Saturday, December 29, 2007

Winter Chillin': Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

I have been on vacation (i.e., out of the office) this week along with my family. Besides the Herculean task of cleaning out my 3rd floor closet in preparation for the final steps of the construction of a new, improved Bathroom Under the Eaves, we have seen a few movies and rambled around Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

We all love Johnny Depp and Tim Burton and Alan Rickman but the jury is out on Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Even my non-vegan kids (well, except for my son) are still not ready to get cozy with a slice of roast beef just yet.

My son and I had a Guys Outing to Manhattan (the gals had gone shopping) to see "There Will Be Blood" with Daniel Day Lewis which is everything the reviewers have been saying about Day-Lewis's performance and then some. This weeping saga of the oil business by Director Paul thomas Anderson is staggering in its depth and restraint for much of its three hours , finally unleashing all of the pent up rage and energy in an unexpected and powerful denouement. The clash of civilizations even in America , that continues today, also is here, with the ongoing conflicts between the progressive and secular oilman and the young minister (Paul Dano). Daniel Day Lewis is in top form here. Up til now I was convinced that Frank Langella in " Starting out at Evening," another stunning performance as an aging author and the young scholar (Lauren Ambrose) who reinvigorates his life, was my Numero Uno for Best Actor Oscar this year, and if they could give two, definitely Danny Boy and Cheech (aka Frank) deserve to walk away with this one.. "There Will Be Blood" is powerful, suspenseful and the chance to watch one of our great actors at work (although my son, who is into film inside and out, thinks that Day Lewis's Method Acting Approach may be off=putting to some in the Oscar establishment)..Strongly recommended.

Another goodie was "Charlie Wilson's War" which was smart, funny, moving and great performances all around by Tom (the New Jimmy Stewart) Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julia Roberts, helmed by Mike Nichols. Another must see if you are interested in Grown Up and Thoughtful Entertainment.

I also DVR'd on cable the other night "Kike Like Me" a documentary by Jamie Kastner, a Canadian TV producer and writer/dramatist, about Jewish identity and how he is responded to in Brooklyn (at 770 Eastern Parkway, the Lubavitch HQ), London, France, Poland and Germany..,It is a disturbing, fascinating and occasionally amusing film (in a painful, probing way) that suggests that conditions are not only dicey for Jews in the middle east, but continue to be so throughout the diaspora. The interviews with American author Carole Gould in London and the Arab youths in France were particularly interesting and troubling.

Well, we here at Waldorf Court are all enjoying this winter break, as the sands of the hour glass fall for 2007, and 2008 beckons right around the corner, and we hope that you are enjoying it too, whether traveling or staying local, Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn.

Friday, December 28, 2007

How Things Could Be

The holiday season is rambling along. All of that marvelous good feeling and holiday potential that seems to come to an abrupt halt and then that anticipation of the New Year...

If you want the opportunity to delve down deep once more before year's end, I recommend that you visit the New York Historical Society, 77th and Central aPark West, to see "Here is New York: 9/11 Remembered" ...a huge collection of photos taken by a host of different photographers concerning 9/11. There are amazing artifacts as well, such as a portion of the wheel of American Airlines Flight 11.

When we were at the Newkirk Plaza subway station heading toward the NYHS, we met one of my daughters' music teachers. She and her husband were entertaining visitng friends from Pitsburgh, there home town. THey had expressed an interest in seeing the WTC site. We chatted and realized that since time has passed, not everyone currently living in NYC was here for 9/11. Everyone will have memories of that day, but if you were here it will be impossible to see this exhibit without feeling a wave of emotion. Both for the terribel memories, but also for the realization that for a few days immediately following, New Yorkers lived as though things could and would never be different, that we would live kinder, gentler, more generous lives, more in the moment, more rooted in living lives of personal sacrtifice and was an amazing time to live in NYC. A brief window, like the holiday season, into How Things Could Be.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Yule Tide in Brooklyn

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Surreal Estate: 110 Livingston Street

I usually don't get into the Brooklyn real estate blog thang. Of course, stories that impact the collective roof over our heads, or the commercial aspects of where we buy, sell, eat, drink, and generally do business and interact socially are important subjects, but I generally leave that coverage to other bloggers who have the requisite time and interest to do it with depth and "passion."

However, I almost (literally) stumbled across a real estate story that I felt compelled to mention briefly.

The legendary 110 Livingston Street, which current --for the moment-- Presidential candidate and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani once declared pre-9/11 "should be "Blown Up" sold a few years back by the City of New York/Board of Education, and which has undergone several years of huge renovation, is now seeking renters. I had heard stories that the lower end apartments were going briskly but the more luxe units were stalled and not selling, apparently not helped by the brisk sales of middle income-type units.

As I walked down Livingston Street, weighed down by holiday gifts and shopping, I almost tripped over a sandwich board in the middle of Livingston Street advertising the availability of "Luxury Rentals" at 110 LIVINGston. Would the renting of these new constructions further diminish the possible future sales price ? What could that rent be like ? Unless the End of Year Bonus Frenzy for those fortunate (for now) to (still) work on Wall Street shakes some big spenders loose from the tree, things clearly can't bode well for the sales of stratospheric coops in the borough of Kings. But it sounds like the Department of Education did the right thing in unloading the former Elks Club when it did.

Friday, December 21, 2007

David Brooks, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party

Based on NY Times columnist David Brooks' track record, and a recent follow up post by Peter Loffredo ( ) at Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn ( I can only wonder -- what is Brooks' true agenda ? Pro-Obama or anti-Democratic Party ? He lauds OB's "self-knowledge" and "the scattered facts of [OB's] childhood" now, but when the election comes around, Brooks no doubt can be counted on to use all of those same "scattered facts" he has gained through Obama's self-knowledge/revelation against OB's candidacy. Remember, outside of certain elite, educated areas, the gamesmanship of politics in a hyper-media environment will not necessarily reward those revelations, especially as things are lining up (religiously speaking) among GOP candidates.

I agree that it would be nothing short of a miracle to have a passionate, inner-directed President who understands himself, with resonances of Dr Martin Luther King,Jr and Abraham Lincoln, but as we learned in 2000 and 2004, the GOP must still be expected to play hardball. Much of the voting public nationally is unfortunately not attuned to "self-awareness"..

I don't pretend to have answers either but I do believe that the primary job of the selected Democratic candidate, whoever it is, must be to speak loudly and clearly to those political issues that will curb the corporate and anti-democratic excesses of the past 8 years and focus less on the politics of personality which can only serve to detract from that message....

If the Democracts can't get it together this time, it will not bode well for America's soul or its future...

"Christmas Time in Bensonhurst"

Somethings are just wrong. The "N" word, when used by anyone, but especially by non-African Americans. An Italian-American politician calling a Jewish-American politician a "shmuck". Or, for that matter, when any non-Italian-American speaks in a broken English, Italian immigrant or Bensonhurst Goombah accent for satirical purpose. Somehow, only insult-satire-parody-sarcasm within ethnic groups is really acceptable and avoids bodily injury. There are other angles of course, that are more acceptable, such as when John Tuturro described working with Spike Lee on Do The Right Thing, and providing a litany of insulting Italian-American euphemisms for African -Americans that apparently Spike and company had never heard before but when told in the right context by Tuturro, had filmmakers rolling in the aisles and made it into the film. That is just an example that when it is done right, in the proper context, it can be very funny. So in keeping with the holiday buildup, Sal "the Stockbroker" Governale, , part of King of All Media Howard Stern's stable, presents a Christmas in Bensonhurst. Enjoy (but only, if, like me, you are 100% Italian-American on both sides for three generations or more). The rest of you, look away.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas at "the Summit"

I have never experienced December in Las Vegas. But let's perform a mind experiment and picture Frank, Dean and Sammy in the big room at Sands, 11 PM, December 23, 1961. The marquee outside says "Dean Martin - Maybe Frank, Maybe Sammy" and sure enough, the boys and their pals have all congregated, to share a few laughs, a little holiday cheer, a bit of Egg Nog (light on the egg), for the assembled crowds. Legend has it that in the late 50s, Russian premier Khruschcev, the USA's Ike and France's DeGaulle were planning a Summit Conference to discuss world affairs, and Frank came up with the idea of the boys having their own "Summit" conference.. The extended crowd, led by Pack Leader/Chairman of the Board Frank, with Dino, Sammy, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford (until JFK banned Frank from the White House for his reputed mob ties), and honorary members Shirley Maclaine, Angie Dickinson and Norman Fell (yes, Norman Fell) would henceforth be known as "the Summit" or "the Clan" although to the public, they would always be "the Rat Pack" based on a comment by Lauren Bacall when she surveyed the wreckage of a party attended by Frank and another founding member, Humphrey Bogart, in Vegas and declared "You look like a goddamn rat pack."

But aside from the hard partying, pursuit of wine, women, song, and cool, the guys could still get warm, silly and even sentimental around the holidays. So let's order another bourbon and branch water, sit back and find a moment to enjoy the few days of general merriment leading up to the holidays, and more specifically the End-of-Another-Year when it is time to sing auld lang syne and roll up the sleeves for 2008.

Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra: "It's a Marshmallow World" :

Frank: "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" :

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Coda to "The Wandering Stranger of Schermerhorn Street"

Well, it has been three days and he is gone. I am convinced the Wandering Stranger of Schermerhorn Street has moved on. Incredibly, since even before I first posted about his arrival on Thursday, September 20, 2007, he has been seated in just about the same spot, on the block outside the parking garage. His plastic trash bags filled with who knows what (cash ? trash ?) are still there for now, neatly piled, where he last left them, only now there are empty coffee cups and soda bottles stacked on them by passersby. Soon they will be gone.

He would be there every morning when I passed him on my way up to Court Street and every evening as I headed home. I wonder if the NYPD forced him to move to a shelter or a jail lockup for his own safety, when this most recent snow and cold snap started. Or did he just see that the weather was going from bad to worse and he picked himself up, scruffy and filthy, beyond ascetic, but always peaceful and reserved, and went---somewhere. Will he be back next year, when the construction of the latest coops and condos is completed, and when we will know who are the actual candidates for the U.S. Presidential election ?

I usually just passed him by as I hurried to and from my office but for some reason, maybe just his pathetic presence, maybe something in me, I was moved to let down my urban, life-long New Yorker shield, and so I gave him a couple of bucks when I passed him last week. He was eating something, he barely looked up but reached out a filthy hand to take my donation. I couldn't imagine anyone letting him into their store to buy anything. Maybe he lives on what he can buy from the hot dog carts on the street.

Although he seemed very inner-focused, I couldn't help but think that he was acutely aware of folks passing him on the street, as though he was attuned to the rhythm and regulars, like me, of Schermerhorn Street. But maybe to him, having staked out his spot, unmoving, it seemed that the world moved around him, and in this place he belonged and all the rest of us were the Wandering Strangers.

--Brooklyn Beat

Saturday, December 1, 2007

ADVENTURES IN BLOGGING: Coda to "Dude, Where's My Anchor ?" Which Poses Interesting Questions

Earlier this week, quite out of the blue, I received an email regarding a post on DITHOB that I had written earlier this month . The post, and the email sent to me, concerned the departure from a major local cable news station of one of its more prominent staffers, ostensibly as a result of an on-air call that he had made to another call-in show on the station in which he discussed a former NYPD Commissioner's legal problems, but in making the call, the reporter used a fake name. My post also discussed certain lawsuits that had been discussed in the media last year that had been brought against the station by a woman who was a former reporter at the same station charging sexual harassment and which appeared to implicate the reporter/weekend part-time anchor.

What was eye-opening about the email that I received this week was that the writer indicated that he was the former NY1 reporter/weekend anchor in question, Gary Anthony Ramsay. To quote a character in Miller's Crossing, this posed "an in'eresting et'ical question" since it is difficult to verify the source of an email. The email included a lot of personal information about the call, as well as an explanation of how Mr. Ramsay was exonerated from the lawsuit (that it is directed at the NY1 General Manager). The email was frank, with a lot of information and detail, was extremely well written, exhibiting some frustration and anger, but with a degree of professionalism and restraint that suggested that it was the Real Thing. When I emailed the author of the email back to ask why he was responding to an humble, unknown blog like Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn instead of going more public, at first there was no reply. Maybe it was some kind of web hoax. But would it really matter ? Except for the occasional post picked up by more widely read sites, who reads my lonely little blog?

Nevertheless, I was still reluctant to post it, since I was unclear as to the identity of the author. I wanted to try to pursue some sense of authenticity and quasi-journalistic standard.

Later that evening, I happened to use a different computer to check my email. I usually don't IM on my PC. However, shortly after logging on to see if he had responded, "GAR" IM'd me and we discussed his email. He confirmed that it was indeed Gary Anthony Ramsay and that I was probably surprised to get his email. When I questioned him - Why share this with an humble blogger? , he suggested that he cared more about individuals than the mass (I guess, anonymous) audience, since that is how he viewed his work, tht it should be meaningful to the individual viewer.. When I asked why he wasn't taking his side public, he indicated that he would shortly. He also indicated that he was making a presentation this week at an area college. He also indicated that the original email that he had sent me was written "for the record" in reply to my email, but he did not send it with the intent for it to be posted. In my original post, I mentioned the accusations against him brought by the woman reporter, which I termed "Shenanigans." This seemed to have struck a particular chord in him, and also seems to have prompted the email to me, since he felt that he was being unfairly characterized in response to what he saw as a good deed, giving an upset and partied-out co-worker a ride home, which was then used against him for ulterior motives and reasons. I responded that if I only mentioned one side of the lawsuit, or mischaracterized his involvement in it (he was not involved) it was because that was all that had been reported in the media to date on this issue. Nothing was mentioned about the lawsuit in the any of the coverage of his departure from the station.

When I mentioned the quandry of not knowing 100% the identity of the sender of the email, he agreed that, from a journalistic point of view, it could be an issue, but that he wrote to me for the record; he did not intend for it to be reprinted. I decided to offer him the opportunity to write something that he found more acceptable for posting. Alternatively, I intended to write about it once he did "officially" go public. I subsequently received the "user friendly email below" as he characterized it, which he said was intended for publication. Hopefully, this will not prove to be a mistake on my part. But the email seems detailed, convincing and knowledgeable about goings on at the station. While Mr. Ramsay clearly committed a serious professional gaffe in contacting the show under a pseudonym to give political commentary, it seems unfortunate that he himself has become "a victim of the media" since it would appear that the full story has yet to be told and he, so far from his viewpoint, has been cast in a bad light for not only his own mistake but also for the other (alleged) sins of NY1 management.

Despite all of my quasi-journalistic travails with this issue, I am a writer with a web log, not a professional journalist, more of a 21st century-citizen-media person. I decided to share this because it seems to have the ring of truth and perhaps, having exchanged a number of emails and IMs now, I am more comfortable that the writer is who he says he is and that he has something to say to shed further light on the situation at the station that hasn't been previously heard. I think also, if the only information out there is incomplete, this additional information also needs to be known. If a retraction proves to be necessary, so be it. Interestingly, in our most recent exchange, when I inquired how his meeting at the area college went, Mr. Ramsay indicated that it was a charity event and it went very well, and that people have a way of cutting through to see what is behind the nonsense. Well, sooner or later, one of must know that I really did try to get closer to the story on this, since the media does not seem to be covering it. See what you think.

--Brooklyn Beat

-----Original Message-----
From: -----------
Sent: Wed, 28 Nov 2007 8:01 pm
Subject: A user friendly version

First let's talk about the "incident".

I did not identify myself - a mistake. I did not because I did not want to be bothered with the questions I had to deal with anyway. But when called by John Schiumo 20 minutes later I told him the truth. I made no effort to disguise my voice. If you haven't heard the clip of my exchange with John. (and that HACK, Richard Huff at the Daily News, DID NOT)... You would know that it was not a "crank" call if you heard the clip of the show. Unless you describe a calm, ordered layout of facts already in the public domain as a prank.

I am a weary as a citizen journalist of misinformation being repeated and ranted so much and so loud that it becomes fact as well the non-action/failure of journalists or people who play them on TV to correct it.

My call was ill-advised But I was home after a long day of working on the story topic of the show all day. My first mistake was becoming one of maybe a dozen people who happened to be watching the show. As you know TW cable programs many boxes to make NY1, the first station to come on. I heard person after person come up with all these crazy notions about the topic: Bernard Kerik, the 16 count federal indictment he faced and IF that would affect the campaign of Rudy Giuliani. These comments were inaccurate and unchecked as I told the NY Times. So I picked up the phone.

I said that Mr. Kerik pled guilty to many of that same charges in State court so he has admitted some wrongdoing already. That is true not an opinion.

Yes, I used the word RIDICULOUS when describing the belief that the Hillary Clinton campaign organized this whole thing. To believe it you'd have to believe this scenario:

*So ten years ago Hillary persuaded Mr. Kerik to take gifts and favors from a construction company with suspected ties to the not report that as income* (a charge Mr. Kerik has admitted).

*Then Mrs. Clinton told Mr. Kerik to become homeland security secretary to embarrass Mr. Bush. *
*And finally he convinced Alberto Gonzales, the republican attorney general, who was run out of Washington for being to political, to pursue this investigation to make the front running republican candidate look bad*

If I said it was ridiculous to believe in the tooth fairy or in the notion that men can give birth in 2007, few would argue the use of the word.

I would have said the same thing if I were asked to join a panel discussion of reporters.

I used a fake name to tell the truth in a calm way and it was in no way a prank. You would have thought however, I hit someone while driving drunk or plagerized, Two things I have never done. (There is a network anchor in town who fabricated a story about being kidnapped in Haiti -- He just signed a contract for 8 Million a year) ---- but 15 years of doing a damn good job in this profession was swallowed in one bad news article. let's forget my Edward R. Murrow award, recognition from the AP, the NY Press Club and the National Association of Black Journalists. Let's not mention my dangerous trips to Kosovo, Haiti and Iraq in the tabloid TV piece that was moved to page 7 on a Saturday. Or make a real effort to get my side of the story.

Mr. Richard Huff took all of his info from a mean spirited mediocre producer who I dislikes me because he is mediocre and I have told him so. This person told the Daily News I was drunk and used profanity (two lies) knowing that Huff would not make much of an effort to dig out the truth. This producer also knows that Richard Huff HATES NY1 and uses any chance he gets to put it down. This former racecar reporter/stenographer doesn't even live in the city. Unfortunately, Mr. Huff got played and I got smeared. Oh well I know the drill.

Now on to my what was the word you used? shenanigans??.

I am NOT a defendant in the case of Sammarco Vs NY1. The GM is, the Managing editor is, as well as a former HR person. Again I AM NOT. What I am (or was) is a very high profile witness to her non-case. What you don't know is that Ms. Sammarco case was ruled "unfounded" by the federal agency that investigates those charges but this is America so ANYONE can sue. Ms. Sammarco in on her 3rd set of attorneys in 6 years since she raised the allegations. And lets take a look at her current attorney - Joe Tacopina - who represented cops in the Amadou Diallo shooting, the young man just arrested for murdering Natalie Holloway in Aruba and (in another twist of NY irony) Bernie Kerik. Right after our 2nd set of depositions in 6 years, Mr. Tacopina did his usual thing and planted the story in the NY Post. I was ordered to not repsond. Not in my nature but I did.

Ms. Sammarco wanted to be an anchor--a talent she DID NOT have. I had a job she coveted and said publically, the only reason I had it was because of race. Trust me, it was a job I had to fight for but that is another story. She drove the tech crews crazy asking them to re-tape minor stories over and over again. She and the gay male reporter who allegedly made that picture of her were the closest of friends. She and he once crashed a party of mine that she was not invited to. Sound like a person who was afraid and intimidated by the two of us? I once felt sorry for Adele after her long time fiance DUMPED her. We were leaving a good-bye celebration when she fell apart. I moved her away from the front door so our coworkers would not see her in the state she was in. On the night she speaks of in her lawsuit. She was drunk out of her mind at a Channel 47 party, in a room full of men she did not know. I took her home out of courtesy - My mistake.

If I had know she was looking for an opening in this long planned lawsuit against NY1 --- I would have left her there and read about what happened in the papers the next day. That is my philosophy now given the trouble it has caused. Do you know after the article in the paper about the lawsuit. My family received death threats from racist psychos and I had to have an armed guard with me THRU the holidays last year. Sound like fun (shenanigans) to you??

You are right about one thing -- NY1. It could be so much more than it is which is why I decided to leave there in July 06. They asked me to stay at the end of my contract. The guy who runs the station surrounds himself with substandard people so he can look like a brilliant guy. 2 reporters are golf buddies, another is a golf buddies wife. Two managers are in there positions because of "special relationships". One barely comes to work and the other is perhaps the dumbest person in NY TV news. This boss once embarrassed one of our BEST reporters by describing him as a "Ghetto Superstar" during the Republican National convention here in NYC. Now who was he trying to impress.

The reason you don't hear about this stuff is the same reason you hear about Government or Police corruption until its too late. When the gate keepers are the wrong doers who can you trust?

As you can tell there are frustration I too have with journalism. Its like loving a woman that doesn't love you back. But as many of my colleagues, relatives and friends would tell you, I gave it the very best I had and put my life on the line for it many times. That includes giving the best to you and your better half:who may have only seen it as wallpaper till you got to the weather.

But thanks to my one, minor but human error you don't have to be bothered with me on your set.

I know this is long but considering your extended indictment of me I thought I should get equal time.

Good Life and Good Luck


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Futurama 4ever: It's Even Got Newkirk Plaza

I don't get Family Guy. South Park is obscenely funny but just not smart. The Simpsons remains a classic comedy but still, to my tastes, too much the Sit Com. So, the four seasons of Futurama remains Prime for me. We have been watching those four seasons from 1999 to 2003 over and over.. Finally, a new release -- straight to video, full length film, Bender's Big Score..callooo-callay !

Emmy Award-winning show created by Simpsons' creator Matt Groening and developed by Groening and David X. Cohen for the Fox network. The series follows the adventures of a former New Yiork City pizza delivery boy, Philip J. Fry (voiced by Billy West) after he is accidentally cryogenically preserved at midnight, A.D. January 1, 2000 and is revived one thousand years in the future.

Futurama aired from March 28, 1999 to August 10, 2003 on Fox before going out of production. It has now returned as a full-length DVD release called
Futurama: Bender's Big Score, which will be followed by three additional films: The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender's Game, and The Wild Green Yonder. Comedy Central has entered into an agreement with 20th century Fox Television (aka "30th Century Fox" on the show) to syndicate the existing episodes and air the movies as new episodes in an episodic format.

In case you don't know, Bender is a robot who needs to drink alcohol to function (when he doesn't drink, he gets drunk); the series has owls replacing rats and pigeons as the vermin plaguing New New York; Leela (voiced by Katy Sagal) is Fry's generally disinterested love interest and general foil, as well as captain of the Planet Express Spaceship, and a one-eyed mutuant (originally mistaken as an alien) --she lives in "Apartment 1-I"; plus Professor Farnsworth (also voiced by Billy West) who is his great great etc nephew and who is basically a mad scientist, deranged, senile, who resides in "Hell's Laboratory, NYC".OK, I admit it, I guess it is a show for nerdy science and science fiction types.

Funny, profane, prophetic, and, in the words of recrurring character "25 star general" Zapp Brannigan-- "Verrry Sex-ay!" (picture the voice of Phil Hartman, who originally held the role, only voiced, again, by Billy West). Brannigan is also known for "Carpet Bombing Eden 7" ;
"Defeating the pacificsts of the Gandhi nebula" and "conquering the Retiree People of the Assisted Living Nebula".

Brooklyn Best: one episode had Fry returning to his old neighborhood in "New York" (as opposed to "New New York" of the 30th century) which is located near the Newkirk Plaza stop on the Q train.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Read it and Weep--"Brooklynites are Natural Born Hayseeds": George Washington Plunkitt

Read it and weep. Famed Tammany Hall Philosopher and Politican George Washington Plunkitt told all in his book "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall as Recorded by William L. Riordon"

Speaking from a couple of centuries back, in his magnum opus "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics, Delivered by Ex-senator George Washington Plunkitt, the Tammany Philosopher, from His Rostrum-the New York County Court House Bootblack Stand as Recorded by William L. Riordon" (a lucky man -- truly I wonder if he was on the pad?). We know Tammany was a truly evil place, almost as evil as 110 Livingston Street, site of the former Board of Education, which Presidential Candidate Giuliani once said "Should be blown up" (would he have anti-terrorism on his tail now for that remark? ) but the BOE has now been moved from Brooklyn to what was once a central boondoggle of Tammany Life, the Tweed Courthouse so go figure..

Well, despite all of the Borough of Kings' contemporary grandeur of high rises, massive construction projects, and Brooklyn's continuing real estate boom, it appears that Plunkitt thought that he had all of us pegged. No matter what, whether of the manner born or fresh from Hong Kong, once a Brooklynite ALWAYS a Brooklynite. So, according to Plunkitt, best to get our rears in check and realize that we should shake the corn silk out of our hair and the hayseeds from between our buck teeth. We may put on airs because of our fancy Zagat-listed restaurants on SMith Street and our Oscar-nominated residents and multi-milliion dollar condos but hicks we shall ever remain. So, here is something to chew over along with that turkey leg (or slab of tofurkey). And as for its unforgiving tone regrading Brooklyn's Democrats, well peehaps Mr Markowitz can chime in...But for now you decide:

"Chapter 10. Brooklynites Natural-Born Hayseeds

SOME people are wonderin' why it is that the Brooklyn Democrats have been sidin' with David B. Hill and the upstate crowd. There's no cause for wonder. I have made a careful study of the Brooklynite, and I can tell you why. It's because a Brooklynite is a natural-born hay. seed, and can never become a real New Yorker. He can't be trained into it. Consolidation didn't make him a New Yorker, and nothin' on earth can. A man born in Germany can settle down and become a good New Yorker. So can an Irishman; in fact, the first word an Irish boy learns in the old country is "New York," and when he grows up and comes here, he is at home right away. Even a [person of Japanese or Chinese ancestry] can become a New Yorker, but a Brooklynite never can.

And why? Because Brooklyn don't seem to be like any other place on earth. Once let a man grow up amidst Brooklyn's cobblestones, with the odor of Newton Creek and Gowanus Canal ever in his nostrils, and there's no place in the world for him except Brooklyn. And even if he don't grow up there; if he is born there and lives there only in his boyhood and then moves away, he is still beyond redemption. In one of my speeches in the Legislature, I gave an example of this, and it's worth repeatin' now. Soon after I became a leader on the West Side, a quarter of a century ago, I came across a bright boy, about seven years old, who had just been brought over from Brooklyn by his parents. I took an interest in the boy, and when he grew up I brought him into politics. Finally, I sent him to the Assembly from my district Now remember that the boy was only seven years old when he left Brooklyn, and was twenty-three when he went to the Assembly. You'd think he had forgotten all about Brooklyn, wouldn't you? I did, but I was dead wrong. When that young fellow got into the Assembly he paid no attention to bills or debates about New York City. He didn't even show any interest in his own district. But just let Brooklyn be mentioned, or a bill be introduced about Gowanus Canal, or the Long Island Railroad, and he was all attention. Nothin' else on earth interested him.

The end came when I caught him-what do you think I caught him at? One mornin' I went over from the Senate to the Assembly chamber, and there I found my young man readin'-actually readin' a Brooklyn newspaper! When he saw me comm' he tried to hide the paper, but it was too late. I caught him dead to rights, and I said to him: "Jimmy, I'm afraid New York ain't fascinatin' enough for you. You had better move back to Brooklyn after your present term." And he did. I met him the other day crossin' the Brooklyn Bridge, carryin' a hobbyhorse under one arm, and a doll's carriage under the other, and lookin' perfectly happy.... "

[End of Reel...]

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yo, Dude, Where's My Anchor: NY 1 & The Jerky Boys

Don't get me wrong, I am forever a believer in the First Amendment and the importance of communication as a cornerstone of American society, so, anything that vaguely sounds like criticism of the news media is not something I would pursue lightly. That said, while I suppose one would not expect that NY1 would engage in any hard-hitting investigative journalism of its own Dirty Laundry, the departure of Gary Anthony Ramsay seems to show how effective the corporate media have become in their own controlling of the First Amendment. The story itself seemed to have been based on the November 9th call-in by Ramsay to "The Call" that rather peculiar call in show hosted by John Schiumo, which my blog-colleague describes as a "a topical call-in show but its basically Double A ball for prank callers to cut their teeth before moving on to the big leagues." The story was covered in the Daily News on Saturday and then picked up in the NY Times yesterday.

As Gotham City Insider reports in its own inimitable style:

"I have no idea why Ramsay admitted to it in the first place! The first rule of prank calls and being busted is Deny Everything! ...Super-journalist John Schiumo called Ramsay after the show and said he recognised his voice and Ramsay apologised instantly instead of just denying it and telling Schiumo he was an idiot.

"I guess Ramsay was home alone and frustrated because he had in fact applied for some other gig and got word that it was given to some other reporter so maybe he was on his way out of NY1 anyway and just said fuck it - let me call Schiumo's stupid show and bust his balls. Ramsay joined NY1 in 1992, when the station first went on the air, and covered a range of stories, including the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the war in Iraq. He is the president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, and has received numerous awards from industry groups, including the Radio and Television News Directors Association. I think he's up for The Jerky Boys Award as well."

To add my two cents as to why NY1 may need its own Viewer Ombudsman or Public Editor, like the NY Times, I couldn't help but wonder
why none of the recent reportage on Ramsay's shenanigans mentioned the sexual harassment suit againast NY1 that had been reported in the papers last year when Ramsay (allegedly) came onto another (women) reporter and she was subsequently fired, apparently after complaining about it, and after she complained about being the brunt of much frat-house-locker room humor. This story received some coverage and then seems to have died. When I mentioned the latest Ramsay issue to My Better Half , (showing why women are so politically superior to men), she immediately said "Isn't he the guy who was charged with sexual harassment or coming onto a woman reporter at NY 1?" Why did the NY Daily News and the NY Times omit this portion of the story?

As reported last December:

from December 11, 2006 (

Former Reporter Sues NY1 Over Busty Betrayal
A lawsuit claiming a hostile work environment at NY1 makes the station sound more like a frat house and not the scrappy channel New Yorkers know and love! The Post reports that Adele Sammarco claims she was fired after numerous complaints about being harassed. Here's a rundown:
- Former reporter Jeff Simmons (now press secretary for William Thompson) "manipulated a
picture of her by adding giant breasts, and the photo was then plastered all over the newsroom."- Gary Anthony Ramsay, the current weekend anchor, "attacked" Sammarco after driving her home from a party; she said Ramsay "held me down with one hand around my neck, crisscrossed my wrists with one of his hands and put his tongue down my throat"- "News assistants regularly referred to her by the acronym 'BBB' and later told her the nickname stood for 'Big Butt Booty.'"- She was secretly taped while she and a technician were "struggling with her stuck skirt zipper moments before she went on the air - making the innocent incident appear lurid and sexual. The tape was later edited into a bloopers reel that was to be shown to the entire company."- Vice President of Programming Steve Paulus had "a dozen news assistants rate who had 'bigger boobs' - Sammarco or another reporter. Sammarco won."- News Director Peter Landis once asked her to turn around in a dress she had on so he could "get a good look at it,"
We love that the Post made sure to take a picture of Sammarco with the photograph (we bet it's "exhibit A" in the lawsuit). Sammarco's lawyer says that ever since she filed the lawsuit in 2002, she's been blackballed. NY1 says the lawsuit is without merit and that Sammarco was fired because her work was "not good."

I guess Ms Sammarco has obtained some satisfaction. I guess because NY1, in our home, maybe in a lot of homes, is like wallpaper, an ongoing media background for adults, when you hear about stuff like this, you begin to think, is it a trusted news source, or is really something else? You realize how much is not being reported. Fires and government malfeasance are easy stories by comparison. Media covering itself -- not so easy. But don't they have an obligation to tackle even the tough stories that are close to home?

Friday, November 16, 2007

City Sidewalks

The chill is in the air. The 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau is in the stores. The holiday lights are going up all over Brooklyn. The 80+ foot fir tree is up in Rockefeller Center, waiting to be lit. There are strikes on both coasts, and two in New York City. The Democrats are arm-wrassling in Vegas, hopefully avoiding an implosion, and Karl Rove is in NYC to sign a book deal. Gridlock is here with a vengeance. It must be holiday time in New York City.

Starting a week from today, Friday, the end-of-the-year holiday hubub will be in full gear, as the Christmas shoppers, already out in force, will commence in earnest, approaching commercial escape velocity/meltdown a few short weeks after that. But for now, let's enjoy the gentle build up to America's mellowest civil holiday, Thanksgiving. We have until then to stock up on the wine and turkey (or tofurkey or turducken, depending upon your proclivities), pies and potatoes, and then mark some gentle time with our loved ones, culminating in the benevolence of the "Miracle on 34th Street" and the Thanksgiving Day Parade next week.

So, if your schedule permits, let's all enjoy this weekend, which is the calm before the calm before the storm.

--Brooklyn Beat

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Her Sweet Love or the Way That She Could Sing": I'm Not There by Todd Haynes

You might expect that the prospects of seeing the first dramatic film on Bob Dylan might lead to nothing less than 99% anticipation. And so it was, when the lights went down at the screening of I'm Not There by Todd Haynes , the audience excitement and anticipation was palpable. But the film itself is not Ray or The Cole Porter Story or Walk the Line. As much as fans would hope for something that would help unravel, or at least prepare a Unified Field Theory of Bob Dylan, one must remember that even his own two films, the 7os release, Renaldo & Clara, and Masked & Anonymous which he co-wrote with its director, Larry Charles, (who also directed Borat), merited "Turkey", "Bomb" or zero stars in the leading film review texts.

But taken on its own terms, I'm Not There is part appreciation, part riff, and all Bob, inasmuch as it is difficult, elusive and mysterious, just the way the artist himself appears to be. It takes awhile to get into the groove of this film. But persistence, patience and openness will pay off handsomely. Marcus Carl Franklin as Woody, the Young Romantic, Dylan from the late 50s and early 60s, and Christian Bale as the Prophet of the early 60s folk and protest scene set the stage for Cate Blanchett in a remarkable turn as Jude Quinn, the Innovator of 1966, who blew the lid off of the folk scene, injecting a different kind of roots music, the blues, with electricity and volume. It is Jude, who turns away from the expectations of the folk scene, and dares to emerge as a different kind of artist, on his own terms, as he challenges his audience to keep up with him. However, by the time his fans do catch up, he is on to Something Completely Different. There are a number of good performances in the film, Franklin and Bale, plus Heath Ledger as an actor-playing a Dylanesque character within the film, Richard Gere as Billy, the Lone Gun, who meshes Basement Era - Bob with the ever elusive Bob of the Endless Tour, and Ben Whishaw as Bob as Arthur Rimbaud, the Enigma, speaking to an unseen interrogator.

But Cate Blanchett pulls out all the stops here, in her tour-de-force performance as Jude, the Most Obscure, when Dylan escaped all bounds and scenes and expectations, and seemed to achieve escape velocity, until gravity, and perhaps freedom, betrayed him, and he fell to Earth, reinventing himself yet again.

For the first few minutes, Blanchett as Bob is a real challenge to one's assumptions. I remember thinking how Blanchett played Katherine Hepburn in the Aviator and pulled off that role remarkably well. But here we are talking about a gender bending role as one of the most recognized artists of the 20th century at the height of his celebrity and early performance powers. But damn, if she doesn't pull it off again. Todd Haynes, who directed the Velvet Goldmine, on the glam rock era of Bowie et al, seems to understand androgyny pretty well and manages to reach down deep, showing us that we really probably don't know much about the Real Man, and so we will never understand who Dylan is, what makes him the artist he is, what prompts the ongoing metamorphosis of his persona, and why is he so elusive a figure. It is Cate Blanchett, who reportedly stuck a pair of socks down her trousers to help with her swagger, who mines Bob circa '66 for all he/she/it is worth, and brings it all back home, especially in her dialogues with the British Journalist played by Bruce Greenwood, in another excellent performance. Blanchett's Jude struggles to remain free as the microscope and tweezers of celebrity and the media bear down on him.

The film is also filled with a number of fine musical cover performances from the Dylan catalog, most notably Jim James of My Morning Coat, singing "Goin' to Acapulco," as well as some songs performed by Dylan himself.

In a discussion after the film, Director Todd Haynes said that in contacting Dylan to get the OK to use his music, he was given many instructions by Dylan's son, Jesse, and his long time manager , Jeff Rosen on what not to say "Don't use the words 'genius' or 'prophet', don't refer to him as 'voice of his generation', and on and sounds like Dylan has heard it all before and he doesn't like what he has heard...

"Who are you, Bob Dylan?" the French asked in '66. To paraphrase the song Bessie Smith by Dylan with the Band, 'is it who he is (or seems to be) or the way that he could sing ?' that makes him such a towering figure ?

I think that this film will not find the audience that it already seems to have found in Italy and France. David Schwartz, a curator at the Museum of Moving Image who moderated the discussion, noted that the film received a 20 minute ovation at Cannes. Here in NYC, there was sincere, but not sustained applause. The film answers no questions, connects no dots, nor does it close any circles. But it is a fascinating evocation of the life and work of a one of the most phenomenal musico-literary talents of the past half century. Bob Dylan remains elusive, but it is clear we will never really understand the mystery of who he is primarily because he has not wanted to be understood, and is skilled at obscuring the facts and truth of his life, and muddying his tracks as much as possible. But just why that mystery continues to remain so compelling is largely a fact of the continuing relevance of his work. But even more interesting is why the desire to uncover that persona, to pin down the man, still seems to remain something to be pursued, like finding Bigfoot, even as Bob Dylan approaches nearly five decades in the public eye. That alone seems to say something about Dylan, but more so something about us...

The official I'm Not There trailer:

The unofficial teaser, Dylan performing his unreleased "I'm Not There":

Bob Dylan wikipedia post:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Coda: Norman Mailer Dead at 84

Norman Mailer has died at age 84 of renal failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC according to Michael Lennon, the author's literary executor.

Norman Mailer:Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize
New York State Author 1991-1993
National Book Award, Distinguished Lifetime Literary Contributions 2007

Perennial Candidate,
Nobel Prize for Literature

Born: January 21, 1923

Mailer on :
The '70s: "the decade in which image became preeminent because nothing deeper was going on."

Poetry: A "natural activity ... a poem comes to one," whereas prose required making "an appointment with one's mind to write a few thousand words."

Journalism: irresponsible. "You can't be too certain about what happened."

Technology: "insidious, debilitating and depressing," and nobody in politics had an answer to "its impact on our spiritual well-being."

Mailer's suspicion of technology was so deep that while most writers used typewriters or computers, he wrote with a pen, some 1,500 words a day, in what Newsweek's Sokolov called "an illegible and curving hand." When a stranger asked him on a Brooklyn street if he wrote on a computer, he replied, "No, I never learned that," then added, in a mischevious aside, "but my girl does."

In a 1971 magazine piece about the new women's liberation movement, Mailer equated the dehumanizing effect of technology with what he said was feminists' need to abolish the mystery, romance and "blind, goat-kicking lust" from sex.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I'm Not There: Bob Dylan X 6

We are going to a screening of "I'm Not There" the Bob Dylan bio-pic this weekend...

I pray I am not disappointed. What do you figure are the odds it will suck or transport ?

I am concerned it will turn out to be like "Across the Universe" which our daughters have seen; they split 50-50 on that one...

The film's conceit, several different actors portraying Dylan (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, former Brooklynite Heath Ledger and Ben Whishaw), seems alternately avant-gardeish or too cute for words. The recent NY Times Magazine piece on the film and its director, Todd Haynes, suggested that the "Bob" played by Richard Gere, who has done some very interesting work recently, may have been destined for much trimming. Who knows. Having viewed/loved/been confused/fascinated by the films helmed by and starring Bob Himself, it sounds like "I'm Not There" could almost have been imagined by him, as well, although Dylan's work generally seems only autobiographical through a prism.

Well, I won't pre-judge. "I'm Not There" is scheduled to open for its regular run later this month. Until then, Most Likely You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

CODA: CITYWIDE REPORT OF SCHOOL GRADES ---Now I Know My ABCs -- Schools Report Cards Released


Here are some of the grades released for a number of Brooklyn schools. For further information on the grading process and what it represents, and to locate progress reports for other schools, visit: the link at .

The DOE has added an awesome report of all schools and their scores that you can access at:

Then enter the school name or number; when you arrive at the school location, select "Statistics" & then "Progress Reports. The complexity of the grading system, mixing standardized test scores, school environment factors and surveys of opinions will no doubt receive reactions of schadenfreude and disbelief from parents and school staff. How this will impact upon the kids remains to be seen: How does it feel to be an "A" student at a "D" school? Or vice versa ? It appears high school reports have not yet been released. Special education schools likewise also appear not yet to have been rated. Here are a selection of scores for some Brooklyn area schools. No doubt this will play out further among politicians, parents and educationists in the weeks ahead...

An extremely incomplete list of schools and their grades this first time out:

Brownstone Brooklyn

PS 321: B
PS 020: B
JHS 51: B
MS 443: A
PS 008: C
PS 154: D
PS 261: C
PS 10: C
JHS 088: A

Red Hook
PS 27: C

PS 99: B
PS 217: B

PS 110: B
PS 84: D
PS 132: A
PS 250: B

Bed Stuy:
PS 21: B
PS 25: B
PS 81: A
PS 005: F

Monday, November 5, 2007


The Department of Education issued reports cards today, called "Progress Reports" for 1,200+ schools through the City. The report cards give each school a letter grade—A, B, C, D, or F—based on the academic achievement and progress of students as well as the results of surveys taken by parents, students, and teachers last spring. "These Progress Reports are the centerpiece of the City’s effort to arm educators with the information and authority they need to lead their schools and to hold them accountable for student outcomes" said the DOE.

The reports also provide parents with detailed information about school performance, both to hold their schools accountable and to inform family decisions. Most Progress Reports issued are for Elementary and Middle/Junior High Schools. It appears Report Cards for high schools will be issued at a later time as they are still assessing data. Report cards for elementary and middle school will be distributed to parents shortly; Parent Teacher Conferences for elementary and middle schools will be held later this month. Parent Teacher Conferences for High schools were held last week. A meeting will be scheduled in the future to give parents a copy of their child's school's progress report and to discuss it further.

Media reports suggest that the ratings will have complex results, since desirable schools may receive a lower grade if some students in need (for example, minority, English Langauge Learners or special education students) are not advancing and making demonstrable progress as shown in test scores. However, as one expert commented, Would a parent not want to send their child to a specialized school like Stuyvesant, even if the school received a "C" or an "F" ?
Time will tell.

Information on school Progress Reports can be found by visiting the NYC schools link at . Then enter the school name or number; when you arrive at the school location, select "Statistics" & then "Progress Reports."

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dia De Los Muertos -- Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos -- everything seems to come together, past and future, forward and backwards, Halloween, Thanksgiving, All Saints Day... although some may view celebration of the dead as a somewhat morbid or depressing topic, celebrants from Spanish and Latin cultures view it as a celebration in honor of the lives of the dead. It is a celebration of the continuation of life, that life is a stage of existence and being. Or perhaps, in a more Anglo, existencialista perspective, Life is short, so lets look ahead, look around, and maybe be a little hopeful.

The celebrations vary widely; families visit cemeteries with ofrendas, or offerings, for lost friends and relatives, and may erect small altars in their homes, with Christian and personal symbols, and bring gifts and tell stories about the deceased los angelitos, little angels for children, or booze and sugar skulls for friends and relatives. Candied pumpkin (sound familiar? ) and pan de muerto, or bread of the dead . In Mexico, schools and even government buildings acknowledge the day with altars, since it is an important tradition in the country's history.

Short poems called calaveras, meaning skulls, may be written, mocking friends or relatives or the famous, recounting their lives, their foibles and their humanity.

George "DNA" Bush: Oh poor skeleton, the face of a calavera who's had one too many. You want to turn the Arctic and the rain forest into toxic cemeteries. You think honor and integrity are transferred to you because your moribund opponent lacks them and levity. Your epitaph: "Here lies the Texas grim reaper, the moral and compassionate executioner."

The above sample from

Here is an interesting link on making Mexican sugar skulls:

A simpler recipe, for Pan De Muerto at Global Gourmet:
Pan de Muerto, "Bread of the Dead"
In celebration of Mexico's Day of the Dead, this bread is often shaped into skulls or round loaves with strips of dough rolled out and attached to resemble bones.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling.
Meanwhile, measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar. Beat in the warm liquid until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on lightly floured board for ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with "bones" placed ornamentally around the top. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour.
Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and paint on glaze.
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.
If desired, sprinkle on colored sugar while glaze is still damp.
Days of the Dead

This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Kensingston blog had a cool link with a nice graphic about a Day of the Dead show at SOBs tonite:

As Bob Dylan once commented somewhere, traditional music, and I guess by extension, traditional culture, recognizes that death is a fact, a mystery, but a fact, in a way that Modern Times may not...

Whatever you do, today is the Day of the Dead, remember how fleeting are the days...

--Brooklyn Beat

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Coda: Look at Autumn, Look at Winter

We have an unwritten rule in our home. No holiday music before November. OK, we will exclude the occasional playing of "Winter Wonderland" in July, or watching "Holiday Inn" in early August with Der Bingle and Fred Astaire in mortal combat, hoofin' and singin' for the hand of Virginia Dare, but chalk those up to rampant irony. Especially if it is Winter Wonderland sung by one of the Rat Pack, or the Saturday Night Live 1975 performance with Lorraine Newman, Candace Bergen and Gilda Radner, with uptown contra-melodies by Garrett Morris and doo-wop backgrounds by Ackroyd, Chase and Belushi. But those are the only exceptions.

So, of course, after we concluded our Halloween rounds last night, taking part in the West Midwood Holiday Parade on Glenwood Road (that was me in the long black wig, looking like a cross between Joey Ramone and Howard Stern), we sat on our front steps with candles, giving away as many Ike and Mike's and KitKats that we could, and the conversation quickly turned to "Why Don't We Go See the Grinch Stole Christmas." Later, as we watched the Village Halloween Parade on NY1, that Certain Feeling of anticipation and excitement started to build... Still, I thought we could hold the annual Winter Onslaught at bay at least until the week before Thanksgiving.

But, this morning, as we walked to the car to drop them off at school, one of my daughters excused herself, went back into the house, and came back with the Rat Pack holiday CD, and treated us to multiple listenings of "It's a Marshmallow World" by Dino and Frank from the Dean Martin Christmas Special 12/21/67. I tried to put on Elvis (Costello or Presley) or John Cale's "Strange Times in Casablanca" but it didn't work. Chastened, I finally turned the Rat Pack music off as they got out of the car at their middle school on 6th avenue. We all hugged goodbye, and I waited for the school crossing guard to wave me through traffic as the girls disappered into the bodega across the street from their school. But as I cruised toward 5th avenue, before making my way into the traffic flow and boom, I slipped a CD in and started crooning, Garrett Morris-style, in contra-melody, "In the wi-nter we can build a snow-man, we'll pretend that he is Parson Browwwwn......"

Strange Times in Casablanca....

--Brooklyn Beat

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Real Brooklyn Ghost Story

Back in the day, well, sometime in the 1980s, when Reagan was as far-out and far-right a reaction to the Jimmy Carter years that the human mind could contemplate, you could still afford to rent your own apartment in Park Slope even though you were neither the employee nor scion of a hedge fund. Anyway, I lived on 7th street between 5th and 6th avenues. It wasn't a fancy hipster neighborhood, and as hard as it is to believe, we were were young once too and were probably the hippest things happening, but there was El Faro and Polly-O and Save on Fifth, and I was just leaving a public affairs and marketing writing job at local hospital (then known as the Park Slope Body Shop), and taking up freelancing for a number of film, engineering and trade mags, so I guess essentially life was good. I was living in the first floor of a brownstone; the owners, an older Italian American couple and their grown sons, lived in the upper floors. The husband of the couple grew his tomatoes and enjoyed his occasional chianti which reminded me alot of my maternal grandfather who had passed away shortly before I moved to this new place.

One day, after I was living in the building for a year or so, the elderly husband himself passed away rather suddenly. My girl friend at the time, the Art Director's Daughter, and I had spoken to the sons earlier in the day. It was the first night of the wake, the family left in the early afternoon and informed us that they would not be returning until much later in the evening. We were planning to pay our respects the following night. Anyway, at around 7:00 PM it started.

Footsteps. Nothing but footsteps, loud and clear, walking the length of the brownstone apartment above. A constant pacing that started near the front door, walked to the opposite end of the house, turned and walked back to the door. Slowly, methodically, but unmistakably. At first, I believe the radio was on, I could hear this strange pacing (they had no dogs or pets of any kind) only intermittently, until it finally made its way into our consciousness as the Art Director's Daughter and I made dinner. I turned off the radio. Then, when it was very quiet, a chill went up and down my spine as I listened to the mysterious, relentless pacing.Finally, I went upstairs to knock on the door, but of course no one answered. I could not see or hear anyone (or anything) through the door. Since it was clear no one was ransacking their apartment, there was nothing much else to be done. But when I returned downstairs, there it was again. We turned on some music. The Art Director's Daughter (who was a Red Diaper Baby) was a big fan of the Weavers and Pete Seeger, so we cranked up some of that beneficent, positive vibe, good time hammer and sickle music, and had another glass of wine.

I guess between the clomping, and the wine, and the Weavers, we distracted ourselves until it either stopped or we took less and less notice of it. A few hours later, when the family returned from the first night of the wake, we decided to throw caution to the wind and mention the strange noises, just in case someone had in fact broken in through a window.

The older son looked at us quizzically but went upstairs first to look around before his mom got out of the car. Nope. Everything was as it should be. "Maybe it was a sound from next door through the walls" he offered good naturedly. We apologized for bothering him, but he said, no, don't worry about it, I am glad that you let me know.

But, just as brownstone walls are thick, and floors in old houses can creak when you walk on them, I was sure that the old man had returned for a final visit, and was looking to see where his wife had hidden the chianti.

--Tony Napoli --- Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Brooklyn in Autumn with an Orange Hue: The Doggy Halloween Party

Autumn is here, you can tell by the brilliant moon passing through the crisp, clear evening air. Leaves are beginning to turn and Brooklyn is taking on an orange hue, from pumpkins to t-shirts, Autumn, in its ominous tones of harvest and decay, begins to take root. We celebrated that first of the true, Fall holidays, by attending the Dogs' Den Halloween Party for (who else) Pups held in Park Slope on Sunday.

Dogs Den, on 5th Avenue near 12th Street, hosted a party for dog owners and their better halves. We showed up with Guinevere the Corgi, dressed in a bun, like a hot dog with mustard. But there were many extremely twee and charming pups of all breeds and sizes. Just like kids at a party, they danced, they tangled with each other a little bit, and a couple of the 4-legged guests even jumped up on a table to raid the goody bowl (filled with doggy treats). But there was food and fun for the petowners, too, and a doggy costume contest with prizes. Costumes included a Physician, a French Maid, a Chippendale, a few spiders, and a toy poodle dressed up like a skunk (Pepe LePew?)

Even though we now live in Flatbush, we, like many Brooklynites, still reside at least part of the time in the Virtual Slope, and the Dogs Den has been a really great resource for occasional boarding, doggy daycare, and grooming. The Den's owners and staff are wonderful, they genuinely like dogs, and never fail to take good care of Gwen whenever we have dropped her off when we are in the neighborhood for a shopping visit or boarding her when we leave town for an overnight. Sometimes, when Gwen becomes too whacko, we just need to drop her off for a couple of hours so that she can bond and socialize with other four-leggers and perhaps remember that she is a pup, not a person.

Together with our 12 year olds and our older daughter home for the weekend from college, it was great to make the scene at the Dogs Den Halloween Party. You may want to take a look at the Den's website; they promise a videolink of the party in the near future.

--Brooklyn Beat

TV EYE: Human Tetris & The Future of Media

Check out this peculiar link from a Japanese TV Game Show (I am not sure if it qualifies as Reality TV, unless you have a really twisted sense of reality):

What more can you say about that? But it certainly casts a bright light on one question -- is this really what TV was meant for ?

I was watching a recent episode of the very funny 30Rock and Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) invites one of her idols, a TV writer from the 70s (played by Carrie Fisher), to guest write on her show. They bump heads when looking at TV now and then, how all of the groundbreaking TV of the 60s and 70s set the stage for what is possible and funny today. Today, Flava Flav and his spin-off, New Yawk, America's Top Model, actually all the shows about people trying to make it into the celebrity stratosphere, and the other series that continue to come and go, I guess we are amusing ourselves to death. But is TV really necessary as an informational medium or a learning tool anymore? Is it just destined for different versions of "Human Tetris" And if so, then it seems like the internet will become what appears to be the home for "un-intermediated" communications, which is a totally brand new, complex medium in our society. It seems as though TV is the great entertainer, the follower of the middle path, the bottom line, but if you want real information, social awareness, the cutting edge, you go to the internet (or of course, you go to Real Life).

But as virtual reality and computer theorist, musician and writer, Jaron Lanier, posits, how useful, from the perspective of the individual is the internet ? Has it become, as he refers to it, a collective experience, like a "Digitial Maoism" where the individual is lost, and more and more the voice of the anonymous collective, whether it is questionable, unmediated, Wikipedia posts, or Youtube posts ( such as, I guess, the recent John Edwards posting by a college student about the location of the Edwards headquarters in a more upscale area of North Carolina, that seemed to hijack the Presidential Candidate's message for several news cycles), or the enormous Google operation which has remarkable influence in the web world, both commercially, and as the Gatekeeper for many internet functions which can define what is real, meaningful, or important. We turn on the internet and it is there, like (hopefully) water from the faucet, but there are commercial and political issues underlying web life, about which we are only beginning to understand and become aware. Now that we have the internet, where will network TV, even cable, evolve to in the next decade? The next 20 years? Where will the internet be? what will be the role of "information experts" and professional journalists and analysts versus the role of the "amateur" journalist or commentator on weblogs ? Those are my questions. Lanier's questions aim to prompt discussion of the structure and foundation of the new web institutions and where it is going as a social organization. The title of the article, "Digitial Maoism" is a bit strong and off-putting but he discusses the growth and dangers as he sees it of the development of online collective "all-wise" social organizations on the web that diverge from representative democracy and the meritocracy...

The Jaron Lanier post on "Digital Maoism" located on the The Edge is here:

For additional reflection on the underpinnings of the various New Edens, go to the source:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fiske Terrace Centennial Marked at Brooklyn Borough Hall

Residents and elected officials gathered to mark and fete the Centennial Anniversary of Fiske Terrace on Tuesday, October 23. Hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz at Borough Hall, Fiske Terrace Neighborhood Association members heard speeches about the little hamlet below Glenwood Road that was developed 100 years ago as a suburban idyll from cleared woodlands and farm land. Markowitz acknowledged the unique quality of the area's housing and environment, as well as the dedication of Fiske Terrace Association leadership and members which has recently given an enormous push to the prospects for Landmarking/Historic District Designation by the Landmark Preservation Commission. In addition to the BP, City councilmembers Matheu Eugene and Kendall Stewart greeted residents and were warmly received for the support that they provided, along with Markowitz, to the landmarking initiative.

FTA Co-presidents Paula Paterniti and Nancy Berenbaum, along with event chair Sarina Roffe and Brooklyn Historian Ron Schweiger addressed the gathered crowd on a breezy, balmy, late October evening in the lovely setting of Brooklyn's original City Hall, watched over by portraits of Mayor Sprague and other past luminaries. Dr. Lois Jackson read a proclamation from Mayor Bloomberg and a presentation also was made on behalf of Governor Spitzer.

Historian Schweiger noted that the 1898 the consolidation of what are now the five boroughs into New York City, although referred to by some as "The Great Mistake," was warmly received at the time by farmers from South Brooklyn, including areas such as Flatbush and Fiske Terrace, because they welcomed the introduction of paved roads and streets as already existed on the northern end of Brooklyn.

Community members expressed hope and confidence that the Landmarks Commission will decide favorably on this issue when their research is completed and a decision is made within the next year.

Residents celebrated the fact that some of that original tranquility and green loveliness , which includes critters and birds not always seen in other parts of the borough , are right here, in Fiske Terrace.

Will Autumn Ever Arrive ?

Getting set for Hallowe'en...L.A. dreams meets German Expressionism meets.. well you decide..

Red Hot Chili Peppers -- "Otherside"

Saturday, October 20, 2007

YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, First Francis Ford Coppola Film in a Decade Premiers

Francis Coppola's "Youth Without Youth" a genre-bending film starring Tim Roth, the director's first in 10 years, premiered at the Rome Film Festival today.

Variety's mixed review is here:

Based on a novella by Romanian philosopher-author Mircea Eliade, and co-starring Bruno Ganz (Werner Herzog stalwart and recent star of DOWNFALL, biopic of the last days of the Nazi leader) and Matt Damon, YWY focuses on an elderly academic contemplating suicide who is struck by lighting and regains his youth, and is pursued by Nazi's seeking to learn his secret.

In recent intreviews, Copppola commented how he made this film as a relatively low budget project with a small mobile crew, as a means of re-examing his own youthful creativity. Coppola turned to commercial blockbusters like the Godfather trilogy as a means of financing his smaller personal projects such as The Conversation. But the director managed to bring so much art and creativity to these huge commercial film projects that they helped establish his reputation among the group of 70s filmmakers such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese who presented a strong alternative to the traditional Hollywood studio system.

In an interview at the Rome film festival, Coppola says he has a lot in common with Dominic Matei, the protagonist of his first film in 10 years, "Youth Without Youth".

Coppola told

That may sound surprising coming from the Oscar-winning maker of "Apocalypse Now" and "The Godfather" trilogy, since Matei is an elderly Romanian linguistics professor who feels he has wasted his life, lost the woman he loved and failed to produce a great academic work. Just before the outbreak of World War Two, Matei -- played by British actor Tim Roth -- is struck by lightning and becomes young again, getting a second chance to fulfil his dreams.

In the production notes, Coppola says that when he came across the book on which the film is based, he was, a bit like its main character, "beginning to feel at the end of the road", frustrated by his inability to finish the screenplay for his long-cherished utopia project "Megalopolis".
"I was trying to write and find myself as a writer and find my place in the movie business, because I did not want to be kind of an entertainment director as I had been, I wanted to be someone who did only personal films," Coppola, 68, told reporters after a press screening of the new film.

"I never as a young man expected to have the kind of success which came ultimately from the Godfather and I always was nostalgic (...)

"It was only later when I was older that I thought, well, if I had the life of an older director when I was young, maybe I can have the life of a younger director when I am old and that took me to the subject matter of Mircea Eliade's book," he said.

Coppola financed the film with his own Californian winery business and went to shoot in Romania as if "I was making a student film", with an almost entirely local cast and crew and a specially fitted van to carry all the equipment.

The result is a complex, elaborate story mixing the ingredients of a spy thriller, including mad Nazi scientists studying genetic mutations, with philosophical meditations on time, language and reincarnation.

Critics' reaction at Saturday's press screening was muted, with some feeling the film was erratic and over ambitious.

But Coppola, who after his early triumphs has had his fair share of flops -- in the 1980s his production company was taken over by creditors -- said artists should never worry about the public's knee-jerk reaction to their works.

"When you venture into new territory, when you embrace an author like Eliade you know that it is different than 'Spider Man' and 'Shrek' and other films that are immediately met with success," he said.
"It takes time for the public to decide whether it was good or bad. Are you aware that for a film like, for example, 'Apocalypse Now' they are only making up their mind now?" Asked whether he would consider revisiting his 1970s classics or making "The Godfather IV", Coppola categorically ruled that out. "I don't know why I would ever want to do that, I never wanted to make more than Godfather one ... I feel any remake is a waste of energy and resources."

Youth Without Youth will open in New York City on December 14. A reprint of the Eliade novella also will be released shortly.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Adventures in the Blogosphere: Annie Leibowitz & Patti Smith (& Me) at the Brooklyn Museum

It was just a year ago that I attended a member's opening at the Brooklyn Museum and caught Patti Smith and band perform live. It was so cool, bringing so much art and excitement together, that I had to do something with it, which led me to write about the evening. I had become familiar with Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn and on a whim, sent the report there. Fortunately for me, Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. com immediately responded to my story and posted it. I was hooked. Blogging has the immediacy of electronic journalism but, since it is essentially a literary, or at least largely word-based medium, it demands some reflection. All of that works for me. I wrote a number of posts for OTBKB, and had stuff picked up by other blogs as well, which is a unique experience to see your stuff out there and wonder how it got picked up. People have many reasons to blog. I see that some folks bring a strong current of interest in neighborhoods and commerce, with a particular focus on real estate and development issues and the like. Others focus on aspects of their world, however minute, and manage to impart meaning. Blogging seems like an open book, and the bottom line is whatever works for you.

My interest has always been literary and creative, so I see Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn, which I began in summer 2007, as a place on which to to peg my occasional writings, creative obsessions, and musings about Brooklyn now and then. I try to write honestly and creatively. If anything I have written has sparked your interest, all the better.

Anyway, here is my original blog post from last year:

Thanks, LC, you are a pal. Now Speak, Memory:

Friday, October 20 2006


Look what I missed? Brooklyn Beat sent me this report about the Annie Leibovitz opening at the Brooklyn Museum. I was up at 3 a.m. when HC's cell phone rang with a wrong number and read it. I was at the museum earlier in the day. But I really missed something here. I CAN'T BELIEVE PATTI SMITH PERFORMED FOR THE CROWD. NOW THAT'S SOMETHING I WISH I'D SEEN. DANG.

Brooklyn Beat's report:
I got home from the Office, left my better half at home with a cold, she was all cuddled up with our 11 year old twin daughters, and Guinevere the Corgi, watching Dogs and Cats (or was it Cats and Dogs) and I lit out to the Brooklyn Museum to see the Annie Liebovitz members opening exhibition.

Unusual for me to be out solo in the evening, but here I was in the BM parking lot, strolling to the entrance. The AL show was part mega media event, seeing these remarkable photos that have graced books and magazines, only blown up, printed exquisitely. Plus the enormous collection of her work, snapshots really, works in progress, under glass. Some that have made their way into the major show, others that reflect the artist and her process at work..huge photos of Venice and Vesuvius were likewise fascinating.

I thought, I must come back to see this again for a leisurely perusal since the opening was very crowded.. at the exit, we all crowded into the 5th floor space (where the Rodins were previously on display..)

After a few minutes, the crowd roared with appearance of Annie Leibovitz and family. They moved backstage, but then reappeared, with Ms Leibovitz casually sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall with a daughter on her lap and family and friends nearby..
A second roar and Patti Smith appeared with her band (including Lenny Kaye (guitar) and Jay Dee Daugherty (drums) (both members of the original ensemble that played on Horses, her seminal 1975 album), Tony Shanahan (bass, keyboards) and they proceeded to enthrall the audience with 5 songs..concluding with Because the Night, the Bruce Springsteen tune that Patti Smith made famous, it was an unexpectedly lovely, soulful and energizing set.. Ms Leibovitz dancing, and Patti Smith introducing Because the Night as the song that the late Susan Sontag liked to dance to.

I understand that the Brooklyn Museum is going through institutional changes (ain't we all?), and maybe it was an evening that was too pop for some tastes and sensibilities, but this was an exciting evening that made me glad to belong to the Brooklyn Museum and, once again, glad to live in Brooklyn. Peace Out.

P.S. - I brought Chinese soup home for the sniffling troops and later read Twin 2's essay on the day we brought Gwen the Corgi home.

--Brooklyn Beat

October 20, 2006 Permalink

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fiske Terrace - Midwood Park Landmark Review Public Hearing: Update

"We had a very large turnout from the 2 neighborhoods and almost everyone who spoke was positive. We left feeling that we made a favorable impression on the committee," reports Paula Paterniti, Fiske-Terrace Association Co-President. Although as yet there is no official word as to when the Landmarks Preservation Commission's final ruling will be made regarding granting of the historic status to the Fiske Terrace and Midwood Park neighborhoods, the community hopes that the LPC will release a decision "before the summer," said Ms. Paterniti.

But it would appear that major steps in the landmark designation application and review process have now been completed through the dedicated efforts of the Fiske Terrace Association and Midwood Park Homeowners Association and other public officials and members of the community, and it is now up to the LPC to deliberate and render a decision.

The event was covered on Cablevision's News 12 Wednesday night.

In a related item, Borough President Marty Markowitz will present a proclamation celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fiske Terrace Association to community members at a special Brooklyn Borough Hall celebration next week.

--Brooklyn Beat

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coda: Norman Mailer in Hospital After Surgery

As a follow up to Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn's recent post on Norman Mailer, wire reports :
" Norman Mailer is recovering in a hospital after surgery to remove scar tissue around his lung, his daughter-in-law said Wednesday (10-17-07).
"He's been getting better every time I see him," Salina Mailer said. She didn't recall the date of the operation at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.
Mailer, 84, gained instant literary acclaim with his first book, "The Naked and the Dead," published in 1948 and based in part on his experience as an Army infantryman in the Philippines.
He won Pulitzer Prizes for "The Armies of the Night" and "The Executioner's Song." His latest book, "The Castle in the Forest," was published this year."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Is Proposed Landmarking of Fiske Terrace - Midwood Park Nigh ? ; LPC Public Meeting Scheduled for Tuesday, October 16

On Tuesday, October 16, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will hold a public hearing to review the Proposal for the Landmarking of the Fiske Terrace- Midwood Park neighborhood in Flatbush. Interested residents are invited to attend the public hearing at the LPC's headquarters in the Manhattan Municipal Building, One Centre Street, 9th floor at Chamber and Centre Streets. (The scheduled hearings begin at 9:30 AM)Fiske Terrace - Midwood Park is a unique, wooded suburban neighborhood within the predominently urban Brooklyn environment, with detached single family Victorian homes built around 1905-1906. Fiske Terrace runs from the Q train subway line to Ocean Avenue, between Avenue H and Glenwood Road. Midwood Park is adjacent, bordered by the Q train on the west, Glenwood Road on the south, Ocean Avenue on the east and Foster Avenue on the north. The two neighborhoods were developed as suburban communities.

The Historic Districts Council gives further detail on this unique historic area: At the turn of the 20th century, a number of real estate developers purchased large tracts of farmland and woods near the sleepy market town of Flatbush, Brooklyn, and began to develop a suburban oasis affording wide lawns and spacious Victorian houses at a convenient distance from the City. The historic neighborhoods of Flatbush retain to a remarkable degree their integrity as early 20th-century suburban developments more than 100 years later.

Midwood Park was constructed by developer John Corbin in the first decade of the 20th-century on what had previously been farmland. The houses were built using Corbin’s method of standardized construction. Buyers could choose from thirty distinct models, but uniform construction techniques, materials and assembly methods were employed to minimize cost and boost efficiency. The wood-shingled houses are relatively grand: set back from the street on large lawns, they have open porches and rich interior detailing in the style of the time. The streets have a landscaped median and are lined with mature trees. The neighborhood must have represented a striking alternative to city living. Midwood Park has undergone few inappropriate alterations. It remains a unified, coherent and harmonious suburban neighborhood in an urban context. The Midwood Park Homeowners Association is advocating in consultation with the Historic Districts Council for historic district designation for the neighborhood.The adjacent Fiske Terrace features more elegant houses but retains an intimate sense of place through its historical integrity. In 1905, T. B. Ackerson Company purchased a densely wooded tract of land and immediately cleared it, laid out streets and installed underground water, sewer, gas and electric lines. Eighteen months later, the former Fiske estate had been transformed by some 150 custom-built, detached, three-story suburban houses with heavy oak ornamental mantels, staircases, beamed ceilings and built-in bookcases, ornately bordered parquet floors and elaborate cabinetry. A landscaped median and hundreds of street trees planted at the time of development continue to contribute to the idyllic feeling of the neighborhood -- Historic Districts Council

Recent articles in the NY Times and local papers, which included interviews with Fred Baer, former Fiske Terrace Association president, who has helped to shepard this proposal through the Landmark Preservations Commission's Review process, indicates that very strong support from area residents and public officials suggest that the LPC may support a favorable decision on the application for historic-area designation. The Commission sent letters to area residents (including Brooklyn Beat) in August regarding the placement of the proposal on the Commission's calendar in September. The calendaring of the public hearing last month and the actual public hearing tomorrow are important steps toward designation. Fiske Terrace will mark its official centennial this year.

--Brooklyn Beat

This item also appeared in

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

You Gotta Serve Somebody: Norman Mailer on God, the Devil and the Human

This past summer I caught the film Maidstone, directed written and starring Brooklyn literary legend Norman Mailer. This film, a genuine artifact of the era of Boomer Prime was released in 1970. Mailer stars as Norman T. Kingsley, a film director, author, and charismatic figure who decides to run for President of the United States. The film which appears loosely scripted, tosses in a lot of improvisation, most notably the conclusion. Rip Torn, who appears in the film as Kingsley's younger brother, approaches Mailer wildly as the film ends. Mailer is essentially using up remaining film after the actual film wrapped. Torn approaches Mailer and says that the film has no ending unless it includes the assasination of Kingsley. Torn proceeds to either break character -- or inhabit his character and himself or perhaps dive into some other unknown void--and attacks Mailer with a hammer in front of Mailer's wife and young children.

Mailer defends himself with a remarkable fury while wife and kids panic and weep in the background. Mind you, all of this appears on film. Mailer reputedly nearly bit Torn's ear off during the tussle. When they finally stop fighting, Torn says "You know I had to do that".

The film itself mixes the real and the surreal, reflecting Mailer's ability to let it all hang out on film and get others to do the same. There is somethng of Warhol's Factory or a John Cassavettes project to the film, but it is radically different than either of these as Mailer proceeds to let us wonder if he is Mailer the Megalomaniac or just (to borrow his term) The Whitest Negro on the block. The fact that Mailer would include the fight footage at the end, which is bizarre and riveting, suggests that he had found, amid all the character play and posturing, a nugget of the Real for which he appears always on the search.

His fearless, public battles with the feminist movement of the 70s, seemed so retro, out of touch and unreal at the time (kind of like Jack Kerouac, approaching his later years, ranting on about evil hippies and the like). But in retrospect, Norman Mailer was always doing battle against what he appeared to view as the moderating, suffocating, plasticizing, and corporatizing social forces that, through politics and consumerist culture seem to work so hard to rob us of our individuality and humanity. Certainly, there would be a shortsidedness to say that women should not have the same freedoms as men. I think what Mailer railed against were the political forces of feminism that he saw as threatening to dictate the behaviors of men through political correctness and the like. Mailer's vision I think was for a freer society for everyone, not necessarily a more polite, restrained or civil society. Women themselves would have to judge all of the gains (and perhaps losses) that may have resulted from the feminist movement. For instance, in The Prisoner of Sex (1971) Mailer ponders the unacceptability of a marriage agreement which dictated his required chores and housekeeping duties. Clearly, he is Norman Mailer and in his view, Mailer's work is too important and supersedes any chores or tasks that a relationship might impose. I don't know the answer but for example would feminist theorists Kate Millett or Shulamith Firestone, or artist Judy Chicago, or writer Germaine Greer, in whatever relationships they were engaged, agree to drop everything to do the dishes for equality's sake, or was the assumption that their work was too valuable for the Movement to suffer the distraction?

Anyway, the point of all of the above, besides declaring my lifelong literary interest in that rough and tumble genius, that beautiful literary stylist and essayist (his last novel, Castle in the Forest was a mysterious work of fiction and a relentless page turner), that sometimes ludicrous, wife-stabbing, wannabe Mayor of New York, whose appearance on the Dick Cavett show in which he argued and fought with Gore Vidal was a legendary moment of the Broadcast TV era, the point is that they don't come any more complicated or contradictory than Norman Mailer.

Mailer is approaching 85, so it is remarkable that although his extra-literary exploits appear on the wain, he remains a fascinating, engaging writer. So, it is no surprise that, this week, New York Magazine published an excerpt from Mailer's forthcoming book on God. Mailer , in a long form dialogue with Michael Lennon observes many mysteries and contradictions as he speculates on God, the Devil, and humanity. Mailer recasts it all in some form of his own philsophy. The Devil is in the technology and the plastic. The Lord God Almighty may be both unknowable and at the same time not knowledgable about eveyone and everything happening in this Earthly domain. Like the artist she/he is, God may really need a good agent to pull all of the details together for her/him (on this note, Mailer doesn't judge).

I am looking for the book, as it presents another opportunity to experience, tussle with and savor the deep thoughts and fascinating prose of one of Brooklyn's -- and America's -- foremost writers.

---Brooklyn Beat

Gentrifyin' Days: "Culture Wars as Housing Boom Generates Culture Clash"(Crains NY)

Very interesting article in Crain's New York (October 8-15) regarding gentrification fallout in Williamsburgh and Greenpoint which is leading luxury coop - real estate buying parents to opt out of the public schools. Culture clashes with existing school administrations and long-time community residents over more traditional educational philosophy focusing on penmanship, test prep, with, in the words of one gentrifying parent "no room for fun", leads those parents who can afford it to send their kids to private schools or charter schools (some involving one hour commutes for the kids).

To quote from the article in Crain's New York by Erik Engquist:

"When parents come in and say a school's not good enough for their children, it's a very sensitive issue," says Kate Yourke, an activist parent who moved to Williamsburg from the Upper West Side in 1985. "Parents are quite naive about the implications."
The may 2005 rezoning of northern Brooklyn by the Bloomberg administration and the City Council has triggered a boom of luxury apartment projects. In the next few years, tens of thousands of affluent residents will plunk themselves down in what has long been a poor, heavily ethnic area.
The schoolyard fights of the last two years point to uglier times ahead for the administration's most ambitious experiment with accelerated gentrification.
Consider what happened to Brooke Park, who led an effort to increase arts education at PS 84 in Williamsburg. "I was running for the school leadership team, and I got heckled by faculty at a meeting," she says. "The faculty was trying to push out parents they didn't want."
It worked: Ms. Parker and the others pulled their kids from the school.

When we lived in Clinton Hill in the early 90s, there was a movement by some gentrifyin' parents to establish a "Gifted Program" which some of the long-term residents identified as a program for white students within schools predominently of students of color. Some of the parents behind this who were white had actually lived in the community since the time they were Pratt Institute students, having bought and renovated their homes when Clinton Hill real estate could bought for a song. Still, the program never took off. As the realtor who showed us our home said in a singsong fashion when we asked about schools in Clinton Hill at the time: "Frie-nds!"

Well, the bottom line is that although Easy Money may have made the idea of gentrification a simpler process, more like "Monopoly" than the Game of Life, moving into established less affluent neighborhoods and finding common ground can be a complex, challenging issue. However obvious it should seem, Gentrifyers may not always be welcome since they drive up prices and can serve as an unwelcome cultural wedge .

Interesting also, a recent issue of New York magazine dealing with the bursting of the real estate bubble, observed that "Hipster Brooklyn: Williamsburgh/Greenpoint" rated 7 our of 10 (with 10 being the worst) in terms of risk in loss of real estate value. One imagines that that can only create more tension. Brownstone Brooklyn and other more traditionally established areas in the borough seem to be retaining their value, but that may remain true of areas that are currently established...moving into areas where much of the appeal is speculative and in the dreams of future perfect may quickly lose steam. That will require real vision, patience and courage, a willingness to homestead and help build the community, not count on a quick flip.

The willingness to engage in this level and type of commitment will be the real test and the determining factor on the future of surreal estate in post-Bubble Brooklyn.

--Brooklyn Beat

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo