It's been out for almost three weeks...

If you haven't read my father's new book yet, GET WITH IT!

I know, you thought he was a medievalist, but John V. Fleming steadfastly refuses to be pigeon-holed, and in about the time it takes me to put together a decent blog entry he wrote a fascinating analysis of four books very much of and about their time: those grisly years of intrigue between the wars and after, when our necessary alliance with the Soviet Union morphed into the cold war. You might call it a literary procedural; he follows the evolution of four writers who, although initially captivated by Communism, turned away from Stalin and survived to tell the tale. Ultimately each wrote a book condemning the Soviet incarnation of their once-beloved ideology, and these books are the heroes in my father's account; the authors range from the shady and frustrated one-hit wonder "Jan Valtin" to the tortured genius Arthur Koestler. That their motivations and aspirations are often unclear makes this an all the more fascinating read. I highly recommend it.


Goths by the Seashore

It may only be because I'm getting my 2008 income taxes in order today, and therefore find myself easily diverted, but I think Goths trying to take their vampiric selves to the beach makes for some hilarious bloggery.

I've always thought gothicism a particularly weird and self-conscious youth subculture, a fashion statement searching for a cause. The purple fingernail polish, the black Stevie Nicks dresses and the cruciform jewelry have always seemed nothing more than a pitiably transparent attempt to piss off the parents rather than actually transgress anything. All that darkness, mascara, those coffins, cobwebs and wistfully depressing music for me add up to little more than a Halloween costume adopted as lifestyle.

Perhaps I need enlightenment, but is there a goth political point of view? Or is it just gloominess for its own sake?

Whether you are in touch with your own dark side or not, this blog, which I discovered courtesy of Tim Broun's facebook feed, is HOWLINGLY FUNNY.


And in today's news

I'm sure there are other blogs that compile telling headlines found in the major media, but when the New York Times has three obvious candidates on one front page in one day, it is hard to let it pass.

U.S. Helps Spanish Company to Buy Texas Bank

Where’s the Rulebook for Sex Verification?

Maybe It’s Time to Change Credit Cards


Fort Defiance in full effect...

I didn't manage to take any pictures of the dancing throng at proprietor St. John Frizell's birthday bash at Fort Defiance on Friday night, because I was too busy selecting 45s back by the pass-through next to the kitchen. The original improvised deejay booth, the best seat in the house at the street end of the bar, had to be abandoned due to technical difficulties, and I ended up in a little nook near the basement stairs, with my boxes of records perched on top of tubs of cutlery and piles of napkins. From time to time I peered out into the room between records to gauge the crowd's reaction. I had forgotten how short 45rpm records are. Like the ubiquitous babies of Red Hook, they need constant changing. (For those of you too young even to remember what 45s are, they are 7" in diameter vinyl--analog--"singles" containing no more than two or three minutes of music per side).

We rocked the house until 4:30 in the morning and left the place a sweaty mess. By Saturday morning, so I'm told, the Fort was already back in business, serving Red Hook's most delicious sandwiches, coffees, and, well, actually, let's not talk about the cocktails right now. I would have blogged this yesterday, but I didn't really get a jump on the day...

Happy Birthday! You don't look a day over forty!


Retirement is overrated...

On the basis of a couple of ipod playlists he heard while over at my place for dinner, St. John Frizell of the fabulous Red Hook eat and drinkery Fort Defiance has humbled me by accepting my offer to become the Fort's house deejay. It's been a few years, or more, but I'm coming out of retirement, dusting off the crates, and sharpening my needles. If you are in Brooklyn this Friday night, August 14th, stop on in for our debut jamdown. Friday also happens to be St. John's birthday, so you can buy him one of his own splendid cocktails. See you there!


A Dip in the Pools

A couple of weeks ago Cabinet Magazine hosted a pseudo-secret after-opening party around the corner and across the bridge from their digs on the sunny banks of the Gowanus Canal. At Cabinet we first experienced Nadia Wagner's scent-piece, essentially a white gallery of sheetrock invisibly permeated with the odor of primeval European forests. We were then treated to a presentation involving an array of perfumer's odors, from scatol, reminiscent of the most intestinal moments of John Water's smell-o-vision experience, to pleasant waftings of jasmine and rose, both synthetic and natural.

What is fascinating about scent as an art form seems to me the homogeneity of humanity's reaction to it, across all class, cultural, racial and geographic borders. A concentrated foul odor will cause an instinctive recoil in a Congolese pygmy and a Swiss bureaucrat alike. In contrast, a painting, or a color, a sculpture, or a texture, no matter how loathsome I might personally find it, will have its champions and defenders. There is certainly a spectrum of scents, and we may differ about some smells (for years I found the particular odor of eggs being cooked in butter unsupportably revolting), but generally we are in agreement; there is in smelling a kind of aesthetic universality. Only the self-consciously contrarian or the allergic will claim to dislike the odor of a flowering rose-bush after a spring rain.

After sniffing until the mucus membranes of my ethmoidal labyrinth were begging for relief, a posse of us trundled across the often wiffy Gowanus to the Macro-Sea dumpster pools. My ignorance of this Brooklyn summer experiment should be taken as evidence that I have been doing all manner of productive things other than swanning about the internet reading lots of other blogs, because the pools had already been blogged to death without my having noticed so much as a ripple. On the evening of the Cabinet event even the New York Times got into the act.

All that can be seen of the dumpsters are their ends, painted and stenciled macro-sea. A staircase leads up to decking built flush with the surface of the water. After pouring sand into the bottom for a soft footing, the giant bins were lined with gargantuan polytarps. Presto. Instant pool.

The Gowanus dumpster pools are exactly what their name suggests: swimming pools made out of dumpsters, situated near the banks of the Gowanus. Don't be confused into thinking they are full of water from the canal, however. They are clean and turquoise and inviting and have pumps and floating chlorinators and inflatable toys and decks and deck chairs. We are not talking here about those trapezoidal green oversized garbage cans on wheels, but rather the mammoth multi-cubic yard construction debris dumpsters which so often and so recently used to line Brooklyn's streets before the current global economic unpleasantness put an end to all that eager renovating. In other words, these are twenty or thirty foot long reinforced steel boxes, shallower but much stronger than shipping containers.

A couple of creative folks had the idea that for minimal money it would be possible to turn an underused vacant lot (of the sort rarer and rarer in Brooklyn these days, full of encroaching weeds, abandoned cars and parked construction vehicles of dubious utility) into a summertime destination, an unpretentious and relaxing neighborhood splash. One of them, it turns out, is an old friend, Dave Belt. I had not seen him since very early in this millenium when I visited him and his wife Antonia Wagner (no relation) in the hospital to meet their newborn baby. The woman I was splitting up with at the time won them all in the divorce, or at least that is how I stupidly imagined it at the time. In the long interim Dave has grown a beard, and it took me a moment to recognize him. His daughter is now a ravishing and vivacious eight-year-old with a younger sister. It was a wonderful and unexpected reunion. Dave reminded me that he and Antonia met at a party while I was deejaying, so I take credit for their whole splendid nuclear family situation. No need to thank me, just invite me over for another swim!

Grilling by the macro-sea-side: Dave says he is particularly fond of the matching squadron of red barbecues.

A couple of days ago we dropped by with some shrimp. Some fellow grillers had just finished cooking and they urged us to use their perfectly serviceable coals.

Post swim and post-shrimp: Harmon and Najafi face off on the bocce court.