Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Shoemaker with Danny Aiello: The "Heeling" Arts

The Shoemaker, a play in two acts by Susan Charlotte at the Cause Celebre in the Acorn Theater on Theater Row, stars Danny Aiello and is an ambitious and extremely striving piece of theater art, seeking to mine and intertwine deep emotions and powerful threads of history and contemporary memory. It may fall a little short in its reach but it certainly can't be faulted for trying.Theater needs more original works and especially those that feature actors not regularly appearing in the NY theater scene. And when that actor is Danny Aiello, full of authentic passion and gruff personality, who has the courage as an actor to reach out, even at the risk of not quite grasping the gold ring,  it is even more rewarding. The fact that Mr. Aiello,at  78, gives a strong performance, all storms and shouts and whispers and tears,  through Ms. Charlotte's play (which itself attempts to weave, perhaps a little too preciously,  9/11 and the  Holocaust into a complicated tale), is amazing inasmuch as Mr. Aiello's authenticity and sincere Italian-American soul seems to cast just the right magical spell needed to untangle the play's gordian knot. When you get down to the heart of the matter, it is Giuseppi, the Italian Jewish shoemaker in Hell's Kitchen ,who strives to "heal" as he heels, ministering to the needs, both in terms of footwear and life's mysteries and conundrums, of his family and customers, while never quite finding solace in his own life.

In the end, I kept thinking of that line from Bob Dylan's "I and I" from the album INFIDELS: "I make shoes, for everyone, even you, and I still go barefoot." The Shoemaker, directed by Antony Marsellis, with Lucy DeVito and Alma Cuevo, and starring Mr. Aiello, is in an extremely limited engagement through August 14.  

-- Tony Napoli - Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Signs of Life? Congress Switchboard Flooded by Calls

The Washington Post reports that the main switchboard in Congress is close to crashing due to the volume of calls following the Presdient and Speaker of the House's statements to the American people on the budget impasse last night. Details here

The individual switchboards of numerous members of Congress did in fact crash last night followign the President's speech. Details here

A Leadership Crisis or an Unsolvable Economic Crisis? Either Way, New Poll Shows 44 Base Crumbling

The political impasse in Washington, DC was never more clear than in the back to back statements by President Obama and Speaker of the House Boehner. It may well be that more centrist Democrats and Republicans could find common ground except for the GOP's Tea Party-elected candidates who have drawn the line at any tax increases. While it may be an economic crisis that is ungovernable, or a perfect storm of economic and political crises, the perception continues that their is a leadership crisis and that President Obama is unable to get  plus political  Now Andrew Malcolm in the LA Times reports that the President's Democratic Liberal base has crumbled. It would appear this has resulted from disaffection over the administration's failure to create jobs and the hundreds of billions given to corporations as part of the financial bail out that haven't delivered any results except for executives at the highest levels. More from Malcolm and the Pew Research Poll here  Left stalwarts such as Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont are calling for the President to stand for a primary challenge: "I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."

"This is political treason 469 days before a presidential election. Yes, yes, this is just a crusty old New England independent for now, albeit one who caucuses loyally with Harry Reid's Democratic posse.

"But while most of the media focuses on Republican Boehner and the tea party pressures on him to raise the debt limit not one Liberty dime, Sanders' mumblings are a useful reminder that hidden in the shadows of this left-handed presidency are militant progressives like Sanders who don't want to cut one Liberty dime of non-Pentagon spending.

Closely read the transcript of Obama's Monday statement on the debt talks stalemate. The full transcript is right here. And the full transcript of Boehner's response is right here.

And then there is the lament of many New Yorkers, who supported their Senator, and then remained loyal to the party in the general election. There is still Hope for Change and that 44, working behind the scenes, will yet pull a rabbit out of the hat, but still, some New Yorkers wonder on what coulda been:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

SummerNights at the Jewish Museum Rolls On: Slavic Soul Party!, and This Week, Michael WinogradTrio

Slavic Soul Party! at SummerNights at the Jewish Museum
Photo by Tony Napoli

The SummerNights music festival at The Jewish Museum continued to roll along with the Slavic Soul Party! last Thursday. Balkan Funk n Roll, Romany melodies and soulful Eastern European threnodies for lost worlds, Slavic Soul Party! stands its ground against the tyranny of the modernity, and delves back into the Macedonian and Carpathian past and then explores how those tunes have evolved in the context of the original cultures that created them. We picked up their excellent CD, TAKETRON, and look forward to seeing the guys again at their "Tuesday night forever" gig at Barbes on 9th street and 5th avenue in Brooklyn.

More on Slavic Soul Party! here

Next up -- Thursday, July 28, the Michael Winograd Trio, exploring Yidish music with new compositions. SummeNights is never a disappointment and some tickets are still avaialble for the Trio's performance this Thursday. More info here

A sidebar: More an observation than a comment. Although the performers tend to be exciting and extraordinarily talented younger artists re-examining Eastern European roots music in all its forms, variations and possibilities, the audiences at SummerNights, while very appreciative and receptive, appear to be Jewish Museum members who are predominently middle-aged and older. The performers seem a tad disappointed that the audiences don't get up and shake a leg during the shows. Since it is a proscenium theater-type venue, short of adding a mosh pit and inviting standees, the audience will continue to tap and headshake and groove from a seated position. It might be up to the Jewish Museum to attempt to attract a younger crowd or have the show less like a formal concert than an event with music (say the way that the Brooklyn Museum features music on First Saturday, where there is an opportunity to both sit and listen or stand/dance/groove). Otherwise, since form dictates function, it is likely that SummerNights audiences will continue to love the music, but do so seated, polite, and formal. But for music fans of all ages, this is a series worth checking out!

Wild Man Fischer: November 6, 1944 - June 16, 2011 ("Boop-boop-boop-boop")

Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn belatedly acknowledges and notes the passing of Larry Wayne "Wild Man" Fischer, a protege of Frank Zappa, who pioneered an "Outsider" muscial realm. Fischer died last month in Los Angeles of heart problems. A street musician in the literal term, he would wander LA singing his unique, self-penned tunes for a dime, until he was discovered and recorded by Frank Zappa for Bizarre Records.

"Merry Go Round" remains an impossible to forget favorite. More on Mr, Fischer here

Variety obit  here

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New York Media Ephemera: Inside City Hall and the Political Rundown

We live in South Brooklyn, of course, so we get Cablevision, which means that NY1, Time Warner's flagship 24 hour local news station, is on Channel 8 (there is no Channel 1 on Cablevision.)  Anyway, one of the more delightful aspects of NY1 is the evening Inside City Hall program (aka Road to City Hall during election season) with Errol Louis, who has added a lot of style, panache and critical analysis to New Yorkers' evening news habits. If you are a New Yorker, despite its occasional foible and stumbles, NY1 remains a major part of your TV viewing diet in keeping up with the 24 hour news cycle.

And, of course, Inside City Hall, every Wednesday night, features the Political Rundown where "two very opinionated people" give their take on the news of the day in one minute segments. Gerson Borrero of El Diario, also a news analyst for NY1, and Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, who also co-hosts with Borrero,  a daily radio program, mix it up, with a lot of camp and theater, roughly, but not always, adhering to a liberal versus conservative stance. Last night, in one sequence commenting on the Rupert Murdoch testimony in the UK on the phone hacking story, Sliwa hit himself with a cream pie. In reviewing the clip on the NY1 website, in viewing it to the end, there is an outtake which took me by surprise (thank you,Johnny Thunders, for the headsup).. You can see the clip here, the outtake is at the end.

Haven't re-watched the whole clip, but when Sliwa threw the pie during the earlier broadcast, host Louis, in surprise, exclaimed "Jesus Christ!" A decision may have been made to replace a portion of the tape with the outtake to clean up the language for the otherwise unflappable host. Hard to tell -- it sounds like the exclamation, at the very least, was toned down in the edit. That's not the most interesting point, though --  What was most notable for this viewer was to realize,  in the outtake, how produced the show actually is, although it presents the versimilitude of being a live, unreheased program. New York and our media - ya gotta love it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

P-Funk's Mothership to Be Enshrined at Smithsonian

The P Funk Mothership, otherwise known as The Holy Mothership, is the arcane space vehicle of Dr. Funkenstein aka George Clinton and his agents of Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication. An integral part of the P Funk mythology, the Mothership existed both conceptually as a fictional vehicle of funk deliverance, and as a physical prop central to P Funk concerts. Powered by unknown means, presumably The Funk and simple stagecraft, the Mothership appeared over the Planet Earth many times during the second half of the Twentieth century, and was even seen to physically land at a number of live music venues in the United States during the 1970s in order to disgorge its Funk to the people. More here

Now, the Smithsonian has announced that has been acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture where it will help anchor a permanent music exhibition when the museum opens its doors in 2015. Fullstory here

The P-Funk All Stars get down to it, on Earth as it is in Heaven here

The End of the Consumer Economy: I, Transformer

David Leonhardt's analysis in the Sunday Review (formerly the Week in Review) in the the NY Times provides a sobering and painful overview of current data which suggests that the collapse of the debt-based Consumer Economy which grew beginning in the latter part of the 20th century means there will be no Quick Recovery, just a lot of Hard Reality.

Article here

A bit of a tonic on a Summer Monday morning as the grim economic news and political stalemates continue to unfold. "Like Marx's account of communist society, it's surely too sketchy to found a political platform. "I am utterly pessimistic about the future, about the possibility of an emancipated communist society. But that doesn't mean I don't want to imagine it."

Slavoj Zizek interviewed in the UK Guardian here

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Cuban-Jewish Nexus: Sexteto Rodriguez Cuban Jewish All Stars

The Cuban-Jewish All Stars Heat It Up at The Jewish Museum Summer Nights Festival Last Night
Photo by Tony Napoli- Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Roberto Rodiguez was born in Cuba, raised in Miami and now lives in Forest Hills and the Catskills. When asked if he is Jewish he responds "Almost." He lovingly describes hanging at the beach in Miami with his dad and trips to Wolfie's Deli.

From his website: He has performed "with Ruben Blades, Lester Bowie, T-Bone Burnett, Randy Brecker, Paquito D’Rivera, Julio Iglesias, the Miami Sound Machine, Joe Jackson, Dave Liebman, Paul Simon, Lloyd Cole and Phoebe Snow. His deep interest in Jewish music was sparked by an ongoing klezmer renaissance that started in the mid-’80 and by composer-alto saxophonist John Zorn’s series of Radical Jewish Culture recordings on the Tzadik label, and, thirdly, by playing drums in Jewish guitarist Marc Ribot’s Los Cubanos Postizos band."

"When Zorn asked if he would like to record an album of Jewish music for Tzadik, Rodriguez jumped at the opportunity. Drawing on his experiences in Miami and NYC bands, he began composing for the first time in his life. Soon enough, he enlisted the help of musicians like clarinetist David Krakauer and entered the recording studio. El Danzon de Moises (The Dance of Moses)—overflowing with fresh, remarkable Judeo-Cuban music — appeared in 2002 to critical raves from DownBeat, the Village Voice and many other publications. The formation of Septeto Rodriguez and a new album followed."

The passionate driving, Cuban rhythms of the Sexteto's bass and percussion meld with deeply spirtual, sometimes mournful, always exuberant Yiddish ballads. The Afro-Cuban + Jewish sounds form a perfect "soul music."

Wolfie's maybe gone from Miami Beach, but Roberto Rodriguez and the Sexteto have captured the spirit and prove if food be the music of love, and if music be the food of love, then play --and eat -- on and on and on...

A sample of the Sexteto's sound on "El Sabor Del Shabbat" performed in Krakow last year here 

Mr. Rodriguez's website here

Samples of his CDs here , Tzadik records here, and, of course, on iTunes, everywhere.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The $25 Computer? Raspberry Pi Thinks So

The Christian Science Monitor via Big Think profiles a new computer device that contains a powerful processor similar to those in high-end smart phones, a memory card reader for 32 gigabytes of storage, a screen connector ready for HD graphics, and up to three USB ports for a keyboard and other accessories. "Raspberry Pi's open-source software can handle everything that kids now come to expect—Web browser, e-mail, Facebook access—while providing tools to program and share their own creations. If a student deletes essential files by mistake or creates inappropriate material, a simple command will wipe the drive and return the machine to its original state." More here

Guv'nor Cuomo: On an "Usually Successful" Legislative Session (Just Don't Mention the Lasagna)

An interesting interview by Michael Barbaro and Thomas Kaplan of the NY TIMES gives Governor Andrew Cuomo's take on the hits (many) and misses (relatively few) following the recent legislative session. Mr. Cuomo proved that "Albany" and "dysfunction" are not necessarily synonomous. Next up for the Governor, who has proven remarkably adept at enacting a political approach that is progressive but pragmatic, is the thorny issue of pension reform.

A principal regret -- stepping into the kitchen and getting in the middle of a dialogue about lasagna recipes reflecting his mother Matilda's traditional recipe and First Girlfriend Sandra Lee's -- let's call it alternative -- recipe.

He will not be labeled: Neither his fiscal conservatism, as dictated by the Current Economic Reality, nor his social progressivism, as reflected in his brilliant shepharding of the NYS Marriage Equality Act, can define him. Through all of this, Mr. Cuomo clearly remains His Own Man.

Interview here

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blues for a Summer Monday: "I May Be Getting Old, But I've Got Young Fashioned Ways"

Muddy Waters: Young Fashioned Ways.

44 and the Debt-Ceiling Gambit: Death Struggle or Dance of the Wallflowers ?

Who's right and who's wrong, where do we go from here?  The Financial Times reviews the circumstances of the current Dance of the Wallflowers in Washington, as the President proffers and the GOP, at the final moment, continues to slink away, playing hard and harder to get. No deal intended, just squeeze the administration and watch them squirm.  Leadership, anyone?

"It was too little leadership, too late. To make this strategy succeed, Mr Obama needed the pressure of public opinion to force Republicans to compromise. That pressure is still too weak, and the time to fix this is running out fast. Mr Obama has infuriated much of his party – again. And he has failed to budge a pathologically intransigent Republican party – again. He has come to a moment that could settle the fate of his presidency.

"Does he press on for the big deal, fighting for public support at this absurdly late hour, risking even more? Or does he climb down from his threat to veto a smaller measure, settle on terms dictated by the GOP, and look still further diminished? Neither choice looks promising. Meanwhile, the debt-ceiling clock runs down."

More here

As one analyst opined, is Barack Obama our greaterest Republican President ever?

Washington Post's Ezra Klein: "Perhaps this is just the logical endpoint of two years spent arguing over what Barack Obama is — or isn’t. Muslim. Socialist. Marxist. Anti-colonialist. Racial healer. We’ve obsessed over every answer except the right one: President Obama, if you look closely at his positions, is a moderate Republican from the early 1990s. And the Republican Party he’s facing has abandoned many of its best ideas in its effort to oppose him.

If you put aside the emergency measures required by the financial crisis, three major policy ideas have dominated American politics in recent years: a health-care plan that uses an individual mandate and tax subsidies to achieve near-universal coverage; a cap-and-trade plan that attempts to raise the prices of environmental pollutants to better account for their costs; and bringing tax rates up from their Bush-era lows as part of a bid to reduce the deficit. In each case, the position that Obama and the Democrats have staked out is the very position that moderate Republicans staked out in the early ’90s — and often, well into the 2000s." More here

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Apres Storm Tune: Comes a Time by Neil Young

Thursday Afternoon - It's Raining in Here - Brooklyn Heights

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Thu, Jul 7, 2011, 4:15 PM EDT

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Updated Jul 7, 2011, 4:10pm EDT Weather in Motion®
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer 2011 Thus Far -- What's Going On

HBO’s Game of Thrones

The Addams Family with Roger Rhees, Brooke Shields and Brad Oscar

Beach Bar in Atlantic City on a Wednesday Afternoon

STARMAN – the Yuri Gagarin Story

LIFE by Keith Richards

Beginners – a film by Mike Mills

Midnight in Paris - a film by Woody Allen

Bridesmaids - a film by Paul Feig

Whitney Museum - Cory Arcangel

Jewish Museum - Maria Kalman

New York Sports Club – every other day, forever

EXAMINED LIVES by James Miller


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