04/17/15 11:49am
Randy Weston (Carol Friedman(

The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music will honor Brooklyn jazz legend Randy Weston during its spring gala festivities, starting on Sunday. Photo: Carol Friedman

Those in the jazz music community would wholeheartedly agree that pianist and composer Randy Weston is a true legend of the genre. In a career that has now spanned over six decades, the Brooklyn musician has been an well-known advocate of African music and culture, especially when it comes to linking those influences to jazz music. Weston has the experience to back that up, having visited 18 African countries and lived in Morocco for a few years. In a 2010 interview, he told me, “I thought it was necessary to document our history because African people, Africa and even African-American traditions are disappearing. How can young people know what happened before? I was lucky to live in Africa and hang out with traditional people and just speak about what music can do and the places that it can take you, how it’s a spiritual force.”

The NEA Jazz Master's amazing life, going all the way back to his Bed-Stuy roots, is told in his recent autobiography, the aptly-titled African Rhythms. On Sunday, Weston will be at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music to talk about his book with writer Shannon J. Effinger; pianist/composer Sharp Radway will perform a solo concert for the occasion. Then on Tuesday, Weston will be the honoree for the conservatory's spring gala taking place at the Brooklyn Museum. Whichever event you decide to go to, you are paying tribute to this important jazz and cultural ambassador. (more…)

04/16/15 11:26am
Etsy's IPO this morning is a sign of good things to come for the Brooklyn tech startup scene. See what all the fuss is about at a celebratory popup market in Times Square today. Photo: Nasdaq

Etsy's IPO this morning is a sign of good things to come for the Brooklyn tech startup scene. See what all the fuss is about at a celebratory popup market in Times Square today. Photo: Nasdaq

By now you’ve probably heard that Etsy, the Brooklyn-based online creative marketplace that is the definitive source of all things cute and quirky, had its IPO this morning. Etsy is a pioneering anchor of the burgeoning Brooklyn tech startup community, and its IPO performance will surely serve as a bellwether for an entire cohort of local early-stage companies. It’s also all about promoting and empowering everyday creative types to become savvy and successful entrepreneurs, which is an exciting ethos in the context of a corporate tech world that seems to care less and less about the well-being of the society it purportedly serves (what's up, Facebook. Don’t even get me started, Uber). The human side of Etsy will be evident today at a popup marketplace featuring 14 sellers that represent a cross-section of its diverse and individualistic community. Brooklyn-based Etsy shops Alexandra Ferguson, Goose Grease, purlBknit, TM1985, and Dusty Rose Vintage will be joined by other makers from all over the globe to sell their unique goods, tell their stories, and celebrate the IPO. As dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers, we are loath to recommend trips to Times Square as a general rule, but if you are looking for something to do on your lunch break today, this is nice way to show your support for lots of small Brooklyn businesses, and one huge one.

The Etsy popup market will be at Broadway between 42nd and 43rd Streets from now until 2pm today. 

04/16/15 9:00am
'The Room'--known as the 'Citizen Kane' of bad films--has acheived cult status with Midnight screenings around the country. Rifftrax  has helped make it even funnier. Photo: Drexel Theater

'The Room'--known as the 'Citizen Kane' of bad films--has achieved cult status with midnight screenings around the country. RiffTrax has helped make it even funnier. Photo: Drexel Theater

There are bad movies, and then there are really bad movies. From Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space to the Mariah Carey vehicle Glitter, the history of cinema is endlessly littered with disasters that beg one to wonder: Who thought it was a good idea to make these films in the first place? Yet from the comfort of our living rooms or a darkened theater, we can appreciate these bad films as cheesy fun and totally ripe for mocking.

Making fun of these pictures through heckling (or riffing) is an art form that actor and writer Bill Corbett has perfected over the past 20 years. He is best known as one of the stars of the beloved cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K for short), which ran on cable from 1989 to 1999. Several years after the end of the series, Corbett re-teamed with fellow MST3K alumni Michael J. Nelson and Kevin Murphy for their current venture RiffTrax, a continuation of the peanut gallery format pioneered on MST3K. (Here is an example.) Founded in 2006, RiffTrax provides funny audio commentaries featuring Corbett, Nelson and Murphy, which are either pre-synced to movies you can download, or that you can synch with your own DVDs/downloaded movies and let the hilarity ensue. In addition to B-movies and old film shorts, the RiffTrax catalog features commentaries for top-tier works like Star WarsThe Hunger GamesThe Avengers, and Casablanca. RiffTrax's real bread and butter, though, is in overdubbing awful films.

TheRoomWeb2Tomorrow, April 17, the RiffTrax guys are making their New York City debut at the Tribeca Film Festival by riffing on several "illustrious" examples of cinema, including The Roomregarded as one of the worst films in history. Once again, Nelson, Corbett and Murphy are bringing the RiffTrax experience to a live setting, delivering their zingers at a screening onstage. In early May, they'll repeat the riffing for a live broadcast via satellite at theaters nationwide.

Corbett—who is originally from Bay Ridge and attended Xaverian High School—says he'd known about The Room for a while. "There are plenty of bad movies out there, but then there are these just masterpieces of badness. They're so great in a way—that every move is wrong in such a funny way. That to me is one of the things about The Room. I know it became a cult hit in L.A., and the legend kept growing until we finally said, 'We have to consider this.'” (more…)

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04/15/15 9:43am
Novelist Junot Diaz is doing a free reading and Q&A at St. Francis College this Thursday night at 7pm. Photo: St. Francis College

Novelist Junot Diaz is doing a free reading and Q&A at St. Francis College this Thursday night at 7pm. Photo: St. Francis College

Been a while since you heard a really great story? This week, there are so many cool literary/storytelling events going on in Brooklyn that we can’t possibly choose between them, but here’s a quick rundown so you can decide for yourself.

First up, we have to deal with the sad news that Big Terrific, the beloved weekly comedy show at Cameo run by Jenny Slate, Gabe Liebman, and Max Silvestri, then by just Gabe Liebman and Max Silvestri, and then, for the past few years, by Max Silvestri alone, is coming to an end after seven hilarious years. Final shows are tonight and next Wednesday at 8pm and, as always, are free.

Thursday night, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao author Junot Diaz will be reading and doing a Q&A at St. Francis College as part of the Walt Whitman Writers Series. Admission is free and first come first served, so you should probably get there long before the 7pm start time.

If you are looking to laugh on Thursday, we are once again teaming up with comedian Tom Shillue and Brooklyn Brewery to bring you Funny Story, the hilarious monthly showcase of excellent raconteurs that CBS named one of the 5 best storytelling shows in New York City. As always, your $10 ticket includes a beer, and this time we are running a special 2-for-1 deal for advance ticket purchases in honor of NYC Comedy Week.

Nostalgia for your adolescence? You won’t want to miss Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine when he reads from the latest installment in his creepy Fear Street series, Don’t Stay Up Late, at Bookcourt on Saturday night at 7pm. Just don’t walk home alone in the dark!

Of course, there are lots of other kinds of things going on this week in Brooklyn, from Industry City's Open Studios to the seventh annual Brooklyn Folk Festival. Read on for more ideas on cool ways to spend the next seven days. (more…)

Brooklyn Based delivers free daily emails about the borough's best food, events, attractions and innovators. Get Brooklyn Based in your inbox--sign up here.

04/14/15 9:00am
Stash your grass in box that shows off your personality instead of a plastic baggie. Photo: ShopPlasticland

Stash your grass in anbox that shows off your personality instead of a plastic baggie. Photo: ShopPlasticland

States like California and Colorado have already completely decriminalized marijuana, and New York is following suit in a limited form. Last year the city amended its policy on marijuana possession, so enthusiasts will no longer be arrested for being in possession of less than 25 grams. But the biggest news is that Governor Cuomo signed a medical marijuana bill into law.

Before you light up that blunt, you’ll need to know that there are an incredible amount of restrictions that come with the Compassionate Care Act, which has not yet taken effect. Only patients suffering from debilitating or life-threatening conditions will be allowed to acquire prescription pot, and the cap on how many medical dispensaries can be established--just 20, as of now--will make it difficult for many to purchase pot legally. But if you do in fact qualify, and you can make your way to a dispensary, the weirdest part of the new law is that you aren't able to smoke it. The law allows for extracts, tinctures, oils and edibles—but not smoking.

Still, Erik Pye, the owner of Sunflower Pipes in Bushwick, a shop that currently sells gear only for legal, flavored herbs and tobacco, has already felt the effects of the changing laws. "All of the smoke shops have benefited in places where it is legal," he says. "We do festivals, like we did the Cannabis Cup [in Denver], so it's already helped." Businesses in New York can't help but be influenced by other states with more leniency. "Just the atmosphere of it being accepted more and less stigmatized" has been a good thing, he says. 

Doctor's script or not, there are already a few new means by which to enjoy your Mary Jane. Don’t let the fact that the last time you thought about pot paraphernalia was in a head shop on St. Marks street deter you. The new gear is more high-tech and well designed, but still easy to use.

Here are the top essentials for the new dawn of decriminalized weed laws.


04/13/15 11:00am
Four vegetables walk into a bar: Arugula, treviso, cabbage and watermelon radish (Photo: Bar Bolinas)

An asparagus and watermelon radish salad at Bar Bolinas in Clinton Hill. Photo: Bar Bolinas

If you're like most native/longtime New Yorkers, your favorite thing about traveling elsewhere isn't finally breathing fresh air for the first time in years, but the chance to complain about how the water in other places just doesn't taste as good as ours. (And of course that makes the bagels and pizza everywhere else subpar, too). Similarly, when Californians move to New York they looooove to gripe about how our food isn't up to their very exacting standards. Too few fresh fish tacos, no avocados on every corner, no In-N-Out, no Its-It, not nearly enough French-fry-stuffed burritos, etc, etc...The truth is, they're not entirely wrong. California cuisine, when made outside of a Pizza Kitchen, is undeniably delicious, fresh, and often cutting-edge. I hate to say it, but those Left Coasters know what they're talking about. Fortunately for all of us, said Californians keep moving to Brooklyn and opening restaurants. (more…)

04/13/15 10:00am


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Maybe, when your first child came along, you thought, I am going to teach my child to appreciate healthy food, not the garbage I grew up eating.

And maybe, just maybe, after countless trips to fancy grocery stores and farmer markets, hours spent trying out recipes, and endless dinner table showdowns with your tiny, finicky roommate, you revised your strategy. You thought, Screw it. Just give him the frozen chicken nuggets and white rice, if that's what he wants so much.

You may be happy to know there's a solution to healthy family eating that falls between these two extremes.

Blue Apron's family plan makes cooking at home fun again. Once a week, fresh ingredients are delivered to your door for meals you and your family can prepare together, eat together, and enjoy together. Read on to see how Blue Apron can get your kids interested in eating healthy, and if you sign up now you can get two meals free with your first order. (more…)

04/13/15 9:00am

After a recent night out at Bar Bolinas, where most of their Northern California-inspired menu was a hit, one annoying miss stood out--the obscure words and vague menu descriptions that have become the norm at Brooklyn restaurants. What's with this trend of menus that keep the explanation of dishes so short and sweet that it's not clear to even well-eaten diners what's going to actually be in each dish? Nowhere is this more prevalent than on cocktail menus. For example, here's Bar Bolinas' brief list:


Now I'm no trained mixologist, but I do drink out enough that I feel like I shouldn't need a translator to figure out what any of these drinks are going to taste like. I get that Elijah Craig is fairly well known, but would it kill their hipster hearts to write "Elijah Craig bourbon? Or to note that Dolin Rouge is vermouth?" And what/who are Suze and Salers? Are those the people who make the drinks? For the record, the server didn't know either, but was happy to return and explain that Suze is a gentian liqueur (from the root of the gentian plant), with citrus-y and slightly bitter notes. I don't say this to hate on Bar Bolinas--the service was friendly and the cocktail was excellent, whatever the heck a gentian is--I just think restaurants in general can stop prioritizing sounding sharp and cute over telling us what's actually in something.

04/10/15 10:00am

Hot Rabbit is a longstanding party that frequents Monster every Friday, Lovegun on Tuesdays, and monthly at Lot 45. Photo: Maro Hagopian


In "New York’s Lesbian Bars Are Disappearing," Heather Dockray did the math on the number of lesbian bars left in New York and came up with a grand total of four. But while bars are on the decline, the number of parties for queer women remains steady--if you know where to go. This list is a useful start. For information on other events, make sure to check out Project Q: Events for Queer Women on Facebook. (more…)