Monday, August 31, 2009

'What's Inside is Just A Lie': Passing Strange

Above: Stew as The Narrator, left, and Daniel Breaker as Youth in Passing Strange.

Stew and Spike Lee, above.

Passing Strange, the film by Spike Lee of the theatrical performance of the play of the same name by Stew (Mark Stewart) and Heidi Rodewald is an exuberant and spiritual retelling of the eternal struggle to find one’s self in the arts. When I missed its Broadway run, I was disappointed and therefore very happy to learn that Spike Lee had collaborated in remaking it as a film. And if any recent Broadway show deserves a life on film, Passing Strange surely does.

As much as it is a focus on the efforts of Youth, played by Daniel Breaker, with retrospective backup provided by the Narrator (Stew), to recreate himself ---from a young, middle class, African American man from South Central L.A., to a musician living the bohemian life in Europe and in search of The Real-- I found it filled with wonderful, universal truths, hard-learned lessons and reflections. Whether you are young and finding yourself on the first steps on this road, or you are someone who lived through variations on this theme decades ago, you will find yourself inspired and elated by Passing Strange, a visionary, psychedelic and musical journey, by Stew and Heidi Rodewald.

Youth turns his backs on the life in which he found himself in L.A. and works hard at reestablishing himself as “a construct.” (A frequent and funny reference among the Marxist and material culture minded Europeans in the films.) The entire cast is remarkable: Along with Stew and Mr. Breaker, De’Adre Aziza, Colman Domingo, Chad Goodridge, Rebecca Naomi Jones, move back and forth in amazing, dizzying tangents, as they switch from a church group in South Central L.A. to punk rockers and on to young Dutch and German artists and radicals in the 70s. Eisa Davis is transporting as Youth’s Mother.

At one point, the Narrator, who puts himself, as Youth, under the microscope on many occasions, observes how funny it is that our adult lives are often dictated by decisions made by teenagers (that is, ourselves as teenagers). Music, by Stew’s band, Negro Problem, featuring partner Heidi Rodewald is likewise amazing. Spike Lee’s direction seems to make clear that Passing Strange must have been a labor of love for everyone involved, just as, in its joyful and painful moments, it is art that will move you, change you, and stay with you for a long time to come.

The film is now at the IFC Theater in the Village, as well as on HBO On Demand.

Trailer here:

Stew’s site:

Bonus track: The Negro Problem, with a vocal by Colman Domingo, of Passing Strange, perform "Gary's Song" from SpongeBob Squarepants, composed by Stew.
Posted by Blackberry

Roaming & Rambling: Bay Parkway

Above, Rimini Bakery, Bay Parkway

Bay Parkway, beginning at 65th Street, is a great melange of Italian, Chinese and Russian Brooklyn. Chang Wang, the huge Asian supermarket, has a wide array of fresh and packaged foods, largely Asian, plus cooking implements, snacks, etc. Rimini Bakery, pictured above, is a terrific Italian bakery with artfully decorated cakes. Their breads, pastries, and cookies are likewise very fine, and don't forget the summertime gelati.

Torres Pizzeria Restaurant, while not the fanciest place for dining, has marvelous and reasonably priced entrees that make a great takeout destination. And Caeser's Bay Wines and Liquors, across the street, remains a great discount liquor store with a wide selection. Gintaras, Russian international gourmet food, rounds out the ethnic trifecta in the neighborhood, but there are many more multi-ethnic shops, supermarkets and restaurants in the nabe to be discovered. Bay Parkway is a neat way to experience the coming and goings of Brooklyn's many diverse communities in a several block stretch. And there also is the wonderfully named "Shampooche," a dog groomer on 65th street. We are amused. Remember: Explore Brooklyn.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

'Prophet' or 'Misguided Fanatic ?': John Brown (or Quentin Tarantino)

Not to give away spoilers, but by this point it is surely not news that Quentin Tarantino has re-written the rules of the World War 2 movie. Surreal, a spaghetti western on steroids, comic, arch, bizarre and thoroughly entertaining, Inglourious Basterds may pave the way for enormous changes at the last minute (to quote Brad Pitt's Lt. Aldo Raine) in historical film-making. So, it was interesting that NY Magazine reported on Tarantino's appearance on Charlie Rose last week, where he discussed plans to make a film about John Brown, an American abolitionist, and folk hero who advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to end all slavery. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas and made his name in the unsuccessful raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859.

Even President Abraham Lincoln said he was a "misguided fanatic" and Brown has been called "the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans."

This is not exactly news, since Tarantino had discussed this intriguing concept on an earlier Charlie Rose with Robert Rodriguez in 2007. A the same time, Martin Scorsese was reputedly working on a script based on "Cloudsplitter" by Rusel Banks. Well, Tarantino has been working on Inglourious Basterds since the time of Jackie Brown, so with his latest udner his belt, one can only wonder "What hath Quentin wrought?"

John Brown, wiki facts and factoids: 2007:

The 2007 interviews:

Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and John Brown:

On April 5, 2007, Quentin Tarantino was interviewed with fellow filmmaker Richard Rodriguez on the popular PBS program, The Charlie Rose Show. Toward the end of the program, Rose asked Tarantino about his future film ideas and--to our shock--he declared his desire to do a film about our man Brown. Here is an excerpted transcript from that interview:

QT: I would one of these days love to do the John Brown story, he's one of my biggest heroes of all time; and I'd actually like to play John Brown because I think I kind of look like him a little bit. But I'm actually thinking that may be the last movie I'll ever make--I'll be 59 or 60, I'll look the right age, I'll be the right age. And so, that's like an Unforgiven thing--

CR: Why is he such a hero?

QT: Because he pretty much ended slavery all by himself. And like all great patriots, was tried for treason [laughter]. I mean he's the only white man that's ever earned a spot on black history calendars, alright, and there looking you in the eye. Nobody saw slavery the way he saw it, and "if we have to start killing people to stop this then they're going to know what time it is." I just love him. He's just my favorite American.

To his credit, of course, Tarantino expresses a very positive view of Brown, something that we desire in any filmmaker who takes on the John Brown story. Hollywood has long produced films about Brown (or including him) that always made him look like a madman and villain. If Tarantino sees Brown as a hero, perhaps we will finally have a popular conception of John Brown promoted--one which does not conform to the older, biased, negative images that have prevailed throughout the 20th century. Admittedly, Tarantino is not a historian, so his inaccurate remarks about Brown may be forgiven; but if he portrays Brown both as a caring human and humanitarian, we might finally get closer to the John Brown who lived.

On the other hand, Tarantino's films are controversial for their violence and vulgarity, and in some respects it seems unfortunate that he would take up the John Brown story when his portrayed values seem so remote from the biblical values for which Brown lived and died. Of course there is fighting and violence in Brown's story; but our hope is that this violence is contextualized and explained, and not simply processed in a Kill Bill or Grindhouse manner of sensationalism.

from NY MAGAZINE 2009: Will Quentin End the Civil War Early?

With the $65 million international weekend gross for Nazi-scalping, WWII-abbreviating adventure-comedy Inglourious Basterds proving a huge demand for movies in which true events are delightfully reimagined by Quentin Tarantino, the question now is, Which part of history will he tackle next? Why not American slavery? In a pretty great interview on Friday's Charlie Rose, Tarantino reiterated his plans to one day make a movie based on the life of abolitionist John Brown — the guy whose unsuccessful attempt to start a slave revolt at Harper's Ferry in 1859 fueled the movement that helped start the Civil War — who Tarantino told Rose is "my favorite American who ever lived."

Tarantino's been talking about this for a while as something he'd like to do later on, possibly for his final movie. But in light of Basterds' runaway success, doesn't it sound like something he should start working on now? (Maybe he could even make Cannes next year!)

"I wouldn't go the dreary, solemn, historical route," he said on Charlie Rose, just in case anyone actually thought he would. "I just don't like that musty thing." Two weeks ago, a counterfactual Brown biopic following his successful seizure of an armory and subsequent slavery-ending, Civil War–preventing uprising (starring Christoph Waltz as an evil huge-pipe-smoking plantation owner and featuring a seventies soul soundtrack) would've sounded like a stupid idea. Today, though, it might just be the best one Harvey Weinstein's ever heard. We suppose we'd rather watch that than one of those hypothetical Basterds prequels.

You can download video of 2009's Tarantino interview on Charlie Rose here:
Skip to about 42 minutes in for the John Brown stuff.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion of the Senate: Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

"He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy."

U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, dead, on August 25, 2009, of cancer.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Turn Left onto Lonely Avenue" - Bob Dylan as Voice of GPS System?

The singer-songwriter discussed the possibility of his being featured as the voice of a GPS system. It was mentioned on his BBC Radio 6 Music Sunday show which was on the theme of street maps.

Renowned for his raspy, nasally tones, the 68-year-old American gave his listeners a taster of what his directions might sound like.

"Left at the next street. No, right. You know what? Just go straight."

He continued: "I probably shouldn't do it because whichever way I go, I always end up at one place - on Lonely Avenue. Luckily I'm not totally alone. Ray Charles beat me there."


Bob on GPS: Theme Time Radio Hour:

Monday, August 24, 2009

400 & Counting: Panorama of the Hudson River

Top: Greg Miller's digital photo Panorama of the Hudson River by Greg Miller, at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz

Middle and Bottom: Cover and photo panorama of both shores of the Hudson River by G. Willard Shear, 1888.

The Hudson River is a 315-mile (507 km) river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. It rises at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains, flows past Albany, and finally forms the border between New York City and New Jersey at its mouth before emptying into Upper New York Bay. Its lower half is an estuary, experiencing tidal influence as far north as Troy.[1] The river is named for Henry Hudson, an Englishman sailing for the Dutch East India Company, who explored it in 1609.

This year represents the 400th anniversary of the river's exploration by Henry Hudson. The Hudson has also been known by the original residents as "Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk" or "Muhheakantuck." It also has been known as the "Mauritius" and the "North River."

The Hudson River was observed by Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524 as he became the first European historically known to have entered Upper New York Bay.

Early European settlement of the area clustered around the Hudson. The area inspired the Hudson River School of painting, an American pastoral style.

More on the Hudson River here:

As part of the ongoing commemoration of Hudson's exploration, there are many art and historical exhibitions coming up in the coming months.

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art's "Panaoramas of the Hudson" is a new digital version of the 1910 photographic survey of "every inch of the river's shoreline" that was first issued in 1910, based on photos from the late 19th century by G. Willard Shear and other photographers.

This classic work is on display, along with the modern, digitized version, that gives a poetic and re-scaled version of this photo project. It combines the late 19th century and now 21st century technology used to both record the images along both shores of the mighty Hudson as well as the industrial and technological development that continues to grow alongs its shores.

An interesting project that shows the river from its sources to its endpoint near NYC.

Accompanying this project, the ever fascinating Dorsky Museum has a show of Hudson River School Landscape paintings, "The Hudson River to Niagara Falls:
19th-century American Landscape Paintings from the New-York Historical Society"
as well as an exhibit of contemporary art and sculpture by Hudson Valley Artists 2009
"Ecotones and Transition Zones."

Above: from "Ecotones and Transition Zones": work by Hudson River artists

Dorsky Museum:

Other Upcoming Hudson River 400th Anniversary Events:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

James Cameron's "AVATAR": Trailer

Mars is inhabited by the Na'vi tribe, made up of ten-foot blue humanoids that are peaceful unless attacked. Humans cannot breathe Pandoran air, so they genetically engineer human/Na'vi hybrids known as Avatars that can be controlled via a mental link.

But when a paralysed Marine, played by SAM WORTHINGTON, volunteers to exist as an Avatar on Pandora, he falls in love with a Na'vi princess and is caught in the conflict of her people and the human military consuming their world.

James Cameron's "Avatar", his first since Titanic is due out this winter.

Details from "the Sun" on "Avatar."

First look at the trailer:

Quentin Uber Alles: "Inglourious Basterds" Takes Deutschland

Filmed in part in Germany, "Inglourious Basterds" is according to Director Quentin Tarantino a "spaghetti western but with World War II iconography" that was also influenced by the French New Wave.

"This ain't your daddy's World War II movie," Tarantino has said.

The title of the film was inspired by Italian director Enzo Castellari's 1978 movie "The Inglourious Bastards".

From Breitbart News: In the genre-blurring tale -- with David Bowie on the soundtrack -- Pitt plays Lieutenant Aldo Raine who heads the squad of Jewish-American soldiers behind enemy lines in German-occupied wartime France.

Aldo tells his men to bring him the scalps of 100 Nazis each, and vows to terrorise the German army with the "disemboweled, dismembered and disfigured bodies we leave behind us....

"This isn't camp, it isn't pulp -- you miss the point using such categories with Tarantino -- but rather a vision never before seen in the nearly exhausted world of cinematic images," the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel wrote.

"It took 65 years for a film-maker, instead of bringing Germany's evil 20th century history to life once more to have people shudder and bow before it, to simply dream around it. And to mow all the pigs down. Catharsis! Oxygen! Wonderful retro-futuristic insanity of the imagination!" "

Back home in these United States of America, while the far right is feeling its oats as the Democrats face the challenges of governance, in Germany the critics are delighted at Tarantino's anti-Nazi blockbuster film that, as one critic has it, has torn up and rewritten the rule book on World War 2 films

More on the German critics from Breitbart News:

Village Voice “Inglourious Basterds” Interview with Quentin Tarantino


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Books: "Big Machine" by Victor LaValle

Among all of the blockbusters from authors such as Richard Russo, Thomas Pynchon, et al, in release, Victor LaValle's "Big Machine" is gaining a lot of attention and, with writerly obsessions of "mental illness, horror and religion," seems to be seriously worth a read:

Excerpt from "The Big Machine" by Victor LaValle

Big Machine” by Victor LaValle Copyright © 2009 by Victor LaValle.

Wall Street Journal review:

Mr. LaValle interviewed about narrative and writing:

More details on the author and his work here:

How to Talk to Town Hall Crazies and the American Experiment

Congressman Barney Frank takes the health care reform debate by the horns and shows that there is more than one way to respond to the one dimensional ragin', ridiculous Right response. Dems need to stop being so nice, and Congressman Frank's response, which is less vitriol, and more bonhomie and humored back-zinging on the absence of intelligent discussion in the health reform "debate" shows how it is done. The GOP and their minions have lost. The Dems should not give up on any fronts. The time for compromise is over, as the GOP had 8 years of railroading their agenda. Maybe if the Obama administration shows what it is like to push an agenda in an uncompromising way, their could be unexpected results: (a) the GOP will come around and tone down their insane klown posse rants, or (b) maybe the Democratic agenda will in fact bear fruit. Face it folks, this is public policy. Although the business world still wants us to believe that "business=science" it doesn't, it is in many ways a gamble, as the meltdown proved. And the same for public policy. The freely elected administration running the government simply needs to be able to exercise the authority that they have earned for the next 4 or 8 years and see if this change of philosophy and direction works. Clearly, Obama won because the GOP proved themselves inept stewards of our national trust. Why should we think they are capable of anything else. We need to be able to try things to see what is possible in these here United States of America.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dead Zones: NYC Homicide Map

NY Times Interactive Homicide Map: Select the location via zip and the mapping function provides detail on murders that have been perpetrated throughout the five boroughs from 2003 to the present.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Coney Island Avenue: a play by Charles L. Mee at the NY Theater Workshop

The play, billed as a stroll down Coney Island Avenue, through the neighborhoods of Turks, Pakistanis, Jews, Muslims, Italians, Sikhs, Russians-ending with everyone in their swimming suits dancing on the beach at Coney Island to a Beach Boys number. The play for a dozen actors combines theater, dance, music, video. Presented by Sixdollarsinmypocket productions will present the world premiere of Charles L. Mee's Coney Island Avenue, at New York Theater Workshop's 4th Street Theater ; directed by Anjali Vashi.

Based on Mee’s play, it looks at the varied lives and every day struggles of the dynamic and diverse population of Brooklyn, and includes spoken word, film, live and recorded music, and dance. The talented, high energy cast explores the personal challenges, prejudices, and struggles of being a resident of Brooklyn in the 21st century. The direction by Ms. Vashi seemed sincere and focused, although the play’s essential quality as a pastiche of scenes, dances, multi-media and post-modern comic/dramatic touches, would seem to work against even the best intentions of any director to wrest a completely coherent whole from the mix. For instance, the effort to have the characters break through the 4th wall (cast members' whispered interactions with theater-goers, or lying in the aisles during the beach scene) fell a little flat. A musical it isn't, although the characters are provided with ample opportunity to belt out a heart-felt standard. But overall, a colorful, energetic, and interesting large ensemble production that showed why the NY Theater Workshop (which was the first home of Jonathan Larson’s Rent) remains a dynamic laboratory for off-off Broadway theater in NYC.

Cast: Jenny Bennett, Claudeen Benoit, Angela Bonacci, Ruben Celeberti, Jennifer Leigh Cohen, Tim Dax, Sam Ghosh, William S. Huntley III, Sandhya Jain, Max Jenkins, Haerry Kim, Aryeh Lappin, Franco Pristritto, Rachel Popson, Casey Robinson, Jerilyn Sackler, Bobby Savage, Lauren Sharpe, Chandra Thomas, Nitya Vidyasagar, and Annie Yim. The design team included Sarah Huddleston (sound), Hwi Won Lee (costumes), Dans Sheehan (lighting), Chris Zalewski (filmographer/film production), and Bobby Savage (choreography).

Happily for us, we caught the world premier of C.I.A. just as it was ending its off-off Broadway run. This also collided with a walk we took around our Flatbush neighborhood to Coney Island Avenue yesterday, where the Pakistani-American Day celebration was in full swing. Brooklyn -- ya gotta love it.

Mee's numerous plays include Iphiginea 2.0, Queens Boulevard: The Musical, Paradise Park, Big Love, True Love, First Love, bobrauschenbergamerica, Hotel Cassiopeia, Orestes 2.0, Trojan Women 2.0, Summertime and Wintertime.
Mee’s plays are available free online:

Friday, August 14, 2009

'Way of Heaven' (Himmelweg) by Juan Mayorga

Samantha Rahn as the Girl, above.

Francisco Reyes as the Commandant

A field of brown leaves. The production of Juan Mayorga's "Way to Heaven" at Teatro Circulo is simple, riveting and haunting. At once exploring the Holocaust, ethics and personal responsibility, and the nature of art, philosophy and theater, the simple staging and powerful, understated performances will leave an impression that is difficult to forget. Inspired by the true story of the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, where the Nazis created a faux village to attempt to outwit the Red Cross inspectors, the play by Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga definitely draws you in. The proximity of the actors and their powerful performances, in this theater-in-the-round setting is compelling and unsettling.

Directed by Matthew Earnest, memorable performances by Shawn Parr as the Red Cross Representative, Mark Farr, as the Gershom, Beth Baker (She# 2), Sal Bardo (Boy #1), Jessica Amara Beaudry (She), Ben Elgaret (Boy#3) Trey Gerrald (Boy #2), and Trae Hicks (He). Outstanding in a smaller but pivotal role is Samantha Rahn (as The Girl). Francisco Reyes (The Commandant) is suitably commanding, powerful, sensitive and loathesome, as he directs the "players" in this life or death performance. Mr. Reyes' presence and performance of a strutting, cajoling, argumentative, sensitive and artistic Nazi -- but a Nazi nevetheless-- will stay with you, as will the moral struggles and confusion faced by the other characters caught in the Nazi's maelstrom of pure evil. Previously performed on the London stage, and in NYC, this repeat performance ends August 23. Teatro Circulo, 64 East 4th Street, NYC. For more information:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Fares the Republic Part 2: Putting Out a Fire With Gasoline

The political conflict is brimming over as the pot is stirred by anti-democracy demagogues and, no-doubt, corporate interests. The fear and anger being demonstrated is beyond reasonable boundaries of behavior. However, once unleashed, this risks setting a fire that cannot be easily stopped. Voices of restraint and reason from all political parties and walks of life are necessary. I thought it was hopeful that former Governor Sara Palin commented that this level of discourse was getting out of control, surely a sign of the seriousness of this issue.
--BB "Death to Obama" Sign Holder Detained by Secret Service
Secret Service now involved

How Fares the Republic? An Activist Government for Turbulent Times

You Can Swear and Kick in Vegas That You're Not A Gambling Man: 44 & The Health care Reform Agenda-- Risks and Opportunities

George Bush entered office with a right-wing, neoconservative, activist agenda. Some of the policies led to the current economic crisis and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although our democratic Republic provides for elections as a structural corrective -- when the pendulum slips too far right, it will certainly require a leftward momentum in a subsequent election -- the right, as an essentially non-democratic faction, will do everything in its fear and its power to attempt to fight the legitimacy of a liberal-left government, duly elected in a virtual landslide, elected without the need for any judicial chicanery. The Obama administration is wisely taking risks and exercising its political capital to stimulate the economy and institute health care reform, which would be an enormous step forward for the U.S.

The extreme rightist conservative forces will no doubt battle this every step of the way. Town hall meetings with elected officials highjacked by abusive and violent right wing rhetoric, "tea parties," personal attacks on the President. We see it in the political rhetoric about socialism and the futile efforts to undercut the President's legitimacy by arguing that he is not a U.S. citizen. What is clear is that American political activism in support of the Obama administration and agenda is more important than ever. The election, in a sense, is not over. It is never over, once it becomes necessary to fight back against the conservative/right political culture that eschews discussion, seeks to nullify elections, is fearful of progress and change that is not dictated by corporate masters and oligarchs, and which in the end is just a sad, ignant, sore loser.

NY Times: Obama Injects Himself Into Health Talks, Despite Risks:

"In pursuing his proposed overhaul of the health care system, President Obama has consistently presented himself as aloof from the legislative fray, merely offering broad principles. Prominent among them is the creation of a strong, government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers and press for lower costs.
Behind the scenes, however, Mr. Obama and his advisers have been quite active, sometimes negotiating deals with a degree of cold-eyed political realism potentially at odds with the president’s rhetoric.

Last month, for example, hospital officials were poised to appear at the White House to announce a deal limiting their industry’s share of the costs of the overhaul proposal when a wave of jitters swept through the group. Senator Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman and a party to the deal, had abruptly pulled out of the event. Was he backing away from his end of the deal?....

Details -

So Much for Democracy: The Growth of Right Wing Militias in the American Midwest:

AP reports: Militia groups with gripes against the government are regrouping across the country and could grow rapidly, according to an organization that tracks such trends.

The stress of a poor economy and a liberal administration led by a black president are among the causes for the recent rise, the report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says. Conspiracy theories about a secret Mexican plan to reclaim the Southwest are also growing amid the public debate about illegal immigration.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Perseid Showers: Got Meteors ? Tonight & Tomorrow

The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to put on a good show this week for those willing to get up in the wee hours of the morning and wait patiently for the shooting stars.
In North America, the best time to watch will be between midnight to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, but late Tuesday night and also Wednesday night could prove fruitful, weather permitting.

The Perseids are always reliable, and sometimes rather spectacular. The only things that puts a damper on the August show are bad weather or bright moonlight. Unfortunately this week, as the Perseids reach their peak Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the moon will be high in the sky, outshining the fainter meteors.

Still, skywatchers around the globe will have a good chance of spotting the brighter meteors.

Details here:

Perseid meteor showers:

Area weather forecast:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

'No More Perks': Wall Street Journal on the Backlash Against Laptop Malingering in Park Slope and Elsewhere

A few years back, before the 2000 technology bust, and the 2008 financial meltdown, I recall reading an article by musician and tech guru Jaron Lanier about how the technology wave was ushering an an era where "work" and "leisure" would be interchangeable and intertwined in such away as to be indistinguishable.

Well, the recent economic downturn may have rolled back that wave somewhat, as an article in today's Wall Street Journal points out.

Interviewing the owners of Naidre's, a popular Park Slope cafe, it seems that while the owners were delighted to have loyal customers who would open their laptops and lounge, i.e., work on their computers all day, they were scaring away business by taking up seats during the busy lunch time rush. The business also recently sealed up some power outlets since most folks feel free to plug in while they sip their coffee and check their mail and websites.

To this writer, I guess if you are at a high-end chain coffee shop, spending $4.95 for an exotic coffee concoction, use of the comfy chairs and ability to plug in seems like a "value added" service to the customer and a cost of doing business to the corporate owners. But in smaller shops and cafes in this downturn, even spending a buck and a half or two dollars for a coffee, and then nursing it for 3 or four hours while you avail yourselves of the facilities, could cut into the small business owners' bottom line.

There is definitely a divide, between salaryfolks who are locked into our office and home tracks, and those folks who may not have a traditional job, and depend on the public space, including cafes, as a means of getting out of the house to do their freelance work, to conduct business meetings with other freelancers, or just to meet friends and colleagues in a public, social sphere. But it seems that the economic downturn is putting pressure on small business owners, who have no choice but to put pressure on customers who linger too long without spending enough money.

Full WSJ article by Erica Alini here:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"Charles Schumer, Senator and Hegemon": NY Observer

Brooklyn, Washington -- and America's-- own, Senator Charles Schumer. Since the Senator's strong showing in the Capitol is so important to New Yorkers are large, for the Democrats, and for the success of the current administration and thr country, one can only say: "Ad astra." Although, given the complexities of politics within NYS and nationally, Per Aspera ad astra (to the stars through difficulties) might be closer the the truth.

Jason Horowitz's very interesting article in the NY Observer here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Step right up and get your Apocalypse here: SLATE: "The End of America" Generator

Apocalypse (Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις Apokálypsis; "lifting of the veil" or "revelation") is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind. Today the term is often used to refer to the end of the world, which may be a shortening of the phrase apokalupsis eschaton which literally means "revelation at the end of the æon, or age". In the holy book of the Christians, the Bible, the term apocalypse refers to a revelation believed by Christians to be of their God's will. has taken all the worry out of America' future by listing every possible scenario for the demise of America, from the plausible to the ridiculous. Allegedly based on reports and studies, this could really give one something to bite fingernails over.

Roubini: Recession won't end until year-end (but its looking like it will end)

Rebecca Keenan of Bloomberg News reports that Dark Side Guru Nouriel Roubini sees, in to what to this blog is a classic case of the glass half empty/half full, that, while we are still in a recession, the crisis may be abating as it is possible that, while the recession won't end until the end of the year, there appears to be hope that it WILL BE ENDING, so there is hope there. To DITHOB, with the Clunker Deals (which, ironically, are just a retail form of tax refund), the talk of Health Care Reform, and the continuing right wing hostility to President Obama,44 must be doing something right, so there appears to be hope that things will move in the right direction at a faster pace now.

Ironically, the GOP reports that they don't support the clunker deals, but they won't block the effort to re-fund it. One GOP spoilsport indicated "If you dropped money from the sky, people would be happy with that, too." Well, isn't that just what a tax cut, so favored by the late and unlamented Bush administration, truly is? Oh well, between the GOP merry-go-round and the latest posters of 44 as "the Joker," it seems clear that the GOP have nothing further to offer at the national level, so they will continue to stand in the aisles shuffling their feet. As long as they don't stand in the doorways and block up the halls. Let the current administration do its thing for awhile, until we see if it is working. If not, the GOP will certainly have a reasonable shot at recovering the White House in the future. That, thank goodness, is the American Way.

--Brooklyn Beat

From Bloomberg:

Aug. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The global economy is still in a recession that won’t end until the end of the year, said Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who predicted the global financial crisis.

“There is now potentially light at the end of the tunnel,” Roubini said today at the Diggers and Dealers mining conference in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. Roubini was dubbed Dr. Doom for predicting the crisis. “I don’t think this recession will be over until the end of the year.”

Roubini, chairman of Roubini Global Economics and a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, predicted on July 23 that the global economy will begin recovering near the end of 2009 before possibly dropping back into a recession by late 2010 or 2011 because of rising government debt, higher oil prices and a lack of job growth.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday the most severe recession in the U.S. in at least five decades may be ending and growth may resume at a rate faster than most economists foresee.

The U.S. economy is likely to grow about 1 percent in the next two years, less than the 3 percent “trend,” Roubini said last month. President Barack Obama said on July 30 the U.S. may be seeing the beginning of the end of the recession.

The global economy will contract 1.4 percent this year, deeper than forecast in April, and a sustained recovery from the worst recession since World War II may be a year away, the International Monetary Fund said July 8.

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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