links for 2009-04-29

The Awl

A week on, I’m really enjoying The Awl, Choire Sicha and Alex Balk’s new project. (And I’m not just saying that because Choire is a friend. Hell, I don’t even know what Balk looks like.)
There’s something starkly refreshing and pleasant about the site, greater than the sum of its parts: forced lack of design, missing headlines, unironic self-consciousness. With a crack staff of professional writers but no publisher overhead, the site is as snarky as it damn well pleases, but not in an off-putting way. It’s more of, “This is how we feel, read it if you like, wander over to one of Nick Denton’s sites if you must, we’ll still be here. Fucker.” Well, okay then. And so I’m reading it all day.
I’m also a fan of the subject matter, which, thanks to its writers’ sensibilities, hews toward the Spy/Radar/Gawker-circa-2003 detached observer’s angle. The Daily Show-style news dissection is a nice addition to the daily RSS routine, and it’s varied enough to keep me paying attention.
The juxtaposition of top-quality, to-the-moment critique and messy, low-budget blog hasn’t been executed quite like this, at least not in some time, and not by a staff. Choire and Alex ostensibly have a business model up their sleeve, but as of now, the site is creeping along, filled by a roster of un- and underemployed bloggers. It’s a fascinating experiment, and one that, even if it cleans up before it turns platinum, will no doubt make for great reading. I wish them much success.

Trainspotter

Rail travel on aiaio, the business blog.
I am a big fan of trains, apparently dating back to my childhood, when I’d get unreasonably excited about commuter trains passing overhead (whether this was my own obsession or something prompted by my mother, I am unsure). I still enjoy getting around New York by subway–most mornings, anyway–and have happily explored transit systems in scattered cities around the world.
Taking the Acela this year has been a great discovery. It showcases America’s potential in high-speed rail and the many advantages that come with it. Unfortunately, it also shows the shortcomings: the breakdowns, the slow top speeds, the inexplicably bumpy ride.
The more we can get ourselves to adopt, and appreciate, trains the better our environment will be. I will continue to take trains whenever they’re a viable option. And, yeah, getting excited when they go by. I still do that.