Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tales from Three Cities

Not that I have necessarily been seeking them out, but stories about gentrification (and hyper-gentrification, which appears to be where we are now) have been increasingly crossing my field of vision.

Los Angeles (Boyle Heights specifically) - a group of tenant activists claim that an influx of artists and shops perceived to be art-adjacent (and arguably investment properties disguised as art spaces) are harbingers of community-eviscerating gentrification already in the works.

Photo: Timo Saarelma

San Francisco - a much less nuanced tale of landlords literally (allegedly) burning down dwellings in order to get rid of protected tenants. Appalling.

Closer to home, an event at the great Housing Works bookstore cafe in New York - drawn to that while hunting down information about the announced closing of the Sunshine Cinema.  It's a launch for the book version of the fabulous-while-infuriating Vanishing New York, complete with a performance by friend and fellow-traveler Penny Arcade.  This is happening next Thursday, July 27 - see you there.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Keep Your Eye on the Bali

SO much going on.

Covfefe distracts, while the Climate Agreement may actually be abandoned in a few minutes.  I mean, it's not a surprise, it's what he's said all along, and his policies - such as they are - have eroded environmental protections and will continue to no matter what momentary lip service the president ends up paying to international scientific rigor.  And the noise is such, that people seem not to be noticing that department after life-saving department is atrophying from neglect (or crumbling under abuse).  Not least - lest we forget - millions of our Fellow Americans continue to view such things as worthy of very slight consideration, if not cause for celebration.

This state of affairs has been, is, and continues to be intolerable, and I condemn it.  So there.

In other news, we lost a giant of world music this week.  David Lewiston, whose name might not be at the front of your mind, but if you are have listened to indigenous music of Asia, Africa, or South America, to Gamelan, Tibetan chants, sacred song from around the world, there's a good chance he recorded it, or inspired the person who did.

Photo: NY Times/Nonesuch Records

Monday, May 08, 2017

Censorship and Speech

I had composed a pretty good (if I may say so myself; at any rate it took some effort) entry for my first post after what I think has been my longest hiatus from this platform since I began, in recognition of Day 101 of the current presidential administration.  It covered some of the events since the election, including national and international reactions, and wrapped with a parallel to Orwell’s Room 101.   But that batch of writing and linking was lost to the vagaries of the internets.  And so it goes.

Rather than try to recreate that, what I’m posting today is a set of two different perspectives on free speech and restrictions to speech published recently in the Times. 

From the first piece, by insistent dissident Ai Weiwei
The most elegant way to adjust to censorship is to engage in self-censorship. It is the perfect method for allying with power and setting the stage for the mutual exchange of benefit. The act of kowtowing to power in order to receive small pleasures may seem minor; but without it, the brutal assault of the censorship system would not be possible. 
For people who accept this passive position toward authority, “getting by” becomes the supreme value. They smile, bow and nod their heads, and such behavior usually leads to lifestyles that are comfortable, trouble free and even cushy. This attitude is essentially defensive on their part. It is obvious that in any dispute, if one side is silenced, the words of the other side will go unquestioned.

And from the second, by Ulrich Baer, vice provost at New York University. 
What is under severe attack, in the name of an absolute notion of free speech, are the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse. The snowflakes sensed, a good year before the election of (the president), that insults and direct threats could once again become sanctioned by the most powerful office in the land. They grasped that racial and sexual equality is not so deep in the DNA of the American public that even some of its legal safeguards could not be undone. 
The issues to which the students are so sensitive might be benign when they occur within the ivory tower. Coming from the campaign trail and now the White House, the threats are not meant to merely offend. Like (the president's) attacks on the liberal media as the “enemies of the American people,” his insults are meant to discredit and delegitimize whole groups as less worthy of participation in the public exchange of ideas.

Both are worth a full read.  I have tended to be something of a free speech absolutist, though maybe not exactly the variety branded by Baer; however, Baer's points (or more accurately, points he distills from decades’ worth of writing and public discussion on the topic) are valid, and essential to consider when forming opinions - and policies - concerning, for example, speaking events on campuses. Baer hosted a fascinating panel at the NYU Law School “In Defense of Truth” a couple weeks ago, concerning the concept of truth - not least, the durability of ideas that feel true, across any spectrum you care to name - as seen through the lenses of art, journalism, and the law. 

For now, I'll leave you with a few more images touching on surveillance, education, infrastructure, and public protections from the Ai Weiwei show we saw at the Tate Modern a while back.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Saturday afternoon, Hoboken, NJ

Chill afternoon doing some around-the-apartment stuff; mostly routine, with the extra addition of disconnecting the cable box in the penultimate step in my cable company cord-cutting.  

Ideas for the new slogan for the cable TV division of Optimum/Cablevision:
"Staggeringly poor service for stunningly rich prices!"
"Our team is perfectly friendly, just not actually helpful."
Used the time to do some reading & writing, and have a listening session for a couple new acquisitions:

Amazing.  You have no idea.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Adventures in Public Art

Couple items from HyperAllergic, which has fast become one of my favorite sources for news from the art world.

First this, (read it!) about the amazing Carol Highsmith's billion-dollar scuffle with Getty Images over them charging for images THAT SHE DONATED to the Library of Congress.

And then getting even closer to home, this one, about the controversy over some Mr. AbiLLity street art (commissioned street art, mind you) in Jersey City. This is a city dear to my heart, likely the place I'd move to if I were moving to the area today, but which needs to get its ish together stat.
photo: @lifeisamother/Instagram
Between this nonsense at the Newark Ave. pedestrian plaza, and the ongoing obstructionism over at the Loew's Landmark Theater in Journal Square... it hath made me mad.  I mean, ok sure: Getty Images, eff them, what do you expect? (let's hope the courts make them pay richly for their greed)  But Jersey City ought to be a place that looks after the people who live and work there.

I know Mayor Fulop has his hands full fighting with Chris Christie, and I won't argue with that, but come on - this?  Stymying the artistic voices - the local, homegrown or transplanted artists right there in the middle of the living, breathing city - that actually add to the community?  Step it up, JC.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


Vantage from one of the days I was shooting The Accidental Wolf.

Channeling Coppola via Columbus Circle.

The night before, I got to drive around Hell's Kitchen with this rig strapped to the passenger door.

Should be a very good series - I'll let you know as things are released...

Monday, July 25, 2016


Three Shakespeare plays over three nights, Thursday through Saturday.  One was free, one pay-what-you-want, and one was the opposite of free.  Each has something unique to offer to this summer's Shakespeare season (made a little extra juicy by this year's commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.)

Troilus and Cressida from the Public/NYSF at the Delacorte; As You Like It from The Cradle Theatre in Prospect Park; The Merchant of Venice, which is the contribution to the Lincoln Center Festival from Shakespeare's Globe.

As I've said before (and will say again), I'm an actor, not a critic; no desire to pick these shows apart.  Dan Sullivan (whom I've known for a while) takes a really good swing at the very tricky pitch that is Troilus.  The curveballs of love and politics, the high heat of war, the secret signals that hold together the batteries of diplomacy and military intelligence.  Homeric Greece and Troy find their way to an Orwellian present of perpetual war.

Rebecca Etzine (whose tumblr I've admired for a while, and whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the show on Friday) delivered an As You Like It that is even more distinctly of today.  A young company of young artists turned a wooded part of Prospect Park into the forest of Arden - a few extra twists of gender and sexuality, plenty of playfulness, and a healthy dose of irreverence result in a show that is compelling, contemporary, and - most importantly - alive.  They're moving camp to Ft. Greene this weekend; check their website.  Cory missed this one, sadly; hey, this heatwave is a real thing, and not everyone's appetite for Shakespeare is quite as bottomless as mine, especially given that on the docket for the next night was...

Last and emphatically not least, Jonathan Pryce was Shylock in what is of the most brutal, and certainly one of the best, productions of Merchant I've ever seen.  While the staging and design is firmly in 16th Century Venice, the anti-semitism conjures all-too-current outbreaks in Europe and America.  Never (in my experience) has Shylock seemed so justified, never has Jessica been so disdained (even after her 'voluntary' conversion and marriage to Lorenzo), never has Antonio been such an asshole, and NEVER has Portia been such a snotty, snobby, vindictive prig (while still managing to be the smartest person in the room).  The final, added scene of Shylock's forced baptism was bitterly piercing.

Not much visual stimulation for you today, but here are a couple shots of Shakespeare's birthplace from our trip.  [What?? A side trip to Stratford-upon-Avon when we went to London?  Hey, he'll only have a 400th Deathiversary once.]

A couple exteriors of the gables.

A shot of a little one checking out the signatures scratched into the birthroom window.

And - why not? - a couple shots from Anne Hathaway's cottage, including Rudy, Cory, and Mol checking out the epic garden.