06/21/16 11:58am


Gay Pride is Saturday here in New York and while we usually write about Pride events (including Brooklyn Pride which was June 11), this week we wanted to take the opportunity to bring you a few different stories from the queer community and really mark the occasion.

Here in New York City, I sometimes let myself get lazy about just how much homophobia exists in the world. It’s like somewhere between Six Feet Under and the Supreme Court striking down DOMA, after my first gay wedding and before my first married gay friends divorced, I decided to believe that this particular kind of hate had been eradicated, like polio or smallpox, stamped out by common sense, progress and love.

Of course I knew that wasn’t entirely true, but living in Brooklyn it was easy enough to believe. Until last weekend. Until Orlando. Until 49 members of the LGBTQ community were murdered because they were loving life and living for it.

I look at my various social media feeds and thing that really fills my heart and makes a lump in my throat is the utter lack of hate coming out of the gay community. People are hurt and angry and so, so sad. They want change, they want the conversation to move past the empty posturing our elected officials pantomime their way through every single time gun violence erupts in this country on a mass scale. What I don’t see is anyone calling to prevent refugees from entering the U.S. or rounding up Muslims who are already here. I see a conversation. I see a hunger for solutions. And I’m humbled by that.

So here at Brooklyn Based, in a really fucking weird year for politics and everything else, during Pride Week in New York City, it’s really the very least we can do to run stories that remind our readers that Brooklyn is gay as the day. To say unequivocally, everyone has the right to feel the love they feel, to express their own identity in the manner of their choosing, to ask to be called by a name or a pronoun or an adjective that feels good to them, to be themselves without permission. We’re all human, we’re all amazing creatures, we’re all so different and so alike, and truly, the LGBTQ community reminds us all of that all the time.

Thank you.

05/13/15 2:26pm
A screening of "Paris is Burning" sparked a heated debate on Facebook when the ballroom community the film represents was not invited to present it. Image: Mirimax

A screening of ‘Paris is Burning’ sparked a heated debate on Facebook when readers learned that members from the ballroom community the film represents would not be presenting. Image: Miramax

As of today, over 7,000 people have RSVP’d yes for Celebrate Brooklyn’s screening of Paris is Burning, the famous documentary that explored ball culture in 1980’s New York. By comparison, only 1,384 people have RSVP’d for Krosfyah, the celebration’s second most attended event, and just 179 people have accepted invitations for Lucinda Williams. Normally, this would be cause for Celebrate Brooklyn to celebrate itself, but over this past weekend, their Facebook page exploded in anger. While Paris is Burning examines ball culture produced by Trans /Queer People  of Color (TQPOC), all of the presenters listed on the bill for that night–including director Jennie Livingston and DJ JD Samson–were white. None were from the Ballroom community. (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.

06/24/14 5:48pm
While the new film Obvious Child portrays lots of life choices women face in their twenties, the only one anyone seems to want to talk about is abortion. Photo: A24

While the new film Obvious Child depicts lots of life choices women might face in their twenties, the only one anyone seems to want to talk about is abortion. Photo: A24

When word that the plot for the newly released film, Obvious Child, involved a Brooklyn woman in her 20s who breaks up with her boyfriend only to wind up pregnant following a rebound one-night-stand and decides to have an abortion, it immediately made the internet explode. Everyone aired all their feelings for and against a film depicting the abortion process so unapologetically, including NBC. The network decided to not air the movie’s trailer because the word “abortion” is uttered in it.

The indie film from Gillian Robespierre stars Jenny Slate, who you might recognize from her one season stint on Saturday Night Live. Slate plays Donna, a young woman who decides motherhood on a moment’s notice might not be the best idea. It also stars Gabby Hoffman as her full-browed best friend, and was an official selection for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. 

While the film is a comedy, and it does center around a women who decides to have an abortion, that does not automatically make it a comedy about abortion, a point much of mainstream media has missed. Creating sensationalized headlines referring to Obvious Child as an “abortion comedy” is reductive. Any rational human understands that having an abortion isn’t fun or funny. That being said, plugging the abortion plot line does seem to be mutually beneficial to both the media and movie’s makers, as it has garnered a lot of attention from both reviewers and theater goers. Obvious Child has grossed over a quarter-million dollars in two weeks despite only opening in three theaters initially. (It expanded into 15 additional theaters its second week and premieres nationwide June 27.) (more…)

05/19/14 10:05am

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.38.48 AMI woke up this morning to a ridiculous cover story on the New York Post, a paper my husband gets because he likes its sports section above everyone else’s. This isn’t surprising–every morning The Post’s cover stories are overblown and outrageous, and I like sliding the red plastic cover off just to see how low they’ve stooped, or how punny their headline is. Today’s was just insane though–“Chirlane’s Heart- Wrenching Confession: I Was a Bad Mom.”

Bruce Golding took some lines out of a 6,000-word profile of Chirlane McCray in New York Magazine–in which she makes an honest statement about motherhood being a tough adjustment, as it was for me and every mother I know–and twists them into insane allegations that she “looked for any excuse to keep away from her little girl.”

This is the choice sentiment Golding quotes, which McCray told Lisa Miller in NY Mag:

“The truth is, I could not spend every day with her. I didn’t want to do that. I looked for all kinds of reasons not to do it.”

He then tries to make Chirlane into a monster because of it. (Or just manufacture a story that would grab people’s attention.)

“The disclosure — bound to horrify most moms — shatters the carefully crafted image of de Blasio’s close-knit family, which helped vault him into office.”

HA! This is far from horrifying. This is honest. Show me one mom who can spend every day with her child and not go insane. I don’t know one. Little kids will drive you bonkers. I just got back from four days away from my kids and it was heaven. I haven’t had a better trip in I don’t know when, and I love my little buggers to death.

Golding must not have kids or if he does, he must have married a robot who raised them for him, because he has no clue how parents really feel about parenting. I still try to find other things to do than spend every day with my kids, and they are now 5 and 2. The fact that she admits it was hard for her just makes her more relatable, and the New York Post even more of a shitty tabloid for twisting her words.

01/10/14 2:19pm

NYC Streets Metamorphosis from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Today marks the end of Mayor de Blasio’s first full week in office and despite the rotten, cold, snowy and now wet weather, it’s business as usual in the city. Including on the city streets.

As we mentioned in our round-up of 10 stories we think you’ll be talking about in 2014, during his campaign de Blasio outlined a comprehensive, Scandinavian-inspired plan to make the streets of New York City safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, too, called Vision Zero. The basic idea is that our roadways, intersections and sidewalks, and the laws that govern them are a system and that a properly functioning system will eliminate traffic deaths. Mayor de Blasio aims to reduce traffic fatalities and major injuries in the city to zero by 2024. Naturally, the adovocy group Right of Way has put up a Vision Zero Clock, keeping tabs on whether the city is on track toward lowering the traffic fatality rate. It isn’t. So far this year three pedestrians and four drivers and passengers have died in New York City.

What exactly does de Blasio plan to do to make our streets safer?

11/15/13 12:03pm
The authors interviewed (clockwise from left): Lydia Millet, Roxane Gay, Ayelet Waldman, Julia Fierro, Adelle Waldman

The authors interviewed (clockwise from left): Lydia Millet, Roxane Gay, Ayelet Waldman, Julia Fierro, Adelle Waldman

It all started with Jonathan Franzen. Specifically, the publication of Franzen’s novel Freedom, a book that so hijacked the attention of critics throughout the 2010/2011 book season that Franzen’s face was everywhere—even under a Los Angeles Times headline announcing that author Jennifer Egan had beaten him out for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Sick of watching “white male literary darlings,” like Franzen, get all the good press, authors Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult took to Twitter to announce that they were suffering from an acute case of “#Franzenfreud.” The term tapped into a deep well of resentment, and female writers of all persuasions soon joined them online, venting their frustration with the ongoing marginalization of women in the industry and demanding answers. In the intervening years, thanks to the power of social media, what started as an upswell of anger has begun looking more and more like a movement.

This is, of course, not the first time the literary establishment had been charged with sexism. Women have been trying, with little success, to draw attention to these issues since Virginia Woolf’s era and before. The most famous recent example is probably writer and critic Francine Prose’s seminal 1998 Harper’s essay “Scent of a Woman’s Ink,” one of the most lucid and compelling case studies of literary gender bias ever written. Given that Prose was writing at the turn of the twentieth century, you might expect that her efforts met with more success than Woolf’s, but you’d be wrong. Despite the elegant logic of her arguments, Prose’ piece generated little more than ire from the editors of the day. In fact, Harper’s was so concerned about her reputation after the article’s publication that the magazine hosted a special dinner to help her placate offended editors and “salvage what remained of [her] career.”

Today, there are still plenty of people in publishing who rankle at the first mention of sexism—people who dismiss concerns like Weiner and Picoult’s as paranoia and “belly-aching.” But in the social media age, these people are no longer able to drown out the chorus of discontent. And now, unlike in earlier eras, those advocating for change have a growing storehouse of data to back up their claims. Stats charting the disparity between the contributions of men and women in major periodicals are being compiled by a variety of organizations, most famously by VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, the group behind the widely lauded VIDA Count. There is reason to believe these numbers are making a real difference, with organizations, like Tin House and The Boston Review, now making verifiable efforts to level the playing field for women in response to VIDA’s findings. That said, we still have a long way to go. According to the 2012 Count, many publications are still falling woefully behind when it comes to reviewing and publishing women, including, sadly, Harper’s itself. (In 2012, the magazine had just three female book reviewers compared to 28 men, and it ran reviews of only 11 works by women as opposed to a whopping 54 by men.) Still we are on our way.

It’s worth noting that not all female authors are eager to join the online fray. After The Rumpus recently ran a diatribe by writer Suzanne Rivecca on male reviewers’ squeamish view of Mary Gaitskill’s unvarnished sexuality, Gaitskill was quick to run to the defense of male critics. “I don’t know why the three guys quoted by Rivecca got so bitched up about my writing, except that they’re critics and that means that sometimes they gotta bitch. But that’s got nothing to do with their being men,” Gaitskill wrote in her response, thereby fortifying herself against potential charges of “belly-aching.” Having reached a stable plateau in her career, her reputation cemented, Gaitskill has no horse in this race. Or perhaps Gaitskill honestly believes that gender doesn’t enter into the equation when it comes to the interpretation of literature (though this is hard to countenance). Either way, these issues are complicated. What looks to one person like discrimination can appear to another to be the natural byproduct of a fully functioning meritocracy. But the data suggests otherwise and, these days, more and more women are freely discussing what they view as the sexist tilt of the industry. Man Booker Prize Winner Eleanor Catton, for instance, went on record during her recent press junket as saying that she thinks her ideas are given short shrift by interviewers because she is a woman. Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees with her.

The ecosystem of women writers is a diverse and multi-layered, home to an array of species with conflicting beliefs and needs. While many of us want to improve access and opportunities for female writers, our priorities and passion projects can vary wildly. To help dig deeper into some of these complexities, Brooklyn Based invited five female writers—novelists, essayists, and teachers, some of whom have earned major awards, others who are relatively new to the game—to give their take on sexism in publishing.

The Participants: Julia Fierro, Roxane Gay, Adelle Waldman, Lydia MilletAyelet Waldman (more…)

11/07/13 12:27pm

Blue_EflyerBlue is the Warmest Color has been on my radar since May when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. I watched the film last night for the first time in its entirety and woke up this morning to read Tim Teeman’s article in the New York Times analyzing the film through the perspective of the people it aims to depict–lesbians.

In the months leading up to its nationwide release last week, much of the buzz about this film has centered upon its making history at Cannes where both its director, Abdellatif Kechiche, and its main actress, Adèle Exarchopoulos, were awarded the Palme d’Or, the film festival’s highest honor, at which point it was heralded as a historic film, an important film, a critical darling.

The tone of how we talk about this movie has changed, however, as audiences have had a chance to see the graphic sex scene between Exarchopoulos, who plays a high school junior struggling with her sexuality when she meets a college student, Emma (Léa Seydoux) who becomes her first, and greatest love. (more…)

10/30/13 4:03pm
I'm always sending friends copies of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus."

I’m always sending friends copies of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

Years ago, when I got my first iPod, I spent hours copying my CDs on to it. As I filled the 2GB of storage, and thought about what other songs I’d like to have at my fingertips, a question occurred to me: If I owned an album once but say, the CD had scratched or cracked, did I really have to buy another in this new electronic wonderland? Hadn’t I paid my dues already?

Now, close to a decade later, that query, in terms of music at least, is moot. The last time I moved I tossed 90 percent of my CDs. I subscribe to Spotify. Occasionally I buy records. It’s a weird combination of very digital and very analog, and yes I’m concerned that artists don’t get paid enough. But I’m also concerned that journalists, editors and writers of all stripes, myself included, don’t get paid enough, and let’s be honest, there are very, very few outliers like Miley Cyrus or One Direction in the print game. The jackpot writers are competing for is more like, live a semi-comfortable life doing good work you feel proud of.

So Amazon’s new Kindle Matchbook program interests me as a writer, a small bookstore champion and an avid e-reader. Basically, if you’ve purchased a print book from Amazon, you can now purchase e-versions of select titles at a deep discount–somewhere between free and $2.99. In a way this makes perfect sense, but it’s also yet another temptation to buy from the big guy and not from your local bookstore. Though, indie booksellers shouldn’t get too worried just yet.

10/28/13 1:17pm

102113blaz2Because they have found nothing juicier and more sordid to dig up, The New York Post and Crain’s New York are hedging all their bets that voters would find it scandalous that Bill de Blasio takes deductions on his rental income and refinanced his mortgage.

This is pretty boring stuff. In essence, he’s like most other homeowners.

Let’s start with the rental property. First Crain’s made a mountain out of the fact that he didn’t tell the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board about the rental income on their two-family Park Slope home (pictured, right), once owned by Chirlane’s mom, which they purchased in 2004. The reason his team didn’t deem it necessary to report? Because on paper it’s a loss. In 2011, his $47,500 in rental income was offset by the $62,200 in deductions that the majority of homeowners take, namely a depreciation expense and the interest on his loan. A depreciation expense, I learned after consulting with my own accountant, Steven Zelin, is something that owners of residential rental property can claim over 27 and a half years, and most people do it. You’ll be taxed on your total depreciation deduction if you ever sell your property, but in the short term it helps offset your rental income, which most people want to do.

So basically de Blasio is like every other property owner in this regard, except he’s no ordinary landlord. He’s actually an excellent landlord, one of his tenants told the Crain’s reporter. “They are just the most wonderful people,” said his first-floor tenant, Mr. Wilmer. “Anything that’s a problem, they take care of it immediately.” The New York Times just published a follow up story today, to further reinforce how good he is to his tenants. (more…)