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Dear Readers,

I, the editor, am off to Dubai to learn something about life in a desert. The hotel pictured above, one of the most, if not the most expensive in the world is not where I will be staying. But it makes a nice header to this post.

Some of the other writers may post something here or there — but don’t count on it. We, the unpaid observateurs of Cultural Capitol, will be off until January 5th (at the earliest). But in 2009 we hope to roll out some new tricks to make your experience of CC even more enriching.




For some reason this post has gotten an inordiant number of hits in the last few days (February 12 – 16). I can only assume that is because of widespread rumors that foreigners are fleeing Dubai and the Emriati debtors’ prisons. The New York Times wrote an article about it on February 11. If you want to read my reflections on my trip to Dubai over New Years, you can find the essays here:

Dubai — the world of tomorrow (and yesterday)

Dubai — where West eats meat

The UAE: Turning sunlight into gold


2008 has been a big year. It saw the advent of this blog, for instance, the end of the Bush fiasco, the rise of Sarah Palin, the publication of my friend’s novel, the financial collapse, and, what is worse for me, the collapse of the MTA’s budget. This year also saw the rise of a bright new star on the burlesque scene, and I am not talking about Trixie Little’s hate monkey. I’m talking about J. D. Oxblood, the star reporter for this blog, who in his first six months as a cub reporter has earned the love — if not the respect — of a sizable percentage of women in New York City between the ages of 32 and 35. Seriously, read the comments appended to his post on Jo Boobs’ school of burlesque graduation show. He has more hot, female Facebook friends than you. No doubt.

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Merry Christmas to any Christian readers. Happy Chanuka for the Jews. Happy Kwanza, happy holidays, and merry festivus for everyone else.

I read the news today, oh boy. It looks like folks in state governments in the middle states want to use Obama’s stimulus plan to build more highways — just in time for plummeting gas prices. They argue that road projects are already started or ready to go, and plans for beefing up the rail system are too far in the future to get people working now!

Sounds like drill baby drill! And it is. The hype is motivated by our dear old attachment to individual transit and the automobile. I am sure that even after eight years of strangulation and abuse, Amtrak has a capital plan they would loooove to put into effect. The car maniacs say our country is less productive because we waste so much time in traffic jams, but as this review of Traffic by Tom Vanderbuilt reminds us, building new roads doesn’t alleve congestion, it just makes it worse. More importantly, as the MTA report on ridership during the 00’s points out, New York state’s investment in mass transit paid huge dividends in increased ridership and decreased car traffic.

I hope to high heaven Obama and his cabinet have the testicular fortitude to stand up to state governments and tell them the money has to be put to good use — building up our national rail system.

I guess the Big 3 were too big to fail. That is, our venal leaders were torn between fearing we’d revolt if they bailed out their buddies and fearing we’d revolt if they let a million more jobs go down the tubes. In the end I think it’s a good thing that they gave these pompous losers three more months to get their house in order before the day of reckoning comes. Once again strange political bedfellows made for a weird ideological tension behind the resolution. Conservatives want to break the back of organized labor forever, and in their view they’re not so much saving jobs as making sure manual laborers get paid no more than service industry employees. True liberals want the market to do its magic — even if that means losing a million jobs. Bleeding heart liberals want us to think of the children — of the soon to be impoverished northern states. The best possible outcome here, is for entrepreneurs of small companies that make small, incredibly efficient cars to spring up like mushrooms on the rotting dung heap of the big 20th century American auto industry. Even better, companies from Detroit and Milwaukee that make high speed light rail trains, tracks, services, and all the rest. But I’m not holding my breath.


Helen Pontani, Peekaboo Pointe, and Astrid

By J. D. Oxblood

I may have previously indicated my distaste for the holiday season, but one factor that always piques my interest—and is especially true in the City to End All Cities—is the holiday party quotient.  They come in all shapes and sizes:  the office holiday party where people who see each other every day are suddenly thrust into an alcohol-laden free-for-all.  People who hate each other grope in the copy room or do it standing up in the executive washroom and everyone spends the rest of the year wondering if their husbands/wives will find out about it.  Fortunately, New Year’s clears the plate and no one remembers come the post-holiday return to work.  Then there’s the annual holiday party thrown by groups of friends who never see each other except for the annual holiday party, providing ample opportunity for former lovers to eye each other suggestively across not-crowded-enough rooms and uncomfortably make small talk with each other’s current beaux.  Then you have the large, fantastic house parties thrown by people who just love to throw parties and don’t see a demonstrable difference between Cinco de Mayo and Christmas: cue the cocaine, the tequila, and hooking up with random people because, hey, the more the merrier, and these are the parties where you meet people you’ve never seen in your life and will never see again.  And then there’s the truly weird, spontaneous “OMG it’s Christmas!” parties that you never see coming and never completely recover from.  (Please don’t ask how I ended up dancing at 7 a.m. last Boxing Day, whacked on E, with grown men stuffing cash into my pants.)

This year … not so much.

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A study released on Monday showed that from 2003 to 2007 New Yorkers (such as myself) left their cars at home — or abandoned them entirely! — to take the train or bus. An article in the New York Times give the details. Bruce Schaller, New York’s deputy transportation commissioner for planning and sustainability, is quoted as saying, “What you see is that for the first time since at least World War II, all of the growth in travel in the city has been absorbed by non-auto modes, primarily by mass transit.” I can tell you from personal experience that leaving car culture and living in the dense urban core was a fundamental and life changing choice for me. And as I have argued elsewhere, it is a choice that many Americans are also ready, willing, and able to make. Let’s hope that President Obama is able to use this pivotal moment in history to write a new chapter for America, one that does away with SUVs and ushers in cheap, efficient public transit.


It ain’t easy for a pimp. It’s less easy for the rest of us. Check it out people!

Illinois Governor Jarrett

This is the headline from the AP: “Did Obama team have contact with Ill. governor?” The first paragraph isn’t much better:

Barack Obama insists he didn’t have any contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich or anyone else who might have been scheming to sell the president-elect’s U.S. Senate seat. But he has not yet given his transition staff the same clean bill of health — perhaps with good reason.

Jon Stewart showed Wednesday night how Fox has been trying to tar and subvert Obama by subliminally implying he and Blagojevich were best buddies, but in a rare nod to subtlety, Sean Hannity went to great lengths to say Obama had no connection with the soon-to-be-former governor. Leave it to the AP to take the fight to the next level.

The New York Times article on the scandal today tries to mitigate some of the right-wing echo chamber. But as I said in a previous post, Obama must make this an opportunity to purge any and all corruption in government. Our future depends on it.


Should Democrats, and specifically Barack Obama be worried about corruption scandals? Yes they should. It is true that conservative = corrupt. From Iraq to Katrina to Wall St. to The Big Three, success has bred corruption throughout our culture.

Now is the time for Barack to do a Hank V and renounce any and all shady buddies. They’re just skeletons in the closet, waiting to sabotage the necessary reforms that must be implemented in the next four years. Bill Clinton tried to play the middle, and his presidency was hobbled by conservative attacks (gays in the military, socialized medicine) within his first 100 days. He played a rearguard action against the conservative hate machine for the rest of his tenure.

Please, please Mr. Obama, don’t let your presidency be scuttled by scandal before it even begins. Purge all corruption now, make it public, make it a crusade. Only then will you be able to give us the rest of your agenda.

Zach B.

P.S. Also try to avoid doing an Eliot Spitzer. For the next four years at least you have to be holier than Mother Teresa.

This ain't no sausage party.

This ain't no sausage party.


By J. D. Oxblood

Friday, December 5, at the Slipper Room. It was a cold night and the oglers were queued up outside the roller doors, waiting for the Slip to open up and let us in. I’d been invited by the inimitable Jo Wheldon, headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque (a.k.a. Jo Boobs), to check out the latest fresh talent. For those who haven’t been to the Slipper Room, it’s a fantastic combination of dirty downtown watering hole and faux glamour—a small, thrust stage and a gorgeous red curtain, with a handful of tables, booths in the back, standing room, and, of course, a bar. A perfect venue for burlesque, the Slip has, indeed, been hosting such events for nine years—or, as Jo put it, “longer than Flashdancers.” And she should know.

Jo hosted in a stunning gold brocade on black dress, giving a shout out to all the peeps who came to see their “friends strip for the first time.” It didn’t hurt that the peanut gallery closest to the stage was full of performers—cue hysterical screaming at every drop of joke or stocking.

The theme of the evening was “Any Holiday but Christmas”


by J. D. Oxblood

After that fateful day in September, 2001, I was shocked by how many long-term New Yorkers told me, “I never went to the top.” It’s a common behavior. When you live in a town, you tend to eschew the “touristy” destinations and activities, unless family comes to town and you’re suddenly dragged along to some god-awful destination that usually fades off into the background of your own piddling, self-interested life. It’s easy, as a New Yorker, to get caught up in the unending drama of your friends’ love life, your hatred of your landlord and your apartment’s idiosyncrasies, your unending search for a better gig. In short, it’s easy to forget that tourists from all over the world come here to see the sights, and just as easy to forget that there are sights to be seen. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Twin Towers (now no longer an option)—how many New Yorkers have never bothered?

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The New York Times reported today that a bus driver was stabbed to death in Bed-Stuy on December 1st, 2008. It was the first fatal attack on a bus driver in 27 years.

We also found out today that the country has officially been in a recession since 2007. Coincidence? The times article notes that though murders are up this year compared to last year, they are a fraction of the murders committed in 1981. That’s cold comfort to the residents of Bed-Stuy. The killer who stabbed a man to death because he would not give him a free bus pass is still at large.