02/08/17 12:06pm
It's Valentine's Day next week--may as well have a little fun with it. Valentines: Brandon Bird

It’s Valentine’s Day next week–may as well have a little fun with it. Valentines: Brandon Bird

The image of our current President screaming at CNN alone in the dark or wandering around the White House in a bathrobe at all hours that emerged in media accounts last week managed to drum up the closest thing to sympathy that I can possibly muster for that individual (don’t worry, it’s not that close).  I read that his usual dinner is a Big Mac served on a silver platter, which I promptly recognized as precisely what I fantasized being rich and powerful meant when I was seven. I tried to imagine how much time he spends doing the most vapid and boring task I can think of–poring over ratings of various network and cable television shows–to gather fodder for his inarticulate Twitter tantrums. I thought about the fact that his idea of a vacation is to fly to a hideous golf resort in Florida that he owns to eat grey, well-done steaks in an ostentatious country club while surrounded by the spineless lackeys who fawn over him. Or that this is what passes for a decent joke in the dismal, humorless world of his Congressional allies.

No, of course this thought spiral didn’t make me actually feel sorry for a man whose laziness, narcissism, casual cruelty, and incompetence will destroy lives in the weeks, months, and years to come. But they did make me feel luckier than usual that I get to live in a place where thousands of people spontaneously torpedo their day off to trek to JFK with homemade protest signs to stand up for people who are in danger, not because they are paid to but because they actually care about people who might not be exactly like them, which is a concept that many on the right can’t seem to grasp. And that it’s a city that constantly presents new opportunities to make, do, read, see, talk about, eat, and experience a diverse array of creative, funny, delicious, and thought-provoking things. Below, I’ve highlighted some of the best examples happening over the next seven days.

First though, there are two new plays from across the pond being staged In Brooklyn this week: The excellent all-female adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest at St. Ann’s Warehouse (which I saw and recommend), and Escaped Alone, which opens with some pretty stellar advance reviews at BAM on Wednesday. Make it a real night out by grabbing dinner at Fort Greene’s Roman’s before or after the show–they’re running a special on penne all’arrabiata all month and will donate proceeds to Planned Parenthood. As for me, I think I will try to track down a copy of Art of the Pie, the first book selected for Food52’s new Community Cookbook Club, and hunker down with my rolling pin in the snowstorm expected tomorrow. Or, get out the glitter and glue that’s buried under your bed and make valentines for your friends like you did when you were seven, or send them the awesome SVUtines above. Spread the love. Whatever you all get up to this Ideal Week, I hope that  it keeps you sustained and inspired as the outside world roils on. (more…)

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02/01/17 7:31pm
We can come together on nachos, yes? They're gluten-free, easily vegetarian or vegan, delicious no matter what and that big football game is this weekend.

We can all come together on nachos, yes? They’re gluten-free, easily vegetarian or vegan, delicious no matter what and there is that big football game is this weekend.

Yesterday during one of the obsessive Twitter rabbitholes I often find myself in nowadays, I saw a tweet that said something like, “I think what I’m going to miss the most about the Obama administration is sleeping at night,” and it really struck a chord. Since the inauguration, I feel I’ve been stuck in a never ending loop of bad news, fearful speculation, and mounting anxiety, and based on the people I know and whom I’ve met at protests and rallies, I’m not alone. It’s exhausting. And it’s definitely not possible to continue at this pace or stress level for much longer. Don’t get it twisted, I still plan to #resist as much as I can and I hope you will too, but we’re looking at a long road of horrible things we’ll have to deal with ahead, and if we get totally derailed every time someone responds nastily to a story we publish about Muslim women in Brooklyn being afraid for their safety, we’ll lose the ultimate fight.

So, I’m declaring this a Trump-free Ideal Week, just like good old days, when the rule of law and basic civil liberties were things we could take for granted and it felt okay to just make normal, fun plans with friends. The activities I’ve rounded up below will take you through the time during the next seven days when you’re NOT marching or calling senators or feverishly debating whether we’ve handed the keys to a diabolical cabal of evil geniuses who shrewdly created the conditions that would set the stage for a coup, or just a bunch of bumbling idiots who have no idea what they are doing and think a “speech” like this is acceptable. You need to take breaks–we all do. But before I delve into a week of Donald-free dalliances, I do want to do a quick plug for a screening of a new nonpartisan documentary film about two former refugees who are now living in Syracuse, N.Y. The film will be shown along with a variety of other shorts starting at 7pm on Tuesday night at Long Island City’s The Local NYC in collaboration with Indieworks. The current state of our country demands that we keep hearing the stories and opinions of people who don’t share our day-to-day experience, and this seems like a great way to get some of that exposure.

Have a great week, and keep fighting the good fight! (more…)

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01/25/17 1:04pm

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Happy Wednesday, and congrats on making it through another week! This one felt particularly major, what with a historic transfer of power, a massive, worldwide display of resistance, a Nor’easter, and a fresh barrage of anxiety-producing tweets from The Joker, Bane, the leader of the free world.

Now that the sun is finally giving us a little love again, it’s a great day to get outside for a walk, run, or bike ride to clear your head. A few weeks ago, I spent an hour exploring Green-Wood Cemetery on a crisp afternoon and it’s something I heartily recommend to those who have never been. Pro tip: The gates to the main entrance close at 5pm sharp, and if you dawdle and assume there’s a couple of minutes of leeway, the guard will lock you in, even if he drives by on his way to lock up and fully sees you’re still there, at which point he will ignore your cries and disappear for 20 minutes while you wonder whether you can survive a subzero night in a graveyard full of fallen Revolutionary War soldiers. Never fear, though, he’ll eventually come back and release you (with a couple of stern words about following the rules) and maybe in the meantime you will have made friends with a couple visiting from Germany who were also trapped.

There are a ton of fun things to do this week in our incredible, indefatigable town, and we’ve gathered up some of our favorites for your scheduling consideration. Happy exploring! (more…)

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01/18/17 12:22pm
Image: Shepard Fairey/We The People

Image: Shepard Fairey/We The People

In this case, calling it an Ideal Week is a tad optimistic. We’re standing on the precipice of a momentous event and it is scary as hell. If I was at all mollified after the election by thoughts like “it can’t possibly be as bad as It seems, surely someone will keep him in check,” that hope simply couldn’t endure in the face of Paul Ryan dabbing while announcing that millions of Americans will lose access to health insurance or Jeff Sessions whitewashing his dismal views on race. It’s impossible to not be preoccupied this week, and even though I did manage to find a few non-Inauguration related activities to recommend to you, the bulk of what people are planning and organizing around here these days is somehow connected to the power shift that is looming ominously. Along with many friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members, I’ll be in DC for the March on Saturday, but there are plenty of protest events happening right here too. There are a lot of us who aren’t OK with what is happening, which is an unfortunate reality for Trump and the only thing that feels comforting about this situation.

However you choose to spend the weekend, do something that makes you feel good. Perhaps one of our suggestions below will fit the bill. It looks like any measure of sanity and reasonableness in this administration is going to have to be hard-won by us, the people, and we need to do everything we can to ensure that we’re primed for the fight. Onward!

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01/11/17 2:10pm

Every week as I think about what to write about in my intro to this column, I swear that this is the week that I’m going to finally stop ranting about Trump and move on to more pleasant topics like oh, I don’t know, literally anything. But man, I’ll be damned if that guy doesn’t cause some kind of brouhaha every single Tuesday (or really any other day ending in y) that is impossible for me to ignore when I’m writing on Wednesday morning! This week, I’ll leave it to the intelligence agencies and the media to investigate and shed light on the latest news regarding his alarming ties to Russia and to the professional comedians to tackle #PEEOTUS, and try instead to ease my inauguration blues by focusing on the commendable goals that President Obama set out in his utterly beautiful farewell address last night.

Next week I’ll be in DC for the Women’s March, letting his successor know that I am just one of millions of citizens who intend to keep a close watch on civil rights, freedom of speech and a continued sense of a truly civil society throughout his tenure, but for the next several days I’d like to take the opportunity to marvel at the hard work and thoughtful, principled decency that has been the hallmark of this president’s tenure. This is the week we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well, and that we have the opportunity to reflect on two great men who made unifying people and tackling real injustice their lives’ work is extraordinary in and of itself, but all the more so when contrasted with a grown man who tweets “Unfair!” every time he is legitimately questioned.

To me, this Ideal Week is going to be about spreading positivity. If you have Monday off, think about ways that you might be able to use the time to help someone in your life or in your community, or to connect with someone in a real way that does not involve cynicism (or the internet, for that matter). I’ve said here before that I personally find art helpful, as I suspect many of you do too, so I will note that the next few days are your last opportunity to see The New Museum’s wildly popular Pixel Forest exhibit by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist before it closes on Sunday. You can also give yourself the gift of laughter and snag tickets to see comedian Mike Birbiglia work out new material on Monday night at Union Hall before they disappear (they go on sale at 1pm today and will definitely sell out). 

Whatever you do this week, do it in a way that makes you feel intentional and strong and true to yourself and your community. I think that we are all beginning to realize that there is more power in that than we knew. (more…)

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01/04/17 2:57pm
Photo:

See Big Lazy at Union Pool this week. Photo: Big Lazy

Well, we made it to 2017! Happy New Year everybody! I don’t know about you all, but I’m utterly spent. The holiday season this year was an absolute gauntlet, what with the usual stressors of present shopping and parties and trying to finish out the year strong at work plus everyone I know getting nailed with either a stomach bug or a cold or both and the increasing pressure to remain casual in the face of mounting political uncertainty. Somehow every holiday-related gathering I attended seemed to end up in discussion about Trump and how the Democrats managed to screw things up, and they somehow always turned heated and awkward, which is bizarre given the fact that every single person involved had voted the same way. It seems that those of us who care about government ethics, equal opportunity, the environment, human rights, and basic fairness and civility are engaged in a bit of a collective freakout as January 20 draws closer, and it’s hard to keep it together, or even to find much else to talk about. At the same time, there’s a pervasive feeling that we need to buck up and charge ahead, without getting too mired in the past that we can’t change or hysterically speculating about what’s to come. It feels like a test, and to be honest it’s downright exhausting.

So, my New Year’s resolution, to the extent I do those things at all, is to truly get on with it. There’s stuff I have control over and stuff that I don’t, and obsessing over the latter won’t help me or anyone else in 2017. But at the same time I am going to expand my own perception of what I do have the power to influence. To be kinder and more understanding and more aware of what goes on outside my sphere is not very hard to do (it’s a hell of a lot easier than making it to the gym five times a week, for example) and, if we all did it, the payoff would be tremendous. It is certainly a better way for me to spend my time and energy than, say, reading and becoming incensed by a certain someone’s tweets or arguing about Hillary’s emails (still? When will it end?).

Time to shift the focus, but that doesn’t mean blunting the resolve to try to be an agent of change, and that’s where I find art particularly inspiring. Lots of musicians, writers, comedians, painters, sculptors, dancers, and other creative types are out there already, getting on with it, making noise and shifting perspectives. They are doing it every day, right here in New York City, and we are all so lucky to have virtually unfettered access to this mercurial, roiling, dynamic elixir of new thought and creativity and beauty that is conjured up all around us all the time. Get out there and see some of it this week. Here are some ideas that struck us as particularly fun and motivating ways to get yourself back in the swing of it during this first Ideal Week of the new year.


Thursday, January 5

The instrumental trio known as Big Lazy consists of an electric guitar, an acoustic bass and drums. That spare line-up is able to conjure up gritty, emotional spaces and moods with music that has been described by The New Yorker as “stunningly beautiful” and by Time Out as “virtuosic.” Composer Stephen Ulrich, who scored Bored to Death, has led the band in various incarnations for the past two decades, and a group of esteemed alumni like Charlie Giordano of The E Street Band and Peter Hess of The Philip Glass Ensemble will be reuniting at Union Pool on Thursday night for a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Amnesia, the group’s debut album. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are $10 each; Brooklyn-based ensemble Barbez and Primitive Sound System will be on hand as well.

(more…)

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12/14/16 7:31pm
Dyker Heights is the New York City capital of Christmas. Photo:

Dyker Heights is the New York City capital of Christmas.

The holiday season makes us do some pretty dumb things, like spending heaps of cash on crap that our loved ones don’t want or need, eating pannettone, and setting foot inside any NYC post office with the expectation of receiving service and a smile. But I’d argue that the time honored tradition of getting schnockered with colleagues at what feels like a never ending stream of “work holiday drinks” occasions is the worst/stupidest thing that I do with consistency at this time of year. Take last night, for example, when an innocent “team dinner” at a Mexican place in the East Village rapidly devolved into a situation where I was taking a cab home from 7B Horseshoe Bar at 2am, ON A TUESDAY. “Why, why, why would you do this?,” I’ve been asking myself all morning, as memories of various inappropriate things I said to coworkers in my margarita-induced fugue state come flooding back. Today, I feel like I’ve been run over by an Uber XL, I look like a Walking Dead extra, and I am staring down a Gcal of endless meetings one after the other, with no one to blame for any of it but myself! Hopefully you all are smarter with your time, but if not keep in mind that adding more structure to your week might prevent some bad decision making later.

This week, there’s tons to do all over the city, but let’s be honest, most of us will be frantically shopping for holiday gifts. Two great places to find unique presents and support indie artists are the Brooklyn Makers Market, which is at the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building from 11-7pm Saturday and Sunday, and the Renegade Craft Fair, which is at Industry City for the final weekend of its holiday run. You could also brave the polar vortex and check out the world-famous Dyker Lights with some friends (pro tip: head to Tanoreen in Bay Ridge afterwards for some truly incredible Middle Eastern food). Or you could check out one of the many other cool things that are happening during this Ideal Week, which we’ve listed below with links. Whatever you end up doing, stay warm and remember: friends don’t let friends get four hours of sleep on weeknights! See you next week! (more…)

12/07/16 2:38pm
Emma Straub was one of the first Brooklyn residents we including in our "Five Questions, One Drawing" series a few years ago. Illustration: Steven Weinberg

Emma Straub was one of the first Brooklyn residents we including in our “Five Questions, One Drawing” series a few years ago. Illustration: Steven Weinberg

Well Brooklyn, what are your plans for the week? Oh right, I guess that’s actually our job, to help you figure out the best way to spend the next seven days. This time of year is always tough–it’s dark when you get out of work, the holidays require a good amount of organization, energy and cash, and it just seems so appealing to cozy up to a book and forget the outside world exists.

Maybe I’m just feeling that way because of the news that Brooklyn author Emma Straub is planning on opening a bookstore somewhere in the Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Heights area, to keep independent book selling alive in the wake of BookCourt’s closing at the end of the year. Straub herself, not to mention her juicy novels, is a delight and I can’t wait to do next year’s holiday shopping at her sure-to-be bright and cheerful store. Somewhat related, The New York Times asked writers around the world to name their favorite bookstores and the list is like a nerd’s dream vacation planner.

Not that you asked, but the two books that have been keeping me on the couch lately are Zadie Smith’s wonderful new novel Swing Time and Eight Flavors, The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman, filled with the fascinating history of ingredients that you wouldn’t expect to make the cut. (Curry powder? What?) Like every other white, liberal American, I also have Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance on hold at the library, but that’s a whole other story.

Truly though, there are a lot of ways to enjoy the week ahead that are not in your apartment and we’ve compiled our top picks here. Get out there and have some fun.  (more…)

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11/30/16 5:49pm

 

short-stack

Welcome back from what I hope was a relaxing long weekend! If the amount that I’ve heard that weird version of Baby, It’s Cold Outside (which Shazam tells me features Seth McFarlane, for some reason?) while going about my daily routine is any indication, the holiday season is upon us. And while that means lots of running around and stressing about what to buy people and eating and drinking too much, ’tis also the season to remember those around us for whom the holidays are not the whirlwind of cocktail parties and high-stakes cookie exchanges that the TV commercials would have you believe. Especially given the heightened anxiety and vulnerability caused by the recent ascension of our orange overlord, it’s a good time to donate time or money or coats to help people who need it, and to reach out to that friend who had a particularly tough 2016 and ask them if they want to go for a walk or get a drink. It’s a nice way to show you care, obviously, but I bet it will make you feel more connected, grounded, and focused on what’s really important too.

This week, we’ve found a ton of fun ways for you to spend your spare time—whether you want to watch a movie, hear jokes, cook, eat, create, give back, ride, or shop. Read on and take note of the things that strike your fancy, and make sure you make the most of another Ideal Week. (more…)

11/16/16 12:08pm

the-tree-of-life

Well, it’s been a week, huh? I don’t know about you guys, but I’m fried, emotionally and physically. I think I’ve put on five pounds and slept no more than five consecutive hours since last Tuesday, and my stress levels are through the roof. There’s a lot we can do to try to mitigate the effects of the president-elect’s already disastrous policy and personnel choices (look for tips on that in coming weeks), but the realization that we are stuck with him for now is setting in. So, time to think about what’s important, and what we are willing to do to ensure that our friends, neighbors, and family members are safe kept safe in this time of especially hateful invective and incredibly short fuses. Thanksgiving feels extraordinarily well-timed this year, and hopefully we’ll all get a chance to strengthen our reserves and really reflect on how to best proceed in this new world. 

It may feel bleak, but we’ve still got art, literature, music, crystal clear crisp fall days like today, people willing to be brave and stand up for strangers, and a fast-approaching Thanksgiving feast to keep us going. One thing I’ve learned over the course of the past year, which has sucked for me generally as an American but also for specific, personal reasons, is that in times of sustained, ongoing crisis you are absolutely no good to anyone if you don’t take time to take care of yourself. So please, by all means, do keep your eyes on the prize–we’ve got a long, hard fight ahead of us–but, in the meantime, give yourself the opportunity to enjoy all that is good out there. Here are some of our favorite ways to do that in Brooklyn over the next seven days. 

(more…)

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