William Helmreich is back on the streets of NYC with The New Yorker

Bill Helmreich walks every street in New York City

Bill Helmreich walks every street in New York City

How well do many seasoned New Yorkers really know New York City? Chances are, few can claim the knowledge of all 6,000 miles quite like Professor of Sociology William Helmreich can. Inspired by childhood explorations with his father, Helmreich walked every block of New York City’s five boroughs, a mission that resulted in The New York Nobody Knows. This week, The New Yorker ran a fun video featuring Bill Helmreich and his walks. Helmreich’s unconventional portrait of New York City is due out in paperback this Fall.

From Joshua Rothman’s New Yorker piece accompanying the video:

Many New Yorkers daydream about exploring the areas of the city they don’t know. But actually doing it is incredibly difficult. Ten years ago, Ben McGrath wrote a Talk of the Town story about a man who walked all of Manhattan; that’s an impressive achievement, but even the dreariest Manhattan blocks are more interesting than the service road alongside the B.Q.E. Moreover, to walk all of New York within a reasonable time frame, you have to do it all year round; most likely, as Helmreich did, you’d also have to walk after dark. Helmreich wasn’t just game, in other words. He was dedicated. He allowed neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night to stop him from his appointed rounds.

Read the rest here, and the earlier New Yorker feature where Joshua Rothman walked the Bronx with Helmreich.

You can sample chapter one of The New York Nobody Knows here.

William B. Helmreich is professor of sociology at the City University Graduate Center (CUNY) and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York.

Weekly Wanderlust: Australia

Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon

Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon

The only country which is also a continent, Australia is a nature-lover’s paradise. Ranging from the tropical swamps of northern Queensland to the arid deserts of the center of the continent, the diversity of Australia’s climate is extraordinary. Millions of years of isolation have allowed the evolution of countless animals, birds and plants found nowhere else in the world, including the emu, the koala, the kangaroo, and perhaps the oddest of all, the platypus: a mammal that lays eggs rather than giving birth. The biggest challenge facing visitors to Australia is the impossibility of seeing everything. Will you take in the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world? The monumental red sandstone rock formations of Uluru? The 110 million year old Daintree Rainforest? Or would you prefer to spend your evenings sitting on the quays of Sydney, the Opera House glowing in the setting sun, sipping a Barossa Valley Shiraz?

Koala in tree

The Koala

Wildlife of Australia book jacket Ideal for the nature-loving traveler, Wildlife of Australia is a handy photographic pocket guide to the most widely seen birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and habitats of Australia. The guide features more than 400 stunning color photographs, and coverage includes 350 birds, 70 mammals, 30 reptiles, and 16 frogs likely to be encountered in Australia’s major tourist destinations.
Birds of Australia book jacket Birds of Australia covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants and features more than 1,100 stunning color photographs, including many photos of subspecies and plumage variations never before seen in a field guide. Detailed facing-page species accounts describe key identification features such as size, plumage, distribution, behavior, and voice. This one-of-a-kind guide also provides extensive habitat descriptions with a large number of accompanying photos.
Birds and Animals of Australia's Top End book jacket One of the most amazing and accessible wildlife-watching destinations on earth, the “Top End” of Australia’s Northern Territory is home to incredible birds and animals—from gaudy Red-collared Lorikeets to sinister Estuarine Crocodiles and raucous Black Flying-foxes. With this lavishly illustrated photographic field guide, Birds and Animals of Australia’s Top End, you will be able to identify the most common creatures and learn about their fascinating biology—from how Agile Wallaby mothers can pause their pregnancies to why Giant Frogs spend half the year buried underground in waterproof cocoons.
Why Australia Prospered book jacket Why Australia Prospered is the first comprehensive account of how Australia attained the world’s highest living standards within a few decades of European settlement, and how the nation has sustained an enviable level of income to the present.

Weekly Wanderlust: New York City

Home to Basquiat, micro-apartments, and some of the best rooftop bars and restaurants, New York City is the melting pot of America, a city whose attractions will continue to unfold for as much time as you have to spend there. You may already plan to visit Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock Observation Deck, with its iconic skating rink and opportunity to peer into NBC Studios; spend a day browsing the renowned Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Islamic exhibits at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or get your Alice in Wonderland fix at Alice’s Tea Cup. But be sure to leave plenty of unscheduled time for off-the-beaten-track destinations and neighborhoods as well.

NYC picture

One World Trade Center

Whether your interests lean artsy, sociological, or completely open-ended, you can get a taste of the Big Apple before your visit with books that chronicle everything from the city’s rich past, to the idiosyncratic art scene and hidden neighborhoods.

Basquiat_Notebooks_S15 Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) was one of the most important artists of the 1980s. A key figure in the New York art scene, he inventively explored the interplay between words and images throughout his career, first as a member of SAMO, a graffiti group active on the Lower East Side in the late 1970s, and then as a painter acclaimed for his unmistakable Neoexpressionist style. From 1980 to 1987, he filled numerous working notebooks with drawings and handwritten texts. This facsimile edition reproduces the pages of eight of these fascinating and rarely seen notebooks for the first time.
 j8758  Which is more important to New York City’s economy, the gleaming corporate office–or the grungy rock club that launches the best new bands? If you said “office,” think again. In The Warhol Economy, Elizabeth Currid argues that creative industries like fashion, art, and music drive the economy of New York as much as–if not more than–finance, real estate, and law. And these creative industries are fueled by the social life that whirls around the clubs, galleries, music venues, and fashion shows where creative people meet, network, exchange ideas, pass judgments, and set the trends that shape popular culture.
j10396 Once known for slum-like conditions in its immigrant and working-class neighborhoods, New York City’s downtown now features luxury housing, chic boutiques and hotels, and, most notably, a vibrant nightlife culture. While a burgeoning bar scene can be viewed as a positive sign of urban transformation, tensions lurk beneath, reflecting the social conflicts within postindustrial cities. Upscaling Downtown examines the perspectives and actions of disparate social groups who have been affected by or played a role in the nightlife of the Lower East Side, East Village, and Bowery. Using the social world of bars as windows into understanding urban development, Richard Ocejo argues that the gentrifying neighborhoods of postindustrial cities are increasingly influenced by upscale commercial projects, causing significant conflicts for the people involved.
j10060 As a child growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father called “Last Stop.” They would pick a subway line, ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood. Decades later, his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever. Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs—an astonishing 6,000 miles. His journey took him to every corner of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Helmreich spoke with hundreds of New Yorkers from every part of the globe and all walks of life. He finds that to be a New Yorker is to struggle to understand the place and to make a life that is as highly local as it is dynamically cosmopolitan.

Weekly Wanderlust: Cape Cod

Over the next month, we’ll be highlighting various vacation destinations and the books that can assist in your planning or make your experience a little bit richer. Cape Cod, the first destination on our list, is also among the first places in North America to be settled by the pilgrims. Once a haven for artists like E.E. Cummings and Eugene O’Neill, who inhabited the spartan ‘dune shacks’ reputedly built from the timber of wrecked ships, Cape Cod with its 40 miles of protected seashore remains a national treasure. In describing the great Outer Beach in 1800, Henry Thoreau called it “another world”, and it’s still easy to see why.

Sunken Meadow Beach

Sunken Meadow Beach

Cape Cod jetty

Jetty in Falmouth

Whether you’re watching a glassblowing presentation at the enchanting Sandwich Glass Museum, going whale watching off Provincetown, or planning a day of birding at the Welfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, where nature trails wind through salt marsh, pine woods, heathland, and freshwater ponds, Cape Cod is an unforgettable trip. While dreaming up your agenda, check out these books.

sealife The tides of the North Atlantic are the world’s highest, and they reveal a world of amazing seashore life–from jellies and sea anemones, to clams and crabs, to seaweeds and lichens. With some 300 crisp, vibrant color photographs and brief, precise descriptions, A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life in the North Atlantic: Canada to Cape Cod makes it easier than ever to identify Atlantic seashore life from Canada to Cape Cod.
j7112 Encounters with the ocean dominate Cape Cod, from the fatal shipwreck of the opening chapter to his later reflections on the Pilgrims’ landing and reconnaissance. Along the way, Thoreau relates the experiences of fishermen and oystermen, farmers and salvagers, lighthouse-keepers and ship captains, as well as his own intense confrontations with the sea as he travels the land’s outermost margins. Chronicles of exploration, settlement, and survival on the Cape lead Thoreau to reconceive the history of New England—and to recognize the parochialism of history itself.

A note from Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler on the landmark publication of the 2nd edition of Birds of New Guinea

Plate_095

BIRDS OF PARADISE, ASTRAPIAS. Copyrighted material from Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler (Princeton University Press)

Twenty-eight years have passed since publication of the first edition of Birds of New Guinea. In that time, big changes have taken place in this important bird region. The human population has more than doubled, economic development—particularly mining and logging—has accelerated, and the loss of habitat has increased proportionately. On the brighter side, vast tracts of wilderness remain, several international conservation organizations have joined forces with local governments to protect the forest, birding as a form of ecotourism has blossomed, and a new generation of field researchers has taken to the bush. Exciting new information on bird distribution and biology has poured in. And as if to heighten appreciation for New Guinea’s avifauna, modern molecular systematic research has revolutionized the classification of birds and pinpointed New Guinea and Australia as the motherland of the world’s most prominent bird lineage, the songbirds (oscine passerines). In light of these changes, a new edition of Birds of New Guinea is timely.

A book must suit the purposes of the people using it. In many parts of the world—Australia, Europe, North America—field guides to birds are written mainly for birders (bird-watchers). These books focus solely on how to identify birds to species, how to tell the age and sex of a bird, and how and where to find it. Readers wishing to learn more about birds can turn to other books for information on bird natural history, ecology, reproduction, evolution, geographic variation, classification, and conservation. Unfortunately, much of this information on New Guinea birds can be found only in technical literature that is not readily available.

Plate_060_REV

DOLLARBIRD, BEE-EATERS, AND LARGE KINGFISHERS. Copyrighted material from Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler (Princeton University Press)

It is our wish that readers in the field have more basic information at their fingertips. In the new edition of Birds of New Guinea, we have expanded the content of the species accounts to include more biological details—behavior, diet, nesting—than are typically covered in a field guide. As for the identification purpose of the book, we have also expanded the species accounts in this second edition to explain how to determine the sex and age of a bird, and how geographic variation is partitioned into subspecies (races). To accomplish all this, we have adopted a “handbook-style” format for the book. Rather than fitting all the information opposite the painted plates—the format typical of most recent field guides—our book presents detailed species accounts in the body of the book separate from the illustrations in the front, with abridged species accounts and maps facing the plates. We hope this additional information will be of use to birders, tour guides, biologists, and conservationists who enjoy New Guinea birds and strive to learn more about them.

Expanding the scope of the book demanded new artwork, and for that we drew up a plate plan that more than doubled the number of figures and resulted in replacing nearly all original artwork. The resulting book is as beautiful as it is informative, and we hope readers are as delighted with it as we are.


This text has been adapted from the preface of Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler.

Fun Facts about Caribbean Wildlife

Raffaele_WildlifeCaribbeanS14Did you know…

  • Residents of colonial Cuba could be punished for insulting the Cuban Trogon, a red-breasted bird whose plumage was seen as representing the red sash worn by Spanish kings.
  • Ackee with salt fish is Jamaica’s national dish, but the fruit can be highly poisonous if harvested or cooked incorrectly
  • The earliest attempt to import breadfruit into the Caribbean was thwarted by a famous mutiny — the one on the H.M.S. Bounty, which was carrying the seedlings among its cargo.
  • You can tell which way the wind blows on a given island by looking at the coconut palm trees, which often leans in the direction of the prevailing breeze.
  • The Caribbean is home to dozens of species of bats, about half of which are endemic to the islands.
  • The Red Junglefowl found in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Grenadines is actually the feral offspring of formerly domesticated roosters and chickens.
  • Crocodiles are native to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
  • Barracudas have been known to attack divers wearing sparkly clothing, which they can mistake for prey.
  • The black grouper can grow to four feet long and change its sex from female to male.
  • The Caribbean spiny lobster can swim backwards by flipping its tail.

Whether you are traveling to the Caribbean by plane or by cruise ship, make sure you pack a copy of Wildlife of the Caribbean by Herbert A. Raffaele and James W. Wiley so you can learn more about the birds, fish, mammals, and plants you might see.

 

Credit — these fun facts were included in About.com Caribbean Travel’s review of Wildlife of the Caribbean.

Derek Lovitch Takes Flight

Derek Lovitch, author of How To Be a Better Birder and bird-blogger extraordinaire, recently posted on his blog Maine Birding Field Notes, that he was planning a flight of his own to visit some friends (feathered and otherwise) and make a few appearances to talk about his book. Live in the area? Maybe you’ll spot the birder while he birds!


How To Be A Better BirderEarly tomorrow morning I depart for Iowa, where I will be speaking at the Iowa Ornithologist Union’s Fall Meeting.  I’ll be giving the keynote presentation on “How to Be a Better Birder” using my SandyPoint case study program and I will also be showing my Russian Far East travelogue.  Finally, I will be joining the 2009 Bradbury Mountain Hawkcounter, Danny Akers, in leading a field trip.

After my weekend in the Hawkeye State, I head to Wisconsin to visit the Urban Ecology Center in Wisconsin.  In between and thereafter, I’ll be spending a couple of days birding and visiting with friends.   I’ll post the occasional update about migration in the Midwest, my birding, and other musings on my book’s Facebook page should you be interested in following my travels.

Now I am just left to wonder what state bird I will miss here in Maine while I am away (there’s always one!)


Don’t forget to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering. Click on the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.