Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Stickey Wicket on East 16th Street

The objective of each team is to score more runs than the other team and to completely dismiss the other team. In one form of cricket, winning the game is achieved by scoring the most runs, even if the opposition has not been completely dismissed. In another form, it is necessary to score the most runs and dismiss the opposition in order to win the match, which would otherwise be drawn.  A cricket match is played between two teams (or sides) of eleven players each on a field of variable size and shape. The ground is grassy and is prepared by groundsmen whose jobs include fertilising, mowing, rolling and levelling the surface. Field diameters of 137–150 metres (150–160 yd) are usual.The perimeter of the field is known as the boundary and this is sometimes painted and sometimes marked by a rope that encircles the outer edge of the field. The Laws of Cricket do not specify the size or shape of the field but it is often oval – one of cricket's most famous venues is called The Oval.

On East 16th Street in Flatbush, a few young boys are playing cricket in the street, watched over by a dad. Pure Brooklyn, the kids, West Indian, South Asian and white, take turns wielding the cricket bat with great seriousness, laughing with glee as they get the occasional hit. No doubt the asphalt streets provide a stickier  wicket than a wet and drying pitch, which makes the ball'spin and bounce sharp and unpredictable. But it is a school day afternoon and the Flatbush street is far from the weekend cricket games played at Prospect Park, or Staten Island's New Dorp near Miller Field (which was a keystone to Joseph O'Neill's wonderful novel, Netherland). Here you can imagine the game that may have been played  in British 18th century New York. Now, played again widely in the city, taught by immigrant kids to their friends,not just a weekend team sport with crisp and gleaming white uniforms on the fields of Prospect Park, but now, also a street game and urban sport, evolving on the streets of Brooklyn.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Coda: Reflection on "The Lindsay Era" in NYC (aka "Fun City")

 --Lindsay Campaign Sticker
It was a return to another era in NYC politics at the Museum of City of New York Tuesday night when politicians, journalists and historians gathered to assess the meaning, the impact and the successes and failures of the administration of John Vliet Lindsay, 103rd Mayor of the City of New York from 1966-1973.  Mayor Lindsay (or “Lindslee” as he was chided by many disaffected New Yorkers) came in brimming with ideas, energy and enthusiasm, and cadres of young activists seeking to revitalize the political scene and New York City under his leadership.   The event was moderated by Sam Roberts of the New York Times (and editor of the companion volume to the new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, “America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York.”)  Roberts opened the symposium by asking to identify audience members who had worked in the Lindsay administration: a forest of hands filled the air.  This lent a certain clubby quality to the event.  In addition, the panel included former Congressman Major Owens, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who held positions in the administration and Jay Kriegel, Mr. Lindsay’s Chief of Staff.   They were all vocally supportive of the energy and vision of Mr. Lindsay’s mayoralty, acknowledging that the strikes and widespread political unrest were circumstances beyond his control that may have played a role in derailing many of the administration’s efforts at implementing new ideas.  Jerry Kretchmer, former Manhattan Assemblyman, campaign aide to Robert F. Kennedy and environmental commissioner for the Mayor, in the audience, took umbrage with suggestions that it was a failed administration. They took risks, made many advances, but were hobbled by the political climate, the unions, and other issues beyond their control. But at least they were willing to try new things.
Lest it devolve into a hagiography, journalists Gabe Pressman, Pete Hamill and Jeff Greenfield, and especially author and U. Massachusetts professor Vincent Cannato, added some much needed brio to the discussion, taking a more balanced view on the Lindsay administration, pointing out the unique strengths of the activist, media-genic Mayor and his progressive administration but also its weaknesses, failures and shortcomings, including the operational (failure to plow  out Queens following the blizzard, the attempts to dislocate Queens homeowners at the behest of developers), the political (failure to intervene in the Ocean-Brownsville community control situation that led to teacher strikes and political unrest) and the simply tone deaf (failure to recognize the identity and political clout of the working class and unionized white ethnic voters, which resonated with suggestions of elitism.)  Mention was only made en passant of the Knapp Commission’s police corruption investigations which in fact, according to news reports at the time, back In the day,  brought a panelist and mayoral aide to the brink of an indictment for allegedly changing his testimony regarding the handling of the early reports of corruption.  (When Officers Serpico and Durk reported corruption to Mayoral Aide Kriegel, did he or didn’t he tell the Mayor?-- Sources indicate that the administration, fearing possible summer unrest in minority communities, chose not to challenge the NYPD establishment at the time.)
After  the symposium, the opening reception at the Museum gave a much more nuanced, heavily documented, and fascinating overview of all facets of the Lindsay years. At the same time, it provides a wonderful flavor of that era in New York City. An incredible amount of political activity, cultural events, and rampant creativity.   Political and cultural memorabilia and tzatzches,  newspaper headlines and magazine covers, movie posters, layoff letters to teachers in Ocean Hill-Brownsville dispute, photos, books, municipal government handbooks and documents – the exhibit does a fabulous job of exploring the nooks and crannies of the era. I loved the recording of the Mayor’s Inner Circle dinner song, I believe with Florence Henderson, that went something to the effect of “I go to bed every night/wondering what the hell we did right!/will there be another strike? ”
I was not aware that his administration was responsible for formalizing the creation of “SoHo” as a mixed residential commercial district, or the creation of Westbeth Housing. And the efforts that the administration made for popularizing art and culture, with “Arts and Crafts Mobiles” and movies and theater in the parks, and the expansion of NYC as a filmmaking center, helped to transform the city. The panelists addressed with conflicting views the complexities of the Mayor’s support for the expansion of welfare and social services which showed him as an activist with a heart, but at the same time, helped to create deficits that led to a fiscal crisis. “America’s Mayor” gives a colorful and intriguing view of New York City during a tumultuous and exciting era, of a rara avis today -- a Liberal Republican (who later became a Democrat.). The exhibit, from this perspective, doesn’t attempt to answer questions about “success” or “failure” but it does help to fill out, with broad historical and cultural brushstrokes, a more defined portrait of the man, John V. Lindsay, whose bio had begun to fade a bit into obscurity.  
I was in my young teens in those years, but in looking back through the lens of “America’s Mayor,” you can’t help but to love New York City more and more, where we are, where we have come from, and hopefully still where we may be headed.
America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York City at the Museum of the City of New York, May 5 through October 3

Tomorrow, Thursday, on WNET 8 PM--Fun City Revisited--The Lindsay Years

--Brooklyn Beat

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

America's Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York

America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York examines the controversial tenure (1966-1973) and dramatic times of New York’s 103rd mayor. The exhibition presents John V. Lindsay’s efforts to lead a city that was undergoing radical changes and that was at the center of the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s; it highlights Mayor Lindsay’s ambitious initiatives to redefine New York City’s government, economy, culture, and urban design. Through his outspoken championship of city life, commitment to civil rights, and opposition to the Vietnam War, Lindsay emerged as a national figure in a troubled and exhilarating era. The exhibition also explores the costs of his approach, including growing criticism from disaffected voters and an increasingly out of control city budget.

Lindsay was born in New York City on West End Avenue to George Nelson Lindsay and the former Florence Eleanor Vliet. Contrary to popular assumptions, John Lindsay was neither a blue-blood nor very wealthy by birth, although he did grow up in an upper middle class family of English and Dutch extraction. Lindsay's paternal grandfather migrated to the United States in the 1880s from the Isle of Wight,and his mother was from an upper-middle class family that had been in New York since the 1660s. John's father was a successful lawyer and investment banker, and was able to send his son to the prestigious Buckley School, St. Paul's School and Yale, where he was admitted to the class of 1944 and joined Scroll and Key.

With the outbreak of World War II, Lindsay completed his studies early and in 1943 joined the United States Navy as a gunnery officer. He obtained the rank of lieutenant, earning five battle stars through action in the invasion of Sicily and a series of landings in the Pacific theater.After the war, he spent a few months as a ski bum and a couple of months training as a bank clerk before returning to Yale, where he received his law degree in 1948, ahead of schedule.

Back in New York, Lindsay met his future wife, Mary Anne Harrison, at the wedding of Nancy Bush (daughter of Connecticut's Senator Prescott Bush and sister of future President George H.W. Bush), where he was an usher and Harrison a bridesmaid. A resident of Greenwich, Connecticut and a graduate of Vassar College, Harrison was a distant relative of William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. They married in 1949. That same year Lindsay was admitted to the bar, and rose to became a partner in his law firm four years later.

When he came into office, Mayor John V. Lindsay had a dream to reinvent the city—to bridge the income and affordability gap, bring racial minorities into government, integrate neighborhoods, empower communities through decentralization, impose strategic urban planning to spare the environment, and make cities more livable. Which of these dreams became a reality and how do those changes affect us today?

The exhibition, which opens to the public on May 5, is presented in cooperation with the Municipal Archives, is accompanied by a book of the same title edited by Sam Roberts of The New York Times and co-published by Columbia University Press and the Museum of the City of New York (May 2010), as well as a public television documentary presented by WNET.ORG.

Tonight at the Museum of the City of New York, DITHOB will be attending a symposium (sorry, sold out) moderated by Sam Roberts, and a panel of NY authors, journalists and political figures (Pete Hamill, Major Owen, Vincent Cannato, Jeff Greenfield, Jay Kriegel, and Gabe Pressman.)

More on the exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York

Monday, May 3, 2010

The City of Two Peaces: Jordi Savall Performs "Jerusalem" at Lincoln Center & WQXR-FM

Jordi Savall performs "Jerusalem: City of Heavenly and Earthly Peace" tonight at 7 PM at Lincoln Center in a performance that wil be broadcast live on WQXR-FM, 105.9 FM in NYC, and on the web. Savall has been one of the major figures in the field of early music since the 1970s, largely responsible for bringing the viol (viola da gamba) back to life on the stage. His repertory ranges from Medieval to Renaissance and Baroque music. His co-performer and spouse, Montserrat Figueras, has a voice that, in a word, transports. Jerusalem, City of Heavenly and Earthly Peace, from Catalan early music director and performer Jordi Savall, is a performance of religious songs, texts, chants and instrumental arrangements used to explore the way cultural traditions of the three major religions have shaped the history of Jerusalem, from biblical times to the present day.

A youtube sample from Cancion Sefardi.

Jordi Savall

WQXR-FM website here

From WQXR website: "Joined by his wife and collaborator, soprano Montserrat Figueras, as well as the musicians of his own ensembles, Hesperion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Savall charts Jerusalem's history from 1200 BC to the present day..The performance comes at a time when Israelis and Palestinians are at deep odds over political borders and settlement activities in East Jerusalem. But as the liner notes to the lavish 2008 recording of Jerusalem explain, etymologists have translated the Hebrew name Jerusalem as "the city of the two peaces," a reference to both "heavenly peace" and "earthly peace." The former was proclaimed by the prophets who lived in or visited the city, while the latter was sought by the political leaders who have governed the city throughout its five thousand years of documented existence."

More from wikipedia on Jordi Savall

Jordi Savall's official site

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