Saturday, October 31, 2009

Big Weekend in NYC

This has to be one of the busiest weekends in NYC in recent memory.

Today is Halloween. Halloween in New York is always a big deal. Halloween on a Saturday night in NYC, with an extra hour included due to the end of daylights savings time, is an even bigger deal. The parade downtown kicks off at 7 PM and it will be a mob scene. The bars and clubs will be jumping. Parties are being held all over town. It's going to be crazy out there in the city tonight.

And tonight, even though it's happening in Philly, is the third game of the World Series. After tonight one of the two teams will take the lead in the series and be at the halfway point for being the World Champions. Go Yanks!

And tomorrow is the New York City Marathon. Roughly 36,000 people will be running across the five boroughs, shutting down traffic and sidewalks, but making the city proud. I can't wait to see it ... on television.

And this is also the final weekend before Tuesday's municipal elections. Candidates for Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, the Borough Presidencies and the City Council will be making their final pushes to win voters over and get them to the polls. In 72 hours we'll know who'll be running the city for the next four years (like we really have any doubt at this point who the victors will be). I've opined on all of this many, many times so I won't belabor the point.

It is interesting, however, that just days before the election the press is finally starting to pay some attention to the massive scandal regarding the mafia-infiltration of the Department of Buildings. According to the Times this is a "continual" problem and has becoming something of a "blemish" on Mayor Bloomberg's record. But it's not really his fault. There's really nothing he can do about it. It's even bigger than him.

A ... blemish? People have died in fires and crane collapses, 19 out of 24 inspectors are arrested for corruption, and the mafia is running the department? How about a criminal disgrace! How about this doesn't make any mayor on whose watch this is happening on unworthy of being re-elected? Hmmm, no ... it's just a "blemish." I guess all that's needed is a little make-up, a little cosmetic touch-up ... and no one will notice it. That's what $100 million will buy you.

So have a fun weekend out there in NYC tonight. It'll be one for the history books.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hotel Bars NYC

Interesting article in the online version of Vanity Fair about the resurgence of hotel bars here in NYC.

They're not quite like regular bars (they're more upscale than that) but they're not as super-expensive or exclusive or stuffy as nightclubs and lounges (they're more chill than that). It used to be that hotel bars were the hot spots in town but in the last few decades the fell somewhat out of fashion. Now they're back.

Also, if a hotel has a great bar, it's a great way of getting free publicity for the hotel.

I've been to a few hotel bars, including the world famous Oak Bar at the Plaza Hotel (before the big renovation) and bar at the W Hotel on Lexington Avenue.

The Oak Bar was, as you might imagine, very classy and very, very expensive. It cost something like $20 for a Jack and Ginger but it was, to be fair, a very good Jack and Ginger and the peanuts were free! (Of course they serve peanuts to make you thirsty ... so that you'll spend another $20 on another beverage ...).

The bar at the W Hotel was one of those places where the beautiful people hang so, needless to say, yours truly was very out of place. I can't remember what I drank (so that tells you how good the beverages are) but the couches were very comfortable. I remember it was really dark inside and people could barely see one another. I recall that upon leaving the hotel, even though we were walking out into the New York night, I started blinking like I was coming into the bright light of day. So if you ever go there, it might be a good idea to bring some night vision goggles along.

If you'd like a comprehensive list of the hotel bars here in NYC, the always trusty New York magazine provides a good one.

World Series 2009 Game 2

We won!

Yankees beat the Phillies 3-1 last night in da' Bronx! Now the series is tied 1-1.

Fingers crossed that the Yankees win it in five -- although the Phillies have proven to be one hell of a team and that won't be easy.

Today the Yanks roll into the City of Brotherly love and the series resumes tomorrow night.

When was the last time the World Series was played on Halloween night?

This has to be one of the longest baseball seasons in history.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

World Series 2009 Game 1

Yankees lost 6-0 to Philly.

CC Sabathia had a bad night. Yankee hitting had a bad night.

Cliff Lee had a good night. Phillies hitting had a very good night.

Dammit.

Better luck next time Yankees.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

General Election Endorsements

Next Tuesday we New Yorkers head to the polls for the final time this year to elect the officials who will run our city for the next four years.

It's almost pointless to care, and even more pointless to vote, since the results of this election season have been in the bag for months. Bloomberg will be re-elected to a shamefully acquired third term, John Liu and Bill De Blasio will be elected Comptroller and Public Advocate respectively, and almost all the Democratic nominees for City Council and Borough President will be either be elected or re-elected (to equally shameful third terms) -- except in Staten Island and parts of Queens where some Republicans are locks to win.

How depressing. This is the greatest city in the world and yet our elections have become dull exercises in pseudo-democracy where money and the political machines determine everything -- and not the people. All "we the people" do is re-affirm the power of money and the machine by voting for the same laughing-stocks again and again.

Dammit gimme Jimmy Walker! Now there was a cool Mayor.

But he's dead. We're not. We have to dance with them that's been brung us. So, even though it won't do a lick of a good or make any difference whatsoever, here are the first Mr NYC general election endorsements:

Mayor: Bill Thompson. This is a very reluctant endorsement since his campaign has been totally amateurish and his program for saving middle class New Yorkers is as clear as mud. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence about how good a mayor he'd be. But Bloomberg has become a monster, the Man Who's Bought New York, and he's drowning the city with his money while killing the middle class. How ridiculous has it gotten? In case you hadn't noticed, HE'S ADVERTISING ON MY BLOG EVEN THOUGH I'VE BEEN CONSISTENTLY BASHING HIM FOR THE LAST YEAR! He has spent so much money, he's even advertising on a blog that don't like him! Wuzzup wid dat? So vote for Thompson and, even though it won't feel great, when Bloomberg wins you can feel good that at least you didn't contribute to the bastardization of democracy.

Public Advocate: Bill De Blasio. I have almost no idea what the PA does, who Bill De Blasio is, and what he wants to accomplish. But Betsy Gotbaum has done nothing to hold Big Mike accountable over the last 8 years. Think a Republican in this job will? Hardly. So vote for Bill.

Comptroller: This is the only race that I'm even semi-excited about. John Liu has to be the hardest working man in NYC. He's been a great City Councilman, got cars out of Central Park during the summer, and has shown an aggressiveness to take on Bloomberg that we need in a good Comptroller. So vote for him -- and you actually will feel good about electing the first Asian to city-wide office.

I'm not getting into the Borough President or City Councilperson races, just sticking with the city-wide offices. However, if you live in Queens, please don't vote for BP Helen Marshall -- she's gunning for a third term and you know how I feel about that. And in Brooklyn, I'd even vote for a Republican over BP Marty Markowitz who is a blithering, annoying fool. He's also trying for a third term and seriously thinks he might be Mayor in 2013. PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS MORON. PLEASE!!!!! In Manhattan, I guess voting for Scott Stringer makes sense -- don't know who's running against him. And in Staten Island, the BP is a guy named James Molinaro. I think he's a Republican or a Conservative or both but, whatever, does it really matter who the BP of Staten Island is?

Gotta Love New Yorkers

Standing on the subway platform, waiting for the train home. Man and woman walk by, wearing African garb.

Woman says to man, "Blacks are God's chosen people. All blacks."

Man grunts his approval.

I guess there was nothing more to say.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SOUPY SALES: Green Pieces of Paper

Last week a New York legend, comedian Soupy Sales, died at age 83. One of the last of the great comedians in the mold of Jack Benny and the precursor to younger comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Soupy was a one of the pioneers of observational humor, someone who could take any situation and make it hilarious.

Soupy gained the most fame for a children's show he hosted here in NYC during the 1960s. On that show, he performed a song called "The Mouse" that was a riff on songs like "The Twist" and silliness like that which was popular at the time.

Later on, Soupy Sales hosted a radio show here on the old WNBC 660 AM. He did the afternoon shift, right after Don Imus and right before Howard Stern. Can you imagine that?

In this bit from a few years ago, Soupy tells the infamous story of something he did on the air on New Year's Night 1965. This has gone down as one of the greatest moments in TV history.

RIP Soupy. You'll be missed.

This WOULD be a scandal ...

... if the Mayor of New York City was a Democrat or someone not named Mike Bloomberg.

Newark Mayor Backed Bloomberg, Then Got Funds

But when it comes to scandals, the press always give Big Mike a pass.

HERE!

Sorry for the lack of blogging these last few days, I was stalled by a lousy Internet connection and a even lousier service provider who took forever in fixing it. However, now all is well and I'm back. I know you all missed me so much. How ever did you survive?

Most annoying is that during my forced absence, the Yankees finally made it into the World Series and I was unable to comment about it at the time. Well, the first of the big games is tomorrow and we'll
be following it intently. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mike: Then and Now

When Michael Bloomberg became the 108th Mayor of the City of New York on January 1st, 2002, a lot of people wondered "Why?"

Why did this very private billionaire -- a man who had a built a global financial/media empire, a man with the ultimate jet-set lifestyle who had homes all over the world, who dated beautiful women and was the consummate social animal, who could retire and live like Louis the 14th -- want such a tough, thankless, unglamorous job?


Why would he want to deal with the NYC public school system, formulate trash policies, haggle over the budget, battle the unions, attend funerals of police officers and firefighters, and get his balls broke daily in the press -- all for the salary of one dollar a year?

Was this just a huge act of noblesse oblige? Was he just so generous that he wanted to donate his superior skills (if not his money) to the people of the city that made him rich? Was he just so bored that he thought he'd try this mayor thing out for a while as a lark?

Why?

In April of 2002, 100 days into his first term, New York magazine speculated on this very question. Michael Tomasky wrote, "Just why
did he want to do this? Is he happy -- really, deep down -- to have the job?"


Tomasky speculated that maybe Bloomberg was regretting his recent career move, found the job a bore, couldn't run out the clock fast enough to January 1st, 2006 when he could be free and retreat back into his lush life.

This week New York magazine answered it's own question from 2002, coming to the conclusion that Bloomberg wants to "own" New York. But it's more than that.

Mike became mayor because he was bored. He wants to remain mayor because he's in love.

With power. With fame. With public adoration. With the idea that he will single-handily shape NYC for generations to come.

This job has become an obsession to this man. It's not really a job anymore. It's like a woman he's become infatuated with and cannot stand to let go. He believes that he and only he can and should govern NYC. Only he knows how to lead us to the bright dawn of morning.

New York City is at a crossroads. We're in uncharted territory. We've never had a mayor like Bloomberg before. Never in our history has the richest man in town also been the most powerful. We're almost like a 16th Century German principality or some southern state in the 1930s.

And now, after the voters twice approved term limits, Bloomberg muscled through an extension to snag a third term. His greatness needs to spread to over a decade.
According to some, Bloomberg is the best mayor we've ever had and deserves a third term.

But third terms have generally been disastrous for mayors. La Guardia's bad third term beget the criminal O'Dwyer and a mobbed up city government, Wagner's the incompetent Lindsay, and the fiscal crises, Koch's the ineffective Dinkins and a booming crime rate.

And if Bloomberg gets a third term, well, who knows who will follow him ... and what our city will be in for.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sleaze in the '70s in NYC

The popular imagination has it that NYC in the 1970s was a sleazy place full of hookers and porno theaters and creepy guys in leisure suits and women in Twiggy-like dresses, all with bad hair, dancing to bad music, playing around with oils and lotions, and having lots of gross, pre-AIDS sex on circular water beds.

People today believe, back then, that our fair town was a den of hedonism and perversity. Woody Allen even speculated that most Americans thought New Yorkers were "pornographers."

They were right.

Before the Internet, those peddling "erotic services" in NYC had only two real places to advertise: at the back of free newspapers like the Village Voice or on late-night cable TV. That's right, there were actually TV ads created for massage parlors, hookers, and porno theaters.

This compilation of ads is almost like a parody of what people today think the sexual life of NYC was like back in the 1970s. It has to be seen (and heard) to be believed.

The Most Recession Resistant 'Hood in NYC ...

... is Astoria! My very own neck o' da woods! At least according to Crain's New York Business it is. And I'm sure they know what they're talking about.

The proof? Lowest growth in unemployment (in this recession, that's something), fewest foreclosures (only 6 compared with over 1200 in Jamaica, Queens and almost 800 in Williamsburg), small businesses are opening and staying open (not closing), and reasonable rents have meant that people are moving in in, not out.

As someone who moved here just a few years ago, I can tell you that Astoria is one of the best neighborhoods in the whole city. It's a thriving, diverse, super-convenient place that is the quintessential New York neighborhood. Everything that's great about this town can be find right there.

And if there were a whole lot more Astorias in this town and in cities across the country, we'd be a lot better off.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Classic Mr NYC

This week the Village Voice came out with its Best of NYC (it seems like all the newspapers and magazines in this town are always doing "best of" the city things and quite frankly it gets overwhelming! With all these different best of lists, how do we know what's really THE best of the best? Gets confusing).

But I digress.

The Voice's Best Ensemble Improv Comedy Ensemble this year goes to Elephant Larry, the wacky sketch comedy group that this spring did a brilliant show based entirely on the shlocky 1997 movie Con Air. I saw the show and it was hi-larious (I also saw the movie and it was hilarious too but I laughed at it, not with it, which I'm sure wasn't the filmakers' intention).

Anyway, I did a short interview with one of the members of Elephant Larry in April and he told me all about their particular brand of comedy and how they've survived in NYC. Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

City Hall News

If you want good news on local politics, check out City Hall News.

There's an interesting interview in it with former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer who talks about what it's like to run for mayor against Bloomberg's billions. And Freddy is also the only public person I've heard so far to comment on the scandal of mob infiltrating the Department of Buildings.

He says in this interview, "Let’s see, apart from the fact that cranes fell down on people, and how many people needed to be killed and property needed to be damaged before you figured out you needed a new commissioner at the department of buildings? As it turns out, the Luchese crime family got hold of a city agency? And this isn’t the cause of a major scandal in this city? Excuse me? But not only are apparently politicians at City Hall asleep on their jobs, but so are newspapers. This isn’t a major scandal in this city?"

Good question Freddy. Don't expect an answer any time soon.

Some people on the blog Brownstoner.com also seconded this sentiment so I'm not along in thinking that this is a major scandal that seriously question's Bloomberg's competence as mayor. But again, don't expect the major press in this town to make this a big scandal, the press is way too scared of of the man.

Bernard Kerik Indictment Briefing

Two years ago former NYC Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik was indicted by the Feds.

He's still awaiting trial. And now he'll be waiting in jail.

Wowza. An ex-New York City police commissioner is in the pokie -- and he's one of Rudy's best buds. And now Rudy wants to be Governor? Can't wait to see who he appoints then.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Protecting the Skyline

If there's one thing our city is known for, it our skyline. A most beautiful, distinctive thing, the New York City skyline is a masterpiece of architectural imagination and skill. Needless to say, whoever controls the shape of our skyline is a very important person indeed. So who is that exactly?

Meet Amanda Burden. As head of the city's Department of City Planning and chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, she has immense power over what gets built (or not) in this town, and over what buildings get the honor of joining NYC's skyline. She determines what proposed buildings get to "break" the skyline and if they are in character with the neighborhood. And if she don't like, it don't get built.

This easily makes this daughter of Old New York society one of the most powerful people in town.

Considering the number of glass box apartment buildings and office complexes we've seen built in recent years, you'd think Ms. Burden thinks bigger is better. Its seems like there's no building project too big for her to approve. But as this lengthy article in the New York Observer points out, there's been some projects that were even too big for her out sized tastes! It's scary to think what monstrosities might be going up if she didn't have such a good sense for city planning.

In many ways, Ms. Burden has one of the toughest jobs in the whole city government, mainly saying "No" to developers who just look at the skyline and see dollars falling out of it. Ms. Burden is protecting New York from turning into one giant skyscraper that would just destroy the character of our neighborhoods and the flavor of our city. Let's hope she keeps up the good work.

Vermeer at the Met


Through the end of November, there's a special exhibit at the Met featuring Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece The Milkmaid. A truly extraordinary painting circa 1658, the detail and composition almost make it look like a photograph, and it has influenced realist painters for centuries. I'm no art expert but the confidence of technique, the use of shadows and light, just the pure hyper-realism of the work is truly breathtaking. For art lovers and experts, this is a painting of great historical importance.

Not only that, it's just really beautiful and is exhibited along with several other Vermeers from the Met's permanent collection. Word of caution: because this painting has such great appeal to art geeks, there will probably be a huge crowd around it and you'll have to fight your way through to see it. When we went, there were a people who literally DID NOT MOVE for more than ten minutes and just stood there staring at the thing. Just because people are cultured, doesn't mean they have manners.


That said, it's definitely worth seeing. Usually housed in a museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, this is the first time The Milkmaid has been seen in this city since the 1939 World's Fair. Check it out if you can.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yankees ACLS Game 1



Last night your humble shlub had the pleasure of going to the first game in the American League Championship Series where our very own Yankees battled the Los Angeles Angels. It was the place to be in the city last night and, happily, it turned out to be a good game. The Bronx Bombers won!

The weather report for last night was ominuous with forcasts of heavy rain and freezing temperatures. Fortunately, the rain only appeared lightly at the beggining and end of the game,
and the temperature never fell below 40 degrees. The wind was mild too. So even though the weather was colder than usual, we were comfortable and enjoyed the show.

The Yankees scored two runs in the first inning and two more later in the game. Even though there were no homeruns, Damon, Jeter, and A-Rod earned their salaries with some hard line drives down the center, getting the players on base, and then delivering with some tight runs to homeplate. Damon scored twice and, in the most dramatic moment of the night, A-Rod slammed into the Angels catcher to take home. The Angels only scored one run and the final score was 4/1 Yankees.

The real star of this game was CC Sabathia. Man, that guy can pitch! He was awesome, at the top of his game. He did everything a great pitcher should and struck out Angel after Angel. He was quick on his feet, pivoted at the drop of the dime, and wore the Angels down. The Angels pitcher was no match for CC who truly showed why he's a great Yankee. Manny came in during the 8th inning to finish the Angels off and leave us fans singing "New York, New York" in celebra
tion on our way out.

So while it may not have been the most exciting, wild game ever, it showed why the Yankees are a great team: surgical hitting, great pitching, marvelous technical skill. A hell of a team.

This also marked my very first trip to the new stadium. I have to say, I liked it. The seats were good, plenty of footroom, and the bathrooms and vendors were easily accessible. I'm no expert at what makes a great ballpark but I think this one does the city proud. It may not be the House that Ruth built, but I think the Babe would approve.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First Bloomberg/Thompson Mayoral Debate Part 1

NYCoitus Interruptus

You must read this story. It's a hilariously sad tale from this week's New York Press about a local girl who tried to lose her virginity to a rather sorry dude -- and failed!

Ouch ... or maybe not?

It takes a special kind of bravery to admit, as a girl, that you couldn't easily be de-girled. Talk about brutal honesty (and it's brutal). Gotta give this author props though, I'd never have the chutzpah to share such a story with the world.

Also, I've never heard of a woman who ever had a problem accomplishing this particular goal. It's always seemed like one of the few natural advantages women had over the male gender. For guys, it often seems that brokering Mideast peace is easier than scoring chicks, but for girls ... they just need ask ...

I always like it when my naive illusions are shattered. You go girl.

Good News/Bad News

So Hiram Monserrate -- the State Senator who, when not busy assaulting his girlfriend, is busy in the backrooms cutting deals with Democrats and Republicans to acquire more power -- was convicted of misdemeanor assault but acquitted of a felony. This man slashed his girlfriend's face, nearly disfiguring her permanently ... and it's a misdemeanor. He might go to jail for only a year and it's not clear if he'll lose his Senate seat.

Wow.

This guy is a first-class sleaze, a criminal opportunist who clearly has contempt for women and also contempt for the public when he joined in that little State Senator coup last June. People go to jail for a lost less than this. Here's the interesting thing: he was "convicted" by a judge, not a jury. Hmmm ... Monserrate is an politician and judges are politicians (in fact if not in theory) ... think this judge was looking out for his own kind?

I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Live from the Met!



Since 1931, the Metropolitan Opera has been broadcasting its Saturday matinees live on the radio. These are broadcast not only in NYC and across the country, but around the world. These broadcasts are very popular and have brought the finest opera in the world literally to the world.

The first broadcast was Hansel and Gretel on Christmas Day, 1931. At that time, the Met was located on 39th street, Jimmy Walker was the mayor, Franklin Roosevelt was still the governor, Herbert Hoover was the president, the subway cost a nickel, the Triboro Bridge and the Empire State Building and the United Nations and Lincoln Center didn't exist, and there was actually a casino in Central Park.

It's amazing that these broadcasts have lasted for almost 80 years, and just another example of what makes New York such a great city.

This is a recording from a live broadcast on April 4, 1953 where tenor Kurt Baum sang "Addio alla madre" followed by the finale from Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana."

The broadcasts start in December and go through May. You can listen to them here in NYC starting December 12 at 12:30 PM on WQXR 105.9 FM (this first opera is called Il Trittico)

Monday, October 12, 2009

An MTA Tale



If there's one recurring rant I have on this blog, it's my displeasure with our city's transit system. It's a nightmare. More than that, it's a joke. Here we are, the greatest and most amazing city on earth, and yet getting around this town is exhausting -- and expensive. The MTA is an incompetent disaster, and it's always raising fares and cutting services because they keep saying they have no money and that the system is old, and yada yada yada, that's why buses and trains in this city such. But then, every so often, we learn that the MTA is hiding money and keeping two sets of books and engaging in all sorts of financial chicanery and that they really aren't quite as broke as they claim to be. The MTA is truly a weird, strange, mysterious organzation.

And for a system that's always supposedly broke, they're always doing track work that causes all sorts of service changes. They did a whole bunch this weekend and it was drove everyone crazy.

Let me tell you what happened to me last Thursday. I got on the N train downtown on my way home from work. Usually takes me straight home to Astoria. But not this time. At 42nd street we get kicked off -- train out of service because the signals on the express lane have failed.

We wait 10 minutes for a W train on the local track. When it arrives, we're told that the signals have also failed at Queensboro Plaza -- and that we'll have to take the 7 train to Queensboro, then transfer to the N/W there.

So w we take the 7 train -- which takes forever and is totally packed because it's carrying all this excess capacity -- and, at Queensboro Plaza, we're kicked off the train again! We're told that the signals have failed at Astoria Boulevard too!

So there I am, with over a mile seperating me from my home, and there are no cabs, the buses are jammed and running sporadically, and I have no choice but to walk all the way home.

All. The. Way. Home.

It was awful. Excrutiating. And on top of that, I had to go shopping before I could get home, so by the time I got home I was totally exhaustied, very dirty from having to walk so much, and really angry that a 45-minute trip took twice as long. But considering what a joke the MTA is, I'm suprised this doesn't happen every day.

So my message to the MTA: clean up your act! There should never be any signal failures or things like that. You move around the greatest city in the world -- be worthy of your mission and stop being a joke.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Comedy Central

The great thing about NYC is that it's always been a magnet for creativity. People aspiring to careers in the arts have always come here to starve in service of developing their talents. Until they became enclaves for the super-wealthy, the East Village and Soho were where painters and artists lived and worked. Nowadays they mostly live in Williamsburg and less expensive parts of Brooklyn. Actors and those interested in theater have, unsurprisingly, gathered to live in Hell's Kitchen, and in and around the theater district.

But a new artistic "ecosystem" is developing in New York, one for comedians. And it's happening where you might not expect it: Astoria, Queens. Comedians are flocking there in their dozens and developing a community and support groups and a whole comedy world there. Astoria is now the city's funniest neighborhood, our own comedy central.

Astoria is not known for its great comedy clubs or really for anything that would make it a great comedy haven. Also, as this article points out, there's nothing particularly funny or "wacky" about Astoria -- it's a real working class, square 'hood. But then again, this makes it all the more ironic -- and isn't irony what comedy is all about?

Introducing the All New WQXR!




A quiet revolution in NYC music radio took place this week: the almost eighty-year old station WQXR vanished from its place at 96.3 on the FM dial and reappeared at 105.9.

This up-dial change was due to the sale of WQXR from The New York Times Company to the public radio empire of WNYC earlier this year (I blogged about it at the time). Although WQXR retains its call letters, it is no longer a commercial station operating in the service of the Grey Lady. Instead, it is the 24/7 classical music subsidiary of public radio -- so that means no commercials! Just lots and lots and lots of music. And since the economic pressures have been alleviated from it, this move assures that classical music and the rich culture of music radio in NYC will continue indefinitely.

In recognition of this fact, I have updated WQXR's info and place on the right-hand side panel.

The only somewhat sad thing about this change is that the quality of the signal at that end of the dial is a bit weak. 96.3 was a piece of prime radio real estate and WQXR's residency at it was central to its identity. Now that's over. It remains but in a different form and at a different place -- so it's not the same station really. I remember that my dad use to listen this station all the time ... so this is just one more thing that makes Mr NYC feel old.

P.S. In case you were wondering, the following pictures are: an old-fashioned radio microphone, a conductor's baton, and a picture of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Somehow including them here felt appropriate.

Mr NYC is Here ... Just Busy

Sometimes life gets busy, for reasons both good and bad. Recently life hasn't been either good or bad -- just lots and lots of stuff that yours truly has needed to attend to. Ergo, I have not had much time to devote to this time corner of cyberspace but, never fear, I am doing my best and plan to start blogging more regularly. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Woody Allen: What's Up Tiger Lily?

"What's Up Tiger Lily?" was technically the first movie that Woody Allen ever "directed", a dubbed version of a godawful Japanese spy-flick. Very funny. This is from 1966 when Woody was only 31 years old. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mister Magic RIP

Back when rap music was still an underground phenomenon, an NYC DJ named Mister Magic hosted the first all-rap radio show on Hot 97. He was truly ahead of his time and helped launch rap and hip hop into the mainstream.

Mr Magic died a few days ago. This great story from WNYC looks at this impact.

Guns in NYC


Mr NYC gives Mayor Bloomberg his fair share of grief -- most of which he so "richly" deserves -- but one area where he's shown brave leadership and which I applaud him for is his aggressive fight against illegal guns.

Gun control is one of those "hot button" issues that gets people all angry and furthers the cultural divide in this country. And the Second Amendment of the Constitution clearly gives Americans the right to own guns. But I don't think anyone, including the Founding Fathers, thinks that criminals and psychopaths or children should get their hands on gun. And I'm sure they'd approve of things like background checks and disapprove of gun dealers who sell their products illegally.

That's basically what Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns is all about. They don't want to write new laws or prevent honest Americans from owning guns -- they just want current gun laws enforced and guns kept out of the hands of bad guys. Yet the NRA and the gun nuts of America are fighting him tooth and nail. They've done everything they can to thwart Bloomberg and those who believe in sensible gun laws that saves the lives of cops and civilians. Needless to say, the NRA totally runs Congress and enforcement of gun laws is pathetic. Fortunately Bloomberg et al are fighting them and having some success.

Too whit: today a new city report shows that gun dealers are indeed still selling guns illegal. City officials went undercover and recorded these sales. It's damning report and the video (which I've having trouble loading but you can view it here) is damning. It just goes to show that gun dealers in this country is out of control -- and that illegal guns still can trickle into NYC and threaten our citizens. Hopefully, one day, this will stop.

Don't give up the fight Mike!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: "God of Carnage"


Recently I saw the hit Broadway play God of Carnage by French playwright Yasmina Reza, starring Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels, Marica Gay Harden, and James Gandolfini. Davis/Daniels and Harden/Gandolfini play married couples brought together after the son of one couple has wacked two teeth out of the son of the other in a school yard fight. Set in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, the action takes place over 90 uninterrupted minutes in the living room of Harden and Gandolfini's home as the couple try to resolve the issue -- and it goes wayyyyyy down hill from there.

There's no real story in this play. It's all character and incident and action and reaction. A true comedy of errors. There's lots of one liners, gags, and bizarre situations that fuels the drama to its strange conclusion. The play starts with the couple being agreeable and polite to each other but then misunderstandings and old resentments and problems in both marriages surface and everything devolves into chaos. The point of the play is that no matter how civilized we human beings try to be, no matter the institutions we create, no matter if we marry or have children, we are all, at the end of the days, selfish animals driven by primordial instincts. We all worship at the alter of a god of carnage, praying to our own savage needs.

With its high profile cast and multiple awards, God of Carnage has received lots of attention and critical praise. I've probably never known so much about a show before seeing it. It was a lot of fun and I liked it a lot and performances are, as to be expected, amazing. Daniels is pitch-perfect as an insufferable Yuppie lawyer, Hope Davis is tragic as his miserable wife (who projectile vomits during the show), and Jame Gandolfini is hilarious as the husband of the kid who got beaten up and finds his world spinning out of control. But the real scene stealer is Marcia Gay Harden (who won a Tony for her performance) as Gandolfini's wife who is trying to hold the situation together -- and failing miserably. Yasmina Reza's creates wonderfully dimensional characters and the fast-pacing action makes for a big emotional roller coaster. If you want a theater experience that's really an experience, see God of Carnage.

"Lie back, get comfortable ..."

If you grew up in NYC during the 1980s and 1990s, then you know who Robin Byrd is even if you don't want to admit it. Robin hosted a late-night public access show where male and female strippers would perform and then she'd interview them. She also took callers from her horny audience and ended each show dancing with her guests to some strange tune called "Baby Let Me Bang Your Box" (which is actually about a piano).

Robin was New York's Sex Kitten extrodinaire

On each show, Robin always wore some kind of semi-translucent bikini (although you couldn't see anything naughty). She always began each show by sitting casually on the floor, looking dewy-eyed and purring to her audience, saying "Lie Back. Get comfortable. Snuggle up to a loved one. And, if you don't have a loved one, you always have me ... Robyn Bird." Methinks most of her male-dominated audience snuggled up to her each night.

I couldn't find any good or decent clips from her show to post so here's one from a couple years ago when she appeared at a show called "My First Time." She's always witty. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bella Abzug: Now More Than Ever


"I've been described as a tough and noisy woman, a prize fighter, a man-hater, you name it. They call me Battling Bella, Mother Courage, and a Jewish mother with more complaints than Portnoy."

There once was a short, tough, mouthy old Jewish broad who wore funny hats. And she was one of the greatest New Yorkers who ever lived.

Her name was Bella Abzug (1920-1998), and she was way ahead of her time. She served in the New York State legislature in the 1960s and the US House of Representatives in the 1970s, when very few women did. Long before it was fashionable or safe to do so, she was an outspoken supporter of human rights, women's rights, gay rights, and the state of Isreal. As a young lawyer in the early 1950s -- think about it, a young female lawyer in the conservative, patriarchial 1950s -- she fought against the viscious witch-hunting of Joe McCarthy and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. She opposed the Vietnam War before it became popular to do so. She was against the nuclear arms race. And on top of all that, she was married for 44 years and raised two successful daughters.

Long before Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, Bella took on the Establishment. She ran for Senate 1976 and for Mayor in 1977 and damn near won both races. Always outspoken, never shrinking from a fight, she was colorful, strong, and fearless. She fought the good fight -- sometimes winning, sometimes losing -- but never giving up. She made women proud and sexist men shake with fear. She was the best.

Looking at our so-called leaders today, I can't think of anyone -- male, female, or other -- who can hold a candle to her. There isn't one politician in New York City today who comes close to her level. Today's politicians are all so dry and poll-tested and boring. They play it safe.

But Bella didn't. History isn't made and things aren't changed by playing it safe. And Bella never did.

Bella Abzug was everything that makes New York City and America great. She died more than ten years ago but she was and will always be one of the greatest New Yorkers.

P.S. In Woody Allen's great movie Manhattan, Bella makes a short cameo as herself when she makes a short speech about the Equal Rights Amendment. A great movie with a great lady.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bloomberg Tied to the Mob!



Today's New York Times has a story about how the mafia has corrupted the city's Department of Buildings. Members of the Luchese crime family got jobs as building inspectors and, as the indictments indicate, there was a vast array of bribes, overlooked violations, false safety reports, siphoning of public funds, just vile stuff. This has been going on for years!

Remember those crane collapses which resulted in several deaths? That was due to false safety reports and bumbling by the DOB. Apparently the Bloomberg Department of Buildings is a cesspool of corruption.

However, what's most amazing about this is that Mayor Bloomberg has not been questioned or grilled by the press about any of this. The press has been totally docile and quiet. For some reason, Teflon Mike has avoided scrutiny or any fallout from this scandal. It's only coming out now because the Manhattan DA handed down indictments (thanks to Bob Morganthau, at least we still have one honest broker in this town. You'll be missed!)

But I'm wondering something: after all the big crane collapses last year, did the press do any in-depth investigative reports about the problems at DOB -- and what caused people to die? Did they try to hold the mayor accountable for what happened on his watch?

No!

The press can't hold him accountable even when a major scandal hits.

This was the headline of the story today: "Mob Infiltration Is Seen in New York City Agency." What a disgraceful use of the passive voice! Who was editing this story? Mob infiltration "is seen"? Is seen? What kind of sloppy, badly written headline is this? This is supposed to be The New York Times for cryin' out loud!


Now if the press wasn't trying to protect the Bloomberg administration and guarentee his re-election, I'm sure the headline for this story would be very different.

Certainly this story would be big news and treated much more sensationally if we had a Democratic mayor. For example, if we had a Democrat as mayor, let's call him Mayor D, all of the newspaper around town would scream today "Mayor D Tied to the Mob!" And there'd be story after story asking what the mayor knew and when did he know it, why didn't he try to stop it, why did he let a major government department in this town put New Yorkers' lives in danger, and on and on and on. If this was happening under a Democratic Mayor who wasn't worth billions of dollars, believe me, the press would be all over this asking questions. It'd be cheap suit time. This would be a full blown scandal! Which it is!


But it's not.

Mayor Mike escapes any and all culpability. This story mentions the Bloomberg administration once ... and it doesn't mention the mayor by name. Clearly, as far as the press is concerned, Teflon Mike couldn't have anything to do with this sordidness. He's too honest, too principled, too good a Mayor.


And maybe he's not corrupt. Maybe he's just a detached mayor who doesn't know what's going on at his own DOB. Hmmmm ... maybe Mayor Mike isn't quite as competent as everyone thinks he is? Maybe he shouldn't get a third term. Oh wait, of course he should. After all, he's rich!

I'll give the Times some credit: they at least reported this story. The Daily News and the Post, from what I can see on their websites today, have ignored it completely. Hopefully they will cover it soon and ask Bloomberg tough questions about it but I won't hold my breath.

This is just a perfect example of press hypocrisy in this town -- and how it goes out of its way to protect the powerful, wealthy, connected, and Republican. The New York City press went into hysterics over the City Council "slush fund" story, they covered Eliot Spitzer's hooker problem like it was Watergate, the flailed away at ACORN -- basically, any time a Democrat or progressive person or group anywhere puts a foot wrong, it becomes blaring front page news, a "scandal", an "outrage", yada, yada, yada.

But a major department in an administration run by a wealthy Republican is infiltrated by the mob and possibly results in multiple deaths and the press ... doesn't consider it a major story ... doesn't have the time to cover it ... it just doesn't rate as important. Just shrugs its collective shoulders and ... moves on.

So what's the point of really caring?

It's not like my little blog post is going to change anything. The poor stay poor and the rich get rich. But actually it's deeper than that: the rich continue to consolidate their power and face no consequences and the rest of us continue to be punished (and sometimes even killed) for not being rich. And I'm sure that in the minds of Bloomberg and his cronies and most of the press, that's just fine and how it should be and serves us right.