Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Freedom Now, Freedom Forever: Cui Jian "Nothing to My Name"

Using the metaphor of a young guy talking to his girlfriend, who rejects him because he has nothing, Cui Jian, preeminent Chinese musician, in the 1980s, sang about a generation yearning for freedom.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929-1968

Photos from the Ebenezer Baptist Church and Dr. King Historical National Memorial Site in Atlanta by Tony Napoli
While it seems the journey may never be complete, and like the great figures from the Bible he himself did not see the Promised Land, Dr. King moved mountains, and whether it was with his profound vision and humanism, or Divine Grace, he brought America forward, leading Presidents, and the American people, on our continuing journey toward equality and freedom.
--Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thomas Merton: Writer, Mystic, Spiritual Seeker

What's the opposite of an encomium? Poet Thomas Merton explored this in "Hymn of Not Much Praise for New York City"; Merton, a Trappist monk who became an ordained priest, was a writer, mystic, and social activist and philosopher, who died in 1968. January 31 reflects the Centenary of his birth to expat New Zealander and American artists in France.

Thomas Merton

Other work by Merton at the Poetry Foundation website here

His The Seven Storey Mountain, first published in 1948, by Harcourt Brace, remains a classic spiritual autobiography of a modern seeker.

More writings about Merton here

--Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Coda: Four Jewish Murdered Hostages in Paris Identified

P4:45 P.M. The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions has released the names of the four hostages killed at the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday: Yoav Hattab, 21, Philippe Braham, in his 40s, Yohan Cohen, 22, and Fran├žois-Michel Saada, reportedly in his 60s. According to reports, Hattab is the son Betto Hattab, the rabbi of La Grand Synagogue in Tunis. (Haaretz). 

Further reportage from Haaretz here Paris shooting updates

After Paris, Time to Drop the "T" Word

Tired of seeing the portraits of the three murderers of Paris -- let's see portraits of those killed. The innocent folks killed in the kosher supermarket just because they were Jewish - now the world can see the true identity of Al Qaeda-allied terror. It's not just about "Zionists"-- their targets are all Jews and opponents to their self-styled regimes. But as Haffner described about Hitler -- it's hate and murderous anti-Semitism at the dark heart of their actions, not defense of some imaginary realm or leader.

 Tired of hearing the words "terror" and "terrorists"-- Jean Baudrillard long ago, after 9/11 discussed the new forms of this word that gain strength by playing on the use of violent gestures magnified by the global media spectacle as political tools. "Terror" implies that we in democracies are afraid or terrorized. We are disturbed and outraged, angered and hurt, as humans and humanists, as democratically free peoples who choose to live under the rule of law and justice, not under the whip and the beheading and medieval codes of violence. So let's dial down on use of the words terror and terrorists that have already become almost meaningless labels and descriptors that reflect more on the presumed impact of these actions on us, democratically free peoples in whose societies these criminals are sadly able to operate with greater freedom. Let's just recognize all of these villains as the criminals, law breakers,  kidnappers and murderers that they are.

Though it will take time, they will no doubt eventually be destroyed as was Hitler and in turn will destroy themselves. But democratic nations must be resolute and never surrender to the evil of theocratic extremists. 
Sure, #JeSuisCharlie, #JeSuisAhmed. But also let's never forget "#JeSuisJuif". And while we are at it, JeSuisDemocracy, indeed.

--Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Friday, January 9, 2015

Brother Francis - traces, words, images

On a windy and snowy Friday, up the marble steps and in the distinguished chambers of Brooklyn Borough Hall, a remarkable event is underway. For the first time in 700 years, a collection of hand-written, 13th century manuscripts concerning St. Francis of Assisi have left Italy and, following a stop at the United Nations, they are on public display at 290 Joralemon Street, the seat of local government in Kings County. 

The exhibit constitutes a variety of manuscripts and documents that directly and indirectly provide information and evidence about the life of Francis, including Francis' personal note to another friar ("Brother Leo..Health and peace!...), a papal instrument on the  founding of the Franciscan order, and the text of the saint's Canticle for the Creatures, for which he is well known, among other treasures.

As Borough President Eric Adams, who agreed to host this unique and special event, noted: "St. Francis, one of the most venerated religious figures in history who abandoned a life of luxury for a life devoted to charity, love and serving the poor. We have an opportunity to reflect upon the messages in these texts, including love for all creatures, and compassion for the less fortunate in our society." 

Frate Francis: traces, words, images is indeed an inspiring and timely exhibit.

Accompanied by an occasional speaker series on the manuscripts and the life of St. Francis, the exhibit closes next Wednesday, January 14. For further information, visit the Brooklyn Borough Hall website here

--Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

"We Can Talk"

The Band performance at Woodstock, 1969.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Chris Ofili at The New Museum

British artist Chris Ofili is probably best known for his Painting The Holy Virgin which included clumps of elephant dung and which led then NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1999 to threaten to defund the Brooklyn Museum which included the painting as part of its memorable "Sensations" exhibit. 

Well the Museum's director Arnold Lehman who will be retiring in the new year stood up to the Mayor and the contretemps passed.

A major retrospective of Mr Ofili's work is on display in a show at the New Museum on the Bowery that will be closing later this month. From his more well known earlier works combining layers of paint and multi media - including elephant dung-- and later works such as Afronirvana (above), and the infamous Holy Virgin Mary (below) and other engaging works created in the early 2000s while he was living inTrinidad, Mr Ofili's Night and Day at the New Museum is a not-to-be missed show of an exciting contemporary artist whose work remains spiritual, provocative, and inhabiting a world palette that is at the same time distinctly British.

-Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Coffee from the Heart

At Gran Caffe Gambrinus in Napoli, Italy, many customers enjoy their coffee with some sugar, but for some it is even sweeter when they add a caffe sospeso to their order-- a suspended coffee-- which the bartender saves and offers to another customer who is in need. Gaia Pianginini writes about this warm and charming custom in today's NY Times.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Modest Proposal: A Real “Vision Zero” for New York City in 2015

It would take an enormous amount of restraint, introspection and, yes, “vision” on the part of all parties, but the people and the government of New York City should establish a goal of not only the reduction to “zero” of the deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of police, but also the reduction to “zero” of the shootings of African American children and adults in New York City as a result of illegal gun violence, armed hold ups, drive-by shootings, shootings at baby showers, etc.   It may seem an unrealistic proposal, but perhaps establishing a goal of zero in both realms --  among the police and the community --  would be an effective way to  begin to reduce killings of the innocent in our city.


And this isn’t simply an issue of “someone else’s problem.”  Maybe everyone needs to take responsibility for the elimination of violence in NYC. We all recognize it’s a tense, expensive and extremely fast-paced town to live in. Folks are under a lot of stress. So, it’s not only out-and-out crime or police violence, but road rage, discourtesy and rudeness in public places and on our increasingly crowded public transportation,  and generalized hostility and a tendency of folks to unleash their anger at the first opportunity and often least provocation. Unrealistic? Yes, but we have to begin somewhere.


As John Lennon (himself, of course, a victim of gun violence perpetrated by a white male) sang, “War is Over, If You Want It” – so is violence in New York City.

--Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Sunday, December 14, 2014

David Lynch: The Unifying Field

Drawings, paintings, multimedia illustrations and early films reflecting the work of director David Lynch when he was a student at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and lived in the city of brotherly love as a young artist, the city that served as the basis for his explosive, breakthrough film "Eraserhead"
The exhibit closes January 11, 2015 at PAFA
--Tony Napoli 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reasons to Be Cheerful: Seven Global Trends to Be Very, Very Thankful For

Washington Post wonkblog reports on seven global trends-- from child mortality to poverty to war-- that show that despite humanity's "issues" we are, as the dominant species of the Anthropocene slowly learning our lessons on a global level.

There's always hope have a little faith

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Isaac Asimov's Lost Essay on Creativity

A lost essay by the author and visionary Isaac Asimov was recently discovered by Arthur Obermayer, a scientist- friend of the author and was published in MIT's Technology Review. The article, which considers "How do people get ideas" shows Dr. Asimov's remarkable versatility both as a writer of non-fiction on every imaginable topic as well as of course his now classic science fiction novels and stories. Having grown up in the same neighborhood, Windsor Terrace, as Dr. Asimov, a generation or two later, I was fascinated by his prolific work and his breadth of interests and knowledge, and of course at his creative ability to imagine the future. As a kid in elementary school, I wrote him a letter, a fan letter, and received a neatly typed post card in return from the Great Man, no doubt typed on the same typewriter that he used to publish one of his books, stories, or essays.. "Once, many years ago, I lived in your neighborhood..there is no secret to writing and getting published, just keep writing." Amen.

For a look at Dr. Asimov's recent article, visit MIT Technology Review here
Isaac Asimov (illustration - MIT Technology Review)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"The Imitation Game": a graphic biography

The Imitation Game, the upcoming film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, with early Academy Award chatter, promises to make its subject, mathematician and computing visionary Alan Turing, if not a household name, then a deservedly more well known and major figure in the origins and development of modern computing. His role in the creation of electronic code breaking devices that neutralized the German Enigma machines which played a critical role in the Allies victory will help shed an heroic and even more complex light on this fascinating and still somewhat obscure figure. Andrew Hodges' scientific biography Alan Turing: The Enigma remains the gold standard, a deep and comprehensive read.

Recently, however, Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis have published online at a fascinating graphic biography , also called The Imitation Game, that provides a wonderful overview of Turing's life, visually engaging and technically expansive in exposing some of the math, science and ideas that makes the scientist's story so engrossing. Not available in print just yet but you can read it online here

Another generous and worthy telling of a major figure and contributor to the contemporary world whose personal life and orientation - and whose self awareness, well ahead of his time -- unfortunately led to his destruction.
 -Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boardwalk Empire and Louis Malle's Atlantic City

As Boardwalk Empire rolls towards its conclusion, and wanting to add further depth and dimension before it's gone, you may want to revisit - or catch for the first time- Louis Malle's Atlantic City. A French -Canadian production with a largely Canadian cast, except for Burt Lancaster as an aged gangster who remembers the heyday of AC, and Susan Sarandon as a young woman trying to carve out a living in the new gambling and casino structure that began to rise in the 1980s. Of course the heyday that Lancaster's character Lou recalls reflect the days of Boardwalk Empire- Bugsy Siegal, Lucky Luciano, even Nucky Johnson, (who was the real Tammany-like figure that Nucky Thompson is based on who wielded power in the resort's earlier days) make cameo appearances inasmuch as they are referenced in John Guare's excellent script. 

Gangsters old style and new tangle with hippie drug dealers and the growing casino culture with a backdrop of a romantic collision between Lancaster's character  in one of his final films and Sarandon in one of her early breakout roles.The background to this tale shows the destruction of the old hotels when the vacation Mecca was out of fashion and crime ridden and the first corporate hotel casinos  - like Howard Hughes' Resorts International - first began to transform the town into the Vegas of the East. Of course now Atlantic City is undergoing another transition as the casinos close and its future is at best uncertain, a chapter that remains to be written. But if you want to enjoy a great coda to Boardwalk Empire, catch up with Louis Malle's Atlantic City. I caught it on Encore on Demand.
--Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo