Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Merry Leap Day as seen on '30 Rock'

Leap Day NYC

For some New Yorkers, this is their birthday.

Imagine -- they only have a birthday once every four years. That's gotta be tough.

Especially when it falls in the middle of the week -- makes it hard to go out and party.

See how some Leap Day New Yorkers are celebrating their birthdays.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gotta Love New Yorkers

Well here's a funny story.

Apparently there's a lady named Holly Van Voast who likes to run around town taking her clothes off. She even went to St. Patrick's Cathedral au naturel. Naturally (ha ha) this gets her arrested quite a bit but public indecency.


But there's a method to her madness. She wants a reality show. I guess she thinks this will work.

She's quoted in this article as saying, "Nothing works like t*ts." 

S**t Politicians Say

If you've been watching the Republican Presidential primary freak show of 2012, the most entertaining part is hearing all of the dumb things that Williard Mittens Romney has been saying. Well, not really dumb things actually -- just things that show what a rich, out of touch, clueless elitist he is -- "I'm not concerned about the very poor," etc.  

Hard to remember but two years ago another politician, a carpetbagger named Harold Ford, thought about running in a Democratic primary against New York Senator Gillibrand. In the run up to the primary (that never happened), he also said one dumb thing after another that showed he lived in a rich man's world.   

If you want a side-by-side comparison of Romney and Ford, you should read this.

And be thankful both men are out of public office -- and hopefully will be forever.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Woody Wins

NYC should proud today.

Last night NYC's premiere filmmaker Woody Allen won his fourth Academy Award -- Best Original Screenplay for "Midnight in Paris." For the last 35 years, Woody has been nominated 23 times -- fifteen of them for best original screenplay (a record), seven times for best director, and once for best actor. 

And he has never shown up to collect any of them.

Most filmmakers would dream of being nominated as many times as Woody has. For most actors, writers, and directors, an Oscar nomination (and win), is a once in a lifetime thing. Some get nominated a few times over their careers -- and those are the really lucky ones. 

But Woody breathes the most rarefied of air. His string of nominations over the last four decades puts him the category of writers and directors like John Ford, Billy Wilder, David Lean, and Steven Spielberg. For him, an Oscar nomination (and the occasional win) is no big deal.

And he doesn't care at all.

Why? Let him explain for himself. 

Whole Foods Comes to the Gowanus Canal

In one of the most godforsaken parts of Brooklyn, heck, of the whole city, a Whole Foods may rise.

That means people who live in the middle of a food desert may soon be able to get organic yogurt, porcini mushrooms, fancy olive oils, and all sorts of neat, fancy stuff -- even though there isn't even a decent regular supermarket nearby.

What it will mean for this part of the city, who knows? Is it a sign of progress or encroaching development?

Only time will tell. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Long Island City Rising

For years, LIC was sort of a forgotten neighborhood. Nestled in Northwest Queens, it lies in the shadow the Queensborough Bridge and sits between hip Williamsburg and funky Astoria. It was, and has been, a neighborhood without an identity but in recent years it has become a land of highrises and young families.

This article explores how LIC is now a booming neighborhood. Look out Park Slope!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

International NYC Redux

A few years ago, my family and I visited China. Shortly after blogging about that trip, I blogged about the interconnected global village we all live. When you visit a KFC in the Beijing airport, you realize the world has indeed shrunk.

The world is big and small at the same time. Or flat, as others have called it. 

Living in NYC, you are acutely aware of living in the capital of the world. We are not just a great American city, we are not only an international city like London or Tokyo, we are the capital of the world because this is where the world comes together.

This is the home of Ellis Island and the United Nations. This is a city with whole neighborhoods defined by the nationalities that populate them (Little Italy, two Chinatowns, Koreans in Flushing, Greeks in Astoria, Russians in Brighton Beach, Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg, and on and on). This is where the Statue of Liberty sits, a symbol not only of our nation's liberty but a beacon to the world -- Lady Liberty, that Mother of Exiles, calling the poor, tired huddled masses from Ancient lands yearning to be free.

As much as I write about NYC on this blog, I also like to write about wherever I travel to in the USA and the world. So far I've traveled to, and blogged about, China, Venice, Paris, London, Portland, New Orleans, and Kansas City. I've also blogged about the various exhibits at the Met that have an international flavor. And the neighborhood I live in, Astoria, is not only the Greek capital of NYC but also the Egyptian capital of NYC -- and the Arab Spring has not only taken place in Cairo and Libya and Tunisia but also on Steinway Street

NYC is the world.

And learning more about the world is always fascinating. 

Increasing, like a lot of Americans, I've gotten sick of watching the TV news because so much of it is dumb and cynical. Also, American news poorly covers the world. But if you live in NYC (and have cable), you not only live in the capital of the world but the world can literally come into your living room. On our cable system, we have some of the best international cable channels available. Now a lot of them are in other languages but several of the best ones are in English. Specifically, CNN International, Al Jazeera English, Russian Today, and CCTV (the Chinese English service). Also, you can find BBC World News on most PBS stations. 

If you want to find these channels on your dial, go to the Time Warner website or flip around on the remote.

The quality of the reporting on these international stations is vastly superior to regular network and cable news. You learn so much about the world in which we live that you feel much smarter after watching it. And when you live in NYC, the capital of the world, it's great to have these international cable channels to compliment this international city. 

Spa Castle

Recently the wife and I took a break from parent duty and spent an afternoon at Spa Castle in Queens. To put it bluntly, this place is great!

Nestled in the somewhat remote neighborhood of College Point, from the outside Spa Castle looks like nothing more than your usual nothing special building. But inside is an amazing world. You walk in the door and pay your $35 daily fee (it's more on weekends) and are given a small watch like thing to put around your wrist. Then you go into the locker room, put your shoes in a small locker and your regular clothes in a bigger locker. Then you changed into a uniform, basically a pair of shorts and a Spa Castle t-shirt. If you want to swim (and, trust me, you want to swim), you wear your swimsuit underneath your uniform. T

hen you ascend the stairs into the spa, and you come into Nirvana.

Spa Castle has three stories: a main level with a Sauna Alley (there's like seven or eight different saunas you can visit), a sleeping area (I kid you not!), as well as a small food court and the massage stations (you have schedule one if you want one, and they cost extra). Then there's another small level that has places where you can rest as well as get foot massages (again, costs extra). Then, above this level, is the level where you can swim. Well, not swim exactly -- wade. There are indoor and outdoor pools that have all sorts of jacuzzi jets and handle bars so you can wade, get pelted with hot water, and just sit around. Best of all, there's one pool where you can sit on chairs in front of tables and order drinks!.

If you or some friends or a loved one would like a fun day to relax, refresh and enjoy yourselves, Spa Castle is definitely worth the money. Some suggestions: you don't really need to spend more than about four hours there to get the full benefits. Also, the food is very expensive so, if you can eat before or afterwards, I'd suggest that. Also, the massages and extra services are costly as well but they are really good and worth getting. 

We went on a Friday during the regular work week and it was pretty crowded so I would imagine that the weekends are insane (plus more expensive). I'd advise going on a day off work with your friends. Also, while Spa Castle is technically a Korean place, there's a nice balance of Asian, white, black and Hispanic people there -- it's practically like a Benetton ad. 

So Spa Castle gets a big thumbs up from Mr NYC!

In last 2010, on the now cancelled show "Bored to Death," there was an episode set at Spa Castle. It was called "Escape from the Castle" -- but, believe me, if you go, you won't want to escape. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dolan Elevated to Cardinal in Rome Ceremony

Memo from NYC

Tonight on PBS is the season finale of the British show "Downton Abbey." If you've never seen it, it's a costume drama about the complex lives and loves of a British noble family in early 20th century England -- and the lives and loves of their servants. It has a great cast, gorgeous production values, and is a lot of fun. The show was a big hit in the UK and is now a big hit here. Mr NYC is, for one, a big fan.

It's fast becoming the water cooler show of the Yuppie set -- think "Sopranos", think "Sex and the City", think "Mad Men."

But as good as "Downton Abbey" is, haven't we seen this show before?

Well, yes. It was called "Upstairs, Downstairs" and it ran for five seasons in the early 1970s. At the time, it was as huge a show as there has ever been. It was about a wealthy British political family in -- guess -- early 20th century Britain, and their servants. It was a high class soap opera but so much more. "Upstairs, Downstairs" was the first show to ever reach more than a billion viewers worldwide (the second show to do this was "Baywatch" in the '90s) and it won lots of Emmys.

Last year the wife and I watched the whole series on Netflix, right after seeing the first seasons of "Downton Abbey." And while "Downton Abbey" is good, "Upstairs, Downstairs" is truly great TV. 

What makes it great? Because it was a stark, unsentimental, visceral look at the English class system, and how it warped and distorted and corrupted the lives of both masters and servants. They all seemed trapped by this system that was bigger than all of them, and they were all quietly dying inside. Also, the performances in "Upstairs, Downstairs" were so powerful, you truly believed that the masters had been rich and privileged all their lives and the servants came from poverty. The sexual, familial, and social tension in every scene of the show was almost unbearable. That's great drama.

With "Downton," on the other hand, you get the sense that the masters and servants are all great pals and that this English class system is actually quite a great thing. And the masters and the servants seem, for the most part, indistinguishable from each other. 

As the author of this article says about "Downton Abbey"

Edward Gorey, that beloved and prolific purveyor of doomed Edwardians, once told an interviewer that his mission in life was to make everybody as uneasy as possible, because, he said, “that’s what the world is like.” What “Downton Abbey” offers, by contrast, is a utopian version of the past that’s custom made for the present sociopolitical morass. It presents a system so perfect that it can weather any upheaval, smooth out any wrinkle, absorb any shock. It refers incessantly to the coming collapse of the social order and then sets up its conflicts like bowling pins to be swiftly knocked down and neatly swept away.

And drama, like life, is never neat. So while we can all enjoy "Downton Abbey", I would urge all Mr NYC readers to get "Upstairs, Downstairs" on Netflix now. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Its Gets Grimmer

The drip, drip, drip of bad news for sleazy Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm just gets drippier.

Turns out that this law-and-order guy associates with criminals and is a deadbeat.

If this guy's political career survives, it'll be proof that there's no honesty in public life anymore.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

History of NYC in Ten Objects

The public radio station WNYC is doing a special upcoming segment on the history of NYC in ten objects -- ten objects that have come to define the evolution of our city. Right now you can go online and see some of the objects that listeners have submitted.

There are some interesting and certainly worthy suggestions -- Greek coffee cups, water towers, the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, hot dog carts, even the legendary Andy Warhol "The Velvet Underground and Nico" album cover.

I like all of these things but there's one item missing -- granted it no longer exists but it used to define what it meant to be a New Yorker. And virtually every New Yorker had one -- if not more than one -- in their pocket at any time.

Of course, I'm talking about ... the subway token!

Personally, I think our city is poorer without them. 

Bloomberg at 70

Yesterday our fair mayor turned 70 years old.

Happy belated birthday Mike.

Also, in just under two years, he'll be out of office. So what does he have planned for his final days in office?

Read all about it here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jeremy Lin Inspires Basketball Mania

New York Post sinks to a new low ...

Can you believe the New York Post did this?

It's shameful. Outrageous. Disgusting. 

Or business as usual for these people. 
Of course, this paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch which also owns Fox News and those papers in Great Britain that hacked the phones of dead people. This is a journalistic organization that has no morals, no ethics, no sense of common decency. This is an evil company. 

It will be a great day in NYC when Murdoch and his minions no longer own a newspaper -- or anything -- in this town. 

Hookah Central

In that Mediterranean village on the East River called Astoria, located about 5000 miles west of the actual Mediterranean in the borough of Queens, is a stretch on Steinway street known as Little Egypt. There are several Egyptian restaurants there serving hardcore, no nonsense Egyptian food that, having sampled it a few times, is very delicious. There are also Egyptian specialty stores

And then there's the hookah lounges.

These are the places where Egyptians congregate, talk about the politics and their memories of the old country, and smoke hookah -- a hashish boiled in water, the fumes of which are then smoked through a big glass pipe.

This small article is about what is, allegedly, the first hookah store in the United States and how it captures a little bit of Egypt in NYC. I've never tried hookah myself but, if you're curious, you should check out Little Egypt in Astoria and take a small trip across the world via the subway.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Frisk This

Of the many controversies swirling around the NYPD, the biggest one that will probably be an issue in the 2013 mayoral race is the policy of Stop and Frisk.

This is basically where cops stop people and search them for drugs, guns, knives or anything else that would prove they are menaces to society. Many who are caught with something are either arrested or issues summonses. Those who are not found with anything are just annoyed and inconvenienced. 

The NYPD and the mayor -- backed by most of the newspaper editorial boards and powers-that-be in this city -- support the practice and tout it as a key crime fighting tool. Those who are mostly the targets of frisky cops obviously don't like the practice and question its effectiveness. And, not surprisingly, blacks and Hispanics are overwhelming the people being stopped and frisked. 

This policy and its controversy is clearly one of those issues with huge potential to become a wedge issue in this city's politics. Wealthy people and white people will probably support the policy while poorer and minority people won't. It's one of those policies that just about everyone who isn't affected by it supports. But if anyone is affected by it, they hate it and want it stopped. 

It's too bad that in the second decade of the 21st century, issues like this still emerge to divide the city. 

A couple of articles in this week's Village Voice show the human side of stop and frisk, and how people react to it. If it's something that happens to other people, you don't care. If it happens to you, then you crusade to stop it. 

In 2013, Stop and Frisk will either stop -- or the cops will be more frisky than ever.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Classic Mr NYC

A couple years back I interviewed Arianne Cohen, the editor of New York magazine's Sex Diaries, for this blog. The main topic of the interview was her book The Tall Book, about her life as a very tall woman. But, naturally, the subject of Sex Diaries came up (ha ha) and she confirmed that they are totally real.

**Blush blush **

Well, once again, Mr NYC was ahead of the curve. Recently Arianne published a book compiling 1500 of the Sex Diaries that she edited. And she gave a great interview to The Daily Beast. You should definitely read it but, remember, Mr NYC was two years ahead of the curve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Would Sherman McCoy Say?

In the 1980s, the Tom Wolfe novel The Bonfire of the Vanities coined the term Masters of the Universe -- Wall Street wheelers and dealers who moved billions of dollars around the world, making economies and businesses shake, all the while taking home millions for themselves, funding their lavish lifestyles.

For the last three decades, being a Master of the Universe was something that everyone on Wall Street aspired to. Not even the tragic tale of Wolfe's hero, Sherman McCoy, could dissuade a generation of young men and women from flocking to Wall Street, dollar bill signs glowing in their well educated eyes.

But the last few years have been unkind to Wall Street. The economic crises, new regulations, the evaporation of credit, the collapse of the housing market, the Occupy movement -- a perfect storm within a perfect storm has emerged to knock Wall Street down. Bonuses are being slashed, jobs are gone and aren't coming back, and a new ethos that making money off money probably isn't the most stable of business models. 

So what does this mean for NYC?

After all, Wall Street is a core of the city's identity and huge engine of our economy. This big article in New York magazine offers some insights. Among the tidbits:

- The housing boom led to a credit bubble. When it burst, it became harder for banks to get money. Banks make money off money. Go figure out the rest.

- It's a big question whether less pay and smaller bonuses will hammer the NYC economy. Hopefully not but only if the city's economy diversifies. 
- One banker laments that, without Wall Street, NYC will turn into Philadelphia.

On this last point I disagree. NYC has more than Wall Street. We have Broadway, movies and TV,  fashion, publishing, Silicon Alley -- and much, much more. We also have 8 million great, hard working citizens.

Even if Wall Street withers, I think NYC will be just fine.

And so will the Sherman McCoys.

New York Giants Win Super Bowl 46

Classic Mr NYC

Well, well, well, the Giants did it again.

In 2008, the New York Giants, led by Eli Manning, beat the New England Patriots, led by Tom Brady, in the Super Bowl.

In 2012, history repeated itself.

For 2008 Mr NYC coverage, click here and here.

For 2012 coverage, see above. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Putting Football Rivalries Aside, Mayors Unite Against Illegal Guns

Bravo Mike

This blog has had -- and I'm sure will have -- it's problems with Mayor Bloomberg.

But on this issue he did the right thing.

Bravo Mike. 

Subway Rider = Elitist?

According to Newt Gingrich it is!

The flailing GOP presidential candidate was recently out in Nevada and apparently he lashed out at "elites" who live in "high-rises" and "ride the subway."

Wow, he's a moron. 

Since when is riding the subway elitist? It's the working man's van! And most people who ride the subway don't live in high-rises. I ride the subway everyday and live in a six-story building.
What a tool. What a loser. Thank God Newt won't be the next president of the United States.

And he better keep out of NYC as well.

A Lawman in Winter

You must read this great article about Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and all of the problems that he and his NYPD have been having lately.

Basically, it's the story of a great career coming slowly, painfully to an end.

Kelly has been the police commissioner since 2002. He has kept crime very low and prepared the city brilliantly against terrorist attacks. His record of service is extraordinary. No one can say he hasn't done a great job during his tenure.

And yet ... to everything there is a season. The NYPD has been caught up in so many scandals in just the last couple of years that it's hard to keep up. Kelly has had some controversies himself. Most distressing, the NYPD under his reign has gone from being a crime fighting/terrorist thwarting organization into an authoritarian gestapo. People are being busted just for the sake of it and not because it's really making the city safer. He's done his job well -- and he just can't quit.

There's something almost Shakespearean about Ray Kelly's current dilemma. Let's just hope that it ends well, both for him and the city he serves.

Saturday, February 4, 2012