33rd Annual Atlantic Antic

September 30, 2007

Time once again for the Atlantic Antic, New York’s greatest street fair. The event stretches for a mile and a half on bustling Atlantic Avenue, attracting tens of thousands of Brooklynites who mix, mingle and munch the day away.

In fact, the food is one of the primary attractions, as the cafes, bars and restaurants that line the street bring their signature dishes (and often, their seating and entertainment) outdoors and members of religious congregations raise funds by proffering homemade specialties.

As a result of the focus on food, this year the event’s organizers created the Atlantic Antic Food Map, enabling fairgoers to quickly zero in on their favorite dishes before they sell out. There’s nothing as frustrating as queing up and waiting for a snowy hunk of homemade coconut cake (or a dish of fragrant paella or grilled sausages or peach cobbler) only to see the last bit sold to someone else.

Of course, it isn’t just the food that draws the crowds; people flock to the Atlantic Antic to have fun, listen to music, shop for bargains and handicrafts, see how much the neighborhood has changed in the past year and meet their neighbors in one of the most diverse, lively and historic sections of the city.

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Sign on a tree

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Barbequed pig’s head

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Craftsman selling jewelry

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Sauce bottles

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Clown

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Shucking oysters

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Crafters selling jewelry

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Drawing dog’s portrait (yes, the dog)

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Jazz orchestra on the street

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Modelling wedding gowns

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Dishing up homemade desserts

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Rocking the stage

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Old friends meet on Atlantic Ave.

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Shopping in drapery booth

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Rabbi welcomes visitors to portable sukkah

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Belly dancer with Eddie the Sheik

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Selling dragon puppets

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Dancing garbage can encourages recycling

Atlantic Antic Food Map
Atlantic Antic 2007
Atlantic Antic 2006
Atlantic Antic 2005


Signs of Ramadan

September 27, 2007

Ramadan is a religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar year (this year, it begins September 13 and ends October 12). The holy month commemorates the period when the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

During Ramadan, Moslems around the world are obligated to pray, perform charitible acts, focus less on material concerns and spend more time in spiritual contemplation. From sunup to sundown, they must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and intimate relations.

Throughout the month, breakfast is eaten before dawn and large meals, often featuring special foods, are consumed at night. At the end of Ramadan, Moslems celebrate Eid ul Fitr, a joyous holiday that marks the breaking of the fast.

In non-Moslem countries, the observance of Ramadan usually occurs in a low-key, unobtrusive manner. But, in New York City, if you know where to look, you will see the signs of the faithful.

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Under scaffolding near Broadway, men face Mecca to pray

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Sign honoring Ramadan at Brooklyn Borough Hall

Ramadan Awareness Campaign 2007
Islamicity: Ramadan Around the World
Ramadan on the Net


Downtown Doorbells

September 25, 2007

These doorbells are wired onto the exterior of a building in Tribeca.

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Doorbells at 65 West Broadway

NY Magazine: Tribeca


Bill Shannon’s Window

September 20, 2007

This summer’s massive River to River Festival is in its final days. The last dance program of the season, Window, is being presented on Lower Broadway all this week at lunchtime.

Created by Bill Shannon, Windows is presented to two audiences simultaneously: pedestrians on the street and viewers observing through the windows of a nearby skyscraper.

The Step Fienz, a crew of breakdancers, accompany Shannon (also known as “the Crutchmaster”), as he performs on a skateboard and crutches, weaving in and out of traffic, flipping and spinning, startling drivers and engaging passers-by with his grace, athleticism and humor.

Those who entered the lofty viewing space  (located in an ordinary business office) were able to see live video closeups of the action below and listen to recorded music mixed with Shannon’s comments and street noise. The same music is played outside, but only on the dancers’ earpieces. 

Passers-by can’t hear the music, see the audience gathered at the office windows (unless they look up and squint), or view the cameras positioned above. As a result, most of the people on the street don’t realize they are witnessing (and participating in) a carefully-planned performance. The spontaneous interactions between the unsuspecting pedestrians and the dancers are, in and of themselves, vital parts of the show.

The crutch and skateboard, while important elements of the dance, are not simply used for dramatic effect. Shannon’s dance technique—known as the Shannon Technique—is one he invented out of necessity. Born with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (a rare hip deformity), the dancer and choreographer has spent most of his life on crutches.

He has traveled and performed around the world, won numerous awards for his work and choreographed Cirque de Soleil’s production, Varekai. A documentary about Shannon, entitled Crutch, is scheduled to premiere at film festivals this fall.

An audience gathers at the window
An audience gathers at the window

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Shannon skates around traffic

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He is joined by another skateboarder

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He lies on the sidewalk

Maneuvering with his crutches
Maneuvering with his crutches

Pedestrians walk by
Pedestrians walk by

A good samaritan stops to help
A good samaritan stops to assist

She
She “helps” him stand

Then wants to discuss religion
Then wants to discuss religion

More dancers join in
More dancers join in

The Step Fienz in action
The Step Fienz in action

Darting through the crowd
Darting through the crowd

Another attempted conversation
Another attempted conversation

Shannon aloft
Shannon aloft

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The finale

The company takes a bow
The company takes a bow

Bill Shannon
MySpace: Crutch
Village Voice: ‘Crutchmaster’ Takes Dance to the Next Level
Cirque du Soleil: Bill Shannon
Time Signature Productions: The Step Fienz
DJ Excess
MySpace: DJ Excess
River to River Festival
LMCC Sitelines: Window
The New Yorker: Window


Brooklyn Book Festival 2

September 16, 2007

For the second year in a row, the Brooklyn Book Festival was held in and around Borough Hall.

Authors, poets, publishers, booksellers, writer’s organizations and (most importantly) readers gathered for discussions, recitations, meetings, entertainment and inspiration. Anyone who believes that the Internet has made the printed word obsolete would have gone into shock as thousands of books were eagerly signed, sold, swapped, coveted and devoured.

The day’s festivities included book-related crafts for kids, a poetry slam, acting troupes performing excerpts from classics, literary triva games and crossword puzzles, and the Brooklyn Public Library kicking off a borough-wide “Big Read” of Harper Lee’s beloved novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Participating authors included:
Chris Abani, The Virgin of Flames, GraceLand, Hands Washing Water
Megan Abbott, Die a Little, The Song is You, Queenpin
Harry Allen, Hip-Hop Activist and Media Assassin
Sinan Antoon, I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody, The Baghdad Blues

Doreen Baingana, Tropical Fish: Stories from Entebbe
Dan Barber, Chef’s Story
Wayne Barrett, Rudy!, Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11
Moustafa Bayoumi, coeditor: The Edward Said Reader
Phil Bildner, Barnstormers, Playing the Field
Michael Ian Black, comedian
Shane Book, Gathering Ground, Revival, Breathing Fire 2
David Bouley, East of Paris, Chef’s Story
Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty; Rebel Angels
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Race, Law, and American Society
Michael Buckley, The Sisters Grimm
Marina Budhos, Ask Me No Questions, The Professor of Light

Alyssa Capucilli, Biscuit
Jim Carroll, The Basketball Diaries, Forced Entries, Fear of Dreaming: The Selected Poems
Dominic Carter, No Momma’s Boy
Stephen Carter, New England White, The Emperor of Ocean Park
Ana Castillo, Peel My Love Like an Onion, So Far from God
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone
Colin Channer, Waiting in Vain, Passing Through
Cassandra Clare, City of Bones
Staceyann Chin, Skyscrapers, Taxis & Tampons
Troy CLE, The Marvelous World: The Marvelous Effect (Book One)
Joseph Coulson, The Vanishing Moon, Of Song and Water

Steve Dalachinsky, The Final Nite & Other Poems
Edwidge Danticat, Breath Eyes Memory, The Dew Breaker, Brother I’m Dying
Randall DeSeve, Toy Boat

Daniel Ehrenhaft, The Wessex Papers Volumes 1-3, 10 Things to Do Before I Die

Mike Farrell, Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist
Jeffrey Feldman, Framing the Debate: Famous Presidential Speeches and How Progressives Can Use Them
Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End: A Novel
Laura Flanders, Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians
Paula Fox, The Slave Dancer, One-Eyed Cat

Mary Gaitskill, Veronica, Two Girls Fat and Thin, Bad Behavior
Laurie Garrett, Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health
Amitav Ghosh, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide
Myla Goldberg, Bee Season, Wickett’s Remedy, Time’s Magpie
Wayne Greenhaw, King of Country, Ghosts on the Road, The Thunder of Angels
Ben Greenman, A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both, Superbad, Superworse
Eliza Griswold, Wideawake Field: Poems

Kimiko Hahn, The Narrow Road to the Interior: Poems, The Artist’s Daughter: Poems
Ayun Halliday, The Big Rumpus, No Touch Monkey!, Job Hopper, Dirty Sugar Cookies
Pete Hamill, The Gift, Downtown: My Manhattan, Why Sinatra Matters
Dorothy Hamilton, Chef’s Story
Jonathan Hayes, Hard Death, Precious Blood
Tad Hills, Duck and Goose, Duck Duck Goose, Waking up Wendell
Steve Hindy, Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery
Jeff Hobbs, The Tourists: A Novel
A.M. Homes, The Mistress’s Daughter, This Book Will Save Your Life
Charles Hynes, Triple Homicide

Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation

Simon Jacobson, Toward a Meaningful Life
Joyce Johnson, Minor Characters, Missing Men, Door Wide Open

Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: Low Culture Manifesto
Seth Kushner, The Brooklynites

Anthony LaSala, The Brooklynites
John Leland, Hip, Why Kerouac Matters
Jonathan Lethem, The Fortress of Solitude, Motherless Brooklyn, You Don’t Love Me Yet
Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted, The Fairest, Magic Lessons
Tao Lin, Eeeee Eee Eeee, Bed
Phillip Lopate, Getting Personal, Waterfront, Totally Tenderly Tragically
Errol Louis, Grameen’s Lessons. (Grameen Bank): An Article from: Dollars & Sense

Kam Mak, My Chinatown, The Moon of the Monarch Butterflies
Melissa Marr, Wicked Lovely
Bernice McFadden, Nowhere is a Place, Camilla’s Roses, Loving Donovan, Sugar
Joe Meno, Hairstyles of the Damned, Boy Detective Fails, Tender as Hellfire
Susanna Moore, My Old Sweetheart, In the Cut, The Big Girls

Mohammed Naseehu Ali, The Prophet of Zongo Street
Gloria Naylor, 1996, Mama Day, The Women of Brewster Place
Sharyn November, Firebirds, Firebirds Rising

David Ottaway, Afrocommunism, Chained Together

George Packer, The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq, The Village of Waiting
Antonio Pagliarulo, A Different Kind of Heat, The Celebutantes: On the Avenue
Gregory Pardlo, Totem
Christian Parenti, The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq
Matt de la Peña, Ball Don’t Lie
Neal Pollack, Alternadad, Beneath the Axis of Evil
Katha Pollitt, Reasonable Creatures, Virginity or Death!
Francine Prose, Blue Angel, A Changed Man, Reading Like a Writer

Sharon Robinson, Safe at Home, Jackie’s Nine, Promises to Keep
Anthony Romero, In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror

George Saunders, In Persuasion Nation, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
Jon Scieszka, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Cowboy and Octopus
Ken Siegelman, City Souls, Through Global Currents, Urbania
Danny Simmons, I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn’t Find My Way Home
Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons, Words of Wisdom: Daily Affirmations of Faith
Justine Simmons, God Can You Hear Me?
Amy Sohn, Run Catch Kiss, My Old Man
Martha Southgate, Another Way to Dance, The Fall of Rome, Third Girl from the Left
Elizabeth Strout, Amy and Isabelle, Abide with Me
Robert Sullivan, Cross Country: Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles…, Rats

Mari Takabayashi, I Live in Brooklyn
Michael Thomas, Man Gone Down
Lynne Tillman, American Genius: A Comedy, This is Not It
David Dante Troutt, The Monkey Suit, The Importance of Being Dangerous, After the Storm

Eisa Nefertari Ulen, Crystelle Morning
Anya Ulinich, Petropolis

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Dirty Girls Social Club, Playing with Boys, Make Him Look Good
Ivan Velez Jr., Blood Syndicate, A Man Called Holocaust, Static

Lauren Weinstein, Inside Vineyland, Girl Stories
Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt
Eric Wight, My Dead Girlfriend
Mo Willems, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Patricia Williams, Open House, Alchemy of Race and Rights
Tia Williams, It Chicks, Accidental Diva
Brian Wood, Channel Zero, Demo, DMZ
Jacqueline Woodson, Feathers, Hush, Locomotion
C.D. Wright, One Big Self: An Investigation, Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil

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Actors reciting Walt Whitman’s poetry

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The crowd scrambles for tickets to author events

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Onstage for discussion of Jack Kerouac

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The Brooklyn Public Library brought their bus

Brooklyn Book Festival
Brooklyn Public Library
National Endowment for the Arts: The Big Read


A Trip at the Whitney Museum

September 14, 2007

All summer long, I heard about the Summer of Love exhibit at the Whitney Museum.

Four decades after hippies gathered at a “Human-Be-In” in Golden Gate Park, the Grateful Dead released their first album and LSD was outlawed in the US, the Whitney Museum of American Art revisited this period of psychedellia, flower power and civil unrest, examined the creative and cultural explosion that took place in San Francisco, New York and London, and put it all into an historic context.

All summer long, I met former hippies and wannabees who assured me that the exhibit was “far-out, man,” and an authentic representation of their drug-soaked youth (at least, as far as they could remember).

And all summer long, I thought I’d eventually get around to making a trip to the Madison Avenue and seeing the show. Then, suddenly, I realized that this was the closing weekend.

I ran to the Whitney and spent the evening in psychedellic bliss, gazing at the intricately-drawn concert posters, watching the light shows, viewing “mind-blowing” experimental films, wearing goggles intended to create distorted visions, crawling through brightly-colored, sculpted environments, blinking at the strobe lights and spinning metal circles and listening to Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.

Listening? Yes, this is the first major museum show I’ve seen where the audiotour included a complete soundtrack, with songs tied to most of the major works. For example, stand in front of the case full of underground magazines, push the number posted on the wall and you’d listen to Bob Dylan singing Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship / My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip / My toes too numb to step / Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin‘.

The program’s musical selections included:

* The 13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me
* The Beatles – All You Need Is Love
* The Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
* The Beatles – Revolution No. 9
* Big Brother &Amp; The Holding Company: Piece Of My Heart
* Eric Burdon – San Franciscan Nights
* Butterfield Blues Band – East-West
* The Byrds – So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
* The Charlatans – Baby Won’t You Tell Me
* Chicago – Someday
* Country Joe & the Fish – Acid Commercial
* Country Joe & the Fish – Bass Strings
* Cream – Crossroads
* Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young – Ohio
* The Doors – Break On Through
* Bob Dylan – Mr. Tamourine Man
* Fleur Des Lys – Circles
* The Fugs – Kill For Peace
* Allen Ginsberg – Tonight Let’s All Make Love In London
* Grateful Dead – I Know You Rider
* Great Society – Somebody To Love
* Hapshash And The Coloured Coat – H-O-P-P Why
* Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced (Live)
* Jimi Hendrix – Foxy Lady
* Iron Butterfly – In A Gadda Da Vida
* Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
* Jefferson Airplane – Won’t You Try Saturday Afternoon
* Janis Joplin – Mercedes Benz
* Janis Joplin – Raise Your Hand
* Moby Grape – Dark Magic
* David Peel – I Like Marijuana
* Pink Floyd – Interstellar Overdrive
* Purple Gang – Granny Takes A Trip
* Quicksilver Messenger Service – Mona
* The Rolling Stones – Street Fighting Man
* The Rolling Stones – Wild Horses
* Santana – Samba Pa Ti
* Santana – Soul Sacrifice
* The Velvet Underground – Venus In Furs
* The Velvet Underground – What Goes On
* Frank Zappa & Mothers Of Invention – Willie The Pimp

I descended to the Museum’s lower level to catch a glimpse of one psychedellic masterpiece that didn’t fit into the main galleries: Janis Joplin’s painted Porsche, exhibited on the museum’s patio. As I passed through the gift shop to reach it, I happened upon workers busily setting up seats for a one-time-only performance of Hotel Cassiopeia: The Backstory.

Part of the museum’s “Whitney Live” series, the show, hosted by Anne Bogart and playwright Charles Mee, was based upon the life of artist Joseph Cornell. It included an excerpt from the play Hotel Cassiopeia and presentations by filmmaker Jeanne Liotta and Cornell’s former assistant, sculptor Harry Roseman.

I joined the audience for what proved to be the perfect end to the evening: as part of a small, curious company tucked away below Manhattan’s busy streets and engrossed in an hour of art, film, music, magic and love.

SOLBrochure-1
Summer of Love brochure

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Men in dark gallery watching light show

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Janis Joplin’s Porsche (rear view)

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Janis Joplin’s Porsche (front view)

Whitney Museum
Whitney Museum: Summer of Love
Timothy Leary
Poets: Allen Ginsberg
Charles Mee
Brooklyn Academy of Music: Hotel Cassiopeia
Joseph Cornell
Jeanne Liotta
Vassar: Harry Roseman


Six Years On

September 11, 2007

This is the sixth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center.

In previous years, the city held a memorial service at the site of the vanished complex. But now, due to the construction equipment and activity at the original location, the ceremony was moved across the street to tiny Zuccotti Park.

It was a day of firsts: The first time the service wasn’t held at the site of the Twin Towers. The first time the anniversary fell on a Tuesday (the day of the attacks). The first time the sky wasn’t a clear, brilliant blue. The first time grieving family members and survivors didn’t have access to the spots where the buildings had stood.

During the ceremony, while a flute and guitar softly played, first responders who had worked during the rescue and recovery efforts stood in the rain and read the nearly 3,000 victims’ names. They paused only for four moments of silence marking the times the hijacked airplanes hit the buildings and the times the towers fell.

Those in attendance were able to cross the street and descend a long ramp to the bedrock that had supported the foundations of the World Trade Center. There a single, shallow wooden pool had been erected to represent the footprints of the Twin Towers. That was where they left pictures, placed birthday gifts and anniversary cards, and wrote messages for and about those they’d lost.

Once the dignitaries departed, the marksmen left the rooftops of the surrounding buildings, the reporters and photographers went on to the next story and the chairs were folded up and taken away, the day’s on-and-off drizzle turned into a torrent of rain.

Down at the site, deep below ground level, the downpour overflowed the small wooden pool, blurred the penned notes and photos along its rim, and shattered the thousands of roses that floated on its surface. 

Note: More photos from the memorial service are posted here.

Invitation/Credential
Invitation

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Girl at service with photo in her arms & on her shirt

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Tattoo of Uncle Mike

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NYPD officer with thousand-yard stare

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Therapy dogs with girls

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TV in Port Authority trailer showing live broadcast

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Flowers in fence surrounding site

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Pool with replicas of tower footprints

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Thank you for being my friend

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“We lost both,” she said.

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We miss u Uncle Harry

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We love and miss you

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Save us a space on your shimmering star

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Matthew Diaz

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I ♥ you!

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FDNY photo in the pool

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Dad, keep holding the door

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Happy 29th birthday

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Volunteer distributing roses

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Police officer writing on reflecting pool

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I love you so much daddy

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God bless

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Teddy bear with roses

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Family coming back up the ramp

NYC Dept of Parks: Remembering Those Lost On 9/11
ABC: Video of a somber day
NY Post: Heaven’s Tears Flow
AM New York: Somber, emotional ceremony
NY Times: Bloomberg Tries to Move the City Beyond 9/11 Grief
NY Times: 90th Floor Frozen, Even as Ground Zero Changes
NY TImes: Near Ground Zero, Much Is Changed
NY Times: How Much Tribute Is Enough?


Ludfest

September 9, 2007

Ludfest?

To understand the rationale behind Ludfest (the Ludlow Street Festival), you should know that New York City is divided into 123 different Police Precincts. The tiny Seventh Precinct, second smallest in the city, is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Long a home to poor immigrants, bargain shops and, more recently, hipsters, foodies and trust fund babies, the area is served by the Seventh Precinct Community Council. The group sponsors a variety of activities and events including today’s fundraiser/block party.

The day-long Ludfest, held on the busy block of Ludlow Street between Stanton and Rivington, featured vendors, community and political organizations, a DJ and several up-and-coming local bands. All proceeds will be used for local youth programs including Christmas and Chanukah toy give-aways.

In front of Pianos
Smoking in front of Pianos

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Slices for sale outside Isabella’s

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Isabella’s $1 calzone

Outside the Living Room
Outside the Living Room

Crowd in front of Some Odd Rubies
Crowd in front of Some Odd Rubies

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The DJ

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Near the stage

Local cop on the beat
Local cop on the beat

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A Place to Bury Strangers

Case for A Place to Bury Strangers
Case for A Place to Bury Strangers

MySpace: Ludfest
NYC Police Precincts
New York Magazine: How Low Can You Go?
MySpace: A Place To Bury Strangers
Secret Machines
Dub Trio
Other Passengers
The Sugar Report
Emok
Isabella’s Oven
Pianos
The Living Room
Some Odd Rubies
Cake Shop


Baby rabbit’s for sell

September 8, 2007

This sign (click on the photo to read it) was taped to a post in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall. It says:

Baby rabbit’s for sell. They are cute and fun so if you would like one come to Court St. The price is 30 per rabbit

No indication of who is selling the rabbits, when they will be available, where on Court Street they can be found, and whether the price is $30 or 30¢ each.

However, there’s no doubt that rabbits can be cute and fun — and tasty, too.

Baby rabbits for sell

Itty Bitty Bunny
Rabbit Habit


The New York Television Festival

September 6, 2007

Two years ago, the New York Television Festival (NYTF) was established to bring together independent video artists, television insiders and fans. The Festival allows people with new and original visions to connect with those who are already established in the broadcast industry. 

Some of the producers, writers and directors who’ve exhibited their work in past years have established deals with major television networks including NBC Universal and A&E. The festival’s slogan is “All you need is an idea and a video camera.”

Tonight, the NYTF’s programming included the Comedy Short Cuts Diversity Film Festival. Organized by comedian Wil Sylvince and hosted by cast members of sitcom 30 Rock, the evening showcased eight independent comedy shorts:

After the program, I exited the theatre at the same moment the 30 Rock crowd was leaving and became surrounded by their party. I decided to go with the flow.

When they all veered to the right, ascended a flight of stairs and breezed past a phalanx of security guards, I did the same and found myself in the official after-party.

A nice surprise; a show and dinner (satay, hors d’oeuvres and wine), too! I mingled with the crowd, posed for photos and, when I left, was presented with a gift bag containing a DVD, a water bottle and a nifty little flash drive. Not bad for an otherwise quiet Thursday night.

partnerCard

09-10-2007 02;39;44PM.BMP

The New York Television Festival
Comedy Short Cuts
MySpace: Comedy Short Cuts Film Festival
MySpace: Wil Sylvince
30 Rock
Bitch
El Chisme
A Fat Girl’s Guide to Yoga
Aquarium
The Sunday Man
TV Squad: NYTVF: NBC Comedy Short Cuts


Goodbye to the Floating Pool Lady

September 3, 2007

For most of us, it came as a wonderful surprise. On July 4, a swimming pool called the Floating Pool Lady opened on the waterfront below Brooklyn Heights. The occasion marked the first time in more than 200 years that the public has had access to this area.

For years activists have been working with officials to transform this section of the Brooklyn waterfront — long the site of abandoned piers, vacant warehouses, weed-filled parking lots and rusting storage sheds — into parkland. The pool and its adjacent 40,000 square foot sandy “beach” represent the first stage of the realization of their plans.

The brainchild of former parks department official Ann Buttenwieser, the pool was built on an old Lousiana cargo barge and moored among the piers on the East River. In addition to the handicapped-accessible pool, organizers installed an open-air shower, a snack bar, bike racks, volleyball nets, dressing rooms, porta-potties, chair and umbrella rentals and picnic tables.

Free shuttle bus service brought visitors directly to the pool from nearby subway stations. Due to its small size (maximum capacity is only 175 persons), gaining entrance to one of the tightly scheduled, carefully monitored 1 1/2 hour swim sessions was somewhat complicated.

First, potential swimmers waited for the announcement that it was time to line up to obtain wristbands for the next available swim session. The wristbands, which were distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, served as admission tickets. They were color keyed to the day’s the scheduled sessions: on weekdays, four time slots were available; on weekends, six were scheduled.

Once wristbands were obtained, visitors waited for an announcement telling them it was time to line up for admisssion. Some people were turned away every day, and many had long waits, but they didn’t lack things to do.

Visitors could spend time lying on the beach, listening to the music, munching on food prepared at the concession stand, playing frisbee and volleyball, dancing and enjoying the astonishing views of New York Harbor.

Sadly, the Floating Lady was only a temporary feature. Its stay in Brooklyn was limited to two months (officals plan to move it to another borough next summer) and this was its final day. Fans of the pool rushed to the closing-day festivities and the chance to take one last dip, eat one last tofu dog, fly one last kite and get one last sunburn.

From the Promenade
View of the barge from the Promenade

Sign on Furman Street
Sign on Furman Street

The front gate
Entering the front gate

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Butterflies walking the perimeter

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Looking towards Manhattan

Access lift for the disabled
Access lift for disabled swimmers

Sitting on the edge
Sitting on the edge of the pool

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Swimmers lounging on the upper deck

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Volleyball match on the sand

Playing hopscotch on the beach
Playing hopscotch on the beach

Hula hoop contest
The hula hoop contest

Human flower at entrance to pool
Human flower at entrance to pool

Pool rules
Pool rules

Brooklyn Bridge Conservancy: The Floating Pool
NYC Parks Dept: Floating Pool Makes A Splash
The Neptune Foundation
NY Post: ‘Float’ Leaving B’klyn
Athletic Business: East River Floater


The Brazilian Day Festival

September 2, 2007

On September 7, 1822, Brazil achieved its independence from Portugal. To honor the day, for the past quarter century New York has celebrated with an enormous street fair known as the Brazilian Day Festival.

Held the the first Sunday in September, the event is billed as the world’s largest and most important Brazilian event abroad. Many expatriates come from other cities and states, some chartering special buses for the occasion.

Popular music and television stars are flown in from Brazil to perform on a temporary stage set up in the middle of 6th Avenue. The crowd is so large that few can get near the stage, so the show is simulcast on an enormous JumboTron screen.

The celebration is centered around 43rd Street and 6th Avenue, an area known as “Little Brazil.” While the city doesn’t contain a distinctly Brazilian neighborhood or shopping district — in fact, Brazilian residents refer to themselves as “an invisible community” — this block is known for its concentration of Brazilian businesses and social events and Portugese is widely spoken.
 
Exuberent revelers drape themselves in yellow, green and blue (the colors of the Brazilian flag), flock to the vendors selling all manner of Brazilian goods and services, including music, videos, and fragrant delicacies such as pasteles (meat or cheese-stuffed dough), coxinha (deep-fried chicken pastries), feijoada (meat and bean stew) and churrasco (grilled meat).

Happy, relaxed and easy-going, they fill the restaurants and cafes to overflowing, gulp down caipirinhas (Brazilian margaritas) and doing their finest capoeira, batuque and samba moves, they dance, dance, dance the day away.

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Little Brazil street sign

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Brazilian bracelet

Two couples
Two couples

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Watching the show on the JumboTron

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Vendor selling food

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Girl and carved animals for sale

Woman in headdress
Woman in headdress

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Woman in Brazilian costume

Man in wig
Man in wig

Girl with flag
Girl with flag

Selling souvenirs
Selling souvenirs

Brazilian girls
Brazilian women

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Kissing in the street

Official Brazilian Day Web site
New York Brazil Group
Brazzil Magazine: Brazil’s Biggest Street Party Overseas
Brazzil: The Invisible Brazilians
Hip Brazil
The Brasilians
TV Globo
Wikipedia: JumboTron


New York Burlesque Festival

September 1, 2007

Advertised as “4 Days and Nights of Glitter and Glamour in Gotham,” the New York Burlesque Festival takes place over four days at several locations around Manhattan.

Tonight I attended the festival’s Saturday Spectacular hosted by New York showbiz legend Mister Murray Hill. The evening featured about 40 acts with names like Gwendoline Lamour, Panty Raid, Lux la Croix, Peekaboo Pointe, Vivienne Vavoom and the Peach Tartes.

If you haven’t seen a burlesque performance, you might anticipate something similar to the raunchy grind-and-grab found in go-go bars and so-called “gentlemen’s clubs.” But in fact, modern-day burlesque is a form of entertainment that combines glamour, dance, performance art, a tad of titillation and more than a touch of humor and its practitioners attract equal numbers of male and female fans.

Most of the women onstage resembled WWII-era pin-up girls come to life, dressed in elbow-length gloves, tightly-laced corsets, veiled hats, fluffy boas, slinky satin, yards of rhinestones and towering heels. They flirted, teased, waved feathery fans, twirled their tassles, dusted themselves with enormous powder puffs and shimmied until their fringes flew.

Each act on the bill put its own twist on the form: Miss Saturn danced with hula hoops, Gravity Plays Favorites did intricate acrobatic moves on a pole, Diamond Back Annie was inspired by the rock group Kiss, Lux La Croix portrayed a lawn jockey and Imogen Kelly (using a French accent) was a witty Marie Antoinette.

Mr. Murray Hill
Mr. Murray Hill

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Mr. Murray Hill helps replace a lost pasty

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Tassles twirling

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With red sequins

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Diamond Back Annie

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Diamond Back Annie

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Using feathered fans

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With red feathers

New York Burlesque Festival
Backstage Blog: 5th New York Burlesque Festival
Mr. Murray Hill
Angie Pontani
Amber Ray
MySpace: Bastard Keith
Belladonnas De Lux
Big Apple Burlesque
Miss Delirium Tremens
MySpace: Diamondback Annie
Gravity Plays Favorites
Gwendoline Lamour
Lux La Croix
Panty Raid
Peach Tartes
Peekaboo Pointe
Miss Saturn
Tigerlil
MySpace: Tigger
Vivienne Vavoom
MySpace: World Famous *Bob*
NY Post: Vavoom Town
NY Magazine: The Return of Burlesque in NYC
Riverfront Times: Gravity Plays Favorites
Secrets in Lace
Thirsty Girl Productions


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