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Tag: Brooklyn

The third Station: Thanksgivings

Thursday, 26 November, 2015 0 Comments

On Saturday, 14 October 1989, my mother wrote the following diary entry: “My last day in Brooklyn after a beautiful holiday, the holiday of a lifetime. Today is really warm. Temp 75 degrees, everyone in summer clothes, etc. Got up at 7.am. Writing this now while the kettle is boiling. Had tea now. Must bake my last cake now. I have 6 cakes put in boxes for Ea & Ann so I am sure they’ll have nearly enough until Xmas. Ann had a great old metal frying pan for baking them in. The real thing.”

The “holiday of a lifetime” was not just a trip across the Atlantic, although that was of itself a milestone experience. What made it momentous was the knowledge that she was retracing the steps that members of her family, near and extended, had been taking since the middle of the 19th century. On ships first and in planes later, they had voyaged to the United States and spread out from New York to Chicago, Salt Lake City and San Francisco. Her own brother, Tom, emigrated to America and meeting his children in Waterbury, Connecticut, was an especially poignant moment for her.

Looking at photographs taken during the holiday, the thing that stands out is the pure happiness. The optimism of the New World suited my mother. The pace of the place agreed with her. The constant motion matched her high-energy approach to life: Sights had to be seen, people needed meeting, trips had to be taken and in the midst of all this, bread had to be baked and all these things had to be noted in the diary. This particular observation never fails to intrigue: “Seen World Trade Centre with its Twin Towers. Rise 110 Stories and 1,350 feet each and on one of them is a high pole to warn the planes not to fly too low.”

Mother with Twin Towers

The “holiday of a lifetime” was also a break from the sometimes-monotony of the rural environment that had been my mother’s reality since birth. She loved where she had been born into, but she appreciated every opportunity to explore the wider world and nothing was wider in the world for her than the USA. Watching her enjoy each encounter with America, one felt that had the cards been dealt differently she would have made a wonderful life for herself in a place where energy and creativity are so much appreciated. That was not to be, but we give thanks today for all that was, for the memories of that happy holiday and the cakes baked in Brookyn.

Our next station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Faith.


The Vimeo deal with the Weed Guy

Monday, 17 November, 2014 0 Comments

The New York-based video-sharing website, Vimeo, is ten years old this month. Different yardsticks can be used for measuring its tenacity and its success. The 170 million unique visitors a month, for instance, and then there’s the reaction of the censors. Vimeo is blocked in China and in Turkey, too. In May, Tifatul Sembiring, Indonesia’s Communications Minister, announced the banning of Vimeo, citing the country’s anti-pornography law. Coincidentally, the ban followed a global wave of acclaim for Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary, The Act of Killing.

With 70 percent of Vimeo’s audience residing outside the US, the company is rolling out new feature to enable filmmakers “subtitle their work in dozens of languages,” says Bloomberg. And it’s taking a jab at the Netflix behemoth. High Maintenance is a tentative step towards capturing a sliver of the streaming audience. In essence, Brooklyn immigrants and natives call upon the services of the Weed Guy to help them manage the stresses of borough life. Ecologically correct, he delivers by bike and helps his clients handle their crises, with an air of Stoicism and an eye for the main chance. Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, the pair behind the series, have the talent to advance Woody Allen’s observations of neurotic New Yorkers to the gluten-free, hipster level.


City life and letters

Wednesday, 9 October, 2013 0 Comments

When it came to the future of his native city, James Joyce claimed that if Dublin was destroyed you could rebuild it from the detail in Ulysses. The New York author Paul Auster makes no such lofty claims regarding his hometown, but many of his books are maps of the Big Apple, particularly his adopted Brooklyn. Auster is more than urban fiction, though. His books also contain humanity in all its fragility. Oracle Nights Anyone who has fought back from major illness will feel at home in the introduction to Oracle Night:

“I had been sick for a long time. When the day came for me to leave the hospital, I barely knew how to walk anymore, could barely remember who I was supposed to be. Make an effort, the doctor said, and in three for four months you’ll be back in the swing of things. I didn’t believe him, but I followed his advice anyway. They had given me up for dead, and now that I had confounded their predictions and mysteriously failed to die, what choice did I have but l live as though a future life were waiting for me?

I began with small outings, no more than a block or two from my apartment and then home again. I was only thirty-four but for all intents and purposes, the illness had turned me into an old man — one of those palsied, shuffling geezers who can’t put one foot in front of the other without first looking down to see which foot is which.”

As our narrator gets stronger, his wanderings take him as far as a stationary shop in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn and he buys a blue notebook, which then puts him under its spell. The rest is a story about haunted lives.

Those who do get a second bite of the cherry of life and survive serious sickness will relate to this passage towards the close of Auster’s novel: “I had my face in my hands and was sobbing my guts out. I don’t know how long I carried on like that, but even as the tears poured out of me, I was happy, happier to be alive than I had ever been before. It was a happiness beyond consolation, beyond misery, beyond all the ugliness and beauty of the world.”

The ugliness and beauty of the world as captured by writers will feature in two cities this week: Frankfurt, where the annual Book Fair begins today, and Stockholm, where tomorrow the Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced. Prior to that, in our continuing urban week, we’ll look at the city as the battleground for future conflicts.


From and about Ohio: The National

Saturday, 28 September, 2013 1 Comment

It’s not every day that one encounters a band comprising two pairs of brothers, whose surnames begin with “D”, but twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf are the core of The National. Completing the lineup is Matt Berninger, the genius who writes and sings the songs. Formed in Cincinnati and now resident in Brooklyn, The National have become a global success story. Trouble Will Find Me, their latest album, released in May, immediately topped charts across the world, but the platform for that success was built in 2010 with High Violet. Bloodbuzz Ohio was the first single from the album and it continues to astonish.


Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools

Saturday, 21 July, 2012

Denitza Todorova (MC DENA) was born in Bulgaria and now lives in Berlin. She paid homage to her adopted city by shooting the video for Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools in the city’s multinational Neukölln district. “I live in Kreuzberg. It’s like the Brooklyn of Berlin. For the eight years I’ve been here, it’s getting […]

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