(Above: Picture I took of a Coney Island storefront.)

Cool new book out — Paul Lacy catalogs entrances and handpainted signs around New York in Brooklyn Storefronts. Read about it on the Times’ City Room blog, which noted, “In the foreword to the book, Mr. Lacy admits that his visual record of Brooklyn’s storefronts might seem “a bit odd,” and indeed, some store owners would pop outside to ask why he was taking snapshots. Mr. Lacy writes:

“Granted, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but a small, independently owned store is singular and so is a handpainted sign. When you see one, you have to wonder whether there will be something inside not found in the other stores, let alone the chains and franchises. Very often there is: a lovingly made dish made from a family recipe, a display of photographs or posters, a funny story, catchy tunes from another land: there are so many surprises.””

Supercool — and a real testament to the creativity and ingenuity of everyday people. What with the corporatization of public space, gems like those Lacy captured are already few and far between; thankfully, this old-fashioned art hasn’t disappeared completely.

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So I was watching network TV today, which I rarely do (I usually save my TV watching for the weekend and catch up on NBC.com, &c.), and a commercial for Vitamin Water that featured Kelly Clarkson came on.

“Oooh! K-dawg! You’re muh girl! I wanna break away!”

She looks awesome and cute, but the commercial is utter tripe — and not only because the product she’s shilling is, at best, utterly unnecessary. I think it’s supposed to be a spoof of German talk shows (?!), and the host is like, “Rock und roll! I hear you’re into trying new things! Like India!” And then Kelly’s all “Yes! I wanted to learn to be a snake charmer!” and the host honks “Rock and roll!” and then we cut to a guy dressed up kind of like one of those monkeys that wear fezes, and he’s playing a tiny piano, and he’s in … brownface?

Oh, India. More than a billion people, and the American media would have you believe that all of them fall into neat categories like (1) gurus/godmen, (2) starving peasants, and (3) tech geniuses.

Witness Times Private Treaties, a hideous sham of a venture by which advertisers buy space in the Times of India, and TOI, in turn, buys a stake in the company doing the advertising, all in the name of synergy and profits and whatnot.

As Indian media watchdog The Hoot notes, “The more competitive the media business gets, the more inventive media houses become. And it becomes more of a headache to track the ethical dimensions and conflict of interest possibilities that emerge.” The newspaper industry in the subcontinent may be flourishing, but it’s certainly not without its discontents.