Friday, May 29, 2009

Mayor Mike aka "Silvio": Contemptus ergo sum

"You are a..disgrace." At least on the surface, Mayor Mike may have a cleaner personal history than good old Silvio Berlusconi, his goombah-media-magnate in Itay, but they clearly share that odd trait of being media men who have contempt for the press that covers them.

Elizabeth Benjamin in the Daily News here:

Azi Paybarah, target of the Mayor's scorn, transcript and comments here at PolitickerNY:

I respectfully suggest as a reply:

Nihil tam munitum quod non expugnari pecunia possit.
Translation: "Nothing is so fortified that it can't be conquered with money." (Cicero)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Band called INDECISION: May 30 in Greenpoint

From Brooklyn Paper. Indecision, legendary hard-core Brooklyn metal band that toured the world and lived to tell about it, is featured in an article in the Brooklyn Paper, on their upcoming rare show on May 30 in Greenpoint. I am proud and happy to note that guitarist Justin Lee Brannan is my nephew. They are all now Fine, Upstanding Citizens, Rocking the Free World....

Link here:
Bay Ridge’s most famous hardcore band has grown up — but it still goes to 11.
After seven years of non-stop touring and nine years of retirement, the heavy metal rock foursome, Indecision, is coming together for a rare reunion show in Greenpoint on May 30 that promises to be just as raucous — and just as noisy — as the group’s first concerts back at Xaverian HS.

“We are still purists for hardcore and punk — and we still play just like we used to,” said Indecision guitarist Justin Lee Brannan, whose band released its first cassette demo in 1993.

Over the following seven years, Indecision earned a reputation as a workhouse band thanks to relentless touring and four influential albums, including “To Live and Die in New York City” and “Most Precious Blood.”

Since then, band members have settled into 9-to-5s as non-profit financiers, guidance counselors, paramedics, and pathologist’s assistants — but each has no trouble belting out the short aggressive tracks that earned the group its clout.

“When I sit down with the drummer and we jam, that chemistry is still there — it’s like riding a bike,” Brannan said. “And now that we have real legitimate jobs, the band is the most fun it’s been since it started.”

Still, the rockers look back fondly on their early struggles when they were just another noisy local band trying to get gigs in Bay Ridge.

“If you don’t have the bad times, then you never appreciate the good times,” said Brannan. “Our van used to break down every few miles. It definitely sucked, but it built so much character, so when years later the tour bus was picking us up on Colonial Road, we could feel like we had earned it.”

Indecision will play as part of a day-long music festival at Studio B [259 Banker St. between Meserole Avenue and Calyer Street in Greenpoint (718) 389-1880)], Saturday, May 30; doors open at 2 pm. Tickets, $25.

©2009 The Brooklyn Paper

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

IL DIVO ("The Star"): Director Paolo Sorrentino and Star Toni Servillo serve up Giulio Andreotti aka 'The Fox', 'The Black Pope'

Directed by Napoletan writer and director Paolo Sorrentino and starring Toni Servillo as former Italian Prime Minister (and current "Senator for Life") Giulio Andreotti, Il Divo is an intense, sharp and insightful film about politics and corruption. To paraphrase the film, "Sometimes you must do evil to do good." Servillo, made up here with hunched back and bent ears, like a hobbit crossed Mathew Barney's Cremaster, appeared recently in Gomorrah, Matteo Garrone's unique mob "true story" thriller based on Roberto Saviano's "New Italian Epic" book of the same title.

Dramatic, colorful, extravagantly cinematic, and artful with excellent cast, photography and editing, IL DIVO is a must see. Now at the Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street -- Madonn' -- don't miss it.

--Brooklyn Beat

Official site:

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Bob Dylan Birthday Festival: Warwick Winery

The annual Bob Dylan Birthday tribute (born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941.) The festival is located not too far from that unique corner where NY, NJ and PA meet. Bands include Professor Louie and the Crowmatix, Bill Kirchen, Rod McDonald and many more:

Details here:

Summer Days: Adventures in Woodstock

A few years back, around the Fin de si├Ęcle, we had rented a place upstate in Bearsville, near Woodstock for the summer. Very quiet with a creek running behind the house that you could wade in (like up to your waist)…It was a quiet place, tree shaded, with a nice yard out on 212. Not far at all from Striebel Road, where Bob Dylan had his legendary motorcycle accident. And a short drive from the Big Pink house, which my son and I discovered one day, still standing and then still pink, where Dylan and the Band produced the memorable Basement Tapes.

On one occasion, we took the kids to the local Woodstock library, a little place just outside of town with magnificent second hand book sales. A guy came into the Library with two little kids, he was unshaven, needed a shower, ripped t-shirt and jeans -- it was Ethan Hawke – and we were hanging in the kiddie section with our younger girls who were around 4-5 yrs and my son who was 9-10…..Ethan started doing a puppet show for his kids and our kids…it was funny, about a princess and a pony and the pony wouldn’t give her a ride or something, all done in this falsetto voice...then this young woman, wearing big framed tortoiseshell glasses and a casual summer dress – Uma of course – comes in and says hi, but says “Ethan, we’ve got to go, my parents are waiting” or something like that. We said hello, chatted for a minute, told them that we were from Brooklyn but up there for the summer, that was about it. I don’t think my wife recognized them at the time but I did and I was “star struck”, of course, bordering on son, who was young and not the cineaste and auteur he is now, is always disappointed that I never asked for an autograph…after they left, the librarian said “your kids just had a very famous playmate.” That was a great summer in Ulster county. We went up for a couple of weeks straight and then a lot of long weekends. Dinners at the Gypsy Wolf cantina (opens at 5:30, great Tex-Mex cuisine). The great 4th of July parade in town, volunteer firemen throwing candy to the kids, sparkling fireworks.

Anyway, so that is how I "met" Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. Our kids were younger and life seemed simpler, and I like to imagine that was also the situation for them: A young NYC family, kicking back for an idyllic summer upstate...

--Brooklyn Beat

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flatbush Life: The Vanishing Husband and the 71st Precinct

Fox 5's John Deutzman investigative report on the arrest of a young husband for a "quality of life" crime -- riding a bike on the sidewalk-- and his subsequent jailing when he could not provide i.d. (He had left his wallet at home, and in order to receive a summons, you must have valid I.D. His cell phone was dead. He had trouble reaching his wife or family by phone; the police wouldn't help him make the necessary notification.) His frantic young wife, family, and friends were told they could not report an adult as a missing person in NYC--ever. When they were visited by NYPD from the the 71st precinct -- where he had been held-- ) no one recognized that this was the guy that had been arrested and had been held in their station. Officers from the Prospect Park station called the 71st precinct finally established that he had been arrested and was not dead. He was finally released after appearing before a judge and returned home to his relieved wife and family. Lesson #1: Your wallet/I.D. - don't leave home without it.

The News report here:

Fox Five Reporter John Deutzman's blog here -

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Travelogue: The Sistine Chapel (Capella Sistina)

Above, Sistine Chapel. Below, Vatican Museum.

We visited the Vatican on December 26. The line is long, outside of those medieval walls with their gunports looking out over souvenir stands and cafes, but the wait was relatively short I'm told compared to the summer months.

Inside, we alternately browsed, amazed, at the corridors filled with art and religious objects, and rushed headlong (well that was mostly me) through the halls until we reached the Sistine Chapel.

Entering that vaulted space, just so taken over by the reality of being in the presence of this almost mythical object of Western art. Beautiful, fascinating. Folks crowding into the space, trying not to bump into fellow gawkers and sightseers as we stared up at the ceiling and walls. Lots of visitors being shushed by security, this is a sacred religious space within the Vatican after all, or prevented from taking photos. On this day, the Chapel was so crowded though that we already had taken a couple of photos before we realized it was verboten.

I was captivated and overwhelmed by the experience of being there with Judy and our kids. But, anyway, as with all things in the modern pop life, it resonated again later in January, when we were back in NYC, and I watched the Agony and the Ecstasy on Turner Classic Movies. Seeing of course that I am not the only one to have imagined -- and reimagined -- that work of profound art and spiritual discovery.

--Brooklyn Beat

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rocketboom! Andrew Baron presents Magma

Andrew Baron of Rocketboom, daily internet culture blog,
Will be unleashing Magma, a video aggregator blog to an unsuspecting world by the end of the week.

"On Magma, users can see the top 100 "must watch" videos on the Web. Instead of just displaying the top videos on YouTube, Magma gathers video views from sites including Hulu, Vimeo and others to create a "Magma score." Users can check out the top-scored videos, and also view the top videos on each platform. Magma also displays the most talked-about and linked videos on Twitter, Facebook and Google blogs. Users can also see the most viewed videos on,, ESPN and many others, all on one site."

Details @ NY Observer here:

"Turn My Life Down": Jefferson Airplane

"When I see you next time round in sorrow
Will you know what I been going through
My yesterdays have melted with my tomorrow
And the present leaves me with no point of view
When I see you next time round look into my eyes
Where we'd be never could decide
Borrowed moments they cannot fill the moments of our lives
And wishful thinking leaves me no place to hide
No place to hide
No place to hide
I see the shadows softly coming
Taking me into a place
Where they turn my life down
Leaving mourning with myself
And nothing to say"
-Jorma Kaukonen

The tune:

Jefferson Airplane website:

Monday, May 11, 2009

White House Correspondents' Dinner: 44 does shtick

Excerpts from 44 at the WHite House Correspodents' Dinner:

"Good evening. You know, I had an entire speech prepared for this occasion. But now that I’m here, I think I want to try something a little different. Tonight, I want to speak from the heart. So, I’m not going to use this script. I’m going to speak off the cuff. [Two teleprompter shields rise slowly from beneath the podium, to musical accompaniment. Laughter.] Good evening … [huge laughter]

“I’d like to welcome you all to the ten-day anniversary of my first one hundred days. I’m Barack Obama. Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table. [He peers into the distance stage left, doing his Chris Rock thing of grinning at his own funny.] I have to confess I really didn’t want to be here tonight, but I knew I had to come. Just one more problem I inherited from George Bush. …

“Sasha and Malia aren’t here tonight because they are grounded. You can’t just take Air Force One on a joyride around Manhattan. I don’t care whose kids you are. And that reminds me: Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. This is a tough holiday for Rahm. He’s not used to saying the word ‘day’ after ‘mother.’ [Brings the house down.]

“David Axelrod is here. We’ve been together a long time. I can still remember when I called Ax a few years ago and said, ‘You and I can do wonderful things together.” And he said to me the same thing that partners across America are saying to one another right now: ‘Let’s go to Iowa and make it official.’

The full quipfest:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Travelogue: Colloseo, Roma

Unlike those fortunate full-time "Brooklyn" bloggers, it has been an especially hectic week at work for me. So, for now, another quick travelogue blog which is more of a momentary reverie of our family's trip to Rome in December-January, visitng our daughter who will be returning to NYC next month after nearly a year away. BB, still missing Roma, the Eternal City, with its palm trees and ruins. History and high fashion. Art and earthiness with a patina of pure gold. A land of dreams rooted, with its shops and scooters, in the here and now.
--Brooklyn Beat

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Travelogue: Oh the Streets of Rome (& Naples)...

Above: A heavenly pie at Da Michelle, Napoli, Italy.

Above: Founded in the 19th century, Da Michelle is about as Old School as it gets. The original marble tables. Two kinds of pie only, Marinara (no cheese), or Marghareta (with cheese). Lovingly brick oven fired. The writings on the wall are in Napoletana dialect. Gustatory elation.

Above: From the sublime to the ridiculous: Italy's first McDonald's, founded in the late 1980s, near Piazza di Spagna, Rome.

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