Posted on 29 April 2011.
The death toll for this week’s destructive tornado reached 318 across seven states on Friday, making it the deadliest day for twisters since 1932.
Linda Abi Assi spoke with Tanya Ott, the news director at the public radio station WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama about the aftermath of the deadly storm. She also spoke with Jared Guyer, a meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration; he explained why the weather conditions on Wednesday were extremely rare.
Posted on 29 April 2011.
Use the interactive map below to explore the changes Chinatown is facing and how a Business Improvement District would affect the neighborhood.
When it comes to improving a neighborhood, there are often as many ideas as their are residents. In Chinatown, a proposed Business Improvement District or BID has become a point of contention – some say it’s time to band together to improve the neighborhood…others say the BID is a burden for small business owners and part of the reason the neighborhood is losing its identity. Larry Tung reports.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon in mid-April and David Ye is walking with a basketball under his arm in Sara Roosevelt Park, on the eastern side of Chinatown.
“When I think about Chinatown, I think about coming here to play basketball, or dim-suming with my parents or buying grocery…you know…all the stuff that makes Chinatown what it is,” said Ye.
Sara Roosevelt Park is a popular neighborhood hangout – seniors do tai-chi in the morning and play chess in the afternoon, kids climb up and down the jungle gym. It’s clean and has the latest everything. The park you see today is the result of an 8-month renovation from two years ago. And developments like this are all over Chinatown. A block away on Hester Street, a Wyndham Hotel is going up. Chic boutiques and hair salons are opening up next to old neighborhood institutions.
“Like just across the street there’s a butcher who’s worked there for longer than I’ve been born,” Ye said.
A few more blocks west, near Broadway, is a new kind of Chinatown restaurant, called Red Egg. Through the sleek, dark wood doors, there is a full bar that serves specialty drinks like the Lychee Sake-tini. Darren Wan opened the restaurant in 2008, and serves traditional dim sum-style small plates. But he says his restaurant is not stereotypical.
“You have your traditional Chinatown restaurants which people always feel very bright fluorescent lights, large tables, not always the cleanest places, fast food, inexpensive food,” said Wan.
Wan is 36, and grew up in Riverdale. As a child, he came to Chinatown every Sunday for church. He remembers practically everyone speaking Mandarin, Cantonese and other dialects. He remembers all the cheap toys you could buy. With Red Egg, Wan is joining a new wave of younger Chinese business owners who hope to draw more people willing to pay for higher quality.
“Everything’s made fresh to order. So you probably won’t see ladies walking around and pushing carts. It’s kind of a lot more comfortable feel,” Wan said.
Wan wants his customers to feel comfortable outside his restaurant too. But to do that, he has a constant battle with one of Chinatown’s biggest problems– trash. The area is notorious for its smelly fish markets and garbage, especially in the summer. The city’s Department of Sanitation picks up garbage once a day, and sweep the streets 2 or 3 times a week. But it’s not enough, and businesses are responsible for keeping their part of the sidewalk clean.
Anthony Cummings collects garbage for a private company. He’s in Chinatown six nights a week and says it’s a real workout.
“Stupid heavy. A lot of slabs. A lot of nasty garbage, man,” said Cummings.
The nasty garbage is what’s keeping Chinatown from getting more visitors. That’s according to Margaret Chin. She is the first Chinese American elected to represent Chinatown in city council.
“I heard so many times, from friends, relatives, even my own kids. Mom, Chinatown stinks. They don’t want to come,” Chin said.
Chin has been the driving force behind the controversial Chinatown Business Improvement District, or BID. The proposed BID would collect money, just like a tax, from property owners to pay for street cleaning and garbage collection. But Chin says it goes beyond the sanitation problem. She says a cleaner Chinatown is crucial to boosting the pride of Chinese Americans.
“So how do we get to a point where our kids feel proud to bring their friends to show off their community?” said Chin.
The Chinatown BID is on the cusp after over two decades of efforts to establish local control of the neighborhood’s cleanliness. There’s currently an organization called the Chinatown Partnership. That was founded in 2004 to revitalize the neighborhood economy, which took a big hit after September 11, 2001. So far, it’s been largely funded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the 9/11 Fund. But the money ran out last year. That’s when a group of business and community leaders formed a BID steering committee. Now, the BID is poised to pass. Once it’s become law, commercial property owners will pay between 200 and 5000 dollars a year. Based on a formula, most will pay under $1,000.
But opponents of the BID says, plain and simple, the BID assessment is just another tax. David Eng’s family has been making and selling tofu in Chinatown since the 1930s. Inside the factory on Division Street, machines are grinding soy beans, and Eng supervises men in hair nets churning out dozens of tofu bricks every few minutes. There’s steam everywhere, the final product soaks in big blue buckets of water.
“We grind the beans, we cook it in the vat, and we run it through what’s called the extractor, makes the soy milk, the dao jiong. From there, we add the calcium, it congeals, from there we make our tofu,” said Eng.
“How many pieces of tofu do you make?” asked a reporter.
“Oh, I never really counted, I’m thinking about 10000 pieces a day…But this is the way my father did it back in the 60s. I didn’t really change anything. Besides, the lack of space is a problem also,” said Eng.
Eng is against the Chinatown BID. As far as he’s concerned, it’s the property or business owner’s responsibility to clean the sidewalk, and the city’s job to keep them honest.
“If they enforce the law, then you’ll have a cleaner Chinatown. Because I’ve gotten so many tickets, I every day sweep the sidewalk because I don’t want any tickets. But then at the same time to raise my property tax maybe 500 dollars a year for them to clean the street, it’s hard for me. I got to sell a lot of tofu to get 500 dollars,” said Eng.
Eng’s attitude is in line with an old Chinese saying: Zhi Sao Men Chien Shue, which literally means “sweeping the snow only in front of your door.” It’s said about people who look out only for themselves. People who support the BID say that kind of mentality is holding the BID and Chinatown back and needs to change. David Louie is a Chinese American and has been doing business in Chinatown since 1976. He says 9/11 forced people to change their attitude. Before then, he says, they were much more insulated.
“Leave us alone. We don’t bother you. You don’t bother us. After 911, there was a rude awakening, rude awakening. Chinese Americans say hey wait, we are part of the whole city. We’ve gotta start thinking together,” said Louie.
Louie says a Chinatown BID is a win-win situation. It will stimulate the economy and create jobs.
“You’ll have more waiters, you’ll have more cooks, you’ll have more shopkeepers. We got plenty of doctors, we got very qualified doctors in Chinatown, not just restaurants. In terms of beauty salons, and facials, look, you don’t have to pay uptown prices, you can come down to Chinatown, get the function done, enjoy your dinner and do some shopping,” Louie added.
A BID is part of the picture, but people who study BIDs say the kind of success that Louie hopes for is happening in most of the 64 BIDs throughout the city. Rachel Meltzer is a professor of Urban Policy at the New School. She says part of the reason most BIDs work is they are fair and everybody has to pay in.
Meltzer: The idea of having a binding assessment is to overcome something that’s called free riding. The idea that if someone is not paying, they can still benefit from the good, or they benefit more from the good than what they pay into it.
But what makes BID popular, she says, is that you see immediate results.
“If anything, they will see it more than what they get out of their property taxes. With the BID, you pay the assessment and you actually see the return right outside your front door. You know it’s going to your areas,” said Meltzer.
Those immediate results can be both positive and negative. The returns help businesses, but for long-term residents, the fear is whether they can afford to stay in the area. As David Ye walks from the basketball courts to his home on Eldridge Street, he passes Hester Gardens, formerly a rent-controlled building that’s gone upscale condos. He says many units are sitting there empty.
“People who could have lived there–poor, low-income people that used to live there–could be actually living there now,” said Ye.
Ye wants his neighborhood to grow and evolve — and be cleaner. But he says this kind of progress should not come at the expense of the heart of Chinatown–its people.
“When you think about it, Chinatown was built from thousands and now hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans who wanted to move away from their mother country for more opportunities…. If the people… are forced to move or if they just leave…it definitely takes a part out of what Chinatown is,” said Ye.
The BID is waiting for a final vote by City Council. It is expected to pass later this year.
Jacob Anderson contributed to the story.
View Changing Chinatown in a larger map
Posted on 29 April 2011.
Starting this Sunday, it’ll be illegal to rent out an apartment for less than 30 days in New York State.
Supporters say the law will shut-down so-called “NO-tels” – illegal hotels and hostels in the city…that specialize in short-term rentals. They say these rentals jeopardize permanent residents’ safety and quality of life.
But the businesses who run these short-term rentals say what they’re doing is LEGAL. And when things get out of hand, they’re on it.
Joe Danielewicz (Daniel-witz) reports.
At a ground floor apartment on 88th Street near Central Park West, Judah Charytan welcomes Roger Cooke and Ashley Boone to his apartment.,… it will be theirs’s for the next week..
“Welcome to New York and to the apartment,” Charytan said welcoming his guests.
“The other folks slept here this morning, so the house keeper will be here later this morning and will get it cleaned up,” Charytan continued, showing the apartment to his guests.
Charytan has a lot of visitors these days, as tourist seasons picks up.
The Australians found Charytan’s apartment through AirBNB.
“We just like the more relaxed way of an apartment,” said Boone standing near the studio’s kitchen. “Hotels usually want you out by a certain time so they can clean. So we can be a little more self sufficient.”
Roger adds, “So we can cook.”
They liked the location and at a $140 a night, it’s much cheaper than many New York hotels.
Charytan started renting his apartment over a year ago… He got such a good response and now rents two other apartments solely for short-term rentals.
He makes enough money so that he doesn’t have to work another job.
But these short-term rentals can cause problems for permanent residents.
One neighbor noticed the guests and spoke with Charytan about people in the buildings.
“I’m sure he’d prefer that there weren’t random people coming in and out.” Charytan says. “To the best that I can, I definitely screen the people. One of the advantages about Air BNB is you can post reviews about the travelers.“
As far as he knows, Charytan says there haven’t been any problems with the guests.
In the East Village Stafanie Tran lives in a building where more than half of the units are short-term rentals leased by a company called “Hotel Toshi.”
Security is a big issue with the guests for Tran.
“Sometimes they prop open the door which means the entire building is open” she said. “Normally we felt pretty safe because we’re in the back building, but if they leave everything unlocked, that leaves us open to the same things they’re going through in the front part.“
She says the temporary neighbors are perpetually on vacation.
“People that are up ‘til 4 or 5 AM, that are making a lot of noise, that are smoking
out of their apartment,’ according to Tran. “Their windows are open and they’re just doing kind of crazy things.”
The problems are so bad, Tran says some of the long-term residents want to move out and get away.
State Senator Liz Krueger represents the Midtown and the Upper East Side. She sponsored the bill after receiving resident complaints about guests in their buildings…
“Partying and perhaps drunk and raucous, in the hallways at all hours of the day and night, is not a good model for residential living” she said in her office.
Kruger says the law is meant strengthen enforcement but won’t target the individuals who may rent out their apartment time to time…
The point is to keep people safe.
“People who rent housing can be assured they are in safe, secure buildings with
other perm residents. That they are not finding themselves in party-scene illegal housing situation, literally down the hall.”
Hotel Toshi is one of the companies that could be affected by the new law. They declined an interview on tape, but emailed a statement defending their business:
“We have policies that are in place to make sure no long term tenants that inhabit some of the apartments in the same buildings we occupy are never bothered or inconvenienced by our guests. …
“But sometimes, just like in any other business, things happen that are not in your immediate control – and the best we can do is try to rectify those issues as they arise.”
Enforcement is complaint driven… If there is an issue, residents can file a complaint with the city by calling 311.
But it could take a while for the city to check it out… There’s too few inspectors to cover the whole city… and unless someone is caught “red-handed” it might be difficult to prove something illegal took place.
One group of Lower East Side residents took their previous building management to housing court in part to get Hotel Toshi out.
Nancy Koan lives in that building along East 9 Street near Avenue A and says the Hotel Toshi “guests” changed the building’s character.
“They were nice travelers, but everyday you’re seeing a stranger in your building”
Koan said in a phone interview. “You don’t feel like it’s your building. You’re staying in a strange place because you don’t recognize the people.”
That law banning short-term rentals goes into effect Sunday.
Posted on 29 April 2011.
The phone call came on New Years Day — about a year after my mother’s death. I was finally back on my feet. I had found a job, applied to grad school — and started to enjoy life again.
But the woman on the other end of the line said she was a friend of my dad’s and that he was in the hospital. Nothing life-threatening — but he was starting to develop dementia and would be moved to a nursing home.
“Dementia?!” I thought. “Wow.”
My parents split up when I was too young to remember. My dad was an alcoholic and never showed up in family court, so my mom got full custody.
I saw my dad occasionally until I was five or six. But my mother was always fearful.
“If he really wanted to hurt me, he’d hurt you,” she said.
I didn’t know whether to believe that. But … I’d seen my dad curse at my grandfather. I’d heard stories of him angrily ripping phones out of the walls. And according to my mother’s diary, he once blocked her path and told her, “You’re through, unless you deliver Willow to me. You understand?”
So throughout high school and college, I kept my distance.
After my mother’s death, I thought about calling. But I was worried my dad would say something like, “It’s just as well she’s dead.” I’d heard he kept grudges.
So I kept putting off the phone call.
When I found out he was ill, I did make plans to see him.
But then, another call came. My dad had taken a turn for the worse and had at most a few days left to live. I got right in the car.
When I arrived at the hospital, my father was lying on his back, eyes closed, mouth slightly ajar. An IV tube dripped pain killers into his arm.
Standing by his bed, I felt like a visitor — not a daughter.
Finally, I reached out and touched his hand. “Hi,” I said. “It’s Willow. I came to see you.”
And the following afternoon, he passed away.
The one attorney in town said my dad had left everything to a friend. There was nothing for me to do — no funeral arrangements to make, no house to clear out, no one to notify.
So I headed back to New York.
Driving home, I thought about how the few memories I had of my dad … were so much nicer than what I’d HEARD about him.
He was a composer and spent most of his time on a little, rocky island in Maine, which he’d bought in his twenties for $500. He built a windmill, and a house that looked like a castle, with a grand piano and harpsichord in the living room. A network of toy trains snaked through the trees and rocks.
Here, my dad was a fascinating playmate. We’d pick out tunes on the harpsichord … explore the castle … and write stories — where I was the main character.
But the visits ended abruptly. My dad kept me too long one day, and my mom called the police.
After that, even the occasional calls and birthday cards stopped.
After his death, I realized I’d been feeling the loss of this dad — the fun dad — for a long time. Now, I was also grieving for someone I didn’t know. The emotions confused me. I didn’t feel I deserved to be so upset.
So I didn’t tell people he died. When friends and colleagues asked why I had left town, I’d say, “Family emergency — but it’s all taken care of.”
But it isn’t. The lack of closure really bothers me. My dad and I both missed an opportunity. And although I think my childhood was happier and more stable without him, I wish we’d had time for me to be the adult and reach out.
Posted on 29 April 2011.
The Space Shuttle Endeavor was scheduled to lift off at 3:47 this afternoon. But the mission was scrubbed after NASA officials discovered a faulty heater around noon. The launch is postponed for at least 48 hours. When it does go up, it’ll be the last launch of the Space Shuttle program. Astronaut Stanley Love was part of the Atlantis shuttle mission in 2008. He says part of the reason NASA is ending the program is because it did not fully live up to expectations.
Posted on 29 April 2011.
Watch a video of graffiti artist Luis Lamboy – tag name “Zimad” – talk about 5 Pointz.
5 Pointz is a building in Long Island City that has been a canvas for graffiti artists from all over the world since the early 90s. Its owners recently announced that they plan to replace it with two luxury apartment buildings. Some graffiti artists and fans of the artform say that the demolition of 5 Pointz could signify the end of an era. Karla Zabludovsky reports.
As the 7 train rounds the corner onto Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, hundreds of giant graffiti pieces come into sight. The brightly-colored giant bubble letters and cartoon characters of 5-Pointz are show-stoppers.
“If you’ve never seen it, it’s kind of like a museum with no roof; it’s like aerosol Disney World,” said Jonathan Cohen, a graffiti artist who goes by the name Meres1 and is also the curator of 5-Pointz. He decides which graffiti artists get to paint there, and where on the five-story, block-long industrial complex they get to do it.
The graffiti on the walls at 5 Pointz isn’t the kind of scrawls that you might see on a garage door. Those are known as “tags;” they’re basically just signatures. The graffiti at 5Pointz is far more elaborate. These works can take days to make. They’re known as “pieces.” When artists finish a piece, they tag it to make it as their work.
Zimad is the street name of a regular at 5 Pointz. He has several pieces up on the building, but his favorite depicts an epic battle between two gods attacking the “M” letter in his street name.
“Zeus is like spiking my M along with a lightning bolt, while Poseidon is with a pitch fork, hitting my M as well, and they’re just trying to take me down, but as you can see, where they’re striking is just reflecting right of the letters, like it’s no’ting that can touch me,” Zimad said. “It took a lot of me personally. My soul is in this wall right here.”
The family that owns the 5Pointz building has been lending its walls to artists since 1993. The owners say they did it because they love art.
But this kind of graffiti started two decades before that, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. A lot of New Yorkers thought that these artists were vandals, and their art an act of vandalism. But it spread like a weed across the city. Hundreds of subway cars were covered with tags and pieces.
In the early 80s, Mayor Edward Koch declared war on graffiti. Hip hop historian Curtis Sherrod says that was the end of the golden age of the art.
“When they started doing these anti graffiti trains, they were like some kind of stainless steel that you would try to paint and the paint wouldn’t adhere,” Sherrod said. “That was the beginning of the end.”
Graffiti was spreading across the city just as a new form of music from the Bronx was gaining popularity and a new kind of dancing was emerging from the borough. DJ-ing. rapping, break-dancing and graffiti became known as the four pillars of hip hop.
Pay close attention, I’m in night missions, hand on a can, with the aerosol spitting, come a little closer, you can feel the addiction. Where does it lead? This strange love of mine – from “Strange Love” by BISCI, a New York City-based graffiti and hip hop artist.
Sherrod says graffiti is a way for hip-hoppers to literally make their mark on the city.
“It’s like if you feel you don’t have a voice, if you can’t advertise on the radio, if you can’t advertise on tv, you can’t put a big billboard out, you can get a magic marker, you can get a spray can and articulate how you feel,” Sherrod said. “Graffiti is a way to let folks know who feel that they don’t exist, that they exist. I will not be taken for granted; not only am I here, but I’m doing it in style, I’m doing it my way.”
During the Giuliani administration, the NYPD started cracking down even harder on graffiti. That’s when 5 Pointz and approved sites for pieces became important. There, artists could paint legally.
But now the building may be torn down. In March, the family that owns 5 Pointz announced plans to raze the warehouse and build two luxury rental towers. David Wolkoff, a member of the family, says the location of 5 Pointz is a golden ticket for any developer.
“LIC is ripe for growth, and we want to be a part of that growth,” Wolkoff said. “It should be as exciting and have that kind of fever pitch as downtown Brooklyn, but it’s a lot closer to midtown Manhattan.”
Wolkoff explains that his family loves artists and the arts so much that they also rented space in the building as artists’ studios. In the new development, Wolkoff says that they will leave space for art.
“There are going to be artist studios, there will be walls for art to be displayed on them, and art within the building,’ Wolkoff said.
Many graffiti artists think that 5 Pointz is a landmark. Wolkoff sees it differently.
“It’s not a landmark,” Wolkoff said. “It’s an old building and it’s getting older.”
In 2009, a stairway in the building collapsed, seriously injuring a jewelry artist that had a studio inside. Since then, it’s been mostly empty. Gabriel Shoenberg from Graffiti Tours New York said that losing 5 Pointz would be a major shock to the street art community.
“Imagine if one day you read in the newspaper that the MET and the Louvre were closing and that all of the artwork inside of it would never be seen again,” Shoenberg said. “The 5P would be the same idea.”
Shoenberg says that if 5 Pointz disappears, the graffiti community will be left without a homebase.
“It would have to move somewhere else and there isn’t really like a second-tier place,” he said. “There isn’t like a smaller 5P in another country.”
5 Pointz attracts people from all over the world. Some of them think the graffiti hotspot is a landmark that should be preserved. On a recent weekend afternoon, Frederick and Silvie, who live in the north of France, traveled to Queens to take in the art on 5 Pointz’ walls. After their visit, at a diner near 5 Pointz, Frederick said tearing the building down would be an act of cultural vandalism.
“You have to keep the reality, the style of life in this place, not to build luxury apartments – why?” he said. “There is Manhattan for that.”
Thousands of people have signed several online petitions to save 5Pointz, but some supporters of the building say that the only way to protect the building is for the city to give it actual landmark status. But not everyone in the graffiti community supports that idea. Gregory Snyder wrote “Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag in New York’s Urban Underground.” He says there are graffiti artists that have always avoided the location.
“That’s because they see it as a sort of police entrapment situation,” Snyder said. “It allows the cops to go and see who’s painting, see what name they paint and then follow that name in the streets and quite possibly put a name to an address.”
Graffiti Tours Operator Gabriel Shoenberg says that moving graffiti from the streets to authorized locations strips the art of its spirit.
“The problem is when you remove graffiti from its context, this kind of essence of being illegal and on a wall, oftentimes without anybody’s permission,” Shoenberg said. “If you put it in a gallery or you frame it or make it into an establishment, is it still graffiti? In some senses yes, because it’s still done with an aerosol spray can. It’s still kind of public art, but at the same time, you lose things that really helped define it in cultural terms.”
Hip hop historian Curtis Sherrod says sell out or not, graffiti has become a global phenomenon.
“If there were martians tapping into what we’re doing, they would be like we know what graffiti is!” Sherrod said. “We see tags in Spain, we see tags in Rome, it’s everywhere now. So we took something and took it across the galaxy.”
Back at 5 Pointz, an aerosol artist from Florida is writing a piece that reads SKATE backwards. There is a character from the comic strip the Boondocks in the middle. It is surrounded by bright red and green bubble letters. The artist is wearing a mask to shield him from the aerosol fumes as Meres, the curator, looks on.
“It’s too much to take in almost,” Meres said. “And people that come there, it impacts their lives. It’s like when you go skydiving and that’s one of the best things you’ve done – a lot of people feel that way about coming to 5 Pointz.”
The artist has finished the piece; he sprays his tag on the top right corner. Meres says he’ll be coaching this artist in the future. But if Wolkoff’s plans go ahead, he’ll have to take his mentoring elsewhere.
For more on 5 Pointz, head over to the Web site.
Posted on 29 April 2011.
Once Upon a time—this morning– in a land just across the Atlantic, Britain’s Prince William married a commoner named Catherine and they became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Across the world, and in New York many were in the throws of Royal wedding fever, while others exhibited royal wedding fatigue—and not just from waking up early to see the ceremony. Sandhya Dirks has the story.
Tea and Sympathy has been a royal wedding go to spot for weeks now—and last night? They were fresh out of just about everything.
“You don’t sell ginger cake or any kind of cake… or…could you sell me a whole Victoria sponge?” asked customer Emily Bergel.
Bergel was undaunted—she was planning on making a night of it.
“I am so excited I can’t even tell you,” she said. “I’m probably gonna stay up all night baking scones.”
She is making them for an early morning viewing party. But a native Brit doesn’t understand Bergel’s and other American’s fascination with the bride.
“I tried to explain to them that she is going to live a life of repression and misery and no privacy but they don’t understand,” he said.
He observed that many American girls dream of growing up to be a Princess— and getting to wear the dress.
Flash forward 12 hours and…
Vanessa Crane: “Stunning, understated, I’m glad it’s McQueen,” Vanessa Crane said of Catherine Middleton’s dress. “Yeah she’s beautiful, absolutely stunning.”
Crane is talking about Alexander McQueen, the fashion house responsible for Catherine’s dress. Crane is watching the ceremony on a jumbo screen in Times Square.
But at 6 a.m. there aren’t that many people here, the ones that are have British accents, like Rena Opal.
“I thought there would be more, to be honest, I thought there would be more Americans here,” she said. “I think its more media caring then people actually caring.”
The wall to wall American news coverage was not of interest just around the corner, where Julio Negron and some of his friends are just here to get coffee.
“I’m just like I don’t care, tell me what Paris Hilton’s up to,” he said. “That’s what I watch you guys for, not to let me know that these two random people in another country are getting married.”
Negron and his friend Katya Sarevejo say it’s not just about them being English. They say they prefer their celebrities to come with a side of scandal.
I like seeing hot messes and disasters. Yeah this whole Cinderella Story is getting old now.
Even if they unmoved by the spectacle—they’ve hit on a truth about America’s relationship to celebrity culture. But Emory history professor Patrick Allit says for many American’s there is an additional x-factor when it comes to the royal family.
“Although the American’s obviously fought a revolutionary war to get away from the monarchy, there’s this lingering feeling that there’s something magical about it, and the Americans have been unable to banish the aura which surrounds it,” he said.
Allitt, who is a British subject, teaches American history, lives in America, and is married to an American. So he has a personal and professional perspective… HE says there is a nostalgia for the glamor of the monarchy in both the distant and the recent past.
“William the Bridegroom, is the living embodiment of Diana,” he said. “It couldn’t be more dramatically intense; you only have got to see him smile to remember what she looked like.
He says that William and Katherine’s wedding embodies a paradox, while the monarchy is ancient, there are two young people just beginning a life together. Brooklyn resident Alex Innes says if nothing else, its an excuse for a party.
“I think a lot of people of our age group back home are not at all interested in the monarchy or what it stands for but when it comes to a day like this its suddenly like yay lets celebrate.”
Innes is celebrating– underneath the Manhattan Bridge in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn to watch the wedding on a giant screen—the crowd perks up when its time for the ceremonial first kiss.
This wedding, like any other, is an excuse for the group gathered here to drink and dress up in finery—the hats are really something else.
Posted on 29 April 2011.
The royal wedding was watched by an estimated 39 million people around the world. But for couples in the throws of wedding planning, the event today was as much a business story as one of romance. Karla Zabludovsky spoke with Amy Eisinger, an Associate Editor at the wedding channel.com. She says Kate and William’s wedding will influence everything, from dress styles to their unique choice of a Spring wedding.
Posted on 29 April 2011.
The new film version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged has performed dismally, grossing only $2.5 million, and casting doubt on the proposed sequels. But Tea Party enthusiasm has seen sales of Rand’s books increase, with “Atlas Shrugged” taking number four on the Amazon Bestseller list on the film’s release day. But commentator Jonah Comstock says Rand’s work, and another fundamental tea party text – the Bible – are at odds.
My father is a Presbyterian pastor, and so when I was growing up I went to church every Sunday. I took what I was learning there pretty seriously.
From the age of 10, Dad’s sermons would spark family discussions that would last all the way home, or into dinner, and even crop back up later in the week. My twin brother and I would take opposite sides on the free-will versus predestination debate. Dad tried, in vain, to articulate a Calvinist middle ground.
These conflicts weren’t challenges to my faith. They were just part of growing up Christian. But there was one frustration that did start me questioning my faith.
Every Sunday the congregation would read a prayer of confession in unison. I was OK when we were confessing vague sins that we had all probably committed. But sometimes I would be called upon, by reading along with the congregation, to confess to eating the apple in the garden of Eden, or building the golden calf, or crucifying Jesus. I didn’t do any of those things! I hadn’t even been born yet!
My Dad’s explanation – that original sin applies to all people – wasn’t good enough for me. I resented not having the opportunity to try to be good, even if I was doomed to fail.
A few years later, as a teenager, I read Ayn Rand, and her novels gave me a framework for articulating that outrage. In her novel “Anthem” a collectivist council rules the world, and the symbol of their oppression is that people refer to themselves only as we, never as I. I couldn’t read that without thinking of the confession.
The hero of Anthem throws off that burden and proclaims himself an I, accountable only for his own actions. Rand’s heroes owe nothing to anyone else. They are ruled by individual reason. By ignoring the voices that tell them what they can’t do, they accomplish the impossible. And reading the stories of these men was inspiring. It was intoxicating. I wanted to live in that world.
On the other hand, standing in church and admitting what I couldn’t do … was deflating, embarrassing, and crushing.
I knew it was either/or. Rand’s heroes worship themselves. If man has it in his power to do anything through reason, why would he need God?
Ultimately what it took to teach me that Rand was wrong and the gospels were right was just living, and realizing that I’m not perfect, and I never could be. For a 16–year-old that’s an outrage. For an adult, that’s life. And I was so hung up on the unfairness of the confession, I was blind to what came right after it in the service, when my father would come forth, wash his hands in the baptismal font, and say “all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but in the waters of baptism we are forgiven.” The bad news was that I couldn’t be a Randian superhero. The good news was that I didn’t have to.
Years later, I turn on the news and I see the Tea Party, an organization with strong ties to the religious right, re-enacting my adolescent crisis. Tea Partiers object to government spending on social welfare programs because they believe people can and should succeed for themselves, without government help. They say the free market will take care of everything. Ayn Rand would be proud.
But the Bible shows us a world of charity and forgiveness. Even the best, strongest heroes in the Bible, like King David, can’t succeed for themselves, can’t make it on their own. They screw up – and they’re forgiven. Being a Christian is all about accepting that we need help – from above, but also from each other.
Rand found all that repugnant. She said it amounted to making the successful slaves to the worthless. But Jesus said that whoever wants to be first among people must become servant of all. If they want to have any intellectual integrity, Tea Partiers have to make the same choice I did: a delusion of human greatness, or the good news of human salvation.
Jonah Comstock attends Broadway Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side. He wrote his undergraduate Philosophy thesis on Ayn Rand.