Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Top Story: Twitter provides latest news on Bangkok political violence

This week I investigated the role of Twitter in breaking news about the Bangkok street violence. The article appeared in my NY Destinations column and generated strong Google traffic. It is now my best read story to date on!

Thank you to all of the dedicated journalists, bloggers and everyday folks who have been tweeting the latest political developments from Thailand. Their first-person accounts and photos, many taken from mobile phones, have provided minute by minute coverage of this news event.

Twitter provides latest news on Bangkok political violence (photos)

by Leslie Koch
Originally published in the NY Destinations column on, May 19, 2010

Photo: An anti-government protester piles tires on a fire at the Central World shopping center in Bangkok, Thailand on Wednesday, May 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Tourists and expats in Bangkok turned to Twitter on Wednesday for the latest news on clashes between the Thai army and political protesters.

English-speakers used their smart phones and laptops to access Twitter and find out which streets were safe from the violence.

A simple search for #Bangkok provided a steady stream of tweets on Wednesday.

Many tweets were first-hand accounts posted by journalists, expats and other Bangkok residents.

"For foreigners living or visiting Thailand and who don't understand the language, Twitter was a life-line for them during the protests and the sometimes violent clashes between the red shirts and the Thai army," said expat Richard Barrow in a website post.

"...Some people say that Twitter comes into its own during revolutions and natural disasters. And they are probably right. Twitter was perfect for both reporting and receiving the news about the Red Shirt protests.”

>> Keep reading

>> View the slideshow

Thailand Articles

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

My encounter with street artist Swoon in Brooklyn: Why she rocks!

I ventured to Williamsburg earlier this month for the Swoon book signing, accompanied by G Train Salon curator Krista Saunders.

The event was held at the Urban Art Projects headquarters and drew a diverse crowd. Newly graduated PR reps in stilettos mingled with grizzled street artists, middle-aged art aficionados and random passersby looking for free beer.  (The Brooklyn Lager was excellent).

Fawning over Swoon at her book signing in Brooklyn on May 8, 2010.

As reported in my NY Destinations column, Swoon is a well known street artist who appears--albeit briefly-- in the Banksy documentary, "Exit Through the Gift Shop."

After selecting copies of Swoon's book and prying them off the wall (they formed part of an installation), we approached the street artist.  She was holding court from a folding chair at the back of the room.

Swoon was friendly and laid-back. She admitted she hadn't seen the Banksy film, but had heard she uttered one line (basically, "f-off"). Swoon is the lone female artist featured in "Exit Through the Gift Shop", which provides a fascinating look at the world of street artists. It also offers a biting commentary of the gallery scene and commercialized street art.

An art world denizen revealed that Swoon keeps it real by incorporating her street art into her gallery pieces. According to this informant, all of Swoon's gallery work is based on drawings that have appeared on city streets.

Swoon is planning a visit to Haiti, where she is working with a charity organization to provide housing to locals affected by the earthquake. Examples of the temporary housing, which she helped design, are on display at the East River State Park in Brooklyn until June 6, 2010.

>> Click on my NY Destinations article for details of the Williamsburg Waterfront Sculpture Exhibition, featuring Swoon's housing domes.

We passed by the park after closing time but caught a peek at the brown domes. It's questionable whether Haitians will want to live in these adobe-inspired huts, which seem more like art installations than functioning dwellings. But Swoon's heart is in the right place. Since she's not an architect, I imagine she did more rubber stamping than hands-on designing of the structures.

Swoon was a gracious host and the event was a clear success. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her work on Manhattan streets!

>> Click on the photo slideshow for images of Swoon's work

Recent Articles:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Free camping in NYC's Central Park this summer

By Leslie Koch
Originally published in the NY Destinations column on, May 12, 2010 

You can camp out in Central Park this summer for free - and you won't even have to bring supplies!

The Urban Park Rangers have scheduled three nights of free camping in Central Park this summer: June 5, July 3, and August 7.

Photo Caption: Be an urban camper in Central Park this summer. Free camping (with free supplies) is available in public parks across New York City. Photo: Ed Yourdon/Wikimedia Commons

This is an amazing deal, given the high price of lodging in New York City.

The Urban Park Rangers will provide the tents and food.  The only thing you'll have to bring is a sleeping bag and a sense of adventure!

You'll also earn bragging rights among your family and friends.  How many people can say they spent the night in a New York City park, unscathed?

How to register

Only 30 spots are available per night, and demand will be high.

The Parks Department will assign camping spaces through a lottery.  Winners will be "randomly generated by computer."

Visit the Urban Park Rangers' registration page to enter the lottery. Registration begins at midnight on the dates specified below, and is open for 24 hours.

For Central Park, the schedule is:



Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Camping in other parks

Supervised camping is also available in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx.

In Manhattan, campers can register for a night at the Inwood Hill Nature Center on W 218 St. and Indian Rd.

Visit the Urban Park Ranger's website for a complete list of participating parks and registration dates.

Recent articles

NYC Tattoo Convention to bring top artists to Manhattan (photos)

Gulf oil spill to impact tourism, wildlife in Louisiana coast (photos)

Hundreds of street artists protest Parks Department plan (photos)

Parks Department plan will bring chaos to Union Square Park

Investigation: A day in the life of a NYC park artist

by Leslie Koch
Originally published in the NY Destinations column on, May 13, 2010

Artists continue to sell their work in Union Square Park as they wait for a Parks Department decision on a controversial vending proposal.

The Parks Department plan would cut the number of art vendors by roughly 75% in four popular Manhattan parks. In Union Square Park, about 100 vendors would compete for 18 spots.

Major news outlets covered this story, but did not dive deeply into the lives of park artists.

Readers have asked me for more information on the park vendors. The most common question: are they "real" artists or souvenir sellers?

A day in the park

To find out more about the park artists, I arrived in Union Square Park before dawn on a brisk April morning and spent seven hours shadowing Brooklyn photographer Mike Murray.

I spoke with over a dozen artists and vendors, who graciously invited me into their world.

My day in the park resulted in a New York Press cover story: "The Secret World of Park Artists."

Read my inside look at the lives of park artists on the New York Press website or pick up a free copy of the May 12- 18 issue on New York City sidewalks.

>> Photo caption: "The Secret World of Park Artists" is the cover story of the May 12-18, 2010 issue of the New York Press. Union Square Park artist Kenny Kudulis appears in the cover photo. 

Parks Department mum on plans

The Parks Department has remained silent on its proposal since the public hearing and protest on April 23.
Hundreds of artists attended the protest and many spoke at the public hearing.

TV crews and print reporters covered the event, increasing public awareness of the Parks Department proposal.

"I'm guessing they won't pass it," said Robert Lederman, president of ARTIST (Artists' Response To Illegal State Tactics), in an email on Wednesday.

"There is a risk that a ruling and all the evidence we have might negatively affect their concession-privatization agenda."

Lederman believes the Parks Department is trying to replace artist vendors-- who are not legally required to pay for permits because they sell "expressive" materials-- with more lucrative concessions.

If the Parks Department proposal is passed, ARTIST members will resist.

"We'll do as promised, refuse to obey, keep selling and then sue the city," said Lederman.
As of press time, the Parks Department has not revealed their plans for the expressive matter vending proposal.

>> For more info: Read the New York Press feature, "The Secret World of Park Artists" or click on the article links below.

Related articles



Friday, May 14, 2010

This weekend: NYC Tattoo Convention brings top artists to Manhattan

by Leslie Koch
Originally published in the NY Destinations column on, May 11, 2010 

The world's top tattoo artists will be in New York City this weekend for the 13th annual NYC Tattoo Convention.

If you want to get a tattoo or simply appreciate good ink, head to the Roseland Ballroom in midtown.

Photo Caption: A woman proudly displays her tattoos at the NYC Tattoo Convention. Photo: Elsa Rensaa courtesy of Clayton Patterson.

The convention attracts a diverse crowd, says event organizer Clayton Patterson.

"One of the great things about tattoos is that they equalize people. It is a shared interest in art. A woman can be fat or skinny and be extremely proud to show her ink."

You never know who you might spot at this event.

"I know of TV anchors who are tattooed, and lawyers, but they do not publicly show their ink," says Patterson.

>>Click on the slideshow to see attendees with colorful tattoos
What to expect

New Yorkers come to the tattoo convention for a variety of reasons.

It's a chance to meet tattoo artists from around the word and learn more about their techniques. You can watch as a Japanese master gives irezumi tattoos to brave attendees. This traditional process does not use any electricity-- and looks especially painful.

"Some people are curious to see how tattoos are done, but would be intimidated to go inside a tattoo parlor and watch," says Patterson. The friendly atmosphere of the convention makes it easier to approach artists and other tattoo fans.

This is a family friendly event that features stage performances and contests for best tattoos.

There are many opportunities for people watching. You can photograph the amazing tattoos displayed on the men and women who attend the show-- just remember to ask first!

>>VIDEO CAPTION- See highlights of the 2006 NYC Tattoo Convention, including performances by the world's most tattooed man and Japanese irezumi tattoo artists. (Note- this contains adult language)
The details:

The 13th Annual New York City Tattoo Convention

When: Friday, May 14 through Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where: Roseland Ballroom, 239 West 52nd Street, New York, NY

Cost: $18 for a one-day pass. Reduced price for 2- and 3- day passes. Tickets are available at the door on event dates (no advanced ticket sales)
For more info: Check the NYC Tattoo Convention website for directions and to see which artists are appearing this year.