Friday, July 31, 2009

BWAC’s 27th Outdoor Sculpture Show: Abundance

The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition presents "Abundance":

"Since the financial world seems to be focusing on the lack, this show points out that the bottom line provider, planet earth, stills provides for the people. The same way it did before the big financial crisis. The show focuses on work that is made from materials that are abundant. Not scarce and expensive like a precious metal but rather plentiful and free. The show also focuses on sculpture that is made from a process of repetition or excess. This exhibition features work that rises above the economy.

This long-running show, created and curated by artists, continues to represent an incredible cross section of sculptors from all corners of the world. The artists in this show are simply committed to making art a part of everyday life and the people of New York City are the fortunate beneficiaries of their creative energy."

Abundance: through Sepember 7 @ Empire Fulton Ferry and Brooklyn Bridge Parks

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"SERAPHINE" LOUIS DE SENLIS: Angels & Demons & the Reflection of the Artist in the Work of Her Admirers

Above, the film, sdirected by Martin Prevost, starring Yolande Moreau, 2009.

Above, the artist, Seraphine Louis.

Above, more visionary paintings by Seraphine Louis de Senlis: Sacred art from private places.

I am not sure which is more remarkable, the extraordinary and tragic life of this remarkable artist, or the recent film starring Yolande Moreau as Séraphine by director Martin Provost. (The film won a César--the French Oscar--in 2009 for Best Actress for her performance. The film won a total of seven Césars, including Best Film.)

Séraphine Louis (Séraphine de Senlis) (1864–1942) was a French painter in the naïve style. Self-taught, she was inspired by her religious faith and by stained-glass church windows and other religious art. The intensity of her images, both in color and in replicative design, is sometimes interpreted as a reflection of her own psyche, walking a tightrope between ecstasy and mental illness.

Alongside her arduous day jobs, Séraphine painted by candlelight and largely in secret isolation, until her considerable body of work was discovered in 1912 by art collector Wilhelm Uhde. While in Senlis, Uhde saw a still-life of apples at his neighbor's house and was astonished to learn that Séraphine, his housecleaner, was the artist. His support had barely begun to lift her horizons when he was obliged to leave France in August, 1914, with war between France and Germany making him an unwelcomed outsider in Senlis, much as Séraphine was, given her eccentric persona. They only reestablished contact in 1927 when Uhde – back in France and living in Chantilly - came to an exhibition of local artistry in Senlis and, seeing Séraphine's work, realized that she had survived and her art had flourished. Under Uhde's patronage, Séraphine expanded her canvas, literally (with an apparent preference for canvases two meters high), and she came to prominence as a naïve painter of her day. In 1929, Uhde organized an exhibition "Painters of the Sacred Heart" that featured Séraphine's art and launched her into a period of financial success she had never known - and was ill prepared to manage. Then, in 1930, the effects of the Great Depression undercut her patronage, as Uhde was obliged to stop buying her paintings. In 1932, she was admitted for "chronic psychosis" to the psychiatric ward of a geriatric hospital at Clermont, where her artistry found no outlet. Although Uhde reported that she had died in 1934, Louis actually survived until 1942, friendless and alone in a hospital annex at Villers-sous-Erquery. (Some exhibitions still suggest she died in 1934.) She was buried in a common grave.

Mr. Prevost's film, and the wonderful performances by Ms. Moreau and Mr. Turkus. echo and embody the gorgeous French countryside, the simple lives, the religious devotion, and the changing world of Europe in the early 20th century that seems to have had such a profound impact on the life and work of this artist. Today, the common appelation is the "Outsider" artist, suggesting the unschooled and untrained creatives who exist outside of the social structures of the art world - art school, museums, galleries, Williamsburg, etc. Often this term is a delicate way of also referring to the psychological and emotional problems that keep these artists on the periphery. I prefer "Visionary" artists, which is represented well in Baltimore's American Museum of Visionary Art.

The real story of Seraphine is a powerful and remarkable tale. This film passionately and generously explores her work and story, and is a must-see, both as a refleciton of her art, and how the artist's own life and challenges have affected their own art-making. Now at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema on Henry Street and Pineapple Street.

More at Wikipedia on artist Seraphine Louis:

More on the painter's imagery:

So much of art and creativity today are inextricably tangled with commerce, the drive for career, or celebrity, fame, identity and social status as an "Artist." The story about this artist, in reality and as portrayed in the film, reinforces the truth of the angels and demons that drive many artists to work in solitude, without concern for showing, much less selling, their work. Artists who create because they have no other choice, despite their humble and unglamorous day jobs. Artists who create simply, because their lives depend on it.

--Brooklyn Beat

Sculptor Mieczyslaw Partyka Karol, Prominent in Polish American Community, Found Dead

NY Daily News on Polish-born sculptor acclaimed for his statue of Pope John Paul II outside a Greenpoint church was found dead on Monday, his body washed up on a city beach, police said.

Mieczyslaw Partyka Karol, whose bronze works are on display in galleries in Poland and New York, was found near the shore of Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn.

An avid fisherman, the 51-year-old Karol kept a boat at the nearby Gateway Marina. His wife said she last heard from him as he was repairing his vessel during Sunday night's thunderstorm.

"He called me and we got disconnected," said Izabella Grajner-Partyka. "I went to the marina, and I couldn't find him."

Investigators suspect the sculptor - who had a heart condition - either went into cardiac arrest during the storm or fell off his boat and drowned, police said.

An autopsy is scheduled for today, police said.

His most famous creation, a likeness of Pope John Paul II outside St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church in Greenpoint, became a meeting point for the city's Polish community after the pontiff's 2005 death, his grieving wife remembered.

"I followed him to America," said Grajner-Partyka, who moved with her husband to New York more than 20 years ago.

"I told him when I first met him I'd follow him wherever he'd go," said a tearful Grajner-Partyka. "I didn't know it would end this way."

As news of Karol's death spread, his Richmond Hill, Queens, apartment, which is lined with his sculptures, drew mourners stunned by the jovial artist's sudden death.

"He was very religious, [and] in that Polish world he was a celebrity," said Grajner-Partyka, who said her husband's work was on display in several museums in Eastern Europe. "His whole life, he sculpted."

His final projects were busts of the couple's two teenage daughters, 18-year-old Julia and 13-year-old Taria, but Karol never finished the sculpture of the younger girl.

"Taria isn't finished," sobbed Grajner-Partyka. "He will never finish it."With Barry Paddock
Read more:

Assemblyman Joseph R.Lentol commented on news of the untimely death of sculptor Mieczyslaw Partyka Karol:

"It is with great sadness that I have learned of the untimely death of Mieczyslaw Partyka Karol. Karol was an integral member of the Polish community in Greenpoint and he will be sorely missed. His beloved statue of Pope John Paul II will now not only commemorate the Pope’s visit, but also Karol’s positive impact on all of us.”

Thursday, July 23, 2009

'60 journalists killed worldwide in 2009': Press Emblem Campaign

Above: The Press Emblem Campaign's proposal for internationally recognized symbols for journalists and media workers. The above symbols are protected by international copyright as noted.

The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), founded in June 2004 by a group of journalists from several countries, based in Geneva, is an international independent nonprofit and non-governmental organization. It aims at strengthening the legal protection and safety of journalists in zones of conflict and civil unrest or in dangerous missions. The PEC is in favor of a new international convention to improve the protection of media. It has the support of around 35 NGOs and journalists' associations in the world.

The Press Emblem Campaign, which also is working to establish accepted, internationally-recognized symbols for press - media workers in the field, and standards for protection reports that 60 journalists killed in 2009 - 91 in 2008 - 115 in 2007 - 96 in 2006>

They note:
"NOTE: The PEC includes in its statistics suspected work-related deaths among journalists, correspondents, freelances, cameramen, sound recordists, technicians, photographers, producers, administrators, cyber-reporters. The figures do not register casualties among other media employees like drivers, guards, security staff and translators. Sources are PEC members, news agencies, national press associations, IFEX, IFJ, RSF, CPJ, UNESCO (at least two sources). The MEDIA TICKING CLOCK is updated on a daily basis since the first session of the UN Human Rights Council June 2006.

We differentiate casualties between four categories: (T) for journalists intentionally targeted, (A) for journalists killed accidentally, i.e. in a terrorist blast or in fightings - private circumstances and road accidents are excluded - (C) for criminal causes (i.e. killed by drug traffickers) and (O) for other or unknown causes. The category changes when there are new findings."

More on the Press Emblem Campaign's site here:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On Closing of Stella d'oro: No Gold Star for Brynwood Partners Investment Group

As recently reported, Stella D’Oro Cookies will be closing its Bronx, New York factory. And with it, another homegrown American-created and made product is gone.

Stella D’Oro products were noted for being pareve, made without milk or dairy, making them very popular with Kosher consumers. When purchased by Kraft foods they began experimenting with cheaper ingredients, ultimately shedding Stella D'oro's kosher designation. As reported, This led to an immediate uproar among the Jewish consumers who formed the bulk of the company's customer base. Kraft quickly changed back to the original recipe and re-instituted its kosher certification. Kraft sold Stella D'oro to a private equity firm, Brynwood Partners. Soon thereafter, the company began austerity measures, attempting to cut benefits and pay for Stella D'oro's workers. In August 2008, 134 of them went on strike, and were immediately replaced with backup workers that Brynwood had already gathered. Last month, a federal judge ruled that Brynwood must rehire its striking employees. Although the firm complied with the court order, it almost immediately announced that the factory will be closing. The Bronx location will stay open until October, as Brynwood prepares to move all production to other facilities.

I know, I know, Business is business, but does it really have to be that way? Brynwood Partners, the private investment firm that bought the company from Kraft Foods, that bought it from Nabisco, that bought it from the original owners who were Italians from Trieste probably wanted to shift production to Pondicherry, India (well, maybe not, but I just like the way that sounds). In so doing, though, they are wrecking an American cultural-culinary tradition, plus another link forged between Italians and Jews….

Even more interestingly, the Huffington Post has now reported that a Bronx union local is fighting the private equity fund Byrnwood Partner's decision announced last week to close the Stella D'Oro plant rather than bargain with the union for a fair wage. Incredibly, it was also revealed this week that Byrnwood Partners has received well over $175,000 in taxpayers subsidies to keep its factory operating in the Bronx, but it's shutting it down anyway, claiming it's not willing to pay union pay and benefit demands.

Union leader Joyce Alston, the president of Local 50 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCGTM) International Union, proclaimed:

"We cannot allow the private equity predators at Brynwood Partners to ignore the law. The company cannot simply ignore the decision of a federal administrative law judge and it cannot punish the workers at Stella D'oro for exercising their rights under the law by filing unfair labor practice charges, winning their case and conducting a 10 month unfair labor practice strike in defense of the law.

If the rule of law is to mean anything, the National Labor Relations Board should get an injunction to stop this shutdown and enforce the judge's ruling and the national labor law. At the same time, we stand ready, willing and able to reopen negotiations with the company." ?

Meanwhile, if Federal bailout $$ is (you will pardon the expression) kosher for ham why not Stella D'oro cookies? Maybe new, socially responsible investors can step in and turn this mess around. The Brynwood’s handling of this matter is simply another example of the same predatory and morally un-ethical financial philosophy that brought us the current financial crisis and the Madoff ponzi scheme, where greed is good and no questions need be asked. Well, in the case of Stella D’oro, people are beginning to ask questions…

More from Huffington Post on the legal ramificiatons of the closing and the predatory practices of Brynwood:

More details on Stella D'oro here:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dr. Roubini on the Economy: Yes, a Light at the End of The Tunnel, but Its Not Daylight Yet

Dr. Roubini had a handle on the current economic disaster years before it hit the fan. Here is his outlook:


July 16, 2009


The following is a statement from Dr. Nouriel Roubini, Chairman of RGE Monitor and Professor, New York University, Stern School of Business:

“It has been widely reported today that I have stated that the recession will be over “this year” and that I have “improved” my economic outlook. Despite those reports - however – my views expressed today are no different than the views I have expressed previously. If anything my views were taken out of context.
“I have said on numerous occasions that the recession would last roughly 24 months. Therefore, we are 19 months into that recession. If as I predicted the recession is over by year end, it will have lasted 24 months with a recovery only beginning in 2010. Simply put I am not forecasting economic growth before year’s end.

“Indeed, last year I argued that this will be a long and deep and protracted U-shaped recession that would last 24 months. Meanwhile, the consensus argued that this would be a short and shallow V-shaped 8 months long recession (like those in 1990-91 and 2001). That debate is over today as we are in the 19th month of a severe recession; so the V is out of the window and we are in a deep U-shaped recession. If that recession were to be over by year end – as I have consistently predicted – it would have lasted 24 months and thus been three times longer than the previous two and five times deeper – in terms of cumulative GDP contraction – than the previous two. So, there is nothing new in my remarks today about the recession being over at the end of this year.

“I have also consistently argued – including in my remarks today - that while the consensus predicts that the US economy will go back close to potential growth by next year, I see instead a shallow, below-par and below-trend recovery where growth will average about 1% in the next couple of years when potential is probably closer to 2.75%.

“I have also consistently argued that there is a risk of a double-dip W-shaped recession toward the end of 2010, as a tough policy dilemma will emerge next year: on one side, early exit from monetary and fiscal easing would tip the economy into a new recession as the recovery is anemic and deflationary pressures are dominant. On the other side, maintaining large budget deficits and continued monetization of such deficits would eventually increase long term interest rates (because of concerns about medium term fiscal sustainability and because of an increase in expected inflation) and thus would lead to a crowding out of private demand.

“While the recession will be over by the end of the year the recovery will be weak given the debt overhang in the household sector, the financial system and the corporate sector; and now there is also a massive re-leveraging of the public sector with unsustainable fiscal deficits and public debt accumulation.

“Also, as I fleshed out in detail in recent remarks the labor market is still very weak: I predict a peak unemployment rate of close to 11% in 2010. Such large unemployment rate will have negative effects on labor income and consumption growth; will postpone the bottoming out of the housing sector; will lead to larger defaults and losses on bank loans (residential and commercial mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, leveraged loans); will increase the size of the budget deficit (even before any additional stimulus is implemented); and will increase protectionist pressures.

“So, yes there is light at the end of the tunnel for the US and the global economy; but as I have consistently argued the recession will continue through the end of the year, and the recovery will be weak and at risk of a double dip, as the challenge of getting right the timing and size of the exit strategy for monetary and fiscal policy easing will be daunting.

More information from Dr. Roubini at:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

40 years from the Moon

40 years ago, fascinating to contemplate the past. As difficult as that year was, with regard to the continued war in Southeast Asia, the recent wave of assasinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, the complex nascent struggles for equality for all and economic justice, in terms of color and gender, still, perhaps 1969 was the highpoint of America's postwar hegemony. The technological prowess that got the US to the moon, using computing machinery that represented the best of that era, but that probably pale by comparison. Yet, the USA accomplished this remarkable feat.

The same year that Woodstock became a symbol for alternative ways of living, being, sharing, evolving, both within our own country and across our entire planet. As I quoted in my posting a few days ago, and as the late Jerry Garcia really indicated to me at a press gathering back in 1977, there is the technical, but, "Our first and foremost task is learning to be Human Beings."

Buy that view or not, the technical achievements of the past, as fantastic, visionary, and spiritual as they are, always bring us back to the human challenges of the present and future.

More on the Apollo 11 mission here:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cookie Pinzer,The Donald & Me

Brooklyn Beat had a week off from the office. Despite a couple of weeks of wandering in the logistical wilderness as we tried to plan an Escape from New York for a few days, we came up blank, zilch. At a friend's recommendation, we booked a couple of rooms for Mr. & Mrs. Brooklyn Beat & 3 of our kids (our 3 teens; Principessa, our oldest, stayed home) at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I had not been to AC in years. And years. I reflected on the Atlantic City of its era of transition as highlighted in Louis Malle's classic film of the same name:

We were late as usual in arriving in town. We couldn't get appropriate accommodations on the same floor, much less connecting, although we had booked in advance. As we registered, the gentleman, who it turned out graduated from the same high school as our son, and has family on the same street in Brooklyn as we do, excused himself and upon returning, with a smile, reported that due to the inconvenience, he was able to upgrade our rez, to a Taj Mahal suite, that was huge and fine indeed, along with a connecting room room for our kids. So we had an awesome 36 story view of Atlantic City horizon, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Jersey shore. 3 baths. Jacuzzi. Balcony. Many TVs.

We gamboled on the Boardwalk. Gambled in the casino. Enjoyed a great Tribeca-styled evening at the Trattoria Il Mulino ("the mill") in the Taj. Wonderful service. Great food. Also a fun seafood dinner at the Atlantic City Bar & Grill on Pacific St. Shopped at the Walk (the outlets). Hard Rock Cafe. Walked the length of the Boardwalk. Watched the premier of Warehouse 13 and a few episodes of Nurse Jackie. Read my way through a couple of stories in David Foster Wallace's Oblivion --"The Suffering Channel" & "Mr Squishy" very memorable, as well as beginning Gentleman of the Road by Michael Chabon.

The casino thing is an acquired taste, part threadbare luxe for the masses (that's us) and a certain kind of funny challenge of luck and fortune. Less anyone think AC is now Disneyland, as Burt Lancaster's character in Malle's film feared it would become, "The Angels" did their scantily clad dancing and singing thing, (remember "These Boots are Made for Walking", anyone?), although, like strollers in bars in Park Slope, families wandered through the casino perimeter with their young ones, while the Angels shimmied and shook.

When I realized how many people were employed in AC alone (Trump himself owns the Taj Mahal, the Trump Marino, and the Trump Plaza, I believe) and what a mighty economic engine "entertainment, hospitality and leisure" represents, I had a new respect for "The Donald."

It was a fun week away.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Giordano Bruno: Mystic, Heretic, Philosopher

In the Campo di Fiori market in Rome, a statue of Giordano Bruno of Nola, Napoli, stands in perpetual shadow. Located roughly on the spot where he was burned at the stake in 1600 for his heretical ideas on religion, culture, science and philosophy, the statue marks not so much a prescient scientist, although it is partly that, or even a modernist, since even modernists and post-modernists forms schools and can think and believe in lockstep. Bruno was an independent thinker and philosopher who was not afraid to explore the texts and myths of the past, or conceptualize possible futures, despite the risks imposed by institutions or canons.

A great recent book "Giordano Bruno: Philosopher, Heretic" by Ingrid D. Rowland, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, in 2008, explores this fascinating figure and the creative -- and dangerous -- times in which he lived.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Luis Bunuel Portoles by Salvador Dali

Meetings With Remarkable Folks: fragments from the gone world

Devlin had met Freddy Alvarez, leader of the psychedelic Sonoma band Tearful Fred, twice.

The second time, in passing, on a Hell's Angel's sponsored boatride around NY harbor,where Alvarez and his solo band, with special guest appearance by Buddy Guy, knocked out some Dylan, some Rodgers and Hart standards, and some Bob Marley, while the Angels wreaked havoc. Devlin and his Windsor Terrace and Park Slope pals where making their way to the back of boat where there was rumored to be a less crowded bar. Ascending a stair, a crazed Angel appeared out of nowhere, and proffered a bottle of some medicated goo which he insisted Devlin & company sample. Or else. Devlin's wheels spun, in reverse, unfortunately, but it seemed there was no way out. Suddenly, Freddy Alvarez and another guy appeared, holding plastic cups of beer. The Angel was as surprised to see him as we were and stopped in his tracks. Devlin started to reintroduce himself to him when we were all distracted, however, as a blonde blur of woman ran through the ship, alternately laughing wildly and shrieking in a tone that was anything but joyful, pursued by two Hell's Angels, who were themselves pursued by two security guards. "Oooh, bummer," declared Freddy. We later saw the same woman at the bar drinking with the rent-a-cops. Somehow we all made it off the boat alive.

The first time, more memorably,was at the premier party at the St. Moritz Hotel for the first Tearful Fred film, which was an animated trip through the bizarro universe. Freddy was looking trim and tidy in t-shirt and jeans with a classy black velour sport jacket. Devlin, press pass and invitation from Independent Film & Video Monthly in hand, had breezed past the press agents and lone security guard in the lobby by the elevators. The guard, a middle-aged guy in a quasi-cop uniform, reminded Devlin of the cop in the centerfold of the original Live at the Keystone album. In that photo, a crowd of musicians, groupies and hangers on are sitting around the room, all bleary and weed-reddened eyes focused on Freddy. Off to the side, the middle aged security guard, who looks like he also may have shared a hit or two off of the sacramental bong, is aiming his flashlight at the camera, playing mind games. Notable because he alone is looking at the camera and not gravitating toward Freddy.

Anyway, as the elevator doors opened and Devlin was about to step in, there was a roar as some of the crowd of unregistered, un-credentialed, and unwelcome hopefuls tried to push past the registration table in a last ditch effort to gain admittance to The Presence. Devlin and a couple of other legit guests stepped onto the elevator. "Close the doors!" yelled a suited executive, as some of the blue jeaned and pony tailed press agents beat back the crowd with rolled up movie posters. The security guard was nowhere to be seen.

Upstairs, it was all thick pile carpets and silent hotel hallways. As he approached the suite at the end of the corridor, Devlin heard some music drifting down the hall. He picked up a white wine spritzer at the bar and began to circulate. Stepping around a giant saguarro cactus plant that had no doubt been shipped to Central Park South for the event, he was standing slightly behind Freddy, stage left. The musician was surrounded by a dozen or more reporters with microphones and tape recorders. This was still in the days before ENG and Fed Ex, which made the lo-fi recording equipment seem much less prosaic, and the giant cactus much more remarkable. Some intense little guy with a French accent who said he was from "Ze Crawdaddy magazahn" was just wrapping up a question about the semiotics of the film. When he was done asking, Freddy blinked and replied "That's a MEGO question, man, My Eyes just totally Glaze Over, man. I guess that makes it M.E.J.T.G.O.,which is a little harder to say and less euphonious, but well, my eyes still glaze over. Although a little more than usual, I guess."

Devlin, buzzing already from his spritzer on an empty stomach, jumped right in and asked from behind to the left, "Now that the film is wrapped up, can you tell us if you have been or plan to work on a new album?"

Freddy turned and smiled, apparently grateful for the softball question, and took a soft breath. It was that remarkable voice, the voice that launched a thousand trips, and transfixed stadiums and smaller venues across the nation and around the globe. It was the voice that so groovily nailed down the Presence, and here it was, answering his question. The voice that somehow at the same time clashed and fit so perfectly with the ethnicity of his surname, laced with a healthy dollop of the American west, and a strong dash of the gentle bitters of the Beat movement, its forebears from the early 20th century, along with its diluted antecedents. Devlin had always thought how he related with that, as he too was so strongly ethnically identified by his surname and his mere 2nd generation American identity, but in fact was so clearly, strongly and only American in his affect and mentalizations.

Freddy smiled, almost warmly thought Devlin,as though the counter cultural icon recognized him, which he didn't, and said, "Well, we're thinking about it, but its not first and foremost in our consciousness. To me, I guess I can speak for the rest of the band as well,making a record is like building a ship in a bottle. There is a strongly technical aspect to it, but it isn't really what we are about. Our first and foremost task is learning to be Human Beings."

Freddy started out with No Fear, and sure enough had tapped that one gently, and just about knocked it past Pluto.

The other reporters, including the French guy who said he knew him well, all turned to look at Devlin, the Kid. Whatever came next, whether it was the New York Times, or some mimeographed fanzine, or even a career in a totally different realm, such as hidden in some bureaucracy as he continued to scribble furiously in spiral notebooks, amassing many cartons of them, while raising a family and eventually scribing in some anonymous blog, Devlin knew that he was in his soul a writer and reporter. He had piqued the interest of the Presence, and no one could ever take that away from him.
--Brooklyn Beat


-Anthony M. Napoli (c) 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rest in Peace: Frank N. Mickens, Legendary Brooklyn High School Principal

The Daily Challenge, NYC's only Black Daily, in today's edition reports the passing of Frank N. Mickens, long time Principal of Boys and Girls High School, the Pride of Bed Stuy, author, activist and fighter for equal opportunity in education. Mr. Mickens reportedly passed away in his sleep Thursday morning. Mr. Mickens began teaching in 1968, becoming principal of Boys and Girls HS in 1985. He retired from the NYC Department of Education in 2004.

Mr. Mickens was known as a no-nonsense disciplinarian, as witnessed in the photo above as he patrolled the halls, here with a walkie talkie, often with a bullhorn. He showed that by getting kids to respect him, themselves, and each other, it was possible to turn a problem-plagued school around. He fought for school improvement and school funds, and many scholarships and incentives were made available to his students. Under Mr. Micken's tenure, the school had 85%+ college bound graduates.

Brooklyn Beat had the privilege of walking the halls with Mr. Mickens during a couple of visits to Boys and Girls, and it was clear, that as much as he accomplished school improvement by being a strong administrator, he loved his students and they loved him. Nothing escaped Frank's attention, in the halls, in the classrooms, or outside of the building.

At times controversial as he tangled for funds for his school and community with the NYC Board of Ed, I found him a funny, sometimes jovial and blusterous, but at the same time thoughtful, charismatic, and dedicated professional. Frank was one of a kind.

Mr. Mickens wrote "It Doesn't Have To Be This Way: How To Create A Positive
Environment In Our Schools." In it he discusses "No matter who you are, you want the same things for your kid. Whether you're in Buffalo or Brooklyn, you want a good academic and a safe environment for your kid."

More details here:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chooo-choo! : NY1 Says That Governor Dave To Name MTA's Former Chair Dick Ravitch as Lt. Guv

From NY1 Political Itch (Road to City Hall):

From: Political ItCH [Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2009 4:10 PM

Subject: NY1 ItCH Alert: Paterson To Select Richard Ravitch As Lieutenant Governor

NY1 has learned that Gov. David Paterson will be selecting former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch to serve as his lieutenant governor.

Paterson will formally be making the announcement at 5 p.m. and NY1 will be taking the announcement live.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yinka Shonibare, MBE @ Brooklyn Museum

Experience a wide selection of contemporary art at The Brooklyn Museum. Yinka Shonibare MBE, British - Nigerian artist's conceptual sculptures, videos,and photography explore class, immigration, imperalism and colonialism. The intriguing work uses Dutch wax fabrics, headless scuptures, eroticism, politics, and humor. The Dorian Gray and the ramblings of a dandy are a couple of narratives explored by this interesting artist.

The artist's website:
Also, Sun K. Kwak's torn black tape landscape environments, Reflections of the Electric Mirror: New Feminist Video, and Tavares Strachan: The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want (Arctic Ice Project). We've been otherwise engaged this past spring and had not been to the BM since the winter. We caught the final day of the Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea show, which was too good to miss.

Above: Oarsman in a Top Hat, by Gustave Calliabotte

But there are still plenty of thoughtful and provocative works to see, in new and existing collections, at the Brooklyn Museum. Don't forget the long-term installation of Judy Chicago's Dinner Party.

Brooklyn Museum:

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" Off-Broadway

An incredible, haunting, production at the Lucille Lortel Theater, "CORALINE" based on the graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman, gets a suitably alternative, off-Broadway spin by the MCC. The play, with Jayne Houdyshell in the title role, with a wonderful cast,concerns a young, smart,and bored English girl who loves to explore.

As you may know, Ms Houdyshell is not a child, and delivers an enchanting performance, following the young Coraline ("not Caroline!") as she moves through a mysterious story that combines fairy tales, mystery, and archetypal mythologizing right out of the Joseph Campbell handbook.

Great performances also included January LaVoy, Francis Jue, Elliot Villar, William Youmans, and Julian Fleisher, who seems to understand cats,whether they are the garden variety, paw-licking, human disdaining kind, or the mythical, able to talk and get you out of fairy tale jams type.

There is an indisputable creepiness, from the strange and charming set, with its piano fragments as scenery, to its score by the show's solo musician, Phyllis Chen, (although the cast helps out with the occasional toy piano or plucked piano string). Ms.Chen plays just pianos: an upright, a toy piano, and a strange kind of altered piano that produces some strange tonalities (and atonalities) indeed. The music by Stephin Merrit is sublime.

Behind a door, Coraline finds a strange parallel universe, and encounters her "Other Mother" played by the creepy-in-costume David Greenspan, who also wrote the play based on Gaiman's book. While each member of the cast knocked his or her performance out of the park at one point or another, and there were many funny and spooky songs performed throughout, it was Greenspan's Other Mother who triggered absolutely explosive applause by his performance of the song "Falling" which was a jewel of bizarre and shattering beauty in the midst of an already haunting theatrical production. It made me pine for an audio or video recording in the future. An enchanting, charming, disturbing, and altogether transporting evening of musical theater.

At the Lucille Lortel Theater on Christopher Street at Bleecker through July 5.

--Brooklyn Beat

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Hidden Agendas of the Albany Shutdown: Mayor Mike Gets a Hot Calzone While Lobbyists Derail Democratic Reform

The Village Voice's Tom Robbins explains why the situation in Albany isn't "dysfunction" or "chaos" that simply happened -- no, it is the result of an intentionally engineered plan, pushed by lobbyists and funded by billionaire Thomas Golisano, that is purposely designed to derail the reform agenda of the new Democratic majority in Albany. Unfortunately, the majority proved too slim and easy to topple. Details here from the Voice journalist Tom Robbins that will help to make some sense of what's happening up along the Northway and its continuing impact on renters, gun control, NYS health care issues and more.

-Brooklyn Beat

Tom Robbins, July 1, 2009, Village Voice:

The tabloid version of the Great Senate Stalemate of 2009 goes something like this: Those bozos in the State Senate—who can't be trusted even on a good day to get their lunch orders straight—brought the people's business to a screeching halt over a petty internal dispute about who got to wield the gavel at meetings.

There is just enough of a patina of truth to this comic-book description of the Albany shutdown to convince a lot of otherwise sensible citizens to lather up in rage. After all, this is the same corps of elected officials that has managed to incur a higher rate of criminal indictment than many of New York's toughest neighborhoods. Who were these dolts? How dare they pose as leaders? Throw them all the hell out.

Naturally, the biggest promoter of this tale is the New York Post, which quickly dubbed the standoff a circus and then gleefully provided a clown to wander the capitol halls. The Daily News also got into the act, firing up its readers with its "Don't Pay the Bums" campaign. In these accounts, the fact that there are hugely important stakes for everyday New Yorkers in the outcome of the Senate fight is barely mentioned. Nor is the embarrassing truth that what transpired in Albany in the past month is the local version of a banana republic coup. In this case, the conspiring generals were lobbyists and one very power-hungry billionaire, Tom Golisano. Their goal was no different from that of those democracy-fearing Iranian mullahs: to overturn the results of a popular election.

Read Tom Robbins' excellent full article from the Village Voice here:

Also, the NY Post's Fred Dicker on what goes around, comes around: If revenge is a dish served cold by people of taste, well Mayor Mike must feel like he has been fed a hot calzone straight from the oven by the Dems in Albany:

NY Post's Fred Dicker here shows why payback is a *%^$#... but Mayor Mike'll never learn:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Update: Back to the Future: Education in NYC

The DoE (still not the "BoE") released the following press release:

NYC Department of Education
July 1, 2009
N-1, 2009-10

MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND NEW YORK CITY’S BOROUGH PRESIDENTS CONVENE EMERGENCY BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING AFTER STATE SENATE FAILS TO VOTE ON SCHOOL GOVERNANCE BILL Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City’s Borough Presidents this morning convened an emergency Board of Education meeting. The meeting followed the New York State Senate’s failure to vote on school governance legislation before the existing statute expired Tuesday night. With thousands of students slated to begin summer school today, the Mayor and the Borough Presidents re-constituted a central School Board, comprised of two members appointed by the Mayor and one by each Borough President, according to State law. The Board moved to appoint Joel I. Klein as Chancellor, delegated full authority to Chancellor Klein to run the schools, including contracting authority, and passed a resolution urging the New York State Senate to adopt a bill modifying and extending Mayoral control of the schools.

The Board’s members include: First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris and Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler, appointed by Mayor Bloomberg; Dr. Dolores Fernandez, appointed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.; Jimmy Yan, appointed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott, appointed by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall; Deputy Borough President Edward Burke, appointed by Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro; and Carlo Scissura, appointed by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. All City employees on the Board will forgo compensation related to services on the Board.

The full text of the Board’s resolution urging the New York State Senate to vote on Senate Bill no. S5887, which would extend Mayoral control until June 30, 2015, is below.

The Board set the date of its next meeting as September 10, the first Thursday after Labor Day.



WHEREAS, before the landmark Mayoral control legislation enacted in 2002, meaningful educational progress in New York City was stymied by a governance structure in which there were frequent political battles and no real accountability for results;

WHEREAS, under the governance structure enacted by Chapter 91 of the Laws of 2002 and Chapter 123 of the Laws of 2003, Mayoral control has brought stability and accountability to the New York City school system. Under Mayoral control, New York City children have made substantial progress, with rising test scores, declining dropout rates, and a narrowing of the achievement gap;

WHEREAS, the legislation adopted in 2002 and 2003 provided for a sunset date of June 30, 2009, whereupon provisions enabling Mayoral control would no longer be in effect and the form of governance which predated the reforms would be revived;

WHEREAS, the New York State Assembly has adopted Assembly Bill no. 8903-a, which would extend Mayoral control until June 30, 2015;

WHEREAS, identical legislation was introduced in the Senate as Senate Bill no. S5887, but the Senate did not vote on it in time to prevent the Mayoral control legislation from sunsetting; and

WHEREAS, the failure of the Senate to act in time to avoid sunset has created chaotic conditions in the City school district, where virtually every decision – from personnel decisions to policy decisions – could be subject to litigation and uncertainty;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education calls on the New York State Senate to take immediate action to enact S5887.

Back to the Future: Education in NYC

An emergency meeting of a newly reconstituted "NYC Board of Education" will be held at noon today at NYC education HQ (aka "Tweed courthouse"). The Mayor and the Borough Presidents each have a candidate. It is believed that the Mayor can count on the support of the Manhattan and Staten Island BPs, and possibly Brooklyn as well.

NY TIMES: "Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, said he planned to appoint his chief of staff, Carlo A. Scissura. Mr. Stringer and Mr. Markowitz called for an immediate meeting of the reconstituted Board of Education on Wednesday.

Under the old system, 32 neighborhood school boards were responsible for overseeing middle and high schools in their districts and for hiring superintendents. Since Mr. Bloomberg took control in 2002, those boards have been turned into parent councils and stripped of their power. The chancellor now appoints superintendents."

NY Times on what may be to come:

Parents and others who assumed that the toothpaste was out of the tube, and that the Mayor's wealth, political clout, and his army of political and media operatives, made the continuation of Mayoral control a given are surprised, some perhaps jubilant, at the turmoil that the chaos in Albany has wrought. Although "money changes everything", in this case, politics, however dysfunctional, manages to trump wealth, throwing a wrench into the Mayor's own well-oiled political machine.

- Brooklyn Beat

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