Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Auguri! " and Happy New Year..from Rome

The Piaza di Spagna --The Spanish Steps -- now jammed with holiday revelers. The flower and keychain and handbag salesguys now have tables covered with bottles of beer, wine, champagne, foccaccia, sandwiches, an other goodies for sale. Most drinking here seems to occur with meals, so public drunkeness is rare and frowned upon. Tonight, drinkers are everywhere, as are fireworks. The Spanish Steps, still alight with the Christmassy "Light of Freedom" in honor of the victims of kidnapping worldwide, are filled with revelers wearing blinking light headgear and other paraphernalia..

After visiting the Steps we returned to our apartment to celebrate the New Year together. At midnight, the fireworks started. Explosions, lights, and sparkling all over this wonderful, crazy city. Strangers wishing each other "Auguri" which translates somewhere between "good luck, "good fortune" and "congratulations." Like wishing a good "augur" of future fate and fortune. THis city is at once enormously religious and pagan at the same time. A crowd of uniformed high ranking polizia and carbineri officials hurried down the street accompanying a city official in a suit. But the crowd drinking and shooting fireworks received no comment. New Years in Rome, We are together again as a family, so far from New York, but after a couple of weeks, beginning to feel strangely at home ere.

It is New Years in Rome. The eternal city ticks off another year. Happy New Year ! Auguri !

Monday, December 22, 2008


After a 7.5 hour flight spent in the grueling, velvet confines of business class due to an unexpected upgrade, we landed at Fiumicino AIrport in the Eternal City. Saturday, our first day in Rome. The first signs that we are in this 2000 year old city, long-time home to Roman Catholicism, are the young Roman women, dressed up like Santa Claus, in short red skirts, on roller skates, handing out marketing brochures for Rome's Christmas festivities. The Santa hat is a popular accoutrement here. Babies and young children are not. Neither are Ipods evident as they are in NYC.

Cypress and Palm trees on the way from the airport remind us that we are on another continent, on the Mediterranean Sea. Although the palm trees are mindful of oceanfront properties in the southern US, the fantastic proximity of so much antiquity, dating back to 735 BCE , quickly reminds us that we are not in Miami Beach. Saturday night, the Piazza di Spagna , jammed with tourists, seeing and being seen...

On the terrace, seeing stars under a new sky. The sky one has dreamed of, pure, like a blue light reflected in a window. We are here with our children, visiting our older daughter who we haven't seen since September. Here we are, all of us together, under the Roman sky....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Francis Guy, Circa 1819-1820, provenence: The Brooklyn Museum

Court Street & Joralemon Street, 1:30 PM, December 16, photo by Brooklyn Beat

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Governor Rod "Blog" Blagojevich Turning Elected Office Into His Personal ATM. Any potential fallout for the O Team ?

Well, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois seems like a pretty cool customer, for an allegedly corrupt wackadoo. Ironically, it seems like that same strong sense of mid-western American pragmatism, of stockyards and commerce on the Great Lake, and American common sense, that informs and gave this unique world-view to Lincoln and Obama, also contributes to Governor Blog's downfall here...

Anyway, one potential hitch here: It sounds like some Obama people, although apparently not involved in anyway in the wheeling and dealing, made comments that made it sound like someone on Team Obama had discussed the possible replacements with Governor "Blog"... So, it could be a little messy. The problem, as I see it, is, if someone from O's team heard this attempt at "fundraising" and went back to Barry O and said "this guy is a nut" but they didn't report the bribe-asking to the Feds, that is, they decided to keep out of it cause they were busy with the campaign or whatever, it could cause headaches. I wonder if the Feds advised Barry O of this investigation ? You would think they would since he is the President-elect. But since the US Attorney Fitzgerald probably wanted to stay apolitical and see if there were any entanglements -- well, you've got to wonder.. What did George Bush know about the investigation and when did he know it? Did he share this info with the President-elect while he was showing him around the new digs ?

Hopefully, when the Prsesident-elect chats with Governor "Blag" he will get the Rod to agree to resign. Unless he has a cheshire cat smile because he holds a hidden ace...let's see what the coming news cycles bring.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blue Monday - Krugman: 'Depression Economics"

Growing unemployment mixed with media focus on holiday spending. We seem to be floating on a plane of uncertainty, if not unreality. This recession has either hit you really hard already or you have a sense of concern or uncertainty that it is looming out there. If you haven't been immediately hit, that is, you still have a job and you didn't have much money to invest in the first place, so you haven't really lost any, you are aware of how bad things are in a more abstract sense. Statistically, we know things are bad and getting worse for a lot of people. Where is it going. Will the incoming administration's steps do more than give hope -- will it have impact? No one can be certain, but clearly, the Government needs to do something. We are heading in the holiday season. Down deep, people still have hope that, as the year ends and the calendar changes, the new administration enters, the world will change. At the moment, and in the eyes of economists like Nobel winner Paul Krugman, we may be heading for a long climb back up. As the economy started to turn early this year, greeting card designers and trend spotters were already projecting a holiday focus on family, home, counting one's blessings. With the holidays already a lot less merry and bright than past years, we are surely in for some post-holiday gloom in January. Let's hope the public sector financial engineers and political economists can, if not make some magic, begin to provide some leadership and sustenance to those most immediately in need and to our nation as a whole.

from the Krugman interview:

Salon: How bad do you think this is going to get?

Awful. Without a major stimulus package -- sorry, I guess the politically correct term is now "economic recovery plan" -- I'd say that we were definitely headed for double-digit unemployment. Right now the economy is clearly falling as fast as, or faster than, it was in 1981-82, which was a terrifying slump. If Obama doesn't come up with a massive plan, and possibly even if he does, this is going to be a slump that pushes 10 million-plus Americans below the poverty line, and more.

Full interview at Salon here:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Coda: Skywatching: Jupiter, Venus and the Crescent Moon

I stepped out onto Court Street and was greeted by an achingly brilliant tableau: the Moon, Jupiter and Venus, like platinum etched by diamonds, together in the crisp, clear evening sky.

I stood on the corner of Schermerhorn and Court. By the time I would get home to Flatbush, the Moon and its companions would have somehow have fallen out of the sky, but here on Court Street, it was as though the firmament had been peeled back, revealing the secret clockwork that reflected a googleplex of string and quantam mechanics within, or else, as if a Countermoon had suddenly appeared in the black, western sky to keep its partner company in its solitary revolutions. I imagined everyone would be looking at the sky. But, no, I was alone in my awe.

No one on Court Street seemed to be looking up. Everyone went about their business. I had the urge to bring it to the attention of passersby. Instead, I called home, excitedly told my wife and one of my kids, but when they went out to look, the trees, the angle of view, the tall Victorian rooftops, something, blocked this magnificent occlusion from view.

I was alone in my wonder.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Skywatching: Jupiter, Venus and the Crescent Moon

Not sure what the sky will offer in terms of clarity, but with any luck we will have a great view of this occasuional occultation which will not return for decades. Venus, Jupiter and the Crescent Moon will share the sky over Broklyn (and thereabouts) tonite.

Details here:

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