The DUMBO Report: All The News That Fits Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass
Now that I am officially a resident of DUMBO, I am launching a new real estate feature that I will update every so often (read: whenever I can get to it). For now, I am calling it The DUMBO Report, simply because I cannot think of a title that is clever or interesting.
The DUMBO Report (or "TDR") will be an update on the neighborhood: New developments, construction reports, sightings, openings/closings/shutterings, musings, tastings and various other ramblings about all things DUMBO. TDR will make every effort to maintain a detached and objective point of view, but, in an effort at full disclosure, it should be noted that I am happily enconsed in 70 Washington Street, and am also an advocate of the neighborhood.
Today's installment deals with two developments on Jay Street: The J Condo and 85 Jay Street (the future site of the Jehovah's Witnesses world domination headquarters).
The J Condo: Men at Work
As these photos clearly show (and we risked life and limb to balance atop the fence to get these), men are working in a big hole in the ground. It looks like the foundation has been dug, and we saw a pipe and valve truck dropping off, well, pipes and valves. The burly looking guy we tried to question regarding timing, next steps and construction plans didn't seem too moved by our efforts to cite the First Amedment, so we politely gathered our things and left him to be paid his union wage for standing around and "managing" the site.
85 Jay Street: Still A Parking Lot for the Faithful
You gotta love those Jehovah's Witnesses. They put up a biblical fight to attain the right to build on this land, and they're still just using it to park their cars (they gained approval in December '04). The massive 2-acre lot is surrounded by a foreboding metal fence, complete with barbed wire (apparently thou shalt not steal, or gain entry of any kind into this lot).
We scouted the entire perimeter and finally found a chink in the armor, through which the keyhole photo above was taken (construction voyeurism?). We at TDR have no updates as to when the JWs might actually break ground on this property, but, personally, we're happy for it to remain a outdoor garage. If nothing else, it's interesting to note that some of the JWs seem to drive nice, foreign-made cars (note the Beemer several cars in) as they make their way all along (and to and from) the Watchtower.
A few readers have complained that I am not posting quickly enough. There is, at least right now, good reason for that: I recently undertook the nightmarish task known as "moving." First and foremost, it should be stated for the record that after 12 years, 4 months and 21 days of pounding it out in Manhattan, I have left the storied island behind. I am now a resident of Brooklyn, the promised land. More space, better light, fewer socialites. I now live with my girlfriend in a lovely loft in DUMBO.
Moving made me come to the cliched conclusion that despite our opposable thumbs and our ability to create riveting procedural crime dramas, we humans are really nothing more than the sum of the useless crap we sock away in closets and filing cabinets. What we leave behind says a good deal about the contents of our character.
Here, for those who are interested, is a list of media-related items that did not make the cut:
-7 years of back issues of the New Yorker (I had the best of intentions when I saved them, but I think I'll opt for the CD-ROM that has every issue ever printed)
-3 years worth of gifts "from" Graydon Carter, circa the middle Clinton years; Vanity Fair tended to give its staffers elaborate and very Anglophilic holiday gifts (e.g. stationary from Smythson in a personalized, engraved box). Sorry Graydon
-Various letters of rejection from leading magazines and newspapers explaining why my article, despite its obvious merits, was not apppriate for publication
-Various letters of rejection from leading publishing houses explaining why my manuscript, despite its obvious merits, was not suitable for publication
-Various letters of acceptance from Swing, a "magazine" founded by David Lauren (son of Ralph) for articles that were hastily written during lunch breaks.
-A Conde Nast company phone directory from 1997 (this item is referred to in my book, on page 117, if you are cross referencing)
-My first bylined clips from now-defunct publications that were irrelevant even during their existence, such as Speak, Black Book, Seen and Citysearch.com
-A pen given to me by James Truman during a shared elevator ride at 350 Madison Avenue
-A signed copy of Lighting the Corners by beat poet Michael McClure (the book was signed to Wayne Lawson, the literary editor of Vanity Fair, and left in the office freebie pile)
-Old business cards from every publication I've worked for, including the short-lived Drill, which often proved useful for getting into clubs, bars, gallery events and even the odd concert
-Old business cards from friends and acquaintances, mainly from media jobs they've not held for years, including Laurel Touby's "contributing editor" card from Glamour (complete with a handwritten note and her home phone number on the back--this was from the pre-cell phone days)
-A memo that outlined the first issue of George: A Journal of Satire, begun during graduate school (N.B. This journal preceded the creation of George, a journal of dubious political and fashion reporting founded by the late JFK Jr.)
-Boxes full of free products, CDs, books, cosmetics, electronics and various other items that were a) sent to me by ambitious PR people who, for reasons I don't understand, thought I would actually write about these things OR (worse) b) placed in giveaway bags and taken home by me in my drunken carelessness after some such party where cheap but free wine or booze was served
Interested parties are welcome to rummage through the trash bins in front of 354 East 13th street, in the East Village. However, anything I had of value (or use to another human) was donated to the Salvation Army. But even charities and the homeless have their limits.
*The photo above is not actually the items I left behind but rather the only suitable picture I have of my recent move. You'll have to imagine the listed items.
Comedy As The New Rock and Roll: A Panel Discussion; An Eerie Coincidence
Much is being made of my assertion in this month's issue of Spin magazine that "comedy is the new rock and roll" (at least, much is being made among a very loyal if not slightly obsessed and self selecting subculture of comedy fans and comics).
And, to this end, the first installment of my new monthly talk show, New York Stories, will examine the current state of comedy. The panel, entitled "A Laughing Matter: The Comedic State of the Union," will look at comedy as an industry and an art form with a trio of all-star panelists: Andy Borowitz, Lisa Leingang (the VP of programming and development at CBS) and Eugene Mirman.
Among other subjects, we will discuss whether comedy is the new rock and roll (or whether, as others seem to suggest, it's this year's brown).
In related news, Adam Sternbergh of Fametracker fame said the following in a recent Gothamist interview:
"I expect a big national comedy renaissance to blossom out of New York. A friend of mine described the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater as being to comedy right now what CBGB was to music in the 70s, and I think that's true."
Compare his statement, made on January 3, 2006, to a sentence from the above-mentioned piece in the January issue of Spin (which hit news stands before Chirstmas 2005 and was written in the fall of '05):
"This DIY movement has since blossomed into the alternative-comedy scene--the constellation of smaller, experimental shows that have dotted the Lower East Side of Manhattan and West Hollywood (and many points in between) since the early 1990s. Venues such as Rififi in Manhattan and the M Bar in Los Angeles are to comedy today what CBGB was to punk rock in the 1970s."
Hmmm. Probably just a coincidence. At any rate, here are the details for tomorrow night's show:
New York States of Mind
Weds. January 11 at 7 p.m.
35 West 67th Street (btw Central Park West and Columbus Ave.)
Tickets are $12 in advance
Hmmm. The most interesting thing about the cover story was the choice to cap the list at 101 (cf. New York's "123 Reasons to Love New York Right Now"--Does Adam Moss have some secret fascination with three digit prime numbers?).
Herewith, 10.1* things I'd rather do than read the feature**:
1. My taxes
2. Your taxes
3. Swim to Staten Island
4. Work for any publication owned by American Media Inc. (this does not include Men's Fitness. There are few fates worse than having to share office space with Neal Boulton)
5. Visit Rockefeller Center during the holiday season
6. Spend an evening with Roger Toussaint discussing labor practices
7. Listen to the audio recording of Everyone Worth Knowing
8. Explain to my friends why I have the audio recording of Everyone Worth Knowing
9. Discuss my inability to be emotionally expressive with my girlfriend***
10. Watch mutliple episodes of Two and a Half Men (but only if available in high definition)
10.1 Eat a satisfying meal with common folk at any of the hundreds of diners, pizzerias, falafel joints and cuchifritos not listed in the issue
*Were I not lazy (and/or were I getting paid to write this) I would have done a list of 101 things. Alas.
**I am not one of those media snobs who hates New York magazine because doing so is fashionable. To the contrary, I quite like their features and reviews (and have written for the magazine). This is more a commentary on list-driven features that attempt to rank.
***My girlfriend did not endorse the use of this "joke."
China's overzealous policing of the Internet is well reported, but for Microsoft to bow to such pressures is nothing short of spinelessness and unadulterated greed. The shutdown came at the request of the Chinese government. China represents the single largest market for American products in the world. Microsoft cannot afford to piss off their government, who still have a heavy hand in all "free market" activities that take place there.
And, really, at the end of the day, what is the loss of one lone voice of freedom rising up in the face of censorship and tyranny?
Very little, when compared to the potential Chinese market, some several billion consumers strong. Meanwhile, in this great country of ours, bloggers can prattle on about this, that and the other form of nonsense, and then be rewarded with very large book deals, despite what seems to be an utter lack of literary skill (I was going to link to a particularly insipid blog here, which has inspired a lucrative book deal, but I'm not that sort of guy...besides, perhaps you find what I write about insipid).