Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different: Sampling Durian, "The King of Fruits"

"This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses." - Alfred Russel Wallace, naturalist

How many times do you have a chance to sample a food -- actually a natural fruit, not a cooked item--that is completely differnet and out of one's experience.

We were at BAM watching Noah Baumbach's excellent GREENBERG when one of my daughters sent me a text asking whether she should buy a durian fruit which she encountered on her stroll through Chinatown. Why not? The Q train was messed up so we ended up picking our girls up on FOrt Hamilton Parkway in the 60s. She had the durian, which had already been removed from its thick and spiky skin at the greengorcer. She had it in a plastic container in a plastic bag. When we got it home it was left on a table o n the deck in our yard. I decided to give it a try.

To give you an idea:  In-season durians can be found in mainstream Japanese supermarkets while, in the West, they are sold mainly by Asian markets.

Sign forbidding durians on Singapore's Mass Rapid TransitThe unusual flavour and odour of the fruit have prompted many people to express diverse and passionate views ranging from deep appreciation to intense disgust. Writing in 1856, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace provides a much-quoted description of the flavour of the durian:

“ The five cells are silky-white within, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-coloured pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience. ... as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed. ”

Perhaps, but how does one even approach sampling a fruit that Wallace cautions that "the smell of the ripe fruit is certainly at first disagreeable",and for which later descriptions by westerners are more graphic. British novelist Anthony Burgess writes that eating durian is "like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory." Chef Andrew Zimmern compares the taste to "completely rotten, mushy onions." Anthony Bourdain, a lover of durian, relates his encounter with the fruit as thus: "Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother." Travel and food writer Richard Sterling “ ... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.”

Other comparisons have been made with the civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray and used surgical swabs. The wide range of descriptions for the odour of durian may have a great deal to do with the variability of durian odour itself. Durians from different species or clones can have significantly different aromas; for example, red durian (D. dulcis) has a deep caramel flavour with a turpentine odour while red-fleshed durian (D. graveolens) emits a fragrance of roasted almonds. Among the varieties of D. zibethinus, Thai varieties are sweeter in flavour and less odourous than Malay ones. The degree of ripeness has an effect on the flavour as well. Three scientific analyses of the composition of durian aroma — from 1972, 1980, and 1995 — each found a mix of volatile compounds including esters, ketones, and different sulphur compounds, with no agreement on which may be primarily responsible for the distinctive odour.

My expereicne with Durian: After having a few sips of merlot, I grabbed a pair of chopsticks a nd headed out to the deck, accompanied by my smirking daughter. "Everything smells of  durian!"shekept commenting. I opened the container, trying not to inhale the odor -- uh, er - the aroma of this messy looking fruit.

I picked at it a bit with the chopsticks and considered it carefully. Slimy in appearance,but in the mango or papaya family. Definitely a fruit, not a meat or fungus or seafood. Maneuvering it in the air, I  finally opened  wide and  began chewing on a piece. It was sweetish, a faint citrus, almost refreshing for a moment, with a metallic aftertaste, but shifitng quickly into a very complex, organic flavor. The key here is complex and unlike anything else I had ever eaten. Not disgusting as the commentary suggests but rich, creamy and completely different. Clearly a fruit, but so different to such an extent that it would seem to belong to another class of foods altogether. One that we may not be very comfortable with. Like being at the dentist, having a tooth drilled, and, though you aren't feeling pain, but there is always that anticipation of pain, the durian at first bite doesn't taste awful, just strange, but with the anticipation that after further mastication it could taste just too different to tolerate.

More on Durian here

-- Brooklyn Beat

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hunting Higgs: Large Hadron Collider Fires Up Again

The Higgs Boson

The Large Hadron Collider, at long last, is online and cooking. 

NY TIMES: The soundless blooming of proton explosions was accompanied by the hoots and applause of scientists crowded into control rooms at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which built the collider. The relief spread to bleary gatherings of particle physicists all around the world, who have collectively staked the future of their profession on the idea that the new collider will eventually reveal new secrets of the universe, like the identity of the dark matter that shapes the visible cosmos and the strange particle known as the “Higgs,” which is thought to imbue other particles with mass. Until now, these have been tantalizingly out of reach.

“We’re expecting some answers,” said David Politzer, a Nobel laureate at the California Institute of Technology, where refreshments in a conference room overflowing with Los Angeles-area physicists attending a midnight remote viewing included matzos, chips and pizza.

Rolf Heuer, director general of CERN, speaking from Japan, said the new collider “opens a new window of discovery and it brings, with patience, new knowledge of the universe and the microcosm. It shows what one can do in bringing forward knowledge.” He added: “It will also bring out an army of children and young people who will get into the private sector and academia.”

Link here.

Will this turn up the elusive Higgs Boson, aka "The G-d Particle"?Some have argued that there already exists potential evidence, but to date no such evidence has convinced the physics community.

In a recent preprint, it has even been suggested (and commented as "important physical news" by several websites, e.g. under the headline Higgs could reveal itself in Dark-Matter collisions by Physics World, a website supported by the British Institute of Physics) that the Higgs Boson might not only interact with the above-mentioned particles of the Standard model of particle physics, but also with the mysterious WIMPs ("weakly interacting massive particles") of the Dark matter, playing a most-important role in recent astrophysics. In this case, it is natural to augment the above Feynman diagrams by terms representing such an interaction.

In principle, a relation between the Higgs particle and the Dark matter would be "not unexpected", since, (i), the Higgs field does not directly couple to the quanta of light (i.e. the photons), while at the same time, (ii), it generates mass

In StanisÅ‚aw Lem's Solaris, a space station crew deals with an inexplicable presence of other people, including absent or deceased friends and relatives — apparently the creations of an alien phenomenon they are studying. They discover that their visitors, when killed, always return to life, even if they attempt to kill themselves. (In the novel, these "ghosts" are described as being constructed from long-range energy fields derived from bound states of neutrinos.) In Steven Soderbergh's 2002 film adaptation, the script has a reference to Higgs bosons, absent in the original: "So, if we created a negative Higgs field, and bombarded them with a stream of Higgs anti-bosons, they might disintegrate."

In Robert J. Sawyer's Flashforward, an experiment at CERN to find the Higgs particle causes the consciousness of the entire human race to be sent twenty-one years into the future.

The current news reflects numerous starts and restarts for the LHC. What news next on the hunt for the Higgs Boson?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

First Buds on the Japanese Cherry

On our way to drop one of our girls at the Brooklyn  Museum, we saw blossoms on a tree bordering the Botanic Gardens. Here at home, hard to believe it was only a few weeks ago that we weathered heavy nsow, hurricane-force winds and rain.  We saw the first crocus on St. Patrick's Day. Today, as March wanes, the first red buds appeared on the cherry tree on our court. After a tough winter, Spring is surely here.

Before the Rising is Done: Pre-Passover Days

Most of the Passover shopping is done. Before getting done with the pre-Passover clean up, where we rid the kitchen of all of the things we will forgo for the week starting tomorrow evening, we've been going through the pantry and freezer using up breadstuff. Brunch today featured a round-the-world sampling of stuff that we won't be having for a week, including Indian paratha bread,delicious multi-grain pan loaf, home made cranberry sunflower scones, spanakopita, mini-vege egg rolls, etc. Soon we will be getting up close and personal with the non-leaavened way of life. Passover, like spring, is a time of reflection and change on the level of daily life. The temporary change from bread and leavening is not so much a deprivation (at least for the first few days) as it is a way to be reminded of freedom and its roots in movement, sacrifice, transition and choices.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Way Down Under: Spring in the Antarctic

Imagine leaving the modern, civilized world as we know it, and traveling down to Antarctica to live and work there for months at a time, in the equivalent of a scientific outpost on another, barren planet. Well, that is the life of vagabond Ken Klassy, that he writes about in his blog, Ken's AntarctiKen .

Ken's profile: am a Systems Administrator currently working at the McMurdo Research facility on Ross Island Antarctica. While my paycheck travels through several different subcontractors, it originates with the National Science Foundation. I spend 8 months a year enduring the winters of Antarctica. (no, its not that exciting… don’t believe everything you see on TV) While we do get to experience the occasional Condition 1 storm putting temps down around -70 ambient and windchill below -100 for the most part is pretty tolerable.

Photography is my main hobby when not at work. While in Antarctica I enjoy shooting auroras, stars, and the occasional iridium flare. All that is made possible by the orbital patterns of Earth plunging most of Antarctica into darkness for 3-5 months a year depending on your location. The Sun coming back in August brings out the Nacreous clouds which are always a great show. Do a search on Polar Stratospheric or Nacreous clouds to learn more about these clouds. They deal with the depletion of Ozone (natural depletion! not caused by global warming or any other THEORY!) Natures own acid clouds.

See some of Ken's amazing Antarctic photos here

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hot! Hot! Hot! Chili Peppers in the Blistering Sun...

As Jules Verne in his novel "From Earth to the Moon" presented the eternal conflict between the weaponmakers and the armor-makers, are we now looking at the next phase -- the battle between the chili makers and the chutney-makers?
That could be next as the Indian military seeks to weaponize world's hottest chili:

"The bhut jolokia was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's spiciest chili. It is grown and eaten in India's northeast for its taste, as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the crippling summer heat.

It has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000.

"The chili grenade has been found fit for use after trials in Indian defense laboratories, a fact confirmed by scientists at the Defense Research and Development Organization," Col. R. Kalia, a defense spokesman in the northeastern state of Assam, told The Associated Press."

U.S. 2010 Census Employment Opportunities

U.S. CENSUS is Hiring Again for positions that start in 2010!
They are recruiting for:
Census Takers
Crew Leaders
Crew Leader Assistants
Recruiting Assistants
Census Clerks

Positions can be full or part-time depending upon need and hourly pay ranges from approximately $14.00 per hour to over $20.00 per hour depending upon position. Earn Good Pay! Get Paid Weekly! Work Flexible Hours! Receive Paid Training!

To be eligible all applicants must:
Be at least 18 years old.
Pass the required written test administered by US Census.

(866) 861-2010 or (347) 967-4020
Monday-Friday: 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Saturday & Sunday: 11:00 AM-7:00 PM

For more information visit: US Census Bureau needs local residents for a variety of exciting opportunities, including interviewing, office administration, and supervision. A large part of these jobs involve dealing with the public. Most of the jobs in the field require you to locate and interview households. The information you collect is confidential and must NOT be disclosed to anyone who has not sworn to protect Census Bureau information.

Most jobs will be short term and ALL jobs will be temporary (You may be called for multiple assignments depending on your performance). Your most productive hours will vary based on the type of census operation. For operations that require contact with the public to complete interviews, your availability to work when people are home is critical. The late afternoon, evening, and weekend hours are most productive times to work on these operations, daylight hours are required for some.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dems Victorious in an Epic Battle Over Health Care: You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine

"I just can’t do what I done before,
I just can’t beg you anymore.
I’m gonna let you pass
And I’ll go last.
Then time will tell just who fell
And who’s been left behind,
When you go your way and I go mine."

The Democratic Party, seeking reform, reached the limit of its willingness to compromise and passed the Health Care Reform Bill in Congress by a 219-212 margin.

From the NY TIMES:
-The health care bill would require most Americans to have health insurance, would add 16 million people to the Medicaid rolls and would subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people, at a cost to the government of $938 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office said.
-The bill would require many employers to offer coverage to employees or pay a penalty. Each state would set up a marketplace, or exchange, where consumers without such coverage could shop for insurance meeting federal standards.
-The budget office estimates that the bill would provide coverage to 32 million uninsured people, but still leave 23 million uninsured in 2019. One-third of those remaining uninsured would be illegal immigrants.
-The new costs, according to the budget office, would be more than offset by savings in Medicare and by new taxes and fees, including a tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans and a tax on the investment income of the most affluent Americans.
-Cost estimates by the budget office, showing that the bill would reduce federal budget deficits by $143 billion in the next 10 years, persuaded some fiscally conservative Democrats to vote for the bill.
-Democrats said Americans would embrace the bill when they saw its benefits, including some provisions that take effect later this year.

Paul Krugman: 'Fear Strikes Out': "The day before Sunday’s health care vote, President Obama gave an unscripted talk to House Democrats. Near the end, he spoke about why his party should pass reform: “Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made ... And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.”

"And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation."

"I’d argue that Mr. Gingrich is wrong about that: proposals to guarantee health insurance are often controversial before they go into effect — Ronald Reagan famously argued that Medicare would mean the end of American freedom — but always popular once enacted."

"But that’s not the point I want to make today. Instead, I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality? (Actually, we know who: the people at the Tea Party protest who hurled racial epithets at Democratic members of Congress on the eve of the vote.) "  Full article here

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How You Like Me Now? by The Heavy ---Neo Soul Continues to Break Through

The Heavy
The House That Dirt Built by The Heavy

Granted, I'm a little slow on the uptake. But now, can't get it out of my head. I've been a bit busy but still the tune in the Kia ad  that debuted at the Super Bowl , and percolates around the web is everywhere, engrained in my consciousness. It  punches through the rock  n funk and soul wall, like high explosive, right to the core. A new classic, "How You Like Me Now?" by the British group The Heavy. The core of the group, guitarist Dan Taylor and vocalist Kelvin Swaby, became friends in 1990 when they bonded over vintage R&B and Jim Jarmusch films.The band also includes drummer Chris Ellul, bassist Spencer Page, and keyboardist Hannah Collins. Their newest release is "The House That Dirt Built"

A couple of months back, the group appeared on David Letterman featuring the Dap Kings' horn section and blew the roof off of the place. Swaby's vocals and the groups' hard-charging rhythm had the obvious effect, so much so that Letterman invited the band to continue the song in an unprecedented encore at the end of the show. If you want to see The Heavy in action, check out the Letterman video plus the encore (which includes Swaby's call and response with Paul Shaeffer and David Letterman. Viewing it, post-Leno and post-Conan, made me really glad that Letterman remains part of the Late Night mix. Maybe his recent brush with celebrity ignominy gave him a real feeling for soul and the blues. Who knows. But, anyway,  happily for us, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Amy Winehouse, and now The Heavy, British and American soul worlds collide in some powerful new music. You've gotta see this lengthy clip if you haven't caught it already.  It will get you in a powerful groove. Also, check out   the band's website

Plus here is an MTV blog and Q&A on the band's recording session, where else, in Brooklyn, in Bushwick's Vibromonk Studio

Visions of the Insidious Commercial

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Has Sprung, For Now, During the Week of Falling Wood

Yesterday evening, a cool Checker Cab was parked on Chestnut Avenue, near Avenue M. later. This is the vicinity of the original Vitagraph Studios. Nearby, scenes from films like "Hey Pop" and "Buzzin’ Around," starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, were filmed on streets in Midwood.Warner Bros. purchased the studio in the 1920s, using it for short subjects, and moved the studio operation to Hollywood in 1939. The building is now home to the Shulamith Yeshiva School for Girls, but a large smokestack bearing the name Vitagraph is still on the property, visible from the BMT Subway line, as are two brick walls from the original studio. Many Vitagraph Employees resided within the community. After Warner Bros. vacated the land (in the late 1960s-early 1970s), it remained vacant till the Shulamith School purchased the property years later. The Vitagraph Studios were more recently featured in a New York Times Article (2007), and in the PBS, WNET-13 TV Special 'A Walk Through Brooklyn,' hosted by David Hartman and historian Barry Lewis. Old historic photographs of the studio show that part of it also existed across the Brighton line subway tracks where Edward R. Murrow High School now stands. More here on Midwood

Loggers ply their trade in my backyard in Fiske Terrace. The spruce was about 35 feet long (formerly 35 feet tall.) . It was an eventful week, arborially speaking.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Left: St. Patrick. Center: The Harp of Erin, traditional symbol of Ireland.
Right: The 343, FDNY Marchers in Memory of Firefighters Who Perished on 9/11

Saint Patrick's Day Worldwide here

New York City Saint Patrick's Day Parade Official Website

Sailing To Byzantium by William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
---Those dying generations---at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

William Butler Yeats

A sampling of Brooklyn Quaff Stops

Brazen Head Cobble Hill
Double Windsor
Pete's / Waterfront Ale House
Hank's Saloon

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

'Big Fat Moon Is Gonna Shine Like a Spoon": Bob Dylan at Osaka Japan

Well, it was raining there too. Angrysoba reports on the Bob Dylan concert in Osaka, Japan on March 15, 2010. Gems included: "Watching the River Flow," "Senor," and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight."
"What on Earth is he Playing?" Indeed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tree Down Blues

Roots unearthed.
Our dog surveys the scene.

We didn't ignore the storm Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn; as always, in Flatbush, we were in the middle of it. We returned home from the Charles Addams' exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York to have our daughter announce "The Tree fell!"

Our 30 foot pine, evergreen and lovely, had uprooted and toppled over. I had concerns and am surprised it had survived the recent February snowstorm, which had dumped tons of wet snow on its branches, soaking the ground. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and there was no substantial damage, but it took out the telephone and internet lines. With cell phones, the house phone out not such a big deal, but the internet has our kids in crisis mode for the moment. As Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn sympathized to me, "No internet? A tragedy!"

Our tree guys in Staten Island have enough to deal with, so we, and our immediate neighbors, whose tree also toppled over,  resting precariously on another of their trees, are working at getting a 2 for 1 deal with  some loggers. On east 17th and Glenwood, a tree is blocking the street, and another tree down near Foster Avenue. A huge tree went down on Cortelyou Road as well, plus a lot of other collateral damage in the neighborhood.

We will miss our beautiful tree, but a question remains:  Was this just a rough winter, or Global Warming here we come? To be continued....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

She Wore Scarlet Begonias: Art, Commerce and the Grateful Dead

Strategic Improvisation, in music and business, was at the core of the Grateful Dead's long-time professional, creative and business success. That is the interesting thesis in an article in the Atlantic Monthly that hits the stands at the same as the opening of the exhibit at the NY Historical Society from the new Grateful Dead Archives at the University of California at Santa Cruz. 

My impression was that the Dead and their circle were very pragmatic and “seat of their pants” in that good old American way of non-professionally educated, non-tutored, self-taught business practitioners . “It” all just worked because they were bright/creative/aware enough people who worked hard and were able to make good decisions on business as well as music.. So now someone is going to try to codify that into a business plan or practice. The thing is, probably if you follow it as a “plan” as opposed to proceeding instinctually and intuitively, you won’t have the same great results….

At the same time, I recall reading that Jerry Garcia had a complex view about Labor-Management..Once there was some kind of a protest of the lighting techs in 1969 at some theater in SF, and the techs threw up a picket line and Jerry refused to cross the picket line because his grandmother was a founder of the Laundry Workers Union in SF and believed in organized labor…when someone asked him why he couldn’t play he said “My grandmother” because “she would kill him if she knew he had ever crossed a picket line”…Bill Graham on the other hand probably would have just punched out the strikers and thrown them out.

The Grateful Dead live on, in blessed memory and in music files, CDs, LPs, 45s, and homemade cassettes and audio tape throughout the land and have reconnected with the zeitgeist in NYC and beyond.

Some cool links:

The Grateful Dead Archives at the NY Historical Society link here

The Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California Santa Cruz link here

The Atlantic Magazine: 'Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead'

--Brooklyn Beat

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

R. Crumb "Book of Genesis" at David Zwirner Gallery

Robert Crumb, visionary cartoonist and illustrator extraordinaire, produced 207 individual works of pen and ink on paper for his now landmark The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb (W.W. Norton), published in October 2009. Five years in the making and released to instant critical acclaim, the eagerly awaited book topped many bestseller lists, including #1 on the New York Times: Graphic Books list.

His original drawings are on display in an exhibit  on "R. CRUMB: The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis," from March 4 – April 24, 2010.

David Zwirner gallery at 519 West 19th Street, New York NY 10011, Tel: 212-727-2070;

From Creation to the death of Joseph, Crumb chronicles all fifty chapters of Genesis in an astonishing tapestry of masterly detail and storytelling, rendered frame by frame in meticulous comic book fashion. With a literal interpretation primarily assembled from translations of Robert Alter and the King James Bible, Crumb reintroduces us to the bountiful tree lined garden of Adam and Eve, the massive ark of Noah with beasts of every kind, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by brimstone and fire that rained from the heavens, and the Egypt of the Pharaoh, where Joseph’s embalmed body is carried in a coffin, in a scene as elegiac as any in Genesis. Using clues from the text and peeling away the theological and scholarly versions that have often obscured the Bible’s most dramatic stories, Crumb fleshes out a parade of Biblical originals: from the serpent in Eden, as a humanoid reptile; to Abraham’s wife Sarah, more fetching than most woman at 90; to God himself, patriarchal and white-bearded.

Robert Crumb (born 1943, Philadelphia) began drawing comics as a young boy. In the late 1960s he emerged as the leading figure in the underground comic movement. Since then, his influence has been immeasurable, from the first issue of Zap Comix in 1968; to his most recognized comic, Keep on Truckin’, which became a widely distributed fixture of pop culture in the late 1970s; from the adventures of his notorious characters Devil Girl, Fritz the Cat, and Mr. Natural; to being the subject of Terry Zwigoff’s 1995 documentary, Crumb.

Crumb was recently the focus of a touring solo exhibition, R. Crumb’s Underground, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, California (2007), which then traveled to the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (both 2008), the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, and the Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana, California (both 2009). Crumb has had one-man exhibitions at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2005) and the Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany (2004). The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis was recently on view at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, California, and following David Zwirner it will travel to the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon (June - September 2010).

The artist currently lives in the south of France with his wife, Aline Kominsky Crumb, the American comic book artist known for her autobiographical stories.

A NY Magazine Slide show of R. Crumb's "Book of Genesis"

Monday, March 8, 2010

Zach Shaves His Beard; But What About Babies in Bars?

Brooklyn resident (and, according to his monologue on SNL, a self-described Brooklyn hater -- how cool is that) Zach Galifianakis hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend and did his thing.  Between the pentulitmate skit and the show's closing, ZG appeared with beard, then sans beard, and then with beard again.  Web discussion, which also gaved some mixed reaction on the Humor Quotient of the overall show,  debated whether he in fact actually shaved or not, or was wearing a fake beard for the entire show, or wore a prosthesis over his beard for the close. SNL and Hulu have now revealed that the star of  The Hangover, Visioneers, Hangover 2, HBO's Brooklyn-based "Bored to Death" and other mirthful projects did in fact shave off his beard before the show ended, appearing at the closing with a fake beard.  Hulu reveals all:

Ain't it cool..And, with all of the recent chatter about babies in bars, Zach would be the perfect new Brooklyn rez to provide feedback on that.  Zach is cool.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

When Tigers Fight,It is the Grass that Suffers: Cablevi$ion & WAB¢-TV Battle Shuts Out Oscars for Some NYers

After a few days of Orwellian-Outer Limits cable hijacking ("Do not attempt to touch your TV.We will control your horizontal") where your default channel on start up was channel 1999, presenting a constant barrage of  anti-ABC propaganda, countered by print and media ads from WABC with their own agit prop, WABC TV is finally off the air.  Although I am a big fan of cinema I am not a big Academy Awards show watcher. At the point, when  I was maybe 10, and I realized that I was never going to there or a part of that scene, the voyeuristic/celebrity/fan quality of it embarrased me a little, and  while I will tune in, I am more likely to watch the whole Super Bowl or sit through the entire World Series, even though I am not a devoted sports fan, than sit through the Oscars.

Anyway, Cablevision may be right, who wants to pay more, or then  again maybe it is ABC-TV, since Cablevision already charges enough  and it appears to be a very lucrative enterprise. I do resent being thrown into the middle of this, between broadcasters and cable companies. No matter what, cable costs will continue to rise, whether the money is going into the pockets of the Dolan Family or ABC stockholders.

What this suggests perhaps is that Cable should be more competitive and we should be able to choose between Time Warner and Cablevision and whoever else chooses to get into the game. Sure, the Cable companies own and maintain the cable, and the cable boxes, that is their industry, but perhaps ultimately that monopoly will be usurped. As Cablevision's propaganda continues to report, we can't watch the Oscars on Cablevision, but we can watch it on Hulu or other places on the internet.

Ironically, perhaps Cablevision and ABC are offering an unwitting harbinger for the future, where all media will be available through the internet, or some new wireless TV/computer hybrid. Yes, as Chairman Mao may have said, when tigers fight it is the grass that suffers. Cablevision has already dropped the Food Network and HGTV as  result of  a battle over programming fees in January, so customers are receiving a diminished services, although our fees aren't dropping. But perhaps as a result of this latest battle, while we will always pay for our media services, the battleground may shift and new alternatives may arise that will be eagerly embraced by customers who coninue to pay and pay and pay for services, while the corporations continue to enrich themselves, and place us in the middle while they are unable to reasonable settle their corporate wars. After all, that competition and opportunity, and not "credit default swaps," represent the true beauty of free enterprise.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Democracy and Character: Political Musings Before the Weekend

Daily News reports on a poll that shows that Governor Patterson's public support is in "freefall" as fewer than half of New Yorkers want him to finish out his term.

At the same time, an article on "Journal of the Plague Year" a book about the administration and resignation of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, by his long-time aide and friend Lloyd Constantine:

In the Constantine book, he notes that he and the Governor's wife, Silda Spitzer, were the only members of the inner circle who advised Mr. Spitzer not to resign, to sit out the conflict and turmoil, and not leave office unless legally compelled.

The issue with all of the above, with David Patterson as with Mr. Spitzer and for that matter Congresman Charles Rangel, seems to be a fundamental one: the meaning of democracy and elections.

We are in an era of billionaires and millionaires self-financing their campaigns at every level. Then again, elected officials are being driven from office by the pressures created by media and internet coverage of personal and political crises.  Although Gov. Patterson is presented as heedless of the public outcry, and while he may well be guilty of  applying pressure on a victim of domestic violence to avoid the political fallout, his guilt has not yet been formally proven or documented and neither he has been indicted or charged with any crime.

Arguably, from a pragmatic level, Mr. Spitzer may have been unable to continue to manage his administration  with the news cycle insanity and folly that followed his being exposed as "Client 9."  Nevertheless, that 21st century nexus of money and media seems to have reached its apotheosis. Just as the democratic freedoms we enjoy likely do make us easier targets to the terrorists, enemies and criminals who seek to undermine and destroy us, is it also likely that our first amendment freedoms are undermining our electoral system?  It is a complex, enigmatic problem, perhaps as further reflected in the Supreme Court's recent endorsement of the loosening of corporate contributions and funding of political campaigns.  The daily countdown and newspaper headlines fit in so neatly with the movement of the 24 hour newscycle. Sure, State Senator Hiram Montserrat held out and was removed from office. But aside from his apparent personal demons and malfeasance, he does have the gumption to re-run for his vacated seat, let democracy sort it out. Whether Gov. Patterson will be the next NYS official to weather the pressures of the media onslaught, and await the outcome of the investigation before resigning, despite the pressure, remains to be seen. You can't get on an elevator in this town without someone musing on "will he resign today?"

But think about it from a constitutional perspective: having the fortitude to remain in office, despite the headlines, the blogs and mainstream media coverage, and awaiting the outcome of an investigation, even knowing that the outcome may be eventual resignation or impeachment anyway? That might be a real display of character.

-Brooklyn Beat

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Left Coast Politics: Run, Jerry Brown, Run

Jerry Brown today (with Gov. Schwarzenegger)

Tabbed as “Governor Moonbeam” by out-of-state (Chicago) columnist Mike Royko (an appelation that Royko later recanted), because of his proposal back in the 1970s that California have a stationary communications satellite orbit over the state for emergency communications service (an idea that was later implemented), Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown, remains a visionary, who thrives on viewing government, politics , social and economic issues from “out of the box.”

And now, at 71, after a long career in California politics, currently serving as State Attorney General, Brown has announced his candidacy to replace the current, term-limited incumbent, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unopposed in his own party, with wealthy, but lesser known rivals, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, staking out the GOPs turf, his chances at re-election to a 3rd term, may not be so far-fetched.

Brown’s colorful personal life (a Catholic and Zen practitioner), which included sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the Governor’s mansion and dating rock star Linda Ronstadt, is tangent with his creative and out-of-the-box political and cultural views, with pithy and pungent quotes such as:

"Prisons don't rehabilitate, they don't punish, they don't protect, so what the hell do they do?”

"The government is becoming the family of last resort”

"Multinational corporations do control. They control the politicians. They control the media. They control the pattern of consumption, entertainment, thinking. They're destroying the planet and laying the foundation for violent outbursts and racial division.”

"Inaction may be the biggest form of action.”

Video: Former Gov. Jerry Brown's announcement of his new election bid

Michael Rothfeld in the LA Times reports that “Saying the antidote to California's problems is "someone with an insider's knowledge but an outsider's mind," Jerry Brown, the Democratic state attorney general, announced his candidacy for governor Tuesday in a video on his website.

"Our state is in serious trouble, and the next governor must have the preparation and the knowledge and the know-how to get California working again," Brown, 71, said in the taped message. "That's what I offer."

Brown, who was the state's governor from 1975 to 1983, attempted to contrast himself with his Republican opponents, particularly Meg Whitman, the former EBay chief who has never held public office. He also sought to use voters' frustration with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former actor who came into office in the 2003 recall, to argue against repeating that pattern with Whitman or one-term state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

"Some people say that if you've been around the process, you can't handle the job, that we need to go out and find an outsider who knows virtually nothing about state government," said Brown, who has also been California secretary of state and Oakland mayor. "Well, we tried that, and it doesn't work. We found out that not knowing is not good."

Brown was light on specifics, and the ideas he offered were not so different from what Republicans are saying. He vowed that, "in this time of recession . . . there will be no new taxes, unless you the people vote for them" -- leaving open the possibility of more taxes when the economy mends.

Like Whitman and Poizner, he called for smaller government and more power for local officials and school districts. And he said he would try to ease Sacramento's "partisan paralysis."

Even before Brown announced, Whitman released a "Voter's Guide to Jerry Brown" with a list of "fiscal failures" from his record on taxes and spending. In a statement, she contrasted her private-sector experience with Brown's "40-year career in politics which has resulted in a trail of failed experiments, undelivered promises, big government spending and higher taxes."

Poizner said the state needs "bold, new conservative solutions" and "cannot fall prey to the same high-tax policies and special interest-run government that has led our state into a fiscal disaster."

One interesting comment from the web:

A former two-term governor who disappointed the left and right by being a free thinker, left the state with one of its largest budget surpluses (without raising taxes to do it), and has the independence of not having higher aspirations that will allow him to stand up to legislators and make hard choices in balancing the budget--who'd want that? I don't understand people who think a CEO is the solution to government's problems. Would you select a politician to right a flagging corporation?

LA TIMES link here

More on the life and politics of Jerry Brown  

Coda:  Although California is facing massive economic problems, whether worse or just a bit further along than New York, at least for their elections, compared to New York,  this seems to be shaping up as a question of candidates' politics and ideas, and not whether the candidates are too corrupt to run. Jerry Brown's candidacy,whether he is successful or not, reflects a promise of creative and visionary politics: Pragmatism, personal and political philosophies and the concept of public service, not just self-aggrandisement or pocket lining. Refreshing.
--Brooklyn Beat

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

NASA: "Chile Quake Likely Shifted the Earth's Axis and Shortened The Day"

Things seem a bit off-kilter?

Bloomberg News reports that "The earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile on Feb. 27 probably shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the day, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist said. " 

“The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second),” Gross, said today in an e-mailed reply to questions. “The axis about which the Earth’s mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches).”

The enormous and complex shifting of the tectonic plates that caused the Chile earthquake have unimaginably powerful impact on the planet.

Bloomberg: “What definitely the earthquake has done is made the Earth ring like a bell,” Rietbrock said. The magnitude 9.1 Sumatran in 2004 that generated an Indian Ocean tsunami shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds and shifted the axis by about 2.3 milliarcseconds, Gross said.
"The changes happen on the day and then carry on “forever,” Benjamin Fong Chao, dean of Earth Sciences of the National Central University in Taiwan, said in an e-mail."

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