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2-line-busker

This guy was on the 2 line headed uptown a week ago. His patter was so good it had everyone in the car in stitches. He singled out participants and sang old R&B tunes with improvised lyrics personalized just for them. (Think “When a Man Loves a Woman” with the words changed to comment on her touristy fanny pack or Midwest sized hair sprayed hair.) He had an electric bass, a giant amp (far too loud for a cramped space like a subway car), and a voice like fingernails on a chalkboard wrapped in a twix bar that has been dropped next to the train car’s heater and left to molder for several weeks. There was no getting away from the music.

Even though the quality of the music left something to be desired, his charm and moxie won over all the passengers — even the ones who obviously were on the brink of committing mass murder. (You know who you are.) It was a real New York City moment — a bunch of surly strangers brought together by humor and wit, if only for a few minutes.

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“Come on, let’s go downtown, Trixie and the Monkey are performing at the Slipper Room.”

“No, no… I’m drunk, I don’t have a notebook with me, I don’t have my camera—“

“Let’s just go see the show!”

“Ok, fine, but I’m not working!”

Famous last words. Hear me, O children, as I say verily unto you, once one has started down the path of wickedness, there is, truly, no turning back. And truly, once one has committed oneself to the recording of said wickedness, merely being wicked will never again suffice. Which is a long-winded way of saying, I went to the Slipper Room and totally blew my cover. It had been so long… I was just so HAPPY to be back in a burlesque venue, and the show was so show-stoppingly amusing, and I so show-stoppingly inebriated, that I just couldn’t HELP myself from talking to the performers and generally making a total ass of myself.

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the DJIA from 1929 - 1932

The DJIA dropped perilously close to 7,000 this afternoon after Chris Dodd said the government might have to nationalize the banks. David Brooks wrote in his NY Times editorial today what is probably the Obama administration line, that we might have to bite the bullet and give the idiots who got us into this mess lots of money to get us out again. He says:

…sometimes you have to shower money upon those who have been foolish or self-indulgent. The greedy idiots may be greedy idiots, but they are our countrymen. And at some level, we’re all in this together. If their lives don’t stabilize, then our lives don’t stabilize.

I suppose that’s all good and well, though if you happen to live in the same place as “the idiots” (i.e. New York City), and you see them holding their heads up high, riding in new cars with new wives who are wearing massive sparkly rocks on their fingers because the bankers got their bonuses in January, you might worry more about political stabilization than economic stabilization.

The markets took a dive because Dodd raised the specter of state control over the financial industry. But isn’t that exactly what’s called for in this situation? The culture of free markets failed, and now the culture of civic responsibility — which can only be manifested through the institution of government — has to pick up the slack.

Obama’s men — Geithner and Summers — are freemarketeers and have good reason to be scared out of their wits by populist posturing from Dodd and others. But is Obama a freemarketeer? Is he a populist?

My first instinct is to say he’s a savvy operator who knows the congressional Dems are right (and that the right needs to be ideologically disillusioned). The Obama of my imagination will play the aloof leader and let the Dems do the necessary dirty work that undoes the damage of anti-social freemarket puritanism inflicted on us since Reagan.

My fear is that he has no convictions outside of a personal messianic conviction, and that he thinks economic justice is no more or less important that religiously unfettered economic activity.

The markets bounced back because they think Obama’s a covert freemarketeer. I hope they’re wrong. I hope Obama is willing to split the issue with the congressional Dems, and let leaders like Dodd do the work of justice while Obama tells us all not to panic.

bullet-proof-windows

This was taken last week downtown. Where is the New Depression is headed?!

The Positive Brothers

I kind of forgot how bad the bad old days of the late 80s / early 90s were until the DJIA hit 7750 and the unbroken chilly gloom of February made pedestrians look like frosty denizens of an Edward Hopper painting. Then I went for a walk in Battery Park and saw the Postive Brothers doing their show, and I remembered how good it was to see guys performing acrobatics in the old fountain at Washington Square Park, telling me my monetary contribution was keeping my home safe from burglary later that night.

The show is much the same as it was back then: witty chatter, tension-diffusing racial jokes, break dancing, and some crazy acrobatics, usually concluded with a spectacular leap over the heads of six or seven terrified audince members. But these guys make it new every time with their good humor and positive vibes. If you’re feeling down with the market, unemployment, and empty pockets, go down to Battery Park on a sunny day and check out their show. Throw a dollar in the hat if you have it. They also accept enthusiastic applause for payment.

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R.I.P. John Updike
By J.D. Oxblood

Disclaimer #1: My heart goes out to all the friends and family of the recently departed John Updike. I never knew the man personally, and I do not intend for the following piece to be taken — in any way — as an attack or a lack of respect for the dead or the bereaved.

The first time I ever saw John Updike’s name in print was in a Playboy magazine — early 80s, I’m guessing; it might have been an anniversary issue — under a poem entitled, “Cunts.” One line has stuck with me for over twenty years, and I will quote it here, from memory, leaving it to the skeptics to go hunting for the exact verbiage of said quote because, I’m certain, plenty will never believe me and go hunting for the poem either way:

I pulled a tampon with my teeth
And found it
Not so bloody.

Something about that line truly captured my pervy, pubescent imagination, and the line came back to me in Technicolor detail when I pulled my first tampon with my teeth, circa 1989, and at every tampon I’ve pulled since, with teeth or otherwise. Is this a fitting memory for a man of such stature? Does it matter? It occurs to me that no man can truly dictate how he will be remembered, and I suspect that it is with great gratitude that the dead are remembered at all.

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Tim Geithner — Really? I mean, is it really possible to live in this country after 8 years of Bush, 6 months of financial apocalypse, and still not have the smallest clue? Macroeconomics as a discipline developed in the 30s because that global financial meltdown was precipitating a global political meltdown. Doesn’t anyone remember Nazis vs. Commies in the streets of Berlin and Munich? No, not in this country. If you want a perfect example of the triumphalist myopia of the free market fundamentalists take a look at the documentary The Commanding Heights by Greg Barker and William Cran. The one good observation made in the documentary is that both J. M. Keynes and Friedrich Von Hayek thought economic collapse would lead to political anarchy.

Geithner and Summers

Geithner and Summers

Now these yahoos working from a mix of free market fundamentalist ideology and naked, corporate self-interest, are opening up a political firestorm by crippling a real fiscial stimulus package with useless tax breaks and spending cuts for states while at the same time handing over hefty cash gifts to their friends the oligarchs on Wall St. (For my personal experience of the humiliation of this see my earlier post.) In the words of Stephen Labaton and Edmund Andrews:

Mr. Geithner, who will announce the broad outlines of the plan on Tuesday, successfully fought against more severe limits on executive pay for companies receiving government aid.

He resisted those who wanted to dictate how banks would spend their rescue money. And he prevailed over top administration aides who wanted to replace bank executives and wipe out shareholders at institutions receiving aid.

Obama is spending his good name out in America to enable a couple of bumbling, Ivy educated fools to destroy any trust Americans have left in their government.

Hell(o) (t)here

Hell(o) (t)here

I am truly in Hell.  The only work I have managed to get is in the comic book convention world.  Which, judging by the sold-out numbers of people at the Javits for the New York Comic Con, is still kinda recession-proof.  I fell into the work, really.  I don’t even read comic books*  (Get the whole story here).   And I definitely don’t “get” comic book geeks.  I mean, they’re sweet enough, in their own, special, pasty, basement-dwelling way, but I mean, puh-lease.  You weren’t all home-schooled, were you?  There has to be an ounce of social skills somewhere in that cranium, right???  Whatever the case may be, these skills were not on display (yet again) at this year’s New York Comic Con.  Actual snippet of overheard conversation on the crosstown bus on the way to the Javits:

Geek Girl1: So when I finally saw X-Men 3…

Geek 2: Oh you didn’t!  It was HORRIBLE.

GG1: I didn’t think it was so bad, at first, you know, just taking it at face value, but then they explained to me how it was totally in opposition to the art and color scheme by so-and-so and blahdy-blahdy-geek-blah…

… and this drivel went on the ENTIRE CROSSTOWN RIDE.  Nightmare.  How do I get myself into these situations?  Anyway, I was working a booth for my new semi-F/T gig with the longest running independent comic book convention in NYC.  I have biz cards and everything!  I am officially one of THEM.  O.M.F.G.

... themmm

... themmm

And I work for one of the top guys in the comic book collecting world.  Somehow he’s one of them and not one of them at the same time.  He knows them all, but he used to  ski with the beautiful people at Studio 54.  High and low, as it were.  Anyway, scads of people come by his booth and I get to people watch them all.  I could go on and on about the various freaks and geeks**, but the ones who really caught my eye were the Gothic Lolitas: you know, Asian girls in a mix of goth and maid uniforms, with a Lolita twist.

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Essentially, these girls are walking manga.  I was Goth, bitd, but this is a Japanese twist on an old classic.  I talked with one self-professed Gothic Lolita, 18 year old Kana from Manhattan.  She said she first got into the look 8 years ago after seeing J Rock artists on TV (example here).  She saw the fans of that style of music and wanted to dress like them.  It’s a very cute world with which to identify.  As opposed to Cosplay fans at the Comic Con, Kana said this is her normal style of dress.  She likes bands like Plastic Tree, and she and her friends get together for karaoke parties.  She seemed really well-adjusted.  It was refreshing, in this land of make-believe.

Kutie Kana

Kutie Kana

So I am officially an insider in this crazy comic book world.  But I guess now I can finally finish my Sandman collection.  I’m only missing #2 and #43.  Christ.  Kill me now.

*Except Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in the 90’s.  Brilliant.  Oh, and the occasional Betty and Veronica when I was little.  Can you say cat fight?  Me-ow!

**New rule: Guys, if you’re wearing spandex, will you PLEASE wear a cup?!?!?!?  I am still scrubbing those lumpy images from my brain.

Michael DeCapite at Telephone

Michael DeCapite at Telephone

by J.D. Oxblood

Last night I stumbled into the Telephone Bar on Second Avenue and discovered that there was a reading series happening in the back room. A true masochist, I decided to check it out.

The first reader was a pleasant surprise. Michael DeCapite read from his book THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD, an outright hilarious piece describing a conversation between two men; one of them has been recommended, by his father, to move into a Veterans retirement home—at the age of 31. DeCapite read smoothly, charismatically, and in a move of programming genius had the audience rolling with laughter for the first 15 minutes. Then he moved into the heavy stuff, a couple of pieces from another novel that described the pain and regret of two blown marriages, told in an almost poetic style. He was naked on the stage, and the audience was rapt.

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Hey kids, if you’re looking for trouble on a Friday night, but the Recession has put 24 hour raves off your to-do list, why not check out Brian Newman After Dark at Duane Park?

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If you haven’t already, slide on up to the Studio Museum Harlem and check out the Barkley L. Hendrix show up from now until March 15th. Hendricks’s painting is a dialogue between American realism and post-modernism — kind of like if Grant Wood and (the early) Chuck Close had met on a street corner at Lenox and 135th to find Rinehart, their hook-up. They say a picture is worth … well, you know. I’ll let them speak for themselves. But there is no excuse if you live in this city for not going up to Harlem to see them for yourself.

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Sunday night is free night at the Studio Museum Harlem, and on Free Sundays they feature free programs and events from 12 to 6 p.m.. Yesterday was a poetry reading by five amazing poets inspired by the work of Barkley Hendricks: Nicole Sealey, Myronn Hardy, Hallie S. Hobson, Marcus Jackson, and Bakar Wilson. Mr. Jackson, a graduate from NYU’s prestigious creative writing MFA in poetry, won the CulturalCapitol award for best metaphors in an “Ode to Kool-Aid”. He also had some great metaphors for describing the Hendricks painting “Sweet Thang” — notably when he said her lips are the color of cinnamon sticks, a funny thing to say seeing as you can’t see her lips in the painting.

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Sweet Thang

The best over all line (and perfect answer to Mr. Jackson) was given by Ms. Hobson: “who needs metaphor when you look this good?” Ms. Sealey won most graceful, and Mr. Hardy took the award for most books on sale at the gift shop. Finally, Mr. Wilson won the award for most fabulous, an award he’s won more times than the Steelers have won Super Bowls.

homeless-with-cat-on-head

This guy was on 14th, just West of Union Square, ballancing a cat on his head. I had to take a picture.