Tuesday, March 31, 2009
So one of my loyal readers indicated that the Sugerhill Gang is actually from Jersey (I had read they were from NYC but I guess this was wrong). Anyway, Public Enemy is from Long Island, which is is a little closer -- and this is one of their best songs. Before he starred on dumb reality shows as a wannabe Viking, Flavor Flav was hip-hop trailblazer.
Howard Stern said this was his favorite song of 1988. Can you believe it's over 20 years old?
Monday, March 30, 2009
Heaven's Gate wasn't just a failed movie, it was a Hollywood scandal. It was also a story of Hollywood run amok, about how money alone can't create great art.
Steven Bach was one the UA executives who oversaw the production of Heaven's Gate and his 1985 book Final Cut about this fiasco is easily the best book ever written about Hollywood and the movie business. The making of this movie is much more fascinating, entertaining, bizarre, and tragic than the actual movie itself -- and Final Cut tells this story in thrilling, intricate, honest detail. It's a great read and, if you want to understand how the movie business today came to be, it's is a must read. In this era of corporate greed and stupidity and recklessness, the story of Final Cut is, in many ways, more relevant today than ever before.
Steven Bach passed away last week at the age of 70 so this is my little tribute to him. Fortunately, he not only oversaw Heaven's Gate, but also some New York movies including Woody Allen's Annie Hall and Manhattan, and Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
So what makes the Queensborough so cool? Well, when you cross it, it provides some of the most stunning views of the city skyline you can see. As you go into Manhattan, you see the United Nations, the CitiCorp building, the Bloomberg building, the Chrysler building, and the Empire State Building towering over the city. And when you go into Queens, particularly at night, you see the gigantic signs for the Silvercup Studios and Domino Sugar factory, plus the other big CitiCorp building located in Flushing.
But what makes the Queensborough really cool in my opinion? It's the only bridge to have had both Simon and Garfunkful and F. Scott Fitzgerald write about it! "The 59th Street Bridge Song" is about, in part, the Queensborough Bridge (since you enter it in Manhattan at 59th street), and Fitzgerald sang the bridge's praises in The Great Gatsby when he wrote “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” (If you ever see the movie Terms of Endearment, there's a short scene where the Debra Winger character sees Manhattan for the very first time from the Queensborough Bridge and is enchanted.)
Anyway, the Queensborough is turning 100 years old tomorrow and many are debating its pros and cons. As for me, it's pros way outweigh its cons. You're still looking pretty groovy at 100.
And please note, I don't count the Manhattan Bridge as a "great" bridge, just a jolly decent one. Basically, if the Brooklyn and Triboro Bridges are John and Paul, then the Queensborough is George and the Manhattan is Ringo.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Rapper's Delight turns 30 this year, and it's generally considered the first big hip-hop song. The Sugarhill Gang, generally considered the Godfathers of rap and hip-hop, were a NYC group and, it's fair to say, rap music originated here.
Hell Nay, We Won’t Pay!
Friday, March 27, 2009
Nasty times. But how did it happen? The worst part about this whole thing is that so many of us, yours truly included, don't understand how this economic/financial crises cum depression came to be! How did this happen? What happened? How is it that no one saw it coming? What's this all about?
Matt Taibbi rides to the rescue. The best reporter working in America today, Tabbi's latest Rolling Stone article The Big Takeover explains exactly how this economic tragedy came to be. As always, the writing is sharp, funny, and dead-on -- and Tabbi actually makes it so that a big dope like me can understand the various machinations, hubris, and just plain ol' stupidity that led to disaster.
This article has been getting a lot of attention lately (Tabbi's been getting interviewed all over the place about it and Don Imus even said it deserves a Pulitzer). Mr NYC has been a huge fan of Matt Taibbi's for a long time and even bumped into him last year (which you can read about here).
So this wonderful, brilliant, superbly written blog is two years old today. (As you can see, I'm as modest as ever). Hard to believe it's been that long but time doth fly. No need to send Mr NYC any birthday presents, although a cake would be greatly appreciated. Actually, a bunch of cupcakes, preferably from the Buttercup Bakery on West 72nd street.
Here's a little write-up I did on my first anniversary.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
M.T.A. Increases Fares and Cuts Services
Unless the state legislature steps up and funnels in about a billion and a half dollars, New York City commuters will get hammered with brutal fare hikes and service cuts starting June 1st. I'm guardedly optimistic that the state senate and assembly will come through on this before then, if for no other reason than it'll be political suicide for them not to do so.
That said, I really, really, really wish the city government ran the MTA and not the state. Our city is far too dependent on Albany, even though it's our tax dollars that basically keep the state float.
NYC needs a DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE from Albany! No more should pesky and creepy state legislators run the greatest cit in the world! Let New Yorkers rule themselves 100%!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Do ya like "The Rocky Horror"? You know ... the "science fiction/double feature picture show?"
Well, you don't have to wait for Halloween to see it on the big screen in NYC! Every Friday and Saturday at midnight, you can catch it at the Chelsea Clearview on West 23rd street.
If you've never been to a "Rocky Horror" screening, it's a hoot. People dress up like the characters, throw rice and shoot water at the screen, and actually act out parts of the movie. I went to a showing once and had a great time (although I didn't dress up). Look at the rules or "etiquette" for audience participation at "Rocky Horror" so you won't go in totally clueless.
Then go forth and do the Time Warp (again)!
Monday, March 23, 2009
New York City’s Political Campaigning Industry Defies Downturn
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I can't count the number of times that I've been stuck on a stalled subway train. It's one of the hazards of living in this town.
So Friday night, I'm heading to Queens on the N train and, just as we're about to hit Queensboro Plaza, the train stalls ... and we're waiting ... and waiting ... then the conductor announces that the W train before us, the one that just left Queensboro Plaza, has activated its emergency breaks so nothing is moving ... we pull into Queensboro Plaza and are told to leave the train. So I get off in the mad rush, leave the station, and start the long trek down 31st street. Then, suddenly, I see on the elevated train track above me, that the W train has un-stalled and is moving ... so I rush like mad to the 39th street staation, go up to the platform ... and am able to catch the train that I had gotten off just minutes before. So basically I caught the same train twice.
Anyway, what impressed me then, as it always does on a stalled train, is how cool and calm my fellow New Yorkers and subway passengers are when subway snaffus happen. They accept it, don't make any noise, don't yell and scream, don't get emotional ... they just keep reading, listening to their eye pods, or spinning thoughts in their heads, and deal with the problems. The cliche about New Yorkers is that we're rude and pushy but, in reality, most New Yorkers are considerate and thoughtful.
Just wish the MTA treated its passengers with the same kind of respect most New Yorkers show for one another.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Politicians use this as a justification for not taxing the wealthy all the time, and it's not a Democrat or Republican thing. Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg spout this line constantly when pressed about it. And on the face of it, this idea certainly seems logical. Here's the problem: it's a giant crock.
The numbers simply don't support the claim that tax hikes on the wealthy cause them to flee. The main reason people move has to do with jobs, family, education, etc. Taxes is way down on the list. And it's actually middle class New Yorkers -- people getting priced out by living costs -- who are leaving the city in large numbers. Not the wealthy.
So, as usual, the conventional wisdom is wrong.
Honestly, if their taxes go up just a tiny bit, are the rich really going to say, "Oh, I have a great home, a great job, great friends, I love the cultural attractions of this city BUT my taxes went up a little bit -- time to go!" Please! Yes, in a vacuum, the idea that tax hikes on the rich would cause them to move. But do the rich live in a vacuum? Obviously not.
Sadly, this myth will continue to infect our political class and conversation forever. Thus, while trying to balance state and city budgets, taxes will get raised on the people who it hurts the most. Services will be cut to those who need them the most. The poor will pay more. That's just the way of the world.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Leap to Track. Rescue Man. Clamber Up. Catch a Train.
This guys sounds cool. He didn't want any attention for his heroism but got it he did.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
New Yorkers’ excess of recession depression.
Failure is a part of life -- sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you're lucky, sometimes you ain't. You always play to win but sometimes you get out-played or there are other events beyond your control that cause you to lose. Such is life. Sucks to lose, great to win, but you can't always get what you want ...
Yet there is something in the NYC DNA that finds failure ... unacceptable. Like it's something to be ashamed of. Like it's akin to child molestation or something. I've known lots of people -- you know, these super Type A folks -- who, whenever things don't go their way or they fall short in some way, feel like they're bad people, like they're somehow morally deficient. Failure is a badge of shame for a lot of New Yorkers.
But it shouldn't be!
Now I'm plenty Type A, as neurotic as the next person, but I recognize that sometimes I'm gonna fail ... but if I keep working hard, more often than not, I'll succeed. I've won, I've lost, I've won and lost again and again and again ... the key is not to be bitter about your failures or to get too arrogant about your successes, and should always just get up to fight another day.
... and you might just find you get what you need.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Discussing Lehman, Pashto, Bush and, Oh, Yes, a Murder Trial
Arrests After Melee at TV Casting Call
Man Wounds 3 in Bronx Pizza Restaurant Before Being Shot by Police
Borough presidents spend our tax bucks but New Yorkers get little back
My first reaction when I saw these stories was "Wow! Things are really screwy out there!"
But then I went outside to get some coffee ... and walked the calm, pleasant streets of my neighborhood ... and saw people strolling around with their loved ones, going shopping, catching trains, going about their lives with quite determination ... and I realized that despite the press-hype designed to make us feel like our society is forever on the verge of chaos, regular New Yorkers -- the heart and backbone and other vital organs of this city -- go about their lives every day with admirable calm and strength ... and that everything will be okay :)
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Who knew that TGIs was this cool?
Their official slogan is "TGI Friday's is serving up good times and food you'll crave."
Hmmmm ... just guessing here, totally going off on a limb you understand, when I say that I don't think the "good times" they were referring to involved, as Jay McInerney once called it "the Bolivian Marching Powder." But I'm sure if it did, particularly here in NYC, T.G.I Fridays business would go through the roof.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
This is a tragedy of such huge proportions, with such massive ramifications in the lives of its victims, that sarcasm and snarky comments feel inappropriate. It wasn't just a lot of rich folks who lost money -- it was regular, hard working people who saved, invested, thought they were doing the right thing by their futures and then ... poof ... alll gone ... Let's just hope these people can find some peace in their lives.
One person most definitely not victimized by Bernie was our Mayor Mike. He not only didn't lose money last year but, when everyone else's financial portfolio was tanking, his went UP. According to Forbes, he's now worth &16 billion, making him the richest as well as the most powerful man in NYC.
It's Mike's city, we just live in it.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I got a much needed massage from there last week. It was so good that I left there in a wonderful mood -- and I had gone in there more than a little cranky. Any place that can do that is great in my book.
It's a real find. Check it out.
Broadway Holds On, for Now
Hopefully this is what we might call an economic contraindication - if people are spending money on theater (being they tourists of native NYers), then maybe things aren't quite so bad ... but, as the article states, only time will tell.
I'll keep my theater-loving fingers crossed.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Big news in NYC radio today: 92.3 K-Rock flipped its hard rock format and will now be another cookie-cutter Top 40 radio station. This has resulted in the firing of the station's morning team, Opie and Anthony.
K-Rock was the home to Howard Stern who did morning for 20 years (1985-2005) before he departed for satellite radio. In 2006, K-Rock became "Free FM", a "shock talk" station with David Lee Roth as the new morning man. "Free FM" was a ratings disaster - its lasted less than a year and a half, and Roth lasted less than five months. He was then replaced by the now departed Opie and Anthony.
Opie and Anthony have been kicking around New York radio for about a decade. They came here from Boston in 1998 and did afternoons at the old WNEW. They were very popular and very controversial, and they were fired in 2002 when they sent some dumb listeners into St. Patrick's Cathedral to have sex -- on air. They then disappeared and went to satellite radio in 2004 before being simulcast on K-Rock in 2006.
Now they're fired again. Will they return to regular radio in NYC ever again? Who knows! This morning on his satellite radio show their old predecessor and nemesis, Howard Stern, talked about their firing, his time on K-Rock, and the miserable state of New York City radio today. As always, Howard is brilliant in his commentary.
God I miss listening to him on New York radio. As he said on his last show on K-Rock, he's "the last of a dying breed."
Monday, March 9, 2009
There was one big surprise in this survey: people generally find city government to be responsive to their concerns and needs. Again, the wealthy feel that the gubment is more responsive than poor people but basically New Yorkers feel positively about City Hall.
Well, that's nice. But since this is a city survey, I think that makes this finding a bit suspect.
So what is a good quality of life in NYC?
Tom Wolfe once said that New Yorkers live here for many reasons but quality of life most certainly isn't one of them.
My opinion? "Quality of life" is a slippery phrase. If your idea of quality of life is being able to afford a big house, own multiple cars, and live in peace and quiet then no, NYC doesn't offer much of that.
And yet ... if you're idea of quality of life is being surrounded by the greatest culture in the world, the most diverse and dynamic population in the world, the best economic opportunities in the world, and a place where all your hopes and dreams can come true ... then there's no better place than NYC. That, for me, is the best quality of life on the face of the planet -- and NYC has it better than anyplace else.
My biggest complaint of quality of life in NYC? Obvious: transportation. There are WAY TOO MANY DAMN CARS IN THIS TOWN! Thanks to you-know-who, public transportation in this city is totally inadequate for its needs. If I had that magic wand, I'd wave it and solve all our city's transportation problems: more subways, better bus routes, and congestion pricing. Ah, Mr NYC can dream can't he?
Dreams, after all, is what this city is all about!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Day One: NYC to NOLA is expensive -- hence the need for cheaper connecting flights (only in America are multiple flights cheaper than one). So we’re scheduled to go from NYC to Detroit to Nawlins. Flight from Dee-troi is dee-layed. Miss connecting flight. Rebooked to New Orleans through Charlotte, NC. Told I’ll get bumped to first class on both flights with one of my pals. Get to gate for Charlotte: THEY LIED! It’s coach for me to Charlotte (first class to NO only. Okay!) My classy friend in first class sends me back a complimentary glass of wine and a Twix bar (forgot how good chocolate and red wine go together; must make part of my decadence diet). So now we’ve zig-zagged from the East to the Midwest back to the East to get South. This is the kind of route only George W. Bush could love.
Touchdown in New Orleans. We meet one of our friends at the gate who had just gotten in on another flight. Apparently he caught the eye of one his flight’s flight attendants for she dropped him off a note that read:
YOU HAVE BEAUTIFUL EYES. I’D LIKE TO GET TO KNOW YOU.
CALL ME (NAME, NUMBER)
We congratulate him. If I ever got a note like that, it’d be ten years of therapy right there.
Cab it to our hotel in the French Quarter. It’s a great hotel, several old converted townhouses, and we got one with lots of space and a patio in the back. We meet up with our other friends from across the USA who had already gotten there and we head off to Jacques-Imo’s for dinner. Phenomenal food! I have the crawfish etouffee and we also have some delicious stuffed shrimp and the famous alligator cheesecake. Dinner done, we stroll through a pulsating Bourbon Street with lots of loud, partying people who prove that Mardi Gras never really ends. We stop at the legendary Pat O’s and order a round of Hurricaines in tall glasses.
While sipping our beverages and bantering, a young blond gal comes up to us. Why, she asks, did we get our Hurricaines in glasses while she and her friends only got them in plastic cups?
“’Cause we put out!” one of my friends jokes.
“I put out,” says the girl. Needless to say, we’re all ears.
She then formally introduces herself and invites us all to join her and her friends at their table. Playing it cool, we idle for a bit (don't want to look like dogs in heat) and then finally go over to their table. We talk to the ladies for a bit and are shocked to discover that they … are … boring … And when it’s finally revealed that nearly all the girls and all the guys in this situation are either married or shacked up with someone, the flames of conversation die out quick.
No worries, It’s now 3 AM, the bar is closing, and we’re tired. Back to the hotel. Day one is over – and already memorable.
Day Two: get up around noon and head over to the world famous Café Du Mond. What do we have for breakfast? Must you ask? Coffee and beignes are downed by all of us with gusto (naturally the powdered sugar gets everywhere). After that, it’s a stroll around beautiful Jackson Square, then a bunch of us are hungry again. We go to Napoleon House nearby and have some delicious Italian muffalettas. If you’ve never had these, they are sandwiches with multiple Italian meats (like Genoa ham, salami, sausage, etc.) plus melted cheese. Unlike a panini, these aren’t pressed and they also have some vegetable in them like chopped broccoli and spinach. They are out of this world delicious, a perfect mid-day snack.
Return to the hotel where we shower, change, and head over to August’s for dinner. We consume a five-course wine pairing dinner, and our meal consists of caviar, pork bellies, and Kobe beef amongst other delicacies. It was classy, and tasteful, and out of this world.
Next, it’s back to Bourbon Street where we hit multiple bars and drink various beers and liquors. And how do we end the night? Why, with MORE food of course! Around 3 AM we find a funky little diner and consume burgers and apple pie. Then, all of us in a serious food and booze stupor, it’s back to the hotel.
Day Three: we wake up to CHAOS. The impending East Coast storms have canceled many of our flights. Cell phones are working overtime, airline 800 numbers are being called endlessly, some of us are lucky and get rebooked, some us not so much. This doesn’t stop us, however, from having a delicious farewell lunch back in the French Quarter. I have a Gumbo Poopa which is gumbo in a bread bowl. Did you also know that you can get a dozen fresh oysters on the half shell for $12 down in New Orleans? A steal!
Friends and I head to the airport. We fly to Memphis where we’re forced to spend the night in an airport hotel. That being the case, we take a cab to Corky’s and have a delicious BBQ dinner of dry baby-back ribs. They were so good and rich that I was unable to finish them all but WOW! They were awesome …
Next morning, we hear it’s snowing like crazy in NYC. We expect our flight to be canceled yet again. But miracle of miracles … it’s ON TIME. We’re good to go! One of our friends (the man who got the note) wasn’t supposed to be on our flight but he managed to get on, and lucky man that he is, GETS INTO FIRST CLASS! GETS A DELICIOUS MUSHROOM OMELETTE BREAKFAST WHILE ME AND MY OTHER PAL ARE STUCK WITH CRAPPY COFFEE IN COUCH. ARGGGGGHHHHH!
But no hard feelings.
Our flight lands in NYC on time, early Monday afternoon. You’ve never seen anything so beautiful as the sight of the whole city down below you, blanketed with snow. We land, bid adieu to each other, and thus ended one of the more memorable trips of my life.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Ten years ago today one of the greatest movie directors of all time, Stanley Kubrick, passed away at the age of 70.
He only made a handful of movies in an almost 50 year career but they were almost all classics: The Killing, Killer's Kiss, Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut. Any of those movies I could watch over and over again.
Kubrick was a native of the Bronx and, in this interview from 1966, you can hear his distinctive New York accent. This is the first part of an hour and ten minute interview that is posted in nine parts on YouTube.
In this part of the interview, Kubrick talks about his early life in New York and the influences that shaped his career. You might not know that he started his career as a photographer for Look magazine. He's the one who took this picture that I posted in a December blog post: a picture from 1945 the day FDR died. Kubrick took it as a teenager and the rest was movie history.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Of course, in 1878, Brooklyn wasn't actually part of NYC. It was its own city, the fourth largest in the whole country, so moving to Brooklyn actually meant leaving New York City.
In 1897 Brooklyn voted in a referendum to become part of the city and it passed by the slimmest of margins. The five boroughs of this city formally unified on January 1st, 1898 to become Greater New York thus creating the wondrous place we call home today.