Showing posts with label new york city. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new york city. Show all posts

Friday, November 13, 2015



•   The right-wing commentariat has gone absolutely bonkers over the college kids with their microaggressions and their safe spaces and whatnot -- especially since the Missouri crisis got a significant number of black people involved. It's like S.W.I.N.E. meets the Black Panthers! Hence, headlines like "The First Amendment is Dying" (National Review), "The Self-Destruction of the American University" (Weekly Standard), "A Generation that Hates Free Speech" (Commentary), etc. NR drama queen David French has a good one: Before inviting his fellow nuts to purge the universities of liberal taint ("Conservatives possess the power of the federal purse... It’s time for a cultural and political war against the intellectual and legal corruption of the university Left"), he tells this cautionary tale of the commie campus and what it did to a friend's kid:
Years ago, I left my law firm — where I worked as a commercial litigator — to defend free speech, religious liberty, and due process on campus, first as president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), then as director of the Center for Academic Freedom at the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom. As I left, a friend asked why I’d give up my practice to take on higher-education reform. He was incredulous. His daughter had just been accepted to an elite college, he’d just visited, and he found the school to be everything he imagined — expensive, yes, but beautiful, prestigious, and fun.

In less than a year, he apologized. He understood my career choice. His daughter had come home for the holidays, transformed. The vibrant, joyful Christian girl who’d left for school had returned sullen and depressed. She hated her family’s values, she resented her parents, and she was obviously drinking too much. The school had stripped down her value system — all in the name of “critical thinking” — and replaced it with angry groupthink. Life and hope were replaced with fear and loathing. A social-justice warrior was born.
The kid went to college and rejected her family's values. Obviously they should have sent her to a Christian finishing school instead of an "elite college." Now it'll take a shitload of reprogramming to get her to sing hymns and hate paupers again! [shakes fist] Liberal academia, you have made a powerful enemy! We won't rest until Yale and all those radical hotbeds teach nothing but Reagan, God and Jesus!

•   I'll tell you the real problem with the kids today. Many years ago I lived at 174 Rivington Street in the Lower East Side. You'd think there'd be a plaque there, but no. Instead, according to the New Yorker, there is this:
Like its spiritual hero, Ron Burgundy, of “Anchorman,” this popular new Will Ferrell-themed bar on the Lower East Side is a loud, swinging, bad-taste good time. Fan art hangs on the walls; a nook in the back is decorated with lava lamps, cowbells, and a (jazz) flute. But, like Ferrell’s George W. Bush, the bar can be fuzzy on strategery. Where Ferrell’s characters joyfully mock obnoxiousness, Stay Classy celebrates it, serving sweet cocktails whose jokey names (Smelly Pirate Hooker, Dirty Mike and the Boys) are printed in all caps on a laminated menu...
I weep for this generation.

•   Real quick, for theater fans in New York: The Ivo van Hove production of A View from The Bridge is stateside now. I saw a simulcast of it from London some months back. I'm always nervous when a classic text gets the whoopee treatment from an ambitious director, and when the actors came out barefoot into what looked like an oversized bocce pit, I steeled for the worst. But it turns out turning the dial up one or two notches on the subtext, and even getting a little Grotowksi with it, actually helps this already-weird play a great deal, especially with brave actors like these embodying the furies. I bought it all, including the quasi-choral handling of the climax, and when it was over I felt like I'd been somewhere and I don't mean Red Hook. Recommended.

Monday, September 14, 2015


A few people have asked me what I thought of Edmund White’s NYT magazine essay, “Why Can’t We Stop Talking About New York in the Late 1970s?” — which title some youngbloods will probably impudently echo, in the manner of do we have to have leftovers again? I think White, a writer I admire, was doing a job of work here, and I suspect his catalogue of rough street scenes (“rats galloping underfoot or a stickup in broad daylight on busy Christopher Street”) and his Roll Call of Great Names ("the representative figures of this New York were Susan Sontag, Jasper Johns, George Balanchine, Robert Wilson, Robert Mapplethorpe” etc. etc.) have more to do with packaging (see NYTM's “related coveragephoto features) than with Wordsworthian commotion recollected in tranquillity.

But I enjoyed it anyway, of course; I enjoy any summoning of the old town as it was in my youth. I don’t get up to New York much anymore, mainly because I miss it too much to even look at it -- it just breaks my heart to be reminded that it goes on without me. But pre-gentrification New York, that’s something that does not go on, but remains as it was. It can be viewed as a gutter-glittering object of exploitation, in simulacra like that crappy CBGB movie and (I assume) the upcoming Scorsese thing and so on. But it also lives in the sustaining blood of old guttersnipe hearts like mine.

As to the question: Why do we still talk about it? I have spoken on this many times before. But allow me to make one or two more points on the subject:

One reason we talk about 70s New York is because there’s not much else to talk about. I’m sure there are plenty of exciting things going on in New York right now. I read, for example, about those painted topless ladies in Times Square, and recognize and admire their place in the time-honored New York Circle of Hype: First, someone aggressively pushes a right, and then someone else exploits that right for money (and the New York Post exploits it as part of their “Democrats bring back Son of Sam” horseshit, and so on).

All well and good. But if we are talking about the arts, and the developments in New York life that cause them to not only survive but also thrive and coalesce into movements that inform and uplift American and even world culture, someone will have to explain to me how the current era is ever going to make that happen. Mind you, that may not be the era’s fault; we are in a famously atomized social media environment, where it’s not as easy as it once was for a few critics and artists to bum-rush the show. But when your idea of the Next Big Thing is not, say, punk rock, which is still happening (albeit in a debased form) decades later, but artisanal hobo bindles from Williamsburg, then you have to at least consider the idea that the problem is not the tide of history, but you and your buddies. (Then again, maybe it is history -- they don't make that like they used to, either.)

Bigger than that, though, in the imagination of a public that still swoons for The 70s City whether they were there or not, is the freedom, I think. They don’t usually mention that in the essays and the biopics. What do you mean, freedom? Isn't safety the first freedom? Aren't we much safer in our lovely gated communities than in any city?

But when ordinary people look through the peep-show glasses at the dirty streets and the sketchy characters of 70s New York, I don’t think they thrill to it because they desire to be mugged; I think they like it because they suspect that the danger came with something they would want, but can no longer get on any terms. And they're right.

White alludes to the fact that you could live cheap in New York back then: “…would-be writers, singers, dancers could afford to live in Manhattan’s (East, if not, West) Village, before everyone marginal was further marginalized by being squeezed out to Bushwick or Hoboken,” he says. “Face-to-face encounters are essential to a city’s vitality, even among people who aren’t sure of each other’s names, for the exchange of ideas and to generate a sense of electricity.”

To get at why we really still talk about New York in the 70s, let’s look beyond what that meant for artistic critical mass, and at what that meant for day-to-day life. Because not everyone I knew back then was an artist, but everyone I knew back then — people I befriended at CBGBs or at after-hours coke bars or in public parks or in ill-lit little apartments with the music turned up — was living where I was and as I was, and we all knew the deal. When I went to New York with some promises of couches to sleep on and $20 in my pocket, I knew I was making a trade: I would be endangered, and in some unimportant ways constrained, but I would be free. I took the trade. The first place I had of my own was a railroad flat on 11th Street between First and Second; it was so roach-infested I had to get a friend who worked in a factory to slip me some industrial foggers (the place smelled of bug spray for months after I used them, but never saw a roach again). Because all the windows were on one wall, which made fans nearly useless for drawing air through the place, and because I couldn’t afford an air conditioner (and it was on the top floor of a six-story walkup), on summer nights I would douse myself with cold water sprayed from a rubber hose in the tub in the kitchen, and immediately go lay in my single bed sopping wet. Some nights I had to get up once or twice and do it again.

It sounds like poverty, and it was — I had a job as a busboy and I still qualified for food stamps, and I didn’t have a lot of walking-around money. But it was an old-fashioned kind of poverty — the kind you could actually work your way up out of (or at least, up into a more self-sustaining kind of poverty) — and still get your kicks. I got that busboy job within ten days of coming to New York. And I was able to save money — cash from tips that I stuck under the cushions of those couches — to put down a deposit on an apartment. And that railroad flat? $125 a month. I think the monthly electric bill was like $12. I’d go to CB’s, have a few beers, go to the Kiev for pierogies after, and be down less than $20 on the night. And when I had a day off, I didn’t have to make plans — I was in New York City. I could walk out my door and be on the best vacation ever. Someone might get me high. Someone might fuck me. Someone might kill me, true. But you took the good with the bad.

This reminiscence sounds highly personal, but really, hundreds of thousands of people at the time, and millions in the aggregate, had a pretty similar experience, and I lived not just in my own private pleasure but in the jet-stream of everyone else’s. The place Edmund White describes was not just a stage on which the 70s art heroes built their careers. It wasn’t just Richard Hell’s and Chuck Close’s and Susan Sarandon’s New York. It was mine. And it was anybody’s who wanted it, pretty much, because it barely cost anything beyond the guts to live it. Maybe it’s too bad that we can’t have another punk rock scene, but it’s a fucking disaster that we can’t have that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Joel Kotkin, who’s been declaring urban life so over for years, is back to preach the gospel again to the conservatives who love his schtick. The last U.S. Census revealed a 12% jump in urban population between 2000 to 2010 – a significant reversal of decades of white flight – and the trend seems not to be reversing, but Kotkin still reassures the rubes that the outlands will always be #1:
Despite all the constant claims of a massive “return to the city,” urban populations are growing no faster than those in suburbs, and, in the past few years, far slower than those of the hated exurbs. This means we won’t see much change in the foreseeable future in the current 70 to 80 percent of people in metropolitan America who live in suburbs and beyond.
This seems rather defensive – who hates exurbs, besides the people forced to live in them? Anyway what really seems to bother Kotkin is that cities no longer give us Republican mayors like Rudy Giuliani, but commies like Bill de Blasio, and Republicans’ vote numbers in cities, traditionally lousy, are even worse than they used to be. Kotkin laments this as a sign of “increasingly homogeneous political culture,” because diversity suddenly ceases to be a swear word to conservatives when it benefits them.

What really seems to piss Kotkin off, though, is the kind of people who are beefing up the cities. The “white-majority, middle-class neighborhoods in places like Brooklyn, Queens and the San Fernando Valley” have gone away, replaced by “racial minorities, hipsters, and upper-class sophisticates” – a trifecta of rightwing boogeymen!

Kotkin complains about the collapse of manufacturing – as if it were caused by liberal elitism, not by rampaging capitalism – but seems less interested in giving poor and marginally educated citizens back their traditional employment than in nostalgia for old Archie Bunker types versus the young, black, collegiate crew that has supplanted them. The new-class resentment is so thick I thought at times I was reading a Megan McArdle column.

While I have never seen Kotkin disturbed by the vast gulf in wealth between Wall Street bankers and the lumpenproles, he is very sensitive to inequality now that hippie-commies are in on it:
This urban economy has created many of the most unequal places in the country. At the top are the rich and super-affluent who have rediscovered the blessings of urbanity, followed by a large cadre of young and middle-aged professionals, many of them childless.
These childless cadres go for “good restaurants, shops and festivals, not child-friendly parks and family-oriented stores. Sometimes even crazy notions—such as allowing people to walk through the streets of San Francisco naked—are tolerated in a way no child-centric suburb would allow.” You can practically hear his audience gasp at this like simple country folk watching a melodrama of wicked city life.

But any Sodom-and-Gomorrah story worth its pillar of salt must predict doom for the ungodly, and Kotkin obliges:
Such social imbalances are not, as is the favored term among the trendy, sustainable. We appear to be creating the conditions for a new wave of violent crime on a scale not seen since the early 1990s. Along with poverty, public disorderliness, gang activity, homelessness and homicides are on the rise in manyAmerican core cities, including Baltimore, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and New York. Racial tensions, particularly with the police, have worsened. So even as left-leaning politicians try to rein in police, recent IRS data in Chicago reveals, the middle class appears to once again be leaving for suburban and other locales.
The plague-o-crime card is a popular favorite with this crew; we see it in cruder iterations at places like Infowars (“PROTESTERS DECLARE THEY ARE READY FOR WAR AS AMERICA’S IMPOVERISHED INNER CITIES THREATEN TO ERUPT“), but also at National Review, most recently in a story by Stephen Eide called “Revive Law-and-Order Conservatism”:
The spectacle of chaos descending on cities long dominated by Democrats obviously plays to the GOP’s advantage. Independent voters in purple-state suburbs don’t like riots. If next summer Philadelphia erupts around the time of the 2016 Democratic national convention, that’s going to be hard for the Left to explain.
This is so wonderfully ripe you almost want to ignore Eide’s vague nod to the facts – “Yes, murders, assaults, and robberies have plummeted since the early 1990s, but the peak was very high to begin with.” (Since he buried it, apparently he’d like you ignore it, too.) But whether up or down, crime is important as the talisman with which the GOP will win nervous honky voters. But first the brethren have to toughen up:
But short-term political calculations aside, Republican candidates must provide leadership on this issue. Conservative attitudes toward crime and punishment are notably softer now than they have been in many decades. Nebraska, which hasn’t voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964, outlawed the death penalty in May.
That “libertarian moment” was fun while it lasted, but there’s an election coming up, and so it’s back to magic lantern shows of “racial minorities, hipsters, and upper-class sophisticates” casting long shadows across the electorally-fruited plain.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


You've heard about the NYPD sneaking into Wikipedia to edit brutality victim Eric Garner's page and those of other victims so that they might better reflect the cops' own view of events. Probably you figured this is the sort of bullshit that's so egregious even conservatives wouldn't approve out loud. Well, you forgot about City Journal, also known as Late-Stage Giuliani In Print, where the problem is always The Black Guy. Here's Matthew Hennessey (whom we last saw asking "Is Bill de Blasio still a Sandinista at heart?") on the subject:
Cue the predictable howls of outrage at this attempt to whitewash the cold-blooded murder of an innocent man. The technology website Ars Technica called the edits an attempt “to sanitize Wikipedia entries about cases of police brutality.” Think Progress said they were an example of the police department’s fumbling its response to “increased scrutiny” after recent protests. 
The outrage is misplaced, however. The real scandal is that anyone thinks Wikipedia is a reliable source of unbiased information.
[blink. blink.]
...At best, Wikipedia is an approximation of the truth. If the philosophy is come one, come all, then the NYPD has as much right to fiddle with the entries that pertain to it as anyone else. Let the edits fall where they may.
In other words: See, Wikipedia isn't perfect, so why are you complaining that we're smearing it with shit? (In other words, their traditional argument when it comes to healthcare or any other public equity they've fucked up.)

Just in case you're not yet sure where Hennessey is coming from, here's his portrayal of the Garner case:
Garner’s death was caught on a cell phone video and has been viewed by millions across the country, but what happened on the day he died remains in dispute.
You know, like everyone saw the Apollo 11 moon footage, but there's still a perfectly understandable controversy over whether it was fake. Also global warming!
Reactions to the video vary. Some think the cops murdered Garner; others think he goaded them into taking him down. Some see Garner as the victim of an out-of-control police force targeting African-American men. Indeed, Mayor Bill de Blasio called Garner “a father, a husband, a son—a good man.” Others say that he was a career petty criminal with a chip on his shoulder.
In either case, I'm sure all good people can agree that Garner deserved to die.
With so much to disagree about, it’s no surprise that Garner’s Wikipedia page has become a battleground.
For people like this America needs a Master of Bullshit degree, perhaps bestowed with a cattle brand.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


(h/t Josh Marshall) Go, New York comrades -- avenge Stalin, Lenin, Billie BoggsLarry Hogue, and me! I can't be with you, but after the victory's won and the city collapses I will visit and toast you all in crack and Champale.

UPDATE. The really crabby ones are going in for that you'll-all-be-sorry-someday bit. Daniel Greenfield:
And next time one of the innocent victims of Stop and Frisk is pounding your face into the sidewalk with one hand while digging through your pockets with the other, wave to the pair of beat cops sitting in the window of the coffee shop. And they'll wave back without getting up. Because you voted for this. And you're getting what you deserve...
I think a bum sneezed on this guy once and he shit himself.
And that experimental art gallery, the one with collages of world leaders made out of broken glass as a statement against capitalism? It's a burnt out abandoned building again. The owner who used to want 10 million bucks for the building would give it to you in exchange for paying the tax bill.
But you won't take it. You voted for De Blasio, but you're not that stupid. No one buys real estate in De Blasio time.
The fuck they don't! That's when the pros buy. Buy cheap, sell dear. What kind of a capitalist are you?

Oh, Greenfield also predicts there'll be terrorist attacks because of di Blasio:
They say ten thousand people died. But a hundred thousand were affected by the gas pouring through the subway tunnels all the way down to Times Square. Some of them may die. A lot of them have scarred lungs...  
The NYPD could have stopped them. It would have stopped them under Giuliani and Bloomberg. But the terrorists were smarter than you. They waited for De Blasio time...
He closes with de Blasio voters trying to fly out of town but being blown out of the sky by Ay-rabs ("But you shouldn't complain. This is what you voted for..."). The whole thing demands to be read aloud in an Angry Masturbator voice.

UPDATE 2. Fire up the tumbrels!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


The Wall Street Journal is really pissed Bill de Blasio is cruising into the New York mayoralty:
Occupy City Hall
...The Occupy movement that in 2011 pitched street camps in the U.S. from Wall Street to San Francisco posited a tale of two Americas and class resentment unseen for many decades. The movement faded, but if the opinion polls are right, New York voters are about to elect the Occupy movement to run America's largest city.
As with Obama, no election is legitimate if the Democrat wins or is expected to.
The Big Apple is on the verge of electing a man whose explicit agenda is the repudiation of the conservative reforms achieved by a generation of city leaders from both parties, which transformed New York from a terrifying urban joke into the nation's municipal crown jewel.
Thereafter, we get a reading from The Gospel According to Rudy and scary puppets labeled "Living Wage" and "Rent Control."

But not once does Journal address the question of why New Yorkers are prepared to vote for de Blasio -- except for this pathetic specimen:
Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, is leading Republican Joe Lhota by more than 40 points. Conventional wisdom holds that this is happening mainly because New Yorkers are "tired" of Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Losing access to 16-ounce cups of soda is insufficient reason for what is likely to happen to New York.
I've been in exile a couple of years but I can say this with confidence: The soda thing isn't why the citizens are turning toward de Blasio. (For one thing, de Blasio supports the soda ban.)

If New Yorkers are tired of Bloomberg, it may be because between him and Giuliani they've had nearly twenty years of crackdown government and they're sick of it. It doesn't help that Bloomberg acts as if he's just as sick of them. Last week, for example, he altered the terms of the Met Museum's lease so that they can charge a flat fee (if you can call $25 flat), which may end the possibility of cheap admission to one of the world's great museums in one of the world's great cities -- where many residents can't afford it (and Joe Lhota doesn't seem to care about that either).

The Journal also complains that de Blasio "has held no real job," but after three terms of a guy who's a massive business success and treats his constituents like kitchen help, that's not much of a knock.

Polls show that citizens are divided over stop and frisk, but the Journal might take a hint from the fact that a clear majority of them are willing to throw it over and even risk a return to the horrors of CBGB and Mean Streets if it means an end to a corporate governance model that's always warning it can continue to provide good services only by selling out the city's patrimony. If they can also get a thumb in the eye of the suck-up press that enables it, so much the better.

I'm two hundred miles away but if de Blasio wins I'm gonna party.

UPDATE. Oh, as if I needed another reason to celebrate, Ron Radosh at PJ Media:
Whether you call it the new Popular Front uniting unabashed Marxists, revolutionary activists, and liberal Democrats, as [Sol] Stern does, or a “new New Left,” as [Tom] Hayden does, it threatens the well-being of our entire country. We may not live in New York City, but we cannot ignore what is happening there.
Yeah, when you watch TV shows set in New York, you won't be able to relax -- you'll be thinking, "The whole thing is run by commies!" Plus when you go there on business, you'll have to worry about squeegee men nationalizing your wallet.

UPDATE 2. Har, hellslittlestangel in comments, "The Journal doesn't give Giuliani enough credit. Thanks to his reforms, murder rates are at their lowest since the 1960s in the entire country." And tigrismus on the Journal's gripe that de Blasio "has held no real job": "The Journal author wrote this in rivets." Hey, be nice: There's a good chance whichever factotum wrote that editorial does cardio kick-boxing on his lunch breaks.

Also amusing: Wingnuts hung up on the fact that de Blasio expressed admiration for the Sandinistas, for God's sake, instead of the Contras as a true Reaganite would. "Bill de Blasio remains a fan of burning synagogues and persecuting Jews," babbles Daniel Greenfield  at FrontPageMag. "So it seems a fair question: Is Bill de Blasio still a Sandinista at heart?" asks Matthew Hennessey at City Journal. Must be tough having to go out at Halloween dressed as Daniel Ortega and find nobody's scared of you or even knows why they're supposed to be.

Try something else, fellas -- hey, did you know his wife is black? It may come to that, or to the shctick Paul Mirengoff thought was killer at Power Line back in August:
Public Advocate Bill Di Blasio is running because he doesn’t think there’s anyone sufficiently Progressive in the field. He rides his bicycle through the hip Brooklyn brownstone belt trolling for voters and needs no prompting to tell you that he’s Italian and his wife is African-American.
Yeah, why would anyone in New York go for a guy who rides a bike in Brooklyn? That's like eating pastrami without mayonnaise.