Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fire at Citi Field!!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Does Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic" Hold Up?

Ever since the writer Tom Wolfe died a couple of weeks ago, many of his fellow scribes have been going back over his work, remembering what made the man in the white suit such a journalistic trailblazer.

One of the things that fashioned Wolfe's legend is his 1970 article "Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny's." 

Written in deeply cynical, highly detailed observational prose, it's an account of a fundraiser for the Black Panthers held in conductor Leonard Bernstein's Dakota apartment. Wolfe (and others) crashed the event and greatly enjoyed writing about the incongruity of the world's most famous conductor and other elite cultural machers hanging out with a bunch of big, tough bearded black militants.

At the time, the story caused a stir. This was a classic example of "limousine liberalism", liberal hypocrisy, run amok. Conservatives loved it (including the Nixon White House), and the rest of American didn't care. But in NYC journalistic circles, it was a smash because, as a piece of reporting, it was spot on. 

Much of a fan as I am of Wolfe's other work, "Radical Chic" doesn't hold up so well today. As a piece of writing, it's still a strong example of journalistic craftsmanship but it's morality, by 21st century standards is ... less strong. 

It's snarky, sneering, and, yes, racist. 

It's an example of white privilege at its finest -- a white man mocking a bunch of Jews trying to help a bunch "scary" black guys. It's tone is vicious, full of hate in the guise of amused irony. But, because it's so well-written, it's almost easy to overlook this.

In short, "Radical Chic" is like an Americanized "Triumph of the Will": ugly politics, very well-produced.

So, sadly, this article just doesn't hold up. Something that was once a comment on its time is now a dated artifact of another time. (The fact that the Nixon White House (pre-Watergate) liked it should tell you something.) 

You should read the whole article to see what I'm taking about.

And, if you want more of the history of this article, read this

There's a new website the city government has recently launched designed to improve the lives of NYC women:

It's a search engine that aggregates all of the city's programs and services that assist women in their lives. It helps them find jobs and apartments, start businesses, get legal and financial help as well as access to child services.

Sounds good. If you're an NYC woman, check it out! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Gotta Love New Yorkers

Rudy got booed at Yankee Stadium when the announcer tried to wish him "Happy Birthday." 

New Yorkers weren't having it and reacted accordingly -- you know, working for a fascist president and being a generally horrible human being kinda rubs us the wrong way.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Harvey Weinstein Does the Perp Walk

So it finally happened: Harvey Weinstein was arrested. 

What's outrageous is that it took so long, that he was allowed to "surrender" to police instead of the cops breaking down his door, tackling him to the ground, slapping him with cuffs, and throwing him in a police car. If he'd been, oh, you know, black, poor, or a regular person, that's what would've happened. Show's how power and money still rule even when in disgrace -- and jail.

That said, seeing Weinstein in cuffs certainly is something that many people never imagined would happen. Let's hope that his victims, and all victims of sexual abuse, feel a little bit more peace today.

 What's ironic is that, at the same time Weinstein is facing justice, one of Mia Farrow's children, Moses, is coming forward to strongly dispute the charges against Woody Allen. 

Moses writes a long, thorough explanation of how the crime Woody is accused of couldn't have happened, how he and his siblings were abused by Mia, and how he feels that Woody is being unfairly lumped in with obvious monsters like Weinstein. It's a powerful piece -- and, strangely, it's led to Moses getting attacked in just the same manner that many people who speak up about sexual abuse are attacked. Moses is stating that he and his siblings were abused -- and he's being told that he's a liar, that it didn't happen, etc. 

This is sad.

ALL abuse claims must be taken seriously and investigated (like Woody was, and he was cleared), and the truth must come out and be accepted. To call anyone a liar is wrong -- until we know the truth.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fleet Week in NYC

The Subway Story

When you look at a map of the NYC subway, that goulash of color lines, there's always a little voice in the back of your head asking, "How the hell did the subways wind up like this?"

In short: business.

Before the MTA took complete control, the subways were a collection of different private companies that ran service through different parts of the city. You might recognize some of the names: the IRT, BMT, BRT, IND, etc. The subway lines evolved, not in an organic, planned, logical manner, but in ways the padded the bottom lines for these companies. There was competition and collusion, big plans for various subways lines that includes stories of false starts, incomplete construction, and outright abandonment.

And, of course, there was the Great Depression.

Most of the subway was built in the early 20th century but, when the Depression hit, the money for new construction dried up. Then, of course, there was the Second World War, halting further construction. And, of course, there was Robert Moses, the powerful city planner who believed that highways and cars were the future of NYC, not more subway lines.

It's a wild story of money, politics, egos, and historical events -- and millions of New Yorkers grapple with the legacy of that every day in their commutes. 

Tish James for AG

Public Advocate Tish James is running for New York State Attorney General this year and appears to be the prohibitive favorite. She's a racked up endorsements and support, and appears to be, at the moment, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. 

Tish is a successful lawyer, city councilwoman, and now Public Advocate. I saw her at a forum several years ago and her fierce intelligence blazed through. Tish is a smart, driven woman, and the state'll be lucky to have her as AG.

But not only will she have to win the election but, as a black woman running for high office, she'll have to put up with tons of ... crap. 

Like this article from Politico: supposedly a comprehensive look at her career, it's in fact a hatchet job, a snarky and mean-spirited attack on her qualifications and motives. It accuses her accomplishing nothing (while, bizarrely at the same time, acknowledges that several bills she's sponsored), of lying, of being a cypher.

It's an absolutely vicious, hateful smear-job, and I can't imagine a white male politician (and certainly not a Republican) ever having to deal with something like this. Certainly the press hasn't been this tough on Trump or Cuomo as they are on Tish James. 

If you ever wonder if black people, and women, and black women in particular, have it tougher trying to climb the "greasy pole" of power, this article should leave you with no doubts.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Interview Magazine, RIP

Andy Warhol was the first true multi-media artist: he painted pictures, made movies, produced bands, staged events -- and even started a magazine.

Called Interview, it debuted in 1969, and did for celebrity culture what its contemporary Rolling Stone did for rock'n'roll  -- namely, enshrine it with journalistic, literary respectability.

Famous for its of portrait-like covers of celebrities, Interview gave a high-end gloss to pop culture news. If you wanted to know what was going on in pop culture, who and what was "in" or "out" Interview told you.

Warhol died in 1987 but Interview continued -- until today. After months and months of turmoil -- lawsuits, harassment allegations,  bankruptcy -- it closed. Yet another part of old NYC gone away.

It's sad because, if the reports are to be believed, this didn't have to happen. It sounds like bad business decisions and a toxic culture led to the magazine's demise. There's nothing sadder than people charged with maintaining a legacy messing it up.

I'm sure Andy is weeping in heaven.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Interview: Elizabeth Albin, NYC Photographer

Every year millions of people visit NYC and, doubtless, many of them take pictures to record their memories of the trip.

But what if you live here? Does the impetus to take pictures of the city still exist? 

For many New Yorkers, the answer is a resounding "Yes!". I know lots of them who are amateur photographers and the city is their favorite subject. Yet when they take pictures, they capture it differently. They’re not necessarily looking at the big sights or the skyline – instead, they’re observing the everyday life, the interesting streets and areas that surround them on a daily basis. 

Elizabeth Albin is one such New Yorker. She loves taking pictures of the city, particularly of the nature within and around the asphalt. Here she tells us about her favorite ways to go about photographing her city – and how the impetus to keep doing it is endless. 

How long have you been photographing NYC and what inspired you to do it? 

I've been taking pictures since I got my IPhone 5. I'd be out with my dog, or I would run and look around and decide that thing right there was worth a picture. 

Has this been a lifelong hobby or something you’ve started doing recently? 

It's relatively recent (since 2013 or so). 

Do you like shooting city-scapes at random or are you intentionally looking to capture something when you take a picture? 

Sometimes I'll walk out the door thinking about a theme. I won't always stick with that though. Even when I have a unifying thought (buildings with odd windows on Stanton Street, or Purple Flowers, for example), the day may dictate something else. I end up taking a lot of pictures of bridges and flowers.

What are some of your favorite pictures?

I took some shots of tulips recently that I really liked. Also, whenever I see tree roots conquering the sidewalk. Sometimes I'll see a weed sticking out of an unlikely crack or pier. I love that. Other pictures I like are the sort of beaches at Stuyvesant Cove, and below the Brooklyn Bridge. Excellent sea gulls in both places. 

Is there anything in the city you have shot yet that you’d like to? 

I'd like to take pictures on Randall's Island and Governor's Island. I'll have to get myself up there.

Is there anything else about your pictures of the city that you’d like us to know?

I don't take many pictures of people. Much of the time I want to capture the solitude I enjoy. 

Finally, what do you love about NYC and has taking pictures of it made you learn more about it?

I love that New York has so much wild life. I don't capture even half of what I've seen. That's intentional. Given the choice of experience and image, I'll take experience. Even so, most days I practically trip over something new. 

Thanks! And here are some of her amazing NYC pictures. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Royal Wedding in NYC

The Royal Wedding will not, obviously, be in NYC tomorrow -- we cast off the yoke of monarchical imperium nigh two-hundred two-score and two years ago.

But if you want to watch the first American -- and the first bi-racial American at that -- marry into the House of Windsor tomorrow in NYC, there're many places around town where you can do so. 

There are bars, restaurants, lounges, hotels, and all sorts of places hosting viewing parties. Celebrate as a fellow Yank joins monarchy! 

Most of the festivities kick off at 6 AM on Saturday (because, you know, time zones, etc.) so go to bed early tonight, set your alarm, drink lots of coffee -- or TEA! -- and watch history with your fellow citizens of the city where some of the decisive battles of the American Revolution were fought and where the first American president was inaugurated. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ask a Native New Yorker

I.e. ask the editor of Gothamist (or listen to him on WNYC).

Or, of course, just ask Mr NYC!

Aaron Schlossberg = Trump Super Tool

In dis-honor of this f-idiot, we present the following report of this now infamous incident in Spanish:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Air War!

There's currently an "air" war between NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Airbnb. Stringer recently issued a report claiming that Airbnb and other home sharing apps are increasing the cost of living in the city.

Airbnb strenuously disagrees and has been airing ads attacking the comptroller's report. The hotel trade unions are responding by supporting the report and attacking Airbnb.

It's a classic old vs. new economy, disruptive vs. established business battle, and it's not going to end any time soon. Be prepared to see a lot more fights like this one. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tom Wolfe RIP

Just the other night I was looking over my bookcase and pulled out a book I bought a long time ago called The Devil's Candy, about the making of the disastrous movie version of Tom Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities

How ironic then, that, very next day, Tom Wolfe died here in NYC, aged 87.

Starting in the 1960s, along with writers like Gay Talese and others, Wolfe was an originator of the "New Journalism", a style of non-fiction where reporters would embed themselves with their subjects and write long, probing articles and books in a highly personal, provocative, almost literary way. Wolfe became the most popular New Journalist of all, writing about the heroes and anti-heroes of American life, from hippies to astronauts like Ken Kesey and the Yippies in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the Black Panthers in Radical Chic (a term he coined), the Mercury astronauts in The Right Stuff (his most acclaimed work). 

Wolfe's observations were always satirical, never sentimental; always honest, no puffery. He was "politically incorrect" but never offensive -- he held the mirror up to nature, oftentimes brutally, and did so in wild, hyperbolic prose. Wolfe loved periods and italicizes and fast, whirling sentences -- there was a rock'n'roll sensibility to his words, an energy that hit your "solar plexus" (to use a term Wolfe repeated ad nauseum in his writing).

In the 1980s, Wolfe switched from journalism to fiction, publishing his legendary NYC novel The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1987. I've written a lot about this book over the years -- a novel that presents NYC as hellish landscape of greed, crime, and yes, vanity -- so I won't say any more except that it serves both as a piece of great entertainment and a lacerating commentary of this city at that time. Wolfe wrote a few more novels, most notably A Man in Full in 1998, but none equaled Bonfire -- his last few novels received poor reviews and sales -- and he became a relic of the 20th century. But he influenced endures.

Wolfe also became famous for his trademark white suit that he always wore in public. I saw him speak several times over the years and he always donned the suit with complimentary white reading glasses. 

And I ever spoke to him once. 

Once, at a book signing, I mentioned that he had been a big influence to me and that I wanted to write as well. "What kind of things do you like to write?" he asked. I said fiction. He wished me luck -- and, years later, I published my first novel Leaving New York (which you can look to and purchase on the right-hand of this blog). 

Tom Wolfe inspired me to do it and, for that, I thank him  -- and for everything he ever wrote.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Seinfeld Finale @ 20

It's crazy to realize that it's been twenty years since one of the greatest shows of all-time, and certainly one of the quintessential NYC shows, went off the air.

Seinfeld defined the '90s and popularized the NYC neuroses for middle America like no show before or since. In many ways, you can look at this show as part of the transformation of NYC from Fear City to Luxury Product. 

Read more about how Seinfeld came to be and also check out Mr NYC's various Seinfeld-related coverage over the years, including my exclusive interview with Kenny Kramer! 

Even though it's two decades in the past, Seinfeld is a show that'll never be forgotten and that people'll always yada-yada about. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

$28 Per Month

What's the biggest story in NYC this week?

Not the resignation of the AG or any of the important stuff but the fact that there was a woman who, until she died recently, was paying only $28 per month for a Greenwich Village apartment.

It's truly a story out of time, of another time, of the past made present -- a story of a woman who found a great real estate deal back in 1955 and stuck with it for the next 63 years. All New Yorkers should be so lucky.  

In this case, the rent was too damn low. 

Review: "Three Tall Women"

The playwright Edward Albee shot to fame in the early 1960s with his masterpiece Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? He followed that up with other successful plays, including the Pulitzer Prize-winners Seascape and A Delicate Balance (oft revived on Broadway). But in the 1980s and early 1990s, his plays fell into critical disfavor, and Albee was viewed as a once-great, now mediocre talent. 

Three Tall Women in 1994 marked his comeback, snagging Albee a third Pulitzer Prize.

A very "meta" play featuring three women simply named A, B, and C, it's an examination of aging and the pain of life. In the first act, A is an old women being looked after by B and working with C, a lawyer, on her legal and financial matters. A is a loud, crass woman, torturing B with her bad behavior and largely ignoring C's concerns. Then A has a stroke -- and we literally go inside her head as B and C become A at earlier times in her life, and we learn more about the story of A's background and her broken relationship with her son. It is, in some ways, a nihilistic play as we learn that the happiest moment in any person's life is death -- but that we should always remember what joy (no matter how little) we have had.

The production of Three Tall Women currently on Broadway has become the event of the season as it marks the return of Glenda Jackson, the brilliant British actress, to the New York stage after 30 years (she spent 23 of those last 30 years as a member of the British parliament). Jackson plays A, and commands the stage as only a monster talent like she can. She is loud, vulgar, funny, narcissistic and, ultimately, sympathetic. Jackson blasts humanity into A, making us rattle her wake, and her performance is both a tour-de-force and a gale force of great acting. Seeing her on the stage was something I'll never forget. It's her show all the way. 

 The other two actresses, Laurie Metcalf (from Roseanne and the wonderful film Lady Bird) as B, and Allison Pill (from The Newsroom) as C, support her well. While A is the star part, B and C are vital in reflecting her, both as separate characters and as part of her. Metcalf brings her easy charm to B, making us remember why she won two Emmys for Roseanne -- she's naturally funny, comfortable and confident in both her parts. Pill has always been a good screen actress but she's even better on the stage -- her part, and her performance, have a mystery that makes you almost wish the play was about her, although it would be a very different play. 

 All of the parts are well written. Albee's plays are always rather over the top with people yelling at each other at top volume but he strikes at what makes people tick and, in Three Tall Women, he does it very well. Go see this if you can, you won't forget it.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Picturing the City

Among the many, many, many-to-infinity things I have no talent at, you can include drawing and photography among them. I can't take a decent photograph to save my life (ask my wife, ba dum bum) and, when it comes to drawing, it's like trying to breath in outer space -- hopeless, not at all possible, entirely for naught.

So people who can draw well and take great photographs, I admire the hell out of.

Naturally, a beautiful, diverse, teaming city like New York provides ample opportunities for sketchers and photographers to record great images. Be it the buildings, the streets, the parks, the people, the opportunities NYC affords to such artists is never-ending.
That takes us to two very different projects, currently on display in NYC, where you can see photos and drawings of the city that'll amaze you.

First, Stanley Kubrick. Yes, that guy, one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived. Years before he made such classics as Dr. Strangelove, 2001, and A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick was a kid photographer from the Bronx, working for Look magazine. He took a vast number of pictures all over the city in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and you can see them in an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. These pictures are amazing, brilliant captures of New Yorkers and the post-war city. If he had never directed film, Kubrick's photography would still be worth showing all these decades later. It's amazing to think that these photos, which look like they were done by a seasoned professional, were made by someone just out of high school with no formal training. You can see how Kubrick, even then, had impressive visual sensibility, a great "eye", and an innate ability to recognize and frame memorable images. Years before he had a guy riding a missile and crafting some of the most memorable images in cinema history, Kubrick's vision was at work on the streets in NYC.  

Second, the subway. A man named Philip Coppola has undertaken a mission to sketch every one of the 400+ subway stations in NYC. He's been doing it since 1984 and has so far produced six volumes of these drawings. These are meticuleous, finely realized pictures and reveals the true beauty and craftsmanship that went into the building of many of these stations. Right now, at the New York City Transit Museum Annex at Grand Central there is exhibit of several of these pictures and they really make you look at the subway, literally, a different way. Coppola says that he think he'll be dome by 2030 so there's lots more to come.

Picturing NYC is truly an art unto itself.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Schneiderman: Before the Fall

This week the New York Attorney General resigned due to some nasty personal stuff.

Honestly I'm conflicted if people should be hounded out of their jobs for stuff in their private lives (as opposed to abuse of their positions and power) but the sociopolitical environment clearly thinks otherwise.

So it goes. 

Just days earlier he had recorded an interview with Alec Baldwin on his podcast Here's the Thing. It was posted this morning. I haven't listened to it yet and don't know if I will but -- if you have morbid curiosity and want to hear a politicians speaking past the metaphorical grave -- give it a listen. 

Oh, and did you know that New York has the most "toxic" politics of any state? If you see the man in the White House, it's hard not to conclude that. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Why is the Rent Too Damn High? Go back to 1994

As gentrification sweeps over our city, as the cost of living explodes, it's easy to point to many reasons: drastically lower crime rates, making previously undesirable neighborhoods desirable; more New Yorkers choosing to stay in the city instead of moving to the suburbs to raise families; massive infusions of foreign money spurring new construction and gobbling up real estate (mostly as tax shelters); more and more people moving here from across the country in pursuit of hot jobs; and, obviously, technology, creating a new class of rich people and sites like Airbnb. 

It all comes down to one basic thing: the rise of market demand. 

There's more demand than supply for housing in NYC, and thus the rent gets too damn high.

Very often, when it comes to massive demographic and economic shifts like this, in a city or a country, people will say, "Well, there's no simple explanation. You can't point to one thing."

But what if you can? What is there's one simple, clear explanation?

In 1994, the City Council passed a law allowing landlords to take apartments out of rent stabilization when the rent passed $2000 a month. Called "de-control", the arguments for this move were that rent stabilization actually subsidized wealthy people, that the "average" rent was $600 so the likelihood that it'd be $2000 for most were "remote". Well, since then, over 152,000 have fallen out of stabilization, and that number rises to almost 250,000 when coop conversions are included. Also, this law incentivized landlords to harass and evict tenants with impunity, trying to get the apartments vacated so that they would fall out of stabilization. 

Then it got worse: in 1997 the state legislature passed a law that made it impossible for the city council to change its own law. And it's been higher rents ever since. 

So there, in a nutshell, is why the rent is so damn high.

This effort was, as you might imagine, engineered by the real estate industry. A lot of astro-turfing and cynical politics was behind it: they mounted a big PR campaign to make council members and New Yorkers convinced that de-control was actually in their interest (when it was the opposite). They pointed to rich people and celebrities paying low rents, they found black and Latino landlords to appear in ads, trying to make this move into some kind of "progressive" economic thing. It's was a complete, very effective snow job.

What's most frightening is that many of the city council members who voted for it didn't understand what they were voting for. They were conned, ashamedly so. 

And now gentrification is everywhere, including in small, out of the way neighborhoods like Highbridge in the Bronx. No place is safe -- this is the new menace.

And it all goes back to March 21, 1994 when this law passed. This is why politics matter and why elections have consequences.    

Monday, May 7, 2018

Gotta Love New Yorkers

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first: NYC produced both Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. This is a sad, depressing fact of life. These awful men are currently terrorizing the country, trying to obstruct justice and explaining away moral turpitude, making our city and our country the laughing stock of the world. It's an embarassement, a painful thing to see. 

So it's good to remember that there are New York who have made the world a better place.

Like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the brilliant artists who gave us The Gates in Central Park back in 2005. Did you know that in 1968 they tried to "wrap" MoMA? After "wrapping" the Reichstag in Berlin, these two French immigrants came to NYC and attempted to turn the city's leading modern art museum into a work of modern art itself. It didn't happen but, for decades to come, they would continue with such projects, culminating with The Gates. And they remained New Yorkers for the rest of their lives.

And speaking about parks, there's a new exhibit of 60 photographs taken in various city parks and playgrounds in the summer of 1978. There was a newspaper strike that summer and the parks department hired out-of-work photographers to take over 3000 pictures of people enjoying themselves. Look at these pictures if you want to see New Yorkers hanging out over 40 years ago. 

Finally, the most amazing New Yorker of them all: a 96-year old legal secretary named Sylvia Bloom who died in 2017. Turns out, she was worth $9 million that she built up over the years through smart investing. In her will she donated almost $7 million to the Henry Street Settlements group and $2 million to Hunter College. Can you imagine the current president or former mayor being that generous? Me neither.

New Yorkers -- famous or not famous, generous or selfish, for better or worse, we're a wild bunch.

Yanks Win 15 in a Row - First Time Since 1980

Friday, May 4, 2018

Safe Injections

Today Mayor De Blasio quietly announced that the city plans to open "safe injection" sites in NYC. This means junkies will be able to go to these places, get high (shoot/snort/drop/maybe even smoke) their very hard drugs, and then get immediate assistance if they OD. The idea is for them to do this in a safe, clean, controlled environment.

So of you might be saying "What the hell?" but this is a great, mature approach, an advance off of needle exchange programs.

Instead of criminalizing addicts, this treats addiction as what it's always been: a health issue. And hopefully these centers will also be treatment centers that can help wean people off drugs. As long as drug use and addiction exists in the shadows, where people are persecuted instead of treated, we won't seriously make headway in treating addiction -- or drug crimes.

These centers are, as of now, illegal. The state still needs to approve them and the Federal government could prosecute. But assuming the state approves and the Feds lay off, this will be a significant advancement in the human dignity of people.  

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Mozart in the Jungle, RIP

I just finished the fourth season of the Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle -- a wonderful comedy about the classical music world of NYC -- and was saddened to find out that this season is the last.

Amazon cancelled the show last month -- along with lots of others.

I didn't blog a lot about this show but it was an incredibly funny and warmhearted look at an industry (classical music) struggling to survive in the crazy world of 21st century culture and NYC. The characters were wonderfully realized, the writing was sharp, the stories were heartfelt, and it was a great look at a slice of life, a little world, in NYC. It was a show about artists, people who love what they do, and are willing sacrifice for it. It was a show about triumphs, disappointments, love, and everything else. It was wonderful.  

Most of all, it featured Bernadette Peters and Malcom McDowell, still going strong after decades in show business. It had a great cast. 

And now it's gone. 

It's gone because Amazon, after firing its previous programming chief in a #MeToo moment, hired a new person who's decided to cancel shows like Mozart (small, sophisticated boutique shows about real people and their struggles) in order to  spend  roughly a $1 billion to re-imagine Lord of the Rings. Apparently, Amazon wants its own Game of Thrones, its own Stranger Things, it's own big-time cultural buzzy hit. It wants a blockbuster.

Le sigh.

Forgive me, but can Amazon really do a better job with LOTR than Peter Jackson did with his movies? Does the culture really need or want this? And while I'm a HUGE fan of GOT and enjoy Stranger Things, I loved that Amazon had all these funky, small, literate shows -- like Mozart, Transparent and One Mississippi. These were original, groundbreaking, history-making shows, shows that truly pushed the art of television forward. 

But business is business, and this was probably inevitable. Still, it's disappointing. So let's just appreciate that for a brief, shining moment there was a place where shows like this could thrive. 

And, like all good things, like all great moments, they come to an end. 

Giuliani: Trump committed a crime but, you know, it's okay

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Classic Mr NYC

Several years ago I blogged about "The Secret Places of NYC", the places that exist here that many New Yorkers have never gone to or even heard about. 

One of them was Hart Island, the remote pauper's grave for the city's destitute and dead. For generations penniless New Yorkers were buried there, destined to be forgotten.

But they weren't all forgotten.  

Right now there's a tussle under way between the Mayor's office and the city council about who should control Hart Island. Currently the Corrections Department manages but some on the council want the Parks Department to handle it and also to put it under the supervision of the Chief Medical Examiner. This would, in theory, make it easier for family members to visit the island and locate the remains of their dead family members. Bone fragments are surfacing there and family members want access to them.

It'll be interesting to see how this issue plays out -- and it'll show how we treat the truly lesser among us.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Crew Gardens

Where do the flights crews go, and what do they do, in between flights? 

Where do they live? 

When your job requires you to fly all over the country, and all over the world, day in day out, jumping from time city to city, country to country, time zone to time zone -- what kind of life do you have?

It's a wild and unique life, as you might imagine. So it's probably not a surprise that people who work on flight crews form tight bonds and have developed a community of literal fellow travelers. 

In NYC, between flights, many pilots and flight attendants live in the Kew Gardens section of Queens. Many of them share apartments and homes, sometimes just renting rooms full of bunk beds. And, as you might imagine, they party together, very often at bars that have been serving flight crews for decades.

Hence Kew Gardens is known in the airline industry as "Crew Gardens."

NYC has two major airports so there's a huge number of airline workers who live and work here and live in close proximity. It's not surprising that they have their community here. It's yet another of those little worlds within the giant world of NYC. 

Mentors and Mentees, Good n' Bad

I never had a mentor.

I never had someone say to me, "Hey kid, I'm gonna take a chance on you, show you the ropes, provide you some guidance, introduce you to some interesting people, give you a shot."

I never had someone who took any interest in me or my career or my hopes and dreams. No one ever showed me the way. I've always done everything on my own, unguided, unmoored. I guess no one ever thought I was worth the effort.

But I'm not bitter -- because mentors aren't always a good thing.

Take the example of Roy Cohn and Donald Trump. Roy Cohn was the lawyer for Joe McCarthy, the consigliere of Red Scare of the early 1950s, who also oversaw the prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Cohn moved back to NYC after McCarthy's death and spent the rest of his life (he was disbarred and died in 1986) representing all sorts of corrupt figures and people in organized crime. He also worked for Trump's company and was a mentor to the young real estate developer in the 1970s and '80s -- and much of the viciousness we see every day from this loathsome POTUS is the product of his mentoring by Cohn.

And yet ... mentors can be a wonderful thing. 

Lou Reed, one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all times, was a poet at heart. His lyrics were as poetic as his music was harmonious. That's because, as a young man, was mentored by the great poet Delmore Schwartz, a Beat poet turned college professor who taught poetry to Reed as a young man -- and was a lasting influence and inspiration to the then young man.

The mentor/mentee relationship can be, at heart, a wonderful meeting of minds and energy or a toxic brew of egos and darkness. They can give us amazing art -- and ugly politics. They can inspire us -- or drag us down. 

So if, like me, you've always craved a mentor, then, like me, you can feel the lack of one in many ways; and yet, at the same time, you can be glad that you've never let another person have so much power over you -- or your fate.