Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Louise Bourgeois: Life in Art/Art in Life (and, of course, a Brooklyn connection)

This is proving to be a great summer for Art in New York City. Hot on the heels of the Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe exhibit at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, they have come up with another engrossing, provocative show, an enormous exhibit of the works of Louise Bourgeois. Louise Bourgeois is widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century. Although it could appropriately be called a retrospective, Bourgeois was already the subject of a previous retrospective, in 1982. Louise Bourgeois’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was the first retrospective given to a woman artist at that institution. According to the current exhibit's notes, the artist took the MOMA retrospective as a challenge since she did not wish to be categorized by her retrospective as being at the end of her career. So, at age 71, Bourgeois changed direction and began exploring new subjects, new materials, new media and new ideas, absorbing from the changes occurring all around her in the art world so that she could head off in new directions.

Among these new directions was her move, in the early 1980s, to a large studio space in Brooklyn. Louise Bourgeois began working in a studio in a converted garment factory at 475 Dean Street, between 5th and 6th avenues, near Flatbush Avenue. An interesting choice, since her family in France had been involved in a tapestry restoration business for many, many years. (See"Art kaleidscope" link below for more details.)

She will celebrate her ninety-seventh birthday on December 25th, 2008. She still holds Sunday gatherings with emerging artists and remains as demanding and challenging to younger artists, as she has been toward her own work.

Through September 28, 2008.

On Louise Bourgeois:

Louise Bourgeois at the Guggenheim Museum:

Louise Bourgeois: A Life in pictures - from the Sackler Library at the Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

School Construction: New PS 8 Annex in Brooklyn Heights to Be Built; Will Create New Classrooms and Alleviate Overcrowding

The NYC Department of Education reported that Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced plans to build an annex at PS 8 in Brooklyn. The annex will give the school additional capacity, alleviating overcrowding at the Brooklyn Heights elementary school. The School Construction Authority (SCA), which will oversee the project, will scope out the work and design the annex in the next year before it seeks bids for the construction of the facility. The Department of Education expects that the annex will open in September 2011.

The Department of Education indicated that, at the announcement, Chancellor Klein was joined by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, Chief Family Engagement Officer Martine Guerrier, SCA President Sharon Greenberger, Department of City Planning Director Purnima Kapur, PS 8 Principal Seth Phillips, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilman David Yassky, State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, State Senator Martin Connor, PTA co-President Tim Eldridge, Superintendent James Machen, PS 8 Assistant Principal Robert Mikos, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joe Chan, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Deputy Director Nancy Webster, and Community Education Council representatives for School District 13.

"PS 8 has gone from a poor-performing school to a powerhouse, and enrollment interest has skyrocketed,” Councilman David Yassky said. “We have to recognize the tremendous amount of work done by the parents and administration of PS 8 to make this a first-rate school. If we have great schools but it takes a miracle to get in, we haven’t really advanced our core mission. What we’re trying to do today is make a PS 8 education available to as many of our kids as possible to make sure that this school can serve the community that saved it.”

“The PS 8 Annex is great news for PS 8 and for its broader school community,” Chancellor Klein said. “The annex will allow PS 8, which has grown in success and popularity in recent years, to continue growing, providing more children with the top-notch elementary education they need and deserve.”

"The Department of Education will fund the design work for the annex to PS 8 in the current Capital Plan and will include funding for the construction in the next Capital Plan, which begins in July 2009. The current Five-Year Capital Plan is in its last year and will create 63,000 new seats throughout the City. For the next Five-Year Capital Plan, which will be made public in November, the Department of Education plans to look at the potential need for school construction based on demographic patterns within districts and the accessibility of existing schools."

One Bourbon. One Scotch. And One Beer: "W" by Oliver Stone: First Trailer

As Oliver Stone proves, it isn't a far leap from Frat Boy to Leader of the Free World. The first trailer for Director Stone's bio-pic of George W. Bush, 42nd and 43rd President of these here United States of America has been released, starring Josh Brolin, and it promises to be a hoot. Stone's "Nixon" came out well after the fact; that "W" treads so close to the real story, coming at the end of one of the most controversial Presidencies, perhaps, since Richard M. Nixon, seems a story in itself. When Bush pere tells the Once and Future President "Who do you think you are? A Kennedy? You're a Bush. Act like one" -- well, then you can tell we are on to something special.

Scheduled for limited release in the US October 17.

Trailer here:
An interesting preview and L.A. Times Article by Filmwriter Patrick Goldstein here:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Update: BWAC Red Hook Art Show: Meditations on Art and Reality -- Life & Death at Kings County

The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition opened its HOT! Summer Art Exhibition this weekend at the BWAC exhibition space at 499 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook.

With the sturdy waves of New York harbor lapping against the waterfront shoreline, the BWAC summer show drew a good crowd all weekend.

Some highlights:

-Artist Dawn Robyn Petrlik's installation "The Lonely Death of Esmin Green" which combines the artist's sculpture of a woman's body, collapsed face down on the floor, along with chairs and a video monitor, to create a meditation on the death of Esmin Green, a patient at Kings County Hospital, who died on June 19 in the waiting room, after convulsing on the floor. Ms. Petrlik's notes on the installation indicate that it is her attempt to address the simple important fact of Ms Green's passing, not as "some woman", or "some immigrant" or some "crazy person" but this person."

The audience becomes part of the installation as you walk through the space and see yourself, along with the sculpture, in a video surveillance monitor. Ms. Petrlik indicated that the sculpture, which is not for sale, will "naturally dry out and crumble over the course of the show in a symbolic ashes to ashes gesture." Viewers are invited to make repeat visits to review this process and to remember this story, and this person "with her name and dignity intact."

The late Ms. Green, 49, was the mother of 6 children, ages 14 - 31, in Jamaica. Ms Green came to the US, a church-going member of her community,and was working in day care in order to support herself and her family at home. According to CNN, previous psychological problems may have been exacerbated by loss of her job and apartment, which led to her admission to Kings County, where she died, neglected by staff at the hospital's psychiatric emergency room. A very powerful, provocative and thoughtful work.

For more on this installation:

For more background on the life and death of Esmin Green:

-Red Hook Cine Soiree! On Sunday, July 27th, guest programmer Joel Schlemowitz presented a salon of experimental and underground films from a band of intrepid, avant-garde cine-artists . The program opened with recorded music - 1920s foxtrots played on a wonderfully low-tech, hand-cranked, Victrola. The films ranged from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous and somewhere in between. Cats and Pants by Jennifer Matotek, featuring, whatelse, cats and pants, proved to be a big crowd pleaser. Robot Movie, by Fabio Roberti, featuring a dancing robot, a circa 1980s guitar player, and a sound track of electro-madness was described by one critic as "Alien Transmission" and there's not much more to say than that, although I for one am a better person for seeing it. Five Haikus for the NY Subway by Zaza M. was sensitive and humorously brilliant. Sometimes, while 8 hours of a camera focussed on the Empire State Building as Andy Warhol did, might make a statement, a couple of others showed that there is art in brevity, notably, Faces in the Flowers by Jennifer McMillan, which was lovely if a bit twee and just a bit too long for this viewer, but with an affecting soundtrack, while Spidery, by Bradley Eros, films of the micro-natural world backed by a score by Karlheinz Stockhausen, clocked in at 5:55 minutes and, while Lord knows I tried to embrace the aesthetic, it just made me think "I'd Rather Be Waterboarding." But Stan Brakhage, for all his avant-brilliance, can test the soul, too, so, there ya go. Despite my facile comments, clearly every filmmaker here had something to say, something worth saying and therefore worth seeing.

Overall a great program on an alternately steamy then stormy Sunday afternoon. More films and programs to come. Visit the BWAC site. Fine programming by Joel Schlemowitz, guest curated by Mike Olshan. More on the films and the programmer:

-Music Saturday by the Big Bang Big Band, a large, percussive and groovy orchestra and blues vocalist, and Sunday by Le Nozze de Carlo, a gentle, thoughtful, and tasteful Latin-tinged pop and jazz ensemble, were highlights of the weekend. More performances to come. Again, check out the BWAC site.

BWAC proves to be a great place to be for art, provocations and entertainment on weekends 1 PM - 6 PM though August 17.

More on BWAC:

Friday, July 25, 2008

HOT! BWAC Red Hook Art Show Opens Saturday, July 26

The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition will present its HOT! Summer Art Exhibition beginning Saturday, July 26 through August 17 at the BWAC exhibition space at 499 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook.

I spent a few hours over a couple of weekends helping My Better Half, Judy Tantleff-Napoli, a BWAC member and artist/educator, set up her sculptures for the exhibition, and had the chance to preview some of the other work that will be on display in this show situated in this great pre-Civil War warehouse space right by the waterfront. Based on my preliminary view, it promises to be another wide-ranging, inspiring and provocative exhibition. Setting up the work was "fun" in a manner of speaking because the warehouse is always such an intriguing space and the BWAC folks were very spirited and easy to work with.

Saturday's opening 1 - 6 PM will feature the Big Bang Big Band performance at 3 PM. Sunday will feature Le Nozze di Carlo (which translate's roughly as "Carl's Wedding", I'll bet there is a story there)

Although the show opens tomorrow, as a blogger, I couldn't resist and took a few photos posted at right. Lots of great work. Among the many interesting works in all media, I thought Brian Keogh's sculpture could serve as one of the signature pieces for this 2008 Brooklyn artists show (which actually seems to attracts artists from all over).

For more information and directions visit:
P.S. - In our travels we also got a look at the Ikea complex. Didn't visit or shop this time, but if you want to see the corporate urban renewal process in the works, mosey on down to this Big Store site after the show.

In any case, cmon down to Red Hook

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight: Good, Evil and Something in Between

Dark indeed. The Dark Knight explores psychology, abnormal and otherwise, and resonates with the mysteries of post-9/11 urban life. Wiretapping. Terror. Chaos. Anarchy. This is not the Batman of Adam West and the comic book, zap-pow-bang, of the late 20th century. In this era, filmmaking-as-entertainment has morphed into something completely new and different, since virtually everyone on the planet (at least who was within sight of some form of communications media) has been exposed to the darkness of 9/11 and the other assorted forms of violence and terror that erupt from dark corners, inhabit our dreams, and form our nightmares of a future un-perfect. There is a lot to chew over here. It is a 2-1/2 hour film that never drags.

My kids saw it at a midnight screening in a crowded theater; we stragglers caught it at a local, more outlying theater, comparably empty at 6 PM on a Monday. Great cast, great script, great action. Christian Bale was fantastic. Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhall, Gary Oldman: the cast members are, in major and supporting roles, uniformly stunning. And, of course there is not much else to be said about Health Ledger. I could only juggle in my memories the much more understated performance Ledger gave as the Counterculture figure of the 70s with a crashing marriage in "I'm Not There" with this over-the-top, shattering, transporting performance of a character who is as frightening and repellant as he is irrestistable. You cannot take your eyes off of Ledger while he is on the screen. This is the movie of the summer with some of the performances of the year. And the creation of a strange sort of legend for the late Heath Ledger.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Coda: More Ruminations on American Western Mythos, Bob Dylan, and "Pat Garrett"

Since it's Friday and the summer, or perhaps for no good reason at all, I wanted to add another note about Bob Dylan's performance on the "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" soundtrack. This moody, meditative album, so American and artful, has been keeping me musical company this week as I make my way through the mid-July, NYC haze.

The Pat Garrett soundtrack includes the all-time classic, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", which in the film, serves as the background to the sad, slow demise of legendary actor Slim Pickens's character, as he watches the sunset, a bullet in his belly, and his devoted wife looks on. An archetypal but surprisingly moving moment in the film. The tune, which ends too quickly, but feels like a song that you could sing absolutely forever, besides the great vocals, includes organ by Booker T ("Time is Tight").

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Pat Garrett soundtrack, while its focus is folk and cowboy music, is the Basement Tape-ish aspect to the production, in that it contains three distinct versions of the thematic tune "Billy": Billy, Billy 4, and Billy 7...... In this one tune, the tempo, rhythm, style of performance, and even timbre of Bob Dylan's voice is wildly divergent, song by song, from high-pitched and up-tempo to cowboy-weary-on-the-trail (maybe following seven takes of the tune) that seems to pre-sage the mature voice of "Modern Times" and " "Love and Theft." "

In these explorations of the American West, an interesting link back to the 1970s, where the classic Western cinema and the counterculture finally intertwined, like some double helix. Dylan and the Band represented their own meditations on American music, Black and White, away from the psychedelic era, that seemed to represent an effort to recapture the soul of America through its history and culture, despite what was happening at the time in the Executive Office (sound familiar?) A number of films from the era, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Jeremiah Johnson, Bad Company (the original, about Civil War soldiers on the run), which explored these themes especially come to mind. Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett seemed to represent a more formal rapprochement between Hollywood, the classic cowboy actors, individualist directors, and musicians, who, in their different ways, served as avatars of the popular and countercultures of their own eras. Bob Dylan seemed firmly planted, then and now, in the midst of this creative exploration of "America" and what it means to be "American."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Gypsy Queens Will Play Your Grand Finale": More Ruminations on Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan and Band will be performing at a number of venues in the metropolitan area in August, although Prospect Park is the only NYC location. Bob may have rankled under the mantle placed upon him as "spokesman for his generation" etc., but there is one appellation that has to stick -- he is a musical legend, hardworking touring musician and the quintessential interpreter and reinterpreter of American Music. Whether it is folk, R&B, jazz, rock n roll, bluegrass, country & western, minstrelsy, cowboy, or any other forms of American popular music, he has explored it, and may be why he is so endlessly, musically creative and listenable. His ability to reinvent and change direction creatively, investigate and take risks in new forms, in itself, is inspirational.

Here, a lyric from the classic Sam Peckinpah film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, starring James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson, featuring Bob Dylan as knife-wielding, stock boy "Alias", with a great soundtrack featuring classic songs by Bob Dylan drawing from music of the American west..

BILLY 4 (from the soundtrack "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid")

There's guns across the river about to pound you
There's a lawman on your trail like to surround you
Bounty hunters are dancing all around you
Billy, they don't like you to be so free.

Camping out all night on the verandah
Walking in the streets down by the hacienda
Up to Boot Hill THEY'D like to send you
Billy, don't you turn your back on me.

There's mills inside the minds of crazy faces
Bullet holes and rifles in their cases
There is always one more notchin' for more aces
Billy, and you're playing all alone.

Playing around with some sweet SENORITA
Into her dark chamber she will greet you
In the shadows of the maizes she will lead you
Billy, and you're going all alone.

They say that Pat Garrett's got your number
So sleep with one eye open, when you wander
IF every little sound just might be thunder
Thunder from the barrel of his gun.

There's always another stranger sneaking glances
Some trigger-happy fool willing to take chances
Some old whore from San Pedro'll make advances
Advances on your spirit and your soul.

The businessmen from Taos want you to go down
So they've hired mister Garrett, he'll force you to slow down
Billy, don't let it make you feel so low down
To be hunted by the man who was your friend.

So hang on to your woman, if you got one
Remember in El Paso once you shot one
I'll be in Santa Fe about one
Billy, you've been running for so long.

Gypsy queens will play your grand finale
Way down in some Tularosa alley
Maybe in La Rio Pecas valley
Billy, you're so far away from home
Billy, you're so far away from home

Copyright 1972 Ram's Horn Music

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Presidential Politics Comes to Brooklyn ?

Since NYC is considered so strongly, traditionally, Democratic, despite our Republican Mayor, I wondered how much Presidential campaigning of any kind would occur in New York:

Tuesday, July 15: Corner of Court & Joralemon Streets, about 1:15 PM. A person holding up a hand-written poster, covered by the poster up to the eyes, the poster stating: "McCain Loves America, Vote for McCain." A crowd gathered, hooting. The McCain supporter is Black.

Voices from the crowd, "Are you even legal?" "Are you an American Citizen? You are not a citizen!" More incredulous hooting. "How much are they paying you to hold up that sign?"

An NYPD officer came by, standing by. A young woman, probably an office worker on lunch break, held up a hastily-written sign on looseleaf, "We (love) Obama." The crowd grew, becoming more animated. More shouts. The McCain supporter stood there meekly, almost completely hidden up to the eyes by the homemade sign, but yielded no ground. The crowd became even more excited, keeping their distance, but loudly hooting at the McCain supporter. Finally, the NYPD officer led the McCain supporter away, probably to another corner, to prevent the situation from escalating any further. Interesting that the McCain campaign itself appears to have virtually no campaign presence in Brooklyn, or NYC for that matter.

There was an interesting article in about the absence of humor on the liberal-left, as reflected in the hostile response to the New Yorker magazine's Obama cover this week. Did that same cover, or media coverage of it, prompt this homegrown McCain activist to venture out into the hustings on behalf of the GOP's nominee? Just a thought.

Salon Here:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Court Street Construction Mayhem -"Hey, Dude, Where's My Bucket?"

At around 12 noon, a bucket that apparently dropped from the repair and construction work occuring at 66 Court Street (at Livingston Street) crashed through the roof of a NYC Department of Environmental Protection vehicle parked in front of the building. It appeared that the bucket contained construction mortar and demolished the roof of the car. It further appears that no one was hurt. Spectators, under the nearby scaffolding, gathered round to view the accident. Construction workers continued to do their job, apparently unaware of the mayhem the bucket drop had caused.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Waterfall at Brooklyn Heights

I first saw the Olafur Elliasson's Waterfalls in action from the FDR Drive as my son and I were driving through Manhattan in early June. It was before the official starting date so I guess it was being tested. I saw it again while I was in motion, travelling upstate and then back again. Until today, I realized that I had always only seen it on the go. After today, I realized that seeing it in motion was kind of like seeing it on television. It was a technologically-mediated experience. Impressive but not quite real.

Today was the first day that I was able to see the Waterfalls first hand. I had seen Elliasson's work at the Museum of Modern Art, but despite all of the media coverage, I hadn't yet formed a sense of what The Waterfalls are really about. So this afternoon, I left my office to take a brief hike. A very refreshing breeze was blowing down Remsen Street, the first day in a while where the sunlight and humidity felt tolerable, and you could enjoy summer again.

There is no doubt there are many ways to see The Waterfalls. There are 8 in all. The view from Manhattan of the waterfall pouring down under the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side is certainly somewhat surreal, forcing you to see the Bridge in a completely different way.

But the view on foot of the Waterfall at the waterfront, on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade at Remsen Street, is dramatic and more.

As you reach the end of Remsen Street, where it loops around to the Promenade, you can see the formidable, dramatic superstructure of the waterfall and you get a meta-architectural view since the water isn't pouring at you, it is pouring away from you. The day I visited, you could feel the breeze and a little of the resulting falls' mist as it cascaded down into the bay and was blown back over the promenade.

There is certainly something techno and post-modern about these waterfalls, and, just as we read about the anticipated collapse of another huge ice shelf in Antarctica, something sad, beautiful and almost powerfully primitive as humankind strives to create simulacrums of the same natural world that we are pushing off the page.

Through Monday October 13th
7am to 10pm (except Tuesdays and Thursdays 9am to 10pm)
They will be lit up at night.

For locations of all of The Waterfalls and more information see here:

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Brooklyn Road Journal: Bloody Springs and Ghostly Taverns in Saratoga

The hotel that we are staying in was spacious and comfortable, homey suites for the kids and for us. It felt a little distant from town, out along Route 50, which was a busy road bordered by Big Name stores and malls, that turned into Broadway in the the town of Saratoga Springs. We took a long walk along Excelsior Avenue, near the hotel, and were pleasantly surprised that much of this road had sidewalks, so we decided to explore. Out along the way, map in hand, we realized that we could walk all the way into town. Nearby, as we hiked, a bit of Brooklyn, as we passed a boarding school of Chasidic boys, observing shabbos with a quiet walk in long black coats and hats on a summer day.

At the junction of Excelsior and High Rock Road we came upon our first spring, "Old Red Spring" which is a bubbling fountain, covered by a small wooden pavilion. We had no cups so we took a handful of spring water and thirstily slurped it up midway on our hike into town. A little further along High Rock Road we encountered High Rock Spring, one of the oldest, which the sign indicated had once been visited by George Washington and his goombada-cheech Alexander Hamilton, along with Hamilton's father-in-law, Philip Schuyler, owner of Huge Tracts of Land upstate, especially near Albany.

The mineral source had dried up but the Peerless Spring had been piped from across the road and was bubbling fast and furious. The Peerless Spring was a bit like prosecco, definitely a bit of the bubbly in that spring. Old Red Spring, which was naturally ice cold and a real gusher had a much stronger, salty mineral flavor which one sampler describeed as "tastes like blood" -- no doubt from the heavy iron content. The natural mineral springs were believed to have healing powers and people would come from all over to drink or bathe in the waters.

The List of the Springs in town includes:

Big Red Spring, Charlie Spring, Columbian Springs, Congress Spring, Deer Park Spring, Empire Spring, Geyser Island Spouter, Geyser Spring, Governor Spring, Hathorn #1, Hathorn #3, Hayes Well Spring, High Rock Spring, Old Iron Spring, Old Red Spring, Orenda Spring and Tufa Deposits, Patterson Springs, Peerless Spring, Polaris Spring, and State Seal

We kept on trucking into town where the All-American July 4th celebration was still ongoing. It now included a cool antique car show, dozens and dozens of lovingly restored antique American cars.

We continued on past the main drag in town til we reached Beekman Avenue which is the new art district in Saratoga Springs. Numerous galleries and restaurants have opened in the last several years or so in an area that is experiencing a revival.

Later that day we visited the Frances Tang Museum at Skidmore which featured a sculpture exhibition, Almost Blue, by Dean Snyder.

Finally, we capped our day of exploration with dinner at the Olde Bryan Inn, on Maple Avenue, which is a lovely, historic, rustic tavern with roots back to the 18th century where its original owner offered a way station and inn to visitors to the curative waters of the High Rock Spring. It was a pleasant meal in a cozy ambiance although the Inn, according to our waitress and other local historians, is as haunted an establishment as they come. A lady in a green Victorian high-necked dress reputedly was seen walking down in mid-air the middle of the Inn's bar -- where a staircase used to exist.

Another visitor reported seeing the ghost of the original colonial owner, Alexander Bryan, who also was a spy for the good guys in the American Revolution, on horseback, with a lance, on the second floor off of the men's room. After a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, and while the check was on the way, I decided to venture upstairs to use the facilities. As readers of this blog may recall (see A Real Brooklyn Ghost Story > ) I am at best an agnostic when it comes to the spiritual realms. My wife and I had visited an old inn near Lake George years before, the Balsam Inn, in which we we felt extremely strange vibes until we were told that the place had the reputation of being, yes, haunted. Between the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, a lot of blood was spilled in northern New York State. Perhaps that is part of it, or it is just the result in living in regions where the tug of nature and its natural forces and its concommitent mysteries remains strong. Very strong.

Well, there were no shocks or thrills tonite, but again, there was that strange vibe, at least on the second floor off of the men's room. But the Olde Bryan Inn is definitely worth the visit. I am scribbling this while Judy is in the pool with our younger daughters and my son, 17, is pondering the commencement of his return to the NYC Summer Film Institute in Tribeca where he was accepted and where he will be studying for the next couple of months. Our older daughter, looking forward to her junior year in distant and ancient lands, is at home with summer jobs working at the Cobble Hill Cinema and babysitting. Here, Best of Clapton is playing in the background. In the back of my mind, I am anticipating the bittersweet end of our visit to Saratoga Springs this week, my return to suit and tie and cubicle, comforted by the dangling carrot of the thought of a couple of more vacation days ahead that still promise relief from my otherwise usual busy summer of business communications, and the organizational thang. But for now, Brooklyn is down there, and we are up here, and that seems as it should be.

--Brooklyn Beat

Friday, July 4, 2008

Brooklyn Beat on the Road: Saratoga Springs on the 4th of July

At the foot of the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs, NY, is a city in Saratoga County, New York, USA. The name reflects the presence of mineral springs in the area. While the word "Saratoga" is known to be a corruption of a Native American place name, authorities disagree on what the exact word was, and hence what it meant.

More interesting is the meaning of the word 'Adirondacks.' It is an Anglicized version of the Mohawk latilontaks (ratirontaks), meaning they eat bark, a derogatory name which the Mohawk historically applied to neighboring Algonquian-speaking tribes. When food was scarce, the Algonquians would eat the inside of the bark of the white pine. The Mohawk word is composed of several morphemes, as is usual in the language: lati, a third-person plural masculine agent prefix; lonta, an incorporated noun root for 'bark'; k, a verbal root for 'eat'; s, an active state aspect suffix.

Saratoga is a resort town, artistic but less bohemian than Woodstock or even New Paltz to the south. The racing season in late July and August brings a big crowd of horse enthusiasts and the Saratoga summer set.

The fourth of July was a big to-do in town. Many businesses close altogether or close early for the holiday. Lots of folks downtown along Broadway celebrating in pubs and restaurants that are open. Then, a trail of locals, tourists, kids, punk music fans, guys with Lacoste shirts and massive watches, starts to make its way downtown toward Congress Park, at the end of Broadway. There, it was a little bit of "Ain't That America" (to someone from NYC, it seemed scripted by Rod Serling, a blast from the past), as a brass band played patriotic music, folks sat out on blankets on the grass, waiting in the twilight for the fireworks display. No irony here. Locals told us that last year the fireworks display was rained out so it was held on Labor Day instead. It is a small town fourth of July. Ain't that America?

While Judy and I were in the hotel gym, we were watching CNN and saw reports about the energy crisis and all of the other issues that suggest that we are at the End of Empire. Gas crisis, Middle East crisis, econo-political challenges from a resurgent Russia and China, continuing threat of terror, weakened economy, recession threatening, according to Dmitri Medveded, aka Putin 2, to slide into Depression, the Patriot Acts threats to freedom, 8 years of George Bush, Democratic disarray, the need for new energy infrastructures and new technologies, the need to make the world Safe for Democracy, balance religious and cultural freedoms with protecting ourselves internally and externally from religious intolerance. To quote Boris Badenov, "Hoo-boy, we are in Big Trouble, Natasha, get me Moose and Squirrel.")

Challenges, yes, but possibilities always. The land of potential and always the land of remarkable freedom. The ability to bring about change. After 8 years of the conservative revolution, the wheel seems to be spinning with the potential for change. In 2002,and then in 2006, as the Endless Term dragged on, one thought, how can we survive this Neo-Con Ascendancy? But we did. And people, even those rabidly pro-Bush, finally saw the truth. Ain't that America ?

Barack Obama will face challenges. He is the presumptive candidate of the Democrats. But, just as it it possible that the Bob Barr Libertarian party run can steal and de-stabilitze the GOP run, could poor campaign management or Demo party disappointment as Senator Obama moves to the center, threaten his candidacy at the Convention ? Stranger things have happened. In Saratoga I saw kids with painted faces and Obama Tshirts. I also saw teenagers with "Viva Reagan Revolution" shirts and others with John McCain buttons.

Interesting also that States-rights advocate and US Senator Jesse Helms now shares the fourth of July with Jefferson and Adams.

Yes, in Saratoga Springs, it is a small town, Jeffersonian fourth of July, picnics and popcorn, brass bands, flags and fireworks, as opposed to the Hamiltonian fourth of July celebration in New York City, all corporate and sponsored, with fireworks best viewed from a penthouse or a yacht. Ain't that America?

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