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.d.cards. 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.


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