Thursday, April 24, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I'm currently reading "The Power Broker", Robert Caro's massive biography of Robert Moses. This book is literally 1300+ pages long and I'm determined to read the whole thing. I'm currently on page 578 and will post a review when I'm done. "The Power Broker" is, both in length and reputation, the "War and Peace" of biographies.
In case you don't know who Robert Moses was, he was New York City's "master builder" of the 20th century. He built Shea Stadium, Lincoln Center, the United Nations, the Triborough Bride, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the West Side Highway, the Long Island Expressway and a whole lot more ("If you seek his monument, look around you" and so forth). He was also a complete bastard but I'll tell you more about that when I write my review.
Anyway, being a child of the 1980s and having the associative mind that I do, the idea of "building cities" led to me to think of this now-classic song from my youth, "We Built this City (on Rock and Roll)" by Starship (nee Jefferson Airplane). In 2004, VH1 declared this the most "Awesomely Bad" song of all-time. The video, as you can see, is one of the most bizarre, surreal, Felliniesque things ever made. It's pure 1980s schlock. I remember as a kid watching it on MTV -- back in the days when they still showed videos and before they realized they could get higher ratings with hot chicks on reality shows.
This song isn't really about New York or any city in particular. Although the traffic report you hear in the middle of the song here is for San Francisco, various versions of this song has reports for different cities. There was one for NYC but I can't find it. Sorry.
Now admit it: you love this song. As dumb as it is, it's catchy and fun. Grace Slick never sounded better, and it brings our minds and emotions back to that wonderful time of Ronald Reagan and "Family Ties." Besides, how can you not love a song whose catchphrase is "Marconi played the Mamba?" Enjoy!
In case some of you found my previous entry about the Pope a little too snarky please let me explain: while I'm not religious, I'm not one of those people who mocks those who are. In many ways, I envy the faithful since they seem to be truly happy people. I just have some problems with organized religion and how it's practiced and exploited by so many people today.
However, I should add that I had the privilege of seeing this Pope give his usual Sunday blessing from his window at the Vatican in 2005. He has a beautiful speaking voice and it was a truly uplifting moment. It's a memory I'll always cherish. My brother, who's a great photographer, took the photo of the event that you see here, as well as these other postcard-perfect pictures of the Vatican. We even went all the way to the top of St. Peter's Basilica. It was gorgeous.
Friday, April 18, 2008
But I hope his Holiness has a nice time here. Even if our city is full of sinners.
Not long ago the Vatican released a list of new sins. We all (or should know) the original, old-school, seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. It goes without saying that most New Yorkers are guilty of a lot of these sins (particularly lust, greed, and pride. We are greedy for money to we can get the sex that we lust for and we're prideful of our ability to get both).
As this article indicates, the new sins include contributing to poverty and social inequality and using drugs. I don't think most New Yorkers intentionally contribute to poverty -- who wants people to be poor? -- but the huge differences in wealth in this town certainly lead to social inequality. So I guess we're sinners there. And when it comes to drugs? Well ... this is the town of Bright Lights, Big City. We like to get high. So we're sinful there too.
Oh well. I guess New Yorkers are sinners. So one sinner to another, let's hope the Pope will forgive us.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Needless to say, this election has already resorted into the usual petty, "gotcha", personality-driven trivial freak-show crap that has become the staple of our American electoral system. It's all so depressing familiar. We've heard about Obama's wacky pastor and "bitter" comments, as well as Clinton's "misremembering" of being under sniper fire. But when it comes to John McCain ... well, the media gives him a free pass.
Did you know he dumped his first wife who had waited for him for more than 5 years while he was in the Hanoi Hilton because she had been in a car accident and gotten fat?
Did you know he then chased the current Mrs McCain -- a skinny blond roughly twenty-years his junior -- who was also the heiress to a big fortune that's funded his entire political career?
Did you know he was one of the Keating Five?
Did you know he and his wife own EIGHT homes?
Probably not. The media considers him "salt of the earth", oh-so-manly, a real "man of the people." But sometimes reality has a nasty way of intruding. Just last week, Newsweek magazine published a picture of "Mac" that was meant to make him look all bad-ass. Dark glasses, tie flapping in the wind, a steely look on his face. But OH WAIT! Did you see tag on that tie? Why yes, it say "Giorgio Armani." Newsweek tried to blur it but it still came through.
We've heard a lot about Obama's middle name so let's give one to Mr McCain: Armani.
Some man of the people. Some real "salt of the earth" guy. Some bad ass. But don't worry, Johnny, the media won't give you any grief for being out of touch.
Can you only imagine if this was a Democrat?
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
But in the midst of all this drama is today's delightful story in the Times of a 100 year old lady who still rides the buses and subways and teaches a weekly class at the City College branch downtown on the Supreme Court. Her name is Ruth Proskauer Smith, daughter of the great Jewish lawyer Joseph Proskauer (founder of the mighty Proskauer Rose law firm). Granted Ruth has had a charmed life and is fortunate to be so healthy and vibrant at a century old. Not all of us can be so lucky. But anyone who is able to live so fully at such an unimaginable age can't help but make your heart swell. I only hope that I can be so blessed.
All Rise! A Centenarian Will Analyze the Supreme Court
Thanks to the good people at NYU for taking so much of my money that I could get this piece of paper (it's 11 x 13 inches so its an over sized piece of paper). I opted to get my degree in the mail so that I wouldn't have to sit through a punishing, dehumanizing, exhausting, boring, god-awful graduation ceremony. Now I can just file away my degree and update the resume. So congratulations to me I guess. One more elitist has been created!
Or maybe not. Who knows? You know lots of people accuse other people of being elitist but my question is, what's wrong with being elitist? Aren't we an elitist nation? Don't we all strive to be elitists in some way? I pray and hope to God that one day I'll be prosperous enough, educated enough, and worldly enough to actually be called an elitist. And when that day happens my reply will be "Thank you!"
And with my degree in hand, I'm on my way!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
And talking about Flying Blind, here's the show's very cool opening credits. You gotta love any show that uses the Talking Heads for its theme music. It was on in 1992, before Friends and before Seinfeld was really big. It was kinda ahead of its time. Oh, and it's also the show that gave us Tea Leoni. Cheers.
In the 1950s, it was The Honeymooners.
In the 1960s ... well, okay, I can't think of one.
In the 1970s, it was Saturday Night Live.
In the 1980s, it was Late Night with David Letterman (Late Night was a show for New Yorkers; The Late Show is a show for tourists).
In the 1990s, it was Mad About You (no, not Seinfeld; I will explain in a moment).
And now, in the '00s, it's 30 Rock.
Lots of shows have tried to be great New York shows and some have come close. Sex and the City and Seinfeld are obviously the closest and, while they're great shows, I wouldn't say they are necessarily great New York shows. While I loved them, I didn't get that same palpable New York City vibe that I got from the aforementioned.
Others have tried to be great New York City shows, of course, and failed miserably. Don't get me started on Friends or some of that dreck that used to be on the NBC Thursday night line-up in the late 1990s. Fortunately 30 Rock is one show on the current NBC Thursday line-up and it, in my opinion, qualifies as the next great New York show.
What makes 30 Rock so awesome? What do I love this show about a show? Maybe it's the neurotic and self-deprecating head writer Liz Lemon (a hilarious Tina Fey) or the absolutely brilliant Alec Baldwin as Jack, the big network honcho (his character may seem outrageously over the top but I've worked for guys like that and they do, believe me, exist). And of course there's Tracy Morgan, the ridiculous star of the fictional "Tracy Jordan" who may seem like a pampered celebrity but is actually a buddy to everyone. The cast is so funny, the writing so sharp, you can't have a pulse and not love it.
But what makes it a great New York show is that it has that same irreverent, devil-may-care, caffeine-fueled, Type A attitude that almost all New Yorkers feel and identify with. It gets how people live in this town (i.e. working a lot, eating take-out, negotiating the Darwinian worlds of dating and office politics). It feels like it's "on the level" with the majority of New Yorkers. And, as a New Yorker watching it, I feel it's giving me a wink and smile, saying "We get you buddy. We feel your pain. It's ours too."
What else can a great New York show do? Let's hope "30 Rock" continues to thrive and thrive. Our city will be the better for it.
Postscript: there actually was a show in the early 1990s called Flying Blind and it had the potential to be a really great New York show. Sadly a lousy time slot and ratings made the Fox network give it a short lifespan. One abbreviated season does not a great New York show make but Mr NYC remembers it fondly.
Monday, April 14, 2008
P.S. I ate there once about a dozen years ago. The food was okay but not great yet the atmosphere was pleasant and friendly. It's worth checking out if you want to see some celebrities and don't mind be overcharged for dinner.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
While a little dopey and silly, "Cool in Your Code" does makes you realize how much more there is to discover in New York than you can ever imagine ... and how much cool stuff there is to find wherever in this town you may go.
Cool in Your Code
Friday, April 11, 2008
This is probably one of the most brilliant, hilarious, skillfully edited sequences in motion-picture history. Whatever one thinks of Woody Allen's recent movies, this scene from "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex" reminds of us of his genius and his impact on cinema.
Favorite line: "What if it's a homosexual encounter?"
It's even funnier with the French subtitles.
Yesterday Howard's faithful sidekick Artie Lange went mental and attacked his own assistant on the air (the reasons are various, had to do with Artie believing his assistant was stealing money from him). Artie was then restrained but the damage was done. Artie quit on the spot and walked off the show. Now Howard et al. is on vacation until April 21. Will Artie be able to return? Probably not. And it's sad.
New York magazine has a great write up about this along with YouTube videos of the incident and its aftermath (the "videos" are audio only). If you're a Howard fan, check it out!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Of course being a man in NYC, I can't really ever say that there can be too many single women or too few single men but, obviously, if things were reversed, I'm sure I'd feel differently. :)
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Well the singer Cat Power did and, man, she pulls it off. You gotta listen to this performance she did of it on the BBC not so long ago. Her breathy, luscious voice is 180 degrees from Ol' Blue Eyes. If you want to check out the original version, hit the Video Bar below and hear for yourself.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Looks like NYC is a great place to a be a single guy and LA a great place to be a single gal: single women outnumber single men in New York City by over 200,000 (YEAH BABY! -- oh God, did I just type that?) while single women outnumber single men in LA by nearly 90,000 (I have no idea how to feel about this; while I pity the men of LA, I never intend to live there so why should I care?).
Actually if you look at the map of the country as a whole you notice that there's more single women on the East Coast and Midwest while the opposite is true for the Western and West Coast states. I have no idea why this is the case but there it is.
So to the single women of NYC: don't feel so bad about rejecting some dude, he's got lots more proverbial fish in this urban sea.
And to the single men of NYC (specifically those "nice guys" who don't get girls): don't feel so bad, your odds are better than you think!
Sorry Mike, looks like Shelly rolled you again.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
There's lots to do on any given Saturday night in New York City but it's not every Saturday night in NYC where you can go to "A Prairie Home Companion." But last night a bunch of us went to the 1174th live broadcast of Garrison Keillor's radio variety program at Town Hall.
It was a great show and hopefully you'll hear it this weekend on your local public radio station. Wearing his trademark suite and red sneakers, Keillor was hilarious and quick-witted as always (best joke of the night: when the Pope is in town this month he'll spend most of his time listening to confession from Elliot Spitzer). Keillor was joined by Scottish chanteuse Jean Redpath, who several beautiful songs, as well as by country music star Brad Paisley (who sang several HILARIOUS and naughty songs). Also, a local poet read several funny short poems and Keillor and the band sang several delightful songs.
Of course there was a Guy Noir mystery story (special guest: Kimberly Williams-Paisley, star of The Father of the Bride movies and TV series According to Jim, also wife of Brad) that involved demolitions (gotta hear it to believe it) and, naturally, the News from Lake Wobegon.
I'm not able to hear "Prairie" every week but I do my best to. It's such an sweet, fun, innocent, old-fashioned show that it's almost hard to believe that such an uncool, thoroughly unhip thing could still exist in this deeply cynical age. But thankfully it does and, when it does to NYC, we should be grateful.
"A Prairie Home Companion" is broadcast locally on WNYC 93.9 FM, Saturday afternoons at 6 PM. It's rebroadcast on Sundays at 11 AM on WNYC 820 AM. Check out their website for more info.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
And that's why he doesn't believe New York should get any more homeland security funds. This is the great wisdom from a man who was busted robbing cars as a youth (or, as we say here, "yute").
Mr Issa, don't even think about showing your ugly car-thievin' mug in NYC anytime soon. You won't be welcomed.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Some of you may remember these Crazy Eddie commercials from the 1980s. They were so outlandish and silly that they became something of a cultural phenomenon, even popping up in movies like "Splash."
I vaguely remember going with my family to buy an air conditioner from the Crazy Eddie store on Broadway in the 70's -- I think it's a Ruby Foo's now.
Of course Crazy Eddie (nee Eddie Antar, a Syrian Jew from Brooklyn) turned out to be a crook and huckster of the highest order. Crazy Eddie went bust in 1989 and he ran away to Israel in 1990. He and was finally brought back for trial in 1993. Interestingly enough Crazy Eddie was prosecuted, of all people, by Michael Chertoff, now the secretary of Homeland Security. Chertoff called Eddie "the Darth Vader of capitalism", I guess making Mr. Chertoff the Luke Skywalker of capitalism.
Wikipedia has a good write up of the whole sordid story. Thankfully we can still enjoy his silly commercials ad infinitum.
In -- oh never mind.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Among some of the bloggers I drank and chatted with:
- The spirited creator of Debonair Debacles, a personal blog that's remarkably insightful and well-done. She talks about everything on here: herself, politics, popular culture, food, books, you name it. She told me she gets over 200 hits a day (Mr NYC is just a wee bit jealous) and you can see how she's earned it -- it's simply a delightful blog. Check it out!
- A lady who calls herself Madam Breakfast -- yes, a blog devoted to the first and most important meal of the day. Breakfast Lab is a very informative blog (about guess what) and has lots of great advice about what constitutes a healthy breakfast. I can honestly say I've never seen anything quite like it. Definitely worth a look.
- Finally, someone with not one, not two, but three advice blogs, one of them on nerve.com. They are: SelfHelpMe, Stephanerd, and the Modern Materialist. Very smart blogs, and very funny
If you want more info about this visit, the Archdiocese of New York has a special info site for it. Also, the Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio is doing 'round the clock coverage. Check out the details here.
As Manhattan loses luster, trendsetters set their sights on hip alterna-nabes
Sarah Jessica Parker is quoted in this article as saying of Manhattan, "It's expensive, and it's not what it used to be" -- and if Sarah Jessica says it, if the guru of all things hip in NYC says it, it must be true.
And it is. Obviously Manhattan has gotten so outrageously expensive that the young and hip and cool and "with it" folks can't afford to live in it anymore. And beyond that, it's actually the consolidation of wealth in Manhattan that's making it uncool -- been to the Upper East or West Sides lately, or even Tribeca and the Village? They've become so hopelessly gentrified, so luxe and sterile, that whatever funky, idiosyncratic vibe they had is fading fast.
So go to Queens, Brooklyn, even Staten Island and there you'll find the "real" New York ... whatever that may be.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Recently Mr NYC went to the Russian Turkish Baths on 10th street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. I
could tell you all about it but this story from "Good Day NY" in 1991 tells (and shows) all in detail.
Believe it or not but New Yorkers have been shvitzing at this place since 1892. That's a lot of sweat!