New York City
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!
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.
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.
In the 1970s I knew a young artist who painted cityscapes and talked about creating a series of New York City views in which the towers of the World Trade Center, then only a year or so old, would appear in every composition. My friend’s idea, which he discussed in a playful and speculative spirit, was to develop a modern urban counterpart to Hokusai’s One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. Sometimes the towers would be the focal point; sometimes they would be seen from a curious and unexpected vantage point; sometimes they would be no more than a speck in the distance.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is using $30 million of his own money--and a matching gift from George Soros--to help fund a new program aimed at addressing the vast socio-economic disparities between New York City’s young white men and those who are black or Latino. At a time when more people are out of work and municipal budgets are stretched thin, private philanthropy is increasingly important. But it’s not just cities that need this kind of help.
The arts are not efficient. They are essential. That is something entirely different. Culture, in order to be vital, must be extravagant. At times there is fiscal extravagance. Inevitably, there is the extravagance of lives dedicated to what are the inherently impractical disciplines of art, literature, music, dance, and theater. There is no art—there is no culture—without enormous individual energies being expended to what are, by their very nature, uncertain ends. I once heard a famous poet, when asked how his work was going, shrug and say: “You just put in your oar.
And just like that, the News of the World is gone. Never mind that Rupert Murdoch’s racy tabloid was the best-selling and most profitable weekly in Britain, with a circulation of some 2.6 million.
On April 18, a transgender woman named Chrissy Lee Polis went to the women’s bathroom in a Baltimore County McDonald’s. When she came out, two teenage girls approached and spat in her face. Then they threw her to the floor and started kicking her in the head. As a crowd of customers watched, Polis tried to stand up, but the girls dragged her by her hair across the restaurant, ripping the earrings out of her ears. The last thing Polis remembers, before she had a seizure, was spitting blood on the restaurant door.
For the better part of this spring, as I write or look at websites or putter around at home, I’ve kept open in a corner of my screen the Hawk Cam run by the City Desk at The New York Times. The red-tailed hawks, christened Violet and Bobby—like all reality TV stars, they have both a Facebook page and a Twitter feed—built their nest over the winter on a ledge outside the office of NYU’s president; in March, Violet laid three eggs. I started watching in late April, when the City Room blog announced that the eggs were about to hatch.
In spite of the U.S. Census data for the past decade showing continued job de-centralization, there is now much anecdotal evidence for the just the opposite. The Chicago Crain’s Business Journal reports that companies such as Allstate, Motorola, AT&T, GE Capital, and even Sears are re-considering their fringe suburban locations, generally in stand alone campuses, and may head back to downtown Chicago.