Friday, October 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

G-d bless us, Every One!

--Brooklyn Beat

Friday, October 23, 2009

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

Above, Soupy Sales (Milton Supman)

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

Above, Soupy Sales and Clyde Adler as White Fang.

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

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

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

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

NY Times Obit [Link here]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

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

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

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

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

The full article from New Times Phoenix here.

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

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

--Brooklyn Beat

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Empire Burlesque: America Noir, Future-Style

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

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

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

Philip K. Dick Official Site. Link here

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

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

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

Time to Extend Unemployment Benefits? Link here.

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

Europe 'worried about weak dollar'? Link here

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

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

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

Transience & Impermanence: Waste Nothing

Photo by Tony Napoli

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

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

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

--Brooklyn Beat

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tracy Morgan Dishes on "Tracy Morgan"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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

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

The Reverend Billy, above, in a familiar pose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next and final debate is on October 27.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

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

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

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

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

An interesting article in today's NY Times:

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

Analysis, meanings and interpretations [Link here ]

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Changing Economic Order

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

The end of the supremacy of the Yankee Dollar ?

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

Monday, October 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Harvest Moon Over Brooklyn:October 4, 2009

Moonstruck over Flatbush, October 4, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia on the Harvest Moon:

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

Saturday, October 3, 2009

On Broadway

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

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

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