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Flickr user NK Eide

The Story Behind the Peculiar Poem in NYC's Port Authority Tunnel

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Flickr user NK Eide

Actually, the poem is posted in the corridor between the Port Authority subway station and the Times Square subway station. Each line of the poem occupies its own six-inch tall panel affixed to the support beams in the ceiling of the underground, tiled tunnel. As swarms of city-dwellers make their morning and evening trek between the high-traffic subway stations, they need only to glance up to see a sympathetic message.

So tired.
If late,
Get fired.
Why bother?
Why the pain?
Just go home.
Do it again.

A final panel shows a black and white photo of an empty, rumpled bed.

The poem, by Norman B. Colp, is aptly titled "The Commuter's Lament" or, perhaps more cryptically, "A Close Shave." The alternate title is a reference to the Burma-Shave ads of the mid-20th century, which employed a similar style of a series of one-line signs drivers would read as they sped past. Colp told the New York Times he was inspired by the highways out west that he and a girlfriend used to drive along in the '60s where the Burma-Shave billboards were prevalent.

Colp, a native New Yorker who passed away in 2007, was known as an artist and photographer for his witty installations. He was commissioned to create a piece in 1991 as part of the MTA's Arts for Transit, a program started in 1986 which dedicated 0.5 to 1 percent of a station’s rehabilitation budget to bring museum-worthy artwork into the otherwise-utilitarian public transportation system. Colp was paid $5000 for the sardonic piece.

The poem was originally intended as a one-year display, but the MTA chose to leave it up ever since, allowing it to join the ranks of permanent art installations throughout the subway system. The final panel with the slept-in bed went missing after a 2005 station renovation but was reinstalled two years later.

In 2011, two optimistic young college students in the area set out to change the tone of the poem. Feeling that Colp's original work was too pessimistic, the pair of 20-year-olds took it upon themselves to brighten some of the lines—“Overslept” became “Overexcited,” “So Tired” became “Energized.”

The artist's widow, Marsha Stern-Colp, did not appreciate the amendments, saying at the time, “Why be optimistic in these times? Be realistic—life sucks. You get through it the best you can.”

Whether or not that's true, she conceded that what Colp had originally intended to project was not quite as bleak. “His empathy for the overtired, overworked populace trudging to get to work was what it was all about."

Original photo by Flickr user NK Eide.

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Ape Meets Girl
Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.


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