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The Snowden Files, by Luke Harding
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Image by readerwalker
This new book is not only about Snowden and the secret information he has stolen but is also about the recent history of illegal surveillance that motivated him to do this. One of the surprises for me in the book that I must have missed in the news is the support for Snowden from libertarians and leftists, two very different groups I wouldn't expect to agree about much. Snowden is a Republican conservative libertarian who expects to be imprisoned for the rest of his life when U.S. agents catch him, although I will not be surprised if they kill him instead (maybe "accidentally" when tortured).

My copy of this book is the Kindle version, viewed here in the Kindle app on my iPad Air. It has so thoroughly grabbed my interest that I've already read half of it since downloading it yesterday.

15 March 2014. This evening I finished reading this book. One of the ironies it did not explicitly point out was that Edward Snowden is trapped in Russia now only because Obama drove him there by pressuring the other 19 or 20 other countries to deny Snowden the asylum that he requested.

Play Me, I'm Yours, Day 7 - Jul 01, 2010 - 15
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Image by Ed Yourdon
Note: this photo was published in a Dec 12, 2010 New York Magazine article titled "Reasons to Love New York", on a separate page titled "27. Because Last Summer, 60 Pianos Magically Appeared." It was also published in a Jun 16, 2011 issue of Manhattan Tumblr, titled "I left my heart in Manhattan." And it was published in an Aug 29, 2011 blog titled "5 iPad Accessories Kits from Hootoo to Cool Your Hot Summer Holiday!" It was also published in an Oct 6, 2011 blog titled "I’m Looking for My Heart Will Go on Sheet Music for Piano?"


On day 7 of the "Play Me, I'm Yours" project, my objective was to track down the five pianos in the huge borough of Queens -- which I know absolutely nothing about, other than the fact that the two main NYC airports (LaGuardia and JFK) are located at the northern and southern extremities of the borough.

As it turned out, the search for the first piano -- in Athens Park, just a block from the 30th Avenue stop on the "N" train -- was fruitless: luckily, I had enough sense to check the "Play Me, I'm Yours" website, and learned from notes posted by other frustrated visitors that the piano had been vandalized and removed. I subsequently found that the third piano on my list, located in Hoffman Park near the intersection of Queens Blvd and the Long Island Expressway, had also been vandalized and removed. Of course, I had also seen a vandalized piano in Brooklyn, but this was the first experience of having a piano disappear...

Anyway, I decided to take a gypsy cab over to Hunter Point, right on the East River -- where Gantry State Park has carved out an acre or so of grass for people to enjoy. The park appears to have been named for some huge gantrys that must have been used to load and unload cargo ships at some point in the past; in any case, there were two pianos there, one of which was on a broad, open walkway that looks across to the United Nations headquarters, and the skyline of the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

From there I went to the Jackson Heights Post Office, where a piano was stuck unceremoniously near the main entrance. There were a few kids playing on it, so I dutifully recorded the scene ... and then went across the street to a local Starbucks outlet for a much-needed bathroom break, and a tasty early lunch.

Since I had learned of the removal of the piano at Hoffman Park, I had only one final location: a piano in Rufus Von King park, located down in the southern area of Queens. I used the Google Maps display on my iPad to guide the taxi driver, and we found it without much trouble. The piano was located in a covered pavilion just inside the park, where I was able to photograph a very friendly guy as he played a jubilant song...

So that was it; another day, another borough. That leaves just one last borough to tackle: Staten Island


A few years ago, a British artist by the name of Luke Jerram came up with the intriguing idea of spreading pianos around the city, with an open invitation for anyone nearby to wander up and begin playing something. Anything. First it was London, and now it's here in New York City.

Starting on June 21st, sixty pianos have been donated, painted, and "installed" throughout the five boroughs of New York; you can see the locations here. I managed to visit seven of the pianos on the first day, and another seven on the second day. The program will only be running for two weeks, and I'll be out of town for at least a few of those days ... so it won't be easy, but my goal is to track down, visit, and photograph all 60 pianos by the time it's over. Even the one at the Staten Island Zoo, and the one located somewhere in the Joyce Kilmer Park up in the Bronx.

Aside from the logistics of getting to these remote corners of the five boroughs, it sounds like a straightforward task: ride a subway train to the appropriate stop, walk a block or two, take photograph or two, and then go back where you came from. But it's turning out to be a little more difficult than I had thought, partly because the maps provided on the Web site are somewhat ambiguous and imprecise, and partly because the officials (e.g., guards, cops, grounds-keepers, etc.) whom you would expect to know about such things have been remarkably clueless.

I've also been hearing rumors that some of the pianos are being moved around between one day and the next. That might explain why I had to abandon today's plan to photograph the piano in Bryant Park: after circling the park and the adjoining New York Public Library a couple of times, I concluded they had either hidden the piano, or moved into a subterranean cell.

As for the pianos I've found, the experiences have been quite varied. Some of the pianos sit mute and abandoned -- including, oddly enough, the very fist piano in Times Square, which had been plunked down at Seventh Avenue and 44th Street, and basically ignored by everyone. The same was true of one of the pianos situated in a hard-to-find corner of Lincoln Center, as well as a piano ostensibly located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- which turned out to be sitting next to the giant obelisk behind the museum, and on the far side of the inner park roadway.

As for the pianos that do attract some musicians: it's quite a varied bunch. Some are casual amateurs, some of whom have no idea what the program is all about, and who had no advance warning that the pianos would even be there. Some have obviously been planning and practicing for months. Some of the musicians sing, some don't; some bring along drummers, guitarists, and vocalists. I even heard that one musician brought some dancers to help liven up his performance, but I haven't seen that myself...

Anyway, I'll keep photographing the pianos, and uploading the best of the photographs, until I run out of pianos, run out of time, or run out of energy -- whichever happens first.

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Image by BioDivLibrary
Gorillas enjoy this #bhlpod their new ipads!

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