Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
Well, after about six days of inaccessibility, it looks like Typepad may have sorted out their problems. For more about the shadowy circumstances (involving ransom notes and such), click here. I guess it's just a sign of the times.
Hey all. Apologies for the inactivity here, but as you may have heard, Typepad, the blogging services that allows me to bring Flaming Pablum to you ... usually ... well, each and every other day, is currently under some sort of cyber-siege, resulting in frustratingly intermittent accessibility.
I would say that I'll be back up, running and posting regular content, but I'm afraid that's out of my hands. Stand by, though.
So Courtney Love said something (typically) stupid about Bruce Springsteen recently, lamely asserting that “saxophones just don’t belong in rock’n’roll” (as if she’s some sort of expert). I honestly don’t give that much of a rolling rat fuck about Courtney Love *OR* Springsteen, but make a ridiculous blanket statement about the legitimacy of a musical instrument, and you have my attention.
In any case, I brought the news item to the attention of our entertainment editors at The Job, and they, in turn, asked if I’d care to write something up about it. So I did. You can read it here.
There are loads more great songs with saxophones I’d have liked to cite, but time and special limitations (and, frankly, the perceived interest level of our users) forbade.
It’s not that I’m a huge lover of the golden horn. Hell, most of my favorite bands won’t go near it, but it has certainly had its moments.
A little while back, I stumbled upon yet another cache of amazing vintage NYC photographs on Flickr, and put up a post here about it and around a few likely sites on Facebook. In short order, it made the rounds, getting picked up by a few of my fellow NYC bloggers and the like. I think that’s pretty awesome – I love that we’re all able to share this stuff. In the spirit of same, while I already link to it over on the bar to the left, I figured I might as well highlight my own Flickr pics again here as well. My photos may not be quite as spectacular, but I like’em. Maybe you will too.
I haven’t updated the page in a several years, but on it you’ll still find lots of familiar images. The sets of particular interest to readers of this blog would be Black & White, Vanished and Street Art. There’s also Flyers and Rock Shit for my fellow punk fans and geeky music obsessives.
There are a couple of music videos from yesteryear that have made the rounds on this and a couple of other blogs that are noteworthy not just for the bands and tunes they showcase, but also as tiny period-pieces, preserving a fleeting glimpse of a New York City that, for all intents and purposes, just does not exist anymore. Foremost among those videos, of course, is “Too Many Creeps” by the Bush Tetras from 1980, which offers a suitably stark glimpse of downtown Manhattan at the dawn of that decade.
The video finds the band scurrying up a damp and freezing looking Bowery towards the Sunshine Hotel, a former flophouse just a few steps south of Stanton Street where they – presumably – are slated to rehearse. Spliced with scenes of the squalor of the Bowery of old and shopping on Orchard Street and in SoHo (oh if they only knew what SoHo was going to become), the Bush Tetras’ vocalist Cynthia Sley laments the sorry state of the Big Apple in decay, set to guitarist Pat Place’s choppy riffs, drummer Dee Pop’s steady beat and the late Laura Kennedy’s rubbery bass. It’s a post-punk classic, full stop.
Obviously, when you watch this video three and a half decades (oof!) later, the streets being decried are barely recognizable anymore (although there are still plenty of creeps). Believe it or not, the Sunshine Hotel on the Bowery (now next to the architecturally incongruous New Museum) may actually still be there, although it probably doesn’t visually owe much to its incarnation of 1981. There was actually an acclaimed documentary about the place in 2001.
The only reason I thought to bring all this back up, meanwhile, is because last week my kids and I were waiting for the Third Avenue bus to school when we were suddenly joined in our bus-anticipating vigil by a familiar looking gent. Though not exactly the sharply svelte figure in black leather at the top of this post, it was indeed none other than Bush Tetras drummer Dee Pop. Being the dork that I am, I introduced myself.
"Differentiating" is a big buzzword in my office (and, if you work in the media, probably in your office too). 'Differentiating content' is always our goal. It's going to distinguish our outlet from the rest of the noise on the `net, and it's ultimately what drives our endeavor and it's what we do best. It's original and unique and you can't get it anywhere else. It defines us.
Well, as much as I decry the flagrant usage of workplace lingo outside of the office, I feel that it's worth asserting that New York City is losing its differentiating content. Between my comrades at EV Grieve, Jeremiah Moss' Vanishing New York, Bowery Boogie, myself and a clutch of others, it seems that documenting the jackbooted march -- nay, spastic sprint -- of avaricious urban development and gentrification has become a virtually full time occupation. The metamorphosis of this city is laying waste to more independent businesses and age-old neighborhood establishments than can be quantified. Whether its Pearl Paint or J&R Music World or your favorite corner deli or a restaurant that's occupied a particular corner since the days of Fiorello Laguardia, no single locale is safe, regardless of your individual predilections.
For me, the most recent one to really give me pause is Shakespeare & Co. over on Broadway, which has just lost its lease. It's one thing for comparatively "niche" operations like, say, a music shop devoted solely to extreme metal (Oh, I do miss you, Hospital Productions) to not be able to meet its rent, but for a lovingly stocked bookstore on a well-traveled avenue? That doesn't just depress me, it SCARES me.
Obviously, it's a combination of factors that's causing this. In an environment where most folks are procuring their reading material -- if they're reading at all -- via Amazon or downloading stuff onto their stupid devices (screw you, Kindle & Nook users), every book store is in serious goddamn trouble, from the mom'n'pops through to your major chains. In this instance, however, I think it's simply the bugfuck insane New York City real estate market that's to blame, and there's no possible way on God's wretched earth that Shakespeare & Co. can match the rent some other businesses are able to pay. As such, they are being forced to forfeit.
Again, though, in an ideal world, a bookstore (like a library) serves EVERYONE. It's not a "niche" operation, unless you consider "reading" a "niche" activity, in which case you should be put down like a crippled pony. Not only is Shakespeare & Co. a bookstore, it's a beautiful bookstore, staffed by knowledgeable folks and stocked to the rafters with every type of text imaginable. Unless I'm late to arrive at a specific destination, I've never been able to walk past the store without stopping in, even if I'm not looking for anything in particular, and I've always been struck by something new when I'm there. Its selection of children's books is as lovingly cultivated as its supply of far-flung filmographies and esoteric rock bios. From erotic fiction through esoteric academia to tomes about the occult to coffee table books dedicated to eye-popping photography, there is absolutely no shortage of compelling reading material at Shakespeare & Co. If you've never been, you're living a life dimmed by a paucity of excellence.
And soon, it'll be gone, inevitably to be replaced by a bank or a frozen yogurt emporium or a Starbuck's.
The landlords to blame deserve a few rigorous punches in the balls.
Last week, I succumbed once again to the narcissistic, tractor-beam-like pull of Facebook's #Throwback Thursday trend (or is it officially a meme? I can never tell) and posted a picture regular readers here might be vaguely familiar with (it being the shot featured at the top of this blog for the last several years). It's a photo of me taken on Ellis Island back in January of 1995, with a hazy, snow-caked Manhattan skyline looming in the distance. I captioned the photo saying I was "channeling my inner Sid Vicious." No one got the reference, despite the fact that I'm depicted wearing a black leather jacket and "flipping the V's" (i.e. the British incarnation of "the bird.")
The truth of the matter is that I was trying to emulate the final scene from Alex Cox's arguably abortive rock biopic, "Sid & Nancy." To be honest, I've never been a huge fan of that film. Sure, Gary Oldman is a complete genius in everything he's in, but there's so much horrible revisionism in the film, and Chloe Webb does way too good a job of conveying Nancy Spungen's inherent annoyingness that by the time Sid finally slams a knife into her, you're practically cheering him on.
In any case, the final scene is a surreal depiction of Sid wandering onto some decrepit portion of Jersey City. Here's roughly the shot I was trying to replicate in the picture above...
And while we're on the subject, here's the scene itself....
Lastly, here's a vaguely similar shot (well....with different skyscrapers) I took of my own little spiky hellraiser, Oliver. This was shot in Williamsburg.
I spotted two different stories that basically take a giant shit on the Manhattan of 2014. First up, New York Magazine laments the “long, slow death of midtown glamour,” rightly asserting that once upon a time, one associated the neighborhood with more than just the drudgery of the workday. Hard to argue with that, I guess. They include a lovely, vintage shot of the Time Life building’s plaza for good measure.
Meanwhile, The Daily Beast beat the well-worn “downtown is no longer cool” drum, looping in a Greek chorus of likely suspects to confirm how hip life in Greenwich Village used to be. As a resident of same, I find that declaration pretty spot-on, but I don’t think anyone has really claimed otherwise for at least twenty years.
Beneath, meanwhile, is a shot of the Washington Square Park of 1980 by Jean Gaumy, which I found on the excellent FYI, The Blog of Stomp and Crush. Whether this scene typifies downtown’s lost cool or not is entirely up to you.
Back in December, you may remember, I composed a weepy litle entry about the death of the New York City diner, prompted by the sudden closings of long-time Greenwich Village greasy spoons like Silvers Spurs on East 9th and Broadway and the University Restaurant on East 12th and University Place. Places to procure eats on the cheap in my neighborhood are vanishing with the quickness.
Anyway, as much as I love to lord my status as a native New Yorker and arguably hip downtowner (this means nothing anymore .. if it ever did) over people, if truth be told, I actually grew up on the not-at-all hip Upper East Side, and didn't officially move south of 14th street until 1996. Most of my tweens and teens were spent roaming the leafy byways of Carnegie Hill and Yorkville.
In any case, this past weekend, I brought my kids back uptown to go romp around in Central Park. After a beautiful, sunlit morning of strenuous running about, I suggested that we go get some lunch. Since we were near one of my former neighborhoods, I figured we could go grab a burger at the age-old Jackson Hole diner on the corner of East 91st Street and Madison Avenue. That sounded like a reasonable plan.
For a large swathe of my childhood, I lived on East 93rd Street. My sister went to school on East 91st and I attended one on East 89th. As such, Jackson Hole was kinda ground zero, and a place we both frequented for fries, burgers and the like. In the early 80's, there was a candy store next door called The Sweet Suite, featuring a second tier that boasted a "Missle Command" machine you could re-start without needing a quarter. I remember buying a several dorky rock pins (Pink Floyd, primarily) at the Sweet Suite and then repairing to Jackson Hole with some friends and affixing them to my backpack over a plate of fries. It was that kinda place.
Back here in 2014, as I was regaling my disinterested children with such tales while we walked up the avenue, I was shocked and saddened to find Jackson Hole gone, its shades drawn down and a big "FOR LEASE" sign in its window. Normally, I'd have taken a picture, but I was too depressed by the sight of it.
The place had been there since about 1972. It had a few other incarnations around town (one on the Upper West and another over on Second Avenue), but I don't know if the same fate has befallen them. I stood there with my mouth agape for a moment, before breaking the news to my hungry kiddies that we'd have to go somewhere else.
Around 1985, my family moved over to East 86th Street off York Avene. When we lived there, one of my regular stops was Gracie's Corner, another diner over on First Avenue and 86th. Today, I learned that that's going too.