Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Books for 2010

Kynaston's Family Britain, 1951 - 57 is a treat, & although it's still discussing a period before I was born (just) it deals with all kinds of cultural mores I grew up with. If you want to know more about post-war housing developments, the rise of holiday camps, how citizens defined their class status, the drinking habits of the working class, the dreaded 11-plus examination that determined the course of the British schoolchild's future education, post-war rationing, football, BBC radio & early television .... well you get the idea. This series is probably of limited interest unless you're British, but if you are, it's a gem.
On my reading list for 2010:
Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann (Random House, in paperback)
Reviewed in the NY Times
The Faith Instinct:How Religion Evolved & Why It Endures - Nicholas Wade (Penguin Press)
Reviewed in The Economist

WKCR

WKCR's annual Bachfest has reached day seven, & runs until December 31. Always a pleasure at this time of year. I love the WKCR tributes, like this year's August celebration of Lester Young & the yearly April 7 Billie Holiday commemoration. In 2005, to celebrate her 90th birthday, the station played non-stop Holiday for two weeks, including a memorable, multi-version marathon of All of Me.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Depressing Christmas Music

A Dish reader suggested this number, a really sad Judy-towards-the-end number. This one really is a downer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Without Camera, Other Images Must Suffice


Camera malfunction this weekend. Here's a photograph of a building (the oldest part of the current Bodleian Library, originally the Divinity School) right across from John Donne's college, Hertford (then Hart Hall). Breathtaking.

The Shortest Day (December 21st)

A NOCTURNAL UPON ST. LUCY'S DAY,
BEING THE SHORTEST DAY.
by John Donne


'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas on 5th

Depressing Christmas Songs II

Over at The Dish, Christmas videos are coming thick & fast. A reader sent in Joni Mitchell's River (one of my favourite Mitchell songs & not one I can snigger at), & there's also a scary Dylan Christmas song (from his new Christmas album, I assume). The Dylan song is disturbing rather than depressing, & Bob's get-up is especially creepy. Someone deconstruct this one please.

MTA Cuts II

So today I've been trying to check up on the fate of the B77. The Times did not list it in the roster of service cuts approved by the MTA yesterday, but the Brooklyn Paper did. I called Jim Brennan's office, but they weren't sure about the 77, & a 311 call resulted in no information whatsoever. The MTA offered no news on their website, & no help by phone (a "look on the website" response from a general operator & a transfer to a higher up admin. number where no-one picked up). The folks at Brooklyn Borough Hall were much more helpful, & returned my call within a few minutes! The B77 situation seems to be a bit of an enigma, but apparently the 77 may well not be on the hit list & may be something of a high priority to protect if it is. The IKEA connection gives it quite a bit of clout apparently (business ever more important than residents), so this is good for Red Hook bus riders. Many thanks to B. Borough Hall for their quick response - I'm hardly a Marty fan, but this was very good consumer PR. I hope to get to a Brooklyn public forum meeting on the proposed cuts, whenever this may be.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Depressing Christmas Songs

The Dish picked up on Buzzfeed's 10 Most Depressing Christmas Songs . The collection is growing, as more & more songs of gloom are being added. I liked Merle Haggard's If We Make It Through December a lot, & the Charlie Brown Christmas song is certainly melancholy but Dolly Parton's Hard Candy Christmas may just beat the competition. What a classic.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MTA Cuts

I'm assuming that many of the MTA's proposed service cuts won't actually happen, but I'm very nervous about the planned elimination of weekend service on the B77. The 77 route begins/ends just a hop, skip & a jump from my house & I use the bus regularly. I feel very lucky to have it close by, & to be able to get to Fairway, get down to the waterfront etc. so easily. It's a city pleasure & a real boost to my quality of life. For many Red Hook residents though, given their limited transit situation & meagre retail choices, it's a vital resource, & it would be callous in the extreme if the MTA cut back this route. Tons of people come in from R.H. to shop around Fifth Ave. & use other services in the neighborhood, & taking the route away at weekends is absurd. The 77 is also an important link from Red Hook Houses to the subway system at Smith & 9th. Given that the Smith & 9th Station will be soon temporarily closed for repairs to the Culver Viaduct, the 77 will become an even more important means of getting to to the (distant) subway stops at 4th Avenue, as well as to other bus services. How far are people expected to walk for transportation? I can't believe the 77 cuts will happen, but who knows? Contact your local reps. & voice your concern.

London Calling (The Clash)

Released thirty years ago this week:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Films I Don't Want to See

Which two upcoming films make me distinctly queasy? They're the work of two of my least famous directors, that talentless pseudo chav Mr. Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes) & the tediously ever-gothic Mr.Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland). Everything I've seen about these films irritates me, from the casting (Downey & Law as Holmes & Watson, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter) to the liberties they take with plot, characterisation, & in the case of Alice, visual integrity. I actually like Downey, in the kinds of roles befitting his manic energy, but he's completely mis-cast as Holmes, & pretty Jude Law is the least likely Watson I could think of. As for Johnny Depp, in another elaborate Halloween costume, Lord save us... When will this overgrown child ever put aside the dress up clothes & make an extended attempt at real acting? I'm particularly upset by the Burton film. Conan Doyle's work is enormous fun, but no literary masterpiece. Carroll's Alice, on the other hand is one of the oddest & most brilliant curiosities of English literature, & should be treated with intelligence & insight. None here, I fear. Just to cheer myself, up I'm linking to The Guardian, where Catherine Shoard makes short shrift of the Ritchie mess.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lively Christmas Scene on 148th Street

Family Britain

Last week I ordered David Kynaston's Family Britain, 1951-57 (Tales of a New Jerusalem), & I got home today to find the infamous Post Office pink slip. So now it's a prisoner in the Van Brunt Station, & I'll have to dash back from work to get to the P.O. before five to retrieve it. Damn. I was in that very station early on Monday morning (just before 7), and though the music playing in there was excellent (they're keen on classic R&B at that hour) the public area was littered with garbage. Not pleasant at all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sullivan/Behar

Andrew Sullivan on Joy Behar. I disagree with Sullivan on many issues, but he does great journalistic service, as does dear Joy on the popular front. Good fun.

4th Avenue & Ninth

Monday, December 7, 2009

More Hitch on Palin

The Hitch continues to discuss the Palin phenomenon, at Slate (thanks to The Dish).

Henry Street

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sinatra (Carroll between Third & Fourth)

Farewell, History of Food

It was with a great sense of relief, and incredulity, that I finished the interminable History of Food, by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, this afternoon! This book took me over three months to read, & though I grew increasingly annoyed by the strangled prose style & the magpie like nature of this journey through culinary history, I also developed a certain affection for the always upbeat Toussaint-Samat. I learned a great deal, particularly about Classical & French food habits, and the development of canning techniques. Toussaint-Samat really needs better editors & translators though. Even the blurbs for the book have misprints(!) & the final chapter (the chirpy but not entirely convincingly titled A Reassuring Future) seems to suggest that the world population is six and a half million! Really, poor T.S. must have spent a HUGE amount of time researching & writing this book, and I fear she was not well served by her English publishers.

Walking Tour







I have to say I'm not the kind of person who normally goes in for walking tours, but I knew that Brooks of Sheffield's Lost City tour of Carroll Gardens/Red Hook would be well worthwhile. Brooks has a serious local historian's knowledge of the area, & a good store of site-specific anecdotes about mobster goings-on. A number of local passers by chipped in with nuggets of information about the neighbourhood, and our group was a friendly one (including a couple of very knowledgable C. Gardens residents). One of the many pleasures of the trip was to get inside the Vermont Market & Pharmacy over on Henry & Sackett. I had missed its brief opening in October, & hadn't been inside it since the 90's, so it was good to go in & take a few pictures, including one of the Longo Pharmacy proprieters, posing in a photograph up on the wall. Pete Freeman, in the process of reviving the place, told us that he expects the Brooklyn Farmacy to be up and running in the spring, with the original pharmacy decor/goods intact. This is good news, though I wish he would keep the Vermont name. ... Here are some photographs of the Pharmacy, & one or two other spots on the walk. All in all a very good time, despite the bitter cold, & highly recommended. Check out Lost City for upcoming tours.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Seasonal Music

Posting the Sutphin Boulevard Christmas greeting made me decide it was time for some seasonal music. Despite my non-believer status, I still love a good carol, & I put in my time at many a church service in my youth. In our house we are somewhat obsessive about Good King Wencelas: it's such a little drama of a carol (can't you just picture the frame of the peasant & Saint Agnes' fountain as you hear it?) & the king/page dialogue is a delight to listen to & even better to sing! It inspires a lot of affection, & a certain amount of frivolity & the lyrics ("mark my footsteps, good my page"; "heat was in the very sod"; "where the snow lay dinted") are very satisfying indeed. This video is rather blurry, but the page is a treat. Good King Wenceslas: The Movie - I think it's a distinct possibility, & I'm only half joking ...

On the Way Back from Work