Why We Shouldn't Go Over the Fiscal Cliff, Or Just Say No to Austerity



Steve Keen, Australian author of Debunking Economics, was invited by Dennis Kucinich to present his view on public vs private debt to Congress. If you don’t understand our current crisis, the thirty minutes will be a great education. Or you can visit Keen’s website and download his paper and/or read the synopsis on his blog. This is the best explanation of the real dangers of austerity and why we shouldn’t care about government debt at this point in time.
Comments

Almost Done (Prospect Heights)

20120904_BarclaysCenter
Less than 3 weeks until this giant 18,000 seat stadium opens down the street. Nets part-owner Jay-Z will play the opening concert on September 28.Though OWS is pissed at Jay-Z for many reasons, he is not even in the 1% of ownership of the Nets (<1% compared with Russian billionaire Prokhorov’s 80%).
Comments

Good or Bad Photography?

Pasted Graphic
Photo by Joe Klamar

Quite a controversy has developed around photojournalist Joe Klamar’s photographs of the U.S. Olympic Team heading to London next month. With less than heroic poses and little to no retouching or any of the slick lighting that we’ve come to expect from Olympian portraits, Klamar’s photos got a lot of pummeling by amateurs and pros alike. Some even accused him of mockery and anti-Americanism. And many said that an amateur could have done a lot better. After lots of speculation as to the photographer’s motives, he finally spoke up, revealing that he was unprepared for a studio shoot and thus had to wing it, borrowing another photographer’s seamless and extra strobes and coming up with a new pose every three minutes. After perusing the comments to some of these articles, I realized that I was definitely in the minority: I find these portraits very realistic depictions of ordinary humans with extraordinary skills who are not pretending to be monumental. There’s an intimacy and vulnerability and playfulness you don’t find in most sports portraiture these days and I really like it. Read about it here, here, here, and here.

Pasted Graphic 1
Pasted Graphic 2
Pasted Graphic 3
Comments

ConEd Explosion (Prospect Heights)

20120703_ConEd_explosion
Probably just a coincidence, but now that a heat wave is in progress and regular ConEd workers are locked out, management (and scabs) are on the scene. This was around 11am this morning. There was a loud boom, the lights flickered and when I went outside ten minutes later, smoke was pouring out of a manhole around the corner. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a brownout over the holiday week.
Comments

9/11 Tenth Anniversary (from Prospect Heights)

20110910-911_Anniversary-02
Comments

The Original Funky Drummer


Photo by Benjamin Franzen/NYT

Clyde Stubblefield, at 67, may be the most sampled drummer in recording history. He was the man responsible for the great pulse behind James Brown. The solo from Funky Drummer has appeared in perhaps hundreds of songs, mostly hip-hop, in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Now he’d like a little compensation for his unique, danceable groove. Read the NYT story here. Everybody knows the groove, but here it is, in case you need a refresher.
Comments

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Anniversary (Village)


This Friday, March 25 is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the city’s worst fire which claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, primarily young immigrant women, many just teenagers. I’ve written about this before because I’ve participated in artist Ruth Sergel’s annual chalking art project, Chalk, which asks volunteers to write the names of the deceased in front of the brownstones, tenements, and other buildings where these women lived at the time of their deaths. All week long, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition is sponsoring events commemorating the fire. An HBO movie is set to be broadcast. A parade will take place at 11am by the site of the fire on Washington and Greene, now NYU’s Brown Building. Books, lectures, union talks, and on an on. A big deal, especially at a time when unions are being mightily threatened by Republicans all across the U.S. My good friend LuLu LoLo has also been performing excerpts from her solo show, Soliloquy for a Seamstress. In her one act play, LuLu dramatizes the tragedy through the life of Sara Saracino, a young seamstress who grew up not far from LuLu’s home in East Harlem. In three scenes, she plays Sara’s mother, Sara from the time she learns of the fire breaking out to the moment she jumps, and an William Gunn Shepherd, The World reporter who broadcast news of the unfolding fire. Some photos from her performance in front of the NYU Brown Building on Saturday follow.


Comments

The Earthquake, the Tsunami, the Meltdown, and the Remaining 50

Like most people, I’ve been saddened and depressed by the horrible events in northeast Japan. I am grateful that nobody I know was living in the affected areas, especially my brother whose family was in Tokyo, but is now in Osaka (another 500 km from Fukushima) to wait out the nuclear dangers. Being half-Japanese, I think I understand the Japanese government’s unwillingness to admit how bad things really are. In Japan, typically doctors don’t tell the patient how sick he is. If he has cancer and has 6 months to a year to live, they just don’t tell him that. They believe it kills the spirit. I’m somewhat torn about this approach, and my father, who was a doctor, was as well. My feeling from viewing the horrific scenes of destruction, is that most likely 15-25,000 people or more may be dead, that the effect on the economy will last years, and that cleanup after the world’s second-worst (hopefully) disaster may take a decade and might require permanently isolating Fukushima off from the rest of Japan. I would love to be proven wrong.

Between the Times’ Lede coverage and a very informative (and calm) official NHK feed, I’ve been overdosing on the latest developments, worried sick about my brother and whether a radioactive plume might head toward Tokyo. The photograph which most moved me of the utter desolation was this one, taken by a photojournalist at Asashi Shimbun, Toshiyuki Tsunenari. It’s of a woman weeping in Natori.

This photograph reminded me of another, taken 74 years earlier in Shanghai:


This baby, too, is a victim, but by Japanese bombing of Shanghai in 1937. I’m not trying to make a judgment here, just comparing the similar feeling of two photographs separated by three-quarters of a century.

Lastly, I’d like to refer readers to an interesting piece I read in the Times, a story about the 50 (now 100) TEPCO workers at the Daichi Nuclear Power Plant who are in charge of trying to prevent meltdown. The safety of Japan, Asia, and the world is in their hands. They are making the ultimate sacrifice.


And now this, after a phone call this morning with my brother in Osaka, it appears that most people are calm in Tokyo, with the usual spectrum of trauma reactions of denial, anger, and mild panic. Fuel seems to be one of the biggest things in short supply. Aside from the rolling blackouts, most people are working as if nothing happened, but trucks and taxis are having trouble finding gas and deliveries of goods are falling off. One of my brother’s friends drove around for 3 hours in Tokyo looking for diapers for his baby, only to have his car run out of gas. Up north, of course, there are next to no supplies, so, in comparison, Tokyo has it very easy.

The most important thing is for Japan and foreign teams to quickly tackle cooling the reactors and spent fuel pools. As the article referenced above says, this task requires nothing short of heroism. The odds of another Chernobyl are low, but the risk of deadly radioactive contamination locally is real. It will probably take another week or two, provided nothing unexpected happens (like another earthquake or tsunami), to establish uninterrupted water cooling. Only then, will we be able to assess the real radioactive damage. I pray that Japanese leadership remains coolheaded, creative, and accepting of foreign expertise. And I pray that this horrible, horrible nightmare ends soon.
Comments

The Best Street Photographer You Never Heard Of


Her name was Vivian Maier and she was born in 1926 and died in 2009. Her father was Austrian, her mother French. She was born in New York, grew up in France, and returned to the U.S. when she was 25. Most of her working life was spent as a nanny in Chicago, where apparently she spent much of her free time walking the streets and photographing square compositions with her Rolleiflex. Her life’s work, 100,000 negatives, was won at auction by a real estate agent, John Maloof, who paid $400 for the mysterious boxes. Below are a selection of her work, all of it scanned by Maloof who has only catalogued a small amount of the total archive and has near total control of her photographic legacy. It is fascinating to look at all of this work and not be swayed by comparisons with other street photography greats: Robert Frank, Walker Evans, Lisette Model, Harry Callahan, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand. When a life’s work remains hidden, it doesn’t get a chance to dialogue with the culture and it’s hard to ascertain such chicken and egg issues as was she an imitator or a trend setter. Had she seen Callahan’s formalist work featuring Chicago’s light and shadows? Had she seen Helen Levitt’s photographs of kids in NYC? Whatever further research may reveal, what is undoubtable is that she had a great eye and cool sense of formalist aesthetics, and without a doubt, we’ve never seen such a treasure trove of fantastic street work of any city outside of New York. Interestingly, like Garry Winogrand, she died leaving hundreds (perhaps thousands) of rolls of undeveloped film. It will be very interesting to see what unfolds in the coming years. She left behind almost exclusively negatives—very few vintage prints—so all editorial decisions will be made for her. The first large scale exhibition of her work opened yesterday at the Chicago Cultural Center and a documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier, is set to be released in 2012. To read more about Vivian Maier, go to Maloof’s VM blog here and view a fairly candid interview with him here. Also check out this in-depth Chicago Magazine piece, as well as here and this TV story on the whole discovery. And as always in such a big find, there’s a bit of controversy on who “discovered” her and who controls what, here. Meanwhile, enjoy the fantastic photographs.
Comments

Kodachrome R.I.P. 1935-2010


Kodachrome was my first color film love. Great name, great colors, great longevity. 2009 was the year Kodak ceased manufacturing it and yesterday the last Kodachrome lab in the world--in Kansas--processed its last roll. Before Ektachrome and high-resolution color negative emulsions became the preferred choice of photographers, Kodachrome was the king of color. Much of the groundbreaking images in the history of color photography were shot on Kodachrome, but none are perhaps as well known as Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, seen above. NYT has 2 stories on this here and here.
Comments

Murder on Vanderbilt (Prospect Heights)


Last night, there was a murder just a couple of blocks from my studio, at a bar called Branded Saloon. Apparently it began as an altercation between two dog owners whose dogs were yapping at each other while they were leashed to the fence outside. In the end, a previously convicted murder named Daniel Pagan stabbed and killed one of Branded’s bartenders, Chai Eun J Hillmann, and slashed another Branded employee, Daniel Hultquist, who had rushed outside to defend his friend. Pagan was apprehended quickly—fortunately. Hopefully this time the criminal justice system will work correctly and keep the murderer locked up forever. More about this tragedy here.


Comments

Ernest Withers, Civil Rights Photographer, FBI Informant



You probably know many of Ernest C. Wither’s photographs. He documented the Civil Rights struggle in general and Martin Luther King in particular. He was even with MLK during the Memphis assasination. A few days ago, Memphis’ The Commercial Appeal, published a damning investigative report called Ernest Withers: Exposed, alleging that the photographer was a long-term FBI informant. Withers, pictured on the left, who died in 2007, was informant ME 338-R to the FBI. The thumbnails above reference Withers’ tips to FBI agents he made at MLK’s funeral. The Withers family is outraged at the accusations, understandably, and fear that the photographer’s legacy may be tarnished. While I haven’t had enough time to inspect all of the documents released under FOIA, the evidence appears to be convincing. The big question is why? Money seems a likely motivation. But who knows? I’m sure a book or two is underway.
Comments

"Tornado" Damage (Prospect Heights)


Especially bad hit by yesterday’s sudden storm, that some are calling a tornado, was Brooklyn’s Benjamin Lowry Triangle, a small park a half-block from my studio. For more pictures of damage to the city, check out gothamist.
Comments

Park Slope Firemen 9/11 March

Comments

9/11 Lights (Brooklyn Heights Promenade)


Photographed with my iPhone at around 7:40pm on 9/11. There was quite a crowd on the promenade, and I bet hundreds of blogs are featuring photos like this.
Comments

Steak, lobster, apple pie, vanilla ice cream, 7UP


That was what Ronnie Lee Gardner ate for his last meal. He was executed by firing squad in Utah a few minutes after midnight on June 18th. A victim of a terrible childhood, Gardner went on to kill two people, one a lawyer in 1985. Most likely he will be the last to be executed by this barbaric method. His surviving family apparently played Lynrd Synyrd’s “Free Bird” as the 4 real bullets from 5 shooters (one was a blank) pierced his heart. Timothy Egan has a good piece on capital punishment in general and this method in particular. Regardless of the victim’s heinous offenses, to me, capital punishment is nothing more than state-sanctioned murder. It does not deter. It should be abolished.
Comments

Goldstein Is Bought Out


Money wins. Daniel Goldstein, the founder of Develop Don’t Destroy, has agreed to settle with Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards, for $3 million. He lives a few blocks from my studio on Pacific Street and was the last man standing in the footprint who hadn’t been bought out. The $3M apparently buys Goldstein’s condo, bought for $590K in 2003, and his silence--Goldstein agrees to “not actively oppose the project,” which primarily means to abandon the only coalition actively opposed to the project, DDD. Read more about this sad news here. Good news: Freddy’s, the great bar (and Ratner hate HQ) around the corner from my home, closes on April 30th, but will reopen on 4th and Union.
Comments

Portrait of Insurgents


The above photo was released by Russian news agencies. It is said to be a portrait of one of the Moscow suicide bombers (Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, likely not yet 17) and her husband, Umalat Magomedov, a “militant Islamist,” who was killed in 2009. A big novel could be written about this photograph. The youth, the cocky pride, the Bonnie and Clyde coolness--and all the blood of innocent victims on their hands in the name of vengeance and political oppression. While it seems the condemnation is universal, the West still refuses to face the difficult question: why would a young woman barely on the brink of adulthood willingly destroy herself and dozens of innocent strangers?
Comments

Atlantic Yards Construction Begins (Prospect Heights)


You’re looking at the future site of the Brooklyn Nets stadium. In 2011 with lots of traffic. Below is a closer view, with the building in the top right containing the home of Daniel Goldstein, the founder of Develop Don’t Destroy. Most likely all buildings around here will be razed first before the eminent domain showdown for Goldstein’s property and a few other holdouts who refused to be bought out by Ratner’s deep pockets.
Comments

The Death of Professional Photography


The New York Times has an article about how amateurs have been flooding the professional photography market. This isn’t news for somebody like me. This is what I’ve been calling the Craigslist phenomenon. The shitty economy has forced everybody to get more creative about how they earn money. And many photo hobbyists are discovering that they’d happily take photos for next to nothing, thus the undercutting of prices and the devaluing of pro quality. Wedding photography for $3-500 is now commonplace. Headshots for $75. When you’re an amateur, time is not money. The complication of course is that there’s often little that distinguishes amateur from pro work. This is often the case in the arts. But technology-based jobs have been getting outsourced to cheaper competition—India, China, etc.—for years. Professional photographers now either have to pursue the high-end or compete against the lowest-common denominator. Of course journalism and photojournalism are dying professions anyway. Twitter and blogs now deliver the news and flickr allows anyone to enter the stock photo business. Competition is healthy of course and as Cocteau said, a medium only really becomes an art form when it is affordable by the masses. So, while I love the increasingly visually saturated world, I’m preparing for my full retreat into another non-lucrative passion, fiction writing.
Comments

Atlantic Yards Begins in Earnest


In two years, we will have this glorious building down the street from us. This afternoon, Bruce Ratner’s ratpack of politicians, Paterson, Bloomberg, Schumer, Markowitz, etc. pushed their ceremonial shovels into some ceremonial dirt.

Thanks to taxpayer subsidies, Ratner’s pockets are very deep, deep enough to buy almost everyone out. Most likely there will be a few eminent domain fights before Forest City Ratner can claim the last few pockets of privately owned land, but the Supreme Court has already spoken about that. Like the Republican Convention held in NYC in 2004, protestors were forced a block away from the ceremony. The Times reported this, but the story was mostly buried, strange given the scale of the Atlantic Yards project. (Could it have something to do with the NYT’s cozy relationship with Forest City Ratner?).

While I’m all for jobs and the expansion of affordable housing, this plan will do little good for the borough except help the construction industry and possibly build some borough pride with the Nets. Aside from real estate speculators, I do not know a single person who is in favor of this enormous project. It is totally out of character with the neighborhood, in scale and design. The traffic will be a nightmare. There aren’t enough schools, the subway and LIRR will be overburdened. And then there will be the loss of neighborhood businesses as anonymous mall life invades the borough. We live in Brooklyn because we like the brownstone scale of life. We like trees and parks and peace and quiet. We like owner-occupied small structures. There’s a reason we didn’t want to live in Manhattan. This is a very sad day for Brooklyn.
Comments

Barry Hannah, R.I.P.


I had the privilege of spending a week with Barry Hannah in 2007, at a summer workshop at Amherst College. Though his love of storytelling was still richly evident, it was clear his failing health was most on his mind. Drink and cancer had ravaged him, and the financial fallout was terrible. Like Orson Welles, who needed to pontificate about cheap domestic wines to pay the rent, Hannah joked that he only did these workshops for the money. Still, I was charmed by his raucous sense of humor and his reverence for his literary forbears. After enjoying brief monologues on the craft of fiction, I got to lunch with him and talk about Faulkner and John Grisham and Larry Brown, and Donna Tartt, his hatred of the label southernwriting. He had an amazing, playful way with words. His sentences and characters were wild and fun and irreverent. I have never encountered voices like those in Airships or Geronimo Rex. The horror and grotesque humor of Yonder Stands Your Orphan still haunts me. On Monday, America lost a truly original voice. Read the NYT obit here and an appreciation at Vanity Fair.
Comments

Gowanus Canal Designated Superfund Site


The EPA did the right thing, naming the polluted Gowanus a SuperFund site. According to this NYT article, the cleanup could take 10-12 years and cost $300-500 million. Bloomberg and company were very disappointed, no doubt upset about the prospects for crony real estate development. Next up should be the Superfund labeling of the terrible oil spill under Greenpoint, one of the worst domestic oil spills (even bigger than the Exxon Valdez).
Comments

Pew News Quiz


I’m happy to say I got 11 out of 12 questions right on this test of current events ignorance. Try it yourself here.
Comments

J.D. Salinger, R.I.P.


JDS in 1950, photo by Lotte Jacobi

One of the most influential American writers of the 20th Century died on the 27th. The Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite books. I wonder if his children will reveal if there was a manuscript their father was working on all these years.
Comments

Newspaper (Summerland)

Comments

Irving Kriesberg, 1919-2009


We had nearly completed documenting over 60 years of his work, when he died on November 11th. An obit is on the NYT here.
Comments

Composition vs. Meaning


The above photo was taken in 1991 in the Bronx by New York Times staff reporter Angel Franco. Composed with the urban blight in the background, this Halloween picture of Guisette Muniz, then 6, elicited an outpouring of Times' readers emotions (and gifts). Readers interpreted Muniz's expression to be sad, vulnerable, and worthy of pity, when in reality she was scared--not of the desolate neighborhood--but of her uncle who was inside the apartment in a frightening Chuckie costume. Read more about this photo in the Times here. This also fits nicely with Errol Morris' series in the Op-Ed webpages on propaganda and photography, a fascinating read here. The subject of how photographers compose, put frames around what they see, is worthy of many books of essays. Context is everything.
Comments

Mein Baaden Meinhof


Coincidentally, I was looking through a catalog raisonée of Gerhard Richter's work on the 32nd anniversary of the biggest events of the German Autumn on October 18, 1977. I am returning to a novel which takes some of its inspiration from the tragic, misplaced angst of the RAF.
Comments

Michael Jackson Birthday Party (Prospect Park)

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Studio Finally Ready to Rock and Roll

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Another Digital Manipulation Controversy

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

RIP: Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

RIP: Farah Fawcett 1947-2009

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Atlantic Yards Site (Prospect Heights)

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Knox's Day in Court

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

J.G. Ballard, R.I.P.

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Waiting for the Next Disaster

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Bush in Tears

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Q: What Was Bush Doing While the Economy Was Melting?

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Finally the Nightmare Can End!

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Studs Terkel

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Powell Finally Does the Right Thing

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

The Manipulator Manipulates McCain

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

WTC 7th Anniversary

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

A Nose Is a Nose Is a Nose?


In a kind of Borgesian rewriting of history, United Artists has apparently doctored old photographs of Claus von Stauffenberg, the attempted assassin of Hitler, so they resemble better Tom Cruise who is playing the German hero in a film called Valkyrie slated to open in February of 2009. Read about the controversy and how it ties in to Scientology here.
Comments

The Empires Strike Back: Big Oil Is Back in Iraq

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Bees, Like Humans, Are Overworked

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

The Verdict Is In: Saddam Had No WMDs!

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Client 9 Gear Already Available

Comments

Invented Memoirs—A Million Little Pieces Redux X 2

First a holocaust memoir turns out to be a total fabrication (Misha Defonseca's Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years), now an L.A. gang orphan story turns out to be fiction as well. Margaret B. Jones' Love and Consequencesfooled a lot of reviewers for the best reasons: it was well written and compelling. In Defonseca's case, she was not found out until the book was already a bestseller and a movie. For Jones, we'll see how her career fares, especially since the publisher has cancelled her book tour and is recalling the book. (I wonder if you can sue for the mental anguish caused by memoir deception--WRITERS: a possible short story idea?). It's amazing how well a book can sell when it's labeled as a memoir, but when it's fiction, it's assumed to bear little resemblance to reality and is given much less attention. Reality sells. Though I haven't read her book, Defonseca's supposed raised-by-wolves childhood was probably no less vivid than a great book of powerful fiction thought to be based on some version of the author's youth: Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird.
Comments

Michael Moore Is Very Brave

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments

Kurt Vonnegut—1922-2007

Photo by Jill Krementz (his wife)
One of my heroes died yesterday. I started reading the lovable hoosier late in high school and on through my twenties. I must have read every book of his before Galapagos: Breakfast of Champions, Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse 5, Player Piano, Mother Night, Deadeye Dick. And I really loved Slapstick, which seemed to be universally panned. He was a true original, a brave patriot, a promoter of free speech. He looked like Mark Twain and smoked as much as George Burns. What a force! What a conscience! I will miss his voice.
Comments

China Proves Its Ready for War in the Final Frontier

China made a strategic test last Thursday evening local time. Now it's not just superior firepower that counts, "smart" bombs, but the ability to protect the satellites that guide them. GPS is very vulnerable if its satellite network is destroyed. Read more here.
Comments

Sony Walkman Monkey Dies

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled. Read More...
Comments