Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tis Wonderfulish: Yip Yip Hooray for Finian's Rainbow

Forget Washington, DC for the moment. Hope, happiness and the promise of change have touched down at the St. James Theater, although re-emerging from an earlier era, courtesy of Burton Lane (music), Fred Saidy (book) and "Yip" (Isidore Hochberg) Harburgh (lyrics and book). This wonderful and lively musical, combining song and dance, Broadway standards, Irish music, gospel and blues with a sincere progressive message combined with warm sentiment and broad comedy is a delight.

Jim Norton as Finian; Kate Baldwin as his daughter Sharon; Cheyenne Jackson as Woody; Christopher Fitzgerald as the remarkable leprechaun Og; Terri White as Dottie, belting out a remarkable "Necessity"; Chuck Cooper as the post-wishful gospel singing senator Rawkins; William Youmans (who we last caught in his amazing performance as the melting/shrinking evil mother/witch in "Coraline" off-off Broadway at MCC) as Buzz; Guy Davis as Sunny; Alina Fey as Susan---the talent of this ensemble cast seems endless. Up, down and all around Rainbow Valley in Missitucky, it's a play with so much heart and soul that by curtain you think you might bust.

The progressive message of equality is anti-consumerist and anti-corporate but actually rails against greed in all its forms (remember credit swaps, anyone?) And while Harburgh took a swipe at the GOP, his major target is the racist Senator Rawkings, based on real racist/red-neck Democratic senators of the era. Although it seems to be teetering close to the rails of cornpone and historical naivete, in an era that elected the first Black U.S. President, there is an essential sincerity here, which may be why "Finians Rainbow" still seems to be playing to packed houses while "RagTime" with its more complex and darker tones, is posting a closing notice.

Yip, Yip, where are you now that your nation needs you? Despite the accomplishment of 44 in D.C., Harburgh, who was too much the artist and iconoclast to belong to the Communist Party, would not be loathe to challenge the inconsistencies and confusion of the not-so-new administration. As I recall, Harburgh also wrote:
"Democracy gives you a choice, of which machine to vote with/Or choose which brand of razor blade/You'd rather cut your throat with."

Leaving the theater, some of the audience was crowded around the stage door. When Cheyenne Jackson emerged, bundled against the cold. He smiled and his first words to a youngster proferring a playbill and a pen was "Where are your gloves?"

More on Yip Harburgh here.

The N.Y. Times' Edward Rothstein muses on Yip Harburgh's "Grandish Wordplay" in "Finian's Rainbow," "The Wizard of Oz," "Flahoolie," and other works.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Art of the Crash @ Fusion Arts Museum: Closing Night Event, Sunday, December 27

Art car at the Fusion Arts Museum, above.

Above, Fusion art by Shalom Newman.

An entertaining end-of-year art event: a Closing Night Party for "Art of the Crash" plus a special screening of "Automorphosis" CLOSING NIGHT PARTY FOR "ART OF THE CRASH" plus SPECIAL SCREENING of "AUTOMORPHOSIS," tonight, Sunday, December 27, 2009,6 PM - 9 PM

Fusion Arts Museum, 57 Stanton Street, Lower East Side highlights this "Art of the Crash" comprising all automobile-based art, including sculptures made from automotive parts, and an ornate highly decorated vehicle. The title of the show can be taken literally, referring to a car crash, or a metaphor for the state of the economy. This also will be a last opportunity to see this timely and unique exhibit, which will include a lively year-end performance by Trystette and Bobbie Rae. More details on the Fusion Arts Museum here.

The Fusion Arts Museum includes a permanent exhibit of work by fusion-, multimedia artist Shalom Newman, founder of the Museum.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

President Obama, Political Climate and Health Care Reform

Despite some recent diminishing polling numbers for President Obama and his administration, today's Quinnipiac poll showed some interesting nuggets, hidden among all of the continued looming uncertainty on the economy and the complexity and doubt spiraling around the current health care reform initiative:

"But voters say 49 - 29 percent that Obama's policies will help the economy and voters trust him rather than Republicans in Congress 45 - 36 percent to handle the economy.

"In what might be his brightest point in an otherwise dark economic picture, more Americans believe President Obama's policies will help the economy, even if they don't believe those policies will help them personally," said Brown. "And they trust the President more than the Republicans to fix things."
From December 15 - 20, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,616 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points.

Nevertheless, a total of 91 percent of American voters describe the economy as "not so good" or "poor." Voters split 28 - 28 percent on whether it is getting better or worse with 43 percent seeing no change. The results on both questions are virtually identical to when Quinnipiac University asked them in July.

"On Wall Street, the stock market's performance has many people optimistic and economists may be telling us that the recession is over. But on Main Street, Americans think the economy is still in the toilet," Brown said.

Details here.

In a related topic, opposition to the Obama health care reform initiative comes from both left and right:

The GOP/Right: Opposes financial penalties for failure to buy health insurance. Opposes costs to business including increased taxes to support the plan. Opposes use of any public monies for performance of abortions. Opposes additional debt that will result from the health care overhaul, among other issues.

The left: Opposes absence of a public option in the health care plan (the bill provides for health care provided from a pool of corporate insurers). Absence of a
provision for public funding of abortions. Proposed bill will not permit purchase of pharmaceuticals from Canada.

Based on the previous Clinton administration's failure, concern that this will represent the last opportunity for health care reform, at a critical point where the future of the American economy depends on this reform to spur business and growth, highlights the likelihood that the administration will fashion a new approach to health care that, out of the box, will satisfy neither left nor right but will open the door for subsequent "reform of the reform" that may in fact offer economic relief and, hope and, yes, "change."

Dylan and Kubler-Ross: The 5 Stages of "Christmas in the Heart"

"Love and Theft" ? "Love and Death" ? Good grief!

Harold Lepidus's review in the Examiner.Com takes the long way around to enthusiastically appreciate Dylan's new holiday album "Christmas in the Heart." It may be too soon to tell if it will in fact assume Holiday Classsic Status. And, since the unusual Christmas (or Xmas) cover material, arrangements, and mix of musicians and singers may at first be off-putting to fans who have found new appreciation of Bob Dylan as he seemed to renew his relationship with "American roots" music in the past decade or so, Mr. Lepidus compares the shock 'n awe for fans of this new Dylan album to the 5 stages of grief assigned to dealing with death in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's "On Death and Dying":

"Bob Dylan fans are familiar with these feelings. When he went electric. When he went country. When he put out Self Portrait. When he "found Jesus" and stopped singing his old songs. When he made Hearts Of Fire. When he asked Michael Bolton to collaborate on a song. If you were a Dylan fan during any of these endeavors, there's a good chance it was a shock to your system.

"Then the Kubler-Ross model kicks in. Denial - "This can't be happening." Anger - "It's not fair ! Who is to blame?" Bargaining - "If I can just go on long enough until he's onto something else." Depression - "I give up." Acceptance - "Dylan does it again. It took a while, but I love it ! " Who among us have not felt that way about something Dylan has done ?

"When Dylan sings on Christmas In The Heart, I listen to the lyrics just as I would any of his other albums. It's interesting to pay attention to the craft of songwriting that inhabits each and every song here. You can see why he chose these classics. To Dylan, the cliches are invisible. What's even more fascinating to me is that the lyrics are more Dylan-esque than one would ever imagine. Can't you just hear the lines, "The ox and lamb kept time," or "Jump in bed and cover your head" on Bringing It All Back Home ? How about " As we dream by the fire to face unafraid the plans that we made, " or "Some day soon we all will be together, if the Fates allow. Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" on Time Out Of Mind ? "

The full text here

Let's see, perhaps the following epigraphs are suitable:

"I make shoes/for everyone, even you/But I still go barefoot" - "I & I " -Bob Dylan

"I did it for you/And all you gave me was a smile" - "Cry A While" - Bob Dylan

Monday, December 21, 2009

The 500 Words for Snow...

Inuit and other native peoples to the Far North ostensibly have a panoply of words to describe snow. I do admit right after the Thanksgiving holiday thoughts start to turn toward the holidays and the first snowflakes. Well, yesterday, we got 'em, wuff, and then some, with a vengeance.

We spent an hour or so shoveling the stairs and sidewalk around the house, and then another couple of hours attempting to get the cars free. (My Better Half is a NYC teacher at a school in East New York - Bushwick, and there is no easy public transportation access to her school.)

So, after a few hours with my son spending some "Quality Time" shoveling, pushing (with thanks to the considerate help of our neighbor as well), and sweating out the snow hassle, and generally freezing, I have already had it with snow for the Winter of 2009-2010. Dean Martin's "Winter Wonderland" and "Let It Snow," will not be on my play list for the foreseeable future..

Now, I, too, can think of -- if not hundreds--dozens of words to describe the snow, none of which are really printable here....

Well, still, it's good to be home for the holidays although Rome last year wasn't so bad, either.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Got Physics? Toying with the Infinite for the Holidays

Above, Strange Magic over Norway, as reported by UK Daily Mail.

Above, Large Hadron Collider, Fired Up in Switzerland. Subatomic particle tracks from colliding protons on Sunday at the Large Hadron Collider.

According to the UK Daily Mail, Norwegians reported the above gorgeous yet bizarre sky show earlier this week. Barring a welcoming celebration for 44, currently in Norway accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, suspicions pointed to the failed test of a Russian missile, which may have released fuel, creating the spiral sky show with a flashing, emanating blue streak.

While that may be all well and good, the NY Times in today's paper reported that "With a Mighty Smash, Europe seizes the lead in Big Physics" with the successful test earlier this week of our good old pal, The Large Hadron Collider, at CERN labs in Switzerland. The LHC, as you may recall, has been cast in the role of possibly discovering the Higgs-Boson (aka "The G-d Particle.") C'mon, gang, there is no connection?

Colorful lightshows as the LHC toys with the Infinite. A great Bob Dylan Christmas album? Hey, anything's possible. Stay tuned, or better yet, Watch the Skies.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Invention and Reinvention of Man Ray: "All New York Is Dada"

Above, Man Ray in a "Rayograph" Self Portrait. The current "Alias Man Ray" show at the Jewish Museum explores Man Ray's life, work, and the millieu in which he fabricated his identity as an artist and perenniel outsider.

Salvador Dali, left, and Ray in Paris in a photo by Carl Van Vechten, June 16, 1934.

Man Ray in a letter to Tristan Tzara: "Dada cannot live in New York. All New York is dada, and will not tolerate a rival.”

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) was an American born painter, sculptor, photographer and dadaist (August 27, 1890 – November 18, 1976). He spent most of his career in Paris, France. Perhaps best described simply as a modernist, he was a significant contributor to both the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal. Best known in the art world for his avant-garde photography, Man Ray produced major works in a variety of media and considered himself a painter above all. He was also a renowned fashion and portrait photographer. He is noted for his photograms, which he renamed "rayographs" after himself.

While appreciation for Man Ray's work beyond his fashion and portrait photography was slow in coming during his lifetime, especially in his native United States, his reputation has grown steadily in the decades since.

The current "Alias Man Ray" show at the Jewish Museum explores Man Ray's life, work, and the millieu in which he fabricated his identity as an artist and perenniel outsider. In 1999, ARTnews magazine named him one of the 25 most influential artists of the 20th century, citing his groundbreaking photography as well as "his explorations of film, painting, sculpture, collage, assemblage, and prototypes of what would eventually be called performance art and conceptual art" and saying "Man Ray offered artists in all media an example of a creative intelligence that, in its 'pursuit of pleasure and liberty,'"—Man Ray's stated guiding principles—"unlocked every door it came to and walked freely where it would."[

From Wikipedia: From the time he began attracting attention as an artist until his death more than sixty years later, Man Ray allowed little of his early life or family background to be known to the public, even refusing to acknowledge that he ever had a name other than Man Ray.

Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitzky in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1890, the eldest child of recent Russian-Jewish immigrants. The family would eventually include another son and two daughters, the youngest born shortly after they settled in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, in 1897. In early 1912, the Radnitzky family changed their surname to Ray, a name selected by Man Ray's brother, in reaction to the ethnic discrimination and anti-Semitism prevalent at that time. Emmanuel, who was called "Manny" as a nickname, changed his first name to Man at this time, and gradually began to use Man Ray as his combined single name.

Man Ray's father was a garment factory worker who also ran a small tailoring business out of the family home, enlisting his children from an early age. Man Ray's mother enjoyed making the family's clothes from her own designs and inventing patchwork items from scraps of fabric.Despite Man Ray's desire to disassociate himself from his family background, this experience left an enduring mark on his art. Tailor's dummies, flat irons, sewing machines, needles, pins, threads, swatches of fabric, and other items related to clothing and sewing appear at every stage of his work and in almost every medium. Art historians have also noted similarity in his collage and painting techniques to those used in making clothing.

More on Man Ray here.

The excellent exhibit at the Jewish Museum here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Zero Hour: Brochu Shines as Painter/Actor/Comic Zero Mostel

Jim Brochu as Sam "Zero" ("Zee" to his friends) Mostel

"Zero Hour" at the Theater at Saint Clements

With the recent hegemony of Mel Brooks' film-to-Broadway comedy classics, it is ironic and perhaps unfortunate that the role for which Zero Mostel is most remembered by many, "Max Bialystock" in Brooks' 1968 film, The Producers, was a role that he hated. This and many other stories emerge from the fascinating life of Sam "Zero" Mostel ("Zee" to his friends) as brilliantly portrayed by Jim Brochu in his passionate and very funny play, "Zero Hour."

Initially living in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the family moved to Moodus, Connecticut, where they bought a farm, later returning to the Lower East Side. As a child,Mostel's mother would dress him in a velvet suit,sending him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to copy masterpieces. Zero had a favorite painting, John White Alexander’s Study for Woman in Black and Green, which he copied every day, to the delight of the gallery crowds. One afternoon, while a crowd was watching over his velvet-clad shoulder, he solemnly copied the whole painting upside down, delighting his audience. Later, studying art, he began to lecture -- often humorously -- about art, which later turned into a nightclub, theater and film career.

Jim Brochu's play, directed by Piper Laurie, brings the joys, passions and often withering, sarcastic wit of Mostel alive. Although Mostel clearly loved to perform, as he did in works as diverse as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," "Ulysses in Nighttown," "Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," Ionesco's "Rhinoceros," and in numerous films, including "The Hot Rock" ("Afghanistan, Banana Stand!") filmed in Brooklyn, and his lamented appearance in "The Producers" he was at heart, as the play depicts, a dedicated and serious painter, who periodically needed to seclude himself in his studio on West 28th street (the setting for the play) and get paint on his hands.

Still, Mostel's many triumphs and high profile in the performing arts, brought him, as it did many other artists and writers, including many of his friends, to the attention of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, as they scrutinized the youthful radicalism of some of America's most talented people, destroying many careers--and lives--in the process. The HUAC hearings are receding in history, but with the expiration of the Patriot Act later this year, it is a reminder, that even in times of national crisis, as the Cold War represented, and as the threat of terror suggests today, eternal vigilance is required to protect civil liberties. However, Mostel, as depicted here with great power and comic effect by Mr. Brochu, stood up to the Committee, refusing to name names for the sake of his career, and even sparring with and challenging the committee with great humor. Some excerpts from Mostel's actual appearance before HUAC will give you a flavor. Mr. Brochu, in "Zero Hour" explores this part of Mostel's life in depth.

In the course of an interview with an unseen NY Times reporter, Jim Brochu explores this and many other stories from his life, in the process celebrating "Zero," sometimes tenderly, sometimes ferociously, but always with great warmth, humor and charm.

Through January 31, 2010. Information here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Complaint-Free Wednesday" Before Thanksgiving: Highs, Lows and Somewhere In-Between

Well, clearly Giving Thanks on the last Thursday in November may not be enough. A Congressman has proposed legislation making the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a complaint free day, noting that chronic complaining impacts health, wealth, career advancement and, I would add, the "Pursuit of Happiness." See the link with full story here.

Along with the report on the recently unveiled "Optimism" Metrocard in today's NY Times,the work of artist Reid Seifer, it may in fact be the time to hitch up one's britches, and those who can do, and if you got 'em, smoke 'em (herbal of course) and move forward with optimism, vision and, to borrow a former Presidential slogan, "Hope." OK, Wall Street screwed up, we made some bad judgements, economically speaking, what we thought was beneficial under President Bush, in terms of cheap money and low interest rates, may have in fact not been so groovy. And our best creditors, the Chinese, are now looking at us a bit crookedly, as my late Dad would say. Are we now like Robert DeNiro as "Johnny Boy" in Mean Streets, telling Michael the loan shark (Richard Romanus) that he only goes to him to borrow because nobody else in the neighborhood will loan him money, and he knows that he can keep borrowing without having the loan called in? Of course, in Mean Streets, there is an unhappy ending. One hopes, that America pulls itself out of this economic maelstrom, despite Nouriel Roubini's predictions of continued downturn vis-a-vis continued unemployment. Perhaps Harvard Business guru Michael Porter's prescription on "Why America Needs an Economic Strategy" has some profound insights to offer.

But for the time being, maybe a bit of optimism, hope, pragmatic and visionary thinking, as opposed to glooming and dooming, couldn't hurt, and may even help.

But of course, right on the heels of "Complaint-Free Wednesday" and "Thanksgiving Thursday," comes the ill-named Black Friday, with its holiday-shopping lunacy, stampedes for flat-screen TVs, and Xbox360s, etc. So, while, sadly, consumption and shopping are what this country needs in the long run, for the short term, when it comes to the day after Thanksgiving or using the old charge card, better be careful out there...

Sorry to end the week on a queasy note. In the words of the late Allen Ginsberg:

It occurs to me that I am America./
I am talking to myself again.

--from "America" by Allen Ginsberg
from America by Allen Ginsberg or quick reference here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Election 2009

Let's guesstimate $90,000,000 spent on the campaign divided by 557,059 votes won. $161a vote. Guess Mayor Mike got off cheap.
Local election results via NY Post

GOP sweeps in NJ and Va via Drudge and Yahoo

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Washington Post Profile of Brooklyn's Patrick Gaspard, WH Political Director

The Washington Post did a profile yesterday of Brooklyn's Patrick Gaspard, currently White House Political Director for the host of heavy hitters like Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod and others who surround the Decision-Maker in Chief, President Obama.

The article notes that Mr. Gaspard, a writer of poetry and reader of Russian literature, is persevering in an impossible role based on his ability to maintain "an even temper and dry wit that have earned him the admiration of peers in Obama's inner circle."

Rather than follow the wide-reaching model of some of his predecessors -- Ken Mehlman, who would go on to chair the Republican National Committee, had the job early in the Bush administration, running the administration's politics alongside Karl Rove -- Gaspard has gone the opposite route, rarely giving media interviews, looking for substantive policy openings where the political office can be helpful and closely coordinating with the rest of the in-house experts.

"The political director, I think, really focuses as a coordinator for all these strong personalities," said [Jim] MessinaRather than follow the wide-reaching model of some of his predecessors -- Ken Mehlman, who would go on to chair the Republican National Committee, had the job early in the Bush administration, running the administration's politics alongside Karl Rove -- Gaspard has gone the opposite route, rarely giving media interviews, looking for substantive policy openings where the political office can be helpful and closely coordinating with the rest of the in-house experts.

"The political director, I think, really focuses as a coordinator for all these strong personalities," said [Jim] Messina, (Deputy WH Chief of Staff) who is inarguably one of those strong personalities. "Patrick has a personality that is such that everyone likes him and respects him. He's one of the most grounded people I've ever met."

An interesting article on the structure and politics of 44's inner circle. By the way, don't forget to vote.

Washington Post article here

Burning Daylight

Missing being witness to the end of night and
first glimpse of sunlight on the horizon.
With the changing hour this weekend,
now moving directly into day;
At this hour, morning darkness no longer drifts away
into indigo, azure and deep purples, with the crevice of night filling with a fine gold filigree. Just the crash of daylight and
a sense of already running behind.
Too early for darkness, and if I have to get up any earlier,
Too damn early for poetry
--Brooklyn Beat

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Real Story of This NYC Election Season

Photo Via

A couple of years ago I was emailed by someone identifying himself as a former NY1reporter who had left the station for allegedly making a fake phone call to "The Call," one of its programs. In his own defense, the caller had tossed around a number of anonymous gossip tidbits about other station staff. Nothing, that I recall, reflected negatively on NY1's former chief political reporter, Mr. Dominic Carter; in fact, he appeared to refer to Mr. Carter as the station's Best Reporter.

And that, too, was always my take. When I saw Dominic Carter at the first Mayoral Debate recently, he was just so professional onstage and personable in speaking with the audience, that you had to love the guy. He had just the right chemistry as the debate moderator, just as he had balancing the amusing journalistic hysteria of Gerson Borrero and Curtis Sliwa on the weekly "Political Rundown." I thought it strange recently that Mr. Borrero had become so incensed at some of Mr. Sliwa's on-camera silliness that Mr. Borrero stood and seemed to be physically challenging Mr. Sliwa to step outside and settle it.

That thought and image stayed with me, so it was absolutely bizarre when the NY Post broke the story about Dominic Carter's (to put it mildly) messy and apparently violent personal life. It is beyond a case of simple jurisprudence at this point. Like a figure from some Philip K. Dick novel, Dominic Carter has gone from speaking out, in what seemed most bizarre, against domestic violence in interview segments, to waking from some dream from which he cannot escape, and being accused of beating his wife by his wife, lying about it, trying to use his celebrity and political influence and contacts as a journalist, to escape the charges. The end runs that he and his wife have attempted to make around the resulting arrest and physical signs of domestic violence seemed to have gone from bathos to pathos and back again. One can feel sympathy for his wife, the apparent victim despite her disavowal, and disgust, pity and shock at the behavior of Mr. Carter.

Not everyone liked Dominic Carter. But he and his reporting provided a great inside look at politicians and players in NYC, and a he became a very prominent African American voice in NYC's political media. His recent book, No Momma's By, seemed, on the surface, a courageous effort at autobiography.The recent apotheosis of Mr. Carter and now his fall from grace, reflect a sad page in NY's media history. Although their stories, and denouement, are markedly different, I can only think of the analogous loss on the national level with the unexpected death of NBC journalist Tim Russert in the month's leading up to the Obama-McCain election and the selection of the first African American President. This writer will miss Mr. Carter's solid, if at times conservative, overly-judgmental and self-satisfied presence on NY1, on this and future election nights, and in the post-election period as we see what the "next" Mayor brings. The role of money and entrenched power in this imbalanced election is so profound,the election itself seems besides the point. That is why Mr. Carter seems to cast a large shadow in his absence, just as he did as a reporter on NY1. Whatever the exact truth, his life and his career are a mess and in a tail spin. Perhaps there is a message, cast in that long shadow, about ethics, truth and rightful behavior, by those in all walks of public life, who wield influence and power, mayors, elected officials, news anchors. Or tv talk show hosts.

However, while Mr Carter, in his book, seemed to offer to put it all on the table -- about his life in the projects, growing up in a dysfunctional family and how he overcame those odds -- in fact, he remained a mystery to his audience, to the folks that he interviewed, and worst of all, to himself. One can only hope that his wife, his family and of course Mr. Carter can recover, overcome, grow and find a suitable Second Act in their lives.

--Brooklyn Beat

Autumn in Brooklyn

East 17th Street in Brooklyn. Photo by TN.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 ("All Saints Day") and November 2 ("All Souls Day"). More here

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Celebrating Life: Autumn's Changing Ways

Traditional "Dia De Los Muertos"figures.

'Alloween in Flatbush. October 31, 2009. Photo by TN

Autumn's changing ways. "Seasons change with the scenery." Delights of summer and early fall slip away, replaced by the early colors, crimson, gold and ash, until finally a withering away. Verdant bloom replaced by bare limbs. Halloween, and dia de los muertos celebrated in the Latin world, are reminders of the fleeting, temporary nature of life, all life. Temporal existence, bold and ecstatic, replaced by memories and nostalgia for what has gone before.
-Brooklyn Beat

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dylan & Sting Go to the Mattresses: You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine

Back in the day, oh, say about a year ago, when I was still shlepping my younger teenage daughters to middle school, there was a Fixed Rule of Conduct in the car: No fighting and no Christmas music until after Halloween at the earliest. Once they were back in school for the year, as soon as the first chilly days of autumn, no matter how early in October they occurred, someone would trot out the Rat Pack Christmas album, and we would start grooving to Dean, Frank, Sammy and company singing Winter Wonderland or some such. Well, the November 1 rule changed all of that.

Still, I guess there is something about the passing of the harvest moon, when the leaves turn crimson and gold, that makes you want to reach out for the hot cocoa and cool scarf and the Rat Pack Christmas album. Since your teenage (and older) children are the first to call you on adult hypocrisy, I have been eagerly clutching my copy the Bob Dylan Christmas of the Heart album, ready to give it a listen this weekend. I also noted that Sting likewise has a Christmas album out as well, “..If on a Winter’s Night” that I am also looking forward to giving a spin.

In the meantime, the release of the Dylan and Sting Christmas albums are generating a little action and – since it is the music biz—competition, as evidenced in this review from the interesting and enjoyably written cultural blog, “Things I’d Rather Be Doing” via Expecting Rain:

Even those of us who cringe at any bit of treacle in our music can at least tolerate a bit of goodwill and cheer (and sappiness) when it comes to Christmas music. Sting takes the opposite tack, however, offering the perfect soundtrack for the ascetic atheist winter carnival of one. It is at times beautiful, but it doesn't seem to have a place.

Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart, meanwhile, is the sign of an artist who gets it. No one expected this from Dylan, of course, particularly given the creative hot streak he has been on over the past decade-plus. But, like Sting, Dylan is one who seems to revel in subverting expectations…”

G-d bless us, Every One!

--Brooklyn Beat

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Cool it, Reba!": Soupy Sales & The Gang - In Memoriam

Above, Soupy Sales (Milton Supman)

Above, Soupy Sales and 'White Fang', on camera

Above, Soupy Sales and Clyde Adler as White Fang.

Growing up in NY as a child in the late 50s and 60s, there were lots of TV shows on the local channels (5-WNEW, 9-WOR, and 11-WPIX)that were somewhat "heimish" and funky, in the sense of feeling like they were produced on a relative shoe string. The early days of TV that felt, like maybe back over the last couple of decades, the earlier days of the Internet. Unpolished, but perhaps even more zany and creative because of the low budget, local TV production.

I would include "Officer" Joe Bolton, Sonny Fox and Wonderama, Chuck McCann, and, of course, Soupy Sales. Especially with Soupy Sales, even as a kid, you sensed that you were watching something makeshift and very creative, with a lot of sarcastic adult-type humor bandied about. The articulately inarticulate White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie the Lion and Hobart and Reba ("Cool it, Reba!"), the heads in the pot-bellied stove, private eye Philo Kvetch, and the “nut at the door,” who always interrupted whatever was going on. Soupy Sales was out-of-control and outrageous, a ready source of laughs for kids in a completely different cultural era. His famous incident where, rankled by having to do a live show on New Years Day, he asked young viewers to go into parents' wallets and send in those funny green pictures of the presidents, netted him a suspension, an FCC warning, pickets in support of him, and at the same time, cemented Mr. Sales' TV legacy.

Soupy Sales passed away at Calgary Hospital in the Bronx at age 83. I saw him at a Comic Convention about a year ago in Manhattan, wheelchair bound, but still Soupy.

Mr. Sales is survived by his wife, Trudy, and his two sons, Tony and Hunt, who performed with David Bowie and, if I am not mistaken, Iggy Pop.

NY Times Obit [Link here]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There's Roots and There's "Roots": Jack White Opines on Who's Got More Musical Authenticity-- Dylan, Waits or Britney Spears?

As linked in "Expecting Rain," a report on Jack White (The Dead Weather, White Stripes)receiving an honorary award from Dublin's Trinity College's University Philosophical Society.

It seems to have been a very interesting night for Mr. White, and not just the award. The multi-faceted musician, currently focusing his energy on his new band The Dead Weather, received and honorary patronage award from Trinity College's University Philosophical Society. At his acceptance ceremony, the singer/guitarist/drummer gave an impromptu lecture focusing on his musical beliefs, among other things. White's lecture is gaining attention for an interesting statement he made about musical authenticity, evoking Tom Waits and Bob Dylan in the same breath as Britney Spears.

White stated, "I don't know if Tom Waits and Bob Dylan are as authentic as I think they are. Perhaps they're not." The highlight of his observation was: "Sometimes you start thinking that maybe Britney Spears or someone like that who's doing exactly what they want to do in the way that they best know how, is more authentic than any of those people you could mention."

The full article from New Times Phoenix here.

This is an interesting question. Recently, I got a copy of the Best of the Royals and The Midnighters featuring Hank Ballard. A great tune is Ballard's "Tore Up Over You." I always have thought of Jerry Garcia's great great version of this as "Tore Up" but after getting into Hank Ballard's rendition, there is that sense of "The Real" and the "(Great but) Cover" version. Funny how "Roots" music today has taken on new meaning since it has more to do with delving into existing forms and musical catalogs. But, for that matter, "The Beatles" and "The Band" (like Dylan, perhaps) were playing music based on existing musical forms, but in doing so, they seemed to create something brand new and totally different. But not as "authentic" as the original blues, country, and R & B musicians, that they took from. Dylan has always adapted from other styles and artists (even writers), and as influential as he is as a songwriter and artist, I doubt that he would put himself on the same page as "Woody" or any of the bluesmen that influenced him. In that sense, I'm not so sure about Jack's example. Therefore, if there is nothing new under the sun (to quote the Bard), maybe Britney is playing something "real" and "unique" and "original" to the best of her ability, but if that could serve as a good definition of "Art" does it make it "authentic" ? Does it even matter ? Further, to borrow from Walter Benjamin,in the age of Mechanical (and Electronic) Reproduction, what musician has not been influenced by, and consequently built upon, earlier forms, styles, and musicians?

Jack White raises a very thoughtful and intriguing philosophical question, not sure if it can be answered.

--Brooklyn Beat

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Empire Burlesque: America Noir, Future-Style

"In “Ubik” (1969), in turn, the first premise is that the ancient human dream of communication with the dead has been achieved at last—but, when you go to speak with them, there is static and missed connections and interference, and then you argue over your bill. At the beginning of the novel, one of the heroes, Runciter, tries to connect with his “passed” wife, Ella:"

“Is something the matter, Mr. Runciter?” the von Vogelsang person said, observing him as he floundered about. “Can I assist you?”
“I’ve got some thing coming in over the wire,” Runciter panted, halting. “Instead of Ella. Damn you guys and your shoddy business practices; this shouldn’t happen, and what does it mean?” . . .
“Did the individual identify himself?”
“Yeah, he called himself Jory.”
Frowning with obvious worry, von Vogelsang said, “That would be Jory Miller. I believe he’s located next to your wife. In the bin.”
“But I can see it’s Ella!”
“After prolonged proximity,” von Vogelsang explained, “there is occasionally a mutual osmosis, a suffusion between the mentalities of half-lifers. Jory Miller’s cephalic activity is particularly good; your wife’s is not. That makes for an unfortunately one-way passage of protophasons. . . . If this condition persists your money will be returned to you.” . . .
Facing the casket, von Vogelsang pressed the audio outlet into his ear and spoke briskly into the microphone. . . . “This is very unfair of you, Jory; Mr. Runciter has come a long way to talk to his wife. Don’t dim her signal, Jory; that’s not nice.”
--"UBIK" a novel by by Philip K. Dick (1969)

The above critical text and excerpt from Ubik by Philip K. Dick are contained in “Blows Against the Empire” by Adam Gopnick. The New Yorker. 8/20/2007. Link here

Philip K. Dick Official Site. Link here

After the Gold Rush: Notes on a Post-Bubble America

Setting the mood: As a hedge against the not-so-groovy news, you may want to open this in the background as you peruse the Daily Economic Blooze: Jerry Garcia, "Mission in the Rain" (11/11/93, Albany) Link here

Real unemployment rate actually nearing 20%? See Salon here.

Time to Extend Unemployment Benefits? Link here.

The challenge of job creation: What the Administration could/should be doing. Tax credits? Work programs? "Patience" may not be enough, is it time to Try Something? Link here.

Europe 'worried about weak dollar'? Link here

Canadian dollar climbs, appraoching parity with US Dollar. Link.

Thinking "Right" ?: There's Gold in them Thar Portfolios. Link

"Mission in the Rain" by Robert Hunter - Jerry Garcia
I turn and walk away then I come 'round again
It looks as though tomorrow I'll do pretty much the same.
I must turn down your offer but I'd like to ask a break
You know I'm ready to give everything for anything I take.
Someone called my name you know I turned around to see
It was midnight in the Mission and the bells were not for me.
Come again, walking along in the Mission in the rain,
Come again, walking along in the Mission in the rain,
Ten years ago, I walked this street my dreams were riding tall
Tonight I would be thankful Lord, for any dream at all.
Some folks would be happy just to have one dream come true
But everything you gather is just more that you can lose.
Come again, walking along in the Mission in the rain,
Come again, walking along in the Mission in the rain,
All the things I planned to do I only did half way
Tomorrow will be Sunday born of rainy Saturday.
There's some satisfaction in the San Francisco rain
No matter what comes down the Mission always looks the same.
Come again, walking along in the Mission in the rain

Transience & Impermanence: Waste Nothing

Photo by Tony Napoli

The above photo was taken from above the Marron Atrium on the second floor of the Museum of Modern Art of the recent exhibit, "Projects 90: Song Dong." Beijing-based artist Song Dong (b. 1966) explores notions of transience and impermanence with installations that combine aspects of performance, video, photography, and sculpture. Projects 90, his first solo U.S. museum show, presented his recent work "Waste Not."

This was a collaboration first conceived of with the artist's mother, an installation consisting of the complete contents of her home, not "collected" or "gathered" but amassed over fifty years during which the Chinese concept of wu jin qi yong, or "waste not," was a prerequisite for survival. The assembled materials, ranging from pots and basins to blankets, oil flasks, and legless dolls, form a miniature cityscape that viewers can navigate around and through. It was a fascinatingly complex installation, almost like walking through the Pearl River store in SoHo, or a warehouse, everything neatly stacked and aesthetically organized.

The view from above gives it a particular resonance, retaining a curious zen quality, although the exhibit is based on possession for survival, rather than divestment to quell desire, yet at the same time suggesting the cityscape in more intrinsic and breathtaking detail.

--Brooklyn Beat

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tracy Morgan Dishes on "Tracy Morgan"

A few reviews have expressed concern that "30 Rock" may have jumped the shark at the beginning of its 4th season. I surely hope not, 'cause Liz, Jack, Kenneth, Jenna, Pete and all of the other folks at "Tracy Jordan (and the Girly Show)" have made Thursday night such a great destination as you approach the end of the week. Well, as we saw in an earlier season, when Tracy "borrowed" his "friend's" yacht to throw a bash for all of his TV buddies, if the show does in fact jump the shark, one of the definite survivors, maybe the first man overboard, will be the endlessly fascinating comedian - actor Tracy Morgan.

Tracy has a new book coming out, "I Am the New Black" from Random House. Some great stuff here, both sweet and sour, as he riffs and philosophizes on his life, his roots and his career to-date, and, according to some items in the tabs, apparently dishes on some of his experiences and co-workers while on "Saturday Night Live."

A small sample from a talented and creative guy, with life lessons for everyone: The new black is impossible to define—and so am I, because I am the new black. You know my characters on television and films, and some of you know my stand-up. Which one of those is me? Who am I? Tracy Jordan? Biscuit? Astronaut Jones? The truth is that I'm all of them. They all live in me and I live through all of them. If you want to know the truth about Tracy Morgan, that truth is that like the new black, I'm impossible to define. Black isn't the absence of color, it's the presence of all colors. That's why I'm the new black. I'm everyone you've seen me be and just myself at the same time.

We are in a new era, with a black president. Racism definitely still exists, and the new black knows this, just like the new black knows that now is the time to stand up. The new black is something that our American society needs at every level, because the new black isn't about race, it's about trying. In this era of the new black, you have to try because there's no more excuses. We've got to take responsibility. We've got to raise our children. And people! This book is going to take your excuses from you. If I could get to where I am from where I came from, so can you. Being the new black means you can get there if you try. No more excuses. If your life is hard, you gotta start laughing so you don't cry, and you've gotta try or you'll get nothing. We can make a change if we put in the work.

As on 30 Rock, Tracy's persona seems that of the Happy Man, a talented shaman and wildman in the halls of the the most conservative of commercial media, network TV, as it allows some creative anarchy and toys with the half-century rule of Established Standards and Practices, in search of an audience and survival. One would imagine that NBC and its parent corporation, the Sheinhardt Wig Company, still need 30 Rock, even as it continues to attempt to define -- or re-define, or even un-define-- itself. And then there is Tracy Morgan, clearly a force unto himself, perhaps another contender for the mantle of "King of All Media." We watch wondering if "Tracy Jordan" is Tracy Morgan, or if, for that matter, "Tracy Morgan" is Tracy Morgan. While it isn't clear if "I Am the New Black" will offer any definitive clues, it promises to be a fun and interesting read. Due out October 20.
--Brooklyn Beat

Read an official excerpt from Random House (and maybe send some Tracy Morgan post card), here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At the Mayoral Debate: Live & Kicking, Off Stage and On

El Museo del Barrio, site of the debate. The lovely frescoes painted in 1921 are by William Pagan. The candidates on the left. Host Dominic Carter, center, back to audience. Interview panelists on the right. Photo by Brooklyn Beat

The Reverend Billy, above, in a familiar pose.

When I arrived at El Museo Del Barrio,the building was ringed by police, media service trucks, and political supporters. Little groups of construction workers huddled on 5th avenue, clearly tired after a long day on the job, with Mayor Mike posters. On 104th street, a crowd of proud East Harlem pro-Thompson activists raised a pro- Bill, anti-Mike ruckus, breaking into cheers whenever passing motorists honked their horns in support.

I had obtained an emailed pass confirming my attendance in the audience the week before. I stood on the corner as a Community Services officer scanned the list and checked I chatted briefly with a guy from the Board of Elections as we waited outside. A few people in front of us, a guy dressed in an electric blue suit with a distinctive haircut chatted animatedly. It was Reverend Billy, pastor of the Church of Life after Shopping and the Shopacalypse, who would kick the debate into a quick and early overdrive when he interrupted Mayor Mike's opening encomium by standing and yelling something to the effect of "Mike! How could you do this, you promised us terms limits and you broke your word!" Security moved in and hustled Reverend Billy away , although clearly he is not a stranger to being wrangled by the law when he falls afoul of people and places who don't share his anti-consumerist, anti-corporate beliefs. When the Board of Election guy and I went to fetch our tickets, the police were giving Reverend Billy a tough time at the door and,although they recognized him, someone decided to let him in with or without a ticket. Lo and behold, Reverend Billy took center stage, and that was the shouting heard behind Dominic Carter's back at the beginning of the evening.Rev Billy is the Green party candidate.

El Museo Del Barrio has a lovely auditorium, with lovely frescoes from the 1920s by Latino painter William Pagan. The center of the auditorium which held about 500 or so, was for VIPs. Mayor Koch, Herman Badillo, Councilman Bill Perkins, Bill De Blasio and tons of others NYC political and media luminaries, the folks you would see on NY1. Host Dominic Carter warmed up the crowd and asked if we would help him out by not heckling and making a commotion. "Will you help me out" he asked hopefully. "NO!" someone in the crowd replied.

It was that kind of an evening. In an election where many of the major Democratic political consultants and liberal political organizations that would typically support a Democrat are out in force for Major Mike and His Millions in campaign dough, this election is all over the map. the debate was rife with charges and counter-charges. Mike Bloomberg came across as much more soft spoken than he appeared on TV. Bill Thompson took a few minutes to get his footing and realize where he was, but once he reached cruising speed, he was relentless in his pursuit of the Mayor for his term limits albatross and his legacy that is so media driven and saturated that it hard to tell up from down, success from failure, excellence from mediocrity. Thompson was impressively fleet footed in addressing some of the panel's tougher questions.

The audience was rambunctious throughout. When Thompson zeroed in on the Mayor's contributions to community and social organizations, someone yelled out "Truth to Power!"

In my opinion, it was at the very least a draw,although Bill Thompson maintained a slight edge, showing that he was neither afraid of, nor kowtowing to Bloomberg's media machine. Thompson was relentless in his aggressive stance on term limits, compared to the Mayor's low key but well prepared style. As Clyde Haberman of the Times observed,maybe Mike Bloomberg can't be bought, but it does look like he bought everyone else that he could, except Bill Thompson. But will the term limits issue and the Mayor's charitable largess be enough of a lever for Bill Thompson to wedge the Mayoralty away from Mike Bloomberg for the next four years? It was a feisty,rough and tumble political showing, on the stage and in the audience. Did Mike Bloomberg really never have a manicure? Is Pedro Espada better than Joe Bruno? Has President Obama done enough for Gay Rights? Should we send more troops to Afghanistan?

Are the Mayor's supporters, like the weary construction workers, really gonna get out the vote and turn out to vote? Or is Thompson gambling that his more vocal supporters, who will actually turn up at the polls, will be his, Billy's, key to City Hall? Woof.

Afterwards, I took a long walk down Fifth Avenue to East 86th street to catch the train home. Fifth Avenue near Central Park is lovely on an autumn night.

The next and final debate is on October 27.

Could the CERN Large Hadron Collider's Search for the Higgs Boson Be Too Damn Successful?

Is it possible that the Large Hadron Collider, which has been subject to technological fits and starts since its initial launch last year, and which is poised to be refired up again at the end of this year, is a resounding success although (fortunately, for now at least) we will never know it?

The NY Times reported that a pair of distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson (aka "The G-d Particle"), which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one. Ain't it cool?

As the NY Times reports, "According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielsen said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”

The full NY Times essay by Dennis Overbye [link here]

"Search for Effect for Influence from the Future of Large Hadron Collider" by Holger G. Neilsen and Masao Ninomiya [link here]

Given the overwhelming nature of Planet Earth and the follies, foibles, and distractions of humans who dwell on it at the moment, could this concept truly be labeled "crazy"? In the words of physicist Niels Bohr to a colleague in a discussion of quantam physics, “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bloomberg versus Thompson Debate 2009: Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn will be there in the audience

Having scored a seat in the audience at the Mayoral Debate at El Museo del Barrio on the Museum Mile, Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn is hoping to get an unmediated, relatively up-close and personal, sense of the candidates and if any November surprise is possible, as Independent/GOP candidate Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic/Working Families Party candidate Comptroller William Thompson mix it up. Given the seemingly overwhelming media onslaught that the incumbent's fortune has made possible, one has to wonder if this is a done deal, but, as we saw with Dem favorite Mark Green's loss in 2001, when it comes down to the wire, and actually showing up for the vote, anything is possible. Some commentators have suggested that Mr. Thompson has hunkered down, is not down for the count yet, and maybe prepared to land a sucker punch that the Mayor doesn't see coming.

We'll see if Tuesday night's debate will make it or break it for either candidate.

In any event, Brooklyn Beat for Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn expects to be there to report on the mood in the room, if anyone perspires under the heat of questioning by Dominic Carter and other reporters, and to generally offer a little local color, hopefully on Twitter (no cameras or bags but no mention of BlackBerry's). Visit Brooklyn_Beat at [Link here] Tuesday night and see if there is any running commentary. If not, I will report here tomorrow night after the debate/ Live coverage for Debate 2009 of course on NY1 beginning at 7 PM[Link here].

Also, of course, looking forward to getting a chance to visit the newly renovated El Museo del Barrio which has a grand reopening (new galleries, cafes, facility) on October 17[Link here].

Friday, October 9, 2009

Come All Ye Faithful: Dylan's "Christmas in the Heart" Due October 13

Leaks from the forthcoming Bob Dylan "Christmas in the Heart" album are appearing online. The above photo brings back memories -- shortly after arriving in Rome last December, we heard music below our apartment on the Via Del Gambera near the Spanish Steps. Much as in the above photo, a group of young guys dressed in Santa Claus outfits playing musical instruments were parading through the streets and performing a jazzy "Jingle Bells" over and over and over, like an endless loop. Hours later, we had hiked up the Via Del Corso to Piazza Popolo and these guys were still wandering around, vamping on the same tune. In that most Catholic of countries, it appeared that the Italians were still trying to figure out the American secularized, commercial "Xmas" ideal. As a matter of fact, one of the first sights we encountered, getting off of the plane at Fiumicino Airport, was a bevy of lovely young women in Santa outfits with short skirts on roller skates hyping "Christmas in Rome" --as though it needed hyping.

Just as the Italian Catholics are trying to wrestle with the holiday duality -- the sacred and profane of the Christmas season -- it looks like Bob Dylan has taken the leap as well. I pre-ordered and can't wait to get my hands on this one. The preliminary leaked reviews suggest he has taken this project as seriously as any other, including its profits donated in perpetuity to Feeding America, guaranteeing that more than four million meals will be provided to over 1.4 million people in need in this country during this year's holiday season

Below - Bettie Page, left. "Christmas in the Heart" cover, right.

Some other great photos from the package appear above, including the comely Bettie Page and a Christmas Card-ish image that no doubt will be scrutinized for visual secrets, a la the cover of "John Wesley Harding" with its wandering Indian musicians and the Beatles upside down on the tree trunk.

For a preliminary review, check out this Norwegian music magazine and website:[Link here]

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Truth of Our Common Narrative: 'Michelle Obama's Family History is Far from Unique'

Recent research from Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist, and reporting by The New York Times offers previously undisclosed details of First Lady Michelle Obama’s family tree. The findings provide the first link to a white ancestor in Mrs. Obama’s past, and trace the steps her family members took as they journeyed from slavery to the White House in five generations.

Despite the enormous, long delayed strides forward, represented with the recent election of President Barack Obama, can America come to terms with our complex identity and historically mixed roots? As Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. observes in the Times today: What this means is that, in defiance of the law and social convention, an enormous amount of “race-mixing” has long been occurring in the United States, about which we, as a society, have for just as long been in deep denial.

Historian Annette Gordon Reed writes: "The family stories of black Americans and the findings of population geneticists make clear that Michelle Obama’s family history is far from unique. The vast majority of black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved in North America have some degree of mixed ancestry. What happens when you recognize that you and fellow whites share a bloodline with the people you are claiming are so different? And then there’s the fact that none of this has made much difference to black Americans. Having a white father or great-great-great grandfather didn’t mean much: they were defined as “negro” or “black” and kept their place in the racial hierarchy."

An interesting article in today's NY Times:

Geneaology and Reporting on the First lady's very American bi-racial family roots [Link here]

Analysis, meanings and interpretations [Link here ]

This includes the following comments from Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.:
As we have shown in the “African American Lives” series on PBS, fully 58 percent of African Americans have at least 12.5 percent European ancestry. Only 5 percent, in spite of widespread myths to the contrary, have as much Native American ancestry. And between 30 and 35 percent of all African American males can trace their paternal lineage (their y-DNA) to a white man who impregnated a black female most probably during slavery.

Jane Gates, my great-great grandmother, born in 1818 as a slave, gave birth to several children who were fathered by a white man from Ireland. What this means is that, in defiance of the law and social convention, an enormous amount of “race-mixing” has long been occurring in the United States, about which we, as a society, have for just as long been in deep denial. I have never given an admixture DNA test of a black person who turned out to be 100 percent African, no matter how dark or “African” they appear to be.

Some of this inter-racial sexuality was voluntary, we now know, but far more was coerced, a reflection or a result of a profound imbalance of power. Because of a confluence of factors — the illegality of miscegenation, the prevalence of sexual abuse and rape as the source of these relationships, infidelity, guilt, shame, and disgrace — both black people and white people had a certain interest in keeping these relationships in the dark, as it were.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Changing Economic Order

The United States dollar (sign: $; code: USD) is the unit of currency of the United States. The U.S. dollar is normally abbreviated as the dollar sign, $, or as USD or US$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies and from others that use the $ symbol. It is divided into 100 cents (200 half-cents prior to 1857). Link
The U.S. dollar is the currency most used in international transactions.Several countries use it as their official currency, and in many others it is the de facto currency. Since the close of World War 2, the dollar has maintained a positon of stability and hegemony in world economic affairs. The stability and strength of the dollar as an international currency has resulted in extensive foreign investments in the past 50+ years. Following the current economic crisis and continuing recession, will the United States' Dollar (U.+S. = $) now take a backseat to the Euro or new alternative currencies?

The end of the supremacy of the Yankee Dollar ?

China, Europe, Middle Eastern nations and the demise of the dollar?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Morning Going Down: It's the End of the World as We Know It (& I feel fine)

Roubini:Stocks rising too far, too fast?Link here

World Bank going broke? Running out of mazuma in 12 months? Link here.

Zoot alores! Ze McDonald's Royale with fromage at the Louvre? Mon dieu! Link here.

As NY Times columnist Clyde Haberman observed, maybe Mike Bloomberg can't be bought, but he appears to have certainly bought everyone else, including large segments of the Democratic Party and the media. But in Italy, Mike's counterpart, Italian President and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi is (finally) coming under fire by the public for his efforts to control media outlets that investigate his government or personal ethics. Although Silvio owns large segments of the media, he routinely sues his critics in the media. Link here.

Is Iranian Prez Mahmoud Ahmadnejad a convert to Islam with Jewish roots? The UK Daily Telegraph thinks so and has proof. Overcompensation anyone? Link here.

Finally, one assumes it could always be worse, both literally and figuratively. Roland Emmerich's "2012" trailer; a disaster about a disaster? Link here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Harvest Moon Over Brooklyn:October 4, 2009

Moonstruck over Flatbush, October 4, 2009

No one captures the romance and dreaminess of the Harvest Moon like Neil Young

From the Tehran Times:See the special effects of the harvest moon:While the moon is always something special, the harvest moon, visible all of this coming week, is the most special of all. It is the subject of everything from epic poetry to popular songs.

What makes the harvest moon so special? Mainly it's the path it's following this week. The moon always travels close to the ecliptic, the path of the sun and planets in the sky, but this week the ecliptic is at a particularly shallow angle to the horizon. The result is that the moon never gets too far above the horizon all night long for a number of nights in a row, putting it literally “in your face.”

There is a well known but poorly understood optical illusion known as the “moon illusion,” whereby the moon, when low in the sky, appears much larger than it does when high overhead. This really is an illusion, as you can see for yourself by blocking the moon with a finger held at arm's length: the moon is no bigger on the horizon than overhead.

When the moon is low in the sky, it is also strongly subject to appearing yellow, orange, or red due to air pollution, particularly caused by forest fires this time of year.

Wikipedia on the Harvest Moon:

The moon nearest to the autumnal equinox. The Harvest moon is often mistaken for the modern day Hunter's moon. In the legend of the Harvest moon, it is said that all full moons have their own special characteristics based primarily on the whereabouts of the ecliptic in the sky at the time of year that these moons are visible. The full moons of September, October and November as seen from the northern hemisphere—which correspond to the full moons of March, April and May as seen from the southern hemisphere—are well known in the folklore of the sky. All full moons rise around the time of sunset. However, although in general the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, as it moves in orbit around Earth, the Harvest Moon and Hunter's Moon are special, because around the time of these full moons, the time difference between moonrise on successive evenings is shorter than usual. In other words, the moon rises approximately 30 minutes later, from one night to the next, as seen from about 40 degrees N. or S. latitude, for several evenings around the full Hunter's or Harvest Moons. Thus there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise around the time following these full moons. In times past this feature of these autumn moons was said to help farmers working to bring in their crops (or, in the case of the Hunter's Moon, hunters tracking their prey). They could continue being productive by moonlight even after the sun had set. Hence the name Harvest Moon

Saturday, October 3, 2009

On Broadway

Saw preview of the Roundabout Theater Company's "After Miss Julie," an adaptation by Patrick Marber of Strindberg's "Miss Julie." While no doubt radical for its time(1888), Strindberg's peculiar naturalism isn't helped by Marber's adaptation which further explores sex and class as a conflict and power struggle. This production moves the action up to an English country house on the evening of the British Labour Party's historic landslide win in the 1945 election, which director Mark Brokaw in a recent interview compared to the situation around "our last election here with Obama. There was this great collective release. It was a moment of seismic change and possibility."

The one act play opens with a great deal of fussy, dramatic puttering, settling into a middle section of somewhat predictable inter-class flirting and bickering until finally getting down to the action, and lots of it. While the show isstill in previews, the unquestionably talented cast (Sienna Miller, Jonny Lee Miller, and Marin Ireland), who portray the restraints of class and fires of passion with equal verve, seemed to this theatergoer a bit confused if not put out, as though -- and as the advertising suggests -- they had signed up for Tennessee Williams, but ended up in a somewhat stilted rewrite of "Fawlty Towers." Class distinctions in Britain seems an oversized topic for a relatively short, three character drama, and when it collides with sex, it seemed to become a little too overheated a little too fast, until, when it reaches its somewhat predictable ending, everyone, cast and audience, is left wondering exactly what happened.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Q Service Disruptions @ Coney Island-Bound Avenue H & Avenue M Stations

Coney Island-bound side of Avenue H and Avenue M stations are closed for rehabilitation!

Coney Island-bound train users, especially Brooklyn College students exiting at Avenue H or Edward R. Murrow Students exiting at Avenue M, residents of Fiske Terrace and West Midwood area who generally exit at the Avenue H stop discovered the hard way of the service changes--

All times, beginning at 5 AM Mon, Sep 28, until Fall 2010

Customers who need to exit at Avenue H and Avenue M should take the train to Kings Hwy and transfer to a Manhattan-bound train.

• and trains operate local between Prospect Park and Kings Hwy.

• Coney Island-bound riders entering at Avenue H and Avenue M should take a
Manhattan-bound or train to Newkirk Av for Coney Island-bound trains.

• Brighton Beach-bound and Coney Island-bound trains continue to bypass
Avenue U and Neck Rd.

Waning of the Yankee Dollar?

Washington Times reports that World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick warned Monday that, with foreign economic powers rising quickly on the world stage, time is running out for the privileged role enjoyed by the American currency.

The dollar's status as the world's reserve currency has given the U.S. prestige and privileges that are unique in the world, lifting living standards by enabling Americans to borrow cheaply and consume far more than they produce with little consequence for decades.

"The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar's place as the world's predominant reserve currency," Mr. Zoellick said in a speech to Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies in Washington. "Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options to the dollar."

Patrice Hill's Washington Times article here.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Above: White Wedding by John Kirby at the Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY

If you had a chance to visit the (recently ended) exhibition by Yinka Shonibare, MBE, at the Brooklyn Museum, you saw the work of an artist born in London to Nigerian parents. As a young child, his family moved to Lagos in Nigeria where he grew up speaking Yoruba at home but only English at his exclusive private school. As the child of successful parents, he spent summers at their Battersea home in London. When Shonibare was 16, he was sent to board in England for his final two years of school education. Consequently, Shonibare has called himself "truly bicultural.”

Exploring this theme further, the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, is presenting an exhibition of British artists, including Shonibare, that explores and is entitled “British Subjects: Identity and Self-Fashioning” which runs through December 15. Cultural assimilation, national identity and challenge. We are accustomed to considering the fabulous melting pot of the American continent, this views cultural expression in the United Kingdom.

More on the show here, which includes the work above by John Kirby, entitled “White Wedding”.

For more details on this and the other exhibitions currently on display at the Neuberger, a delightful museum not far from NYC, click here:

Also, closer to home, BWAC’s fall show, Words of Color, is on display through October 25 in Red Hook. Details here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

At What Price Softness?: Get Thee Behind Me, Charmin

Could "TP" be the next environemtnal battlefield?

From The Washington Post: This summer, two of the best-known combatants in this fight signed a surprising truce, with a big tissue maker promising to do better. But the larger battle goes on -- the ultimate test of how green Americans will be when nobody's watching.

"At what price softness?" said Tim Spring, chief executive of Marcal Manufacturing, a New Jersey paper maker that is trying to persuade customers to try 100 percent recycled paper. "Should I contribute to clear-cutting and deforestation because the big [marketing] machine has told me that softness is important?"

He added: "You're not giving up the world here."

Toilet paper is far from being the biggest threat to the world's forests: together with facial tissue, it accounts for 5 percent of the U.S. forest-products industry, according to industry figures. Paper and cardboard packaging makes up 26 percent of the industry, although more than half is made from recycled products. Newspapers account for 3 percent.

But environmentalists say 5 percent is still too much.

Felling these trees removes a valuable scrubber of carbon dioxide, they say. If the trees come from "farms" in places such as Brazil, Indonesia or the southeastern United States, natural forests are being displaced. If they come from Canada's forested north -- a major source of imported wood pulp -- ecosystems valuable to bears, caribou and migratory birds are being damaged.

And, activists say, there's just the foolish idea of the thing: old trees cut down for the briefest and most undignified of ends.

"It's like the Hummer product for the paper industry," said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We don't need old-growth forests . . . to wipe our behinds."

The Washington Post article here

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On Books and Book Court: E.L. Doctorow, Tonight, 7 PM

I stopped by Book Court (163 Court Street) last Friday on my way home. I was delighted to see the fabulous renovation that has dramatically expanded the store’s space. It is airy and light and very comfortable for browsing. Happily, I also bumped into Henry Zook, an owner/buyer, who I think I first met when the store had first opened back in the early 1980s. Henry and I have said hello and chatted from time to time over the years when I visited the store or we crossed paths on Court Street where I have worked, on and off, for many moons. Book Court, which is co-owned by Henry and Mary Gannett is now managed by Zack Zook, their son, who also coordinates events and publicity. Henry informed me that the expanded space was actually formerly the greenhouse of the florist shop that they had expanded into several years ago. (Close your eyes, you can almost smell the flowers.) Zack has coordinated a fabulous schedule of readings. Last week, I missed Amy Sohn reading from her new novel Prospect Park West. Tonight, Tuesday, E.L. Doctorow will be reading from his new novel, Homer and Langley, at 7 PM. James Ellroy (September 30) and Jonathan Lethem (October 20) are among the highlights but just a fraction of the great upcoming events. Event details here.

When I was a lad, during college and for a few years after, I was a clerk and then manager for the old Bookmasters’ chain. Mostly, I worked in the Penn Station store, which gave me a real love for the book business. Although we were a bookstore chain, business was still conducted along an older bookstore business model. I remember the staff being split between wannabe artistes and writers, and other more down-to-earth clerically attuned folks who were earning a living and for whom a book was basically a piece of merchandise (not that there is anything wrong with that; folks have to earn a living).

I became the evening manager (3-11), and learned about the book business. There were enough folks on staff who really loved books and which made it a really special place to work. Occasionally, we had visits by many of the characters who passed through the station, including one of the Ramones (who had an inexplicable interest in self-help books) and a quirky but very learned older British guy, Mr. Dove, who would pop in from time to time, spend the day reading from the shelves, and discoursing on culture. I was mentored by Matt Belmont, who was an old-timer in the book business. My co-workers at the time included the monumentally brilliant artist and writer, the late David Wojnarowicz, poet Donna Masini, musician and poets Brian Butterick and Alex Rodriguez (not the Yankee), among other wonderful folks.

At Book Court the other day, Henry and I were chatting about what we agree is the limitless future of books. No matter how much one reads online, that tactile thing of holding and reading a book made of paper pages and cloth or paper covering, will never lose its excitement or comfort. Book reading is a wonderful tradition that isn’t going anywhere. The big bookstore chains may fill a need, and it is great that so many people are reading. But on my recent visit, I was reminded that if you love books, Book Court is a special place that retains that similar feeling of authenticity, like the scent and feel of fresh paper; a wonderful reminder of how books, when lovingly sold, seem to offer limitless possibilities.

--Brooklyn Beat

Sunday, September 20, 2009

FCC and 'Net Neutrality': who "owns" the internet?

The Wall Street Journal reports
that the FCC supports internet neutrality, a big plus for consumers, individual internet users and Silicon Valley, a potential loss to big telecom companies who seek priority usage and control of access and data flow

Does anyone "own" the internet? Does the public have inherent rights of access? Or should the folks who control access and maintain data flow and keep it moving, such as the telecommunication companies that move our wireless and cell phone data, among other service providers, have the greater say over use? Is it a wild west situation, homesteaders versus cattle barons? Or will the net become more of a regulated utility? How would that impact the freedom of the net? How free is the net now? Ultimately, which is more beneficial for users? More questions than answers as the FCC under the Obama administration takes a stand on this issue.

From the Wall Street Journal, an update on net neutrality

The Mysteries of Carl Jung and His "Red Book"

Above, Carl Jung's Red Book, "Liber Novus" (new book).

Above, page from Carl Jung's Red Book.

From the Philemon Foundation, which is devoted to publishing the full collection of the works of Carl Jung, including "the Red Book": "During WWI, Jung commenced an extended self-exploration that he called his “confrontation with the unconscious.” During this period, he developed his principal theories of the collective unconscious, the archetypes, psychological types and the process of individuation, and transformed psychotherapy from a practice concerned with the treatment of pathology into a means for reconnection with the soul and the recovery of meaning in life. At the heart of this endeavor was his legendary Red Book, a large, leather bound, illuminated volume that he created between 1914 and 1930, and which contained the nucleus of his later works. While Jung considered the Red Book, or Liber Novus (New Book) to be the central work in his oeuvre, it has remained unpublished till this day, and unavailable for study and unseen by the public at large. The work can be best described as a work of psychology in a literary and prophetic form. It is possibly the most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology. Its publication is a watershed that inaugurates a new era in the understanding of Jung’s life and work.

The years … when I pursued the inner images were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life.

Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.”
— C. G. Jung

NY Times article link here

The book will be available on October 7, 2009. The Philemon Society offers a special deluxe edition.

The Rubin Museum of Art will display Jung's original "Red Book" from October 7, 2009 through January 25, 2010.

Brooklyn Beat here: As noted in the fascinating NY Times magazine article by Sara Corbett on the publication of the Red Book, which has been awaited as a "Holy Grail" by students and practitioners of Jungian psychology since Jung's death in 1961, just as there is a great deal of anticipation by some, curiosity by others, there also has been reluctance and concern on the part of Jung's descendants. The book, which has been compared to "the Book of Kells" or Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience" is not an academic work in its true sense, and may be looked at as Jung's private and personal journal in which he documented his explorations into inner space as he sought to encounter and experience his own "soul." At this point, Jung, who had broken away from Freudian analysis, began to explore new forms of analysis that may have been less focused on science than on spirituality and use of creativity as a tool to understand and heal the self.

Nevertheless, given the time and context in which Jung began these explorations, whether as result of intellectual curiosity or a personal breakdown, some critical studies, notably the books of Richard Noll, have questioned the uncomfortable proximity to Aryan, Nordic, paganistic beliefs and cults, which emerged at the same time as Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. Uncertainty about the nature of the Red Book led to its suppression by Jung's family and estate for many years. Noll draws cultic comparisons with the followers and practitioners of Jungian psychology.
In any event, the fact that the "secret" Red Book, which was originally locked by Jung in a cupboard in his Swiss home, and was later kept under tight security in a Swiss bank vault, had begun to be leaked anyway, just as Jung was the subject of scathing criticism by Mr. Noll and other authors, with claims of Jung's not-so-hidden anti-Semitism, the family decided to make the book available to the public.

While the book has itself been a mystery for many years, the controversy surrounding Jung and his ideas suggests that its publication could create more new questions and debates than it could ever answer.

Nevertheless, while its publication will clearly lead to further debate, it also will provide new knowledge about the history, origins and direction of one of the main branches of psychology and one of its foremost practitioners. --BB

The Beatrice Review interview with Richard Noll

Richard Noll's books include "The Jung Cult" and "The Aryan Christ"

More on Richard Noll

Text of an interesting lecture on the "Enigmatic Origins of the Jung Cult" by Jan Garrett

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