Saturday, July 08, 2006


Can't fight in here! This is the War Room...

The Brooklyn Museum of Art is running an exhibit through Labor Day extolling the heyday of New York's graffiti artists.

Since the really famous ones like
Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat have had their own exhibitions in recent years, this particular show focuses on lesser known lights such as John "Crash" Matos and Sandra "Lady Pink" Fabara. There is even an old subway car door fully painted by a neighborhood artist.

The show places graffiti in context with the other rising cultural breakthrough of the time -- hip-hop -- while showing the influence of '60s "Pop Art" and comic books. Graffiti is, of course, controversial because it is somewhat rightly seen as emblematic symbols of the New York of the '70s and '80s, a city that was teetering on bankruptcy, crime-ridden and dirty. As much as the graffiti artists might have been adopted by various parts of the cultural elite, they certainly did not endear themselves to the political and law-enforcement leadership. One book (for sale at the museum),
Taking The Train, explores the tension between the emerging art form and the need for municipal "order." (Even before the rise of the Giuliani administration, "order" started winning out -- and artists started getting jailed.) "Eckos" of that period continue to resonate as even the hint that graffiti might be making a full-scale comeback has caused a couple of recent controversies.

Now, as the adjacent photos (thank you, Treo) show, the exhibit includes a paper mache-constructed "hallway" where patrons are invited to contribute their own "graffiti." Magic markers are provided -- and there is a disclaimer notifying that contributors waive any legal claims on the "art" they produce.

The irony, of course, is that one can't help but notice all the pristine white space on the walls between the official exhibits. The space almost screams to have some yet undiscovered graffit-ist make his or her "mark." Yet, of course, that wouldn't be allowed! An official-looking museum "guide" stands by to make sure that the patron-contributed graffiti appears only in the "appropriate" place!

But, of course, if the graffiti can only go in authorized spots, it is, by definition no longer "graffiti" (in its broadly-understood cultural context)!

You kind of want to have some enterprising young soul take out a can of spray paint and start to adorn the walls (not the exhibits themselves -- that would clearly be vandalism), but be told by an official, "You can't paint in here! This is the Graffiti Exhibit!"

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Friday, July 07, 2006


Still Materialistic, No Longer A Girl...

My friend Julia went to see Madonna last weekend and sent out a review to her friends about her experience. Since Julia has a one-of-a-kind personality and has had a a fairly extensive career in the music industry, I thought I'd share her insights.

Take it away, J!


I'm gonna set it off now. Yes, yes 'yall I went to see Madonna "the Material Girl herself" last night, July 2. First let me make this perfectly "clear" I had a wonderful time and thought she and the show was marvelous!!!!!!!

It was very true what I had seen reported that Madonna has the air conditioning shut down to conserve her voice throughout the show. In it's initial stages of this set-up the climate had remained comfortable...but you know this was gonna change. People who know me, know that I like to arrive early for concerts. To be seated comfortably and not feeling rushed or have lighting to find your seat. In doing so for this show, I arrived at 7:25PM and the show was to begin at 8PM. I went to the concert with a co-worker from my job, Vickie, and we were both charged to see Madonna perform.

First up I wanted to get some souvenirs so I went shopping with time to spare. Let me tell you to my surprise when I asked for a t-shirt and was told it was $50. FIFTY, UH FIFTY DOLLARS. I'm not getting a free pair of shoes with the shirt. The shirt didn't come with after-concert-party tickets. It was a regular black tee with a silk screen design and no guarantee that the design would NOT fade in time. I went into Whitney Houston mode and said, "hell to the no!"

Moving along Vickie and I found our seats and they were fairly good where we could see the entire staging without anyone seated or standing to block our view. We chatted and conversed as it is natural to do so about the audience attending. Which was very mixed in age--BIG TIME--there were grandmothers there you know. Culture was very diverse as was fifty percent of the audience in attendance of the alternative lifestyle...GAY! Believe me when I tell you that one gay couple was dressed very 1975ish with shiny hot pants rainbow socks and one of the guys was carrying a small disco ball--which was part of the Madonna Concert theme. We were very pumped for the show and the time had drifted into 10 past 8PM with no sight of the show to begin. I'm used to a late start but her show did not begin until 10 to 9. I'm annoyed but I persevere and enjoy the concert.

Madonna was hoisted onto the stage inside a disco ball which surprised everyone and received her immediate cheers. The staging was set-up with a long runway down the center of the main floor and extended staging in the back to the left and right. This could get into a long review, which in a way it has I'll cut to my two favorite performances of the evening.

"Live To Tell" is sung by Madonna as she is strapped to a cross that slowly raises from the floor. I personally feel that reviewers and the press have made too much of this staging. Her statement in this entrance merely depicts suffering. Madonna's staging is elaborate with huge and numerous viewing screens on stage that show images timed to the music. In singing "Live To Tell" she shows pictures of famine and poverty and the screen shows a counter that moves quickly and then stops at the number 12 million. The number is accompanied by a statement that shows 12 million people have died of AIDS in Africa. A Bible verse is quoted line by line and the music comes to a halt. With the audience roaring with applause and standing. The performance is very strong and heartfelt..."a man can tell a thousand tales, I've learned my lesson well, hope I live to tell the secrets I have learned, 'til then it will burn inside of me."


She's does a few other songs, before she does another costume change. About 6 disco balls are suspended over the stage and she beings to sing "Music" but she's dressed like John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever." It is a high powered dance number replete with Madonna dancing down the runway reaching the end and duplicating John Travolta's dance moves and the famous finger pointing to the ceiling poise. You had dancers all over the stage left and right. Cheering from the audience ensued. MAN THIS WAS OFF THE CHAIN!

To wrap up my comments...she finished the show after 11PM with no encore. I heard throughout the audience that she doesn't do encores. I'm disappointed with that cause she started late. My feeling is that she wanted a lot of the chill in MSG to disappear. Needless to say the sweat and funk had been building throughout the evening. MSG was a nightmare to exit with the escalators not moving and the lines to exit were slow to move. Eventually Vickie and I were guided to additional stairwells that allowed us to exit.

We saw the booty-man outside selling concert tee shirts for $15 and we each bought one and headed on home.

Well I really, really did enjoy the concert and she did sing some old songs such as "Like A Virgin," "Lucky Charm" and she did one of my favs "La Isla Bonita!" A number of the other songs were from current CDs which were good and raised my curiosity to go and get them. I've always wanted to see Madonna and she is part of the three that blazed music in the 80s. Prince (who I see always) and Michael Jackson (who I have seen 3 times) are the other two. They are all the same age...Prince June 7--turned 48, Madonna and Michael will be 48 in August. Madonna is in great physical shape and energetic for performance.

But, I would give it a lot of consideration before I would see her again. Why, you say?
- I spent $100 for the ticket. Not bad but...
- No A/C can get ugly for a show like this.
- Her lateness in starting the show.
- THE BIG encore? What up with that?

You know I paid $89 to see Prince 2 years ago. His show was very entertaining and filled with talented musicians. Some of his performance is spontaneous drawing you further in. AND HE ALWAYS does a encore! Jay-Z says it in his rhymes "can I get a encore, do you want more?" Well we always do and it punctuates the performance with icing.

Madonna left her show (cake) dry.

Peace Out - J


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Open Thread

It's that time again! I don't even have to tell you guys what to do.

Go at it!

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Let The Sun Shine In

Eli Lake continues to be a brave voice on the right.

Earlier this year, the New York Sun writer chided the rush by conservatives to demonize the New York Times for its reporting on the NSA wiretap program. Lake defended the reporting on the grounds that this was yet another example of a government that was becoming more secretive and hidden from necessary scrutiny "by the people":
The worry of the NSA program is not that it represents an unconstitutional power grab or that it will lead inevitably to excesses of J. Edgar Hoover's domestic spying of the last century. Rather, if left unchecked by the public, the NSA and other agencies will never voluntarily relinquish its new powers and declare America to be free of sleeper cells. The incentive to warn of lurking threats is ingrained in every budget justification the intelligence community submits.
On Thursday, Eli came back to throw more cold water on the latest rush by conservatives to make the Old Gray Lady's reporting on tracking terrorist bank activity the political football for the new campaign season.

The article
is here (by subscription-only), but I will once again stretch the parameters of fair use:

In the House of Representatives, Republicans are talking about charging the Times journalists under the 1917 Espionage Act, a law that remarkably survives despite its original charter barring even speech that could potentially elicit public criticism of the World War I effort.

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King, on June 26 had this to say: "We're at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous," despite the fact that the Constitution forbids defining treason the way Mr. King does. The former drug tsar, William Bennett, is now sounding like Arianna Huffington did eight months ago, suggesting that journalists should be threatened with jail time for not disclosing the people who leak to them. Conservative Web logs are full of talk about how journalists and the Times should be prosecuted.

It was bad enough when the left argued for the erosion of press freedoms, but it's incoherent for conservatives to go down this road. Conservatives are supposed to be skeptical about unchecked power for the federal government. It is one of the principles that binds together a coalition of home-schoolers, federalists, gun owners, and tax cutters - the view that while the federal government may be necessary, its power should be checked at every available opportunity.

Yet if conservatives get their way, enormous new powers will be delegated to the federal government. If the executive branch starts prosecuting the recipients of leaks on a wide scale, then Americans would be trusting the people who make national security policy to determine when the rest of us - without clearances - are allowed to know when they make mistakes. Forget for a moment the problems this poses for the First Amendment. What about the values of good government the congressional Republicans who captured the House in 1994 have all but forgotten?

After all, the people who will be entrusted with declassifying the information that newsmen will be allowed to print without fear of legal retribution are not movement conservatives. They are bureaucrats who have proved all too willing so far in this war to declassify selectively all sorts of information damaging to our foreign policy. A policy of prosecuting leaks would not stop them. It would give an advantage to those leakers who have mastered the classification process.


If only the recent bluster was a hypothetical matter. Those calling for a prosecution against newspapers should study the case being brought against two ex-employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The ex-Aipac aides may not be journalists. But they are being prosecuted for activities protected under the same First Amendment that prohibits Congress from acting against the press. The two, Keith Weissman and Steven Rosen, are not being charged for the possession of classified documents, but rather for having a conversation with a Pentagon analyst, Lawrence Franklin, about information that was likely already in the public sphere.

Who knows what other cases the FBI is now investigating in its zeal to stop press leaks? Already the investigation has led the bureau to call numerous reporters in for confidential witness interviews and to request the archive of a recently deceased columnist, Jack Anderson...
Ultimately, the result (if not the intention) of this will be an intimidation of the press until media becomes little more than stenographers printing "official story" of events. That is not something that a free people would wish.

Oh, and yes it must be said again: The need for vigilance on official action is even greater precisely because the war on terror is an open-ended enterprise which threatens to become an indefinite semi-permanent status quo. Such a state is inherently incompatible with the principles that underscore a constitutional republic based on limitations of executive power.

Let's hope more on the right will take heed of Eli's warning.

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A Blog...

...I should have mentioned some time ago is This Is What We Do Now.

It's got a very "smart-young-straight-guy-living-in-New-York-slice-of-life" sensibility, but with good humor.

The fact that I keep running into Larry at a random parties -- featuring people who have no other connection other than they know Larry and myself -- is fate telling me that I need to introduce Larry's blog to the readers of RAGGED THOTS.

While not as obsessed with politics as much as many of the entries on my blog roll, however, TIWWDN makes a good companion blog to my other
recent new favorite.

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Vlad to Meet You...

Michael Jackson has announced that he is immediately moving to Russia, citing its greater openness to allowing people to freely be and say who they are.

Meanwhile, President Bush diplomatically held back any obvious feelings of jealousy:

"And so I've got a good relationship with him. And I don't understand some of the decisions he's made, but my relationship is such that I'm able to express that concern and listen carefully as to why he does what he does."

Neither the Kremlin, the White House nor Neverland were willing to comment on Thursday's New York state court decision.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006


Coulter Self-Immolation Watch

Apparently, having run out of liberal targets for her rhetorical Taeopodong-2 outbursts, Ann Coulter goes after the only conservative newspaper in New York for writing about her alleged plagiarism woes:

"Once considered a legitimate daily, the Post has been reduced to tabloid status best known for Page Six's breathless accounts of Paris Hilton's latest ruttings, and headlines like 'Vampire Teen -- H.S. Girl Is Out for Blood.' How crappy a newspaper is the Post? Let me put it this way: It's New York's second-crappiest paper."
Sorry, but there's only one word for vituperative language of that sort.


And, Ann? It's probably not a good idea to go personally attacking the sister company of the highest-rated cable news station in the country.

I'm just saying...

UPDATE: A defense of Coulter on the plagiarism charge from surprising quarters.

UPDATE II: I missed this earlier catch by JD at Blogger Ale. Couldn't agree more. Devotion to the Dead is clearly reason to question someone's sanity.

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Serious, But Not "Desperate"

In what has actually become a rather strong period for television, the Emmy nominations were announced today.

Notably, last year's category winners, "Lost" (drama) and "Desperate Housewives" (comedy), weren't even nominated this time around. That's somewhat surprising given how the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences tends recycle the same shows each year ("Will and Grace" another ten nominations in its farewell season!!?!? Hello? Not even gay people think it's cool and daring anymore!)

Anyway, in the drama category, I'm pulling for "24", only because it was the one show that I couldn't ignore all year long. However, if "House" pulled an upset, I would neither be upset nor surprised (Yada, yada, yes, they are both Fox shows...NY Post...Newscorp...blah, blah, blah).

Best Actor/Drama is a toughie: I'm torn between "24's" Kiefer Sutherland and Denis Leary from "Rescue Me" -- though Hugh Laurie should have been nominated for "House"!

Steve Carrell should probably get the Best Actor in a Comedy for "The Office," but this really shows how the networks have really done a poor job on developing sitcoms in recent years. I'm one of the few people of a certain urbane mindset, for example, who just doesn't see all the attraction for "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I've seen it a few times, laughed a little bit, but ultimately found my enthusiasm, uh, curbed.

I think what's happened is that some of the funniest writing and snappy dialogue is actually showing up in so-called "dramas." That was most obvious in "Desperate Housewives" a year ago, but it's also the case in "Boston Legal" which is often downright hilariious (especially when William Shatner is doing his overacting best), "Rescue Me" and even "House."

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Do You Take This Issue...?

New York's highest court (which is called the Court of Appeals, for some reason) gets same-sex marriage just right.

[It] ruled Thursday that gay marriage is not allowed under state law, rejecting arguments by same-sex couples who said the law violates their constitutional rights.

The Court of Appeals in a 4-2 decision said New York's marriage law is constitutional and clearly limits marriage to between a man and a woman. Any change in the law should come from the state Legislature, Judge Robert Smith wrote.

"We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives," Smith wrote.
This is exactly how a potentially transformative political issue such as this should be decided -- in the Legislature and not in the courts. Indeed, it is likely that New York will have a Democratic governor next year (Eliot Spitzer) who supports gay marriage. The Assembly is already Democratic and the Senate may go that way in the fall. If those wishing to change the law to reflect a new definition of what marriage is in the state, they will have a good opportunity.

At the same time, the eventual will of the people of New York -- as expressd through their "elected representatives" -- should not be preemptively curtailed through a federal constitutional amendment.

At least, so long as the
Defense of Marriage Act remains the law of the land.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006


"Should Superheroes Have To Register With The Government?"

New York fans of Marvel Comic's "Civil War" series who are free TONIGHT, July 5th, at 8 p.m. should drop by the Lolita Bar, 266 Broome Street, where the issue will be debated.

I shall take the appropriate, freedom-loving, anti-registration position. Mr. Ken Silber will be taking the "pro-security/government-loving" position demanding registration.

Assuming that some super-villian doesn't attack the proceedings, a good time and reasonably-priced drinks will be had by all.

UPDATE: Happy to say that the debate -- sponsored by JINX magazine, I should have noted previously -- went quite well. My sparring partner, Ken Silber, was a worthy opponent. However, by the votes of those attending, yours truly carried the day. My concluding statement was, "First they came for The Hulk and I said nothing because I wasn't big, green and filled with anger management issues; then they came for the mutants and I said nothing because I wasn't a mutant; then they came for the superheroes and I said nothing because I wasn't a superhero; then they came for me..."

Truly, one of the most enjoyable evenings I've had recently! Thanks to Todd Seavey (a one-time comic book writer himself) for organizing this and every JINX debate each month!

UPDATE II: My friend Dawn Eden dropped by the debate last night. She mentions it on her great blog The Dawn Patrol. Some cool comments from some of her readers on the topic too.

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So Much For Enron

Guess Ken Lay won't serve a single day in prison.

Guess fate had a different sentence in mind.

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Honest Indian Blogging

A former bar trivia teammate who relocated to San Francisco last year is spending a month in India getting an office over there up to speed technologically. Micah is blogging his experiences there.

Some very cool stuff.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006


My Independence Days

This is another blast from the past out of the NRO vault, originally running in 2000. Happy Fourth of July to all!!


What's the best way for an immigrant American to brand a piece about his adopted nation? My first thought was to call it "An American Journey." Then I remembered that Colin Powell had beaten me to it. No going up against a war hero, the most popular public figure in the country — and probably the next Secretary of State. That's out. Hmmm...How about "My Love Affair With America?" Catchy title. It kind of sums up the basics. Oh, wait. That's the title of Norman Podhoretz' memoir. So much for that.

Well, let's just dispense with cute titles, and jump right into a brief reflection on one person's experience in the on-going process called Americanization. If it turns into a bit of maudlin sentimentality, accept the sincerest of apologies.

Here we celebrate the Fourth of July 4. For this writer, everything that the dream called America represents can also be found in two personal "independence days."

The first is January 21st, 1971. It was the day an eight-year old boy first landed in the United States at JFK International Airport. At the time, U.S. hospitals were experiencing a nursing shortage, so the boy's mother responded to an inquiry from New York City's Mt. Sinai Hospital. The boy wasn't happy about leaving his island home. It was only later that the lesson of taking advantage of an opportunity when presented sunk in. Fortunately, a volatile case of air-sickness endured by the young boy on the flight over did not prove to be a portent for future experience in the United States.

As she had in the U.K., the boy's mother put him in Catholic parochial schools. This was quite sometime before any policy debate on "school choice." The mother, Catholic herself, did what she thought was best for the education and disciplining of her son. This being America, of course, the son found himself teased — even in Catholic school — more because of his hard British accent than his particular complexion!

Living in a country for close to three decades, there are any number of days and experiences that might stick out that also symbolize America. But this writer selects November 3, 1989. It was not an election day, but it was personally significant. Eleven months prior, this writer decided that the time had finally come to get his citizenship. After living in America for nearly eighteen years, it probably should have happened sometime earlier. But the family moved quite a bit after the first couple of years in New York: Connecticut, California, New York again. College occurred in Annapolis, Maryland (though not the Naval Academy), which as it happened was home to the United States' first capital.

The future columnist had taken a job at the Republican National Committee in December of 1988. He had arrived at the RNC in one of those moments of fortunate happenstance. Opportunity did not exactly knock; instead it moved in next door in the form of an RNC fundraising director. Always having had an interest in politics, the writer became friends with the RNC official. He inquired about volunteering at the '88 Republican Convention. The fact that the convention was taking place in New Orleans had absolutely no bearing on the writer's inquisitiveness. Surprisingly enough, the RNC official said yes. Following that wonderful experience which led to a successful Republican presidential effort, the writer suddenly found himself a full-time RNC employee.

It occurred that it would be a good time to become a full-fledged American citizen. Thus, in January, 1989, he went to the nearest I.N.S. office and filled out the appropriate forms. After asking, "Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party," the I.N.S. agent smiled and said, "I guess that would have been odd, being a Communist and then going to work for the Republicans, eh?" It was a few years later that I actually met a few conservative friends who would not have found that particular scenario so unusual.

Typical of a bureaucracy, it took nearly a year, but a notice finally arrived that the application was approved and the time had come for the swearing-in ceremony: November 3, 1989. The event itself was rather low-key; ultimately, it seemed somewhat prosaic. The poetry was supplied moments later as the new American emerged into a crisp Maryland morning and looked up in the sky. There, fully unfurled over a government building, was Old Glory flapping in the wind. Couldn't have been more perfect if Spielberg had directed it.

Many people consider the passage of the first eighteen years as the initial step from childhood into adulthood. This particular eighteen-year passage marked a period separating arrival and "Americanization." Other opportunities followed. Less than three years later, a few of the writer's words ended up in the last speech Ronald Reagan delivered at a Republican Convention. Just a short phrase, but for a young island immigrant, it was certainly a thrilling, awe-inspiring moment. And then, a few years after that, the immigrant found himself writing for the first Republican Speaker of the House in forty years.

As we celebrate the nation's birth, it's not a bad idea to pause and consider our own personal "independence days." These are the moments in our lives that stand out as uniquely American. At one time, for many, it was the Ellis Island arrival. For others, it's starting a business, beginning the novel or casting the first vote. These are the days that connect each of us intimately with the opportunity that is America. The personal is the universal here. Each individual experience is a chapter in the larger drama called the American Story. The opportunity to excel within the story is the connection we all share, regardless of race, gender, or any other superficial attribute.

January 21st.

November 3rd.

July 4th.

Independence Days.

Happy Birthday, America.

And, Thanks.

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