real songs intermingled, where, for every authentic Taylor Swift track, the internet was replete with hundreds, thousands, even millions of plausible Taylor Swift knockoffs. Inundated by AI, pop culture would descend into a disinformation hellscape.

And comes to the conclusion I did with one of my recent posts. He continues:

[L]ately I've become a little bored by the utopia-dystopia dichotomy of the AI debate. What if writing a song and dubbing in celebrity voices doesn't clearly point us toward a disinformation hellscape or a heaven of music-writing creativity? What if the ability to send media that make you sound like a celebrity to your friends is, fundamentally, just kind of neat?

AI-generated art is going to distract people for awhile. The novelty of it will leave less time for audiences to appreciate living artist's work. More great art allowed to fall out of sight. We'll encounter dozens of things like AI versions of Beach Boys songs sung by Paul McCartney, for example. Neat. But forgettable. These things will eventually descend to their natural place at the bottom of cultural importance. Never entirely gone, but also never more than brief curiosities.

This isn't an argument against AI's effect on other forms of labor. In those fields, there will be massive waves of new efficiencies. Art, however, is human first. Any technology, new or old, is only a tool to connect human minds to other human minds. AI, as it relates to art, is only another one of those tools.

And you can't go to an AI-generated concert performance. When Albarn first launched Gorillaz, he tried to perform while hiding behind a screen on which the cartoon band was projected. Fun, for a moment. He quickly dropped the whole cute conceit and played on stage like any other group. In the end, being human is what counts.

April 28, 2023



A month ago, I bought a Tidbyt. It's a fun, beautiful little lo-fi display screen for displaying micro content. The thing is really well designed and looks great on the shelf. I have six apps in rotation, so there's also a nice variety in what's displayed. A 3-day weather forecast. A photo of Lisa and I. A pretty Day/Night globe view. A fuzzy clock ("Twenty-Five Till One"), a day/month/year progress thing, and an MTA train tracker for the F line. There are a ton more apps, but these are the ones working for me at the moment. Being a relatively new product, I'm sure more great apps will be added as time goes on. I'd love to design and build one myself if I can think of something new to make.

On mornings when I go into the midtown office, I check the F train time to see if there were any delays. Yesterday, there was! Imagine that. Signal malfunctions on the line meant the train ended up stuck on the track for a long while. So I knew to walk to Jay Street to catch the A/C instead. It's a silly little techy box, but I love it. Highly recommend buying one for yourself or someone else.

April 20, 2023


New Admin, New

The White House has a new website. It's lovely. Perhaps the most wonderful feature is its Briefing Room, a blog publishing all the press releases and important documents coming from the Biden Administration. So far, there is the full text of his Inaugural Address. The entire text of the Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. The official request for rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement.

And there is an RSS feed.

This is what transparency should look like. I'm excited to follow what will get done these next four years. During the Obama era, I was young and didn't pay attention. With Trump, the horrors were inescapable. Let's hope good things will now be accomplished day to day, week to week.

January 21, 2021


Links for 12/17/2020

  • Photo essay by Alec Soth on the inequality in Chicago.
  • I was mesmerized watching this video of paper marbling craftsmen working in the 1960s.
  • CHAI is the best newish band I've heard this year. Start by listening to absolutely everything they've released. Read this Pitchfork interview if you need further convincing.
  • I'm excited to see what happens with Glass, "A community of photographers, amateur and professional alike." Currently awaiting my invite.
  • A new code editor from Panic, looks promising.
  • The WSJ has a great explainer for antifa. This is useful if someone you know has been misled by Fox or other disinfo networks.
  • Neural Networks Create a Disturbing Record of Natural History in AI-Generated Illustrations by Sofia Crespo
  • These images of natural history illustrations have been created by neural network AIs and they're beautiful.
  • Why Chrome Is Bad. I wish I could delete this browser for good, but I need it for work. :/
  • I love Wayne White's word paintings. Would absolutely love to do this Fanfuckingtastic puzzle someday.

December 17, 2020


CSS-Only Masonry Layout

Once this is added to enough browsers, I'll be one of the first to implement it! I have a masonry layout for my portfolio using jquery, but there's a bug with it. Often, the images all load scrunched up at the top. I've made adjustments which fix it, but only for a while, and then it starts happening again. Can't wait for this alignment to be possible with a single line in my CSS.

December 04, 2020


Cult of Ignorance

John posted this Isaac Asimov quote on Daring Fireball, and it's worth sharing further:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”

The current state of this country leads one to assume a quote like this is a partisan attack. It's not. But it does accurately describe the position a troubling number of Americans have taken.

November 30, 2020


Door to the Unknown

“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”
— Rebecca Solnit

(via Tina)

September 28, 2020


Anti Anti-Heroes

As I've walked deeper into my fandom of Marvel comics, I've stayed cognizant of why: pure escapism. The comics aren't just a trip into science fiction and fantasy, but also into the minds of people living in the 1960s and dreaming of future possibilities. They invent dystopias as often as utopias. Aliens invade Earth nearly every month. Strange villains appear from the weirdest corners of the planet. Threats jump from other dimensions or even different time streams. For the last four years, the real world has been hellish, making these comic baddies truly comical.

What I find reassuring in the comics is the insistence that science and invention will always save us. Society-saving devices or machinery are often devised and constructed within minutes of someone running into a lab. Absurd, but inspiring nonetheless. Scientists and inventors are heroes just as much as brawny super-powered people. Most of the original super-heroes were in fact also inventors, doctors, or scientists themselves: Hulk/Banner, Iron Man/Stark, Spider-Man/Parker, Mr. Fantastic/Richards, Ant-Man/Pym, or Thor/Blake. Sixty years ago, the most educated Americans held positions of esteem and honor in our country. It made sense to pair intelligence with science with heroism.

I don't believe in utopias, but I do want to live in a world where doctors and climate scientists and NASA engineers are considered among our leading voices. It is intolerable living among Americans who sneer at and reject them. The QAnon nonsense is related to this rejection of truth and standard virtue. How do we get back to a time when our best and brightest are again revered? I'm not about to say that decades-old comics have the answer. Nor do I believe that the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are going to sway opinion in this way. But I do think we should work our way out of the era of the anti-hero. If we can start reforming our cultural role modals after those who unreservedly deserve it, we might have a better chance at a brighter future. Maybe Hank Pym's Ant-Man is actually exactly what we need right now.

September 18, 2020


Never Ending Gorillaz

Damon Albarn talks about his new working process for Gorillaz tunes:

Did you realise you were creating a potential new business model?
“It was an opportunity to be more fluid, be able to change track, sidestep, do anything that you want to do and not get bogged down with one trope. React, evolve, react, evolve. And I suppose that now seems to be a good model! I’ve really enjoyed listening to the Song Machine album, it’s like listening to an entirely different entity. I’d just been concentrating on each episode so to hear it like that was a joy. But it also exists in these episodes, so it’s not tied to that, and every song will have been listened to a lot by the time the album comes out, so it doesn’t matter. That’s for people who like that and the other way is for people who like that.”

So will there be a Song Machine Season Two?
“Yeah. The first season is going well so there’ll probably be demand for a season two. And the lovely thing about it is, you don’t have to wait until it’s all finished to start rolling it out.”

So it could go on forever, like a TV show?
“Basically, yeah, that’s the idea. And the thing is, we can work with anyone. Maybe we’ll do a season where it’s just completely unknown people because I’d love that. In multiple languages, all over the world. It would be nice to distill all that into a Gorillaz project; disparate, obscure folk artists, somebody in Paraguay or Iceland, someone in South Korea… North Korea even. I don’t know how that would go down but hey, anything is possible now.”

This sounds amazing to me. We get about one new Albarn track a month as Gorillaz, and he will still likely put out one or two album-sized projects a year, as well. It's always been a great time to be an Albarn fan. It's even better these days.

September 17, 2020