November 2003 Archives

Day for night

To control the crowd

No buses tonight

Jay-Z “disappeared” in Madison Square Garden late Tuesday night, but New York City police thought that afterward he and/or his friends and fans were making an appearance in a club on West 23rd Street. The sweet night doorman in our own buildiing, which is roughly across the street, told me it’s called ZeZa. [I can’t confirm the name, especially as there’s no lettering on the canopy which stretches to the curb, and I’ve seen the space undergo more than a few reincarnations over the years.]

Commissioner Kelly’s forces totally shut down to traffic the entire block from 7th to 8th Avenues, brought in high-powered illumination spots and set them up outside the doors of the club. They also parked two large, ominous police wagons within easy reach, and that was the extraordinary sight which awaited Barry and I as we rounded our corner on the way home from a late supper at Florent.

We knew nothing about the reason for the police action, but I was more than curious, expecting somebody was up to no good, so I walked up to a few onlookers [whether party-goers or passers-by, I couldn’t tell] already installed on the sidewalk to see if they might enlighten me. I got cold shoulders, nothing, and only then did I try asking a couple of guys in uniform who didn’t look particulary busy at the moment. I was told “Some rap star closed his big show uptown and moved his people down to this club.” No one would supply a name, but later I heard about Jay-Z’s retirement party and the final concert which had been staged at Madison Square Garden that night.

Why were the police interested in Jay-Z or this particular party? One of the blue uniforms told me that he and his colleagues were there on 23rd Street “for crowd control.” Uh huh.

There was absolutely nothing going on and, aside from the police presence, from the time I had arrived there was never above a couple of dozen people on the entire length of the block, so I headed home, more than a little disturbed by what I had seen and heard.

As I walked into my lobby I passed a neighbor and explained the little I had learned about the fantastic sight of a ghostly 23rd Street. His response? It’s a good thing that they’re on top of things.” I wish I could be so easily reassured.

No, actually I don’t.

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The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree under arrest, for being attractive

Apparently we have everything to fear, especially fear itself.

Bush is in the White House.

On Sunday Newsday's Dennis Duggan stared that fear in the eye. He didn't blink.

I went to Rockefeller Center yesterday to take in the preparations for next week's Christmas tree lighting, a sparkling symbol of good will.

But what a surprise to see the tree surrounded by heavily armed anti-terror cops.

And my reception was anything but warm: Private security guards bum-rushed me twice.

In between these two sets of verbal walking papers, I sat on an outdoor bench with Gregory Murphy, 50, who had witnessed the destruction of the Twin Towers from his Brooklyn Heights home.

"These people here," he said, pointing to some of the patrolling security guards who work for Tishman Speyer Properties, "are making me very nervous."

Tishman Speyer owns Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building and 666 Fifth Avenue.

Earlier in the day, they turned down my request to speak to their security people.

"They are worried about security," I was told by a flak-catcher with the Howard Rubenstein public relations firm, which represents Tishman Speyer.

Murphy, an engineer, was trying to relax - which was difficult among bomb-sniffing canines.

"It's pretty nerve-racking. I saw those police, kids really, with their fingers on the triggers, and that didn't make me feel secure at all."

I was stopped by square-badge security guards patrolling the plaza. The first time I was asked what I was doing there. "I hope you're not interviewing anyone," one of them warned.

Of course I was, and I was doing it the second time a security guard on the real estate developer's payroll stopped me. This time I was asked to show my press card, but after flashing it, I still wasn't allowed to cross Fifth Avenue and enter Rockefeller Plaza.

Merry Christmas?

It should have been obvious for some time that both the interests of terrorists everywhere and those of a hell-bent administration in Washington are being served by our fear, especially since the extraordinary security measures it inspires are not likely to confound any intelligent plans of the former and they certainly ease the way for the agenda of the latter.

FDR was speaking about the depression when he warned the country against fear, but he was to be no stranger to either domestic disaster or real war. He would be ashamed of our cowardice and our stupidity today.

[image from Newsday/Julia Gaines]

Satirical cartoon from the Democratic weekly, The Verdict, 1890's

There's a revealing photo on page A20 of the NYTimes print edition this morning showing Tommy Thompson, Bush's Secretary of Health and Human Services, being congratulated by Arthur Lifson, President of the insurance giant, CIGNA. The occasion was the Senate's passage of the Republicrats' corporation-friendly Medicare bill on Saturday. The location was the "lobby" of the Senate.

Where's William Novelli, the AARP's chief executive? Probably next in line, if he had not in fact cut in front of Lifson.

The picture doesn't appear anywhere on line, so far as I can determine right now, but Barry and I are both shocked that photographers were allowed to record the encounter in the first place. I guess nobody really cares about observing the proprieties any more. The [more and more only theoretical] voters sure don't seem to mind.

Actually the Times article which seems to accompany the image of Lifson and Thompson thanking our Senate for its toadiness doesn't refer to either man, but is instead a short discussion of the budget implications of the bill.

For a useful commentary, see Paul Vitello in Newsday, although he admits that like everyone else, except for 17 very privileged people in Congress, he doesn't understand the 90-page bill so hastily passed yesterday but not to be put into effect until three years from now:

It is a Gordian knot of promises that seem designed to entice and befuddle and send millions rummaging in the junk drawer for the calculator - while Congress rushes to adopt the thing in time for Thanksgiving.

Go figure your way through this plan, then. It makes few unconditional promises except one - and that is to the drug companies. They are promised no price controls; no limits on how much they can charge or how much they can keep spending on television advertising for those remedies they make to combat all of life's ills except old age and poverty.

Viagra, Nexium, Lipitor, Celebrex, Zoloft, constipation, reflux and depression will remain your companions in TV-viewing for the foreseeable future, rest assured.

In his conclusion, Vitello shows us the bottom line: ". . . by the time people figure out whether this is more good than bad, the Republican presidential re-election campaign - complete with a prescription drug benefit - will be over."

[image from Ohio State University, Department of History]

On 10th Avenue, outside the Exit Art "L Factor" opening on Saturday night

Border fence, rasor wire and observation tower installed at the entrance to the show

On Saturday night Exit Art opened its latest show, "The L Factor." The curators' assignment was to challenge a group of wonderfully fecund young North American Latino visual artists to create work relating to North American Latino (large and small-c) culture. It's a great show, with some pretty heavy stuff alongside of, and sometimes within, works of great wit.

The opening party was very decorative, but something less than what we'd imagined it would be. Everyone had apparently been doing some serious community outreach, but at least up until the time we left the party everything was still pretty straight in every way, especially for an art crowd.

Maybe it was the impact of the chain link fence at the entrance, topped with rasor wire and dominated by a watchtower crowded with visitors with cameras.

Exit Art is redefining the geography of the Chelsea gallery scene, even if it's new location is not a part of Chelsea by anyone's definition and even if right now I think it's still some seven blocks north of its nearest colleagues, Sean Kelly on 26th Street. Time Out New York now has offices in Exit Art's building, and Art Resources Transfer may soon be moving to 33rd Street. It's hard to imagine that the west 30's could remain dominated by shipping companies and tire repair stands much longer. And, no, we don't need or want a stadium - ever.

The High Line development will change everything, but I hope that even with that reinvention there will still be room for people other than the moneychangers.

Anyway, it's worth the trek right now, and there's a neat cafe once you get there.

Shelby Hughes's fog regularly enveloped the crowd at Daniel Reich

Trick Giglio and Barry Hoggard in front of Nick Maus's work at Daniel's

Daniel Reich ran away from home on Saturday. The great new space on 23rd Street gave the enthusiastic mob which attends this delightful, improbable wizard's every move just a bit more elbow room, but, come the cold weather and with it a much less friendly sidewalk, we will all be feeling the pinch again - and getting to know each other even better.

It's that darn crowd. But they are beautiful.

And of course they were the show on Saturday, but judging from even a quick look at the stuff I saw lying around I expect a return visit to the new work of Christian Holstad in the rear and Nick Maus and Shelby Hughes up front will confirm the attractions of the art as well. It all needed at least a little more room than we were able to give it last night.

Jeremy Blake, still from "Reading Ossie Clark"

A beautiful show, and a literate video delightful on any level. It's at Feigen Contemoporary, and it closes at the end of this week.

[image taken while viewing the DVD projection in the gallery on Saturday]


"first, do no harm"

I can hardly believe that in the year 2003 I had to be in the street demonstrating against the imminent privatization and evisceration of virtually the only sliver of public health care now available in this once proud nation. But there I was this morning outside the New York offices of the AARP, screaming my head off and holding a big, mean sign, condemning the largest seniors advocacy group in the country for the greedy betrayal of its members.

The AARP is supporting the Republican Medicare bill and is now spending millions of its members' dues to pay for advertising pushing immediate passage of the legislation as proposed. The AARP has finally become just another insurance company.

We should not be dithering over the kinda, sorta medical help with which the wealthiest country on earth might deign to reward some of its citizens, some of the time. We should not have to be talking about this particular absurd bill. We should not be talking any more about how to care for the drug and insurance companies. We should instead be talking about how to care for people, with an efficient, comprehensive single-payer national healthcare system.

Working on ideas for the obverse of my "AARP SOLD OUT!" sign last night I had come up with "GET YOUR PROFITS OFF OF MY HEALTH CARE". I almost immediately hesitated however, because of doubts that an American audience was able to digest the concept of health care divorced from profit-making. Barry reassured me by offering the analogy of the federal highway program. A government which can make roads its direct responsibility can also make the health of its people its responsibility.

The text made the cut.

If we have to deal first with the bill now on the table, can we at least insist that Congress "first, do no harm"? On Public Radio this morning Ted Kennedy recalled that famous admonition of Hippocrates while chastizing his colleagues' haste in fiddling with Medicare.

The House and the Senate should both tear the damn thing up, and instead, do something really worthy of its charge.

[image notes: Most of the people in the crowd today would be eligible for AARP membership; almost without exception the few demonstrators there under 50 were AIDS or queer activists (where was everybody else?); one "partisan" sign survived totally unchallenged, even though there might actually have been an old-school Republican or two in the crowd; Bill Falk, who was representing SAGE today, is holding my sloppy sign in the third picture; and the last image is of a real activist burning her real AARP card (some people announced earlier that they were going to go walk straight into the organization's offices and demand a refund of their dues)]

In the fifties the accusation which could terrorize American liberals, especially if they held or were hoping to hold office, was that of being soft on communism.

Today, the same nasty little minds are at it again, but there's a new scary noun. The current campaign of intimidation is being waged over whether one is sufficiently hard on terrorism, whatever that means.

After months of sustained attacks against President Bush in Democratic primary debates and commercials, the Republican Party is responding this week with its first advertisement of the presidential race, portraying Mr. Bush as fighting terrorism while his potential challengers try to undermine him with their sniping.

The new commercial gives the first hint of the themes Mr. Bush's campaign is likely to press in its early days. It shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."

Can a president be president if always hidden and always hiding?

The one being protected always has the last word. For examples, look at the public behavior of every legitimate chief executive we've ever had.

Some people and agencies are responsible for offering a president the maximum possible degree of security. But when is it overkill? In the end the protectee decides upon the amount of protection, which today more and more means real isolation, to be tolerated at any given time or place. This is especially true since even the most extraordinary measures cannot guarantee success in the end.

The decisions a president makes about personal mobility and visiblity will rest on many factors, including his or her intelligence, awareness, familiarity with the world, democratic concept of office, both desire and ability to communicate, self-assurance, pride and yes, personal courage. I didn't even mention popularity. Bush fails in every area, so we shouldn't be surprised that he has been in a virtual cocoon since seizing office. Even his few public appearances are invariably before invited guests, preferably on military installations or in government spaces.

The one thing he posesses indisputably is power. Power buys a lot of reassurance, and almost enough security, but it guarantees isolation..

This week we've seen him locked up inside the blockhouse of Buckingham Palace and the solid steel vault of his 10 or 12 thousand pound tank, a prisoner of his public indifference, his evil policy and his cowardice, but most people on this side of the water are only vaguely aware of the extent to which he and his bloated establishment have gone to isolate him on this supposedly triumphal and celebratory trip.

Some of his handlers' wildest schemes have been shot down by hosts otherwise far too accomodating of White House obsessions, as James Rideway reports this week in the Village Voice:

One British official told the press that preparations for the Bush visit had been "hijacked" by the U.S. Secret Service. "They wanted to make structural changes to the Queen's home, and this was never going to happen," said the aide. "Agents brought in structural engineers who said walls must be strengthened and the blast-proof glass replaced with something stronger. They were obsessed, and still are, by the threat of an attack from the air."

There was even a plan for a Black Hawk helicopter to hover over the palace grounds. But the Brits said no.

They were going to re-build Buck House? 'nuff said.

The British show Bush what they think of him

In contrast to the few dozen people who were in Baghdad's Fardus Square [now called "Freedom Square"] earlier this year when Americans toppled Saddam Hussein's statue, today's event in Trafalgar Square was cheered by as many people who could fit into the area. That crowd still represented only a portion of the total of more than 100,000 or so demonstrators marching in the streets of London today. Curiously, almost all of them represented the disrespected American thug's putative ally.

[image from Yahoo News, AP Photo/ John D. McHugh]

No ordinary armored car. And by the way, look at the Queen's equivalent. Where's the hero in this story? He's certainly not in a flight suit.

Still trying to make my point, still asking the questions.

Ms. Bush today leaving the American armored personnel carrier, the protection of which incidently puts to shame even the best of those assigned to our men and women in Iraq.

Ms. Windsor last year entering the British unarmored state vehicle, designed for maximum human visibility - good sightlines for both the occupants and the public.

Point of information: When Vladimir Putin made his own state visit to Britain this June the two heads of state rode through London in the traditional horse-drawn landau. Not all who watched supported their presence, but it was all in a day's work for the occupants of the open carriage passing among a free people.

NOTE: In a move which significantly distinguishes their efforts from the contemporary American solution, the manufacturers of the Bentley designed it to run on LPG, or liquid petroleum gas, allowing for an increased range while reducing polluting emissions. Also, no white-wall tyres. Don't those Yanks know there's a war on?

[image of the Cadillac from Reuters/Jason Reed on Yahoo News, that of the Bentley from]

Lindis Percy, doing her good thing yesterday

Don't underestimate the Brits, or the seniors. Reuters supplied the picture and the following caption:

Lindis Percy, an anti-war protestor, stands on top of the gates of Buckingham Palace with an upside-down U.S. flag with the inscription 'Elizabeth Windsor and Co we don't want him here,' November 17, 2003 as a British police officer stands below. The woman, wearing a fluorescent waistcoat, dodged tight security to scale the six-meter high wrought iron gates on the eve of U.S. President's George W. Bush's state visit to Britain.
The BBC reports, "Mrs Percy, of Hull, who was arrested and later bailed, said she was 'amazed' she had been able to unfurl a banner declaring Mr Bush was not welcome in the UK."Lindis Percy is a creative and limber 61-year-old grandmother of four. She is a career health worker and a respected activist with an impressive history.

I suspect there is one thing Lindis Percy is not, in spite of the family name. Judging from the text of her excellent sign, she may not be a monarchist, unlike so many of her countrymen, but also unlike so many of the submissive subjects of Britain's current unwelcome guest.

Incidently, Bushie didn't use the gates. He landed on the palace grounds in a helicopter, to save the emperor the embarassment of being confronted on the roads by thousands of outraged "allies".

[image from REUTERS/David Bebber]

what's wrong with this picture?

(I mean, aside from the white-wall tires.) Notice the windshield pillars. Aside from the fact that it's clearly not a pretty sight, what does it actually mean that Bush is the first American emperor to have to travel by tank wherever he goes?

The so-called Cadillac limousine which was first used at Dubya's inauguration is actually a tank disguised as an automobile, a very big and very, very, very heavy vehicle.

We aren't allowed much information, even if one way or another we did pay for it, but today the BBC tells us this much about the truck/tank they have dubbed "Cadillac One", and it's a lot more than we've gotten from any other news source up until this moment:

1. The car is a special version of the Cadillac deVille, with five inch thick armour, able to withstand rocket-propelled grenades
2. The tyres are designed to function even if punctured
3. The exact dimensions and specifications of the car are kept secret, and a second decoy car is always used
4. The car is designed to withstand chemical and biological attacks
5. The underside of the car is also armour-plated
6. The car can carry six people
Two miles per gallon, tops, I'd say.

The same article explains why this particular tank doesn't need a gun turret on the top, while reassuring us that lesser mortals, if also well-funded, may have recourse to offensive as well as defensive devices when ordering their own vehicles.

Clearly a man like President Bush travels with a huge security entourage tasked with counter-attacking assailants while his vehicle escapes.

But for those with something short of a private army, there are other counter-measures available on the market.

One of the leading companies in the field offers to create hidden weapons compartments, strengthened bumpers for ramming other vehicles off the road and, in extreme circumstances, concealed gun ports in the doors.

Gosh, it seems like just yesterday President William Jefferson Clinton was driving around in his open-top Mustang. Hey, it really was just yesterday!

By the way, the SS (Secret Service) now insists that when they are retired all presidential limousines must be destroyed rather than preserved in museums or put on used car lots - for security reasons, they maintain.

But it's not just the car of course. Bush is just a puppet, so why does he need to be surrounded by hundreds of assistants on what is clearly only a ceremonial trip? Nobody's even going to see the puffed-up little little warlord! And who would miss him if he were gone?

From the Guardian on Wednesday, in the account, "Laura, me and 700 friends", comes one figure not disputed elsewhere:

Mr Bush, his wife, Laura, and a 700-strong entourage worthy of a travelling medieval monarch, flew into Heathrow airport slightly late, at 7.22pm. The couple were greeted by the Prince of Wales, then whisked to the palace by [armored] US military helicopter.
Aside from his staff, his staff's staff, everybody's hangers-on and members of the invited and adoring press, Bush's personal armed security detail in England numbers in the hundreds by any account, all authorized to shoot to kill, and it's augmented by about 14,000 local police officers in London alone.

Shouldn't we at least be asking how we got to this point, was it inevitable, where will it end, and can we do anything to change it?

[image from the BBC]

Ted Rall reports on a few interesting numbers in his latest relaying that we're killing 44 innocent civilians in Iraq every day [documented] while "Saddam Hussein only killed 36 Iraqis a day during his 23 years in power."

Do we want totals? Respectable sources [there are no official numbers, since our government isn't interested in the subject] report that from seven to eight thousand Iraqi civilians were killed before the administration claimed victory, and about 1500 since.

So of course it makes perfect sense that we've also killed well over 400 Americans in order to get to these numbers, right?

Incidently less than 3000 people died in the U.S. as a result of the terrorist acts of September 11, the ostensible reason for our own record of killings in Western Asia.

In sum, over the last two years, supposedly in revenge for the deaths of those 3,000, somewhere just under 10,000 people have already died who had absolutely nothing to do with those events.

But again, we feel so much safer now, don't we?

Mary Jo and John, calling home, somewhere near the Statue of Liberty

In fact it was a totally delightful visit with my niece and her young son that so distracted both of us this weekend. [Witness the lack of posts since Friday, other than the images which reflected some of our itinerary.]

Barry and I did manage to visit some pretty elemental tourist sites. And by the way, there's a good reason for the popularity of those icons; most citizen New Yorkers don't give themselves leave to enjoy them until they find themselves eagerly ushering their out-of-town guests around a great city. But actually the greater pleasures of these few days were the delights and intellectual stimulation, provided by both Mary Jo and, yeah, John.

On the Number 9 trip uptown from South Ferry on Saturday after his first full day in New York, John, who is still eight, asked me, "do people here think it makes sense?" Of course as a resident I was still feeling protective of the city I love, so I assumed he was asking why people would want to live here, when he was really only asking whether we thought our subway network was at all rational. John is a student and fan of the world's urban rail transit systems and while memorizing the routes he had understandably found our own somewhat lacking in logic.

This morning he and his mother tried to visit the New York Stock Exchange. It was the last item on John's list of must-do's for his visit, but after a half dozen phone calls from their hotel they established definitively that not a single one of the New York stock or commodity exchanges now permitted the public to visit their premises, and the excuse was September 11. John was disappointed but also properly exasperated with the lack of ingenuity among the guardians of the sites of our financial wizardry. He told Mary Jo, "It's been two years! You'd think they would have figured it out by now."

Their fallback choice was the Museum of Natural History, where they have figured it out.

We're both really looking forward to John's next visit, and I think he is too.


(New York's Mulholland Drive)


By now you might have guessed that we had guests from out of town this weekend.


But neither of us landed yesterday. This time we just went for the glorious ride, each with his own relatives.

New York City Hall steps, yesterday afternoon

Yesterday afternoon the New York City Council held a hearing on the Equal Benefits Bill, which would require companies that contract with the city to offer domestic partner benefits on the same basis as spousal benefits. The image above is of a press conference organized by the bill's sponsors on the steps of City Hall immediately preceding the session.

Included in the picture are, among others, councilmembers Quinn, Jackson, Lopez, Sears, Perkins, Lopez, O'Donnell and Reed, Public Advocate Gotbaum, State Senator Duane, Assemblymembers Glick and Gottfried, Empire State Pride Executive Director Van Capelle and members of SEIU Local 32BJ, Housing Works people and a pretty diverse assembly of supportive citizens of this city state.

In addition to these faces, those who attended the hearing itself yesterday saw, sitting as supportive members of the Councilmembers Yassky, Clarke, Stewart, Katz, Liu and Gerson. Testifying were some of the figures on the steps earlier as well as Cynthia Goldstein of the San Francisco Human Rights Commisison, Brian McLaughlin of the AFL/CIO, and a number of others.

The most eloquent voices were those of Chris Quinn (as usual), Mararita Lopez, Helen Sears, Alan Van Capelle, Tom Duane, Cynthia Goldstein and Brian McLauglin.

A number of the speakers addressed the fact that the bill was not designed only for same-gender couples, but was intended for any unmarried partners. In New York, over 70% of those who have registered with the city as domestic partners since the office was established a number of years ago are male-female couples.

Some 37 or 38 council members have already signed on as supporters of the bill, INTRO. NO. 271, making it virtually veto-proof, a reference I have to insert here because in fact Mayor Bloomberg is perversely opposed to it at this time.

Two lawyers for his administration who spoke at the hearing were entirely unable to defend his opposition, and ended up making themselves more subjects of pity than of anger or frustration. In fact Council members asked that the administration bring the "Laws Department" next time if it really wanted to offer testimony. I have never seen lawyers act and speak with such lack of assurance and incompetence. I suspect that they had found themselves unable to defend professionally what they must personally abhor. Let's hope the Mayor does the same in the end.

In the end the lawyers, led by Terri Matthews who read a statement, had seemed to be defending the bigotry of the Catholic Church, or at least the importance of not discomfiting that bigotry, since they considered its contractural business operations so important to the city.

Lopez argued both outside City Hall and inside the hearing room that if faith-based paid city vendors have attitudes and policies that are antithetical to the welfare of the city they plainly should not be given the taxpayers' money. More fundamentally, she insisted, when a religious institution balks at conforming to city law and policy because of its religious principles, both it and the city have a problem even more major than the issue of benefits owed to an employee's partner or dependents. Lopez asserted that faith-based organizations may have a fundamental difficulty in providing the health care New York needs. If as a vendor the organization cannot at the very least separate its faith from the services for which it is contracted by the city it has no business being a New York City vendor at all, she concluded. Indeed, New Yorkers are not supposed to be subsidizing religious organizations in the conduct of their religious teachings and activities.

When asked by a reporter on the steps outside the hearing, the Reverend Harvey of the New York Episcopal Diocese replied that, yes, his own church had been providing domestic partner benefits for at least several years. It seems that the Roman Catholic Diocese is a utility in neither sense, that of monopoly or that of benefit.

Queens Council Member Helen Sears contested the argument that Matthews had repeated a number of times, that "social policy" should not be made through the procurement process, and disagreed with her colleague Lopez's insistence on the priority of the economic utility of the bill being discussed over its social utility. Sears insisted proudly and emphatically that the New York City Council is interested in social justice, even if denying it also has economically burdened, and would continue to directly burden, the health services of the city, because the consequence is that people are going without medical insurance.

It's not about marriage, Duane reminded the room when he observed that when a company gives a health care benefit to its employees for their married partners, it is not giving it because the employees are married, but because they are employees. In fact, of course, for many employers right now family health benefits are functionally a reward for marriage. Duane also pointed out that New York has always used its purchasing policies to pursue social justice, as seen in the ways it addressed Northern Ireland and South African issues. Finally, he was not subtle in telling the mayor that he should do the right thing at a time when same-sex couples are being threatened everywhere in this country by "people of his persuasion". He emphasized that he meant Republicans.

The big Irish guy in a suit who representated the AFL/CIO spoke of partnerships and loving human relationships, and the importance of recognizing and supporting them, when he referred to the more than 700 union members who died September 11. "Each of them had someone who loved them."

Goldstein assured the Council that San Francisco's experience has shown that a domestic partner bill like the one being offered now in New York was a win-win proposition. There simply was no downside, she argued, especially since her city had already done all the hard work in its breakthrough effort.

Van Capelle was just really good all around. A hardworking associate in the development of the bill, a loud cheerleader on the steps, an articulate spokesman inside and out, and, if you were watching yesterday, obviously a caring mentor and partner with other activists. He's also beautiful.

Councilmember Stewart thought that the bill was too narrowly drawn, that it should not be restricted to partners defined by sexual relationships, and while others in the room were certainly not unsympathetic, it's a battle which will probably have to wait for another day. The best victory would be a single-payer national healthcare system, but this is Bush's America, even if it's still our New York.

Pollyannna time. I was very impressed with the councilmembers who serve New York these days, or at least those who were visible yesterday afternoon. Barry suggests that our local politicians may be among the very few elected officials in the entire country who can still say what they really want to say - and be elected, even reelected. Maybe New York really does have to get out of the U.S. The only alternative for many of us, and it's perhaps more and more inescapable, may be emigration.

Meanwhile, back on earth, near the end of one of his statements, Stewart asked what he probably thought was a rhetorical question. Why did it take so long to get this bill going? A mumbled answer came from a couple seats to my left. "Giuliani." It was the wonderful Andy Humm, muttering under his breath while he scribbled his notes. I would like to add another answer, "Vallone". Good riddance to them both.

Bloomberg has to be next.

Chris Quinn for mayor!

the new, temporary WTC PATH terminus, still behind chain link fencing on November 13th, 2003

The path is about to be reopened.

On November 23rd a PATH train will be pulling up at the site of the World Trade Center, the first in over two years. It will be the very same train of eight cars which pulled out of the station on September 11, 2001, minutes after the Towers were hit, rescuing all of its passengers.

The image shows that the identifying sign is still being assembled.

Anne Gadwa, in "I Dream of Monster Babies"

Through fully half of the piece the dancers performed in complete darkness, but it wasn't really a problem, since a suited gentleman sat at front, stage right, reading a description by penlight.

It was that kind of a program tonight at the latest of Dance Theater Workshop's regular "Fresh Tracks" events, which schedules innovative new choreographers, sometimes for their first public exposure. I eat this stuff up - in any medium.

The light-challenged choreography was the eccentric work of Renée Archibald and Daryl Owens, who were the two actual dancers. The piece was called "Subject Obscured" and it may have had something to do with the question about the tree falling in the forest, but if so, here the question was both more and less profound. The dance was delightful.

Most of the pieces were humorous and most were text-based, or maybe the texts were dance-based. In any event it was very good dance theatre which hugely honored the name and the mission of this irreplaceable venue on 19th Street tonight.

We look forward to seeing every one of the choreographers on tonight's program again wherever they next surface. The others were Pascale Wettstein, who collaborated with her dancers in a brilliant engineering of space and a bizarre manipulation of limbs to both a jerky and buoyant effect; Ivy Baldwin, who was in a collaboration with her own dancers, who performed an intimate and abusive bathing ritual with two beautiful transparent tubs of water; Anne Gadwa, who shared her nightmares of pregnancy (including the dramatic birth of a giant plastic bottle of Pepsi) with a delighted audience; Melinda Ring, whose work reminded Barry of the childlike effect Eric Satie hoped to produce in his music; and finally, Linas Phillips and John Wyszniewski, whose performance with Jo Williamson remains absolutely indescribable, but it may suffice to say the material had something to do with an invented slavic myth about overstimulated teenagers and the poaching of the spirits of dead rabbits. The music was Black Sabbath.

[image from the Village Voice]


Nothing any New Yorker could write about this would be more damning than the naked story itself.

Washington - Republicans, including Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Vito Fossella, are considering docking a luxury cruise ship in New York Harbor where members of Congress and lobbyists could stay and play during the GOP convention next summer.

. . . .

The cruise ship, with accommodations for 2,200 guests and 14 bars and 10 restaurants, would mirror other hospitality suites DeLay (R-Texas) has championed for members of Congress at past conventions. At the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, DeLay secured private railroad cars, where members could meet and mingle with invited guests such as lobbyists - no media allowed. He also provided members of Congress with cars and drivers. The amenities were funded by corporate contributions to a political action committee.

"It's as if Tom DeLay is the personal concierge for members," said one Republican staffer who refused further identification.


I'm old enough to have been able easily to maintain, like most of my contemporaries, an indifference to the Victorian aesthetic at best, and usually a strong abhorence even of the charms and beauties fashion now allows most of us to accept so easily. One of my old prejudices was against what I thought of as fussy hothouse or parlor plants. They seemed entirely alien to clean modernism or even European classical art and architecture. They were thus to be automatically avoided, along with the gaudy glazed pots in which they were set, many of which are of course now virtually priceless.

The image above is a of a Rex Begonia, and it's there because I've finally surrendered, in frustration and ultimately in affection.

The total shade of the environment on which the small roof garden outside our apartment windows must depend doesn't seem to encourage most local plant species, so I have begun to depend instead upon the resourcefulness of generations of Victorian gardners.

One of this year's summer guests, welcomed only reluctantly, was this gorgeous Begonia, which seems to have thrived while hanging from our high breakfast room air conditioner. Until a few days ago I had expected I'd have to discard it with the first frost. In a last minute reprieve I can't really account for, the plant was removed from its hanging apparatus and set into an Art Déco porcelain cache pot. It now adorns our not-quite-Victorian parlor, where this intimate portrait was completed this afternoon.

Perhaps one of the arguments in the favor of its survival, if not of its acquisition in the first place (from the Union Square greenmarket, natch), was its subspecies name, "Rex". I think of my fabulous friend Rex Wasserman every time I look at the exotic thing. Were he around today however, even Rex himself would admit that the plant is easier to live with.

But not such damn good company.

Deitch on Wooster Saturday night - hardly a grownup to be seen

Deitch still pulls them in - both artists and their young fans - meaning a hugely-diminished SOHO cannot be ignored quite yet.

There were simultaneous openings Saturday on both Grand and Wooster Streets, and it was good to be there(s).

Highlights: Tim Lokiec, Naomi Fisher and Hernan Bas in the smaller venue, and Hisham Akira Bharoocha, Tim Hawkinson and Christopher Garrett in the great barn on Wooster, where the attractive crowd was a distraction and a return visit should reveal some more (highlights).

Tim Lokiec's drawings were exceptionally beautiful, even (or especially) if you've already seen him at LFL. Loved Tim Hawkinson's truck tire.

There is a site for the curator of the Wooster St. show, Chris Perez, but there's no Deitch website! Especially shocking in the circumstances of their moneyed hipsterdom. Logistics: 76 Grand St. and 18 Wooster Street (212) 343 7300

Beatriz Monteavaro, from the series, "Picasso visits the Planet of the Apes"

A very subjective and definitely only partial list of some of the good stuff in Williamsburg galleries this week:

Manit Sriwanichpoom's ghostly pink photographic provocations at Momenta
72 Berry

Andrew Jeffrey Wright's delightful and very smart conscience drawings at Champion
281 N. 7th

Jackie Gendel's gorgeous waxy oils at Jessica Murray, esp, Kablasto!
210 N. 6th

Meighan Gale's breathtakingly intimate effortlessly majestic self-portraits at Black & White
483 Driggs

Everest Hall's shameless sourced brush and pencil images at Bellwether
335 Grand

Andrea Loefke's enigmatic sculptures and tiny drawing constructions at S1
242 S. 1st

Beatriz Monteavaro's beautiful Picasso/Planet of the Apes obsessions at Monya Rowe
242 S. 1st

Joe Fig's sculptural reconfigurations of painters' studios at Plus Ultra
235 S. 1st

Joe Amrhein's affectionate reading of the detritus of art criticism at Roebling Hall
390 Wythe

[image from Times Stereo]

Joe Ovelman, Two Walls 2003, guerilla installation

If you missed Joe Ovelman's walls in Chelsea last month, and if you want to see more of the work I've talked about in the past on this site, stop by Oliver Kamm's 5BE Gallery by November 15, when the current small group show closes.

Ovelman has covered most of one wall of the gallery with many of the arresting images with which he had earlier wheatpasted the plywood on either 25th Street or 10th Avenue, and I don't think anyone has torn them off the plaster yet.

5BE Gallery is located on the second floor at 504 West 22nd Street, just west of 10th Avenue.

[image from Oliver Kamm 5BE Gallery]


Looks like this may be the last of the greenmarket images. The season's moving on and there should be a freeze tonight, even in Chelsea.

2 Columbus Circle

Maybe there's a chance for a last-minute reprieve.

Three preservation groups filed suit yesterday to stop the city from selling the vacant [Edward Durell Stone] city-owned building at 2 Columbus Circle to a museum that wants to strip off the building's modernist facade.

Taking issue with an environmental review that cleared the way for the building to be transferred to a quasi-public agency that would handle the sale, the preservationists demanded a new environmental impact statement on the proposed alterations. They also accused the city of moving to dispose of a building worthy of landmark status "without adequately considering the consequences of its loss."

The lawsuit alleged that because the city wanted to sell the building, the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission was reluctant to hold a public hearing on designating it a landmark. "The city's economic objectives infected the process for considering the potential landmark status of the building and subsequently tainted the environmental analysis that it performed in order to gain legal authorization for the sale," the lawsuit said.

By Vitruvius, it's the only building worth looking at in the entire plaza, er, circle. For more on both the modernist building and the political-economic and aesthetic battle, see the LANDMARK WEST, Recent Past preservation and City Review sites.

[image is historical photograph, courtesy Ezra Stoller, 1964 ©ESTO, on Recent Past Preservation site]


Buckingham Palace Throne Room

He doesn't belong there either.

Bush and his wife are planning to be in Britain this month on a very rare "state visit".

There are a lot of Americans who would be very very happy to see him thrown out. The Brits have our best wishes for every success in accomplishing that, but I expect they'll do very well indeed without any help from us (even if that were possible, protests already having been effectively proscribed here in the U.S., where they are not totally ignored).

Forgive us the presumption, but, Like Lord Nelson, we expect every Englishman and Englishwoman to do his or her duty. The urgency arises from the fact that we ourselves cannot.

It's interesting that most of the peaks and perks that actually define such a glamorous visit seem to have already been ruled out, because of the British and American authorities' fears that the people will in fact be doing exactly that when the Bushes arrive.

President Bush, visiting London in November for three days, was looking forward to meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

This was to have entailed a grand procession along the Mall with all the pomp and ceremony of a state visit, but it has been cancelled over fears that antiwar campaigners would stage a colourful and angry protest to overshadow the event.

The President was also due to address the British Parliament on his three day visit. However, that too has been cancelled.

I mean, Harold Pinter is on the barricades! How much more respectable can a movement be? See the Stop the War Coalition site for details and helpful hints..

[image from ExploreLondon]


Sound familiar? The English-born Christabel Bielenberg and her German husband Peter were eventually to become part of the German resistance, but although both were intelligent, priviledged, educated and hailed from politically-involved families with international contacts, like so many others in all societies who hope to ignore "politics" they did not see what was happening until too late.

"But it's true that we didn't protest soon enough about Hitler," she told an interviewer during the filming of "Christabel." "We just didn't know what had hit us. You read about horrors in the newspapers, but you don't really wake up to them until they touch you personally."
The Guardian places the couple within the larger context of a sophisticated but fatally-flawed society which might have prevented disaster.
They shared upper-class manipulative skills and assumptions of privilege, as well as a "distaste" (her word) for the excesses of the Nazis, especially their petty-bourgeois obsession with "respectability".

Inevitably, they joined the small minority of aristocratic, professional and intellectual dissidents whose opposition to Nazism was aesthetic and moral rather than political and practical - until Germany's impending defeat was obvious.

Peter Bielenberg's disastrous early take on Hitler makes me think of my own original dismissal, in a succession sometimes blessedly interrupted, of Nixon, Reagan, and both George Bushes.
Neither Bielenberg nor his girlfriend had much interest in politics, and when they attended an open-air Nazi rally, he led her away as Hitler rose to speak. "You may think that Germans are political idiots," he confided, "but I can assure you that they won't be so stupid as to fall for that clown."
The rest is history, for Germany. Today the consequences of an overestimation of a people's intelligence are still in the future, for the U.S. In both cases, the mistake would be paid for by the entire world.

How could you? Down here there are a lot of us who look to your good sense these days, since we have nothing of that stuff left ourselves.

Maybe we can now understand why the Canadian government hardly complained when the U.S. deported one of its citiizens to Syria last year. While returning home to Ottowa from a vacation abroad with his family that September, computer consultant Maher Arar had stopped in New York to change planes. Instead, he was detained and deported by the U.S. government.

He subsequently spent over a year in Syrian prisons, enduring beatings and tortures, and he has just returned home to Canada after being suddenly released last month. Arar and his family are accusing the Canadian security agencies, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, of providing information to U.S. authorities that led to his deportation.

After a virtual blackout of information for the last year, Canadian officials are now scrambling around trying to make just the right kind of fuss about the impropriety of the actions of the U.S. authorities and loudly denying that they themselves had anything to do with the outrage to one of their own.

I don't think it's going to work out well for them, even if they aren't likely to suffer the consequences that awaited Maher Arar.




the Apartheid Wall in Qalqilya

Meaning the grotesque Apartheid Wall being built by the Israelis in the occupied West Bank. Of course the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) have a euphemism: In English, it's "the obstacle".

This Sunday, November 9, there will be demonstrations around the world against the injustice of the wall and the occupation of Palestine, but only if you go.

This particular date was selected in June by the PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign in order to coincide with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Some of us remember an additional significance for this date. November 9 is also the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht .

[One other editorial note: Is it not appropriate to point out again and again that "the history" so often invoked to support Zionism, and especially its current abominations, is absolutely not the history of Palestine or Palestinians? And this petition comes from a German-American who wants nothing so much as to see people flourish in each other's society.]

In Manhattan supporters will be walking through the streets with mock-ups of the real wall (in some areas, concrete and 25 feet high, with incredibly-evocative gun turrets) being built in Palestine to separate peoples, families and communities.

In the U.S., there will be similar demonstrations in Berleley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pasedena and Santa Monica, California; in Iowa City, Iowa; Boston, Massachusetts; Maryville, Missouri; and Seattle, Washington. They will be joined abroad by activists in Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, Scotland, Spain and England, and this list is still in formation.

The most moving of all the actions should be the mobilizations expected all across the West Bank. Sunday's people hope to have news of these events by the time things start in Midtown Manhattan.

For more information, visit the Stop the Wall site.

If you're an American, talk to your government. Israel couldn't do any of this without us. Although a "first-world" nation, with one of the world's highest per capita incomes and boasting the fourth largest military force in the world, it receives over one-third of the total US aid to foreign countries.

In New York people will meet Sunday at 1 pm around the Button and Needle Sculpture in the garment district, at the corner of 7th Avenue and 40th Street.

[image from PENGON]


Michael Meads, Anarchist Cum Shot, 2002

The most exciting gallery show in town - at least until the next one - is at Team right now, "my people were fair and had cum in their hair (but now they're content to spray stars from your boughs)". But it wasn't the name of the show that pulled me into the space last Tuesday.

Instead, the cause of my unplanned detour as I rushed to the White Box benefit that evening was the fact that I had spotted a familiar Jeff Burton image on the back wall of the gallery's second room. Yup. From the sidewalk, almost half a floor above the space. It was something of a red flag.

Barry and I went back together yesterday, and we'll definitely return, probably more than once.

For me it might have been enough that this group show, curated by Bob Nickas, is provocative, and that it presents work by a number of young artists whose work we have already coveted or actually jumped on, but the installation is mad really awesome by the inclusion of some of their kindred of the last four decades, painter, sculptors, photographers and film or video makers, some now established, some nearly forgotten and some even ignored.

What holds it all together is its honesty and its delight in sexual pleasure. Also, the eye loves it all. There's not a dud in the entire show, a roster of 39 different artists.

Even the (serendipitous?) blending of sound from the two monitors playing near to each other contibuted to the energy of the (Six!) exhibition spaces.

One cavil, but it's more of a surprise, given this particular Team assemblage: Where's Joe Ovelman?

The show's statement by Jose Freire is a gem.

I'm not even sure much of the work is even available for sale, but I'm happy to think of the entire business as a great public service. Thanks, guys.

Oh yes, we're also delighted to find an important gallery installation whose title cannot appear in the NYTimes.

The show is up through November 15 at 526 West 26th Street.

[image from Team Gallery]



Totally unscary jack-o-lantern - except that it's a self-portrait.


This was Ricky's on West 23rd Street at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, Halloween. There were about 80 people in line, waiting to get into the store. It got worse as the day continued.

What ever happened to the DIY costume concept?

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