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

Friday, October 5, 2007

Did He or Didn't He ? My Heroic Landsman or Johnny-Come-Lately

Well, I guess he did arrive at, explore, and exploit America, but whether my landsman, Cristofero Columbus, was actually the Numero Uno non-resident explorer to reach the continent, well, that is another story. As my kids have learned, Zheng, of the Far East, aka China, which, ironically was of course what C2 was looking for when he discovered/stumbled upon/dropped by America, may have been first, although of course there are folks who think the Vikings reached here before the first millennium.

An "amateur" British historian has some interesting insights into this issue:

This historian's vision of a fleet of 800 Chinese ships circumnavigating the Earth 70 years before Columbus sailed is certainly cinematic, if nothing else.

And of course you can imagine where the People's Daily of Beijing weighs in on this:

So, from Brooklyn, in anticipation of the Columbus Day Weekend, hasta la vista, baby.

--Brooklyn Beat

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Histoire Antique Pour Le Garçon D'anniversaire

I wish I could say I was born in a log cabin in the wilderness, but in truth, I was born 53 years ago today in Samaritan Hospital on President Street between 6th and 7th avenues, which, in that best Brownstone Brooklyn style, is now a cooperative apartment building. There is nothing remarkable about the passages of time marked by commercial and real estate changes in a community. More just the memory of 7th avenue and Park Slope in general in the 60s and 70s. I remember making a pilgrimage as a kid from Windsor Terrace where I lived with my family to see for my own eyes the Community Bookstore. I remember Bohacks and the furrier on 7th, but to me, I seem to recall a lot of non-descript stores and perhaps empty storefronts and I have always associated Community Books as one of the seeds that germinated to help establish Park Slope's 7th avenue as the mighty economic engine that it is today. Never underestimate the power of the arts, books and knowledge. My memory may be faulty, but I also seem to remember Back to the Land when it was a little organic/natural foods restaurant. Did it morph into a natural foods grocery ?

Well, it is my birthday, and as long as I can post and dream and continue to look forward to the future, I will just say --

Speak, memory.

--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