Friday, November 20, 2009

"Complaint-Free Wednesday" Before Thanksgiving: Highs, Lows and Somewhere In-Between

Well, clearly Giving Thanks on the last Thursday in November may not be enough. A Congressman has proposed legislation making the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a complaint free day, noting that chronic complaining impacts health, wealth, career advancement and, I would add, the "Pursuit of Happiness." See the link with full story here.

Along with the report on the recently unveiled "Optimism" Metrocard in today's NY Times,the work of artist Reid Seifer, it may in fact be the time to hitch up one's britches, and those who can do, and if you got 'em, smoke 'em (herbal of course) and move forward with optimism, vision and, to borrow a former Presidential slogan, "Hope." OK, Wall Street screwed up, we made some bad judgements, economically speaking, what we thought was beneficial under President Bush, in terms of cheap money and low interest rates, may have in fact not been so groovy. And our best creditors, the Chinese, are now looking at us a bit crookedly, as my late Dad would say. Are we now like Robert DeNiro as "Johnny Boy" in Mean Streets, telling Michael the loan shark (Richard Romanus) that he only goes to him to borrow because nobody else in the neighborhood will loan him money, and he knows that he can keep borrowing without having the loan called in? Of course, in Mean Streets, there is an unhappy ending. One hopes, that America pulls itself out of this economic maelstrom, despite Nouriel Roubini's predictions of continued downturn vis-a-vis continued unemployment. Perhaps Harvard Business guru Michael Porter's prescription on "Why America Needs an Economic Strategy" has some profound insights to offer.

But for the time being, maybe a bit of optimism, hope, pragmatic and visionary thinking, as opposed to glooming and dooming, couldn't hurt, and may even help.

But of course, right on the heels of "Complaint-Free Wednesday" and "Thanksgiving Thursday," comes the ill-named Black Friday, with its holiday-shopping lunacy, stampedes for flat-screen TVs, and Xbox360s, etc. So, while, sadly, consumption and shopping are what this country needs in the long run, for the short term, when it comes to the day after Thanksgiving or using the old charge card, better be careful out there...

Sorry to end the week on a queasy note. In the words of the late Allen Ginsberg:

It occurs to me that I am America./
I am talking to myself again.

--from "America" by Allen Ginsberg
from America by Allen Ginsberg or quick reference here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Election 2009

Let's guesstimate $90,000,000 spent on the campaign divided by 557,059 votes won. $161a vote. Guess Mayor Mike got off cheap.
Local election results via NY Post

GOP sweeps in NJ and Va via Drudge and Yahoo

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Washington Post Profile of Brooklyn's Patrick Gaspard, WH Political Director

The Washington Post did a profile yesterday of Brooklyn's Patrick Gaspard, currently White House Political Director for the host of heavy hitters like Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod and others who surround the Decision-Maker in Chief, President Obama.

The article notes that Mr. Gaspard, a writer of poetry and reader of Russian literature, is persevering in an impossible role based on his ability to maintain "an even temper and dry wit that have earned him the admiration of peers in Obama's inner circle."

Rather than follow the wide-reaching model of some of his predecessors -- Ken Mehlman, who would go on to chair the Republican National Committee, had the job early in the Bush administration, running the administration's politics alongside Karl Rove -- Gaspard has gone the opposite route, rarely giving media interviews, looking for substantive policy openings where the political office can be helpful and closely coordinating with the rest of the in-house experts.

"The political director, I think, really focuses as a coordinator for all these strong personalities," said [Jim] MessinaRather than follow the wide-reaching model of some of his predecessors -- Ken Mehlman, who would go on to chair the Republican National Committee, had the job early in the Bush administration, running the administration's politics alongside Karl Rove -- Gaspard has gone the opposite route, rarely giving media interviews, looking for substantive policy openings where the political office can be helpful and closely coordinating with the rest of the in-house experts.

"The political director, I think, really focuses as a coordinator for all these strong personalities," said [Jim] Messina, (Deputy WH Chief of Staff) who is inarguably one of those strong personalities. "Patrick has a personality that is such that everyone likes him and respects him. He's one of the most grounded people I've ever met."

An interesting article on the structure and politics of 44's inner circle. By the way, don't forget to vote.

Washington Post article here

Burning Daylight

Missing being witness to the end of night and
first glimpse of sunlight on the horizon.
With the changing hour this weekend,
now moving directly into day;
At this hour, morning darkness no longer drifts away
into indigo, azure and deep purples, with the crevice of night filling with a fine gold filigree. Just the crash of daylight and
a sense of already running behind.
Too early for darkness, and if I have to get up any earlier,
Too damn early for poetry
--Brooklyn Beat

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Real Story of This NYC Election Season



Photo Via

A couple of years ago I was emailed by someone identifying himself as a former NY1reporter who had left the station for allegedly making a fake phone call to "The Call," one of its programs. In his own defense, the caller had tossed around a number of anonymous gossip tidbits about other station staff. Nothing, that I recall, reflected negatively on NY1's former chief political reporter, Mr. Dominic Carter; in fact, he appeared to refer to Mr. Carter as the station's Best Reporter.

And that, too, was always my take. When I saw Dominic Carter at the first Mayoral Debate recently, he was just so professional onstage and personable in speaking with the audience, that you had to love the guy. He had just the right chemistry as the debate moderator, just as he had balancing the amusing journalistic hysteria of Gerson Borrero and Curtis Sliwa on the weekly "Political Rundown." I thought it strange recently that Mr. Borrero had become so incensed at some of Mr. Sliwa's on-camera silliness that Mr. Borrero stood and seemed to be physically challenging Mr. Sliwa to step outside and settle it.

That thought and image stayed with me, so it was absolutely bizarre when the NY Post broke the story about Dominic Carter's (to put it mildly) messy and apparently violent personal life. It is beyond a case of simple jurisprudence at this point. Like a figure from some Philip K. Dick novel, Dominic Carter has gone from speaking out, in what seemed most bizarre, against domestic violence in interview segments, to waking from some dream from which he cannot escape, and being accused of beating his wife by his wife, lying about it, trying to use his celebrity and political influence and contacts as a journalist, to escape the charges. The end runs that he and his wife have attempted to make around the resulting arrest and physical signs of domestic violence seemed to have gone from bathos to pathos and back again. One can feel sympathy for his wife, the apparent victim despite her disavowal, and disgust, pity and shock at the behavior of Mr. Carter.

Not everyone liked Dominic Carter. But he and his reporting provided a great inside look at politicians and players in NYC, and a he became a very prominent African American voice in NYC's political media. His recent book, No Momma's By, seemed, on the surface, a courageous effort at autobiography.The recent apotheosis of Mr. Carter and now his fall from grace, reflect a sad page in NY's media history. Although their stories, and denouement, are markedly different, I can only think of the analogous loss on the national level with the unexpected death of NBC journalist Tim Russert in the month's leading up to the Obama-McCain election and the selection of the first African American President. This writer will miss Mr. Carter's solid, if at times conservative, overly-judgmental and self-satisfied presence on NY1, on this and future election nights, and in the post-election period as we see what the "next" Mayor brings. The role of money and entrenched power in this imbalanced election is so profound,the election itself seems besides the point. That is why Mr. Carter seems to cast a large shadow in his absence, just as he did as a reporter on NY1. Whatever the exact truth, his life and his career are a mess and in a tail spin. Perhaps there is a message, cast in that long shadow, about ethics, truth and rightful behavior, by those in all walks of public life, who wield influence and power, mayors, elected officials, news anchors. Or tv talk show hosts.


However, while Mr Carter, in his book, seemed to offer to put it all on the table -- about his life in the projects, growing up in a dysfunctional family and how he overcame those odds -- in fact, he remained a mystery to his audience, to the folks that he interviewed, and worst of all, to himself. One can only hope that his wife, his family and of course Mr. Carter can recover, overcome, grow and find a suitable Second Act in their lives.

--Brooklyn Beat

Autumn in Brooklyn


East 17th Street in Brooklyn. Photo by TN.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 ("All Saints Day") and November 2 ("All Souls Day"). More here

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Celebrating Life: Autumn's Changing Ways


Traditional "Dia De Los Muertos"figures.


'Alloween in Flatbush. October 31, 2009. Photo by TN

Autumn's changing ways. "Seasons change with the scenery." Delights of summer and early fall slip away, replaced by the early colors, crimson, gold and ash, until finally a withering away. Verdant bloom replaced by bare limbs. Halloween, and dia de los muertos celebrated in the Latin world, are reminders of the fleeting, temporary nature of life, all life. Temporal existence, bold and ecstatic, replaced by memories and nostalgia for what has gone before.
-Brooklyn Beat

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo