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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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One fine afternoon in the early 00’s, after having consumed several beers, two hot dogs, and probably as many cheese burgers at the Gowanus Yacht Club, my companion and I stumbled down Union Street headed East to Park Slope. After we passed the canal I saw the following graffito on the side of a building: “Go anus”. Someone had done a reverse Letter Man and taken the “w”.

The canal itself has never been pleasant. One source says “The opaqueness of the Gowanus water obstructs sunlight to one third of the six feet needed for aquatic plant growth. Rising gas bubbles betray the decomposition of sewage sludge that on a ripe, warm day produces the canal’s notable stench.” The environs around it aren’t much better. After you pass Hoyt headed East, the nice front yards and townhouses of Carroll Gardens give place to many warehouses and factories, many of which appear abandoned. It was in one such abandoned warehouse turned crackin’ night spot — The Green Building — that my date and I caught Michael Arenella‘s Winter Ball last Saturday night.

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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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Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth with their little stillborn demon child

October 1st, 2009

Macbeth is appropriate to autumn and October. Macbeth’s colors are red and black; the poetry evokes the lengthening of nights and shortening days; and it’s full of witches and ghosts. Pecfect for the month of Halloween! I went with Lesterhead to see Strike Anywhere and ANITYA’s joint production of “Macbeth Variations II” at the Irondale Center in the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church on Lafayette and South Oxford St. in Fort Greene tonight. The production definitely set the mood for a spooky October.

There are a few things you might want to know before you go see the play. First, Strike Anywhere and ANITYA are based in New York and Paris respectively. It is performed in both English and French. Unfortunately the Irondale Center, unlike the Met, doesn’t provide subtitles in glowing green LED in the banquette in front of you. For those who either know French or know the text of Macbeth or both, this isn’t an issue. If you speak English but not French and don’t know the play well, it can be confusing. Second, this is an interpretation of Macbeth, not a staging of Shakespeare’s play. If you get upset when directors cut the Bard’s plays, you definitely won’t like this. Third, the philosophy of the joint company prioritizes improvisation. As they say on their website, it’s never the same play two nights in a row. If you love surprises and don’t mind the occasional sour note that’s great; if flat moments take you out of the action, you might be disappointed. On the other hand, if the classics bore you but you feel compelled to get cultured anyway, this production is both edgy and old skool.

I would give you my take with no chaser, but I happened to overhear a conversation as I was walking out of the theater that I think says it all about what this show accomplishes. Three men, all in their mid-20s, were walking ahead of me on the sidewalk as we left the theater, and this is what I heard. (I’ve given them names. If this is you, and I gave you the wrong name, email the blog’s administrator.)

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Addicted to TV

Addicted to TV?

Or TV on the Radio?

TV on the radio

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Sidewalk musicians on Bedford Avenue @ N 7th July 2nd 2009

By the end of June people who can afford it have left town for two months, or at least every weekend. The moneyed leisure class get tans, sit on the dock or the deck drinking champagne, and contemplate early retirement. The rest of us wander the streets between July 4th and Labor Day looking for a party on or off a rooftop, cruising the nearly empty streets and braving the inevitable spike in violent crime. The unmoneyed leisure class (a.k.a. the unemployed) have plenty of time for idleness, and idle hands are indeed the devil’s weekend in the Hamptons.

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photo by Jenny Bai

photo by Jenny Bai

Last Monday I sat down with rising star Broadway Brassy at The Magician bar on Rivington and Essex to talk about her career, where she’s been, where she is, and where she’s going. She’s is out of town for the next couple of weeks, but be sure to catch her at Duane Park in late July and August! (Details below.)

CC: Hello Broadway Brassy! Thanks for coming to talk to us at Cultural Capitol. I guess my first question is, how did you get to New York?

BB: I took a chance, I don’t know. God I hate interviews. I just always wanted to come here to New York City since I was a little girl — always. There was never any wavering, there was never any other place I wanted to be. It was here. So I came. That was that. I finished college, and I just moved. To Staten Island. And it was horrible there.

CC: Why did you go to Staten Island?

BB: Because I had friends there. So I thought, if I go to New York City I should be near my friends. I didn’t know anything. So I moved there, and realized right away that was not where I wanted to be, so I moved to Brooklyn.

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Hipster riot for free guac

The 5th of May is a lot of things to a lot of people. You couldn’t turn on the radio or open up a web browser yesterday without someone telling you that the 5th of May is the day Karl Marx was born, the day Cy Young threw the first perfect game in modern baseball, the Day that Kublai Khan became the ruler of the Mongol empire, and the day that Coco Chanel debuted Chanel No. 5. It also happens to be the day that Mexican troops led by Ignacio Zaragoza repulsed repeated attacks by French troops under Charles de Lorencez at the Battle of Puebla. This is the occasion celebrated as “Cinco de Mayo.”

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By J. D. Oxblood

What does the Kentucky Derby have to do with New York City, you ask?  The answer is twofold:  the Kentucky Derby is the first of three races in the Triple Crown, which culminates in the Belmont Stakes, held right here on Long Island, AND, as it turns out, there are a lot of Kentucky transplants to New York.  And if this blog is dedicated to culture, we should focus our lens wherever culture is found, no matter how hillbilly, depraved or—in this case—well-lubricated.

Handicapping the Derby is always a crap shoot, and this year was no exception.  In a race with 20 horses, anything can happen, especially when so many of them are essentially untested.  Favorite Dunkirk was going after the Roses with only 4 starts under his saddle.  Favorite Friesan Fire was optimism incarnate for trainer “Cowboy” Jones, following a devastating tragedy last year when show horse Eight Belles had to be euthanized seconds after the race with two shattered legs.  I Want Revenge, the heavy favorite, scratched the day before the big race.  Pioneerof the Nile [sic] never caught my eye because of the wonky spelling—exactly the kind of nonsense that proves I’ll never be an adept handicapper.

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by J.D. Oxblood

Our livery car driver has inexplicitly decided to roll all the way down Flatbush, which is like a Christmas Eve parking lot considering that it’s Saturday night in Park Slope.  I’m wearing a gangster-fied pinstriped double-breasted jacket, my editor is in a full tux, and our other accomplice looks like a 1950s cartoon character.  We’re rolling with three gorgeous women and a bodyguard; I somehow feel that we’re one gorgeous woman short—I like to ride with a spare.

We arrive at the Montauk Club, designed by Francis H. Kimball and completed in 1891.  The story goes that he was inspired by a palace on Venice’s Grand Canal, and the imposing Venetian gothic architecture rises from the banality of the Slope like a monolith in a highlands desert.  Stone.  Mahogany.  Stained glass.  My jacket pocket feels suddenly empty—I really should be packing hooch to fully be in character.

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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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357 performs at the Coney Island benefit party at Southpaw Saturday night

.357 Lover performs at the Coney Island benefit party at Southpaw Saturday night

The band .357 Lover promises on its website to sacrifice their souls so that we may be properly rocked, and Saturday night they delivered.

The Coney Island benefit party at Southpaw was Brooklyn to a T. Freaks, Geeks, Hipsters, Lezzies, Homos, Straights, Bents, Rockers, Mods, Burlesquers, and B-Boys all showed up to save the dilapidated symbol of Brooklyn Soul. The World Famous Bob co-Emceed the Burlesque potion of the show with Miss Astrid, and let me tell you dear reader, they are two of the funniest women in show biz. (Murray Hill, who was not there, is the funniest man.)

It was a night of New York burlesque all stars including Julie Atlas Muze, Gigi La Femme and the World Famous Pontani sisters who performed together and separately.

Peekaboo Pointe

Peekaboo Pointe

You can’t go wrong with that lineup. Angie Pontani sealed the deal with her show stopping tub act, courtesy of Hendrick’s Gin. After that it was hard (so to speak) to walk out of the club upright.

The special surprise of the evening, what made it really special and not just really good, were the Daisy Spurs. They tore up the stage with sizzling energy and heart-pounding dance moves. It was my first time seeing the Daisy Spurs, and I was so impressed I imediately updated my mobile FB status to “Daisy Spurs, my new favorite crazy.” That impressed.

Photo by Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

Though this article in the New York Times is feel-good real estate porn, it is also anecdotal evidence that urbanizaton might reverse the sixty year trend of suburbanization. The reasons Keyes and Woods give for moving back to the city sound like the mantra of the post baby boom, urbanist ethos.

In the summer of 2006, [Keyes and Wood] sold the Brooklyn house to friends for $2.075 million and moved to a five-bedroom colonial, circa 1920, in Maplewood, N.J. Their house there cost $930,000. Compared with other places, Maplewood, which reminded them of New England, felt more like a community and less like a bedroom suburb.

Their Brooklyn taxes were around $3,500 annually, but in Maplewood they were paying around $23,000. The good schools, they thought, would justify that amount for a family with several children, but “we could put Jillian in a really nice private school for that,” Mr. Wood said.

And Maplewood didn’t really feel like a community after all. “We had wonderful neighbors,” Mr. Wood said, “but it wasn’t the same as being in the city. Everyone got in cars and went somewhere. The only people you saw were running down to the train or jogging or walking their dog.”

Mr. Wood works from home but travels often. Ms. Keyes, alone with Jillian, now 4, felt isolated. “I underestimated how important the sense of community we developed in Brooklyn was,” she said. “I missed the restaurants and the green markets.”

Taxes are paradoxically lower in the city than in the ‘burbs; the city has more community, and this is largely due to pedestrian traffic, public transportation, and population density; prices of homes are falling in the suburbs as people become desperate to get out. This last point is of particular interest. Though gas prices may fall so far that driving is not a crushing expense and will not be as important a motivating factor moving people to the cities as it was last summer, the housing contraction may take its place as a motivator. The “broken windows” syndrome that drove whites from the urban core from World War II to the end of the Cold War may now drive them from the suburbs as unsellable houses become squats, derelict, or hideouts for crime. The process may be viral, first infecting the last, big, overdeveloped exurbs, then making its way into older suburbs until they too seem like ghost towns. If it is, the next fifty years will look considerably different than the last fifty years.

That will have an effect on politics too. The rural myth, enabled by the automobile and the suburb, that made Sarah Palin seem like a wise choice to Karl Rove will change dramatically. Will it disappear? Probably not. But it will change, and that will change what sort of candidates the rural right chose to represent them.

Date #1:

Find yourself in a densely crowded downstairs Latino dance club, trying to find a drunken female friend and her roommate, with whom you were wildly (and unwisely) making out mere moments before. Get a call from a female friend who works in a bar. Miss the call. Get a text from her saying, “Come to the bar. X is single and ready to mingle.” Go outside, find the drunk girls, get them in a cab and wash your hands of it. Retrieve message from the bartender: “Come to the bar now! X just broke up with her boyfriend and is asking about you!”

Grab a cab to the bar even though it’s less than a 10 minute walk. Arrive and kiss your friend and thank her for the tip. Sidle up next to the newly-single, smoking hot, 20 year-old vixen.

(Editor: Be forewarned, the following is a graphic and explicit depiction of sexual acts of dubious legality.)

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By J.D. Oxblood

Caught the Monday night again at Public Ass. (“Public Assembly is just a stupid name. It will heretofore be referred to, in these pages, as Public Ass. Suits my idiom.) It’s nice to see that in spite of all the gentrification, the old Billburg spirit is alive and well at Public Ass—the bartenders suck. Too cool for school, way too cool to actually pour a drink or care about tips. Amen, my brethren

The less said about Jonny Porkpie’s Fresh Faces Showcase the better — although WordyGirl’s diss on the U.S. of A. was … something. And at midnight I had to get the hell out of there and get me some up-close-and-personal T & A.

😉

Consequently I couldn’t stick around for GiGi’s Monday Night Blue, so so all you’re gonna get is the highlights of the main event. Deal.

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A friend of mine who lives on the Southside of Williamsburg was complaining — though not in a mean way — about not being able to sleep because of the vigil being held in front of the building next door for a 22 year-old kid who was shot. This led to a conversation about the machete-wielding gangs that have been roving the Southside, the basic street-level knowledge that it’s all about gangs living the old school “what are you doing on my block?” code of ethics, and the fact that the neighborhood is full of cops — the problem being that they’re guarding construction sites. Of which we have many.

Since the editor and progenitor of this blog seems genuinely concerned about the future of America and its priorities, I couldn’t help but think about what violent crime really means to a New Yorker: rent prices. Truly, this is a perversion that seems unique to Newyorqinos: if violent crime is on the rise, does that mean my rent might not go up next year? It’s not lost on me how distinctly fucked-up it is to wish for more violent crime.

However, it’s worth taking a closer look at Williamsburg, which is a virulent Petri dish in the study of New York at long-range. In a city headed by a billionaire mayor who has unilaterally given permission to every developer to come down the pike, giving permission to build higher and higher in neighborhoods that have for decades been small-potatoes, watching what’s happening in Williamsburg is simply a malignant insight into coming attractions: The New New York, where everyone makes two hundred grand a year and the working class (read: servant class) are bussed in daily from ghettos in what used to be rural Pennsylvania. Next time you find yourself on the other side of the East river, take a little walk through Williamsburg, Greenpoint—even Long Island City. This entire waterfront will look just like Midtown Manhattan before the decade is up.
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I encourage all bored transit riders, art students, hipsters with something to say, and people with Sharpies to try and do a little better than “Woman with a Goatee” at the Lorimer L station. This is not very creative. If you’re going to take the time to marker in a goatee, why not add horns? Make her walleyed. But seriously, the best interventions are the ones that use an exacto knife, like Deion and Pillar at the Clinton Washington G station.

The penis graffito is probably the oldest symbol in the world.

BTW, This is a close runner up: ({}).

There are many, many examples of the penis graffito, but for the sake of space (and sanity) we’ll just look at two from the Clinton-Washington G train stop. Both of them seek to impose sexual power on the person in the poster, and the only difference between the two — and it’s a slight one at that — is the gender object of the power.

Poor Moonshadow! He looks happy, but size of that member cannot be very satisfying.

Is it pornography? If it is, what can a concerned citizen do about it? Public decency is absolutely necessary — no one would argue it is OK for men to walk the streets wagging their membri viri at passersby. But how can you stop someone from stamping a symbol of male power on a poster in the subway? You could have the cops check everyone’s bag for Sharpies. Giuliani introduced paint-proof trains to get rid of unsightly graffiti. One rider took the matter into her own hands and attacked the vandals on their own turf:

From the Clinton-Washington G stop (Queens bound track):

Blacked out teeth are easy but not always funny. It looks like Marvell meets the Beverly Hillbillies. This person, however, has a good eye for humor. (heh heh.)

Walleyed pin-up girls are always funny.

It’s erotic and scary. Gives you that fun tingly feeling all the way to work.

Some friends and I ate lunch at Habana Outpost on the corner of Fulton and South Portland St last Friday. It was a beautiful day to sit outside and have a margarita.

The decor is fantastic. I love the combination of Southern Spanish / North African elements with Catholic, Central American and bricolaged pieces.

Habana Outpost is an “eco-eatery,” which is displayed in several design elements. In the bathroom rainwater runs through copper pipes to feed sunflowers and other green plants. In the back rainwater is channeled to rows of herbs that patrons are invited to smell and identify.

Habana Outpost is a perfect example of the New Urban Aesthetic that seeks to enhance the already ecologically advantageous elements of urban dwelling with environmentally conscious architecture. And the food is delicious.