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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02/07/17 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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02/02/17 10:18am

February may be the shortest month, but it has a tendency to feel more like the longest page on the calendar. Instead of despairing that your work schedule or bank account won’t allow you to escape somewhere warm to recharge, find some inner sunshine with these three inward retreats, for less than you spend on your morning coffee.

7310557616_1aa99df928_z_0_0Lovingkindness Fridays
If you love the idea of guided meditation, but don’t want to wear yoga pants or feel like you’ve joined a cult, The Interdependence Project may be where you make more space for yourself in New York City. The approach is a secular study of all aspects of Buddhism, mixed with psychology and a deep exploration of meditation as a tool for living better and more fully. In addition to special classes, intensives and series they offer regular weekly sessions like introduction to meditation classes on Sunday afternoons and Metta meditation on Friday evenings, which focuses on exploring the Buddhist concept of “lovingkindness.” Many workshops and classes are also available online, including a series called Transforming White Privilege, if you prefer to dive inward in the privacy of your own home. The suggested donation for most classes is $10-20, and the center is committed to making sure that people of all incomes are welcomed and have access to the community. (more…)

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01/31/17 10:36am
Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves. --Hussain ibn Ali Photo: Fatima Alvi

Fatima Alvi  volunteers with Who is Hussain?, a group inspired by the life of Hussain inb Ali, who said, “Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.” Photo: Fatima Alvi

When Linda Sarsour spoke at the Women’s March on Washington saying that she was “unapologetically Muslim American, unapologetically Palestinian American, unapologetically from Brooklyn, New York,” she was not wearing a pink pussy hat. The march co-chair wore black and white headscarves, layered and tucked into a black jacket, instead. Despite Sarsour’s simple elegance in a sea of wild fuchsia and deep magenta, to some, her choice of headgear made her a far more potent target for hate.

It didn’t take long for headlines like, “Women’s March Organizer Linda Sarsour Makes Islamic State Signal,” to start popping up on far-right and white nationalist websites, like Jihad Watch where that post appeared on Tuesday, Jan. 24, just days after the march. The hashtag #IMarchWithLinda began to trend across social media, as supporters rallied behind the activist.

As a public figure who wears the hijab, Sarsour has been called a terrorist, a friend to ISIS, and a supporter of Sharia law in the past, but following the march, she was attacked with renewed vigor. She may be highly visible as an activist and executive director of the Arab American Society of New York, but she is not the only hijabi in the city who has been singled out for being identifiably Muslim in recent months.

In a post-election climate in that has seen an uptick in anti-Muslim bias crimes, and with President Trump’s executive order to suspend visas from seven Muslim-majority countries last week, some Muslim women have considered changing the style of hijab that they wear, donning less distinctive headgear like hats, or simply not wearing a head-covering at all, out of concern for personal safety as Islamophobia becomes more pronounced. (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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01/10/17 11:57am
Photo: Catbat

Photo: Catbat

And so, late one evening, the Catbat became stuck in time. Once mythical–both lynx and bat, philosopher and shapeshifter–now ashes of a gnostic tarot card.

Written for Catbat Shop by Kelley Deane McKinney

A mix between a blazer and a blanket, the Catbat cape could very well be a talisman for our uncertain times. Kat Shuford, the designer behind Catbat Shop, believes that “people of all genders and sizes should feel magical every day,” and that a gorgeous wool, mohair or cashmere cape, sustainably sourced from reclaimed and recylced fabrics, and locally made in Greenpoint, has the power to conjure a charmed existence.

Less than two years ago, Shuford, an artist and website designer came up with the idea for a line of capes, and with basic sewing skills and a DIY attitude, she cobbled together a pattern and searched out a family-run fabric business based in New York. “I didn’t know how to begin,” she says. “But it was just, sit down and do it anyway.” Her web experience allowed her to wear many hats, designing her own site and maintaining her online store. With a little luck and a lot of drive, Shuford found other people to help her along the way and came up with the prototype–one pattern that fits every body type regardless of height or gender. “I kind of did this on a self challenge,” she admits. (more…)

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01/03/17 12:25pm

typorama

Welcome to 2017! It’s time to shake off that 2016 hangover, that cookie hangover, that latke hangover and that hangover hangover and make some plans.

Here are two different tools to help you organize your hopes, dreams and goals for the year ahead in an action plan for 2017. One will sort out a general approach to being more engaged with your community, whether that means volunteering at a local school or donating more of your income to charity or getting involved with a non-profit organization. The other is an overtly political plan of engagement and resistance.

Stop Freaking Out/Start Doing Something

In the wake of the 2016 election my social media feeds were choked with calls to action, petitions to sign, phone calls to make. All of these were well intentioned, but they were also disorganized and overwhelming, which is part of the reason we started Action Trumps Hate, our political email (it’s a separate subscription from Brooklyn Based–sign up here if you’re interested). We wanted to figure out which actions would be most effective and present them to readers in a manageable, weekly dose, which will resume this week after a holiday break.

In Portland, Ore. a group of friends and colleagues had a similar reaction. Many of them work at a design consultancy business called Xplane, and so they approached the problem from a product designer’s point of view. (more…)

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12/20/16 8:40am
The Vine by Harrier Whitney Frishmuth is one of the works Museum Hack explored on a recent tour of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

“The Vine” by Harrier Whitney Frishmuth is one of the works Museum Hack explored on a recent tour of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

Museum fatigue is most definitely a thing, according to Museum Hack founder Nick Gray. “If you’ve ever been to a museum, you’ve probably experienced walking through a gallery feeling tired and lethargic,” he says. An enormous institution like The Metropolitan Museum of Art contains hundreds of thousands of works, and no clear way to order your visit, so it’s no surprise that everyone, even the most dedicated art lover, encounters this type of exhaustion.

Museum Hack takes the overwhelming aspect out of the equation by providing focused museum experiences, which is how I found myself speedwalking down marble-tiled corridors on a chilly Saturday afternoon, on a Badass Bitches tour of The Met.

Remember those super enthusiastic, super energetic tour guides when you visited colleges? Well, they’ve grown up to be Museum Hack guides. They’re eloquent, they’re excited, and they will eagerly tell you the weirdest art-related stories you’ve ever heard. My guides were two young women named Lindsay and Lily, and for two hours they led a group of about 15 of us from the Greeks and the Romans all the way to the American Wing, conducting a tour that was part storytelling, part ice breaker, part therapy session, and hey, we even got to draw a bit. (more…)

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11/29/16 11:46am
starhawk and tony

Starhawk (on the left) and his brother Tony Arcuri keep Greenpoint colorful. Photos: Regina Mogilevskaya

Jerry Garcia once nicknamed Starhawk “The Kid.” The co-owner of Greenpoint’s Starhawk Design Studio doesn’t really keep track of time in a conventional sense, but he reckons this was sometime back in the 70’s, when he was touring the country with the Grateful Dead. Though born in Brooklyn, he left home when he was a teenager.

“I always had faith that travel was the right choice,” Starhawk tells me with a gleam in his eye as we stand across from one another in his shop, chatting as customers mill about picking up crystals, smelling incense, and browsing slowly through hangers swimming with tie-dyed shirts, skirts, leggings, arm warmers and socks.

Touring with the Grateful Dead is just one chapter in the dizzying book of Starhawk’s life, which includes stints with Peter Gabriel and Ziggy Marley, residence on the beaches of Hawaii, pop-up tie dye shops from Pennsylvania to California, and plenty of meditation in between.

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Photos: Regina Mogilevskaya

It all started with a dose of color. “The first thing I ever tried to tie dye was a butterfly on a t-shirt,” says Starhawk. He never studied art of any kind–or attended college–but from a young age he loved gobbling up texts about ancient cultures. He’d always felt a strong kinship with color, and his inspiration sprouted from studying indigenous clothing designs, out of which came a near-obsession with American tie dye techniques. For years, he traveled the country creating and selling his custom-made tie-dye clothing, as means of self expression and to support himself.

How Starhawk ended up Greenpoint after decades of kaleidoscopic nomadism is a story of simple fate. He and his brother, Tom Arcuri–who shared with me that he was in the clothing industry, though not on the design side, for “about 42 short years”–decided to start a business together. In 2015 they had a pop-up shop on Manhattan Avenue for a couple of days, and when they spotted an empty storefront for rent just two blocks from that location, they decided to make Greenpoint a permanent home. (more…)

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