Tag: New York

9/11 at 15

Sunday, 11 September, 2016 0 Comments

For the people who went to work in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on the morning of 11 September 2001 and were mercilessly slaughtered; for the firefighters and the police who gallantly responded to the calls for help and were obliterated; for the passengers on the planes and the flight crews whose lives were extinguished in a terrifying moment, this poignant memorial is dedicated to you and yours.

“Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose. A pity that we let them pick the time and place of the challenge, but we can and we will make up for that.” — Christopher Hitchens


Pelé in Tribeca

Friday, 22 April, 2016 0 Comments

Highlight of tomorrow’s Tribeca Film Festival will be the screening of Pelé: Birth of a Legend, a biopic about the rise of the great footballer, who led Brazil to three World Cup wins. It is written and directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, who made The Two Escobars, a superb film about the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Colombian footballer Andres Escobar. Jeff Zimblast also co-directed Favela Rising, which focuses on the work of Anderson Sá, a former drug trafficker who established the AfroReggae movement in one of Rio de Janeiro’s worst slums, Vigario Geral.


Nostalgie de la boue in Manhattan: 1970 and 2016

Wednesday, 9 March, 2016 0 Comments

Today’s BuzzFeed headline reads: DeRay McKesson To Hold Fundraiser At Banker’s Manhattan Home. For those who may not know him, DeRay McKesson is a “full-time activist” and the most public face of the Black Lives movement. “People have been voting since the civil rights movement & we are still here,” is a typical elliptical DeRay McKesson statement. McKesson will speak tonight in the Upper West Side home of Ted Dreyfus, a former Citibank executive, who has also worked for the Clinton Foundation.

Nostalgie de la boue is a 19th-century French term that means “nostalgia for the mud,” and its white guilt connotation was leveraged by Tom Wolfe in one of the all-time great piece of modern journalism. Published by New York magazine in June 1970 and titled Radical Chic it captured the craziness of those times perfectly.

Background: The scene that Wolfe so (in)famously depicted took place in the Manhattan apartment of Leonard Bernstein. The legendary conductor, composer and Democratic Party supporter assembled many of his wealthy friends to meet members of the Black Panthers to discuss how they could help their cause. Black Panther The director Otto Preminger was there and so, too, was the TV reporter Barbara Walters. With their armchair agitation and high fashion, they were, in Wolfe’s eyes, the “radical chic” pursuing revolutionary ends for social reasons. Snippet:

“One rule is that nostalgie de la boue – i.e., the styles of romantic, raw-vital, Low Rent primitives – are good; and middle class, whether black or white, is bad. Therefore, Radical Chic invariably favors radicals who seem primitive, exotic and romantic, such as the grape workers, who are not merely radical and ‘of the soil,’ but also Latin; the Panthers, with their leather pieces, Afros, shades, and shoot-outs; and the Red Indians, who, of course, had always seemed primitive, exotic and romantic. At the outset, at least, all three groups had something else to recommend them, as well: they were headquartered 3,000 miles away from the East Side of Manhattan, in places like Delano (the grape workers), Oakland (the Panthers) and Arizona and New Mexico (the Indians). They weren’t likely to become too much… underfoot, as it were. Exotic, Romantic, Far Off… as we shall soon see, other favorite creatures of Radical Chic had the same attractive qualities; namely, the ocelots, jaguars, cheetahs and Somali leopards.

When Time magazine later interviewed a minister of the Black Panthers about Bernstein’s party, the official said of Wolfe: “You mean that dirty, blatant, lying, racist dog who wrote that fascist disgusting thing in New York magazine?”

When DeRay McKesson speaks tonight, will BuzzFeed have its Tom Wolfe on site? Will the Manhattan dialogue captured in 2016 match the music and madness that Tom Wolfe put down on paper in 1970?

Quat is trying to steer the whole thing away — but suddenly Otto Preminger speaks up from the sofa where he’s sitting, also just a couple of feet from Cox:

“He used von important vord” — then he looks at Cox — “you said zis is de most repressive country in de vorld. I dun’t beleef zat.”

Cox says, “Let me answer the question —”

Lenny breaks in: “When you say ‘capitalist’ in that pejorative tone, it reminds me of Stokely. When you read Stokely’s statement in The New York Review of Books, there’s only one place where he says what he really means, and that’s way down in paragraph 28 or something, and you realize he is talking about setting up a socialist government —”

Preminger is still talking to Cox: “Do you mean dat zis government is more repressive zan de government of Nigeria?”

“I don’t know anything about the government of Nigeria,” says Cox. “Let me answer the question —”

“You dun’t eefen listen to de kvestion,” says Preminger. “How can you answer de kvestion?”

“Let me answer the question,” Cox says, and he says to Lenny: “We believe that the government is obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income . . . see . . . but if the white businessman will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessman and placed in the community, with the people.”

Lenny says: “How? I dig it! But how?”

“Right on!” Someone in the back digs it, too.

“Right on!”

Julie Belafonte pipes up: “That’s a very difficult question!”

“You can’t blueprint the future,” says Cox.

“You mean you’re just going to wing it?” says Lenny.

“Like . . . this is what we want, man,” says Cox, “we want the same thing as you, we want peace. We want to come home at night and be with the family . . . and turn on the TV . . . and smoke a little weed . . . you know? . . . and get a little high . . . you dig? . . . and we’d like to get into that bag, like anybody else. But we can’t do that . . . see . . . because if they send in the pigs to rip us off and brutalize our families, then we have to fight.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more!” says Lenny. “But what do you do—”

Cox says: “We think that this country is going more and more toward fascism to oppress those people who have the will to fight back —”

“I agree with you one hundred percent!” says Lenny. “But you’re putting it in defensive terms, and don’t you really mean it in offensive terms —”

“That’s the language of the oppressor,” says Cox. “As soon as —”

“Dat’s not —” says Preminger.

“Let me finish!” says Cox. “As a Black Panther, you get used to —”

“Dat’s not —”

“Let me finish! As a Black Panther, you learn that language is used as an instrument of control, and —”

“He doesn’t mean dat!”

“Let me finish!”


The Daily Telegraph and the could/would jet

Friday, 29 January, 2016 0 Comments

Fancy flying from London to New York in 11 minutes? From New York to Sydney in half an hour? Read on. The Daily Telegraph delighted its readers earlier today when it greeted them with the headline “This private jet would get you from London to New York in 11 minutes.” Right at the get-go, Lauren Davidson tells us that “a seven-hour flight across the Atlantic can feel interminable,” which is very true, and then she delivers the good news: “But a new design for a luxury business jet could get you from London to New York in 11 minutes — and from New York to Sydney in half an hour. The Antipode is a 10-seater aircraft that would be able to travel at 12,427 miles per hour.”

This is all very exciting, but the presence of “could/would” there suggests that Telegraph readers won’t be able to avail of the service this weekend. And more “woulds” follow: “Charles Bombardier, the Canadian inventor, released a concept design last year for the Skreemr, a jet that would be able to fly at Mach 10. Travelling at 7,673 miles per hour, the 75-seater Skreemr would get from the UK to the east coast the US in around 30 minutes.”

Daily Telegraph news values We are into the seventh paragraph before Ms Davidson brings us back down to earth, so to speak: “However, Mr Bombardier confessed his concerns that materials ‘able to withstand the heat, pressure and structural stress’ of the aircraft had not yet been invented.” Whether she’s referring to the Antipode or the Skreemr in that sentence is unclear, however.

Although the Antipode aircraft has not yet been invented the Daily Telegraph seems to believe that this non-breaking story is homepage newsworthy. Why? Is there a shortage of “real” news? Is Charles Bombardier a friend of Sir David Rowat Barclay and Sir Frederick Hugh Barclay? The truth may be more mundane. Back on 16 January, Forbes ran a story titled “Exclusive: Fly From New York To Dubai In 22 Minutes On Board This Hypersonic Private Jet Concept.” Kristin Tablang’s article is far less sensational than Lauren Davidson’s one and it’s much better for that.


Epiphany poem and painting

Wednesday, 6 January, 2016 0 Comments

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.

The Journey Of The Magi by T S Eliot

It has been said that Eliot’s imagery in The Journey Of The Magi is similar to that used by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior speak and act in a mystical world where their frankincense, gold and myrrh are both real and mysterious. Sometime around 1475, Hieronymus Bosch attempted to capture this in The Adoration of the Magi, which is displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Magi


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.


Breakfast with Bond

Tuesday, 10 November, 2015 0 Comments

When he’s not gallivanting around the world saving civilization from the likes of SMERSH and SPECTRE, James Bond likes to relax at home. The day begins with the same routine: breakfast, and every breakfast is the same: a boiled egg, two slices of whole wheat toast with marmalade jam and coffee. Ian Fleming describes this in great detail in From Russia With Love. The brown egg is boiled for three-and-a-third minutes before being placed in Bond’s favourite eggcup:

“It was a very fresh, speckled brown egg from French Marans hens owned by some friend of May in the country. (Bond disliked white eggs and, faddish as he was in many small things, it amused him to maintain that there was such a thing as the perfect boiled egg.)”

Marans hens, for those who don’t know poultry, originated in the département of Charente-Maritime, in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France. In Fleming’s short story, 007 in New York, Bond’s passion for Maran eggs is such that he travels the length and breadth of the city in an attempt to track some down only to be told by a grocery store clerk, “We don’t stock ’em, mister. People think they’re dirty.”

Bond had better luck with eggs in the Big Apple in Live and Let Die. On the run from the evil Mr. Big, 007 “hides” at the St. Regis Hotel, where he orders a substantial breakfast: pineapple juice, cornflakes, eggs and bacon, toast with marmalade and a double espresso. Although he is in mortal danger, Bond does not want to face death over sunny-side up eggs. He insists instead on œufs cocotte à la Provençale.

Speaking of eggs and New York City, Paul Simon says he was eating in a Chinese restaurant in downtown Manhattan and there was a chicken and egg dish on the menu called “Mother and Child Reunion.” Simon: “And I said, I gotta use that one.”

The best boiled egg

“Have you ever seen a man, woman, or child who wasn’t eating an egg or just going to eat an egg or just coming away from eating an egg? I tell you, the good old egg is the foundation of daily life.” — P.G. Wodehouse, Love Among the Chickens


A different kind of vertical

Monday, 12 October, 2015 0 Comments

A fairly recent headline reads: “Tidemark goes verticals, machine learning and benchmarking.” It makes little sense to those who are not familiar with the vocabulary of the information economy and it makes even less sense to those who might have learned English as a second language. I mean, “Tidemark goes verticals”. What’s that about? Actually, vertical is now a standard tech marketing term, and it’s usually used in the plural, to make matters worse.

It’s a very different kind of vertical that interests the American photographer Richard Silver. In his Vertical Churches series, Silver has produced a unique collection of panoramic vertical photos of churches around the world. He created each image by interlacing up to ten photos of the subject and the results are spellbinding. Places of worship in the series include the Wangfujing Catholic Church in Beijing, the Church of the Transfiguration in Krakow, the Holy Name Cathedral in Mumbai, the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York and the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Yangon.

Vertical church


Gatsby: Sam Guo as James Gatz

Monday, 24 August, 2015 1 Comment

With his vast wealth, James Gatz purchased a lavish mansion on Long Island and proceeded to throw elaborate parties. Those who swam in the rivers of booze during those wild nights at West Egg didn’t know he was born James Gatz, however. To them, he was Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire. Likewise with Kui Zhang Guo, a Chinese businessman who bought a manor for $11.45 million in the upscale Hunters Hill area of Sydney last year. Gatsby He prefers to go by his anglicized name, Sam Guo, writes the Sydney Morning Herald, which begins its story about his fabulous parties thus: “His neighbours have already dubbed him the ‘Chinese Gatsby’, which judging by the largesse in the form of rivers of French champagne and no expense spared parties inside his lavish Hunters Hill mansion, would seem like a fitting nom de plume for Kui Zhang Guo.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald would have loved it. The Guo-Gatz symbolism is uncanny and with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting another awful day at the exchanges “as tanking Chinese sharemarkets wipe out the past two years of gains on the local bourse”, the scene is set, perfectly, for our annual reading of The Great Gatsby. Let’s kick off with a passage that reflects the thrill of the party on the edge of the abyss:

“The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word.”

Tomorrow, here, a hot young writer on the enduring greatness of Gatsby.


Cats have kittens, bats have bittens

Sunday, 19 July, 2015 0 Comments

Ogden Nash was famous for his light verse and he wrote more than 500 waggish pieces during his lifetime. The poet entered Harvard University in 1920, only to drop out a year later. He then worked as a teacher for a year at his alma mater, St. George’s School in Newport County, Rhode Island, before heading to New York to sell bonds, about which he later remarked, “Came to New York to make my fortune as a bond salesman and in two years sold one bond — to my godmother. However, I saw lots of good movies.” In 1934, Nash moved to Baltimore, where he remained until his death in 1971. “I could have loved New York had I not loved Balti-more,” he said, Nashlike.

Note: The guppy (Poecilia reticulata) is one of the world’s most widely distributed tropical fish.

The Guppy

Whales have calves,
Cats have kittens,
Bears have cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.

Ogden Nash (1902 – 1971)


“Well, I shuffled through the city on the 4th of July”

Saturday, 4 July, 2015 0 Comments

New York, New York was included on an acclaimed Ryan Adams album that was scheduled for release on 11 September 2001. The material on Gold was written long before the 9/11 terror attacks and the themes, hard loving and heavy drinking, were the stuff of young lives in a city full of adventure. Songs of innocence, in a sense.

New York, New York acquired poignant fame because Adams shot the accompanying video on 7 September on the banks of the East River with the Twin Towers featuring prominently in the background. Sic transit gloria mundi.