Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Absolutely Brooklyn: Blogfest 5

The scene from the floor of Brooklyn Blogfest 5 at the Brooklyn Lyceum

Poet Lemon Andersen toasting stoops and the Borough of Kings in all of its urban glory

Spike Lee makes the pitch for Absolut Brooklyn, sponsor of Blogfest 5
(Absolut V with Red Apple and Ginger flavo-flav)

Wrap up of the Blogfest symposium, with workshops and refreshments to follow

At first, it was hard to tell if Brooklyn Blogfest 5 had, as one wag texted me, already jumped the shark. After all, with Absolut Vodka as a major league sponsor, and filmmaking legend Spike Lee shilling for his new flavor Absolut Brooklyn (ginger and red apple), clearly, Brooklyn blogging had arrived.  But, in truth, as a product placement, the brand and its high profile spokesman at first appeared to simultaneously overwhelm and boost the "Brooklyn Blogger" brand.  Ironically, the presence of Marty Markowitz, minus his ubiquitous light saber, and presenting yet another proclamation on behalf of the "Republic of Brooklyn" (be careful, Marty, sounds like sedition), which was greeted with a few muted hoots, catcalls and boos, brought a tinge of reality and a reminder of what makes the blogging thing so unique. A few years ago, doubtless Marty didn't know or care about blogging. Now the blogosphere has become something to contend with. (A thought - can there be more than one proclamation from the "Republic of Brooklyn" per day? Like Leo Bloom says in The Producers, "Max,  you can only sell 100% of anything.")

Lemon Andersen's Ode to Brooklyn was a down and dirty toast to the borough, as he named names and places and things that make it such a great place, both for newcomers and for natives of the town of Brooklyn born.  It is always great to see Spike Lee before an audience. Although his main focus was the vodka, he was generous in answering audience questions.

Andrea Bernstein is a wonderful interviewer. The value of the panel, it seemed to this listener, less so.  I guess I am not that interested in the ready availability of creme fraiche. Likewise, the ramblings about gentrification, Brooklyn real estate and bloggers-as-bohemians unconcerned about money seemed to clash with the overarching semiotic-reality of this year's blogfest: Blogging is a big tent that welcomes all comers, and that is finally achieving a modicum of respect from the likes of the powerful in the worlds of politics, leisure, entertainment and the arts. As Brooklyn's established, brick-and-mortar cultural institutions well understand in this time of recession, money changes everything.

Nevertheless, Louise Crawford, her family and her production team are all to be congratulated for once again bringing together this disparate group of bloggers, wannabees, fans and spectators and also for continuing to raise the profile of blogging as a serious medium worthy of respect. Her comments on the responsibility of bloggers to take what they write seriously added a refreshing bit of brio to the proceedings.  But even more importantly, by welcoming all comers, corporate and political, Brooklyn Blogfest 5, intentionally or not, took a risk, and in doing so, has moved the Brooklyn blogosphere out of its comfort zone and into new territory, compelling it to reflect on who and what it is, where it's going, and what is its real meaning and purpose in a complex and changing borough.

--Brooklyn Beat


  1. A letter to myself:

    Dear Me,

    "We hate it when our friends become successful" but why?

    Why is it that when something you loved becomes massively popular you turn on your old flame? Is the something less good because now everyone knows about it? What are you afraid of? Why are you so damn selfish? Why are you so greedy?

    You have a tattoo on the inside of your lip; the symbol for a band who had a cult following in America for many years. You could barely fill a phone booth with the people who knew of said band back then. Then one day, they hit it big and overnight tweens everywhere were flying their flag and singing their praises. These days, you're glad the tattoo is on the inside of your lip where no one can see it because frankly, you don't even listen to the band anymore - not even the older stuff you loved so much. But why? Why are you ashamed? Are you ashamed the tattoo didn't come with a disclaimer which states you got the tattoo back when they were cool? And what about the people who knew about the band even before you? Don't look now but maybe you're a poser, too.

    I guess Nirvana was the first band of your generation it happened to. You had your Nirvana first. But then years later, you go back and listen to "Nevermind" and it's a timeless record. You return to the scene of the crash with a newfound appreciation devoid of selfishness and rife with indifference. Suddenly, it doesn't matter how many copies it sold or what became of Kurt Kobain and his maudlin legend. Suddenly, you realize the same thing that made you get that damn tattoo on the inside of your lip is fueling this newly discovered hysteria for the freshly anointed. Is their passion any less pure?

    Is it that you are so fond of yourself that you wish not for someone else to understand what you understand? Is it that you can't imagine someone comprehending on the level in which you comprehend? "No one understands me, maaaan."

    Fact is, everyone understands and everyone has been there before, "maaaan". Everything you can say has already been said and everything you can do has been already been done. Maybe you hold on to these life raft mementos because you are afraid to embrace the banal. Maybe you and all your friends should just lay down on some green grass with the warm sun on your faces and exhale victoriously: "WHO THE FUCK CARES?!"

  2. Very, very thoughtful. Thank you so much, Tony! Great to have you there.


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