Recently in Happy Category

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on the fence


Today is the eleventh anniversary of this blog. During the past year posting has remained a little sluggish, especially when compared to peak times, say, before the modern miracle, and seductive distraction, of Twitter, but I have no intention of letting the site lapse altogether.

In the meantime, this is a brief description of its history, in the same words I used a year ago:


The blog began when, finding myself totally frustrated with the idiocy and brutishness of my country's response to the events of September 11 and feeling almost totally isolated in my disgust, I started sending a series of emails to people I knew well, sharing my thoughts and my anger. A few months later I started jameswagner.com, intending it to be a more structured - and more widely broadcast - form for the kinds of unelicited rants with which I had been testing the patience of my friends. It was also intended to include ruminations on subjects in which I thought others might share my interest.

Almost from the start there were entries on politics, the arts, queerdom, history, New York and the world, and within a year they began to be accompanied by images and photographs. Many of the latter have been my own.


April 27 also marks the anniversary of the day I met Barry, my perfect partner in everything (and Wunderkind webmaster); it was exactly twenty two-years ago tonight.


[for an image of number of years this blog has been operating, I chose the last two digits of an address shown on a fence I saw in Midtown today]

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adding them up


Today marks the end of a full decade for this blog.

As I have been more than a little slow in posting over the past year (probably from having discovered more of the outside world - and of course Twitter), I felt I didn't deserve a real number on this anniversary; instead of a 10 I've gone for three numbers which add up to 10.

I can't predict what, or how much, will show up in the blog over the next year, but It's not going away. In the meantime this is a brief description of its history, in pretty much the same words I used a year ago:


The blog began when, finding myself totally frustrated with the idiocy and brutishness of my country's response to the events of September 11 and feeling almost totally isolated in my disgust, I started sending a series of emails to people I knew well, sharing my thoughts and my anger. A few months later I started jameswagner.com, intending it to be a more structured - and more widely broadcast - form for the kinds of unelicited rants with which I had been testing the patience of my friends. It was also intended to include ruminations on subjects in which I thought others might share my interest.

Almost from the start there were entries on politics, the arts, queerdom, history, New York and the world, and within a year they began to be accompanied by images and photographs. Many of the latter have been my own.


April 27 is another anniversary for me, much more precious and infinitely more important than the launch of this modest little blog: I met Barry, my perfect partner in everything (and Wunderkind webmaster) exactly twenty one-years ago today.


[the image is that of the modernist numbers above one of the entrances of the building two doors down from us, a very sturdy structure which incidentally houses the National Office of the American Communist Party USA]

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this clock has been stuck on nine for some time; I'm moving on to ten


Today marks the ninth anniversary of this blog. It began when, finding myself totally frustrated with the idiocy and brutishness of my country's response to the events of September 11 and feeling almost totally isolated in my disgust, I started sending a series of emails to people I knew well, sharing my thoughts and my anger. A few months later I started jameswagner.com, intending it to be a more structured and more widely broadcast form for the kinds of unelicited rants which were testing the patience of my friends. It was also intended to include ruminations on subjects in which I thought others might share my interest.

Almost from the start there were entries on politics, the arts, queerdom, history, New York and the world, and within a year they began to be accompanied by images and photographs. Many of the latter have been my own.


April 27 marks another anniversary for me, one infinitely more important than the launch of this modest little blog: I met Barry, my perfect partner in everything, and Wunderkind webmaster, exactly twenty years ago today.


[the image is that of a beautiful clock mounted high on the outside of the handsome bank located across the street from our apartment, the modernist West 23rd St. building constructed for The Broadway Savings Bank in 1948; the architect was Harold R. Sleeper]

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It's now the twelfth day, and even if some of us are thousands of miles away from the magnificent heroes in Egypt, I think we're all pretty stressed out. Maybe it's time for a tribute to the Egyptian soul and sense of humor - with a bit of soul and humor from, you guessed it, the Germans!

The image above is from a Der Spiegel page of 14 totally enchanting (is that too irreverent? I don't think so) images from the demonstrations in Cairo, headlined "Mit Suppentöpfen ins Getümmel" [With soup pots into the fray]. I love the German language!

The article is about the need of the protesters in Tahrir Square for homemade helmets as protection from the violent attacks of paid Mubarack supporters, and their improvised solutions. The pictures don't even require translated captions.

I have absolutely no doubts that these wonderful people are going to be able to successfully defend their revolution.


NOTE: Except when they are my own, I always credit the source of the images I use on this blog, and I include the name of the photographer when I can find it. Especially in consideration of the horrible circumstances under which all photographers are operating at this time in Egypt, I am very disturbed that there was no name attached to these images. I can only hope that the explanation has to do with the personal protection of their author.


[image from Der Spiegel (Agence France-Presse)]


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Barry and I were at Grand Ferry Park Saturday afternoon, but, bicycle-less and resolved to remain fully-clothed, we were were able to offer nothing more than admiration and documentation for New York's contribution to the World Naked Bike Ride. We watched an upbeat crowd of enthusiasts assemble and ride off in a deliciously and infectiously brash rally which took them over the Williamsburg Bridge and into Manhattan as far north as the UN before returning across the river later to party.

Enthusiasts in cities all over the planet have been taking this annual event very seriously for years. They seem to get it, even if New York doesn't. With an ebullience and a commitment which should be heartening to anyone who questions our culture of oil and cars, and who supports a sustainable transport alternative, people elsewhere have taken to the streets in impressive numbers - and in unashamed expression. Until yesterday however, in spite of (or because of?) the Naked Bike Ride's Dionysian attractions and its celebration of freedom, New York's participation had for years been chimerical, and finally pretty underwhelming.

I doubt anyone's been counting cheeks, but it looks to me like the city "showed" better this year (even if we're not yet up to the standard set by a certain awesome English seaside resort town).


Note: To be fair, the images I'm publishing at the top and bottom of this post are a somewhat misleading representation of what the bicyclists looked like once they hit the road. Many of the costumes seen here were later removed, beginning even as the group was assembling at the top of Grand Ferry Park. To wit:


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In the still and video images I've seen on line, most spectators around the city seem to have enjoyed their exposure to the group's rolling march, but some may be asking what's the connection between environmentalism, bicycles, and nakedness. Why is this action naked? I may be prejudiced, but I'd say that not only do bikes have a huge potential for raising the quality of the environmental, one which we could start realizing almost immediately, but bikes also (when used civilly) seem to be able to charm almost anyone.

So bikes may be excellent poster children for saving the planet, but why naked bicyclists?

Two years ago Mark Barwell, a very fit-looking English environmental activist, took part in the Brighton & Hove Naked Bike Ride, and the BBC interviewed him prior to the run, photographing him in road costume ("completely starkers", as the reporter offered in the accompanying audio link). Barwell discussed the serious objectives of the demonstration and went on to address what everyone always zeros in on: "The idea is to be as loud as possible, really", he said, and then he offered the best explanation ever for its anomalous motif: [my transcript below]

Cyclists on the road are really the most vulnerable road users. Cycle lanes tend to appear and disappear all over the place, and drivers as a rule are quite sensitive to cyclists on the road, but there are quite a lot of issues where we're very much vulnerable, and that's where the naked thing comes in. It's to highlight the vulnerability, and also, as a follow through, to celebrate body freedom, and the fact that a naked body really isn't that bad a deal.

It must have had something to do with the rendezvous' Williamsburg location: I don't think I've ever before seen so much pale nerd skin, its beauties enhanced here by a lot of body paint broadcasting genuine conviction.


The image at the top is of the group about to leave the park; those which appear below were all collected in the hour before.


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For much more, go to the New York Post video site for Jeff Lieberman's excellent video coverage of the ride's swath through Manhattan.


[I tried my best to get this post up sooner, but I was having serious server problems all day Sunday]


ADDENDA: I've uploaded additional images on Flickr, and Gothamist has more photos and video (look for Oliver "waving" to the cars on the bridge); go for the slide show on John Zwinck's feed and that of dogseat

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but it won't be just about the uniform


I love bikes; I love bicyclists; I love naked. Tomorrow afternoon, Saturday, in a rare, very special concurrence of the stars, like-minded enthusiasts will be privileged to witness or be part of an awesome event promising all three distractions - if they make their way over to Williamsburg some time around 5 o'clock.

World Naked Bike Ride will be celebrated by New York-area enthusiasts starting with a rally beginning at that hour in Grand Ferry Park. Time's Up! has the details here.

The annual world-wide event is described by our local activists as "A fun and liberating protest towards reducing the dangers posed to our world and our bodies by auto and oil dependence!", and they advise:

Clothing is optional, please come as bare as you dare. Creative costuming is also highly encouraged. Body painting and bike decoration will start at 5pm, with the ride departing no sooner than 6:30pm, no later than 7:00pm. Be sure to bring lights, bells, a sense of humor and a positive attitude!

There will be plenty of laughs to accompany a message born in disgust and anger, and one which is growing increasingly louder, but the continuing, and still unfolding, news about the horrors of the Gulf oil spill ensures that both the humor and the protest will be more visible and powerful this year.

The media can no longer afford to ignore the issues which will bring masses of colorful and determined bicyclists into streets all around the world tomorrow.


The picture at the top is from last year's (world-wide) event, specifically, "Naked Bike Ride London 2009". The Brits seem totally into it.


[image from itslefty via Flickr]

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Harry Wieder, above at lower right, at a press conference calling for wheelchair access seven days a week to the James A. Farley Post Office. [Times caption]


Today's New York Times will include this lovely, absolutely lovely piece about Harry Wieder (which the paper unfortunately burdened with a totally lame headline*) by Susan Dominus: "Remembering the Little Man Who Was a Big Voice for Causes".

He sometimes attended seven or eight meetings in a day, even if he snored his way through one or two of them. His friends joked that he must have a clone — “but why would anyone clone someone that strange?” Mr. Wasserman [Marvin Wasserman, a longtime ally and occasional victim] said.


*
I dunno, but I think I actually prefer, "Gay dwarf activist killed by New York taxi", the headline I saw two days ago on an Australian site.


[Michael A. Harris image from the Times site]

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Today is the eighth anniversary of this blog.

I said it last year, and I'm delighted and incredibly privileged to say it again: This is also the anniversary of what turned out to be the most important event in my life, the night Barry and I met (now nineteen years ago).

Last year I also wrote, looking at the world outside our circle of close friends, that I was "more upbeat about the world" than I had been the year before, the eighth year of our second Bush, adding, "but only a bit". That hasn't changed, a bit.

And happy birthday, Paddy Johnson!


[the image is of a portion of the street number on the glass above one of the Art Deco entrances of the former Port Authority Commerce Building (1932), 111 Eighth Avenue the wall seen several feet behind the glass is covered with gold leaf]

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Brothers Mike and Doug Starn's Metropolitan Museum roof installation, "BambĂș: You Can't, You Don't, and You Won't Stop", opens today, April 27. Barry and I were at the press preview yesterday morning. I'm sharing here a few of the images with which I returned.

I'm not really drawn to openings (of any kind, galleries, performances or film) just for the sake of being there first. There has to be some other lure; it might be the prospect of being around creative friends. And only the promise of something very special, also something which almost has to be experienced in the relative isolation of a preview could normally bring me to the Upper East Side before noon, but there we were yesterday at 11 am, standing in the rain on the roof of the Met, and there wasn't a friend of any kind in sight.

Oh yes, I admit that I was also there because I was looking forward to some terrific, uncrowded photo opportunities, even if we weren't going to be able to scale the heights of the bamboo cloud surrounding us.

It turned out that the "BambĂș" itself was friendly enough, even if the wet-blankets working at the underwriting desks of the museum's insurance company refused to let anyone enter the internal footpaths. It's a prohibition which can be expected to be applied, throughout the spring, summer and early fall, whenever the surfaces become wet.

The Starn's piece will not move across the roof, as did their earlier bamboo sculpture at the former Tallix factory in Beacon, New York. There the structure, assembled inside an enormous, 320-foot space, was continuously reconstructed by dismantling individual poles and carrying them down the floor to be reassembled into (another?) monumental piece, several times over and over, and then back again.

The forest at the Met will continue to grow in height throughout the spring and summer, and the existing paths constructed within it (in the sky, so to speak) will be extended further during at least much of that time. Visitors who are not so unfortunate as to show up on a drizzly day can expect to encounter a number of sturdy rock climbers, mustered from northern New England and the European Alps, working on the piece above their heads.

The other friendly faces we encountered were those of the Starns themselves. I've been encountering their work for more than 25 years, and I've never been disappointed by what I've seen as they've reconfigured the world around them. On Monday they were completely generous with their time and open to any queries from the press.

"BambĂș" likely represents the most complete transformation of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden in the twenty-three years of the space's history. It may also turn out to be the most successful, not least because for its visitors it's probably going to be the most exciting ever.

I thought it was a pretty awesome piece, not least for the fact that its rather serious scale depends on only a rather smallish carbon footprint, and for being a frankly ephemeral construction (ephemeral except in the memory of those who will experience it). The very fact that it was done at all is a remarkable accomplishment for the artists, the Museum, and, yes, that insurance company too.


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Now I'm thinking about the piece as art. It's a maze, with elements both random and designed. It's a forest of natural, wooden materials, yet bound together with synthetic, nylon cords. But this "forest" has been planted in the middle of, and yet above, a great artificial metropolis by the hand of man alone. It has been accomplished through the borrowing of the products of nature as well as human genius. It displays attributes of chaos as well as order, and the contributions made by nature and by man both exhibit each of those. Every piece in it was assembled, arranged, and bound into place by artists, although working closely with their collaborators. Every element of the structure has an intelligence and a rhythm. Not one part of it is quite accidental or entirely superfluous.

The forest maze closes forever on October 31. I wish instead that we could flood the roof and watch it grow forever.


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the artists: Doug (l.) and Mike

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Even the tulips manage to look more genteel on the Upper East Side. This pink bower was spotted on Sunday gathered together in the tidy front garden of an elegant apartment building in the 70's.

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