Blog Roll

The Worst of the Best of the Worst

12/24/2016

I scored a few inches in the Voice‘s “Best of Civic Life 2016” a while back, but my favorite two bits didn’t make the final cut. Which is what this is for. Enjoy?

Best Raid

You could almost feel the saliva dripping from the tabloids’ pages: the “gangbangers” “ruled the Bronx streets with an iron fist” led the Post; “a legion of 700 law enforcers” scored “the largest number of busts in a single sweep” ever, said the News. The Times piled on: a decade of “wanton violence” was over. It took Simon Davis Cohen, writing for The Nation, to show us what “the single largest takedown in modern New York history” looked like down at street level. A squad of heavily armed NYPD commandos forcing a woman to crawl on all fours down the hallway of her own home. With crime at record lows and the glory days of stopping-and-frisking numbered, Davis Cohen reports the NYPD turned to chasing gangs, despite their low share of criminal activity. The charges look thin given the raid’s scope. The marquee was a 92-year-old woman killed by a stray bullet… seven years ago. A gang member had already plead guilty. RICO allows the government to try him again – his 161.5 year manslaughter conviction seems ‘light’ – and nab dozens of others for the same crime. “They killed the whole neighborhood,” a resident told Davis Cohen. His website Raids of New York looks to be indispensable.

Best Elves

“First of all, the two elves didn’t come for fucking Christmas,” blurted NYPD Deputy Inspector Jimmy Grant. Christmas of 2013 had been a good one for Grant, one of the top cops; the elves had brought his kids a video game console, and his wife got a piece of jewelry worth a cool grand. They also dropped in on then-Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks’ number two; his kids also scored a PlayBox. The elves in question were Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, two Orthodox Jews who felt the Christmas spirit all year round. From 2012 on they showered Grant and Harrington with gifts: hotel stays, home repairs, Nets and Rangers tickets. The elves rented a private jet and took Grant on an all-expenses paid trip to Vegas for the Super Bowl, prostitute included. Rechnitz took Harrington and Banks to dinner once or twice a week. When Banks promoted Grant to DI, he actually put Reichberg and Rechnitz on the phone to deliver the good news. In the end the elves dropped over a hundred grand on the NYPD brass. In return they got help fixing tickets, occasional police escorts, concealed carry permits, even officers sent to disperse a protest outside a business owned by Reichberg’s associates. But Harrington was shuffled out of the Chief’s office in November 2014 after Banks quit, and perhaps as a result the elves skipped Christmas. “You don’t love me anymore bro,” Grant lamented to Reichberg on the same call he bitched about the elves’ no-show. If only he’d known the wiretap meant he was complaining to the FBI too. But then we wouldn’t know who the best elves were.

Citizens United is Destroying the Republican Party

02/08/2016

So now that the good people of Iowa have gone to the polls, or whatever it is exactly they do at their caucuses, and begun to draw our long national nightmare to a close, you mighta thought they’d have managed to thin the herd a bit. Sure, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum fell to the wayside, but nobody even knew Santorum was running, and Paul was always the Right’s version of a protest candidate. Meanwhile everybody else is still stampeding toward the cliff.

What’s driving them in that direction is, ironically enough, Citizens United. Read More

True Grit

01/29/2016

The Film Forum is screening the Coens’ True Grit this weekend, so I dredged up this essay I wrote but never found a home for back when it was in theaters.

 

The first cinematic take on True Grit was released in ’69, the same year Butch & Sundance and The Wild Bunch exploded into theaters. The latter two films were loud and dirty and bloody and their heroes didn’t ride off into the sunset but instead charged headlong into the line of fire. Outside the theaters American politics — maybe, some thought, even America itself — had reached something of a cul-de-sac, and these films reflected it. True Grit drew the focus in a little more tightly on a single aspect of the problem, in the form of its protagonist Mattie Ross.

Kim Darby as Mattie Ross in True Grit ('69) Read More

Some Notes on John Carpenter

10/19/2015

Dark Star

Dark Star (1974). As film school sci-fi goes, THX 1138 (’71!) remains the reigning champion, but cross-splicing Strangelove (’64), 2001 (’68), and The Prisoner (’67) is inspired. Space as job. Hard not to see that as O’Bannon’s DNA, particularly given the modest debts the first two Alien films owe this one. Carpenter’s might seem harder to detect, until Lt. Doolittle decides it’s time for some EVA to talk epistemology with the sentient bomb half out of the cargo bay that’s insisting on detonating. The bomb is arguably overly credulous; it doesn’t take long for Doolittle to convince it that it has no real grasp on reality beyond its ‘senses.’ The suspicion of appearances, the sense that our senses are failing us, that they don’t convey the fundamental reality with which we’re confronted, that’s something Carpenter will work with for the next three decades. Then again: the men piling into cramped quarters, turning on each other; Doolittle surfing into some rock’s exosphere; the chromosomal traces are everywhere. “Let there be light,” the bomb declares. Destruction as creation, a solipsistic God as annihilating force. Start again. Read More

Iterations, Bias, Context

08/07/2015

I’m a news junkie. It’s a legit issue, I should go to meetings (“Hello, my name is Nick…”), but I don’t have time because I have news to read. One of the ways I cope with the deluge of news/indulge my compulsion is to make liberal use of the function in the NYT‘s app that allows you to save stories for later. Then when I’m on the train, or killing time before a movie or whatever, I bang through some articles and pretend I’m making progress. Which is how a few days ago I found myself reading an article in the app titled “Palestinian Teenager is Fatally Shot While Protesting Deadly Arson Attack”. This was Diaa Hadid’s well-reported account of the death of Laith al-Khaldi (17), shot by the IDF during a protest over the death of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh, burned to death during the aforementioned arson. Toward the end of the piece there were a few links I wanted to take a look at, but for some reason or other I didn’t want to do so on my phone. So when I got home, I cracked my laptop, punched the title into my search engine, and hit the link.

And discovered the story had disappeared. Read More

Towards an Inquiry Into the Work of Arnold Schwarzenegger

07/25/2015

It was always going to end this way. Time after time he would come to their rescue; he was protecting them, they were helpless without him; he was avenging their defiled honor, redeeming his own vitiated masculinity (the appeal of this for the white male demo as morning broke across America). He would endure humiliations, trials, tribulations. He unleashed a tidal violence in their name, sweeping away everyone in his path. He slaughtered his opponents with glee, with the same enthusiastic sadism we felt watching him. He was us. Read More

Because

12/07/2014

Because it’s a compulsion. Because it haunts me at night. Because it haunts me all damn day. Because I can never hit the news cycle. Because I need to write regularly again, see if the heart will still pump blood, if the muscles will still flex, aspirate, lift, heave, hurtle, hurdle. Because I’ll probably never be able to use enough parentheticals in print (because thoughts eddy endlessly (as if there was some centripetal force, some black hole at the center) and points of reference need to be defined). Because it’s a blog, for fuck’s sake. Because apparently all the cool kids have already moved on to Tumblr (now that I think about it the cool kids have probably already moved on to some platform I haven’t even heard of yet). Because this crew and all their factual opinions sometimes make me think there might be some life left in all this, that the English language isn’t just a calcified husk, a lost cause, clotted with dead phrases and TV dialogue and going stiff with rigor mortis. Because I disagree with mebbe half of what they have to say. Because most of ’em aren’t even writing anymore (what right-thinking, literate citizen does not miss Comics of the Weak, I ask you). Because my mother claims her family had a motto: Late, but in earnest. Because I’m not dead yet. Because my shrink would probably tell me it’s a good idea. Because something went wrong somewhere. Because I went off the rails. Because I only ditched. Because sure, one must accept these little hibernations, but this is getting ridiculous. Because people keep telling me the emails I fire off should be published, or referring to them as essays. Because I’m terrible at pitching. Because nothing’s ever finished, you just hit ‘send’ or ‘publish’ or smack up against the deadline and call it a day. Because you gotta know when it’s over you did the best you could. Because you wanna be immortal? Fight to be immortal. Because because because because because.