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)

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


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:

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ground Grippers

I had to make a quick stop at the Mid Manhattan Library late this afternoon. Heading downtown afterwards, with the weather wet and gusty, I was happy to come across this shoestore(39th between 5th & Madison). If it hadn't been so windy, and if I hadn't been made slightly self conscious by the palm reader sitting just out of the picture, I would have tried to take better photographs. Side streets offer up treasures.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Devil's Rebels

Gothamist finds a period piece, a 1976 NBC story on The Devil's Rebels gang in Bushwick, with a young Brian Ross reporting.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Onward with Reading

With The Children's Book completed (& still nothing said about it here) it was time to return to A History of Food. I'm proud to say that I've almost finished Part V: Luxury Food, and at page 387, in the middle of a section about foie gras, I am over HALFWAY through the book. It's painfully slow going though, & to delay things even more, I nipped out & got Mandel's Wolf Hall. Relief!
The Children's Book seems to have got scant attention here, though I'm annoyed to have missed the author appearing at The Strand tonight (damn). Couldn't make it. She's very discursive, very nineteenth century in scope, & at first you find the movement of the novel ponderous & even irritating in its didactic tone. Soon though, you get sucked into the lives of the central characters, & learn to love Byatt's steady paced account of their era. It's a really interesting examination of the cult of childhood in late Victorian & Edwardian England, particularly as reflected in the kinds of children's literature being written then. The ending of the novel is devastating - the whole pace & tone of the book shifts when she reaches the Great War. Just as the lives of the characters are upturned, lost & disfigured by war, so you, as reader, are disoriented & breathtaken by the sudden narrative change, and the rapid disintegration of the world she has shown us with such painstaking attention. It's one mighty emotional punch.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hitchens & Fry vs. Widdecombe & Onaiyekan

A review of my old favorites,the often inebriated Hitch, & Stephen Fry, doing their thing in a recent debate on the Catholic Church, at Methodist Central Hall in London. Even though I know that many have heard more than enough from CH on this matter, I can never resist the opportunity to hear one of his cutting performances (I saw him thriving in the presence of a jeering audience at Ethical Culture a few years ago), & with the kinder but equally urbane Fry there too, the very thought of this splendid tag team in action again is delicious to contemplate. I hope that there'll be a video of this posted soon. For those of you that want more Hitch, this site puts together a bunch of clips, & if you feel like a trip to the cinema this week there's a newly released documentary, Collision, documenting his US debate tour with Doug Wilson. I, for one, will be at Village East ASAP. The film opens tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I'm very fond of second hand/thrift/charity shop/resale/"vintage" clothing stores, & will go out of my way to find interesting food establishments, but there are other kinds of retail places I'm happy to spend time in too. I like stationary stores. Not the boutique kinds with $10 birthday cards & craft supplies, or the Staples model, with endless aisles of garish unattractive nastiness. I like overcrowded office stationers, with stacks of lined office pads in unusual sizes, small but indispensable notebooks in sober colors, serviceable pencil sharpeners (usually German)& perhaps some interesting plain artists' sketchpads. I like boxes of dusty goods that look as though they might have been sitting around since the 1950's. Above all, I like my stationary to have a slightly dreary seriousness of purpose. This makes my purchases seem important. I'm also very fond of neighborhood hardware stores, with their peculiarly distinct odor of fertilizer, paint & cardboard. The best ones always have a selection of sensible kitchen equipment (Corning ware, cast iron pans, coffee pots & salt shakers) & a large collection of seed packets. Bliss. The fact that I'm completely un-handy matters not at all. I like the goods themselves (though most of them are mysterious to me), & the whole business of people buying modest but important products. Leopoldi's is an excellent hardware store in every respect, run by exceptionally kind & friendly people. I always leave there in a good mood.

Hoyt Street

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vanishing Daylight

It's only October, but still dark when I leave for work in the morning & there are only a couple of hours after work before darkness draws in again. It's very confining to be locked into such a routine, when really I'm desperate to be aimlessly loafing around on the streets, taking photographs & so forth. I may have to devise a plan. Perhaps, rather than heading home, I need to take the train to different neighborhoods at least once a week, to take in an wintery hour of fading light outside my own neighborhood. There's definitely a need for a visual jolt to the M-F grind.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sendak tells parents to "go to hell."

Maurice Sendak has not lost his curmudgeonly disdain for those who prissify children's culture. Good man.
For those that haven't seen the Wild Things film yet, here's the preview. I liked it a lot, but agree with those critics who feel it is too long. An hour would have been a perfect length & would have made the emotional traumas on the island less drawn out. It's probably best for those 8 & up, NOT because it's too scary (I'm all for dark tales for little ones!), but because of its length, & emotional complexity. An eight or nine year old could find it very satisfying fare indeed.
As I watched the film, I did get a bit distracted by Tony Soprano/Wild Thing parallels (James Gandolfini plays the central Thing) - I'm sure there had to be an element of calculated effect in the casting here. And of course the film made me think of the kids I work with at a residential school, of their rages, their destruction, & their desperate sense of abandonment. Wild things, every one.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Guy Ritchie, Man of the People?

Marina Hyde reads an Esquire interview with Guy Ritchie , is less than impressed, & questions his working class street cred.
Try this:
"The great thing about Gypsies is they keep you smart," Guy pronounces, before disproving his thesis in jaw-dropping style. "They will steal, you can bet on it. But they know things. They teach you lessons. About steam engines, about coursing dogs, folk music. They give great currency to language . . . "
and this
"What you've got with marmalade is fucking bitter and sweet," Guy explains. "Now, the marmalade at [the place they had breakfast], that's an accessible marmalade. And my sensibility is accessible. My nature is, I like accessible shit."