March 1, 2011

(from the dispatch desk of city room flimflammer, Mac Jasper)
Mac Jasper

Listen to Jasper’s broadcast here:

Vegetarian options are on the downslide in New York City, as severely as the many shanks for the carnivore are now everywhere advertised. The non-meat munchers of the city have now found even their beverages buggered by the baloney-biters, over at the new gastro-café, where one may order the bacon martini, in fact a martini made with bacon.

Says one local cabbage-jockey, quote “I would scarf down homefries cooked on a skillet where Taylor Ham just sizzled, before I’d ever take a bite of gluten-free pizza,” end quote. Such a skillet sizzles with Jersey’s own pork roll most delectably at Johny’s Luncheonette, on 25th St. btwn 6th and 7th, where, as a regular reports, quote, “George runs a tight ship for the breakfast and lunch crowd. Sure, Johny’s has a veggie burger, and it’s probably great, but why not have one of Johny’s special pita-pizzas,” end quote. The people are boffo for Johny’s.

This just in, from the Manila, Philippines desk:
At least 750 kilos of “double dead” or tainted hog meat were seized while three suspected vendors of the hot meat were arrested in a predawn raid on a market in Quezon City Wednesday. Radio dzBB’s Paulo Santos reported the joint operation by the city police and health office swooped down on the Balintawak Market at 2:30 a.m. Found in the raid conducted at about 2:30 a.m. were 700 kilos of hot meat and 50 kilos of lechon (roasted pig) meat. Arrested were three suspected vendors, initially identified as Ludy dela Rosa, Lea Balte, and Carlo Trinidad. City health officer Dr. Ana Marie Cabel cited initial findings most of the hot meat seized Wednesday may have come from Bulacan province. Earlier, the National Meat Inspection Service said it is monitoring farms in Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija as possible sources of the hot meat. Authorities have intensified their watch for hot meat, anticipating a rise in demand for the commodity as the Christmas holidays draw closer.

Double-dead huh? Double-dead, eh?  That’s what they used to call Ed Falzone back on the Glittering Gulch, on account of he felt out the window 17 floors from the Astor Hotel, and walked away without injury – over for a dime-a-dance up the Stem… for a little hot meat.

And that’s the squib.


March 1, 2011

(From the dispatch desk of Park Row squibber & city room toff, Mac Jasper)Mac Jasper

Listen to the broadcast here: Veg BBQ I

“Vegetarian options are on the downslide in New York City, as severely as the many shanks for the carnivore are now everywhere advertised. Open most local Brooklyn papers, and see the ads for Texas BBQ, or Arkansas BBQ, with microbrews and locally sourced cow hocks and sustainable duck fat. Retrofitted menus from the beefsteak days, as if marketing to the intelligentsia, who are ravenous for pulled pork and loaves of knuckle. Is it a backlash against the preponderance of 1990s-propelled vegetarian options? The veg options on these menus are typically of dense pallor, gratuitous nods to some kind of cultural egalitarianism which must coincide with political acts of economic responsibility. A non-meatmuncher is best served at a place like Hill Country, on 26th btwn Broadway and Sixth, which declaims any veg options, tho the sides of mac and cheese, Texas caviar (black-eyed peas), and rich slaw are plentiful and pleasing to system of palate and gut.”

James FormanLast week at Rosenthal Library Auditorium, civil rights leader Julian Bond was invited as distinguished guest speaker to celebrate the acquisition of The James Forman Library for the QC Civil Rights Archive.  James Forman was an executive secretary and active member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  Julian Bond – who as a student at Morehouse College spearheaded protest action from the booths of Yates & Milton Drugstore in Atlanta, GA. – joined the SNCC as communications director, and among other things worked with photographer Danny Lyons to document the Movement.

Africana Studies Director Dr. Julmisse opened the evening with cogent and evocative remarks.   QC president Dr. Muykens introduced Mr. Bond, and did not buck any cliches about the campus-comedy dean, as he numerously referred to the James Forman collection as “papers,” when the acquisition is not Forman’s papers, but his personal library of books.  Forman’s papers are in the Library of Congress.  Not the gravest error, but a conspicuous one.  Archivists are up in arms over that crusty old dean.

James Forman’s son, James, Jr., spoke humbly and enthusiastically, and attested to the sublimating effect of Julian Bond as a speaker. And Julian was masterful.  He provoked, quipped, stated statistics with the narrative command with which he also deployed rhetorical tricks.  He looked back to the 1960s, when the movement was alive with change, and he was keen to the ravages going forward.   Summing up the old days with the new, he used a device the Greeks called Antanaclasis, noting that back then “good music was popular, and Popular Music was good.”  Julian must have seen the tribute to Aretha Franklin at last week’s Grammy Awards.
Julian Bond Saturday Night Live 1
Watch footage of Julian Bond’s remarks here.

Mr. Bond had the style of a seminal toastmaster, if the subject of the roast was Race in the United States.  Race was not about skin, but power.  Race trumps education, health care and war.  In James Forman’s autobiography, Making of Black Revolutionaries, Forman is passionate about reading and knowledge, and repulsed by his service in the Air Force, where institutional racism is the suppressor of the active life of the mind.

Julian Bond Saturday Night Live 2Julian made clear his own stance, dropping phrases about “right-wingers” and ‘Tea Baggers.”  Though he promotes the role of government in creating civic and social justice, he also founds his approach to government by the faith that government can be caused to change.  That it is by nature an organic body in flux, not a bedrock that refuses the drill of the people.  The setting is ripe for action, in a world where once “banks lent to people, instead of people lending to banks.”  Julian is both a veteran of the Atlanta Senate chambers and the stage of Saturday Night Live.  On SNL (which is available to watch on Netflix, season 2, episode 18, with Brick and Tom Waits as musical guests), Julian is more ready to play prime time than the Not Ready For Prime Time Players, and the skits skewer race and exploit white politics.  He opens the show on stage in a 3-piece suit, reciting a litany of his past accomplishments, and concludes that his appearance on the show was not based on his pedigree, but only because they wanted a “chocolate Easter bunny.” It’s archival Julian Bond Saturday Night Live 4evidence that Saturday Night Live was once counterculture.

This semester, Campus Whits will be working to accession James Forman’s Library, 75 boxes of books on Southern history, NVA pamphlets, true-crime Mafia paperbacks, subscriptions to Marxist journals, handouts on health, and FBI reports.  James Forman was enlightened and pugnacious and determined, and his revolution, unlike much freedom fighting, was nonviolent.  As the event at Queens College Rosenthal Library came to end, a handful vets of the movement stood up and chanted “We Shall Overcome.”  It was the first time I’d heard it live.  Louis Armstrong has his own version.

Julian Bond

The WikiLeaks Panel

February 16, 2011

“Still, why not have the benefit of being thought disagreeable – the luxury of recorded observation?”
– Henry James, The Impressions of a Cousin.
220 Fifth Avenue, Croisic Building, lobby
In late January, the Center for Jewish History hosted a panel of information professionals on the topic of WikiLeaks. I paid the $10 entrance fee and sat in the audience. Scantly did I know other folks at the gathering, and sat alone, having just got off work and still in that unrelieved decompression zone that barnacles one who works a job that you above all do not bring home with you. When I walk out of the Croisic Building on 26th & Fifth Ave it is like the Biohazard agent returning from the Danger Zone in his Hazmat suit to the de-radiation chamber before entering the secret control room where tired analysts eat Fritos.  The security at the WikiLeaks event must have been on to my trip, since I was probed twice going in before they found the loose coinage I didn’t know was in the pocket of my London Fog.

The combined pedigrees of the five panelists, as read off by moderator Peter Wosh, of NYU, spanned a swooning horizon of opportunity for a student hoping to make a living in the Archives field.  A magnum of verbiage which one might paste to one’s name, for sustenance.  The litany of pedigrees cast the panelists in an almost intimidating light as they sat on stage in grouped silence, like bishops of the Church.  But by the end of the event, after all bishops had spoken, the spell drooped.  Like the classroom, some were well-spoken, and others a tax on the good intention of good attention.

When provoked, the panel did not bite, and did not want to bend either way to the topic at hand. Ms. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, an ex-Archivist of the U.S., was smart and informative and broke down some of the bullet points behind the way WikiLeaks functions.  But when it came to the big issues – spying, law enforcement, lack of security – she was mum (the panel aside, Ms. Peterson responded to an inquiry I posted on the SAA listserve with an abundance of archival tips for which I was eagerly and bowingly grateful).  Mr. Pulzello, a “Solutions Architect,” struck one as probably not the consultant most capital for hire, the type who takes 20 mins to answer a question that could have been answered in 2, like an uncle who talks about cars all the time while sitting in his armchair.  An audience member asked a question about the accountability one might find themselves beholden to after a grave breach of security.   The Solutions Architect, with the hunched air of a glib moral stickler, advised the woman that she should prepare her resume for a new job.  She must have had a sense of humor, because she didn’t laugh.

Gman pulpOne should not exactly expect William F. Buckley v. Gore Vidal at an Archivist panel, but there is no shortage of potential agitation regarding the topic of WikiLeaks.  It was as if whale oil merchants had gathered at town hall to discuss the advent of gas light.  I had an existential moment wondering what we were all doing in the audience, staring up at these talking heads, like what happens when you go to a bad movie you thought would be good.  Maybe I was the moral stickler.

The most lively and interesting of the group, a CUNY professor who blogs on information law, concluded with the ironical prospect of “doing nothing” in response to WikiLeaks – the idea that attention-hogs are best disarmed by ignoring them.  He had a lively schpiel, the most performing of the group, but when this idea was challenged by an audience member, the panel responded with silence, as if exercising the Fifth Amendment at a mob trial.Secret Agent X pulp

It would have been encouraging to hear someone at least stick up for Julian Assange.  Whether from personal belief or the risk of peer alienation, no one did.  There were phrases dropped by the panel which I did enjoy, like “stovepipe of information,” and “costless storage,” and “netcentric diplomacy,” which it would seem Julian Assange is a champion of, though no nod was made by the speakers.  As a greenhorn, just a student and intern, and a new audience member to esteemed panels, I ventured to assume that such tiptoeing must be how one gets invited to esteemed panels.  In all, it was encouraging to have WikiLeaks caucused by the Archives world.  I chose to skip the post-panel reception, where I might have, along with wine and cheese, stuffed my maw with the proverbial foot and discouraged any prospect that foot might have of crossing paths in the future with anyone in attendance.  The point is to have a job you don’t have to scrub-off at the end of the day.

The information materials with which Julian Assange barters – the classified cables, videos, documents, etc. – are not “his,” in that he had nothing to do with their generation or recordsmaking, yet Assange has roguishly granted himself the authority to broker deals with the Fourth Estate using these materials as currency.  In a recent New York Times Magazine cover story, editor-in-chief Bill Keller synopsizes the paper’s coterminous relationship with WikiLeaks as if the secrets had not been already planned to be made public on WikiLeaks.  Keller may underestimate the capabilities of the average reader to digest information.  The Times, like Der Spiegel and the Guardian, saddling themselves with a certain responsibility to protect both the public and government, acted as press agents for Assange.  They helped Assange sell tickets to the show.  Like the Wiki-panel, Keller treats Assange offhandedly while at the same time indulging the journalistic intrigue which Assange prompted for the newspaper.  These major newspapers enter into Assange’s black market, and then capitalize on the lawlessness in order to dishonor the agreements previously made, in the style of 1960s spy movies.

Like Bill Keller at the Times, Assange is listed on the WikiLeaks masthead as its “editor-in-chief.” The Times, in its coverage of the release, refers to the collection as an “archive.” Julian Assange is a unique kind of paranoid archivist, and the controversy caused by WikiLeaks portends a society where no power controls information.  Assange avows that WikiLeaks is a work of “scientific journalism,” which “allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true?”

The open media sources which exemplify the creed of WikiLeaks distrust the analog filters of media and the law. Politicians have employed the semantic tropes of Populist agitation against Julian Assange. His actions have been equated with terrorism, and enforcement of the Espionage Act against WikiLeaks has been bandied about in the press. Some have even called for Assange’s assassination. Such Sunday morning talk-show vigilantism casts Assange as both a crusader and an agitator, and serves the behavioral patterns of Populism in the United States. But where Populists after the Civil War drew meagerly from the words of the small town press and travelling speechmakers, the political critics of WikiLeaks fear that the digital data stream is drowning society in information.
Eugene V. Debs
The outcry against Assange has been voiced by both the Right and Left, insofar as such bicameral ideologies make habit of afflicting their own platforms. Politicians aligned with the 21st century, in-vogue monkeywrench reactionary Tea Party have voiced a pick-axed opposition to WikiLeaks, as has Democratic Senator of California Dianne Feinstein, who deliberately used the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal to invoke the Espionage Act against Assange, recalling that the Act is founded on the idea that information can indeed cause injury to the U.S. Government.

By releasing classified State Department cables, which involve the diplomacy of world nations, WikiLeaks frames the United States as a formidable archival central command. If an archive can be defined as a set of materials which has outlived its primary use, then the fact that the New York Times refers to a collection of WikiLeaks documents as the “Iraq War Archive” might suggest to readers that the war is over. For Julian Assange, the secrecy promotes the meaning and gravity of the files, and the context of history loses meaning without the conspiracy that history is presumed to be.

In 1890, Ignatius Donnelly, a Minnesota Congressman, published a novel of pseudo-historical science fiction, Caesar’s Column, to promote his vision of a future doomed by the sickness of the present. Set in 1988, “rapacious business methods, the bribery of voters, the exploitation of workers and farmers by the plutocracy” bring about “a sadistic anti-utopia” whose capital is New York City, where the high bright lights disregard the old dichotomy of day or night.

The future of Ignatius Donnelly is no less cataclysmic than the intentions behind the hackers’ consortia which threaten to demobilize the corporate data-wave in defense of WikiLeaks. An online aggregate of e-protester anti-communities under the name “Anonymous” had indicated the vulnerabilities it is ready to exploit in the digital infrastructure of MasterCard and PayPal. Not unlike the Sedition Laws of the young United States, such cyber-sabotage asserts itself in support of the freedom of information. In turn, Apple Inc., an arkheion of technological lifestyle, subsequently dropped the WikiLeaks application from its iPhone, citing that it “violated our developer guidelines.” Each maneuver between those in favor of and those against WikiLeaks results in the withholding of info.

Populist Cartoon 1894“Democratic societies need a strong media,” Assange argues, because “the media helps keep government honest.” After Assange’s release from police custody in London, a result of sex crime charges, Judge Riddle ordered that Assange must reside, under surveillance, at Ellingham Hall, a Georgian mansion owned by Vaughan Smith, the founder of The Frontline Club, a society of journalists. Perhaps the Judge intended to punish Assange by imprisoning him in a domicile of newspeople.

There has been plenty of blowback against Assange, which he surely must have expected, and indeed might relish.  In this context, the “do nothing” policy offered at the Wiki-panel might serve the purpose of transcending revenge paradigms.  Assange’s alleged profile on OK Cupid, the hook-up website, has been leaked, as well as a continuum of legal documents regarding his rape investigation.
Solitary Confinement
Meanwhile, Assange is not the true whistleblower.  The documents posted on WikiLeaks were retrieved by Private First Class Bradley Manning (downloaded to CDs marked “Lady Gaga,” which serves the patterns of pop culture and secret information exemplified by the Watergate scandal voiced by “Deep Throat”).  Bradley Manning now languishes under 23-hour solitary confinement in a military prison, while Assange drinks tea and decks himself in British-spun raiment.  News coverage of Manning’s incarceration indicates that the case against the PFC is foundering.  A detailed breakdown of how Manning was able to access the secret documents is described here by the National Journal – essentially an indirect result of mismanaged intelligence overhauling by the U.S. government after 9/11.

The lifestyle of technology excites the hope that information is subject to its users rather than the users subject to it. The U.S. government has retorted that the information in the WikiLeaks documents itself is not of gravest consequence, but that the act of defying classified status is an act of espionage. The file means nothing without the technology by which it is coded. Populists fabricated the evidences of knowledge in fantastic novels and town square hamhock oratory. WikiLeaks bases its actions on the open record, kept secret less because of security, than because of power. The consequence is history.

The New Human

December 18, 2010

This past weekend, I was asked by a friend to moderate a discussion panel for “The Doomsday Film Festival” in Brooklyn, a day-long event of 1980s apocalypse movies and guest speakers.  The theater space fit about 30 people on foldout chairs.  The panel I moderated followed a screening of the movie Hardware (1990), which depicts the scavenging survivors of nuclear war menaced by self-regenerating robot killing machines. The movie provokes ideas about technology, Man, art and the future of the species, while providing an artful dose of psychedelic sex and gore.

The panel was an invigorated foursome of writers and academics, including Paul Schrader, a highly respected filmmaker and film scholar. I am a devoted fan of Paul Schrader’s movies and film writing, so to get a chance to be part of a discussion with the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and to have Sake and edamame beans with him before the talk, was something of a milestone. The other panelists, Steve Jones, Heather Urbanski, and Evan Calder-Williams, were highly-charged and imaginatively critical voices.  The talk moved swiftly from disaster movies to Luddites to the New Human. Schrader told an anecdote about a conversation with George Lucas in the 1970s about the future of movies and digital technology: “Soon we won’t need costume designers, make-up people, lighting…”   Between the panel discussion, and the bus tours I gave that day – where I moderated a panel of frantic tourists stuck in midtown holiday traffic and fearful of missing their train, Broadway show, etc. – it was a good day for the art of the public schpiel.

… To protest the villainization of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a computer hackers consortia called Anonymous hacked the websites of MasterCard and Paypal, where I have accounts. Maybe they will erase my balance as part of the sabotage. I would be psyched. But this act of Anonymous would be to destroy information in support of the freedom of information. The group calls itself Anonymous the way you call a fat guy Tiny.  Julian Assange was taken into custody over a sex crime charge, and the sensitive nature of the accusation correlates the insensitivity of questioning it as a conspiracy against Assange. There is precedent, and the U.S. is a vengeful personality. To bandy about the Espionage Act, as have some politicoes, is to resonate the old FBI, which calls to mind J. Edgar Hoover, another paranoid archivist of private files, and who often accused his enemies (interlopers of information) of sexually deviant behavior.

As Baby Boomers age, new proof is discovered to support the endurance of youth, as suggested in the following quote from tech theorist Nicholas Carr :

“The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that’s not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind “is very plastic.” Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. ‘The brain,’ according to Olds, “has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.’”

Smoking PigThe signs are not so promising for the enlightened treatment of the digestive system. Sure, smoking is bad for you, but it is not a habit which fulfills a primitive appetite. The connection between drugs and brain response is complex, even though the idea that “smoking is bad” is quite simple. If anything, as the electric stimulation of society increases with the advents of technology, nicotine itself is a synapse inducer. It is just that smoking is not healthy – as is sometimes technology.

Eating is a primal habit. More than just appetite, you eat to live. So to conceive this new crop of “foodies” (a derivative of the Online Age) is really just to recognize a bunch of food snobs, who take something that everyone does and self-inaugurate a vacuous superiority. So when you see that the new trend is to put Bacon in everything, like Bacon Marmalade or Bacon ice cream, and it is accepted and devoured and purveyed through the discourse by urban bourgeois intelligentsia, it is not to witness the rudiments of the New Human, but to be reminded of some of the more depressing remnants of the Old.Foodie couple

Sex, too, is an appetite. You either have sex, or you auto-eroticize. People love to speculate upon the ambiguous sexuality of certain people, and say with a smarmy tone, “O, did he come out of the closet yet?” And so they mistake their ghostly”gaydar” for deep psychological insight. Sex drive is akin to hunger.  The stomach wants to get filled, as the balls want to empty. That is why priests are celibate, and monks fast, in belief that the inanely mystical abstention of the body will bring them closer to the baneful God which they have created for themselves so as to comprehend the absurdities of the human condition.  If you are horny and starved, you will have ecstatic visions of what Is the Void. “So is he gay or what?” Try to grab his wang and note the reaction.

Queens College & LAX Airport

December 14, 2010

Campbell Dome, Queens College, Flushing, NY.

The Theme Building, LAX Airport, Los Angeles, CA.





Mark Twain

December 14, 2010

I visited the Morgan Library, which is having an exhibit on the papers of Mark Twain. I got myself and my ladyfriend in free, using my new badge from the Brooklyn Historical Society, where an internship must hold value other than paychecks. Most of the materials in the Twain exhibit were letters and handwritten manuscripts of the writer’s stories and novels.  Most of his manuscripts were hand-scrawled on unlined white 5″ by 7″ paper.

Of the few non-paper materials on display, was an original set of “Mark Twain’s Memory-Builder,” which was a homespun system devised by Twain to enhance brain activity.

The accompanying museum info card explained that Twain pursued the invention of many things, none of which turned a profit except for his Adhesive Page Scrap Book, “the only Adhesive Page Scrap Book in the world.”  The other day, at BHS, while looking something up in a book from 1892, I came across an ad for “Mark Twain’s Adhesive Page Scrap Book.”

A family is shown enthralled by the beneficence of the new mode of capturing memory.

Another family is shown without the Scrap Book, thus stormed by the chaos of the void.

Between these two inventions, Mark Twain was an avid brainstormer of the means to save history. You keep scrapbooks so that the snippets of your past find a common venue for the future. Twain’s “Memory-Builder” was meant to be a fool-proof design for the human to retain knowledge. It was an “indoor history game,” like a computer. His Scrap Book traced a prototype of media sharing networks, as the space for one’s visual past, and Twain’s Memory Builder marketed a primitive hard drive to backup data. He also wrote Huck Finn.

The Information District

December 12, 2010

General Worth Monument, Fifth Avenue, Madison Square Park, New York CityThe other day, while I walked along Worth Square, across Fifth Avenue from Madison Square Park, highly canvassed with European walking tours and lunch hour foot traffic in and out of the local outdoor bazaar,  an old black man with a cigarette hanging from his lips coasted slowly on his bike through a crowd of streetwalkers.  I saw him in my periphery wobbling over the walkway through the slow amblers, and suddenly he was addressing me, without swerving, “Watch where you’re walking homo boy, watch where you’re walking homo boy,” he taunted.  Homo boy? I thought.  I’ve been called a “homo” before, and “fruity,” and my former 80 year-old landlady once called me a “fairy bitch,” so the precedent of insult no longer regards my actual sexual preference, but others’ perception of my comportment as a styly guy.  I did take offense though of being called a “boy,” and not a man, unless I am to extrapolate the homo part as Latin.  The biker’s slow wheel scraped the heel of my shoe, doing no damage. He thought he could mimic the horsemanship of General Worth.  Anyway, you can’t take seriously someone who smokes and bikes at the same time.

It is easy to cast a moral light on a subject in order to dispel General Worth Monument, Fifth Avenue, Madison Square Park, New York Citythe exploration of its stickier recesses.  At the urge of Mayor Bloomberg, bike riding in NYC has increased, with miles of new bike lanes, hundreds of bike racks.  It is part of the Mayor’s environmental initiatives, supporting the health of the air and of traffic.  It is a good thing, surely, to get rid of garbage on river barges rather than trucks, or to ban smoking in restaurants (though eating in New York diners has never been the same without lighting up over a black coffee).  But the right of bikers is also used by some to plow by pedestrians as if they have the right of way, since they don’t, and they shout like a berzerker’s warwhoop because they want everyone to know they aren’t going to stop.  The bigger a thing becomes, the lower goes its IQ, like Disco or the American version of The Office.  Thus the incident last year in Times Square when Critical Mass came riding down Broadway, and a uniform cop picked a harmless biker to brutalize.  What better place to demonstrate the paradoxes of the mass mind than Times Square!  A tourist happened to video the assault, which showed that indeed the harassment was unprovoked, and action was taken against the cop.  Didn’t the cop know that Times Square is the most visually captured area on the planet?  It is not only the Entertainment District, where New York City can gaze at itself basking in the lights and screens which are never turned off and the tourists aim cameras everywhere – but it is also the Information District.

At One Times Square, where the New Years Eve Ball is dropped and which is vacant but for Walgreen’s on the first floor, billboard rents command up to a quarter million cabbages per month, and the State of New York advertises its need of your gambling revenue at the “Racino:”

The New York Times were once headquarted in One Times Square, and the newspaper lent the square its name.  The Times still reside off the Great White Way, which might inform a passage of  The Gray Lady’s recent November election coverage:

Overall, however, voters did not express any clear policy preferences that might help direct lawmakers…. They indiscriminately ousted Democratic incumbents who loyally supported Mr. Obama’s agenda… as well as lawmakers who carved their own path by voting against the president and the party leadership…. A number of ousted incumbents were centrists… leaving the Democratic caucuses not only diminished but more liberal.

Sometimes, Times Square fairly advertises the Void:

This past summer, Times Square found itself a revelatory venue for mass prayer:

Apropos of evangelical signifiers, this car was parked in Hell’s Kitchen:

I always got a better kick out of this one:

Back on the Old Broadway, I was happy to see one of my all-time hallowed figures of history given sizable recognition:

I can only hope that, since this billboard is situated above Planet Hollywood, a biopic is currently in the works starring Joaquin Phoenix.
General Worth Monument, Fifth Avenue, Madison Square Park, New York City

Tourism is up in the city, but not as many of them are riding the buses.  Rockefeller Center, Times Sq. and Herald Sq. are all jampacked with people wired in to shop and gawk.  Gray Line Bus Tours is losing steam.  The new rumor is that they will not renew the lease on the headquarters at 777 Eighth Ave, and tour guides will have no theater in which to caucus and eat lunch.  Tips are down.  Tourists are getting harassed by the Evil Elmo.

I worked with a new driver who told me that, because of his prison record, he couldn’t get a job at Coach USA, a bus co. which like Gray Line is part of Twin America LLC.  I asked him about it but he didn’t elaborate.  He isn’t the only Gray Line employee who might have served time in jail, and there may be charitable light cast upon Gray Line – however dim – in its lack of discrimination in hiring ex-cons.  I think Michael Milken works in Payroll.

Last month, Old Town Bar, on 18th Street between Broadway and Park Ave, celebrated the 100th birthday of its mens room urinals.  As a recurrent drinker at Old Town Bar many times (it is featured in the classic New York movie, The Last Days of Disco) and have admired these historical artifacts, where Tammany wardheelers might have once made room for more beer.

As a countersignature to the supersonic land use of Times Square, it was a relief to read that Obama signed the CALM Act, which forbids wily advertisers to raise the volume of TV commercials above the volume of the broadcast program.  Such subterfuge against the senses should never have been legal, and now saves one the trouble of hitting the mute button during cocktail breaks for Mad Men.

Cows kissingOn more than one occasion, I have agreed with other people, that it is unpleasant to witness couples who make out with each other in public.  Not a quick peck or snuzz, but a wet and sloppy, ongoing and noisemaking, swap of spit.  Usually the exhibitionists are teenagers, but it is not unusual to catch adults in this action.  There is something aggravating about the unsightliness, even offensive, and if I can’t exactly pinpoint why it is, I have at least confirmed that other people agree on a common distaste for public tonsil-hockey, whether a friend over drinks, or squib grandmaster and Village Voice columnist Michael Musto.  Granted, when teenagers on the 7 train are doing it, maybe they have strict old-fashioned, first-generation parents, who abide by the vellum bindingrules of the old country, and the horny kids have nowhere else to go to be able to get to first base.

But however rank it may be when couples make out in public, it is not as bad as when couples post comments on each others’ Facebook page.  This is a form of digital PDA that seems all at once disingenuous, spaced-out, self-conscious, and just weird.  The Wall is not the forum for couples to dialogue.  So when they do, it is apparent and unfortunate they don’t have much time to talk.

In class last week, I held in my hand a $30,000 copy of Euclid’s Elements, in Latin, from the early 1600s. It was bound in vellum, which is crafted from the hide of a mammal. I wondered if I should have issue with this, since I don’t eat meat, so why should I want a book made of meat.  But I do wear a leather jacket and eat fish.  I use deodorant with yellow 5 in it, which is made from meat byproduct (also in yummy Starbursts), and according to a rich brief piece in the New York Post a couple weeks ago, based on a 2007 book, none of that poor li’l piggy goes to waste:

I should have felt more at ease if the volume of Euclid were bound in the skin of a fish, but then the book would have stank, since only one day after cooking catfish at home and tossing the scraps in the garbage, our trashcan reeked like a clamshack deepfryer.  But it was good eatin’s.

Meatballs McCarthyAs a guy who doesn’t eat mammals, but reads books ardently, the question might pose, of whether it is more ethical to kill an animal to feed people in a post-industrial, mass-produced and super-consuming society, or to kill an animal to craft a book in a hyper-digitized, worriedly-literate and low-attention span society.  Idiots sometimes ask vegetarians stuff like, “What if it was like the apocalypse, and you had to kill a deer in order to not starve to death?” In that event, if the deer was reasonably not radioactive, I’d kill it and eat it, sure, and being the apocalypse, I’d say hi to God. We might not be so far from such end times, as suggested by overpriced and under-imagined fantasies of world cuisine open to great foodie fanfare, like Eataly.

I might kill a cow to make a book.

A Deli & Skyscrapers

November 30, 2010

Brooklyn waterfront skyline, Bush Terminal, 1920Brookyln used to be known as “The City of Homes,” the first suburb of the United States,  a seminal and horizontal stretch where hundreds of thousands people lived and worked.

Then Junior’s Cheesecake was founded in the 1950s, offering Skyscraper Ice Cream Sodas, in a borough that has no skyscrapers, because the foundation of this part of Long Island is sand, as evidenced by the number of old indigenous names for parts of Brooklyn that indicate the island’s rockless base.  Clusters of tall buildings would sink like candles into a slice of Junior’s cheesecake.

Now, in the “Borough of Churches,” hi-rises abound that are advertised to be “luxury,” but are not situated in close proximiBrooklyn waterfront skyline, Bush Terminal, 1920ty to a day-to-day streetlife.  The uniform glass towers on the coast of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, or the “Toren” and “Avalon” in Fort Greene, at the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge, offer scant opportunities for the livelihood of immediate communal foot traffic.

The tallest building in Brooklyn since 1927 was the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, standing lonely and classy, in a non-office district but situated just above an LIRR terminal.  It mostly leased its offices to dentists before converting to residential space last year, now using its high-arched Deco jazz-age bank lobby for weekend flea markets.

“The Brooklyner” is the new tallest building in Kings County, naturally residential, but unnaturally featuring amenities like a dog shower (for those whose New York fantasy is not complete without a dog left leashed to the parking meter while having lunch for an hour and a half at the gastropub); and Skee Ball machines, for those adults whose egos are padded like an actor’s fatsuit with the scraps of other kids’ nostalgia.  Skee Ball was popular in Coney Island when that boardwalk amusement land first budded in the last decades of the 19th century. Then Brooklyn was its own city, the third most populated in the U.S.  “The Brooklyner” postures the borough as an abstract lifestyle action, and maybe a TV camera is watching your every move and everyone watches.

The deli options in the Madison Square Park / Flower District area of Manhattan are generally of a low caliber. I found my favorite, Cherry Deli, on 28th and Broadway, under the scaffolding, the size of a shoeshine stall in Penn Station, and run like a whipsnap by the Korean owner and his wife.  The Latino guys behind the counter are fast and do five things at once, and they don’t put up with any of the weisenheimers who come in and bust chops, the Africans and Mediterraneans and Eastern Europeans that hang out around the cheap perfume and low budg electronics stores and whistle at chicks and smoke weed and conduct some kind of hand-off 28th Street and Broadway, New York, 2010entrepreneurial business.  I go to Cherry Deli not so much because the sandwiches are great or that they have great bagels, but because the personality of the deli is like the daredevil Philippe Petit walking between the Twin Towers on a tightrope.  Your identity shares appetite with the clientele of the place you regularly get lunch in New York.

Often the city forces its people to reckon things as if against the adversary of something worse: so to say that the pizza at Joe’s Pizza is good, is to say that the pizza at John’s Pizza is not.  The movie was amazing, because that movie sucked.  NYC is a big sports town, the home of Wall Street, and where 20th century popular entertainment in the United States was born.  It is a struggle then, this antagonized disengagement from the city, and if you give up on staking claims, you give up on the city, your home.  Get judgmental about things and at least you say you lived.