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The Last Supper

The Rising Sun Performance Company is now performing Dan Rosen’s movie cum play The Last Supper at The Red Room. It’s a rip-roaring good time, and well worth your dime.

A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged

The official blurb runs something like this: A group of young, liberal graduate students in Iowa have a formal, sit down dinner once a week, to which they like to invite a stranger – to spice up conversation. Their ivory tower serenity is disturbed, however, when their latest guest, Zach (played in the 1995 movie by Bill Paxton!), turns out to be a redneck, pedophilic, murderous, Holocaust denier. Zach taunts the tolerant liberals, saying that they don’t have the balls to stand up for themselves, and pulls a knife on Marc, the resident Jewish artist. Zach is distracted for a moment while breaking the arm of Peter, another sissy liberal, and Marc seizes the opportunity to stab Zach in the back with his own knife. Existential angst ensues as the “liberals” try to justify their aggression. They rationalize it so well that they decide to recreate the scenario every week with a new flavor of conservative crazy. Their preferred method of execution? Poison in the chardonnay.

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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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Jo Weldon with her pupils Friday night at the Slipper Room

Friday night (April 24th) was graduation night for Jo Weldon’s New York School of Burlesque at the Slipper Room.

Each and every one of the women who performed are stars and gave standout performances. But natural talent only goes so far. Ms. Weldon not only knows how to pick them, she also knows how to train them.

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Public spaces are great for public speech and debate. This is a good example of NYC’s diversity, written on a subway wall.


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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.

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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bnad-table-drinks

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

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I work downtown, near Wall Street. It’s cold today, somewhere in the mid-twenties, and I decided to get some soup from the Hale and Hearty Soup place over on Beaver. The soup place is close enough to the NYSE to hear the moans of traders still recovering from yesterday’s bloodletting.

 

Over the last week we have discovered that the banks are in worse shape than ever, and the government doesn’t have much of a clue about how to fix it. The New York Times is reporting that even the Obama people, who we hope are smarter than the newly ousted Bush people, aren’t sure about what to do. I think the market fell yesterday – led by bank stocks – because it knows banks are still hiding losses. If they’re hiding something it’s because they want to secure their own fortunes before the shareholders – and the country – figure out they’re bankrupt. Or as the last sentence in the times piece says, “Banks may not want that kind of openness, because accurately valuing the toxic assets could force many to book big losses, admit their insolvency and shut down.”

 

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starliner-blog

By J.D. Oxblood 

“I can promise you, if LAST CALL AT THE STARLINER LOUNGE isn’t one of the most original shows that you’ve ever seen, then I will eat a pack of cigarettes.”  With an offer like that, how could I refuse?  Yes, that was the inimitable Snuffy Patterson, and I was half hoping the show would suck so that I could watch him suck ‘em down.  No dice, but it turns out I still won:  he eats a cigarette in the opening as an ad for “Turkish Cigarettes—the cure for halitosis.”  The sourpuss face on this kid is priceless.

We’re back at Corio, another night of hopeless debauchery, shaking off the post-holiday season delirium tremens.  It’s a Wednesday night and cold enough to freeze the rye on my breath.  Seems that all the gorgeous dames in this place only work the Pontani shows; the skirt serving us hooch is looking a little long in the tooth.  Maybe it’s a good thing that she’s not in a corset.

Brian Newman and his band loosen the crowd with a couple of standards, starting with “All of Me.”  This kid looks about two days past getting his draft card, and so thin you could pick your teeth with him.  He can warble, though, so damn well I wondered if the horn in his hand was just a prop.  But he made a sucker of all of us and blew the damn thing better than Gabriel.  He’s backed by keys, skins, a bull fiddle who can lay down a bass line that walks with a ten incher down the left leg, and a sharp-dressed urbanite blowing a thoughtful motif on a tenor sax.

I settle into a cold one and tried to follow the convoluted plot.

Snuffy, our narrator, picks up as Softy Malone enters

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.)

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Muslim women buying Barbies

Dubai, unlike it’s neighbor Abu Dhabi, does not have oil riches. Though oil and gas were discovered in the 1960s, the Al Maktoum Emirs of Dubai knew early on they had to capitalize on oil money in the 80s, 90s, and 00s before the gravy train ran out of steam. Dubai creek was dredged several times over those decades so that today Dubai is the largest deep water port in the region.

Dubai’s rulers have also worked hard to make their town a financial center, giving sweetheart deals to major western financial houses to locate offices there. With finance comes real estate, which, according to Wikipedia, accounted for 22% of Dubai’s GDP before the housing bubble of started to inflate in 2004. It is difficult to find up-to-date figures on the financial situation in Dubai, probably for two reasons: first, if its economy was driven by a bubble, those interested in it do not want to spread the news it has popped and cause a panic; second, the government of Dubai and the UAE does not seem to be particularly transparent, at least if you are looking at the official website. (This article is indicative.) That said, my eyeball estimate of the economy in Dubai shows three salient categories of economic activity: commerce, service and tourism, and finance, under which I include real estate. (If you don’t like my categories, go talk to a professional economist.)

1) Kelly McEvers of Marketplace reported a couple of months ago that confidence in the Dubai’s real estate market has evaporated. 2) If players like Morgan Stanley are in trouble here, then you can be sure they’re in trouble at the Dubai satellite office. 3) And news that China is rethinking its investment in USD bonds should make any country with its currency pegged to the dollar (like the UAE) think twice about its future purchasing power. That leaves us with the service and tourism sector.

Kareoke machine in the Emirates Mall

Kareoke machine in the Emirates Mall

It’s true, everyone loves kareoke. And in the Mall of the Emirates you can record yourself in sound and vision doing a cover of Bowie to send to your friends back home.

Indoor skiing at the Emirates Mall

Indoor skiing at the Emirates Mall

I was particularly thrilled to know I could leave cold, rainy New York to go to the warm, sunny desert, and not have to miss a day of skiing. Not that it was so cold in New York. On the day we left for Dubai a friend who lives near Whiteface ski resort upstate lamented in a Facebook status update that it was unnatural to have 60 degree days at the end of December. But that makes indoor skiing in the desert all the more desirable.

Westerners working at the ski slopes in the Emirates Mall

Westerners working at the ski slopes in the Emirates Mall

When they close down mountain resorts in the US for lack of snow all the ski bums will be able to get jobs at the Mall in Dubai. The Dubai Mall also has ice skating and hockey…

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Ice rink in the Dubai Mall

… and a massive indoor aquarium.

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Dubai Mall Aquarium

Cool huh?! Notice all the folks in Western dress. That’s because most of the people in the malls were either Indian/Pakistani or European. I saw a few Emiratis, but not enough to keep these massive emporia open. Most of the shops are Western too, from Hardee’s and KFC (the writing is Arabic)…

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YUM brands

… to lingerie.

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This may be what Emirati women wear under their black robes, but I wouldn’t know.

Lingerie shoppers?

Lingerie shoppers?

The malls all have a space for “local” stuff, either tourist kitch or jewelry that is dressed up in a faux souk.

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Gold "souk" in the Dubai Mall

If you have any problems shopping, any disgruntled counter help or problems with your credit card, you can appeal either to the mall management or to God.

A higher power

A higher power

In sum, as long as tourists can afford to spend money, as long as novelty and kitch can last, as long as a flower can grow in the desert, Dubai will have a future.

This now infamous video is proof that the surveillance state cuts both ways. (Thanks to Shawn for pointing it out.)

My sympathies are obviously with the bikers. For that matter, I never liked cops much. Their job is to go out cruising for trouble. Bad news in my opinion. The only people who should be cops should be the ones who pass a rigorous exam on ethics. But then there wouldn’t be many cops. Or politicians probably.

Bikes need to displace cars in the modern city — absolutely. They need to be sacred cows, so long as they don’t make a habit of running over pedestrians, who are by far the most sacred form of life on and in the street. And cops who make asses of themselves and abuse their power on video should be canned — immediately, no questions asked.

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.

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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Monday, July 7, 2008 marked the opening night of the new Monday Night Burlesque at the Performance Space Formerly known as Galapagos. The act to christen the space, or, to “embooben,” as Nasty Canasta put it, was no other than the now super-famous Julie Atlas Muz. She came on in classic black — eyes big as swimming pools complete with bikini-clad pleasure models lounging with Mai Tais — lost her black dress in under a minute, sucked off a rose in fellatiatic splendor, spat out the petals, spilling down her bare bosom, and before anyone could quite check the turgidity of his member, was crawling across the bar to bathe herself with a bowl and a bar of soap, complete with avid pit and crotch scrubbing. No one does nudity with laughter better than the Muz. She finished with a bottle of vodka upended over her entire body and I half-thought she was going to set her entire figure on fire. Let me be the one to tell you, folks: Julie looks hotter now than she did when I first saw her naked, 8 years ago. That’s some serious deal with the devil, and I think he got took.

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(Editor’s note: This is the first post by Cultural Capitol writer J. D. Oxblood.)

On Dining with Strangers

By J.D. Oxblood

I live on a small island off the coast of the United States of America. That may be technically untrue, but it’s more true than the truth. I live on the Island of Long, in a small corner that is vastly different from the rest of the island and—like the neighboring island of Manhattan—the rest of America.

This is a story, like all New York stories, about what makes us different, if not exactly special. We live in tiny, tiny apartments and pay anywhere between a third to half of our income on rent. This is alarmingly obvious to New Yorkers, but if anyone’s reading this out in flyover country (that’s right, I said it) read that sentence again. It’s insane if you really chew it over, and yet we do it, year after year. And as I was recently reminded whilst dining with out of town guests, it’s always all about the rent. As my visitors were wondering why we were paying $15 for a cocktail, I noted the address: we’re half a block from Rockefeller Center. Guess what—while the cocktails are weak, the service is crap, the décor is overdone and like something some rube from the suburbs would call “so New Yorky”—these people have to pay the RENT.

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Construction on the fountain in Washington Square Park continues. It is being moved some feet to the right to make its center align with the arch and fifth avenue. To know more about the controversy behind the “redesign” of the park check out Washington Square Park blog.

The park’s history is the struggle of American urbanization writ small. Since the time of Robert Moses, anti-urbanists have tried to break it up or privatize it. Moses succeeded in extending 5th Ave. through it, and wanted to widen LaGuardia place to make it a thoroughfare, but Jane Jacobs and Shirley Hayes blocked the plan. The street was closed and Moses, who is legendary for bulldozing over neighborhood residents’ objections, was successfully checked for the first time. Ric Burns’s New York documentary is also a great place to learn more about Moses and the anti-urbanists.

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.

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:


My friend and I went to Kenka, a Japanese restaurant, on Saturday night (23/05/08). Though there was a twenty minute wait to get a table, I enjoyed hanging out on the sidewalk. Last week was Fleet Week in Manhattan, and the streets were jammed with sailors looking for a good time (and maybe a tattoo?).

Urban density means street life. We sat on the steps in front of Kenka watching the constant flow of people on the sidewalk, listening to conversations and soaking in the richness of the city. Some xenophobes and paranoiacs may feel short of breath on a crowded New York City sidewalk, but there is nowhere safer per capita in the U. S.! Though we were surrounded by different nationalities, ethnicities, and languages, the possible friction from those differences are overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of the street. Not even the scary Japanese mole-monster scared off diners!

Kenka has great food, and as far as I know it’s very authentic. Either that or the Japanese (Chinese and Koreans) that crowd the restaurant enjoy the Epcot vibe more than the “authentic” KFC you find all over Tokyo and Shanghai. Best of all, Kenka has a cotton candy machine just outside the front door, and they serve a little plastic cup of flavored sugar with your bill instead of fortune cookies. Use a chopstick to capture the cotton candy, and walk away with yummy desert!


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.