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Flickr user NK Eide
Flickr user NK Eide

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

Flickr user NK Eide
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.

Overslept.
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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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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