Thursday, February 26, 2009
- Big news today: Mayor Plans to Close Parts of Broadway to Traffic. The city says this is an experiment. The laboratories are parts of Times Square and Herald Square. As a lover of walking, this is great news. My concern: the re-routed traffic will create huge congestion problems and a giant cluster-F of cars elsewhere.
- Ed Koch is getting ready to die. Seriously, he's throwing going away parties for himself. "How'm I doin'?" I guess ... not well. I don't worry for Ed though. I have a feeling the ex-mayor will bury us all.
- Apparently we New Yorkers are HORNY. I mean like ... REALLY HORNY. I mean like REALLY REALLY HORNY. I mean like REALLY REALLY REALLY HORNY. I mean like ... WEIRD HORNY.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
As of Thursday, her column will no longer run in any New York City paper. The New York Post is dropping her, yet another victim of a nasty economy and dying newspaper business.
Liz Smith is a New York institution. A Texas girl who found her calling in our fair city, she's probably the greatest gossip columnist in this city's history. A pal of the powerful, a foe to the phony, a great big glamorous gal, Liz has been dishing the dishy-ish dish in town for over fifty years. No one has ever had a more perceptive finger on the pulse of celebrity culture in this city like her. Not being able to open a tabloid and see Liz Smith's mug and being able to read her scoops is truly sad indeed.
But she'll still be available online. Check her out at wowowow.
Monday, February 23, 2009
So Penelope Cruz just won an Oscar for her turn in Woody's Vicky Christina Barcelona. She makes the sixth performance to win an Oscar in a Woody movie. The other winners?
Diane Keaton for Annie Hall (1977)
Michael Caine for Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Dianne Wiest for Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
The number of actors and actresses nominated for Oscars in Woody movies is also huge. Woody himself for Annie Hall, Maureen Stapleton and Geraldine Page for Interiors (1978), Mariel Hemingway for Manhattan (1979), Martin Landau in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Judy Davis for Husbands and Wives (1992), Chazz Palminteri and Jennifer Tilly in Bullets Over Broadway, and Sean Penn and Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown (1999).
If there are any others, I don't remember. But that's a hell of a list. (And that doesn't take into account all of Woody's writing and directing Oscars and nominations, which I certainly can't remember).
So that's six wins in thirty-one years, or a win roughly every 5.17 years. Considering that there are hundreds of movies released each year and a couple dozen nominated for Oscars every year, that makes his track record all that more impressive.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Anyway, I blogged about Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Journal when he bought it in 2007. Too bad none of my suggestions for the paper were adopted.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Most of this I've already blogged about, but it's still amazing to see everything that's transpired in just a few short days: A-Rod's steroid confession, The New York Post cartoon controversy, Mike Bloomberg's bumbling quest for a third term ...
But wait! There's more!
Shea Stadium, as shown below, was finally demolished last week. Now the Mets will take up residence in the new Citi Field just across the street. Shea Stadium was built by Robert Moses in 1961. He said of it at the time: "When the Emperor Titus opened the Colosseum in 80 A.D. he could have felt no happier." Well, the Colosseum is still standing in Rome after almost 2000 years. Shea didn't even make it to 50. Sorry, Bob.
And Late Night with Conan O'Brien is no more. He's leaving the show and our fair city to host the Tonight show out in ... dum-dum-DUM-dum ... Los Angeles ... As Conan and Matt Lauer reflect below, it seems like only a few short years ago that the then unknown Mr. O'Brien took over from David Letterman. That was in 1993. Feels like just yesterday ... but it was 16 friggin' years ago!
Oh, the wonders never cease in New York City! Our city is so wondrous that, apparently, even our subways make music. I'm not talking about the begging musicians in the subway, I mean the subways itself. Under Broadway, the Subway Hums Bernstein
And here's another Mike update: apparently our billionaire Mayor isn't so teflon after all. His approval ratings are down. Granted he's at 52% and still a favorite for re-election, but considering that he was in the 70s recently and seemed a shoe-in just a month or so ago, this is not a good trend for him.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Why? After all, he's got hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at them!
Because politics isn't all about money in the end (just mostly). Mike has shown open disdain for party politics and acted as though he was "above the fray." Remember, in 2007 he declared himself an independent and told the GOP to go to hell. Now, I have no love for this particular political party as you may know, but they were, understandably, offended and don't really want to accept back the prodigal billionaire. This anti-politician politician act only goes so far -- if you want to elected, you gotta get on the ballot. And money isn't enough to heal big wounded New York egos.
For all his money and all the political talent he's vacuuming up, Mike and his brain trust didn't seem to think about this rather important point until quite recently. Mike rashly had term-limits extension rammed through before he even thought "Hey! I don't belong to a party anymore. What ballot line will I run on?"
As you know, I thought this anti-democratic term-limits extension was disgraceful, and now it's coming back to bite Mike. His greedy power grab made him put the political cart before the political horse.
Karma is most certainly a bitch.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It's easy to pile on and dismiss A-Rod's "stupid mistake" about taking steroids. This whole thing about him being a "young kid" and "ignorant" strikes me as being particularly cynical on his part. How old do you have to be to realize that steroids are wrong?
That said, let's not forget the golden rule of the Buddha, "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes."
(Okay, so this isn't one of the golden rules of the Buddha ... I just wanted to write "the golden rule of the Buddha").
Monday, February 16, 2009
It confirms a lot of what the Atlantic posits -- that our economy is more diverse and dynamic, thus better able to adjust to the new economic realities. This new article is totally NYC-centric, however, and centers around interviews with five city economic experts.
The consensus? While the situation is dire, the city is not by any means doomed. The most important points from this article:
1. As the article title indicates, the chance of permanent economic change in New York is 100%.
2. The city learned from its fiscal irresponsibility of the 1960s and 1970s and won't go down that path again, particularly under Mayor Bloomberg.
3. A large part of what creates so much economic insecurity today is the speed and rapidity of information as opposed to the past. This means bad news -- but also good news -- travels quickly and thus the pace of change -- both positive and negative -- will be much faster than in the past.
This is a must read. Let's keep our collective fingers crossed.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Also on the same floor is a tiny exhibit about George Washington's Inaugural in 1789 at the Federal Hall. It includes a May 1, 1789 newspaper article reporting on the event.
Here's a quick trivia question: how many presidents have taken the oath of office in NYC? Answer: two.
1. George Washington (obviously) on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall.
2. Chester A. Arthur at 123 Lexington Avenue (his home at the time) on September 20, 1881. President James Garfield had been shot by an assassin some time before and, after a protracted illness, died on this date. Vice-President Arthur assumed the presidency and served until 1885.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
The New York art world of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s has become, like the nightclub scene of 1920s and 1930s Berlin, an era legendary for its youthful exuberance, artistic innovation, libertine behavior, and unrestrained weirdness and decadence.
This was when starving artists could still afford to live in Soho and the Village, and devote their lives to creating strange, conceptual work. The hip downtown art world in New York came to prominence via the influential work of Andy Warhol. He became a God to all those aspiring artists rushing to NYC back in the day, and his "Factory" studio nurtured the talents of many of these artists. Of course, when they weren't making weird art, they were doing lots of drugs and having all sorts of exotic sex. Their lives became, in some cases, more interesting than their art.
By the 1980s, the downtown art world had become more popular and wild than ever but it was really the end of this era. Warhol died in 1987 and the gentrification of the 1990s made downtown Manhattan way too expensive for starving artists. By the year 2000, Soho and the Village were playgrounds for the rich, and aspiring artists were exiled to Brooklyn and Queens -- or out of the city altogether.
This world still exists today, however, in the movies. If you're interested, not only in the New York art scene of Andy Warhol and his protegees, but also in kind of New York that doesn't exist anymore, you should check out the following films:
I Shot Andy Warhol: Valerie Solanos was an aspiring writer who became obsessed with Andy Warhol and hoped she'd produce a play she wrote. When he and his Factory cohorts ostracized her, Solanos actually shot him (as the title suggests) and ended up in an asylum. This 1996 movie stars Lilly Taylor as Valerie Solanos and really takes you into the heart of the New York art scene at its zenith.
Factory Girl: this 2006 movie stars Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen (he of Star Wars) about Edie Sedgwick, who was a hanger-on in Andy Warhol's Factory and who met a tragic end.
Basquiat: this 1996 movie stars Jeffrey Wright as the artist Jean Michel Basquiat who became The Artist in 1980s Manhattan but then OD'd in 1988 at the age of 27.
Slaves of New York: Based on the stories of Tama Janowitz, this 1989 movie stars Bernadette Peters as Eleanor who lives with her miserable superstar artist boyfriend Stash in the East Village. Eleanor is Stash's "slave", meaning she can't afford NOT to live with him and thus he can treat her however he wants. Eleanor is an aspiring artist herself (she makes weird hats) and, through her art, is trying to find her happiness and freedom from Stash. Slaves of New York is, believe it or not, a Merchant-Ivory movie that was a big departure from their English costume dramas. As the clip above shows, its a long way from the likes E.M Forster.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Called How the Crash Will Reshape America by Richard Florida, it explains and also literally maps our nation's economic crises. This recession-almost depression is hitting some areas harder than others, and it will literally reshape various cities and regions in this country that will affect generations to come.
This article reminds us that the economic crises is very uneven (and very unfair) in its distribution and impact. If all politics is local, so are all economies. There really isn't "an economy", or a single "American" economy, there are thousands of them -- a patchwork quilt of American economics that make a highly complex, volatile, and hard-to-understand whole. In this regard, it may be that trying to "fix" the American economy, as President Obama and the Congress are trying to do, is impossible. But doing nothing is unacceptable when people's lives are being destroyed.
So how does this affect NYC? Will our city be re-shaped by the crises? Florida's article posits an interesting theory. To sum it up, he writes:
I agree with Florida that the city's economy needs to diversify more and that our city is well-positioned to do so. Let's hope that's the silver lining in this crises, and that New York will be better for it in the end. And once more, Jane Jacobs will be proved right by history.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
You know when you start dating someone, and you're having a great time and everything's wonderful, and you think "Wow! I've met THE ONE!" and then, suddenly, and for no apparent reason, it all goes wrong and just ... ends.
That basically sums up the relationship between Brett Favre and the New York Jets.
Disappointed Jets fans say goodbye - and good riddance! - to retiring QB Brett Favre
You gotta hand it to this guy. He's totally shameless. His tacky ads have made Dr. Zizmore the most famous dermatologist in NYC. We've been looking at his mug for years on TV and in the subways. Everyone makes fun of him but I'm sure he's earned a fortune. He's a self-made New York legend. There are certainly worse things to be.
Monday, February 9, 2009
A Key for ‘Captain Cool’ and the 1549 Crew The triumph of the human spirit. Who knew anything so beautiful could literally come out of the Hudson River?
Rodriguez Admits Using Drug to Enhance Performance A-Rod's been a naughty boy. Needless to say, he's gonna have to go through the public apology, public redemption routine. Ugh.
Freakoutonomics This is how the recession is eating away at our city's economic, "death by a thousand cutbacks" as the article says.
A One-Man Immigration Protest on 72nd Street Huh?
Sunday, February 8, 2009
It's not just New Yorkers who are leaving town -- the city itself is literally being exported.
Remember the Moondance Diner? It used to be on 6th Avenue and Grand Street until last year it was sold off and hauled out to La Barge, Wyoming (I actually blogged extensively extensively about this in 2007).
Now another diner, the Cheyenne on Ninth Avenue and 33rd street, is moving to Alabama! And the same folks who are buying and moving it now want to buy a closed movie theater in Queens! On top of that, the guy who used to run the now defunct Kim's Video Stores has sold off his entire collection to someone in Sicily. And that's not the end of it.
This isn't the first time something like this has happened. London Bridge was torn down and re-assembled in Arizona. The Cloisters here in NYC are made up of several old cathedrals and buildings from France. The Temple of Dendur at the Met was excavated in Egypt and rebuilt here. And if art collections, furniture, and other precious assets can be moved from place to place, why not real estate? So this is really nothing new.
I guess we can look at all of this as a kind of cultural exchange. If NYC has nothing else, its got a great culture. If people around the country and around the world want a piece of it, and can pay for it, who 's to blame them? But like our middle class, let's just try to preserve as much of it here as we can so that we continue to have a great culture. Let's hope it's not all for sale.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
I often kvetch on this blog about how this city is becoming less and less friendly to the common folk and their quality of life. Now there are numbers to prove it.
In the last couple of years, more than 150,000 people -- the size of many cities in this country -- have fled NYC because they couldn't afford it. According to the Center for an Urban Future, New Yorkers need to earn six figures a year in order to hack out a middle class life. It costs twice as much, and requires you earn twice as much, to live a comfortable life in NYC than it does in most other cities in America.
Well, I guess this isn't really news. Still, it's good to know about it. New York has always been expensive. It's a great, great city, and people are attracted by its greatness. Please from all over the world want to live here and are willing to pay astronomical sums for the honor. Those who can afford NYC crowd out those who cannot. Supply and demand, zero-sum gain, capitalism at its finest. I just hope that as this city gets ever richer and richer, it doesn't lose those wonderful qualities and textures that make it such a desirable place to live in the first place. Then what'll be the point?
For more advice on how to live in NYC, go to Apartment Therapy.com. It gives great advice about how to make small living spaces more bearable.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
A newly published book called Securing the City by Christopher Dickey is about the NYPD after 9/11. The hero of this book is Ray Kelly, our city's current Police Commissioner, who revolutionized the police department to fight terrorism. Law enforcement tactics of the past aren't enough, as Kelly clearly realized.
Today's NYPD is not just cops on the beat and Swat teams -- it's a hyper-modern, technologically-sophisticated intelligence gathering machine that works 24/7. Like the CIA, it has agents all over the world, sniffing out threats to NYC. Wherever, whenever a terrorist hits around the world, the NYPD goes there to investigate and see how a similar act could be carried out in New York. As the saying goes, terrorists around the world are obsessed with hitting New York City -- and always will be. But, if Dickey is right, NYC is better prepared for it than ever before.
Most scarily, a lot of terrorists were and are inspired to attacked NYC because of movies from the 1990s like Independence Day and Godzilla which included lots of wholesale destruction of this city. I guess the arguments that violence in the media causes violence in reality hold some merit -- in ways we never imagined.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
From February 6 to March 5, Film Forum down in the Village is presenting some the classics of the Great Depression including It Happened One Night, Little Ceasar, American Madness, Mr Deeds Goes to Town, and the original Scarface and King Kong.
Dubbed Breadlines and Champagne, these movies encapsulate not only the hardships of that era but also some of the escapism that Americans enjoyed at that time.
Some of these films, like Baby Face with a young and hot Barbara Stanwyck, are quite naughty and racy. It came out in 1933 before the whole Hayes Code/Catholic League thing made American movies rather vanilla for the next thirty-something years. Five extra sordid minutes of Baby Face footage were discovered in 2005!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Feel better Mike.
Monday, February 2, 2009
It's a given that the current financial crises and resulting scandals are wrecking havoc on the finance and real estate industries in this town, two of the underpinnings of the NYC economy. But how is this actually affecting the lives of New Yorkers, rich and poor?
Two new magazine articles examine this impact in depth. Marie Brenner's Vanity Fair article looks at how the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme has shaken Upper East Side society and the city's upper crust. While no one is going to feel overly sorry for this crowd, this scandal is more than just about lost money: it's about how a whole sub-cultural has been forced to look at itself and not liking what it sees. Also, this week's New York magazine has an article by Gabriel Sherman about Tishman Speyer's 2006 acquisition of Stuyvesant Town, and how it's attempt to turn this working class bastion of city life into the latest Yuppie enclave has been a debacle.
We are living through a turning point in New York City history, in some ways even bigger thaan 9/11. The current economic situation is forcing New York to make hard choices about its priorities. The many industries that fuel this city's economy are changing -- permanently. Crain's New York Business is hosting a conference tomorrow called "The Future of New York City." Mayor Bloomberg and several of the big mucky-mucks in this town will be there trying to figure it out. What's they'll conclude, I have no idea but let's hope they can come up with some good ideas to keep this the #1 city in the world.
You can listen to live coverage of it tomorrow on WNYC 93.9 FM/820 AM Brian Lehrer show.