Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Andy Warhol - 30th Anniversary of His Death

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


If you love NYC, you love movies about NYC, especially those that depict a real-life, on the streets, brutally honest version of it.

I can't think of a better example than director Susan Seidelman's 1982 independent movie Smithereens. Set in the East Village during the dying days of punk rock, Smithereens is about a young woman, a New Jersey-transplant named Wren, who has no money, no real friends, no particular talent (musical, artistic, or otherwise) who is trying to become part of a scene that doesn't want her. She gets kicked out of her apartment, tries to hook up with a failed rock star who mostly ignores her, and toys with the affections of a young man from Montana who lives in a van. This is a story about a nobody from nowhere destined to become nothing. It's both sad and poignant, a reminder that not all stories have happy endings.  

This movie was made for almost no money and doesn't star anyone famous, but it's a fascinating look at downtown NYC at a time when the city was dirty, dangerous, and fun. It's about people living on the fringes of the city, barely surviving in a Manhattan where you still could, some way or another, afford to starve in. It's the NYC that exists today only in memory, the city some still yearn for, that others are glad is good and buried. It's also one of the earliest independent movies, made outside the studio system, launching Susan Seidelman's career (her next film was Desperately Seeking Susan that featured a young singer named Madonna), culminating in the 1990s movie renaissance with directors like Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh, and Quentin Tarantino. 

If you liked the Coen Brothers Inside Llewin Davis, another great movie about a homeless aspiring musician (it came out in 2013 but is set in 1961 Greenwich Village), you should check out Smithereens. It'll remind you of what this city was -- and what it's still about today. 
Seidelman herself reflect on her movie in these two great interviews:

Blogging Mojo

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging lately, and there's a reason why -- it's name is Donald Trump.

I'll admit it -- ever since the orange orangutan vaulted from tabloid joke to leader of the free world, my blogging mojo has been hammered. It's been tough to work up the enthusiasm necessary to write about the very same city that produced the man currently menacing the White House. It's like seeing something you love betray you. It's like finding out that your childhood friend became a serial killer. How NYC, the most progressive and tolerant city in America, could produce this country's first truly fascist president, is beyond me. It's a nightmare, particularly for someone who takes such pride in his hometown.

I always wanted someone from New York City to become president - just not this someone!

The good news is that, in the weeks since he became president, the Resistance has come out in full force. It's amazing to watch ordinary citizens march and protest and fight back. I never thought it would happen this quickly or this loudly. I'm doing my best, as a busy professional with two small kids, to get involved. This blog is my small part of the Resistance but I recognize it's not enough. So that part of the story is TBD.

That said, my blogging mojo has returned -- somewhat. It's coming back, slowly but surely. Stay tuned. It gonna get REAL!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Outer Boroughs Strike Back!

The mind of Donald Trump is a terrifying place -- that much is obvious considering that, ten days in, his presidency is shaping up to be one of the most horrible, destructive, dangerous, neo-fascist reigns we've ever suffered through. What makes this horrible man so horrible?

Well, here's one theory: he's a resentful B&Ter, a child of the outer boroughs who resents the "elites" and the high-falutin snobs of Manhattan, and is using the powers of the nation's highest office as a mode of payback. He's driven to hurt "those people" who look down on him, as well as "those people" who are, let's face it, not white.

I don't entirely subscribe to this theory - I'm the child of outer boroughers, I live in an outer borough, I know lots and lots and lots of outer boroughers, and none of them are anything like this gaseous horror befouling the White House. That said, there's some interesting points in this article that defends the "outer borough resentment" that fuels this man so it's worth a read.

Thankfully, here in the outer borough at JFK airport, people are protesting this man-- and being heard. Long may they continue. Short may he reign

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Women's March in NYC

January 20, 2017: The Presidency of Donald J. Trump begins.

January 21, 2017: The end of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump begins.

Watching hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, and millions more around the country and globe, protest the noxious new president and his awful agenda, renewed my hope for humanity. It was overwhelming and exciting to see. I don't think Trump or the GOP knows what's going to hit them but this gave me a very good idea.

The dark time over. The resistance has begun. This is the morning.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The 2nd Avenue Subway Finally Opens

Midnight on January 1, 2017 was uniquely interesting moment in NYC history. At Times Square, Mariah Carey made a complete botch of her New Year's Eve performance but, just a little further uptown, the long-delayed, long-needed 2nd Avenue Subway finally opened after more than a century of talk and planning. This is a truly historic moment and reminder to the incoming administration that government - GASP - can do good things.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Interesting Times

There's a Chinese saying: "May you live in interesting times." 

This appears to be a blessing but, if you ask Chinese people, they will tell you it is, in fact, the most brutal of curses. Interesting times are usually times of tumult, horror, and misery; war, famine, and disease. Times are only interesting, the belief goes, if they are bad. Therefore it's a condemnation of people to wish interesting times upon them.

Conversely there is a Japanese saying: "May you have a boring life." This really is a blessing.

We are, sadly, living in the Chinese version of interesting times. A fascist, racist, misogynistic, demagogic bully who brags about his penis size, assaulting women, terrorizing immigrants, de-humanizing minorities, encourages violence towards others, and has really bad hair and taste in home decor is due to become the 45th President of the United States in 2017. This awful evil man is going to inhabit the same office as Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. That's interesting. It's also scary. It's a curse. Or is it something else?

This ogre was "elected" because he promises to make our country great "again." He promises to restore the past. As I've blogged about before, this is an impossible goal. But here we are.

In NYC, this clash between the past and present is never ending. Gentrification has made the battle lines stark. That's why you should read this article from Salon that is also an interview with the author of a book about nightlife in NYC from 1988 to 1999. Called "No Sleep", it's a coffee table book collection of "nightlife" flyers for downtown clubs and parties, etc. If you lived in NYC back then, you probably remember seeing these flyers all over the place. They were also sent around to places like my high school, trying to lure out young people with too much money. In short, these flyers are relics of an "interesting" time that no longer exists -- namely, downtown NYC when it was still funky. 

It's "interesting" to look at these flyers and and read what the author has to say about the book and take a peak at a world that no longer exists. NYC back then was a rougher place. Many would argue that it was more "interesting." Or not.

What's clear from this book and from the world we're currently living in is that the times are always "interesting." They never stop being interesting. It's hard to think of a time that wasn't. Interesting times never end. But eras do. They are replaced by other eras. And remembering them is a good way to gain perspective on our present and our hopes for the future.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Memo from NYC

"There is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre" - Kurt Vonnegut

I have never known anyone in my life who committed suicide. In this, I consider myself fortunate. But now I feel like I live in a country that chose to kill itself -- and I have no idea what to say. I have no idea what to say about a country that chooses to massacre its own ideals and decency. To paraphrase Mr. Vonnegut, there's nothing intelligent to say about the hideous decision to make Donald Trump, a product of NYC no less, the 45th President of the United States -- because there was nothing intelligent about it at all. 

These are dark days in America. 

Let me get straight to the point: Trump only won this election through the Electoral College but he lost the popular vote. That means the majority of Americans, however slight, DO NOT want him to be president (bless them all). Yet this monster slipped through because several states in the Midwest hammered by de-industrialization chose to believe Trump's big lie that he will restore manufacturing jobs in the USA.

He won't. He can't.

The global economy, despite his promises to his followers, is here to stay. Technology as much as trade deals is responsible for the disappearance of those great old well-earning, little-skilled and no-education needed factory jobs. Hillary Clinton and the other GOP candidates for president didn't promise to bring back these jobs because they knew it was impossible. But like the great con man he is, Trump promised to deliver something that he knows he can't. He sold these angry, desperate people snake oil and they bought it because they didn't see any alternative. 

That's our failure, that's American society's failure. We didn't give them an alternative, we didn't provide them with any other hope, so they fell for this con man's promises. What else did they have? America has failed so many of its people for so long that they chose to make the most dangerous decision in its history. It took decades for us to get to this point. Hopefully it won't take quite so long for America to rid itself fully of the stench of the Trump presidency and re-gain admission to the decency of the world community.

It'll be interesting to see in four years when Trump's (hopefully only) term will end. Will those great manufacturing jobs have come back? What about all the other stuff he promises? Will he have built that "big beautiful wall" between the USA and Mexico -- and gotten Mexico to pay for it? Will he really deport more than 10 million "illegal" immigrants? Will he really cut taxes, beef up the military, and build our infrastructure while maintaining fiscal discipline? If he does, then he will have succeeded -- at least on the terms he and his supporters litigated this election on. But if he doesn't, then he's a failure. 

And I think he'll fail. He'll fail because he was never serious about succeeding in the first place -- he just wanted to get the presidency and did so by selling snake oil to the masses. In four years, he'll be president and they'll still have nothing except broken promises. But actually, they won't even be broken promises because, as I said, they're promises that Donald the con man never intended to honor. How can a man who has no honor actually honor anything? In short, he'll be a bad president because he's a bad man.
That said, it was heartening to see here in NYC and around the country that many Americans aren't taking this nightmare lying down. They're on the streets, protesting. The resistance starts now and let's keep it going until he's president no more. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

The 2016 Al Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

Here are two New Yorkers, the two major party nominees for president in 2016, at the annual Al Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. This clip tells you everything about this surreal election campaign. It's wacky and historic at the same time.