Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dylan Thomas, Re-Animated

I don't know which distracts me more from the words of the poem -- the creepy photo animation or Dylan Thomas's melodramatic recitation. The poem is "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London"


Friday, October 24, 2008

Most Convoluted Sentence of the Week: Will Self

"Foula – which is pronounced 'Foola' – to me, the very name sounds romantic; but then I love an island, and the smaller and remoter the better, within reason."
--British novelist Will Self, in a guest column in the New York Times.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quote of the Day: Barry M. Goldwater, Jr.

"Barry Goldwater was one of the icons of the Republican Party and, yes, would be unhappy with many of the recent failures from within. I speak about this all the time and how mad I am that Republicans have lost their way. However, we do not find our way back by sheepishly going over to the other side. My father worked to rebuild the party in 1964 by taking it back from the liberal Establishment. He would work to do the same thing today."
That's Barry M. Goldwater, Jr., the son of the famous Arizona Republican Barry Goldwater, who lost the race for the Presidency in 1964 by a landslide. Goldwater Jr. was writing in the Huffington Post, trying to undo some of the damage his niece CC Goldwater did when she endorsed Obama on the same website.

CC Goldwater, who produced a documentary for HBO two years ago called Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, wrote in her endorsement:
"Nothing about McCain, except for maybe a uniform, compares to the same ideology of what Goldwater stood for as a politician. The McCain/Palin plan is to appear diverse and inclusive, using women and minorities to push an agenda that makes us all financially vulnerable, fearful, and less safe."

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A sculpture glorifying golf, as if by Italian Futurists. From the Pebble Beach gold resort in California.


Crop Art: A Video Demonstration

Small mosaics made from seeds and grains have been part of the Minnesota State Fair for more than forty years. Crop art, as it is known, had its Leonardo Da Vinci in a woman named Lillian Colton, who died last year at the age of 95. The Owatonna, Minnesota artist started entering the State Fair's crop art contests in 1965 and winning them in 1973.

Her seed portraits included Richard Nixon (1969), Jesus Christ (1971), Willie Nelson (1983), Garrison Keillor (1987), Prince (also 1987) and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura (1999).

Colton's 1985 portrait of the musicians who participated in the "We Are the World" benefit concert -- using timothy, canola, pine needles, clover, brome grass, poppy seeds and grits -- is particularly arresting.

The Minnesota Historical Society published a 128-page book on Colton, with a forward by University of Minnesota art history professor Karal Ann Marling, last year.

Colton may be gone, but David Steinlicht, a crop art competitor at the State Fair since 1994 and the man behind the website, keeps the crop art community together. Below is a video he posted to his blog in September.

Crop Art in Time-Lapse and Real Time from David Steinlicht on Vimeo.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Quote of the Day: Gayle Quinnell

"Yeah, but he's still got Muslim in him. So that's still part of it. I got all the stuff from the library and I could send you all kinds of stuff on him."
That's Shakopee, Minnesota's very own Gayle Quinnell, now known as the crazy lady from the McCain rally in Lakeville.

She's now been spoofed (and quite nicely) on Saturday Night Live, but at least, says the Minneapolis City Pages, SNL didn't mention she was from our state.

First, the real thing:

And then the spoof:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I’d like a plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate. A cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast.

I’m sorry we don’t have any side orders of toast. I can offer you an English muffin or a coffee roll.

What do you mean you don’t have side orders of toast? You make sandwiches don’t you?

Would you like to talk to the manager?

You’ve got bread. And a toaster of some kind?

I don’t make the rules.

Okay, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast: no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.

A number two. Chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise. And a cup of coffee. Anything else?

Yeah. Now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, and give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich and you haven’t broken any rules.

You want me to hold the chicken, huh?

I want you to hold the chicken between your knees.

You see that sign, sir? Yes, you all have to leave. I’m not taking any more of your smartness and sarcasm.

You see this sign?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate Preview: The Penguin & Batman

Re-creation of McCain/Obama Debate via Marc Ambinder's blog at the Atlantic Monthly


Monday, October 13, 2008

My Vote For the Vendy Awards Does Not Go to Soler

In a series of coincidences, I got in line at a food truck parked in Red Hook Park in Brooklyn on the same day it happened to get a write-up in the New York Times. Rafael Soler, the 58-year-old Dominican who sells dishes like tamales and pupusas from a tricked-out van every Sunday in the park, along with about a dozen other Mexican, Caribbean, and Central American vendors, seemed like a really nice guy. But I waited for an hour--more than half of it standing at the window wondering if Soler and his three assistants were actually filling my order as about ten other customers go their food first.

The problem was ordering off the menu. While the truck next to Soler's offered meat-only pupusas, his did not. But Soler was happy to accommodate, or so he said. "She has to make it," he told me, pointing to a woman who has kneading the stuffed tortillas. But she didn't make it. She grinned at me and kneaded tortilla dough for about 25 minutes while I stood there like a chump.

I don't know why I was so patient. Mercifully, a friend who wondered why I was waiting so long brought me a beverage and stood with me for a bit. Finally, after Soler came back from a long break, I asked him if they were making my pork-only pupusas. He looked surprised and asked the tortilla dough-kneader something in Spanish that I couldn't follow. Ah. Now they were making it. 10 minutes later, I had a lousy pork pupusa--one instead of the customary two.

Another of Soler's assistants looked bewildered when I got my money out and asked through gritted teeth how much I owed. She smiled uncomfortably, obviously not understanding my English but either too dim-witted to follow the natural conclusion of a food order or too embarrassed about the transaction taking five or six times the length of the average one. "Tres," she finally managed, speaking so softly I had to ask twice.

After all that, was the pork pupusa worth it? Absolutely not. It was dull and not very flavorful. I'd rather have an empanada. Or a taco or a tamale. But the shrimp ceviche from a small cart that had no line was exceptional.

According to the Times, Soler is one of five finalists for a Vendy Award, the annual New York street food contest. I'm betting my experience was a bizarre anomaly, but just the same, I'd put my vote behind Meru Sikder's Biryani Cart, the Midtown weekday seller of kati rolls.


Quote of the Day: Terrellita Maverick

“I’m just enraged that McCain calls himself a maverick."
So said Terrellita Maverick, an 82-year-old descendent of Samuel Augustus Maverick, to the New York Times last week.

As frequent readers will recall, Maverick was my word of the day in mid-September. Maverick came into the English language in the late-nineteenth century, a coinage after the Texas rancher, the aforementioned Samuel Augustus. He was not like other ranchers; he would not brand his calves.

According to the Times, the Maverick family has a history of liberal politics that goes back to the 1600s. And maverick isn't the only word the family has coined. Here's the Times:
Sam Maverick’s grandson, Fontaine Maury Maverick, was a two-term congressman and a mayor of San Antonio who lost his mayoral re-election bid when conservatives labeled him a Communist. He served in the Roosevelt administration on the Smaller War Plants Corporation and is best known for another coinage. He came up with the term “gobbledygook” in frustration at the convoluted language of bureaucrats.
Fontaine's son Maury Jr., who died at 82 in 2003, was a crusading lawyer in the tradition of William Kunstler. He served in the Tecxas legislature in the 50s, and when his colleagues invited Senator Joseph McCarthy to speak, he authored a counter-amendment inviting Mickey Mouse as a substitute. “If we’re going to invite a rat to visit our state,” he said at the time, “why not invite a good rat?”

With a legacy like that, it's no wonder Mavericks are in an uproar over McCain's adoption of the word. A columnist in the San Antonio Express-News, the paper that published Maury Maverick's column for years, wrote an indignant piece in September saying in part:
Unfortunately for McCain, a maverick is not someone who before 2008 occasionally broke with the status quo within his own party by acknowledging the clear threat of climate change and championing the need to give unauthorized immigrants a path to legal residency.
"By definition," the columnist Jan Jarboe Russell continues, "the leader of any political party is not a maverick. Mavericks are loners and more often than not are defined by lost, principled battles."

Terrellita Maverick, the author of the quote of the day, is Maury's sister. She's even more indignant:
“It’s just incredible — the nerve! — to suggest that he’s not part of that Republican herd. Every time we hear it, all my children and I and all my family shrink a little and say, ‘Oh, my God, he said it again.’

“He’s a Republican. He’s branded.”

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Found on the beach in Connecticut.

McCain Gets Freaked Out By Minnesota Conservatives

Ah, Minnesota. Just as I defend my home state as more progressive, more enlightened than others, some smalltown old lady tells Senator McCain on national television that she's scared of Obama because "He's an Arab."

This is the state that Tyrone Guthrie chose for his theater company based on the high level of education of its citizens. A state that had very high subscription rates for the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's. That was a long time ago.

Yesterday, it seemed even McCain was startled by the dim wits of his fans. It happened at a town hall-style meeting in Lakeville, Minnesota, a city of about 50,000 that lies 20 miles south of Minneapolis. "I admire Obama," McCain said amid boos from the crowd. "I want everyone to be respectful."

Later, one man said, "We're scared of an Obama presidency."

"I have to tell you," McCain said very seriously. "Obama is a decent person, that you do not have to be scared [of] as President of the United States." Here the crowd yells protests. "Now look, if I didn't think I'd be one hell of a better president, I wouldn't be running, okay?" he recovered.

But then it happened again. A wild-haired older woman in the crowd says haltingly, "I can't trust Obama. I have read about him, and he's not, he's not, ah... He's an Arab." Here, McCain starts shaking his head vigorously. "No, no, no," he says. "No?" the woman asks.

McCain takes the microphone from her. "No. No ma'am. No ma'am. He's a... he's a decent, family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on, on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about. He's not," McCain admonished, waving his hand at her dismissively.

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, writing about the incident, noted that McCain "did not correct her false depiction of Mr. Obama." I think he was trying to when he called Obama a "citizen" and said at the end, "He's not."

But as Bumiller notes, this is not unusual for a McCain event:
Crowds in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have repeatedly booed Mr. Obama and yelled “off with his head,” and at a rally in Florida where Ms. Palin appeared without Mr. McCain, The Washington Post reported that a man yelled out “kill him.” At the same rally, a racial insult was hurled at an African-American television cameraman.
In McCain's frenzy to get elected, he's been ushering in the same unsavory fringes of the Republican party that William F. Buckley and other tried so hard to purge in the 1950s and 60s. He's encouraged this sort of behavior, and it's finally started to make him nervous.

“I don’t think it’s that big a deal,” his campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters. “I think political rallies have always attracted people who have an emotional connection to the outcome of an election.”

He's right, of course. People behave badly at these things. When Paul Wellstone died two weeks before election day four years ago, his funeral turned into an embarrassingly ugly display of liberal righteousness. Republican senators, in attendance at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus out of respect and held captive by decorum, were booed and made to feel like jerks for coming. And so the election was handed to the suddenly solemn and respectful Norm Coleman.

I don't think undecided voters ever really like negative campaigning. But as the economy worsens, voters start paying a little more attention to what the candidates are saying. They hear attacks and wonder where the solutions are. McCain's use of the Obama's tenuous association with 60s activist William Ayers as an attack tool simply doesn't sway anyone. If Senator McCain has an October surprise, he'd better present it quick.

Watch McCain defend Obama below:

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Quote of the Day: Horace Engdahl

The winner of the Nobel Prize for literature has been announced, and it is not an American. No, Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy made sure the world knew why:
"Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world ... not the United States.

"The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining."
The last American to win the award was Toni Morrison in 1993.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Looks like I spoke too soon when I said Al Franken was in trouble. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on the 4th that Franken has a solid lead against Norm Coleman for the first time:
The Minnesota Poll results suggest Franken may be riding the coattails of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who has widened a lead over Republican John McCain in polls across the country. But the advertising war in the race also appears to be a factor decidedly in Franken’s favor.
Coleman's negative ads are taking their toll on him. And Coleman's approval rating is at 38 percent.

There's another candidate in the race though. Independent Dean Barkley is polling at 18 percent to McCain's 34 and Obama's 43. Barkley is up in the polls, too, taking votes from Coleman.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Will the Financial Crisis Turn New York Into a Venice?

Historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, interviewed in New York Magazine this week, compares the future of New York to the present of Venice:
I’m in Venice now, which used to be a financial center and is now a tourist center. And the nightmare is that a crisis of this magnitude will turn New York from a financial center into a tourist center. The good news is that London seems to be handling this crisis slightly worse than New York. My sense is that the great financial crisis we’re living through will fundamentally tilt the balance of the world from West to East. Sovereign-wealth funds will matter much, much more because they’ve got the money and we haven’t. New York isn’t quite Venice yet, but I certainly am quite relieved that I don’t own a large block of real estate in Manhattan right now.

Is Minnesota Different?

I just saw my first Obama ad on television. New York seems strangely insulated from much of the presidential campaign--it'll probably support Obama by large margins--even with the current economic crisis centered on Wall Street.

Minnesota, however, is a battleground state in the presidential race again. This always surprises me, just as its violent opposition to light rail and commuter trains surprises me. Has Minnesota suburbanized so much that it has lost its socially and politically progressive roots?

I mentioned to a colleague here in New York that Minnesota was historically very Democratic, and he was surprised. The last time Minnesota voted Republican in a presidential election was 1972 (Nixon vs. McGovern). Minnesota was the only state in the nation to carry Walter Mondale in 1984. It never voted for Reagan; in 1980 it was one of five states (with Hawaii, Georgia, Maryland, and West Virginia) to carry Carter. (There are some good electoral college maps here.)

Then again, the state that brought Paul Wellstone to the Senate turned around and voted for Norm Coleman. And it's put conservative Christian evangelical Tim Pawlenty in the governor's mansion twice--on an anti-tax platform; very un-Minnesota.

McCain has been outspending Obama in Minnesota--he doesn't want to lose the state they held the Republican Convention in--but according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this week, Obama is ahead of McCain there 55 to 37. That's a big boost for Obama, who was neck and neck with McCain in September. The paper says:
Obama's surge in the state can be attributed to voters' belief in his ability to deal with the nation's worsening economy, his performance in the first presidential debate and an increase in the number of Minnesotans who call themselves Democrats.
But not all polls agree. USA Today's poll has McCain ahead of Obama in Minnesota by one point.

I doubt the miserable economy will help McCain rally in Minnesota and change more than 35 years of voting for Democrats, but I do think Norm Coleman will win again; I have little hope for the dud that is satirist-cum-politician Al Franken.

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Obituary: James Crumley

James Crumley, one of the grittiest, darkest and most talented crime novelists of the last forty years has died. He was 68.

He's known for writing what many crime fiction aficionados and fellow writers consider the best opening lines in a any crime novel in the last half of the 20th century-- the beginning of his 1978 novel "The Last Good Kiss":
When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.
Those first lines apparently took him eight years to compose. Crumley's plots could be twisted wrecks, but his characters, atmosphere, and narrative tension were first-rate.

After his seventh novel, "The Final Country," came out in 2001, he told the Austin Chronicle, "I tend to steal things from Chandler by the handful. Like Eliot said, 'Bad writers imitate, good writers steal,' but I think he stole that from a French poet."

But while Chandler's Marlowe worked in Los Angeles, Crumley's two main characters, private detectives named Milo Milodragovitch and C.W. Sughrue, haunted Montana and Texas. Milogragovitch and Sughrue appeared in novels separately until 1996's "Bordersnakes."

Crumley was born in Texas. He's a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop (1966), and according to the Missoulian, was there at the same time as Kurt Vonnegut. He taught English at the University of Montana Missoula and other schools (University of Arkansas and Reed College in Oregon among them), and lived mostly in Missoula. Crumley died in mid-September in Missoula of complications from kidney and pulmonary diseases.

Washington Post
The Missoulian
Los Angeles Times
New York Times

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

At the Met.


The Dodger Dome

Walter O'Malley, the reviled Dodgers owner who moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, had proposed to build a new stadium in Brooklyn before he made his drastic move.

In 1955, the year the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Yankees in the World Series (or 1956; accounts vary), O'Malley asked the architect Buckminster Fuller--a visionary famous for his geodesic dome designs--to design a domed stadium for a site in Brooklyn.

According to "The Dodgers" by Glenn Stout, Richard A. Johnson, and Dick Johnson, the project Fuller and his Princeton graduate students came up with was a spherical geodesic dome that would have been 750 feet in diameter and 30 stories tall. O'Malley visited one of Fuller's existing domes, and found its plastic construction sturdy enough that he couldn't throw a rock through it.

But the project was rejected by the infamous/legendary urban planner Robert Moses and other key people. The Brooklyn site, down Flatbush Avenue from the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, wasn't viable, and the dome design didn't help O'Malley's case.

"Instead of making O'Malley look like a man ahead of his time," write Stout, Johnson, and Johnson in "The Dodgers,"
"he came off as a man out of his mind. In 1955 the notion of a domed stadium was an untested pipe dream, and Fuller, while a darling of academic architecture and a true visionary, was far, far too 'far out' to be taken seriously by the powers-that-be. Neither Robert Moses nor anyone else in authority would ever be willing to back O'Malley now."
According to the Walter O'Malley website (run by his family), the dome would have been retractable.

Should we be lamenting the lost future, a future in which the Dodgers not only stayed in Brooklyn, but played under the world's first dome designed by a star architect? "Even the most dedicated old Dodgers fan should shudder at the thought that such a facility might have ever been built," write the authors of "The Dodgers."

The Houston Astrodome, the first domed stadium opened a decade later in 1965. Astroturf, the first artificial grass for playing fields, was developed for the Houston stadium. It didn't get enough natural light for grass to grow. While it was the home to many firsts, it wasn't the best field for playing.

The Fuller stadium would have been built at Flatbush and Atlantic, but the powerful urban planner Robert Moses said the stadium would make a "China wall of traffic." Moses suggested Queens.

Not everyone mourns the move and the failure of the stadium. "So we lost the Dodgers, but we gained some great neighborhoods," writes the blogger at Brooklyn Views. "Instead of second guessing the loss of the Dodgers, things could be worse; we could be asking ourselves: 'Who lost Brooklyn?'"

A remarkably similar same debate (though on a much larger scale) is playing itself out with developer Bruce Ratner in a O'Malley role and Frank Gehry in the Fuller role.

[photos from]


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Brooklyn and its Lost Dodgers

When I was searching for apartments in Brooklyn three years ago, I looked at a nice one in Crown Heights, a neighborhood that I knew of only as the site of three days of rioting between blacks and Jews in 1991. As I was walking around the neighborhood, I stumbled upon a plaque in front of a set of highrise housing projects. This was where Ebbets Field once stood.

The photo illustration above (by Christopher Nesbet) from a 2007 article in New York Magazine shows the rough size and shape of Ebbets Field, the stadium the Brooklyn Dodgers played in until their move to Los Angeles in 1958.

Why do people still talk about the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn fifty years ago as if it were recent? Why does it gall Brooklynites who weren't even alive when it happened?

Brooklyn, as I proudly tell anyone who will listen, is the largest of New York's five boroughs. Like Queens, it was once its own city—it merged with New York in 1898. Its 2.5 million people (about a million more than live in Manhattan) would make up the fourth largest city in the country, just behind Chicago (and New York, even without Brooklyn, would still be the biggest).

Since the Dodgers left, Brooklyn doesn't have a professional sports team. The Knicks and the Rangers play in Manhattan, the Yankees play in the Bronx, and the Mets play in Queens. (Both the New York Giants and the New York Jets play in in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.)

"The tragedy of the Dodgers," wrote Sam Anderson in the New York Magazine article that the above photo went with, "was only incidentally about baseball. This was not just the death of a team, or the extinction of a fan base, or the sudden bankruptcy of Crown Heights hot-dog vendors—but the death of mythic Old Brooklyn itself. The team’s departure corresponded with a massive social shift that totally remade the borough."

Most people blame Walter O'Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, for the tragedy. There's a story about how two New York reporters, Pete Hamill and Jack Newfield (both from Brooklyn) sat at a bar one day in 1983, making lists of the greatest villains of the 20th century. They both had the same three people at the top of the list, the story goes: Hitler, Stalin and Walter O'Malley. Continuing on the theme, there's apparently an old joke that says "if you were to find yourself in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and O’Malley, armed with only two bullets, you’d have to shoot O’Malley twice."

In the 50s, Ebbets Field held 33,000 fans, considerably less than Yankee Stadium's 75,000 or the New York Giants' (baseball) Polo Grounds' 56,000 seats. Even so, the Dodgers attracted a million fans a year—second best attendance in the league during most of the 50s. O'Malley wanted a bigger stadium.

In 1956 there was discussion about building a new 55,000 seat stadium over the Atlantic Yards, a Long Island Rail Road hub near downtown Brooklyn, but legendary urban planner (and villain to many) Robert Moses didn't like the plan.

This is especially interesting because, 50 years later, this same site is where developer Bruce Ratner wants to put a $4 billion project that would include a $950 million basketball stadium. The stadium would be the new home of the New Jersey Nets, making them the first pro sports team to call Brooklyn home since the Dodgers. The Ratner plan, which is delayed because of the economy, has the stadium opening in 2011. It has not been well received by many Brooklynites.

I ask myself why I care about pro sports in Brooklyn. I'm not much of a sports fan and even less of a baseball fan. But baseball is a fitting lens for American 20th century culture. (Jonathan Mahler's book about New York in 1977, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning" uses the Yankees to talk about one of the city's direst years. It's superb.) There's a sense in Brooklyn that the loss of the Dodgers was the loss of the Borough's sense of self. It's a huge, sprawling part of the City, and somehow, without the Dodgers, it wasn't united anymore.

The Dodgers leaving was one of four events from the 50s to the 70s, says Pete Hamill, that devastated Brooklyn—the others being the closing of the Brooklyn Eagle in 1955, the introduction of heroin to the white neighborhoods in the mid-50s, and the closing of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1966. Hamill, quoted in an oral history called "In The Country of Brooklyn," explained that the Brooklyn Eagle's function as a borough paper was never taken up by any other. Heroin addicts were more than a nuisance, they were dangerous. And the Navy Yard employed more than 70,000 people at one time.

After all that, Brooklyn wasn't the same. Rabbi Paul Kushner told New York Magazine,
“The Brooklyn that I know and loved isn’t there anymore. Right now, Brooklyn is an aggregation of individuals, an aggregation of racial groups, of ethnic groups. There’s nothing uniting us. There’s no borough. Marty Markowitz is not president of anything. He’s president of garbagemen and sewer cleaners, whatever keeps the infrastructure going. There’s no feeling of cohesion.”
Kushner moved to Long Island more than 20 years ago.

Last December, Walter O'Malley was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. "I told them if they insisted on doing this, it would break the hearts of Brooklynites all over again," Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz told the New York Observer.

Ebbets Field was demolished the year after the Dodgers moved, apparently by a wrecking ball painted to look like a baseball. Pete Hamill noticed something poignant at the housing projects that replaced the stadium:
Years later, I went out there for a look, and there was a sign on the wall beside the front door.

Others have noticed it too.

So what is Brooklyn today? Now every other creative writer seems to be from Brooklyn. The Borough has its own expensive SoHo in the lofts of DUMBO and its own version of Greenwich Village in Williamsburg. It's got musicians. People want to live here now. The white flight of the mid-century started turning around in the late 80s (see Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, 1989: there's a scene with confrontation between a white yuppie and the black residents of Bed-Stuy).

If real estate is the subject of nearly every New York conversation, gentrification is the subtext of most of them that take place in Brooklyn. Who wants to be that yuppie in "Do The Right Thing"? That's why I didn't move into that nice apartment in Crown Heights, near Ebbets Field. It's a touchy subject, wrapped up in race, class, and even popular culture. Are gentrifiers getting great deals and cleaning up neighborhoods, or are they pushing regular people out of the neighborhoods they grew up in?

So many of the people who still mourn the loss of the Dodgers say that it was the thing that everyone could talk about. As Sam Anderson wrote in the New York article, "The only force strong enough to unite all of the fractured cultures was baseball." This, as Anderson acknowledges, is partly mythology. But what could unite Brooklyn now? Certainly not the New Jersey Nets. Brooklyn is still waiting for its savior.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bush vs. Ferraro

And as a bonus:


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