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aig-bldg-sign

The plaque outside AIG's downtown HQ

I was going to write an angry piece on the AIG bonuses, the kind that uses a flamethrower to incinerate the subjects of my wrath. Then I took a walk down to AIG headquarters on Pine St. in Lower Manhattan. Unlike the offices in Greenwich, CT where the financial products guys reportedly work, an office which was receiving death threats, the main office downtown didn’t have any gawkers or thrill seekers (other than me).

I find this surprising. After all, to hear the internets tell it, people are spitting mad over the legalized Madoff make-off with tax payer money. (MoveOn cites the NY Times to estimate the AIG bailout is $500 from every tax payer in the USA.) And yet no one was storming the castle in downtown Manhattan. If anything, the corner of Wall and Broad, the place where a statue of Washington looks out on the NYSE, was buzzing with happy tourists.

washington-statue

He looks so serene.

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jdx-avatar-pick-1

“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!

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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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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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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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.

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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

This is a week late. So what. Sue me.

Some dudes set up a goal outside the courts as West 4th street a week ago, and some random white guy was dunking his heart out, missing most of the time, and incurring the scorn of the Black males watching. (I think the goal fit in the back of the Penske truck in the photo.)

A skeptical audience

A skeptical audience

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The New York Times published an editorial yesterday that argued against a $1 surcharge on taxi fares due to the spike in gas prices. They note that there are a few hundred hybrid vehicles in the 13,000 taxi fleet, and that the entire fleet will be hybrid by 2012. The question is, why aren’t all yellow cabs hybrid now, and why won’t we have a fleet of electric taxis by 2012. The answer undoubtedly has to do with politics and the T&LC. Cultural Capitol will look into the matter and report more later!

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.


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!


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