Greenpoint/Williamsburg History

Last week I was amazed by this postcard featuring a photograph by Anders Goldfarb. This photograph was taken at the intersection of Bedford and North 9th Streets in Williamsburg (now the location of Karla's Restaurant). The photo credit on the postcard says "Belinda's Lounge, Brooklyn, NY. 1987." It was only twenty-one years ago, but it looks like fifty. This city evolves at breakneck speed!

I've had a few good history lessons from older Greenpoint residents recently. My favorite time portal is a fifty-something Italian friend named Dan. He likes to reminisce about his youth in Greenpoint, when Manhattan Avenue was lined with movie theaters and a roller rink (those locations are now fast food restaurants and drugstore chains - the roller rink disco ball still hangs in the ceiling of the Eckerd between Norman and Meserole). Dan tells me that he and his friends would spend the mornings swimming in the McCarren Park Pool - admission cost fifteen cents after noon. After a swim, they'd head out to the local theaters and catch two or three movies in the afternoon. I'm thankful for the array of bars in the neighborhood these days - they've quadrupled since I moved to Greenpoint in 2002 - but I'd trade our surplus of banks for a couple movie theaters any day! Here's an old post at my old blog about Brooklyn people.

Sonic Youth just played the last concert at the McCarren Park Pool, and according to the New York Sun, "if all goes as planned, the now-empty basin will reopen in 2011 as a glimmering oasis: an actual swimming pool, albeit downsized to accommodate between 1,400 and 1,700 bathers." I'm happy I got to see Ween and the Beastie Boys perform there during the pool's three-year stint as a concert venue; it's been a thrill having great bands perform in my backyard every weekend.

Violent Responsibility & Retro Kidz

If it walks like bullshit, and it talks like bullshit... Jayson Green is the frontman of Panthers and Violent Bullshit and he has a new blog that will amuse you like a clown. Especially funny is Jay's presidential endorsement.

Also shout-out to my man Jason of The Retro Kidz. Meeting these dudes will make you think you took a funky step back in time to '86. Here's a New York Times article about them and below is a Puma ad they're featured in.


Pretension, Desperation, Boredom, and Pain

I hereby call bullshit on album titles that intend to encompass the entire universe. The two worst offenders are Life, Death, Love and Freedom by John Mellencamp and Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace by the Foo Fighters. Not only are these titles cumbersome and gaudy, but they smack of desperation. You can almost hear Dave Grohl going, "hey guys, does this sound 'artistic' enough?"

I'm gonna go listen to Jesus Lizard's Goat in order to obliterate the pomposity.


David Blaine's New 'Trick'

Today I overheard a conversation that seemed to sum up the last ten years of illusionist David Blaine's career.

Man: "Did you hear about David Blaine's new trick? He's gonna hang upside-down over Central Park for three days."
Woman: "That's not a trick."
Man: (defensively) "It's about endurance."
Woman: "That guy's a douche."


Oh, Regrets

The phrase 'bad decisions' doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.

Some of the world's worst tattoos are compiled in the book No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & Most #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever, written by Aviva Yael and P.M. Chen with a foreword by David Cross. The book serves not only as a compendium of hilariously hideous inked flesh but also a frightening glimpse into the tackiest and drunkest depths of the human psyche. Among the worst tattoos are the bong-smoking dolphin (allegedly the result of a lost bet), bald Britney (or is it Freddy Kreuger?), and a pair of fucking (and smoking) unicorns.

Here is a gallery of images from the book. Click here to listen while Howard Stern flips through the pages.


It's Not a Real Guitar, But...

I hadn't paid much attention to Guitar Hero until I heard Dee Snider claim that his children were being exposed to decades of rock music as a result of the popular video game. Do today's young generations hum old Black Sabbath, Primus, and Van Halen songs while they loiter and curse? If so, things are looking up around this country. Here's an article on the subject.


Dreaming Woody Allen

Last night I dreamt that I was writing a screenplay with Woody Allen. That's one of the only times I can ever remember engaging in a creative process during a dream; I brainstormed various murder mystery plots and discussed them with Mr. Allen until my alarm went off. I assume that I dreamt about him because I watched his new-to-DVD Cassandra's Dream last week. Dreaming and escapism are themes of the film; it certainly seems to have cast some kind of a spell on my subconscious.

I thought the film was a grim and suspenseful thrill, but I'm in the minority. I asked a friend if she'd seen it today and her reply was, "I tried to watch it but I couldn't take it and turned it off halfway through." Then she said she feels like Woody Allen has "lost it." The common consensus seems to be that the prolific filmmaker has lost his touch; people complain that his only half-decent movie in the last decade was Match Point, which (they say) was merely his own Crimes And Misdemeanors dressed up in different clothes. I love both films and I think their similarities are unobtrusive; besides, a filmmaker so prolific is bound to return to certain themes and styles. Redundancy seems an unfair complaint about a storyteller who switches from comedy to tragedy to romance so deftly!

Like Oscar Wilde once said of The Picture of Dorain Gray, I found that a 'note of doom' ran through Cassandra's Dream like 'a purple thread.' Here are four more films that I greatly enjoyed recently:

Intermission (John Crowley, 2003)
This clever Irish film boasts a great cast, heaps of witty dialogue, and interwoven narrative threads that suggest a serious Tarantino influence.

Master and Commander (Peter Weir, 2003)
This historical seafaring epic is one of the most subtle and riveting action films I've ever seen.

Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani, 2008)
This gritty drama follows a young brother and sister as they try to survive in an urban wasteland next to Shea Stadium in Queens.

Step Brothers (Adam McKay, 2008)
Turns out John C. Reilly might eclipse Will Ferrell's funniness someday soon.


St. James the Janitor

James Hampton (1909-1964) worked as a janitor during the day and created a legendary work of American art in a rented garage during the late hours of his nights. He gave himself the title 'Director for Special Projects for the State of Eternity' while he worked on his masterwork, titled 'The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly,' now housed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

'The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly.'
Written above the throne is the phrase 'Fear Not'.

This work consists of many shimmering items surrounding a central throne. It's essentially a small church. This was the epitome of devotional art; James Hampton spent the last fourteen years of his life lovingly building this elaborate monument to Jesus. Hampton claimed to have experienced many spiritual visions. He also wrote that God instructed him on his work on the throne each night.

This decorative stand includes foil-covered light bulbs that
may symbolize Jesus' role as 'the light of the world.'

Hampton unintentionally fused high and low art forms years before the Pop Art movement strove to do so; he also used 'found objects' out of necessity way before this medium was in vogue. The throne and its accoutrements are built of furniture, aluminum and gold foil, cardboard scraps, light bulbs, desk blotters and mirror shards. Hampton's life story and his work bear a great resemblance to that of Henry Darger (rent the film 'In The Realms of the Unreal'). For more photos and information, visit this article.


Greenpoint Incident 8/09/08

Unusual graffiti at the corner of Norman and Manhattan in Greenpoint.
This is still New York, right?

I can't find any news about an incident in Greenpoint early this morning so I'm going to write about it myself. At about three AM, I was alarmed by the sound of a thunderous helicopter circling overhead. I looked out the window to see that it was a brolic* military chopper patrolling the area at a very low altitude while shining a search light on rooftops and streets. The center of its pattern seemed to be near Manhattan and Meserole, an area containing both the nightclub Europa and the local police precinct. The streets were awash with an exodus of loud nightclub goers who I 'm fairly sure had just been expelled from Europa after an incident there. There were hundreds of party people clogging the intersections and lazily walking down the block while rearranging their plans. Cop cars and ambulances and undercover cop cars with flashing lights sped around every corner. So of course I ran outside to see what was going on. I asked some scruffy loiterer what happened and he said that someone had been stabbed at Europa. Then he said something about a Mexican and a burrito. All the while that military chopper circled overhead. The neighbors emerged from their apartment and said, "What the fuck is going on?" Still no satisfying answers. Get on the ball, ny1.com!

*'Brolic' is my favorite new word. Kids in my art class (see below) last month used it in every other sentence, as in 'You mad brolic.' They explained to me that it was a synonym for 'diesel.' One kid even said he had a brolic pillow. That was almost as funny as when another student said, "My moms is mad grimy, yo!" Oh, also I saw 'brolic' on a Nike ad the other day. Those dastardly trend researchers are swift!


Commercial Pet Cloning

Phillip K. Dick rolls in his grave.

“God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the cat. He has no real style. He just keeps on trying other things.”
-Pablo Picasso


Crying While Eating

Here's the funniest website I've seen this week: www.cryingwhileeating.com


Updates In Your Face!

Today I updated a few things at www.magneticstate.com. New to the portfolio section is the logo I recently designed for D.C School Reform Now. This job was a real pleasure to work on and I believe that the ease of collaboration and communication between designer and client shows in the successful outcome! Thanks go to Alex and Andrew. Also new to the portfolio is the t-shirt design I submitted to the band Cut Copy (thanks, Riss!). So take your eyeballs for a stroll on over yonder.

Lightouse Art Classes

Here are some photos from the art classes I taught in July at Lighthouse International ("Hope When Vision Fails"). This organization and the programs I teach in there have been extremely welcoming and rewarding for me for almost two years now. In July I taught teens in two programs. The teens are all visually impaired, meaning that some are blind but most have some degree of vision. One group you will see has made collages. In this class, we focused on making artwork that is %100 tangible so that the teens can work with their hands and also feel the compositions of their classmates. We used braille graph paper so that we can easily navigate the center and sides of the page. We collaged in poster board, foam paper, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, yarn, and more. The second group of teens are photographed here with the t-shirts we made together. We used fabric markers and puffy paint that is also tangible. For those with very low vision, we mapped out the compositions and concepts together, then drew together with two hands on the marker. I'm very proud of their work. Click here to view photos of my experiences with last year's students.

Here is Catherine and two of her collages. Catherine's enthusiasm and boundless creativity always impress me. I will give her several types of materials and she will assemble them into a beautiful composition in no time (she even made fridge magnets). I found this one (above) fascinating because while other kids were making red houses and yellow suns, Catherine insisted on green for everything. The result is a bold and striking color study.

Samantha's meticulous care in creating her Yankees shirt really paid off. We mapped out each point of the 'NY' logo together to ensure its form and balance. She cracked me up because she'd stress so much before drawing each line. She's now an expert at cross-hatching!

Yes! Here is Thomas presenting the front and back sides of his t-shirt. Thomas is a huge fan of the Insane Clown Posse (a 'horror rap' group from Detroit) and other acts on the band's Psycopathic Record Label. I was into some pretty funny goth/metal stuff as a teen so I couldn't help but quiz him about it all the time and we wound up joking around about it every day. I'm now an expert on Twiztid, Juggalos, ICP frontman Shaggy 2Dope, and their logo 'The Hatchet Man' (Thomas once wore it on his necklace, his hat, and his shirt. That's dedication). I pushed him to really go for it with this shirt and we sketched out a lot of evil spiders and nefarious skulls together. Total success.

Jasmine with her 'Emo Kitty' shirt and Angelito with his 'We Stay Cool 4Eva' shirt. The back of her shirt has a list of band names (My Chemical Romance, Atreyu, HIM). This back of his says 'Forget the Rest.' Angelito's vision makes it difficult for him to see lines as fine as the ones drawn by our fabric paint and markers. He and I planned out the color, shape and placement of each letter and then drew them together.

Here is Esdriel and a landscape he made.