Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Rave in the Desert

The chance event, November 1996, 3 days in the desert, conference organized by Chris Kraus featuring Jean Baudrillard, Roseanne Alluqere Stone, The Chance Band, and others.

"Motel Suicide" by Jean Baudrillard and the Chance Band


On Baudrillard:




On Chris Kraus's SmArt Fiction:


Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Mysteries


We were at my son's high school graduation from Brooklyn Tech yesterday when I got a text from one of my other kids at home (we only got 2 tickets per family) about the death of Michael Jackson. An amazing talent with global impact that somehow transformed into a stranger, later life. I guess no one can account for the effects on the personality of talent and celebrity, even for a pop "genius."

And I guess the tabloids didn't call the King of Pop "Whacko-Jacko" for nothing:


I liked Michael Jackson. I liked Prince too, maybe a little more because he was more R&B and raw. I remember going to see Purple Rain when it first came out and someone in the theatre yelled out “Michael who?” MJ was a huge, influential talent, maybe more so because he was more pop-mainstream than Prince, other artists. I guess ultimately, like Elvis, and the other somewhat tragic figures in pop history, Michael Jackson will be defined by his eccentricities as well as his talent, charisma and creativity.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Notes on the Clinton Hill Collapse

I got a call from a friend whose family owns a building on Myrtle Avenue between Hall and Ryerson. They are two doors down from the building that collapsed. My friend and her mom were there with City engineers yesterday, assessing the threat of possible damage to their building. At present, it appears no significant immediate damage and it sounded as though the engineers were hopeful although the building, 491, will probably require shoring up from inside. Residents and the ground floor business are still being asked to stay away.

The Purple Nail Salon that inhabits the storefront in this building along Clinton Hill's busy commercial strip, remains closed. The business owner had just made a significant investment to upgrade the shop, so they are hoping that the current closing will be temporary and brief.

Brooklyn Beat and family had a home on Hall Street below Myrtle from 1989 - 1999. We passed by the neighborhood earlier this month on our way to a baby shower in East Williamsburgh and were amazed at the huge apartment tower going up near the corner of Myrtle and Hall, a couple of doors down from John's Luncheonette and Donut shop. The building was erected in what was formerly a warehouse space. Relative to the rest of the block, it is a giant edifice in this otherwise realtively low-rise nabe.

While the building that fell, 493, is reported to have had a long crack in its facade, perhaps a decade in the making, and possibly unregulated renovation-construction had occurred as well, one may wonder if the adjacent construction of the large apartment tower in anyway contributed to infrastructural weaknesses, that in some way worsened 493's own (according to Department of Buildings) apparently shakey situation. Hopefully the situation is now stabilized.

Details: NY TImes Fort Greene-Clinton Hill blog:


Photos;check out Geralyn Shukwit’s album here:

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Way Back

Damn that foolish soul and all of the joy that the passage of time takes and gives.
Damn that stubborn soul, and the decades spent searching for a little glory hidden in the prisms of infinite possibilities, and finally finding a little bliss, a fragment of salvation, in savoring the simple joy of having everyone together again. A groovy Father's Day, a simple happiness never imagined in my own youth, they, no longer exactly ours, busy with valedictories, taking center stage, medals polished to a high burnish,keeping the beat, traveling the world, daring to burn bridges between here and childhood and yet always finding a way back home again.
--Brooklyn Beat

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back ta Brooklyn: Personal Notes

We are enjoying, savoring really, the last future perfect moments before we pickup our older daughter from JFK in a couple of hours, who is returning home after studying in Europe for the year. She has traveled, experienced, and grown. We last saw her in December-January when we all spent the holidays together in Rome. She was away for her sisters' final year in middle school and her brother's final year in high school. She was away for the bulk of the 2008 election campaign, election night, and the Obama inauguration. She was away for the first wave of the swine flu in NYC. Away for various birthdays, hers, her mom and sibs. Now she is returning. Versed in a new language and culture. We are getting set to welcome her back to the ranch,this new person, welcome her back to her parents and siblings at home, back to famiglia. Back to Brooklyn.

Friday, June 19, 2009

IRAN NOW: The Players & 'Palace intrigue plus Twitter'

I listened to Professor Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University on Doug Henwood's WBAI-FM show Behind the News yesterday. Dr. Dabashi had some interesting perspectives on the current situation in Iran. Here, a collection of his speeches and recent interviews on Iran now:


"Calling Iranian politics "byzantine" doesn't quite do the trick, because all Byzantium really had going on was palace intrigue. Tehran is that, plus Twitter" writes Gabriel Winant in Salon. Who hates who and what the future may bring.
A guide to the players on Salon.com:


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

'Where is my vote': Iran

Image from http://www.tehran24.com/

Wow, does this bring back memories of the demonstrations, widely supported in the West, that resulted in the fall of the liberal-on-the-surface-but-dictatorial-behind-the-scenes Shah of Iran in 1979 which resulted in the ascendance of Ayatollah Khomeini which, needless to say, was perhaps an even greater surprise as it led to the rise of Islamic theocracy. Democracy as "the worst form of government, except for all of the others."

from wikipedia on the Fall of the Shah:
"On October 22, 1979, at the request of David Rockefeller, President Jimmy Carter reluctantly allowed the Shah into the United States to undergo medical treatment. This act was extremely unpopular with the revolutionary movement, which had been angered by the United States' overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh, and years of support for the Shah's rule. The Iranian government demanded the return of the Shah to Iran to stand trial; the American government refused to turn him over.

"This resulted in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and the kidnapping of American diplomats, military personnel and intelligence officers, which soon became known as the Iran hostage crisis. According to the Shah's book, Answer to History, in the end the USA never provided the Shah any kind of health care and asked him to leave the country."

Ambivalence, confusion, and transient and conflicting popular sentiment have always made for complex foreign policy decisions and fostered unexpected repercussions.

Check out Twitter "Iran elections" for late news on current political activity in Iran.

Roubini: 'Green shoots in the economy' but also 'yellow weeds'

Nouriel Roubini, who was so far out front among the pack on the current economic crisis that one might think he had also invented a time machine, takes a more sober look on the impact of the stimulus plan and the hopes for a rebound:

Reuters Investment Outlook Summit: "Roubini, who rose to prominence for predicting the global credit crisis, tore down the "green shoots" theory that a rebound is imminent, saying there was a significant risk of a "double-dip" recession where the economy expands slightly only to begin contracting again.

"In addition to green shoots there are also yellow weeds," he told the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit in New York.

He pointed to the growing divergence between business sentiment surveys, which have been improving in recent months, and industrial production, which is down sharply and receded another 1.1 percent in May.

Details here: http://www.reuters.com/article/InvestmentOutlook09/idUSTRE55F4ET20090616

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bloomsday: "Introibo ad altare Dei."

--Berneice Abbott portrait of James Joyce

Whether in Dublin or in Brooklyn, NY, June 16 remains forever and always, Bloomsday. BLOOMSDAY marks the day in 1904 on which all the action of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses takes place. It is celebrated every year on 16th June by Joyceans all over the world.

Excerpt from Ulysses by James Joyce:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nate the Great: Get me some politics, stat!

A couple of weeks ago I left the office and stopped at Duane Reade on Joralemon and Court Street on the way home to pick up a few items. Who should I see carousing the aisles, but Nate Silver, honcho of stat and punditry heavy blog Fivethirtyeight.com. He was instantly recognizable from MSNBC, although it took a moment to reconcile the scruffy jeans and t-shirt with the suit and tie talking head we have become familiar with chatting with Rachel M or Keith O. This is probably old news now, but the formerly Chicago based sports n politics genius is now a Brookyln rez.

Anyway, after months of culture heavy blogging (I admit I had even begin to turn on reruns of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, with my man man, Vincent (Sherlock) D'Onofrio) instead of Wall to wall MSNBC evening commentary, I thought I better shine a light on the American political thang. So a post on fivethirtyeight.com 's headlines seemed to be in order:

After all of the Gush on Rush, has the Democratic national Committee turned a table or two on the G.O.P. ? As the administration see's where the nexus of governing and politics meets, perhaps the DNC has a few more tricks up its sleeve (one can only hope),but whether he likes it or not, Limbaugh's been tagged as Mr. G.O.P. :

Will reformist Mousavi "capitalize" on 44's political fence mending with the Arabic world and defeat Ahmadinejad? Could be in the cards in the near future:


Are we at a tipping point: Gay marriage, state-by-state:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Photo by TN/Brooklyn Beat

Unfortunately, the roses are going fast now. Early blooms followed by heavy rains and cool weather, leave lots of the ochre clinging to a stone. What kind of a summer will we experience in Flatbush, in Brooklyn, New York ?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Stephen Colbert visits our troops in Iraq

Stephen Colbert, in a camo suit, submitting to the discipline of a military haircut. Whatever one's political stripes, American freedom will always require the American military to preserve, protect and defend it. Whether our troops need to remain or should be returned home sooner, the American military should never be forgotten. Stephen Colbert brings the troops back to the front page, and, remarkably, generates plenty of laughs in the process.

Colbert Nation official site & video here:
CNN details here:

Huffington Post here:

Friday, June 5, 2009

David Carradine: Everyone (including Bob Dylan) is Kung Fu Fighting & Quentin Tarantino & Bob Dylan Have a Go at the Sweet Science

UK music magazine UNCUT has some interesting nuggets from a past interview with the late actor David Carradine on Bob Dylan as The Boxer and Student of Kung Fu:

UNCUT: Is it true that you introduced Bob Dylan to kung-fu?"

"CARRADINE: Well, Bob took some lessons. He didn't really stick with it, but we had some fun together. My master used to come out to my house and teach me every morning, and I thought Bob could profit from it, so we went over to his place, and he and his kids took a few classes with us. It was pretty cool. Bob was funny, y'know - anybody who's just beginning with kung-fu tends to be kinda funny, anyway, but he didn’t stick with it. But Bob's an amateur boxer. He knows how to take care of himself. I know he seems like just a little wimpy guy. As a matter of fact, he used to spar with Quentin [Tarantino]. Yeah, Quentin is an amateur boxer himself… You okay?"

"I was just trying to picture Quentin Tarantino boxing Bob Dylan"

"CARRADINE: Yeah, it's a funny image. Aside from the fact that Bob is about five foot eight, something like that, and Quentin is about six-five. But yeah, Dylan showed aptitude for the kung-fu. He was kind of a natural, actually. But, I don't think it interested him enough. Bob had other fish to fry, other things to do."

Full article at UNCUT here:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

44, the USA & The Islamic World

From President Obama's speech in Cairo:

On women' s rights: "[The next issue] I want to address is women’s rights. I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

On democracy, human rights and national autonomy:"Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy..."

Full transcript here:



David Carradine, 73, actor in KILL BILL and numerous films and tv shows, probbaly most notably "Kung Fu" found dead in Bangkok of suicide.

Details here:


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Roberto Saviano: "Gomorrah" doesn't defame Napoli

Roberto Saviano is a courageous Italian journalist whose groundbreaking book on organized crime in Napoli (Naples) Italy and its international reach has made him, in the words of Sir Salman Rushdie "in greater danger than [Mr. Rushdie] ever was."

Saviano's book (also adapted into a film), which seems at the forefront of the New Italian Epic (NIE) literary movement, has done more than ruffle feathers or upset the apple cart - it has made him a target of organized crime, requiring him to live under round-the-clock security protection.

Today, Saviano answered accusations that his book had defamed Napoli by its portrayal of the reach of organized crime into everyday life, often with devastating and fatal effects. Based on my doggerel translation of a section of the online interview, Saviano indicates that Gomorrah was an attempt to look at crime internationally through the lens of his hometown. The worst part is to hear that at I defamed Napoli with my book ', says Saviano. 'In reality' the book looks at the world through Naples. His book is 'a form of resistance, of testimony that comes from knowing that you can fight crime'. According to Saviano, the point is that there is a fundamental need to speak out and fight against crime because. Crime can't be accepted just because it exists."

The New Italian Epic is a literary movement in Italy that seems to dig much deeper than America's "New Journalism" of the 70s, dealing with issues of politics, ethics, more profound social issues and conditions with life and death implications, such as organized crime, compared to the largely cultural studies of Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese (although the late Norman Mailer, as always, remains an exception).

Roberto Saviano has taken a profound step in challenging organized crime which, he suggests, is not just deeply rooted in his home town, but which has spread its influence around the world, including the highest most visible peaks of celebrity, wealth and media culture.

--Brooklyn Beat
Article (via Yahoo - Italia)from Italian news service ANSA here:


Wikipedia on Roberto Saviano: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Saviano

A reflection on "Gomorrah" in the context of the New Italian Epic [The Wu Ming Foundation]:

The Kool-Aid Kid: Richard Wolffe on the 2008 Election

100 days not withstanding, I guess we have crossed a threshold of sorts as the journalists and pundits have had time to digest and produce reportage and analysis on the 2008 election. The irrepressible Richard Wolffe, of Newsweek and MSNBC, has a new book on the campaign coming out shortly that includes some choice nuggets.

No matter where you were early in the primary period, if you were a Dem, by the fall, everyone was boarding the Hope Express. But as Mr. Wolffe's book shows, that was not always the case. One choice nugget from the book that should bring back memories from the primary campaign:

Rendell Drinks The Obama Kool-Aid — Literally

After Obama locked up the nomination, Pennsylvania Gov. and ardent Clinton supporter Ed Rendell got a note from an Obama supporter attached to a can of Kool-Aid telling him to drink up.

So the next day at a Philadephla fundraiser for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, the ever-demonstrative governor poured it into a glass of water and proclaimed: "Now I feel that Senator Obama is the most wonderful person ever to have lived in the United States of America. The smartest, most sensitive most decent and honorable man. Now I understand what you guys have been feeling for the last six months."

Politico article here: http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=9F33A169-18FE-70B2-A8EE1E9062F808C8

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