Friday, October 29, 2010

Daily News: More of Coney Island Boardwalks Replaced by Concrete?

It's not nice to fool Mother Nature:

Writing in The NY Daily News, Erica Durkin reports: "The iconic 42-block Riegelmann Boardwalk at Coney Island may be headed for a makeover as a concrete-slabbed walkway, city officials said. Outraged residents hissed and shouted at Parks Department officials who presented a $7.4 million project to rebuild a five-block chunk of the fabled stretch with concrete.

City officials indicated at a local meeting they were thinking about redoing most of the rest of the stretch the same way.

"It is a boardwalk! It is not a sidewalk!" shouted Brighton Beach resident Ida Sanoff at the Community Board 13 meeting Wednesday night. "It looks like crap. ... You're looking for the cheap way out and the easy way out. Not acceptable!"

City officials hope to eventually rehab the whole beatup walkway and are leaning toward using concrete everywhere except the Coney Island amusement area, which already got a wood makeover."

Full NY Daily News article here

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thinking Our Way Out of Disaster: The Watchman's Rattle

The Watchman's Rattle by Rebecca Costa suggests that the only way to move civilization out of what appears to be its current decline is clear thinking. Rebecca Costa is a sociobiologist and evocative speaker whose unique expertise is to spot and explain emerging trends in relationship to human evolution, global markets, and new technologies. She lives on the central coast of California.

The book offers insights into the importance of, well, insight--- how the human mind can be overwhelmed in attempting to create solutions to the multitude of large scale and complex problems that we currently face.  that we're stuck is the first step towards getting out. With lessons from history, she demonstrates why it can be so difficult for humans to think our way out of complex problems, and more importantly, how we can nurture the kind of insight that will bring us forward.

In his foreword to the book, eminent sociobiologist E.O. Wilson says "I am on the side of Rebecca Costa. Let us become realists-in-search-of-a-solution rather than doomsayers."

In an interview in the Harvard Crimson, Ms. Costa states: "The first third of my book is looking back into past history to see what happened to the people before the cataclysmic events occurred that caused them to collapse. I go into the history of the Mayans, the Romans, the Egyptians and the Khmer, and it turns out that there are two signs that begin to occur very early on prior to the collapse, several generations beforehand. That is, that they become gridlocked, unable to solve their problems, as the problems are getting worse and worse, until eventually, one of them can’t be stopped. The second thing that happens is, when the facts become too complicated, when the problems exceed the cognitive capabilities that we as a biological organism have evolved to that point… We substitute beliefs for facts. There’s an abandonment of rational problem-solving that goes on…and that leads to collapse."

That sounds like grim news, indeed. So, if our problems exceed our cognitive abilities, how can we fix those problems?

Ms. Costa: "We have two things, in my view, available that ancient civilizations did not have. One: we have models for high failure rates, for situations when no amount of due diligence will allow you to pick the solutions that will work from the solutions that won’t work. The easiest one to grasp is venture capitalism. Venture capitalists are experts at failure. They’re not really experts at success. For every 100 companies they invest in, 80 are going to be average or fail. 20 percent are going to be so spectacular that it diminishes the failure.

"The second thing is brain fitness and neurological tools… We have discovered by looking at images of the brain that every now and again, a little portion of the brain called the ACC [anterior cingulate cortex] lights up like a Christmas tree, and we suddenly have what scientists are calling an “insight.” It turns out all human beings—this is not nurture, this is nature—have these spontaneous ‘a-ha!’ moments where they make connections of data in their head and they solve an elegant and really complicated problem. This seems to be a method of problem-solving that is suited to high levels of complexity that exceed left and right problem-solving abilities that we have evolved."

So, that said, how do we maximize our use of insight?

Costa: "What we need to do is develop insight on demand… But because we can’t evolve on demand, that’s why mitigation is so important. When you know that you’re up against complexity that exceeds what the human brain has evolved to be able to handle, then you can mitigate, but you must also do everything possible to catch the brain up to complexity."

Excerpt from "The Watchman's Rattle" here

In an article online, Ms. Costa addresses the complex issues that we currently face during these "Oppositional times" :

"It must be obvious that we live in oppositional times.

"No matter what candidate, ballot measure, idea or program we put on the table, those who will oppose it always far outnumber those who are willing to advocate. It isn’t even a close call.

"If you doubt me, just listen to any radio talk show that encourages its listeners to phone in, or read the Sunday letters to the editor. By an overwhelming majority, we oppose. In fact, so much so that it’s easy to see why we have become gridlocked in the nation’s capital. If we oppose every solution, then how can we progress – the last time I checked, pervasive opposition was the same as gridlock.

"For example, take increasing our troops in Afghanistan, illegal immigration, healthcare, social security, epidemics of autism and depression, climate change and offshore drilling regulation. Opposition everywhere. It doesn’t matter which side we take, we don’t like what has been proposed, though we don’t really have any solutions either.

"What causes a society to mistake opposition for advocacy? What makes us passionate about what we are against? Become our greatest obstacles toward progress?

"The answer lies in a pattern of human behavior that is as old as the organism itself.

"When the complexity of the problems we must solve exceeds the cognitive abilities we have evolved to that point in time, we reach an impasse. In a nutshell, human beings cannot progress any further than evolution will allow. We simply do not have the biological capacity to understand and solve every problem we face, despite having the biological imperative to continue progressing. So what do we do? History shows that we begin substituting unproven beliefs for facts and rational thinking. Over time, irrational beliefs find their way into public policy and once this occurs, great civilizations begin to decline.

"If that sounds like a mouthful, then just take a look at where we are today. Climate change? We can’t even agree on whether it’s a real problem or not. How about healthcare reform? First we pass a complicated initiative that few people can understand and now we want to stop it because it is imperfect. Never mind the reality that there will never be a perfect initiative.

"But perfect or imperfect, don’t we need to do something? Venture capitalists seem to do well even with an 80% failure rate. In a business where no amount of due diligence in the world will lead to perfection, venture capitalists know that the impact of a few wins is enough to dwarf the losses.

"We now find ourselves facing the same realities that venture capitalists face everyday. When it becomes impossible to pick the winning solutions from the losers, we have to accept imperfection and waste. That’s just the way it goes, lest we oppose everything and progress stops. Imagine a venture capitalist that opposed every investment opportunity that came across the desk because they had a better than 80% chance of being wrong – how long would they stay in business?

"It can be demonstrated that over time, the human brain – which requires millions of years to evolve new capabilities – begins to lag behind, and it becomes unable to separate solutions that will work from those that will fail. Take the recent Gulf oil spill as an example. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men believed dropping a concrete box on top of the hole was our best option. Three weeks later we discovered that wasn’t going to work. Then we tried drilling through the side of the main pipe to siphon off pressure and oil, and two weeks later we discovered that wasn’t going to work either. Fortunately, our third try hit pay dirt: the static kill method. But what if that had been solution number 86? What would the fragile southern and eastern seaboard look like today as currents swept the oil this way and that?

"But the key to mounting multiple solutions in tandem is advocacy, optimism and a realistic assessment of our odds of calling it right. And in an oppositional society where organizations such as the Tea Party movement,, Democrats and Republicans have raised opposition to a fine art, what chance do we have of resuming progress? How can we move ahead?"

From the article by Ms. Costa on "The Oppositional Society."

"Interesting stuff, but does it offer real solutions ?"  I think the author would point at the previous line as the sort of oppositional thinking, the challenge of any actual plans, policy or actions, as hopeless, with a response that is negative and which could only serve to continue to push society and our future into the spin cycle, with little hope or direction. In short, chances of progress very dim indeed. We need to TRY SOMETHING -- and maybe more than one thing at once, instead of just arguing back and forth, endlessly criticizing ideas and proposals, with no alternative proposed.  Insight, ideas, and action could lead to real progress for some of the most critical problems and issues that we face. And that is the true north to which "The Watchman's Rattle" urges that we move.

For more on the book and the author:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nostalgia for the Future: Book? Check! Library card? Check! Checkout Desk? Nope – Self Check!

As a Brooklyn native, I am a sucker for how some terribly familiar things in our communities change and how they remain the same. A few years back, I literally got all misty at the reopening of the new Brooklyn Museum lobby space, in all its contemporary beauty. I remembered walking to the Museum since I was a kid, pushing open the heavy entrance doors, and exploring the mysteries of ancient Egypt and the delight of artistic discovery. It was still the fantastic Brooklyn Museum, but had also morphed into a modern, welcoming and amazingly creative public space, with fountains, post-modern entrance, and outdoor public spaces.

I had the similar vibe visiting the newly renovated digs of the Kings Highway Brooklyn Public Library branch at Ocean Avenue. Not so much the library itself, although it has a bright and open feel. I don't think I had visited this branch before.* But when I had picked up a book (Lincoln as Writer) and looked around for the check out desk. There wasn’t one. There was a table at which sat two librarians and the security officer. I sheepishly asked “How do you check out?” The branch security officer smiled and said “you need to use the scanner!” clearly relishing the opportunity to teach an old dog a new trick.

Sure enough, a table held several scanners. It is much easier than checking out yourself at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Basically, you put the book down on the scanner. When prompted, you remove that, and then you put your BPL library card on the scanner. It records the book and issues a receipt. That’s it!

“This is the sixth branch using the new technology, and the Fort Hamilton Branch will be the eighth when it reopens following renovations,” said Malika Granville, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Public Library. In addition to Kings Highway, Highlawn was the first branch, it was renovated with “Self-check machines” in 2006. After its successful piloting at Highlawn, it expanded to other branches, including Mapleton, Canarsie, Macon, Bay Ridge, and Mill Basin. Ms. Granville also confirmed that the Park Slope branch will be outfitted with the new check out technology after it reopens. (The Park Slope branch closed in the fall of 2009, with a projected two year renovation period.)
Despite the complications experienced by some agencies with the introduction of new technologies the Board of Election's new e-voting system comes to mind), the Brooklyn Public Library reports that the piloted program so far has been a great success. And the staff members at the branches, as always, make an art of serving the customer (or patrons, which I recall was the BPL euphemism for cardholding library members) -- another great thing that has never changed.
The new self-check technology system is funded with a combination of State and City capital dollars. BPL anticipates that the new system, manufactured by the 3M Company, will be rolled out to all branches in approximately two years.

*I guess can list on 10 fingers the BPL branches which I've visited:
  • Central - bGrand Army Plaza - one of my first jobs; where I worked as a high school kid in the what was then the audio visual department with Mr. Ken Axthelm and Joe Schera. I lived in Windsor Terrace, so walking to and visiting the Central Branch in all of its wonder, was an intrinsic part of my education.
  • Park Slope Branch -Again, in walking distance as a kid. A cozy, somewhat gothic feeling branch. Currently under renovation.
  • Windsor Terrace - Walking distance, although smaller, but always a fun destination.
  • Clinton Hill - When we lived in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill; I remember the Harvest Festival and Book Sale at this branch just around this time of the year.
  • Mapleton - When I worked in Staten Island, this became a frequent stop on my way home from work.
  • Midwood - Our current local branch.
  • Cortelyou - Nearby, but not as convenient to us as Midwood.
  • Fort Hamilton - Occasional visits. Currently under renovation. Originally scheduled for spring 2010 reopening, additional construction requirements have delayed the reopening.
  • Pacific and Brooklyn Heights - Both are near my office, and near our previous home in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, but I don't get out to visit them often enough.
Thanks to Malika L. Granville, Marketing & Communications Associate at BPL.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Waiting for the Gubernator -- New York State's 2010 Debate for Governor

Gubernatorial: Latin gubernator: governor, steersman, from gubernare, to govern

First Known Use: 1734

Well that was really interesting. As one pollster observed, if the Lincoln-Douglas Debates were at one end of some kind of spectrum for oratory and political history, last night was clearly at the other end, way way down yonder. It certainly didn't disappoint.

Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, who will happily preside at weddings between same sex couples, "if you want to marry a shoe -- I'll marry you" was surprisingly amusing, charming, and as valid in his message and presentation as any tea party candidate-  here

Kristin Davis of the Anti-Prohibition Party, a former madam who wants to legalize prostitution, answered a question on taxes by saying "Businesses will leave this state quicker than Carl Paladino at a gay bar." She compared her former business to the MTA, with the only difference being hers had one set of books, was always on time, and kept the customers happy.

Leave it to Charles Barron, the only other Democrat on the podium, as a candidate for the Freedom Party, who pounded away at front runner Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Warren Redlich, Libertarian Party candidate seemed well versed with his party's platform and policy prescriptions.

That Mr. Paladino, the GOP candidate for the party of Nelson Rockefeller, Thomas Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, George Pataki, Malcom Wilson, could fair so poorly in this debate, after kicking up so much dust since winning the primary, was a fascinating turnabout, and a damn shame for the GOP which should be engaged in some very serious soul searching.

But, among this crew, (which included Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins who sounded like he was a Cajun, although he attended Dartmouth and lives in Syracuse and Vermont), Andrew  Cuomo without a doubt was able to present himself, despite his current elected position as Attorney General, as an outsider to the Albany legislative and executive bodies, who is willing to fight and make the hard choices that are required to address, at least in part, some of the crises the State faces. He looked and sounded, in fact, Gubernatorial. Let's hope we won't get fooled again.

A Nice thumb-nail wrap-up of the players here at the War Room -- here

Monday, October 18, 2010

First as Comedy, Next as Tragedy, Third as....Disaster?

David Rothkopf writing at NPR argues quite effectively that to grasp Washington, DC right now, watch 30 Rock:

"Perhaps the greatest howler of them all from my point of view comes in Peter Baker's excellent profile of Barack Obama in this Sunday's New York Times's Magazine. In this thoughtful, exceptionally well-written and reported piece, Baker portrays a reflective president contemplating his political fortunes on the eve of what could be a pretty rough midterm election. In one particularly pivotal paragraph, he writes:

"Most of all, (Obama) has learned that, for all his anti-Washington rhetoric, he has to play by Washington rules if he wants to win in Washington. It is not enough to be supremely sure that he is right if no one else agrees with him. "Given how much stuff was coming at us," Obama told me, "we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top — that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular. And I think anybody who's occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can't be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion."

When did Tina Fey have the time to write this while preparing for that live shoot of her show? What wry hilarity. They spent too much time trying to get the policy right rather than getting the politics right? Really? Sorry, I must have been watching another channel. It seems to me that every single move of this administration from the size and shape of the stimulus to the switch from Iraq to Afghanistan, from avoiding what really needed to be done on health care to avoiding doing anything meaningful on climate change, from taking the stands he did on financial reform and sidestepping the issues he wanted to avoid on the same, were all based on political factors. The president deserves considerable credit for all he has accomplished — but let's please try for a trifle more honesty and self-awareness. Let's stop trying to sell what Bo left in the Rose Garden as a bowl of pudding, please."

Full article by Mr. Rothkopf here.
Peter Baker's article in the New York Times magaine on "The Education of a President" here
Also, importantly, in my opinion, Frank Rich's take on the "Rage That Won't End on Election Day":
"It’s no better now. In a cover article last month, Barton Gellman wrote in Time that the magazine’s six-month investigation found that “the threat level against the president and other government targets” is at its highest since the antigovernment frenzy that preceded Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

"While Obama-hatred remains a staple of the right, the ebbing of his political clout may have diminished him as a catchall for America’s roiling, inchoate rage. The president is no longer the sole personification of evil. For those who see government as Public Enemy No. 1, other targets will do, potentially some as remote from Washington as Oklahoma City."

More here

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Lunchtime Ramble: Steel-Grey Waters and Brooklyn Bridge Park Starts to Take Shape

Friday Groove: When the Cold Wind Comes, I Go Where the Dahlias Bloom

Donald Fagen performing "Florida Room" an awesome, jazz tinged composition from his second solo album, Kamakyriad, in June 2010 while receiving an award for jazz composition from ASCAP. Getting in the Friday groove....

Florida Room by Donald Fagen

Start on Key Plantain

Walk a tropical mile
You'll see a house
In the Spanish style
There's a room in back
With a view of the sea
Where she sits and dreams
Does she dream of me

When summer's gone
I get ready
To make that Carribee run
I've got to have
Some time in the sun

When the cold wind comes
I go where the dahlias bloom
I keep drifting back
To your Florida room

She's dressed too warm
For this latitude
We go out to lunch
With some Jamaican dude
Then the sunshower breaks
We come in out of the rain
But in her Florida room
There's a hurricane

While the city freezes over
We'll be strollin' down the shore
Can she bring me back
To life once more


When summer's gone
I get ready
To make that Carribee run
I've got to have
Some time in the sun


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

American Dreamin': Banksy and the Simpsons

If, like me, you thought UK Artist Banksy's film, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," in its perplexing mix of "what is real? what is satire?" was an engrossing analysis of art and commerce, then his recent opening of the Simpson's is a mind-blowing critique of art in the Age of Outsourcing. Banksy, Matt Groening and company, in a brief minute and three quarter opening, through admittedly far-fetched imagery (depressed unicorns poking holes in DVDs, children dipping animation cels into toxic liquids, etc.) manage to make large, subversive political statements about the Way of the World at this moment. It makes NBC's new comedy, Outsourced, very pale by comparison, indeed, and shows us how things are and how we choose to pretend they are. More on Banksy here and Exit Through the Gift Shop here.

Mary Elizabeth William's Salon article here  Dave Itzkoff talks to Al Jean, the Simpsons' exec producer and long-time showrunner here

The Simpson's Opening below:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Roger that, Brooklyn:Thai Food and Space Travel

Today's NY Times science section reported on the Brooklyn dad, Luke Geissbuhler, who launched a spaceship into the stratosphere. Fuhgeddaboutit.  Payload- a camera and a container from Thai Takeout food.

Huffington Post did a nice wrap on the details, here

The video here:

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Let There Be Google

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
      -  Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google, Inc. on privacy

"Cyberspace, not so long ago, was a specific elsewhere, one we visited periodically, peering into it from the familiar physical world. Now cyberspace has everted. Turned itself inside out. Colonized the physical. Making Google a central and evolving structural unit not only of the architecture of cyberspace, but of the world." -
    - William Gibson on Eric Schmidt here

"The Big Brother effects come into play when a very powerful entity believes itself to "not be evil" and that the decisions it makes are best for all."
On Google and Privacy here 

Stephen Colbert: "[Google's motto is] Don’t be evil. Right now your stock price is $513 a share. How low will that have to go before you say that’s it, we’re going with evil." 
     - Stephen Colbert interviews Eric Schmidt here  and transcript of that discussion here

Googol (as opposed to Google)  or Google

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson: "Life Sucks" - - and his life in particular

Stage Setting with Moose, center.

Above: "Elitist f*cks"
Bloody great stage and lighting design at The Bernard Jacobs Theater

A very entertaining musical, it is more of a rock opera about Andrew Jackson, if you will, then a deep, dramatic contemplation of our 7th Presdient, but it is a lot of fun.  Some of the stage direction and choreography felt a bit haphazard, whether intentionally or for ironic purposes was hard to divine, and the non-musical segments similarly had a few less than inspiring moments. But, overall, "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" with terrific music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, written and directed by Alex Timbers, is an all-American hoot. Not sure if the Tea Party culture was a direct inspiration, but the timing, and sentiments regarding American populism hit just the right note of satire and sincerity.  It's move from the Public Theater to Broadway, with great set design and lighting, is striking and fun (note the Moose above hanging from the ceiling).  Benjamin Walker, as "Andrew F*ckin' Jackson" (as he sings in "I'm Not That Guy") is, no offense to Old Hickory's hatred of national banking, right on the money. Irreverant, bawdy and with not a lick of pretension, it toys with American history, but not enough to hurt, before it ties a firecracker to its tail and kicks it right into the gutter.

It is currently in previews at the Bernard Jacobs Theater, with a scheduled Broadway opening for October 13.  This is a great show, with an intriguing set, energetic performances by the entire cast, an onstage house band that covers the landscape between sincere guitar strumming ballads to hard rockin' numbers.  A recent NY Post item discussed possible financial woes; still, the show on Friday played to a packed and cheering house.  We missed this at the Public and were glad to catch up with it on the Great White Way. Catch it while you can.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson official site here.

More on the real President Jackson here.

The soundtrack also is available on Ghostlight Records. Sample tracks here

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