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Archive for February, 2009

The Gates, an installation along 23 miles of Central Park pathways, by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, February, 2005

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“Some insightful, primarily web-based record labels have found success in the rediscovering and re-issuing of lost vinyl classics, and in the process, they’ve resurrected some of the finest music ever forgotten. Forgoing major label methodology—mediocre “best of” anthologies and remastered big hits—these labels have instead done what true vinyl junkies have been doing for decades: They’ve sought out the unknowns, those songs and artists that somehow got caught and lost in the cracks.” (via GOOD)

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Cambodian musicians, all victims of land mines, performing for donations on an entrance road to the Angkor Wat temple complex, Angkor, Cambodia (December, 2006) (Full photo)

Related: The Cambodia Landmine Museum

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Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin, Germany, May, 2008

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the-killer-underpantsIn London, “A British bishop was arrested on suspicion of child cruelty after he helped his two young sons to perch on top of the chimney of their house to read a book as part of a school project. Bishop Jonathan Blake, of the Open Episcopal Church, took pictures of his sons Nathan, eight, and Dominic, seven, while they sat on top of their two-storey home. The children were calmly holding a book called “The Killer Underpants” for a school competition to find the most unusual place where a pupil had read a book.”

(via Reuters UK)

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As reported in a New York Magazine article still much-discussed by DUMBO locals, Steven Kaplan, a Professor of European History at Cornell University and the “world’s preeminent French-bread scholar,” after a blind tasting of 13 of New York City’s finest baguettes, chose Almondine Bakery‘s eponymous baguette as the city’s best.

Scoring a 14.65 (on a scale of 21), the Almondine baguette, said Kaplan, “has a nice look, nice resonance, and a nice song . . . It has a little bit of fruit, a peachy, buttery quality in its nose . . . [and] achieves a good marriage of crust and crumb.”

almondineBut before Almondine’s now famous dough could rise, the abandoned four-story warehouse and pepper factory now occupied by the bakery had to be gutted, rehabilitated and adapted for commercial and residential use.  In 2003, Bob Vila, late of the This Old House home improvement and repair television series, devoted the entire season of his Home Again series to the transformation of this c. 1850s building unused since the 1950s.  

More than just a chronicle of a single restoration project, the videos from the DUMBO series (clips from all 13 episodes can be found here) offer some of the best footage available of the development of the Brooklyn neighborhood that in the past several years has become a must-see destination on the New York City tourist circuit.

Update: Best of New York: Eating: Best Bakery (via “2009 Best of New York” issue of New York Magazine)

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“The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide—destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners. But already, it has damaged some places much more severely than others. On the other side of the crisis, America’s economic landscape will look very different than it does today. What fate will the coming years hold for New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas? Will the suburbs be ineffably changed? Which cities and regions can come back strong? And which will never come back at all?”

(via The Atlantic)

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Brass band, part of wedding procession through streets of the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana, June, 2006

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“Is bibliophilia a religious impulse? You can’t walk into Sotheby’s exhibition space in Manhattan right now and not sense the devotion or be swept up in its passions and particularities. The 2,400-square-foot opening gallery is lined with shelves — 10 high — reaching to the ceiling, not packed tight, but with occasional books open to view. Each shelf is labeled, not with a subject, but with a city or town of origin: Amsterdam, Paris, Leiden, Izmir, Bombay, Cochin, Cremona, Jerusalem, Ferrara, Calcutta, Mantua, Shanghai, Alexandria, Baghdad and on and on.

“These 13,000 books and manuscripts were primarily collected by one man, Jack V. Lunzer, who was born in Antwerp in 1924, lives in London and made his fortune as a merchant of industrial diamonds. . . . But this endeavor is not just an exercise in bibliophilia. These are all books written in Hebrew or using Hebrew script, many of them rare or even unique. Most come from the earliest centuries of Hebrew printing in their places of origins and thus map out a history of the flourishing of Jewish communities around the world. . . .

“The collection, named after the Italian town that Mr. Lunzer’s family has long been associated with, is known as the Valmadonna Trust Library. Sotheby’s has put it on sale as a single collection. Through next Thursday it is being handsomely displayed to the public, while luring the large institutional libraries and collectors who might be prepared to pay at least $40 million for what Sotheby’s, echoing scholars in the field, describes as ‘the finest private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world.'” (more @ NY Times)

A video tour of The Valmadonna Trust Library can be viewed here.

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Looking west. Railroad crossing, Marathon, Texas, June, 2006 (Full photo)

RelatedWelcome to Marathon, Texas

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ca-rr-posterFour San Francisco-based institutions — the California Historical Society; the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society; the San Francisco Public Library; and the Society of California Pioneers — have received a Mellon Foundation grant of nearly $250,000 to help create the California Ephemera Project, a searchable, online catalogue featuring the ephemera of all four collections.

“The collections to be catalogued are comprised of materials that were created to be short-lived or discarded, such as brochures, catalogs, menus, billheads, mining certificates, theater programs, bylaws, political flyers, travel guides, wine labels, and more, but whose content and graphic richness are a historical and cultural resource for researchers. There is overlap in topics between the collections of the four institutions, yet many of the items themselves are unique. Often the only existing documentation for some topics, the material is relevant for research into 19th- and 20th-century California history.”

(via SFPL Online)

(Railroad Poster via California State Railroad Museum)

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Robert Anderson, a playwright whose intimate emotional dramas like ‘Tea and Sympathy’ and ‘I Never Sang for My Father’ attracted big names to the Broadway stage if not always substantial audiences to Broadway theaters, died Monday at home in Manhattan. He was 91. . . .

“Mr. Anderson was a contemporary of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, and though his reputation never ascended to the artistic heights that theirs did — his plays often walked a tightrope between realism and sentimentality — he was among the theater’s most visible, serious playwrights of the 1950s and ’60s.

“‘Tea and Sympathy,’ the story of a sensitive, artistic boy who is ostracized by his prep school classmates as a supposed homosexual but who is befriended — and ultimately sexually initiated — by the housemaster’s wife . . . ends with a scene considered salacious at the time and a famous final line. The housemaster’s wife, after leaving her husband, draws the student into her arms and says, ‘Years from now when you talk of this, and you will, be kind.'”

(via NY Times)

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“The pain caused by Bernard Madoff will be lasting and felt by a great many people. There can be little doubt that the method by which he used his Jewish identity to worm his way into the confidence of many Jewish investors and charities will be among the most memorable aspects of his villainy. But those concerned about the future of American Jewry have far more pressing worries than the money Madoff stole and lost or the ammunition he might have given to anti-Semites. The real question is whether, at a time when resources are growing relatively scarce, the American Jewish community will finally take the full measure of the threat to its long-term survival and husband its straitened resources to address that threat openly, honestly, and effectively.”

(via Commentary)

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cuba-books“Cubans’ passion for literature will again characterize the upcoming 18th International Book Fair Cuba 2009, set for Feb 12 through the 22 here in Havana and then, from Feb 23 through March 8 in other Cuban cities.”

(via Cuba News Headlines)

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savethebrooklynbridge1In a recent editorial, “A Con Grows In B’klyn,” Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, like The Brooklyn Paper before it, voiced its support for the controversial 18-story residential building and public middle school that opponents argue will forever block views of the historic Brooklyn Bridge.  But unlike The Brooklyn Paper, which published a measured, point-by-point rebuttal to critics of the project, Post writer Steve Cuozzo reveled in denouncing what he called the “farcical arguments” and “blatantly bogus claims” of the “cranky opposition.”

Singled out for particular abuse were City Councilman David Yassky, the New York Times, and the organization “Save the Brooklyn Bridge” which Cuozzo accused of printing and distributing misleading and “fake” images of the planned tower.

[The best and most up-to-date chronicling of the DUMBO Dock Street Project, including local opinion (pro and con), can be found at DumboNYC.com.]

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Tenement building, with ghosts of former occupants, in former Jewish Ghetto, Warsaw, Poland, May 2008

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earthourIt’s been a good news/bad news year so far for Shepard Fairey, the “street artist” who created the iconic image of Barack Obama for the 2008 Presidential Election that recently entered the permanent collection of Presidential portraits in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

First, the good news:

Fairey has been chosen to create the artwork for this year’s “Earth Hour” campaign.

Scheduled for 8:30 PM on March 28th, “The lights out initiative, which began in Sydney in 2007 as a one-city environmental campaign, has evolved into a grassroots action that has captured the attention of the citizens of the world. In 2008, 371 cities across 35 countries turned their lights out in a united call for action on climate change.

Now, with almost two months still remaining before Earth Hour 2009, that number has already been eclipsed, with 377 cities across 74 countries now committed to turning off their lights for one hour.”

Now the bad news:

Last week, on the eve of the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Fairey was arrested in Boston on graffiti-related charges – he is accused of defacing public property by posting stencils of the professional wrestler Andre the Giant and the word “Obey.”

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And this past Monday, Fairey filed a lawsuit against The Associated Press – his lawyers are asking a federal judge to shield Fairey from copyright infringement claims in his use of the news photograph as the basis for his poster image of President Obama. “According to the suit, A.P. officials contacted Mr. Fairey’s studio late last month demanding payment for the use of the photo and a portion of any money he makes from it.”

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Update

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affluenceorg-logoIn fairness to the members of the Affluence.org community, I want to balance the impression left by my previous post that the organization is nothing more than a social network for rich people snubbing their noses at the poor or middle class.

From the Affluence.org “About Us” page, a description of the network’s membership and philanthropic mission:

“Affluence.org is an exclusive online social network for the affluent and influential aimed at forming a socially conscious, elite, and exclusive community that helps wealthy, influential, and affluent people make life better for both themselves and others. . . .

“Affluence.org conveys a strong sense of philanthropy and social responsibility demonstrated by featuring a detailed charity section where members can direct donations, RSVP to fund raising events, watch videos relating to the cause, or indicate that they support the charity.   Affluence.org also donated 15% of their monthly media, both print and online, to selected charities.”

From the “Promote Your Charities” page:

“All of the Organizations featured on Affluence are registerd 501(c)(3) non-profit. What does that mean? It means the organizations we feature took the time to make sure the IRS and the government know that they are committed to working for change, and are willing to be transparent and responsible for the sincerity of their actions and transactions. In short, they put the money where their cause is.”

Organizations include: Refuge House; Helping Kids in Poverty; NextAid; Charity: Water; Urban Resource Institute; and New Hope for Kids, among others.

[Thanks, Ken]

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money-duckTo join the exclusive online community at Affluence.org applicants must earn over $300,000 a year or have a household net worth of more than $3 million.

“A whole segment of internet entrepreneurs are working hard at building exclusive communities like this, online worlds that strike a balance between openness to new members and a hostility to the great unwashed.”

(via The National)

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Graffiti memorials, John Lennon Wall, Prague, Czech Republic, May, 2008.

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