Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Eat at Seinfeld's

It's a testament to the eternal greatness of Seinfeld -- the ultimate New York show "about nothing" -- that now, almost two decades since it went off the air, people still watch, talk, and write about it.

Recently the Internet streaming service Hulu licensed all of the episodes, netting the creators and owners of the show a cool $150 million.

And now this nostalgic article in The New York Times about the New York food culture on the show -- the coffee shops, hot dog stands, restaurants, and soup Nazis that Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine all frequented during their madcap, 90's adventures. Several of the places featured on the show have closed but many are still around and can be visited by any fan.

Great food, great comedy -- just part of what always make NYC great.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage Equality Rocks America

Marriage equality is now legal throughout the entire country. This is a great achievement. Here is what I wrote about it back in 2011 when marriage equality was legalized in New York State. I think my comments then still stand now.


Bloomberg Back in Biz

Have you been wondering what former Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been up to since he left office in 2013?

Of course you haven't! 

But this very long article is a rough summary of what our former mayor has been up to since he laid down the burdens of running NYC and resuming the duties of running his company Bloomberg LLC.

It's an interesting read but it also shows that Bloomberg is, at heart, a businessman and that his 12-year detour in government was really an aberation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Past Tense, Future Perfect

Forgive the intellectual laziness of the following sentence but I can't think of a better way to put it: a big city like NYC has a big history. Big -- in that it is varied, complicated, and endless.

In fact, there are many histories to NYC: political, social, cultural, architectural, you name it. There are whole libraries devoted to the history of NYC, literal forests of felled trees devoted to capturing the complex biography of this place. The following are links to just a few resources and articles to learn more about the history of NYC:

A "Book Bag" that summarizes some of the best novels and non-fiction writing about NYC.

A recent segment on WNYC radio about the history of landmarks and the preservation of great buildings in NYC.  

An article about the legendary hangout and music haunt Max's Kansas City where Andy Warhol liked to go and where the Velvet Underground gave some of their last, great shows.

And a history of Roosevelt Island, that sliver of land in the East River between Manhattan and Queens that has as long, complicated, sometimes scary, but always amazing history all its own. Recently it was the site of Hillary Clinton's campaign launch for president -- yet even more history being made in NYC.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

NYC in the Movies

Interesting article about the movie tours of NYC -- where buses cart lots of tourists around to look at spots in the city where classic movies were filmed -- and how the "idea" of NYC that we see in the movies is so very different from the reality of NYC in real life. 

For me, that's the greatness of this city. It's a place where dreams are realized and harsh truths are revealed. It's reality and fantasy all at once. What could be better?   

Monday, May 11, 2015

De Blasio's Vision for NYC

Rolling Stone recently published a very long article about Mayor De Blasio and his progressive vision for NYC.

Elected in 2013 with 73% of the vote, Mayor De Blasio put the issues of economic inequality at the center of his campaign and governing strategy. So far, he has given NYC universal pre-K (which, as a parent, I love), paid sick leave, launched a municipal ID card, and unveiled plans for more affordable housing units. More controversially, he reduced the use of "stop-and-frisk" by the police but has largely maintained the "broken windows" policing that has kept crime low.

His agenda is mostly, to my mind, uncontroversial. Who can argue that parents don't need pre-K? That paid sick leave is a humane policy? That a municipal ID card that helps people access services is bad? And the need for more affordable housing? That last one answers itself. 

These policy achievements might be viewed as "progressive" but, for me, they are just common sense improvements to the quality of life in NYC in the 21st century.

And yet, as successful as he's been (so far), and despite his huge mandate, De Blasio has faced vicious push back from the state government, the media, the wealthy, the so-called (corporate) charter school movement, and, naturally, Republicans. De Blasio wants to fight inequality and these various groups instead want to fight him. In fact, they are scorch-earthed in their hatred for him and his agenda, as this article explains. Just read some of the comments that accompany the article -- they are really, really nasty.
 
Clearly, instead of wanting to reduce inequality, these people want to preserve it. They don't really hate De Blasio -- they hate the people he represents (namely, the sick and disabled, the poor, minorities, Democrats, and basically anyone who isn't rich, white, and Republican). Really, what the De Blasio haters hate is democracy itself. For them, it doesn't matter that De Blasio and his policies won big and have huge public support -- they want to destroy him and his policies and the people that these policies help. They believe that De Blasio' policies threaten their socioeconomic dominance -- and they can't stand it!

Whether or not De Blasio is successful in the long run remains to be seen. He may have future policy and political stumbles. He may get caught up in some kind of scandal. There might be a  rises that arises that he is incapable of handling. And, of course, the corporate/Republican/media/state government jihad may ultimate succeed in defeating his planned re-election bid in 2017.

But, for now, I'm grateful that, at this moment of history, NYC has a progressive mayor that actually cares about the people and is succeeding.           

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Interview: Rachel Kramer Bussel, "Come Again"

One of the most popular posts of all time on Mr NYC is an interview that I did way back in 2007 -- the first year of this blog -- with Rachel Kramer Bussel, the sex writer and social observer. It got such a positive response that I thought it would be a good idea to check in with her again to see how her career and the world of sex writing has evolved. I was also interested in her opinion about such cultural phenomenon as "slut shaming" and women speaking out against the predatory behavior of powerful men.  

Rachel has also edited a new book of essays called Come Again that you should definitely check out.   

Still as sexy and prolific as ever, Rachel continues to publish articles (recently in The New York Times), blog, host events, write and edit books, and even teach classes. Rachel was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to give us another great interview. 

Since we last chatted in 2007, how has the world of sex writing changed or evolved? Has social media had an impact?

I think there are more venues where people are writing about sex, and sex is more accepted as a topic worthy of discussion alongside pop culture or news of the day. I can’t speak as much to print, but online, new sex columns seem to be thriving, everywhere from Vogue.com (http://www.vogue.com/contributor/karley-sciortino/) to Feministing (http://feministing.com/tag/fucking-with-feministing/), and sites like Fusion and Buzzfeed and countless others are doing innovative takes on it, rather than just sensationalism. I think the world is figuring out that sex isn’t just about what takes place in the bedroom, but that it impacts all aspects of our lives, and that it’s so much more complex than just “sex sells.” So many of our cultural assumptions about sex, gender, dating and relationships are being questioned and upended and we are making more space for people who perhaps don’t fit into an easy label or have fantasies or interests that might not be considered “mainstream.” I hope that we are moving away from the idea that there’s “normal sex” and then everything else. There’s not. Just because what you’re into is less common (or seems less common), doesn’t mean it’s not “normal,” and I think the proliferation of sex blogs, columns and articles is helping people realize that. Social media has made writers across the board more accessible to readers, for both better and worse. In terms of erotica, Fifty Shades of Grey not only made readers more aware of the erotica market, it opened up so many opportunities for writers, many of whom read Fifty Shades and were inspired to start picking up their own pens.

I see that you've moved to the suburbs (like me). Has that changed the perspective of your writing?

The main thing it’s done is give me more time and space to write, which have greatly improved my focus. When I lived in New York, I did way too much socializing at the expense of my career. I loved living in the city, but by the time I moved in 2013, I could tell that I would never accomplish the goals I’d set for myself if I continued to live there, because my FOMO would win out and instead of staying home, I’d be off to this or that event. Since I’ve lived in suburbia, I’ve published an ebook, Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays, started sex columns in Philadelphia City Paper (http://citypaper.net/blogs/lets-get-it-on/) and DAME (http://www.damemagazine.com/shameless-sex) and gotten published by the Washington Post and New York Times, so I think it’s safe to say suburbia and writing agree with me. What I don’t get as much of is talking to people on a daily basis; I’m largely alone when I’m working, as opposed to at a cafĂ© or observing people on the subway, but most of my work happens via online sources, whether that’s editing anthologies or researching articles.

How would you define "slut-shaming" and the damage it does to people?

There’s so many shapes slut-shaming can take, from outright being gossiped about or bullied to more subtle ways. It can happen plenty in the dating world, and I don’t think it always has to be over-the-top and sinister to have an impact. When I was single, I remember several times where no one called me a slut, but it was made clear that my behavior was pretty much too slutty to consider dating me. It can be blatant, but also so subtle we don’t realize we’ve internalized those messages, whether it’s about how soon we have sex or how many people we have sex with or what kinds of sex we have, or even what we wear or how we talk about sex. It’s almost impossible for many girls and women to keep up with the “rules” we are implicitly and explicitly told to follow in order to not be “sluts.” I think the psychic damage is one of the most dangerous aspects, because it can prevent us from exploring sex free of judgment, even our own judgment of ourselves.

What's the best way for women (or anyone) to fight back against "slut shaming?" (As the father of a young daughter, this is something I'm afraid of).

This is a tough question, because sometimes you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think age is also a factor, because once you’re an adult you have more autonomy over your life, but if you’re being slut shamed in junior high or high school, you’re probably seeing the people doing the slut shaming every day, both online and offline. I think finding a support network of people you can trust to talk about it, and figuring out what approach will make you the most comfortable and true to yourself. I also highly recommend checking out The UnSlut Project (http://www.unslutproject.com/), which Emily Lindin started as a way of sharing her own school dairies about being slut shamed, which has morphed into a community around the topic.

Do you feel that women are less afraid these days to speak out against the sexual misconduct of powerful men (i.e. Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein) and is this a new kind of feminism?

I definitely think there’s strength in numbers, especially with some of these high profile cases. Again, it’s probably much more challenging for a student to come forth with an allegation, whether that’s in middle school, high school or college, and trust that they will be believed and given a fair chance to tell their story and pursue charges, should they want to. I do think there’s been renewed feminist activism around the topics of sexual assault and sexual harassment, but we have a lot more work to do in terms of making sure these things don’t happen in the first place and giving women space to discuss how to proceed if it does happen. I was very disturbed to hear Katie Cappiello, author of the play SLUT and co-author of a book of the same name, tell me when I interviewed her for DAME (http://www.damemagazine.com/2015/02/12/does-word-slut-have-power-ruin-us), “
We know so many boys who don’t see coercive sex as the same thing as sexual aggression or violence. So they don’t see a problem with forcing a drunk girl to have sex with them, but they would never rape them. That’s a problem; that right there is an indicator that we need to have deeper conversations.”

Tell us about your new book Come Again. 

Come Again is a collection of 24 sex toy themed erotica stories, and probably one of the most humorous erotica books I’ve ever edited, though still plenty hot. I wanted to make sure all the sex toys in the book were different, so readers got variety, and the authors came through big-time. So there are traditional sex toys such as vibrators and butt plugs and nipple clamps, as well as household items like ice and very inventive fictional toys, including a special bike, as well as a story told from the point of view of a vibrator. I was so impressed with the different ways toys play a role in the stories; some are very tender and loving, some playful, some down and dirty, some futuristic, all extremely creative. I had some expectations for the kinds of toys writers would cover, but the authors in the book went above and beyond my wildest dreams. You can learn more about it at comeagainbook.com and also read Q&As (http://www.comeagainbook.com/#!comegainqanda/c370) with many of the authors about their writing inspiration. We’re doing our first reading from the book in one of my favorite cities, Portland, Maine, the night of June 3rd at restaurant LFK – stay tuned to the Come Again site or LFK’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LFKportland) for details. I’m also tweeting @comeagainbook about the book itself and sex toy news and reviews.

Any plans for the future?

I’m editing the anthology Best Women’s Erotica 2016 for Cleis Press, which is open to women authors; I’m accepting submissions through June 1st and have the guidelines on my site (http://rachelkramerbussel.com/submissions.php). I’m teaching erotica writing online via LitReactor.com (https://litreactor.com/classes/between-the-sheets-with-rachel-kramer-bussel), a wonderful site I highly recommended for all writers—they host classes and post about writing and book news and have active message boards, and will also teach in-person classes June 2 at Nomia in Portland, Maine and September 11at CatalystCon West in Burbank – see my website (http://rachelkramerbussel.com/calendar.php) for details. Outside of erotica, I just had my first article published in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/03/fashion/oh-those-clever-librarians-and-their-bookface.html), and will continue to write about pretty much anything and everything that I’m interested in. I love (for the most part, when I don’t hate it!) that every day is different when it comes to my work—some days it’s writing, some interviewing people, some editing, some teaching, some walking around brainstorming story ideas. I post daily @raquelita on Twitter and post news and do giveaways in my newsletter, which you can sign up for at rachelkramerbussel.com.

Thanks Rachel! And I hope it doesn't take me another eight years to interview you again!