New York City

The Collector

On a warm Saturday in early July, an employee at the Maryland Historical Society placed a call to the police. He had noticed two visitors behaving strangely—a young, tall, handsome man with high cheekbones and full lips and a much older, heavier man, with dark, lank hair and a patchy, graying beard. The older man had called in advance to give the librarians a list of boxes of documents he wanted to see, saying that he was researching a book. At some point during their visit, the employee saw the younger man slip a document into a folder.

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In October, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that banned misleading advertisements for the city’s crisis pregnancy centers. The ordinance allows courts to fine crisis pregnancy centers, which counsel pregnant women against abortion, up to $500 every time they falsely imply in advertisements that they offer abortion services. First Resort, Inc., one of the centers singled out by the law, responded with a suit accusing the city of a First Amendment violation in less than a month. The case is now going to the United States District Court for Northern California.

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The Dissenter

On July 30, 2011, thousands of public school teachers rallied on the southwest corner of the Ellipse, near the White House. Union members mingled with the occasional communist pamphleteer, and, on a temporary stage, a series of activists, students, scholars, and teachers put forward variations on a theme: Standardized tests and corporate interests are ruining public education. Late in the program, the actor Matt Damon showed up and began chatting amiably with an older, gray-haired woman sitting next to him on the stage. It turned out he wasn’t the only star in attendance.

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Paul McCartney’s new ballet Ocean’s Kingdom with choreography by Peter Martins is the worst ballet I have seen in years and an all-time low for the New York City Ballet. Here we have—in 2011!—a throwback to an antiquated 19th century form: the romantic story ballet, complete with underwater sea maidens and a silly pantomime story that is impossible to follow, much less care about. Martins, who took over NYCB soon after George Balanchine’s death in 1983, has been working for several decades to unravel modernism and revive this old fairy-tale art.

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In case you were wondering whether Doug Schoen has completely lost his mind, Schoen clarifies the matter by declaring that the chief beneficiary of Chris Christie's deciding not to run for president is Herman Cain: I had a chance to hear Herman Cain live and in person last night at the Monday Meeting in New York City.

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Capital Tracks

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBy Richard White (W.W. Norton, 660 pp., $35) I. The scene is iconic, known to many Americans even casually acquainted with their history. Locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads come engine grate to engine grate, separated by a mere railroad tie, at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

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Back In The USSR

The Bright StreamAmerican Ballet Theatre Anna Karenina; The Little Humpbacked HorseMariinsky Ballet, Metropolitan Opera House Incredibly, the hit of the New York dance season this spring was The Bright Stream, a restaging of a Soviet “tractor-ballet” from 1935, about a Caucasian collective farm complete with hammer, sickle, and happy farmers making merry in a sunlit workers’ paradise. The ballet comes to us directly from Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, where it was first restaged in 2003 with new choreography by the Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.

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As I was watching the local New York City news coverage of Hurricane Irene before “she” made landfall, I was struck, as I have often been before, by the pleasure of the apocalyptic that the newscasters were so obviously experiencing as they reported on the storm: Potentially the first hurricane to make landfall in New York since the Norfolk and Long Island hurricane of 1821! The storm of a generation! The storm of a century!

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Queens, New York—In the midst of increasing excitement around the 2012 presidential race, the special election in New York’s ninth congressional district to elect a replacement for Representative Anthony Weiner (the dick-pic guy) quickly became cast as a referendum on President Obama’s policies. The surprising victory for GOP candidate Bob Turner, a former cable television executive who defeated Democratic State Assemblyman David Weprin by 6 points last night, only reinforces that perception.

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There was a time, not long ago, when the dominant arbiters of public opinion relegated Al Sharpton to the outskirts of serious, respectable discussion. Sure, he was a fixture on the Ebony magazine list of the 100 “top” black Americans. Sure, journalists called him when they needed a provocative quip. Sure, Democratic Party politicians courted him. But “the Rev” was unmistakably relegated to the black ghetto of celebrity activism. No one thought to ask his opinion regarding issues other than those perceived as directly pertinent to aggrieved blacks.

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