06/29/15 12:00pm

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Summer’s here… you should enjoy it! Go out, have fun, and leave your chores to Handy. Whether your home could use a cleaning or you need a handyman, Handy is here to help. To help you out even more, Handy has a great deal exclusively for Brooklyn Based subscribers. Through July 10, first-time customers get two hours of home cleaning for only $19 when you schedule regular cleaning services. There’s no better way to prep for the July 4th weekend (and to free up your summer)!

06/29/15 11:02am
Well show you how to make The Boxcar Beetle on the next page. Photo: Ellen Killoran

Well show you how to make The Boxer Beetle on the next page. Photo: Ellen Killoran

Ramona might look like it’s too elegant for a wild night out in Brooklyn, but co-owner Scott Schneider wants to be sure no one is intimidated by the cavernous, meticulously designed space and sophisticated cocktail program. “Even though it seems like a really classy place where you have to be on your best behavior, you totally don’t,” Schneider says. “It’s super fun.” Indeed, Ramona has quickly established itself as one of North Brooklyn’s most sought-after private party spots, and on any given weekend night you can expect to find an energetic crowd well past the witching hour.

Schneider opened Ramona in early 2014 with his brother Jay and Jay’s wife Natalka, after the team found success with Elsa in the East Village. Ramona was initially built as a sister bar to Elsa, but since Elsa closed in 2014 they’ve stayed focused on their Franklin Avenue spot.  We chatted with Schneider about the cocktail scene, Greenpoint and the secret lives of bartenders.   (more…)

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06/26/15 9:54am

Memoir is an interesting genre because memoirs reflect how the writer remembers events. Often I find that the feelings and social commentary of the author’s memories, rather than the events they recount, are most intriguing. And I particularly like memoirs that are genre-bending. By this, I mean memoirs by people who practice another form of art or whose expertise of a subject filters through to their personal writing. In this sampling of my favorite memoirs, I’ve included one each from a critic, a journalist, a poet and a photographer.

maggieThe Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

If you’ve read Bluets, Maggie Nelson’s essay collection about falling in love with the color blue and her loneliness that coincides, then you’ll see The Argonauts is a continuation, a happy ending to that exploration of loneliness. If you haven’t read Bluets, then you should read all of Maggie Nelson’s work. She has an extraordinary intellect for detailing her own feelings, for figuring out the problem. In The Argonauts she explores how we name our families and whether or not words are good enough. This is a book for all the excitement in your heart.  (more…)

06/26/15 9:00am

One of the many pleasures of reading is that pause between books, when the traces of the last novel you devoured are still punctuating your thoughts, and you’re debating on the next title to pick up and hopefully, get lost in. Summer is peak season for this kind of decision making, thanks to a glut of three-day weekends and half-day Fridays that make it easy to go on a reading spree. So for everyone working on choosing your next literary adventure, we’ve laid out a few possible paths for you.

If you’re intrigued by YA fiction, but would like a more original starting place than Twilight, YA author Leila Sales has selected five great titles for you. For those who enjoy the story of a good, cold-blooded murder, we have a true crime list. Passionate home cooks will want to devour the cookbooks chosen by chef Liza Queen. We’ve got books for music junkies and memoir fans, too, along with books that make perfect accompaniments for your trips to the water’s edge..

Because you can never have too many good suggestions, we also polled some of our favorite authors to share their recommendations for a great summer read. We guarantee there’s a page-turner waiting for you here.

michelleteaMeghan Daum, editor of Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed and author of The Unspeakable:

On my summer reading list is How To Grow Up by Michelle Tea, a San Francisco-based Renaissance woman that might be America’s answer to Caitlin Moran. This memoir in essays explores issues around gender, geography, relationships, style and, most of all, socio-economic class (which is arguably the last conversational taboo). All of these subjects fascinate me, particularly the last one, and I can’t wait until my desk and to-do list is cleared so I can dig into this book uninterrupted. (more…)

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06/26/15 8:00am

Yesterday, as our daily email we sent a review of  the movie Tangerine with two possible subject lines. This is something called A/B testing, in which a small number of subscribers gets one of two possible subject lines. The line that gets the most opens in a period of time “wins” and is sent to the rest of the list.

We chose a straightforward, neutral one, “Film Shot on an iPhone Will Restore Your Faith in the Big Screen” and a provocative one, “Caitlyn Couldn’t Handle the Lives of These Women,” which “won.” We chose the last one not as a joke but because it would instantly convey the general subject of the email—trans women, two of whom are at the heart of the film, Tangerine, and whose experiences as both sex workers and people of color are very different from Caitlyn Jenner’s, a white, rich trans woman.

We intended to trigger a response to the email—a click through—but in doing so we offended a number of readers and denigrated someone’s trans experience. We apologize that we chose to juxtapose the life of Caitlyn, who as one reader commented, we have “have had ZERO personal interaction with and do not know ONE IOTA of all that he/she REALLY went through,” with the lives of the film’s characters. The last thing we want to do is spread any trace of ignorance, hate or bigotry into the world, and we regret using words that did that.

Let us repeat that and underscore it here:  (more…)

06/25/15 1:08pm
Photo by izarbeltza via Flickr

Photo by izarbeltza via Flickr

As a genre, true crime feels like it should be relegated to grocery stores and airports—it’s certainly not literature, but for some reason, it also feels like a stretch to count it among serious non-fiction.

Like the Lifetime of the book world, true crime has been painted as unabashedly cheesy at best and exploitative at worst, littered with titles like Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer and authors with names like Aphrodite Jones.

But true crime is a lot more than sensationalism, or even just plain voyeurism. It’s a peek inside the psychology of the sick mind and the societies that spawn them, and an important exercise in journalism. Is there any greater test of a writer than the ability to elicit both contempt and sympathy for a figure like Ted Bundy, a man who brutally murdered and posthumously raped 30 women?

Here are four true crime books that’ll make you question the genre for the better. The usual suspects have been intentionally left off in favor of lesser-known titles, once and for all proving that true crime is more than just In Cold Blood, The Stranger Beside Me, and Helter Skelter.

18917811Disturbed Ground
by Carla Norton

Dorothea Puente’s web of lies is the kind of thing that Hollywood producers lie in wait for: the unassuming victim, the social worker who’ll stop at nothing to find an answer, and the kindly old woman whose story seems to get stranger and stranger as each day passes. With twists and turns to rival Law & Order: SVU, Disturbed Ground is thrilling—and not only because of the crime and killer at the center of it all—but because of its treatment of the U.S. justice system. Particularly salient in the wake of the baffling outcomes of Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman’s respective trials, Carla Norton asks, “Is justice really what’s at stake in the American courtroom?” (more…)

06/25/15 11:36am
Torres (Shawn Brackbill)

Torres  Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Talking with Bushwick-based singer and guitarist Mackenzie Scott, who goes by Torres, it’s hard to reconcile her outgoing, funny personality with her serious, tumultuous music. Her latest album, Sprinter, is a jarring and atmospheric collision between hard-hitting noisy rock songs and somber meditative numbers–which collectively draw on personal themes of alienation, faith, loss, yearning, anger and regret. One listen to the album’s devastating and stark closing track, “The Exchange” and you can sense how that song sums up the record, with lines like, “I am afraid to see my heroes age/I am afraid of disintegration,” and “I’m underwater/And I don’t think you can pull me out of it this.”


There’s an unsettling primal quality to Torres’ music in the same vein as Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, both thematically and sonically. Her new album has won praise from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, NPR,  The New York Times and other outlets, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Sprinter ends up on many best-of lists at year’s end. Meanwhile, Torres will be performing shows that include three local dates in the coming months, starting with a sold-out gig at Mercury Lounge this Friday.

Originally from Macon, Georgia, and raised a Baptist, Scott (who was adopted as a child, a strong theme in her songs) took up guitar at the age of 15. She lived in Nashville when she was starting out in music, before moving to New York City. Her self-titled debut album was released in 2013, which yielded the popular track “Honey.” For Sprinter, Scott collaborated with producer/drummer Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey, Marianne Faithfull) and spent time in England to make the album with Ellis, bassist Ian Olliver, and Portishead musician Adrian Utley.

Brooklyn Based recently spoke with the 24-year-old Scott over the phone to talk about the story behind her turbulent, arresting music.

It’s been a very busy time for you with the press acclaim you’ve been getting for Sprinter. What do you make of everything? (more…)

06/25/15 9:00am
Tangerine

A hit at Sundance, and the closing night film of BAMcinemaFest this Sunday, Tangerine was shot on an iPhone using an $8 app. Photo: Magnolia Pictures

In a season of shockingly boring futurescapes, CGI dinosaurs and dull comic book reboots, in an era where television is killing the film businessTangerine, which was shot entirely on an iPhone and closes BAMcinemaFest on Sunday evening, may restore your belief in the big screen.

It takes approximately two minutes to set the fairly minimal plot in motion–Alexandra (Mya Taylor) and Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) are best friends and roommates, both transgender prostitutes living and working in a particularly unlovely corner of Hollywood. Sin-Dee, fresh off a month-long stint in jail, hears that Chester, her boyfriend/pimp, has been cheating on her and sets out to find him. What follows are 85 minutes of pure exhilaration. (more…)

06/24/15 12:27pm
Photo by David Goehring via Flickr

Photo by David Goehring via Flickr

To me, summertime means water—beaches and lakes, pools, oceans, rivers. Between dips, a great book is essential. I read Ahab’s Wife at the seashore in 2001, Sag Harbor poolside in the summer of 2010. One Hundred Years of Solitude was read in my apartment during what felt like one hundred hours of rainy days (well, it’s water), and How to Breathe Underwater took my heart as I sat on the banks of the Seine. Here they are, four great summer books for my fellow water bugs.

7742Ahab’s Wife, or The Star Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund

Inspired from a mere paragraph in Moby-Dick, Naslund created an epic tale revolving around Una, a woman whose life has been dictated by the sea. Growing up in Nantucket, Una falls for several seafaring men, one of whom is Captain Ahab. She marries and loses more than one husband, dusting herself off and finding new paths along the way. A strong, complex woman, Una’s adventures revolve around her heart and survival. Naslund’s writing is rich–you can almost smell the ocean on the pages of this book, and it’s not hard to picture Una with her lighthouse, or her trials as a cabin boy on a ship, or her life in New Bedford and Nantucket, places where she’s constantly reinventing herself. Through the book you experience Nantucket before it became a summer retreat, when it was simply a seafaring island. (more…)

06/24/15 10:15am
See the world's most popular sport in a whole new way at Invisiball, a satirical dance performance in Gowanus from Wednesday through Friday nights. Photo: Juan Michael Porter II

See the world’s most popular sport in a whole new way at ‘Invisiball,’ a satirical dance performance in Gowanus Wednesday through Friday nights. Photo: Juan Michael Porter II

Soccer might not be as popular here as it is in the rest of the world, but given the current high level of interest in the women’s World Cup (not to mention the seedy FIFA scandal), it’s clear that the sport continues to make inroads stateside. Starting tonight, you can experience soccer in a completely different way at Invisiball, an inventive, satirical dance performance by Nadine Bommer in which delicate dancers transform into macho, mustachioed soccer players. The exclusive three-night engagement at 501 Union runs through Friday and in keeping with the sporting theme there will be hot dogs, beer, and other treats available. Tickets are $35 in advance.

Thursday night, we are in for a real treat as rock/blues/folk/country legend Lucinda Williams is gracing the stage of the Prospect Park bandshell for a free outdoor concert at 7:30. Williams defies characterization, but her work is deeply affecting–she is sometimes referred to as “Raymond Carver with a guitar”–and she is known to deliver knockout live shows, so don’t miss this one.

If you have an itch to get out of town on Saturday, sign up for RootedNY’s Upstate Escape to Fishkill Farms, a day trip that includes transportation, berry picking, a hayride tour of a sustainable, working farm, and a picnic lunch made with farm-fresh produce. Tickets are $75 if you ride the provided bus and $40 if you can get there on your own, but either way it’s a lovely excuse to be outdoors and take in the beauty of the Hudson Valley on a hot summer day.

On Sunday, head to Bed-Stuy to sample the neighborhood’s delicious food, see its beautiful architecture, and get a dose of culture at Arts in the Gardens: STooPS Bed-Stuy, a collaboration between local artists and homeowners that features free, public art displays and performances throughout the neighborhood from noon to 5pm.

Were you obsessed with Serial? Do you still find yourself weighing the merits of the case against Adnan and yearn for even more information about the investigation into Hae’s murder and the subsequent trial than the 12-part podcast series provided? You should probably snap up tickets now to see the series’ co-creators, Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder, tell behind-the-scenes, personal stories about their experience working on the Peabody Award-winning show at BAM on September 25. They start at $35 and are very likely to sell out long before the summer is over.

We’ve got a hefty lineup of things that are actually going on this week, so read on, get some friends on board, and start planning–another ideal week in Brooklyn awaits!
(more…)

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