02/16/17 10:00am
Mozart's Sister - credit: Rebecca Storm

Mozart’s Sister | Photo: Rebecca Storm

If Mozart’s Sister, Canadian indie pop musician Caila Thompson-Hannant’s current project, has got you wondering whether Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart actually had a sibling, then let’s start with a quick musical history lesson. Yes, the famed composer had an older sister named Maria Anna (1751-1829). Like her brother, Maria was also a musical child prodigy who toured with Wolfgang and performed for audiences throughout Europe. Some have even said that Maria had an influence on her younger brother, according to a Smithsonian article, she transcribed Wolfgang’s first symphony, and another researcher claimed that she composed works for her brother so he could learn how to play the piano. But her music days ended when she turned 18, (and her family insisted she focus on getting married) while Wolfgang’s career continued to flourish into adulthood and eventually legend. Over time, Maria Anna’s life and contributions have surfaced in articles, books, a play, and a movie, after she had been relegated throughout history as a footnote to the career of her more famous bro.

It’s fitting that Thompson-Hannant named her project after an unsung female musician who was independently talented in her own right. For her new album, Field of Love, Thompson-Hannant called her own shots throughout production and recording. The follow-up to her 2014 full-length debut album Being, Field of Love is a celebratory, romantic electropop record: dizzying atmospheric synth sounds, infectious dance beats and Thompson-Hannant’s child-like yet soulful vocals buoy uptempo tracks like “Eternally Girl,” “My Heart Is Wild,” and “Moment 2 Moment.”

If Field of Love sounds like something out of the ’90s, that was by design–it was during that period that Thompson-Hannant developed her love for dance pop.

Thompson-Hannant, who previously played in the band Shapes and Sizes, is returning to the States for some upcoming show dates, including one at Brooklyn’s Silent Barn tonight, as well as several showcases at SXSW in March. Brooklyn Based spoke with this emerging musician who, unlike the Mozart’s actual sister, has stepped out on her own without being in someone else’s shadow. (more…)

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02/14/17 10:50am
Photo: MNDFL Williamsburg

Photo: MNDFL Williamsburg

Taking deep breaths and closing your eyes to meditate in your cluttered bedroom, under fluorescent lights at your desk, or even on a crowded train is not exactly ideal, but it’s still an effort that many of us put forth as often as we can. Studies showing that meditation helps with everything from stress to fatigue to monkey mind, plus convenient apps like Headspace and Calm have inspired a new interest in the ancient practice and devotees swear that even the F train can yield moments of inner calm. Still, imagine that there was a dedicated space–a soft, undisturbed room in the middle of the city–the only function of which was to house a group of people who wanted to escape the hubbub and work on their mindfulness. Sort of like a yoga studio for meditation.

Now there is, and you can find it in Williamsburg.

MNDFL exists to enable humans to feel good,” says Lodro Rinzler, meditation teacher, author, and co-founder of MNDFL, a meditation studio with locations in Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side, and now Williamsburg. “It was a natural partnership from the beginning,” says co-founder Ellie Burrows, who met Rinzler while volunteering for his non-profit. “I knew that I wanted to open this studio, but I couldn’t have done it on my own. I’m not a meditation expert, I’m just a lover and practitioner of meditation.” (more…)

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02/08/17 2:19pm
Allison Crutchfield (Jesse Riggins(

Allison Crutchfield Photo: Jesse Riggins

If the lyrics on indie rock artist Allison Crutchfield’s latest record, Tourist in This Town, feel incredibly raw, it’s because their source is real heartbreak and disillusionment. Crutchfield’s punk group Swearin’ broke up in 2015 following the end of her five-year relationship with the band’s bassist Kyle Gilbride. (“It was literally like my world was turned upside down,” she recently told Brooklyn Vegan about that period.)

So the trials and tribulations of the heart had an intense influence on her wonderful new record, whose theme of love gone south is hinted at on tracks like the poppy “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California” (“We’re pretty far away from Philadelphia/And that’s fine ’cause I’m really starting to hate you”); the New Wave-ish “Dean’s Room” (“There are no photographs of us/There’s nothing left to discuss”), and the ’60s girl-group-sounding “Expatriate” (“I know people change/And we’re both moving on”). Yet the catchy and driving music offsets the heartache woven into the lyrics, providing some really gorgeous moments like on “Charlie” and “Sightseeing” as well as butt-kicking ones as well such as the electrifying “Mile Away” to the punkish “The Marriage.”

It’s almost as if Crutchfield saying through this album, that sometimes you have to go through the motions for awhile, but eventually with time and self-discovery, you’ll emerge resilient.

Aside from its introspective lyrics, Tourist in This Town is notable for two reasons: First, it’s Allison Crutchfield’s full-length solo debut after her spending the last several years being in bands like the Ackleys, P.S. Eliot (with her twin sister Katie Crutchfield, who currently leads her group Waxahatchee) and Swearin.’ Second, the music on Tourist in This Town is represents a stylistic departure from her previous indie punk sound with its emphasis on synthesizers.

Originally from Alabama, Crutchfield is no stranger to Brooklyn even though Philadelphia is her current base. Both she and her sister lived in Brooklyn during their tenure in P.S. Eliot and it was in Brooklyn where that band did their final shows in 2011. Now Crutchfield is returning to the borough for a show at Sunnyvale on Feb. 9 with her backing band the Fizz. We spoke with her about the new record and the experiences that led to its creation. (more…)

02/07/17 11:17am
PS 123 in Queens. Photo: NYC DOE

PS 123 in Queens. Photo: NYC DOE

Today the Senate, plus Vice President Mike Pence, voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos is by many accounts the worst possible Secretary of Education and her policies will affect students in New York City, the only question is how.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, perhaps realizing that he’s running for reelection, has presented himself as a progressive defender of civil rights, including the right to education. As Chalkbeat reported, he stated that the latest New York City budget was devised “with the assumption of profound challenges from Washington.”

What he didn’t explicitly outline was how profoundly those challenges might impact the NYC Department of Education.

Dr. James Kemple, Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU Steinhardt, told Brooklyn Based that “the role of the federal government in education is pretty narrow.” Current federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in 2016, and, Dr. Kemple points out, gives states much greater discretion over their education budgets and educational standards than its predecessor, No Child Left Behind. It would usually take an act of Congress to rewrite legislation like ESSA, but with Trump’s penchant for executive orders, it’s hard to say what the future of education policy from a federal vantage point will be.

Federal money makes up only about 10% of the New York City’s DOE operating budget, but 10% of $23 billion is a significant sum. Trump has demonstrated something like eagerness to yank federal funding from Sanctuary Cities, like New York, including the provision to do so in  the executive order he signed on Jan. 25, though the legality of cutting off federal education funding is unclear.

We spoke to several education policy experts for clues on how DeVos and the Trump administration might affect New York City public schools, which we’ve outlined below. If slashing funding for schools with a high proportion of low-income students, taking away reduced-price lunches, and laying the groundwork for more charter schools and school vouchers aren’t part of your New York values, we also have some ideas for how to fight back. (more…)

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02/03/17 10:56am
This book dispenses common sense money advice for parents to pass along to their kids. Photo: Simon & Schuster

This book dispenses common sense money advice (like “don’t raid their piggy banks!”) for parents to pass along to their kids. Photo: Simon & Schuster

Last year when I was complaining about the cost of getting my car towed, my young son said, “Don’t worry! I can pay for it. I’ve got a cash register full of money!” I quizzically watched as he pulled out his Learning Resources toy register hidden under a pile of stuffed animals and old Lego pieces. Although we bought that toy for him in hopes of teaching him about the value of money and learning about interest through imaginary play, he had actually just assumed this was real money collecting dust in his bedroom. Epic fail.

Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You’re Not), a new book by Beth Kobliner (author of New York Times Bestseller Get A Financial Life) is here to hold parents hands as they wade into uncharted conversations about cash with their kids. Beyond just receiving early entry to Stern Business School, financial talks can prevent spoiled behavior, build charitable leanings and set kids up for secure futures. Kobliner divides the book into chapters ranging from “Insurance”, “Giving Back” and “Saving for College” and further divides her chapters into age ranges. Talking to your preschooler about investing will look different than with your teenager, but from the start you can build some pretty strong scaffolding for the importance of financial security. (more…)

02/02/17 12:12pm

The other morning my husband and I got into a bleary-eyed fight over a minor difference in opinion over a political matter of great importance. I’m being purposefully vague here because I don’t want to send you into the vortex of news-cycle misery we’re all struggling not to lose ourselves to right now. We did not manage to come to any enlightened conclusion about the state of the nation, or the issue we were bickering about, but we did reach one solid agreement–we need to engage with more non-political culture, together.

There’s a unique pleasure in watching a movie or reading a book and then talking about it with someone whose brain you enjoy. It makes us feel more resoundingly alive, and is a crucial reminder that being human is a very special, wonderful occupation. Here are 10 things to watch, read and ponder with someone you’re fond of this month.

tumblr_inline_ogl6z96gc61s6rwtx_50010. Not Even Happiness, Julie Byrne

Brooklyn Based-contributor Regina Mogilevskaya turned me on to Julie Byrne, who released a new album this week and is performing at City Winery Feb. 2-4 (those shows are sold out) and at Baby’s All Right on Feb. 15. I will admit that a certain amount of doubt enters my mind when I hear the words singer-songwriter, but the experience of listening to this lovely album can best be described as similar to the spreading sense of comfort and warmth that fills your whole body when you finally take some Advil and the tension headache you’ve had all day goes away. Put it on repeat for however long it takes. (more…)

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01/27/17 12:04pm

9781627794466 (1)

I should be upfront and tell you that I was predisposed to fall in love with Paul Auster’s hefty new novel, 4 3 2 1.

Sitting on my desk when the 860-page review copy arrived in the mail was a stack of books that included Thoreau’s Walden and Civil Disobedience and Candide, both of which have recently seemed worth a revisit to me, and both of which figure prominently in the novel. Twice in the past I’ve interviewed Auster, who is a kind and engaging sort of writer, rather than a prickly and defensive one, despite his intense, sort of smoldering author’s photos and the intractability for which his work is known. 4 3 2 1 is a love song to New York, which is really the strongest character in the book, other than our quadruplicate protagonist, Archie Ferguson. I recently moved from New York after nearly 15 years, to Brattleboro, a small town in Vermont, which, oddly, also has a cameo in the weighty tome.

Those were my circumstances, which you should understand before you go out and get yourself involved with this book, because I fell for it hard, but for personal reasons, which I suppose is why we fall hard for anything.

All this is about me, the reader, and shouldn’t I get myself out of the way and let the text speak for itself? Remember, this is Paul Auster, a fiction writer who has long grappled with, in ways both playful and portentous, where the author ends and the character begins and how much of the content of the page is determined by the individual act of reading it. It feels fitting to insert myself, and the connections and coincidences, another Auster obsession, that contributed to  my love for this book.

The premise is goes like this: 4 3 2 1 charts the life and education of Archibald Ferguson, born March 3, 1947, in Newark, N.J., one month after Auster himself was born, in the same spot. March mirrors the calendar of February in non-leap years–if February 3, 1947 was a Monday, which it was, March 3 is also a Monday, so it’s an even deeper doubling. From that single child, four distinct narrative arcs develop and the first couple hundred pages move forward at breakneck speed as you struggle to differentiate between the hopes and dreams of four similar, but distinct small boys, and four similar but distinct New Jersey homesteads.

Auster is not gentle with us, and the novel brims with a parent’s anxiety for their child. Ferguson, as he is largely known throughout, though various nicknames and pen names emerge as all four grow older, falls out of trees, gets into car accidents, experiences loss and in fact dies, more than once. (more…)

01/25/17 11:05am

A utopian world where parenting is a communal activity sounds great, but what's the catch?

As I sit here writing this, my son is home with strep throat. I haven’t left the house in two days, and I’m inundated with having to care for, entertain and feed my little one, while also meeting work deadlines. What I wouldn’t give for another set of hands? Or how about 20 extra sets of hands?

This is the premise of Kevin Wilson’s new novel, Perfect Little World, the story of an utopian experiment that promises its participants a return on the “it takes a village” philosophy. This is not Wilson’s first foray into unusually structured kinship groups–his 2011 novel The Family Fang, which became a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman, chronicled two adult children visiting the eccentric parents who had turned their childhood into performance art. 

Perfect Little World stars, Izzy Poole, a pregnant teenager who is offered a spot in The Infinite Family Project, an experiment of child and family development. Her newborn son will join nine other babies of the same age to live for 10 years in the ultimate environment. All their needs will be attended to, housing, food, and clothing will all be provided. The children are promised the best of everything: educational toys, healthy meals and enriching environments. The adults won’t be forgotten either. Scholarships for college or job training will be granted, and any hobby or interest will be funded. All expenses to be taken care of by an elderly eccentric billionaire who has a vested interest in studying and redefining the family. (more…)

01/19/17 10:52am

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_-_kate_winslet_-_jim_carey_-_h_-_2016

So, it doesn’t exactly feel like winter this week. It’s downright temperate, in fact. Rest assured though, there will be a frigid weekend sometime this winter, even if 2017 proves to be as warm, or warmer than, 2016. Or maybe you just need to warm your soul. We’ve got three wintery movies and a recipe to pair with each. Gather your supplies, settle in on the couch and escape for an hour or two.

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michael Gondry, written by Charlie Kauffman, starring Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and Elijah Wood
Where to find it: On Amazon or iTunes, starting at $2.99 to stream
Recipe: Tomato Basil Chicken Stew from Gimme Some Oven

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is celebrating its 13th anniversary this year. Isn’t that wild? It’s probably safe to say that the Oscar-winning film still has a strong hold on film fanatics–even if you can’t quite recall the last time you viewed it, you certainly remember how it made you feel. The film is a dizzying cornfield of memory–the way your brain tries to fight your heart, what it is to love and to lose, to neglect and to remember. (more…)

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01/17/17 12:47pm
Shepard.Equal-Humanity-GreaterThanFear

We The People is a Kickstarter campaign that aims to cover Washington D.C. in powerful images, like this one, for the inauguration. Image: Shepard Fairey

I’m going to give it to you straight–this Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 Donald Trump will be inaugurated as our 45th President. It’s going to happen. There doesn’t seem to be an ethical conflict too deep or a tweet too far–even insulting a Civil Rights hero on MLK weekend–to stop this juggernaut.

We need to find some productive ways to cope.

You probably don’t have Friday off from work, but it’s not like anyone is going to be getting much of anything done, either. We’re not saying hide your head in the sand, we’re saying make Inauguration Day a time to reflect on how you want to spend the next four year.

Got to the Whitney, and pay what you wish: “On January 20, the Whitney will be open on a pay-what-you-wish basis all day to affirm our commitment to open dialogue, civic engagement, and the diversity of American art and culture,” says the Whitney’s website. There are a variety of special tours and events for the day, listed here, including a program called My America, that leads participants through an exploration of their portrait collection. The museum is open until 10pm, so there’s time to consider the role art will play in the sure-to-be-strange years to come, even after the work day is done.


(more…)

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