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What dark horror lurks beyond this vale of wrath and tears? Is it the undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns? Is darkness the mere nothing at the end of the world, as Byron imagined in his poem “Darkness”? Is it where the monsters hide in your bedroom? Or is darkness that which we carry within us, the “palpable obscure” of Hell that Satan laments in Paradise Lost:

Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.

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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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Jeff Sproul and James Patrick Cronin in "Poppycock"

Just what did you expect for nothing? Rubber biscuit?

A guy walks into a bar and says “ouch!” No wait. I told that wrong. A man and a woman walk into a derelict bed and breakfast carrying the woman’s catatonic sister. This is the last night the bed and breakfast will be in business because an unscrupulous Richie Rich, a real Snidely Whiplash, is about to repossess it from its humble bumbling owner. And then they say “ouch.”

Poppycock: A Modern-Day Farce at Under St. Mark’s Theater from now until April 24th is roughly an hour and a half of non-stop gags, jokes, tom-foolery, one-liners, puns, witty repartee, and monkeyshines. It’s like Monkey Business meets Fawlty Towers envisioned as a live-action Tex Avery cartoon (like Malcolm in the Middle). I laughed through the whole thing.

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Tanya O'Debra in Radio Star

Everything old is new again! At least that’s how it feels these days. Five long years ago the vogue in vintage was vintage 70s — 1870s that is. Remember when conservatives wanted to repeal income tax and Social Security? It was the new Gilded Age.

But ah, how quickly the worm turns! Now vintage styles in dress and drink reflect the more sober times of the Great Depression and the privation of WWII. Only we call it the Great Recession, and our great global war is being fought by guys with explosive powder in their banana hammocks.

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Trow paper towls

If this were in China one might call it “Chinglish.” But this sign is in a bathroom in Midtown Manhattan, in an upscale Indian deli. Those of us who claim English heritage can’t help but take a little pride in the fact that our oppressive, imperialist forebears spread our language and culture so far and wide that we don’t have to learn another language. English is the lingua franca of the world. Even though there are more than 1,500 languages spoken in India, I can travel the whole of the subcontinent without knowing a word of any of them. (Thank you T. B. Macaulay!) Sure, that means I can be a bit condescending and simultaneously ignorant, but what do you want? An ethno-linguistic anthropologist?

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Swamp Donkey

I think “Swamp Donkey” says it all.

Year One Kiss

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I should get a better camera. Or at least not be so shy when taking pictures.

John Hodgman was performing a comedy show last night at Union Hall in Park Slope. I didn’t know that, so the giddy joy I felt as I told my companion PC was standing in front of us at the door was genuine. I thought perhaps that he was just there to soak up the hipster vibe like the rest of us. It turned out he was amplifying the hipster vibe, by a factor of ten at least.

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This is what I get for living near art students.

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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Or: a categorical thesis on the recycled recycling of recyclables in pop culture

Everything old is Jung again

Everything old is Jung again

by J.D. Oxblood

I knew we were in bad shape during the previews.  Sandwiched in between trailers for the latest installment of the “Terminator” franchise and the sequel to “Transformers” was an ad for an action-packed Summer Blockbuster that I didn’t recognize.  I started thinking… what haven’t they done yet, and what could this be?  Evil villains in hot Matrix-y black leather, a handpicked crew of “elite” heroes donning metallic super-suits… I turned to my date and said, “This has to be ‘G.I. Joe.’”  In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m basically a pessimist, which means that I HATE to be right.

[Spoiler alert:  if you haven’t seen the new “Star Trek” yet, and want to, don’t read this.  It will only piss you off.  Devil’s advocate alert:  if you have seen “Star Trek,” and loved it, please read this, it will totally piss you off.  Sympathizer alert:  if you saw “Star Trek” and thought it was stupid—whether or not you enjoyed watching it—I can’t make a recommendation one way or the other.  I got nothing to say you don’t know already, but sometimes it’s nice to have confirmation.]

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Priceless

Priceless

A picture is worth a thousand words — especially when the letters have been rearranged to spell “vomit.” What more needs to be said?

awwww...

awwww...

The Sad Panda brought his friend to Bowling Green yesterday. His friend didn’t say much, but he was soooooo cute!

Panda Man takes a load off downtown

Panda Man takes a load off downtown

Poor little guy. I can only imagine how hot he’ll be tomorrow whent the temps are supposed to be in the 80s!

balloon-dude

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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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.

Kumar and Obama

Kumar and Obama

CNN is reporting that actor Kal Penn who played the lovable stoner Kumar in the Harold and Kumar movies will be working in Obama’s office of public liason. Sez CNN, “Penn will be primarily involved in dealing with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and the arts community.”

Yeah! SWEET JOB DUDE!!!

Reminds me of the scene in Ali G — In Da House where Ali as MP goes to inspect contraband stored in the British customs lock-up.

😉

Hit bonus plus two for being a "native"

Hit bonus plus two for being a "native"

Two art interventions caught my eye the other day, so I thought I’d share. The one above is more obviously hipster ironic than the one below. The one below is just great art. (I hope you can see the stubble lovingly drawn in on her chin.) Now that the G will only be running every half hour, young aspiring artists will have plenty of time to perfect their skills at the Metropolitan stop.

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Kathy, or Ken?

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I’m not sure what this dude is selling. He stands on the little peninsula of pavement where Broadway bifurcates downtown. But there he/she is, every day, in the freezing cold or boiling heat, not selling or soliciting, just hanging out with his little panda painted trash pail (pictured at bottom left).

😦

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.

Click here for the HIGHLIGHTS!

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.

 

By J.D. Oxblood

Fox News, approx. 12:15 EST:  Bill Hemmer and Bret Baier covering the inaugural balls.

Video coverage of President Obama and First Lady dancing at Southern Inaugural Ball:

Obama:  Let’s go change America.

(crowd cheers)

Bret:  Ok by my count they have one more, is that right?

Bill:  One more ball.

Bret:  One more inaugural ball.  They’ve got the dance steps down, it is down to under a minute, it seems like everything’s being sped up just a bit on the routine, but uh, they have one more and as you see them wave to the southern ball there at the DC armory, uh we will bring you every step of every official ball.

Bill:  This time she’s doing the waving and he has his head back behind her head so that the camera’s can’t see and he’s like, “honey I cannot wait to get some sleep.”  Don’t you know he was?

Bret:  I mean—we were just talking during the break there that uh… I mean it’s kind of like a wedding… a giant wedding—

Bill:  On acid.

Bret:  Yeah but— (indistinct laughter in background) —times a thousand, you know, if—if—(flubs)

A few unnecessary comments:

1.  While “acid” is not one of the famed seven words you can’t say on television, I feel fairly confident that “on acid” is not a phrase newscasters are generally encouraged to use on the air.

2.  Who would ever expect a Fox News correspondent to know what “on acid” means?

3.  Am I the only pundit in America who’s done enough acid to catch such a reference?

It’s true. These guys really rock. If you’re in Dubai, they’re at the Seaview Hotel in the Marine bar. (Sorry if the video resolution is crappy. It’s Youtube’s fault. I’m working on improving it.)


By J.D. Oxblood

Hunter College, Friday night, September 12, a perfect way to recover
from lingering Sept. 11 syndrome -- and the endless exploitation of a
day hallowly remembered -- roller derby!  Hot chicks on wheels!

Well maybe, just maybe, some of you slackers out in cyberspace are
actually reading these missives, as the Friday night bout was sold out.
Folks lined up for hours (well, ok, an hour) just to get a glimpse of
the Gotham Girls giving their all with guts and grit. The gym was
packed, energy was high, and the all-around theme of the night was
just like my last date:  hot and sweaty.

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This guy was in his clown suit on the L train between 1st Ave. and Bedford. He looked sad. Sad clown. After a hard day of clowning I imagined he was on his way home to his clown wife and clown kids. Probably in Queens.