Monday, November 27, 2023

Revenge of the Zines!

Before the Internet, before blogs and YouTube and social media, if you were a lonewolf amateur artist -- or, as we'd say today, content creator -- you had limited options to get an audience for your work.

For aspiring cartoonists this created a whole subculture of "zines", underground cartoon books, usually with outrageous and adult content, that got passed around by friends or sold directly by the artist. 

Now zines, like all underground art of yesteryear, are finally respectable. It's finally gone from being alternative to the establishment. The Brooklyn Museum has a new exhibhit called "Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines" that displays more than 800 zines from the last 50 years and analyzes their cultural impact.

I really want to see this exhibit because I'm old enough to remember zines -- I even had a family member who created one and found them fascinating.

Hopefully, one day, there might be an exhibit on underground blogs -- and, needless to say, I have a suggestion for one that might be included.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Mr NYC Ahead of His Time

So this will be a twofer today for "Mr NYC Ahead of His Time."

In 2011, and in the years since, I blogged about the great 1930s movie star Greta Garbo who moved to NYC in the early 1950s and spent the last decades of her life living as a recluse.

My first blog post about her was called Garbo Walks, and was about how for years on end it became a sport for people in Manhattan to spot the great star walking the streets. (She died in 1990.)

Well, it was a great to see the wonderful NYC podcast The Bowery Boys now do a podcast episode about this very subject called Garbo Walks: A Tale of Old Hollywood in New York City. It's a great piece of city nostalgia that looks at the contradiction of someone who many viewed as a goddess of cinema, a living silhouette of beauty and talent -- but who was in fact just an eldery retiree who kept to herself, who "'vanted to be alone." 

But the world wouldn't leave her alone. Even in 1985, when she hadn't made a movie over 40 years, her 80th birthday became big news! Mr NYC may be ahead of his time, but Garbo is timeless. 

Mr NYC Ahead of His Time -- Also, Mr NYC Corrects the Record

Currently there is a swirl of buzz in the NYC media world about the corruption investigation into Mayor Eric Adams -- and whether or not it might lead to his resignation (including the idea that former Governor Andrew Cuomo might run to replace him, that'd be wild).

Anyway, this morning I came across this article from City and State NY with this headline: "No NYC mayor has resigned Since 1932. But here's what would happen if they did."

Now let's not get to hung up on the grammer of this headline ("No mayor" is singular, "they" is plural), and the article does a fine job explaining how the line of succession works per the city charter --- but the headline is just flat-out, historically wrong.

While a mayor, Jimmy Walker, did resign in 1932 another mayor also resigned in 1950 -- William O'Dwyer. I even did a blog post in 2019 about the special election of 1950. I even wrote a blog post about the mayor who was elected in that special election -- Vincent Impelliteri -- all the way back in 2007!  

So the record now stands corrected!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Astor Place -- November 17, 2023, 3:34 PM


Yusef Salaam, an exonerated member of the 1989 Central Park 5, has now been elected to the City Council. Sometimes there is justice in the world. Congrats!

Thursday, November 2, 2023

The City of Staten Island?

The thing about New York City is that it isn't a city -- it's several.

The City of New York is basically a holding company, an archipelago of cities, a stuffed box of a municipalities, a necklace wrapped around the throat of New York Harbor -- a true urban empire. 

Brooklyn was and, in many ways, remains its own city. Manhattan and the Bronx used to be the entirety of New York City before annexing Brooklyn and the county of Queens in 1898 -- a county that, by the way, had its own cities (Long Island City and Flushing) plus a bunch of towns and villages. The fifth wheel, the "Odd-Man In", was the county of Richmond, a lightly populated island of villages, that today is known as Staten Island.

And in any family, there are tensions.

While most of NYC is urban and racially diverse, Staten Island mostly suburban -- and white. While most of NYC is liberal and tolerant, Staten Island is conservative and angry. And while four of the five boroughs has a population of 1.5 to 2.5 million, Staten Island has around half-a-million. It's the black sheep of NYC.

Because it ill-fits the rest of the city, Staten Island has, over the last hundred years, made occasional noises about seceding from NYC and becoming the independent City of Staten Island. In 1993 there was a non-binding referendum about secession that passed -- and then went nowhere in the state legislature.

But now the seceders are making noise again -- they want to establish a commission to examine the legal, political, and economic feasibility of becoming its own city. This article gets into the dirty details of what this would entail.

Make no mistake -- at the heart of this secession "movement" is racism. It's about a bunch of white people who don't want to be governed by a majority-minority government. And it isn't really a movement -- no one's holding rallies or taking to the streets in support of secession -- it's mostly social media posts and the pontifications of politicians who know it'll go nowhere and don't want it to.

Like Brexit or Roe v. Wade or the Iraq War, people talk a lot of hot air about how great it would be if we just broke away/overturned/invaded this Big Bad Thing and then come to rue. Staten Island secession is just another such fever dream -- they would lose all city monies, their property taxes would explode, all the schools and police stations and firehouses and public services would vanish and have to be replaced overnight, they'd have to pay tolls to take the ferry into Manhattan -- it would be a mess. 

I've blogged about this before -- and it remains as true now as then.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Remembrances of NYC Crime Bosses Past

There's something fundamentally criminal about America -- we love to steal and con people out of money, we love to grab anything and anyone we want, we love to hoard money or get into debt if we don't have enough of it, we love getting stuff -- in short, we love our hyper-capitalist materialistic society.

It's one of the reason we had the Red Scare, McCarthyism, the Cold War and Vietnam -- how dare anyone envision a society that isn't centered around money or based on greed.

And that's why we love crime bosses -- think Don Corleone or Donald Trump.

In NYC we've had a few colorful crime bosses. Here are two examples, one very well known, another much less known. 

There's a new Netflix doc about John Gotti, the late 1980s, early 1990s boss of the Gambino crime family. Gotti's career as the most famous crime boss in NYC - the Dapper Don, the Teflon Don -- was relatively short-lived but he made a memorable impact. (I remember as a kid watching him always get arrested, always standing trial, always getting acquitted until he was finally convicted in 1992 and died in prison in 2002 -- in friggin' Missouri of all places!). 

But another NYC crime boss is probably less familiar -- Stephanie St Clair, the young lady crime boss of Harlem who was queen of the rackets. Her story is far less known but no less fascinating. She was African immigrant who fell in love with the American dream -- with a vengeance.  

Friday, October 20, 2023

The Rolling Stones & Lady Gaga Play the Racket Club in Chelsea, NYC


The Rain. Will. Not. Stop.

This has to be some kind of record -- for the SEVENTH straight weekend IN A ROW it's going TO RAIN.


Basically, ever since Labor Day, ever since Fall descended, the city has been bombarded with rain on the very days of the week when we'd all like to be out and about.

Mondays through Thursday have been, for the most part, pretty nice. But starting on Fridays, through Saturdays, it's been non-stop deluge after non-stop deluge, weekend after weekend after weekend. 

And it's driving New Yorkers crazy.

It's also having an economic impact: outdoor fairs and festivals are getting cancelled, outdoor dining -- at the very time of year when it's most pleasant -- isn't happening, people aren't going out as much. People are training for the upcoming New York City Marathon and it's hellish for them to run with rain bombarding them in the face.  

It's even stopping people from getting laid! 

Dear Lord, let the rain stop -- I beg to you on behalf of 8.8 million people.

By the way, I've blogged about other such bizarre rain events, you can read it here