Thursday, November 16, 2017

"... This has been one of them."

"There are eight million stories in the naked city ..."

If you ever wondered where that famous line comes from, it's from the 1948 movie The Naked City. It's about a murder and the detectives who solve it, a pretty simple story. 

It's a fascinating movie. As the narrator of the film indicates, it was shot in the streets and inside the buildings of NYC. If you want to get a sense of what day-to-day, on-the-street life was like  in the city back in 1948, this movie is a perfect guide. Not only is it a great NYC film but it's also really ahead of it's time: the story is told in a neo-realist, almost documentary style that was revolutionary at the time, and, if you ever wondered how procedurals like Law and Order and it's countless imitators came to be, this movie is the Rosetta Stone. 


Of course, today there are now 8.5 million stories in this town so it's a tad outdated. And talking about NYC stories, here's one more

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Their Stories

If you've seen (probably more likely heard the soundtrack to) the musical Hamilton, then you know the song that concludes it: "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Stories."

We all live, we'll all die, and, if we're lucky, our life stories will be told -- by our children, our families, our friends, anyone who thinks our life story is worth passing on to future generations. No, we won't all have great musicals (like Hamilton) or movies (like Goodfellas) made about us that enshrine us in cultural legend -- but, if we're lucky, someone who thinks we're worthy of being remembered will talk about us. I think about my great-grandmother, dirt-poor immigrant from Ireland who raised eight kids and managed to give them good enough lives that one of them graduated from college and now her grandchildren and great-grandchildren have achieved the American dream. Her story was worth learning for me and, in my opinion, she'll live forever (even though she died in 1959).

There are 8.5 million people in NYC and all them have great stories. We can't know all of them but these two articles, one about an artist, another about a young man killed in the recent Halloween terrorist attack, tell the stories of interesting lives. We should remember them because, in many ways, they were just like us. Their stories were told and, more importantly, will hopefully be remembered.   


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Big Town, Big Time

While I'm not the biggest fan of tabloids in general, the Daily News does have one big virtue: it is truly NYC-focused. More than that, it still practices hyper-local, on-the-ground, beat reporting, covering on what's happening on the streets as much as the halls of power. 

It understands that events, the daily grind (or the news) shapes our city and our lives.

That's why it's really cool that the Daily News has a continuing feature called Big Town, Big Time: An Amazing History of NYC. It is a comprehensive index of some of the most famous and important events in the history of NYC. It's a collection of pivots points and it goes all the way back to the year 1600 to today.

Some of what's covered: how Brooklyn went from its own city to one of the five boroughs, the ticker tape parade for Charles Lindbergh, the Hoovervilles of Central Park -- and the death of former New York Governor and US Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller in 1979. 

His death was a scandal. The official report is that he had a heart-attack while working quietly on his memoirs. The real reason? He was a dirty-old man who was shagging his very young secretary and, uh ... got overwhelmed. The story of how this titanic figure -- one of the richest men in the world, scion of a legendary family, four-term governor, vice-president, you name it -- died while "doin' the nasty" is just too perfect. It also reveals how, once upon a time, the rich and powerful could keep their scandals, it not out of the press, then at least toned down. 

Today? Not so much.  

The times are always changing. 


Monday, November 13, 2017

Liz Smith RIP

Back when the world felt like a classier place (it wasn't really, but never mind) part of the reason was because of people like Liz Smith. She was the doyenne, the grand master of NYC gossip. Her brand of gossip wasn't scandalous rumor mongering, attacking or embarrassing people -- it was good old-fashioned "dish". She had the "inside scoop" or "the goods" on what was going on in this town, and she told everybody it first in her column. Before the Internet, before social media, columnists like Liz Smith were real sources of, as you might say, all the rest of the news that was fit to print.

Liz Smith came to NYC from Texas, a young woman who got on a bus with little more than a dream to her name. She could have made it anywhere but she made it here, the classic-up-from-your-bootstraps American dream, and she was the ears and eyes for NYC society for decades and decades. She knew everyone, everyone knew her, she was the pulse of what was going on. Like many a New Yorker, she was itinerant, working for the Daily News, Newsday, and the New York Post, and appearing on TV all the time. She was the brassy dame who could hold her own with any man -- and often got the better of them. 

I loved Liz Smith, what she represented, and what she meant to this town. I wrote about her several times on this blog and you can find those posts hereLiz Smith died yesterday at the age of 94. She was too young in my opinion. Doubtless she was dishing until the end. This city will be lesser place without her and her particular voice. 

Liz Smith loved NYC and NYC loved her.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Mr NYC Just Keeps on Truckin'

It's been a crazy week in NYC and elsewhere. Lots of events -- some happy (like the elections), some sad (more great artists that I admire turning out to be dirty pervs). Lots to look forward to, other things to ... well, not fear exactly but not look forward to. 

Still, we go on. Like K-Billy of Super Sounds of the 70s ... we just keep on truckin'.



Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Art of the Deal ... Sorta

Once upon a time, roughly 340 years ago, a business and a government got together to do a deal. The English East India Company controlled an island off the coast of Indonesia called Banda or Run -- and the Dutch government wanted it. 

Why? 

Because it had nutmeg, lots and lots of nutmeg. Nutmeg, and other yummy spices, could only be found here, and they were tres valuable. So much so that the Dutch sent ships to the other side of the world to try to get control of this and other "spice islands", and the British returned the favor by sending ships to take away the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in North America.

Deadlock. Stalemate. So they played let's make a deal.

In 1677, the British gave the Dutch control of Banda (Run) island and the Dutch gave the British control of New Amsterdam, an island otherwise known as Manhattan. 

Yeah ... that happened.

These days, of course, Banda is no longer controlled by the Dutch and Manhattan is no longer controlled by the British. Still, it's amazing to think that what is now the financial and cultural capital of the world was considered less valuable than a small (albeit gorgeous) Polynesian island. Once upon a time, such a world existed. Who thought it would ever change?  

It did, as it always does. But to think, if not for nutmeg -- nutmeg! of all the friggin' things! -- if not for that particular seasoning you can find on your spice rack, Manhattan would probably have remained under Dutch control and the course of American history would have been very different. It's crazy to think about. But of such trivial things are the pivots points of history made.

Oh, that reminds me, if you've ever heard the great song "Instanbul" but They Might Be Giants,  you know the lyric:

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam

Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way


Well, now we know why they changed it: nutmeg.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Election 2017 Wrap-Up

If you want a comprehensive list of last night's NYC election results, the Daily News has a handy resource here.

The up-shot: almost all incumbents were re-elected (and the vast majority are Democrats) at all levels of government -- the one exception is a City Council race out in Queens that's probably going to go into a recount.

Thoughts?

Well, it was a good night for the status quo. Status quo is usually a pejorative but, if the status quo is low crime and improving schools, it's hard to argue that it's bad. Of course, the status quo also includes massive income inequality and the challenge of affordability, and that needs to change.

Mayor De Blasio promises it will, as he stated in his victory speech. He also wants to tax millionaires to improve transportation but that probably won't happen. We shall see.




Here's the real loser of this election: the NYC tabloids. Once upon a time tabloids like the Post and the Daily News were powerful enough to elect and defeat mayors. In 1977, the Post endorsed Ed Koch and he credited it with his election; in 1993, the constant negative coverage of David Dinkins certainly contributed to his defeat. Newspapers used to be so ubiquitous, their power so absolute, they made politicians quake and could sway elections.

No more. 

It's a new world. The decline of newspapers and tabloids and the rise of the Internet and social media have voided their power. We can go above and around them. Every single day for the last four years the NYC tabloids (mainly the Post, the News, and the Observer) have blasted Mayor De Blasio with relentless negative coverage. They've gone after everything, calling him a communist, an idiot, corrupt; criticizing his family, his punctuality, even his eating habits; smearing him with lies and half-truths and all sorts of nasty headlines, day after day. The tabloids did EVERYTHING they could to whip up an atmosphere of crises in this city and drag down the mayor's popularity, leading to his defeat. 

They tried. They tried hard. And they failed.

As the president would say, Bigly. 

The tabloids are now officially irrelevant. 

De Blasio won a landslide in spite of the tabloids and the negative coverage. The people are smart and they ignore the loudest voices in the room. There are otherwise to get the truth out. The nonsense the tabloids spewed about the city being in crises, about rampant corruption, about all sorts of mean nasty stuff, were at odds with the reality of a city that's thriving more than ever.

The truth will out or, in this case, win. Bigly. So what comes next? We have four years to find out.




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Election Night Live Blog

9:00 PM - Okay, here we go! Polls are closed and now we await the results ...

9:11 PM - Right now De Blasio has a 40+ lead but with only 2% of precincts reporting.

9:26 PM - NY1 calls election for Mayor De Blasio, first Democratic to win a second term since Ed Koch in 1981.

9:30 PM - Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Tish James both re-elected. Expect their rivalry for 2021 to begin ... now ... 

9:36 PM - City Council incumbents all ahead in their races or already declared winners. 

9:41 PM - There will be one more very important election in NYC after tonight -- for City Council Speaker. Who will it be? We'll find out in January when the newly-elected Council takes office.

9:44 PM - Manhattan DA Cy Vance re-elected (he had no opponent).

9:57 PM - Nicole Malliotakis, GOP candidate for mayor, is conceding. She talks about conitnuing to "fight" for what she believes in. Problem is, she doesn't appear to believe in anything. Unless I'm mistaken, she didn't congratulate De Blasio in her speech which is totally classless.

10:09 PM - Mayor De Blasio is being introduced by his wife at victory celebration.

10:16 PM - De Blasio giving his victory speech, saying that the people who predicted doom when he was elected four years ago were wrong.

10:28 PM - Well, that's it. The status quo rules. And in this case, that's a good thing. 

The 59th Street Bridge

Taking a pause from the political happenings of today, I thought it would be nice to simply appreciate the beauty of NYC -- specifically, the romantic allure that is the 59th Street Bridge (otherwise known as the Queensborough Bridge or the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge. Whatevs). 


F. Scott Fitzgerald memorialized it in The Great Gatsby, Woody Allen did so again in Manhattan, and Simon & Garfunkel wrote one of their greatest songs about it. 'Enuff said. 




NYC Past/Future in Real Time

Four years ago I did a live Election Night Live Blog and followed it up with a Memo to the Mayor-Elect. If you want to revisit the moment De Blasio was elected mayor and the various expectations/beliefs/hopes/fears it resulted in, these are interesting trips down memory lane.

But we move forward. Tonight I plan/hope to do another Election Night Live Blog so "tune in"! 

NYC Poll Locator

If you're planning to vote in NYC today but don't know which poll site to go to, here's the NYC Poll Locator for your convenience. Just plug in your address and it'll tell you where to go (assuming, of  course, you're already registered to vote). 

Happy Election Day!   

Monday, November 6, 2017

NYC Marathon 2017 - Verrazano Bridge Timelapse


Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow is election day in NYC and New Yorkers will be voting for Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, their City Council members, District Attorneys, and judges.

I'll make this simple -- please vote the straight Democratic ticket. 

This has never been more vital. When a fascist president and political party control all the levers of power at the national level, it's extremely important to fight back by asserting our power here at the local level. 

I know, I know, you're probably thinking that voting a straight party-line is brain dead. "I want to vote for the candidate, not the party," you're probably saying to yourself, "and I want vote for someone I believe in."

That's a lovely idea -- and that's what enough people said back in 2000 and voted for Ralph Nader and we wound up with eight years of President George W. Bush. Then in 2016 such people again voted for gadflies like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson and now we suffering with President Trump.

Enough. Voting is not about your feelings, it's not an act of therapy, it's not a luxury -- it's business, specifically, the business of our city, our state, our nation, and our world. And when you vote for people who can't win for selfish reasons, or if you're one of those people who thinks they're above it all and doesn't vote at all, then we wind up with bad people like Trump and others running our world. And that's bad. 

So please, please, please vote tomorrow and vote Democratic -- it's our only choice.

By the way, if you want more info about how politics works in NYC, listen to WNYC's great segments The People's Guide to Power. You're learn a lot!  

Louis Armstrong in NYC

The legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong lived in NYC for decades and can you guess where?

Somewhere in Manhattan? Harlem, perhaps, the African-American capital of the USA and a cultural mecca? No.

Brooklyn, that forever funky borough? Nope.

Maybe he had a nice house in Riverdale, up in the Bronx? Wrong again.

Actually he lived in Corona, Queens and you can visit his house there. How cool is that -- and how un-touristy?

Louis Armstrong loved to smoke marijuana and someday we may have legal weed here in NYC. If so, I hope the Louis Armstrong house and museum will open a dispensary in tribute to the great man. 



Oh, What a Twisted Web We Weave ...

... or, at least, a twisted president we made.

By we, I mean New Yorkers. 

Ironically, it may also be New Yorkers who help un-make him (and it can't happen soon enough).

Confused? Well ...

Normally, on this blog, I like to pontificate about stuff but -- and forgive me for using this annoying social media trope -- I'll just "leave it here." Please read the two articles below and think for yourself about the craziness of the times we live here, how we got here, and how, maybe someday sooner rather than later, we might move on to a better place. 

Trump - We Made Him but New York Bloggers Might Defeat Him!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Blue Ribbon @ 25

The quintessential downtown NYC hangout, Blue Ribbon, opened twenty-years ago -- interestingly enough, on the very same night that Bill Clinton was elected president (*sigh*, good times). It's the ultimate nighttime brasserie, 

When it opened Blue Ribbon in 1992, down on Sullivan Street in Soho, it was a different, rougher city and Soho at night was not always the safest place. But Blue Ribbon planted a flag, made an investment in the neighborhood that, in every way, paid off.

Here's a great oral history of Blue Ribbon and it's a great prism to see how food and NYC, and food in NYC, have evolved over the last quarter century. 

NYC Mayor's Debate #2


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

We're New Yorkers

We've been here before. We'll be here again. It's the price we pay for living in the world's greatest city. 

I don't think this young man who came from elsewhere to commit an act of terror in NYC yesterday had any real goal in mind besides terrorizing people. 

And he did. But however many he people he killed or hurt, ultimately he failed -- as did all those who came before him and all those will inevitably come after him. 

They fail because New Yorkers are tough and strong. We've dealt and will deal with much worse.  We don't live in fear. And a moron like this won't change who we are or how we live (the only thing that will change is how he'll live, namely in prison for the rest of his life). 

We go on. We survive. We thrive. It's who we are. It's what we do. We're New Yorkers.

Think this city would be so great if we weren't?



Monday, October 30, 2017

Classic Mr NYC

Today, in case you missed it, people who worked for Donald Trump's 2016 president campaign were indicted, and another one already pleaded guilty to, money laundering and collusion with the Russian government. It's a big legal and political morass and how it'll play out is anyone's guess: either it'll destroy Trump politically (massive election defeats for the Republican party and Trump in 2020) or legally (impeachment, resignation, etc.) or he and his party will survive it and live to fight another day. Who knows? Only time will tell, it's impossible to make predictions.

That said, the fact that all of this is going on is a tragedy for our nation. This man and this party should never have taken power in the first place and we're all paying the price everyday.

What's hard to remember is that it all started out as a joke!

Back in 2011, more than five years before his Orangeness was elected the 45th POTUS, I blogged about the living reality show that is Donald Trump. I compared him to Charlie Sheen and the cast of the Jersey Shore, and how, like them, all he wants, all he really wants, the only thing he  truly, deeply cares about ... is attention

The only thing he thinks about is: Look at me! Pay attention to me! Love me! Love me! Love me! Sweet lord, my five year old kid is less needy for attention than this 71-year old narcissistic fascist with access to the nuclear codes!

And here we are, laughing yesterday, crying today, scared for tomorrow, all because of this ogre. He got what he wanted, he got the eyes of the world on him, and now we're all paying the price.  

Friday, October 27, 2017

Delight in Rapture

My earlier post about the NYC rock'n'roll scene got me thinking about other times when music in NYC was exciting. 

Specifically, rap music. 

Perhaps no era was more pivotal than 1979-1981, and these two videos show it.

First, 1979: the Sugar Hill Gang produced Rapper's Delight, arguably the first great and popular rap song. Back then, however, rap was viewed as niche or "black music", or not even "music" at all -- and certainly not mainstream. 

But if you ever doubted that rap would go mainstream i.e. that it would conquer white America, then only look at this video for Blondie's great 1981 song "Rapture" in which, halfway thru, the very white Debbie Harry raps. The future of music was obvious from these two songs and the consequences would change American culture. And it started here in NYC.

Interesting trivia: in "Rapture", the famous, short-lived artist Basquiat can be seen playing. Apparently he was a last-minute addition when Grandmaster Flash failed to show up for taping.

NYC's Huddled Masses: Yearning, Breathing, Voting, and Spending to Live Free

In "The New Colossus", the poet Emma Lazarus writes most famously about the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Specifically, she's referring to immigrants arriving by ship into the "air-bridged" New York harbor, literally huddled on board together, excited by the prospect of freedom in America and life in NYC, the Statue of Liberty looming above, eager for the literal and metaphorical open air of the New World. 

When she wrote this poem, in 1883, the United States was only a century old, a young country still finding its place in the world. NYC represented its literal and figurative entrance, the most welcoming place in the world's most welcoming country. 

Today, much has changed. We are no longer a neophyte country but the world's superpower -- and NYC is its superpower city. We still have "huddled masses" here but life couldn't be more different than almost 140 years ago; and this country and city aren't always, sadly, so welcoming.

Why? Well, you can look at our national political atmosphere to see why the country's not so warmhearted. As for NYC, it's simply the cost of living that bars so many people from living or staying here. 

And yet ... the city thrives. And for one simple reason: there are lots of people here. It remains big and populous. It's a teaming cauldron of humanity. The "huddled masses" of 2017 may be richer and more sophisticated but, like those before them, they are hungry for a better future. In many ways we resemble our immigrant ancestors -- we yearns, oh yes, lots of yearning goin' on -- but with more money.  

Here's a cross section of evidence. 

First, if you want to know how much it costs to live in NYC today, check out this comprehensive breakdown of the 50 most expensive neighborhoods. Here, in cold hard numbers, you get an idea of how and why it's so costly to live here -- although some of the most and least priciest neighborhoods might surprise you (i.e. the Upper East Side isn't anywhere near #1). What's also surprising, as this radio segment indicates, is that many people who can't really afford to live here somehow do. Hence the population boom.

Second, NYC is in election mode right now and, when it comes to voting, New Yorkers have many options. When voters go to the polls on November 7, their ballots will contain more choices than Baskin Robbins. That's because there are lots of political parties in NYC. Here's a history and explanation of the myriad political parties that exist in this town. Don't like either the Democratic or Republican parties? Well, you have an array of choices -- including a political party devoted simply to "diving" (you heard that right, as in diving off diving boards). 

Third, if money and politics isn't your thing, how about the stories of individual New Yorkers? This year marks the 50 Anniversary of New York magazine and their anniversary issue is devoted to the first-person telling of such stories by New Yorkers both famous and not. There's nothing more powerful than personal stories and here is an array of New Yorkers talking about what the city means to them. 

So what's NYC all about? Well, like the Declaration of Independence declares, it's about "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." But, as "The New Colossus" also indicates, that's only possible if we can "breath free" -- after all, you need air to breath and you need to breath in order to ... live. But if the air isn't there, if it's choked off, then it's hard to live. That's why we try hard to breath and, although it's never easy, when we do, we thrive!   

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The NYC Rock Life: 2001-2011

The heyday of rock'n'roll in NYC is, without question, the 1970s. That's when CBGB's opened, when punk rock hit, when bands like Talking Heads, the Ramones, Television, and Blondie exploded the city's rock scene, and when the Police and Elvis Costello made their American debuts. This was when rock became dirty and dangerous, loud and crazy, and 1970s NYC served as the perfect ecosystem for it.

But that ended. Those bands when mainstream, or broke up, and eventually clubs like CBGB's closed.

And yet ...

According to writer Lizzy Goodman, author of a new book called Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock'n'Roll in New York City 2001-2011, the first decade of the 21st Century was another great time for rock in NYC. That's when bands like The Strokes and Vampire Weekend arose out of the ashes and depression of post-9/11 NYC to create a new era in music. And, like their ancestors, today those once funky bands are mainstream. 

I remember going to see some rock shows during that time and, to be honest, it didn't feel like the rock scene was undergoing some great renaissance. But, if Ms. Goodman felt the need to write a book about it, there probably was something cool going on and, typically, I missed it completely.

My memories of music in that time here in NYC was mostly going to shows at Irving Plaza and the Bowery Ballroom. I remember seeing the Drive-By Truckers a few times with a young Jason Isbell captivating audiences. Honestly I can't remember all the bands I saw but I do remember one: a joke rock metal band like Spinal Tap called Satanicide that was easily the funniest show I've ever seen in my life. I'm sure Satanicide does not rate high in Ms. Goodman's favorite bands in NYC 2001-2011 but, for me, they were the best. Here is the their tribute song to Dungeons and Dragons "20 Sided Die":




And here are the Drive-BY Truckers.



I can't wait to read this book and learn more about what was going on all around me and that, as usual, I was too uncool to be a part of. Listen to the author's WTF interview here

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Seinfeld's "The Contest" @ 25

Twenty-five years ago the TV show Seinfeld was riding high, conquering the ratings and, more importantly, the culture. 

People from all over America were falling in love with the distinctly New York neurosis of this show, quoting it endlessly, and finding in it a mirror to their own non-New York lives.

Perhaps the most famous episode is "The Contest" where the four frenemies bet on who can or who cannot remain "Master of their Domain." What made this episode and, indeed, the whole series, so beloved was the in-joke quality of it, the you-have-to-read-between-the-lines-to-get-it attitude. This was a show that respected its audience intelligence, viewed its fans as smart and sophisticated -- and, in the long-run, changed TV for the better.

Want to know the inside story behind the most famous episode of the one of TV's greatest shows? Read this

Monday, October 23, 2017

Never Sleeping ...

Several years ago I interviewed the authors of a book called Nightshift NYC about the city's overnight workers. This was in follow-up to another post I wrote about the romantic allure of NYC in the dead of night. It's such a beautiful idea: the big, crazy, multitudinous city becoming, for several hours, a kind of ghost town -- a calm, mysterious, lightly-populated dreamscape. 

New York City at night ... it's a subculture all its own. Not only was a book written about it but even the great Martin Scorsese himself made a movie about it! 

And speaking of movies, I recently recorded a movie off Turner Classic Movies that aired at four in the morning (having a full-time job and being a full-time dad makes staying up that late to watch a movie rather impossible). But while the movie itself was "eh" I LOVED the intro that TCM played just before it started. The intro even has a its own name: "Open All Night."

This intro perfectly captures what I love about NYC at night: the jazzy, funky, romantic, mellow vibe and mood; the soft visuals, the casual attitude -- everything about it is just right. If you want to know what NYC overnight feels like to me, this perfectly (in an almost cliched way) brings it to life:



Oh, and speaking about NYC at night, recently the Jimmy Kimmel show was taping in Brooklyn, and the always entertaining Howard Stern made a memorable appearance. Late night NYC isn't always so quiet:



NYC at night ... it's always interesting. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Interview: Ross Barkan, State Senate Candidate for District 22

Well, this is interesting. 

Back in September, I interviewed political reporter Ross Barkan for this blog. He's a well-respected scribe on New York City and State politics, and he gave Mr NYC some great insights about the upcoming mayor's race. His interview has quickly become a popular and widely-read post. 

Little did I know but apparently Ross had something in the works and now it's official: he's throwing off his reporter's mantle and running for the NY State Senate. He's vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican State Senator Marty Golden in 2018. According to Barkan, he plans to focus on the issues of "Single-payer [healthcare], transit, fixing Albany, and a lot of other things."

Ross is certainly a smart and courageous person. I just hope he knows what he's in for. Politics is brutal. I mean brutal. Remember the famous Game of Thrones line? "You win -- or die." Well, in 21st century American politics, maybe you don't literally die, it's still really, really tough. Ever the gentleman, Ross was kind enough to give Mr NYC another interview -- this time as a candidate:

Lots of aspiring politicians talk about the "sacrifice" of running for office but, let's face it, for most, it's a business, a career plan, and no sacrifice at all. But you're a successful, talented journalist who doesn't need to do this. Why?

I felt motivated to do it because I’ve been repeatedly disappointed by the political class. There are good people in politics and some very talented individuals, don’t get me wrong, and I don’t think the pols of yesteryear (with few exceptions) were particularly impressive. But we’re facing several crises here in Brooklyn and across the state and I saw that few were standing up to offer solutions or call out the bad actors who’ve screwed us. In the past, I had mused privately about running for office, and got serious about it a few months ago. When I announced this campaign, I said to myself I wanted to run a race on the values I care about, like Medicare for All, fixing our failing transit system, and cleaning up corruption. I want to run a campaign I would be proud of. In my corner of Southwest Brooklyn, a retrograde Republican state senator named Marty Golden represents me. He’s a nice enough guy and my grudge against him isn’t personal—it’s grounded in policy. He doesn’t care about public transportation or a woman’s right to choose or the discrimination faced by the Arab-American community. It’s time for him to go. And I plan to chase him out. On a personal level, this was a good time to run a campaign. I’m young enough. I don’t have children. In a decade from now, I probably won’t have this kind of time. I didn’t want to look back with any regrets.

Politics is ugly for a reason: it's the battle for power. You're trying to take power away from people who already have it or who think they deserve it more. Are you ready for people saying hateful things about you in the media, investigating your life, perhaps attacking your family, perhaps having people following you around recording you, all sorts of nightmarish stuff. Are you ready for the onslaught? (You realize that the Brooklyn Democratic machine might have other ideas of who should go up against Marty Golden and, if you win the primary, the GOP machine is going to fight like hell for a State Senate seat that pads their tiny, basically non-existent majority)?

Politics is a very rough business. I know it well. Am I ready? I hope. I’ve done my fair share of digging on other people and now I expect people out there to return the favor. I’m not na├»ve about the process. It will be a tough but exhilarating time, and I think ultimately it will be worth it. Not enough people take risks in politics. They hew to the conventional wisdom, play it safe, slink into the shadows. That’s not really my way. I intend to speak my mind. Maybe I’ll make some people uncomfortable. More often than not, though, I’ve found people don’t want to hear bullshit. Let the GOP cash machine come after me. I’ll have the truth on my side.

You said on Twitter that you'll never join the IDC. That's good to hear! Is there anything more you want to add about that?

The IDC needs to go. In an ideal world, the conference would be destroyed, never to return. All members of the IDC would lose and go home. Of course, that will be hard to achieve. Jeff Klein sits on millions of dollars and is a known quantity in his district. Diane Savino is good at constituent work. Defeating all eight is going to be very challenging. Do I hope it happens? Yes. I don’t want a scenario where I have to cast a vote for co-leader Klein. I really don’t. I will never vote for him. What galls me most about the IDC is the deception. To pose as progressives and literally keep conservatives in power. It’s disingenuous and wrong and I’m glad people are speaking up and fighting back.

Any more thoughts or things we should know about your State Senate run?

I said somewhere I am going to be unapologetically myself, no matter what. I won’t morph into an android politician. I won’t be Jon Ossoff. Win or lose, I will battle on the issues and values that matter most to me and my supporters.

Sounds good. I wish Ross luck. People are always complaining that good people don't run for office so here's a chance for the people in Brooklyn. It'll be interesting. If you want to know more about his campaign, you can go to his website here

Self-Driving Cars in Lower Manhattan = Insanity

Self-driving cars are, like the Internet and most technology we use these days, probably inevitable. After all, who wouldn't like to have a car that can drive and park itself, freeing its riders from the hassles behind the wheel? I'm an awful driver so this is a technological development I welcome!

So the world turns.

That said, there's a long way to go before self-driving cars become an every-day reality and it'll require lots and lots and lots of testing. What does testing means? It means that these test cars will have to drive around and crash before they can become safe for regular drivers. So, if you were a company developing these cars, where would you test them? Perhaps in a place where they couldn't do much structural damage or stall or, you know, kill people. Perhaps a low-population, low-density area like ... Lower Manhattan???

Yes, it turns out that GM -- you know, that car company that almost went out of business until taxpayers bailed them out? -- is planing to do just that. They want to start testing their self-driving prototypes in Lower Manhattan next year. This is dumb and dangerous and Mayor De Blasio is, rightly, strongly against the idea. Testing these cars in that environment is madness and he's vowing the stop it.

So who gave these cars the metaphorical and literal green light? Governor Cuomo -- oh, and the state Department of Motor Vehicles didn't alert the city Department of Transportation before approving this. Instead, they sent out this nasty, self-defensive missive when De Blasio vowed to stop this: "The mayor can do whatever he wants but the city is subject to state jurisdiction ... We understand that the mayor's taxi industry donors don't like it, but it is the future and all states are exploring it.” So instead of addressing the concern the state attacks the mayor personally and throw its authority in our face. Oh, and GM contributed to Cuomo's campaign funds. Yeah, the statement didn't mention that. 

Something is rotten about this -- it's all corrupt. This must be stopped! No self-driving car tests in Lower Manhattan! Or else the state, and not the city, will literally have blood on its hands. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

October 19, 1987 - Black Monday


Today is Thursday but thirty years ago on this date -- October 19, 1987 -- the New York Stock experienced its biggest crash in history. The Dow Jones Industrial Index, something you might call "the stock market of the stock market", plunged by 508-points or 22% of the "index." 

Imagine that the value of your house evaporated by almost a quarter in a single day and you can imagine why it was a dark, dark day on The Street, recorded by history as Black Monday.

What caused it? Many explanations: a weak dollar, investor fears of inflation, conflicts in the Middle East (i.e. unpredictable oil prices), and the vagaries computer trading. News reports, like the one above, assaulted viewers with terms like "S&P 500", "market capitalization", "index funds", blah blah blah, trying to make sense of the madness. But the market quickly recovered and the Go-Go '80s soon became the Go-Go '90s.

Of course, 21 years later, in the fall of 2008, the market would yet again crash due to the collapse of the housing market and nonsense of the the big banks. This would lead to the Great Recession that we are still, almost a decade later, recovering from.

So October 19, 1987, Black Monday, was a sad one indeed but, ultimately, one of the good ol' days. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cow in Prospect Park


Ai Weiwei: Good Fences, Good Neighbors

Ever since the amazing The Gates in Central Park exhibition in 2005, I've become a lover of public art. There's nothing cooler than seeing the streets and parks of NYC turned into a canvass for a creative vision. NYC is always interesting but is made only more so when parts of it are re-imagined, temporarily, as something else. That's the glory of art, one of the things that makes NYC great.

The famous Chinese artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei has just mounted one of the most ambitious public arts projects in NYC history. It's called Good Fences, Good Neighbors and it's a multi-borough exhibit of fences -- yes, fences -- that highlight the plight of refugees and migrants who are fleeing wartorn countries and natural catastropheos. Fences can protect but they can also exclude -- something that refugees are keenly aware of but that most of cannot really appreciate 
-- and this exhibit drives that point home.

What makes this exhibit so particularly interesting is how is both grand and small. Some of the installations are tourist heavy, obvious places like Washington Square Park and Flushing Corona Park -- and others are on bus stops in Brooklyn and shelters in The Bronx. There is also an audio visual component to this exhibit too, with videos showing the plight of refugees in many far-flung parts of the world.

This project seems like a once-in-a-lifetime, you-were-there, blink-of-you'll-miss-it experience so, if you're in NYC, try to find it and check it out.

It runs until February, 2018. For a comprehensive list of locations, go here





Monday, October 16, 2017

Cy Vance and the Fear of Power

Why aren't Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump's daughter and husband in jail?

After all, there's overwhelming evidence that both committed crimes (in Harvey Weinstein's case, against women; in Donald Trump's kids case, for fraud, since they mislead buyers of the Trump Soho building about how many units were actually sold). 

Thanks Manhattan DA Cy Vance for not prosecuting these miscreants. Not only did the lawyers of these people contribute heavily to his campaign, but Vance apparently has an MO for vigorously prosecuting low level offenses committed by poor and powerless people but letting the rich and powerful skate. 

The reason is easy to see: it's scary to prosecute people who have money and connections. They will fight you with everything they have, they will smear you in the press, they will sue you personally and try to get you disbarred, they will prevent family members and people who work for you from getting jobs, they will hire private investigators to terrorize your life, they will do whatever it takes to stop you and stay out of jail. So why bother? The fear of that is enough.

Part of me is angry at Vance for letting these people get away with their crimes but another part of me understands. It's all about power. That's what power is, after all -- literally getting people to do, or not do, what you want. This is something that the Harvey Weinsteins and the Trumps of this world fully understand. 

Like the character Varys says in Game of Thrones: "Power is a trick, a shadow on the wall." And the big question is, where does the power come from? Who performs the trick, who casts the shadow? Every few years we go to the polls and elect to give certain people "power" over our lives for certain periods of time. But let's face it -- when people have power over those people, when the supposedly powerful and accountable are at the mercy, perceived or real, of the even more powerful and unaccountable, what hope is there for the rest of us? How can justice truly prevail?

In the case of Cy Vance, not often. The fear of power, the real power, is too great. 

     

Friday, October 13, 2017

Sinovision and NYC Chinese Media

At least once a week I pick up food from this small Chinese joint in my neighborhood. Very often they have a flatscreen on the wall playing a Chinese language station called Sinovision

I've become fascinated by it. Sinovision is beautifully produced and super local with shows and commercials that distinctly target a NYC audience. I only wish that I understood so I could actually watch it, and I only wish there were more local TV stations like it.