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On a darkened highway in upstate New York a cute, fuzzy bunny is transfixed by the glare of headlights and the roar of an internal combustion engine. The poor rabbit’s eyes widen in horror, and his lip quivers uncontrollably as the car swerves. The innocent lapine wanderer is struck hard by two tons of steel and rubber, but it’s only a glancing blow; and though his back legs are crushed, his heart, still hammering with fear, has survived. The car screeches to a halt, and a woman gets out. She’s pale and trembling like the rabbit. She picks him up gingerly, and tells him it’s going to be alright. She wraps him in a towel, puts him in her car, and speeds off, into the night.

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The Patient from "That Old Soft Shoe" at The Brick

How many comedies about torture there are in the naked city! Maybe not all of them are comedies, but it seems like our Empire City response to 24 and the Bush years has been laughter – hysterical, terrified laughter, of the mad scientist variety.

Kyle Ancowitz’s production of Matthew Freeman’s play That Old Soft Shoe at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg is a hilariously irreverent, frenetic, and absurd send up of 24 and its genre of fear mongering drama that will keep you laughing all the way to a highly classified black site in Jordan – or more probably, Florida.

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Cate Blanchett as Blanche Dubois

It seemed appropriate to be waiting on two self-described Southern belles to get into Streetcar at BAM last week. Nothing says “Southern” like being late to your own party. We were four, and at least three of us hail from south of the Mason-Dixon line, or as another of my Southern friends likes to call it the “Manson-Nixon” line. Ah the South! Home of pecan pie, obsessions with purity (mostly sexual), vowels longer than a summer sunset, religious revivals held in circus tents, Wal-Mart superstores, and — these days especially — widespread dependence on food stamps.

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A tap dancing mermaid at the Clinton Hill Carnival of Carnage

Happy Halloween! Tonight the good people at 313 Clinton Avenue put on their yearly Halloween show, and it may have been their best ever! The theme this year was “Carnival of Carnage.” As always the production value was top notch. The folks working on the show include some past and present theater folk from the Great White Way who know their way around sound and light equipment. They also know how to edit your favorite Disney songs to give them Brooklyn specific lyrics over the familiar music. Most of the ghouls and monsters in this year’s show crawled out of the ooze of the Gowanus canal, including the mermaid in the picture above, tapping her way into the hearts of the many children in the audience who were enchanted by the spectacle. (It seemed like half the audience was under three years old.)

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Christine Elmo

Christine Elmo

Last Thursday, May 21st, I clanked down the metal stairs of Jimmy’s 43 and into the subterranean bar completely and thoroughly confused. I had been invited by Christine Elmo to come to a benefit for a dance production she has choreographed and hopes to produce. Christine is a New York dance artist who has performed in the city and Europe extensively for the last two years. (Check out the video of dancing in Central Turkey and her CV here. Beautiful!) She’s a mover and a shaker in every sense of the phrase. So I guess I expected the benefit would be in a black box theater south of Houston, someplace that reeks of fresh paint and sawdust.

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Quai movie poster

Jonathan Demme, Academy award winning director of Stop Making Sense, Philadelphia, Silence of the Lambs, and most recently Rachel Getting Married, is introducing the films of Hatian/American/French director Michelange Quay this coming Tuesday at the French Alliance / Alliance Francaise.

The event will feature two of Mr. Quay’s movies, the short The Gospel of the Creole Pig and the feature Eat for This Is My Body. Mr. Quay’s films are lyrical meditations on post-colonialism. The Gospel of the Creole Pig takes us from the slaughter pits in Port-au-Prince, where pigs are butchered in disgustingly unsanitary conditions, to the houses on top of the surrounding hills where rich people live in comfort. Water runs from the toilettes of the hilltop houses to the trash and chaos of the Cité Soleil, and all the while the voice of the creole pig tells us ironically about the cycle of life and its hierarchies of oppression.

Eat for This Is My Body is more narrative, but not much. Mr. Quay’s project is to convey the interdependency of Whites and Blacks under colonization and afterward — the relations of power and how both sides seek to achieve identity from its opposite. (It’s very Hegelian, and like the “end of history” never complete.) To this end the movie is a dream of the moment when colonization breaks down, a no/every time and place where the masters have lost their allies, but the slaves have yet to become masters. Elaborate and stunning visuals wind along like yarn from a spinning wheel, and rather than dialogue (which is minimal) an incantatory voice over keeps the plot from interfering with the movie’s anxious emotional texture.

It is guaranteed to be an enriching and thought provoking evening, and I personally can’t wait to see the discussion between Demme and Quay!

Tuesday May 26 at 7 p.m.

Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th Street
FIAF Members Free** ($2 advance tickets)
Non-Members $10
Students w/ ID $7

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Moments before Lady GaGa took the stage at Terminal 5

I was cranky at 11:45 after spending 45 minutes in stop-and-go traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge. It seemed like everyone on Long Island was trying to push their cars into Manhattan. I prayed that some supernatural force would strike upstate lawmakers blind and replace them with legislators who know that fewer cars in Manhattan + more money for the MTA = real growth for NYC. Then I prayed to make it to Lady GaGa’s show at Terminal 5 on time.

The doors opened at 11. Three opening acts made up the bill, and I figured each one would be 15 minutes, so by the time I rolled in at 12, I was prepared to be homicidally angry, worried that I had missed her altogether. But luck was on my side. She waited for the witching hour to start the show, and I had just enough time to grab a drink and wade hip deep into the sweaty, writhing flesh pond surrounding the stage before beats started pumping out of the PA.

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By J.D. Oxblood

Through friends of friends I got on the guest list and passed by to check out the hubbub, bub. M2 is one of those Chelsea monstrosities that is everything you would expect—a long frickin’ walk from the subway, an enormous, cavernous room cut up by gargantuan furniture pieces guaranteeing that movement becomes impossible when the joint gets crowded and that no proper dance floor will ever erupt, grotesque hanging structures (in this case, faux-mirror balls constructed by crystals hung in sequence by 50-pound test) designed to remind you of the vertigo-inspiring height of the ceilings (nothing declares opulence in NYC like wasted space), louder than necessary, and a fantastic, state-of-the art lighting setup that is completely underused, like your grandma buying a Hummer and never taking it out of the driveway.

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Murray and friends at Corio Saturday April 25 2009

Murray and friends at Corio Saturday April 25 2009

Don’t get any funny ideas from the title of this post. When I say I spent Saturday night on Murray Hill, don’t think I was drinking at the Rodeo Bar.

I was the special guest of legendary Murray Hill for “This is Burlesque” at Corio. “That’s impossible!” I hear you say. “You’re just an anonymous blogger whose idea of a good time on Saturday night is to get stress management counseling at the Bay Ridge Community Service Center.” Yes, that may be true. But thanks to Twitter, I made a new friend, and he made my night.

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The folks on the G line near Pratt have been especially creative recently, so I thought I’d share their work with the rest of you. The one above is a sentimental mash up that shows how sports cheese and Lifetime channel romance cheese blend so seamlessly. The one below is just FUNNY.

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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.

Chapter 1:
Friday, 9/19: Premiere Party at the Bell House
By J.D. Oxblood
Photos by Jane Smith

The Love Show

The Love Show

[***3 kisses indicate J.D.’s faves.]

I showed up early and was hit in the face by the smell of wood varnish. The space is brand spanking new and I can’t really figure out why they opened a venue of this size in this location. It’s Gowanus, people, which sounds like something you get from raggedy chicks on Craigslist and might very well be. The walk from the elevated F/G stop at Smith and 9th was like a descent into something from Dante’s imagination. Or Cleveland. You choose. And this joint is the kind of high-ceiling, wooden beam affair where you expect to see moose heads on the wall. And the crowd in the lounge? These are the kinds of guys that make you ashamed to be an American—guys who are used to yelling at each other in somebody’s kitchen. They still reek of Bolognese sauce. They’re so psyched to have a bar in their neighborhood they might never go home. Fortunately, the big room was, in fact, very big, so it was possible to get close to the performers. The crowd was mixed and fairly young—those brave enough to make the trek to Gowanus—with an extra helping of young dudes rubbing up against their young babes with the unbridled optimism of knowing they’ll have something to do with their boners when the show is over. Ah, the fantasy of a threesome. Girls, don’t be upset that your boy isn’t thinking about you; just be glad it’s you he’s fucking. The first two gogo dancers were, um, not much of dancers and less of gogo, but they were soon replaced by a smokin’ hot black girl with Supremes sensibilities, and a big, fleshy redhead who was so generous in spreading her ass for the crowd that I considered trying to take her home and skip the whole damn festival. It would take the entire weekend to work THAT out.

Scotty, the Big Blue Bunny is right this way!

This is a jazz band taking a break at Astor Place in Manhattan. It is a perfect example of the spontaneous and organic enrichment of life that happens in a pedestrian oriented city like New York. By interacting with people on the street you encounter culture that broadens your horizons while you’re on your way to work. And it’s completely free — unlike books on tape.

A city not only attracts all kinds — people from outside the country who have come to trade or build their fortune, people from the countryside who want the same — it encourages people to develop their persona more actively than in their home community, where the self is developed mostly through the expectations of others rather than from a desire to be seen. Or, to put it another way, in a city of millions of inhabitants, it’s easy to be invisible, and if you want to stand out you really have to work on it.

This cowboy drove his herd down from Maine. The car was parked on 43rd between Lexington and 3rd, so maybe he was rustlin’ up some shares at a stock broker’s ranch. Yippie-kai-yay, dude. Yippie-kai-yay.