January 2004 Archives

We're in Mexico City. It's glorious!

While I don't expect to be posting text while we are here [too distracted], I think I will be able to regularly put uncaptioned images in this gallery. Captions when we return, I think.

Diego Rivera, detail from mural in the Palacio Nacional, Mexico City

We'll both be away for about a week, on our first visit to Mexico City, so posting is likely to be interrupted. Sweet Pea will stay home in the apartment with his tall and handsome gentleman companion while we are gone.

[image from Inter-American Institute]

Tyson and his parents

His first solo show in New York was an attraction both for the work and for the smart, beautiful crowd Tyson Reeder was able to attract to the Daniel Reich Gallery on one of the coldest nights of the winter.

Reed's show and his current home are both called "Milwaukee". His parents are at home in the somewhat less zany precincts of eastern Michigan.

Because of my parents' history, and my own childhood, I thought I knew a little about Milwaukee, but this was something very new. The paintings on canvas and the drawings do not really open up in reproduction, but save most of their textural beauty for a visit with the naked eye.


[the drawing in this image is not part of the current show]


Palacinka, inside out

A wonderful ambience, and good simple food, a world away from Soho - we love Palacinka, and we're fussy. Nice people and a mellow style go a long way, in this case for just about any budget.

28 Grand Street, west of 6th Avenue 212 625-0362

For an inside, daylit image from another source, see Robert Wright.


Clarabel died on Friday!

Most of the people reading this won't even remember Captain Kangaroo, but for me Bob Keeshan will always be most important as the mischievous and arch Clarabel the Clown on the Howdy Doody Show.

Keeshan seems to have been a very nice man, and he had a fine sense of priorities, perhaps surprising in a television star.

Asked on one occasion how he could star in his own show, engage in lecturing, volunteer, study French and still spend time with his family and his hobbies of photography, fishing and sailing, Mr. Keeshan replied, "One of the big secrets of finding time is not to watch television."
More than likely he'd lose his job if he were to say this while working in commercial television today.

[image from the Clown Museum]

Becky Smith

Friday's NYTimes "Weekend/Fine Arts" section has some great pleasures, almost without any guilt, for those of us who can't just surround ourselves with enough stuff about art.

In two long, illustrated front-page articles on the newer New York visual arts scene, one about the youth driving it, the other about its Brooklyn incubator, even those not yet a part of this dynamic can share in its enthusiasms and its delights.

My favorite quotes from the "Youthscape" piece come from Bellwether's Becky Smith in Brooklyn and from Daniel Reich, who runs his eponymous space in Chelsea. Becky seems to think that the gallery business doesn't have to be run like the Coke-Pepsi thing.

"We tend to look at our businesses in a different way from another generation of dealers," said Becky Smith, the owner and director of the Bellwether Gallery in Williamsburg. "We don't see the art market as one big pie that we all have to fight over, but as something that is endlessly expandable. If we can make people excited about our galleries and the kind of art and artists we show, then we figure this will benefit us all."
No one would ever expect to find Daniel Reich in a corporate office either.
Mr. Reich says that for the younger dealers the art business is less about making money than about expressing the values and experiences of his generation. "It's all about being happy about whatever you can be happy about," he said. "My generation grew up in a time when we didn't have heroes. You grew up believing you were being hoodwinked and manipulated — and knowing you were, but learning to enjoy it because it came in fun colors or was on MTV.

"The bottom line," he added, "was that I really wanted to have a gallery, and sometimes you just have to start doing something with whatever you have at your disposal."

We love you guys.

Daniel Reich

[images by Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times]

Dean Street

[see yesterday's "replacing people with a basketball court"]

New facts are emerging about the political and money deals behind the project, and about the vibrant community which woud be destroyed if an "eminent" real estate mogul gets his "domain".

Anywhere else in New York, time would pass too fast or slow for us to notice this unfolding history [that is, of the Village Voice writer's neighborhood]. Most of the city has such a high turnover rate, no one would ever bother to learn anything about the prior residents, while those places that pride themselves on their constancy, like Carroll Gardens or Fort Greene, are desirable because they haven't changed. Now that Ratner and company have awakened us to the possibility of upheaval in our backyard, we're feeling very protective of what we have: a comfortable community that doesn't feel bourgie or exclusionary, that makes room for its past while slowly evolving into most people's present. It's the best kind of New York, and it's why we chose to live here. We want our son to feel at home on the block, but we want him to think everyone he meets belongs here too.
The NYTimes, which is enthusiastic about the sexed-up sports arena, mall and housing complex planned to displace hundreds of Brooklyn families, finally admitted to at least one of its ongoing intimacies with developer Bruce Ratner.
The team's move from the Meadowlands in New Jersey — if indeed it ever happens — won't occur overnight or without a fight. The $300 million deal to sell the Nets to Mr. Ratner (whose development company is a partner of The New York Times in building the newspaper's new headquarters) is just a first step. [from an editorial today]

Ratner has just purchased the New Jersey Nets professional basketball company. He intends to install it in a $.5B complex in Prospect Heights, next to six blocks of $2.5B in other new structures. [The dollar figures are already being described as seriously underestimated.] The buildings would be occupied by commercial and residential tenants paying him generous market rate rents. The problem is that they are not his blocks. The people living there now don't pay Ratner a penny in rent. He will need the city of New York to seize the buildings and the land on a perverse interpretation of the principle of eminent domain. Ratner also has the nerve to expect the city to help pay for his personal obsessions: letting others watch him play with money and watching others play with balls.

Leave it to Newsday to tell us once again what the Times won't. Ratner said in December that 100 people would be relocated. The real figure may be closer to 1000.

Finally, even the Times can't avoid covering some of the objections to the project in its story today, although this part of the text comes at the very end.

Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes the neighborhood, is a rare voice of opposition among Brooklyn politicians. She considers the project an oversized monster that will destroy a vibrant working-class neighborhood that has rebuilt itself over the past 20 years.

"This is a great day for rich developers and a sad day for working families," Ms. James said. "It will open the floodgates to public financing of sports arenas."

Harvey Robins, a former official in the Koch and Dinkins administrations, said the Ratner project is "antithetical" to building communities. "You're putting up monstrous buildings in a low-density area."

Boys throwing their weight around. This is a rehearsal for Manhattan's own stadium boondoggle.

[image from the Voice]

Yeaaa! I've just heard that Target Margin has extended the run of "These Very Serious Jokes".

New, additional, dates:

On Sunday there is a performance at 7pm and from Tuesday, Jan 27, until Saturday, Jan 31, the shows will begin at 8:30 pm. There will be matinees on Saturday, Jan 31 and Sun, Feb 1, at 4pm.

untitled January 21, 2004

My own little camera is spending two weeks in the camera hospital, so the images have been few and far between lately. I borrow Barry's sturdy Canon occasionally.


Big money interests, not least the NYTimes, want to displace families, artisans and artists, and in fact physically destroy an entire Brooklyn community, in order to build a commercial sports arena.

Our friend Charles Goldman once lived in a building on Dean Street that will be levelled for the proposed Nets Stadium. New York and the world are much better for what he and other artists created there.

Jimmy Breslin has the scoop on the human cost, and gives it out today in his column piece, "So Whose Domain Is It?".

The claim is that the land can be condemned under eminent domain. This is a way for the government to take land for needed undertakings. The Verrazano Bridge, for one.

But this time they want to take 71 buildings on 10 acres and more than three blocks. This would throw out 864 residents, including 200 people who work in their homes at things like violins, canvas stretching, architecture, photography, painting. They make gentle so much around them, and their government wants to replace them with a basketball team that has a player named Jason Kidd and would be a nice addition to Brooklyn, if you had them in an arena someplace that disturbed no human beings who contribute a lot more to the world than a foul shot.

The idea of replacing people for a basketball court is so insane that of course it brought me right back to the Corona houses - the Corona 69 - who were going to be displaced by an athletic field for Forest Hills High School. The 69 residents had a meeting at the Corona Volunteer Ambulance Hall and it was at a point when they had no chance, the courts and the thieves had it wrapped up. Then a fairly young, unknown Court Street lawyer named Mario Cuomo walked into the hall and said he would represent them. Soon, he had legal paper flying and motions causing dizziness in courts. The city lawyers were sick to their stomachs. And the people rose up and produced this one most memorable scene of civic rebellion:

The great Mrs. Nellie Picarelli stood up at a meeting in a school auditorium and reached into her purse and brought out a big hammer and waved it in the air.

"Why don't you try coming to take my house?" she yelled at a politician.

Faust (Will Badgett) studies Mephistopheles (David Greenspan)

Goethe's back, and Faust is with him.

Ok, they never really left, except that some of us thought we could ignore them now. David Herskovits, Douglas Langworthy and Target Margin Theater are going to make that very difficult for some time.

They have taken upon themselves the enormous task of translating and staging the complete text of Goethe's iconic play, "Faust", the entire project to be spread over at least several years time.

This week we saw the product of their initial engagement with the material, a dramatization of the first part of the first part, which they have dubbed, "These Very Serious Jokes". The title comes from a reference Goethe himself once made to his magnificent 12,000 line verse-play. Target Margin begins with a completely faithful revival of the first 2,600 lines, in addition to the inclusion of the author's dedicatory poem and two introductory scenes.

Both of us were a bit rusty on "Faust" [actually Barry was rusty, I was literately virginal] and we going into the show we welcomed the opportunity of seeing an intimate modern representation of one of the great monuments in European culture. Even with my experience of TMT's wonderful production history I hadn't expected that we would be in for so much more than brilliant entertainment and a provocative staging.

It was hilarious, seriously. And very very smart. Some of that is Goethe, but if I think I'm already able to talk [back?] to Faust, Mephistophes, and even The Lord, although the story has barely begun, I'll credit the company. Anyone who can take advantage of this great theatrical opportunity is in for a wonderful ride. David and the company plan eventully to present their sections of the play as an integrated piece, but in the meantime we will have the great pleasure of participating in a new creation as we see the parts follow each other to their conclusion.

I hurried home Tuesday night to check our copies of the "Faust" printed text. Surely not every bit of what we heard was Goethe? But it was. We were both astounded. The translation is that magnificent. On the other hand, not everything we saw was in the original. Target Margin's contemporary inventions in twisted genious, together with Doug Langwothy's translation, is what makes the story our own, right now.

Have fun.

But you're going to have to hurry, since this section's run ends next Sunday. The location is the tiny downstairs theatre at HERE Arts center, 145 6th Avenue, near Spring. The time is 7pm on Friday and 2pm and 7pm on Saturday. On Sunday there is another performance at 7pm and from Tuesday, Jan 27, until Saturday, Jan 31, the shows will begin at 8:30 pm. There will be matinees on Saturday, Jan 31 and Sun, Feb 1, at 4pm.

The number to call is 718-398-3095.

* mumbled by one of the cast members while David Herkovits was delivering his prefatory notes in front of the audience

NOTE Something else that remains from Goethe's text is Auerbach's Keller. It's a great scene in the play, and its environment is familiar to anyone who's spent time in a tavern. The Keller too checks out perfectly. The real Auerbach's was founded in 1525, so it was already a couple of centuries old when Goethe immortalized it. It remains a tavern in Leipzig today more than two centuries later, having survived, like the legend of Faust itself, major plagues, the Reformation, the Religious Wars, the Peasant Rebellion, the 30 Years War, Napoleon's armies, the Industrial Revolution and two World Wars.

[image from Lighting Dimensions]

I've surprised even myself by not writing more about the various September 11 design proposals, now narrowed down to a mall dominated by a "Freedom Tower" and crying walls and wells "Reflecting Absence". But I'm not going to start now.

Real critics have described any number of reasons to be disgusted with re-building and memorial plans at the World Trade Center site. For myself however the most important reason is the evil purposes in support of which the September 11 tragedy has repeatedly been invoked, both in cynicism and in ignorance.

We already have our memorials to September 11, in the form of domestic tyranny and world war, and both have been designed for perpetuity. While these prevail, anything we are doing at the scene downtown is likely to be obscene, not just in execrable taste.

From a Deborah Solomon interview with Wallace Shawn in Sunday's NYTimes Magazine":

[The brilliant, solidly- Lefty author had just admitted that while he had no use for musicals, he was nevertheless very fond of "American popular songs in the cabaret tradition".] So you take some pride in American culture.

To be honest, I see myself as a citizen of the planet. Even as a child, I always found it mindless to root for your own team. I was puzzled by the fact that people said their own team was better than other teams simply because it was theirs.
Later in the article he described his delightful idea of utopia, and responded to his interviewer's odd introduction of the subject of marriage:
In an ideal world, people would be preoccupied with reading and writing poetry and having love affairs, as people were in the Japanese court in the 11th century, as described in ''The Tale of Genji.'' If people were involved in that type of life, maybe there would be no war.

But it wouldn't be great for sustaining marriages!

I was never married.

Don't you live with the writer Deborah Eisenberg?

Yes, we're having a love affair. If I wanted my personal life to be public, I would be married. Marriage is public. That's what it means.

Have you ever desired the comforts of marriage?

I would say it is hard enough to make a plan for how you are going to spend an evening with somebody else. So to make a plan for how you are going to behave in 25 years seems based on a view of life that is incomprehensible to me.

But you must have some hopes for yourself in the future.

We're in an emergency situation. The United States has become an absolutely terrifying country, and I would hope that I could participate in some way in stopping the horror and the brutality.

Good man.

Barry and I have tickets for Wednesday night's performance of the New Group's revival of Shawn's "Aunt Dan and Lemon". Somehow I missed it the first time around, in 1985, but I swore it wouldn't happen again.

Langston, outside

Smart, generally progressive people should know better than to use their power and privilege to champion their personal addictions, especially ones which threaten their own lives and the lives of those who have to be around them.

A silly piece in the local section of today's NYTimes is more than a case in point, since it represents itself as a news article about the not-so-private campaign of the editor of another publication to reverse New York City's smoking ban.

The reporter writes that Mayor Bloomberg and Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, used to be friends.

But that was before Mr. Bloomberg imposed an almost total ban on indoor smoking in public places in New York City, infuriating Mr. Carter [actually, it was the City Council which imposed the ban, in 42 to 7 vote], who enjoyed lighting up in restaurants, bars and, according to three summonses he has received from city inspectors, his office at the sleek West 42nd Street headquarters of Condé Nast. Mr. Carter has called the enforcement of the new law harassment, among other things.

"It is an important issue," said Mr. Carter. "It is about freedom and your own civil liberties, and it is about the city. This is not Denver, it is not Seattle, it is a big rough turbine that is fueled by cigarette smoke and food and liquor. People want to go out at night. If your best friend smokes, it makes it very awkward."

Over the last six months, Vanity Fair has been ripping into Mr. Bloomberg on almost a monthly basis, vexing the mayor's staff and angering Mr. Bloomberg at times, too. In September, the magazine ran a lengthy profile of Mr. Bloomberg that was far from flattering, referring to him as "waiflike."

Mr. Carter has also devoted no fewer than three editor's letters to criticizing the mayor. In the latest, in the February issue of the magazine, Mr. Carter says the mayor is "like a husband who returns home after the honeymoon and announces to his new bride that he has decided that henceforth they will be vegans."

For that same issue now on newsstands, Mr. Carter commissioned an article by Christopher Hitchens in which Mr. Hitchens chronicled his minor crime spree throughout the city — feeding pigeons, smoking in a luxury car — painting Mr. Bloomberg's New York as something just short of a police state.

Carter is in good company, but he and his company are wrong. Lewis Lapham and Rick MacArthur, editor and publisher respectively of Harpers Magazine together with [perhaps less good company] Christopher Hitchens are among the more illustrious and outspoken sour critics of New York's public smoking ban, and all of them have used their very prominent professional names, visibilty and pulpits to attack it relentlessly either in print, on radio, in public forums, or in any combination of the three.

But New York is not a police state because of laws which protect public health. Mr. Carter and the rest would deserve our attention and our respect if they were talking about the laws and police tactics which directly threaten freedom of speech and assembly in the city they all profess to be defending.

[image from Anthology of Modern American Poetry]


Could there be a more damning indictment of the intelligence of most Americans than the figures reported in the latest poll?

Despite those vulnerabilities [figures showing doubts about his economic and other domestic policies], which the Democratic presidential candidates are busily trying to exploit, Mr. Bush retains a powerful advantage on national security. Sixty-eight percent, including majorities of both Democrats and independents, gave him high marks for the campaign against terrorism, and 68 percent said the Bush administration's policies have made the United States safer from terrorist attacks.
[While we're at it, we should note that this poll is the work of, well, yeah, the NYTimes/CBS News, and what the heck is a newspaper doing putting its own poll as its lead front page story?]

Just where is the evidence of our increased safety? There have been no more terrorist attacks within the U.S. since September 11. If that's evidence, it's the same evidence that showed we were safe before September 11. Are these 68 percenters saying we're safer because only people outside the U.S. are being slaughtered - by ourselves and others, in huge numbers which happen to include a certain count of American soldiers as well?

Accepting tyranny and waging world war, whether in bits or in total, will not make us safe.

And, back to my original question, I no longer buy the argument that our media makes us stupid. If that were true, everyone would be cheering for the little man in the flight suit. By the Times's count there may still be some on the sidelines.

[image from The Museum of Hoaxes]

Tom Hurndall

He's gone. I had actually thought that he had died last April, but Thomas Hurndall had survived in a vegetative state until this week, when he succumbed to pneumonia in a London hospital. He had turned 22 while lying in a coma. Hurndall had so little time, but while he was alive he seemed to care about helping others more than anything else.

He had joined protests against the war in Iraq, but his mother Jocelyn has said he was not that political - although he did like to help the underdog.

His family remember the 22-year-old as someone who squared up to a mugger trying to steal a boy's mobile phone near his home in Tufnell Park, north London.

His sister Sophie told the BBC: "Tom was somebody who made everybody laugh, he was intelligent, witty, caring - the kind of person who was always sticking up for anybody who was in trouble."

. . . .

His family say his diaries show he was clear headed and went with an open mind to Rafah, determined to draw his own conclusions about what was happening to Palestinian civilians.

But he was deeply affected by the sight of a young boy he had photographed being shot in the shoulder.

Eyewitnesses are said to have seen him pulling two Palestinian children to safety in Rafah when he was shot in April 2003.

Aimée Stauffer-Stitelmann is still alive, very much alive, at 79. This week she became the first citiizen to seek to clear her name under a new Swiss law which is intended to finally pardon those who were penalized for helping victims of Nazism. Many Swiss citizens had been tried and disciplined or imprisoned for violating the country's neutrality before and during World War II while trying to aid victims of the Nazi regime. Stauffer-Stitelmann is credited with saving the lives of 15 to 20 Jewish children and assisting a number of Resistance fighters, beginning while she was still a teenager. She has in fact been an activist all of her life.
After the war, Ms. Stauffer-Stitelmann said, she supported partisans fighting Franco in Spain and organized protests against apartheid in South Africa and the American war in Vietnam, and was at the front of antiglobalization marches last summer in Evian, France, during a meeting of the major industrial nations.

After retiring as an elementary school teacher in 1987, she helped set up an underground school in a church to teach French to the children of illegal immigrants. (The children were banned from attending public schools.)

Her political activities were secretly monitored by the Swiss government until the 1980's, until public revelations about the extensive monitoring of Swiss citizens ended the practice in the late 1980's.

According to her file, which is now public, she was accused, among other things, of subscribing to Communist publications and helping Spain's anti-fascist movement, and of organizing a news conference in Bern against the Vietnam war, where she even "paid for the room and the aperitifs."

Dorothy Day died in 1980, but the work which she began continues today, usually benefiting most those neglected or insulted by other institutions, "the homeless, exiled, hungry, and foresaken", in words which appear on the website of the organization she founded, The Catholic Worker Movement.

Late Tuesday night we found ourselves walking past their New York headquarters, Mary House, on East 3rd Street. It was freezing cold outside. Inside, up a few steps and plainly visible and secure in the lobby of the modest nineteenth-century building, was one or more of those big canvas-sling mail bins on wheels often used by street people to store and move their possessions around the city. The cart was more than full. Through the windows below grade we could see a cozy lounge and some people bustling about. Those Workers and their guests represent more than food and shelter.

The nuclear age has sharpened awareness of the need for disarmament and alternatives to war. The widening gap between rich and poor in our country and between nations has spurred greater urgency in the quest for a more just social order. But the distinguishing marks of the movement remain smallness, decentralization, personal responsibility, the personal response to persons in need in direct encounter and a search for answers to the questions that arise from that meeting: Why are there so many poor and abandoned? What is honest work? What is due workers and the unemployed? What is the relationship between political, social and economic democracy, and between these and the common good? [excerpt from a description of the movement found on their own site]

These three individuals, and those who work with their heritage and their spirit all over the world really are "saints", but we don't have to"canonize" them to recognize or emulate their selfless concern and their work for others.

Meanwhile, in St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue, the very grand showplace of the American Catholic Church, the homeless are thrown into the streets every night by ushers and police. This is not the work of saints. It's not even the work of decent human beings. Jimmy Breslin writes today:

They were in a palace away from the cold, the most famous church of the Catholics in America. It is supposed to represent the Lord's religion.

On this cold night, one of the ushers said that the church closes at 8:35 p.m. Exactly.

And at a little before 8:30, a man on the right side stood up, yawned, stretched and then gathered his plastic bags and walked down the aisle.

From far up in front, a woman pulled her suitcase on loud wheels.

At 8:35, a cop and an usher walked around the church telling homeless people that the church was closing and they had to go out into the cold.

"Nobody can stay?" an usher was asked.

"Church closes," he said.

In the last row on the left side, a man stirred, then sat bolt upright. He put on a blue wool hat and lifted a backpack that he carefully put on. He had two heavy shirts to fight the cold. He started out. People were coming from the darkness on the side aisles. Soon, the church was empty.

As I finish posting this tonight, the temperature reads 1 degree above zero fahrenheit, with 21 mph winds.

[image by Kay Fernandes on The Thomas Hurndall Fund site]

SculptureCenter, Long Island City, 4:45 pm, January 10, 2004


A friend of ours, Lothar Albrecht, is opening a third branch of his very interesting Frankfurt art gallery in Beijing next month. Until we received the announcement in the mail today, we had understood the new venue was going to be in Japan. That was going to be exciting enough, since the only other location until now was Zurich. This latest development is totally unexpected and of an entirely different magnitude, for obvious political and cultural reasons.

The L.A. Galerie Beijing website is not yet fully operational, but the invitation reveals that the gallery will be showing the work of both Chinese and foreign artists. Great!

We wish Lothar, and everyone in China who makes art and who loves art, the very best.

UPDATE The gallery is to be located in a building constructed during the Ming Dynasty, but the interior will be the classic white cube.

[the image above, of Beijing opera figures, is from the Chinese website and unfortunately is not yet identified]


Barry observed today that of course the White House knows neither Republicans nor Democrats want this thing, and it will never make it through Congress, but Bush hopes to use its political capital in November.

[thanks to Yahoo! and ucomics, and especially to Pat Oliphant]

Central Park, 2 pm, December 6, 2004

Except that it isn't old at all.

We went to the Metropolitan today to visit El Greco's work. This awesome unfinished late masterpiece was there:
El Greco, The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse (1608-1614)

This much earlier very provocative youth, unaccountably (except perhaps for its need of restoration) was not:
El Greco, St. Sebastian (1580)

Except for a very sweet and human Virgin, a Magdalen, and a few other ancient saints, there are virtually no portraits of women among his works, although there are a great number of beautiful ecstatic saintly males and contemporary handsome men of all ages, described as his intellectual friends. El Greco never married, although he lived in the Spain of the Counter-Reformation. He is said to have had one illegitimate child, Jorge Manuel, who is represented by his father as a beautiful aristocratic artist in a painting which is part of this wonderful show.

[the first image from Princeton, the second from romansonline]


New York City firefighter Robert Walsh has been on a respirator in a medically-induced coma in a Staten Island hospital since Thursday. Today he still lies heavily sedated, suffering the consequences of severe facial fractures and a partly severed nose.

Walsh was assaulted with a metal chair on New Years Eve by fellow firefighter Michael R. Silvestri, in the borough firehouse where they shared duties.

It seems that Silvestri had called Walsh a [faggot/fairy/queer/homo - we have to use our imaginations here, since as usual the NYTimes isn't specific], and Walsh had answered back by charging that Silvestri had gamed the system, taking advantage of his fellows to earn extra pay.

Their comrades initially tried to cover up the facts, obstructing investigation by representing Walsh's injuries as the result of an accidental fall. He was cleaned up, his clothes changed, and driven to the hospital. No ambulance, no police.

The story may have legs, and it certainly should, for the elements of homophobia and obstruction of justice. My outrage is for what I think are even more fundamental, societal reasons.

Michelle O'Donnell's Times article yesterday quoted a retired deputy chief, Vincent Dunn, on the subject of "busting chops", as the paper's editorial calls it today.

"Everybody verbally abuses young firefighters," [Walsh is 40, Silvestri 41] said Vincent Dunn, a retired deputy chief, who added that even longtime firefighters do not outgrow the sport of razzing. "Nobody wants physical violence — that's a no-no. But there's a lot of verbal abuse. It's like society." [my italics]
Umm . . . I don't think so. [Still, if it were true, it would help explain something about how Americans treat each other and the rest of the world, and why we have only buffoons and bullies running the country.]

But can our hometown "heroes" really only relate to each other through violence, real or implied?

By the way, the Times editorial finally brings up the subject of departmental racism and male chauvinism, even if it only alludes indirectly to its effective and very illegal homophobia.

The firehouse culture of taunting may violate anti-discrimination law, and may be one reason white men make up about 91 percent of the department, which has only one woman in its current probationary class of 304.
Now that Tom Ryan has retired, there now may actually be no out gay New York City firemen, and perhaps only one woman, at least as far as I have been able to determine, Michele Fitzsimmons. It seems that with the exception of Tom and Michele, you might be gay when you retire, if you're very courageous, but not before. But in this area it's really the civil cowardice of their straight comrades that stands out.

New York should not have to put up with such nonsense, but above all neither the country nor the world should have to accept the "society" of American straight male violence, verbal or physical.


the full Yahoo! caption reads:

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge (L) speaks with airline passenger Gloria Quevedo (R) of Chile as she is fingerprinted by Customs and Border Protection Officer Mary Armbrust at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on January 5, 2004. The United States began fingerprinting and photographing visitors from most countries on Monday in a controversial program to try to prevent potential terrorists from slipping in through the borders. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

So patriotic that it trumps the administration's disdain for "old Europe", even its hatred for the French.

Today the U.S. began taking mugshots and fingerprinting all visitors coming into and leaving the fatherland, although an exception is being made for citizens of European countries and Canada. Mexicans are also excepted, for now but since we have always made "special" arrangements for what we think of as the permanent threat of the darker people from the areas to our south, I'm sure we will continue to address the problem of those immediately below our border with the seriousness we think it deserves.

Basically, if you're not a white European, we just don't trust you and you just better watch out.

But does anyone trust the people in charge to make Americans safe? Tom Ridge, like virtually every member of this administration, wouldn't even have a passport if his current job didn't require it, and that kind of provinciality and just plain incuriosity shows in the disastrous policies which this government pursues.


West 23rd Street, January 1, 2004

Woke up late this morning. This is the first thing I saw outside the parlor windows. Not a bad start for a new year.

Wishing all a happier one than any of us can even imagine from where we are right now!

we own it

but there's a big problem

I know it's been pretty quiet on this site for a while, but both Barry and I have been down with bad colds. I can say for myself that I haven't felt like posting any war/political items, since they're inevitably even more depressing than a sinus infection, and my joy in art postings is equally compromised by my indisposition.

Thank the gods for an apartment filled with books, music - and food and wine.

Ah, the eve and the first day of the new year have always been my favorite holidays, largely because they are what you make them and because they are so totally secular in origin and celebration. No one seems to own New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. (Even the Catholic Church can't get its votaries excited about thinking of January 1st as the anniversary of Jesus's brist rather than the lustful and immemorial celebration of time and hope that it truly is.)

Until last night.

We had finished a light celebratory supper when we headed for the television cabinet to check out the madness in Times Square. We sat down just in time to hear a few live corporate commerical plugs (not paid advertising, but as part of the programming!), short interviews with a uniformed marine corporal and a navy chief, and then a truly heartwarming rendition of "God Bless the U.S.A." - the entire piece, every word - broadcast to the checkpointed multitudes gathered in the police pens below the sharpshooters and the armed helicopters.

‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American where as least I know I’m free.

I was watching a fascist rally.

Regardless of the mindset of at least some of the people standing in the street last night, the real point of the program viewed all across the world didn't have anything to do with a happy new year. What was really being screamed went something like, aren't we Americans just so uniquely worthy - and truly holy?

Next year the television stays behind closed doors - unless they resurrect Guy Lombardo.

[two images from Times Square at approximately 12:00:01 this morning (both AP, the first credited to Diane Bondareff) from Yahoo! News]

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